Saturday, 1 October 2016

Military-Style Raid Ends Native Prayer Against Dakota Pipeline

Up to 21 people were arrested during a peaceful prayer service.

North Dakota police with military-style equipment surrounded Native Americans gathered in prayer against the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline on Wednesday, disrupting their plan to cross sacred and treaty-protected land in protest of a project they fear will destroy their livelihood.
“ND authorities deploy armed personnel with shotguns and assault rifles, military vehicles, and aerial spray on peaceful Water Protectors gathered in prayer,” wrote the Sacred Stone Camp, in a Facebook post.
Officers with military-style armored vehicles and shotguns threatened the protesters, who call themselves “water protectors” for defending the Missouri River from imminent pollution, reported Unicorn Riot. Up to 21 were arrested, the channel reported.
Witnesses filmed the crackdown but said their access their Facebook was blocked. One participant, Thomas H. Joseph II, posted a chilling video narrating the mobilization and his getaway. Helicopters are heard as he says that tear gas is being dropped, and an officer loads his gun as protesters, some on horseback, chant, "We have no guns."
In the video, Joseph said that “one guy’s about ready to blast us” but later added that no fires were shot.
“We gathered in prayer un-armed, prayed, sang songs, and attempted to leave," he later wrote in a Facebook post. "No threats, No vandalism, No violence was taken on our part.”
Police and private security personnel have been more aggressively cracking down on actions against the pipeline since the governor declared a state of emergency. The state is currently investigating an incident in which contracted private security film Frost Kennels unleashed dogs during a nonviolent direct action, ending with six bitten, including a pregnant woman and a child, according to organizers at the action.

Alternative media outlet Unicorn Riot previously accused Facebook of censoring its livestream of police repression, saying they received a popup security alert when they tried to post the video.
“We will not let them stop our mission to amplify the voices of people who might otherwise go unheard, and broadcast the stories that might otherwise go untold,“ they told RT.
The pipeline, expected to transport over half a million barrels of oil a day through four states, has united over 300 tribes in resistance. Several lawsuits are pending against the company, which has retaliated with restraining orders. The White House halted construction on federal land, which makes up three percent of the pipeline's path, but has not issued any other statement against the pipeline—motivating Facebook users to demand a response after Wednesday's crackdown.
President Barack Obama met with tribal representatives on Monday but only made an indirect reference to the historic native gathering: “I know that many of you have come together across tribes and across the country to support the community at Standing Rock,“ he said. “And together, you’re making your voices heard.“

A prior version of this article described the Sacred Stone Camp as the main tribal-led camp. This is not correct. The Oceti Sakowin is the main tribal-led camp.

