Posted on

Inside the Union-Busting Birth of the Academy Awards

It all started when the original Hollywood mogul wanted to build a beach house

By 1926, Louis B. Mayer was the West Coast chief at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and beginning to appreciate that Los Angeles was his city. He had had little education, but he possessed a survivor’s sense of economics. Once, he had been an impoverished kid escaping Russia, and now he was probably the highest-salaried man in America. He knew which was preferable. Plus, he had a wife and teenage daughters who thought they deserved a nice new house as a mark of their status. Why not a place at the Santa Monica beach, where the cream lived?

Mr. Mayer was a problem-solver: he thought of renting, but he liked building better. It was suggested that for a proper house he needed architects, plans, and a lot of time. According to his daughter Irene, he disagreed: “When we need a set at the studio, we build it overnight. We need a big village, we build it in weeks. Don’t be at the mercy of those contractors. Don’t start with the architects. With us, it’s business, it gets done. I will talk to the people at the studio. If it can be done for the summer, we will have the beach house.”

Action! It was done. The head of design at the studio, Cedric Gibbons, drew up some plans and the production manager, Joe Cohn, worked out a schedule for building it—in six weeks. For that they’d need three shifts of laborers a day, working round-the-clock. “Can do?” asked Mr. Mayer. “Can do,” said Cohn, but there was a catch. The studios were about to sign an agreement with the union that looked after studio laborers (soon to be known as the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees). Those guys had secure rates of pay, with overtime. That house was going to cost if studio labor built it. So Cohn suggested using just a few skilled people from the studio and then outsourcing cheap labor. The house was ready to be occupied in the spring of 1926. It was a palace.

But Mr. Mayer was worried. Until this very practical example, he had never quite appreciated the deal made with these carpenters, painters, electricians, et cetera. He began to dread the day when those other people—the so-called talent: the actors, the directors, and worst of all the writers—got the union idea in their heads.

The picture business was working very nicely. The money came in from banks in the East. It built the studios and put the talent under contract. For terrific salaries, those beautiful people did as they were told. When the movies were made and put out on the market, the revenue and the profits belonged to the studio. But just suppose those bastards got organized, with those lousy writers leading the way. Some of those people had education and radical ideas. Mr. Mayer didn’t like to think about it, but they might ask for pensions, health benefits, and—if you’ll excuse the word—residuals, or a cut of the profits.

This could be an undermining revolution and Mr. Mayer was one of those Russians who loathed revolutions. So he got a few friends together and said they needed some formula to make unions unnecessary. It would be a way of settling disputes before they arose. Another thing: the picture business stank in the nostrils of the decent public. Sure, they loved the pictures and the stars, but the scandals were out of control—there were pretty kids with money to burn, wild on drugs; there had been a couple of murders, and there was the 1926 divorce between Charlie Chaplin and Lita Grey. Seems Chaplin had screwed her when she was underage. He had tried to get her to have an abortion, but the marriage had happened, and then it had gone bust. And in the divorce complaint, Grey had said that Chaplin was crazy about a lot of dirty stuff, like oral copulation. Most Americans didn’t know what that was in 1926, but if the word got around, Hollywood could catch the blame.

So Mr. Mayer and his pals decided they needed an organization to handle labor problems at the studio without having to get into the union thing, and it would be a public relations operation that pumped out the message that Hollywood was a wonderful place where delightful and thrilling stories were made to give the folks a good time.

They liked the scheme and wondered what to call this organization. It needed a word with class, history, distinction . . . ? In a few more days they had fleshed it out: the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The “Arts and Sciences” touch was genius because it made you think the Academy had always been there, arranged by God and Harvard and Albert Einstein.

They had a banquet (January 1927) at which they offered membership to some of their cronies. Anyone could see that it was an association for the people in power. Someone suggested awarding prizes.

That sounded like their stuff. And if there were prizes for the best pictures, anyone could see they were doing quality work.

Some wondered what the prize might look like. Cedric Gibbons supposedly did a sketch on the tablecloth: a man holding a sword to his feet and using it to pin down reels of film.

A few years later, Margaret Herrick, librarian to the Academy, said, “It looks like my Uncle Oscar.”

Did it happen exactly like that? More or less it did, and in Hollywood, if the story plays, that is the history. Of course, it didn’t all turn out the way Mr. Mayer wanted. He had bad luck. America hit the skids. The movie economy went sour. And in the early 30s, the actors, the writers, and the directors did form their unions or their guilds, because they realized the Academy was just a rubber stamp for the system. Today, those guilds have health plans and pensions. And residuals. The talent killed the goose with points on the net—and then points on the gross! But there was one thing they didn’t get: copyright. If the studios were putting the money up front, they owned the product, which meant they could kick the shit out of it if they wanted. Nothing is perfect.

