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People Over for-Profit Prisons: A Social Movement in Gary, Indiana

By Paul Street
Source: Counterpunch
April 9, 2016

The GEO Group: Turning Mass Incarceration Into Gold

One particularly inspiring and instructive example of such people’s activism can be found in the predominantly Black city of Gary, Indiana. A multiracial and multi-ethnic coalition there has been engaged in a remarkable struggle with a powerful private, for-profit prison corporation. The company, GEO Group (hereafter “GEO”) owes its name to George Zoley, its founder and CEO, once described by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) as “America’s Highest Paid ‘Corrections Officer.” Boasting an annual revenue of $1.7 billion, GEO stands in the odious vanguard of the global mass imprisonment state with a distinctively white-supremacist and English-speaking taste for locking down people of color. It manages 104 human warehousing and lock-up facilities, with 87,000 beds and 20,500 employees across four countries: the United States. the United Kingdom, Australia, and South Africa. Nearly two-thirds (64) of its prisons are located in the U.S., the disparate mass incarceration capital of the world and home to roughly a quarter of the planet’s prisoners – most of them Black and Latino.

Formerly known as “Wackenhut,” the Florida-based GEO is the nation’s second largest private prison firm after Corrections Corporations of America (CCA). It describes itself as “the first fully-integrated equity real estate investment trust specializing in the design, development, financing, and operation of correctional, detention, and community reentry facilities worldwide.” Zoley “earns” $1.5 million a month on the backs of taxpayers, under-paid workers, and of course, inmates – the critical dehumanized raw material for “correctional” profits.

Since its founding 32 years ago, GEO Group has turned the racist nightmare of mass incarceration into gold, pushing “law and order” and nativist prison-state policies while crafting deals that charge government (taxpayers) for empty beds. As CMD reported two and a half years ago:

the GEO Group has profited from federal and state policies that have led to a dramatic rise in incarceration and detention in the United States – an increase of more than 500 percent over the past three decades. In recent years, with crime rates dropping and sentencing reform spreading, GEO Group has found a new way to keep its profits high: many of its contracts contain bed guarantees or ‘lock up quotas’ that require that a state keep prisons full, and put taxpayers on the hook for empty beds….For many years GEO Group participated in the task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that pushed bills that lengthened time in prison, such as so-called ‘truth-in-sentencing’ and ‘three strikes’ legislation, as models for states to adopt across the nation. Today, locking up non-violent illegal immigrants is a new profit center for the firm.”

The Corporate Prison Playbook

Since last fall, GEO has been trying to secure municipal approval to build a sprawling, 800-bed immigrant detention center across the street from Gary’s badly underused airport. In Gary as elsewhere, the company has followed the usual corporate prison playbook: target an economically stressed community and promise “jobs and development.”

It must have figured that the savagely deindustrialized and 84 percent Black city of Gary was a perfect mark. Thirty-two miles south of Chicago, the former leading steelmaking town is plagued by an astronomical poverty rate of 39 percent and a mind-boggling child poverty measure of 61%. “To call Gary a struggling city,” journalist Casey Tolan wrote last December, “is to put it lightly. You can drive down blocks here where every single house is vacant, burned out, or gaping open behind smashed windows. Broadway, the main drag, is lined with big, handsome brick buildings that have every window boarded up.”

It’s a Dickensian, Rust Belt disaster zone on par with Detroit and Camden, New Jersey. The city has lost more than half its population over the last four decades. That’s a big part of why it has an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 abandoned homes, a quarter of its housing stock – a remarkable number in a city of 80,000.

Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/people-over-for-profit-prisons-a-social-movement-in-gary-indiana/

A Key Similarity Between Snowden Leak and Panama Papers: Scandal Is What’s Been Legalized

By Glenn Greenwald
Source: The Intercept
April 9, 2016

But illegality was never the crux of the scandal triggered by those NSA revelations. Instead, what was most shocking was what had been legalized: the secret construction of the largest system of suspicionless spying in human history. What was scandalous was not that most of this spying was against the law, but rather that the law — at least as applied and interpreted by the Justice Department and secret, one-sided FISA “courts” — now permitted the U.S. government and its partners to engage in mass surveillance of entire populations, including their own. As the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer put it after the Washington Post’s publication of documents showing NSA analysts engaged in illegal spying: “The ‘non-compliance’ angle is important, but don’t get carried away. The deeper scandal is what’s legal, not what’s not.”

