Islamophobic advertisements removed after James Foley’s family protested


Pamela Geller and Anders Breivik

This picture is about United States extreme rightist Pamela Geller, an influence on mass murderer Anders Breivik.

By Isaac Finn in the USA:

Anti-Muslim ads removed from New York buses after protest from James Foley‘s family

4 October 2014

An anti-Muslim advertisement featuring a photo of American journalist James Foley, taken immediately before his brutal execution at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), will be removed from New York City buses and subway stations.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a rabidly anti-Muslim group founded by right-wing blogger Pamela Geller, agreed to remove James Foley’s photo from one of their advertisements after an impassioned protest from Foley’s family. His parents insisted that Foley’s life and views were completely antithetical to the fascistic ravings of Geller and her group.

J. Patrick Rowan, the lawyer representing the family, in a letter to Geller, stated, “The use of Mr. Foley’s photo in your advertisement will cause profound distress to the Foley family.” The letter continued, “Having lived in and reported from communities in which nearly everyone was of Muslim faith, he had great respect for the religion and those who practiced it. The advertisement you are preparing to run seems to convey the message that ordinary practitioners of Islam are a dangerous threat. This message is entirely inconsistent with Mr. Foley’s reporting and his beliefs.”

Foley had stated opposition to US war, and had taken a critical attitude to the practice of embedded journalism—in which journalists are attached to US military units—because he believed it encouraged biased reporting.

The Foley family also criticized US actions in the Middle East, including how the government handled Foley’s kidnapping. Family members reported that the US government had threatened to prosecute them for “material support” for terrorism if they sought to raise a ransom of roughly $132 million demanded by the ISIS in order to free Foley.

Diana Foley, James Foley’s mother, in an interview with CNN in early September, said, “We’re dealing with very difficult people when we talk about ISIS. Their hate for us is great. And yet, some of our response to them has only increased the hate.”

The AFDI’s original advertisement included a photo of Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, Foley’s alleged executioner, next to a picture of Foley immediately before his execution. Text above the photos read, “Yesterday’s Moderate is Today’s Headline.”

David Yerushalmi, Geller’s lawyer, told the Agence France-Presse that a modified version of the advertisement will be released, with the photo of Foley replaced by a picture of a masked fighter holding a digitally blurred severed head.

The now modified advertisement is one of six posters made by the AFDI, in order to show, according to the group, “the uselessness of the distinction between ‘moderate’ and ‘extremist’ Muslims.” Geller and the AFDI have paid $100,000 to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to have these posters put on 100 buses and two subway stops for four weeks.

Geller is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “the anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and influential figurehead” and a “self-avowed Zionist,” who “has mingled with European racists and fascists.” Last year, she was barred from entering Britain, where she had intended to speak on the platform of the fascistic and racist English Defense League. The Home Office found that her statements “may foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.”

Geller and her organization are currently suing the MTA, for blocking another one of her advertisements. This one features the phrase “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah,” next to a masked face, attributing the quote to the Palestinian Islamist organization Hamas.

The MTA said it rejected the ad as inappropriate for covering the back of city buses because it could be interpreted as “urging direct, violent attacks on Jews.”

Whale exhibition in Denver, USA


This video from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City says about itself:

11 February 2013

Whales: Giants of the Deep” brings visitors closer than ever to some of the mightiest, most massive, and mysterious mammals on Earth. Featuring life-size models, interactive exhibits, and films—as well as more than 20 stunning whale skulls and skeletons—the family-friendly exhibition also reveals the history of the close relationship between humans and whales, from the traditions of Maori whale riders to the whaling industry and later rise of laws protecting whales from commercial hunters.

Originally developed at Te Papa Tongarewa, the national museum of New Zealand, the exhibition will also feature rarely viewed specimens from the Museum’s own world-class collections.

From CBS in the USA:

Whales: Giants Of The Deep Opens At DMNS In October

September 26, 2014 8:28 PM

DENVER (CBS4) – The skeleton of a 58-foot sperm whale is one of 20 whale specimens that will be shown as part of a new exhibition at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science that opens next month.

The exhibit, called Whales: Giants of the Deep, is on tour from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, which boasts one of the largest collections of marine mammals in the world.

The exhibit will also feature life-sized models, digital interactives and rare artifacts. DMNS said visitors can crawl through a life-sized replica of a blue whale’s heart, touch whale teeth and hear the sounds whales use to navigate, communicate and find food.

The exhibit opens Oct. 10 and is free with museum admission.

US entry into World War I, exhibition


This video says about itself:

28 January 2014

Helen Kay, a member of the Scottish branch of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom discusses the organisation’s centenary for the January edition of The World Today.

