FCC Plots Murder of Blogs on Behalf of Billionaire Media Lords

Breaking: FCC Will Announce the Death of Net Neutrality Tomorrow (via Americans Against The Tea Party)

If you thought corporations played a big role in your life already, just wait until tomorrow, when the FCC gives up on trying to find a way to enforce equal access to broadband and finally kills net neutrality. What does this mean? It means that the…

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GOP: Giving CDC money to study Gun Violence would be “Funding Propaganda”

(By Lois Beckett via ProPublica).

After the Sandy Hook school shooting, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) was one of a few congressional Republicans who expressed a willingness to reconsider the need for gun control laws.

“Put guns on the table, also put video games on the table, put mental health on the table,” he said less than a week after the Newtown shootings. He told a local TV station that he wanted to see more research done to understand mass shootings. “Let’s let the data lead rather than our political opinions.”

For nearly 20 years, Congress has pushed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to steer clear of firearms violence research. As chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that traditionally sets CDC funding, Kingston has been in a position to change that. Soon after Sandy Hook, Kingston said he had spoken to the head of the agency. “I think we can find some common ground,” Kingston said.

More than a year later, as Kingston competes in a crowded Republican primary race for a U.S. Senate seat, the congressman is no longer talking about common ground.

In a statement to ProPublica, Kingston said he would oppose a proposal from President Obama for $10 million in CDC gun research funding. “The President’s request to fund propaganda for his gun-grabbing initiatives though the CDC will not be included in the FY2015 appropriations bill,” Kingston said.

Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR), the vice chairman of the subcommittee, also “supports the long-standing prohibition of gun control advocacy or promotion funding,” his spokeswoman said.

CDC’s current funding for gun violence prevention research remains at $0.

As gun violence spiked in the early 1990s, the CDC ramped up its funding of firearms violence research. Then, in 1996, it backed off under pressure from Congress and the National Rifle Association. Funding for firearms injury prevention activities dropped from more than $2.7 million in 1995 to barely $100,000 by 2012, according to CDC figures.

After the Sandy Hook shootings, Obama issued a presidential memorandum “directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.”

Following Obama’s instructions, the authoritative Institute of Medicine put together a report on priorities for research on reducing gun violence. Among the questions that need answers, according to the report: Do background checks — the most popular and prominent gun control policy proposal — actually reduce gun violence? How often do Americans successfully use guns to protect themselves each year? And — a question that Kingston himself had raised repeatedly — what is the relationship between violence in video games and other media and “real-life” violence?

Dr. Mark Rosenberg, who led the CDC’s gun violence research in the 1990s, said that the National Rifle Association and other opponents of funding have often fueled a misconception: that Americans can be for guns or for gun research, but not both.

“The researchers at CDC are committed to two goals: one goal is preventing firearm injuries. The second goal is to preserve the rights of legitimate gun owners. They have been totally misportrayed,” Rosenberg said.

A long list of associations that represent medical professionals—including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics — signed a letter last year urging Congress to fund gun violence prevention research.

“If all we wanted to do was protect the rights of legitimate gun owners, we wouldn’t pass any legislation, and if we just wanted to reduce firearm injuries and death, we might say, ‘Take all guns out of civilian hands,’” Rosenberg said. “The trick is, we want to do both at the same time, and that requires research.”

The NRA did not respond to a request for comment. Last year, the NRA’s director of public affairs, Andrew Arulanandam, told CNN that more government gun research is not needed.

“What works to reduce gun violence is to make sure that criminals are prosecuted and those who have been found to be a danger to themselves or others don’t have access to firearms,” Arulanandam said. “Not to carry out more studies.”

Kingston has touted his A+ rating from the NRA. But in his opponents in the Senate primary race are also running on their gun-rights records. (One of them recently made headlines with an AR-15 assault rifle giveaway.)

The CDC is not the only source of federally funded research on gun violence. In response to Obama’s push for more research, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which invests $30 billion in medical research each year, put out a call for new research projects on gun violence prevention last fall. While the first submission deadline has passed, it’s not yet clear how many projects will be funded, or how much money NIH will devote to the effort. An NIH spokeswoman said there is no set funding amount.

