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  • Burying the Nakba: How Israel systematically hides evidence of 1948 expulsion of Arabs
    By Hagar Shezaf Jul 05, 2019 - Israel News - Haaretz.com
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-how-israel-systematically-hides-evidence-of-1948-expulsio

    International forces overseeing the evacuation of Iraq al-Manshiyya, near today’s Kiryat Gat, in March, 1949. Collection of Benno Rothenberg/Israel State Archives

    Four years ago, historian Tamar Novick was jolted by a document she found in the file of Yosef Vashitz, from the Arab Department of the left-wing Mapam Party, in the Yad Yaari archive at Givat Haviva. The document, which seemed to describe events that took place during the 1948 war, began:

    “Safsaf [former Palestinian village near Safed] – 52 men were caught, tied them to one another, dug a pit and shot them. 10 were still twitching. Women came, begged for mercy. Found bodies of 6 elderly men. There were 61 bodies. 3 cases of rape, one east of from Safed, girl of 14, 4 men shot and killed. From one they cut off his fingers with a knife to take the ring.”

    The writer goes on to describe additional massacres, looting and abuse perpetrated by Israeli forces in Israel’s War of Independence. “There’s no name on the document and it’s not clear who’s behind it,” Dr. Novick tells Haaretz. “It also breaks off in the middle. I found it very disturbing. I knew that finding a document like this made me responsible for clarifying what happened.”

    The Upper Galilee village of Safsaf was captured by the Israel Defense Forces in Operation Hiram toward the end of 1948. Moshav Safsufa was established on its ruins. Allegations were made over the years that the Seventh Brigade committed war crimes in the village. Those charges are supported by the document Novick found, which was not previously known to scholars. It could also constitute additional evidence that the Israeli top brass knew about what was going on in real time.

    Novick decided to consult with other historians about the document. Benny Morris, whose books are basic texts in the study of the Nakba – the “calamity,” as the Palestinians refer to the mass emigration of Arabs from the country during the 1948 war – told her that he, too, had come across similar documentation in the past. He was referring to notes made by Mapam Central Committee member Aharon Cohen on the basis of a briefing given in November 1948 by Israel Galili, the former chief of staff of the Haganah militia, which became the IDF. Cohen’s notes in this instance, which Morris published, stated: “Safsaf 52 men tied with a rope. Dropped into a pit and shot. 10 were killed. Women pleaded for mercy. [There were] 3 cases of rape. Caught and released. A girl of 14 was raped. Another 4 were killed. Rings of knives.”

    Morris’ footnote (in his seminal “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949”) states that this document was also found in the Yad Yaari Archive. But when Novick returned to examine the document, she was surprised to discover that it was no longer there.

    Palestine refugees initially displaced to Gaza board boats to Lebanon or Egypt, in 1949. Hrant Nakashian/1949 UN Archives

    “At first I thought that maybe Morris hadn’t been accurate in his footnote, that perhaps he had made a mistake,” Novick recalls. “It took me time to consider the possibility that the document had simply disappeared.” When she asked those in charge where the document was, she was told that it had been placed behind lock and key at Yad Yaari – by order of the Ministry of Defense.

    Since the start of the last decade, Defense Ministry teams have been scouring Israel’s archives and removing historic documents. But it’s not just papers relating to Israel’s nuclear project or to the country’s foreign relations that are being transferred to vaults: Hundreds of documents have been concealed as part of a systematic effort to hide evidence of the Nakba.

    The phenomenon was first detected by the Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research. According to a report drawn up by the institute, the operation is being spearheaded by Malmab, the Defense Ministry’s secretive security department (the name is a Hebrew acronym for “director of security of the defense establishment”), whose activities and budget are classified. The report asserts that Malmab removed historical documentation illegally and with no authority, and at least in some cases has sealed documents that had previously been cleared for publication by the military censor. Some of the documents that were placed in vaults had already been published.
    An investigative report by Haaretz found that Malmab has concealed testimony from IDF generals about the killing of civilians and the demolition of villages, as well as documentation of the expulsion of Bedouin during the first decade of statehood. Conversations conducted by Haaretz with directors of public and private archives alike revealed that staff of the security department had treated the archives as their property, in some cases threatening the directors themselves.

    Yehiel Horev, who headed Malmab for two decades, until 2007, acknowledged to Haaretz that he launched the project, which is still ongoing. He maintains that it makes sense to conceal the events of 1948, because uncovering them could generate unrest among the country’s Arab population. Asked what the point is of removing documents that have already been published, he explained that the objective is to undermine the credibility of studies about the history of the refugee problem. In Horev’s view, an allegation made by a researcher that’s backed up by an original document is not the same as an allegation that cannot be proved or refuted.

    The document Novick was looking for might have reinforced Morris’ work. During the investigation, Haaretz was in fact able to find the Aharon Cohen memo, which sums up a meeting of Mapam’s Political Committee on the subject of massacres and expulsions in 1948. Participants in the meeting called for cooperation with a commission of inquiry that would investigate the events. One case the committee discussed concerned “grave actions” carried out in the village of Al-Dawayima, east of Kiryat Gat. One participant mentioned the then-disbanded Lehi underground militia in this connection. Acts of looting were also reported: “Lod and Ramle, Be’er Sheva, there isn’t [an Arab] store that hasn’t been broken into. 9th Brigade says 7, 7th Brigade says 8.”
    “The party,” the document states near the end, “is against expulsion if there is no military necessity for it. There are different approaches concerning the evaluation of necessity. And further clarification is best. What happened in Galilee – those are Nazi acts! Every one of our members must report what he knows.”

    The Israeli version
    One of the most fascinating documents about the origin of the Palestinian refugee problem was written by an officer in Shai, the precursor to the Shin Bet security service. It discusses why the country was emptied of so many of its Arab inhabitants, dwelling on the circumstances of each village. Compiled in late June 1948, it was titled “The Emigration of the Arabs of Palestine.”

    Read a translation of the document here (1)

    This document was the basis for an article that Benny Morris published in 1986. After the article appeared, the document was removed from the archive and rendered inaccessible to researchers. Years later, the Malmab team reexamined the document, and ordered that it remain classified. They could not have known that a few years later researchers from Akevot would find a copy of the text and run it past the military censors – who authorized its publication unconditionally. Now, after years of concealment, the gist of the document is being revealed here.

    The 25-page document begins with an introduction that unabashedly approves of the evacuation of the Arab villages. According to the author, the month of April “excelled in an increase of emigration,” while May “was blessed with the evacuation of maximum places.” The report then addresses “the causes of the Arab emigration.” According to the Israeli narrative that was disseminated over the years, responsibility for the exodus from Israel rests with Arab politicians who encouraged the population to leave. However, according to the document, 70 percent of the Arabs left as a result of Jewish military operations.

    Palestinian children awaiting distribution of milk by UNICEF at the Nazareth Franciscan Sisters’ convent, on January 1, 1950. AW / UN Photo

    The unnamed author of the text ranks the reasons for the Arabs’ departure in order of importance. The first reason: “Direct Jewish acts of hostility against Arab places of settlement.” The second reason was the impact of those actions on neighboring villages. Third in importance came “operations by the breakaways,” namely the Irgun and Lehi undergrounds. The fourth reason for the Arab exodus was orders issued by Arab institutions and “gangs” (as the document refers to all Arab fighting groups); fifth was “Jewish ’whispering operations’ to induce the Arab inhabitants to flee”; and the sixth factor was “evacuation ultimatums.”

    The author asserts that, “without a doubt, the hostile operations were the main cause of the movement of the population.” In addition, “Loudspeakers in the Arabic language proved their effectiveness on the occasions when they were utilized properly.” As for Irgun and Lehi operations, the report observes that “many in the villages of central Galilee started to flee following the abduction of the notables of Sheikh Muwannis [a village north of Tel Aviv]. The Arab learned that it is not enough to forge an agreement with the Haganah and that there are other Jews [i.e., the breakaway militias] to beware of.”

    The author notes that ultimatums to leave were especially employed in central Galilee, less so in the Mount Gilboa region. “Naturally, the act of this ultimatum, like the effect of the ’friendly advice,’ came after a certain preparing of the ground by means of hostile actions in the area.”
    An appendix to the document describes the specific causes of the exodus from each of scores of Arab locales: Ein Zeitun – “our destruction of the village”; Qeitiya – “harassment, threat of action”; Almaniya – “our action, many killed”; Tira – “friendly Jewish advice”; Al’Amarir – “after robbery and murder carried out by the breakaways”; Sumsum – “our ultimatum”; Bir Salim – “attack on the orphanage”; and Zarnuga – “conquest and expulsion.”

    Short fuse
    In the early 2000s, the Yitzhak Rabin Center conducted a series of interviews with former public and military figures as part of a project to document their activity in the service of the state. The long arm of Malmab seized on these interviews, too. Haaretz, which obtained the original texts of several of the interviews, compared them to the versions that are now available to the public, after large swaths of them were declared classified.

    These included, for example, sections of the testimony of Brig. Gen. (res.) Aryeh Shalev about the expulsion across the border of the residents of a village he called “Sabra.” Later in the interview, the following sentences were deleted: “There was a very serious problem in the valley. There were refugees who wanted to return to the valley, to the Triangle [a concentration of Arab towns and villages in eastern Israel]. We expelled them. I met with them to persuade them not to want that. I have papers about it.”

    In another case, Malmab decided to conceal the following segment from an interview that historian Boaz Lev Tov conducted with Maj. Gen. (res.) Elad Peled:
    Lev Tov: “We’re talking about a population – women and children?”
    Peled: “All, all. Yes.”
    Lev Tov: “Don’t you distinguish between them?”
    Peled: “The problem is very simple. The war is between two populations. They come out of their home.”
    Lev Tov: “If the home exists, they have somewhere to return to?”
    Peled: “It’s not armies yet, it’s gangs. We’re also actually gangs. We come out of the house and return to the house. They come out of the house and return to the house. It’s either their house or our house.”
    Lev Tov: “Qualms belong to the more recent generation?”
    Peled: “Yes, today. When I sit in an armchair here and think about what happened, all kinds of thoughts come to mind.”
    Lev Tov: “Wasn’t that the case then?”
    Peled: “Look, let me tell you something even less nice and cruel, about the big raid in Sasa [Palestinian village in Upper Galilee]. The goal was actually to deter them, to tell them, ‘Dear friends, the Palmach [the Haganah “shock troops”] can reach every place, you are not immune.’ That was the heart of the Arab settlement. But what did we do? My platoon blew up 20 homes with everything that was there.”
    Lev Tov: “While people were sleeping there?”
    Peled: “I suppose so. What happened there, we came, we entered the village, planted a bomb next to every house, and afterward Homesh blew on a trumpet, because we didn’t have radios, and that was the signal [for our forces] to leave. We’re running in reverse, the sappers stay, they pull, it’s all primitive. They light the fuse or pull the detonator and all those houses are gone.”

    IDF soldiers guarding Palestinians in Ramle, in 1948. Collection of Benno Rothenberg/The IDF and Defense Establishment Archives

    Another passage that the Defense Ministry wanted to keep from the public came from Dr. Lev Tov’s conversation with Maj. Gen. Avraham Tamir:
    Tamir: “I was under Chera [Maj. Gen. Tzvi Tzur, later IDF chief of staff], and I had excellent working relations with him. He gave me freedom of action – don’t ask – and I happened to be in charge of staff and operations work during two developments deriving from [Prime Minister David] Ben-Gurion’s policy. One development was when reports arrived about marches of refugees from Jordan toward the abandoned villages [in Israel]. And then Ben-Gurion lays down as policy that we have to demolish [the villages] so they won’t have anywhere to return to. That is, all the Arab villages, most of which were in [the area covered by] Central Command, most of them.”
    Lev Tov: “The ones that were still standing?”
    Tamir: “The ones that weren’t yet inhabited by Israelis. There were places where we had already settled Israelis, like Zakariyya and others. But most of them were still abandoned villages.”
    Lev Tov: “That were standing?”
    Tamir: “Standing. It was necessary for there to be no place for them to return to, so I mobilized all the engineering battalions of Central Command, and within 48 hours I knocked all those villages to the ground. Period. There’s no place to return to.”
    Lev Tov: “Without hesitation, I imagine.”
    Tamir: “Without hesitation. That was the policy. I mobilized, I carried it out and I did it.”

    Crates in vaults
    The vault of the Yad Yaari Research and Documentation Center is one floor below ground level. In the vault, which is actually a small, well-secured room, are stacks of crates containing classified documents. The archive houses the materials of the Hashomer Hatzair movement, the Kibbutz Ha’artzi kibbutz movement, Mapam, Meretz and other bodies, such as Peace Now.
    The archive’s director is Dudu Amitai, who is also chairman of the Association of Israel Archivists. According to Amitai, Malmab personnel visited the archive regularly between 2009 and 2011. Staff of the archive relate that security department teams – two Defense Ministry retirees with no archival training – would show up two or three times a week. They searched for documents according to such keywords as “nuclear,” “security” and “censorship,” and also devoted considerable time to the War of Independence and the fate of the pre-1948 Arab villages.
    “In the end, they submitted a summary to us, saying that they had located a few dozen sensitive documents,” Amitai says. “We don’t usually take apart files, so dozens of files, in their entirety, found their way into our vault and were removed from the public catalog.” A file might contain more than 100 documents.
    One of the files that was sealed deals with the military government that controlled the lives of Israel’s Arab citizens from 1948 until 1966. For years, the documents were stored in the same vault, inaccessible to scholars. Recently, in the wake of a request by Prof. Gadi Algazi, a historian from Tel Aviv University, Amitai examined the file himself and ruled that there was no reason not to unseal it, Malmab’s opinion notwithstanding.

    According to Algazi, there could be several reasons for Malmab’s decision to keep the file classified. One of them has to do with a secret annex it contains to a report by a committee that examined the operation of the military government. The report deals almost entirely with land-ownership battles between the state and Arab citizens, and barely touches on security matters.

    Another possibility is a 1958 report by the ministerial committee that oversaw the military government. In one of the report’s secret appendixes, Col. Mishael Shaham, a senior officer in the military government, explains that one reason for not dismantling the martial law apparatus is the need to restrict Arab citizens’ access to the labor market and to prevent the reestablishment of destroyed villages.
    A third possible explanation for hiding the file concerns previously unpublished historical testimony about the expulsion of Bedouin. On the eve of Israel’s establishment, nearly 100,000 Bedouin lived in the Negev. Three years later, their number was down to 13,000. In the years during and after the independence war, a number of expulsion operations were carried out in the country’s south. In one case, United Nations observers reported that Israel had expelled 400 Bedouin from the Azazma tribe and cited testimonies of tents being burned. The letter that appears in the classified file describes a similar expulsion carried out as late as 1956, as related by geologist Avraham Parnes:

    The evacuation of Iraq al-Manshiyya, near today’s Kiryat Gat, in March, 1949. Collection of Benno Rothenberg/The IDF and Defense Establishment Archives

    “A month ago we toured Ramon [crater]. The Bedouin in the Mohila area came to us with their flocks and their families and asked us to break bread with them. I replied that we had a great deal of work to do and didn’t have time. In our visit this week, we headed toward Mohila again. Instead of the Bedouin and their flocks, there was deathly silence. Scores of camel carcasses were scattered in the area. We learned that three days earlier the IDF had ‘screwed’ the Bedouin, and their flocks were destroyed – the camels by shooting, the sheep with grenades. One of the Bedouin, who started to complain, was killed, the rest fled.”

    The testimony continued, “Two weeks earlier, they’d been ordered to stay where they were for the time being, afterward they were ordered to leave, and to speed things up 500 head were slaughtered.... The expulsion was executed ‘efficiently.’” The letter goes on to quote what one of the soldiers said to Parnes, according to his testimony: “They won’t go unless we’ve screwed their flocks. A young girl of about 16 approached us. She had a beaded necklace of brass snakes. We tore the necklace and each of us took a bead for a souvenir.”

    The letter was originally sent to MK Yaakov Uri, from Mapai (forerunner of Labor), who passed it on to Development Minister Mordechai Bentov (Mapam). “His letter shocked me,” Uri wrote Bentov. The latter circulated the letter among all the cabinet ministers, writing, “It is my opinion that the government cannot simply ignore the facts related in the letter.” Bentov added that, in light of the appalling contents of the letter, he asked security experts to check its credibility. They had confirmed that the contents “do in fact generally conform to the truth.”

    Nuclear excuse
    It was during the tenure of historian Tuvia Friling as Israel’s chief archivist, from 2001 to 2004, that Malmab carried out its first archival incursions. What began as an operation to prevent the leakage of nuclear secrets, he says, became, in time, a large-scale censorship project.
    “I resigned after three years, and that was one of the reasons,” Prof. Friling says. “The classification placed on the document about the Arabs’ emigration in 1948 is precisely an example of what I was apprehensive about. The storage and archival system is not an arm of the state’s public relations. If there’s something you don’t like – well, that’s life. A healthy society also learns from its mistakes.”

    Why did Friling allow the Defense Ministry to have access the archives? The reason, he says, was the intention to give the public access to archival material via the internet. In discussions about the implications of digitizing the material, concern was expressed that references in the documents to a “certain topic” would be made public by mistake. The topic, of course, is Israel’s nuclear project. Friling insists that the only authorization Malmab received was to search for documents on that subject.

    But Malmab’s activity is only one example of a broader problem, Friling notes: “In 1998, the confidentiality of the [oldest documents in the] Shin Bet and Mossad archives expired. For years those two institutions disdained the chief archivist. When I took over, they requested that the confidentiality of all the material be extended [from 50] to 70 years, which is ridiculous – most of the material can be opened.”

    In 2010, the confidentiality period was extended to 70 years; last February it was extended again, to 90 years, despite the opposition of the Supreme Council of Archives. “The state may impose confidentiality on some of its documentation,” Friling says. “The question is whether the issue of security doesn’t act as a kind of cover. In many cases, it’s already become a joke.”
    In the view of Yad Yaari’s Dudu Amitai, the confidentiality imposed by the Defense Ministry must be challenged. In his period at the helm, he says, one of the documents placed in the vault was an order issued by an IDF general, during a truce in the War of Independence, for his troops to refrain from rape and looting. Amitai now intends to go over the documents that were deposited in the vault, especially 1948 documents, and open whatever is possible. “We’ll do it cautiously and responsibly, but recognizing that the State of Israel has to learn how to cope with the less pleasant aspects of its history.”
    In contrast to Yad Yaari, where ministry personnel no longer visit, they are continuing to peruse documents at Yad Tabenkin, the research and documentation center of the United Kibbutz Movement. The director, Aharon Azati, reached an agreement with the Malmab teams under which documents will be transferred to the vault only if he is convinced that this is justified. But in Yad Tabenkin, too, Malmab has broadened its searches beyond the realm of nuclear project to encompass interviews conducted by archival staff with former members of the Palmach, and has even perused material about the history of the settlements in the occupied territories.

    Malmab has, for example, shown interest in the Hebrew-language book “A Decade of Discretion: Settlement Policy in the Territories 1967-1977,” published by Yad Tabenkin in 1992, and written by Yehiel Admoni, director of the Jewish Agency’s Settlement Department during the decade he writes about. The book mentions a plan to settle Palestinian refugees in the Jordan Valley and to the uprooting of 1,540 Bedouin families from the Rafah area of the Gaza Strip in 1972, including an operation that included the sealing of wells by the IDF. Ironically, in the case of the Bedouin, Admoni quotes former Justice Minister Yaakov Shimshon Shapira as saying, “It is not necessary to stretch the security rationale too far. The whole Bedouin episode is not a glorious chapter of the State of Israel.”

    Palestinian refugees leaving their village, unknown location, 1948. UNRWA

    According to Azati, “We are moving increasingly to a tightening of the ranks. Although this is an era of openness and transparency, there are apparently forces that are pulling in the opposite direction.”
    Unauthorized secrecy
    About a year ago, the legal adviser to the State Archives, attorney Naomi Aldouby, wrote an opinion titled “Files Closed Without Authorization in Public Archives.” According to her, the accessibility policy of public archives is the exclusive purview of the director of each institution.
    Despite Aldouby’s opinion, however, in the vast majority of cases, archivists who encountered unreasonable decisions by Malmab did not raise objections – that is, until 2014, when Defense Ministry personnel arrived at the archive of the Harry S. Truman Research Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. To the visitors’ surprise, their request to examine the archive – which contains collections of former minister and diplomat Abba Eban and Maj. Gen. (res.) Shlomo Gazit – was turned down by its then director, Menahem Blondheim.

    According to Blondheim, “I told them that the documents in question were decades old, and that I could not imagine that there was any security problem that would warrant restricting their access to researchers. In response, they said, ‘And let’s say there is testimony here that wells were poisoned in the War of Independence?’ I replied, ‘Fine, those people should be brought to trial.’”
    Blondheim’s refusal led to a meeting with a more senior ministry official, only this time the attitude he encountered was different and explicit threats were made. Finally the two sides reached an accommodation.
    Benny Morris is not surprised at Malmab’s activity. “I knew about it,” he says “Not officially, no one informed me, but I encountered it when I discovered that documents I had seen in the past are now sealed. There were documents from the IDF Archive that I used for an article about Deir Yassin, and which are now sealed. When I came to the archive, I was no longer allowed to see the original, so I pointed out in a footnote [in the article] that the State Archive had denied access to documents that I had published 15 years earlier.”
    The Malmab case is only one example of the battle being waged for access to archives in Israel. According to the executive director of the Akevot Institute, Lior Yavne, “The IDF Archive, which is the largest archive in Israel, is sealed almost hermetically. About 1 percent of the material is open. The Shin Bet archive, which contains materials of immense importance [to scholars], is totally closed apart from a handful of documents.”

    A report written by Yaacov Lozowick, the previous chief archivist at the State Archives, upon his retirement, refers to the defense establishment’s grip on the country’s archival materials. In it, he writes, “A democracy must not conceal information because it is liable to embarrass the state. In practice, the security establishment in Israel, and to a certain extent that of foreign relations as well, are interfering with the [public] discussion.”

    Advocates of concealment put forward several arguments, Lozowick notes: “The uncovering of the facts could provide our enemies with a battering ram against us and weaken the determination of our friends; it’s liable to stir up the Arab population; it could enfeeble the state’s arguments in courts of law; and what is revealed could be interpreted as Israeli war crimes.” However, he says, “All these arguments must be rejected. This is an attempt to hide part of the historical truth in order to construct a more convenient version.”

    What Malmab says
    Yehiel Horev was the keeper of the security establishment’s secrets for more than two decades. He headed the Defense Ministry’s security department from 1986 until 2007 and naturally kept out of the limelight. To his credit, he now agreed to talk forthrightly to Haaretz about the archives project.
    “I don’t remember when it began,” Horev says, “but I do know that I started it. If I’m not mistaken, it started when people wanted to publish documents from the archives. We had to set up teams to examine all outgoing material.”
    From conversations with archive directors, it’s clear that a good deal of the documents on which confidentiality was imposed relate to the War of Independence. Is concealing the events of 1948 part of the purpose of Malmab?

    Palestinian refugees in the Ramle area, 1948. Boris Carmi / The IDF and Defense Establishment Archives

    “What does ‘part of the purpose’ mean? The subject is examined based on an approach of whether it could harm Israel’s foreign relations and the defense establishment. Those are the criteria. I think it’s still relevant. There has not been peace since 1948. I may be wrong, but to the best of my knowledge the Arab-Israeli conflict has not been resolved. So yes, it could be that problematic subjects remain.”

    Asked in what way such documents might be problematic, Horev speaks of the possibility of agitation among the country’s Arab citizens. From his point of view, every document must be perused and every case decided on its merits.

    If the events of 1948 weren’t known, we could argue about whether this approach is the right one. That is not the case. Many testimonies and studies have appeared about the history of the refugee problem. What’s the point of hiding things?
    “The question is whether it can do harm or not. It’s a very sensitive matter. Not everything has been published about the refugee issue, and there are all kinds of narratives. Some say there was no flight at all, only expulsion. Others say there was flight. It’s not black-and-white. There’s a difference between flight and those who say they were forcibly expelled. It’s a different picture. I can’t say now if it merits total confidentiality, but it’s a subject that definitely has to be discussed before a decision is made about what to publish.”

    For years, the Defense Ministry has imposed confidentiality on a detailed document that describes the reasons for the departure of those who became refugees. Benny Morris has already written about the document, so what’s the logic of keeping it hidden?
    “I don’t remember the document you’re referring to, but if he quoted from it and the document itself is not there [i.e., where Morris says it is], then his facts aren’t strong. If he says, ‘Yes, I have the document,’ I can’t argue with that. But if he says that it’s written there, that could be right and it could be wrong. If the document were already outside and were sealed in the archive, I would say that that’s folly. But if someone quoted from it – there’s a difference of day and night in terms of the validity of the evidence he cited.”

    In this case, we’re talking about the most quoted scholar when it comes to the Palestinian refugees.
    “The fact that you say ‘scholar’ makes no impression on me. I know people in academia who spout nonsense about subjects that I know from A to Z. When the state imposes confidentiality, the published work is weakened, because he doesn’t have the document.”

    But isn’t concealing documents based on footnotes in books an attempt to lock the barn door after the horses have bolted?
    “I gave you an example that this needn’t be the case. If someone writes that the horse is black, if the horse isn’t outside the barn, you can’t prove that it’s really black.”

    There are legal opinions stating that Malmab’s activity in the archives is illegal and unauthorized.
    “If I know that an archive contains classified material, I am empowered to tell the police to go there and confiscate the material. I can also utilize the courts. I don’t need the archivist’s authorization. If there is classified material, I have the authority to act. Look, there’s policy. Documents aren’t sealed for no reason. And despite it all, I won’t say to you that everything that’s sealed is 100 percent justified [in being sealed].”

    The Defense Ministry refused to respond to specific questions regarding the findings of this investigative report and made do with the following response: “The director of security of the defense establishment operates by virtue of his responsibility to protect the state’s secrets and its security assets. The Malmab does not provide details about its mode of activity or its missions.”

    Lee Rotbart assisted in providing visual research for this article.

    (1) https://www.haaretz.co.il/st/inter/Heng/1948.pdf

  • How music about space became music about drugs - MIT Technology Review
    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/613762/space-music-drugs

    The rock era and the space age exist on parallel time lines. The Soviets launched Sputnik in October 1957, the same month Elvis Presley hit #1 with “Jailhouse Rock.” The first Beatles single, “Love Me Do,” was released 23 days after John F. Kennedy declared that America would go to the moon (and not because it was easy, but because it was hard). Apollo 11 landed the same summer as Woodstock. These specific events are (of course) coincidences. Yet the larger arc is not. Mankind’s assault upon the heavens was the most dramatic achievement of the 20th century’s second half, simultaneous with rock’s transformation of youth culture. It does not take a deconstructionist to see the influence of the former on the latter. The number of pop lyrics fixated on the concept of space is massive, and perhaps even predictable. It was the language of the era. But what’s more complicated is what that concept came to signify, particularly in terms of how the silence of space was somehow supposed to sound.

    The principal figure in this conversation is also the most obvious: David Bowie. In a playlist of the greatest pop songs ever written about life beyond the stratosphere, 1969’s “Space Oddity” would be the opening cut, a musical experience so definitive that its unofficial sequel—the 1983 synth-pop “Major Tom (Coming Home)” by German one-hit wonder Peter Schilling—would probably be track number two. The lyrical content of “Space Oddity” is spoken more than sung, and the story is straightforward: an astronaut (Major Tom) rockets into space and something goes terribly wrong. It’s odd, in retrospect, that a song with such a pessimistic view of space travel would be released just 10 days before Neil Armstrong stepped on the lunar surface. That level of pessimism, however, would become the standard way for rock musicians to write about science. Outside of Sun Ra or Ace Frehley, it’s hard to find serious songs about space that aren’t framed as isolating or depressing.

    Space is a vacuum: the only song capturing the verbatim resonance of space is John Cage’s perfectly silent “4’33".” Any artist purporting to embody the acoustics of the cosmos is projecting a myth. That myth, however, is collective and widely understood. Space has no sound, but certain sounds are “spacey.” Part of this is due to “Space Oddity”; another part comes from cinema, particularly the soundtrack to 2001 (the epic power of classical music by Richard Strauss and György Ligeti). Still another factor is the consistent application of specific instruments, like the ondes martenot (a keyboard that vaguely simulates a human voice, used most famously in the theme to the TV show Star Trek). The shared assumptions about what makes music extraterrestrial are now so accepted that we tend to ignore how strange it is that we all agree on something impossible.

    Unsurprisingly, the ambiance of these tracks merged with psychedelic tendencies. The idea of “music about space” became shorthand for “music about drugs,” and sometimes for “music to play when you are taking drugs and thinking about space.” And this, at a base level, is the most accurate definition of the genre we now called space rock.

    The apotheosis of all the fake audio signifiers for interstellar displacement, Dark Side of the Moon (and its 1975 follow-up Wish You Were Here) perfected the synthesizer, defining it as the musical vehicle for soundtracking the future. Originally conceived as a way to replicate analog instruments, first-generation synthesizers saw their limitations become their paradoxical utility: though incapable of credibly simulating a real guitar, they could create an unreal guitar tone that was innovative and warmly inhuman. It didn’t have anything to do with actual astronomy, but it seemed to connote both the wonder and terror of an infinite universe. By now, describing pop music as “spacey” usually just means it sounds a little like Pink Floyd.

    What has happened, it seems, is that our primitive question about the moon’s philosophical proximity to Earth has been incrementally resolved. What once seemed distant has microscoped to nothingness. When rock music was new, space was new—and it seemed so far beyond us. Anything was possible. It was a creative dreamscape. But you know what? We eventually got there. We went to space so often that people got bored. The two Voyager craft had already drifted past Pluto before Nirvana released Nevermind in 1991. You can see a picture of a black hole in the New York Times. The notion that outer space is vast and unknowable has been replaced by the notion that space is exactly as it should be, remarkable as it is anodyne.

    #Musique #Espace #David_Bowie #Pink_Floyd

  • View from Nowhere. Is it the press’s job to create a community that transcends borders?

    A few years ago, on a plane somewhere between Singapore and Dubai, I read Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities (1983). I was traveling to report on the global market for passports—how the ultrawealthy can legally buy citizenship or residence virtually anywhere they like, even as 10 million stateless people languish, unrecognized by any country. In the process, I was trying to wrap my head around why national identity meant so much to so many, yet so little to my passport-peddling sources. Their world was the very image of Steve Bannon’s globalist nightmare: where you can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many passports.

    Anderson didn’t address the sale of citizenship, which only took off in earnest in the past decade; he did argue that nations, nationalism, and nationality are about as organic as Cheez Whiz. The idea of a nation, he writes, is a capitalist chimera. It is a collective sense of identity processed, shelf-stabilized, and packaged before being disseminated, for a considerable profit, to a mass audience in the form of printed books, news, and stories. He calls this “print-capitalism.”

    Per Anderson, after the printing press was invented, nearly 600 years ago, enterprising booksellers began publishing the Bible in local vernacular languages (as opposed to the elitist Latin), “set[ting] the stage for the modern nation” by allowing ordinary citizens to participate in the same conversations as the upper classes. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the proliferation (and popularity) of daily newspapers further collapsed time and space, creating an “extraordinary mass ceremony” of reading the same things at the same moment.

    “An American will never meet, or even know the names of more than a handful of his 240,000,000–odd fellow Americans,” Anderson wrote. “He has no idea of what they are up to at any one time.” But with the knowledge that others are reading the same news, “he has complete confidence in their steady, anonymous, simultaneous activity.”

    Should the press be playing a role in shaping not national identities, but transnational ones—a sense that we’re all in it together?

    Of course, national presses enabled more explicit efforts by the state itself to shape identity. After the US entered World War I, for instance, President Woodrow Wilson set out to make Americans more patriotic through his US Committee on Public Information. Its efforts included roping influential mainstream journalists into advocating American-style democracy by presenting US involvement in the war in a positive light, or simply by referring to Germans as “Huns.” The committee also monitored papers produced by minorities to make sure they supported the war effort not as Indians, Italians, or Greeks, but as Americans. Five Irish-American papers were banned, and the German-American press, reacting to negative stereotypes, encouraged readers to buy US bonds to support the war effort.

    The US media played an analogous role in selling the public on the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But ever since then, in the digital economy, its influence on the national consciousness has waned. Imagined Communities was published seven years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, twenty-two years before Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat, and a couple of decades before the internet upended print-capitalism as the world knew it (one of Anderson’s footnotes is telling, if quaint: “We still have no giant multinationals in the world of publishing”).

    Since Trump—a self-described nationalist—became a real contender for the US presidency, many news organizations have taken to looking inward: consider the running obsession with the president’s tweets, for instance, or the nonstop White House palace intrigue (which the president invites readily).

    Meanwhile, the unprofitability of local and regional papers has contributed to the erosion of civics, which, down the line, makes it easier for billionaires to opt out of old “imagined communities” and join new ones based on class and wealth, not citizenship. And given the challenges humanity faces—climate change, mass migration, corporate hegemony, and our relationships to new technologies—even if national papers did make everyone feel like they shared the same narrative, a renewed sense of national pride would prove impotent in fighting world-historic threats that know no borders.

    Should the press, then, be playing an analogous role in shaping not national identities, but transnational ones—a sense that we’re all in it together? If it was so important in shaping national identity, can it do so on a global scale?

    Like my passport-buying subjects, I am what Theresa May, the former British prime minister, might call a “citizen of nowhere.” I was born in one place to parents from another, grew up in a third, and have lived and traveled all over. That informs my perspective: I want deeply for there to be a truly cosmopolitan press corps, untethered from national allegiances, regional biases, class divisions, and the remnants of colonial exploitation. I know that’s utopian; the international working class is hardly a lucrative demographic against which publishers can sell ads. But we seem to be living in a time of considerable upheaval and opportunity. Just as the decline of religiously and imperially organized societies paved the way for national alternatives, then perhaps today there is a chance to transcend countries’ boundaries, too.

    Does the US media help create a sense of national identity? If nationalism means putting the interests of one nation—and what its citizens are interested in—before more universal concerns, then yes. Most journalists working for American papers, websites, and TV write in English with a national audience (or regional time zone) in mind, which affects how we pitch, source, frame, and illustrate a story—which, in turn, influences our readers, their country’s politics, and, down the line, the world. But a news peg isn’t an ideological form of nationalism so much as a practical or methodological one. The US press feeds off of more pernicious nationalisms, too: Donald Trump’s false theory about Barack Obama being “secretly” Kenyan, disseminated by the likes of Fox and The Daily Caller, comes to mind.

    That isn’t to say that global news outlets don’t exist in the US. When coaxing subscribers, the Financial Times, whose front page often includes references to a dozen different countries, openly appeals to their cosmopolitanism. “Be a global citizen. Become an FT Subscriber,” read a recent banner ad, alongside a collage featuring the American, Chinese, Japanese, Australian, and European Union flags (though stories like the recent “beginner’s guide to buying a private island” might tell us something about what kind of global citizen they’re appealing to).

    “I don’t think we try to shape anyone’s identity at all,” Gillian Tett, the paper’s managing editor for the US, says. “We recognize two things: that the world is more interconnected today than it’s ever been, and that these connections are complex and quite opaque. We think it’s critical to try to illuminate them.”