A Globalization Wake-Up Call


If recent mainstream economic reports are to be taken seriously some of the big brains managing global capitalism these days are starting to lose faith in their neo-liberal ideology. Some come close to sounding like virtual heretics. Like Jonathan Ostry, is the IMF’s deputy director of the research and lead author of an article (“Neoliberalism: Oversold?”)  in the IMF’s official publication. He stated, with a childlike innocence: “…some aspects of the neoliberal agenda probably need a rethink. The [2008] crisis said: ‘The way we’ve been thinking can’t be right’.” No point, I suppose, in dwelling on the past – that is, the millions of lives made miserable by decades of IMF structural adjustment programs.
The lack of mea culpas notwithstanding, the IMF bravely identifies two aspects of neo-liberal policy for scrutiny: the elimination of capital controls (allowing for capital flight to be used as a political weapon against poor countries) and fiscal austerity. While “cheering” aspects of the “neo-liberal agenda”  according to the Financial Times he also acknowledged some “’disquieting conclusions’ including that they resulted in increased inequality that undermined economic growth.”
That report came out in May but just last week the annual report of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has leapt ahead of any cautious “rethinking” and calls for a virtual reversal of the whole neo-liberal “edifice.” The report contains some of the most alarming warnings UNCTAD has ever issued. And that warning relates, in part, to the near-zero interest rates developed countries are using to try to restart their economies.
There are unintended consequence of low interest rates, says the report: “Alarm bells have been ringing over the explosion of corporate debt levels in emerging economies, which now exceed $25 trillion. Damaging deflationary spirals cannot be ruled out.” And later: “The benefits of a rushed integration into international financial markets post-2008 are fast evaporating. If policymakers fail to mitigate the negative impacts of unchecked global market forces …a significant share of developing-country debt incurred since 2008 could become unpayable and exert considerable pressure on the financial system.”
UNCTAD’s analysis also attacks Western governments’ obsession with austerity which has starved global demand but it more broadly blames “… the entire edifice of liberal market finance…”  As far as the UN is concerned this development is the “third leg” of the global financial crisis – the first two being the US housing bubble and the second the EU meltdown. Its solution sounds almost revolutionary according to the London Telegraph: “The world must jettison neo-liberal ideology, and launch a ‘global new deal’ with a blitz of investment on strategic sectors. …a return of the ‘developmental state’, commanding a potent industrial policy, and backed by severe controls on capital flows.”
The report also highlights the fact that global corporations – which designed the neo-liberal  Washington Consensus explicitly to reverse the old social contract and the ’development state’ – have failed utterly to deliver on the quid pro quo: their promise of growth and prosperity. The global corporate sector is characterized by management captured by ”activist funds” which focus almost exclusively on shareholder value, the maximum extraction of profit and mergers and acquisitions rather than the reinvestment of their profits “… into production capacity, jobs, or self-sustaining growth.”
This latter criticism describes the Canadian corporate sector in spades. Instead of investing its record profits – and its tax break windfall in the billions – it is sitting on over $600 billion idle cash. But the situation with Canadian corporations is actually much worse than in most OECD countries, particularly compared to their main competitors in the US. In previous columns I have quoted past studies done by Harvard Business School’s Michael E. Porter. He concluded: “The U.S. is just much more entrepreneurial (than Canada)… Research uncovered key weaknesses in the sophistication of (Canadian) company operations and strategy.” He went on to describe Canadian business as cautious and risk-averse, unwilling to spend money on research and development, and addicted to exporting almost exclusively to the US.
Just this past week Deloitte Canada published a report which took Porter’s academic studies a step further by interviewing 1200 Canadian CEOs regarding their willingness to takes risks and invest in the future of their companies. The results of the study – entitled The Future Belongs to the Bold – paint a pathetic picture. The poll concluded: “At a time when Canada needs its businesses to be bolder and more courageous than ever before, almost 90 per cent aren’t up to the task.” The companies fell into one of several categories: 15 per cent of CEOs were “fearful,” 43 per cent were “hesitant,” 30 per cent were “evolving,” and 11 per cent were “courageous.”
The result? “Investments aren’t made. New ideas aren’t explored. And Canadian companies slowly fall further and further behind.” Companies have actually reduced spending on training by 40 percent since the mid-1990s. As Porter earlier observed, where Canadian companies are successful it is mostly due to access to cheap labour and natural resources.
And this week the Conference Board of Canada published an op-ed in the Globe and Mail decrying the lack of investment in manufacturing innovation, observing: “…research and development spending in the sector is generally very low. Indeed, investment has been so weak for a number of years that many manufacturing segments have actually become less capital intensive. The result is an erosion in the global competitiveness of Canadian manufacturing.”
Once again we see the folly of placing our economic future in the hands of “fearful” and risk averse CEOs while giving them every possible advantage from suppressed wages, huge tax cuts, and privatization, to deregulation and endless idiotic “trade” deals. Corporate Canada signed a contract and broke it. It should be forced be back to the negotiating table. And this time it should focus on the domestic economy.
The Liberal preoccupation with trade deals looks increasingly ill-considered. In yet another warning about the state of global trade Roberto Azevêdo, the World Trade Organization’s director-general declared : “The dramatic slowing of trade growth is serious and should serve as a wake-up call.”  The question for the Trudeau Liberals is what to do if they do wake up. Instead of more oil and gas infrastructure (in a world already awash in both) it should itself be “courageous” and use bold fiscal policy to launch a serious transition away from fossil fuels and at the same time actually take the Paris climate accord seriously. But that would require “rethinking” another neo-liberal policy: the reckless tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations which rob federal government coffers of $50 billion every year.
MURRAY DOBBIN, now living in Powell River, BC has been a journalist, broadcaster, author and social activist for over forty years.  He now writes a bi-weekly column for the on-line journals the Tyee and He can be reached at

