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Saturday's Weekend Edition is filled with perfect examples of an imperialistic mindset

This past Saturday, Weekend Edition’s Jacki Lyden hosted a discussion about the counter-insurgency in Afghanistan. As the discussion progressed, it became increasingly clear that the purpose of the discussion was not so much to assess the state of the counter-insurgency as much as it was to assure readers that our continued presence in Afghanistan is necessary, proper and moral- even though the Afghan civilian casualties (which they agree are mostly caused by other Afghans, and not the occupying military force in the middle of their homes). From the beginning of the discussion:

LYDEN: I want to ask you about something I read preparing for this. A civilian advisor in discussing the reaction to the Quran burning, as unfortunate as that was, versus reaction to these civilian shootings, said that they had all thought that there was going to be a much larger reaction to the shootings, and then said, you know, it just shows how little we understand after a decade. Do you think that civilian advisors really do understand very little after a decade?

SEWELL: I think Americans in general do an extremely poor job of putting themselves in other people’s moccasins and I don’t think that this particular war is an exception, despite the fact that we have devoted an enormous amount of effort to trying to understand the mindsets of different perspectives within Afghanistan. But it’s actually, I think, amazing the extent to which we’ve expected Afghans to tolerate civilian deaths.

I mean, one way to think about the most recent incidents is that Afghans have become somewhat inured to civilian harm. I mean, people have been killed left, right, and center, and what’s really important to remember is that the deaths that Afghans experience are far greater than the number of deaths that the coalition imposes. The vast majority of civilian harm comes from the Taliban who claim to care about civilians but their actions completely belie that point. Nonetheless, for Afghans…

NAGL: And in fact, they actually use violence against civilians intentionally in order to accomplish their objectives, and I think it’s worth - horrible as the American and NATO casualties inflicted on civilians are - they are unintentional except when they are crimes as in this most recent case. The Taliban uses violence against innocent people in order to accomplish its objectives, and I think that is an important distinction to draw.

We have, in order, Lyden claiming that the riots were about Koran (to the exclusion of civilian casualties), Sewell claiming that that civilian deaths are vastly caused by insurgents (which, to be fair, is mostly true, but any honest person would acknowledge it’s impossible to really tell), then Nagl claiming that though the Taliban purposefully targets civilians, US forces do not.

Lyden’s claim is rebutted by what the rioters in Afghanistan were saying. For instance, Maruf Hotak, a 60 year old Afghan protester said, “This is not just about dishonoring the Koran, it is about disrespecting our dead and killing our children,”. Still, compared to Nagl’s whopper it’s pretty tame.

Now, let’s tackle the claim that when US forces cause civilian casualties, it’s either a mistake or a crime. For over two years, the US had a policy of purposefully targeting mourners and rescue workers after strikes. Eventually, after sufficient outrage, Leon Panetta was removed and the program changed to stop targeting civilians. However, the idea that these civilian casualties are “are unintentional except when they are crimes” is absolutely absurd- not a single person was charged with targeting the civilians, but there is clear first hand evidence that they were targeted. 

After this part, they go on to agree that the horrible civilian casualties in Afghanistan are a tragedy, but all mutually agree that it’s for the best that the US stay there. 

Filed under NPR weekend edition imperialism hypocrisy

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LAPD uses excessive force, NPR ignores and apologizes for them

I unlinked my arms voluntarily and informed the LAPD officers that I would go peacefully and cooperatively. I stood as instructed, and then I had my arms wrenched behind my back, and an officer hyperextended my wrists into my inner arms. It was super violent, it hurt really really bad, and he was doing it on purpose. When I involuntarily recoiled from the pain, the LAPD officer threw me face-first to the pavement. He had my hands behind my back, so I landed right on my face. The officer dropped with his knee on my back and ground my face into the pavement. It really, really hurt and my face started bleeding and I was very scared. I begged for mercy and I promised that I was honestly not resisting and would not resist.

My hands were then zipcuffed very tightly behind my back, where they turned blue. I am now suffering nerve damage in my right thumb and palm.

I was put on a paddywagon with other nonviolent protestors and taken to a parking garage in Parker Center. They forced us to kneel on the hard pavement of that parking garage for seven straight hours with our hands still tightly zipcuffed behind our backs. Some began to pass out. One man rolled to the ground and vomited for a long, long time before falling unconscious. The LAPD officers watched and did nothing.

At 9 a.m. we were finally taken from the pavement into the station to be processed. The charge was sitting in the park after the police said not to. It’s a misdemeanor. Almost always, for a misdemeanor, the police just give you a ticket and let you go. It costs you a couple hundred dollars. Apparently, that’s what happened with most every other misdemeanor arrest in LA that day.

