position:attorney

  • 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

  • GBC - Gibraltar News - GBC TV and Radio Gibraltar
    https://www.gbc.gi/news/gib-authorities-and-royal-marines-board-and-detain-supertanker-en-route-syria

    Gibraltar Port and Law Enforcement agencies, assisted by a detachmentof Royal Marines, boarded and detained a super tanker carrying crude oil to Syria in the early hours of Thursday morning.

    This followed information giving the Gibraltar Government reasonable grounds to believe that the vessel, the Grace 1, was acting in breach of European Union sanctions against Syria.

    The operation took place overnight as the giant vessel sailed into Gibraltar waters.

    The Government says it has reason to believe that the Grace 1 was carrying its shipment of crude oil to the Banyas Refinery in Syria.The refinery is the property of an entity subject to European Union sanctions against Syria.

    #piraterie #gibraltar reste un atout géopolitique

    en arabe : https://www.raialyoum.com/index.php/%d8%b3%d9%84%d8%b7%d8%a7%d8%aa-%d8%ac%d8%a8%d9%84-%d8%b7%d8%a7%d8%b1%d9%8
    où il est précisé que le navire est sous pavillon de Panama et que le pétrole serait iranien.

    • https://www.lorientlejour.com/article/1177558/lambassadeur-britannique-en-iran-convoque-apres-la-saisie-dun-petroli

      Dans un communiqué, le gouvernement de Gibraltar, territoire britannique situé à la pointe sud de l’Espagne, dit avoir de bonnes raisons de croire que les cuves du Grace 1 contiennent du pétrole destiné à la raffinerie syrienne de Banyas. Le gouvernement syrien est la cible de sanctions de l’Union européenne depuis mai 2011, date du début de la répression sanglante des manifestations pour la démocratie par le régime de Bachar el-Assad.

      D’après l’outil de données cartographiques Refinitiv Eikon mapping, le Grace 1 a chargé du brut iranien le 17 avril dernier, ce qui constituerait une violation des sanctions américaines sur les exportations de pétrole iranien rétablies l’an dernier après la décision de Donald Trump de retirer les Etats-Unis de l’accord de 2015 sur le nucléaire iranien.

    • https://lloydslist.maritimeintelligence.informa.com/LL1128207/Gibraltar-tanker-seizure-triggers-IranUK-diplomatic-row

      (...)

      The incident triggered debate over the lawfulness of the tanker seizure and detention which will be tested in Gibraltar’s Supreme Court in coming days.

      Local maritime and admiralty lawyers have been instructed for the Captain of the Port, financial secretary and the attorney general, Lloyd’s List understands, ahead of what is expected to be protracted legal debate.

      The acting foreign minister of Spain — which claims the waters as its own and does not recognise British sovereignty — said Britain acted at the behest of the US and the country was assessing the detention’s legal implications.

      The US has not shown the same vigilance for Iran-China crude flows, which have been taking place without action. Iranian- and Chinese-owned or controlled ships have been loading cargoes since the May 1 ending of waivers allowing some countries limited imports. About five cargoes have been discharged in Syria.

      Lloyd’s List understands that the owner of the very large crude carrier is Russian Titan Shipping, a subsidiary of Dubai-based oil and energy shipping company TNC Gulf, which has clear Iranian links.

      While Grace 1 has a complex ownership chain that is not unusual for many internationally trading vessels, its executives listed on LinkedIn have Iranian university and technical qualifications, or list their names in Farsi, the Iranian language.

      The ship’s current class and insurance is unknown according to databases. Lloyd’s Register withdrew class in January, 2019, as did former P&I insurers Swedish Club, at the same time as the vessel arrived to spend a month at the Bandar-e Taheri single buoy mooring area in Iranian waters, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence data.

      The ship’s opaque ownership and operating chain is complicated further by company websites linked to the tanker not operating. The European Commission-operated Equasis website lists the shipmanager as Singapore-based Iships Management. However, the website is under construction and its telephone number is not in service. Websites for Russian Titan Shipping and TNC Gulf are also not working. LinkedIn lists Captain Asadpour as the executive managing director, saying he has also been president of the Georgia-based Russian Shipping Lines for 11 years.

  • Revolt of the gig workers: How delivery rage reached a tipping point - SFChronicle.com
    https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Revolt-of-the-gig-workers-How-delivery-rage-13605726.php

    Gig workers are fighting back.

    By their name, you might think independent contractors are a motley crew — geographically scattered, with erratic paychecks and tattered safety nets. They report to faceless software subroutines rather than human bosses. Most gig workers toil alone as they ferry passengers, deliver food and perform errands.

    But in recent weeks, some of these app-wielding workers have joined forces to effect changes by the multibillion-dollar companies and powerful algorithms that control their working conditions.

    Last week, Instacart shoppers wrung payment concessions from the grocery delivery company, which had been using customer tips to subsidize what it paid them. After outcries by workers on social media, in news reports and through online petitions, San Francisco’s Instacart said it had been “misguided.” It now adds tips on top of its base pay — as most customers and shoppers thought they should be — and will retroactively compensate workers who were stiffed on tips.

    New York this year became the first U.S. city to implement a minimum wage for Uber and Lyft, which now must pay drivers at least $17.22 an hour after expenses ($26.51 before expenses). Lyft, which sued over the requirement, last week gave in to driver pressure to implement it.

    For two years, drivers held rallies, released research, sent thousands of letters and calls to city officials, and gathered 16,000 petition signature among themselves. The Independent Drivers Guild, a union-affiliated group that represents New York ride-hail drivers and spearheaded the campaign, predicted per-driver pay boosts of up to $9,600 a year.

    That follows some other hard-fought worker crusades, such as when they persuaded Uber to finally add tipping to its app in 2017, a move triggered by several phenomena: a string of corporate scandals, the fact that rival Lyft had offered tipping from the get-go, and a class-action lawsuit seeking employment status for workers.

    “We’ll probably start to see more gig workers organizing as they realize that enough negative publicity for the companies can make something change,” said Alexandrea Ravenelle, an assistant sociology professor at New York’s Mercy College and author of “Hustle and Gig: Struggling and Surviving in the Sharing Economy.” “But companies will keep trying to push the envelope to pay workers as little as possible.”

    The current political climate, with tech giants such as Facebook and Google on hot seats over privacy, abuse of customer data and other issues, has helped the workers’ quests.

    “We’re at a moment of reckoning for tech companies,” said Alex Rosenblat, a technology ethnographer at New York’s Data & Society Research Institute and author of “Uberland: How Algorithms Are Rewriting the Rules of Work.” “There’s a techlash, a broader understanding that tech companies have to be held accountable as political institutions rather than neutral forces for good.”

    The climate also includes more consumer awareness of labor issues in the on-demand economy. “People are realizing that you don’t just jump in an Uber and don’t have to think about who’s driving you and what they make,” Ravenelle said. “There’s a lot more attention to gig workers’ plight.”

    Instacart customers were dismayed to discover that their tips were not going to workers on top of their pay as a reward for good service.

    Sage Wilson, a spokesman for Working Washington, a labor-backed group that helped with the Instacart shoppers’ campaign, said many more gig workers have emerged with stories of similar experiences on other apps.

    “Pay transparency really seems to be an issue across many of these platforms,” he said. “I almost wonder if it’s part of the reason why these companies are building black box algorithmic pay models in the first place (so) you might not even know right away if you got a pay cut until you start seeing the weekly totals trending down.”

    Cases in point: DoorDash and Amazon also rifle the tip jar to subsidize contractors’ base pay, as Instacart did. DoorDash defended this, saying its pay model “provides transparency, consistency, and predictability” and has increased both satisfaction and retention of its “Dashers.”

    But Kristen Anderson of Concord, a social worker who works part-time for DoorDash to help with student loans, said that was not her experience. Her pay dropped dramatically after DoorDash started appropriating tips in 2017, she said. “Originally it was worth my time and now it’s not,” she said. “It’s frustrating.”

    Debi LaBell of San Carlos, who does weekend work for Instacart on top of a full-time job, has organized with others online over the tips issue.

    “This has been a maddening, frustrating and, at times, incredibly disheartening experience,” said Debi LaBell of San Carlos, who does weekend work for Instacart on top of a full-time job. “When I first started doing Instacart, I loved getting in my car to head to my first shop. These past few months, it has taken everything that I have to get motivated enough to do my shift.”

    Before each shopping trip, she hand-wrote notes to all her customers explaining the tips issue. She and other shoppers congregated online both to vent and to organize.

    Her hope now is that Instacart will invite shoppers like her to hear their experiences and ideas.

    There’s poetic justice in the fact that the same internet that allows gig companies to create widely dispersed marketplaces provided gig workers space to find solidarity with one another.

    “It’s like the internet taketh and giveth,” said Eric Lloyd, an attorney at the law firm Seyfarth Shaw, which represents management, including some gig companies he wouldn’t name, in labor cases. “The internet gave rise to this whole new economy, giving businesses a way to build really innovative models, and it’s given workers new ways to advance their rights.”

    For California gig workers, even more changes are on the horizon in the wake of a ground-breaking California Supreme Court decision last April that redefined when to classify workers as employees versus independent contractors.

    Gig companies, labor leaders and lawmakers are holding meetings in Sacramento to thrash out legislative responses to the Dynamex decision. Options could range from more workers getting employment status to gig companies offering flexible benefits. Whatever happens, it’s sure to upend the status quo.

    Rather than piecemeal enforcement through litigation, arbitration and various government agencies such as unemployment agencies, it makes sense to come up with overall standards, Rosenblat said.

    “There’s a big need for comprehensive standards with an understanding of all the trade-offs,” she said. “We’re at a tipping point for change.”

    Carolyn Said is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: csaid@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @csaid

    #USA #Kalifornien #Gig-Economy #Ausbeutung

  • Federal judge rules Uber calling its drivers independent contractors may violate antitrust and harm competition / Boing Boing
    https://boingboing.net/2019/06/21/labor-uber.html

    A federal judge has ruled that alleged misclassification of drivers as independent contractors by the ride-hailing service app Uber could harm competition and violate the spirit of America’s antitrust laws.

    • Lawsuit says misclassifying workers creates competitive harm
    • 30 days to amend complaint with new information

    The ruling by Judge Edward Chen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California is not a final decision in the case, but is a “significant warning to ride-hailing companies,” Bloomberg News reports.

    “It signals how a 2018 California Supreme Court case and future worker classification laws could open the floodgates to worker misclassification and antitrust claims.”

    Uber’s Worker Business Model May Harm Competition, Judge Says
    https://news.bloomberglaw.com/daily-labor-report/ubers-worker-business-model-may-harm-competition-judge-says

    Uber’s Worker Business Model May Harm Competition, Judge Says
    Posted June 21, 2019
    Suit: Misclassifying workers produces competitive harm
    Complaint must be amended within 30 days with new information
    Uber‘s alleged misclassification of drivers as independent contractors could significantly harm competition and violate the spirit of antitrust laws, a federal judge ruled.

    The ruling, although not a final decision in the case, is a significant warning to ride-hailing companies. It signals how a 2018 California Supreme Court case and future worker classification laws could open the floodgates to worker misclassification and antitrust claims.

    Judge Edward Chen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California declined to dismiss all of the claims brought against Uber by Los Angeles-based transportation service Diva Limousine, saying the company established a causal link between Uber’s behavior and real economic harm being felt by competitors.

    Driver misclassification could save Uber as much as $500 million annually just in California, according to Diva’s lawyers.

    “Diva’s allegations support the inference that Uber could not have undercut market prices to the same degree without misclassifying its drivers to skirt significant costs,” the judge wrote in the June 20 ruling.

    Unlike employees, independent contractors aren’t entitled to benefits such as health care, unemployment insurance, minimum wages, and overtime.

    An attorney for Diva said he was pleased with the court’s decision and that it was a warning that the company couldn’t skirt California labor laws.

    “There’s an acknowledgement here that Uber not only harms its drivers but also that its conduct crosses the line from robust competition to unfair competition,” said attorney Aaron Sheanin of Robins Kaplan LLP. “And that injures its competitiors, including Diva.”

    Uber didn’t return a request for comment.

    Overall, Uber was only able to get part of Diva’s complaint fully dismissed—specifically, its claims under the state’s Unfair Practices Act. Diva’s claims under the California Unfair Competition Law can proceed once it amends its complaint to address jurisdictional issues and other legal arguments.

    Diva’s lawyers have 30 days to refile an updated complaint which is likely to move forward given the judge’s ruling that the claims have merit.

    The ruling was based in part from language drawn from the California Supreme Court’s April 2018 ruling in Dynamex Operations West Inc. v. Superior Court. That decision made it harder for California employers to classify workers as independent contractors rather than employees. It also condemns misclassification as a type of unfair competition.

    Uber identified Dynamex in regulatory filings as a long-term potential risk factor for its business success.

    The case is Diva Limousine, Ltd. v. Uber Technologies, Inc., N.D. Cal., No. 3:18-cv-05546, Order Issued 6/20/19.

    #USA #Uber #Wettbewerb #Monopol #Urteil #Justiz

  • 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

  • Does Being ’Zionist Feminist’ Mean Betraying Women for Israel? - Tikun Olam תיקון עולם
    https://www.richardsilverstein.com/2017/03/16/zionist-feminist-mean-betraying-women-israel


    Rasmea Odeh participates in Detroit Black Lives Matter rally

    March 16, 2017 by Richard Silverstein Leave a Comment

    Yesterday, I wrote a critique of Emily Shire’s diatribe against the Women’s Strike Day USA protest. She especially singled out platform statements supporting Palestinian rights. Shire, a professed Zionist feminist, dismissed the criticisms of Israeli Occupation contained in the event platform as irrelevant to the issue of women’s rights. Then she launched into an attack on one of the conveners of the Strike Day, Rasmea Odeh. Shire alleges that Odeh is a convicted terrorist and former member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a U.S. designated terror group.