    For Tett, who has a PhD in social anthropology, money serves as a “neutral, technocratic” starting point through which to understand—and tie together—the world. “Most newspapers today tend to start with an interest in politics or events, and that inevitably leads you to succumb to tribalism, however hard you try [not to],” Tett explains. “If you look at the world through money—how is money going around the world, who’s making and losing it and why?—out of that you lead to political, cultural, foreign-policy stories.”

    Tett’s comments again brought to mind Imagined Communities: Anderson notes that, in 18th-century Caracas, newspapers “began essentially as appendages of the market,” providing commercial news about ships coming in, commodity prices, and colonial appointments, as well as a proto–Vows section for the upper crust to hate-read in their carriages. “The newspaper of Caracas quite naturally, and even apolitically, created an imagined community among a specific assemblage of fellow-readers, to whom these ships, brides, bishops, and prices belonged,” he wrote. “In time, of course, it was only to be expected that political elements would enter in.”

    Yesterday’s aristocracy is today’s passport-buying, globe-trotting one percent. The passport brokers I got to know also pitched clients with the very same promise of “global citizenship” (it sounds less louche than “buy a new passport”)—by taking out ads in the Financial Times. Theirs is exactly the kind of neoliberal “globalism” that nationalist politicians like Trump have won elections denouncing (often hypocritically) as wanting “the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much.” Isn’t upper-crust glibness about borders, boundaries, and the value of national citizenship part of what helped give us this reactionary nativism in the first place?

    “I suspect what’s been going on with Brexit and maybe Trump and other populist movements [is that] people. . . see ‘global’ as a threat to local communities and businesses rather than something to be welcomed,” Tett says. “But if you’re an FT reader, you see it as benign or descriptive.”

    Among the largest news organizations in the world is Reuters, with more than 3,000 journalists and photographers in 120 countries. It is part of Thomson Reuters, a truly global firm. Reuters does not take its mandate lightly: a friend who works there recently sent me a job posting for an editor in Gdynia, which, Google clarified for me, is a city in the Pomeranian Voivodeship of Poland.

    Reuters journalists cover everything from club sports to international tax evasion. They’re outsourcing quick hits about corporate earnings to Bangalore, assembling teams on multiple continents to tackle a big investigation, shedding or shuffling staff under corporate reorganizations. Perhaps unsurprisingly, “more than half our business is serving financial customers,” Stephen Adler, the editor in chief, tells me. “That has little to do with what country you’re from. It’s about information: a central-bank action in Europe or Japan may be just as important as everything else.”

    Institutionally, “it’s really important and useful that we don’t have one national HQ,” Adler adds. “That’s the difference between a global news organization and one with a foreign desk. For us, nothing is foreign.” That approach won Reuters this year’s international Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the mass murder of the Rohingya in Myanmar (two of the reporters were imprisoned as a result, and since freed); it also comes through especially sharply in daily financial stories: comprehensive, if dry, compendiums of who-what-where-when-why that recognize the global impact of national stories, and vice versa. A recent roundup of stock movements included references to the US Fed, China trade talks, Brexit, monetary policy around the world, and the price of gold.

    Adler has led the newsroom since 2011, and a lot has changed in the world. (I worked at Reuters between 2011 and 2013, first as Adler’s researcher and later as a reporter; Adler is the chair of CJR’s board.) Shortly after Trump’s election, Adler wrote a memo affirming the organization’s commitment to being fair, honest, and resourceful. He now feels more strongly than ever about judiciously avoiding biases—including national ones. “Our ideology and discipline around putting personal feelings and nationality aside has been really helpful, because when you think about how powerful local feelings are—revolutions, the Arab Spring—we want you writing objectively and dispassionately.”

    The delivery of stories in a casual, illustrated, highly readable form is in some ways more crucial to developing an audience than subject matter.

    Whether global stories can push communities to develop transnationally in a meaningful way is a harder question to answer; it seems to impugn our collective aptitude for reacting to problems of a global nature in a rational way. Reuters’s decision not to fetishize Trump hasn’t led to a drop-off in US coverage—its reporters have been especially strong on immigration and trade policy, not to mention the effects of the new administration on the global economy—but its stories aren’t exactly clickbait, which means ordinary Americans might not encounter them at the top of their feed. In other words, having a global perspective doesn’t necessarily translate to more eyeballs.

    What’s more, Reuters doesn’t solve the audience-class problem: whether readers are getting dispatches in partner newspapers like The New York Times or through the organization’s Eikon terminal, they tend to be the sort of person “who does transnational business, travels a good deal, is connected through work and media, has friends in different places, cares about what’s going on in different places,” Adler says. “That’s a pretty large cohort of people who have reason to care what’s going on in other places.”

    There are ways to unite readers without centering coverage on money or the markets. For a generation of readers around the world, the common ground is technology: the internet. “We didn’t pick our audience,” Ben Smith, the editor in chief of BuzzFeed, tells me over the phone. “Our audience picked us.” He defines his readers as a cohort aged 18–35 “who are on the internet and who broadly care about human rights, global politics, and feminism and gay rights in particular.”

    To serve them, BuzzFeed recently published a damning investigative report into the World Wildlife Fund’s arming of militias in natural reserves; a (not uncontroversial) series on Trump’s business dealings abroad; early exposés of China’s detention of Uighur citizens; and reports on child abuse in Australia. Climate—“the central challenge for every newsroom in the world”—has been harder to pin down. “We don’t feel anyone has cracked it. But the shift from abstract scientific [stories] to coverage of fires in California, it’s a huge change—it makes it more concrete,” Smith says. (My husband is a reporter for BuzzFeed.)

    The delivery of these stories in a casual, illustrated, highly readable form is in some ways more crucial to developing an audience than subject matter. “The global political financial elites have had a common language ever since it was French,” Smith says. “There is now a universal language of internet culture, [and] that. . . is how our stuff translates so well between cultures and audiences.” This isn’t a form of digital Esperanto, Smith insists; the point isn’t to flatten the differences between countries or regions so much as to serve as a “container” in which people from different regions, interest groups, and cultures can consume media through references they all understand.

    BuzzFeed might not be setting out to shape its readers’ identities (I certainly can’t claim to feel a special bond with other people who found out they were Phoebes from the quiz “Your Sushi Order Will Reveal Which ‘Friends’ Character You’re Most Like”). An audience defined by its youth and its media consumption habits can be difficult to keep up with: platforms come and go, and young people don’t stay young forever. But if Anderson’s thesis still carries water, there must be something to speaking this language across cultures, space, and time. Call it “Web vernacular.”

    In 2013, during one of the many recent and lengthy US government shutdowns, Joshua Keating, a journalist at Slate, began a series, “If It Happened There,” that imagined how the American media would view the shutdown if it were occurring in another country. “The typical signs of state failure aren’t evident on the streets of this sleepy capital city,” Keating opens. “Beret-wearing colonels have not yet taken to the airwaves to declare martial law. . . .But the pleasant autumn weather disguises a government teetering on the brink.”

    It goes on; you get the idea. Keating’s series, which was inspired by his having to read “many, many headlines from around the world” while working at Foreign Policy, is a clever journalistic illustration of what sociologists call “methodological nationalism”: the bias that gets inadvertently baked into work and words. In the Middle East, it’s sectarian or ethnic strife; in the Midwest, it’s a trigger-happy cop and a kid in a hoodie.

    His send-ups hit a nerve. “It was huge—it was by far the most popular thing I’ve done at Slate,” Keating says. “I don’t think that it was a shocking realization to anyone that this kind of language can be a problem, but sometimes pointing it out can be helpful. If the series did anything, it made people stop and be conscious of how. . . our inherent biases and perspectives will inform how we cover the world.”

    Curiously, living under an openly nationalist administration has changed the way America—or at the very least, a significant part of the American press corps—sees itself. The press is a de facto opposition party, not because it tries to be, but because the administration paints it that way. And that gives reporters the experience of working in a place much more hostile than the US without setting foot outside the country.

    Keating has “semi-retired” the series as a result of the broad awareness among American reporters that it is, in fact, happening here. “It didn’t feel too novel to say [Trump was] acting like a foreign dictator,” he says. “That was what the real news coverage was doing.”

    Keating, who traveled to Somaliland, Kurdistan, and Abkhazia to report his book Invisible Countries (2018), still thinks the fastest and most effective way to form an international perspective is to live abroad. At the same time, not being bound to a strong national identity “can make it hard to understand particular concerns of the people you’re writing about,” he says. It might be obvious, but there is no one perfect way to be internationally minded.

    Alan Rusbridger—the former editor of The Guardian who oversaw the paper’s Edward Snowden coverage and is now the principal at Lady Margaret Hall, a college at Oxford University—recognizes the journalistic and even moral merits of approaching news in a non-national way: “I think of journalism as a public service, and I do think there’s a link between journalism at its best and the betterment of individual lives and societies,” he says. But he doesn’t have an easy formula for how to do that, because truly cosmopolitan journalism requires both top-down editorial philosophies—not using certain phrasings or framings that position foreigners as “others”—and bottom-up efforts by individual writers to read widely and be continuously aware of how their work might be read by people thousands of miles away.

    Yes, the starting point is a nationally defined press, not a decentralized network, but working jointly helps pool scarce resources and challenge national or local biases.

    Rusbridger sees potential in collaborations across newsrooms, countries, and continents. Yes, the starting point is a nationally defined press, not a decentralized network; but working jointly helps pool scarce resources and challenge national or local biases. It also wields power. “One of the reasons we reported Snowden with the Times in New York was to use global protections of human rights and free speech and be able to appeal to a global audience of readers and lawyers,” Rusbridger recalls. “We thought, ‘We’re pretty sure nation-states will come at us over this, and the only way to do it is harness ourselves to the US First Amendment not available to us anywhere else.’”

    In employing these tactics, the press positions itself in opposition to the nation-state. The same strategy could be seen behind the rollout of the Panama and Paradise Papers (not to mention the aggressive tax dodging detailed therein). “I think journalists and activists and citizens on the progressive wing of politics are thinking creatively about how global forces can work to their advantage,” Rusbridger says.

    But he thinks it all starts locally, with correspondents who have fluency in the language, culture, and politics of the places they cover, people who are members of the communities they write about. That isn’t a traditional foreign-correspondent experience (nor indeed that of UN employees, NGO workers, or other expats). The silver lining of publishing companies’ shrinking budgets might be that cost cutting pushes newsrooms to draw from local talent, rather than send established writers around. What you gain—a cosmopolitanism that works from the bottom up—can help dispel accusations of media elitism. That’s the first step to creating new imagined communities.

    Anderson’s work has inspired many an academic, but media executives? Not so much. Rob Wijnberg is an exception: he founded the (now beleaguered) Correspondent in the Netherlands in 2013 with Anderson’s ideas in mind. In fact, when we speak, he brings the name up unprompted.

    “You have to transcend this notion that you can understand the world through the national point of view,” he says. “The question is, What replacement do we have for it? Simply saying we have to transcend borders or have an international view isn’t enough, because you have to replace the imagined community you’re leaving behind with another one.”

    For Wijnberg, who was a philosophy student before he became a journalist, this meant radically reinventing the very structures of the news business: avoiding covering “current events” just because they happened, and thinking instead of what we might call eventful currents—the political, social, and economic developments that affect us all. It meant decoupling reporting from national news cycles, and getting readers to become paying “members” instead of relying on advertisements.

    This, he hoped, would help create a readership not based on wealth, class, nationality, or location, but on borderless, universal concerns. “We try to see our members. . . as part of a group or knowledge community, where the thing they share is the knowledge they have about a specific structural subject matter,” be it climate, inequality, or migration, Wijnberg says. “I think democracy and politics answers more to media than the other way around, so if you change the way media covers the world you change a lot.”

    That approach worked well in the Netherlands: his team raised 1.7 million euros in 2013, and grew to include 60,000 members. A few years later, Wijnberg and his colleagues decided to expand into the US, and with the help of NYU’s Jay Rosen, an early supporter, they made it onto Trevor Noah’s Daily Show to pitch their idea.

    The Correspondent raised more than $2.5 million from nearly 50,000 members—a great success, by any measure. But in March, things started to get hairy, with the publication abruptly pulling the plug on opening a US newsroom and announcing that staff would edit stories reported from the US from the original Amsterdam office instead. Many of the reasons behind this are mundane: visas, high rent, relocation costs. And reporters would still be reporting from, and on, the States. But supporters felt blindsided, calling the operation a scam.

    Today, Wijnberg reflects that he should have controlled the messaging better, and not promised to hire and operate from New York until he was certain that he could. He also wonders why it matters.

    “It’s not saying people who think it matters are wrong,” he explains. “But if the whole idea of this kind of geography and why it’s there is a construct, and you’re trying to think about transcending it, the very notion of Where are you based? is secondary. The whole point is not to be based anywhere.”

    Still: “The view from everywhere—the natural opposite—is just as real,” Wijnberg concedes. “You can’t be everywhere. You have to be somewhere.”

    And that’s the rub: for all of nationalism’s ills, it does instill in its subjects what Anderson calls a “deep, horizontal comradeship” that, while imagined, blossoms thanks to a confluence of forces. It can’t be replicated supranationally overnight. The challenge for a cosmopolitan journalism, then, is to dream up new forms of belonging that look forward, not backward—without discarding the imagined communities we have.

    That’s hard; so hard that it more frequently provokes a retrenchment, not an expansion, of solidarity. But it’s not impossible. And our collective futures almost certainly depend on it.

    https://www.cjr.org/special_report/view-from-nowhere.php
    #journalisme #nationalisme #Etat-nation #communauté_nationale #communauté_internationale #frontières #presse #médias

  • Can Reading Make You Happier ? | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/can-reading-make-you-happier

    In a secular age, I suspect that reading fiction is one of the few remaining paths to transcendence, that elusive state in which the distance between the self and the universe shrinks. Reading fiction makes me lose all sense of self, but at the same time makes me feel most uniquely myself. As Woolf, the most fervent of readers, wrote, a book “splits us into two parts as we read,” for “the state of reading consists in the complete elimination of the ego,” while promising “perpetual union” with another mind.

    Bibliotherapy is a very broad term for the ancient practice of encouraging reading for therapeutic effect. The first use of the term is usually dated to a jaunty 1916 article in The Atlantic Monthly, “A Literary Clinic.” In it, the author describes stumbling upon a “bibliopathic institute” run by an acquaintance, Bagster, in the basement of his church, from where he dispenses reading recommendations with healing value. “Bibliotherapy is…a new science,” Bagster explains. “A book may be a stimulant or a sedative or an irritant or a soporific. The point is that it must do something to you, and you ought to know what it is. A book may be of the nature of a soothing syrup or it may be of the nature of a mustard plaster.” To a middle-aged client with “opinions partially ossified,” Bagster gives the following prescription: “You must read more novels. Not pleasant stories that make you forget yourself. They must be searching, drastic, stinging, relentless novels.” (George Bernard Shaw is at the top of the list.) Bagster is finally called away to deal with a patient who has “taken an overdose of war literature,” leaving the author to think about the books that “put new life into us and then set the life pulse strong but slow.”

    Today, bibliotherapy takes many different forms, from literature courses run for prison inmates to reading circles for elderly people suffering from dementia. Sometimes it can simply mean one-on-one or group sessions for “lapsed” readers who want to find their way back to an enjoyment of books.

    Berthoud and Elderkin trace the method of bibliotherapy all the way back to the Ancient Greeks, “who inscribed above the entrance to a library in Thebes that this was a ‘healing place for the soul.’ ” The practice came into its own at the end of the nineteenth century, when Sigmund Freud began using literature during psychoanalysis sessions. After the First World War, traumatized soldiers returning home from the front were often prescribed a course of reading. “Librarians in the States were given training on how to give books to WWI vets, and there’s a nice story about Jane Austen’s novels being used for bibliotherapeutic purposes at the same time in the U.K.,” Elderkin says. Later in the century, bibliotherapy was used in varying ways in hospitals and libraries, and has more recently been taken up by psychologists, social and aged-care workers, and doctors as a viable mode of therapy.

    For all avid readers who have been self-medicating with great books their entire lives, it comes as no surprise that reading books can be good for your mental health and your relationships with others, but exactly why and how is now becoming clearer, thanks to new research on reading’s effects on the brain. Since the discovery, in the mid-nineties, of “mirror neurons”—neurons that fire in our brains both when we perform an action ourselves and when we see an action performed by someone else—the neuroscience of empathy has become clearer. A 2011 study published in the Annual Review of Psychology, based on analysis of fMRI brain scans of participants, showed that, when people read about an experience, they display stimulation within the same neurological regions as when they go through that experience themselves. We draw on the same brain networks when we’re reading stories and when we’re trying to guess at another person’s feelings.

    Other studies published in 2006 and 2009 showed something similar—that people who read a lot of fiction tend to be better at empathizing with others (even after the researchers had accounted for the potential bias that people with greater empathetic tendencies may prefer to read novels). And, in 2013, an influential study published in Science found that reading literary fiction (rather than popular fiction or literary nonfiction) improved participants’ results on tests that measured social perception and empathy, which are crucial to “theory of mind”: the ability to guess with accuracy what another human being might be thinking or feeling, a skill humans only start to develop around the age of four.

    But not everybody agrees with this characterization of fiction reading as having the ability to make us behave better in real life. In her 2007 book, “Empathy and the Novel,” Suzanne Keen takes issue with this “empathy-altruism hypothesis,” and is skeptical about whether empathetic connections made while reading fiction really translate into altruistic, prosocial behavior in the world. She also points out how hard it is to really prove such a hypothesis. “Books can’t make change by themselves—and not everyone feels certain that they ought to,” Keen writes. “As any bookworm knows, readers can also seem antisocial and indolent. Novel reading is not a team sport.” Instead, she urges, we should enjoy what fiction does give us, which is a release from the moral obligation to feel something for invented characters—as you would for a real, live human being in pain or suffering—which paradoxically means readers sometimes “respond with greater empathy to an unreal situation and characters because of the protective fictionality.” And she wholeheartedly supports the personal health benefits of an immersive experience like reading, which “allows a refreshing escape from ordinary, everyday pressures.”

    #Bibliothérapie #Lecture #Romans #Psychologie #Empathie

  • I Rode All the E-Scooters. Most of Them Are Awful Except Two
    https://jalopnik.com/i-rode-all-the-e-scooters-most-of-them-are-awful-excep-1835373127

    So sieht es im paradiesischen Wunderland des Transport-Sharing aus : #ASAB Alle Roller sind Mist, außer einem, und der ist genau genommen kein Roller. Und in Berlin? Sind das bessere E-Roller Made in Germany ? Wohl kaum. Tragt bloß einen Helm!

    Matt Farah, 6/10/19 3:45pm - One weekend morning toward the end of 2017, I woke up at home in Venice, CA and took a walk, only to see something entirely new: people on electric scooters. And I mean lots of people on electric scooters. Literally overnight, a new company called Bird, founded just two miles away in Santa Monica, had launched an app and dumped thousands of dockless scooters all over the place. A few things happened very quickly after that:

    Bird Scooters became litter. Freelance chargers, or “Juicers” as Lime would later call their not-employees, would do their best to place the scooters in an orderly fashion, out of the way in common areas. But since people only have respect for a.) things they, themselves personally own or b.) are locked down or are being watched, kicking, destroying, throwing them in the ocean, and more turned into Venice’s favorite new sport. The other morning, I watched someone line up a dozen or more scooters neatly, get into their van, and drive off. Not 10 seconds later, someone used a shopping cart as a bowling ball, turning the whole thing into some kind of bramble.
    Everyone wanted to compete with Bird. Lime was next, with its fun, fruit-themed livery. Bird and Lime were the new disruptors, and the OG disruptors, Uber and Lyft, wanted in on that sweet, sweet last-mile dollar. So those two started dropping their own scooters all over.
    E-Mobility Scooters have absolutely decimated the bike rental industry in Venice. Enterprising bike rental shop owners began to moonlight as scooter chargers or repair facilities. Some bike rental shop owners began buying and renting out their own scooters. Now, just 18 months later, on any given weekend, well over 50 percent of the wheeled traffic on the Venice bike path is battery powered.

    There were injuries. Lots of injuries. Anecdotally, I regularly see people wiping out and getting hurt on mobility scooters. It happens enough that I have made something of a pastime watching a specific corner on the bike path near my house. Business Insider reports over 1,500 injuries serious enough to record in the U.S., in 2018 alone, plus four fatalities.

    For the record, I sympathize with local residents who resent them taking up sidewalk space in front of their home, hate them for becoming litter in a neighborhood that often has too much of that already, and who have to deal with yet another way for dumb, lost tourists to be dumb and lost.

    I’ve found scooters blocking my own front door or garage on several occasions. And folks tend to want the best of all worlds while riding one: they want the rights of a pedestrian, the rights of a bicycle, and the rights of a car, all at the same time, which is an incredibly dangerous mindset.

    Also, for the record, I have found some extremely convenient uses for the scooters when I need to get somewhere that is just out of walking range, or to “run to the store to pick up some forgotten ingredient” while a recipe is in the oven. I have used every brand of scooter at one point or another, with extremely mixed results. I will factor in previous experience into my rankings.

    The Test: My goal was to find out which mobility company provides the best motoring experience for the rider, for their money. A showdown, for which scooter is best.

    For purposes of this piece, we will not be discussing company policy, only the scooter itself, and whether or not you should get down with it when you come hang out with me on Venice Beach.

    The Circuit

    Allow me to introduce you to The Mobiliring: a 3.4-mile handling circuit featuring a variety of surface changes, corners, crags, obstacles, sand, and people.

    You begin at the Venice Beach Parking lot at 2100 Ocean Front Walk, with the densest population of scooters around. Proceeding straight across the parking lot to the bike path, you go north on the bike path over a winding way made of slatted, rough, sandy concrete, all the way to the Santa Monica border, where you turn back south because mobility scooters can’t be ridden on the bike path at all in the city of Santa Monica.

    You ride south on Speedway, basically a decaying alley full of potholes, but appropriately named, as it was LA’s first paved road. Take Speedway south to Windward Avenue, the heart of Venice, and turn right, weaving across the freestyle dance skating grounds, through the throngs of tourists, and back to the bike path where it meets the legal graffiti area. Continue south on the bike path until you get to the Venice pier, then turn left on Washington Blvd and an immediate left to go north on Speedway, taking you right back to Start/Finish.

    This course is approximately 60 percent unlimited-speed bike path and 40 percent public roads, and in order to successfully complete a lap, you must pay attention and obey all posted road signs and laws.

    (Before you ask, Yes, I bought the Mobiliring domain name. Yes, I will be inviting you to post your own lap times.)

    The Contenders: We’ve restricted our entrants to scooter-type vehicles (as opposed to e-assist bicycles) available on the street for rent in Venice, CA as of May 13, 2019. For this test, that means Bird, Lime, Lyft, Jump (Uber), and Wheels are in the game. Now let’s see how they did on our handling course.

    5th Place – Jump – DNF

    Jump, along with Lyft, uses the Segway / Ninebot ES2 scooter with 19 miles of range and a claimed top speed of 15 mph. This scooter also uses two independent braking methods: regenerative via a toggle on the handlebar, and direct friction via a pressure plate on the rear tire. But, as with shared platforms in cars, the difference is often in the fine tuning, and here, the tuning mattered a lot.

    Our test started well. I picked up a fully charged and seemingly brand-new Jump scooter a few road blocks from the Mobiliring’s Start/Finish line. On the road, it seemed reasonably well made and stable, and reached the claimed top speed of 15 mph relatively drama-free. Then, just after starting off my official lap time, I hit the bike path, and it told me “no.”

    This is important. You see, the Venice bike path is exactly what it sounds like: a dedicated path for bikes, separate from cars and pedestrians. How each of these scooters deals with the bike path, as we will learn, is a defining factor in their Mobiliring time. The bike path and some of the surrounding pedestrian areas, a few of which are on-course, are “restricted” for some scooters, but not for others.

    While each scooter company deals with the bike path its own way, Jump has elected not to deal with it at all. The scooter refused to move, the app told me to take it back off the path, and into a “parking zone,” to lock it up and end my ride.

    I pushed it back where I found it, and even though my phone knew where I was, the scooter disagreed, and I was penalized for $5 for, ultimately, parking it legally.

    4th Place – Lime S – 44 minutes - $7.60

    Lime, the second scooter brand on the scene after Bird, has just released a heavier-duty version of their scooter, called the “Gen 3.” It features an underfloor battery for better stability, improved front suspension, bigger wheels, and a 30-mile range with all-weather capability.

    Unfortunately, since California doesn’t need that as badly as, say, Boston, we don’t get those. Here in Venice, we get the original Lime S scooter, also by Ninebot, but with a 18 mile range and a top speed of 14 mph. The Lime S has the tallest handlebars of all scooters and a single, rear-wheel bike-style cable and disc brake.

    In my previous experience, I’ve found the Lime S to be the fastest of the stand-up scooters, regularly exceeding the claimed 14 mph number, but also with the twitchiest handling in part because those handlebars are so high up and with a column full of heavy batteries in the front. Allegedly the handling issues are solved in the new scooter, but I will have to wait to see on that.

    Lime has decided that an appropriate speed for the Venice bike path should be 3 mph. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to operate a two-wheeled vehicle at 3 mph, but it’s actually quite a lot of work. Three is just barely enough speed to keep a two-wheeled vehicle standing up. It’s slow enough that I was passed by old people walking.

    It’s so slow, that you really can’t keep it in a straight line, which means the ride takes that much longer because you have to cover more zig-zaggy distance, and have I mentioned you’re going three? 

    I was openly mocked, to my face. I realize how mean-spirited you need to be to mock someone to their face for doing nothing besides silently riding a scooter very slowly on the bike path, but honestly, no one has just randomly mocked me on the street really ever in my lifetime. That’s how embarrassingly slow Lime wants you to go on the bike path.

    To make matters worse, Lime’s GPS calibration is so bad that, not 20 feet away from me on the pedestrian foot path I was passed by a dozen Limes going full-tilt, weaving between pedestrians, while I was a rolling chicane on the bike path, being passed by folks going slower than my own top speed.

    3rd Place – Lyft – 31 minutes, 47 Seconds - $7.01

    As I noted earlier, both Lyft and Jump use essentially the same Ninebot ES2scooter, painted different colors. But the difference between Jump’s DNF and Lyft’s podium finish? The software.

    Jump uses a basic LED display with a speedometer, whereas Lyft just has five little lights to indicate battery status. You could say that makes Jump better, but in fact it makes Jump worse, because there is nothing worse than looking at a powered vehicle’s speedometer and seeing a number lower than where you’d set the treadmill during cool down.

    Lyft’s “Prince Purple” and black livery also features a metal cage surrounding the column-mounted auxiliary battery pack, Mad Max style. I guess they follow @BirdGraveyard.

    I actually tested the Lyft before Lime and Jump, so when I hit the bike path and got stuck with a 5 mph limiter for the first mile and a half, it was bad. I thought that was, at the time, as embarrassed as I could be on a motorized vehicle, traveling barely faster than a walk. The thumb throttle, remained fully depressed for a solid 20 minutes, and my right hand began to cramp. I suddenly realized that, if the other scooters were this bad (they were worse) the test was actually going to take all day (it did).

    In unrestricted zones, the electrons flowed like a burst dam; the combination of power delivery and incredibly cheap, low-grip tires mean that you can actually get wheelspin on the sandy stuff – man this thing is fast. Maybe Lyft doesn’t put a speedometer on the handlebars because they are hiding the fact that their scooters are massively juiced up? Maybe it’s like Japan in the 1990s where everyone says their car makes 276 horsepower, and this is the R34 Skyline actually pushing 450?

    Southbound on Speedway, there were sections where I couldn’t use full throttle because it was just way, way too fast. With these tiny wheels, and this amount of power, when you hit the pavement head first (your only option when the front wheel “pivot point” of a crash is 4” in front of your toes), your head will explode like a Gallagher watermelon.

    The regenerative braking system on these Ninebot scooters is really cool, except, like most cheap regen systems, it stops working at low speed. So you really do have to use the friction brake on the rear wheel to come to a full stop.

    Considering the speed, you do not want to be standing on your toes on your back foot, which means you have to do a mid-brake foot shuffle to get that back foot planted on the brake to stop it. It seems like a good idea, and probably adds to the range to use regen as much as possible, but in a panic, complex braking systems are not good.

    Nevertheless, the bike path clearly took a lot away from Lyft’s time here, and so if you live in a city without restricted zones, commuting on one of these could be faster than you think. Wear a helmet.

    2nd Place – Bird Zero – 20 minutes - $6.20

    Bird is the Kleenex of mobility, the Google of mobility, the iPod of mobility. They were the first on the scene and made everyone else play catch-up. The original Bird scooter was a modified Xiaomi unit (sidebar: the guy who modified it is super interesting on his own and races a very fast and aero-fied Nissan GT-R in the Global Time Attack series), which proved not to be durable enough to stand up to the abuse put forth by Americans handling items they don’t own. So they first did a stint with Ninebot before developing their own in-house scooter, the Bird Zero, which is what I rode.

    The Zero has the widest deck of any standup scooter available, making it the most comfortable and stable to ride. (EDIT: New “Bolt” Scooters in LA have wider decks, but were not online at the time of my test). The handlebars fall between Jump and Lime height, so right in the middle, and between your hands is a speedometer and battery indicator.

    Though Bird says the Zero will go 25 km/hr (15 mph), the onboard speedometer would stop at 11.5 mph, and if you actually hit 12 mph (like on a small downhill), it would kill power until you dropped down to 9 mph, an incredibly annoying bug.

    It has larger wheels than the Ninebots used by Lyft, Jump and Lime, and what appear to be grippier tires. At 11 mph and change, you feel like you’re moving along pretty good, but it’s not sketchy fast, and the combination of (slightly) larger wheels and a basic front suspension mean the cracks in the sidewalk aren’t so jarring. The only brake is a bicycle-style cable disc brake on the rear wheel. The cable is exposed, so it’s vulnerable to tampering, but it’s intuitive and effective.

    (Side note: Yes, people are constantly messing with the brakes of these scooters. I regularly find cut cables, and on a few occasions, have started riding only to find out while in motion that the cables have been cut or removed entirely. Check any scooter before riding for functional brakes.)

    I took my first lap ever around the Mobiliring on a Bird, figuring they would be the one to beat, and frankly, Bird is the gold standard for a reason. The Zero is unrestricted on the bike path, and maintained its top speed for the entire first twisty section. The handling is predictable, and there is more grip than other scooters, right up until it gets sandy. Turning southward on Speedway at the north end of the course, the Zero absorbed many of the bumps and ruts in the road better than other scooters. Because I didn’t bump up on any stupid limiters, the entire lap was quite pleasant and relaxing.

    Having tried all three generations of Bird scooter, the Zero is a vast improvement from the first two, and if you’re going to scoot on your feet, not on a seat, Bird is probably the one to ride.

    1st Place – Wheels – 15 Minutes, 16 seconds - $5.60

    “Wheels” is the newest mobility company on the scene; their miniature bicycles only appeared in Venice a few months ago. These bikes are, frankly, genius. In theory, they go up to 35 km/hr, (21.7 mph), though I never saw more than 33.5 on the display.

    Because they are the first mobility option with hot-swappable batteries, the bikes themselves never go out of service during daytime hours. Wheels “Transporters” pick random bikes from where they are left, swap the batteries, and return the bikes to “hubs,” where, in my experience, you can pretty much always find at least one.

    The fact that they are more like bicycles than Razor scooters is, itself, a major advantage. Sitting, rather than standing, means stability. It means your knees and ankles aren’t a suspension component. It has 14-inch wheels with pneumatic tires. It uses dual disc brakes from a high-end bicycle. It has a twist-grip throttle, like a motorcycle. And it has Bluetooth speakers, so you can play your music from the bike itself, freeing you from having to dangerously (and in Santa Monica, illegally) ride on the street wearing headphones.

    A Wheels has enough power that you don’t have to push-start it, real tires so you can ride confidently on sandy tarmac, and the kind of brakes you’d want on a vehicle capable of keeping up with, and passing, folks on geared bicycles, or even cars in urban traffic. The kind of bumps that would sail you headfirst into a parked car on a traditional scooter are mere inconveniences on a Wheels.

    I knew it would be faster than the scooters on specs alone, but honestly, it was also so much more fun. Every single scooter is kinda terrifying, because a crack or a bump can come up so quickly, with really bad consequences. Even while having fun, it’s virtually impossible to escape this train of thought. Especially since right when you do, that’s when you crash.

    A Wheels is like riding an electric Honda Grom. The bike path, unrestricted on a Wheels, might as well be Angeles Crest Highway. I was taking apexes, leaning it down, balancing the brakes, and leaning into the throttle on exits. You can actually look up and around, rather than four feet in front of you, because you aren’t terrified of uneven pavement anymore.

    Best of all, because it looks more like a bike than a Razor scooter, many folks are riding them in more appropriate places than sidewalks, because they no longer see themselves as pedestrians.

    And the speed, Lord, the speed. It completed the Mobiliring a full five minutes faster than Bird, in half the time of Lyft, 1/3 the time of Lime, and for less money than all of them—after all, you’re literally renting these things by the minute, not the mile. Time is money.

    Downsides? Admittedly, there are two: First are the exposed brake cables for the dual disc brakes. During the single day of this test, I found three Wheels with intentionally cut brake lines. Someone not as vigilant as myself might not notice, which, considering where they were cut, I believe was the sadistic intent.

    Secondly, 20 mph is fast enough to have a crash where you can get hurt pretty badly, and Wheels is getting awfully close to moped territory; those do require helmets. While you’re no longer worried about pavement quality, you are going fast enough to misjudge things and just, crash. I hate to say it, but helmets should probably be mandated. And if I’m nit-picking, a height-adjustable seat would be nice, although not having to pedal negates most of the negative effects of a fixed seat.

    When scooters first arrived in Venice, I rolled my eyes and said to myself, “Great, at last a substitute for walking.” And in some ways, I was right. These scooters do expose us at our most slovenly, both in how we treat them when no one is looking, and in how tourists do actually use them, right in front of me, every day: as a walk you don’t have to walk; as a bike you don’t have to pedal.

    But they also do give mobility to people who don’t otherwise have it. 30 miles in LA is a pretty long way; you could ride a Wheels from Venice to Beverly Hills and back, for less than an Uber or Lyft, and without having to be a sweaty mess when you got there. Bird scooters and their ilk are good for short trips that are just out of walking distance, as long as you don’t have to deal with restricted zones and the surface is good.

    A Wheels is good for that too, but it can also be a bicycle. And frankly, it’s safer. Wheels wins this one by a mile.

    But as I write this, some three more e-scooters are coming to Venice in the next month. I guess the Mobiliring’s work isn’t done yet.❞

    #USA #Elektroroller #Verkehr

  • MoA - Tian An Men Square - What Really Happened (Updated)
    https://www.moonofalabama.org/2019/06/tiananmen-square-do-the-media-say-what-really-happened.html

    June 04, 2019
    Tian An Men Square - What Really Happened (Updated)

    Since 1989 the western media write anniversary pieces on the June 4 removal of protesters from the Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The view seems always quite one sided and stereotyped with a brutal military that suppresses peaceful protests.