Prove your science behind counter-terrorism schemes, doctors tell government

Experts have called on the government to publish the science behind its counter-terrorism strategy, after programs such as Prevent proved inefficient and a possible waste of resources and taxpayer money.
According to a report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP), thousands of Muslim men and women are being referred to counter-terrorism officials for reasons based on questionable studies.
The RCP is now demanding the Home Office publish the evidence upon which Prevent was built to prove it was based on “peer review and scientific scrutiny.”
Doctors warned the policy, which has seen almost 4,000 children referred to the ‘early stage’ extremism prevention scheme Channel, could be traumatizing. Refugees who might have escaped terrorist groups like Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) were particularly vulnerable to this.
“Those fleeing war-torn parts of the world have a high risk of psychological distress, and many are escaping terrorist violence in their country of origin,” said the RCP.
“The College is concerned there should not be a system that overly identifies them with the terrorism from which they have fled, as this could add to their trauma.”
The government has recently started requiring professionals such as teachers, social workers, and doctors who work with vulnerable people to pass on information to the police when suspecting radicalization.
But many education and health representatives, as well as Muslim leaders, have expressed their concerns with the program, arguing it scapegoats Muslim communities and does not truly impact radicalization in Britain.
A report by the National Police Chief’s Council noted that 80 percent of those referred to Channel in the first years of the policy have now left the program for more "appropriate services".
The RCP added: “The poor performance of both adult and child and adolescent tools designed to detect a propensity for terrorism may mean that individuals are unjustifiably referred to Channel.
“There is a risk of family members coming to the attention of public agencies during investigations and being inappropriately drawn into these programmes. If it is found that they have mental health problems, they should be signposted to appropriate services.”
The Government has so far refused to publish the studies on which Prevent and Channel have been based. It is known, however, that the Extremism Risk Guidance 22+ guidelines were based on tests developed by the British Prison Service to“assess the risk and needs in convicted extremist offenders.”
“Academics and community leaders have been calling for the Prevent strategy to be scrapped for years, due to its questionable method and harmful consequences, National Union of Students vice president Shelly Asquith told RT.
“Thousands of our members have been referred and many instances have shown suspicions have been based on racial profiling and prejudice. This latest call from the Royal College of Psychiatrists is welcome, and the fact the Government continues to hide its study speaks volumes.”
In 2016 alone, there have been over 2,000 minors referred to Channel – an 83-percent increase from last year. More than 350 of them were nine years old or even younger.
“The guidance that is used was based on a peer-reviewed study, carried out to meticulous academic guidelines and published in two publicly available academic journals,” said the Home Office.
“It informed part of the process used by independent experts to assess a person’s vulnerability to being drawn into terrorism, and the support which would most benefit them to stop this happening.”

Orwell 2016: Censorship in the age of social media

Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst, writer and commentator for the Middle East with a special focus on radical movements and Yemen. A regular pundit on RT and other networks her work has appeared in major publications: MintPress, the Foreign Policy Journal, Mehr News and many others.Director of Programs at the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, Catherine is also the co-founder of Veritas Consulting. She is the author of Arabia’s Rising - Under The Banner Of The First Imam

If George Orwell is watching from above, he must be impressed. In his novel 1984, what was meant as a cautionary tale against government control and intellectual obscurantism, seems to have come to pass without our full knowledge.
Where have our media taken us?
To be brutally honest, I would say down the yellow brick road and around the tree a few times over already. As our world has become more and more dependent on media, we have opened ourselves up to the bite of censorship, control and the ever-evolving deity which is 'social trend'.
In other words, our need to be “connected” has pretty much left us dependent on information technology.