David Thomson is a film critic, historian, and author of The New Biographical Dictionary of Film.
Posted on

Elizabeth Warren Finally Speaks on Israel/Gaza, Sounds Like Netanyahu

The last time Elizabeth Warren was asked about her views on the Israeli attack on Gaza – on July 17 – she, as Rania Khalek put it, “literally ran away” without answering. But last week, the liberal Senator appeared for one of her regularly scheduled “office hours” with her Massachusetts constituents, this one in Hyannis, and, as a local paper reported, she had nowhere to run.

One voter who identified himself as a Warren supporter, John Bangert, stood up and objected to her recent vote, in the middle of the horrific attack on Gaza, to send yet another $225 million of American taxpayer money to Israel for its “Iron Dome” system. Banger told his Senator: “We are disagreeing with Israel using their guns against innocents. It’s true in Ferguson, Missouri, and it’s true in Israel . . .  The vote was wrong, I believe.” To crowd applause, Bangert told Warren that the money “could have been spent on infrastructure or helping immigrants fleeing Central America.”

But Warren steadfastly defended her “pro-Israel” vote, invoking the politician’s platitude: “We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one.” According to the account in the Cape Cod Times by reporter C. Ryan Barber, flagged by Zaid Jilani, Warren was also asked about her Israel position by other voters who were at the gathering, and she went on to explain:

“I think the vote was right, and I’ll tell you why I think the vote was right. America has a very special relationship with Israel. Israel lives in a very dangerous part of the world, and a part of the world where there aren’t many liberal democracies and democracies that are controlled by the rule of law. And we very much need an ally in that part of the world.”

Warren said Hamas has attacked Israel “indiscriminately,” but with the Iron Dome defense system, the missiles have “not had the terrorist effect Hamas hoped for.” When pressed by another member of the crowd about civilian casualties from Israel’s attacks, Warren said she believes those casualties are the “last thing Israel wants.”

“But when Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they’re using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself,” Warren said, drawing applause.

Warren even rejected a different voter’s suggestion that the U.S. force Israel to at least cease building illegal settlements by withholding further aid: “Noreen Thompsen, of Eastham, proposed that Israel should be prevented from building any more settlements as a condition of future U.S. funding, but Warren said, ‘I think there’s a question of whether we should go that far.’”

In her defense, Warren has long been clear that this is what she would do. Her Senate campaign website still contains statements such as “it is a moral imperative to support and defend Israel” and “as a United States Senator, I will work to ensure Israel’s security and success.”

During her time in the national spotlight, Warren has focused overwhelmingly on domestic issues, rarely venturing into foreign policy discussions. Many of those domestic views, particularly her strident-for-D.C. opposition to banks, have been admirable, elevating her to hero status for many progressives.

But when Warren has spoken on national security, she has invariably spouted warmed-over, banal Democratic hawk tripe of the kind that she just recited about Israel and Gaza. During her Senate campaign, for instance, she issued wildly militaristic – and in some cases clearly false – statements about Iran and its nuclear program that would have been comfortable on the pages of The Weekly Standard

Even as conservative Democratic Senate candidates from red states such as Nebraska’s Bob Kerrey were vehemently condemning the threat of war against Iran during their campaigns, Warren was claiming (contrary to the U.S. Government’s own assessment) that “Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons”, adding: “I support strong sanctions against Iran and believe that the United States must also continue to take a leadership role in pushing other countries to implement strong sanctions as well.” Those claims about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons remained her position even after she was told that they squarely contradict the U.S. intelligence community’s clear assessment of Iran’s actions.

In related news, the British newspaper The Telegraph yesterday published the names of all 504 children who were killed in Gaza over the last 50 days by Israel. In the last week, Israel deliberately destroyed an entire large residential apartment building after giving its residents less than an hour to vacate, leaving more than 40 families homeless, and also destroyed a seven-story office building and two-story shopping center (the video of the apartment building destruction is online and ugly to watch).