Yesterday, dozens of newspapers around the world reported on what they are calling the Panama Papers: a gargantuan leak of documents from a Panama-based law firm that specializes in creating offshore shell companies. The documents reveal billions of dollars being funneled to offshore tax havens by leading governmental and corporate officials in numerous countries (the U.S. was oddly missing from the initial reporting, though journalists vow that will change shortly).

Some of these documents undoubtedly reveal criminality: either monies that were illegally obtained (and are being hidden for that reason) or assets being concealed in order to criminally evade tax debts. But the crux of this activity — placing assets offshore in order to avoid incurring tax liability — has been legalized. That’s because Western democracies, along with overt tyrannies, are typically controlled by societies’ wealthiest, and laws are enacted to serve their interests. Vox’s Matt Yglesias this morning published a very good explainer of various aspects of this leak and he makes that point clear:

Even as the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nations have engaged in increasingly complex and intensive efforts at international cooperation to smooth the wheels of global commerce, they have willfully chosen to allow the wealthiest members of Western society to shield their financial assets from taxation (and in many cases divorce or bankruptcy settlement) by taking advantage of shell companies and tax havens.......

Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/a-key-similarity-between-snowden-leak-and-panama-papers-scandal-is-whats-been-legalized/

No planet for optimists: Coastal flooding may come sooner than we fear

By Pete Dolack
Source: Systemic Disorder
April 9, 2016

"Predictions of a future catastrophic rise in the oceans, threatening to drown many of the world’s biggest cities, are by now far from novel. Two other recent papers conclude that humanity has already committed itself to a six-meter rise in sea level because of the greenhouse gases already thrown into the atmosphere and the retention and later slow release of much of those gases by the world’s oceans. A study in the journal Science estimates that more than 444,000 square miles of land, where more than 375 million people live today, would be inundated by such a rise."

Feedback loops accelerate ice-sheet melting

"The Atmospheric Chemistry paper says that sea level was at times six to nine meters higher than today approximately 115,000 years ago when the average global temperature “probably was only a few tenths of a degree warmer than today.” Ice-sheet stability may be a key to understanding rapid sea-level rise, the authors write."

"The injection of added freshwater into the oceans from faster ice-sheet melting reduces the mixing of ocean waters, causing warmer water to remain at lower depths and thus making warmer water more available to melt the remaining ice shelves. This additional impact of meltwater on the global climate and its feedbacks had not been appreciated before, the authors write. They summarize this as follows:"

“Our principal finding concerns the effect of meltwater on stratification of the high-latitude ocean and resulting ocean heat sequestration that leads to melting of ice shelves and catastrophic ice sheet collapse. Stratification contrasts with homogenization. Winter conditions on parts of the North Atlantic Ocean and around the edges of Antarctica normally produce cold, salty water that is dense enough to sink to the deep ocean, thus stirring and tending to homogenize the water column. Injection of fresh meltwater reduces the density of the upper ocean wind-stirred mixed layer, thus reducing the rate at which cold surface water sinks in winter at high latitudes.”

Existing models, including the authors’ own, underplays this mixing effect, the paper states, and thus anthropogenic warming “may be even more imminent than in our model.” Regardless of the exact timing, a tipping point will be reached:

“If the ocean continues to accumulate heat and increase melting of marine-terminating ice shelves of Antarctica and Greenland, a point will be reached at which it is impossible to avoid large-scale ice sheet disintegration with sea level rise of at least several meters. The economic and social cost of losing functionality of all coastal cities is practically incalculable.”

Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/no-planet-for-optimists-coastal-flooding-may-come-sooner-than-we-fear-apr-7/

The Panama Papers: Oozing Slime

by Robert Hunziker / April 8th, 2016

The Panama Papers, a one-year investigation by over 100 reporters worldwide (The International Consortium of Investigative Journalism) of offshore money hiding/laundering/taxation avoidance, is a cause célèbre of underhandedness seldom, if ever, revealed to the world’s public. It is comparable to lifting a rotting log in the woods and finding an active nest of millipedes, red worms, and cockroaches scampering about to escape the bright sunlight. They can’t stand the sunlight because darkness is their life.