    That is not the full picture. Thanks to Wikileaks we have a few situation reports from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing at that time. They describe a different scene than the one western media paint to this day.

    Ten thousands of people, mostly students, occupied the square for six weeks. They protested over the political and personal consequences of Mao’s chaotic Cultural Revolution which had upset the whole country. The liberalization and changeover to a more capitalist model under Deng Xiopings had yet to show its success and was fought by the hardliners in the Communist Party.

    The more liberal side of the government negotiated with the protesters but no agreement was found. The hardliners in the party pressed for the protest removal. When the government finally tried to move the protesters out of the very prominent square they resisted.

    On June 3 the government moved troops towards the city center of Beijing. But the military convoys were held up. Some came under attack. The U.S. embassy reported that soldiers were taken as hostages:

    TENSION MOUNTED THROUGHOUT THE AFTERNOON AS BEIJING RESIDENTS VENTED THEIR ANGER BY HARASSING MILITARY AND POLICE PERSONNEL AND ATTACKING THEIR VEHICLES. STUDENTS DISPLAYED CAPTURED WEAPONS, MILITARY EQUIPMENT AND VEHICLES, INCLUDING IN FRONT OF THE ZHONGNANHAI LEADERSHIP COMPOUND. AN EFFORT TO FREE STILL CAPTIVE MILITARY PERSONNEL OR TO CLEAR THE SOUTHERN ENTRANCE TO ZHONGNANHAI MAY HAVE BEEN THE CAUSE OF A LIMITED TEAR GAS ATTACK IN THAT AREA AROUND 1500 HOURS LOCAL.

    There are some gruesome pictures of the government side casualties of these events.

    Another cable from June 3 notes:

    THE TROOPS HAVE OBVIOUSLY NOT YET BEEN GIVEN ORDERS PERMITTING THEM TO USE FORCE. THEIR LARGE NUMBERS, THE FACT THAT THEY ARE HELMETED, AND THE AUTOMATIC WEAPONS THEY ARE CARRYING SUGGEST THAT THE FORCE OPTION IS REAL.

    In the early morning of June 4 the military finally reached the city center and tried to push the crowd out of Tiananmen Square:

    STUDENTS SET DEBRIS THROWN ATOP AT LEAST ONE ARMORED PERSONNEL CARRIER AND LIT THE DEBRIS, ACCORDING TO EMBOFF NEAR THE SCENE. ABC REPORTED THAT ONE OTHER ARMORED PERSONNEL CARRIER IS AFLAME. AT LEAST ONE BUS WAS ALSO BURNING, ACCORDING TO ABC NEWS REPORTERS ON THE SQUARE AT 0120. THE EYEWITNESSES REPORTED THAT TROOPS AND RIOT POLICE WERE ON THE SOUTHERN END OF THE SQUARE AND TROOPS WERE MOVING TO THE SQUARE FROM THE WESTERN SIDE OF THE CITY.

    The soldiers responded as all soldiers do when they see that their comrades get barbecued:

    THERE HAS REPORTEDLY BEEN INDISCRIMINATE GUNFIRE BY THE TROOPS ON THE SQUARE. WE CAN HEAR GUNFIRE FROM THE EMBASSY AND JIANGUOMENWAI DIPLOMATIC COMPOUND. EYEWITNESSES REPORT TEAR GAS ON THE SQUARE, FLARES BEING FIRED ABOVE IT, AND TRACERS BEING FIRED OVER IT.

    Most of the violence was not in the square, which was already quite empty at that time, but in the streets around it. The soldiers tried to push the crowd away without using their weapons:

    THE SITUATION IN THE CENTER OF THE CITY IS VERY CONFUSED. POLOFFS AT THE BEIJING HOTEL REPORTED THAT TROOPS ARE PUSHING A LARGE CROWD OF DEMONSTRATORS EAST ON CHANGANJIE. ALTHOUGH THESE TROOPS APPEAR NOT TO BE FIRING ON THE CROWD, POLOFFS REPORT FIRING BEHIND THE TROOPS COMING FROM THE SQUARE.

    With the Square finally cleared the student protest movement ebbed away.

    Update (June 5)

    Peter Lee, aka Chinahand, was there on the ground. He just published his eyewitness account written down at that time.

    Western secret services smuggled some 800 of the leaders of their failed ’color revolution’ out of the country, reported the Financial Times:

    Many went first to France, but most travelled on to the US for scholarships at Ivy League universities.

    The extraction missions, aided by MI6, the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, and the CIA, according to many accounts, had scrambler devices, infrared signallers, night-vision goggles and weapons.

    bigger

    /End of Update

    It is unclear how many people died during the incident. The numbers vary between dozens to several hundred. There is no evidence that the higher numbers are correct. It also not known how many of the casualties were soldiers, or how many were violent protesters or innocent bystanders.

    The New York Times uses the 30th anniversary of the June 4 incidents to again promote a scene that is interpreted as successful civil resistance.

    bigger

    He has become a global symbol of freedom and defiance, immortalized in photos, television shows, posters and T-shirts.

    But three decades after the Chinese Army crushed demonstrations centered on Tiananmen Square, “Tank Man” — the person who boldly confronted a convoy of tanks barreling down a Beijing avenue — is as much a mystery as ever.

    But was the man really some hero? It is not known what the the man really wanted or if he was even part of the protests:

    According to the man who took the photo, AP photographer Jeff Widener, the photo dates from June 5 the day after the Tiananmen Square incident. The tanks were headed away from, and not towards, the Square. They were blocked not by a student but by a man with a shopping bag crossing the street who had chosen to play chicken with the departing tanks. The lead tank had gone out its way to avoid causing him injury.

    The longer video of the tank hold up (turn off the ghastly music) shows that the man talked with the tank commander who makes no attempt to force him away. The scene ends after two minutes when some civilian passersby finally tell the man to move along. The NYT also writes:

    But more recently, the government has worked to eliminate the memory of Tank Man, censoring images of him online and punishing those who have evoked him.
    ...
    As a result of the government’s campaign, many people in China, especially younger Chinese, do not recognize his image.

    To which Carl Zha, who currently travels in China and speaks the language, responds:

    Carl Zha @CarlZha - 15:23 utc - 4 Jun 2019

    For the record, Everyone in China know about what happened on June 4th, 1989. Chinese gov remind them every year by cranking up censorship to 11 around anniversary. Idk Western reporters who claim people in China don’t know are just esp stupid/clueless or deliberately misleading

    In fact that applies to China reporting in general. I just don’t know whether Western China reporters are that stupid/clueless or deliberately misleading. I used to think people can’t be that stupid but I am constantly surprised...

    and

    Carl Zha @CarlZha - 15:42 utc - 4 Jun 2019

    This Image was shared in one of the Wechat group I was in today. Yes, everyone understood the reference

    bigger

    Carl recommends the two part movie The Gate To Heavenly Peace (vid) as the best documentary of the Tiananmen Square protests. It explores the political and social background of the incident and includes many original voices and scenes.

    Posted by b on June 4, 2019 at 03:00 PM

    #Chine #4689

  • Beyond the Hype of Lab-Grown Diamonds
    https://earther.gizmodo.com/beyond-the-hype-of-lab-grown-diamonds-1834890351

    Billions of years ago when the world was still young, treasure began forming deep underground. As the edges of Earth’s tectonic plates plunged down into the upper mantle, bits of carbon, some likely hailing from long-dead life forms were melted and compressed into rigid lattices. Over millions of years, those lattices grew into the most durable, dazzling gems the planet had ever cooked up. And every so often, for reasons scientists still don’t fully understand, an eruption would send a stash of these stones rocketing to the surface inside a bubbly magma known as kimberlite.

    There, the diamonds would remain, nestled in the kimberlite volcanoes that delivered them from their fiery home, until humans evolved, learned of their existence, and began to dig them up.

    The epic origin of Earth’s diamonds has helped fuel a powerful marketing mythology around them: that they are objects of otherworldly strength and beauty; fitting symbols of eternal love. But while “diamonds are forever” may be the catchiest advertising slogan ever to bear some geologic truth, the supply of these stones in the Earth’s crust, in places we can readily reach them, is far from everlasting. And the scars we’ve inflicted on the land and ourselves in order to mine diamonds has cast a shadow that still lingers over the industry.

    Some diamond seekers, however, say we don’t need to scour the Earth any longer, because science now offers an alternative: diamonds grown in labs. These gems aren’t simulants or synthetic substitutes; they are optically, chemically, and physically identical to their Earth-mined counterparts. They’re also cheaper, and in theory, limitless. The arrival of lab-grown diamonds has rocked the jewelry world to its core and prompted fierce pushback from diamond miners. Claims abound on both sides.

    Growers often say that their diamonds are sustainable and ethical; miners and their industry allies counter that only gems plucked from the Earth can be considered “real” or “precious.” Some of these assertions are subjective, others are supported only by sparse, self-reported, or industry-backed data. But that’s not stopping everyone from making them.

    This is a fight over image, and when it comes to diamonds, image is everything.
    A variety of cut, polished Ada Diamonds created in a lab, including smaller melee stones and large center stones. 22.94 carats total. (2.60 ct. pear, 2.01 ct. asscher, 2.23 ct. cushion, 3.01 ct. radiant, 1.74 ct. princess, 2.11 ct. emerald, 3.11 ct. heart, 3.00 ct. oval, 3.13 ct. round.)
    Image: Sam Cannon (Earther)
    Same, but different

    The dream of lab-grown diamond dates back over a century. In 1911, science fiction author H.G. Wells described what would essentially become one of the key methods for making diamond—recreating the conditions inside Earth’s mantle on its surface—in his short story The Diamond Maker. As the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) notes, there were a handful of dubious attempts to create diamonds in labs in the late 19th and early 20th century, but the first commercial diamond production wouldn’t emerge until the mid-1950s, when scientists with General Electric worked out a method for creating small, brown stones. Others, including De Beers, soon developed their own methods for synthesizing the gems, and use of the lab-created diamond in industrial applications, from cutting tools to high power electronics, took off.

    According to the GIA’s James Shigley, the first experimental production of gem-quality diamond occurred in 1970. Yet by the early 2000s, gem-quality stones were still small, and often tinted yellow with impurities. It was only in the last five or so years that methods for growing diamonds advanced to the point that producers began churning out large, colorless stones consistently. That’s when the jewelry sector began to take a real interest.

    Today, that sector is taking off. The International Grown Diamond Association (IGDA), a trade group formed in 2016 by a dozen lab diamond growers and sellers, now has about 50 members, according to IGDA secretary general Dick Garard. When the IGDA first formed, lab-grown diamonds were estimated to represent about 1 percent of a $14 billion rough diamond market. This year, industry analyst Paul Zimnisky estimates they account for 2-3 percent of the market.

    He expects that share will only continue to grow as factories in China that already produce millions of carats a year for industrial purposes start to see an opportunity in jewelry.
    “I have a real problem with people claiming one is ethical and another is not.”

    “This year some [factories] will come up from 100,000 gem-quality diamonds to one to two million,” Zimnisky said. “They already have the infrastructure and equipment in place” and are in the process of upgrading it. (About 150 million carats of diamonds were mined last year, according to a global analysis of the industry conducted by Bain & Company.)

    Production ramp-up aside, 2018 saw some other major developments across the industry. In the summer, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reversed decades of guidance when it expanded the definition of a diamond to include those created in labs and dropped ‘synthetic’ as a recommended descriptor for lab-grown stones. The decision came on the heels of the world’s top diamond producer, De Beers, announcing the launch of its own lab-grown diamond line, Lightbox, after having once vowed never to sell man-made stones as jewelry.

    “I would say shock,” Lightbox Chief Marketing Officer Sally Morrison told Earther when asked how the jewelry world responded to the company’s launch.

    While the majority of lab-grown diamonds on the market today are what’s known as melee (less than 0.18 carats), the tech for producing the biggest, most dazzling diamonds continues to improve. In 2016, lab-grown diamond company MiaDonna announced its partners had grown a 6.28 carat gem-quality diamond, claimed to be the largest created in the U.S. to that point. In 2017, a lab in Augsburg University, Germany that grows diamonds for industrial and scientific research applications produced what is thought to be the largest lab-grown diamond ever—a 155 carat behemoth that stretches nearly 4 inches across. Not gem quality, perhaps, but still impressive.

    “If you compare it with the Queen’s diamond, hers is four times heavier, it’s clearer” physicist Matthias Schreck, who leads the group that grew that beast of a jewel, told me. “But in area, our diamond is bigger. We were very proud of this.”

    Diamonds can be created in one of two ways: Similar to how they form inside the Earth, or similar to how scientists speculate they might form in outer space.

    The older, Earth-inspired method is known as “high temperature high pressure” (HPHT), and that’s exactly what it sounds like. A carbon source, like graphite, is placed in a giant, mechanical press where, in the presence of a catalyst, it’s subjected to temperatures of around 1,600 degrees Celsius and pressures of 5-6 Gigapascals in order to form diamond. (If you’re curious what that sort of pressure feels like, the GIA describes it as similar to the force exerted if you tried to balance a commercial jet on your fingertip.)

    The newer method, called chemical vapor deposition (CVD), is more akin to how diamonds might form in interstellar gas clouds (for which we have indirect, spectroscopic evidence, according to Shigley). A hydrocarbon gas, like methane, is pumped into a low-pressure reactor vessel alongside hydrogen. While maintaining near-vacuum conditions, the gases are heated very hot—typically 3,000 to 4,000 degrees Celsius, according to Lightbox CEO Steve Coe—causing carbon atoms to break free of their molecular bonds. Under the right conditions, those liberated bits of carbon will settle out onto a substrate—typically a flat, square plate of a synthetic diamond produced with the HPHT method—forming layer upon layer of diamond.

    “It’s like snow falling on a table on your back porch,” Jason Payne, the founder and CEO of lab-grown diamond jewelry company Ada Diamonds, told me.

    Scientists have been forging gem-quality diamonds with HPHT for longer, but today, CVD has become the method of choice for those selling larger bridal stones. That’s in part because it’s easier to control impurities and make diamonds with very high clarity, according to Coe. Still, each method has its advantages—Payne said that HPHT is faster and the diamonds typically have better color (which is to say, less of it)—and some companies, like Ada, purchase stones grown in both ways.

    However they’re made, lab-grown diamonds have the same exceptional hardness, stiffness, and thermal conductivity as their Earth-mined counterparts. Cut, they can dazzle with the same brilliance and fire—a technical term to describe how well the diamond scatters light like a prism. The GIA even grades them according to the same 4Cs—cut, clarity, color, and carat—that gemologists use to assess diamonds formed in the Earth, although it uses a slightly different terminology to report the color and clarity grades for lab-grown stones.

    They’re so similar, in fact, that lab-grown diamond entering the larger diamond supply without any disclosures has become a major concern across the jewelry industry, particularly when it comes to melee stones from Asia. It’s something major retailers are now investing thousands of dollars in sophisticated detection equipment to suss out by searching for minute differences in, say, their crystal shape or for impurities like nitrogen (much less common in lab-grown diamond, according to Shigley).

    Those differences may be a lifeline for retailers hoping to weed out lab-grown diamonds, but for companies focused on them, they can become another selling point. The lack of nitrogen in diamonds produced with the CVD method, for instance, gives them an exceptional chemical purity that allows them to be classified as type IIa; a rare and coveted breed that accounts for just 2 percent of those found in nature. Meanwhile, the ability to control everything about the growth process allows companies like Lightbox to adjust the formula and produce incredibly rare blue and pink diamonds as part of their standard product line. (In fact, these colored gemstones have made up over half of the company’s sales since launch, according to Coe.)

    And while lab-grown diamonds boast the same sparkle as their Earthly counterparts, they do so at a significant discount. Zimnisky said that today, your typical one carat, medium quality diamond grown in a lab will sell for about $3,600, compared with $6,100 for its Earth-mined counterpart—a discount of about 40 percent. Two years ago, that discount was only 18 percent. And while the price drop has “slightly tapered off” as Zimnisky put it, he expects it will fall further thanks in part to the aforementioned ramp up in Chinese production, as well as technological improvements. (The market is also shifting in response to Lightbox, which De Beers is using to position lab-grown diamonds as mass produced items for fashion jewelry, and which is selling its stones, ungraded, at the controversial low price of $800 per carat—a discount of nearly 90 percent.)

    Zimnisky said that if the price falls too fast, it could devalue lab-grown diamonds in the eyes of consumers. But for now, at least, paying less seems to be a selling point. A 2018 consumer research survey by MVI Marketing found that most of those polled would choose a larger lab-grown diamond over a smaller mined diamond of the same price.

    “The thing [consumers] seem most compelled by is the ability to trade up in size and quality at the same price,” Garard of IGDA said.

    Still, for buyers and sellers alike, price is only part of the story. Many in the lab-grown diamond world market their product as an ethical or eco-friendly alternative to mined diamonds.

    But those sales pitches aren’t without controversy.
    A variety of lab-grown diamond products arrayed on a desk at Ada Diamonds showroom in Manhattan. The stone in the upper left gets its blue color from boron. Diamonds tinted yellow (top center) usually get their color from small amounts of nitrogen.
    Photo: Sam Cannon (Earther)
    Dazzling promises

    As Anna-Mieke Anderson tells it, she didn’t enter the diamond world to become a corporate tycoon. She did it to try and fix a mistake.

    In 1999, Anderson purchased herself a diamond. Some years later, in 2005, her father asked her where it came from. Nonplussed, she told him it came from the jewelry store. But that wasn’t what he was asking: He wanted to know where it really came from.

    “I actually had no idea,” Anderson told Earther. “That led me to do a mountain of research.”

    That research eventually led Anderson to conclude that she had likely bought a diamond mined under horrific conditions. She couldn’t be sure, because the certificate of purchase included no place of origin. But around the time of her purchase, civil wars funded by diamond mining were raging across Angola, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia, fueling “widespread devastation” as Global Witness put it in 2006. At the height of the diamond wars in the late ‘90s, the watchdog group estimates that as many as 15 percent of diamonds entering the market were conflict diamonds. Even those that weren’t actively fueling a war were often being mined in dirty, hazardous conditions; sometimes by children.

    “I couldn’t believe I’d bought into this,” Anderson said.

    To try and set things right, Anderson began sponsoring a boy living in a Liberian community impacted by the blood diamond trade. The experience was so eye-opening, she says, that she eventually felt compelled to sponsor more children. Selling conflict-free jewelry seemed like a fitting way to raise money to do so, but after a great deal more research, Anderson decided she couldn’t in good faith consider any diamond pulled from the Earth to be truly conflict-free in either the humanitarian or environmental sense. While diamond miners were, by the early 2000s, getting their gems certified “conflict free” according to the UN-backed Kimberley Process, the certification scheme’s definition of a conflict diamond—one sold by rebel groups to finance armed conflicts against governments—felt far too narrow.

    “That [conflict definition] eliminates anything to do with the environment, or eliminates a child mining it, or someone who was a slave, or beaten, or raped,” Anderson said.

    And so she started looking into science, and in 2007, launching MiaDonna as one of the world’s first lab-grown diamond jewelry companies. The business has been activism-oriented from the get-go, with at least five percent of its annual earnings—and more than 20 percent for the last three years—going into The Greener Diamond, Anderson’s charity foundation which has funded a wide range of projects, from training former child soldiers in Sierra Leone to grow food to sponsoring kids orphaned by the West African Ebola outbreak.

    MiaDonna isn’t the only company that positions itself as an ethical alternative to the traditional diamond industry. Brilliant Earth, which sells what it says are carefully-sourced mined and lab-created diamonds, also donates a small portion of its profits to supporting mining communities. Other lab-grown diamond companies market themselves as “ethical,” “conflict-free,” or “world positive.” Payne of Ada Diamonds sees, in lab-grown diamonds, not just shiny baubles, but a potential to improve medicine, clean up pollution, and advance society in countless other ways—and he thinks the growing interest in lab-grown diamond jewelry will help propel us toward that future.

    Others, however, say black-and-white characterizations when it comes to social impact of mined diamonds versus lab-grown stones are unfair. “I have a real problem with people claiming one is ethical and another is not,” Estelle Levin-Nally, founder and CEO of Levin Sources, which advocates for better governance in the mining sector, told Earther. “I think it’s always about your politics. And ethics are subjective.”

    Saleem Ali, an environmental researcher at the University of Delaware who serves on the board of the Diamonds and Development Initiative, agrees. He says the mining industry has, on the whole, worked hard to turn itself around since the height of the diamond wars and that governance is “much better today” than it used to be. Human rights watchdog Global Witness also says that “significant progress” has been made to curb the conflict diamond trade, although as Alice Harle, Senior Campaigner with Global Witness told Earther via email, diamonds do still fuel conflict, particularly in the Central African Republic and Zimbabwe.

    Most industry observers seems to agree that the Kimberley Process is outdated and inadequate, and that more work is needed to stamp out other abuses, including child labor and forced labor, in the artisanal and small-scale diamond mining sector. Today, large-scale mining operations don’t tend to see these kinds of problems, according to Julianne Kippenberg, associate director for children’s rights at Human Rights Watch, but she notes that there may be other community impacts surrounding land rights and forced resettlement.

    The flip side, Ali and Levin-Nally say, is that well-regulated mining operations can be an important source of economic development and livelihood. Ali cites Botswana and Russia as prime examples of places where large-scale mining operations have become “major contributors to the economy.” Dmitry Amelkin, head of strategic projects and analytics for Russian diamond mining giant Alrosa, echoed that sentiment in an email to Earther, noting that diamonds transformed Botswana “from one of the poorest [countries] in the world to a middle-income country” with revenues from mining representing almost a third of its GDP.

    In May, a report commissioned by the Diamond Producers Association (DPA), a trade organization representing the world’s largest diamond mining companies, estimated that worldwide, its members generate nearly $4 billion in direct revenue for employees and contractors, along with another $6.8 billion in benefits via “local procurement of goods and services.” DPA CEO Jean-Marc Lieberherr said this was a story diamond miners need to do a better job telling.

    “The industry has undergone such changes since the Blood Diamond movie,” he said, referring to the blockbuster 2006 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio that drew global attention to the problem of conflict diamonds. “And yet people’s’ perceptions haven’t evolved. I think the main reason is we have not had a voice, we haven’t communicated.”

    But conflict and human rights abuses aren’t the only issues that have plagued the diamond industry. There’s also the lasting environmental impact of the mining itself. In the case of large-scale commercial mines, this typically entails using heavy machinery and explosives to bore deep into those kimberlite tubes in search of precious stones.

    Some, like Maya Koplyova, a geologist at the University of British Columbia who studies diamonds and the rocks they’re found in, see this as far better than many other forms of mining. “The environmental footprint is the fThere’s also the question of just how representative the report’s energy consumption estimates for lab-grown diamonds are. While he wouldn’t offer a specific number, Coe said that De Beers’ Group diamond manufacturer Element Six—arguably the most advanced laboratory-grown diamond company in the world—has “substantially lower” per carat energy requirements than the headline figures found inside the new report. When asked why this was not included, Rick Lord, ESG analyst at Trucost, the S&P global group that conducted the analysis, said it chose to focus on energy estimates in the public record, but that after private consultation with Element Six it did not believe their data would “materially alter” the emissions estimates in the study.

    Finally, it’s important to consider the source of the carbon emissions. While the new report states that about 40 percent of the emissions associated with mining a diamond come from fossil fuel-powered vehicles and equipment, emissions associated with growing a diamond come mainly from electric power. Today, about 68 percent of lab-grown diamonds hail from China, Singapore, and India combined according to Zimnisky, where the power is drawn from largely fossil fuel-powered grids. But there is, at least, an opportunity to switch to renewables and drive that carbon footprint way down.
    “The reality is both mining and manufacturing consume energy and probably the best thing we could do is focus on reducing energy consumption.”

    And some companies do seem to be trying to do that. Anderson of MiaDonna says the company only sources its diamonds from facilities in the U.S., and that it’s increasingly trying to work with producers that use renewable energy. Lab-grown diamond company Diamond Foundry grows its stones inside plasma reactors running “as hot as the outer layer of the sun,” per its website, and while it wouldn’t offer any specific numbers, that presumably uses more energy than your typical operation running at lower temperatures. However, company spokesperson Ye-Hui Goldenson said its Washington State ‘megacarat factory’ was cited near a well-maintained hydropower source so that the diamonds could be produced with renewable energy. The company offsets other fossil fuel-driven parts of its operation by purchasing carbon credits.

    Lightbox’s diamonds currently come from Element Six’s UK-based facilities. The company is, however, building a $94-million facility near Portland, Oregon, that’s expected to come online by 2020. Coe said he estimates about 45 percent of its power will come from renewable sources.

    “The reality is both mining and manufacturing consume energy and probably the best thing we could do is focus on reducing energy consumption,” Coe said. “That’s something we’re focused on in Lightbox.”

    In spite of that, Lightbox is somewhat notable among lab-grown diamond jewelry brands in that, in the words of Morrison, it is “not claiming this to be an eco-friendly product.”

    “While it is true that we don’t dig holes in the ground, the energy consumption is not insignificant,” Morrison told Earther. “And I think we felt very uncomfortable promoting on that.”
    Various diamonds created in a lab, as seen at the Ada Diamonds showroom in Manhattan.
    Photo: Sam Cannon (Earther)
    The real real

    The fight over how lab-grown diamonds can and should market themselves is still heating up.

    On March 26, the FTC sent letters to eight lab-grown and diamond simulant companies warning them against making unsubstantiated assertions about the environmental benefits of their products—its first real enforcement action after updating its jewelry guides last year. The letters, first obtained by JCK news director Rob Bates under a Freedom of Information Act request, also warned companies that their advertising could falsely imply the products are mined diamonds, illustrating that, even though the agency now says a lab-grown diamond is a diamond, the specific origin remains critically important. A letter to Diamond Foundry, for instance, notes that the company has at times advertised its stones as “above-ground real” without the qualification of “laboratory-made.” It’s easy to see how a consumer might miss the implication.

    But in a sense, that’s what all of this is: A fight over what’s real.
    “It’s a nuanced reality that we’re in. They are a type of diamond.”

    Another letter, sent to FTC attorney Reenah Kim by the nonprofit trade organization Jewelers Vigilance Committee on April 2, makes it clear that many in the industry still believe that’s a term that should be reserved exclusively for gems formed inside the Earth. The letter, obtained by Earther under FOIA, urges the agency to continue restricting the use of the terms “real,” “genuine,” “natural,” “precious,” and “semi-precious” to Earth-mined diamonds and gemstones. Even the use of such terms in conjunction with “laboratory grown,” the letter argues, “will create even more confusion in an already confused and evolving marketplace.”

    JVC President Tiffany Stevens told Earther that the letter was a response to a footnote in an explanatory document about the FTC’s recent jewelry guide changes, which suggested the agency was considering removing a clause about real, precious, natural and genuine only being acceptable modifiers for gems mined from the Earth.

    “We felt that given the current commercial environment, that we didn’t think it was a good time to take that next step,” Stevens told Earther. As Stevens put it, the changes the FTC recently made, including expanding the definition of diamond and tweaking the descriptors companies can use to label laboratory-grown diamonds as such, have already been “wildly misinterpreted” by some lab-grown diamond sellers that are no longer making the “necessary disclosures.”

    Asked whether the JVC thinks lab-grown diamonds are, in fact, real diamonds, Stevens demurred.

    “It’s a nuanced reality that we’re in,” she said. “They are a type of diamond.”

    Change is afoot in the diamond world. Mined diamond production may have already peaked, according to the 2018 Bain & Company report. Lab diamonds are here to stay, although where they’re going isn’t entirely clear. Zimnisky expects that in a few years—as Lightbox’s new facility comes online and mass production of lab diamonds continues to ramp up overseas—the price industry-wide will fall to about 80 percent less than a mined diamond. At that point, he wonders whether lab-grown diamonds will start to lose their sparkle.

    Payne isn’t too worried about a price slide, which he says is happening across the diamond industry and which he expects will be “linear, not exponential” on the lab-grown side. He points out that lab-grown diamond market is still limited by supply, and that the largest lab-grown gems remain quite rare. Payne and Zimnisky both see the lab-grown diamond market bifurcating into cheaper, mass-produced gems and premium-quality stones sold by those that can maintain a strong brand. A sense that they’re selling something authentic and, well, real.

    “So much has to do with consumer psychology,” Zimnisky said.

    Some will only ever see diamonds as authentic if they formed inside the Earth. They’re drawn, as Kathryn Money, vice president of strategy and merchandising at Brilliant Earth put it, to “the history and romanticism” of diamonds; to a feeling that’s sparked by holding a piece of our ancient world. To an essence more than a function.

    Others, like Anderson, see lab-grown diamonds as the natural (to use a loaded word) evolution of diamond. “We’re actually running out of [mined] diamonds,” she said. “There is an end in sight.” Payne agreed, describing what he sees as a “looming death spiral” for diamond mining.

    Mined diamonds will never go away. We’ve been digging them up since antiquity, and they never seem to lose their sparkle. But most major mines are being exhausted. And with technology making it easier to grow diamonds just as they are getting more difficult to extract from the Earth, the lab-grown diamond industry’s grandstanding about its future doesn’t feel entirely unreasonable.

    There’s a reason why, as Payne said, “the mining industry as a whole is still quite scared of this product.” ootprint of digging the hole in the ground and crushing [the rock],” Koplyova said, noting that there’s no need to add strong acids or heavy metals like arsenic (used in gold mining) to liberate the gems.

    Still, those holes can be enormous. The Mir Mine, a now-abandoned open pit mine in Eastern Siberia, is so large—reportedly stretching 3,900 feet across and 1,700 feet deep—that the Russian government has declared it a no-fly zone owing to the pit’s ability to create dangerous air currents. It’s visible from space.

    While companies will often rehabilitate other land to offset the impact of mines, kimberlite mining itself typically leaves “a permanent dent in the earth’s surface,” as a 2014 report by market research company Frost & Sullivan put it.

    “It’s a huge impact as far as I’m concerned,” said Kevin Krajick, senior editor for science news at Columbia University’s Earth Institute who wrote a book on the discovery of diamonds in far northern Canada. Krajick noted that in remote mines, like those of the far north, it’s not just the physical hole to consider, but all the development required to reach a previously-untouched area, including roads and airstrips, roaring jets and diesel-powered trucks.

    Diamonds grown in factories clearly have a smaller physical footprint. According to the Frost & Sullivan report, they also use less water and create less waste. It’s for these reasons that Ali thinks diamond mining “will never be able to compete” with lab-grown diamonds from an environmental perspective.

    “The mining industry should not even by trying to do that,” he said.

    Of course, this is capitalism, so try to compete is exactly what the DPA is now doing. That same recent report that touted the mining industry’s economic benefits also asserts that mined diamonds have a carbon footprint three times lower than that of lab-grown diamonds, on average. The numbers behind that conclusion, however, don’t tell the full story.

    Growing diamonds does take considerable energy. The exact amount can vary greatly, however, depending on the specific nature of the growth process. These are details manufacturers are typically loathe to disclose, but Payne of Ada Diamonds says he estimates the most efficient players in the game today use about 250 kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity per cut, polished carat of diamond; roughly what a U.S. household consumes in 9 days. Other estimates run higher. Citing unnamed sources, industry publication JCK Online reported that a modern HPHT run can use up to 700 kWh per carat, while CVD production can clock in north of 1,000 kWh per carat.

    Pulling these and several other public-record estimates, along with information on where in the world today’s lab diamonds are being grown and the energy mix powering the producer nations’ electric grids, the DPA-commissioned study estimated that your typical lab-grown diamond results in some 511 kg of carbon emissions per cut, polished carat. Using information provided by mining companies on fuel and electricity consumption, along with other greenhouse gas sources on the mine site, it found that the average mined carat was responsible for just 160 kg of carbon emissions.

    One limitation here is that the carbon footprint estimate for mining focused only on diamond production, not the years of work entailed in developing a mine. As Ali noted, developing a mine can take a lot of energy, particularly for those sited in remote locales where equipment needs to be hauled long distances by trucks or aircraft.

    There’s also the question of just how representative the report’s energy consumption estimates for lab-grown diamonds are. While he wouldn’t offer a specific number, Coe said that De Beers’ Group diamond manufacturer Element Six—arguably the most advanced laboratory-grown diamond company in the world—has “substantially lower” per carat energy requirements than the headline figures found inside the new report. When asked why this was not included, Rick Lord, ESG analyst at Trucost, the S&P global group that conducted the analysis, said it chose to focus on energy estimates in the public record, but that after private consultation with Element Six it did not believe their data would “materially alter” the emissions estimates in the study.

    Finally, it’s important to consider the source of the carbon emissions. While the new report states that about 40 percent of the emissions associated with mining a diamond come from fossil fuel-powered vehicles and equipment, emissions associated with growing a diamond come mainly from electric power. Today, about 68 percent of lab-grown diamonds hail from China, Singapore, and India combined according to Zimnisky, where the power is drawn from largely fossil fuel-powered grids. But there is, at least, an opportunity to switch to renewables and drive that carbon footprint way down.
    “The reality is both mining and manufacturing consume energy and probably the best thing we could do is focus on reducing energy consumption.”

    And some companies do seem to be trying to do that. Anderson of MiaDonna says the company only sources its diamonds from facilities in the U.S., and that it’s increasingly trying to work with producers that use renewable energy. Lab-grown diamond company Diamond Foundry grows its stones inside plasma reactors running “as hot as the outer layer of the sun,” per its website, and while it wouldn’t offer any specific numbers, that presumably uses more energy than your typical operation running at lower temperatures. However, company spokesperson Ye-Hui Goldenson said its Washington State ‘megacarat factory’ was cited near a well-maintained hydropower source so that the diamonds could be produced with renewable energy. The company offsets other fossil fuel-driven parts of its operation by purchasing carbon credits.

    Lightbox’s diamonds currently come from Element Six’s UK-based facilities. The company is, however, building a $94-million facility near Portland, Oregon, that’s expected to come online by 2020. Coe said he estimates about 45 percent of its power will come from renewable sources.

    “The reality is both mining and manufacturing consume energy and probably the best thing we could do is focus on reducing energy consumption,” Coe said. “That’s something we’re focused on in Lightbox.”

    In spite of that, Lightbox is somewhat notable among lab-grown diamond jewelry brands in that, in the words of Morrison, it is “not claiming this to be an eco-friendly product.”

    “While it is true that we don’t dig holes in the ground, the energy consumption is not insignificant,” Morrison told Earther. “And I think we felt very uncomfortable promoting on that.”
    Various diamonds created in a lab, as seen at the Ada Diamonds showroom in Manhattan.
    Photo: Sam Cannon (Earther)
    The real real

    The fight over how lab-grown diamonds can and should market themselves is still heating up.

    On March 26, the FTC sent letters to eight lab-grown and diamond simulant companies warning them against making unsubstantiated assertions about the environmental benefits of their products—its first real enforcement action after updating its jewelry guides last year. The letters, first obtained by JCK news director Rob Bates under a Freedom of Information Act request, also warned companies that their advertising could falsely imply the products are mined diamonds, illustrating that, even though the agency now says a lab-grown diamond is a diamond, the specific origin remains critically important. A letter to Diamond Foundry, for instance, notes that the company has at times advertised its stones as “above-ground real” without the qualification of “laboratory-made.” It’s easy to see how a consumer might miss the implication.

