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 on: May 25, 2016, 10:51 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Obama plans to reveal massive cache of UFO secrets before leaving office: report

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
25 May 2016 at 11:58 ET                   

President Barack Obama joked with Jimmy Kimmel about aliens and UFOs in his last appearance on the show, but now it seems the Obama administration may release more information before leaving office.

Steve Bassett, executive director of the Paradigm Research Group, told Daily Express that he has been lobbying the White House for 20 years in an attempt to get information surrounding UFOs declassified.

“This will be a reality this year and across the front pages of newspapers across the world,” he said. “The most significant news story that has ever been broken.”

Ahead of the premiere of the six-episode season of The X-Files, the CIA declassified dozens of photos and hundreds of pages of reports on UFOs dating back to the 1950s. But it’s comments from a top campaign official to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton that has Bassett excited. Clinton has promised that if she is elected, her administration will release the information.

Clinton’s senior campaign official is John Podesta  also served as a top aide to President Obama. He is well known in political circles for having a Fox Mulder-like crusade to declassify the intelligence information about UFOs, what the United States government knew, when it knew it and that the reports should be available to Americans.

During a press conference in 2002 Podesta said, “It’s time to find out what the truth really is that’s out there. We ought to do it, really, because it’s right. We ought to do it, quite frankly, because the American people can handle the truth. And we ought to do it because it’s the law.”

Former President Bill Clinton admitted to Kimmel that he spent time inspecting classified documents pertaining to UFOs when he was in office. His second term marked the 50th anniversary of the alleged Roswell, New Mexico UFO crash in 1947 that marked the beginning of America’s obsession with UFOs. Clinton declassified hundreds of pages of documents from intelligence agencies surrounding Roswell and told Kimmel that he would tell Americans if he knew aliens had contacted us.

Hillary Clinton told Daymond Steer of the Conway Daily Sun that Podesta has “made me personally pledge we are going to get the information out. One way or another. Maybe we could have, like, a task force to go to Area 51.”

Bassett says he thinks that President Obama will release the information ahead of 2017, however.

 on: May 25, 2016, 10:48 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Calls for justice for women echo down Canada’s Highway of Tears

The New York Times

SMITHERS, British Columbia — Less than a year after her 15-year-old cousin vanished, Delphine Nikal, 16, was last seen hitchhiking from this isolated northern Canadian town on a spring morning in 1990.

Ramona Wilson, 16, a member of her high school baseball team, left home one Saturday night in June 1994 to attend a dance a few towns away. She never arrived. Her remains were found 10 months later near the local airport.

Tamara Chipman, 22, disappeared in 2005, leaving behind a toddler. “She’s still missing,” Gladys Radek, her aunt, said. “It’ll be 11 years in September.”

Dozens of Canadian women and girls, most of them indigenous, have disappeared or been murdered near Highway 16, a remote ribbon of asphalt that bisects British Columbia and snakes past thick forests, logging towns and impoverished Indian reserves on its way to the Pacific Ocean. So many women and girls have vanished or turned up dead along one stretch of the road that residents call it the Highway of Tears.
A special unit formed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police officially linked 18 such cases from 1969 to 2006 to this part of the highway and two connecting arteries. More women have vanished since then, and community activists and relatives of the missing say they believe the total is closer to 50. Almost all the cases remain unsolved.

The Highway of Tears and the disappearances of the indigenous women have become a political scandal in British Columbia. But those cases are just a small fraction of the number who have been murdered or disappeared nationwide. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have officially counted about 1,200 cases over the past three decades, but research by the Native Women’s Association of Canada suggests the total number could be as high as 4,000.

In December, after years of refusal by his conservative predecessor, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a long-awaited national inquiry into the disappearances and murders of indigenous women.

The inquiry, set to cost 40 million Canadian dollars ($31 million), is part of Trudeau’s promise of a “total renewal” of Canada’s relationship with its indigenous citizens, and it comes at a critical time.

Aboriginal women and girls make up about 4 percent of the total female population of Canada but 16 percent of all female homicides, according to government statistics.

Carolyn Bennett, the minister of indigenous and northern affairs, has spent months traveling across the country to consult with indigenous communities. During her meetings, families and survivors have complained of racism and sexism by the police, who she said treated the deaths of indigenous women “as inevitable, as if their lives mattered less.”

“What’s clear is the uneven application of justice,” Bennett said.

One reason to doubt the estimate by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, she said, is that the police often immediately deemed the women’s deaths to be suicides, drug overdoses or accidents, over the protests of relatives who suspected foul play. “There was no investigation,” she said, citing one recent case. “The file folder’s empty.”

A United Nations report last year described measures by the previous government to protect aboriginal women from harm as “inadequate” and said that the lack of an inquiry into the murders and disappearances constituted “grave violations” of the women’s human rights. Failures by law enforcement, it added, had “resulted in impunity.”

Radek, a co-founder of Tears4Justice, an advocacy organization, said, “When it comes to the missing, racism runs deep.”