    A comment Deir Yassin published yesterday here got me to thinking further about this issue. I researched Rasmea’s case and the torture she endured. My view is this is precisely the sort of case and individual any women’s movement should embrace. Here is a summary of the facts of the case. In 1969, a cell of the PFLP planted bombs at a Jerusalem Super-Sol. They exploded, killing two Hebrew University students.
    shin bet torture

    Afterward, security forces arrested Odeh and jailed her without charges or access to counsel. She was tortured, by her account, for 45 days. Here is how she described her treatment in testimony to a UN commission on torture in Geneva:

    …”They beat me with sticks, plastic sticks, and with a metal bar. They beat me on the head and I fainted as a result of these beatings. They woke me up several times by throwing cold water in my face and then started all over again.”

    In addition to this physical torture, Odeh also faced sexual torture. Her father, a U.S. citizen, was also arrested and beaten, “and once they brought in my father and tried to force him under blows to take off his clothes and have sexual relations with me.” Later, interrogators “tore my clothes off me while my hands were still tied behind my back. They threw me to the ground completely naked and the room was full of a dozen or so interrogators and soldiers who looked at me and laughed sarcastically as if they were looking at a comedy or a film. Obviously they started touching my body.” In her father’s presence, interrogators threatened to “violate me” and “tried to introduce a stick to break my maidenhead [hymen].” Shackled naked from the ceiling, interrogators “tied my legs, which were spread-eagled, and they started to beat me with their hands and also with cudgels.”

    Every method described in her account is known from previous descriptions of the treatment of Arab terror suspects. We know, for example, that Doron Zahavi, an IDF AMAN officer, raped Mustafa Dirani in Prison 504. The beatings and positions she describes are also previously described in testimony by the Public Committee to Prevent Torture in Israel. Therefore, it’s not just conceivable that Rasmea endured the treatment she claims, it’s almost a certainty. Especially given that two Israelis were killed in the bombing.

    In summary, the Shin Bet tried to force her father to rape her. The interrogators themselves raped her and further degraded her sexually. And her father was tortured as a means of compelling her to confess. If this isn’t a perfect portrait of a cause that all feminists should embrace, I don’t know what is. So when Shire claims that Palestine is the farthest thing from what Women’s Strike Day’s mission should be, she’s engaging in willful blindness to the plight of another woman. A woman who happens to be Palestinian.

    Rasmea was tried and convicted in an Israeli military court, which features military judges and prosecutors using rules that favor the prosecution and shackle the hands of the defense. It can rule any evidence secret and so prevent the defense from seeing it, let alone rebutting it. Such a conviction could never withstand scrutiny under U.S. criminal procedures or even Israeli civilian courts.

    Further, Shire justifies her denunciation of Odeh by noting that Israel denies torturing Rasmea. So you have an Israeli security apparatus which is well-known for lying when evidence against it is damning. And you have Rasmea’s testimony, supported by scores of accounts by other security prisoners as to their treatment under similar circumstances. It reminds me of the story of the husband who returns home to find his wife in bed with another man. The man jumps out of bed and says: “Hey, this isn’t what this looks like. Nothing happened. I swear it. Who are you going to believe? Me, or your lyin’ eyes?” Emily Shire prefers to believe the agency that lies to her with a straight face. In doing so, she shows that she is a Zionist first and foremost; and a feminist second, if at all.

    As for the citizenship application infractions which the Justice Department is exploiting in order to expel her from the U.S.: she had been tortured once by Israel. Her decision to hide her previous conviction was surely founded on a fear that she might be deported once again back to Israel or Jordan (where Israel had sent her after her release from prison). The Jordanian security apparatus collaborates closely with Israeli intelligence. The former is quite handy with torture itself. Further, the U.S. judge in her first trial prohibited her attorney from raising torture as part of her defense. Her second trial will explicitly permit such testimony. Though I’m not privy to the defense strategy, I hope it will demand that a Shabak officer who participated in her interrogation testify at trial. And if his testimony diverges from the truth, I hope there is means to document this and hold him accountable. It would be one of the first times such an agent would be held accountable legally either inside or outside Israel.

    In the attacks against Rasmea, it’s certainly reasonable to bring up her participation in an act of terrorism: as long as you also examine the entire case against her. She admitted participation in the attack. But she denied placing the bomb in the supermarket. Despite her denial, this was the crime for which she was convicted. Further, Rasmea was released after serving ten years as part of a prisoner exchange. If Israel saw fit to release her, what is the point of using her alleged past crime against her today?

    As for her membership in a terror organization, she has long since left the militant movement. Her civic activism is solely non-violent these days. Further, virtually every leader of Israel for the first few decades of its existence either participated directly in, or ordered acts of terror against either British or Palestinian targets. Why do we grant to Israel what we deny to Palestinians?

    It may be no accident that two days before Shire’s broadside against the U.S. feminist movement (and Rasmea) in the NY Times, the Chicago Tribune published another hit-piece against her. The latter was credited to a retired Chicago professor. Her bio neglected to mention that she is also a Breitbart contributor who is the local coördinator for StandWithUs. This sin of omission attests either to editorial slacking or a deliberate attempt to conceal relevant biographical details which would permit readers to judge the content of the op-ed in proper context.

    The Tribune op-ed denounces Jewish Voice for Peace’s invitation to Rasmea to address its annual conference in Chicago later this month. As I wrote in last night’s post, what truly irks the Israel Lobby is the growing sense of solidarity among feminist, Jewish, Palestinian, Black and LGBT human rights organizations. Its response is to divide by sowing fear, doubt and lies in the media. The two op-eds in the Times and Tribute are stellar examples of the genre and indicate a coordinated campaign against what they deride as intersectionality.

    #Palestine #femmes #résistance #zionisme

  • Flint Water Prosecutors Drop Criminal Charges, With Plans to Keep Investigating - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/13/us/flint-water-crisis-charges-dropped.html

    Cette affaire de la pollution de l’eau à Flint est vraiment un cas d’école... jusqu’au bout ! La santé publique mérite l’intervention des citoyens, partout dans le monde.

    CHICAGO — Prosecutors stunned the city of Flint, Mich., on Thursday by dropping all pending charges against officials accused of ruining the community’s drinking water and ignoring signs of a crisis, casting doubt on what some residents had seen as a small but tangible step toward justice.

    Fifteen state and local officials, including emergency managers who ran the city and a member of the governor’s cabinet, had been accused by state prosecutors of crimes as serious as involuntary manslaughter. Seven had already taken plea deals. Eight more, including most of the highest-ranking officials, were awaiting trial.

    On Thursday, more than three years after the first charges were filed, the Michigan attorney general’s office, which earlier this year passed from Republican to Democratic hands, abruptly dropped the eight remaining cases. Prosecutors left open the possibility of recharging some of those same people, and perhaps others, too.

    But in Flint, a city where faith in government was already low and where many residents still refuse to drink the tap water, the news was seen by some as a sign that they had been wronged once again.

    Ronald F. Wright, a criminal law professor at Wake Forest University, said it was not uncommon for newly elected prosecutors to drop cases brought by their predecessors. But it was far more unusual, he said, for them to suggest that they might file new charges.

    “You inherit the file, you start looking through it, and the deeper you get in the file, the more you realize there are possible weak spots in your case,” Mr. Wright said. “I view this as a natural process of a new chief prosecutor becoming familiar with the details of the case.”

    Ms. Nessel, the new attorney general, defended her prosecutors’ decision to drop the charges, but she also sought to reassure Flint residents. “I want to remind the people of Flint that justice delayed is not always justice denied,” she said.

    That message was a tough sell for some in Flint, where residents said they had waited for years for justice and been disappointed with the results. Monica Galloway, a member of the Flint City Council, called the decision a setback on Thursday and said she hoped new charges would be filed.

    “I think anyone that lives in the city of Flint that is affected by this wants justice,” Ms. Galloway said. “And justice can only be done if this is not just redone, but done properly.”

    #Santé_publique #Flint #Environnement #Pollution #Néolibéralisme

  • The woman fighting back against India’s rape culture

    When a man tried to rape #Usha_Vishwakarma she decided to fight back by setting up self-defence classes for women and girls.

    At first, people accused her of being a sex worker. But now she runs an award-winning organisation and has won the community’s respect.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-48474708/the-woman-fighting-back-against-india-s-rape-culture
    #Inde #résistance #femmes #culture_du_viol

    • In China, a Viral Video Sets Off a Challenge to Rape Culture

      The images were meant to exonerate #Richard_Liu, the e-commerce mogul. They have also helped fuel a nascent #NoPerfectVictim movement.

      Richard Liu, the Chinese e-commerce billionaire, walked into an apartment building around 10 p.m., a young woman on his arm and his assistant in tow. Leaving the assistant behind, the young woman took Mr. Liu to an elevator. Then, she showed him into her apartment.

      His entrance was captured by the apartment building’s surveillance cameras and wound up on the Chinese internet. Titled “Proof of a Gold Digger Trap?,” the heavily edited video aimed to show that the young woman was inviting him up for sex — and that he was therefore innocent of her rape allegations against him.

      For many people in China, it worked. Online public opinion quickly dismissed her allegations. In a country where discussion of rape has been muted and the #MeToo movement has been held back by cultural mores and government censorship, that could have been the end of the story.

      But some in China have pushed back. Using hashtags like #NoPerfectVictim, they are questioning widely held ideas about rape culture and consent.

      The video has become part of that debate, which some feminism scholars believe is a first for the country. The government has clamped down on discussion of gender issues like the #MeToo movement because of its distrust of independent social movements. Officials banned the #MeToo hashtag last year. In 2015, they seized gender rights activists known as the Feminist Five. Some online petitions supporting Mr. Liu’s accuser were deleted.

      But on Weibo, the popular Chinese social media service, the #NoPerfectVictim hashtag has drawn more than 17 million page views, with over 22,000 posts and comments. Dozens at least have shared their stories of sexual assault.

      “Nobody should ask an individual to be perfect,” wrote Zhou Xiaoxuan, who has become the face of China’s #MeToo movement after she sued a famous TV anchor on allegations that he sexually assaulted her in 2014 when she was an intern. “But the public is asking this of the victims of sexual assault, who happen to be in the least favorable position to prove their tragedies.” Her lawsuit is pending.

      The allegations against Mr. Liu, the founder and chairman of the online retailer JD.com, riveted China. He was arrested last year in Minneapolis after the young woman accused him of raping her after a business dinner. The prosecutors in Minnesota declined to charge Mr. Liu. The woman, Liu Jingyao, a 21-year-old student at the University of Minnesota, sued Mr. Liu and is seeking damages of more than $50,000. (Liu is a common surname in China.)

      Debate about the incident has raged online in China. When the “Gold Digger” video emerged, it shifted sentiment toward Mr. Liu.
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      Mr. Liu’s attorney in Beijing, who shared the video on Weibo under her verified account, said that according to her client the video was authentic.

      “The surveillance video speaks for itself, as does the prosecutor’s decision not to bring charges against our client,” Jill Brisbois, Mr. Liu’s attorney in the United States, said in a statement. “We believe in his innocence, which is firmly supported by all of the evidence, and we will continue to vigorously defend his reputation in court.”

      The video is silent, but subtitles make the point so nobody will miss it. “The woman showed Richard Liu into the elevator,” says one. “The woman pushed the floor button voluntarily,” says another. “Once again,” says a third, “the woman gestured an invitation.”

      Still, the video does not show the most crucial moment, which is what happened between Mr. Liu and Ms. Liu after the apartment door closed.

      “The full video depicts a young woman unable to locate her own apartment and a billionaire instructing her to take his arm to steady her gait,” said Wil Florin, Ms. Liu’s attorney, who accused Mr. Liu’s representatives of releasing the video. “The release of an incomplete video and the forceful silencing of Jingyao’s many social media supporters will not stop a Minnesota civil jury from hearing the truth.”

      JD.com declined to comment on the origin of the video.

      In the eyes of many, it contradicted the narrative in Ms. Liu’s lawsuit of an innocent, helpless victim. In my WeChat groups, men and women alike said the video confirmed their suspicions that Ms. Liu was asking for sex and was only after Mr. Liu’s money. A young woman from a good family would never socialize on a business occasion like that, some men said. A businesswoman asked why Ms. Liu didn’t say no to drinks.

      At first, I saw the video as a setback for China’s #MeToo movement, which was already facing insurmountable obstacles from a deeply misogynistic society, internet censors and a patriarchal government. Already, my “no means no” arguments with acquaintances had been met with groans.
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      The rare people of prominence who spoke in support of Ms. Liu were getting vicious criticism. Zhao Hejuan, chief executive of the technology media company TMTPost, had to disable comments on her Weibo account after she received death threats. She had criticized Mr. Liu, a married man with a young daughter, for not living up to the expectations of a public figure.

      Then I came across a seven-minute video titled “I’m also a victim of sexual assault,” in which four women and a man spoke to the camera about their stories. The video, produced by organizers of the hashtag #HereForUs, tried to clearly define sexual assault to viewers, explaining that it can take place between people who know each other and under complex circumstances.

      The man was molested by an older boy in his childhood. One of the women was raped by a classmate when she was sick in bed. One was assaulted by a powerful man at work but did not dare speak out because she thought nobody would believe her. One was raped after consuming too much alcohol on a date.

      “Slut-shaming doesn’t come from others,” she said in the video. “I’ll be the first one to slut-shame myself.”

