Thursday, March 31, 2011

To The Best of Our Knowledge: Finding Home

Finding Home
To the Best of Our Knowledge (Wisconsin Public Radio)


In 2004 Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht coined the term "solastalgia." It was his way of describing the combination of grief and longing people feel when a place they love has been damaged. He tells Anne Strainchamps when he first began to notice the phenomenon, about ten years ago. Indiana author Scott Russell Sanders understands the feeling. He worries that most of America is becoming the same. He tells Steve Paulson that the best way to fight the homogenization of America is to reclaim its particularity.


Novella Carpenter was thrilled when she and her boyfriend found an affordable apartment in the Bay Area, and even more when she discovered it had a vacant lot next door. She immediately began to imagine a garden, more like a farm, but the author of "Farm City: the Education of an Urban Farmer" tells Jim Fleming that there was a drawback to her urban farm dream – the apartment was in Oakland, then called "the murder capital of the world."


For writer Adam Nicolson, attachment to place goes deep. He grew up in Sissinghurst Castle, one of the most beautiful places in England, home to the celebrated garden of his grandmother, the poet Vita Sackville-West. When he returned as an adult he was astonished and saddened to see that the working farm at the garden had disappeared. He tells the story in a book called "Sissinghurst - An Unfinished History." He tells Anne Strainchamps it was a magical place to grow up.

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Project Censored's Top 25 Censored News Stories of 2011: #21 Western Lifestyle Continues Environmental Footprint

#21 Western Lifestyle Continues Environmental Footprint
Project Censored

Student Researchers:
Abbey Wilson and Jillian Harbin (DePauw University)
Anne Cozza (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluators:
Tim Cope and Kevin Howley (DePauw University)
Buzz Kellogg (Sonoma State University)

Speaking in advance of the climate summit in Copenhagen, Rajendra Pachauri, the United Nation’s leading climate scientist, warned that Western society must enact radical changes and reform measures if it is to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told the Observer that Western society urgently needs to develop a new value system of “sustainable consumption.” The Nobel Prize winner stated, “Today we have reached the point where consumption and people’s desire to consume has grown out of proportion.” “The reality is that our lifestyles are unsustainable.”

Pachauri offered a wide-ranging proposal—including legal requirements, economic disincentives, and government subsidies—to lead Western society toward a more sustainable future. Among Pachauri’s suggestions is that hotels be held accountable for the energy use of their guests. The energy consumed by guests in hotels could be metered and then charged to guests’ bills. Pachauri’s proposal also includes measures to regulate travel by land and air. For instance, Pachauri argues that automobile travel could be “curbed” through pricing schemes that discourage the use of private transportation. Likewise, Pachauri suggests that governments tax air travel to encourage citizens to travel by rail—a mode of transportation that is significantly lower in cost and environmental impact.

Travel and tourism are but one feature of an increasingly unsustainable Western lifestyle. As the Internet becomes an indispensable feature of modern life, the costs and environmental impact associated with Internet usage is on the rise. According to recent estimates, there are over 1.5 billion people online around the world. As a result, the Internet’s energy footprint is growing at a rate of more than 10 percent each year. As the Net’s appetite for electricity grows, Internet companies like Google are having a hard time managing the costs associated with delivering Web pages, video, audio, and data files. This situation not only threatens the bottom line of Web firms, but may compromise the long-term viability of the Internet. According to Subodh Bapat, vice president of Sun Microsystems, a leading manufacturer of computer servers, “In an energy-constrained world, we cannot continue to grow the footprint of the Internet . . . we need to rein in the energy consumption.”

Energy consumption associated with Western lifestyles has been linked with melting glaciers around the world. Dr. Shresth Tayal of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), India’s leading environmental institute, selected three of approximately eighteen thousand glaciers in the Himalayas as benchmarks to measure the rate of the glaciers’ retreat. According to Dr. Tayal, the glaciers, which feed rivers across India and China, providing fresh water to more than two billion people during the dry season, are disappearing at an alarming rate. As Dr. Tayal bluntly assessed in the Times, “The glacier is dying.” Tayal’s findings support the contention made in 2007 by the IPCC that glaciers could disappear by 2035. The IPCC warns that a shortage of fresh water will cause “famine, water wars and hundreds of millions of climate change refugees.”

Climate change is also taking a toll on the quality of Alaska’s marine waters, where cooler oceans absorb and hold more gas than do warmer waters. Jeremy Mathis, a chemical oceanographer at the University of Alaska–Fairbanks, found that Alaskan waters are turning acidic from the absorption of greenhouse gases. Increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere lead to ocean acidification, as nearly 30 percent of greenhouse gases emitted by humans gets absorbed into the ocean each year. According to Mathis, the same qualities that make Alaskan waters some of the most productive in the world—cold, shallow depths and an abundance of marine life—make them especially vulnerable to acidification. Mathis notes that ocean acidification stunts the growth, development, and reproductive health of some species of crabs and fish. This situation has enormous implications, not only for marine life in Alaskan waters, but for the broader Alaskan ecosystem, and the state’s $4.6 billion fishing industry.

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Lloyd Dangle: The Official Arizona Brownness Scale

The Cagle Post

Thivai's Spicy Black Bean Soup

Thivai’s Spicy Black Bean Soup

2 T olive oil
1 white onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 t ground cumin
1 t Cayenne powder
2 15.5-oz cans black beans -- drained
1 can of red kidney beans -- drained
I can of Tri-Bean Blend -- drained
15-oz can diced tomatoes in juice (fire roasted if possible)
1 1/2 c vegetable broth
1 t sea salt
1 handful chopped, cilantro
½ bottle Stone Levitation Ale
1 medium Yellow Bell Pepper
1 medium Orange Bell Pepper

In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium. Add onion and garlic, and cook 6-8 minutes, until beginnning to brown. Stir in cumin and chili powder. Add black beans, diced tomatoes, vegetable broth, bell peppers, salt and cilantro. Sip on ale and tip splashes of the tasty liquid into the mixture. Bring to a boil, and allow to cook for 2 minutes. Transfer 2 c to a blender, and process until smooth. Stir back into soup. Remove from heat, and serve topped with cheese.