It’s the biggest leak in history, dwarfing the data released by the Wikileaks organization in 2010. For context, if the amount of data released by Wikileaks was equivalent to the population of San Francisco, the amount of data released in the Panama Papers is the equivalent to that of India. (BBC News, April 5th).

The Panama Papers, containing info on thousands of shell companies set up to avoid taxes and hide assets for over four decades from 1977 to 2015, are all about millionaires and billionaires and the politically connected “sticking it to” average citizens of the world by hiding money from fellow countrymen’s taxation policies and/or theft of state funds and laundering money. It is outrageously heinous and deserving of criminal incrimination and/or tarring and feathering whilst run out of town on a rail. It also begs the question of how many more rich pillagers are out there.

Neoliberalism is the legal equivalent of the Panama Papers.

It robs the public legally by changing regulations, trade policy, and taxation to enrich the wealthy class at the expense of the middle/lower. For example, America’s “15% carried-interest” taxation rate available to people like Mitt Romney but not available to his gardener. This is joylessly known as “reverse Robin Hood economics,” or taking from the poor to enrich the rich, and it works miracles. Just look at how rich Mitt has become and at how his gardener’s wages suck dust.

The NAFTA trade agreement is another example of stealing from the lower/middle to enrich the rich by automatically undercutting America’s unions. “The A.F.L.-C.I.O. released a report excoriating Nafta and highlighting its deleterious effects on the labor market… Nafta increased corporate profits while depressing wages.”4

NAFTA has been hollowing out unions since 1994.

Effectively, NAFTA jump-shifts labor’s wages to dividends and capital gains and CEO bonuses. Presto! Labor magically turns into dividends.

Neoliberal policies are legally as heinous as the Panama Papers are illegally disgusting. One is legal robbery, the other illegal theft. Both achieve the same end result, taking from the lower and middle classes to enrich the wealthy. There are endless examples of how this slight-of-hand is legally constructed by Congress, worthy of a 200-page thesis.

And, Bernie Sanders knows all about it. His popularity is largely based upon exposing the tricks of the trade of the plutocrats. Citizens United essentially put a “for sale” sign up in front of the nation’s capitol.

Full article: http://dissidentvoice.org/2016/04/the-panama-papers-oozing-slime/

Clinton Faces New Challenge from Fractivists After 'Insulting' Comments

Published on
Monday, April 04, 2016
by Common Dreams

As presidential campaigns head to New York, an anti-fracking epicenter, climate activists say they won't give their votes to Clinton so easily

by Nadia Prupis, staff writer

"I feel sorry sometimes for the young people who, you know, believe this. They don't do their own research." (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

Hillary Clinton is facing fresh scrutiny for her environmental track record, following her viral confrontation with a Greenpeace activist and some poorly-received follow-up remarks last week, as the presidential race heads to New York—home to a dedicated anti-fracking movement.

Clinton told Greenpeace campaigner Eva Resnick-Day last week that she was "sick" of Bernie Sanders' campaign "lying" about her taking contributions from fossil fuel companies, a charge which Sanders and Greenpeace have since separately defended. And environmentalists were even less enthused after Clinton told NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday, "I feel sorry sometimes for the young people who, you know, believe this. They don't do their own research."

Resnick-Day told Democracy Now! on Monday that Clinton's comments were "insulting."

"As a youth movement, we have done our own research and that is why we are so terrified for the future," she said.

New York activists in particular remain skeptical about Clinton, whose previous equivocating on fracking stands in stark contrast to Sanders' call to ban the controversial gas extraction method, which was outlawed in the state in 2014 after a years-long environmentalist effort.

"We now have literally thousands of fractivists who are battle-tested, who understand the politics of these issues," one such activist, Walter Hang, told the New York Times on Monday. "And they have zero inclination to give away their vote without firm commitments."

Or as climate activist and author Naomi Klein tweeted, "Young people: Hillary Clinton feels sorry for you because you don't do research. Or maybe because you do..."

Full article: http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/04/04/clinton-faces-new-challenge-fractivists-after-insulting-comments


Bernie Heads to the Vatican

The senator from Vermont will speak about creating a “moral economy.”