    But in a sense, that’s what all of this is: A fight over what’s real.
    “It’s a nuanced reality that we’re in. They are a type of diamond.”

    Another letter, sent to FTC attorney Reenah Kim by the nonprofit trade organization Jewelers Vigilance Committee on April 2, makes it clear that many in the industry still believe that’s a term that should be reserved exclusively for gems formed inside the Earth. The letter, obtained by Earther under FOIA, urges the agency to continue restricting the use of the terms “real,” “genuine,” “natural,” “precious,” and “semi-precious” to Earth-mined diamonds and gemstones. Even the use of such terms in conjunction with “laboratory grown,” the letter argues, “will create even more confusion in an already confused and evolving marketplace.”

    JVC President Tiffany Stevens told Earther that the letter was a response to a footnote in an explanatory document about the FTC’s recent jewelry guide changes, which suggested the agency was considering removing a clause about real, precious, natural and genuine only being acceptable modifiers for gems mined from the Earth.

    “We felt that given the current commercial environment, that we didn’t think it was a good time to take that next step,” Stevens told Earther. As Stevens put it, the changes the FTC recently made, including expanding the definition of diamond and tweaking the descriptors companies can use to label laboratory-grown diamonds as such, have already been “wildly misinterpreted” by some lab-grown diamond sellers that are no longer making the “necessary disclosures.”

    Asked whether the JVC thinks lab-grown diamonds are, in fact, real diamonds, Stevens demurred.

    “It’s a nuanced reality that we’re in,” she said. “They are a type of diamond.”

    Change is afoot in the diamond world. Mined diamond production may have already peaked, according to the 2018 Bain & Company report. Lab diamonds are here to stay, although where they’re going isn’t entirely clear. Zimnisky expects that in a few years—as Lightbox’s new facility comes online and mass production of lab diamonds continues to ramp up overseas—the price industry-wide will fall to about 80 percent less than a mined diamond. At that point, he wonders whether lab-grown diamonds will start to lose their sparkle.

    Payne isn’t too worried about a price slide, which he says is happening across the diamond industry and which he expects will be “linear, not exponential” on the lab-grown side. He points out that lab-grown diamond market is still limited by supply, and that the largest lab-grown gems remain quite rare. Payne and Zimnisky both see the lab-grown diamond market bifurcating into cheaper, mass-produced gems and premium-quality stones sold by those that can maintain a strong brand. A sense that they’re selling something authentic and, well, real.

    “So much has to do with consumer psychology,” Zimnisky said.

    Some will only ever see diamonds as authentic if they formed inside the Earth. They’re drawn, as Kathryn Money, vice president of strategy and merchandising at Brilliant Earth put it, to “the history and romanticism” of diamonds; to a feeling that’s sparked by holding a piece of our ancient world. To an essence more than a function.

    Others, like Anderson, see lab-grown diamonds as the natural (to use a loaded word) evolution of diamond. “We’re actually running out of [mined] diamonds,” she said. “There is an end in sight.” Payne agreed, describing what he sees as a “looming death spiral” for diamond mining.

    Mined diamonds will never go away. We’ve been digging them up since antiquity, and they never seem to lose their sparkle. But most major mines are being exhausted. And with technology making it easier to grow diamonds just as they are getting more difficult to extract from the Earth, the lab-grown diamond industry’s grandstanding about its future doesn’t feel entirely unreasonable.

    There’s a reason why, as Payne said, “the mining industry as a whole is still quite scared of this product.”

    #dimants #Afrique #technologie #capitalisme

  • Sikh drivers are transforming U.S. trucking. Take a ride along the Punjabi American highway - Los Angeles Times
    https://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-col1-sikh-truckers-20190627-htmlstory.html

    By Jaweed Kaleem, Jun 27, 2019 -
    It’s 7:20 p.m. when he rolls into Spicy Bite, one of the newest restaurants here in rural northwest New Mexico. Locals in Milan, a town of 3,321, have barely heard of it.

    https://www.trbimg.com/img-5d12f8d2/turbine/la-1561524431-z6kcx6gnzm-snap-image
    Punjabi-operated truck stops

    The building is small, single-story, built of corrugated metal sheets. There are seats for 20. The only advertising is spray-painted on concrete roadblocks in English and Punjabi. Next door is a diner and gas station; the county jail is across the road.

    Palwinder Singh orders creamy black lentils, chicken curry and roti, finishing it off with chai and cardamom rice pudding. After 13 hours on and off the road in his semi truck, he leans back in a booth as a Bollywood music video plays on TV.

    “This is like home,” says Pal, the name he uses on the road (said like “Paul”).

    There are 3.5 million truckers in the United States. California has 138,000, the second-most after Texas. Nearly half of those in California are immigrants, most from Mexico or Central America. But as drivers age toward retirement — the average American trucker is 55 — and a shortage grows, Sikh immigrants and their kids are increasingly taking up the job.

    Estimates of the number of Sikh truckers vary. In California alone, tens of thousands of truckers trace their heritage to India. The state is home to half of the Sikhs in the U.S. — members of a monotheistic faith with origins in 15th century India whose followers are best recognized by the uncut hair and turbans many men wear. At Sikh temples in Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield and Riverside, the majority of worshipers are truck drivers and their families.

    Over the last decade, Indian Americans have launched trucking schools, truck companies, truck washes, trucker temples and no-frills Indian restaurants modeled after truck stops back home, where Sikhs from the state of Punjab dominate the industry.

    “You used to see a guy with a turban and you would get excited,” says Pal, who is in his 15th year of trucking. “Today, you go to some stops and can convince yourself you are in India.”

    Three interstates — the I-5, I-80 and I-10 — are dotted with Indian-American-owned businesses catering to truckers. They start to appear as you drive east from Los Angeles, Reno and Phoenix, and often have the words “Bombay,” “Indian” or “Punjabi” on their storefront signs. But many, with names like Jay Bros (in Overton, Neb.) and Antelope Truck Stop Pronghorn (in Burns, Wyo.) are anonymous dots on a map unless you’re one of the many Sikhs who have memorized them as a road map to America.

    The best-known are along Interstate 40, which stretches from Barstow to North Carolina. The road, much of it alongside Historic Route 66, forms the backbone of the Sikh trucking world.

    It’s a route that Pal, 38, knows well. Three times a month, he makes the seven-day round trip between his Fontana home and Indiana, where he drops off loads and picks up new ones. Over his career, he’s driven 2 million miles and transported items as varied as frozen chickens and paper plates. These days, he mostly hauls chocolate, rice and fruits and vegetables from California farms. Today, it’s 103 containers of mixed produce, with mangoes, bell peppers, watermelons, yellow onions and peeled garlic among them. All are bound for a Kroger warehouse outside Indianapolis.

    Across the street from Spicy Bite, dozens of arriving drivers form a temporary village of 18-wheelers in a vast parking lot by the interstate. Most are white. Nearly all are men. More are older than younger.

    But every now and then there are Sikhs like Pal, with long salt-and-pepper beards, colorful turbans and thick Indian accents. They head straight toward Spicy Bite.

    Lines can form out the door at the restaurant, which opened two years ago outside the Petro Stopping Center, a longtime mainstay for truckers headed east.

    Pal makes a point to stop by the restaurant — even just for a “hello” — when he sleeps next door. The Sikh greeting is “Sat sri akaal.” It means “God is truth.” In trucking, where turnover is high, business uncertain and risk of accidents ever present, each day can feel like a leap of faith and an opportunity to give thanks.

    Punjabi Americans first appeared on the U.S. trucking scene in the 1980s after an anti-Sikh massacre in India left thousands dead around New Delhi, prompting many Sikhs to flee. More recently, Sikhs have migrated to Central America and applied for asylum at the Mexico border, citing persecution for their religion in India; some have also become truckers. Estimates of the overall U.S. Sikh population vary, placing the community’s size between 200,000 and 500,000.

    In recent years, corporations have pleaded for new truckers. Walmart kicked up salaries to attract drivers. Last year, the government announced a pilot program to lower the age for driving trucks from 21 to 18 for those with truck-driving training in the military. According to the American Trucking Assn., the trucker shortage could reach 100,000 within years.

    “Punjabis are filling the gap,” says Raman Dhillon, a former driver who last year founded the North American Punjabi Trucking Assn. The Fresno-based group advises drivers on regulations, offers insurance and tire discounts, and runs a magazine: Punjabi Trucking.

    Like trucking itself, where the threat of automation and the long hours away from home have made it hard to recruit drivers, the Punjabi trucking life isn’t always an easy sell. Three years ago, a group of Sikh truckers in California won a settlement from a national shipping company after saying it discriminated against their faith. The drivers, who followed Sikh traditions by wrapping their uncut hair in turbans, said bosses asked them to remove the turbans before providing hair and urine samples for pre-employment drug tests despite being told of the religious observance. The same year, police charged a man with vandalizing a semi truck at a Sikh temple in Buena Park. He’d scribbled the word “ISIS.”

    Still, Hindi- and Punjabi-language newspapers in the Eastern U.S. regularly run ads promising better wages, a more relaxed lifestyle and warm weather as a trucker out West. Talk to any group of Sikh drivers and you’ll find former cabbies, liquor store workers or convenience store cashiers who made the switch.

    How a rural Oklahoma truck stop became a destination for Sikh Punjabis crossing America »

    “Thirty years ago, it was hard to get into trucking because there were so few people like us in the business who could help you,” says Rashpal Dhindsa, a former trucker who runs Fontana-based Dhindsa Group of Companies, one of the oldest Sikh-owned U.S. trucking companies. When Pal first started, Dhindsa — now a close friend but then an acquaintance — gave him a $1,000 loan to cover training classes.

    It’s 6:36 a.m. the next day when the Petro Stopping Center switches from quiet darkness to rumbling engines. Pal flips on the headlights of his truck, a silver ’16 Volvo with a 500-horsepower engine. Inside the rig, he heats aloo gobi — spiced potatoes and cauliflower — that his wife prepared back home. He checks the thermostat to make sure his trailer isn’t too warm. He takes out a book wrapped in a blue cotton cloth that’s tucked by his driver’s seat, sits on a bed-turned-couch and reads a prayer in Punjabi for safety on the journey: There is only one God. Truth is His name…. You always protect us.

    He pulls east onto the highway as the sun rises.

    Truckers either drive in pairs or solo like Pal. Either way, it’s a quiet, lonely world.

    Still, Pal sees more of America in a week than some people will in their lives. Rolling California hills, spiky desert rock formations, the snow-dusted evergreens of northern Arizona, the fuzzy cacti in New Mexico and, in Albuquerque, hot air balloons rising over an orange sky. There’s also the seemingly endless fast food and Tex-Mex of Amarillo and the 19-story cross of Groom, Texas. There’s the traffic in Missouri. After hours of solitude on the road, it excites him.

    Pal’s not strict on dogma or doctrine, and he’s more spiritual than religious. Trucking has shown him that people are more similar than different no matter where you go. The best of all religions, he says, tend to teach the same thing — kindness to others, accepting whatever comes your way and appreciation for what’s in front of you on the road.

    “When I’m driving,” Pal says, “I see God through his creation.”

    His favorite sights are the farms. You spot them in Central California while picking up pallets of potatoes and berries, or in Illinois and Indiana while driving through the corn and soybean fields.

    They remind him of home, the rural outskirts of Patiala, India.

    Nobody in his family drove trucks. Still, to Pal, he’s continuing tradition. His father farmed potatoes, cauliflower, rice and tomatoes. As a child, Pal would ride tractors for fun with Dad. Today, instead of growing food, Pal transports it.

    He wasn’t always a trucker. After immigrating in 2001 with his younger brother, he settled in Canoga Park and worked nights at 7-Eleven. After he was robbed at gunpoint, a friend suggested trucking. Better pay, flexible hours — and less dangerous.

    Three years later, he started driving a rig he didn’t own while getting paid per mile. Today, he has his own company, two trucks between himself and his brother — also a driver — and bids on shipments directly with suppliers. Nationally, the average pay for a trucker is just above $43,000. Pal makes more than twice that.

    He uses the money to pay for the house he shares with his wife, Harjeet Kaur, 4-year-old son, brother and sister-in-law, nieces and parents. Kaur threads eyebrows at a salon and video chats with him during lunch breaks. Every week before he leaves, she packs a duffel bag of his ironed clothes and stacked containers of food for the road.

    “I love it,” Pal says about driving. “But there are always two sides of the coin, head and tail. If you love it, then you have to sacrifice everything. I have to stay away from home. But the thing is, this job pays me good.”

    The truck is fully equipped. From the road, you can see only driver and passenger seats. But behind them is a sleeper cab with a bed that’s 6-foot-7 by 3-foot-2.

    Pal likes to connect the TV sitting atop a mini-fridge to his phone to stream music videos when he’s alone. His favorite songs are by Sharry Maan, an Indian singer who topped charts two years ago with “Transportiye.” It tells the story of a Sikh American trucker who longs for his wife while on the road. At night, the table folds down to become a bed. Pal is just missing a bathroom and his family.

    The life of a Sikh trucker is one of contrasts. On one hand, you see the diversity of America. You encounter new immigrants from around the world working the same job as people who have been truckers for decades. All transport the food, paper and plastic that make the country run. But you also see the relics of the past and the reminders of how you, as a Sikh in 2019, still don’t entirely fit in.

    It’s 9:40 a.m. on Saturday when Pal pulls into Bowlin’s Flying C Ranch rest center in Encino, N.M., an hour past Albuquerque and two from Texas. Here, you can buy a $19,999 stuffed buffalo, Baja jackets and fake Native American moccasins made in China in a vast tourist stop attached to a Dairy Queen and an Exxon. “God Bless the U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood plays in the background.

    It reminds Pal of the time he was paying his bill at another gas station. A man suddenly shouted at customers to “get out, he’s going to blow up this place!” “I will not fight you,” Pal calmly replied. The man left. Those kinds of instances are rare, but Pal always senses their danger. Some of the most violent attacks on Sikhs this century have been at the hands of people who mistook them for Muslims or Arabs, including the case of a turban-wearing Sikh man in Arizona who was shot dead by a gunman four days after the Sept. 11 attacks.

    For Pal, suspicious glances are more common. So are the truckers who think he’s new to the business or doesn’t speak English. None of it fazes him.

    “Everybody relates to us through Osama bin Laden because we look the same,” he says, driving across the plains toward the Texas Panhandle. “Or they think because my English sounds different that I am not smart. I know who I am.”

    Every day, he wears a silver bracelet that symbolizes a handcuff. “Remember, you are handcuffed to God. Remind yourself to not do bad things,” Pal says. It reminds him to be kind in the face of ignorance and hatred.

    At a Subway in Amarillo a few hours later, he grabs his go-to lunch when he’s taking a break from Indian food: a chicken sandwich on white bread with pepper jack, lettuce, tomato and onion. At home, the family is vegetarian. Pal relishes chances on the road to indulge in meat. He used to depend solely on his wife’s cooking. Today, he has other options. It’s a luxury to switch from homemade meals to Punjabi restaurants to fast food.

    Trucking has helped Pal find his faith. When he moved to the U.S., he used to shave, drink beer and not care much about religion. But as he got bored on the road, he started listening to religious sermons. Twelve years ago, he began to again grow his hair and quit alcohol; drinking it is against the faith’s traditions. Today, he schedules shipments around the temple calendar so he can attend Sikh celebrations with his family.

    “I don’t mind questions about my religion. But when people say to me, ‘Why do you not cut your hair?’ they are asking the wrong question,” Pal says. “The real question is, why do they cut their hair? God made us this way.”

    It’s 4:59 p.m. when he arrives in Sayre, Okla., at Truck Stop 40. A yellow Punjabi-language billboard advertises it as the I-40 starts to bend north in a rural region two hours from Oklahoma City.

    Among the oldest Sikh truck stops, it has a 24-hour vegetarian restaurant, convenience store, gas station and a housing trailer that functions as a temple — all spread over several acres.

    Pal has been coming here for more than decade, since it was a mechanic shop run by a Sikh former trucker who settled on the plot for its cheap land. When he has time, Pal lingers for a meal. But he’s in a rush to get to Joplin, Mo., for the night so he can make his drop-off the next day.

    He grabs a chai and heads to the temple. Resting on a small pillow upon the altar is the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book. An audiotape plays prayers on a loop. A print of Guru Nanak, the faith’s founder, hangs on the wall.

    Pal prostrates and leaves a few dollar bills on the floor as a donation for upkeep. He prays for God to protect the temple, his family and himself on the 891 miles that remain until he hits the Indianapolis suburbs.

    “This feels like a long drive,” Pal says. “But it’s just a small part of the journey of life.”

    #USA #LKW #Transport #Immigration #Zuwanderung

  • A Machine May Not Take Your Job, but One Could Become Your Boss
    THe Neww York Times, 23 juin 2019, Kevin Roose
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/23/technology/artificial-intelligence-ai-workplace.html

    The goal of automation has always been efficiency. What if artificial intelligence sees humanity itself as the thing to be optimized?

    Cogito is one of several A.I. programs used in call centers and other workplaces. The goal, according to Joshua Feast, Cogito’s chief executive, is to make workers more effective by giving them real-time feedback.

    Amazon uses complex algorithms to track worker productivity in its fulfillment centers, and can automatically generate the paperwork to fire workers who don’t meet their targets, as The Verge uncovered this year. (Amazon has disputed that it fires workers without human input, saying that managers can intervene in the process.)
    [The Verge’s article : https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/25/18516004/amazon-warehouse-fulfillment-centers-productivity-firing-terminations]

    There were no protests at MetLife’s call center. Instead, the employees I spoke with seemed to view their Cogito software as a mild annoyance at worst. Several said they liked getting pop-up notifications during their calls, although some said they had struggled to figure out how to get the “empathy” notification to stop appearing. (Cogito says the A.I. analyzes subtle differences in tone between the worker and the caller and encourages the worker to try to mirror the customer’s mood.)

    MetLife, which uses the software with 1,500 of its call center employees, says using the app has increased its customer satisfaction by 13 percent.

    ANd TheNewYorker little comment on tech :

    Using A.I. to correct for human biases is a good thing. But as more A.I. enters the workplace, executives will have to resist the temptation to use it to tighten their grip on their workers and subject them to constant surveillance and analysis. If that happens, it won’t be the robots staging an uprising.

    [emphasis is mine]

    On arrête psa le progrès. Nous sommes en 2019 et le vieil adage mortifère continue de sévir allégrement (même dans un article qui se voudrait critique..

  • Athens’ air-raid shelters 1936-40

    I.Metaxa’s government, the “4th August” regime which came to power in 1936, considered conflict in Europe to be a real possibility. Moreover they realized that the airplane was going to dominate the fields of battle and as a consequence urban bombardments (provoking mass casualties) were more than probable (Εθνική Ένωσις Αεροχημικής Προστασίας/ National Association for Aero-chemical Protection 1936). This scenario drove Metaxa’s regime to conceive and implement a vast project of Civil Protection (Βλάσσης 2013) , focusing on the construction of numerous air–raid shelters. Noteworthy are the diversities in the type and size of the shelters that ranged from narrow underground galleries or small chambers, to organized shelters of hundreds of square meters including hygiene infrastructure, water tanks, numerous chambers and auxiliary rooms (Κυρίμης 2017).


    https://www.athenssocialatlas.gr/en/article/athens-air-raid-shelters-1936-40
    #Athènes #bunkers #guerre #histoire #WWII #seconde_guerre_mondiale #refuges #souterrain #Grèce #refuge #refuges
    ping @albertocampiphoto

  • Bahrain debacle marks crash of Trump team’s campaign to diss Palestinians into submission

    Kushner’s Peace for Prosperity includes Utopian projects funded by non-existent money as part of peace deal that won’t happen
    Chemi Shalev
    Jun 25, 2019 9:12 AM

    https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-bahrain-debacle-marks-crash-of-trump-team-s-campaign-to-dis-palest

    The unveiling of the U.S. administration’s long-awaited production of Peace for Prosperity, premiering in Bahrain on Tuesday, garnered mixed reviews, to say the least. Barak Ravid of Axios and Israel’s Channel 13 described it as “impressive, detailed and ambitious – perhaps overly ambitious.” Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Egypt Dan Kurtzer offered a slightly different take: “I would give this so-called plan a C- from an undergraduate student. The authors of the plan clearly understand nothing,” he said.

    The plan, released in a colorful pamphlet on the eve of the Bahrain economic summit, is being portrayed by the White House as a vision of the bountiful “fruits of peace” that Palestinians might reap once they reach a peace agreement with Israel. Critics describe it as an amateurish pie-in-the-sky, shoot-for-the-moon, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink hodgepodge that promises projects that cannot be implemented, funded by money that does not exist and contingent on a peace deal that will never happen.

    But the main problem with Peace for Prosperity isn’t its outlandishly unrealistic proposals – such as the $5 billion superhighway between the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel will never agree to; or its occasional condescending and Orientalist attitude towards Palestinian society - their great hummus could attract millions of tourists; or even its offer to manage and foster Palestinian institutions and civil society in a way that can be viewed either as implicit state-building or as imposing foreign control on a future Palestinian government.

    >> Read more: ’There is no purely economic solution to the Palestinian economy’s problems’ ■ Trump’s Bahrain conference - not what you imagined ■ Kushner’s deal holds some surprises, but it’s more vision than blueprint ■ The billion-dollar question in Trump’s peace plan

    The Palestinians would have been suspicious in any case, even if Jimmy Carter or Barack Obama were President. They have always been wary of the term “economic peace”, especially when detached from the real nitty-gritty of resolving their dispute with Israel. Nonetheless, if the President was anyone other than Trump, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas would have more or less emulated Benjamin Netanyahu’s reaction: Somber nodding of the head, then a non-committal reaction to Peace for Prosperity, followed by effusive but general praise for our lord and savior Donald Trump. Israelis and Palestinians would have attended the Bahrain conference, while doing their best to suppress their inner guffaws.

    If it was anyone by Trump and his peace team - which often doubles as Netanyahu’s cheerleading squad – the Palestinians might have allowed themselves to believe that A. A comprehensive peace plan isn’t just a mirage and is indeed forthcoming. B. The deal won’t be tilted so far in favor of Israel that it will be declared stillborn on arrival and C. That it isn’t a ruse meant to cast Palestinians as congenital rejectionists and to pave the way for an Israeli annexation of “parts of the West Bank”, as Ambassador David Friedman put it when he pronounced Trump’s imperial edict conceding territory to Israel, which even Palestinian minimalists claim as their own, in advance of any actual talks.

    But because the plan bears Trump’s signature, it was received in most world capitals with shrugs, as yet another manifestation of the U.S. administration’s preposterous handling of foreign policy – see North Korea, Europe, Mexico, Venezuela et al. Israel, of course, didn’t miss the opportunity to regurgitate the cliché about the Palestinians “never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity”.
    A Palestinian man steps on a painting depicting U.S. President Donald Trump during a protest against U.S.-led Bahrain workshop in Gaza City, June 24, 2019.
    A Palestinian man steps on a painting depicting U.S. President Donald Trump during a protest against U.S.-led Bahrain workshop in Gaza City, June 24, 2019. \ MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS
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    For Palestinians and their supporters, however, Kushner’s bid was but the latest in the Trump team’s never-ending stream of slights, slanders and slaps in their collective faces. In Palestinian eyes, the economic bonanza isn’t a CBM – confidence building measure – but a con job and insult rolled into one. It dangles dollars in front of Palestinian noses, implying they can be bought, and it sets up a chain of events at the end of which Jason Greenblatt will inevitably accuse them on Twitter of being hysterical and dishonest while praising Netanyahu’s bold leadership and pioneering vision. They’ve been there, and done that.

    This has been the Trump approach from the outset: Uncontained admiration for Israel and its leader coupled with unhidden disdain for Palestinian leaders and contempt for their “unrealistic” dreams. Trump’s peace team swears by Israel’s security needs as if they were part of the bible or U.S. Constitution; the ongoing 52-year military occupation of millions of Palestinians, on the other hand, seems to have escaped their attention.

    For the first ten months of Trump’s tenure, the Palestinians put up with his administration’s unequivocal pledges of allegiance to Israel as well as the White House’s departure from past custom and continuing refusal to criticize any of its actions – not to mention the appointment of a peace team comprised exclusively of right-wing Netanyahu groupies, which Palestinians initially thought was surely a practical joke.

    Trump’s announcement in December 2017 that he would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy there was both game-changer and deal-breaker as far as the Palestinians were concerned. While Netanyahu and most of Israel were celebrating Donald the Daring and the long-awaited recognition of their eternal capital, Palestinians realized they were facing a President radically different from any of his predecessors - one willing to break the rules in Israel’s favor and to grant his bestie Bibi tangible victories, before, during and after elections - without asking for anything in return.

    The Palestinians have boycotted the Trump administration ever since, embarrassing Friedman, Greenblatt, Kushner and ultimately Trump in the process. They, in response, have increasingly vented their anger and frustrations at the Palestinians, and not just in words and Tweets alone: The administration shut down the PLO’s office in Washington, declared Jerusalem “off the table” and indicated that the refugee issue should follow it, cut aid to UNRWA and is endeavoring to dismantle it altogether and slashed assistance to Palestinian humanitarian organizations.

    In March 2018, in a move strongly supported by Israel and vigorously endorsed by Evangelicals and other right wing supporters, Trump signed the Congressionally approved Taylor Force Act that prohibits U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority as long as it continued to pay monthly stipends to the families of what the Act describes as “terrorists”. Palestinians, who, to many people’s regret, regard such terrorists as heroes and martyrs, noted that the passage of the Taylor Force Act embarrassed Israel and spurred it to legislate its own way to withholding Palestinian tax money for the very same reason.

    Throughout the process, Trump and his peace team have lectured the Palestinians as a teacher reprimands an obstinate child. The Palestinians need to face reality, to lower their expectations, to land back on earth, Kushner and colleagues insist. Not only will they never realize their dreams and aspirations, they should also forget their core demand for an independent state free of outside control and not confide inside Israeli-controlled gates. Israelis are worthy of such independence, the Palestinians are told, but you are not.

    Trump approach is a product, first and foremost, of his own inexperience, arrogance and unwillingness to learn anything from a past in which he wasn’t in charge. It is fed by anti-Palestinian prejudices prevalent in his peace team as well as his advisers and most of his political supporters. Trump and his underlings basically adhere to the arguably racist tenet encapsulated in the Israeli saying “The Arabs understand only force.” The more you pressure them, the greater the chance they will succumb.
    Women protest against the U.S.-led workshop in Bahrain in the Moroccan capital Rabat, June 23, 2019.
    Women protest against the U.S.-led workshop in Bahrain in the Moroccan capital Rabat, June 23, 2019.AFP

    At this point at least, it hasn’t worked out that way. Bahrain, by any measure, is a humiliating bust. As Trump and his aides contemplate the reasons for their abject failure they are likely to blame stubborn Palestinians who don’t know what’s good for them, along with radical Muslims, perfidious Europeans, idiot liberals and all the other usual suspects.

    In a better world, they would take a hard look at themselves in the mirror and possibly have an epiphany. They can make an immediate adjustment that will cost them nothing but possibly achieve dramatic results. Instead of incessantly rebuking, reproaching, reprimanding, threatening and intimidating the Palestinians in a way that garners cheers from Christian messianics and Jewish zealots, they could try and treat them, as Aretha Franklin sang, with just a little respect. And perhaps, if it isn’t asking too much, take down their fawning for Netanyahu a notch or two.

    It might not be enough to reconcile irreconcilable differences or to make peace, but it will signal that Trump is finally getting serious about his claim to be the peacemaker the world has been waiting for. Alternatively, the Palestinians will continue to frustrate his designs and pray to Allah for his quick departure.

  • A new deepfake detection tool should keep world leaders safe—for now - MIT Technology Review
    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/613846/a-new-deepfake-detection-tool-should-keep-world-leaders-safefor-no

    An AI-produced video could show Donald Trump saying or doing something extremely outrageous and inflammatory. It would be only too believable, and in a worst-case scenario it might sway an election, trigger violence in the streets, or spark an international armed conflict.

    Fortunately, a new digital forensics technique promises to protect President Trump, other world leaders, and celebrities against such deepfakes—for the time being, at least. The new method uses machine learning to analyze a specific individual’s style of speech and movement, what the researchers call a “softbiometric signature.”

    The team then used machine learning to distinguish the head and face movements that characterize the real person. These subtle signals—the way Bernie Sanders nods while saying a particular word, perhaps, or the way Trump smirks after a comeback—are not currently modeled by deepfake algorithms.

    In experiments the technique was at least 92% accurate in spotting several variations of deepfakes, including face swaps and ones in which an impersonator is using a digital puppet. It was also able to deal with artifacts in the files that come from recompressing a video, which can confuse other detection techniques. The researchers plan to improve the technique by accounting for characteristics of a person’s speech as well. The research, which was presented at a computer vision conference in California this week, was funded by Google and DARPA, a research wing of the Pentagon. DARPA is funding a program to devise better detection techniques.

    The problem facing world leaders (and everyone else) is that it has become ridiculously simple to generate video forgeries with artificial intelligence. False news reports, bogus social-media accounts, and doctored videos have already undermined political news coverage and discourse. Politicians are especially concerned that fake media could be used to sow misinformation during the 2020 presidential election.

    Some tools for catching deepfake videos have been produced already, but forgers have quickly adapted. For example, for a while it was possible to spot a deepfake by tracking the speaker’s eye movements, which tended to be unnatural in deepfakes. Shortly after this method was identified, however, deepfake algorithms were tweaked to include better blinking.

    “We are witnessing an arms race between digital manipulations and the ability to detect those, and the advancements of AI-based algorithms are catalyzing both sides,” says Hao Li, a professor at the University of Southern California who helped develop the new technique. For this reason, his team has not yet released the code behind the method .

    Li says it will be particularly difficult for deepfake-makers to adapt to the new technique, but he concedes that they probably will eventually. “The next step to go around this form of detection would be to synthesize motions and behaviors based on prior observations of this particular person,” he says.

    Li also says that as deepfakes get easier to use and more powerful, it may become necessary for everyone to consider protecting themselves. “Celebrities and political figures have been the main targets so far,” he says. “But I would not be surprised if in a year or two, artificial humans that look indistinguishable from real ones can be synthesized by any end user.”

    #fake_news #Deepfake #Video #Détection

  • Liu Cixin’s War of the Worlds | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/06/24/liu-cixins-war-of-the-worlds

    As the standoff has intensified, Liu has become wary of touting the geopolitical underpinnings of his work. In November, when I accompanied him on a trip to Washington, D.C.—he was picking up the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation’s Award for Imagination in Service to Society—he briskly dismissed the idea that fiction could serve as commentary on history or on current affairs. “The whole point is to escape the real world!” he said. Still, the kind of reader he attracts suggests otherwise: Chinese tech entrepreneurs discuss the Hobbesian vision of the trilogy as a metaphor for cutthroat competition in the corporate world; other fans include Barack Obama, who met Liu in Beijing two years ago, and Mark Zuckerberg. Liu’s international career has become a source of national pride. In 2015, China’s then Vice-President, Li Yuanchao, invited Liu to Zhongnanhai—an off-limits complex of government accommodation sometimes compared to the Kremlin—to discuss the books and showed Liu his own copies, which were dense with highlights and annotations.

    Liu’s tomes—they tend to be tomes—have been translated into more than twenty languages, and the trilogy has sold some eight million copies worldwide. He has won China’s highest honor for science-fiction writing, the Galaxy Award, nine times, and in 2015 he became the first Asian writer to win the Hugo Award, the most prestigious international science-fiction prize. In China, one of his stories has been a set text in the gao kao—the notoriously competitive college-entrance exams that determine the fate of ten million pupils annually; another has appeared in the national seventh-grade-curriculum textbook. When a reporter recently challenged Liu to answer the middle-school questions about the “meaning” and the “central themes” of his story, he didn’t get a single one right. “I’m a writer,” he told me, with a shrug. “I don’t begin with some conceit in mind. I’m just trying to tell a good story.”

    The trilogy’s success has been credited with establishing sci-fi, once marginalized in China, as a mainstream taste. Liu believes that this trend signals a deeper shift in the Chinese mind-set—that technological advances have spurred a new excitement about the possibilities of cosmic exploration. The trilogy commands a huge following among aerospace engineers and cosmologists; one scientist wrote an explanatory guide, “The Physics of Three Body.” Some years ago, China’s aerospace agency asked Liu, whose first career was as a computer engineer in the hydropower industry, to address technicians and engineers about ways that “sci-fi thinking” could be harnessed to produce more imaginative approaches to scientific problems. More recently, he was invited to inspect a colossal new radio dish, one of whose purposes is to detect extraterrestrial communications. Its engineers had been sending Liu updates on the project and effusive expressions of admiration.
    “We’re looking for someone who can be very naughty when left alone, and your name kept popping up in our database.”

    Earlier this year, soon after a Chinese lunar rover achieved the unprecedented feat of landing on the dark side of the moon, an adaptation of Liu’s short story “The Wandering Earth” earned nearly half a billion dollars in its first ten days of release, eventually becoming China’s second-highest-grossing film ever. A headline in the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party newspaper, jubilantly summed up the mood: “Only the Chinese Can Save the Planet!”

    Liu was born in 1963 in Beijing, where his father was a manager at the Coal Mine Design Institute and his mother was an elementary-school teacher. His father’s family came from the plains of Henan Province, in the Yellow River Basin, a region that suffered particularly dire calamities in the twentieth century. After the Japanese invaded China, in 1937—interrupting a civil war between Nationalists and Communists that had been raging for a decade—Henan became a vital strategic point in the Nationalist government’s attempt to prevent them from sweeping south. Chinese forces breached dikes on the Yellow River to halt the Japanese advance, but the resulting flood destroyed thousands of villages and killed hundreds of thousands of people. It also ruined vast areas of farmland; the next harvest was a fraction of the expected yield. In 1942-43, after the government failed to respond to the shortage, some two million people starved to death.

    When the civil war resumed, after the Second World War, both sides conscripted men. Liu’s paternal grandparents had two sons and no ideological allegiance to either side, and, in the hope of preserving the family line, they took a chilling but pragmatic gamble. One son joined the Nationalists and the other, Liu’s father, joined the Communists. He rose to the rank of company commander in the Eighth Route Army, and, after the Communist victory, he began his career in Beijing. To this day, Liu doesn’t know what became of his uncle.

    Je comprends mieux, Lui a lu un de mes livres d’enfance préféré.

    Meanwhile, his father had turned him on to speculative fiction, giving him a copy of Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” To the young Liu, reading Verne’s book was like walking through a door to another world. “Everything in it was described with such authority and scrupulous attention to detail that I thought it had to be real,” Liu told me.

    The great flourishing of science fiction in the West at the end of the nineteenth century occurred alongside unprecedented technological progress and the proliferation of the popular press—transformations that were fundamental to the development of the genre. As the British Empire expanded and the United States began to assert its power around the world, British and American writers invented tales of space travel as seen through a lens of imperial appropriation, in which technological superiority brought about territorial conquest. Extraterrestrials were often a proxy for human beings of different creeds or races.

