Some politicians at the Paris Climate Change conference.
Source: Chemtrails Global Skywatch
Some politicians at the Paris Climate Change conference.
Source: Chemtrails Global Skywatch
January 7, 2016
You might have heard about a few of them, but not as much as you should. Here’s our pick of the last 12 month’s top news stories, all pretty much ignored by the corporate press.
Whistleblowers, Ecocide, top secret trade deals, and shady ties between the Islamic State and the West’s closest allies…here are a few hot topics the mainstream media barely covered in 2015.
The outpouring of fury, despair and grief by the corporate press over the November 13 Paris attacks highlighted the bias of the mainstream media towards western victims of terrorism. There were two suicide bombings in Lebanon the day before the events in Paris, killing 37 and wounding 180, but they were not mentioned much in the sensationalist coverage of France’s tragedy, nor were they mentioned in the minutes’ silences and vigils conducted across the Western world in the aftermath.
From the horrors of the Congo’s bloody civil war to Erdogan’s persecution of Turkish Kurds, from Boko Haram’s ongoing reign of terror in Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon to the plight of Sudanese refugees, the mainstream media seems to pick and choose which human lives deserve our empathy and which aren’t quite so important.
As we previously reported, the Indonesian wildfires that caused devastation to the country’s people and wildlife last year were largely ignored by the mainstream media until several months after the devastating event began. The fires were started by loggers to clear the way for controversial palm oil plantations and caused health problems for over one million people. The World Bank estimates that the fires destroyed 2.6 million hectares (6.4m acres) of rainforest between June and October, costing $16.1bn and causing untold loss of life to the endangered animals who depend on the forests for their survival. Terrified orang-utans fleeing the disaster were abused in a sickening way by some Indonesian villagers.
Ecocide on this scale should have been one of the biggest stories of 2015, but with the exception of Guardian columnist and environmental activist George Monbiot (who attacked his industry for censorship of the event), the tragedy was largely ignored to protect corporate interests.
The terrorist attacks in Paris were used as justification by the French, British and German governments to join military strikes in Syria. They were also used as justification by the French government to severely restrict freedoms at home. As we reported, immediately after the terrible events of November 13, the French government began closing down alternative news sites. The President also declared that anyone’s house could be searched without a warrant, websites could be blocked without warning, and citizens could be put under house arrest without a trial. Activists hoping to march in Paris at last month’s Climate Conference were disappointed to learn that France’s state of emergency also included a ban on protests. Some French politicians are pushing to install GPS trackers in rental cars, re-write the Constitution to allow for martial law, block free wifi and Tor, and combine state databases, which would give the state access to citizens’ personal medical records.
Amnesty International, along with many French bloggers, expressed concern that the Government had imposed martial law in response to the terrorist attack. They have a point: Isn’t a restriction of freedoms at home exactly what extremists would want? John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director of Europe and Central Asia, said in November: “It is a paradox to suspend human rights in order to defend them.”
Many bloggers agreed and said they were scared about the situation in France. One wrote:
“I’m currently living in Paris, the city where some fanatics killed people because they were listening to music, watching a football match, or simply enjoy beers in a bar. I was living in the neighbourhood of where those tragic event happened. Now I’m scared.
I’m not scared of terrorists.
I’m scared of my own country.
I’m scared because different is now starting to mean dangerous.”
The anonymous man goes on:
“It seems that being an ecologist is enough to get house arrest. Before its 20th November reform, this sentence was reserved to people ‘whose activity is dangerous’, now it’s ‘serious reason to believe that his behaviour constitutes a threat’. We’re almost at the thought crime.”
France’s emergency measures were reported by the mainstream media, but there was little analysis or debate about whether they are justified: the myth we have to trade in our freedoms to get security has become a normal part of everyday life.
In 2015, True Activist reported on a growing body of evidence that strongly suggests the Islamic State:
The mainstream media continues to peddle the tired old narrative that the Western coalition are in Syria specifically to fight the I.S. If this were true, it would be logical for these countries to support Russia in its war against the terrorist organization. Yet coverage of Vladimir Putin in the corporate press continues to be entirely negative, despite the fact Russia single-handedly took out 40% of the Islamic State’s infrastructure in just one week. The revelations above have been completely censored by the corporate press, which is becoming less credible by the day.