Echoing Benjamin Netanyahu (and Hillary Clinton), Elizabeth Warren’s clear position is that Israel bears none of the blame for any of this. Or, to use her words, “when Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they’re using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself.” Such carnage is the “last thing Israel wants.” The last thing. That, ladies and gentlemen, is your inspiring left-wing icon of the Democratic Party.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

Glenn Greenwaldglenn.greenwald@​theintercept.com@ggreenwald

Posted on

(Video) Driver Shouted ‘Go Back To Islam!’ As He Shot Muslim In ‘Stand Your Ground’ Killing

AUSTIN, Texas — A killing of a Muslim man in what some are calling road rage, and others a hate crime, is bringing renewed attention to the deadly consequences of Texas’ “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law.

The shooting occurred in Houston on June 26, 2015, when Ziad Abu Naim and his wife, Lisa Aimone, were driving to visit with one of Naim’s business clients on the way to his mosque for Friday prayers. After turning left at a four-way intersection just a block from their home, Abu Naim’s vehicle almost struck another vehicle, driven by Robert Craig Klimek, another Houston resident.

Ziad Abu Naim and his wife, Lisa Aimone.

Moments later, as described by Leah Caldwell in a Jan. 4 report for Texas Observer, Abu Naim was on the ground, bleeding from a gunshot wound:

“[Klimek] made a right turn and pulled alongside Abu Naim’s Porsche SUV. Both men rolled down their windows. Aimone sat forward in her seat to catch a glimpse of the man in the other car, and that’s when she heard it: “Go back to Islam!” Abu Naim opened the door and stepped out of the car. Aimone kept her eyes on his back. Within a few seconds, she heard a single gunshot.”

Abu Naim never recovered consciousness and died in a Houston hospital three days later. Klimek told police he shot Abu Naim after Abu Naim reached inside his vehicle and punched him multiple times while Aimone insists there was no time for any blows before the fatal gunshot, and that the shouted words point to a possible hate crime.

In September, a grand jury declined to indict Klimek on any crimes. His defense focused on Texas’ Stand Your Ground law. While 23 states have passed some form of Stand Your Ground self-defense law, Texas is considered one of the most most expansive self-defense laws in the country, Caldwell explained:

“In 2007, the Texas Legislature passed legislation explicitly stating that civilians have no ‘duty to retreat’ from their vehicles before using deadly force in self-defense. Instead of driving off, you can now legally shoot to kill in certain circumstances. Critics have said the law is so broad that it gives the trigger-happy carte blanche to shoot first and ask questions later.”

A 2012 study by researchers at Texas A&M University of states with Stand Your Ground laws similar to Florida’s found 600 homicides that could be attributed to the law between 2000 and 2010.

Despite years of anti-Muslim postings online, prosecutors were ‘dismissive’ of the possible hate crime, deeming it road rage gone wrong instead.

There’s also real concern that racial bias is at play in the enforcement of the law, and the state’s selection of whom to prosecute for these kind of road rage incidents. By including vehicles in the Texas version of the law, Professor Tamara Rice Lave of the University of Miami School of Law told Caldwell that it seems to encourage violence against minorities even when other options are available:

“‘If somebody’s in the car, the ignition is on, the foot is on the gas pedal, then they can easily drive away,’ she said. ‘If it was a white, upper-class mother getting out of her car and approaching a car, [and she were shot], do I think there would be an indictment? Yes, there would be. It makes a difference who the victim is.’”

Prosecutors also ignored Aimone’s demands that the killing be investigated as a hate crime. Although Caldwell’s investigation found years of anti-Muslim rhetoric posted online by Klimek, Aimone said officials were “dismissive” of the possibility, and added, “It was almost like too much work for them to find something to see if it was a hate crime.”

Watch “Texas Muslim Road Rage Victim Dies, Suspect Makes Bail, CAIR Seeks Hate Crime Probe” from Council on American-Islamic Relations:

Share this article!
Posted on

(Video) Drug Testing Welfare Recipients is a Waste of Taxpayer Money.

AnonWatcher
January 14, 2016

 (ANONHQ) In early 2015 state legislatures convened across the United States proposing further drug testing for applicants applying for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, or welfare. The countries participating, with the Bill passed included Montana, West Virginia, Texas, Maine, Michigan, and Mississippi.

The intention behind the proposal was to drug test applicants for food stamps and also unemployment benefits in a hope to save money by “getting drug users off the dole and [other benefits].” But according to ThinkProgress, data collected hasn’t displayed such results to back up the savings claim.

The costs weighed up against the success rate differed in each state but nonetheless were astounding in their results:

tennessee

missouri

oklahoma

utah

kansas

mississippi

More states have since considered the move to drug testing, with several passing laws throughout 2015. Some states, such as Arizona have stipulated as early as 2013 an amendment for those who had positive drug test results, that they would lose their benefits for a year; claiming to save the state $1.7 million annually.