Corporations: Peace and Conflict Studies

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7 signs the corporatocracy is losing its legitimacy ... and 7 populist tools to help shut it down."
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Jeremy Scahill: Secret Erik Prince Tape Exposed

Secret Erik Prince Tape Exposed
by Jeremy Scahill
The Nation

Erik Prince, the reclusive owner of the Blackwater empire, rarely gives public speeches and when he does he attempts to ban journalists from attending and forbids recording or videotaping of his remarks. On May 5, that is exactly what Prince is trying to do when he speaks at DeVos Fieldhouse as the keynote speaker for the "Tulip Time Festival" in his hometown of Holland, Michigan. He told the event's organizers no news reporting could be done on his speech and they consented to the ban. Journalists and media associations in Michigan are protesting this attempt to bar reporting on his remarks.

Despite Prince's attempts to shield his speeches from public scrutiny, The Nation magazine has obtained an audio recording of a recent, private speech delivered by Prince to a friendly audience. The speech, which Prince attempted to keep from public consumption, provides a stunning glimpse into his views and future plans and reveals details of previously undisclosed activities of Blackwater. The people of the United States have a right to media coverage of events featuring the owner of a company that generates 90% of its revenue from the United States government.

In the speech, Prince proposed that the US government deploy armed private contractors to fight "terrorists" in Nigeria, Yemen, Somalia and Saudi Arabia, specifically to target Iranian influence. He expressed disdain for the Geneva Convention and described Blackwater's secretive operations at four Forward Operating Bases he controls in Afghanistan. He called those fighting the US in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan "barbarians" who "crawled out of the sewer." Prince also revealed details of a July 2009 operation he claims Blackwater forces coordinated in Afghanistan to take down a narcotrafficking facility, saying that Blackwater "call[ed] in multiple air strikes," blowing up the facility. Prince boasted that his forces had carried out the "largest hashish bust in counter-narcotics history." He characterized the work of some NATO countries' forces in Afghanistan as ineffectual, suggesting that some coalition nations "should just pack it in and go home." Prince spoke of Blackwater working in Pakistan, which appears to contradict the official, public Blackwater and US government line that Blackwater is not in Pakistan.

Prince also claimed that a Blackwater operative took down the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W Bush in Baghdad and criticized the Secret Service for being "flat-footed." He bragged that Blackwater forces "beat the Louisiana National Guard to the scene" during Katrina and claimed that lawsuits, "tens of millions of dollars in lawyer bills" and political attacks prevented him from deploying a humanitarian ship that could have responded to the earthquake in Haiti or the tsunami that hit Indonesia.

Several times during the speech, Prince appeared to demean Afghans his company is training in Afghanistan, saying Blackwater had to teach them "Intro to Toilet Use" and to do jumping jacks. At the same time, he bragged that US generals told him the Afghans Blackwater trains "are the most effective fighting force in Afghanistan." Prince also revealed that he is writing a book, scheduled to be released this fall.

The speech was delivered January 14 at the University of Michigan in front of an audience of entrepreneurs, ROTC commanders and cadets, businesspeople and military veterans. The speech was titled "Overcoming Adversity: Leadership at the Tip of the Spear" and was sponsored by the Young Presidents' Association (YPO), a business networking association primarily made up of corporate executives. "Ripped from the headlines and described by Vanity Fair magazine, as a Tycoon, Contractor, Soldier and Spy, Erik Prince brings all that and more to our exclusive YPO speaking engagement," read the event's program, also obtained by The Nation. It proclaimed that Prince's speech was an "amazing don't miss opportunity from a man who has 'been there and done that' with a group of Cadets and Midshipmen who are months away from serving on the 'tip of the spear.'" Here are some of the highlights from Erik Prince's speech:

Send the Mercs into Somalia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria

Prince painted a global picture in which Iran is "at the absolute dead center... of badness." The Iranians, he said, "want that nuke so that it is again a Persian Gulf and they very much have an attitude of when Darius ran most of the Middle East back in 1000 BC. That's very much what the Iranians are after." [NOTE: Darius of Persia actually ruled from 522 BC-486 BC]. Iran, Prince charged, has a "master plan to stir up and organize a Shia revolt through the whole region." Prince proposed that armed private soldiers from companies like Blackwater be deployed in countries throughout the region to target Iranian influence, specifically in Yemen, Somalia and Saudi Arabia. "The Iranians have a very sinister hand in these places," Prince said. "You're not going to solve it by putting a lot of uniformed soldiers in all these countries. It's way too politically sensitive. The private sector can operate there with a very, very small, very light footprint." In addition to concerns of political expediency, Prince suggested that using private contractors to conduct such operations would be cost-effective. "The overall defense budget is going to have to be cut and they're going to look for ways, they're going to have to have ways to become more efficient," he said. "And there's a lot of ways that the private sector can operate with a much smaller, much lighter footprint."

Prince also proposed using private armed contractors in the oil-rich African nation of Nigeria. Prince said that guerilla groups in the country are dramatically slowing oil production and extraction and stealing oil. "There's more than a half million barrels a day stolen there, which is stolen and organized by very large criminal syndicates. There's even some evidence it's going to fund terrorist organizations," Prince alleged. "These guerilla groups attack the pipeline, attack the pump house to knock it offline, which makes the pressure of the pipeline go soft. they cut that pipeline and they weld in their own patch with their own valves and they back a barge up into it. Ten thousand barrels at a time, take that oil, drive that 10,000 barrels out to sea and at $80 a barrel, that's $800,000. That's not a bad take for organized crime." Prince made no mention of the nonviolent indigenous opposition to oil extraction and pollution, nor did he mention the notorious human rights abuses connected to multinational oil corporations in Nigeria that have sparked much of the resistance.