Last month, an English politician stood up in the Houses of Parliament and gave a speech calling for electoral reform. His request, backed by thousands of citizens, was blocked. The UK has an archaic system of voting which is unfit for purpose and entirely undemocratic: after unpopular Prime Minister David Cameron won the 2015 election with just 36% of the vote, millions of British people felt cheated. A petition was launched to demand proportional representation rather than the co-called ‘first past the post’ system, which benefits the major political parties but never the alternatives. In short, Britain is not the fair, democratic nation it pretends to be. News that Jonathan Reynold’s request (video here) for a fairer system was rejected should have been a big story in the UK, but the British media barely covered it.
The TTIP (Trans-Atlantic Partnership Agreement) TISA, (Trade in Services Agreement) and TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement) are highly controversial and top secret deals that will affect the lives of every citizen of the planet, yet we apparently have no right to decide whether we want them- or even to know the exact details of the draft legislation.
TTIP, in particular, is of huge concern. As we have reported, the deal threatens to allow corporations to sue governments who don’t do as they are told, kill online privacy, make fracking standard procedure across 28 countries, privatise European health systems, force GMO food on unwilling citizens, strip us of our civil liberties, and ensure that corporations have control over the European parliament.
Julian Assange called TTIP “The most important thing happening in Europe right now,” which is why Wikileaks is raising a 100,000 euro reward for any information relating to the deal. The site says of TTIP:
“It remains secret almost in its entirety, closely guarded by the negotiators, and only big corporations are given special access to its terms. The TTIP covers half of global GDP and is one of the largest agreements of its kind in history. The TTIP aims to create a global economic bloc outside of the WTO framework, as part of a geopolitical economic strategy against the BRICS countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.”
Considering the impact all three of these trade deals will have on democracy, human rights, food safety and the environment, public awareness should be widespread. Worryingly, a huge number of people know next to nothing about TTIP, TISA and TPP.
Far from questioning the secrecy of such important agreements or inciting a crucial public debate about whether these deals are ethical and democratic, mainstream coverage has glossed over the negatives and generally provided a biased view of the benefits of this corporate take-over of the world.
Comment: In North America we have seen a 17.5% increase in binge drinking since 2005. (Source: The Fix) What may account for this? Methinks we all know the world has gone more insane since, and the Internet has been slaying all belief systems with no mercy. People have lost faith in institutions, governments, and the status quo does not appeal for the majority of people who think and see what is going on. Despair sets in and escapism becomes an habit.
Dame Sally Davies’ remarks come as a new report suggests there is no safe amount of alcohol for the health and general wellbeing of the public.
She told the BBC’s Today program there is a need to update current advice on alcohol limits, adding that people need to realize the links between dinking and cancer. However, she said people are at “low risk” if they drink less than 14 units per week.
“There is no doubt that the more we drink, the bigger our [risk of cancer is].
“Every year, over 20,000 of people in the UK have a diagnosis of cancer made consequent on drinking alcohol.
“I would argue that we have to be very careful in making sure that the public know the risks of drink just as they need to know the risk of obesity and other lifestyle issues so they can take their choice and live their lives,” she said.
She dismissed the claim that a glass of red wine a day is good for you.
“There’s an old wives’ tale that we were all brought up on – that a glass of red wine protected the heart.
“What we find with the science and evidence now is that, because of the improvements in heart outcomes, which is a success story in this country because of reducing smoking, controlling cholesterol, controlling blood pressure, that has gone down and then you have a different balance of harms.”
The new guidance, issued on Friday by the UK’s chief medical officers, states that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. They suggest people drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, a large reduction on the previous guidance of 21 units.
People should not save up their units for a weekly binge, and should try and have a few alcohol-free days per week.
The guidance also says drinking is directly linked to risk of cancer.
For every 1,000 women who do not drink, 109 will develop breast cancer. This rises to 126 women for those who drink 14 units or less per week, and 153 women for those who drink 14 to 35 units a week, PA reports.