Upon mid-year, legislation was passed over 13 states with a further 18 states proposing a requirement for similar laws. Wisconsin included a provision into the budget bill that would drug test individuals participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment and Training program, however the federal government has indicated this may go against federal laws prohibiting states from imposing further additional eligibility criteria.

In 2003 a Michigan Court of Appeals case ruled that “subjecting every welfare applicant in Michigan to a drug test without reason to believe that drugs were being used, was unconstitutional.”

Time.com explored the issue of drug testing in late 2015, criticizing the move: “States already do a good job of ensuring no one gets a “free ride.” We don’t need another one–especially one that stigmatizes.” Social services have helped to stabilize families in much need during the recession, but it seems that the lines between rich and poor are growing larger, darker, and “harder to cross.”

For the low rate of applicants testing positive, the taxpayers’ money is arguably wasted in areas that could otherwise be directed into programs to provide further assistance. In 2003 and again in 2010 the very practice had been ruled unconstitutional. As Time explained, applying for welfare is a grueling task and one taken upon by a vast majority already working a part-time job. Add the humiliation of a drug test because eating is an unaffordable luxury; segregates and stigmatizes a social class that comprises of approximately 35.4 percent of the U.S. population.


This Article (After 7 States Began Drug Testing Welfare Recipients, 1 Thing Became Stunningly Clear) is a free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author AnonWatcher and AnonHQ.com. Image credit: Horia Varlan.

Posted on

MSM FINALLY ADMITS IT, CANNABIS CAN CURE CANCER, IT’S HIGH TIME WE STOP ARRESTING PEOPLE FOR IT

MSM-admits-cannabis-cures-cancer

Atlanta, Ga. – In a surprising move, CNN is reporting that marijuana may be a potential cure for certain types of cancer after numerous studies have shown the viability of cannabis as a potential cancer treatment. The report of marijuana being a potential cure was less surprising than the fact that it was covered prominently by a mainstream media outlet.

The stunning admission comes as Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, has gone on record stating,

“It’s time for a medical marijuana revolution.”

The research, cited by CNN, was conducted in numerous preclinical studies on mice and rats, as well as human cells. It has shown “that cannabinoids may inhibit tumor growth by causing cell death, blocking cell growth, and blocking the development of blood vessels needed by tumors to grow. Laboratory and animal studies have shown that cannabinoids may be able to kill cancer cells while protecting normal cells,” according to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institute of Health.

Additionally, the National Cancer Institute reports that a study in mice “showed that cannabinoids may protect against inflammation of the colon and may have potential in reducing the risk of colon cancer, and possibly in its treatment.”

In another “laboratory study of delta-9-THC, human liver cancer cells showed that the substance damaged or killed the cancer cells. The same study of delta-9-THC in mouse models of liver cancer showed that it had antitumor effects,” according to the National Cancer Institute.

Positive signs were also shown in studies regarding breast cancer as “a laboratory study of cannabidiol (CBD) in estrogen receptor positive and estrogen receptor negative breast cancer cells showed that it caused cancer cell death while having little effect on normal breast cells. Studies in mouse models of metastatic breast cancer showed that cannabinoids may lessen the growth, number, and spread of tumors.”

The preliminary research is extremely promising and holds hope for numerous new treatments for numerous different types of cancer. The problem is that the U.S. federal government treats possession of marijuana as a criminal act.

Even the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a US federal government research institute whose mission includes “bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction,” has officially admitted that marijuana extracts can kill cancer cells.

Currently, however, the U.S. government classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, meaning that the government considers it to have no acceptable medical usage or value. Other drugs classified as Schedule I are LSD, heroin, ecstasy (MDMA), and peyote.

To do research on marijuana, scientists need approval from numerous federal departments and approval is extremely rare. Subsequently, this designation has prevented researchers from conducting clinical trials of cannabis as a treatment for cancer in humans.

Imagine the possibilities if possessing this plant wouldn’t get you kidnapped and locked in a cage, or killed.

The system is laid out in such a way that it creates a dynamic where physicians refuse to even consider cannabis, despite seeing evidence that it works. Without it being legitimized through clinical research and practice standards, doctors fear professional repercussions and potentially losing their license to practice medicine.