      One woman with a red cross tattooed on her throat said an older boy in her neighborhood had assaulted her when she was 10. When she ran home, her parents scolded her for being late after school.

      “My childhood ended then and there,” she said in the video. “I haven’t died because I toughed it out all these years.”

      The video has been viewed nearly 700,000 times on Weibo. But creators of the video still have a hard time speaking out further, reflecting the obstacles faced by feminists in China.

      It was produced by a group of people who started the #HereForUs hashtag in China as a way to support victims of sexual harassment and assault. They were excited when I reached out to interview them. One of them postponed her visit to her parents for the interview.

      Then the day before our meeting, they messaged me that they no longer wanted to be interviewed. They worried that their appearance in The New York Times could anger the Chinese government and get their hashtag censored. I got a similar response from the organizer of the #NoPerfectVictim hashtag. Another woman begged me not to connect her name to the Chinese government for fear of losing her job.

      Their reluctance is understandable. They believe their hashtags have brought women together and given them the courage to share their stories. Some victims say that simply telling someone about their experiences is therapeutic, making the hashtags too valuable to be lost, the organizers said.

      “The world is full of things that hurt women,” said Liang Xiaowen, a 27-year-old lawyer now living in New York City. She wrote online that she had been molested by a family acquaintance when she was 11 and had lived with shame and guilt ever since. “I want to expand the boundaries of safe space by sharing my story.”

      A decentralized, behind-the-scenes approach is essential if the #MeToo movement is to grow in China, said Lü Pin, founding editor of Feminist Voices, an advocacy platform for women’s rights in China.

      “It’s amazing that they created such a phenomenon under such difficult circumstances,” Ms. Lü said.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/05/business/china-richard-liu-rape-video-metoo.html
      #Chine #vidéo

  • 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

  • U.S. is using unreliable dental exams to hold teen migrants in adult detention

    The young Bangladeshi sitting in the dentist’s chair last October thought he was getting checked for diseases.

    Dental staff examined his teeth, gave him a cleaning and sent him back to the juvenile facility where he had been held for months since illegally crossing the border in July.

    But a checkup wasn’t the real purpose of the dental work. The government wanted to figure out if “I.J.,” as the young migrant has been identified, really was 16, as he said, or an adult.

    The use of dental exams to help determine the age of migrants increased sharply in the last year, one aspect of the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration and illegal border crossings.

    The accuracy of forensic testing to help determine the age of migrants is very much a subject of the debate. And with the stakes so high, the exams are becoming another legal battleground for the government.

    Federal law prohibits the government from relying exclusively on forensic testing of bones and teeth to determine age. But a review of court records shows that in at least three cases – including I.J.’s – the government did just that, causing federal judges to later order the minors released from adult detention.

    In a case last year, a Guatemalan migrant was held in adult detention for nearly a year after a dental exam showed he was likely 18, until his attorneys fought to get his birth certificate, which proved he was 17.

    For I.J., the results had serious ramifications. Based on the development of his teeth, the analysis showed an 87.70% probability that he had turned 18.

    An immigration official reported that it was apparent to the case manager that I.J. “appeared physically older than 17 years of age,” and that he and his mother had not been able to provide a second type of identification that might prove his age.

    The next month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents took him away in shackles and placed him in a medium-security prison that houses immigrant detainees.

    He spent about five months in adult detention and 24 of those days in segregated custody. Whenever he spoke with an officer, he would say he was a minor — unaware for more than a month that his teeth had landed him there.

    “I came to the United States with a big dream,” I.J. said. “My dream was finished.”

    But when the Arizona-based Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project took I.J.’s case to federal court, a district judge found that the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s age re-determination violated federal law and the agency’s own guidelines.

    In April, the judge ordered I.J. released back into Office of Refugee Resettlement custody, a program responsible for unaccompanied migrant children. He has since reunited with his family in New York. The Florence Project also filed another case in federal court that resulted in the government voluntarily returning a Bangladeshi minor to ORR custody and rescinding his age re-determination.

    As the government grappled with an influx of the number of families and children arriving at the border in fiscal year 2018, approvals of ORR age determination exams more than doubled.

    These handful of cases where a minor was released from adult detention is almost certainly an undercount, as most migrants held in adult detention do not have legal representation and are unlikely to fight their cases.

    It is unclear how often migrants pretend to be minors and turn out to be adults. In a call with reporters earlier this year, a Customs and Border Protection official said that from April 2018 to March 25 of this year, his agents had identified more than 3,100 individuals in family units making fraudulent claims, including those who misrepresented themselves as minors.

    Unaccompanied minors are given greater protections than adults after being apprehended. The government’s standard refers migrants to adult custody if a dental exam analysis shows at least a 75% probability that they are 18 or older. But other evidence is supposed to be considered.

    Dr. David Senn, the director of the Center for Education and Research in Forensics at UT Health San Antonio, has handled more than 2,000 age cases since 1998.

    A program that Senn helped develop estimates the mean age of a person and the probability that he or she is at least 18. In addition to looking at dental X-rays, he has also looked at skeletal X-rays and analyzed bone development in the hand and wrist area.

    He handled a larger number of cases in the early 2000s, but last year he saw his caseload triple — rising to 168. There appears to be a slowdown this calendar year for Senn, one of a few dentists the government uses for these analyses.

    He said making an exact age determination is not possible.

    “We can only tell you what the statistics say,” Senn said. “I think the really important thing to note is that most people who do this work are not trying to be policemen or to be Border Patrol agents or immigration …. what we’re trying to do is help. What we’re trying to do is protect children.”

    In 2007 and again in 2008, the House Appropriations Committee called on the Department of Homeland Security to stop relying on forensic testing of bones and teeth. But it was the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 that declared age determinations should take into account “multiple forms of evidence, including the non-exclusive use of radiographs.”

    In a Washington state case, an X-ray analysis by Senn showed a 92.55% probability that Bilal, a Somali migrant, already had reached 18 years of age. ICE removed him from his foster home and held him in an adult detention center.

    “Not only were they trying to save themselves money, which they paid to the foster family, but they were wrecking this kid’s life,” said Matt Adams, legal director for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, which represented Bilal. “They were just rolling the dice.”

    In 2016, a federal judge found that the Office of Refugee Resettlement relied exclusively on the dental exam and overturned the age determination for the young Somali.

    Last year, in the case of an Eritrean migrant who said he was 17, Senn’s analysis of dental X-rays showed a 92.55% probability that he had turned 18, and provided a range of possible ages between 17.10 and 23.70.

    It was enough to prompt his removal from a juvenile facility and placement into an adult one.

    Again, a district judge found that the government had relied exclusively on the dental exam to determine his age and ordered the migrant released back into ORR custody.

    Danielle Bennett, an ICE spokeswoman, said the agency “does not track” information on such reversals.

    “We should never be used as the only method to determine age,” Senn said. “If those agencies are not following their own rules, they should have their feet held to the fire.”

    Similar concerns over medical age assessments have sprung up in other countries, including the United Kingdom and Sweden.

    The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ guidance about how adolescent migrants’ ages should be analyzed says that if countries use scientific procedures to determine age, that they should allow for margins of error. Michael Bochenek, an attorney specializing in children’s rights at Human Rights Watch, said that for adolescents, the margin of error in scientific tests is “so big that it doesn’t tell you anything.”

    An influx of Bangladeshi migrants claiming to be minors has contributed to the government’s recent use of dental exams. From October through March 8, more than 150 Bangladeshis who claimed to be minors and were determined to be adults were transferred from the Office of Refugee Resettlement to ICE custody, according to the agency.

    In fiscal year 2018, Border Patrol apprehensions of Bangladeshi migrants went up 109% over the year before, rising to 1,203. Similarly, the number of Bangladeshi minors in ORR custody increased about 221% between fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2018, reaching 392.

    Ali Riaz, a professor at Illinois State University, said Bangladeshis are leaving the country for reasons including high population density, high unemployment among the young, a deteriorating political environment and the “quest for a better life.”

    In October, Myriam Hillin, an ORR federal field specialist, was told that ICE had information showing that a number of Bangladeshi migrants in their custody claiming to be underage had passports with different birth dates than on their birth certificates.

    Bochenek said it’s common for migrant children to travel with fake passports that make them appear older, because in some countries minors are more likely to be intercepted or questioned by immigration agents.

    While I.J. was able to regain status as a minor, three Bangladeshi migrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally in the San Diego area in October 2018 are still trying to convince the government they are underage.

    Their passports didn’t match their birth certificates. Dental exams ordered by immigration officials found that each of them had about an 89% likelihood of being adults.

    “Both subjects were adamant that the passports were given to them by the ‘agent’ (smuggler), however, there is little reason to lie to any of the countries they flew into,” wrote one Border Patrol agent, describing the arrest of two of the migrants. “Also, it is extremely difficult to fake a passport, especially for no reason. I have seen [unaccompanied children] fly into each of the countries (except for Panama and Costa Rica) and pass through with no problem. This is a recent trend with Bangladeshis. They do it in order to be released from DHS custody faster.”

    During interviews, the young migrants, Shahadat, Shahriar and Tareq, told asylum officers that smugglers had given them the passports, according to records from the interviews.

    When asked why they had been given those birth dates, they said it had something to do with smugglers’ plans for their travel.

    “I don’t have that much idea,” Shahadat told an asylum officer, according to the officer’s notes in a summary-style transcript. “When I asked why, they told me that if I don’t give this [date of birth] there will be problems with travel.”

    Shahriar told the officer that the smuggler became aggressive when questioned.

    The migrants have submitted copies of birth certificates, school documents and signed statements from their parents attesting to their claimed birth dates. An online database of birth records maintained by the government of Bangladesh appears to confirm their date of birth claims.

    Shahriar also provided his parents’ birth certificates. If he were as old as immigration officials believe him to be, his mother would have been 12 years old when she had him.

    In each case, immigration officials stood by the passport dates.

    Shahadat and Shahriar are being held in Otay Mesa Detention Center. Tareq was held at the facility for months before being released on a $7,500 bond. All three are moving through the immigration system as adults, with asylum proceedings their only option to stay in the U.S..

    At least one of the migrants, Shahadat, was placed in administrative segregation, a version of solitary confinement in immigration detention, when his age came into question, according to documents provided by their attorney.

    A judge ordered him deported.

    https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-immigrant-age-migrants-ice-dental-teeth-bangladesh-20190602-story.
    #tests_osseux #os #âge #USA #Etats-Unis #mineurs #enfants #enfance #rétention #détention_administrative #dents #migrations #asile #réfugiés #USA #Etats-Unis

  • How New York could respond to the taxi medallion lending crisis | CSNY
    https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/policy/infrastructure/how-new-york-could-respond-to-taxi-medallion-lending-crisis.html

    Experts and lawmakers weigh in on easing the pain of burdened medallion owners and preventing predatory lending in the future.
    By ANNIE MCDONOUGH
    MAY 22, 2019

    After a two-part New York Times investigation into predatory lending practices for taxi medallions delineated how industry leaders and government agencies participated in, encouraged or ignored risky lending, calls for action sprang forth – sometimes from the very same officials or agencies that had been asleep at the switch.

    Various deceptive or exploitative lending practices contributed to the rise and precipitous fall of taxi medallions in New York City. Medallions worth $200,000 in 2002 rose to more than $1 million in 2014, before crashing to less than $200,000. The bubble was inflated by loans made without down payments, requirements that loans had to be paid back in three years or extended with inflated interest rates, and interest-only loans that required borrowers to forfeit legal rights and give up much of their income. Borrowers – typically low-income, immigrant drivers – were left in the lurch when the bubble burst, an event that the taxi industry has long blamed primarily on the rise of app-based ride hail services like Uber and Lyft. While the rise of app-based ride hail did contribute to the now-ailing taxi industry, the revelations in the Times show government officials – including the Taxi and Limousine Commission which acted as a “cheerleader” for medallion sales – ignored the warning signs.

    Since Sunday, when the first Times story was published, New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced an inquiry into the business and lending practices that “may have created” the crisis, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a joint probe by the TLC, Department of Finance and Department of Consumer Affairs into the brokers who helped arrange the loans, Sen. Chuck Schumer called for an investigation into the credit unions involved in the lending, and members of the New York City Council and state Legislature, and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, have called for hearings and legislation to resolve the issue.

    The various proposals raised thus far are unlikely to fully address the damage caused to many medallion owners, some experts say. The Times investigation found that since 2016, more than 950 taxi drivers have filed for bankruptcy, with thousands more still suffering under the crippling loans. This is combined with a string of taxi and other professional drivers who have committed suicide in the past year and a half.

    Some of the solutions offered have focused on preventing the kind of reckless lending practices exhibited for taxi medallions. Stringer called on state lawmakers to close a loophole that allows lenders to classify their loans as business deals – as opposed to consumer loans, which have more protections for borrowers. A bill introduced last week by state Sen. Jessica Ramos would also establish a program to assist medallion owners who are unable to obtain financing, refinancing or restructuring of an existing loan through a loan loss reserve. State Sen. James Sanders and Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, who chair the state Legislature’s committees on banks, declined to comment.

    But classifying loans for medallions as consumer loans might not be appropriate, said Bruce Schaller, a transportation expert and former deputy commissioner at the New York City Department of Transportation. “I think the difficult question with the individual drivers is that they are in business, they are planning to make money off of their increase in medallion prices. Should they have the same protections as someone who is taking out a mortgage on a house, who is presumed to be very vulnerable?” he asked. “That may well be the case, but (drivers) are also in a business in a way that the prospective homeowner isn’t.”