    Types are central to the way Liu thinks of people; he has a knack for quickly sketching the various classes that make up Chinese society. A scientist is described as “nothing more than a typical intellectual of the period: cautious, timid, seeking only to protect himself.” Another character, “a typical political cadre of the time,” had “an extremely keen sense for politics and saw everything through an ideological lens.” This characteristic endows his fiction with a sociopolitical specificity that has the texture of reality. At the same time, it doesn’t allow for much emotional complexity, and Liu has been criticized for peopling his books with characters who seem like cardboard cutouts installed in magnificent dioramas. Liu readily admits to the charge. “I did not begin writing for love of literature,” he told me. “I did so for love of science.”

    August Cole, a co-author of “Ghost Fleet,” a techno-thriller about a war between the U.S. and China, told me that, for him, Liu’s work was crucial to understanding contemporary China, “because it synthesizes multiple angles of looking at the country, from the anthropological to the political to the social.” Although physics furnishes the novels’ premises, it is politics that drives the plots. At every turn, the characters are forced to make brutal calculations in which moral absolutism is pitted against the greater good. In their pursuit of survival, men and women employ Machiavellian game theory and adopt a bleak consequentialism. In Liu’s fictional universe, idealism is fatal and kindness an exorbitant luxury. As one general says in the trilogy, “In a time of war, we can’t afford to be too scrupulous.” Indeed, it is usually when people do not play by the rules of Realpolitik that the most lives are lost.

    #Science_fiction #Liu_Cixin

  • Facebook’s Libra: Three things we don’t know about the digital currency - MIT Technology Review
    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/613801/facebooks-libra-three-things-we-dont-know-about-the-digital-curren

    If it’s not the most high-profile cryptocurrency-related event ever, Facebook’s launch of a test network for its new digital currency, called Libra coin, has been the most hyped. It is also polarizing among cryptocurrency enthusiasts. Some think it’s good for the crypto industry; others dislike the fact that a big tech company appears to be co-opting a technology that was supposed to help people avoid big tech companies. Still others say it’s not even a real cryptocurrency.

    Libra’s network won’t work that way. Instead, running a “validator node” requires permission. To begin with, Facebook has signed up dozens of firms—including Mastercard, Visa, PayPal, Uber, Lyft, Vodafone, Spotify, eBay, and popular Argentine e-commerce company MercadoLibre—to participate in the network that will validate transactions. Each of these “founding members” has invested around $10 million in the project.

    That obviously runs counter to the pro-decentralization ideology popular among cryptocurrency enthusiasts.

    Today’s public blockchains use too much energy and process transactions too slowly to elicit mainstream demand. This is probably the biggest obstacle to adoption of cryptocurrencies. It’s why Facebook chose not to use proof of work, the process that Bitcoin uses to reach agreement among the blockchain network’s nodes, citing its “poor performance and high energy (and environmental) costs.”

    If the high-powered roster of financial firms and technology companies beat Ethereum to the punch on proof of stake, it would be ironic: public blockchains are supposed to disrupt Big Tech, not the other way around.

    On top of all that, how serious is Facebook is about achieving decentralization and becoming a “real” cryptocurrency? Perhaps the fact it has made a big song and dance about being decentralized is simply a way of offsetting the firm’s appalling record on data privacy. But will users demand that the currency be more decentralized—or will many simply not care?

    #Crypto_monnaie #Monnaie_numérique #Libra #Facebook

  • Are crystals the new blood diamonds? | The Guardian
    https://www.theguardian.com/global/2019/jun/16/are-crystals-the-new-blood-diamonds-the-truth-about-muky-business-of-he

    “It would be a great shame,” says Sophia Pickles, the campaign leader at Global Witness, “if consumers buying goods that they believe help them ‘connect with the Earth’ are, in fact, making purchases that are connected to grave human-rights abuses, environmental destruction, conflict and corruption. Unfortunately, this is a very real risk for products like crystals.”

  • #Fearless_Cities’ Movements Plot Common Path in Serbia

    ‘Municipalist’ movements from all over Europe met in the Serbian capital last weekend to exchange ideas and plan a common strategy against deeply entrenched political structures in their home countries.

    Municipalist activists from all over Europe descended on Belgrade in Serbia at the weekend for the fifth Fearless Cities conference, an event that seeks to elevate the discussion about the role that grassroots city-based groups can play in countering entrenched political structures and the rise of the far right.

    The conference last weekend was hosted by activists from Serbia’s Let’s Not Drown Belgrade [#Ne_davimo_Beograd], which was formed in 2014 to oppose a massive development project on the riverbank of the Serbian capital.

    The global municipalist movement met for the first time at the Fearless Cities Summit in Barcelona, Spain, in June 2017, at the invitation of Barcelona En Comú, with the stated goal of “radicalizing democracy, feminizing politics and standing up to the far right”.

    In a world in which it says “fear and inequalities are being twisted into hate, the movement says it is “standing up to defend human rights, democracy and the common good”.

    “It is a good opportunity to see how both smaller and bigger European cities are doing, and how we are actually on the same page for how we want to introduce citizens to decision-making,” Radomir Lazovic, one of the founders of Ne Davimo Beograd, said.

    “We are against the privatization and commercialisation of public assets, and we want to develop cities that belong to us, as citizens,” he told BIRN.

    Besides opposing the Belgrade Waterfront, Ne Davimo Beograd has supported months of protests in the Serbian capital against the government of President Aleksandar Vucic.

    The “1of 5 million” movement launched a series of protests on December 8 last year, demanding that Vucic and his governing Serbian Progressive Party resign, as well as more media freedom and fair elections.

    At the event in Belgrade, one of the panels gathered individuals from all over the Balkans, including North Macedonia, Albania and Croatia, to discuss the rise of local movements in their respective countries, and whether these movements actually have the potential to affect real change.

    Many panelists emphasized that in their home cities, members of the public often didn’t even know that they had neighbourhood councils and could have a real say in matters affecting their cities and towns.

    “Connecting and expanding our knowledge on the practices we are interested in is important, especially at a time when we see that right-wing formations and political parties are much better organized, much better mobilized and much more present in the general media with a higher impact on the general public,” said Ivana Dragsic, from the Skopje-based organization, #Freedom_Square.

    How municipalist movements can help shape the future of European politics was the main topic of discussion in #Belgrade.

    “Municipalism” emphasises the importance of allowing cities and towns to make their own decisions on issues like affordable housing, sustainable environmental policies and transparency.

    “Political parties have a problem because they … don’t follow the real process of societies,” said Ana Méndez de Andés, a member of the organization Ahora Madrid.

    “Municipalism looks at other ways of organizing. It’s about understanding that there is a need to change institutions and open up radical democratic processes starting from a scale that is closer to the citizens,” she told BIRN.

    Speakers from groups such as OccupyGaguta in Moldova, The City is For All in Hungary and Organized Society S.O.S. in Romania also presented their views at the conference, highlighting issues like participatory democracy, evictions, and environmental campaigns.

    “I am here in the Balkans because, as a Romanian, I can learn more about the experience in Southeastern Europe than I can from Western countries,” said Adrian Dohotaru, an MP in Romania and a member of Organized Society S.O.S.

    “We have a similar experience of commodification and privatization of public goods, a neoliberal system and in order to reverse this, we need to provide better policies against corruption.”

    Environmental justice was addressed by several speakers, including members of Keep Upright, KOD, from Montenegro, and Zagreb je NAS! [Zagreb is us], from Croatia.

    Other organizations like Spasi Sofia [Save Sofia] focus on promoting good quality public transport and green public spaces in the Bulgarian capital.

    “When the local government in Sofia canceled a big tramway project for the city we said: ‘This is enough. We have to really vote for ourselves because we love the city and we have to do something about it,’” said Andrej Zografski, from Spasi Sofia.

    “We have to learn from each other because we don’t have any other allies than ourselves,” he added.

    Opportunities to learn about issues specific to Belgrade were also offered at the conference, including tours of the Belgrade Waterfront and of the Kaludjerica settlment, which is often referred to as an illegal settlement due to the number of buildings built there without permits.

    Workshops to learn about different issues facing people in Serbia, like LGBT rights and the construction of hydro-power plants against public will, were offered as well.

    One of the discussions at the Belgrade event addressed the feminization of politics within a global context.

    Speakers from Colombia, Spain, Serbia and Croatia discussed the challenges of women trying to navigate and change patriarchal political systems.

    “If we don’t have a feminization of politics, we’ll lose many voices that are important in politics and, unless we change this, it’ll be difficult for these people to participate on equal terms with others,” said Laura Roth, a member of Barcelona en Comú.

    “This means distributing responsibilities in different ways and trying to break traditional gender.

    https://balkaninsight.com/2019/06/14/fearless-cities-movements-plot-common-path-in-serbia
    #villes-refuge #Serbie #asile #migrations #réfugiés #solidarité #hospitalité #municipalisme

    Ajouté à la métaliste sur les villes-refuge :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/759145

  • Deepfakes have got Congress panicking. This is what it needs to do. - MIT Technology Review
    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/613676/deepfakes-ai-congress-politics-election-facebook-social

    In response, the House of Representatives will hold its first dedicated hearing tomorrow on deepfakes, the class of synthetic media generated by AI. In parallel, Representative Yvette Clarke will introduce a bill on the same subject. A new research report released by a nonprofit this week also highlights a strategy for coping when deepfakes and other doctored media proliferate.

    The deepfake bill
    The draft bill, a product of several months of discussion with computer scientists, disinformation experts, and human rights advocates, will include three provisions. The first would require companies and researchers who create tools that can be used to make deepfakes to automatically add watermarks to forged creations.

    The second would require social-media companies to build better manipulation detection directly into their platforms. Finally, the third provision would create sanctions, like fines or even jail time, to punish offenders for creating malicious deepfakes that harm individuals or threaten national security. In particular, it would attempt to introduce a new mechanism for legal recourse if people’s reputations are damaged by synthetic media.

    “This issue doesn’t just affect politicians,” says Mutale Nkonde, a fellow at the Data & Society Research Institute and an advisor on the bill. “Deepfake videos are much more likely to be deployed against women, minorities, people from the LGBT community, poor people. And those people aren’t going to have the resources to fight back against reputational risks.”

    But the technology has advanced at a rapid pace, and the amount of data required to fake a video has dropped dramatically. Two weeks ago, Samsung demonstrated that it was possible to create an entire video out of a single photo; this week university and industry researchers demoed a new tool that allows users to edit someone’s words by typing what they want the subject to say.

    It’s thus only a matter of time before deepfakes proliferate, says Sam Gregory, the program director of Witness. “Many of the ways that people would consider using deepfakes—to attack journalists, to imply corruption by politicians, to manipulate evidence—are clearly evolutions of existing problems, so we should expect people to try on the latest ways to do those effectively,” he says.

    The report outlines a strategy for how to prepare for such an impending future. Many of the recommendations and much of the supporting evidence also aligns with the proposals that will appear in the House bill.

    The report found that current investments by researchers and tech companies into deepfake generation far outweigh those into deepfake detection. Adobe, for example, has produced many tools to make media alterations easier, including a recent feature for removing objects in videos; it has not, however, provided a foil to them.

    The result is a mismatch between the real-world nature of media manipulation and the tools available to fight it. “If you’re creating a tool for synthesis or forgery that is seamless to the human eye or the human ear, you should be creating tools that are specifically designed to detect that forgery,” says Gregory. The question is how to get toolmakers to redress that imbalance.

    #Deepfake #Fake_news #Synthetic_media #Médias_de_synthèse #Projet_loi

  • Adversarial Interoperability: Reviving an Elegant Weapon From a More Civilized Age to Slay Today’s Monopolies | Electronic Frontier Foundation
    https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2019/06/adversarial-interoperability-reviving-elegant-weapon-more-civilized-age-slay

    Voici ce que le mouvement pour le logiciel libre peut apprendre des tactiques des concurrents de Microsoft - si vous ne pouvez pas gagner contre les géants, profitez d’eux.

    Today, Apple is one of the largest, most profitable companies on Earth, but in the early 2000s, the company was fighting for its life. Microsoft’s Windows operating system was ascendant, and Microsoft leveraged its dominance to ensure that every Windows user relied on its Microsoft Office suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc). Apple users—a small minority of computer users—who wanted to exchange documents with the much larger world of Windows users were dependent on Microsoft’s Office for the Macintosh operating system (which worked inconsistently with Windows Office documents, with unexpected behaviors like corrupting documents so they were no longer readable, or partially/incorrectly displaying parts of exchanged documents). Alternatively, Apple users could ask Windows users to export their Office documents to an “interoperable” file format like Rich Text Format (for text), or Comma-Separated Values (for spreadsheets). These, too, were inconsistent and error-prone, interpreted in different ways by different programs on both Mac and Windows systems.

    Apple could have begged Microsoft to improve its Macintosh offerings, or they could have begged the company to standardize its flagship products at a standards body like OASIS or ISO. But Microsoft had little motive to do such a thing: its Office products were a tremendous competitive advantage, and despite the fact that Apple was too small to be a real threat, Microsoft had a well-deserved reputation for going to enormous lengths to snuff out potential competitors, including both Macintosh computers and computers running the GNU/Linux operating system.

    Apple did not rely on Microsoft’s goodwill and generosity: instead, it relied on reverse-engineering. After its 2002 “Switch” ad campaign—which begged potential Apple customers to ignore the “myths” about how hard it was to integrate Macs into Windows workflows—it intensified work on its iWork productivity suite, which launched in 2005, incorporating a word-processor (Pages), a spreadsheet (Numbers) and a presentation program (Keynote). These were feature-rich applications in their own right, with many innovations that leapfrogged the incumbent Microsoft tools, but this superiority would still not have been sufficient to ensure the adoption of iWork, because the world’s greatest spreadsheets are of no use if everyone you need to work with can’t open them.

    What made iWork a success—and helped re-launch Apple—was the fact that Pages could open and save most Word files; Numbers could open and save most Excel files; and Keynote could open and save most PowerPoint presentations. Apple did not attain this compatibility through Microsoft’s cooperation: it attained it despite Microsoft’s noncooperation. Apple didn’t just make an “interoperable” product that worked with an existing product in the market: they made an adversarially interoperable product whose compatibility was wrested from the incumbent, through diligent reverse-engineering and reimplementation. What’s more, Apple committed to maintaining that interoperability, even though Microsoft continued to update its products in ways that temporarily undermined the ability of Apple customers to exchange documents with Microsoft customers, paying engineers to unbreak everything that Microsoft’s maneuvers broke. Apple’s persistence paid off: over time, Microsoft’s customers became dependent on compatibility with Apple customers, and they would complain if Microsoft changed its Office products in ways that broke their cross-platform workflow.

    Since Pages’ launch, document interoperability has stabilized, with multiple parties entering the market, including Google’s cloud-based Docs offerings, and the free/open alternatives from LibreOffice. The convergence on this standard was not undertaken with the blessing of the dominant player: rather, it came about despite Microsoft’s opposition. Docs are not just interoperable, they’re adversarially interoperable: each has its own file format, but each can read Microsoft’s file format.

    The document wars are just one of many key junctures in which adversarial interoperability made a dominant player vulnerable to new entrants:

    Hayes modems
    Usenet’s alt.* hierarchy
    Supercard’s compatibility with Hypercard
    Search engines’ web-crawlers
    Servers of every kind, which routinely impersonate PCs, printers, and other devices

    Scratch the surface of most Big Tech giants and you’ll find an adversarial interoperability story: Facebook grew by making a tool that let its users stay in touch with MySpace users; Google products from search to Docs and beyond depend on adversarial interoperability layers; Amazon’s cloud is full of virtual machines pretending to be discrete CPUs, impersonating real computers so well that the programs running within them have no idea that they’re trapped in the Matrix.

    Adversarial interoperability converts market dominance from an unassailable asset to a liability. Once Facebook could give new users the ability to stay in touch with MySpace friends, then every message those Facebook users sent back to MySpace—with a footer advertising Facebook’s superiority—became a recruiting tool for more Facebook users. MySpace served Facebook as a reservoir of conveniently organized potential users that could be easily reached with a compelling pitch about why they should switch.

    Today, Facebook is posting 30-54% annual year-on-year revenue growth and boasts 2.3 billion users, many of whom are deeply unhappy with the service, but who are stuck within its confines because their friends are there (and vice-versa).

    A company making billions and growing by double-digits with 2.3 billion unhappy customers should be every investor’s white whale, but instead, Facebook and its associated businesses are known as “the kill zone” in investment circles.

    Facebook’s advantage is in “network effects”: the idea that Facebook increases in value with every user who joins it (because more users increase the likelihood that the person you’re looking for is on Facebook). But adversarial interoperability could allow new market entrants to arrogate those network effects to themselves, by allowing their users to remain in contact with Facebook friends even after they’ve left Facebook.

    This kind of adversarial interoperability goes beyond the sort of thing envisioned by “data portability,” which usually refers to tools that allow users to make a one-off export of all their data, which they can take with them to rival services. Data portability is important, but it is no substitute for the ability to have ongoing access to a service that you’re in the process of migrating away from.

    Big Tech platforms leverage both their users’ behavioral data and the ability to lock their users into “walled gardens” to drive incredible growth and profits. The customers for these systems are treated as though they have entered into a negotiated contract with the companies, trading privacy for service, or vendor lock-in for some kind of subsidy or convenience. And when Big Tech lobbies against privacy regulations and anti-walled-garden measures like Right to Repair legislation, they say that their customers negotiated a deal in which they surrendered their personal information to be plundered and sold, or their freedom to buy service and parts on the open market.

    But it’s obvious that no such negotiation has taken place. Your browser invisibly and silently hemorrhages your personal information as you move about the web; you paid for your phone or printer and should have the right to decide whose ink or apps go into them.

    Adversarial interoperability is the consumer’s bargaining chip in these coercive “negotiations.” More than a quarter of Internet users have installed ad-blockers, making it the biggest consumer revolt in human history. These users are making counteroffers: the platforms say, “We want all of your data in exchange for this service,” and their users say, “How about none?” Now we have a negotiation!

    Or think of the iPhone owners who patronize independent service centers instead of using Apple’s service: Apple’s opening bid is “You only ever get your stuff fixed from us, at a price we set,” and the owners of Apple devices say, “Hard pass.” Now it’s up to Apple to make a counteroffer. We’ll know it’s a fair one if iPhone owners decide to patronize Apple’s service centers.

    This is what a competitive market looks like. In the absence of competitive offerings from rival firms, consumers make counteroffers by other means.

    There is good reason to want to see a reinvigorated approach to competition in America, but it’s important to remember that competition is enabled or constrained not just by mergers and acquisitions. Companies can use a whole package of laws to attain and maintain dominance, to the detriment of the public interest.

    Today, consumers and toolsmiths confront a thicket of laws and rules that stand between them and technological self-determination. To change that, we need to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, , patent law, and other rules and laws. Adversarial interoperability is in the history of every tech giant that rules today, and if it was good enough for them in the past, it’s good enough for the companies that will topple them in the future.

    #adversarial_Interoperability #logiciel_libre #disruption

  • Call immigrant detention centers what they really are: concentration camps

    If you were paying close attention last week, you might have spotted a pattern in the news. Peeking out from behind the breathless coverage of the Trump family’s tuxedoed trip to London was a spate of deaths of immigrants in U.S. custody: Johana Medina Léon, a 25-year-old transgender asylum seeker; an unnamed 33-year-old Salvadoran man; and a 40-year-old woman from Honduras.

    Photos from a Border Patrol processing center in El Paso showed people herded so tightly into cells that they had to stand on toilets to breathe. Memos surfaced by journalist Ken Klippenstein revealed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s failure to provide medical care was responsible for suicides and other deaths of detainees. These followed another report that showed that thousands of detainees are being brutally held in isolation cells just for being transgender or mentally ill.

    Also last week, the Trump administration cut funding for classes, recreation and legal aid at detention centers holding minors — which were likened to “summer camps” by a senior ICE official last year. And there was the revelation that months after being torn from their parents’ arms, 37 children were locked in vans for up to 39 hours in the parking lot of a detention center outside Port Isabel, Texas. In the last year, at least seven migrant children have died in federal custody.

    Preventing mass outrage at a system like this takes work. Certainly it helps that the news media covers these horrors intermittently rather than as snowballing proof of a racist, lawless administration. But most of all, authorities prevail when the places where people are being tortured and left to die stay hidden, misleadingly named and far from prying eyes.

    There’s a name for that kind of system. They’re called concentration camps. You might balk at my use of the term. That’s good — it’s something to be balked at.

    The goal of concentration camps has always been to be ignored. The German-Jewish political theorist Hannah Arendt, who was imprisoned by the Gestapo and interned in a French camp, wrote a few years afterward about the different levels of concentration camps. Extermination camps were the most extreme; others were just about getting “undesirable elements … out of the way.” All had one thing in common: “The human masses sealed off in them are treated as if they no longer existed, as if what happened to them were no longer of interest to anybody, as if they were already dead.”

    Euphemisms play a big role in that forgetting. The term “concentration camp” is itself a euphemism. It was invented by a Spanish official to paper over his relocation of millions of rural families into squalid garrison towns where they would starve during Cuba’s 1895 independence war. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered Japanese Americans into prisons during World War II, he initially called them concentration camps. Americans ended up using more benign names, like “Manzanar Relocation Center.”

    Even the Nazis’ camps started out small, housing criminals, Communists and opponents of the regime. It took five years to begin the mass detention of Jews. It took eight, and the outbreak of a world war, for the first extermination camps to open. Even then, the Nazis had to keep lying to distract attention, claiming Jews were merely being resettled to remote work sites. That’s what the famous signs — Arbeit Macht Frei, or “Work Sets You Free” — were about.

    Subterfuge doesn’t always work. A year ago, Americans accidentally became aware that the Trump administration had adopted (and lied about) a policy of ripping families apart at the border. The flurry of attention was thanks to the viral conflation of two separate but related stories: the family-separation order and bureaucrats’ admission that they’d been unable to locate thousands of migrant children who’d been placed with sponsors after crossing the border alone.

    Trump shoved that easily down the memory hole. He dragged his heels a bit, then agreed to a new policy: throwing whole families into camps together. Political reporters posed irrelevant questions, like whether President Obama had been just as bad, and what it meant for the midterms. Then they moved on.

    It is important to note that Trump’s aides have built this system of racist terror on something that has existed for a long time. Several camps opened under Obama, and as president he deported millions of people.

    But Trump’s game is different. It certainly isn’t about negotiating immigration reform with Congress. Trump has made it clear that he wants to stifle all non-white immigration, period. His mass arrests, iceboxes and dog cages are part of an explicitly nationalist project to put the country under the control of the right kind of white people.

    As a Republican National Committee report noted in 2013: “The nation’s demographic changes add to the urgency of recognizing how precarious our position has become.” The Trump administration’s attempt to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census was also just revealed to have been a plot to disadvantage political opponents and boost “Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites” all along.

    That’s why this isn’t just a crisis facing immigrants. When a leader puts people in camps to stay in power, history shows that he doesn’t usually stop with the first group he detains.

    There are now at least 48,000 people detained in ICE facilities, which a former official told BuzzFeed News “could swell indefinitely.” Customs and Border Protection officials apprehended more than 144,000 people on the Southwest border last month. (The New York Times dutifully reported this as evidence of a “dramatic surge in border crossings,” rather than what it was: The administration using its own surge of arrests to justify the rest of its policies.)

    If we call them what they are — a growing system of American concentration camps — we will be more likely to give them the attention they deserve. We need to know their names: Port Isabel, Dilley, Adelanto, Hutto and on and on. With constant, unrelenting attention, it is possible we might alleviate the plight of the people inside, and stop the crisis from getting worse. Maybe people won’t be able to disappear so easily into the iceboxes. Maybe it will be harder for authorities to lie about children’s deaths.

    Maybe Trump’s concentration camps will be the first thing we think of when we see him scowling on TV.

    The only other option is to leave it up to those in power to decide what’s next. That’s a calculated risk. As Andrea Pitzer, author of “One Long Night,” one of the most comprehensive books on the history of concentration camps, recently noted: “Every country has said their camps are humane and will be different. Trump is instinctively an authoritarian. He’ll take them as far as he’s allowed to.”

    https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-katz-immigrant-concentration-camps-20190609-story.html
    #terminologie #vocabulaire #mots #camps #camps_de_concentration #centres_de_détention #détention_administrative #rétention #USA #Etats-Unis
    #cpa_camps

    • ‘Some Suburb of Hell’: America’s New Concentration Camp System

      On Monday, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez referred to US border detention facilities as “concentration camps,” spurring a backlash in which critics accused her of demeaning the memory of those who died in the Holocaust. Debates raged over a label for what is happening along the southern border and grew louder as the week rolled on. But even this back-and-forth over naming the camps has been a recurrent feature in the mass detention of civilians ever since its inception, a history that long predates the Holocaust.

      At the heart of such policy is a question: What does a country owe desperate people whom it does not consider to be its citizens? The twentieth century posed this question to the world just as the shadow of global conflict threatened for the second time in less than three decades. The dominant response was silence, and the doctrine of absolute national sovereignty meant that what a state did to people under its control, within its borders, was nobody else’s business. After the harrowing toll of the Holocaust with the murder of millions, the world revisited its answer, deciding that perhaps something was owed to those in mortal danger. From the Fourth Geneva Convention protecting civilians in 1949 to the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, the international community established humanitarian obligations toward the most vulnerable that apply, at least in theory, to all nations.

      The twenty-first century is unraveling that response. Countries are rejecting existing obligations and meeting asylum seekers with walls and fences, from detainees fleeing persecution who were sent by Australia to third-party detention in the brutal offshore camps of Manus and Nauru to razor-wire barriers blocking Syrian refugees from entering Hungary. While some nations, such as Germany, wrestle with how to integrate refugees into their labor force—more and more have become resistant to letting them in at all. The latest location of this unwinding is along the southern border of the United States.

      So far, American citizens have gotten only glimpses of the conditions in the border camps that have been opened in their name. In the month of May, Customs and Border Protection reported a total of 132,887 migrants who were apprehended or turned themselves in between ports of entry along the southwest border, an increase of 34 percent from April alone. Upon apprehension, these migrants are temporarily detained by Border Patrol, and once their claims are processed, they are either released or handed over to ICE for longer-term detention. Yet Border Patrol itself is currently holding about 15,000 people, nearly four times what government officials consider to be this enforcement arm’s detention capacity.

      On June 12, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that Fort Sill, an Army post that hosted a World War II internment camp for detainees of Japanese descent, will now be repurposed to detain migrant children. In total, HHS reports that it is currently holding some 12,000 minors. Current law limits detention of minors to twenty days, though Senator Lindsey Graham has proposed expanding the court-ordered limit to 100 days. Since the post is on federal land, it will be exempt from state child welfare inspections.

      In addition to the total of detainees held by Border Patrol, an even higher number is detained at centers around the country by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency: on a typical day at the beginning of this month, ICE was detaining more than 52,500 migrants. The family separation policy outraged the public in the 2018, but despite legal challenges, it never fully ended. Less publicized have been the deaths of twenty-four adults in ICE custody since the beginning of the Trump administration; in addition, six children between the ages of two and sixteen have died in federal custody over the last several months. It’s not clear whether there have been other deaths that have gone unreported.

      Conditions for detainees have not been improving. At the end of May, a Department of Homeland Security inspector general found nearly 900 migrants at a Texas shelter built for a capacity of 125 people. On June 11, a university professor spotted at least 100 men behind chain-link fences near the Paso del Norte Bridge in El Paso, Texas. Those detainees reported sitting outside for weeks in temperatures that soared above 100 degrees. Taylor Levy, an El Paso immigration lawyer, described going into one facility and finding “a suicidal four-year-old whose face was covered in bloody, self-inflicted scratches… Another young child had to be restrained by his mother because he kept running full-speed into metal lockers. He was covered in bruises.”

      If deciding what to do about the growing numbers of adults and children seeking refuge in the US relies on complex humanitarian policies and international laws, in which most Americans don’t take a deep interest, a simpler question also presents itself: What exactly are these camps that the Trump administration has opened, and where is this program of mass detention headed?

      Even with incomplete information about what’s happening along the border today and what the government plans for these camps, history points to some conclusions about their future. Mass detention without trial earned a new name and a specific identity at the end of the nineteenth century. The labels then adopted for the practice were “reconcentración” and “concentration camps”—places of forced relocation of civilians into detention on the basis of group identity.

      Other kinds of group detention had appeared much earlier in North American history. The US government drove Native Americans from their homelands into prescribed exile, with death and detention in transit camps along the way. Some Spanish mission systems in the Americas had accomplished similar ends by seizing land and pressing indigenous people into forced labor. During the 245 years when slavery was legal in the US, detention was one of its essential features.

      Concentration camps, however, don’t typically result from the theft of land, as happened with Native Americans, or owning human beings in a system of forced labor, as in the slave trade. Exile, theft, and forced labor can come later, but in the beginning, detention itself is usually the point of concentration camps. By the end of the nineteenth century, the mass production of barbed wire and machines guns made this kind of detention possible and practical in ways it never had been before.

      Under Spanish rule in 1896, the governor-general of Cuba instituted camps in order to clear rebel-held regions during an uprising, despite his predecessor’s written refusal “as the representative of a civilized nation, to be the first to give the example of cruelty and intransigence” that such detention would represent. After women and children began dying in vast numbers behind barbed wire because there had been little planning for shelter and even less for food, US President William McKinley made his call to war before Congress. He spoke against the policy of reconcentración, calling it warfare by uncivilized means. “It was extermination,” McKinley said. “The only peace it could beget was that of the wilderness and the grave.” Without full records, the Cuban death toll can only be estimated, but a consensus puts it in the neighborhood of 150,000, more than 10 percent of the island’s prewar population.

      Today, we remember the sinking of the USS Maine as the spark that ignited the Spanish-American War. But war correspondent George Kennan (cousin of the more famous diplomat) believed that “it was the suffering of the reconcentrados, more, perhaps, than any other one thing that brought about the intervention of the United States.” On April 25, 1898, Congress declared war. Two weeks later, US Marines landed at Fisherman’s Point on the windward side of the entrance to Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. After a grim, week-long fight, the Marines took the hill. It became a naval base, and the United States has never left that patch of land.

      As part of the larger victory, the US inherited the Philippines. The world’s newest imperial power also inherited a rebellion. Following a massacre of American troops at Balangiga in September 1901, during the third year of the conflict, the US established its own concentration camp system. Detainees, mostly women and children, were forced into squalid conditions that one American soldier described in a letter to a US senator as “some suburb of hell.” In the space of only four months, more than 11,000 Filipinos are believed to have died in these noxious camps.

      Meanwhile, in southern Africa in 1900, the British had opened their own camps during their battle with descendants of Dutch settlers in the second Boer War. British soldiers filled tent cities with Boer women and children, and the military authorities called them refugee camps. Future Prime Minister David Lloyd George took offense at that name, noting in Parliament: “There is no greater delusion in the mind of any man than to apply the term ‘refugee’ to these camps. They are not refugee camps. They are camps of concentration.” Contemporary observers compared them to the Cuban camps, and criticized their deliberate cruelty. The Bishop of Hereford wrote to The Times of London in 1901, asking: “Are we reduced to such a depth of impotence that our Government can do nothing to stop such a holocaust of child-life?”

      Maggoty meat rations and polluted water supplies joined outbreaks of contagious diseases amid crowded and unhealthy conditions in the Boer camps. More than 27,000 detainees are thought to have died there, nearly 80 percent of them children. The British had opened camps for black Africans as well, in which at least 14,000 detainees died—the real number is probably much higher. Aside from protests made by some missionaries, the deaths of indigenous black Africans did not inspire much public outrage. Much of the history of the suffering in these camps has been lost.

      These early experiments with concentration camps took place on the periphery of imperial power, but accounts of them nevertheless made their way into newspapers and reports in many nations. As a result, the very idea of them came to be seen as barbaric. By the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, the first camp systems had all been closed, and concentration camps had nearly vanished as an institution. Within months of the outbreak of World War I, though, they would be resurrected—this time rising not at the margins but in the centers of power. Between 1914 and 1918, camps were constructed on an unprecedented scale across six continents. In their time, these camps were commonly called concentration camps, though today they are often referred to by the more anodyne term “internment.”

      Those World War I detainees were, for the most part, foreigners—or, in legalese, aliens—and recent anti-immigration legislation in several countries had deliberately limited their rights. The Daily Mail denounced aliens left at liberty once they had registered with their local police department, demanding, “Does signing his name take the malice out of a man?” The Scottish Field was more direct, asking, “Do Germans have souls?” That these civilian detainees were no threat to Britain did not keep them from being demonized, shouted at, and spat upon as they were paraded past hostile crowds in cities like London.

      Though a small number of people were shot in riots in these camps, and hunger became a serious issue as the conflict dragged on, World War I internment would present a new, non-lethal face for the camps, normalizing detention. Even after the war, new camps sprang up from Spain to Hungary and Cuba, providing an improvised “solution” for everything from vagrancy to anxieties over the presence of Jewish foreigners.

      Some of these camps were clearly not safe for those interned. Local camps appeared in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921, after a white mob burned down a black neighborhood and detained African-American survivors. In Bolshevik Russia, the first concentration camps preceded the formation of the Soviet Union in 1922 and planted seeds for the brutal Gulag system that became official near the end of the USSR’s first decade. While some kinds of camps were understood to be harsher, after World War I their proliferation did not initially disturb public opinion. They had yet to take on their worst incarnations.

      In 1933, barely more than a month after Hitler was appointed chancellor, the Nazis’ first, impromptu camp opened in the town of Nohra in central Germany to hold political opponents. Detainees at Nohra were allowed to vote at a local precinct in the elections of March 5, 1933, resulting in a surge of Communist ballots in the tiny town. Locking up groups of civilians without trial had become accepted. Only the later realization of the horrors of the Nazi death camps would break the default assumption by governments and the public that concentration camps could and should be a simple way to manage populations seen as a threat.

      However, the staggering death toll of the Nazi extermination camp system—which was created mid-war and stood almost entirely separate from the concentration camps in existence since 1933—led to another result: a strange kind of erasure. In the decades that followed World War II, the term “concentration camp” came to stand only for Auschwitz and other extermination camps. It was no longer applied to the kind of extrajudicial detention it had denoted for generations. The many earlier camps that had made the rise of Auschwitz possible largely vanished from public memory.

      It is not necessary, however, to step back a full century in American history to find camps with links to what is happening on the US border today. Detention at Guantánamo began in the 1990s, when Haitian and Cuban immigrants whom the government wanted to keep out of the United States were housed there in waves over a four-year period—years before the “war on terror” and the US policy of rendition of suspected “enemy combatants” made Camps Delta, X-Ray, and Echo notorious. Tens of thousands of Haitians fleeing instability at home were picked up at sea and diverted to the Cuban base, to limit their legal right to apply for asylum. The court cases and battles over the suffering of those detainees ended up setting the stage for what Guantánamo would become after September 11, 2001.

      In one case, a federal court ruled that it did have jurisdiction over the base, but the government agreed to release the Haitians who were part of the lawsuit in exchange for keeping that ruling off the books. A ruling in a second case would assert that the courts did not have jurisdiction. Absent the prior case, the latter stood on its own as precedent. Leaving Guantánamo in this gray area made it an ideal site for extrajudicial detention and torture after the twin towers fell.