According to Dr. Gupta,

“There is now promising research into the use of marijuana that could impact tens of thousands children and adults, including treatment for cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s, to name a few. With regard to pain alone, marijuana could greatly reduce the demand for narcotics and simultaneously decrease the number of accidental painkiller overdoses, which are the greatest cause of preventable death in this country.”

Currently, a bipartisan bill, authored by Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York — titled the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and the Respect States Act of 2015, is in the Senate. This act would ease many of the current restrictions, simplifying the study of cannabis for research.

Dr. Gupta hits the nail on the head when he poignantly stated:

“We should legalize medical marijuana. We should do it nationally. And, we should do it now.”

The potential benefits from research into the medical uses for cannabis know no bounds. We could quite possibly be at the precipice of one of the greatest medical breakthroughs of our collective lives. If only the federal government would get out of the way and allow science to study this potential cure for cancer.

The time is now for us to make the changes we want to see happen; a medical revolution is taking place before our eyes. Please share this article with everyone you know to help awaken people to the potentially life-saving properties of cannabis and the cutting edge research that is proving it.

 

Posted on

US to pay $22 million, Settling Class Action Lawsuit by Georgia Food-Stamp Recipients

January 11, 2016
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will pay 47,760 Georgia households a total of $22 million to settle a lawsuit stemming from the state’s problems providing food stamps.

The state’s food-stamp system has been plagued with problems in recent years, causing tens of thousands of Georgians to lose their benefits or be blocked from applying for them. The settlement announced Monday would pay people retroactively for the food stamps they should have received.

The USDA provides the funding for food stamps. The state Division of Family and Children Services manages Georgia’s program.

Under the settlement, each eligible household will receive an average of $463 in additional food stamps, according to a DFCS statement.

When these Georgians stopped receiving food stamps, some had to stop paying rent or delay buying medicine in order to put food on the table, said an attorney with the nonprofit group that filed the federal lawsuit.

“It caused these households serious harm,” Marc Cohan of the National Center for Law and Economic Justice said. “They are among the most vulnerable people — the elderly, the working poor, persons with disabilities, families with young children.”

The class-action lawsuit filed in early 2014 asserted that Georgia was failing to follow federal law, in that many food-stamp applications and renewals were not processed in time and were therefore denied.

Much of the blame fell upon the agency’s centralized call-in system, which came fully online in 2013 after an 18-month phase-in. It quickly established itself as a frustrating failure. People could not get through on the phone. Callers found themselves on hold for hours. Thousands of calls went unanswered every month.

Problems extended beyond the phone system, Cohan said. The agency was understaffed and workers were poorly trained. People’s paperwork regularly slipped through the cracks.

Craig Schneider
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Displayed with permission from Tribune Content Agency

Posted on

Senator Tom Cotton Received Nearly $1 Mil To Oppose Iran Deal

The group paid $960,250 to Cotton’s campaign, soon after which he lead the writing of an open letter, signed by 47 Republicans, stating that a GOP White House would not adhere to any accords with Iran.
Sen. Tom Cotton with PM Netanyahu in his Jerusalem office, September 31, 2015 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Sen. Tom Cotton with PM Netanyahu in his Jerusalem office, September 31, 2015 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

The historic nuclear accord with Iran, dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was negotiated for months and finally signed by Iran and the U.S., UK, Russia, China, France (the P5) and Germany (+1) on 14 July 2015.

Under the arrangement, Iran has pledged to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, decrease its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98% and reduce approximately two-thirds the total number of gas centrifuges for 13 years.

In exchange for Iran’s adherence to these terms, the UN Security Council members have agreed to reduce sanctions on the Islamic Republic. For example, the U.S. is obligated to end all “secondary” sanctions, meaning those imposed on other countries to prohibit their business with Iran. The European Union will lift its own sanctions, effectively unfreezing some $100 billion in assets–this number is an estimate from the U.S. Treasury Department–currently tied up in overseas bank accounts. In addition, the member states will refrain from imposing any new sanctions on Iran.

The deal is objectively good but perhaps more importantly, it has allowed both the West and Iran to declare victories through diplomacy, avoiding any military action.

Israel remains obstinate on the deal, as it was all throughout negotiations; Prime Minister Netanyahu even went so far as to bypass President Obama and give a fiery speech before the United States Congress in March, lambasting the deal and an open relationship with Iran.

Speaking before the largely Republican Congress, Netanyahu said “This deal won’t be a farewell to arms,” to which the lawmakers applauded. “It would be a farewell to arms control. And the Middle East would soon be crisscrossed by nuclear tripwires. A region where small skirmishes can trigger big wars would turn into a nuclear tinderbox.”