The Atlantic

A socialist, Jewish, “not particularly religious” senator from Vermont will soon make his debut at the Vatican. On Friday, Bernie Sanders announced that in a week or so, he will be speaking at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, a scholarly body that’s part of Catholic Church in Rome.

There is a somewhat uncanny overlap between the way Bernie and Francis talk about economic issues. One of the first pieces of writing the pope released during his tenure, Evangelii Gaudium, is all about the greed and fundamental corruption at the heart of the global economy. Both men speak with passion about poverty and talk about labor and wages in moral terms. And Sanders has often praised the pope, including after the pontiff addressed the U.S. Congress in September.

It might also seem like the Vatican is getting involved in a controversial presidential race—not just to throw shade at Donald Trump, which the pope has done before, but to tacitly show favor to one of the Democratic candidates. But the internal politics of the Church, as it turns out, can be rather complicated. After the speaking gig became public, Bloomberg ran an interview with Margaret Archer, the president of the academy, who said that Sanders had approached the Vatican to solicit an invite, showing “monumental discourtesy” in making a Church event into something political. The chancellor of the body, Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, denied that in an interview with Reuters, though, saying that it was his idea to invite Sanders.

Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia University professor who is presenting at the event, said in a phone interview that he helped the Vatican reach out to Bernie Sanders in March, and he doesn’t know why Archer alleged that the Sanders campaign initiated the gig. “The academy sent the invitation, it’s pure and simple,” he said. “A lot of people in the Vatican respect him a lot. He is speaking in the same kind of moral themes that Pope Francis, and the social teachings of the Church, promote, which is a moral economy.” A representative who works with Sachs also passed along an official invitation from Sanchez Sorondo to Sanders dated on March 30. But even though the invite appeared to come from an official Church body, that doesn’t mean it came from Pope Francis, and a spokesperson for the Vatican said it hasn’t been confirmed whether the senator and the pontiff will have a sit-down in Rome.

But although the venue isn’t much like the small-town high-school gymnasiums where Sanders has spent much of his time in recent weeks, this is another moment of Bernie being Bernie: taking any chance he can to decry the ills of the capitalism and the global economy, and to advance his vision of social justice.

Full article: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/04/bernie-heads-to-the-vatican/477471/

(ugh, sorry. Way too many edits; my copy, paste, highlight functions seem to be going AWOL lately).

An Urgent Appeal for the People of Fallujah

by Felicity Arbuthnot / April 5th, 2016

Struan Stevenson, President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA), is calling for “urgent action to end callous food and medicine blockade” of the Iraqi city of Fallujah.

Mr. Stevenson was a Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and was President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014. He outlines starkly the ongoing tragedy of the “City of Mosques”, which was seventy percent destroyed by US troops in 2004 with football pitches being turned into cemeteries such was the human carnage wrought by the “liberators.” The suffering, assaults and siege has never ended. Stevenson states:

The European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) strongly condemns the cruel and criminal siege of Fallujah, which, together with the denial of access to medicine, has led to the starvation and death of large numbers of innocent civilians. The unfolding tragedy has included the horrific death of a young mother who attached rocks to herself and her children and jumped into the River Euphrates. The people of Fallujah are the victims of crimes committed by Daesh (ISIS) who control the city, on the one hand and the bombing of residential areas by the Iraqi army and the sectarian Shi’ia militias affiliated with the Iranian regime, on the other.

Full article: http://dissidentvoice.org/2016/04/an-urgent-appeal-for-the-people-of-falluja/

Six Year Anniversary of WikiLeaks’ Collateral Murder

A Celebration of Free Speech

by Nozomi Hayase / April 5th, 2016

On April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks published classified military footage of a July 2007 attack by a US Army helicopter gunship in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad. The video titled Collateral Murder depicted the killing of more than a dozen men, including two Reuters staffers. At the time of release, the WikiLeaks website temporarily crashed with a massive influx of visitors, while versions popped up on YouTube, reaching millions.

The importance of The Collateral Murder video has often been talked about from the perspective that it provided visual evidence of unaccounted US military power and brutality. Now, on the 6th anniversary of its publication, we will revisit the emergence of WikiLeaks in the public consciousness and explore the significance of this video release for the advocacy of free speech.