With us Occupy LA protestors, however, they set bail at $5,000 and booked us into jail. Almost none of the protesters could afford to bail themselves out. I’m lucky and I could afford it, except the LAPD spent all day refusing to actually *accept* the bail they set. If you were an accused murderer or a rapist in LAPD custody that day, you could bail yourself right out and be back on the street, no problem. But if you were a nonviolent Occupy LA protestor with bail money in hand, you were held long into the following morning, with absolutely no access to a lawyer.

I spent most of my day and night crammed into an eight-man jail cell, along with sixteen other Occupy LA protesters. My sleeping spot was on the floor next to the toilet.

Finally, at 2:30 the next morning, after twenty-five hours in custody, I was released on bail. But there were at least 200 Occupy LA protestors who couldn’t afford the bail. The LAPD chose to keep those peaceful, non-violent protesters in prison for two full days… the absolute legal maximum that the LAPD is allowed to detain someone on misdemeanor charges.

As a reminder, Antonio Villaraigosa has referred to all of this as “the LAPD’s finest hour.”

Thank God news outlets like NPR are all over what happened there that day. Here’s what NPR has to say about it:

In the end, there was very little force used, in part because this is a new LAPD. It exercises much more restraint than it once did

Thank God for NPR, or we might actually learn about what the LAPD did to Occupy LA!

Filed under occupy LA occupy NPR news propaganda

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NPR fires Opera show host for occupying DC

National Public Radio on Wednesday discovered that a woman named Lisa Simeone who hosted a show about opera called “World of Opera” had been participating in a nonviolent occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., organized by October2011.org.  That same day, NPR persuaded a company for which Simeone worked to fire her, cutting her income in half and purging from the so-called public airwaves a voice that had never mentioned politics on NPR.

This frantic email was sent to all NPR staff:

From: NPR Communications
Sent: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 6:12 PM
Subject: From Dana Rehm: Communications Alert

To:       All Staff
Fr:        Dana Davis Rehm

Re:      Communications Alert

We recently learned of World of Opera host Lisa Simeone’s participation in an Occupy DC group. World of Opera is produced by WDAV, a music and arts station based in Davidson, North Carolina. The program is distributed by NPR. Lisa is not an employee of WDAV or NPR; she is a freelancer with the station.

We’re in conversations with WDAV about how they intend to handle this. We of course take this issue very seriously.

As a reminder, all public comment (including social media) on this matter is being managed by NPR Communications.

All media requests should be routed through NPR Communications at 202.513.2300 or mediarelations@npr.org. We will keep you updated as needed. Thanks.

Way to ensure I’ll never again contribute, NPR.

Filed under NPR occupy DC demonstration

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Newscorp made $10 Billion in profits in the last 4 years: they also received $4.5 Billion from the US Government in that time

"America has two tax systems, separate and unequal. One is for you and me and the listeners, and we pay each year, but if you’re a corporation you’re allowed to reach back (sometimes 20 years) and carry forward for many year tax losses and tax benefits that smooth out your tax bill. Now, the second thing Mr. Murdoch does that’s very important is- among the largest corporations in America, Newscorp ranks third in Tax Haven subsidiaries. When you have a tax haven subsidiary (the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Panama) what you do is you take expenses in the United States and take the profit in those subsidiaries."

Columnist David Cay Johnston checked the tax information on Newscorp (a publicly traded company) and found that they made $4.5 Billion through tax havens. There’s no transcript, but listen to the ~3 minute audio for more information.

Filed under Fox Newscorp NPR Steve Inskeep

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NPR, NYTimes, ABC, CBS, & NBC coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict

FAIR studied NPR’s coverage of Israeli-Palestinian violence, examining how often NPR reported fatal attacks on Israelis and Palestinians. The study looked at all NPR News coverage in the first six months of 2001 (1/1/01-6/30/01). For a description of FAIR’s methodology as well as our complete data, see "Study of NPR’s Coverage of Deaths in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.”

During the six-month period studied, NPR reported the deaths of 62 Israelis and 51 Palestinians. While on the surface that may not appear to be hugely lopsided, during the same time period 77 Israelis and 148 Palestinians were killed in the conflict. That means there was an 81 percent likelihood that an Israeli death would be reported on NPR, but only a 34 percent likelihood that a Palestinian death would be. 

Of the 30 Palestinian civilians under the age of 18 that were killed, six were reported on NPR—only 20 percent. By contrast, the network reported on 17 of the 19 Israeli minors who were killed, or 89 percent. While 61 percent of the young people killed in the region during the period studied were Palestinian, only 26 percent of those reported by NPR were. Apparently being a minor makes your death more newsworthy to NPR if you are Israeli, but less newsworthy if you are Palestinian. 