As yet, no bigger wars have been triggered by the Iran deal, and early indications show the deal will have a positive impact on strengthening relations with the West.

But as a report by PressTV alleges, the Israel lobby paid off Republican Senators in Congress to oppose the deal. On Wednesday, it was revealed that Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas received nearly $1 million from the Emergency Committee for Israel, a U.S. based rightwing political advocacy organization.

The group paid $960,250 to Cotton’s campaign, soon after which he lead the writing of an open letter, signed by 47 Republicans, stating that a GOP White House would not adhere to any accords with Iran.

Cotton has kowtowed to the Israel lobby in the past, just as most other Republican lawmakers in Congress. During a July visit to Israel, Cotton claimed, “I will stand with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel and work with my colleagues in Congress to stop this deal.”

Aside from obstructionism against the Iran deal, Netanyahu, and the Israel lobby, collude with Republican lawmakers to maintain the occupation of Palestine, securing huge sums of military aid and characterizing opponents as anti-Israel.

Posted on

The US Military Doesn’t Want You to Know About Its Child Sexual Assault Epidemic

Claire Bernish
January 5, 2016

 (ANTIMEDIA) United States — A grim new study revealed a startling number of children in military families, hundreds each year, are sexually assaulted. Most often, this abuse occurs at the hands of enlisted male troops who are not related to their victims.

According to the study, there “were at least 1,584 substantiated cases of military dependents being sexually abused between fiscal years 2010 and 2014, according to the data. Enlisted service members sexually abused children in 840 cases. Family members of the victims accounted for the second largest category with 332 cases.

“Most of the enlisted offenders were males whose ranks ranged between E-4 and E-6. In the Marine Corps and Army, for example, those troops are corporals, sergeants, and staff sergeants. Officers were involved in 49 of the cases. The victims were overwhelmingly female.”

Those figures aren’t more exact because the military does not have a clear method in place to track perpetrators through its own justice system. Trial and prison records remain notoriously cloistered from public scrutiny, including the severity of the crimes and length of sentences. According to the report, for which the Department of Defense exclusively shared statistics with the Associated Press, there could be as many as 160 additional cases during the same time period if incidents involved a repeat offender or if a child was victimized more than once.

Also, the data “account only for cases involving military dependents, which are the only child victims” tracked by the Department of Defense’s Family Advocacy Program. In other words, children outside military families who are sexually assaulted by troops simply aren’t accounted for. This fact, in itself, creates enormous lingering doubts about the reasons for the lack of tracking — and for the actuality of the victim count.

If the findings of an independent study commissioned by the Colombian government and reported by Colombia Reports are any indication, sexual assault by U.S. service members looks to be a prolonged, insidious, and highly problematic pattern. According to the study, at least 54 children were sexually abused by U.S. troops and contractors stationed there between 2003-2007 — though double that total appears likely.

Renan Vega of the Pedagogic University in Bogotá explained, “There exists abundant information about the sexual violence [committed with] absolute impunity thanks to the bilateral agreements and diplomatic immunity of United States officials.” Indeed, as with the AP study, the number of children sexually assaulted by military personnel could be far greater than what the official numbers attest. According to the Colombian report, no disciplinary or legal action was ever undertaken, so tracking the perpetrators is next to impossible.

But of those cases that do reach trial, the numbers are no less than shocking. According to a previous study by the AP from November 2015, this apparent rampant child sexual assault issue among the troops is clearly evidenced; of the 61% confined in the military’s prison network for sex crimes, over half the cases involved children as victims.

A number of crucial questions are raised by these studies, from the number of victims to the inexplicable lack of means to track them or the perpetrators of such heinous crimes. Most imperatively, though — and most absurdly — why isn’t the United States military doing anything to address this virtual epidemic of child sexual assault?

This article (The US Military Doesn’t Want You to Know About Its Child Sexual Assault Epidemic) is a free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Claire Bernish andtheAntiMedia.orgAnti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11 pm Eastern/8 pm Pacific. Image credit: The U.S. Army. If you spot a typo, email edits@theantimedia.org.

Posted on

(Video) Bernie Sanders Promises to Immediately Break up the Big Banks If Elected

Lauren McCauley
December 6, 2016 

 (COMMONDREAMS) Speaking just blocks away from the belly of the beast, presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on Tuesday gave a major policy speech during which he laid out his plan to take on Wall Street and end the era of “too big to fail” banking.