By Fred Mazelis in the USA:

New York Public Library exhibition on US entry into World War I

25 September 2014

While this summer marked the 100th anniversary of the eruption of the First World War, the entry of the United States into the imperialist conflict did not take place until almost three years later, in April 1917.

Perhaps in anticipation of the 2017 date, a small but historically interesting exhibition is on view at the main branch of the New York Public Library in Manhattan.

The title of the show explains its focus: “Over Here: WWI and the Fight for the American Mind.” The emphasis is on the efforts carried out between August 1914 and April 1917 to win political support for United States entry on the side of the Allied forces against Germany, and also the official efforts, once war had been declared, to mobilize public opinion and suppress anti-war opposition.

Using the voluminous collections of the New York Public Library, among the most extensive in the world, the exhibition “explores the manner in which public relations, propaganda and mass media in its many forms were used to shape and control public opinion about the war,” as the show’s brochure explains.

Various publications, books and pamphlets of the period are displayed, along with photos, propaganda posters, short films, lithographs and even recorded songs, to show some of the opposing points of view on the war during the 1914-1918 period and the techniques used, especially by the government, to mold public opinion. As with other commemorative articles and new histories of WWI that have been published, it is clear that these topics are all too appropriate a century later, amidst the threat of global war between nuclear powers and the increasing attempts by Western imperialism to whip up chauvinism and support for war preparations.

While President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed a policy of neutrality in the global slaughter that began in the summer of 1914, sections of the ruling class almost immediately began beating the drums for war. Among the loudest voices for “preparedness” was none other than ex-President Theodore Roosevelt.

This most jingoistic American chief executive had attracted national and international attention with his exploits during the Spanish-American War of 1898. This did not prevent his selection as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906, in which capacity he was a forerunner to Barack Obama a little more than a century later.

'Give Your Vacation to Your Country,' 1916

Roosevelt had been elected vice-president in 1900 and less than a year after that became president upon the assassination of William McKinley. The exhibit shows a copy of TR’s 1916 book, “Fear God and Take Your Own Part,” which played a significant role in the buildup of war fever.

There are other, even more inflammatory examples of pro-war propaganda displayed, such as a book of “alternate history” that imagined the invasion of the United States and its defeat at the hands of Germany. Another book contained the image of the 47-story Singer Building, the best-known skyscraper of the day, being toppled by enemy attack.

New media, like motion pictures and recordings, were also utilized. The exhibit provides examples, such as a recording of Irving Berlin’s “What Kind of an American Are You?,” a provocative question aimed at millions of immigrants, especially from southern and eastern Europe, who were told they had a special obligation to display their patriotism, much as Muslims are today. This was only one of many such popular songs, by Berlin, George M. Cohan and others.

A short film cartoon deals with the sinking of the British liner Lusitania in 1915, which was used to whip up anti-German sentiment. Another short film, entitled “Colored Man is No Slacker,” was used to build support for war aims among the African-American population denied the most basic rights at home. Another example is “Hate the Hun,” a film by the young director Raoul Walsh. Walsh (High Sierra, They Drive By Night), who lived another six decades and became an important figure in the history of American film, later called this early movie “the rottenest picture ever.”

Propaganda posters were also widely employed. According to the exhibit, there were more than 20 million copies of about 2,500 different poster designs used by the time the war ended in November 1918. A few of the best-known posters are displayed in the show.

'Must children die and mothers plead in vain? Buy more Liberty Bonds,' 1918

Amid this detailed memorabilia, one thing becomes clear almost from the beginning of the exhibition. In its focus on “the fight for the American mind,” it leaves out two crucial issues: first, the causes of the war and of the drive for US entry into the conflict; and second, the nature of mass opposition to the war that found expression in this country both before and after the US joined the fighting in 1917.

There is some mention of anti-war opinion, but it is brief and vague. “As anti-German sentiment within the United States grew,” the exhibit explains, “… hawkish, often nationalistic voices were, in turn, answered by those belonging to a diverse group of individuals, among them pacifists, suffragists, socialists, anarchists, religious figures, and German sympathizers, who believed that it was in America’s best interest to stay out of the war.”

The example chosen to illustrate the supposed anti-war coalition is a book by Jane Addams, the famed social worker, sociologist and pacifist. Addams’s Patriotism and Pacifism During War Time is displayed alongside the abovementioned clarion call to war by Roosevelt.

There is not a single mention of Eugene Debs, either in this section or elsewhere in the exhibition. Debs was the Socialist Party (SP) candidate for US President in both 1912 and 1920, and in the latter instance, Debs ran while in federal prison for opposing the war. Each time he won close to 1 million votes, which represented 6 percent of the total in 1912.

Of course, Debs did not begin from the standpoint of “America’s best interest,” but rather from the interests of the working class all over the world. He made this eloquently clear in his trial on sedition charges in 1918, as we shall see.