      This process of normalization, when a bad camp becomes much more dangerous, is not unusual. Today’s border camps are a crueler reflection of long-term policies—some challenged in court—that earlier presidents had enacted. Prior administrations own a share of the responsibility for today’s harsh practices, but the policies in place today are also accompanied by a shameless willingness to publicly target a vulnerable population in increasingly dangerous ways.

      I visited Guantánamo twice in 2015, sitting in the courtroom for pretrial hearings and touring the medical facility, the library, and all the old abandoned detention sites, as well as newly built ones, open to the media—from the kennel-style cages of Camp X-Ray rotting to ruin in the damp heat to the modern jailhouse facilities of Camp 6. Seeing all this in person made clear to me how vast the architecture of detention had become, how entrenched it was, and how hard it would be to close.

      Without a significant government effort to reverse direction, conditions in every camp system tend to deteriorate over time. Governments rarely make that kind of effort on behalf of people they are willing to lock up without trial in the first place. And history shows that legislatures do not close camps against the will of an executive.

      Just a few years ago there might have been more potential for change spurred by the judicial branch of our democracy, but this Supreme Court is inclined toward deference to executive power, even, it appears, if that power is abused. It seems unlikely this Court will intervene to end the new border camp system; indeed, the justices are far more likely to institutionalize it by half-measures, as happened with Guantánamo. The Korematsu case, in which the Supreme Court upheld Japanese-American internment (a ruling only rescinded last year), relied on the suppression of evidence by the solicitor general. Americans today can have little confidence that this administration would behave any more scrupulously when defending its detention policy.

      What kind of conditions can we expect to develop in these border camps? The longer a camp system stays open, the more likely it is that vital things will go wrong: detainees will contract contagious diseases and suffer from malnutrition and mental illness. We have already seen that current detention practices have resulted in children and adults succumbing to influenza, staph infections, and sepsis. The US is now poised to inflict harm on tens of thousands more, perhaps hundreds of thousands more.

      Along with such inevitable consequences, every significant camp system has introduced new horrors of its own, crises that were unforeseen when that system was opened. We have yet to discover what those will be for these American border camps. But they will happen. Every country thinks it can do detention better when it starts these projects. But no good way to conduct mass indefinite detention has yet been devised; the system always degrades.

      When, in 1940, Margarete Buber-Neumann was transferred from the Soviet Gulag at Karaganda to the camp for women at Ravensbrück (in an exchange enabled by the Nazi–Soviet Pact), she came from near-starvation conditions in the USSR and was amazed at the cleanliness and order of the Nazi camp. New arrivals were issued clothing, bedding, and silverware, and given fresh porridge, fruit, sausage, and jam to eat. Although the Nazi camps were already punitive, order-obsessed monstrosities, the wartime overcrowding that would soon overtake them had not yet made daily life a thing of constant suffering and squalor. The death camps were still two years away.

      The United States now has a vast and growing camp system. It is starting out with gruesome overcrowding and inadequate healthcare, and because of budget restrictions, has already taken steps to cut services to juvenile detainees. The US Office of Refugee Resettlement says that the mounting number of children arriving unaccompanied is forcing it to use military bases and other sites that it prefers to avoid, and that establishing these camps is a temporary measure. But without oversight from state child welfare inspectors, the possibilities for neglect and abuse are alarming. And without any knowledge of how many asylum-seekers are coming in the future, federal administrators are likely to find themselves boxed in to managing detention on military sites permanently.

      President Trump and senior White House adviser Stephen Miller appear to have purged the Department of Homeland Security of most internal opposition to their anti-immigrant policies. In doing so, that have removed even those sympathetic to the general approach taken by the White House, such as former Chief of Staff John Kelly and former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, in order to escalate the militarization of the border and expand irregular detention in more systematic and punitive ways. This kind of power struggle or purge in the early years of a camp system is typical.

      The disbanding of the Cheka, the Soviet secret police, in February 1922 and the transfer of its commander, Felix Dzerzhinsky, to head up an agency with control over only two prisons offered a hint of an alternate future in which extrajudicial detention would not play a central role in the fledgling Soviet republic. But Dzerzhinsky managed to keep control over the “special camps” in his new position, paving the way for the emergence of a camp-centered police state. In pre-war Germany in the mid-1930s, Himmler’s struggle to consolidate power from rivals eventually led him to make camps central to Nazi strategy. When the hardliners win, as they appear to have in the US, conditions tend to worsen significantly.

      Is it possible this growth in the camp system will be temporary and the improvised border camps will soon close? In theory, yes. But the longer they remain open, the less likely they are to vanish. When I visited the camps for Rohingya Muslims a year before the large-scale campaign of ethnic cleansing began, many observers appeared to be confusing the possible and the probable. It was possible that the party of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi would sweep into office in free elections and begin making changes. It was possible that full democracy would come to all the residents of Myanmar, even though the government had stripped the Rohingya of the last vestiges of their citizenship. These hopes proved to be misplaced. Once there are concentration camps, it is always probable that things will get worse.

      The Philippines, Japanese-American internment, Guantánamo… we can consider the fine points of how the current border camps evoke past US systems, and we can see how the arc of camp history reveals the likelihood that the suffering we’re currently inflicting will be multiplied exponentially. But we can also simply look at what we’re doing right now, shoving bodies into “dog pound”-style detention pens, “iceboxes,” and standing room-only spaces. We can look at young children in custody who have become suicidal. How much more historical awareness do we really need?

      https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2019/06/21/some-suburb-of-hell-americas-new-concentration-camp-system

    • #Alexandria_Ocasio-Cortez engage le bras de fer avec la politique migratoire de Donald Trump

      L’élue de New York a qualifié les camps de rétention pour migrants érigés à la frontière sud des Etats-Unis de « camps de concentration ».

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2019/06/19/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-engage-le-bras-de-fer-avec-la-politique-migratoire-

  • MoA - June 04, 2019 - Tiananmen Square - Do The Media Say What Really Happened ?
    https://www.moonofalabama.org/2019/06/tiananmen-square-do-the-media-say-what-really-happened.html


    Le bloggeur Moon of Alabama (#MoA) et un commentateur de son article nous rappellent qu’il y a des informations fiables qui démentent le récit préféré en occident à propos des événements du square Tiananmen il y a trente ans.

    Since 1989 the western media write anniversary pieces on the June 4 removal of protesters from the Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The view seems always quite one sided and stereotyped with a brutal military that suppresses peaceful protests.

    That is not the full picture. Thanks to Wikileaks we have a few situation reports from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing at that time. They describe a different scene than the one western media paint to this day.

    Ten thousands of people, mostly students, occupied the square for six weeks. They protested over the political and personal consequences of Mao’s chaotic Cultural Revolution which had upset the whole country. The liberalization and changeover to a more capitalist model under Deng Xiopings had yet to show its success and was fought by the hardliners in the Communist Party.

    The more liberal side of the government negotiated with the protesters but no agreement was found. The hardliners in the party pressed for the protest removal. When the government finally tried to move the protesters out of the very prominent square they resisted.

    On June 3 the government moved troops towards the city center of Beijing. But the military convoys were held up. Some came under attack. The U.S. embassy reported that soldiers were taken as hostages:

    TENSION MOUNTED THROUGHOUT THE AFTERNOON AS BEIJING RESIDENTS VENTED THEIR ANGER BY HARASSING MILITARY AND POLICE PERSONNEL AND ATTACKING THEIR VEHICLES. STUDENTS DISPLAYED CAPTURED WEAPONS, MILITARY EQUIPMENT AND VEHICLES, INCLUDING IN FRONT OF THE ZHONGNANHAI LEADERSHIP COMPOUND. AN EFFORT TO FREE STILL CAPTIVE MILITARY PERSONNEL OR TO CLEAR THE SOUTHERN ENTRANCE TO ZHONGNANHAI MAY HAVE BEEN THE CAUSE OF A LIMITED TEAR GAS ATTACK IN THAT AREA AROUND 1500 HOURS LOCAL.

    There are some gruesome pictures of the government side casualties of these events.

    Another cable from June 3 notes:

    THE TROOPS HAVE OBVIOUSLY NOT YET BEEN GIVEN ORDERS PERMITTING THEM TO USE FORCE. THEIR LARGE NUMBERS, THE FACT THAT THEY ARE HELMETED, AND THE AUTOMATIC WEAPONS THEY ARE CARRYING SUGGEST THAT THE FORCE OPTION IS REAL.

    In the early morning of June 4 the military finally reached the city center and tried to push the crowd out of Tiananmen Square:

    STUDENTS SET DEBRIS THROWN ATOP AT LEAST ONE ARMORED PERSONNEL CARRIER AND LIT THE DEBRIS, ACCORDING TO EMBOFF NEAR THE SCENE. ABC REPORTED THAT ONE OTHER ARMORED PERSONNEL CARRIER IS AFLAME. AT LEAST ONE BUS WAS ALSO BURNING, ACCORDING TO ABC NEWS REPORTERS ON THE SQUARE AT 0120. THE EYEWITNESSES REPORTED THAT TROOPS AND RIOT POLICE WERE ON THE SOUTHERN END OF THE SQUARE AND TROOPS WERE MOVING TO THE SQUARE FROM THE WESTERN SIDE OF THE CITY.

    The soldiers responded as all soldiers do when they see that their comrades get barbecued:

    THERE HAS REPORTEDLY BEEN INDISCRIMINATE GUNFIRE BY THE TROOPS ON THE SQUARE. WE CAN HEAR GUNFIRE FROM THE EMBASSY AND JIANGUOMENWAI DIPLOMATIC COMPOUND. EYEWITNESSES REPORT TEAR GAS ON THE SQUARE, FLARES BEING FIRED ABOVE IT, AND TRACERS BEING FIRED OVER IT.

    Most of the violence was not in the square, which was already quite empty at that time, but in the streets around it. The soldiers tried to push the crowd away without using their weapons:

    THE SITUATION IN THE CENTER OF THE CITY IS VERY CONFUSED. POLOFFS AT THE BEIJING HOTEL REPORTED THAT TROOPS ARE PUSHING A LARGE CROWD OF DEMONSTRATORS EAST ON CHANGANJIE. ALTHOUGH THESE TROOPS APPEAR NOT TO BE FIRING ON THE CROWD, POLOFFS REPORT FIRING BEHIND THE TROOPS COMING FROM THE SQUARE.

    With the Square finally cleared the student protest movement ebbed away.

    Western secret services smuggled some 800 of the leaders of their failed ’color revolution’ out of the country, reported the Financial Times in 2014:

    Many went first to France, but most travelled on to the US for scholarships at Ivy League universities.

    The extraction missions, aided by MI6, the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, and the CIA, according to many accounts, had scrambler devices, infrared signallers, night-vision goggles and weapons.

    It is unclear how many people died during the incident. The numbers vary between dozens to several hundred. It also not known how many of them were soldiers, and how many were violent protesters or innocent bystanders.

    The New York Times uses the 30th anniversary of the June 4 incidents to again promote a scene that is interpreted as successful civil resistance.

    He has become a global symbol of freedom and defiance, immortalized in photos, television shows, posters and T-shirts.

    But three decades after the Chinese Army crushed demonstrations centered on Tiananmen Square, “Tank Man” — the person who boldly confronted a convoy of tanks barreling down a Beijing avenue — is as much a mystery as ever.

    But was the man really some hero? It is not known what the the man really wanted or if he was even part of the protests:

    According to the man who took the photo, AP photographer Jeff Widener, the photo dates from June 5 the day after the Tiananmen Square incident. The tanks were headed away from, and not towards, the Square. They were blocked not by a student but by a man with a shopping bag crossing the street who had chosen to play chicken with the departing tanks. The lead tank had gone out its way to avoid causing him injury.

    The longer video of the tank hold up (turn off the ghastly music) shows that the man talked with the tank commander who makes no attempt to force him away. The scene ends after two minutes when some civilian passersby finally tell the man to move along. The NYT also writes:

    But more recently, the government has worked to eliminate the memory of Tank Man, censoring images of him online and punishing those who have evoked him.
    ...
    As a result of the government’s campaign, many people in China, especially younger Chinese, do not recognize his image.

    To which Carl Zha, who currently travels in China and speaks the language, responds:

    Carl Zha @CarlZha - 15:23 utc - 4 Jun 2019

    For the record, Everyone in China know about what happened on June 4th, 1989. Chinese gov remind them every year by cranking up censorship to 11 around anniversary. Idk Western reporters who claim people in China don’t know are just esp stupid/clueless or deliberately misleading

    In fact that applies to China reporting in general. I just don’t know whether Western China reporters are that stupid/clueless or deliberately misleading. I used to think people can’t be that stupid but I am constantly surprised...

    and

    Carl Zha @CarlZha - 15:42 utc - 4 Jun 2019

    This Image was shared in one of the Wechat group I was in today. Yes, everyone understood the reference

    Carl recommends the two part movie The Gate To Heavenly Peace (vid) as the best documentary of the Tiananmen Square protests. It explores the political and social background of the incident and includes many original voices and scenes.

    Posted by b on June 4, 2019 at 03:00

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/tiananmen-square-world-marks-30-years-since-massacre-as-china-censors-all-mention/ar-AACl8Sy?li=BBnbcA1
    https://search.wikileaks.org/?query=Tiananmen&exact_phrase=&any_of=&exclude_words=&document_dat
    https://twitter.com/Obscureobjet/status/1135970437886881792
    https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/89BEIJING15390_a.html
    https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/89BEIJING15411_a.html
    https://www.ft.com/content/4f970144-e658-11e3-9a20-00144feabdc0
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/03/world/asia/tiananmen-tank-man.html
    http://www.fccj.or.jp/number-1-shimbun/item/984-the-truth-about-tankman/984-the-truth-about-tankman.html
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qq8zFLIftGk


    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/03/world/asia/tiananmen-tank-man.html
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Gtt2JxmQtg&feature=youtu.be

    –---

    Here’s Minqi Li — a student of the “right” (liberal) at the time ["How did I arrive at my current intellectual position? I belong to the “1989 generation.” But unlike the rest of the 1989 generation, I made the unusual intellectual and political trajectory from the Right to the Left, and from being a neoliberal “democrat” to a revolutionary Marxist"] — about 1989.

    It is in the preface of his book “The Rise of China”, which I don’t recommend as a theoretical book. It doesn’t affect his testimony though:
    The 1980s was a decade of political and intellectual excitement in China. Despite some half-hearted official restrictions, large sections of the Chinese intelligentsia were politically active and were able to push for successive waves of the so-called “emancipation of ideas” (jiefang sixiang). The intellectual critique of the already existing Chinese socialism at first took place largely within a Marxist discourse. Dissident intellectuals called for more democracy without questioning the legitimacy of the Chinese Revolution or the economic institutions of socialism.
    [...]
    After 1985, however, economic reform moved increasingly in the direction of the free market. Corruption increased and many among the bureaucratic elites became the earliest big capitalists. Meanwhile, among the intellectuals, there was a sharp turn to the right. The earlier, Maoist phase of Chinese socialism was increasingly seen as a period of political oppression and economic failure. Chinese socialism was supposed to have “failed,” as it lost the economic growth race to places such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Many regarded Mao Zedong himself as an ignorant, backward Chinese peasant who turned into a cruel, power-hungry despot who had been responsible for the killing of tens of millions. (This perception of Mao is by no means a new one, we knew it back in the 1980s.) The politically active intellectuals no longer borrowed discourse from Marxism. Instead, western classical liberalism and neoliberal economics, as represented by Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, had become the new, fashionable ideology.
    [...]
    As the student demonstrations grew, workers in Beijing began to pour onto the streets in support of the students, who were, of course, delighted. However, being an economics student, I could not help experiencing a deep sense of irony. On the one hand, these workers were the people that we considered to be passive, obedient, ignorant, lazy, and stupid. Yet now they were coming out to support us. On the other hand, just weeks before, we were enthusiastically advocating “reform” programs that would shut down all state factories and leave the workers unemployed. I asked myself: do these workers really know who they are supporting?
    Unfortunately, the workers did not really know. In the 1980s, in terms of material living standards, the Chinese working class remained relatively well-off. There were nevertheless growing resentments on the part of the workers as the program of economic reform took a capitalist turn. Managers were given increasing power to impose capitalist-style labor disciplines (such as Taylorist “scientific management”) on the workers. The reintroduction of “material incentives” had paved the way for growing income inequality and managerial corruption.
    [...]
    By mid-May 1989, the student movement became rapidly radicalized, and liberal intellectuals and student leaders lost control of events. During the “hunger strike” at Tiananmen Square, millions of workers came out to support the students. This developed into a near-revolutionary situation and a political showdown between the government and the student movement was all but inevitable. The liberal intellectuals and student leaders were confronted with a strategic decision. They could organize a general retreat, calling off the demonstrations, though this strategy would certainly be demoralizing. The student leaders would probably be expelled from the universities and some liberal intellectuals might lose their jobs. But more negative, bloody consequences would be avoided.
    Alternatively, the liberal intellectuals and the student leaders could strike for victory. They could build upon the existing political momentum, mobilize popular support, and take steps to seize political power. If they adopted this tactic, it was difficult to say if they would succeed but there was certainly a good chance. The Communist Party’s leadership was divided. Many army commanders’ and provincial governments’ loyalty to the central government was in question. The student movement had the support of the great majority of urban residents throughout the country. To pursue this option, however, the liberal intellectuals and students had to be willing and able to mobilize the full support of the urban working class. This was a route that the Chinese liberal intellectuals simply would not consider.
    So what they did was … nothing. The government did not wait long to act. While the students themselves peacefully left Tiananmen Square, thousands of workers died in Beijing’s streets defending them.

    Posted by: vk | Jun 4, 2019 3:21:31 PM

    #Chine #démocratie #histoire #4689

  • The guy who made a tool to track women in porn videos is sorry - MIT Technology Review
    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/613607/facial-recognition-porn-database-privacy-gdpr-data-collection-poli

    An anonymous programmer based in Germany caused outrage this week for supposedly using face-recognition technology to “catch” women who had appeared in porn. He says he’s since deleted the project and all its data, but that’s not an act of altruism. Such a project would have violated European privacy law anyway, though it would have been okay elsewhere.

    There is still no proof that the global system—which allegedly matched women’s social-media photos with images from sites like Pornhub—actually worked, or even existed. Still, the technology is possible and would have had awful consequences. “It’s going to kill people,” says Carrie A. Goldberg, an attorney who specializes in sexual privacy violations and author of the forthcoming book Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls. “Some of my most viciously harassed clients have been people who did porn, oftentimes one time in their life and sometimes nonconsensually [because] they were duped into it. Their lives have been ruined because there’s this whole culture of incels that for a hobby expose women who’ve done porn and post about them online and dox them.” (Incels, or “involuntary celibates,” are a misogynistic online subculture of men who claim they are denied sex by women.)

    The European Union’s GDPR privacy law prevents this kind of situation. Though the programmer—who posted about the project on the Chinese social network Weibo—originally insisted everything was fine because he didn’t make the information public, just collecting the data is illegal if the women didn’t consent, according to Börge Seeger, a data protection expert and partner at German law firm Neuwerk. These laws apply to any information from EU residents, so they would have held even if the programmer weren’t living in the EU.

    Under GDPR, personal data (and especially sensitive biometric data) needs to be collected for specific and legitimate purposes. Scraping data to figure out if someone once appeared in porn is not that. And if the programmer had charged money to access this information, he could have faced up to three years in prison under German criminal law, adds Seeger.

    Et toujours cette logique de l’excuse qui semble Zurkerbériser un grand nombre de programmeurs.

    Reached last night via Weibo, the programmer (who did not give his real name) insisted that the technology was real, but acknowledged that it raised legal issues. He’s sorry to have caused trouble. But he’s not the only one able to build this technology, or the only one interested in using it for dangerous purposes. Policymakers concerned with global privacy law need to start thinking ahead.

    #Reconnaissance_faciale #Données_provées #Porno

  • First-ever private border wall built in #New_Mexico

    A private group announced Monday that it has constructed a half-mile wall along a section of the U.S.-Mexico border in New Mexico, in what it said was a first in the border debate.

    The 18-foot steel bollard wall is similar to the designs used by the Border Patrol, sealing off a part of the border that had been a striking gap in existing fencing, according to We Build the Wall, the group behind the new section.

    The section was also built faster and, organizers say, likely more cheaply than the government has been able to manage in recent years.

    Kris Kobach, a former secretary of state in Kansas and an informal immigration adviser to President Trump, says the New Mexico project has the president’s blessing, and says local Border Patrol agents are eager to have the assistance.

    “We’re closing a gap that’s been a big headache for them,” said Mr. Kobach, who is general counsel for We Build the Wall.


    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/may/27/first-ever-private-border-wall-built-new-mexico
    #privatisation #murs #barrières_frontalières #USA #Mexique #frontières #business #complexe_militaro-industriel
    ping @albertocampiphoto @daphne

    • The #GoFundMe Border Wall Is the Quintessential Trump-Era Grift

      In 2012, historian Rick Perlstein wrote a piece of essential reading for understanding modern conservatism, titled “The Long Con” and published by the Baffler. It ties the right’s penchant for absurd and obvious grifts to the conservative mind’s particular vulnerability to fear and lies:

      The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers points up evidence of another successful long march, of tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place—and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began.

      Lying, Perlstein said, is “what makes you sound the way a conservative is supposed to sound.” The lies—about abortion factories, ACORN, immigrants, etc.—fund the grifts, and the grifts prey on the psychology that makes the lies so successful.

      Perlstein’s piece is all I could think of when I saw last night’s CNN story about the border wall GoFundMe, which seemingly has actually produced Wall. According to CNN, the group We Build the Wall says it has produced a half-mile of border wall in New Mexico. CNN was invited to watch the construction, where Kris Kobach, who is general counsel for the group, spoke “over the clanking and beeping of construction equipment.”

      #Steve_Bannon, who is naturally involved with the group, told CNN that the wall connects existing fencing and had “tough terrain” that means it was left “off the government list.” The half-mile stretch of wall cost an “estimated $6 million to $8 million to build,” CNN reported.

      CNN also quoted #Jeff_Allen, who owns the property on which the fence was built, as saying: “I have fought illegals on this property for six years. I love my country and this is a step in protecting my country.” According to MSN, Allen partnered with United Constitutional Patriots to build the wall with We Build the Wall’s funding. UCP is the same militia that was seen on video detaining immigrants and misrepresenting themselves as Border Patrol; the Phoenix New Times reported on the “apparent ties” between the UCP and We Build the Wall earlier this month.

      This story is bursting at the seams with an all-star lineup of right-wing scammers. The GoFundMe itself, of course, has been rocked by scandal: After the effort raised $20 million, just $980 million short of the billion-dollar goal, GoFundMe said in January that the funds would be returned, since creator Brian Kolfage had originally pledged that “If for ANY reason we don’t reach our goal we will refund your donation.” But Kolfage quickly figured out how to keep the gravy train going, urging those who had donated to allow their donations to be redirected to a non-profit. Ultimately, $14 million of that $20 million figure was indeed rerouted by the idiots who donated it.

      That non-profit became #We_Build_The_Wall, and like all good conservative con jobs, it has the celebs of the fever swamp attached to it. Not only #Kris_Kobach, a tenacious liar who failed at proving voter fraud is a widespread problem—but also slightly washed-up figures like Bannon, Sheriff David Clarke, Curt Schilling, and Tom Tancredo. All the stars are here!

      How much sleazier could it get? Try this: the main contractor working at the site of New Wall, according to CNN, is Tommy Fisher. The Washington Post reported last week that Trump had “personally and repeatedly urged the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers” to give the contract for the border wall to the company owned by Fisher, a “GOP donor and frequent guest on Fox News,” despite the fact that the Corps of Engineers previously said Fisher’s proposals didn’t meet their requirements.

      Of course, like all good schemes, the need for more money never ceases: On the Facebook page for the group, the announcement that Wall had been completed was accompanied with a plea for fans to “DONATE NOW to fund more walls! We have many more projects lined up!”

      So, what we have is: A tax-exempt non-profit raised $20 million by claiming it would be able to make the federal government build Wall by just giving it the money for it and then, when that didn’t happen, getting most of its donors to reroute that money; then it built a half-mile of wall on private land for as much as $8 million, which went to a firm of a Fox News star whom President Trump adores.

      Perlstein wrote in the aforementioned piece that it’s hard to “specify a break point where the money game ends and the ideological one begins,” since “the con selling 23-cent miracle cures for heart disease inches inexorably into the one selling miniscule marginal tax rates as the miracle cure for the nation itself.” The con job was sold through fear: “Conjuring up the most garishly insatiable monsters precisely in order to banish them from underneath the bed, they aim to put the target to sleep.”

      The Trump era is the inartful, gaudy, brazen peak of this phenomenon. This time, instead of selling fake stem cell cures using the language of Invading Liberals, the grifters are just straight-up selling—for real American dollars—the promise of building a big wall to keep the monsters out.

      https://splinternews.com/the-gofundme-border-wall-is-the-quintessential-trump-er-1835062340

    • Company touted by Trump to build the wall has history of fines, violations

      President Donald Trump appears to have set his sights on a North Dakota construction firm with a checkered legal record to build portions of his signature border wall.
      The family-owned company, #Fisher_Sand_&_Gravel, claims it can build the wall cheaper and faster than competitors. It was among a handful of construction firms chosen to build prototypes of the President’s border wall in 2017 and is currently constructing portions of barrier on private land along the border in New Mexico using private donations.
      It also, however, has a history of red flags including more than $1 million in fines for environmental and tax violations. A decade ago, a former co-owner of the company pleaded guilty to tax fraud, and was sentenced to prison. The company also admitted to defrauding the federal government by impeding the IRS. The former executive, who’s a brother of the current company owner, is no longer associated with it.
      More than two years into his presidency, Trump is still fighting to build and pay for his border wall, a key campaign issue. After failing to get his requests for wall funding passed by a Republican-held Congress during his first two years in office, Trump has met resistance this year from a Democratic-controlled House. His attempt to circumvent Congress through a national emergency declaration has been challenged in the courts.
      On May 24, a federal district judge blocked the administration from using Defense Department funds to construct parts of the wall. The Trump administration has since appealed the block to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals and in the interim, asked the district court to allow building to continue pending appeal. The district court denied the administration’s request.
      Despite the uncertainty, construction firms have been competing to win multimillion-dollar contracts to build portions of wall, including Fisher Sand & Gravel.

      Asked by CNN to comment on the company’s history of environmental violations and legal issues, the company said in a statement: “The questions you are asking have nothing to do with the excellent product and work that Fisher is proposing with regard to protecting America’s southern border. The issues and situations in your email were resolved years ago. None of those matters are outstanding today.”
      Catching the President’s attention
      The company was founded in North Dakota in 1952 and operates in several states across the US. It’s enjoyed public support from North Dakota Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer, who as a congressman invited the company’s CEO, Tommy Fisher, to Trump’s State of the Union address in 2018. Cramer has received campaign contributions from Fisher and his wife. A photo of the event shared by Fisher in a company newsletter shows Tommy Fisher shaking Trump’s hand.
      The Washington Post first reported the President’s interest in Fisher. According to the Post, the President has “aggressively” pushed for the Army Corps of Engineers to award a wall contract to Fisher.
      The President “immediately brought up Fisher” during a May 23 meeting in the Oval Office to discuss details of the border wall with various government officials, including that he wants it to be painted black and include French-style doors, according to the Post and confirmed by CNN.
      “The Army Corps of Engineers says about 450 miles of wall will be completed by the end of next year, and the only thing President Trump is pushing, is for the wall to be finished quickly so the American people have the safety and security they deserve,” said Hogan Gidley, White House deputy press secretary.
      A US government official familiar with the meeting tells CNN that the President has repeatedly mentioned the company in discussions he’s had about the wall with the head of the Army Corps of Engineers, Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite.
      Fisher has recently made efforts to raise its public profile, both by upping its lobbying efforts and through repeated appearances on conservative media by its CEO, Tommy Fisher.

      In the past two years, for example, the company’s congressional lobbying expenditures jumped significantly — from $5,000 in 2017 to $75,000 in 2018, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit that tracks lobbying expenditures.

      When asked about Fisher Sand & Gravel’s lobbying, Don Larson, one of Fisher’s registered lobbyists, said: “I am working to help decision makers in Washington become familiar with the company and its outstanding capabilities.”
      Media Blitz
      As part of a media blitz on outlets including Fox News, SiriusXM Patriot and Breitbart News, Tommy Fisher has discussed his support for the border wall and pitched his company as the one to build it. In a March 5 appearance on Fox & Friends, Fisher said that his company could build 234 miles of border wall for $4.3 billion, compared to the $5.7 billion that the Trump administration has requested from Congress.
      Fisher claimed that his firm can work five-to-10 times faster than competitors as a result of its construction process.
      The President has also touted Fisher on Fox News. In an April interview in which he was asked about Fisher by Sean Hannity, Trump said the company was “recommended strongly by a great new senator, as you know, Kevin Cramer. And they’re real. But they have been bidding and so far they haven’t been meeting the bids. I thought they would.”
      Despite the President’s interest, the company has thus far been unsuccessful in obtaining a contract to build the border wall, beyond that of a prototype.

      Earlier this year, Fisher put its name in the running for border wall contracts worth nearly $1 billion. When it lost the bid to Barnard Construction Co. and SLSCO Ltd., Fisher protested the awards over claims that the process was biased. In response, the Army Corps canceled the award. But after a review of the process, the Army Corps combined the projects and granted it to a subsidiary of Barnard Construction, according to an agency spokesperson.
      It’s unclear whether the project will proceed, given the recent decision by a federal judge to block the use of Defense Department funds to build parts of the border wall and the administration’s appeal.
      Fisher, which has a pending lawsuit in the US Court of Federal Claims over the solicitation process, is listed by the Defense Department as being among firms eligible to compete for future border contracts.

      It has moved forward with a private group, We Build the Wall, that is building sections of barrier on private land in New Mexico using private money raised as part of a GoFundMe campaign. Kris Kobach, the former Kansas Secretary of State who is now general counsel for the group, said a half-mile stretch is nearly complete, at an estimated cost of $6 million to $8 million.

      In a statement, a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said Fisher Industries has told them that the company has begun construction on private property along the border “in the approximate area of a USBP border barrier requirement that was not prioritized under current funding.”
      The spokesperson added: “It is not uncommon for vendors” to demonstrate their capabilities using “their own resources,” but the agency goes on to “encourage all interested vendors” to compete for border contracts “through established mechanisms to ensure any construction is carried out under relevant federal authorities and meets USBP operational requirements for border barrier.”
      In responses provided to CNN through Scott Sleight, an attorney working on behalf of the company, Fisher maintained that it’s “committed to working with all appropriate federal government officials and agencies to provide its expertise and experience to help secure America’s southern border.”
      The company says it has “developed a patent-pending bollard fence hanging system that [it] believes allows border fencing to be constructed faster than any contractor using common construction methods.” It also added: “Fisher has been concerned about the procurement procedures and evaluations done by the USACE to date, and hopes these issues can be remedied.”
      Relationship with Sen. Cramer
      A month after attending the 2018 State of the Union address with Cramer, Fisher and his wife, Candice each contributed the $5,400 maximum donation to Cramer’s campaign for the US Senate, Federal Election Commission records show.
      Fisher also donated to several Arizona Republicans in the 2018 election cycle, including giving the $5,400-maximum donation to Martha McSally’s campaign, records show.
      A recent video produced by Fisher Sand & Gravel demonstrating its ability to construct the wall includes a clip of Cramer at the controls of a track-hoe lifting sections of barrier wall into place, saying “this is just like XBOX, baby.” Cramer was joined at the demonstration by a handful of other Republican lawmakers from across the country.

      Cramer has been publicly critical of how the Army Corps has handled its border wall construction work, arguing that it has moved too slowly and expressing frustration over how it has dealt with Fisher. In an interview with a North Dakota TV station, Cramer said that he believes the corps “made a miscalculation in who they chose over Fisher” and that the company had been “skunked so to speak.” Cramer added that Fisher “remains a pre-qualified, high level, competitor.”

      In an interview with CNN, Cramer said that the company has come up in conversations he has had with administration officials, including the President and the head of the Army Corps, but while the senator said that he would “love if they got every inch of the project,” he added that he has “never advocated specifically for them.”
      "Every time someone comes to meet with me, whether it’s (Acting Defense Secretary) Shanahan, General Semonite, even with Donald Trump, they bring up Fisher Industries because they assume that’s my thing," Cramer said.
      “One of the things I’ve never done is said it should be Fisher,” Cramer said. “Now, I love Fisher. I’d love if they got every inch of the project. They’re my constituents, I don’t apologize for that. But my interest really is more in the bureaucratic process.”
      According to an administration official familiar with the situation, Cramer sent information about Fisher to the President’s son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner, who then passed it along to the Army Corps of Engineers for their consideration. The source tells CNN that Kushner was not familiar with the company prior to getting information about them from Cramer.
      Cramer said he does recall passing along information about the company to Kushner, but that he did not know what Kushner did with the information.
      On May 24, Cramer told a North Dakota radio station that the President has asked him to examine the process of how federal border wall projects are awarded.
      “We’re going to do an entire audit,” Cramer said. “I’ve asked for the entire bid process, and all of the bid numbers.” Cramer told CNN the President said he wanted the wall built for the “lowest, best price, and it’s also quality, and that’s what any builder should want.”
      Asked about aspects of the company’s checkered legal record, Cramer said “that level of scrutiny is important, but I would hope the same scrutiny would be put on the Corps of Engineers.”
      Environmental violations
      Though its corporate headquarters are in North Dakota, Fisher has a sizable footprint in Arizona, where it operates an asphalt company as well as a drilling and blasting company. It’s there that the company has compiled an extensive track record of environmental violations.
      From 2007 to 2017, Fisher Sand & Gravel compiled more than 1,300 air-quality violations in Maricopa County, culminating in the third highest settlement ever received by the Maricopa County Air Quality Department, according to Bob Huhn, a department spokesperson. That’s a record number of violations for any air-quality settlement in the county, Huhn said. The settlement totaled more than $1 million, though the department received slightly less than that following negotiations, Huhn said.
      Most of the violations came from an asphalt plant that the company was running in south Phoenix that has since closed. While the plant was still running, the City of Phoenix filed 469 criminal charges against the company from August to October of 2009, according to a city spokesperson.
      According to a 2010 article in the Arizona Republic, Fisher reached an agreement with Phoenix officials to close the plant in 2010. As part of the deal, fines were reduced from $1.1 million to an estimated $243,000 and all criminal charges were reduced to civil charges.
      Mary Rose Wilcox was a member of the Maricopa Board of Supervisors at the time the city and county were fighting Fisher over the asphalt plant, which was located in her district. “They tried to persuade us they were good guys since they were a family-owned company. But they were spreading noxious fumes into a residential area,” Wilcox said. “We tried to work with them, but their violations were just so blatant.”
      Michael Pops, a community activist who lived in the area around the plant, remembers fighting with Fisher for six years before the plant finally shut down. “The impact they had on this community was devastating,” Pops said, adding many low-income residents living near the asphalt plant were sickened from the fumes the plant emitted.
      The company has also racked up more than 120 violations with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality from 2004 until as recently as last summer, according to the department.
      In 2011, Fisher agreed to a Consent Judgement with ADEQ over numerous air quality violations the company had committed. As part of that settlement, Fisher agreed to pay $125,000 in civil penalties, and that it would remain in compliance with state air quality standards. Within two years Fisher was found to be in violation of that agreement and was forced to pay an additional $500,000 in fines, according to the state’s attorney general’s office.
      Legal trouble
      Internally, the company has also confronted issues.
      In 2011, Fisher Sand & Gravel agreed to pay $150,000 to settle a sexual discrimination and retaliation suit filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The lawsuit charged that the company violated federal anti-discrimination laws when it “subjected two women workers to egregious verbal sexual harassment by a supervisor and then fired one of them after she repeatedly asked the supervisor to stop harassing her and complained to a job superintendent.”
      The settlement required Fisher to provide anti-discrimination training to its employees in New Mexico and review its policies on sexual harassment.
      Micheal Fisher, a former co-owner of Fisher and Tommy’s brother, was sentenced to prison in 2009 for tax fraud, according to the Justice Department. Fisher pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to defraud the United States by impeding the [Internal Revenue Service], four counts of aiding in the filing of false federal tax returns for FSG and four counts of filing false individual tax returns,” according to a Justice Department release.
      The company also admitted responsibility for defrauding the US by impeding the IRS, according to the DOJ. Citing a long standing policy of not commenting on the contracting process, the Army Corps declined to comment on whether Fisher’s history factored into its decision not to award Fisher a contract.

      https://edition.cnn.com/2019/05/31/politics/fisher-sand-and-gravel-legal-history-border-wall/index.html

    • Private US-Mexico border wall ordered open by gov’t, fights back and is now closed again

      The privately funded portion of the U.S.-Mexico border wall is now fully secure and closed again after one of its gates had been ordered to remain open until disputes about waterway access could be resolved.