Congress also approved Obama’s request for additional CDC funding last year to broaden the reach of the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS), a detailed database of the circumstances surrounding all kinds of violent deaths, including gun deaths. Obama has asked for $23 million this year, to expand the data collection to all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

A CDC spokeswoman said that while the agency “does not receive any dedicated funding for firearm related injury prevention research,” Congress does fund “research on a variety of related topics, including youth violence, child maltreatment, domestic violence, and sexual violence.”

“We remain committed to treating gun violence as the public health issue it is, which is why we need the best researchers in this country working on this topic,” a White House spokesperson said in a statement.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees CDC funding, successfully pushed for more NVDRS funding last year. He told ProPublica in a statement that investing in gun violence research is a “critical need,” but that it has to be balanced “with many competing priorities.”

Other Democrats in the Senate and House — including Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) — have continued to push for more funding.

Mirrored from ProPublica

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Sam Seder, “Ring of Fire” interviews Cliff Schechter on “America Drowning in Gun Violence”

Can Afghanistan’s Vibrant Democratic Press Survive?

(By Olof Blomqvist)

The presidential election has shown Afghanistan’s increasingly mature media scene at its best – hopefully not for the last time.

Afghanistan’s vibrant and diverse media scene is often held up as one of the few real success stories of the post-invasion years. While the Taliban notoriously banned television, strung up video cassettes from trees and only allowed one radio station, there has been an explosion in independent media since 2001.

The growing maturity and importance of the Afghan mediahas been evident over the past few months of campaigning for the 5 April presidential election. The coverage was breathless, around-the-clock and often both informative and critical. The candidates themselves were been forced to become more media savvy and open than in any previous vote. Recently, the largest private network ToloTV even hosted slick, western-style televised debates – the first ever held in the country.

But despite the many positives, there are dark clouds on the horizon for the Afghan media. Many outlets are dependent on international financing and fear what will happen if the aid money disappears. More worryingly, recent years have seen a growing pattern of government efforts to silence negative coverage. Officials have targeted critical journalists through legal harassment and attacks, and the administration has sought to tighten its control over independent media.

Since 2001, extremely lax licensing laws have meant that almost anyone with the means has been able to start an outlet. The state broadcaster Radio Television Afghanistan today competes with hundreds of radio and TV stations, print publications and online outlets, spread across the country and Afghanistan’s many languages. ToloTV is the most successful with its tens of millions of viewers, but many others, like the independent news agency Pajhwok, provide quality journalism under often very difficult conditions.

As violence has increased across Afghanistan over the past years, so have attacks against media workers. In Taliban-controlled areas, threats and beatings are facts of life for reporters, and there is little space for independent media. But it is not just insurgents targeting reporters – local officials and security forces have become more brazen in their attacks, in particular in the provinces outside the major cities.

Several emblematic cases last year highlighted the trend. In Badakshan province, policemen in April damaged the car of the owner of a local radio station after it had covered street protests against the local police. In July, a reporter with the Bokhdi news agency was allegedly badly beaten in a Kabul restaurant by a provincial governor, apparently because of an unfavourable book review. Videos of the bloodied journalist spread quickly on social media, causing widespread outrage.

The Afghan media watchdog Nai reported 56 violent incidents involving media workers in 2013, down slightly from 2012 but a significant increase from just a few years ago. According to Nai, security forces or government officials were the suspected attackers in more than half of the cases.

Equally worrying is that most of the violence has gone unpunished. Powerful individuals behind attacks are often able to pull strings to avoid prosecution in Afghanistan’s notoriously corrupt justice system. Last year, the newly-formed Afghanistan Journalists Center launched a campaign to highlight the near total impunity for attacks against media workers. Of the 23 targeted killings of journalists recorded over the past 20 years, perpetrators have only been held to account in two cases.

But Afghan authorities have also used more official channels to silence media it does not agree with. The attorney general’s office has often been called on to harass or even arrest reporters behind unfavourable coverage, in particular articles focusing on corruption. Many outlets have been reprimanded for what the current media law calls reporting “contrary to the principles of Islam”. This concept is poorly defined and open to interpretation, and often seems to be used to target critical media.