    The TLC told the Times that it is the responsibility of bank examiners to control lending practices, while the state Department of Financial Services said that it supervised some of the banks involved, but often deferred to federal inspectors. “The TLC is gravely concerned that unsound lending practices have hurt taxi drivers and has raised these concerns publicly,” Acting Commissioner Bill Heinzen said in an emailed statement. “Banks and credit unions are regulated by federal agencies that have substantial oversight powers that the TLC does not have. The TLC has taken steps within our regulatory power to help owners and drivers by easing regulatory burdens and working with City Council to limit the number of for-hire vehicles on the road. We have pushed banks to restructure loan balances and payment amounts to reflect actual trip revenue.”

    Seth Stein, a spokesman for de Blasio, also mentioned interest in preventing risky lending practices. “We are deeply concerned about predatory lending in the medallion business,” Stein wrote in an email. “While TLC has no direct regulatory oversight over lenders – that is squarely under the purview of federal regulators – we continue to look for every means of helping owners and drivers make ends meet. We’ve discontinued medallion sales, secured a cap on app-based for-hire-vehicles, and we strongly urge federal regulators to do more as well.”

    But remedies at the federal level may not be realistic, according to David King, a professor of urban planning at Arizona State University, with a speciality in transportation and land use planning. “There doesn’t seem to be any appetite for what would be reasonable lending standards. Reasonable standards that would include verifiable collateral or values that were based on something other than made-up dollar amounts,” King said, adding that he doesn’t see those changes being made under the current administration. “The housing bubble of 11 years ago, I think that was a sufficiently national concern that has inspired some movement from Washington. Whereas I think something like an asset bubble in New York, just like an asset bubble in one region, isn’t going to be enough to spur federal legislation.”

    Schaller said that while lending regulation fixes could be beneficial for preventing this kind of crisis in other industries, there’s action that can be taken now by the city to alleviate some pain. “The real question is, if the city now decides that they were part of the fraud, then they should refund the money,” he said. “It’s one thing to close a loophole, it’s another thing to decide that you need to make restitution.”

    City Councilman Mark Levine, who has been working on legislation along those lines for nearly a year, agreed that the city needs to take responsibility. “There has been a lot of attention to the whole industry of lenders and brokers who push these loans on the drivers in ways that were not transparent and really deceived them, and may very well constitute some sort of legal fraud,” he said. “But the city itself also bears responsibility for this, because we were selling medallions with the goal of bringing in revenue to the city and we were promoting them and pumping them up in ways that I think masks the true risks that drivers were taking on. And, most egregiously, we had a round of sales in 2014 when it was abundantly clear that we were headed for a price drop, because by that point app-based competitors had emerged and there were other challenges.”

    Levine’s vision for immediately helping those drivers still suffering under unsustainable loans would involve the city acquiring the loans from lenders who either cannot or will not be flexible with borrowers, and then forgiving the debts. Though the bill hasn’t been introduced yet, the idea is to partially finance the buy-back by placing a surcharge on app-based ride-hail companies like Uber and Lyft. Levine’s office is still working on confirming that the City Council would have the authority to levy that kind of surcharge. If it doesn’t, they would encourage that action be taken in Albany.

    But, as the Times’ investigation into the issue has revealed, much of the damage to drivers and medallion owners has already been done – including to the hundreds of medallion owners who have declared bankruptcy. “If someone paid $800,000 for a medallion loan and paid part of that off, and has had their house repossessed, now Mark Levine is saying, ‘well, we’ll just refund whatever’s left dangling out there,’” Schaller said. “If I were on the losing end of that bargain, I’d say I want my $800,000 back.”

    The idea of a buy-back, Levine admitted, is not a perfect solution, but it’s one he said can help the thousands of medallion owners stuck right now. “It would not address that kind of horrible, horrible hardship,” he said, referring to those owners who have forfeited assets and sustained other losses.

    If there’s any upside to the stories relayed in the Times about medallion owners financially devastated by bad loans and the failing taxi industry, it may be that it’s a call to action – even if it’s coming too late for some. “It’s had a dramatic impact on the interest in the Council about finding solutions,” Levine said of the heavy punch packed by the Times’ investigation. “It gives new impetus to this effort, which is good, because it’s complicated, and it’s going to require a political push to make it happen. The revelations in this article made that more likely.”

    Annie McDonough is a tech and policy reporter at City & State.

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • How We Investigated the New York Taxi Medallion Bubble - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/22/reader-center/taxi-medallion-investigation.html

    It took a year, 450 interviews and a database built from scratch to answer a simple question: Why had anyone ever agreed to pay $1 million for the right to drive a yellow cab?

    By Brian M. Rosenthal
    May 22, 2019

    Times Insider explains who we are and what we do, and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together.

    The story started, like a lot of stories seem to, with President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen.

    On April 9, 2018, the F.B.I. raided Mr. Cohen’s office, thrusting him into the national spotlight. The next day, the top editors at The New York Times asked five reporters to start working on a profile. I was one of them.

    The other reporters researched Mr. Cohen’s family, his legal career, his real estate interests and, of course, his work for the president. I took on the last piece of his business empire: his ownership of 30 New York taxi medallions, the coveted permits needed to own a yellow cab.

    After a few weeks of reporting, the team learned enough to publish our story on Mr. Cohen. And I discovered enough to know what I wanted to investigate next.

    At that time, the taxi industry was becoming a big story. Mr. Cohen had owned his medallions as an investment, counting on them rising in value because of the city’s decision to issue only about 13,000 permits. But thousands of the medallions were owned by drivers themselves, and two driver-owners had just died by suicide. Public officials were talking about how the price of a medallion had plummeted from over $1 million to under $150,000. Most were blaming ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

    I had a different question: Why had anybody ever paid $1 million for the right to the grueling job of being a cabby?

    When I pursue an investigation, I identify the single most important question that I am trying to answer, and orient all of my reporting around it. (For example, why did it cost more to build subway track in New York than anywhere else in the world? Or why did Texas have the lowest special education rate in the country?) In this case, I ended up interviewing about 450 people, and I asked almost all the same question: Why did the price reach $1 million? It became my North Star.

    I heard plenty of theories, but I began to get somewhere only when I had an epiphany: No driver-owner had ever really paid close to $1 million for a medallion. On paper, thousands of low-income immigrants had. But while they had poured their life savings into their purchase, virtually all had signed loans for most of the cost — and never really had a chance to repay.

    I needed to examine as many loans as possible, to see if they were as unusual and reckless — and predatory — as some of my sources said they were. But how?

    I got a lead from an unexpected source: the lenders themselves.

    After prices had started crashing, the lenders in the industry had tried to squeeze money out of borrowers. Many of them had filed lawsuits against borrowers — lawsuits which had to include copies of the loans.

    I ultimately reviewed 500 of these loans, and I saw disturbing patterns: Almost none of them included a large down payment. Almost all of them required the borrower to repay everything within three years, which was impossible. There were a lot of interest-only loans, and a wide variety of fees, including charges for paying loans off too early. Many of the loans required borrowers to sign away their legal rights.

    Armed with the loan documents, I started calling dozens of current and former industry bankers, brokers, lawyers and investors. Some pointed me to disclosures that lenders had filed with the government, which were enormously helpful. Others shared internal records, which were even better.

    New York City did not have reliable digital data on medallion sales, so I used paper records to build a database of all the 10,888 sales between 1995 and 2018. The city taxi commission had never analyzed the financial records submitted by medallion buyers, so I did. Nobody knew how many medallion owners had gone bankrupt because of the crisis, so I convinced my boss to pay a technology company, Epiq, to create a program that sped through court records and spat out a tentative list — and then two news assistants helped me verify every result.

    As I dug into the data and the documents, I sought out driver-owners. I wanted to understand what they had been through. To find them, I went to Kennedy International Airport.

    The fare from taking someone from the airport into Manhattan can make a cabby’s day, and so drivers wait in line for hours. And over several visits during a couple of months, I waited with them, striking up conversations outside a food stand run by a Greek family and next to pay phones that had stopped working years ago. After talking briefly, I asked if I could visit their homes and meet their friends.

    In all, I met 200 taxi drivers, including several I interviewed through translators because they did not speak English fluently. (Some of those men still had signed loans of up to $1 million.) One by one, they told me how they had come to New York seeking the American dream, worked hard and gotten trapped in loans they did not understand, which often made them give up almost all of their monthly income. Several said that after the medallion bubble burst, wiping out their savings and their futures, they had contemplated suicide. One said he had already attempted it.

    The day after we began publishing our findings, city officials announced they were exploring ways to help these driver-owners, and the mayor and state attorney general said they were going to investigate the people who channeled them into the loans.

    In the end, the three front-page stories that we published this week about the taxi industry barely mentioned Mr. Cohen at all.

    But they did something much more important: They told the stories of Mohammed Hoque, of Jean Demosthenes and of Wael Ghobrayal.

    Brian M. Rosenthal is an investigative reporter on the Metro Desk. Previously, he covered state government for the Houston Chronicle and for The Seattle Times. @brianmrosenthal

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • Inquiries Into Reckless Loans to Taxi Drivers Ordered by State Attorney General and Mayor - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/20/nyregion/nyc-taxi-medallion-loans-attorney-general.html

    May 20, 2019 - The investigations come after The New York Times found that thousands of drivers were crushed under debt they could not repay.

    The New York attorney general’s office said Monday it had opened an inquiry into more than a decade of lending practices that left thousands of immigrant taxi drivers in crushing debt, while Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered a separate investigation into the brokers who helped arrange the loans.

    The efforts marked the government’s first steps toward addressing a crisis that has engulfed the city’s yellow cab industry. They came a day after The New York Times published a two-part investigation revealing that a handful of taxi industry leaders artificially inflated the price of a medallion — the coveted permit that allows a driver to own and operate a cab — and made hundreds of millions of dollars by issuing reckless loans to low-income buyers.

    The investigation also found that regulators at every level of government ignored warning signs, and the city fed the frenzy by selling medallions and promoting them in ads as being “better than the stock market.”

    The price of a medallion rose to more than $1 million before crashing in late 2014, which left borrowers with debt they had little hope of repaying. More than 950 medallion owners have filed for bankruptcy, and thousands more are struggling to stay afloat.

    The findings also drew a quick response from other elected officials. The chairman of the Assembly’s banking committee, Kenneth Zebrowski, a Democrat, said his committee would hold a hearing on the issue; the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, said he was drafting legislation; and several other officials in New York and Albany called for the government to pressure lenders to soften loan terms.

    The biggest threat to the industry leaders appeared to be the inquiry by the attorney general, Letitia James, which will aim to determine if the lenders engaged in any illegal activity.

    “Our office is beginning an inquiry into the disturbing reports regarding the lending and business practices that may have created the taxi medallion crisis,” an office spokeswoman said in a statement. “These allegations are serious and must be thoroughly scrutinized.”

    Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said through a spokesman that he supported the inquiry. “If any of these businesses or lenders did something wrong, they deserve to be held fully accountable,” the spokesman said in a statement.

    Lenders did not respond to requests for comment. Previously, they denied wrongdoing, saying regulators had approved all of their practices and some borrowers had made poor decisions and assumed too much debt. Lenders blamed the crisis on the city for allowing ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft to enter without regulation, which they said led medallion values to plummet.

    Mr. de Blasio said the city’s investigation will focus on the brokers who arranged the loans for drivers and sometimes lent money themselves.

    “The 45-day review will identify and penalize brokers who have taken advantage of buyers and misled city authorities,” the mayor said in a statement. “The review will set down strict new rules that prevent broker practices that hurt hard-working drivers.”

    Four of the city’s biggest taxi brokers did not respond to requests for comment.

    Bhairavi Desai, founder of the Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents drivers and independent owners, said the city should not get to investigate the business practices because it was complicit in many of them.

    The government has already closed or merged all of the nonprofit credit unions that were involved in the industry, saying they participated in “unsafe and unsound banking practices.” At least one credit union leader, Alan Kaufman, the former chief executive of Melrose Credit Union, a major medallion lender, is facing civil charges.

    The other lenders in the industry include Medallion Financial, a specialty finance company; some major banks, including Capital One and Signature Bank; and several loosely regulated taxi fleet owners and brokers who entered the lending business.

    At City Hall, officials said Monday they were focused on how to help the roughly 4,000 drivers who bought medallions during the bubble, as well as thousands of longtime owners who were encouraged to refinance their loans to take out more money during that period.

    One city councilman, Mark Levine, said he was drafting a bill that would allow the city to buy medallion loans from lenders and then forgive much of the debt owed by the borrowers. He said lenders likely would agree because they are eager to exit the business. But he added that his bill would force lenders to sell at discounted prices.

    “The city made hundreds of millions by pumping up sales of wildly overpriced medallions — as late as 2014 when it was clear that these assets were poised to decline,” said Mr. Levine, a Democrat. “We have an obligation now to find some way to offer relief to the driver-owners whose lives have been ruined.”

    Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller, proposed a similar solution in a letter to the mayor. He said the city should convene the lenders and pressure them to partially forgive loans.

    “These lenders too often dealt in bad faith with a group of hard-working, unsuspecting workers who deserved much better and have yet to receive any measure of justice,” wrote Mr. Stringer, who added that the state should close a loophole that allowed the lenders to classify their loans as business deals, which have looser regulations.

    Last November, amid a spate of suicides by taxi drivers, including three medallion owners with overwhelming debt, the Council created a task force to study the taxi industry.

    On Monday, a spokesman for the speaker, Mr. Johnson, said that members of the task force would be appointed very soon. He also criticized the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the city agency that sold the medallions.

    “We will explore every tool we have to ensure that moving forward, the T.L.C. protects medallion owners and drivers from predatory actors including lenders, medallion brokers, and fleet managers,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement.