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Jeremy Scahill: The Dangerous US Game in Yemen

The Dangerous US Game in Yemen
by Jeremy Scahill
The Nation

The day before US missiles began raining down on Muammar el-Qaddafi’s Libya, hundreds of miles away—across the Red Sea—security forces under the control of Yemen’s US-backed president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, massacred more than fifty people who were participating in an overwhelmingly peaceful protest in the capital, Sana. Some of the victims were shot in the head by snipers.

For months, thousands of Yemenis had taken to the streets demanding that Saleh step down, and the regime had responded consistently with defiance and brute force. But on March 21, a severe blow was dealt to Saleh that may prove to be the strike that sparked the hemorrhaging that ultimately brought down his regime. That day, the most powerful figure in Yemen’s military, Gen. Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar, commander of the First Armored Division, threw his support behind the protests and vowed to defend Yemen’s “peaceful youth revolution.” Other senior military figures soon followed suit. Senior civilian officials, including scores of ambassadors and diplomats, announced their resignations. Important tribal leaders, long the most crucial element of Saleh’s grip on power, swung to the opposition.

Saleh, known in Yemen as The Boss, became the country’s leader in 1990 following the unification of the north, which he had ruled since the 1970s, and the south, which had been run by a Marxist government based in Aden. Saleh is a survivor who has deftly navigated his way through the cold war, deep tribal divisions and the “global war on terror.” Under the Obama administration, the United States committed increased military funding for his regime. Though he was known as a double-dealer, Saleh was tacitly viewed as Washington’s man on the Arabian Peninsula.

Throughout his reign, Saleh regarded the Houthi rebellion in the north and a secessionist movement in the south as the greatest threats. For the United States, the concern was Al Qaeda. In the end, it was an autonomous mass of largely young protesters who proved the most potent challenge to Saleh’s power.

The prospect of Saleh’s departure is a source of great anxiety for the White House, but the United States has unintentionally played a significant role in weakening his regime. For more than a decade, US policy neglected Yemen’s civil society and development, focusing instead on a military strategy aimed at hunting down terrorists. These operations not only caused the deaths of dozens of civilians, fueling popular anger against Saleh for allowing the US military to conduct them; they also fed Saleh’s corruption while doing nothing to address Yemen’s place as the poorest country in the Arab world, which proved to be major driving forces behind the rebellion.

A serious case could be made that the stakes are much higher for the United States in Yemen than in Libya, yet its response to the repression of protests in the two countries has been starkly different. While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other US officials condemned the violence in Yemen, they stopped far short of calling for an end to the regime or for international military action. Instead, the US position was to call for a “political solution.”

A few days after the massacre in Sana, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, on a visit to Moscow, was asked if the United States still backed Saleh. “I don’t think it’s my place to talk about internal affairs in Yemen,” Gates replied. What he said next spoke volumes about US priorities: “We are obviously concerned about the instability in Yemen. We consider Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is largely located in Yemen, to be perhaps the most dangerous of all the franchises of Al Qaeda right now. And so instability and diversion of attention from dealing with AQAP is certainly my primary concern about the situation.”

AQAP was the group that sent the “underwear bomber” to the States in December 2009. It was also behind the attempted “parcel bombings” in October 2010, and counts among its ranks radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. In February National Counterterrorism Center director Michael Leiter briefed Congress on the top threats faced by the United States worldwide. “Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, with al-Awlaki as a leader within that organization, is probably the most significant risk to the US homeland,” he declared before the House Homeland Security Committee. Attorney General Eric Holder said Awlaki “would be on the same list with bin Laden.” Other intelligence sources tell The Nation that the administration has exaggerated Awlaki’s role within AQAP, but they acknowledge that the mythology around him has developed a life of its own. Most analysts estimate that AQAP has 300–500 core members (others say the figure could be as high as several thousand).

From day one of his administration, President Obama and his chief counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, have made Yemen a top priority because of the presence of AQAP. Although Saleh has often spoken out of both sides of his mouth when dealing with the United States, it is hard to imagine a more pliant leader in that region. Saleh has given permission to the United States to wage a secret war in Yemen, including bombings of AQAP camps and unilateral, lethal operations on Yemeni soil. As a bonus, Saleh has taken public responsibility for US strikes in an attempt to mask the extent of US involvement. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has ramped up training and equipping of Yemen’s military and security forces.

Without a guarantee that a successor government will grant US forces such access, peaceful protesters being gunned down will not be the top priority. “The feckless US response is highlighting how shortsighted our policy is there,” says Joshua Foust, a fellow at the American Security Project who recently left the Defense Intelligence Agency, where he was a Yemen analyst. “We meekly consent to Saleh’s brutality out of a misguided fear that our counterterror programs will be cut off, apparently not realizing that, in doing so, we are practically guaranteeing the next government will threaten those very programs.”

* * *

Retired US Army Col. W. Patrick Lang, a veteran Special Forces officer, has known Saleh since 1979, having served for years as the Defense and Army attaché to Yemen. Fluent in Arabic, Lang was often brought into sensitive meetings as a translator for other US officials. He and his British MI6 counterpart would often go hunting with Saleh. “We would drive around with a bunch of vehicles and shoot gazelle, hyenas and the odd baboon,” Lang recalls, adding that Saleh was a “reasonably good shot.” Saleh, Lang says, is “a very charming devil,” describing his long rule as “quite a run in a country where it’s dog-eat-dog. It’s like being the captain on a Klingon battle cruiser, you know? They’re just waiting.” According to Lang, Saleh proved a master of playing tribes against one another. “There’s a precarious balance all the time between the authority of the government and the authority of these massive tribal groups,” he says. “The tribes will dictate the future of Yemen, not AQAP.”

During the US-backed mujahedeen war against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, thousands of Yemenis joined the jihad—some of them coordinated and funded directly by Saleh’s government. When the jihadists returned to their home country, Saleh gave them safe haven. “Because we have political pluralism in Yemen, we decided not to have a confrontation with these movements,” Saleh told the New York Times in 2008. Al-Jihad, the movement of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian physician who rose to become bin Laden’s number-two man, based one of its largest cells in Yemen in the ’90s.