The Karzai administration has also moved to impose stricter institutional control over the media. In 2012, the government attempted to push through a new, widely criticised Mass Media Law. The law would have granted the Ministry of Information and Culture broad powers to set laws governing the media, as well as criminalise a long list of vaguely defined “media violations”. Tabled after almost no consultation with media professionals or civil society, the law caused an outcry and has yet to be enacted. Repeated calls by media rights groups for a freedom of information bill have also fallen on deaf ears.

The less tangible threat to media freedom is the self-censorship that many reporters feel is necessary to protect themselves. The risks of publishing a critical story often outweigh the rewards, in particular on issues around corruption or human rights abuses.

An example from this year’s election campaign is the lack of discussion about transitional justice. Addressing past war crimes is still very much taboo in Afghanistan, not least because so many individuals who face serious accusations of human rights violations still occupy influential government positions. Several of the candidates in this year’s elections are warlords or commanders with bloodstained pasts. Yet their backgrounds have hardly been raised by Afghan journalists, even as international outlets have covered the topic.

Last year, the Uzbek warlord and vice presidential candidate General Rashid Dostum offered an unprecedented apology “to all who have suffered on both sides of the wars” – an apparent precondition for him joining the ticket of Ashraf Ghani, one of the race’s frontrunners. This raised hopes that the door had opened for national media to ask more questions on the topic, but it does not seem to have happened – at least not yet. As the Afghanistan Analysts Network has pointed out, “soft” media coverage of the candidates’ pasts could well be part of a longer-term strategy: build up a relationship first, ask the tough questions later.

Whether or not Afghan media outlets manage to maintain their independence in the face of violence and censorship, many still face uncertain financial futures. The international aid money that much of the media is dependent on is already starting to dry up and will decrease even further after 2014.

Some networks, such as ToloTV, have managed to achieve a degree of financial independence, but there is a real risk that many others will not survive. Arguably, the Afghan media scene is already saturated and having fewer outlets is probably inevitable  the local Kabul government for example has reportedly run out of radio licenses due to a lack of available frequencies in the capital.

But as a recent BBC Media Action report noted, the outlets best placed to survive are those with wealthy, individual backers. Several of these are linked to local strongmen or politicians, and are often disparagingly referred to as “Warlord TV”. It would be a serious threat to press freedom if these outlets come to dominate at the expense of quality media like Pajhwok, which might struggle for funds and be forced to downsize.

Independent media that can challenge authority and inform the public will be crucial for Afghanistan’s fragile democracy after 2014. The past few months have shown Afghanistan’s increasingly mature media scene at its best – hopefully not for the last time.

Olof Blomqvist is a freelance writer focusing on South Asia. He spent last year in Afghanistan working on media projects in the humanitarian aid sector.

This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 licence.

Mirrored from Open Democracy

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IRS Targeted Liberal Groups More Than Tea Party: Newly Released Records

New Records Show IRS Targeted Liberal Groups More Than Tea Party (via Liberaland)

Think Progress obtained a series of IRS documents via the Freedom of Information Act that contradict Republican claims that the IRS targeted only conservative Tea Party groups for scrutiny because of their political beliefs. The 22 “Be On the Look…


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Israel, US Complain about not being able to Divide and Rule the Palestinians

(By Juan Cole)

This week the Fateh Party (secular Arab nationalist) of Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas met in Gaza with members of the Hamas Party (fundamentalist Muslim), seeking a reconciliation and a government of national unity.

The Ra’y News Service of Gaza wrote, “The Palestinian Government has welcomed the [reconciliation] delegation sent by President Mahmud Abbas. It also welcomed the arrival of Dr Musa Abu-Marzuq, member of Hamas Political Bureau, into Gaza. The Government further voiced its full support for the efforts exerted to achieve national reconciliation.” (trans. via BBC Monitoring)

The two sides agreed that in 5 weeks a government of national unity will be appointed by Mahmoud Abbas. There will then be new elections for a president and parliament, to be held no later than 6 months after the new government is sworn in.

Many observers are deeply skeptical that anything will come out of this diplomatic step. It seeks to reverse a 7-year-old political schism in the Palestinian movement. In January 2006, the fundamentalist Hamas Party won the parliamentary elections. This outcome was not acceptable to Israel and the Bush administration, and they connived with the secular Palestine Liberation Organization to overthrow the Hamas government in the West Bank, in which they succeeded. A similar attempt at a coup in the Gaza Strip failed, however. Gradually journalists and politicians have forgotten who was elected and who made the coup, so that you often see the Hamas government in Gaza described as the one that came to power by force. Rather, it is the remnant of the decision the electorate made in 2006.