An Israeli civilian victim was more likely to have his or her death reported on NPR (84 percent were covered) than a member of the Israeli security forces (69 percent). But Palestinians were far more likely to have their deaths reported if they were security personnel (72 percent) than if they were civilians (22 percent). Of the 112 Palestinian civilians killed in the Occupied Territories during the period studied, just 26 were reported on NPR. Of the 28 Israeli civilians killed in the Territories—mostly settlers—21 were reported on NPR

NPR, of course isn’t the only news outlet to cover a much higher percentage of deaths on Israel’s side than Palestine’s- The New York Times follows suite

In the first study period The Times reported Israeli deaths at a rate 2.8 times higher than Palestinian deaths, and in 2004 this rate increased by almost 30%, to 3.6, widening still further the disparity in coverage. The Times’ coverage of children’s deaths was even more skewed. In the first year of the current uprising, Israeli children’s deaths were reported at 6.8 times the rate of Palestinian children’s deaths. In 2004 this differential also increased, with deaths of Israeli children covered at a rate 7.3 times greater than the deaths of Palestinian children. Given that in 2004 22 times more Palestinian children were killed than Israeli children, this category holds particular importance. We could find no basis on which to justify this inequality in coverage.

Television broadcast news is no different, either. ABC, CBS, and NBC all reported a much, much higher percentage of Israeli civilian deaths than Palestinian ones:

In the first study period ABC, CBS, and NBC reported Israeli deaths at rates 3.1, 3.8, and 4.0 times higher than Palestinian deaths, respectively. In 2004 these rates increased or stayed constant, to 4.0, 3.8, and 4.4, widening still further, in the case of ABC and NBC, the disparity in coverage. An additional sub-study of deaths reported in introductions revealed a similar but even larger disparity. The networks’ coverage of children’s deaths was even more skewed. In the first year of the current uprising, ABC, CBS, and NBC reported Israeli children’s deaths at 13.8, 6.4, and 12.4 times the rate of Palestinian children’s deaths. In 2004 these large differentials were also present, although they decreased in two cases, with deaths of Israeli children covered at rates 9.0, 12.8, and 9.9 times greater than the deaths of Palestinian children by ABC, CBS, and NBC, respectively. Given that in 2004 22 times more Palestinian children were killed than Israeli children, this category holds particular importance. We could find no basis on which to justify this inequality in coverage.

They also call violence by Israeli’s “retaliation” 79% of the time, whereas they only call Palestinian violence “retaliation” 9% of the time. It’s true that public opinion has long been on the side of Israel in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict has long been on the side of Israel, but it’s also true that public opinion has long been manipulated by gate-kept reporting that purposefully attempts to make the conflict appear as if both sides were somehow ‘equal’.

The truth is that it is against international law to annex territory through war, but Israel continues to occupy territories outside of the 1967 borders. You wouldn’t know that from listening to the American media, though: only four stories out of 99 about Gaza or the West Bank used a variation of the word “occupation” in those same three evening news shows. The same can be said of print media:

Tellingly, while Israel’s occupation has been mentioned in almost two-thirds of the news stories in the London Independent this year, it has been omitted from more than two-thirds of stories in the New York Times.

By providing equal coverage to a conflict whose sides are drastically outmatched, as well as omitting key facts (annexation and occupation) from their coverage, the American news media had molded public opinion in a specific direction.

Filed under media bias israel palestine NPR

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NPR scrubs history, rewrites American intervention

Hearing this latest example of the NPR history scrub made me wonder if I was being too harsh on NPR. Perhaps they have covered some of the United States government’s most egregious abuses against Al-Jazeera and so decided that repeating them was unnecessary. So let’s see what on-air coverage NPR has given to the most significant cases of US assaults on Al-Jazeera:

  • US strike on the Kabul offices of Al-Jazeera - nothing
  • US strike on the Baghdad offices of Al-Jazeera - nothing
  • US detention and torture of Salah Hassan - nothing
  • US detention and torture of Suhaib Badr al Baz - nothing
  • the 6 year imprisonment, torture and eventual release of Sami al-Haj - nothing
What can you say? NPR has not given a single bit of coverage to even one of these US-orchestrated assaults on journalism in general - and Al-Jazeera in particular. I have to confess that - even as critical as I am of NPR - I was stunned at its absolute censorship of these stories. Given NPR’s hypocrisy when it comes to covering attacks on journalists, I guess I should not have been the least bit surprised.

NPR often gives the establishment a pass on matters of national security.  For instance, they refused to call naked beatings, water boarding and the inhumane conditions that resulted in the deaths of several detainees “torture”.  And of course there’s Dina Temple-Raston, who defends the due-process free assassination orders that Obama has issued against Anwar Al Awlaki by suggesting that she knows how evil he really is, but declines to offer evidence saying, "I can’t tell you exactly how I know that… maybe I actually saw something that you haven’t seen…".  