Saleh saw Al Qaeda as a convenient sometime ally that could be used to protect him from the real threats to his power, including the secessionist movement in the south and Houthi rebels in the northern Saada province. The Houthis view his government as a puppet for the United States and the Saudis, and believe they are fighting to preserve their Zaidi sect of Shiite Islam. Even though Saleh is a Zaidi, the Houthis allege he has allowed Wahhabi (i.e., radical Sunni) forces to threaten their existence. Indeed, the Saudis have bombed the Houthis on numerous occasions. Between 2004 and 2010, Saleh’s forces fought consistent battles with the rebels, known in Yemen as the “six wars.”

Beginning with the 1994 civil war, Saleh deployed jihadists who had fought in Afghanistan in his battle against the southern secessionists and the Houthis in the north. “They were the thugs that Saleh used to control any problematic elements. We have so many instances where Saleh was using these guys from Al Qaeda to eliminate opponents of the regime,” according to a former top US counterterrorism official with extensive experience in Yemen who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operations on which he worked. Because of the jihadists’ value to Saleh, “they were able to operate freely. They were able to obtain and travel on Yemeni documents. Saleh was their safest base. He tried to make himself a player by playing this card.”

The result was that, as Al Qaeda expanded throughout the ’90s, Yemen provided fertile ground for training camps and recruitment. During the Clinton administration, this arrangement barely registered on the counterterrorism scale outside a small group of officials, mostly from the FBI and CIA, who were tracking the rise of Al Qaeda.

That would change on October 12, 2000, when a small motorboat packed with 500 pounds of explosives blasted a massive hole in the USS Cole, an American warship that had docked in the port of Aden, killing seventeen sailors and wounding more than thirty others. “In Aden, they charged and destroyed a destroyer that fearsome people fear, one that evokes horror when it docks and when it sails,” bin Laden later wrote in a poem that was used in an Al Qaeda recruitment video. The successful attack, according to Al Qaeda experts, inspired droves of recruits—particularly from Yemen—to sign up with Al Qaeda and similar groups.

After 9/11, President Bush put Yemen on a list of potential early targets in the “war on terror”; he could have swiftly dismantled Saleh’s government despite Saleh’s pre-9/11 declaration that “Yemen is a graveyard for the invaders.” But Saleh was determined not to go the way of the Taliban, and he wasted little time making moves to ensure he wouldn’t.

The first was to board a plane to the United States in November 2001. During his meetings in Washington, Saleh was presented with an aid package worth up to $400 million in addition to funding from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Crucially for the Bush administration, the new US relationship with Saleh would also include expanding special forces military training. It was this training that would permit US Special Forces to deploy discreetly in Yemen while allowing Saleh to save face domestically. As part of Saleh’s deal with the Bush administration, the United States created a “counterterrorism camp” in Yemen run by the CIA, Marines and Special Forces that was backed up by Camp Lemonier, the US outpost in the nearby African nation of Djibouti, which housed Predator drones. Located just an hour from Yemen by boat, the secretive base would soon serve as a command center for covert US action in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

“Saleh knows how to survive,” says Emile Nakhleh, a former senior intelligence officer in the CIA who ran its office on political Islam during the Bush administration. After 9/11, Saleh “learned very quickly” that he “had to speak the anti-terrorism language,” Nakhleh adds. “So he came here seeking support, seeking financing. He would come here or speak to us in a language we would like and would understand, but then he would go home and do all kinds of alliances with all kinds of shady characters to help him survive. I don’t think he really honestly believed that Al Qaeda posed a serious threat to his regime.”

As construction began on Lemonier, the United States beefed up the presence of military “trainers” inside Yemen. Among the forces inserted alongside the trainers were members of a clandestine military intelligence unit within the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) known as The Activity. While officially in Yemen as trainers, they quickly set out to establish operational capacity to track Al Qaeda suspects in the country, hoping to find and fix their location so that US forces could finish them off. A year after Saleh’s meeting with Bush at the White House, the US “trainers” would set up their first “wet” operation. It wouldn’t be their last.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

MSNBC: Ed Schultz Gets Pounded Into The Ground On Libya By Jeremy Scahill

GRTV: Three Raging Nuclear Meltdowns In Progress

Global Research TV

A.C. Thompson: Judge Hands Out Tough Sentences in Post-Katrina Killing by Police

Judge Hands Out Tough Sentences in Post-Katrina Killing by Police
by A. C. Thompson
Pro Publica

A federal judge today sentenced two former New Orleans police officers for killing Henry Glover and incinerating his body during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Judge Lance Africk sentenced ex-officer David Warren to 25 years for shooting Glover with an assault rifle, and sentenced former cop Greg McRae to 17 years for torching the man's corpse as it lay in a car parked on the banks of the Mississippi.

Travis McCabe, a former police lieutenant, has also been convicted in connection with Glover's death, but he is pushing for a new trial and has yet to be sentenced. Judge Africk is scheduled to hear McCabe's appeal on April 21.

Spurred by an investigation from ProPublica and The Nation magazine linking the killing to the New Orleans police force, federal agents began probing the matter, eventually bringing charges against Warren, McRae, McCabe and two others — Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann and former Lt. Robert Italiano.

The five were tried late last year, with the jury acquitting Scheuermann and Italiano.

The slaying of Glover (a 31-year-old father of four), the desecration of his body and the police cover-up have captured international media attention and sparked calls to reform the long-troubled police force, a process now under way. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice released a 158-page study documenting "systemic violations of civil rights" by New Orleans police and suggesting the police force had a pattern of covering up questionable conduct by cops.

To Read the Rest of the Report

I Am Jack's Calvin and Hobbes

[via Metaphilm and Galvin P. Chow's Fight Club: The Return of Hobbes]

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Le Tigre: Bang! Bang!

Pepe Escobar: No Business Like War Business -- Who Stands to Profit from Intervention in Libya?

No Business Like War Business: Who Stands to Profit from Intervention in Libya?
From the Pentagon to the French government to the water privatizers, here are some of the beneficiaries of the campaign in Libya.
by Pepe Escobar


For the moment at least, it's quite easy to identify the profiteers.