'Joan of Arc Saved France,' 1918

But the library exhibition does not refer to the working class or the class struggle. The omission includes the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the revolutionary syndicalist organization founded in 1905 that played such an important role in labor battles in the decade leading up the war, especially in the West, but also in such struggles as the Lawrence textile strike of 1912.

Exhibition curator Michael Inman and his team may well have thought their focus on war propaganda would suffice to indicate a critical attitude. They refer, for example, to xenophobia. There is a brief mention of Emma Goldman, and a section of the exhibit discusses the attack on The Masses, the socialist monthly led by Max Eastman and John Reed. The magazine ceased publication in November 1917, several months after the US postmaster general, using the allegation that the publication was obstructing the draft, rescinded its mailing privileges.

The general impression from all of this, however, is that opposition to the war was confined to the fringes of society, and perhaps to sections of the intelligentsia. The important issues of civil liberties are mentioned, but the class issues underlying the repression of 1917-1918 are ignored.

In the 1914-1917 period, as throughout the past century, the drive toward militarism and war was bound up with both the global interests of American capitalism and the class struggle at home. A discussion of US entry onto the world stage as an imperialist power that does not discuss the class struggle, and specifically the role of the IWW and the SP, is deeply flawed, to put it mildly.

In fact, the war remained unpopular among broad layers of the population, and not just those with pro-German sympathies. The lack of enthusiasm was demonstrated in the total of only 73,000 volunteers in the first six weeks after the declaration of war in April 1917, leading to the imposition of conscription. Both the IWW and the Socialist Party opposed the war, with the SP in emergency convention calling it “a crime against the people of the United States.”

The IWW, despite its own limitations and its numerous reverses in the period after the Lawrence strike of 1912, saw a significant revival in 1917, in the months before and after the US declaration of war. It participated actively in the struggle of the Arizona copper miners earlier in the year and led the lumber workers’ strike in the Pacific Northwest.

These struggles were viciously attacked, with the federal army used as strikebreakers against the lumber workers. This was followed, in September of that year, by simultaneous raids on IWW offices. Some 165 IWW leaders were arrested, 101 eventually facing trial and conviction for violating the just-enacted Espionage Act (the same legislation under which Bradley Manning was convicted and under which Edward Snowden has been charged), with its prohibitions against “disloyalty” and “insubordination.” IWW leader Big Bill Haywood was sentenced to a 20-year jail term, later jumping bail and seeking refuge in the Soviet Union.

Many of the Socialist Party leaders, along with figures like Jack London and Clarence Darrow, supported the war, but thousands of SP members, including large numbers of immigrant workers, remained opposed. Support for SP candidates grew rapidly in the period between 1915 and 1917, with Morris Hillquit winning 22 percent of the vote for mayor of New York, the socialist vote increasing from 3.6 to 34.7 percent in Chicago, and 10 socialist candidates elected to the New York State legislature.

After the Russian Revolution in November 1917, ruling class fears increased further. The Espionage Act was used to arrest and convict hundreds of opponents of the war, most famously Debs himself.

The Socialist leader was arrested in June 1918 after he visited three Socialists in prison for opposing the draft and addressed a crowd outside. “Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder…. And that is war in a nutshell,” he told the crowd. “The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles.”

Addressing the court after being found guilty, Debs famously declared, “Your honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

Debs was sentenced to a 10-year term and served about 32 months before being released by President Warren Harding in 1921.

To sum up, “Over Here,” despite containing much useful and interesting material, leaves the visitor with the false impression that the drive toward war is virtually unstoppable. Official propaganda and official repression is depicted, while the scale of popular opposition is minimized and the voices of those who opposed the war on the basis of socialist internationalism are virtually ignored. This is a serious weakness indeed.

New York’s Rikers Island prisoners die from beatings


This video from the USA is called Questioning solitary confinement for teens at Rikers Island.

By Philip Guelpa in the USA:

New reports of inmate deaths from beatings at New York’s Rikers Island prison

1 September 2014

Two recently revealed incidents at the Rikers Island prison in New York City confirm that the horrific conditions, already documented in a number of previous reports, at the city’s largest prison are the result of systematic, institutionalized brutality, not isolated aberrations.

In one incident, documents obtained by the Associated Press reveal that inmate Angel Ramirez, 50 years old, was beaten to death by prison guards using night sticks (police batons) in July of 2011. Ramirez was reportedly suffering hallucinations during withdrawal from alcohol and heroin, and had earlier been denied his prescribed medication. In this impaired state, he attempted to hit an officer, but missed. Several officers then took him out of view of surveillance cameras and inflicted a severe beating, resulting in Ramirez’s death.