    Another councilman, Ritchie Torres, who heads the Council’s oversight committee, disclosed Monday for the first time that he had been trying to launch his own probe since last year, but had been stymied by the taxi commission. “The T.L.C. hasn’t just been asleep at the wheel, they have been actively stonewalling,” he said.

    A T.L.C. spokesman declined to comment.

    In Albany, several lawmakers also said they were researching potential bills.

    One of them, Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou of Manhattan, a member of the committee on banks, said she hoped to pass legislation before the end of the year. She said the state agencies involved in the crisis, including the Department of Financial Services, should be examined.

    “My world has been shaken right now, to be honest,” Ms. Niou said.

    Brian M. Rosenthal is an investigative reporter on the Metro Desk. Previously, he covered state government for the Houston Chronicle and for The Seattle Times. @brianmrosenthal

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • Sunk Costs. The border wall is more expensive than you think.

    When the federal government builds a border wall, the taxpayer foots two bills. First, there’s the cost to get the thing built, a figure proclaimed in presidential budget requests and press accounts. And second, there’s a slew of concealed costs — expenditures that hide in general operations budgets, arise from human error or kick in years down the line. In the Trump era, those twin outlays combine to make the wall outlandishly expensive.

    Excluding the hidden costs, Trump’s wall is running taxpayers a cool $25 million per mile, up nearly fourfold from just a decade ago. To understand why, it helps to know a little border history. In 1907, the U.S. government took possession of a 60-foot-wide strip of land along the U.S.-Mexico border from California to New Mexico as a buffer zone against smuggling. During his second term, George W. Bush built much of his border wall on this government-owned land. But in Texas, the vast majority of border real estate is privately owned, forcing the government to seize property all along the Rio Grande if it wants to build a barrier. That extra burden is a main reason the Lone Star State hosts a small fraction of existing border fence.

    Then there’s the terrain. For example, in Starr County, an unfenced swath of South Texas that’s high on Customs and Border Protection’s priority list, Trump plans to build on the Rio Grande’s craggy, erosion-prone bank — an engineering challenge that adds millions of dollars per mile. As CBP spokesperson Rick Pauza wrote in an email to the Observer: “Every mile of border is different, and therefore there is no one-size-fits-all cost per mile.” In addition, taxpayers today are buying the luxury edition of the wall: a structure that’s up to 12 feet taller than the Bush-era fence and buffered by a 150-foot “enforcement zone.”

    But all that’s only part of the story. Not included in the $25 million-per-mile figure is a suite of hidden expenses. Among them:

    Routine Maintenance and Operation. Border barriers are potent political symbols. They’re also physical structures that accumulate debris, degrade and break over time. In 2009, CBP estimated that operating and maintaining $2.4 billion worth of fencing, along with associated roads and technology, would cost $3.5 billion over 20 years — almost 50 percent more than the original cost.

    Breaches. Depending on design, border fences can be cut through using either bolt cutters or power tools. From 2010 to 2015, fencing was breached 9,287 times, according to the Government Accountability Office. At an average repair cost of $784, the government spent $7.3 million patching those holes in the wall. And the more new wall, the more breaches.

    Waste. In November 2011, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General issued a scathing report regarding procurement of steel for the border fence. “CBP purchased more steel than needed, incurred additional storage costs, paid interest on late payments, and approved a higher-priced subcontractor, resulting in additional expenditures of about $69 million,” the report read.

    Department of Justice Litigation. Every time landowners refuse to sell their land for the wall, the Department of Justice must take them to court. According to a 2012 planning document prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that legal process costs about $90,000 per tract of land. In sparsely populated Starr County — where property has been passed down for hundreds of years, often without legal record — almost every case must go to court to determine ownership. That money is unaccounted for in congressional appropriations for the wall; it comes instead from the DOJ’s general budget.

    Advertising. When the DOJ wants to take Texans’ property for the wall, the agency must sometimes issue notice to potential heirs in the local newspapers. So far, a DOJ spokesperson said, the agency has done so three times in the Rio Grande Valley — cramming many cases into a single publication. Each instance cost the DOJ about $100,000. At a November court hearing in McAllen, a DOJ attorney lamented the state of local media. “We have one person or corporation who owns both papers — so we can’t really negotiate,” he said. “So it’s a large expenditure.”


    https://www.texasobserver.org/the-border-wall-is-more-expensive-than-you-think
    #murs #barrières_frontalières #coût #prix #coûts_cachés #frontières #USA #Etats-Unis

  • Nation’s first opioid trial could set precedent for massive pharma payouts - POLITICO
    https://www.politico.com/story/2019/05/28/opioid-trial-pharma-payouts-1344953

    The Oklahoma trial, which will be broadcast online, is expected to last for much of the summer, putting a national spotlight on the opioid crisis, which is still killing 130 people in the United States every day. The testimony will focus on how much manufacturers of highly addictive painkillers are to blame for getting patients hooked on opioids through misleading medical claims and aggressive marketing practices.

    The trial involving Johnson & Johnson will be closely watched by the hundreds of parties participating in the larger multi-district litigation overseen by U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster, who has been pushing for a massive settlement before the first of those cases go to trial in the fall.

    “It’s going to be one of the first times that there will be evidence presented in an open forum about how we got to where we are,” said Joe Rice, co-lead counsel in the federal litigation targeting drugmakers and distributors in Ohio. “That’s a big question that a lot of people in the health community want to know. … Why and how did we get here?”

    On Sunday, Oklahoma also announced an $85 million settlement with Teva. That left Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals as the sole remaining defendant, barring a last-minute settlement.

    Purdue and its owners, the Sackler family, settled with Oklahoma for $270 million in March, which some state lawmakers and public health experts condemned as too meager. The biggest chunk of that settlement, $200 million, will be used to establish a new addiction treatment center at the University of Oklahoma. Another $60 million will be paid to attorneys involved in the case, and just $12 million will filter down to cities and towns struggling to deal with the addiction epidemic.

    Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter stressed that the settlement was the best option because of the threat that Purdue would declare bankruptcy and the state might end up with nothing. But that means Oklahoma’s attorneys will have to make the potentially trickier case that other, less notorious players in the opioid pipeline created a “public nuisance” in the state by pushing misleading medical claims.

    #Opioides #Oklahoma #Sackler

  • 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/

  • Why are so many people dying in US prisons and jails? | US news | The Guardian

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/may/26/us-prisons-jails-inmate-deaths

    On 10 July 2015, 28-year-old Sandra Bland was pulled over in Prairie View, Texas, for what she was told by Texas state trooper Brian Encinia was failing to use her turn signal.

    Three days after Bland’s arrest, she was found dead in her jail cell. The death was ruled a suicide but remains shrouded in mystery over how a wrongful arrest stemming from a minor traffic violation resulted in death.

    “She was arrested and alleged to have put this officer’s life and safety in jeopardy. Really what happened is he didn’t like that his authority was questioned,” attorney Cannon Lambert, who represented Bland’s family, told the Guardian.

    #états-unis #prison #droits_humains

  • Statement by AAG regarding #Harassment_Free_Meetings and Recent Incidents

    The AAG is fully committed to having harassment free meetings. We have recently implemented a new wide-ranging Harassment Free AAG meetings policy that was rolled out at the Washington, DC meeting, and it has already made a positive contribution. The AAG is now compiling all the information currently available on each of the five harassment incidents which have been reported at the recent Annual Meeting. We have presented this information to our attorney, and will be undertaking formal investigations of each of the incidents as promptly as legally possible. The AAG also has a legally-reviewed policy in place on how to proceed regarding such incidents, and a special AAG Committee to handle these cases. That process is moving forward now on each of these incidents as rapidly as possible, and each will be thoroughly investigated, and enforceable sanctions will be forthcoming as warranted.

    http://annualmeeting.aag.org/conduct
    #science #université #congrès #conférences #conférences_scientifiques #sexisme #résistance #harcèlement #harcèlement_sexuel #AAG #géographie

    ping @reka

    • Geography, Green Resolutions, and Graduation

      Complex organizations have complex interests and responsibilities, especially in the 21st century. My October 2018 Column reminded us to keep our eyes on the prize of equity for all. Together, we Geographers have worked diligently over the last several years to shine a light on equity and banish harassment and bullying from our meetings, our places of work, and our lives. We have more work to do, but we do have a heightened awareness, and a strong, renewed resolve to move forward with justice. Even though we have a strong Statement of Ethics (2009) condemning workplace harassment and discrimination, we further renewed our resolve to fight bullying and harassment with the Harassment Free AAG Initiative of 2019 (Please also remember to take the Post-Meeting Survey). And we will keep working to improve the climate for all. While keeping an eye on our social and civil well-being, the well-being of our planet also needs our attention and actions as strongly as ever. Protecting the civil rights and human rights of scientists helps to advance and protect science, to the benefit of people and the planet.

      http://news.aag.org/2019/05/geography-green-resolutions-and-graduation

  • Comment Israël arme les dictatures à travers le monde

    Arming dictators, equipping pariahs: Alarming picture of Israel’s arms sales - Israel News - Haaretz.com

    Extensive Amnesty report cites Israeli sales to eight countries who violate human rights, including South Sudan, Myanmar, Mexico and the UAE ■ Amnesty calls on Israel to adopt oversight model adopted by many Western countries ■ Senior Israeli defense official: Export license is only granted after lengthy process
    Amos Harel
    May 17, 2019 5:59 AM

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-arming-dictators-equipping-pariahs-an-alarming-picture-of-israel-s

    A thorough report by Amnesty International is harshly critical of Israel’s policies on arms exports. According to the report written in Hebrew by the organization’s Israeli branch, Israeli companies continue to export weapons to countries that systematically violate human rights. Israeli-made weapons are also found in the hands of armies and organizations committing war crimes. The report points to eight such countries that have received arms from Israel in recent years.

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    Often these weapons reach their destination after a series of transactions, thereby skirting international monitoring and the rules of Israel itself. Amnesty calls on the government, the Knesset and the Defense Ministry to more tightly monitor arms exports and enforce transparency guidelines adopted by other Western countries that engage in large-scale weapons exports.

    In the report, Amnesty notes that the supervision of the arms trade is “a global, not a local issue. The desire and need for better monitoring of global arms sales derives from tragic historical events such as genocide, bloody civil wars and the violent repression of citizens by their governments …. There is a new realization that selling arms to governments and armies that employ violence only fuels violent conflicts and leads to their escalation. Hence, international agreements have been reached with the aim of preventing leaks of military equipment to dictatorial or repressive regimes.”

    >> Read more: Revealed: Israel’s cyber-spy industry helps world dictators hunt dissidents and gays

    The 2014 Arms Trade Treaty established standards for trade in conventional weapons. Israel signed the treaty but the cabinet never ratified it. According to Amnesty, Israel has never acted in the spirit of this treaty, neither by legislation nor its policies.

    “There are functioning models of correct and moral-based monitoring of weapons exports, including the management of public and transparent reporting mechanisms that do not endanger a state’s security or foreign relations,” Amnesty says. “Such models were established by large arms exporters such as members of the European Union and the United States. There is no justification for the fact that Israel continues to belong to a dishonorable club of exporters such as China and Russia.”

    In 2007, the Knesset passed a law regulating the monitoring of weapons exports. The law authorizes the Defense Ministry to oversee such exports, manage their registration and decide on the granting of export licenses. The law defines defense-related exports very broadly, including equipment for information-gathering, and forbids trade in such items without a license.
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    The law does not include a clause limiting exports when there is a high probability that these items will be used in violation of international or humanitarian laws. But the law does prohibit “commerce with foreign agencies that are not in compliance with UN Security Council resolutions that prohibit or limit a transfer of such weapons or missiles to such recipients.”

    According to Amnesty, “the absence of monitoring and transparency have for decades let Israel supply equipment and defense-related knowledge to questionable states and dictatorial or unstable regimes that have been shunned by the international community.”

    The report quotes a 2007 article by Brig. Gen. (res.) Uzi Eilam. “A thick layer of fog has always shrouded the export of military equipment. Destinations considered pariah states by the international community, such as Chile in the days of Pinochet or South Africa during the apartheid years, were on Israel’s list of trade partners,” Eilam wrote.

    “The shroud of secrecy helped avoid pressure by the international community, but also prevented any transparency regarding decisions to sell arms to problematic countries, leaving the judgment and decision in the hands of a small number of people, mainly in the defense establishment.”

    The report presents concrete evidence on Israel’s exports over the last two decades, with arms going to eight countries accused by international institutions of serious human rights violations: South Sudan, Myanmar, the Philippines, Cameroon, Azerbaijan, Sri Lanka, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates. In some of these cases, Israel denied that it exported arms to these countries at specifically mentioned times. In other case it refused to give details.
    Israeli security-related exports

    In its report, Amnesty relies on the research of other human rights groups, on documentation published in the media in those eight countries, and on information gathered by attorney Eitay Mack, who in recent years has battled to expose Israel’s arms deals with shady regimes. Amnesty cross-checks descriptions of exported weapons with human rights violations and war crimes by those countries. In its report, Amnesty says that some of these countries were under sanctions and a weapons-sales embargo, but Israel continued selling them arms.

    According to the organization, “the law on monitoring in its current format is insufficient and has not managed to halt the export of weapons to Sri Lanka, which massacred many of its own citizens; to South Sudan, where the regime and army committed ethnic cleansing and aggravated crimes against humanity such as the mass rape of hundreds of women, men and girls; to Myanmar, where the army committed genocide and the chief of staff, who carried out the arms deal with Israel, is accused of these massacres and other crimes against humanity; and to the Philippines, where the regime and police executed 15,000 civilians without any charges or trials.”