The Pentagon
Pentagon supremo Robert Gates said this weekend, with a straight face, there are only three repressive regimes in the whole Middle East: Iran, Syria and Libya. The Pentagon is taking out the weak link - Libya. The others were always key features of the neo-conservative take-out/evil list. Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, etc are model democracies.

As for this "now you see it, now you don't" war, the Pentagon is managing to fight it not once, but twice. It started with Africom - established under the George W Bush administration, beefed up under Obama, and rejected by scores of African governments, scholars and human rights organizations. Now the war is transitioning to NATO, which is essentially Pentagon rule over its European minions.

This is Africom's first African war, conducted up to now by General Carter Ham out of his headquarters in un-African Stuttgart. Africom, as Horace Campbell, professor of African American studies and political science at Syracuse University puts it, is a scam; "fundamentally a front for US military contractors like Dyncorp, MPRI and KBR operating in Africa. US military planners who benefit from the revolving door of privatization of warfare are delighted by the opportunity to give Africom credibility under the facade of the Libyan intervention."

Africom's Tomahawks also hit - metaphorically - the African Union (AU), which, unlike the Arab League, cannot be easily bought by the West. The Arab Gulf petro-monarchies all cheered the bombing - but not Egypt and Tunisia. Only five African countries are not subordinated to Africom; Libya is one of them, along with Sudan, Ivory Coast, Eritrea and Zimbabwe.

NATO's master plan is to rule the Mediterranean as a NATO lake. Under these "optics" (Pentagon speak) the Mediterranean is infinitely more important nowadays as a theater of war than AfPak.

There are only three out of 20 nations on or in the Mediterranean that are not full members of NATO or allied with its "partnership" programs: Libya, Lebanon and Syria. Make no mistake; Syria is next. Lebanon is already under a NATO blockade since 2006. Now a blockade also applies to Libya. The US - via NATO - is just about to square the circle.

Saudi Arabia
What a deal. King Abdullah gets rid of his eternal foe Gaddafi. The House of Saud - in trademark abject fashion - bends over backwards for the West's benefit. The attention of world public opinion is diverted from the Saudis invading Bahrain to smash a legitimate, peaceful, pro-democracy protest movement.

The House of Saud sold the fiction that "the Arab League" as a whole voted for a no-fly zone. That is a lie; out of 22 members, only 11 were present at the vote; six are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), of which Saudi Arabia is the top dog. The House of Saud just needed to twist the arms of three more. Syria and Algeria were against it. Translation; only nine out of 22 Arab countries voted for the no-fly zone.

Now Saudi Arabia can even order GCC head Abdulrahman al-Attiyah to say, with a straight face, "the Libyan system has lost its legitimacy." As for the "legitimate" House of Saud and the al-Khalifas in Bahrain, someone should induct them into the Humanitarian Hall of Fame.

The hosts of the 2022 soccer World Cup sure know how to clinch a deal. Their Mirages are helping to bomb Libya while Doha gets ready to market eastern Libya oil. Qatar promptly became the first Arab nation to recognize the Libyan "rebels" as the only legitimate government of the country only one day after securing the oil marketing deal.

The 'rebels'
All the worthy democratic aspirations of the Libyan youth movement notwithstanding, the most organized opposition group happens to be the National Front for the Salvation of Libya - financed for years by the House of Saud, the CIA and French intelligence. The rebel "Interim Transitional National Council" is little else than the good ol' National Front, plus a few military defectors. This is the elite of the "innocent civilians" the "coalition" is "protecting".

Right on cue, the "Interim Transitional National Council" has got a new finance minister, US-educated economist Ali Tarhouni. He disclosed that a bunch of Western countries gave them credit backed by Libya's sovereign fund, and the British allowed them to access $1.1 billion of Gaddafi's funds. This means the Anglo-French-American consortium - and now NATO - will only pay for the bombs. As war scams go this one is priceless; the West uses Libya's own cash to finance a bunch of opportunists Libyan rebels to fight the Libyan government. And on top of it the Americans, the Brits and the French feel the love for all that bombing. Neo-cons must be kicking themselves; why couldn't former US deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz come up with something like this for Iraq 2003?

To Read the Rest of the Article

Amanda Marcotte: Christian Intruders -- New Law Will Force Women to Listen to Religious Lectures Before Getting an Abortion

Christian Intruders: New Law Will Force Women to Listen to Religious Lectures Before Getting an Abortion
By Amanda Marcotte

In our new era of relentless, abusive laws aimed at curtailing women’s reproductive rights, it takes a lot to stand out from the crowd, but South Dakota managed to do just that on Tuesday, when Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed into law a bill requiring a three-day waiting period -- the longest waiting period in the nation -- for any woman seeking abortion.

But even that is not what makes this law stand out. That honor goes to the requirement that women seeking abortion must go to a crisis pregnancy center, to submit to a lecture on the supposed evils of abortion; a lecture that will almost surely include misinformation on the dangers of abortion. In passing this law, South Dakota hit a triple, attacking reproductive rights, privacy rights and religious freedom with one law aimed at the single abortion clinic left in the entire state of South Dakota.

That the anti-choice movement is mostly a Christianist movement bent on imposing its religious beliefs on the public at large is one of the most under-discussed aspects of the abortion debate. This law should highlight the theocratic underpinnings of the anti-choice movement. Most and probably all crisis pregnancy centers are religious organizations that object to abortion because it conflicts with their religious dogma about female sexuality, women’s roles, and their belief about when the soul enters the body. Requiring women to sit through a lecture on Christian ethics about sexuality before getting an abortion should be a clear-cut case of a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment, even if the crisis pregnancy centers are careful to avoid saying the word “Jesus” too much.

Republican state senator Al Novstrup claimed the bill is somehow protective of women, offering them a “second opinion,” which indicates not just his disrespect for religious freedom but his profound ignorance of options counseling typical to abortion clinics, especially Planned Parenthood, which runs the sole abortion clinic in the state. I don’t imagine he’d see it that way if the state required citizens to hear a “second opinion” about other private decisions based on personal religious beliefs (or lack thereof). Would Novstrup enjoy having to listen to a lecture from an atheist or Muslim group before joining a church, getting married or making plans for his own funeral? Why then is it appropriate to force women to listen to religious lectures before making a decision that involves their own religious beliefs about life?