Our modern media complex

Social media, the printed press and television networks, has, more often than not, become trapped in a political cycle, serving not the people but their owners – and by extension the interests they each represent.
However fair we think our media industry to be, we cannot deny that their very capitalist nature entails a degree of manipulation – or to be more diplomatic, 'framing'.
This reality is even more pronounced with social media. I am not saying that all media are inherently bad, only that the power they wield could be misused or abused.
What was it that Malcom X said? “The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”
Ok, so we live in the age of propaganda? What else is new? Propaganda is not the issue I want to bring up here. Instead, I’d like to look at the relationship we entertain with social media, and those corporations which own them and control them.
We live under the premise that social media absolutely must bow and respect our freedom of expression and right to opine. However, social media networks are private entities, not governments, and as such, they follow different rules altogether. Their corporate nature means that they are entitled to their own rules and regulations.
Take Facebook for example. It is no secret that this social-media powerhouse has been accused of manipulation, spying and censorship many times over.
In May 2016, Alex Hern wrote for The Guardian: Facebook is censoring the internet every day, warping your understanding of the world around you to benefit its corporate interests, and fundamentally changing the media landscape in a potentially apocalyptic fashion.”
Electronic Intifada reported this month that a well-known Palestinian editors had been frozen out of their accounts by Facebook as part of a “deal” between Tel Aviv and Mr Zuckerberg on clamping down on terrorism. The report reads:“Editors at two of the most widely read Palestinian online publications have had their Facebook accounts disabled. Administrators for the Facebook pages of Quds, which has more than five million “likes,” and Shehab News Agency, which has more than six million, found they could not access their accounts on Friday.”
This is how Glenn Greenwald, the prominent investigative journalist reacted to the news: 
While Facebook eventually came out and apologized, pinning the ban to some glitch, many “users” saw in such retraction an attempt to assuage public opinion, and maybe shareholders.
“The pages were removed in error and restored as soon as we were able to investigate,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Electronic Intifada.
Facebook is not alone in the ongoing battle for free speech.
Almost all social media platforms have been accused of wrongdoings: censorship, social profiling, snooping, information monetizing - you name it.
Twitter too has faced some turbulent times when its former CEO allegedly admitted to filtering abuses against US President Barack Obama. If “protection” might appear innocent enough its implications are disturbing.
What else have social media played around with? What else have social media done with our data and need to interact with cyber space? Remember Facebook data sharing business with WhatsApp? Well, just this month Germany pushed back, ruling that privacy is not - yet - another corporate commodity to be traded off.
And then of course there is personal vendetta! On September 9, RT reported “Facebook deleted a post by Norway Prime Minister Erna Solberg which criticized the social networking service for censoring the iconic ‘Napalm Girl’ photo from the Vietnam War.”
Countless people over the past few months alone, have had the displeasure of being slapped by FB’s “policies” … I am one of those people. My crime? Not being me! However ridiculous this sounds I had to prove I was me, and that as me, I was therefore entitled to my account activities.
My ban lasted only a few hours - very frustrating hours, I might add. Others were less fortunate, however. Only this summer, Marwa Osman, a commentator for RT who happens to be my dearest friend, was locked out of her account for having dared to express her political views.
If outright repression does not make you blood boil, then what about old fashioned snooping and socio-political profiling?
In August 2015, Politico published the following lines on Google, our friendly social media giant: Research I have been directing in recent years suggests that Google, Inc. has amassed far more power to control elections—indeed, to control a wide variety of opinions and beliefs—than any company in history has ever had.”
So there you have it: Access and technology are not synonymous to freedom and liberties.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.