A similar increase can be found with men and levels of bowel cancer.
The guidance comes as boozy Brits recover from last week’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, which saw drunken mayhem across the country and a total of 48 arrests in London.
The number of alcohol-related accident and emergency admissions has risen by 50 percent in the past decade.
Between 2005/6 and 2013/14, the number of alcohol-specific in-patients rose by 63.3 percent, with emergency admissions increasing 53.9 percent. The number of emergency admissions rose from 374.9 to 577.1 per 100,000 people over the nine years.
Even before we knew what bacteria were capable of, we were using certain metals to help fight off their effects.. Hank Green explains how on this episode of SciShow.
Hypocrites, liars, murderers, war criminals, windbags…
This has to be one of the most hypocritical events I have ever seen in my life. Makes one want to vomit. Lying scumbags.
Reviewing the bidding on the United States at the end of 2015, I conclude that we are a killer nation, at home and abroad.
4 January 2016
Reviewing the bidding on the United States at the end of 2015, I conclude that we are a killer nation, at home and abroad.
The segment of our society that benefits most from this role, again, at home and abroad, is the arms industry. At home, it sells the guns that are used, virtually without control, to slaughter innocent groups of people, including in churches and schools. Our corrupt and conscienceless federal and state legislators lack the courage and brains to stop it. And this is not just about the National Rifle Association; it is also about the arms manufacturers and dealers that finance the NRA so that it can exercise influence in Washington and state capitals.
Overseas, we are considered killers. Other countries can only pray to their chosen god or gods that the United States does not decide to work its will on them, whether it be to impose a form of government we think they should adopt or to cite some supposed wrong they have committed as an excuse to pour bombs down upon them or send drones to kill their leaders.
Like it or not, that is our reputation. Most foreigners I meet think we are crazy. Virtually all think we are a danger to world society.
Some of our so-called allies take our side in an attempt to exercise some sort of control over our homicidal tendencies. I put the British in that category.
Some countries just want to stay away from us, and, most of all, not to depend on us for anything. An example is India. U.S. government and private arms salesmen have worked for years to make India a big client for American weapons. India has chosen instead to smile at Americans but to continue to buy its arms from Russia — the Russia led by the notorious Vladimir V. Putin, as opposed to the America led by the adorable Barack H. Obama. Could it be that India is aware that American arms are invariably accompanied by American military advisers to train and support their foreign customers?
So where are we as 2015 draws to a close?
We are in Afghanistan, where we started in 2001 right after 9/11. We are in Iraq, where President George W. Bush took us on false premises in 2003 to get himself re-elected as a wartime president.
We have lost 2,332 troops in Afghanistan over the past 14 years — another six last week — and 4,425 in Iraq. We still maintain thousands of troops in each country, a tribute to our having put into place governments that cannot sustain themselves. U.S. special forces have just helped the Iraqis retake Ramadi, which we have fought for before, this time from the Islamic State group. Last time it was the Sunnis who rose up there. In Afghanistan we are fighting again to hold onto places that otherwise would fall to the Taliban and which may, in fact, fall to the Taliban despite our efforts.
Why are we doing this? I thought the argument Ronald Reagan made in 1986, that if we didn’t fight the Communists in Nicaragua we would have to fight them in Harlingen, Texas, was as dead as the charlatans who governed us at that time. Does anyone really believe that whether Ramadi in Iraq or Sangin in Afghanistan is in “friendly” hands makes any difference to Americans? Even to ask that is to imagine that the Abadi government in Iraq and the Ghani government in Afghanistan are “friendly” hands, a Washington fantasy as close to credibility as a Ted Cruz or Hillary Clinton campaign ad.
I suppose Mr. Obama’s efforts to finish his term without seeing Afghanistan or Iraq collapse into total chaos can be put down to some sort of obsessive compulsive disorder or campaign loyalty to his former Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. It is long past time that we should have taken the position that we’d done all we could in Afghanistan and Iraq and brought our troops home.
What else have we done? We wrecked Libya. Moammar Gadhafi was an egomaniacal pest, even though he eventually relinquished his nuclear-weapons program. But what has taken his place, in large part due to decisions by Mr. Obama’s government, including Ms. Clinton, is two aspiring “national” governments and many lawless local militias, now including the Islamic State, as well as uncontrolled migration to Europe.