To Read the Rest of the Article

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


ORGANIC FARMERS AND SEED SELLERS SUE MONSANTO TO PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM PATENTS ON GENETICALLY MODIFIED SEED: Preemptive Action Seeks Ruling That Would Prohibit Monsanto From Suing Organic Farmers and Seed Growers If Contaminated By Roundup Ready Seed
Public Patent Foundation

NEW YORK – March 29, 2011 – On behalf of 60 family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations, the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed suit today against Monsanto Company to challenge the chemical giant's patents on genetically modified seed. The organic plaintiffs were forced to sue preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should they ever become contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified seed, something Monsanto has done to others in the past.

The case, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, was filed in federal district court in Manhattan and assigned to Judge Naomi Buchwald. Plaintiffs in the suit represent a broad array of family farmers, small businesses and organizations from within the organic agriculture community who are increasingly threatened by genetically modified seed contamination despite using their best efforts to avoid it. The plaintiff organizations have over 270,000 members, including thousands of certified organic family farmers.

“This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto's transgenic seed should land on their property,” said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT's Executive Director and Lecturer of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. “It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of our clients.”

Once released into the environment, genetically modified seed contaminates and destroys organic seed for the same crop. For example, soon after Monsanto introduced genetically modified seed for canola, organic canola became virtually extinct as a result of contamination. Organic corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets and alfalfa now face the same fate, as Monsanto has released genetically modified seed for each of those crops, too. Monsanto is developing genetically modified seed for many other crops, thus putting the future of all food, and indeed all agriculture, at stake.

In the case, PUBPAT is asking Judge Buchwald to declare that if organic farmers are ever contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified seed, they need not fear also being accused of patent infringement. One reason justifying this result is that Monsanto's patents on genetically modified seed are invalid because they don't meet the “usefulness” requirement of patent law, according to PUBPAT's Ravicher, plaintiffs' lead attorney in the case. Evidence cited by PUBPAT in its opening filing today proves that genetically modified seed has negative economic and health effects, while the promised benefits of genetically modified seed – increased production and decreased herbicide use – are false.

To Read the rest of the Report

Michael Kimmel: Toward a Pedagogy of the Oppressor

Michael Kimmel


To run or walk into a strong headwind is to understand the power of nature. You set your jaw in a squared grimace, your eyes are slits against the wind, and you breathe with a fierce determination. And still you make so little progress.

To walk or run with that same wind at your back is to float, to sail effortlessly, expending virtually no energy. You do not feel the wind; it feels you. You do not feel how it pushes you along; you feel only the effortlessness of your movements. You feel like you could go on forever. It is only when you turn around and face that wind that you realize its strength.

Being white, or male, or heterosexual in this culture is like running with the wind at your back. It feels like just plain running, and we rarely if ever get a chance to see how we are sustained, supported, and even propelled by that wind.

It is time to make that wind visible.

In recent years, the study of discrimination based on gender, race, class, and sexuality has mushroomed. Of course, the overwhelming majority of the research has explored the experiences of the victims of racism, sexism, homophobia, and class inequality. These are the "victims," the "others" who have begun to make these issues visible to contemporary scholars and lay people alike. This is, of course, politically as it should be: The marginalized always understand first the mechanisms of their marginalization; it remains for them to convince the center that the processes of marginalization are in fact both real and remediable.

When presented with evidence of systematic discrimination, many members of the "majority" are indifferent, sometimes defensive and resistant. "What does this have to do with me?" they ask. Some mention several "facts" that, they believe, will absolve them of inclusion into the superordinate category. "My family never owned slaves," "I have a gay friend," "I never raped anyone," are fairly typical responses. Virtually none seems able to discuss white people as a group. Some will assert that white people are dramatically different from other white people (ethnicity and religion is more important than race); others maintain that white people, as a group, are not at all privileged. And virtually all agree that racism is a problem of individual attitudes, prejudiced people, and not a social problem.

Such statements are as revealing as they are irrelevant. They tell us far more about the way we tend to individualize and personalize processes that are social and structural. And they also tell us that majority members resist discussions of inequality because it will require that they feel guilty for crimes someone else committed.

Even those who are willing to engage with these questions also tend to personalize and individualize them. They may grudgingly grant the systematic nature of inequality, but to them, racism, sexism, and heterosexism are still bad attitudes held by bad people. They are eager to help those bad people see the error of their ways and change their attitudes to good attitudes. This usually will come about through "better education."

Those of us who are white, heterosexual, male, and/or middle class need to go further; we need to see how we are stakeholders in the understanding of structural inequality, how the dynamics that create inequality for some also benefit others. Privilege needs to be made visible.


To be white, or straight, or male, or middle class is to be simultaneously ubiquitous and invisible. You're everywhere you look, you're the standard against which everyone else is measured. You're like water, like air. People will tell you they went to see a "woman doctor," or they will say they went to see "the doctor." People will tell you they have a "gay colleague" or they'll tell you about a "colleague." A white person will be happy to tell you about a "black friend," but when that same person simply mentions a "friend," everyone will assume the person is white. Any college course that doesn't have the word "woman" or "gay" or "minority" in the title is, de facto, a course about men, heterosexuals, and white people. But we call those courses "literature," "history," or "political science."

This invisibility is political. This was first made visible to me in the early 1980s, when I participated in a small discussion group on feminism. A white woman and a black woman were discussing whether all women were, by definition, "Sisters," because they all had essentially the same experiences and because all women faced a common oppression by men. The white woman asserted that the fact that they were both women bonded them, in spite of racial differences. The black woman disagreed.

"When you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, what do you see?" she asked.

"I see a woman," replied the white woman.

"That's precisely the problem," responded the black woman. "I see a black woman. To me, race is visible every day, because race is how I am not privileged in our culture. Race is invisible to you, because it's how you are privileged. It's why there will always be differences in our experience."