    Amnesty says that this part of the report “is not based on any report by the Defense Ministry relating to military equipment exports, for the simple reason that the ministry refuses to release any information. The total lack of transparency by Israel regarding weapons exports prevents any public discussion of the topic and limits any research or public action intended to improve oversight.”

    One example is the presence of Israeli-made Galil Ace rifles in the South Sudanese army. “With no documentation of sales, one cannot know when they were sold, by which company, how many, and so on,” the report says.

    “All we can say with certainty is that the South Sudanese army currently has Israeli Galil rifles, at a time when there is an international arms embargo on South Sudan, imposed by the UN Security Council, due to ethnic cleansing, as well as crimes against humanity, using rape as a method of war, and due to war crimes the army is perpetrating against the country’s citizens.”

    According to Amnesty, the defense export control agency at the Defense Ministry approved the licenses awarded Israeli companies for selling weapons to these countries, even though it knew about the bad human rights situation there. It did this despite the risk that Israeli exports would be used to violate human rights and despite the embargo on arms sales imposed on some of these countries by the United States and the European Union, as well as other sanctions that were imposed by these countries or the United Nations.

    In response to letters written to the export control agency, its head, Rachel Chen, said: “We can’t divulge whether we’re exporting to one of these countries, but we carefully examine the state of human rights in each country before approving export licenses for selling them weapons.” According to Amnesty, this claim is false, as shown by the example of the eight countries mentioned in the report.

    Amnesty recommends steps for improving the monitoring of defense exports. It says Israel lags American legislation by 20 years, and European legislation by 10 years. “The lack of transparency has further negative implications, such as hiding information from the public,” Amnesty says.
    File photo: Personnel of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF), assigned as South Sundan’s presidential guard, take part in a drill at their barracks in Rejaf, South Sudan, April 26, 2019.
    File photo: Personnel of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF), assigned as South Sundan’s presidential guard, take part in a drill at their barracks in Rejaf, South Sudan, April 26, 2019.Alex McBride/AFP

    “The concept by which the Defense Ministry operates is that it is not in the public interest to know which countries buy weapons here, how much and under what conditions. This is an erroneous conception that stems from the wish to conceal, using the well-worn cloak of ‘issues of state security and foreign relations’ as an excuse,” it adds.

    “The veil of secrecy makes it hard to obtain data. In our humble opinion, the information we have gathered and presented in this report is the tip of the iceberg. Most of the evidence is based on official reports issued by the recipient states, such as the Facebook page of the chief of staff in Myanmar, or the site of the Philippine government’s spokesman.”

    The authors say attempts to maintain secrecy in an era of social media and global media coverage are absurd and doomed to fail.

    “Let the reasonable reader ask himself if the powers that sell weapons are concerned about harm to state security resulting from making the information accessible, or whether this is just an excuse, with the veil of secrecy protecting the interests of certain agencies in Israel.”

    Amnesty says Israel ranks eighth among the exporters of heavy weapons around the world. Between 2014 and 2018, Israel’s defense exports comprised 3.1 percent of global sales. Compared with the previous four years, this was a 60 percent increase. The three largest customers of heavy weapons sold by Israel are India, Azerbaijan and Vietnam.

    But the report says defense industries are not the largest or most lucrative contributors to Israeli exports. According to the Defense Ministry, defense exports comprise 10 percent of Israel’s industrial exports. “Defense-related companies in Israel export to 130 countries around the world,” the report says. “Of these, only a minority are countries designated by the UN and the international community as violators of human rights.”

    These are mostly poor countries and the scope of defense exports to them is small compared to the rest of Israel’s exports. According to Amnesty, banning exports to the eight countries would not sting Israel’s defense contractors or their profits, and would certainly not have a public impact. “There is no justification – economic, diplomatic, security-related or strategic – to export weapons to these countries,” the report says.

    Amnesty believes that “the situation is correctable. Israel’s government and the Defense Ministry must increase their monitoring and transparency, similar to what the vast majority of large weapons exporters around the world do except for Russia and China.”

    According to Amnesty, this should be done by amending the law regulating these exports, adding two main clauses. The first would prohibit the awarding of licenses to export to a country with a risk of serious human rights violations, based on international humanitarian law.

    The second would set up a committee to examine the human rights situation in any target state. The committee would include people from outside the defense establishment and the Foreign Ministry such as academics and human rights activists, as is customary in other countries.

    “Monitoring must not only be done, it must be seen, and the Israeli public has every right to know what is done in its name and with its resources, which belong to everyone,” the report says.

    A policy of obscurity

    A senior defense official who read the Amnesty report told Haaretz that many of its claims have been discussed in recent years in petitions to the High Court of Justice. The justices have heard petitions relating to South Sudan, Cameroon and Mexico. However, in all cases, the court accepted the state’s position that deliberations would be held with only one side present – the state, and that its rulings would remain classified.
    File photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to a military commander along the Gaza border, southern Israel, March 28, 2019.
    File photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to a military commander along the Gaza border, southern Israel, March 28, 2019.Itay Beit On/GPO

    Monitoring of exports has substantially increased since the law was passed, the official said. The authority endowed to the Defense Ministry by this law, including imposing economic sanctions, prohibition of exports and taking legal action against companies, are more far-reaching than in other countries.

    “The process of obtaining an export license in Israel is lengthy, difficult and imposes onerous regulations on exporters," he added. “When there is evidence of human rights violations in a country buying arms from Israel, we treat this with utmost seriousness in our considerations. The fact is that enlightened states respect the laws we have and are interested in the ways we conduct our monitoring.”

    He admitted that Israel does adopt a policy of obscurity with regard to its arms deals. “We don’t share information on whether or to which country we’ve sold arms,” he said. “We’ve provided all the information to the High Court. The plaintiffs do receive fixed laconic responses, but there are diplomatic and security-related circumstances that justify this.”

    “Other countries can be more transparent but we’re in a different place,” he argued. "We don’t dismiss out of hand discussion of these issues. The questions are legitimate but the decisions and polices are made after all the relevant considerations are taken into account.”

    The intense pace of events in recent months – rounds of violence along the Gaza border, Israel’s election, renewed tension between the U.S. and Iran – have left little time to deal with other issues that make the headlines less frequently.

    Israel is currently in the throes of an unprecedented constitutional and political crisis, the outcome of which will seriously impact its standing as a law-abiding state. If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu succeeds in his plan to halt all legal proceedings against him, legislating an immunity law and restricting the jurisdiction of the High Court, all other issues would pale in comparison.

    There is some logic to the claim that Israel cannot be holier than thou when it comes to arms sales in the global market, and yet, the Amnesty report depicts a horrific image, backed by reliable data, but also makes suggestions for improvement that seem reasonable.

    Numerous reports over the last year show that the problem is not restricted to the sale of light weapons, but might be exacerbated by the spread of cyberwarfare tools developed by Israel and what dark regimes can do with these. Even if it happens through a twisted chain of sub-contractors, the state can’t play innocent. Therefore, it’s worthwhile listening to Amnesty’s criticism and suggestions for improvement.
    Amos Harel

  • The Met Will Turn Down Sackler Money Amid Fury Over the Opioid Crisis - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/15/arts/design/met-museum-sackler-opioids.html

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art said on Wednesday that it would stop accepting gifts from members of the Sackler family linked to the maker of OxyContin, severing ties between one of the world’s most prestigious museums and one of its most prolific philanthropic dynasties.

    The decision was months in the making, and followed steps by other museums, including the Tate Modern in London and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, to distance themselves from the family behind Purdue Pharma. On Wednesday, the American Museum of Natural History said that it, too, had ceased taking Sackler donations.

    The moves reflect the growing outrage over the role the Sacklers may have played in the opioid crisis, as well as an energized activist movement that is starting to force museums to reckon with where some of their money comes from.

    “The museum takes a position of gratitude and respect to those who support us, but on occasion, we feel it’s necessary to step away from gifts that are not in the public interest, or in our institution’s interest,” said Daniel H. Weiss, the president of the Met. “That is what we’re doing here.”

    “There really aren’t that many people who are giving to art and giving to museums, in fact it’s a very small club,” said Tom Eccles, the executive director of the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. “So we have to be a little careful what we wish for here.”

    There is also the difficult question of where to draw a line. What sort of behavior is inexcusable?

    “We are not a partisan organization, we are not a political organization, so we don’t have a litmus test for whom we take gifts from based on policies or politics,” said Mr. Weiss of the Met. “If there are people who want to support us, for the most part we are delighted.”

    “We would only not accept gifts from people if it in some way challenges or is counter to the core mission of the institution, in exceptional cases,” he added. “The OxyContin crisis in this country is a legitimate and full-blown crisis.”

    Three brothers, Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, bought a small company called Purdue Frederick in 1952 and transformed it into the pharmaceutical giant it is today. In 1996, Purdue Pharma put the opioid painkiller OxyContin on the market, fundamentally altering the company’s fortunes.

    The family’s role in the marketing of OxyContin, and in the opioid crisis, has come under increased scrutiny in recent years. Documents submitted this year as part of litigation by the attorney general of Massachusetts allege that members of the Sackler family directed the company’s efforts to mislead the public about the dangers of the highly addictive drug. The company has denied the allegations and said it “neither created nor caused the opioid epidemic.”

    Nan Goldin, a photographer who overcame an OxyContin addiction, has led demonstrations at institutions that receive Sackler money; in March 2018, she and her supporters dumped empty pill bottles in the Sackler Wing’s reflecting pool.

    “We commend the Met for making the ethical, moral decision to refuse future funding from the Sacklers,” a group started by Ms. Goldin, Prescription Addiction Intervention Now, or PAIN, said in a statement. “Fourteen months after staging our first protest there, we’re gratified to know that our voices have been heard.”

    The group also called for the removal of the Sackler name from buildings the family has bankrolled. Mr. Weiss said that the museum would not take the more drastic step of taking the family’s name off the wing, saying that it was not in a position to make permanent changes while litigation against the family was pending and information was still coming to light.

    The Met also said that its board had voted to codify how the museum accepts named gifts, formalizing a longstanding practice of circulating those proposals through a chain of departments. The decision on the Sacklers, Mr. Weiss said, was made by the Met leadership in consultation with the board.

    #Opioides #Sackler #Musées

  • #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

  • Purdue’s Sackler family fights ’inflammatory’ Massachusetts opioid case | Reuters
    https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-opioids-litigation/purdues-sackler-family-fights-inflammatory-massachusetts-opioid-case-idUSL1

    La nouvelle bataille juridique des Sackler : expliquer qu’ils étaient juste les crétins utiles de Purdue Pharma votant les budgets.

    BOSTON, April 2 (Reuters) - Members of the Sackler family behind OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP have asked a judge to toss a lawsuit by Massachusetts’ attorney general claiming they helped fuel the U.S. opioid epidemic, arguing it contains “misleading and inflammatory allegations.”

    The wealthy family in a motion on Monday argued that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who brought the suit, had mischaracterized internal records to create the “false impression” they personally directed privately-held Purdue’s marketing of painkillers.

    Her lawsuit, filed in June in Suffolk County Superior Court and revised earlier this year to include new allegations, was the first by a state to try to hold Sackler family members personally responsible for contributing to the opioid epidemic.

    The case is among roughly 2,000 lawsuits filed by state and local governments seeking to hold Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies responsible for the U.S. opioid crisis.

    Opioids were involved in a record 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017 in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Healey’s complaint cites records to argue that family members, including Purdue’s former President Richard Sackler, personally directed deceptive opioid marketing while making $4.2 billion from Purdue from 2008 to 2016.

    They did so even after Purdue and three executives in 2007 pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the misbranding of OxyContin and agreed to pay a total of $634.5 million in penalties, the lawsuit said.

    Advertisement

    But in their motion, the Sacklers said nothing in the complaint supports allegations they personally took part in efforts to mislead doctors and the public about the benefits and addictive risks of opioids.

    They said their role was limited to that of typical corporate board members who participated in “routine” votes to ratify the management’s staffing and budget proposals.

    “Not a single document shows an individual director engaging in any unlawful conduct regarding the sale of prescription opioids or ordering anyone else to do so,” the Sacklers’ lawyers wrote.

    Healey’s office had no comment.

    At least 35 states have cases pending against Purdue. A handful have also named Sackler family members as defendants, including Richard Sackler, Theresa Sackler and Mortimer D.A. Sackler.

    Last week, Purdue reached its first settlement in the recent wave of lawsuits, agreeing with the Sacklers to a $270 million deal with Oklahoma’s attorney general. The Sacklers were not named as defendants in Oklahoma’s lawsuit.

    Purdue had been exploring filing for bankruptcy before the accord’s announcement, Reuters reported in early March. (Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston Editing by Noeleen Walder and Tom Brown)

    #Opioides #Sackler #Cynisme

  • What you don’t know about your health data will make you sick
    https://www.fastcompany.com/90317471/what-you-dont-know-about-your-health-data-privacy-will-make-you-sick

    Chances are, at least one of you is being monitored by a third party like data analytics giant Optum, which is owned by UnitedHealth Group, Inc. Since 1993, it’s captured medical data—lab results, diagnoses, prescriptions, and more—from 150 million Americans. That’s almost half of the U.S. population.

    “They’re the ones that are tapping the data. They’re in there. I can’t remove them from my own health insurance contracts. So I’m stuck. It’s just part of the system,” says Joel Winston, an attorney who specializes in privacy and data protection law.

    Healthcare providers can legally sell their data to a now-dizzyingly vast spread of companies, who can use it to make decisions, from designing new drugs to pricing your insurance rates to developing highly targeted advertising.