What was brought to life in this grotesque image of horrific death was the voice of dissent, which until that time was suppressed by institutional hierarchies. This was the voice of whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for releasing the largest trove of secret documents in US history. At her pretrial hearing in 2013, Manning spoke about the facts regarding the incident in New Baghdad in her own words. After identifying the second engagement in the video of the unarmed bongo truck taking the kids to school and the attitudes of the soldiers in the helicopter as “the most alarming aspect of the video”, she described it as “seemingly delightful bloodlust” and noted how it appeared to be similar to a “child torturing ants with a magnifying glass”.

WikiLeaks as a creative application on the Internet has enabled the right of people to freely speak; speech that challenges authority, speech that questions its legitimacy, especially when such an act has become so dangerous. Through Manning’s brave act of conscience, a lost image was resurrected – true words through which ordinary men and women everywhere can transform the world. This made it possible for people to engage in determining the legitimacy of authority and begin withdrawing consent whenever necessary.

Soon after the video release, Ethan McCord, one of the soldiers on the ground at the scene of the shooting, came forward to write an apology letter to the Iraqi people. With heavy hearts, two former soldiers from the Army unit expressed their deep sorrow and wish to repair the damage their country had caused. Icelandic collaborators on the video release traveled to Baghdad to meet the family of the victims of this attack to seek for justice. Debate and discussion that was sparked began to dissolve apathy and callous disregard, replacing it with genuine interest and concern for others. In the eyes of many, this video came to be seen as having turned the tide of the war in Iraq.

Now, on this six year anniversary, let us celebrate the publication of Collateral Murder as a historical renewal of free speech. In 2010, on the day after Easter Sunday, the act of posting such a video online instigated a free flow of information on the ether, giving an everlasting effect of letting people see the other side of the story that had been buried by the official narrative.

Full article: http://dissidentvoice.org/2016/04/six-year-anniversary-of-wikileaks-collateral-murder/

First published at Common Dreams

Nozomi Hayase, Ph.D., is a writer who has been covering issues of freedom of speech, transparency, and decentralized movements. Her work is featured in many publications. Find her on twitter @nozomimagine Read other articles by Nozomi.

What a great post. Thank you, Peace Patriot! nt.

Children Suffer as World Bank’s Borrowers Upend Their Lives

By Jocelyn C. Zuckerman and Michael Hudson October 9, 2015, 5:00 am


Evicted and Abandoned is a global investigation that reveals how the World Bank Group, the powerful development lender committed to ending poverty, has regularly failed to follow its own rules for protecting vulnerable populations.


In the disappearing rainforests of Indonesia, a 9-year-old boy copes with the trauma of eviction

Revan Pragustiawan loved his home by the river. The little boy’s ancestors built the place in a rainforest on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, using local bark and leaves in the traditional style of the Batin Sembilan tribe. Over the years, his dad had improved the house with wood and a metal roof.

Revan felt safe there, sleeping on a plastic mat huddled up with his family, and spending his days playing with his sister and helping with chores. By the summer of 2011, he was 5 years old, big enough to help his mother fetch drinking water from the river and look forward to helping with a new garden his dad and some neighbors were planning to sow along the riverbank.

Everything changed for Revan on the morning of August 10, 2011.

He was at home when he heard the crack of gunfire. Soon after, as many as two dozen police officers and 20 employees of the palm oil company PT Asiatic Persada pulled up in heavy vehicles.

Full article: https://www.icij.org/project/world-bank/children-suffer-world-banks-borrowers-upend-their-lives


Over the last decade, projects funded by the World Bank have physically or economically displaced an estimated 3.4 million people, forcing them from their homes, taking their land or damaging their livelihoods.

The World Bank has regularly failed to live up to its own policies for protecting people harmed by projects it finances.

The World Bank and its private-sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation, have financed governments and companies accused of human rights violations such as rape, murder and torture. In some cases the lenders have continued to bankroll these borrowers after evidence of abuses emerged.

Ethiopian authorities diverted millions of dollars from a World Bank-supported project to fund a violent campaign of mass evictions, according to former officials who carried out the forced resettlement program.

From 2009 to 2013, World Bank Group lenders pumped $50 billion into projects graded the highest risk for “irreversible or unprecedented” social or environmental impacts — more than twice as much as the previous five-year span.
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