There has been much attention, and rightly so, on the CIA's extensive use of torture, which the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is said to have documented in its still-classified 6,000-page report. The use of torture is not limited to the CIA, however. It is all too common across the United States. Solitary confinement is torture, and it is used routinely in jails, prisons and immigration detention facilities here at home. Grassroots movements that have been pressuring for change are beginning to yield significant results. The coalitions include prisoners, their families, a broad swath of legal and social-justice groups and, increasingly, prison guards and officials themselves.
The state of Oklahoma tortured a man to death this week. On Tuesday, April 29, Clayton Lockett was strapped to a gurney in the state's execution chamber. At 6:23 p.m., before a room of witnesses that included 12 members of the media, the first of three drugs was injected into his veins. Ziva Branstetter, enterprise editor at Tulsa World, was among the reporters who watched. She later reported Lockett's ordeal, minute by minute:
"6:29 p.m. Lockett's eyes are closed and his mouth is open slightly.
"6:31 p.m. The doctor checks Lockett's pupils and places his hand on the inmate's chest, shaking him slightly. 'Mr. Lockett is not unconscious,' [Oklahoma State Penitentiary Warden Anita] Trammell states."
"I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." So proclaimed Alabama Gov. George Wallace more than a half-century ago. His proudly racist rhetoric was matched by heinous actions: Murders, lynchings and systemic violence, often endorsed or organized by state and local governments, were inflicted on African-Americans and their allies struggling for civil rights. Despite that, those fighting for equality prevailed. Among the successes were the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, affirmative action and court-ordered integration of schools. But with this week's U.S.
Another U.S. shooting spree has left bullet-riddled bodies in its wake, and refocused attention on violent, right-wing extremists. Frazier Glenn Miller, a former leader of a wing of the Ku Klux Klan, is accused of killing three people outside two Jewish community centers outside Kansas City, Kan. As he was hauled away in a police car, he shouted "Heil Hitler!" Unlike Islamic groups that U.S. agencies spend tens of billions of dollars targeting, domestic white supremacist groups enjoy relative freedom to spew their hatred and promote racist ideology. Too often, their murderous rampages are viewed as acts of deranged "lone wolf" attackers. These seemingly fringe groups are actually well-organized, interconnected and are enjoying renewed popularity.
Journalism is not a crime. This is the rallying cry in demanding the release of four Al-Jazeera journalists imprisoned in Egypt. Three of them -- Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed -- have just passed their hundredth day of incarceration. The fourth, Abdullah al-Shami, has been in jail for more than six months. They have been charged with "spreading lies harmful to state security and joining a terrorist organization." Of course, the only thing they were doing was their job.
The majority of the world is convinced that humans are changing the climate, for the worse. Now, evidence is mounting that paints just how grim a future we are making for ourselves and the planet. We will experience more extreme weather events, including hurricanes and droughts, mass extinctions and severe food shortages globally. The world's leading group of climate-change experts, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has issued its most recent report after a five-day meeting last week in Yokohama, Japan. The IPCC, over 1,800 scientists from around the world, collects, analyzes and synthesizes the best, solid science on climate and related fields. The prognosis is not good.
"My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government." So wrote President Barack Obama, back on Jan. 29, 2009, just days into his presidency. "Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government." Now, six years into the Obama administration, his promise of "a new era of open Government" seems just another grand promise, cynically broken.
Three years have passed since the earthquake and tsunami that caused the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. The tsunami's immediate death toll was more than 15,000, with close to 3,000 still missing. Casualties are still mounting, though, both in Japan and much farther away. The impact of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown on health and the environment is severe, compounded daily as radioactive pollution continues to pour from the site, owned by the Tokyo Electric Power Company, TEPCO.
"What keeps me up at night, candidly, is another attack against the United States," Sen. Dianne Feinstein said last month in what was, then, her routine defence of the mass global surveillance being conducted by the National Security Agency and other U.S. intelligence agencies. All that has changed now that she believes that the staff of the committee she chairs, the powerful, secretive Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, was spied on and lied to by the CIA. The committee was formed after the Watergate scandal engulfed the Nixon administration. The Church Committee, led by Idaho Democratic Sen. Frank Church, conducted a comprehensive investigation of abuses by U.S. intelligence agencies, of everything from spying on anti-war protesters to the assassination of foreign leaders.
Marshall "Eddie" Conway walked free from prison this week, just one month shy of 44 years behind bars. He was convicted of the April 1970 killing of a Baltimore police officer. Conway has always maintained his innocence. At the time of his arrest and trial, he was a prominent member of the Baltimore chapter of the Black Panther Party, the militant black-rights organization that was the principal focus of COINTELPRO, the FBI's illegal "counterintelligence program." The FBI, under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover, surveilled and infiltrated Black Panther chapters from coast to coast, disrupting their organizing activities, often with violence.