As I witnessed this exchange, I was startled, and groaned - more audibly, perhaps, than I had intended. Being the only man in the room, someone asked what my response had meant.

"Well," I said, "when I look in the mirror, I see a human being. I'm universally generalizable. As a middle-class white man, I have no class, no race, and no gender. I'm the generic person!"

Sometimes, I like to think that it was on that day that I became a middle-class white man. Sure, I had been all those before, but they had not meant much to me. I enjoyed the privilege of invisibility. The very processes that confer privilege to one group and not another group are often invisible to those upon whom that privilege is conferred. What makes us marginal or powerless are the processes we see, partly because others keep reminding us of them. Invisibility is also a privilege in another sense - it is a luxury that only white people have in our society not to think about race every minute of their lives. It is a luxury that only men have in our society to pretend that gender does not matter.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sesame Street: Street Garden Cooperation

Economic Policy Institute: Top 5% holds more than half of the country’s wealth

Top 5% holds more than half of the country’s wealth
Economic Policy Institute

The distribution of wealth in the United States is even more unequal than the distribution of wages and income. The Figure, from EPI’s new paper, The State of Working America’s Wealth. shows how wealth is divided among American households. It merges survey data on household wealth with changes in aggregate asset prices to estimate how wealth has been affected by the bursting of the housing bubble and the Great Recession. It shows that in 2009, the top 5% of wealth holders claimed 63.5% of the country’s wealth. The bottom 80%, by contrast, held just 12.8% of the country’s wealth.

To Read the Rest, View Charts, and Access More Reports

Alex Johnson: How To Queer Ecology

How to Queer Ecology: One Goose at a Time
by Alex Johnson

I ONCE THOUGHT I KNEW what nature writing was: the pretty, sublime stuff minus the parking lot. The mountain majesty and the soaring eagle and the ancient forest without the human footprint, the humans themselves, the mess.

Slowly, fortunately, that definition has fallen flat. Where is the line between what is Nature and what is Human? Do I spend equal times in the parking lot and the forest? Can I really say the parking lot is separate from the forest? What if I end up staying in the parking lot the whole time? What if it has been a long drive and I really have to pee?

The problem is, the Nature/Human split is not a split. It is a dualism. It is false.

I propose messing it up. I propose queering Nature.

As it would happen, I’m queer. What I mean is this: A) I am a man attracted to men. B) Popular culture has told me that men who are attracted to men are unnatural, and so C) if my culture is right, then I am unnatural. But D) I don’t feel unnatural at all. In fact, the love I share with another man is one of the most comfortable, honest, real feelings I have ever felt. And so E) I can’t help but believe that Nature, and the corresponding definition of “natural,” betray reality. From my end of the rainbow, this thing we call Nature is in need of a good queering.


Not so long ago, I read David Quammen’s essay “The Miracle of the Geese.” In the essay, Quammen says this: “wild geese, not angels, are the images of humanity’s own highest self.” By humanity, I can only assume that he means all humans, collectively, over all of time. “They show us the apogee of our own potential,” Quammen says. “They live by the same principles that we, too often, only espouse. They embody liberty, grace, and devotion, combining those three contradictory virtues with a seamless elegance that leaves us shamed and inspired.” Quammen seems to be on to something. Who could possibly be against liberty, grace, or devotion? But then he starts talking about sex. How geese are monogamous. How a male goose will in fact do better evolutionarily if he is loyal to his mate. “They need one another there, male and female, each its chosen mate, at all times,” he says. “The evolutionary struggle, it turns out, is somewhat more complicated than a singles’ bar.” I’m a little concerned about the evolutionary struggle thing, but I’m still tracking. Life sure is complicated. And then he says this: “I was glad to find an ecological mandate for permanent partnership among animals so estimable as Branta canadensis.”

Boom. There it is. Geese are wild. Geese are pure. They aren’t all mixed up with the problems of civilization and humanity. What we really need is to behave more like geese. If you are a male, then you must find a female. You must partner with that female, provide for that female, fertilize that female, and love that female for the rest of your life. If you are a female, well, you’ll know what to do.

When I first read about Quammen’s geese, I’d been out as bisexual for a year. It was around the second Bush election, and I was writing very serious letters to my conservative grandparents about my sexuality and politics. Now I know why his essay, so considerate, so passionate, so genteel, hit me in the gut. I was not natural.


My instinct is to give Quammen the benefit of the doubt; it was the late ’80s after all. Regardless of his intentions though, Quammen’s notion that Canada geese offer humans an ecological mandate not only reinforces a Nature-as-purity mythos (against which humans act), but at an even more basic level, his assumptions are simply inaccurate: plenty of geese aren’t straight.

In 1999, Bruce Bagemihl published Biological Exuberance, an impressive compendium of thousands of observed nonheteronormative sexual behaviors and gender nonconformity among animals. Besides giraffes and warthogs and hummingbirds, there’s a section on geese. Researchers have observed that up to 12 percent of pairs were homosexual in populations of Branta canadensis. And it’s not because of a lack of potential mates of the opposite gender. “In one case,” says Bagemihl, “a male harassed a female who was part of a long-lasting lesbian pair and separated her from her companion, mating with her. However, the next year, she returned to her female partner and their pairbond resumed.”

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship: Just a Couple of More Things about NPR

Just a Couple of More Things about NPR
by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship
Bill Moyer's Journal

Like Jake LaMotta and his brother Joey in the bloody boxing classic Raging Bull, we are gluttons for punishment. So here we are again, third week in a row, defending NPR against the bare-knuckled assault of its critics.

Our earlier pieces on the funding threat to NPR have generated plenty of punches, both pro and con. And although most of the comments were welcome, and encouraged further thinking about the value of public media in a democratic society, a few reminded us of the words of the poet and scholar James Merrick: "So high at last the contest rose/From words they almost came to blows!"

Nonetheless, reading those comments and criticisms made us realize there are a couple of points that these two wizened veterans of public broadcasting -- with the multiple tote bags and coffee mugs to prove it -- would like to clarify.