In 2007 Israel put Gaza under a severe blockade, including its civilian population, which has destroyed the economy, created massive unemployment, and caused a majority of families to be food insecure. It is illegal for an Occupying power to impose collective punishment on a civilian population for which it has responsibility.

President Mahmoud Abbas’s formal term ran out a long time ago, but he has stayed on as president, and appoints a prime minister even though the 2006 Hamas-dominated parliament should be doing that. (The Israelis kidnapped about a third of those elected parliament members at one point, as well as many cabinet members; they consider Hamas a terrorist organization).

The “Gaza Agreement” of yesterday, Wednesday, consisted of 5 points: 1) The formation of a government of national unity, 2) the holding of elections, 3) the re-formation of the security forces, 4) implementing social reforms, and 5) the implementation of general liberties.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya announced the “end of the long political divorce” with a big smile.

But Fateh and Hamas fighters have gotten into firefights with one another over the years, and it will take more than a one-day piece of diplomacy to overcome the bitterness between the two.

Since Fateh has recognized Israel but Hamas has not, the US and the Israeli were upset by this attempt at national unity among the Palestinians, because any government of national unity would contain ministers from Hamas with whom their Israeli counterparts would not be willing to meet. A genuine government of national unity would be a death knell, they say, for the negotiations between Israel and Palestine, which anyway have collapsed.

But the hostility of Israel and the US to a Palestinian internal reconciliation also derives from their desire to divide and rule. A united Palestinian front would make that strategy much less salient. If the 4.4 million Palestinians in the Occupied territories could speak with a single voice, they would nearly have the weight of the 5.5 million Israeli Jews.

The US spokesperson said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a party that does not believe it has a right to exist. The hypocrisy and irony is thick. Israel doesn’t recognize the right of Palestine to exist. As for the demand that Hamas renounce violence, likewise, Israel has not renounced violent aggression toward the Palestinians, something it and its settler surrogates engage in daily. The fact is that parties to negotiations are often engaged in violence against one another (hence the negotiations) and often don’t recognize each other’s legitimacy at the start.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu denounced the Gaza Accord and said that Mahmoud Abbas’s move signaled the end of the Palestine-Israel negotiations.

Since Israel has settled thousands of squatters on Palestinian land in the West Bank since last August with the US-brokered talks began, it is difficult to see what the Palestinians gained from these negotiations, about which the ruling Israeli Likud Party was never serious (and its far right wing partners in the government were either less serious or were openly hostile to the talks). Mahmoud Abbas keeps demanding a final status map from Netanyahu, who declines to provide one.

What really dismays Washington and Tel Aviv, however, is the prospect of having to deal with the whole Palestinian people, not just a couple of hand-picked corrupt old warhorses who are easily bribed and intimidated. False flag tricks to separate the Palestinians again, which worked in 2007, are no doubt already in preparation. The sad thing is that they won’t even have to try very hard. The Palestinians, having been massively displaced and made stateless by the Israelis over several wars, are inevitably weak and divided. The US and Israel have long taken advantage of the victimization of the victims to further victimize them.

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The New York Times Criticized for Submitting to Israeli Censors

(By Sarah Lazare)

The New York Times made a rare admission that it submits to Israeli state gag orders, fueling charges from critics that the globally-influential publication plays fast-and-loose with journalistic ethics to give favorable coverage to Israel.

The revelation emerged when the The Times delayed its coverage of the Israeli detention of a Palestinian journalist, due—as it turns out—to a gag order from an Israeli court.

The blackout came to light when journalists who did not heed the gag order exposed the detention and media censorship. The Times's public editor, Margaret Sullivan, then elicited an admission from her own publication that it complies with Israeli media blackouts as a matter of policy.

Gagging Coverage of Journalist's Detention

Journalist and activist Majd Kayyal, who is a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was returning from a conference in Lebanon on Saturday when Israeli Shin Bet secret police detained him for five days, during which he was interrogated and denied access to a lawyer.