      “Our border wall & gate are secure again and we still have not had a single breach. I want to thank the IBWC for acting swiftly and we look forward to working with you on our future projects,” triple amputee Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage posted to Twitter on Tuesday night.

      Kolfage created We Build The Wall Inc., a nonprofit that is now backed by former Trump Administration Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. The group crowd-funded more than $22 million in order to privately build a border wall and then sell it to the U.S. government for $1.

      A portion of that wall has been constructed in Texas for between $6 and $8 million. The 1-mile-long wall is located on private property near El Paso, Texas, and Sunland Park, New Mexico.

      However, the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) had ordered a 33-foot gate within the private border wall to remain open – not locked and closed – over a waterway access issue, according to BuzzFeed News. The IBCW addresses waterway issues between the U.S. and Mexico.

      “This is normally done well in advance of a construction project,” IBWC spokesperson Lori Kuczmanski said. “They think they can build now and ask questions later, and that’s not how it works.”

      BuzzFeed reported that the IBWC said the gate “had blocked officials from accessing a levee and dam, and cut off public access to a historic monument known as Monument One, the first in a series of obelisks that mark the U.S.–Mexico border from El Paso to Tijuana.”

      By Tuesday night, the IBWC said the gate would remain locked at night and issued a statement.

      “The U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) will lock the privately-owned gate on federal property at night effective immediately due to security concerns,” it said.

      The statement continues:

      The USIBWC is continuing to work with We Build the Wall regarding its permit request. Until this decision, the private gate was in a locked open position. We Build the Wall, a private organization, built a gate on federal land in Sunland Park, N.M., near El Paso, Texas, without authority, and then locked the gate closed on June 6, 2019. The private gate blocks a levee road owned by the U.S. Government. After repeated requests to unlock and open the private gate, the United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC), accompanied by two uniformed law enforcement officers from the Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office, removed the private lock, opened the gate, and locked the gate open pending further discussions with We Build the Wall. The gate was also opened so that USIBWC employees can conduct maintenance and operations at American Dam.

      The USIBWC did not authorize the construction of the private gate on federal property as announced on We Build the Wall’s Twitter page. The USIBWC is not charged with securing other fences or gates as reported by We Build the Wall. The international border fences are not on USIBWC property. The USIBWC did not open any other gates in the El Paso area as erroneously reported. Other gates and the border fence are controlled by other federal agencies.

      When the proper documentation is received for the permit, USIBWC will continue to process the permit application.

      Before the statement had been released, Kolfage posted to Twitter.
      https://a

      mericanmilitarynews.com/2019/06/private-us-mexico-border-wall-ordered-open-by-intl-group-later-closed-locked-after-security-concerns/

    • European Border and Coast Guard: Launch of first ever joint operation outside the EU

      Today, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, in cooperation with the Albanian authorities, is launching the first ever joint operation on the territory of a neighbouring non-EU country. As of 22 May, teams from the Agency will be deployed together with Albanian border guards at the Greek-Albanian border to strengthen border management and enhance security at the EU’s external borders, in full agreement with all concerned countries. This operation marks a new phase for border cooperation between the EU and its Western Balkan partners, and is yet another step towards the full operationalisation of the Agency.

      The launch event is taking place in Tirana, Albania, in the presence of Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Fabrice Leggeri, Executive Director of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Edi Rama, Albanian Prime Minister and Sandër Lleshaj, Albanian Interior Minister.

      Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, said: "With the first ever deployment of European Border and Coast Guard teams outside of the EU, we are opening an entirely new chapter in our cooperation on migration and border management with Albania and with the whole Western Balkan region. This is a real game changer and a truly historical step, bringing this region closer to the EU by working together in a coordinated and mutually supportive way on shared challenges such as better managing migration and protecting our common borders.”

      Fabrice Leggeri, Executive Director of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, said: “Today we mark a milestone for our agency and the wider cooperation between the European Union and Albania. We are launching the first fully fledged joint operation outside the European Union to support Albania in border control and tackling cross-border crime.”

      While Albania remains ultimately responsible for the protection of its borders, the European Border and Coast Guard is able to lend both technical and operational support and assistance. The European Border and Coast Guard teams will be able to support the Albanian border guards in performing border checks at crossing points, for example, and preventing unauthorised entries. All operations and deployments at the Albanian border with Greece will be conducted in full agreement with both the Albanian and Greek authorities.

      At the start of the operation, the Agency will be deploying 50 officers, 16 patrol cars and 1 thermo-vision van from 12 EU Member States (Austria, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Romania, Poland and Slovenia) to support Albania in border control and tackling cross-border crime.

      Strengthened cooperation between priority third countries and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency will contribute to the better management of irregular migration, further enhance security at the EU’s external borders and strengthen the Agency’s ability to act in the EU’s immediate neighbourhood, while bringing that neighbourhood closer to the EU.

      http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-19-2591_en.htm
      #externalisation

    • Remarks by Commissioner Avramopoulos in Albania at the official launch of first ever joint operation outside the EU

      Ladies and Gentlemen,

      We are here today to celebrate an important achievement and a milestone, both for Albania and for the EU.

      Only six months ago, here in Tirana, the EU signed the status agreement with Albania on cooperation on border management between Albania and the European Border and Coast Guard. This agreement, that entered into force three weeks ago, was the first agreement ever of its kind with a neighbouring country.

      Today, we will send off the joint European Border and Coast Guard Teams to be deployed as of tomorrow for the first time in a non-EU Member State. This does not only mark a new phase for border cooperation between the EU and Western Balkan partners, it is also yet another step towards the full operationalisation of the Agency.

      The only way to effectively address migration and security challenges we are facing today and those we may be confronted with in the years to come is by working closer together, as neighbours and as partners. What happens in Albania and the Western Balkans affects the European Union, and the other way around.

      Joint approach to border management is a key part of our overall approach to managing migration. It allows us to show to our citizens that their security is at the top of our concerns. But effective partnership in ensuring orderly migration also enables us, as Europe, to remain a place where those in need of protection can find shelter.

      Albania is the first country in the Western Balkans with whom the EU is moving forward with this new important chapter in our joint co-operation on border management.

      This can be a source of pride for both Albania and the EU and an important step that brings us closer together.

      While the overall situation along the Western Balkans route remains stable with continuously low levels of arrivals - it is in fact like night and day when compared to three years ago - we need to remain vigilant.

      The Status Agreement will help us in this effort. It expands the scale of practical, operational cooperation between the EU and Albania and hopefully soon with the rest of the Western Balkan region.

      These are important elements of our co-operation, also in view of the continued implementation of the requirements under the visa liberalisation agreement. Visa-free travel is a great achievement, which brings benefits to all sides and should be safeguarded.

      Together with Albanian border guards, European Border and Coast Guard teams will be able to perform border checks at crossing points and perform border surveillance to prevent unauthorized border crossings and counter cross-border criminality.

      But, let me be clear, Albania remains ultimately responsible for the protection of its borders. European Border and Coast Guard Teams may only perform tasks and exercise powers in the Albanian territory under instructions from and, as a general rule, in the presence of border guards of the Republic of Albania.

      Dear Friends,

      When it comes to protecting our borders, ensuring our security and managing migration, the challenges we face are common, and so must be our response.

      The European Border and Coast Guard Status Agreement and its implementation will allow us to better work together in all these areas. I hope that these agreements can be finalised also with other Western Balkans partners as soon as possible.

      I wish to thank Prime Minister Edi Rama, the Albanian authorities, and the Executive Director of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Fabrice Leggeri and his team for their close cooperation in bringing this milestone achievement to life. I also want to thank all Member States who have contributed with staff and the personnel who will be part of this first deployment of European Border and Coast Guard teams in a neighbouring country.

      With just a few days to go before the European Elections, the need for a more united and stronger European family is more important than ever. We firmly believe that a key priority is to have strong relations with close neighbours, based on a clear balance of rights and obligations – but above all, on genuine partnership. This includes you, fellow Albanians.

      Albania is part of the European family.Our challenges are common. They know no borders. The progress we are witnessing today is another concrete action and proof of our commitment to bring us closer together. To make us stronger.

      http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-19-2668_en.htm

    • Externalisation: Frontex launches first formal operation outside of the EU and deploys to Albania

      The EU has taken a significant, if geographically small, step in the externalisation of its borders. The European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, has launched its first Joint Operation on the territory of a non-EU-Member State, as it begins cooperation with Albania on the border with Greece.

      After the launch of the operation in Tirana on 21 May a deployment of 50 officers, 16 patrol cars and a thermo-vision van started yesterday, 22 May (European Commission, link). Twelve Member States (Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Romania, Poland and Slovenia) have contributed to the operation.

      New agreements

      The move follows the entry into force on 1 May this year of a Status Agreement between the EU and Albania on actions carried out by Frontex in that country (pdf). Those actions are made possible by the conclusion of operational plans, which must be agreed between Frontex and the Albanian authorities.

      The Status Agreement with Albania was the first among several similar agreements to be signed between the Agency and Balkan States, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and North Macedonia.

      The nascent operation in Albania will give Frontex team members certain powers, privileges and immunities on Albanian territory, including the use of force in circumstances authorised by Albanian border police and outlined in the operational plan.

      Frontex does not publish operational plans whilst operations (which can be renewed indefinitely) are ongoing, and documents published after the conclusion of operations (usually in response to requests for access to documents) are often heavily-redacted (Ask the EU, link).

      Relevant articles

      Article 4 of the Status Agreement outlines the tasks and powers of members of Frontex teams operating in Albanian territory. This includes the use of force, if it is authorised by both the Frontex team member’s home Member State and the State of Albania, and takes place in the presence of Albanian border guards. However, Albania can authorise team members to use force in their absence.

      Article 6 of the Status Agreement grants Frontex team members immunity from Albanian criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction “in respect of the acts performed in the exercise of their official functions in the course of the actions carried out in accordance with the operational plan”.

      Although a representative of Albania would be informed in the event of an allegation of criminal activity, it would be up to Frontex’s executive director to certify to the court whether the actions in question were performed as part of an official Agency function and in accordance with the Operational Plan. This certification will be binding on the jurisdiction of Albania. Proceedings may only continue against an individual team member if the executive director confirms that their actions were outside the scope of the exercise of official functions.

      Given the closed nature of the operational plans, this grants the executive director wide discretion and ensures little oversight of the accountability of Agency team members. Notably, Article 6 also states that members of teams shall not be obliged to give evidence as witnesses. This immunity does not, however, extend to the jurisdiction of team members’ home Member States, and they may also waive the immunity of the individual under Albanian jurisdiction.

      Right to redress

      These measures of immunity alongside the lack of transparency surrounding documents outlining team members’ official functions and activities (the operational plan) raise concerns regarding access to redress for victims of human rights violations that may occur during operations.

      Human rights organisations have denounced the use of force by Frontex team members, only to have those incidents classified by the Agency as par for the course in their operations. Cases include incidents of firearm use that resulted in serious injury (The Intercept, link), but that was considered to have taken place according to the standard rules of engagement. This opacity has implications for individuals’ right to good administration and to the proper functioning of accountability mechanisms.

      If any damage results from actions that were carried out according to the operational plan, Albania will be held liable. This is the most binding liability outlined by the Status Agreement. Albania may only “request” that compensation be paid by the Member State of the team member responsible, or by the Agency, if acts were committed through gross negligence, wilful misconduct or outside the scope of the official functions of the Agency team or staff member.

      Across the board

      The provisions regarding tasks, powers and immunity in the Status Agreements with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of North Macedonia and Serbia are all broadly similar, with the exception of Article 6 of the agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina. This states:

      “Members of the team who are witnesses may be obliged by the competent authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina… to provide evidence in accordance with the procedural law of Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

      The Status Agreement with Serbia, an early draft of which did not grant immunity to team members, is now consistent with the Agreement with Albania and includes provisions stating that members of teams shall not be obliged to give evidence as witnesses.

      It includes a further provision that:

      “...members of the team may use weapons only when it is absolutely necessary in self-defence to repel an immediate life-threatening attack against themselves or another person, in accordance with the national legislation of the Republic of Serbia”.

      http://www.statewatch.org/news/2019/may/fx-albania-launch.htm

    • La police des frontières extérieures de l’UE s’introduit en Albanie

      Frontex, l’agence chargée des frontières extérieures de l’Union européenne, a lancé mardi en Albanie sa première opération hors du territoire d’un de ses États membres.

      Cette annonce de la Commission européenne intervient quelques jours avant les élections européennes et au moment où la politique migratoire de l’UE est critiquée par les candidats souverainistes, comme le ministre italien de l’Intérieur Matteo Salvini ou le chef de file de la liste française d’extrême droite, Jordan Bardella, qui a récemment qualifié Frontex d’« hôtesse d’accueil pour migrants ».

      Cette opération conjointe en Albanie est « une véritable étape historique rapprochant » les Balkans de l’UE, et témoigne d’une « meilleure gestion de la migration et de la protection de nos frontières communes », a commenté à Tirana le commissaire chargé des migrations, Dimitris Avramopoulos.

      L’Albanie espère convaincre les États membres d’ouvrir des négociations d’adhésion ce printemps, ce qui lui avait été refusé l’an passé. Son premier ministre Edi Rama a salué « un pas très important dans les relations entre l’Albanie et l’Union européenne » et a estimé qu’il « renforçait également la coopération dans le domaine de la sécurité ».

      À partir de 22 mai, Frontex déploiera des équipes conjointes à la frontière grecque avec des agents albanais.

      La Commission européenne a passé des accords semblables avec la Macédoine du Nord, la Serbie, le Monténégro et la Bosnie-Herzégovine, qui devraient également entrer en vigueur.

      Tous ces pays sont sur une des « routes des Balkans », qui sont toujours empruntées clandestinement par des milliers de personnes en route vers l’Union européenne, même si le flux n’est en rien comparable avec les centaines de milliers de migrants qui ont transité par la région en quelques mois jusqu’à la fermeture des frontières par les pays de l’UE début 2016.

      Ce type d’accord « contribuera à l’amélioration de la gestion de la migration clandestine, renforcera la sécurité aux frontières extérieures de l’UE et consolidera la capacité de l’agence à agir dans le voisinage immédiat de l’UE, tout en rapprochant de l’UE les pays voisins concernés », selon un communiqué de la Commission.

      Pour éviter de revivre le chaos de 2015, l’Union a acté un renforcement considérable de Frontex. Elle disposera notamment d’ici 2027 d’un contingent de 10 000 garde-frontières et garde-côtes pour aider des pays débordés.


      https://www.lapresse.ca/international/europe/201905/21/01-5226931-la-police-des-frontieres-exterieures-de-lue-sintroduit-en-albani

    • European Border and Coast Guard Agency began to patrol alongside the Albanian-Greek border in late May (https://www.bilten.org/?p=28118). Similar agreements have recently been concluded with Serbia, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina but Albania is the first country to start implementing programs aimed at blocking refugees entering the EU. Bilten states that Frontex employees can carry arms and fight “against any kind of crime, from” illegal migration “to theft of a car or drug trafficking”. Frontex’s mission is not time-bound, i.e. it depends on the EU’s need. The Albanian authorities see it as a step forward to their membership in the Union.

      Reçu via la mailing-list Inicijativa dobrodosli, le 10.06.2019

      L’article original:
      Što Frontex radi u Albaniji?

      Nakon što je Europska unija službeno zatvorila “balkansku migrantsku rutu”, očajni ljudi počeli su tražiti nove puteve. Jedan od njih prolazi kroz Albaniju, a tamošnja se vlada odrekla kontrole nad vlastitom granicom u nadi da će time udobrovoljiti unijske dužnosnike.

      Agencija za europsku graničnu i obalnu stražu, Frontex, počela je krajem prošlog mjeseca patrolirati uz albansko-grčku granicu. Već prvog dana, raspoređeno je pedesetak policajaca iz različitih zemalja članica EU koji bi se u suradnji s albanskim graničarima trebali boriti protiv “ilegalne migracije”. Iako je slične dogovore Unija nedavno sklopila sa zemljama poput Srbije, Sjeverne Makedonije, Crne Gore te Bosne i Hercegovine – a sve s ciljem blokiranja mogućnosti izbjeglica da uđu na područje EU – Albanija je prva zemlja u kojoj je počela provedba tog programa. Zaposlenici Frontexa ne samo da smiju nositi oružje, već imaju i dozvolu da se bore protiv bilo koje vrste kriminala, od “ilegalnih migracija” do krađe automobila ili trgovine drogom. Također, njihova misija nije vremenski ograničena, što znači da će Frontexovi zaposlenici patrolirati s albanske strane granice dok god to Unija smatra potrebnim.

      Unatoč nekim marginalnim glasovima koji su se žalili zbog kršenja nacionalne suverenosti prepuštanjem kontrole nad granicom stranim trupama, javnost je reagirala bilo potpunom nezainteresiranošću ili čak blagom potporom sporazumu koji bi tobože trebao pomoći Albaniji da uđe u Europsku uniju. S puno entuzijazma, lokalni su se mediji hvalili kako su u prva četiri dana Frontexovi zaposlenici već ulovili 92 “ilegalna migranta”. No to nije prvo, a ni najozbiljnije predavanje kontrole nad granicom koje je poduzela albanska vlada. Još od kasnih 1990-ih i ranih 2000-ih jadranskim i jonskim teritorijalnim vodama Republike Albanije patrolira talijanska Guardia di Finanza. Tih se godina albanska obala često koristila kao most prema Italiji preko kojeg je prelazila većina migranata azijskog porijekla, ne samo zbog blizine južne Italije, već i zbog slabosti državnih aparata tijekom goleme krize 1997. i 1998. godine.

      Helikopteri Guardije di Finanza također kontroliraju albansko nebo u potrazi za poljima kanabisa i to sve u suradnji s lokalnom državnom birokracijom koja je sama dijelom suradnica dilera, a dijelom nesposobna da im se suprotstavi. No posljednjih godina, zbog toga što su druge rute zatvorene, sve veći broj ljudi počeo se kretati iz Grčke preko Albanije, Crne Gore i BiH prema zemljama EU. Prema Međunarodnoj organizaciji za migracije, granicu je prešlo oko 18 tisuća ljudi, uglavnom iz Sirije, Pakistana i Iraka. To predstavlja povećanje od sedam puta u odnosu na godinu ranije. Tek manji dio tih ljudi je ulovljen zbog nedostatka kapaciteta granične kontrole ili pak potpune indiferencije prema ljudima kojima siromašna zemlja poput Albanije nikada neće biti destinacija.
      Tranzitna zemlja

      Oni koje ulove smješteni su u prihvatnom centru blizu Tirane, ali odatle im je relativno jednostavno pobjeći i nastaviti put dalje. Dio njih službeno je zatražio azil u Albaniji, ali to ne znači da će se dulje zadržati u zemlji. Ipak, očekuje se da će ubuduće albanske institucije biti znatno agresivnije u politici repatrijacije migranata. U tome će se susretati s brojnim pravnim i administrativnim problemima: kako objašnjavaju lokalni stručnjaci za migracije, Albanija sa zemljama iz kojih dolazi većina migranata – poput Sirije, Pakistana, Iraka i Afganistana – uopće nema diplomatske odnose niti pravne predstavnike u tim zemljama. Zbog toga je koordiniranje procesa repatrijacije gotovo nemoguće. Također, iako sporazum o repatrijaciji postoji s Grčkoj, njime je predviđeno da se u tu zemlju vraćaju samo oni za koje se može dokazati da su iz nje došli, a većina migranata koji dođu iz Grčke nastoji sakriti svaki trag svog boravka u toj zemlji.

      U takvoj situaciji, čini se izvjesnim da će Albanija biti zemlja u kojoj će sve veći broj ljudi zapeti na neodređeno vrijeme. Prije nekih godinu i pol dana, izbila je javna panika s dosta rasističkih tonova. Nakon jednog nespretnog intervjua vladinog dužnosnika njemačkom mediju proširile su se glasine da će se u Albaniju naseliti šesto tisuća Sirijaca. Brojka je već na prvi pogled astronomska s obzirom na to da je stanovništvo zemlje oko tri milijuna ljudi, ali teorije zavjere se obično šire kao požar. Neki od drugorazrednih političara čak su pozvali na oružanu borbu ako dođu Sirijci. No ta je panika zapravo brzo prošla, ali tek nakon što je vlada obećala da neće primiti više izbjeglica od onog broja koji bude određen raspodjelom prema dogovoru u Uniji. Otad zapravo nema nekog osobitog antimigrantskog raspoloženja u javnosti, unatoč tome što tisuće ljudi prolazi kroz zemlju.
      Europski san

      Odnos je uglavnom onaj indiferencije. Tome pridonosi nekoliko stvari: činjenica da je gotovo trećina stanovništva Albanije također odselila u zemlje Unije,1 zatim to što ne postoje neke vjerske i ultranacionalističke stranke, ali najviše to što nitko od migranata nema nikakvu namjeru ostati u zemlji. No zašto je albanska vlada tako nestrpljiva da preda kontrolu granice i suverenitet, odnosno zašto je premijer Edi Rama izgledao tako entuzijastično prilikom ceremonije s Dimitrisom Avramopulosom, europskim povjerenikom za migracije, unutrašnje poslove i državljanstvo? Vlada se nada da će to ubrzati njezin put prema članstvu u Europskoj uniji. Posljednjih pet godina provela je čekajući otvaranje pristupnih pregovora, a predavanje kontrole nad granicom vidi kao još jednu ilustraciju svoje pripadnosti Uniji.

      S druge strane, stalna politička kriza koju su izazvali studentski protesti u prosincu 2018., te kasnije bojkot parlamenta i lokalnih izbora od strane opozicijskih stranaka, stavlja neprestani pritisak na vladu. Očajnički treba pozitivan znak iz EU jer vodi političku i ideološku borbu protiv opozicije oko toga tko je autentičniji kulturni i politički predstavnik europejstva. Vlada naziva opoziciju i njezine nasilne prosvjede antieuropskima, dok opozicija optužuje vladu da svojom korupcijom i povezanošću s organiziranim kriminalom radi protiv europskih želja stanovništva. Prije nekoliko dana, Komisija je predložila početak pristupnih pregovora s Albanijom, no Europsko vijeće je to koje ima zadnju riječ. Očekuje se kako će sve ovisiti o toj odluci. Ideja Europe jedno je od čvorišta vladajuće ideologije koja se desetljećima gradi kao antipod komunizmu i Orijentu te historijska destinacija kojoj Albanci stoljećima teže.

      Neoliberalna rekonstrukcija ekonomije i društva gotovo je uvijek legitimirana tvrdnjama kako su to nužni – iako bolni – koraci prema integraciji u Europsku uniju. Uspješnost ove ideologije ilustrira činjenica da otprilike 90% ispitanih u različitim studijama podržava Albansku integraciju u EU. U toj situaciji ne čudi ni odnos prema Frontexu.

      https://www.bilten.org/?p=28118

  • #CBP terminates controversial $297 million #Accenture contract amid continued staffing struggles

    #Customs_and_Border_Protection on Thursday ended its controversial $297 million hiring contract with Accenture, according to two senior DHS officials and an Accenture representative.
    As of December, when CBP terminated part of its contract, the company had only completed processing 58 applicants and only 22 had made it onto the payroll about a year after the company was hired.
    At the time, the 3,500 applicants that remained in the Accenture hiring pipeline were transferred to CBP’s own hiring center to complete the process.

    CBP cut ties with Accenture on processing applicants a few months ago, it retained some services, including marketing, advertising and applicant support.
    This week, the entire contract was terminated for “convenience,” government speak for agreeing to part ways without placing blame on Accenture.
    While government hiring is “slow and onerous, it’s also part of being in the government” and that’s “something we have to accept and deal with as we go forward,” said one of the officials.
    For its efforts, CBP paid Accenture around $19 million in start-up costs, and around $2 million for 58 people who got job offers, according to the officials.
    Over the last couple of months, CBP explored how to modify the contract, but ultimately decided to completely stop work and return any remaining funds to taxpayers.
    But it’s unclear how much money, if any, that will be.

    In addition, to the funds already paid to Accenture, CBP has around $39 million left to “settle and close the books” with the company, an amount which has yet to be determined.
    In November 2017, CBP awarded Accenture the contract to help meet the hiring demands of an executive order on border security that President Donald Trump signed during his first week in office. The administration directed CBP to hire an additional 7,500 agents and officers on top of its current hiring goals.
    “We were in a situation where we needed to try something new” and “break the cycle of going backwards,” said a DHS official about why the agency started the contract.

    Meanwhile, hiring remains difficult for the agency amid a surge of migrants at the southern border that is stretching CBP resources thin.
    It “continues to be a very challenging environment,” said one official about hiring efforts this year.

    In fact, one of the reasons that CBP didn’t need Accenture to process applicants, is because the agency didn’t receive as many applications as it initially planned for.
    The agency has been focused on beating attrition and has been able to recently “beat it by a modest amount,” said the official. “Ultimately we would like to beat it by a heck of a lot, but we’re not there yet.”

    https://edition.cnn.com/2019/04/05/politics/cbp-terminate-hiring-contract-accenture/index.html
    #frontières #contrôles_frontaliers #USA #Ests-Unis #complexe_militaro-industriel #business

    • Border Profiteers

      On a recent sunny spring afternoon in Texas, a couple hundred Border Patrol agents, Homeland Security officials, and salespeople from a wide array of defense and security contractors gathered at the Bandera Gun Club about an hour northwest of San Antonio to eat barbecue and shoot each other’s guns. The techies wore flip-flops; the veterans wore combat boots. Everyone had a good time. They were letting loose, having spent the last forty-eight hours cooped up in suits and ties back at San Antonio’s Henry B. Gonzalez convention center, mingling and schmoozing, hawking their wares, and listening to immigration officials rail about how those serving in enforcement agencies are not, under any circumstances, Nazis.

      These profiteers and bureaucrats of the immigration-industrial complex were fresh from the 2019 #Border_Security_Expo —essentially a trade show for state violence, where law enforcement officers and weapons manufacturers gather, per the Expo’s marketing materials, to “identify and address new and emerging border challenges and opportunities through technology, partnership, and innovation.” The previous two days of panels, speeches, and presentations had been informative, a major in the Argentine Special Forces told me at the gun range, but boring. He was glad to be outside, where handguns popped and automatic rifles spat around us. I emptied a pistol into a target while a man in a Three Percenter militia baseball hat told me that I was a “natural-born killer.” A drone buzzed overhead until, in a demonstration of a company’s new anti-drone technology, a device that looked like a rocket launcher and fired a sort of exploding net took it down. “This is music to me,” the Argentine major said.

      Perhaps it’s not surprising the Border Security Expo attendees were so eager to blow off steam. This year’s event found many of them in a defensive posture, given the waves of bad press they’d endured since President Trump’s inauguration, and especially since the disastrous implementation of his family separation policy, officially announced by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April of 2018, before being rescinded by Trump two-and-a-half months later. Throughout the Expo, in public events and in background roundtable conversations with reporters, officials from the various component parts of the Department of Homeland Security rolled out a series of carefully rehearsed talking points: Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) need more money, personnel, and technology; taking migrants to hospitals distracts CBP officers from their real mission; and the 1997 Flores court settlement, which prohibits immigration enforcement agencies from detaining migrant families with children for more than twenty days, is undermining the very sovereignty of the United States. “We want a secure border, we want an immigration system that has integrity,” Ronald Vitiello, then–acting head of ICE, said in a keynote address to the hundreds of people gathered in San Antonio. “We have a generous immigration system in this country, but it has to have integrity in order for us to continue to be so generous.”

      More of a technocrat than his thuggish predecessor Thomas Homan, Vitiello also spoke at length about using the “dark web” to take down smugglers and the importance of having the most up-to-date data-management technology. But he spoke most adamantly about needing “a fix” for the Flores settlement. “If you prosecute crimes and you give people consequences, you get less of it,” he said. “With Flores, there’s no consequence, and everybody knows that,” a senior ICE official echoed to reporters during a background conversation immediately following Vitiello’s keynote remarks. “That’s why you’re seeing so many family units. We cannot apply a consequence to a family unit, because we have to release them.”

      Meanwhile, around 550 miles to the west, in El Paso, hundreds of migrants, including children and families, were being held by CBP under a bridge, reportedly forced to sleep on the ground, with inadequate medical attention. “They treated us like we are animals,” one Honduran man told Texas Monthly. “I felt what they were trying to do was to hurt us psychologically, so we would understand that this is a lesson we were being taught, that we shouldn’t have crossed.” Less than a week after the holding pen beneath the bridge closed, Vitiello’s nomination to run ICE would be pulled amid a spate of firings across DHS; President Trump wanted to go “in a tougher direction.”

      Family Values

      On the second day of the Border Security Expo, in a speech over catered lunch, Scott Luck, deputy chief of Customs and Border Protection and a career Border Patrol agent, lamented that the influx of children and families at the border meant that resources were being diverted from traditional enforcement practices. “Every day, about 150 agents spend their shifts at hospitals and medical facilities with illegal aliens receiving treatment,” he said. “The annual salary cost for agents on hospital watch is more than $11.5 million. Budget analysts estimate that 13 percent of our operational budget—the budget that we use to buy equipment, to buy vehicles for our men and women—is now used for transportation, medical expenses, diapers, food, and other necessities to care for illegal aliens in Border Patrol custody.”

      As far as Luck was concerned, every dollar spent on food and diapers is one not spent on drones and weapons, and every hour an agent spends guarding a migrant in a hospital is an hour they don’t spend on the border. “It’s not what they signed up for. The mission they signed up for is to protect the United States border, to protect the communities in which they live and serve,” he told reporters after his speech. “The influx, the volume, the clutter that this creates is frustrating.” Vitiello applied an Orwellian inversion: “We’re not helping them as fast as we want to,” he said of migrant families apprehended at the border.

      Even when discussing the intimate needs of detained migrant families, the language border officials used to describe their remit throughout the Expo was explicitly militaristic: achieving “operational control,” Luck said, requires “impedance and denial” and “situational awareness.” He referred to technology as a “vital force multiplier.” He at least stopped short of endorsing the president’s framing that what is happening on the border constitutes an invasion, instead describing it as a “deluge.”

      According to the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank, the U.S. immigrant population has continued to grow—although at a slower rate than it did before the 2007 recession, and undocumented people appear to make up a smaller proportion of the overall population. Regardless, in fiscal year 2018, both ICE and CBP stepped up their enforcement activities, arresting, apprehending, and deporting people at significantly higher rates than the previous year. More than three times as many family members were apprehended at the border last year than in 2017, the Pew Research Center reports, and in the first six months of FY 2019 alone there were 189,584 apprehensions of “family units”: more than half of all apprehensions at the border during that time, and more than the full-year total of apprehended families for any other year on record. While the overall numbers have not yet begun to approach those of the 1980s and 1990s, when apprehensions regularly exceeded one million per year, the demographics of who is arriving at the United States southern border are changing: fewer single men from Mexico and more children and families from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador—in other words, an ever-wider range of desperate victims of drug gangs and American policies that have long supported corrupt regimes.

      This change has presented people like Luck with problems they insist are merely logistical: aging Border Patrol stations, he told us at the Expo, “are not luxurious in any way, and they were never intended to handle families and children.” The solution, according to Vitiello, is “continued capital investment” in those facilities, as well as the cars and trucks necessary to patrol the border region and transport those apprehended from CBP custody to ICE detention centers, the IT necessary to sift through vast amounts of data accumulated through untold surveillance methods, and all of “the systems by which we do our work.”

      Neither Vitiello nor Luck would consider whether those systems—wherein thousands of children, ostensibly under the federal government’s care, have been sexually abused and five, from December through May of this year, have died—ought to be questioned. Both laughed off calls from migrant justice organizers, activists, and politicians to abolish ICE. “The concept of the Department of Homeland Security—and ICE as an agency within it—was designed for us to learn the lessons from 9/11,” Vitiello said. “Those needs still exist in this society. We’re gonna do our part.” DHS officials have even considered holding migrant children at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, according to the New York Times, where a new $23 million “contingency mass migration complex” is being built. The complex, which is to be completed by the end of the year, will have a capacity of thirteen thousand.

      Violence is the Point

      The existence of ICE may be a consequence of 9/11, but the first sections of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border—originally to contain livestock—went up in 1909 through 1911. In 1945, in response to a shift in border crossings from Texas to California, the U.S. Border Patrol and the Immigration and Naturalization Service recycled fencing wire and posts from internment camps in Crystal City, Texas, where more than a hundred thousand Japanese Americans had been imprisoned during World War II. “Although the INS could not erect a continuous line of fence along the border, they hoped that strategic placement of the fence would ‘compel persons seeking to enter the United States illegally to attempt to go around the ends of the fence,’” historian Kelly Lytle Hernández, quoting from government documents, writes in Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol. “What lay at the end of the fences and canals were desert lands and mountains extremely dangerous to cross without guidance or sufficient water. The fences, therefore, discouraged illegal immigration by exposing undocumented border crossers to the dangers of daytime dehydration and nighttime hypothermia.”

      Apprehension and deportation tactics continued to escalate in the years following World War II—including Operation Wetback, the infamous (and heavily propagandized) mass-deportation campaign of 1954—but the modern, militarized border era was greatly boosted by Bill Clinton. It was during Clinton’s first administration that Border Patrol released its “Strategic Plan: 1994 and Beyond,” which introduced the idea of “prevention through deterrence,” a theory of border policing that built on the logic of the original wall and hinges upon increasing the “cost” of migration “to the point that many will consider it futile to continue to attempt illegal entry.” With the Strategic Plan, the agency was requesting more money, officers, and equipment in order to “enhance national security and safeguard our immigration heritage.”