For one, when we described the right wing media machine as NPR's "long-time nemesis," it was not to suggest that somehow public radio is its left wing opposite. When it comes to covering and analyzing the news, the reverse of right isn't left; it's independent reporting that toes neither party nor ideological line. We've heard no NPR reporter -- not a one -- advocating on the air for more government spending (or less), for the right of abortion (or against it), for or against gay marriage, or for or against either political party, especially compared to what we hear from Fox News and talk radio on all of these issues and more.

Take, for example, talk jocks John and Ken on KFI-AM Radio in Los Angeles. They beat on California's state legislature like a cheap pinata. According to the Los Angeles Times, "Within a matter of moments, they refer to various lawmakers as 'traitorous pigs,' 'con artist' and 'Republican dirt bag.' They use gruesome sound effects to suggest the mounting of one legislator's head on a stake -- his entry into the duo's hall of shame."

The personalities, "whose frequent targets are taxes, labor unions and illegal immigrants, not only reach more listeners than any other non-syndicated talk show in California but also have the ear -- and fear -- of Sacramento's minority party.

"'There is nary a conversation about the budget that does not involve the names John and Ken,' said Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), the state Senate leader." And that's true whether what they say is grounded in fact or simply made up wholesale out of flimsy, opinionated cloth.

So what do conservatives really mean when they accuse NPR of being "liberal?" They mean it's not accountable to their worldview as conservatives and partisans. They mean it reflects too great a regard for evidence and is too open to reporting different points of views of the same event or idea or issue. Reporting that by its very fact-driven nature often fails to confirm their ideological underpinnings, their way of seeing things (which is why some liberals and Democrats also become irate with NPR).

That's why our favorite new word is "agnotology." According to the website WordSpy, it means "the study of culturally-induced ignorance or doubt," a concept developed in recent years by two historians of science at Stanford University, Robert Proctor and his wife, Londa Schiebinger.

Believing that global climate change is a myth is one example of the kind of ignorance agnotologists investigate. Or the insistence by the tobacco industry that the harm caused by smoking is still in dispute. Or the conviction that Barack Obama is a closet Muslim, and a radical one at that, who may not even be from America.

Those first two illusions have been induced by big business in a cynical attempt to keep pumping profits from deadly pollutants, whether fossil fuels or nicotine. The third, dreamed up by fantasists of the right wing fringe, is in its own way just as toxic and has been tacitly, sometimes audibly, encouraged by certain opponents of President Obama who would perpetuate any prevarication to further blockade his agenda and deny him and fellow Democrats reelection.

None of them is true; rather, they fly in the face of those of us who belong to what an aide to George W. Bush famously called "the reality-based community [who] believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'" He told journalist Ron Suskind, ''That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality."

To Read the Rest of the Statement

Robin Broad and John Cavanagh: The Story of Refined White Rice

The Story of Refined White Rice: How a once nutritious grain was transformed into something unhealthy to eat.
by Robin Broad and John Cavanagh


After farmers harvest their rice, it typically goes to a mill. There, it is cleaned and the husks are taken off the grains of rice. At this point, it is referred to as “brown rice” or “unpolished” rice. Once the husk has been taken off the rice, there remain several very thin layers of wholesome bran. At this stage, the rice is full of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and protein—and very healthy to eat.

Polishing rice from so-called “dirty rice” into the sparkling white form that most people prefer has caused—yes, caused— major, adverse impacts on health.The story would stop there were it not for the technological “modernization,” starting about a century and a half ago, of corporations developing technology to refine rice (and other grains) further. In the case of rice, milling technology created the possibility of peeling the bran off the grain and polishing what is left into shiny, white rice.

But polishing rice from so-called “dirty rice” into the sparkling white form that most people prefer has caused—yes, caused—a number of major, adverse impacts on health.

First, polishing removes most of the vitamins and minerals vital to one’s health. One example: the rice bran contains vitamin B and thiamine, both key to preventing beriberi. Indeed, in the largest World War II prison camp in the Philippines (where John’s grandfather was interned), American prisoners suffered from beriberi until they convinced the Japanese prison guards to let them cook the bran shavings that came off the polished rice; then the beriberi went away.

White rice also increases the risk of diabetes, rates of which are rising quickly in the Philippines, the United States and many other countries. The rice layers removed during polishing contain nutrients that guard against diabetes. Polished rice further contributes to diabetes risk because it causes blood-sugar levels to rise more rapidly than brown rice does. According to the New York Times, a 2010 Harvard study showed that people who consume white rice at least five times a week “are almost 20 percent more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those who eat it less than once a month.” In our travels in the Philippines and the United States, we meet people who are shifting to brown rice on their doctors’ orders precisely because of concerns about diabetes.

To Read the Entire Essay

Ethics: Peace and Conflict Studies Archive

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The Center for Public Integrity ["Investigative Journalism in the Public Interest The mission of the Center for Public Integrity is to produce original investigative journalism about significant public issues to make institutional power more transparent and accountable. To pursue its mission, the Center: Generates high-quality, accessible investigative reports, databases, and contextual analysis on issues of public importance. Disseminates work to journalists, policymakers, scholars, and citizens using a combination of digital, electronic, and print media. Educates, engages, and empowers citizens with the tools and skills they need to hold governments and other institutions accountable. Organizes and supports investigative journalists around the world who apply the Center’s values, mission, and standards to cross-border projects. Remains independent by building a strong and sustainable financial base of support, including a community of committed individuals and foundations."]

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Practical Ethics [United Kingdom: "Welcome to Practical Ethics where you can find daily ethical analysis of news events from researchers in four centres based at the Philosophy Faculty, University of Oxford. We focus on current events with practical ethical relevance, including developments in science and technology, environmental policy, public health, and information ethics."]

Pro Publica (New York: "To expose abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust by government, business, and other institutions, using the moral force of investigative journalism to spur reform through the sustained spotlighting of wrongdoing. ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Our work focuses exclusively on truly important stories, stories with “moral force.” We do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.")

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The Arab Revolt shows that Google's and Twitter's corporate values are better than Facebook's."
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