    Yet not all health-related information is protected by privacy rules. Companies can now derive insights about your health from growing piles of so-called “alternative” data that fall outside of HIPAA. This data—what some researchers refer to as your “shadow health record”—can include credit scores, court documents, smartphone locations, sub-prime auto loans, search histories, app activity, and social media posts.

    Your health data can be deployed in alarming ways, privacy experts say. Insurance companies can raise your rate based on a photo on your Instagram feed. Digital advertisers can fold shadow health data into ads that target or discriminate against you. It can even seem invasive and predatory. One trend among personal injury lawyers, for example, is geo-targeted ads to patients’ phones in emergency rooms.

    Uniquely valuable health data is also increasingly the target of hackers, ransomware attacks, breaches, or what some patients call just plain shadiness, which has led to litigation and can ultimately further undermine trust in the healthcare system. A 2017 breach at a New York hospital leaked sensitive information about more than 7,000 patients, including addiction histories, medical diagnoses, and reports of sexual assault and domestic violence. Criminals can use that kind of data to commit identity and insurance fraud.

    “There’s a great deal of trust that’s placed in our interactions with doctors and healthcare institutions,” says Mary Madden, research lead at Data & Society, who studies consumer and health privacy. “The current process of seeking consent for data collection and use in many health settings is often treated as an administrative afterthought, rather than a meaningful exchange that makes patients feel empowered and informed.”

    Your health-related data are compiled into a specialty report akin to the consumer credit reports made famous—or infamous—by Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Insurers claim these reports are crucial to evaluating and pricing risk, and they can use this data to raise your rate, or to deny your application entirely. If your application is rejected—it’s called an “adverse event”—you are legally entitled to receive a copy of your specialty report and to potentially dispute an error.

    “Many people don’t understand that the data from a Fitbit or other health wearable or health device can actually be sold and is, in fact, today being sold. It is being sold for behavioral analytics, for advertising targeting. People don’t understand that is happening,” she told the committee. (After this story was published, a Fitbit spokesperson sent Fast Company a statement saying that the company does not “sell customer personal data, and we do not share customer personal information except in the limited circumstances described in our privacy policy.”)

    The demand for all this data is rising, as it has for years. The health data market was approximately $14.25 billion in 2017, according to BIS Research. The firm predicts that in just under seven years—by the end of 2025—the market will grow nearly five times bigger, to $68.75 billion.

    #Données_médicales #Etats_unis #Assurances

  • ’Endless trip to hell’: Israel jails hundreds of Palestinian boys a year. These are their testimonies - Israel News - Haaretz.com

    (C’est sous paywall)

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE--1.7021978

    They’re seized in the dead of night, blindfolded and cuffed, abused and manipulated to confess to crimes they didn’t commit. Every year Israel arrests almost 1,000 Palestinian youngsters, some of them not yet 13

    #palestine #israel #enfants #violence

    • ’Endless trip to hell’: Israel jails hundreds of Palestinian boys a year. These are their testimonies
      They’re seized in the dead of night, blindfolded and cuffed, abused and manipulated to confess to crimes they didn’t commit. Every year Israel arrests almost 1,000 Palestinian youngsters, some of them not yet 13
      Netta Ahituv | Mar. 14, 2019 | 9:14 PM | 2

      It was a gloomy, typically chilly late-February afternoon in the West Bank village of Beit Ummar, between Bethlehem and Hebron. The weather didn’t deter the children of the Abu-Ayyash family from playing and frolicking outside. One of them, in a Spiderman costume, acted the part by jumping lithely from place to place. Suddenly they noticed a group of Israeli soldiers trudging along the dirt trail across the way. Instantly their expressions turned from joy to dread, and they rushed into the house. It’s not the first time they reacted like that, says their father. In fact, it’s become a pattern ever since 10-year-old Omar was arrested by troops this past December.

      The 10-year-old is one of many hundreds of Palestinian children whom Israel arrests every year: The estimates range between 800 and 1,000. Some are under the age of 15; some are even preteens. A mapping of the locales where these detentions take place reveals a certain pattern: The closer a Palestinian village is to a settlement, the more likely it is that the minors residing there will find themselves in Israeli custody. For example, in the town of Azzun, west of the Karnei Shomron settlement, there’s hardly a household that hasn’t experienced an arrest. Residents say that in the past five years, more than 150 pupils from the town’s only high school have been arrested.

      At any given moment, there are about 270 Palestinian teens in Israeli prisons. The most widespread reason for their arrest – throwing stones – does not tell the full story. Conversations with many of the youths, as well as with lawyers and human rights activists, including those from the B’Tselem human-rights organization, reveal a certain pattern, even as they leave many questions open: For example, why does the occupation require that arrests be violent and why is it necessary to threaten young people.

      A number of Israelis, whose sensibilities are offended by the arrests of Palestinian children, have decided to mobilize and fight the phenomenon. Within the framework of an organization called Parents Against Child Detention, its approximately 100 members are active in the social networks and hold public events “in order to heighten awareness about the scale of the phenomenon and the violation of the rights of Palestinian minors, and in order to create a pressure group that will work for its cessation,” as they explain. Their target audience is other parents, whom they hope will respond with empathy to the stories of these children.

      In general, there seems to be no lack of criticism of the phenomenon. In addition to B’Tselem, which monitors the subject on a regular basis, there’s been a protest from overseas, too. In 2013, UNICEF, the United Nations agency for children, assailed “the ill treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system, [which] appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized.” A report a year earlier from British legal experts concluded that the conditions the Palestinian children are subjected to amount to torture, and just five months ago the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe deplored Israel’s policy of arresting underage children, declaring, “An end must be put to all forms of physical or psychological abuse of children during arrest, transit and waiting periods, and during interrogations.”

      Arrest

      About half of the arrests of Palestinian adolescents are made in their homes. According to the testimonies, Israel Defense Forces soldiers typically burst into the house in the middle of the night, seize the wanted youth and whisk him away (very few girls are detained), leaving the family with a document stating where he’s being taken and on what charge. The printed document is in Arabic and Hebrew, but the commander of the force typically fills out the details in Hebrew only, then hands it to parents who may not be able to read it and don’t know why their son was taken.

      Attorney Farah Bayadsi asks why it’s necessary to arrest children in this manner, instead of summoning them for questioning in an orderly way. (The data show that only 12 percent of the youths receive a summons to be interrogated.)

      “I know from experience that whenever someone is asked to come in for questioning, he goes,” Bayadsi notes. She’s active in the Israeli branch of Defense for Children International, a global NGO that deals with the detention of minors and promotion of their rights.

      “The answer we generally get,” she says, “is that, ‘It’s done this way for security reasons.’ That means it’s a deliberate method, which isn’t intended to meet the underage youth halfway, but to cause him a lifelong trauma.”

      Indeed, as the IDF Spokesman’s Unit stated to Haaretz, in response, “The majority of the arrests, of both adults and minors, are carried out at night for operational reasons and due to the desire to preserve an orderly fabric of life and execute point-specific actions wherever possible.”

      About 40 percent of the minors are detained in the public sphere – usually in the area of incidents involving throwing stones at soldiers. That was the case with Adham Ahsoun, from Azzun. At the time, he was 15 and on his way home from a local grocery store. Not far away, a group of children had started throwing stones at soldiers, before running off. Ahsoun, who didn’t flee, was detained and taken to a military vehicle; once inside, he was hit by a soldier. A few children who saw what happened ran to his house to tell his mother. Grabbing her son’s birth certificate, she rushed to the entrance to the town to prove to the soldiers that he was only a child. But it was too late; the vehicle had already departed, headed to an army base nearby, where he would wait to be interrogated.

      By law, soldiers are supposed to handcuff children with their hands in front, but in many cases it’s done with their hands behind them. Additionally, sometimes the minor’s hands are too small for handcuffing, as a soldier from the Nahal infantry brigade told the NGO Breaking the Silence. On one occasion, he related, his unit arrested a boy “of about 11,” but the handcuffs were too big to bind his small hands.

      The next stage is the journey: The youths are taken to an army base or a police station in a nearby settlement, their eyes covered with flannelette. “When your eyes are covered, your imagination takes you to the most frightening places,” says a lawyer who represents young Palestinians. Many of those arrested don’t understand Hebrew, so that once pushed into the army vehicle they are completely cut off from what’s going on around them.

      In most cases, the handcuffed, blindfolded youth will be moved from place to place before actually being interrogated. Sometimes he’s left outside, in the open, for a time. In addition to the discomfort and the bewilderment, the frequent moving around presents another problem: In the meantime many acts of violence, in which soldiers beat the detainees, take place and go undocumented.

      Once at the army base or police station, the minor is placed, still handcuffed and blindfolded, on a chair or on the floor for a few hours, generally without being given anything to eat. The “endless trip to hell” is how Bayadsi describes this process. Memory of the incident, she adds, “is still there even years after the boy’s release. It implants in him an ongoing feeling of a lack of security, which will stay with him for his whole life.”

      Testimony provided to Breaking the Silence by an IDF staff sergeant about one incident in the West Bank illustrates the situation from the other side: “It was the first night of Hanukkah in 2017. Two children were throwing stones on Highway 60, on the road. So we grabbed them and took them to the base. Their eyes were covered with flannelette, and they were handcuffed in front with plastic cuffs. They looked young, between 12 and 16 years old.”

      When the soldiers gathered to light the first candle of the Hanukkah holiday, the detainees remained outside. “We’re shouting and making noise and using drums, which is a kind of company thing,” the soldier recalled, noting that he assumed the kids didn’t know Hebrew, although maybe they did understand the curses they heard. “Let’s say sharmuta [slut] and other words they might know from Arabic. How could they know we aren’t talking about them? They’ll probably thought that in another minute we were going to cook them.”

      Interrogation

      The nightmare can be of differing duration, the former detainees relate. Three to eight hours after the arrest, by which time the youth is tired and hungry – and sometimes in pain after being hit, frightened by threats and not even knowing why he’s there – he’s taken in for interrogation. This may be the first time the blindfold is removed and his hands freed. The process usually starts with a general question, such as, “Why do you throw stones at soldiers?” The rest is more intense – a barrage of questions and threats, aimed at getting the teen to sign a confession. In some cases, he’s promised that if he signs he’ll be given something to eat.

      According to the testimonies, the interrogators’ threats are directed squarely at the boy (“You’ll spend your whole life in jail”), or at his family (“I’ll bring your mother here and kill her before your eyes”), or at the family’s livelihood (“If you don’t confess, we’ll take away your father’s permit to work in Israel – because of you, he’ll be out of work and the whole family will go hungry”).

      “The system shows that the intention here is more to demonstrate control than to engage in enforcement,” suggests Bayadsi. “If the boy confesses, there’s a file; if he doesn’t confess, he enters the criminal circle anyway and is seriously intimidated.”

      Imprisonment

      Whether the young detainee has signed a confession or not, the next stop is prison. Either Megiddo, in Lower Galilee, or Ofer, north of Jerusalem. Khaled Mahmoud Selvi was 15 when he was brought to prison in October 2017 and was told to disrobe for a body search (as in 55 percent of the cases). For 10 minutes he was made to stand naked, along with another boy, and in winter.

      The months in detention, waiting for trial, and later, if they are sentenced, are spent in the youth wing of the facilities for security prisoners. “They don’t speak with their families for months and are allowed one visit a month, through glass,” Bayadsi relates.

      Far fewer Palestinian girls are arrested than boys. But there is no facility specially for them, so they are held in the Sharon prison for women, together with the adults.

      The trial

      The courtroom is usually the place where parents have their first sight of their child, sometimes several weeks after the arrest. Tears are the most common reaction to the sight of the young detainee, who will be wearing a prison uniform and handcuffs, and with a cloud of uncertainty hovering over everything. Israel Prisons Service guards don’t allow the parents to approach the youth, and direct them to sit on the visitors’ bench. Defense counsel is paid for either by the family or by the Palestinian Authority.

      At a recent remand hearing for several detainees, one boy didn’t stop smiling at the sight of his mother, while another lowered his eyes, perhaps to conceal tears. Another detainee whispered to his grandmother, who had come to visit him, “Don’t worry, tell everyone I’m fine.” The next boy remained silent and watched as his mother mouthed to him, “Omari, I love you.”

      While the children and their family try to exchange a few words and looks, the proceedings move along. As though in a parallel universe.

      The deal

      The vast majority of trials for juveniles ends in a plea bargain – safka in Arabic, a word Palestinian children know well. Even if there is no hard evidence to implicate the boy in stone-throwing, a plea is often the preferred option. If the detainee doesn’t agree to it, the trial could last a long time and he will be held in custody until the proceedings end.

      Conviction depends almost entirely on evidence from a confession, says lawyer Gerard Horton, from the British-Palestinian Military Court Watch, whose brief, according to its website, involves “monitoring the treatment of children in Israeli military detention.” According to Horton, who is based in Jerusalem, the minors will be more prone to confess if they don’t know their rights, are frightened and get no support or relief until they confess. Sometimes a detainee who does not confess will be told that he can expect to face a series of court appearances. At some stage, even the toughest youth will despair, the lawyer explains.

      The IDF Spokesman’s Unit stated in response: “The minors are entitled to be represented by an attorney, like any other accused, and they have the right to conduct their defense in any way they choose. Sometimes they choose to admit to guilt within the framework of a plea bargain but if they plead not guilty, a procedure involving hearing evidence is conducted, like the proceedings conducted in [civilian courts in] Israel, at the conclusion of which a legal decision will be handed down on the basis of the evidence presented to the court. The deliberations are set within a short time and are conducted efficiently and with the rights of the accused upheld.”