In support of our ally and major arms purchaser, Saudi Arabia, we have helped to destroy Yemen. The Saudis have bombed it into the Stone Age, and I have yet to hear anyone in the White House or the Pentagon say there are no U.S. pilots in Saudi cockpits. Yemen already was the poorest country in the Middle East.
U.S. involvement in the Yemen conflict also puts us right in the middle of the Sunni-Shiite conflict within Islam. There is just no reason in the world for us to be involved in an intra-Islamic conflict. The reason we are is American arms manufacturers’ commitments to after-purchase support of weapons they’ve sold to Saudi Arabia. I don’t think we sold them the swords they use to cut off the heads of accused criminals.
The United States also has used the absence of government in Somalia and the venality of the government of Djibouti to establish a military outpost in Djibouti. There are now thousands of U.S. troops, fighter bombers and a drone base there, with no good reason. This represents an unneeded, Pentagon supply-driven intervention in Africa.
We should bring our forces home. There will be no peace on Earth until we do. Let us not be killers.
You know you’ll have to at some point.
By Seb FoxAllen
He is hungry. Image via Flickr user Jan Hammershaug
Over the past few days we’ve been trying to find a better way forward from the acrid pile of burning trash that was 2015. We’ve dealt with the environment, terrorism, drug-taking, and more, but perhaps the area with the most room for achievable improvement is in the dank wasteland of the internet.
In 2015 your online friends grew more and more insufferable. All news was bad and the coverage of it worse. People you like argued ad nauseum, and ungodly promoted content took over your carefully curated Instagram feeds. One of your exes got married (lol); another got gout (lol?).
If you were a woman, an incessant stream of dudes yelled sexist shit at you from behind Twitter eggs and Solid Snake avatars. Anonymous threats of sexual violence weren’t so much lobbed in your direction as skillfully targeted at you and your platforms.
If you weren’t white, dismissals of your experiences clogged up your notifications even when you were just trying to crowdsource a substitute for honey in your homemade energy bar recipe.
If you identify as anything less heteronormative than Tim Allen, your very personhood was up for constant debate from people you didn’t know and, more jarringly, in small, subtle ways from some you thought you did.
If you belong to more than one of those groups, you might be commended for even mustering the courage to hang out online this year at all.
Will 2016 be better? Who knows! There is certainly a chance that it will be even worse. But here are a few things that could, if even fleetingly, start to make being online a bit more bearable over the next 12 months.
Trolling is a magical and valuable tactic of the internet. It uses the language and conventions of a group to coax out hypocrisy or frustration from its members. It catches the status quo in all its pomp and silliness. But trolling is also a word we use to minimize the impact of online behavior that would be criminal if it happened on the street.
Harassment online—whether it’s threats of violence, or persistent unwanted contact—is harassment, and should be described that way. Whether laws are currently equipped to deal with it or not, harassment on the internet has consistently led to offline consequences.
Language is never the be all and end all, but not trivializing harassment that happens on the internet as “trolling” (or, say, “cyberbullying”) helps people who are targeted feel heard and believed. That’s a small, good thing.
Trolls aren’t inherently bad and neither is trolling, so long as they punch up at power and privilege.
The most famous troll of 2015 was Donald Trump. His campaign for the Republican nomination for president has consistently (and sometimes spectacularly) frustrated and embarrassed the big-spending political establishment that is used to picking presidents. He engages the political system with such transparent contempt that he has proven incredibly difficult to pander against, forcing both his opponents and the Republican National Committee to respond to his silliness with a seriousness that ends up reading as even sillier.
Better examples are the South Carolina State Representative who introduced a bill forcing doctors prescribing Viagra to jump through the same ridiculous hoops that her colleagues had legislated for abortion procedures, the Australians using an iMessage loophole to hassle politicians over new cybersecurity laws, or that fake Campbell’s Soup customer service account that made fun of homophobes threatening to boycott the company on Facebook.
The difference between being a troll and being a dick all comes down to who you set your sights on.