“To those on Wall Street who may be listening today, let me be very clear,” Sanders said. “Greed is not good. Wall Street and corporate greed are destroying the fabric of our nation. And, here is a New Year’s Resolution that we will keep: If you do not end your greed we will end it for you.”

If elected president, Sanders will ask his Treasury secretary to create a “‘too big to fail’ list of commercial banks, shadow banks and insurance companies whose failure would pose a catastrophic risk to the United States economy without a taxpayer bailout” — and within a year, he vows, he will break up those entities.

“A handful of huge financial institutions simply have too much economic and political power over this country,” Sanders said during the address, which was held at a venue in downtown Manhattan. “If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist…When it comes to Wall Street reform, that must be our bottom line.”

Among other proposals, the Vermont senator threw his support behind a measure introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to reinstate theGlass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial and investment banking.

“Let’s be clear: this legislation, introduced by my colleague Senator Elizabeth Warren aims at the heart of the shadow banking system,” he stated.

Sanders’ chief rival, Hillary Clinton, opposes that measure. On Monday, Clinton’s campaign attempted to preempt Sanders’ Wall Street speech by calling on the progressive senator to endorse her proposal for banking reform.

In response, Sanders’ communications director, Michael Briggs, took aim at Gary Gensler, Clinton’s chief financial adviser. “Senator Sanders won’t be taking advice on how to regulate Wall Street from a former Goldman Sachs partner and a former Treasury Department official who helped Wall Street rig the system,” Briggs said.

The former Secretary of State has repeatedly faced criticism for her longstanding ties to Wall Street.

Watch the speech below:


This article (Bernie Sanders Promises to Immediately Break up the Big Banks If Elected) originally appeared on CommonDreams.org and is licensed Creative Commons 3.0. The Anti-Media radio show airs Monday through Friday @ 11 pm Eastern/8 pm Pacific. Help us fix our typos: edits@theantimedia.org.

Posted on

Nebraska is Torturing its Juvenile Detainees For Having Too Many Books.

Carey Wedler
January 8, 2016

 (ANTIMEDIA) A report released by the Nebraska American Civil Liberties Union this week reveals the state’s extensive use of solitary confinement in children across multiple juvenile detention centers. Solitary confinement is considered a form of torture by the U.N., and in recent years, has been outlawed and scaled back in the United States. In Nebraska, however, children are being forced into isolation for offenses as minor as having too many books or passing notes.

According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, in the early 19th century, the United States pioneered solitary confinement as a form of punishment. After its damaging psychological effects became apparent, however, it was discontinued. Though the practice recently regained popularity, it has once again been skewered as excessive and dangerous.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, concluded in 2011 that “even 15 days in solitary confinement constitutes torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and 15 days is the limit after which irreversible harmful psychological effects can occur.

“Considering the severe mental pain or suffering solitary confinement may cause,” Mendez said, “it can amount to torture…when used as a punishment, during pre-trial detention, indefinitely or for a prolonged period, for persons with mental disabilities or juveniles.” Mendez, an Argentinian human rights activist and attorney who was personally tortured by the military in his native country in the 1970s, urged an “absolute prohibition” on solitary confinement for juveniles and those with mental illness.

Experts stress that because children are not developmentally mature, the effects of torture may be more pronounced. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatrists opposes the practice altogether though Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative recommends it be used for no more than four hours — a guideline Nebraska facilities routinely violate.

Reports from recent years indicate many states are taking efforts to reduce the extent of the practice, including many of Nebraska’s neighboring states.

Even New York’s Rikers Island, notorious for its abuse of prisoners, moved last year to discontinue the use of solitary confinement for inmates under the age of 21. A successful class action suit filed in 2015 on behalf of California inmates at the Pelican Bay State Prison had sweeping effects on the state’s solitary confinement system.

Nebraska, however, has not followed this trend, in spite of the psychological consequences and multiple violations of constitutional rights that come along with it.

Concerned by previous findings on the state’s use of solitary confinement on children, the Nebraska branch of the ACLU examined written policies from different facilities on the practice. It also issued open records requests to obtain logs detailing the implementation of the punishment.

The ACLU found, “A young Nebraskan’s experience with solitary confinement is completely arbitrary and dependent upon the facility in which he or she is placed.”

For example, two facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services, located in Geneva and Kearney, had individual stays in solitary that lasted at most 5 and 5.1 days, respectively. Both institutions have policies limiting confinement to five days though this duration is still longer than experts recommend. A county facility located in Sarpy had relatively low numbers; its longest stay was less than half a day. Interestingly, it does not have a policy dictating limits on the practice.