      Managing the community

      According to data of collected by the British-Palestinian NGO, 97 percent of the youths arrested by the IDF live in relatively small locales that are no more than two kilometers away from a settlement. There are a number of reasons for this. One involves the constant friction – physical and geographical – between Palestinians, on the one hand, and soldiers and settlers. However, according to Horton, there is another, no less interesting way to interpret this figure: namely, from the perspective of an IDF commander, whose mission is to protect the settlers.

      In the case of reported stone-throwing incidents, he says, the commander’s assumption is that the Palestinians involved are young, between the ages of 12 and 30, and that they come from the nearest village. Often the officer will turn to the resident collaborator in the village, who provides him with the names of a few boys.

      The next move is “to enter the village at night and arrest them,” Horton continues. “And whether these youths are the ones who threw the stones or not, you have already put a scare into the whole village” – which he says is an “effective tool” for managing a community.

      “When so many minors are being arrested like this, it’s clear that some of them will be innocent,” he observes. “The point is that this has to be happening all the time, because the boys grow up and new children appear on the scene. Each generation must feel the strong arm of the IDF.”

      According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit: “In recent years, many minors, some of them very young, have been involved in violent incidents, incitement and even terrorism. In these cases, there is no alternative but to institute measures, including interrogation, detention and trial, within the limits of and according to what is stipulated by law. As part of these procedures, the IDF operates to uphold and preserve the rights of the minors. In enforcing the law against them, their age is taken into account.

      “Thus, since 2014, among other measures, in certain instances, the minors are invited to the police station and are not arrested at home. In addition, proceedings relating to minors take place in the military court for juveniles, which examines the seriousness of the offense that’s attributed to the minor and the danger it poses, while taking into consideration his young age and his particular circumstances. Every allegation of violence on the part of IDF soldiers is examined, and cases in which the soldiers’ actions are found to be flawed are treated sternly.”

      The Shin Bet security service stated in response: “The Shin Bet, together with the IDF and the Israel Police, operates against every element that threatens to harm Israel’s security and the country’s citizenry. The terrorist organizations make extensive use of minors and recruit them to carry out terrorist activity, and there is a general tendency to involve minors in terrorist activity as part of local initiatives.

      “Interrogations of suspected terrorists are conducted by the Shin Bet under the law, and are subject to supervision and to internal and external review, including by all levels of the court system. The interrogations of minors are carried out with extra sensitivity and with consideration of their young age.”

      Khaled Mahmoud Selvi, arrested at 14 (October 2017)

      “I was arrested when I was 14, all the boys in the family were arrested that night. A year later, I was arrested again, with my cousin. They said I burned tires. It happened when I was sleeping. My mother woke me up. I thought it was time for school, but when I opened my eyes I saw soldiers above me. They told me to get dressed, handcuffed me and took me outside. I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt and it was cold that night. My mother begged them to let me put on a jacket, but they didn’t agree. Finally, she threw the jacket on me, but they didn’t let me put my arms in the sleeves.

      “They took me to the Karmei Tzur settlement with my eyes covered, and I had the feeling that they were just driving in circles. When I walked, there was a pit in the road and they pushed me into it, and I fell. From there they took me to Etzion [police station]. There they put me in a room, and soldiers kept coming in all the time and kicking me. Someone passed by and said that if I didn’t confess, they would leave me in jail for the rest of my life.

      “At 7 A.M., they told me the interrogation was starting. I asked to go to the toilet before. My eyes were covered and a soldier put a chair in front of me. I tripped. The interrogation went on for an hour. They told me that they saw me burning tires and that it interfered with air traffic. I told them it wasn’t me. I didn’t see a lawyer until the afternoon, and he asked the soldiers to bring us food. It was the first time I had eaten since being arrested the night before.

      “At 7 P.M., I was sent to Ofer Prison, and I remained there for six months. In that period, I was in court more than 10 times. And there was also another interrogation, because a friend of mine was told while being questioned that if he didn’t confess and inform on me, they would bring his mother and shoot her before his eyes. So he confessed and informed. I’m not angry at him. It was his first arrest, he was scared.”

      Khaled Shtaiwi, arrested at 13 (November 2018)

      Khaled’s story is told by his father, Murad Shatawi: “On the night he was arrested, a phone call from my nephew woke me up. He said the house was surrounded by soldiers. I got up and got dressed, because I expected them to arrest me, on account of the nonviolent demonstrations I organize on Fridays. I never imagined they’d take Khaled. They asked me for the names of my sons. I told them Mumen and Khaled. When I said Khaled, they said, ‘Yes, him. We’re here to take him.’ I was in shock, so many soldiers showed up to arrest a boy of 13.

      “They handcuffed and blindfolded him and led him east on foot, toward the settlement of Kedumim, all the while cursing and hitting him a little. I saw it all from the window. They gave me a document showing that it was a legal arrest and I could come to the police station. When I got there, I saw him through a small hole in the door. He was handcuffed and blindfolded.

      “He stayed like that from the moment they arrested him until 3 P.M. the next day. That’s a picture that doesn’t leave me; I don’t know how I’ll go on living with that picture in my head. He was accused of throwing stones, but after four days they released him, because he didn’t confess and there was no other evidence against him. During the trial, when the judge wanted to speak to Khaled, he had to lean forward in order to see him, because Khaled was so small.

      “What was it like to see him like that? I am the father. That says it all. He hasn’t talked about it since getting out, three months ago. That’s a problem. I’m now organizing a ‘psychology day’ in the village, to help all the children here who have been arrested. Out of 4,500 people in the village, 11 children under the age of 18 have been arrested; five were under the age of 15.”

      Omar Rabua Abu Ayyash, arrested at age 10 (December 2018)

      Omar looks small for his age. He’s shy and quiet, and it’s hard to talk to him about the arrest, so members of his family recount the events in his place.

      Omar’s mother: “It happened at 10 A.M. on Friday, when there is no school. Omar was playing in the area in front of the house, he threw pebbles at birds that were chirping in the tree. The soldiers, who were in the watchtower across the way here, picked up on what he was doing and ran toward him. He ran, but they caught him and knocked him down. He started to cry, and he wet his pants. They kicked him a few times.

      “His grandmother, who lives here below, immediately went out and tried to take him from the soldiers, which caused a struggle and shouts. In the end, they left him alone and he went home and changed into dry pants. A quarter of an hour later, the soldiers came back, this time with their commander, who said he had to arrest the boy for throwing stones. When the other children in the family saw the soldiers in the house, they also wet their pants.”

      Omar’s father takes up the story: “I told the commander that he was under 12 and that I had to accompany him, so I rode with him in the jeep to the Karmei Tzur settlement. There the soldiers told him not to throw stones anymore, and that if he saw other children doing it, he should tell them. From there they took him the offices of the Palestinian Authority in Hebron. The whole story took about 12 hours. They gave him a few bananas to eat during those hours. Now, whenever the children see a military jeep or soldiers, they go inside. They’ve stopped playing outside since then. Before the incident, soldiers used to come here to play soccer with the children. Now they’ve stopped coming, too.”

      Tareq Shtaiwi, arrested at 14 (January 2019)

      “It was around 2 P.M. I had a fever that day, so Dad sent me to my cousin next door, because that’s almost the only place in the village with a heating unit. Suddenly soldiers showed up. They saw me watching them from the window, so they fired shots at the door of the building, knocked it down and started to come upstairs. I got scared, so I ran from the second floor to the third, but they stopped me on the way and took me outside. The soldiers wouldn’t let me take my coat, even though it was cold and I was sick. They took me on foot to Kedumim, handcuffed and blindfolded. They sat me on a chair. I heard doors and windows being slammed hard, I think they were trying to scare me.

      “After a while, they took me from Kedumim to Ariel, and I was there for five-six hours. They accused me of throwing stones a few days earlier with my friend. I told them I hadn’t thrown any stones. In the evening they moved me to the Hawara detention building; one of the soldiers told me I would never leave there. In the morning I was moved to Megiddo Prison. They didn’t have prisoners uniforms in my size, so they gave me clothes of Palestinian children who had been there before and left them for the next in line. I was the youngest person in the prison.

      “I had three court hearings, and after 12 days, at the last hearing, they told me that it was enough, that my father would pay a fine of 2,000 shekels [$525] and I was getting a three-year suspended sentence. The judge asked me what I intended to do after getting out, I told him I would go back to school and I wouldn’t go up to the third floor again. Since my arrest, my younger brother, who’s 7, has been afraid to sleep in the kids’ room and goes to sleep with our parents.”

      Adham Ahsoun, arrested in October 2018, on his 15th birthday

      “On my 15th birthday, I went to the store in the village center to buy a few things. Around 7:30 in the evening, soldiers entered the village and children started to throw stones at them. On the way home with my bag, they caught me. They took me to the entrance of the village and put me in a jeep. One of the soldiers started to hit me. Then they put plastic handcuffs on me and covered my eyes and took me like that to the military base in Karnei Shomron. I was there for about an hour. I couldn’t see a thing, but I had the feeling that a dog was sniffing me. I was afraid. From there they took me to another military base and left me there for the night. They didn’t give me anything to eat or drink.

      “In the morning, they moved me to the interrogation facility in Ariel. The interrogator told me that the soldiers caught me throwing stones. I told him that I hadn’t thrown stones, that I was on my way home from the store. So he called the soldiers into the interrogation room. They said, ‘He’s lying, we saw him, he was throwing stones.’ I told him that I really hadn’t thrown stones, but he threatened to arrest my mother and father. I panicked. I asked him, ‘What do you want from me?’ He said he wanted me to sign that I threw stones at soldiers, so I signed. The whole time I didn’t see or talk to a lawyer.

      “My plea bargain was that I would confess and get a five-month jail sentence. Afterward, they gave me one-third off for good behavior. I got out after three months and a fine of 2,000 shekels. In jail I tried to catch up with the material I missed in school. The teachers told me they would only take into account the grades of the second semester, so it wouldn’t hurt my chances of being accepted for engineering studies in university.”

      Muhmen Teet, arrested at 13 (November 2017)

      “At 3 A.M., I heard knocking on the door. Dad came into the room and said there were soldiers in the living room and wanted us to show ID cards. The commanding officer told my father that they were taking me to Etzion for questioning. Outside, they handcuffed and blindfolded me and put me in a military vehicle. We went to my cousin’s house; they also arrested him. From there we went to Karmei Tzur and waited, handcuffed and blindfolded, until the morning.

      “In the morning, they only took my cousin for interrogation, not me. After his interrogation, they took us to Ofer Prison. After a day there, they took us back to Etzion and said they were going to interrogate me. Before the interrogation, they took me into a room, where there was a soldier who slapped me. After he hit me in one room, he took me to the interrogation room. The interrogator said I was responsible for burning tires, and because of that the grove near the house caught fire. I said it wasn’t me, and I signed a document that the interrogator gave me. The document was also printed in Arabic, but the interrogator filled it out in Hebrew. I was taken back to Ofer Prison.

      “I had seven hearings in court, because at the first hearing I said I hadn’t intended to confess, I just didn’t understand what I signed and it wasn’t true. So they sent me back for another interrogation. Again I didn’t confess. Then they sent me to interrogation another time and again I didn’t confess. That’s what it was like in three interrogations. In the end, my lawyer did a deal with the prosecutor that if I confessed in court – which I did – and my family would pay 4,000 shekels, they would release me.

      “I’m a good student, I like soccer, both playing and watching it. Since the arrest I hardly wander around outside.”

      Khalil Zaakiq, arrested at age 13 (January 2019)

      “Around 2 A.M. someone knocked on the door. I woke up and saw a lot of soldiers in the house. They said we should all sit in the living room sofa and not move. The commander called Uday, my big brother, told him to get dressed and informed him that he was under arrest. It was the third time they arrested him. My father was also once under arrest. Suddenly they told me to put my shoes on too and go with them.

      “They took us out of the house and tied our hands and covered our eyes. We went like that on foot to the base in Karmei Tzur. There they sat me on the floor with hands tied and eyes covered for around three hours. At about 5 A.M., they moved us to Etzion. On the way there in the jeep they hit us, they slapped me. In Etzion, I was sent to be checked by a doctor. He asked if I had been beaten and I said yes. He didn’t do anything, only checked my blood pressure and said I could stand up to an interrogation.

      “My interrogation started at 8 A.M.. They asked me to tell them which children throw stones. I said I didn’t know, so the interrogator gave me a slap. The interrogation went on for four hours. Afterward, they put me into a dark room for 10 minutes and then took me back to the interrogation room, but now they only fingerprinted me and put me into a detention cell for an hour. After an hour, Uday and I were moved to Ofer Prison. I didn’t sign a confession, neither about myself nor about others.

      “I got out after nine days, because I wasn’t guilty of anything. My parents had to pay 1,000 shekels for bail. My little brother, who is 10, has been really afraid ever since. Whenever someone knocks at the door, he wets his pants.”

  • ’Macron’s arrogance is exceeded only by his stupidity’ - Telegraph readers on the week’s top stories By Telegraph Readers - 8 March 2019 - www.telegraph.co.uk/
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/03/08/macrons-arrogance-exceeded-stupidity-telegraph-readers-weeks

    In a week that saw the UK hit yet another Brexit deadlock, French President Emmanuel Macron added fuel to the fire by launching his own bitter attack on negotiation proceedings.

    Telegraph readers shared their thoughts on President Macron’s vision for the EU’s future which was published in newspapers across Europe Credit: CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP

    Attorney General Geoffrey Cox returned home from Brussels empty-handed this week when his attempts to secure backstop concessions proved fruitless. Is defeat now looming for Theresa May in Tuesday’s forthcoming meaningful vote ?

    The current Brexit deadlock is not, however, the only headache facing the British government. An increase in knife crime related . . . . . . . .
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    #emmanuel_macron #arrogance #stupidité #ue #union_européenne