Blogger Richard Silverstein wrote on Saturday about Kayyal's detention and later released a copy of the gag order. Journalist Ali Abunimah, writing for Electronic Intifada, on Sunday reported the arrest and published classified court transcripts that revealed the existence of the gag order on the media regarding the case. Abunimah subsequently wrote several pieces following the story.

Thanks to an appeal from legal rights organization Adalah, the gag on Israeli media coverage was lifted Thursday.

It was only after the gag order was lifted—five days after the detention and interrogation was exposed by other journalists—that The Times covered the story of Kayyal, who has since been released from detention.

Sullivan on Thursday revealed that The Times's failure to cover the story earlier was due to its compliance with a media blackout.

Broad Compliance With Israel-Ordered Blackouts

The chief of the Jerusalem bureau of The Times, Jodi Rudoren, confirmed compliance with Israel's gag orders. Sullivan writes,

The Times is “indeed, bound by gag orders,” Ms. Rudoren said. She said that the situation is analogous to abiding by traffic rules or any other laws of the land, and that two of her predecessors in the bureau chief position affirmed to her this week that The Times has been subject to gag orders in the past. 

Yet Jim Naureckas, editor of Extra! Magazine for media watchdog group FAIR, told Common Dreams that such a claim "mocks the whole idea of standing up for freedom of information when you compare a gag order from a secret police organization to a traffic light."

He added, "It's striking that the story involves a journalist being arrested."

Newsroom lawyer for The Times confirmed the compliance. Sullivan writes:

I asked The Times’s newsroom lawyer, David McCraw, about the situation. He told me that he was consulted by Times journalists this week as they considered publishing an article about Mr. Kayyal’s arrest. Although the situation is somewhat murky, he said, “the general understanding among legal counsel in other countries is that local law would apply to foreign media.” Similar issues arise when America news media organizations cover the British courts, he said.

But the restriction in Israel has not been tested, he said.

Yet The Times managing editor, Dean Baquet, and assistant managing editor, Susan Chira, told Sullivan that they were not aware of any instances in which the paper complied with Israeli gag orders.

Abunimah writes that these admissions leave many questions. "Why does Rudoren believe she is bound by gag orders when two senior editors said they were unaware of the newspaper ever agreeing to be bound by such gag orders?" he asks.

Media Complicity in Israeli Occupation

According to Naureckas, The Times's Jerusalem bureau is riddled with conflicts of interest that extend beyond compliance with gag orders. As FAIR points out, former bureau chief Ethan Bronner had a son in the Israeli army during his tenure. Furthermore, reporter Isabel Kershner's spouse has worked for a think tank that promotes favorable coverage of the Israeli government.

Sullivan herself has previously criticized The Times for biased coverage of Israel, challenging the paper's decision to ignore revelations that the National Security Agency shares unfiltered raw data intelligence files with the Israeli government.

Ramah Kudaimi of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation told Common Dreams that the problem of biased coverage in major media extends far beyond the The Times and raises the chilling question of what else is being blacked out.

"We just commemorated yesterday Palestinian prisoners day, and here we have a young Palestinian imprisoned by Israel for no reason and there is a gag order. It is shocking that The Times would abide by gag orders and not practice real journalism."

Kudaimi adds, "U.S. funding of Israeli occupation and apartheid creates a mindset that seeps into the way the most U.S. media covers oppression."

Naureckas agrees: "The Times and U.S. media in general covers Israel from the Israeli government's perspective and treats Palestinians at best as outsiders and at worst as a demographic threat."

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Mirrored from Commondreams.org

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This Saudi prince is accused of killing 2,000 endangered birds while on safari in Pakistan

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Government = Protection Racket for the 1 Percent

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The Limits of ‘Protest Tourism’ in the Israeli-Occupied West Bank

(By “Jill Saunders”)

“Jill Saunders”, a pseudonym, frequently attends the weekly demonstrations in the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh. In this reflective piece, “Jill” questions the very idea of ‘protest tourism’ in the West Bank.

The wind from the open window blows dusty air across my face as our minibus winds down the roads from Beir Zeit to Nabi Saleh. I lose myself in the view of hills and valleys filled with olive trees coupled with the backdrop of Israeli settlements.