The longest stay at the state’s Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility, located in Douglas County, was 90 days — 75 days longer than the maximum recommended for adults. That facility’s shortest stay was a full day, also longer than the recommended duration for children. A county facility located in Madison County, the Northeast Nebraska Juvenile Services Center, had, at least, one solitary sentence lasting 52 days. Its shortest, like the Douglas facility, was one full day.

The length of the average stay often exceeded the recommended length of time at each facility (four hours), as well. Kearney and Geneva averaged confinement durations of 20.8 and 50.24 hours, respectively. Others were slightly lower, as in the case of a county facility in Lancaster, which averaged 14.15-hour stays. However, employees at Lancaster likely sentenced a higher volume of children to confinement, considering the total number of days spent in solitary at the facility was 455.85; though the stays were relatively short, they were distributed across a high number of students and were still longer than recommended. The ACLU noted Lancaster’s solitary logs “demonstrate the seemingly often arbitrary and subjective use of solitary confinement as a form of punishment.”

The Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility in Douglas County, which ranked highest for its longest individual stay — 90 days — ranked second highest in the average length of punishment: 187.66 hours or nearly eight days. Children spent 2,021.04 total days in solitary confinement. Further, Madison County’s state-run Northeast NE Juvenile Services Center had the longest average stay: 189.16 hours. The total days spent in solitary by all juvenile inmates was 1,064.

According to the ACLU, this problem disproportionately affects minorities. Though only 20% of youth in Nebraska are “of color,” the ACLU reports, they make up 55% of the juvenile detention population in the state.

Regardless of race, the ACLU suggested the overuse of the punishment occurs because “The lack of statewide standards leaves facilities with far too much discretion, often resulting in the use of solitary confinement for improper or unnecessary purposes.” While some facilities allow students to attend educational activities while in solitary, others enforce complete isolation. The inciting activities of students are equally arbitrary.

Citing official logs detailing children sentenced to the punishment, the Nebraska ACLU noted one student was sent for rummaging through garbage to look for cookies, failing to stop when asked. Another was doing pull ups on a window ledge. One passed a note in class, yet another was caught talking in the hallway, and one deviant had a thread from a sock in their mouth. Most egregiously, two instances of solitary confinement were prompted after children were determined to have an “excessive” number of books. Often, the punishment excludes the child from attending educational classes or so much as socializing with other children, further limiting their ability to learn.

Jacob Rusher was held at the Douglas Correctional Youth Facility from the age of 15 to 17. He told the ACLU he was placed in solitary confinement for three months on multiple occasions. First, it was for his own protection after he broke his ankle. Then, he says he was placed in solitary after being attacked by older detainees: “It was 23 hours a day alone, no TV or radio,” he said. “You were in there with one book, a blanket, a mat, and a toothbrush. No art materials, no hobby items — everything was considered contraband.

Solitary confinement can have staggering consequences. As the ACLU report detailed:

For adults, the effects can be persistent mental health problems, or worse, suicide. And for children, who are still developing and more vulnerable to irreparable harm, the risks of solitary are magnified – protracted isolation and solitary confinement can be permanently damaging, especially for those with mental illness.”

Yet in one case study, the ACLU found a female inmate who threatened self-harm was subsequently placed in solitary confinement. Lisa, now an adult, recalled her experience. “Ironically (because I was in solitary for self-harm), I survived my time alone by just falling back on hurting myself,” she said. “I’d bite my own cheeks and tongue, banging my head on the wall.

Though it seems the world is evolving past this form of cruel and unusual punishment, Nebraska’s practices demonstrate there is still work to be done. The ACLU offered several recommendations to scale back and standardize solitary confinement, including using it as a last resort, ensuring due process — such as letting the inmate know why they are subjected to it — and mandating staff members be educated in youth development, mental health, and de-escalation techniques.

As Lisa observed:

What are the facilities trying to accomplish? If it is to manage somebody’s behavior so they don’t harm themselves or someone else, it doesn’t work — it just creates more isolation, anger and separation and hopelessness. We need to be cognizant of how many traumatic and difficult, violating experiences these youths have already had. Solitary just re-traumatizes them. Much of what was done to me was out of ignorance, not evil, but I want people to recognize that we can change things for the better.”


This article (Nebraska Is Torturing Incarcerated Youth for Having Too Many Books, Passing Notes) is a free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Carey Wedler and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11 pm Eastern/8 pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, emailedits@theantimedia.org.