Being told “Don’t feed the trolls” is about as useful as being told “Just get over it.” Some people process online harassment by shrugging it off, others need to hold it up to the world and light it on fire. Most use a combination of the two, but either way it comes with new consequences that obviously shouldn’t be necessary in the first place.
Feed trolls when it works for you, don’t engage with them when it doesn’t. But don’t accept that either response means you, or someone else, is asking to be targeted.
The internet, or at least the parts of it most of us use, isn’t a public space.
Hanging out on Twitter isn’t like standing on a street corner, it’s like standing in a McDonald’s. It’s a corporately-governed space that can impose rules and restrictions on what its users can say or do.
Social media companies have struggled to find meaningful ways to juggle free speech and user safety on their platforms. Twitter in particular has faced years of criticism for its unwillingness to adopt clear, useful mechanisms to protect users from serial harassment.
The same goes for other types of platforms where people are subjected to online harassment, from personal websites, to comment sections, to email clients.
For 2016, Twitter introduced changes that more concretely shape what kind of language it will allow, tackling both personal abuse and more general speech from places like the estimated 50,000 accounts linked to the Islamic State. It’s a step in the right direction, but functions like better blocking and reporting may need more attention before users really have the agency they need to use the platform safely.
What should be clear is that restrictions platforms like Twitter seem increasingly willing to entertain aren’t an affront to free speech, but rather a clear system of consequences to violating the rules its users opt in to. If we’re going to live in a corporate internet, we can insist that platforms keep up with what we want from them.
Comments are bad. All of them. They are peep shows of morbid curiosity at best, and magnets for the most pompous type of ideological grandstanding at worst.
If you scroll to the bottom of this article, you are likely to find two types of comments: (a) those you already completely agree with; and (b) those you would absolutely never agree with. They’re relics from a time when there was a genuine lack of places someone could publicly express an opinion on the news of the day. That isn’t the case anymore.
Canada’s public broadcaster closed out 2015 by announcing it would disable comments on articles about Indigenous people, which had for years attracted only the worst types of colonial backwash. In the US, major publishers like Bloomberg, The Verge, and VICE’s very own Motherboard all dropped their comments sections last year.
If someone feels a need to add comment—constructive or otherwise—to an article on your website, they have adequate means to do so across thousands of public channels. “Don’t read the comments” was 2014. In 2016, more publishers will choose not to host them.
We get it. You’re callous. You’re brash. You take no prisoners. You understand evolution and free markets and Serena Williams’s sinister agenda better than anyone. You’ve memorized all the most scathing Richard Dawkins quotes, and what you’ve read about ExxonMobil would throw people into open revolt if they only knew.
You’re a rationalist: people should be able to explain anything they say using the square equivalencies of Reason, anytime you ask them to, regardless of whether they’re busy, or don’t know you, or just don’t want to. It’s all about a free exchange of ideas, can’t everyone just realize that?
After all, you’re just asking questions. Like seven of them, one after the other. Maybe the last one was less a question and more a suggestion that that person who tweeted about salted vs. unsalted butter is a dumb bitch who probably doesn’t even like butter. All you wanted was for them to acknowledge that unsalted butter is clearly more versatile because you can always just add salt to it. It’s just logical: but they couldn’t confront the truth.
You’re no hero. You’re just acting out an age-old performance of power, maybe one you feel less and less comfortable doing out in the world these days. Those tiny cracks the Social Justice Warriors and PC Police keep carving into patriarchy and white supremacy seem like chasms from where you sit, jagged expanding holes in the way the world is, or was, or should be.
The internet of 2015, like the internet you’re reading this on today, carried all the same awfulness and injustice that persists offline, except instantly searchable and pinging you 24/7.
But you need to use it. To work, to communicate, to lulz, to connect.
Maybe all you can really do to wade through it are the same things you’ve learned to do offline: keep networks that you trust, pick fights that are worth your time and try to sidestep those that aren’t. Do what you have to do to feel safe, support others when they don’t, and keep chipping away at the structures that make any of this necessary at all.
2016, as ever.
Follow Seb FoxAllen on Twitter.