“They throw rocks today?” I’m jostled back into the moment by a question from Hakim, our driver. I hesitate to respond.

“Every Friday, they throw rocks. Are there problems today?” he asks, eyes peering at me from the rearview mirror. 

“…I don’t know,” I stammer, looking down at my knees.

“Why you go?” he presses, still glaring at me in the mirror.

“We have friends there; we are visiting friends.” I gesture to the two girls crammed beside me in the backseat.

“They throw rocks today?”

Satisfied, Hakim nods to me while raising his bushy eyebrows slightly. I shift my gaze to the window once more and quickly lose myself again in the twist and turns of our vehicle.

In the background, I hear my friends and Hakim talking about America, laughing about the best districts of New York, a topic Hakim is strangely well versed on. Normal conversation is refreshing. But, as we drift past checkpoints, soldier outposts and Israeli flags, the conversation shifts again to the occupation, to Israel. Normal conversation is too often a casualty of the occupation.

Arriving in Nabi Saleh, I gesture for Hakim to stop. As he slows down, he demands I save his phone number and call him when we wish to leave. A familiar demand, I oblige, jotting his number in my worn-out journal amongst the dozens of other drivers who have demanded the same.

Waving goodbye, we begin our walk up the hill and into the village. Passing houses decorated with various types of tear gas canisters and shells, we walk in silence towards Martyr Square. Our silence is heavy. It nestles into my chest as a familiar anxiety settles into my mind.

Waiting for the crowd to gather for the demonstration, we sit away from the men already gathered. Soaked in sweat and silence, I begin to speak: “Why am I here?”

Surprised by my internal thoughts becoming spoken words, I sputter angrily, “This isn’t my story.”

Since my first experience at these demonstrations, I have struggled with this concept, that this isn’t my story. I think back to the notion of ‘protest tourists’, referenced by Seth Freedam in his article on the subject of foreigners attending demonstrations in Palestine published by the Guardian in 2010. These ‘protest tourists’, he says come to these demonstrations unarmed with previous knowledge of the conflict and participate “as they are day-trippers taking in the sights of central London.” This concept of demonstration tourism leaves a bad taste in my mouth as I wonder about my own motivations.

Defensively, my mind clings to the fact that I live here, amongst the Palestinians. My skin gets goosebumps across checkpoints, my sleep is interrupted by the choir of F-16s that fly overhead, and my heart lives in my throat as the sonic booms ring out through the city. But, do these limited experiences of the occupation, I wonder to myself, grant me the needed legitimacy to attend these demonstrations in good conscience?

Seeking refuge from my own mind, I turn the question to my friends Madeline and Jenny, “Why do you come here?” Silence lingers as I watch them digest my question under the hot Palestinian sun.

Madeline is first to speak. “I often feel my level of involvement in the resistance here is inadequate. This isn’t my story, I know. But, what else can I do to show my support to the Palestinian people?” Continuing, she says less confidently, “I don’t know. I don’t know why I continue to come here. But I do know that the cause becomes more real to me when it is personal, when I can see the people here taking a stand for their freedom.”

Still questioning myself, I ask, “But what about the idea of ‘protest tourism’, I mean, is that what we are doing? And if we aren’t, if we are really here to support the Palestinian resistance movement, do we really have more integrity than those tourists who come in with their cameras for an adrenaline rush and a story to tell their friends back home?” 

Madeline’s face furrows as she pushes her sunglasses up onto the crock of her nose. “I don’t know,” she says. “I mean, I come here knowing my own bias, about how I’m seen. And it feels…” she hesitates “Well, it feels uneasy.”

Jenny, who has, until now, remained quiet steps in, “So what if we are ‘protest tourists’?” she says, making air quotes with her hands. “I mean, we come in here and no matter what our intentions are, it’s worth something to be here.”

We sit together in silence, Jenny’s statement hanging over our heads. 

Jenny continues, “You have to start somewhere. Maybe you come here first as a protest tourist looking for a rush but, I don’t think that is what’s important. What’s important is the transformative moments that happen afterwards.”

“So what if we are ‘protest tourists’?”