The news account states, based on information provided by the family’s lawyer, that Ramirez “died of numerous blunt-impact injuries that included a ruptured spleen, shattered ribs and a stomach filled with blood.” This contradicts the statements of the officers, who were interviewed eight months later, that the inmate was struck only once, and only in self-defense.

So far, three inmate deaths due to beatings by guards are reported to have taken place over the last five years, without a single conviction of the officers involved. Given the difficulty in obtaining information on these cases, the actual number of such incidents is likely to be much higher. And that does not include other forms of abuse, in some cases leading to death, which have also come to light in recent years.

One recent case of death by neglect that has come to light is that of 19-year old Andy Henriquez. He died at Rikers in April 2013 after being locked in solitary confinement for days without necessary medical assistance. Henriquez died of a ruptured aorta after complaining of chest pains and breathing difficulties over a prolonged period. His mother is suing the city for “wrongful death.”

Last August another inmate, Carlos Mercado, 46, was allowed to go into diabetic coma and eventually died from lack of treatment while incarcerated at Rikers. He was denied assistance despite pleas from him and fellow inmates as his condition worsened. Again, the city is being sued for wrongful death.

In yet another case, Jerome Murdough was found dead in a 100-degree cell on Feb. 15. The family plans to sue the city for $25 million,

Corizon Health, the private company hired by the city to provide medical services to inmates at Rikers, has been sued over two dozen times since 2002 for incidents at the prison. Corizon had revenue of $1.2 billion last year. This profit-making business takes in tens of millions of dollars annually from the city while health care for inmates remains criminally inadequate.

The pervasive use of violence and abuse against inmates by authorities, without any significant consequences for the perpetrators, was further documented by a federal study of the juvenile section of the prison that was issued earlier this month (see: Federal report exposes “culture of violence” in New York City’s Rikers Island prison). It found that adolescent inmates are subjected to a “systematic culture of violence.” Many of the inmates are placed in solitary confinement for up to 60 days. The study demonstrated that extremely loose supervision, systematic falsification of incident reports, and long drawn out investigations have created an environment in which such behavior can be carried out with impunity. This is only the latest in a long series of investigations and news accounts documenting conditions at Rikers, stretching back at least a decade.

This city is in full damage control mode. The new Department of Correction Commissioner, Joe Ponte, appointed earlier this year by Democratic mayor Bill de Blasio, has made a series of statements intended to give the impression that abuses will be addressed. However, only cosmetic changes have been implemented. Last week, the de Blasio administration enacted new legislation intended to increase reporting of the use of solitary confinement, a practice that is documented to increase the rate of suicide and self-abuse by inmates. The law does nothing to actually curtail the practice or any of the associated brutality perpetrated by staff.

In a sign of growing crisis, the chief investigator at Rikers, Deputy Commissioner Florence Finkle, resigned her position last week as the revelations of inmate abuse and neglect mounted. Ms. Finkle is likely playing the role of a “sacrificial lamb” whose departure is an attempt to defuse the growing scandal.

Only last May, de Blasio’s Corrections Commissioner Ponte promoted two senior Rikers administrators to higher positions in the department.

The regime of abuse and brutality at Rikers, a virtual concentration camp on an island in the East River, as well as elsewhere in the prison system, is not the result of a few “bad apples,” as claimed by the city, but part of a system-wide, institutionalized policy which creates inhuman conditions for both inmates and staff, and is protected and condoned at the highest levels.

The horrific treatment of inmates at Rikers is made even more egregious by the fact that it is technically a jail, since it primarily holds individuals awaiting trial, rather than convicted prisoners. Legally, therefore, these inmates should be considered innocent until proven guilty. Instead, those incarcerated are subjected to unrestrained brutality and some are, in effect, sentenced to death before they are even tried.

In the few cases in which legal prosecution of inmate deaths is pursued, the city has pursued the practice of making a monetary settlement to the family of the deceased, sometimes for millions of dollars, thus effectively burying the crime and allowing the perpetrator to go free. In all three known cases of inmate deaths due to beatings by guards at Rikers over the last five years, the lack of convictions came despite the fact that the city’s medical examiner had ruled the deaths to be homicides. These settlements represent what amounts to the “cost of doing business” for the city, allowing it to carry on with systematic brutality and legally condoned murder. Those few guards who have been convicted in non-lethal cases of abuse received little more than a slap on the wrist.

The use of extreme force by police agencies against the working class, whether in cities such as Ferguson, Missouri or in the prison system, expresses the deep-seated fear of the ruling class of growing social unrest, which leads it to respond with ever-increasing violence.

Lawsuit exposes conditions at New Mexico immigrant detention center: here.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed two lawsuits this week claiming that prison inmates in the US state of Mississippi were being indefinitely detained and others were kept in conditions “tantamount to torture”: here.