I love NPR and I have no doubt that it’s one of the most important uses of tax dollars, but the standards set by other media outlets have infiltrated their reporting and prevent the full story from being communicated.

Filed under NPR Journalism yellow journalism

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Providence, RI fires every teacher in the city

Union leaders point out that the dismissal of nearly 2,000 educators means the city can ignore seniority rights as it re-staffs classrooms.

"By firing all of the teachers, Mayor Taveras is not solving an educational or a fiscal problem," Steve Smith, president of the Providence Teachers Union, said. "He’s making a political decision to take control and silence workers."

Those workers serve more than 23,000 students in what is by far Rhode Island’s largest school district. About 80 percent of Providence students are Hispanic and black, and many come from low-income families. Like urban districts around the country, Providence struggles with some of the lowest test scores in the state.

"Mayor Taveras, our schools are struggling.  What should we do?!"

"Hmm.  Fire all the teachers and hire more, with less experience and willing to work for less money.  Yes, that should do it."

Filed under npr class warfare

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Texas cutting the budget: disabilities services "first... on the chopping block"

Ramon Williams of Dallas is 30 years old, and spends his days in a wheelchair. He cannot speak or walk. He has cerebral palsy. 

For the past nine years, Ramon has been on the state’s waiting list for Medicaid Home and Community Services. Those services include in-home help. Doris Williams wants in-home help that would assist with Ramon’s feeding, bathing, changing his diaper, interpreting his needs. She has been doing all of that by herself for 30 years — except when Ramon is in “day-hab”, a special daycare for the disabled that operates weekdays. 

Williams: The school, the day-hab I have him in now, they’ve informed me this month that his last day of going to school will be Jan 31st because they’re only going to do HCS, which is Home Community Service, which is the list I’ve been on for 9 years. So now, I’ve got the task of trying to figure out how I’m going to take care of him, go to work, or stay and home and sink further in poverty.

Williams worries the location of a new “day-hab” may increase her commute and make it impossible to keep her job and take care of Ramon. She says Medicaid Home and Community Services could help with that. But, Williams says the prospect of getting those services has gone from bad to worse. Right now, there are 41 thousand Texans on the waiting list. In Dallas County alone, five to eight people are added to that list each week. And this year, when the state cut the budget, it reduced the number of people served. And now, there’s more uncertainty with the prospect of Texas opting out of Medicaid all together.

Williams: I don’t know what our lifestyle is going to be now. I lay awake at night. 

Metrocare Services has been paying the day care tuition for Ramon. And officials are trying to find a new place for him. But Metrocare is expecting state funding cuts of up to 18%, and is making cuts of its own. Executive Director Dr. James Baker says the budget cuts have a serious impact on families.

Baker: That’s a very painful situation to tell somebody the services they were expecting to get aren’t going to be coming their way.

Dr. Baker says opting OUT of Medicaid would have widespread consequences.

Baker: It’s a shift in the cost burden from the state to local governments and local hospitals. It wouldn’t be just Parkland. It would be private hospitals in the community as well. It’s a shift from being paid for by state tax dollars to being paid by your local taxes and thru your insurance. If people are going to emergency rooms for care that don’t have any insurance, the way that cost gets paid is through insurance premiums of everybody paying at their jobs.

Ramon’s mother, Doris has a message for lawmakers.

Williams: Individuals with disabilities should not be the first ones on the chopping block.

Kofler: Unfortunately State Senator Jane Nelson expects the Medicaid waiting list to grow. And Nelson says Texas can’t afford to opt out of Medicaid because it would lose millions in federal matching money.

I’ve worked for Metrocare Services for 11 months now, and I’ve seen firsthand how efficient and frugal they are with their funding.  Making cuts where there’s excess is a great way to trim the budget, but making cuts where we’re barely scraping by is just a surefire way to make a lot of people’s lives a lot worse, while costing the taxpayer even more money. 

Removing our services increases the rates of poverty in people with disabilities who can barely afford treatment as it is, homelessness in people who are already beyond their means, and increase the crime rate (a byproduct of the increase in homelessness, poverty and untreated mental illness).  

Ironically, this won’t actually save us a dime.  The people who can’t afford treatment will still receive it eventually, only it will be emergency care rather than the preventative care they would have received at Metrocare.  Emergency care is far more expensive than preventative care, and will still be payed for.

As Dr. Baker points out, this cost will not be covered by the state, but by city and county governments which are much less well equipped to deal with the influx of debt.  They’ll either have to find that money somewhere (likely sales or property taxes), or they’ll need to make further reductions (causing more harm, if not to the health industry then to our economy in general).

The worst part of this is that I have no idea how it will effect our Early Childhood Intervention program for kids with developmental disabilities.  Their parents suddenly not getting Medicaid could mean the difference in their treatment, through no fault of their own.  

Filed under NPR personal