I think about her last statement and wonder about my own involvement in the demonstrations. I try to recall my own transformative moment from potential protest tourist to informed supporter. My mind shifts again to my own legs running, feet hitting the ground hard and fast as my mind repeats the tear-gas survival mantra of, “Look up, look up.”

I am jolted back to the conversation when Jenny says, “I don’t think the first act, your first time here should be diminished because you may not have it all worked out in your mind why you are here.” 

Behind us, young children begin throwing rocks into the distance, laughing with one another. The anticipation in the air sticks to my nostrils as the warm breeze pricks my skin. 

Madeline, with a shaky voice says, “I come here for the kids. Look at them.” We crane our necks backwards to watch the children in the distance. “I don’t know what I am doing for the greater cause of resisting the occupation. Maybe nothing, maybe something. I don’t know.” Taking a deep breath in, she continues, “But I am here, resisting and trying to show these children that I am with them.” 

Relinquishing to her words, I feel my muscles begin to relax, my breath becoming slower. I turn to face Madeline as she continues, “But at the end of the day, I get to go home. I get to walk away from this.” She takes a deep breath, “And they don’t.” 

Silently, we all nod in agreement. Madeline, standing up to put her bag on her back says, “And it’s scary.” With that proclamation of vulnerability, we stand and begin walking towards the chanting crowd that has formed.

“All names have been changed for the protection of those mentioned.”

Jill Saunders” is a pseudonym. The woman behind “Jill” is a Canadian-born teacher who has spent the last three years working in the Middle East. She combines her background in conflict resolution and human rights with her experiences working in the MENA region. Through her writing, she seeks to bring to light the individual narratives that are often overshadowed by conflict.

Mirrored from Your Middle East

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Top 5 Reasons Solar Energy will Save the World

(By Juan Cole)

1. The research and development monies now going into solar energy are great enough to fuel innovation and bring down prices rapidly. First Solar expects solar generation manufacturing costs to fall from 63 cents a watt to 35 cents a watt from now through 2017!

2. Honda is experimenting with a zero-carbon home. It includes a direct DC recharger for an electric car so as to cut down on energy lost to heat during the DC to AC conversion. Charging would take only 2 hours, direct from sunlight.

3. Thin-skin solar panels will be installed directly on the cars, and a canopy recharger will fill them back up.

4. Even poor countries of the global South like Pakistan are finding it affordable now to create enormous solar parks. Bahawalpur faces blackouts and a deficit of 4 gigawatts of electricity. It will soon get 1 gigawatt of electricity from solar and other renewables.

5. After seeing the way Russia is bullying Western Europe over opposition in Brussels to Russia grabbing Ukrainian territory, with Russia threatening to cut off natural gas, many countries will be encouraged to invest in renewable energy sources that cannot be cut off. Thailand is investing in 3 gigawatts of solar energy, not only because its government wants more electricity but because it wants more energy independence! The falling price of solar panels will give a further economic motive for going green, but tensions in the ASEAN countries over the possibility of gradually being reduced to Chinese puppets are real– something Obama is trying to address on his current trip to Japan and other countries of the far east. The alternative to solar, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to produce natural gas, is not affordable in many countries; it uses enormous amounts of precious water, damages the environment, and produces huge methane emissions that threaten deadly climate disruption. Solar gives both cost savings and security, as well as a brighter climate future.

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NB: My 16 solar panels generated 150 kilowatt hours of electricity in the past 7 days, *all* of my home’s electricity needs, including charging my Chevy Volt, saving gasoline costs. And this is in cloudy April in the upper Midwest! In April so far I have offset several hundred pounds of dirty carbon dioxide that is causing climate disruption, plus I am objectively saving a lot of money. True, I had start-up costs, but those will likely be paid off within 6 years and after that everything is gravy. And the carbon costs of the panels and the car will be paid off in only 3 years, after which they are completely green. In some states, such as California and Colorado, you can rent the solar panels and pay only $1000 to get into the game. If you can afford a car in the $32,000 range and are planning to buy a new one, it is crazy not to get a Volt, which is the best deal in cars currently in the world. It is a luxury car and has a wonderful 40 mile battery (a form of storage for your panels), but is being sold a firesale prices as a loss leader.

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related video:


Clinton Global Initiative: Restoration of Solar Home Systems in Rural Thailand – Border Green Energy Team