      The plan also noted that “a strong interior enforcement posture works well for border control,” and in 1996, amid a flurry of legislation targeting people of color and the poor, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which empowered the federal government to deport more people more quickly and made it nearly impossible for undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status. “Before 1996, internal enforcement activities had not played a very significant role in immigration enforcement,” the sociologists Douglas Massey and Karen A. Pren wrote in 2012. “Afterward these activities rose to levels not seen since the deportation campaigns of the Great Depression.” With the passage of the Patriot Act in 2001 and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2002, immigration was further securitized and criminalized, paving the way for an explosion in border policing technology that has further aligned the state with the defense and security industry. And at least one of Border Patrol’s “key assumptions,” explicitly stated in the 1994 strategy document, has borne out: “Violence will increase as effects of strategy are felt.”

      What this phrasing obscures, however, is that violence is the border strategy. In practice, what “prevention through deterrence” has meant is forcing migrants to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in the desert, putting already vulnerable people at even greater risk. Closing urban points of entry, for example, or making asylum-seekers wait indefinitely in Mexico while their claims are processed, pushes migrants into remote areas where there is a higher likelihood they will suffer injury and death, as in the case of seven-year-old Jakil Caal Maquin, who died of dehydration and shock after being taken into CBP custody in December. (A spokesperson for CBP, in an email response, deflected questions about whether the agency considers children dying in its custody a deterrent.) Maquin is one of many thousands who have died attempting to cross into the United States: the most conservative estimate comes from CBP itself, which has recovered the remains of 7,505 people from its southwest border sectors between 1998 and 2018. This figure accounts for neither those who die on the Mexican side of the border, nor those whose bodies remain lost to the desert.

      Draconian immigration policing causes migrants to resort to smugglers and traffickers, creating the conditions for their exploitation by cartels and other violent actors and increasing the likelihood that they will be kidnapped, coerced, or extorted. As a result, some migrants have sought the safety of collective action in the form of the “caravan” or “exodus,” which has then led the U.S. media and immigration enforcement agencies to justify further militarization of the border. Indeed, in his keynote address at the Expo, Luck described “the emerging prevalence of large groups of one hundred people or more” as “troubling and especially dangerous.” Later, a sales representative for the gun manufacturer Glock very confidently explained to me that this was because agents of al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, were embedded with the caravans.

      Branding the Border

      Unsurprisingly, caravans came up frequently at the Border Security Expo. (An ICE spokesperson would later decline to explain what specific threat they pose to national security, instead citing general statistics about the terrorist watchlist, “special interest aliens,” and “suspicious travel patterns.”) During his own keynote speech, Vitiello described how ICE, and specifically its subcomponent Homeland Security Investigations, had deployed surveillance and intelligence-gathering techniques to monitor the progress of caravans toward the border. “When these caravans have come, we’ve had trained, vetted individuals on the ground in those countries reporting in real time what they were seeing: who the organizers were, how they were being funded,” he said, before going on an astonishing tangent:

      That’s the kind of capability that also does amazing things to protecting brands, property rights, economic security. Think about it. If you start a company, introduce a product that’s innovative, there are people in the world who can take that, deconstruct it, and create their own version of it and sell it as yours. All the sweat that went into whatever that product was, to build your brand, they’ll take it away and slap it on some substandard product. It’s not good for consumers, it’s not good for public safety, and it’s certainly an economic drain on the country. That’s part of the mission.

      That the then–acting director of ICE, the germ-cell of fascism in the bourgeois American state, would admit that an important part of his agency’s mission is the protection of private property is a testament to the Trump administration’s commitment to saying the quiet part out loud.

      In fact, brands and private industry had pride of place at the Border Security Expo. A memorial ceremony for men and women of Border Patrol who have been killed in the line of duty was sponsored by Sava Solutions, an IT firm that has been awarded at least $482 million in federal contracts since 2008. Sava, whose president spent twenty-four years with the DEA and whose director of business development spent twenty with the FBI, was just one of the scores of firms in attendance at the Expo, each hoping to persuade the bureaucrats in charge of acquiring new gear for border security agencies that their drones, their facial recognition technology, their “smart” fences were the best of the bunch. Corporate sponsors included familiar names like Verizon and Motorola, and other less well-known ones, like Elbit Systems of America, a subsidiary of Israel’s largest private defense contractor, as well as a handful of IT firms with aggressive slogans like “Ever Vigilant” (CACI), “Securing the Future” (ManTech), and “Securing Your Tomorrow” (Unisys).

      The presence of these firms—and indeed the very existence of the Expo—underscores an important truth that anyone attempting to understand immigration politics must reckon with: border security is big business. The “homeland security and emergency management market,” driven by “increasing terrorist threats and biohazard attacks and occurrence of unpredictable natural disasters,” is projected to grow to more than $742 billion by 2023 from $557 billion in 2018, one financial analysis has found. In the coming decades, as more people are displaced by climate catastrophe and economic crises—estimates vary between 150 million and 1 billion by 2050—the industry dedicated to policing the vulnerable stands to profit enormously. By 2013, the United States was already spending more on federal immigration enforcement than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined, including the FBI and DEA; ICE’s budget has doubled since its inception in 2003, while CBP’s has nearly tripled. Between 1993 and 2018, the number of Border Patrol agents grew from 4,139 to 19,555. And year after year, Democrats and Republicans alike have been happy to fuel an ever more high-tech deportation machine. “Congress has given us a lot of money in technology,” Luck told reporters after his keynote speech. “They’ve given us over what we’ve asked for in technology!”

      “As all of this rhetoric around security has increased, so has the impetus to give them more weapons and more tools and more gadgets,” Jacinta Gonzalez, a senior campaign organizer with Mijente, a national network of migrant justice activists, told me. “That’s also where the profiteering comes in.” She continued: “Industries understand what’s good for business and adapt themselves to what they see is happening. If they see an administration coming into power that is pro-militarization, anti-immigrant, pro-police, anti-communities of color, then that’s going to shape where they put their money.”

      By way of example, Gonzalez pointed to Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, who spent $1.25 million supporting Trump’s 2016 election campaign and followed that up last year by donating $1 million to the Club for Growth—a far-right libertarian organization founded by Heritage Foundation fellow and one-time Federal Reserve Board prospect Stephen Moore—as well as about $350,000 to the Republican National Committee and other GOP groups. ICE has awarded Palantir, the $20 billion surveillance firm founded by Thiel, several contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to manage its data streams—a partnership the agency considers “mission critical,” according to documents reviewed by The Intercept. Palantir, in turn, runs on Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing service provided by the world’s most valuable public company, which is itself a key contractor in managing the Department of Homeland Security’s $6.8 billion IT portfolio.

      Meanwhile, former DHS secretary John Kelly, who was Trump’s chief of staff when the administration enacted its “zero-tolerance” border policy, has joined the board of Caliburn International—parent organization of the only for-profit company operating shelters for migrant children. “Border enforcement and immigration policy,” Caliburn reported in an SEC filing last year, “is driving significant growth.” As Harsha Walia writes in Undoing Border Imperialism, “the state and capitalism are again in mutual alliance.”

      Triumph of the Techno-Nativists

      At one point during the Expo, between speeches, I stopped by a booth for Network Integrity Systems, a security firm that had set up a demonstration of its Sentinel™ Perimeter Intrusion Detection System. A sales representative stuck out his hand and introduced himself, eager to explain how his employer’s fiber optic motion sensors could be used at the border, or—he paused to correct himself—“any kind of perimeter.” He invited me to step inside the space that his coworkers had built, starting to say “cage” but then correcting himself, again, to say “small enclosure.” (It was literally a cage.) If I could get out, climbing over the fencing, without triggering the alarm, I would win a $500 Amazon gift card. I did not succeed.

      Overwhelmingly, the vendors in attendance at the Expo were there to promote this kind of technology: not concrete and steel, but motion sensors, high-powered cameras, and drones. Customs and Border Patrol’s chief operating officer John Sanders—whose biography on the CBP website describes him as a “seasoned entrepreneur and innovator” who has “served on the Board of Directors for several leading providers of contraband detection, geospatial intelligence, and data analytics solutions”—concluded his address by bestowing on CBP the highest compliment he could muster: declaring the agency comparable “to any start-up.” Rhetoric like Sanders’s, ubiquitous at the Expo, renders the border both bureaucratic and boring: a problem to be solved with some algorithmic mixture of brutality and Big Data. The future of border security, as shaped by the material interests that benefit from border securitization, is not a wall of the sort imagined by President Trump, but a “smart” wall.

      High-ranking Democrats—leaders in the second party of capital—and Republicans from the border region have championed this compromise. During the 2018-2019 government shutdown, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson told reporters that Democrats would appropriate $5.7 billion for “border security,” so long as that did not include a wall of Trump’s description. “Walls are primitive. What we need to do is have border security,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said in January. He later expanded to CNN: “I’ve said that we ought to have a smart wall. I defined that as a wall using drones to make it too high to get over, using x-ray equipment to make it too wide to get around, and using scanners to go deep enough not to be able to tunnel under it. To me, that would be a smart thing to do.”

      Even the social democratic vision of Senator Bernie Sanders stops short at the border. “If you open the borders, my God, there’s a lot of poverty in this world, and you’re going to have people from all over the world,” he told Iowa voters in early April, “and I don’t think that’s something that we can do at this point.” Over a week later, during a Fox News town hall with Pennsylvania voters, he recommitted: “We need border security. Of course we do. Who argues with that? That goes without saying.”

      To the extent that Trump’s rhetoric, his administration’s immigration policies, and the enforcement agencies’ practices have made the “border crisis” more visible than ever before, they’ve done so on terms that most Democrats and liberals fundamentally agree with: immigration must be controlled and policed; the border must be enforced. One need look no further than the high priest of sensible centrism, Thomas Friedman, whose major complaint about Trump’s immigration politics is that he is “wasting” the crisis—an allusion to Rahm Emanuel’s now-clichéd remark that “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” (Frequently stripped of context, it is worth remembering that Emanuel made this comment in the throes of the 2008 financial meltdown, at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council, shortly following President Obama’s election.) “Regarding the border, the right place for Democrats to be is for a high wall with a big gate,” Friedman wrote in November of 2018. A few months later, a tour led by Border Patrol agents of the San Ysidro port of entry in San Diego left Friedman “more certain than ever that we have a real immigration crisis and that the solution is a high wall with a big gate—but a smart gate.”

      As reasonable as this might sound to anxious New York Times readers looking for what passes as humanitarian thinking in James Bennet’s opinion pages, the horror of Friedman’s logic eventually reveals itself when he considers who might pass through the big, smart gate in the high, high wall: “those who deserve asylum” and “a steady flow of legal, high-energy, and high-I.Q. immigrants.” Friedman’s tortured hypothetical shows us who he considers to be acceptable subjects of deportation and deprivation: the poor, the lazy, and the stupid. This is corporate-sponsored, state-sanctioned eugenics: the nativism of technocrats.

      The vision of a hermetically sealed border being sold, in different ways, by Trump and his allies, by Democrats, and by the Border Security Expo is in reality a selectively permeable one that strictly regulates the movement of migrant labor while allowing for the unimpeded flow of capital. Immigrants in the United States, regardless of their legal status, are caught between two factions of the capitalist class, each of which seek their immiseration: the citrus farmers, construction firms, and meat packing plants that benefit from an underclass of unorganized and impoverished workers, and the defense and security firms that keep them in a state of constant criminality and deportability.

      You could even argue that nobody in a position of power really wants a literal wall. Even before taking office, Trump himself knew he could only go so far. “We’re going to do a wall,” he said on the campaign trail in 2015. However: “We’re going to have a big, fat beautiful door on the wall.” In January 2019, speaking to the American Farm Bureau Association, Trump acknowledged the necessity of a mechanism allowing seasonal farmworkers from Mexico to cross the border, actually promising to loosen regulations on employers who rely on temporary migrant labor. “It’s going to be easier for them to get in than what they have to go through now,” he said, “I know a lot about the farming world.”

      At bottom, there is little material difference between this and what Friedman imagines to be the smarter, more humane approach. While establishment liberals would no doubt prefer that immigration enforcement be undertaken quietly, quickly, and efficiently, they have no categorical objection to the idea that noncitizens should enjoy fewer rights than citizens or be subject to different standards of due process (standards that are already applied in deeply inequitable fashion).

      As the smorgasbord of technologies and services so garishly on display at the Border Security Expo attests, maintaining the contradiction between citizens and noncitizens (or between the imperial core and the colonized periphery) requires an ever-expanding security apparatus, which itself becomes a source of ever-expanding profit. The border, shaped by centuries of bourgeois interests and the genocidal machinations of the settler-colonial nation-state, constantly generates fresh crises on which the immigration-industrial complex feeds. In other words, there is not a crisis at the border; the border is the crisis.

      CBP has recently allowed Anduril, a start-up founded by one of Peter Thiel’s mentees, Palmer Luckey, to begin testing its artificial intelligence-powered surveillance towers and drones in Texas and California. Sam Ecker, an Anduril engineer, expounded on the benefits of such technology at the Expo. “A tower doesn’t get tired. It doesn’t care about being in the middle of the desert or a river around the clock,” he told me. “We just let the computers do what they do best.”

      https://thebaffler.com/outbursts/border-profiteers-oconnor

  • Autour des #gardes-côtes_libyens... et de #refoulements en #Libye...

    Je copie-colle ici des articles que j’avais mis en bas de cette compilation (qu’il faudrait un peu mettre en ordre, peut-être avec l’aide de @isskein ?) :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/705401

    Les articles ci-dessous traitent de :
    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Méditerranée #push-back #refoulement #externalisation #frontières

    • Pour la première fois depuis 2009, un navire italien ramène des migrants en Libye

      Une embarcation de migrants secourue par un navire de ravitaillement italien a été renvoyée en Libye lundi 30 juillet. Le HCR a annoncé mardi l’ouverture d’une enquête et s’inquiète d’une violation du droit international.

      Lundi 30 juillet, un navire battant pavillon italien, l’Asso Ventotto, a ramené des migrants en Libye après les avoir secourus dans les eaux internationales – en 2012 déjà l’Italie a été condamnée par la Cour européenne des droits de l’Homme pour avoir reconduit en Libye des migrants secourus en pleine mer en 2009.

      L’information a été donnée lundi soir sur Twitter par Oscar Camps, le fondateur de l’ONG espagnole Proactiva Open Arms, avant d’être reprise par Nicola Fratoianni, un député de la gauche italienne qui est actuellement à bord du bateau humanitaire espagnol qui sillonne en ce moment les côtes libyennes.

      Selon le quotidien italien La Repubblica, 108 migrants à bord d’une embarcation de fortune ont été pris en charge en mer Méditerranée par l’Asso Ventotto lundi 30 juillet. L’équipage du navire de ravitaillement italien a alors contacté le MRCC à Rome - centre de coordination des secours maritimes – qui les a orienté vers le centre de commandement maritime libyen. La Libye leur a ensuite donné l’instruction de ramener les migrants au port de Tripoli.

      En effet depuis le 28 juin, sur décision européenne, la gestion des secours des migrants en mer Méditerranée dépend des autorités libyennes et non plus de l’Italie. Concrètement, cela signifie que les opérations de sauvetage menées dans la « SAR zone » - zone de recherche et de sauvetage au large de la Libye - sont désormais coordonnées par les Libyens, depuis Tripoli. Mais le porte-parole du Conseil de l’Europe a réaffirmé ces dernières semaines qu’"aucun navire européen ne peut ramener des migrants en Libye car cela serait contraire à nos principes".

      Violation du droit international

      La Libye ne peut être considérée comme un « port sûr » pour le débarquement des migrants. « C’est une violation du droit international qui stipule que les personnes sauvées en mer doivent être amenées dans un ‘port sûr’. Malgré ce que dit le gouvernement italien, les ports libyens ne peuvent être considérés comme tels », a déclaré sur Twitter le député Nicola Fratoianni. « Les migrants se sont vus refuser la possibilité de demander l’asile, ce qui constitue une violation des accords de Genève sur les sauvetages en mer », dit-il encore dans le quotidien italien La Stampa.

      Sur Facebook, le ministre italien de l’Intérieur, Matteo Salvini, nie toutes entraves au droit international. « La garde-côtière italienne n’a ni coordonné, ni participé à cette opération, comme l’a faussement déclarée une ONG et un député de gauche mal informé ».

      Le Haut-Commissariat des Nations unies pour les réfugiés (HCR) a de son côté annoncé mardi 31 juillet l’ouverture d’une enquête. « Nous recueillons toutes les informations nécessaires sur le cas du remorqueur italien Asso Ventotto qui aurait ramené en Libye 108 personnes sauvées en Méditerranée. La Libye n’est pas un ‘port sûr’ et cet acte pourrait constituer une violation du droit international », dit l’agence onusienne sur Twitter.

      http://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/10995/pour-la-premiere-fois-depuis-2009-un-navire-italien-ramene-des-migrant

    • Nave italiana soccorre e riporta in Libia 108 migranti. Salvini: «Nostra Guardia costiera non coinvolta»

      L’atto in violazione della legislazione internazionale che garantisce il diritto d’asilo e che non riconosce la Libia come un porto sicuro. Il vicepremier: «Nostre navi non sono intervenute nelle operazioni». Fratoianni (LeU): «Ci sono le prove della violazione»

      http://www.repubblica.it/cronaca/2018/07/31/news/migranti_nave_italiana_libia-203026448/?ref=RHPPLF-BH-I0-C8-P1-S1.8-T1
      #vos_thalassa #asso_28

      Commentaire de Sara Prestianni, via la mailing-list de Migreurop:

      Le navire commerciale qui opere autour des plateformes de pétrole, battant pavillon italien - ASSO 28 - a ramené 108 migrants vers le port de Tripoli suite à une opération de sauvetage- Les premiers reconstructions faites par Open Arms et le parlementaire Fratoianni qui se trouve à bord de Open Arms parlent d’une interception en eaux internationales à la quelle a suivi le refoulement. Le journal La Repubblica dit que les Gardes Cotes Italiennes auraient invité Asso28 à se coordonner avec les Gardes Cotes Libyennes (comme font habituellement dans les derniers mois. Invitation déclinés justement par les ong qui opèrent en mer afin de éviter de proceder à un refoulement interdit par loi). Le Ministre de l’Interieur nie une implication des Gardes Cotes Italiens et cyniquement twitte “Le Garde cotes libyenne dans les derniers heures ont sauvé et ramené à terre 611 migrants. Les Ong protestent les passeurs font des affaires ? C’est bien. Nous continuons ainsi”

    • Départs de migrants depuis la Libye :

      Libya : outcomes of the sea journey

      Migrants intercepted /rescued by the Libyan coast guard

      Lieux de désembarquement :


      #Italie #Espagne #Malte

      –-> Graphiques de #Matteo_Villa, posté sur twitter :
      source : https://twitter.com/emmevilla/status/1036892919964286976

      #statistiques #chiffres #2016 #2017 #2018

      cc @simplicissimus

    • Libyan Coast Guard Takes 611 Migrants Back to Africa

      Between Monday and Tuesday, the Libyan Coast Guard reportedly rescued 611 migrants aboard several dinghies off the coast and took them back to the African mainland.

      Along with the Libyan search and rescue operation, an Italian vessel, following indications from the Libyan Coast Guard, rescued 108 migrants aboard a rubber dinghy and delivered them back to the port of Tripoli. The vessel, called La Asso 28, was a support boat for an oil platform.

      Italian mainstream media have echoed complaints of NGOs claiming that in taking migrants back to Libya the Italian vessel would have violated international law that guarantees the right to asylum and does not recognize Libya as a safe haven.

      In recent weeks, a spokesman for the Council of Europe had stated that “no European ship can bring migrants back to Libya because it is contrary to our principles.”

      Twenty days ago, another ship supporting an oil rig, the Vos Thalassa, after rescuing a group of migrants, was preparing to deliver them to a Libyan patrol boat when an attempt to revolt among the migrants convinced the commander to reverse the route and ask the help of the Italian Coast Guard. The migrants were loaded aboard the ship Diciotti and taken to Trapani, Sicily, after the intervention of the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella.

      On the contrary, Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has declared Tuesday’s operation to be a victory for efforts to curb illegal immigration. The decision to take migrants back to Africa rather than transporting them to Europe reflects an accord between Italy and Libya that has greatly reduced the numbers of African migrants reaching Italian shores.

      Commenting on the news, Mr. Salvini tweeted: “The Libyan Coast Guard has rescued and taken back to land 611 immigrants in recent hours. The NGOs protest and the traffickers lose their business? Great, this is how we make progress,” followed by hashtags announcing “closed ports” and “open hearts.”

      Parliamentarian Nicola Fratoianni of the left-wing Liberi and Uguali (Free and Equal) party and secretary of the Italian Left, presently aboard the Spanish NGO ship Open Arms, denounced the move.

      “We do not yet know whether this operation was carried out on the instructions of the Italian Coast Guard, but if so it would be a very serious precedent, a real collective rejection for which Italy and the ship’s captain will answer before a court,” he said.

      “International law requires that people rescued at sea must be taken to a safe haven and the Libyan ports, despite the mystification of reality by the Italian government, cannot be considered as such,” he added.

      The United Nations immigration office (UNHCR) has threatened Italy for the incident involving the 108 migrants taken to Tripoli, insisting that Libya is not a safe port and that the episode could represent a breach of international law.

      “We are collecting all the necessary information,” UNHCR tweeted.

      https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/santiago-anti-abortion-women-stabbed-chile-protest-a8469786.html
      #refoulements #push-back

    • Libya rescued 10,000 migrants this year, says Germany

      Libyan coast guards have saved some 10,000 migrants at sea since the start of this year, according to German authorities. The figure was provided by the foreign ministry during a debate in parliament over what the Left party said were “inhumane conditions” of returns of migrants to Libya. Libyan coast guards are trained by the EU to stop migrants crossing to Europe.

      https://euobserver.com/tickers/142821

    • UNHCR Flash Update Libya (9 - 15 November 2018) [EN/AR]

      As of 14 November, the Libyan Coast Guard (LCG) has rescued/intercepted 14,595 refugees and migrants (10,184 men, 2,147 women and 1,408 children) at sea. On 10 November, a commercial vessel reached the port of Misrata (187 km east of Tripoli) carrying 95 refugees and migrants who refused to disembark the boat. The individuals on board comprise of Ethiopian, Eritrean, South Sudanese, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Somali nationals. UNHCR is closely following-up on the situation of the 14 individuals who have already disembarked and ensuring the necessary assistance is provided and screening is conducted for solutions. Since the onset, UNHCR has advocated for a peaceful resolution of the situation and provided food, water and core relief items (CRIs) to alleviate the suffering of individuals onboard the vessel.

      https://reliefweb.int/report/libya/unhcr-flash-update-libya-9-15-november-2018-enar
      #statistiques #2018 #chiffres

    • Rescued at sea, locked up, then sold to smugglers

      In Libya, refugees returned by EU-funded ships are thrust back into a world of exploitation.

      The Souq al Khamis detention centre in Khoms, Libya, is so close to the sea that migrants and refugees can hear waves crashing on the shore. Its detainees – hundreds of men, women and children – were among 15,000 people caught trying to cross the Mediterranean in flimsy boats in 2018, after attempting to reach Italy and the safety of Europe.

      They’re now locked in rooms covered in graffiti, including warnings that refugees may be sold to smugglers by the guards that watch them.


      This detention centre is run by the UN-backed Libyan government’s department for combatting illegal migration (DCIM). Events here over the last few weeks show how a hardening of European migration policy is leaving desperate refugees with little room to escape from networks ready to exploit them.

      Since 2014, the EU has allocated more than €300 million to Libya with the aim of stopping migration. Funnelled through the Trust Fund for Africa, this includes roughly €40 million for the Libyan coast guard, which intercepts boats in the Mediterranean. Ireland’s contribution to the trust fund will be €15 million between 2016 and 2020.

      Scabies

      One of the last 2018 sea interceptions happened on December 29th, when, the UN says, 286 people were returned to Khoms. According to two current detainees, who message using hidden phones, the returned migrants arrived at Souq al Khamis with scabies and other health problems, and were desperate for medical attention.


      On New Year’s Eve, a detainee messaged to say the guards in the centre had tried to force an Eritrean man to return to smugglers, but others managed to break down the door and save him.

      On Sunday, January 5th, detainees said, the Libyan guards were pressurising the still-unregistered arrivals to leave by beating them with guns. “The leaders are trying to push them [to] get out every day,” one said.

      https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/rescued-at-sea-locked-up-then-sold-to-smugglers-1.3759181

    • Migranti, 100 persone trasferite su cargo e riportate in Libia. Alarm Phone: “Sono sotto choc, credevano di andare in Italia”

      Dopo l’allarme delle scorse ore e la chiamata del premier Conte a Tripoli, le persone (tra cui venti donne e dodici bambini, uno dei quali potrebbe essere morto di stenti) sono state trasferite sull’imbarcazione che batte bandiera della Sierra Leone in direzione Misurata. Ma stando alle ultime informazioni, le tensioni a bordo rendono difficoltoso lo sbarco. Intanto l’ong Sea Watch ha salvato 47 persone e chiede un porto dove attraccare

      https://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2019/01/21/migranti-100-persone-trasferite-su-cargo-e-riportate-in-libia-alarm-phone-sono-sotto-choc-credevano-di-andare-in-italia/4911794

    • Migrants calling us in distress from the Mediterranean returned to Libya by deadly ‘refoulement’ industry

      When they called us from the sea, the 106 precarious travellers referred to their boat as a white balloon. This balloon, or rubber dinghy, was meant to carry them all the way to safety in Europe. The people on board – many men, about 20 women, and 12 children from central, west and north Africa – had left Khoms in Libya a day earlier, on the evening of January 19.

      Though they survived the night at sea, many of passengers on the boat were unwell, seasick and freezing. They decided to call for help and used their satellite phone at approximately 11am the next day. They reached out to the Alarm Phone, a hotline operated by international activists situated in Europe and Africa, that can be called by migrants in distress at sea. Alongside my work as a researcher on migration and borders, I am also a member of this activist network, and on that day I supported our shift team who received and documented the direct calls from the people on the boat in distress.

      The boat had been trying to get as far away as possible from the Libyan coast. Only then would the passengers stand a chance of escaping Libya’s coastguard. The European Union and Italy struck a deal in 2017 to train the Libyan coastguard in return for them stopping migrants reaching European shores. But a 2017 report by Amnesty International highlighted how the Libyan authorities operate in collusion with smuggling networks. Time and again, media reports suggest they have drastically violated the human rights of escaping migrants as well as the laws of the sea.

      The migrant travellers knew that if they were detected and caught, they would be abducted back to Libya, or illegally “refouled”. But Libya is a dangerous place for migrants in transit – as well as for Libyan nationals – given the ongoing civil conflict between several warring factions. In all likelihood, being sent back to Libya would mean being sent to detention centres described as “concentration-camp like” by German diplomats.

      The odds of reaching Europe were stacked against the people on the boat. Over the past year, the European-Libyan collaboration in containing migrants in North Africa, a research focus of mine, has resulted in a decrease of sea arrivals in Italy – from about 119,000 in 2017 to 23,000 in 2018. Precisely how many people were intercepted by the Libyan coastguards last year is unclear but the Libyan authorities have put the figure at around 15,000. The fact that this refoulement industry has led to a decrease in the number of migrant crossings in the central Mediterranean means that fewer people have been able to escape grave human rights violations and reach a place of safety.
      Shifting responsibility

      In repeated conversations, the 106 people on the boat made clear to the Alarm Phone activists that they would rather move on and endanger their lives by continuing to Europe than be returned by the Libyan coastguards. The activists stayed in touch with them, and for transparency reasons, the distress situation was made public via Twitter.

      Around noon, the situation on board deteriorated markedly and anxiety spread. With weather conditions worsening and after a boy had fallen unconscious, the people on the boat expressed for the first time their immediate fear of dying at sea and demanded Alarm Phone to alert all available authorities.

      The activists swiftly notified the Italian coastguards. But both the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, and in turn the Maltese authorities, suggested it was the Libyan coastguard’s responsibility to handle the distress call. And yet, eight different phone numbers of the Libyan coastguards could not be reached by the activists.

      In the afternoon, the situation had come across the radar of the Italian media. When the Alarm Phone activists informed the people on board that the public had also been made aware of the situation by the media one person succinctly responded: “I don’t need to be on the news, I need to be rescued.”

      And yet media attention catapulted the story into the highest political spheres in Italy. According to a report in the Italian national newspaper Corriere della Sera, the prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, took charge of the situation, stating that the fate of the migrant boat could not be left to Alarm Phone activists. Conte instructed the Italian foreign intelligence service to launch rapid negotiations with the Libyan coastguards. It took some time to persuade them, but eventually, the Libyans were convinced to take action.

      In the meantime, the precarious passengers on the boat reported of water leaking into their boat, of the freezing cold, and their fear of drowning. The last time the Alarm Phone reached them, around 8pm, they could see a plane in the distance but were unable to forward their GPS coordinates to the Alarm Phone due to the failing battery of their satellite phone.
      Sent back to Libya

      About three hours later, the Italian coastguards issued a press release: the Libyans had assumed responsibility and co-ordinated the rescue of several boats. According to the press release, a merchant vessel had rescued the boat and the 106 people would be returned to Libya.

      According to the survivors and Médecins Sans Frontières who treated them on arrival, at least six people appeared to have drowned during the voyage – presumably after the Alarm Phone lost contact with them. Another boy died after disembarkation.

      A day later, on January 21, members of a second group of 144 people called the Alarm Phone from another merchant vessel. Just like the first group, they had been refouled to Libya, but they were still on board. Some still believed that they would be brought to Europe.

      Speaking on the phone with the activists, they could see land but it was not European but Libyan land. Recognising they’d been returned to their place of torment, they panicked, cried and threatened collective suicide. The women were separated from the men – Alarm Phone activists could hear them shout in the background. In the evening, contact with this second group of migrants was lost.

      During the evening of January 23, several of the women of the group reached out to the activists. They said that during the night, Libyan security forces boarded the merchant vessel and transported small groups into the harbour of Misrata, where they were taken to a detention centre. They said they’d been beaten when refusing to disembark. One of them, bleeding, feared that she had already lost her unborn child.

      On the next day, the situation worsened further. The women told the activists that Libyan forces entered their cell in the morning, pointing guns at them, after some of the imprisoned had tried to escape. Reportedly, every man was beaten. The pictures they sent to the Alarm Phone made it into Italian news, showing unhygienic conditions, overcrowded cells, and bodies with torture marks.

      Just like the 106 travellers on the “white balloon”, this second group of 144 people had risked their lives but were now back in their hell.
      Profiteering

      It’s more than likely that for some of these migrant travellers, this was not their first attempt to escape Libya. The tens of thousands captured at sea and returned over the past years have found themselves entangled in the European-Libyan refoulement “industry”. Due to European promises of financial support or border technologies, regimes with often questionable human rights records have wilfully taken on the role as Europe’s frontier guards. In the Mediterranean, the Libyan coastguards are left to do the dirty work while European agencies – such as Frontex, Eunavfor Med as well as the Italian and Maltese coastguards – have withdrawn from the most contentious and deadly areas of the sea.

      It’s sadly not surprising that flagrant human rights violations have become the norm rather than the exception. Quite cynically, several factions of the Libyan coastguards have profited not merely from Europe’s financial support but also from playing a “double game” in which they continue to be involved in human smuggling while, disguised as coastguards, clampdown on the trade of rival smuggling networks. This means that the Libyan coastguards profit often from both letting migrant boats leave and from subsequently recapturing them.

      The detention camps in Libya, where torture and rape are everyday phenomena, are not merely containment zones of captured migrants – they form crucial extortion zones in this refoulement industry. Migrants are turned into “cash cows” and are repeatedly subjected to violent forms of extortion, often forced to call relatives at home and beg for their ransom.

      Despite this systematic abuse, migrant voices cannot be completely drowned out. They continue to appear, rebelliously, from detention and even from the middle of the sea, reminding us all about Europe’s complicity in the production of their suffering.

      https://theconversation.com/migrants-calling-us-in-distress-from-the-mediterranean-returned-to-

    • Libya coast guard detains 113 migrants during lull in fighting

      The Libyan coast guard has stopped 113 migrants trying to reach Italy over the past two days, the United Nations said on Wednesday, as boat departures resume following a lull in fighting between rival forces in Libya.

      The western Libyan coast is a major departure point for mainly African migrants fleeing conflict and poverty and trying to reach Italy across the Mediterranean Sea with the help of human traffickers.

      Smuggling activity had slowed when forces loyal to military commander Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to take the capital Tripoli, home to Libya’s internationally recognized government.

      But clashes eased on Tuesday after a push by Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) back by artillery failed to make inroads toward the center.

      Shelling audible in central Tripoli was less intense on Wednesday than on previous days. Three weeks of clashes had killed 376 as of Tuesday, the World Health Organization said.

      The Libyan coast guard stopped two boats on Tuesday and one on Wednesday, carrying 113 migrants in all, and returned them to two western towns away from the Tripoli frontline, where they were put into detention centers, U.N. migration agency IOM said.

      A coast guard spokesman said the migrants were from Arab and sub-Saharan African countries as well as Bangladesh.

      Human rights groups have accused armed groups and members of the coast guard of being involved in human trafficking.

      Officials have been accused in the past of mistreating detainees, who are being held in their thousands as part of European-backed efforts to curb smuggling. A U.N. report in December referred to a “terrible litany” of violations including unlawful killings, torture, gang rape and slavery.

      Rights groups have also accused the European Union of complicity in the abuse as Italy and France have provided boats for the coast guard to step up patrols. That move has helped to reduce migrant departures.

      https://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security/libya-coast-guard-detains-113-migrants-during-lull-in-fighting-idUSKCN1S73R

    • Judgement in Italy recognizes that people rescued by #Vos_Thalassa acted lawfully when opposed disembarkation in #Libya. Two men spent months in prison, as Italian government had wished, till a judge established that they had acted in legitimate defence.
      Also interesting that judge argues that Italy-Libya Bilateral agreement on migration control must be considered illegitimate as in breach of international, EU and domestic law.

      https://dirittopenaleuomo.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/GIP-Trapani.pdf

      Reçu via FB par @isskein :
      https://www.facebook.com/isabelle.saintsaens/posts/10218154173470834?comment_id=10218154180551011&notif_id=1560196520660275&n
      #justice

    • The Commission and Italy tie themselves up in knots over Libya

      http://www.statewatch.org/analyses/no-344-Commission-and-Italy-tie-themselves-up-in-knots-over-libya.pdf

      –-> analyse de #Yasha_Maccanico sur la polémique entre Salvini et la Commission quand il a déclaré en mars que la Commission était tout a fait d’accord avec son approche (le retour des migrants aux champs logiques), la Commission l’a démenti et puis a sorti la lettre de Mme. Michou (JAI Commission) de laquelle provenaient les justifications utilisées par le ministre, qui disait à Leggeri que la collaboration avec la garde côtière libyenne des avions européennes était legale. Dans la lettre, elle admit que les italiens et la mission de Frontex font des activités qui devrait être capable de faire la Libye, si sa zone SAR fuisse authentique et pas une manière pour l’UE de se débarrasser de ses obligations légales et humanitaires. C’est un acte de auto-inculpation pour l’UE et pour l’Italie.