The federal government has allocated 8.4 billion Canadian dollars ($6.4 billion) over five years to aid indigenous communities, which have disproportionately high levels of poverty, incarceration, alcoholism and substance abuse, and often lack basic necessities like safe drinking water.

Bennett said the breakdown in aboriginal communities was the product of generations of socioeconomic marginalization and trauma tied to government policies. Particularly damaging was a state-financed, church-run boarding school system for aboriginal children who were forcibly taken from their families by officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Many of the 150,000 children who were sent to residential schools over a century became victims of physical and sexual abuse. The program was fully shut down in the mid-1990s.

Covering 450 miles between the city of Prince George and the Pacific port of Prince Rupert, the Highway of Tears is both a microcosm of Canada’s painful indigenous legacy and a serious test for Trudeau as he tries to repair the country’s relationship with aboriginal people.

On a recent journey along Highway 16, scenes of stunning wilderness were flecked by indigenous communities reeling from economic decay and the anguished memories of missing and murdered women.

A few miles outside Prince George, the highway plunges into thick forests veined with logging roads and the occasional “moose crossing” sign. “Girls Don’t Hitchhike on the Highway of Tears,” reads a large yellow billboard alongside the road farther north. “Killer on the Loose!”

As a bald eagle soared overhead, Brenda Wilson, 49, the Highway of Tears coordinator for Carrier Sekani Family Services and the sister of one of the victims, gestured to the wall of evergreens that flank the road. “The trees are really dense here, so if you’re looking for someone, it’s pretty hard to find them,” she said, listing the names of several women who are still missing.

The perils do not stop desperate people from thumbing rides. Just outside the village of Burns Lake, Drucella Joseph, 25, an unemployed aboriginal woman, eagerly climbed into the back of a passing car along with her boyfriend, Corey Coombes. “Friends will drive me when I really need a ride, but other than that, we just hitchhike,” she told the driver. The couple gets by on his disability payments and on donated food from food banks. Neither has a cellphone. When hitchhiking, Coombes says he protects himself by carrying a club or a screwdriver.

British Columbia is infamous for serial killers and criminals who often targeted aboriginal women. In 2007, Robert William Pickton, a pig farmer, was convicted of killing six women, though the DNA or remains of 33 women were discovered on his land. Many of them were aboriginal. One of Canada’s youngest serial killers, Cody Legebokoff, was 24 when he was convicted in 2014 of killing four women near the Highway of Tears. David Ramsay, a former Prince George provincial court judge and convicted pedophile, was imprisoned in 2004 for sexually and physically assaulting indigenous girls as young as 12.

Anguished family members said they received little help from the authorities, a sharp contrast to the cases of missing white women. After Chipman vanished in 2005, her aunt, Radek, said the police objected to the family putting up its own missing posters. “They knew we were searching day and night, and they did nothing to help us,” she said. The next day, she said, a white woman disappeared near Vancouver “and the police were out in the streets putting up posters.”

After her daughter Ramona disappeared in 1994, the police refused to act, said Matilda Wilson, a member of the Gitxsan First Nation. “They gave us all these different excuses that she might be back tomorrow or next week,” Wilson said. “There was no hurry or alarm about it, so we started looking ourselves.”

Despite multiple searches, Wilson, a single mother of six who is now 65, said there was no sign of Ramona until she had been gone for seven months, when Wilson received an anonymous phone call telling her that the girl’s body was near the airport. Police officers searched the area but found nothing, she said. In April 1995, two men riding all-terrain vehicles by the airport discovered Ramona’s remains buried under some trees. Plastic flowers and a glass cross now decorate her grave in a Smithers cemetery, a few blocks from Wilson’s tidy trailer-park home.

Angry with the police for failing to find the teenager or to alert people to the history of missing women near Highway 16, Wilson and her family organized a memorial walk in June 1995 that has become an annual event, garnering attention from the media and inspiring activism from families of other missing women.

“We want closure, and we’re not going to give up,” Wilson said as she swept leaves from her daughter’s gravestone.

One recent afternoon, three young aboriginal sisters and their female cousin were walking across the Moricetown Indian Reserve, which abuts the highway. Asked about the Highway of Tears, one of the women, Rochelle Joseph, an unemployed 21-year-old, said the sisters never hitchhiked because they grew up hearing about the victims, including their cousin, Chipman.

Still, the menace of the highway haunts their lives.

“The stories made us cautious,” Joseph said quietly, voicing their fear of a serial killer lurking behind the steering wheel of any strange car. “He’s probably still out there.”

 on: May 25, 2016, 06:42 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
These 3 Stories of Rescued Mother Pigs Who Got to Keep Their Piglets Will Warm Your Heart

Sara Farr
Green Planet
May 25, 2016

Pigs are well known for their intelligence, but they are also very family-oriented animals that want to care for and nurture their babies. Just like human mothers, pigs are loving and concerned parents who enjoy bonding with their young, a privilege they are denied as “food animals” on factory farms.

In the wild, sows live in groups with their piglets. These mothers are known to share caring responsibilities for their young, allowing others to forage for food. Although piglets are cared for by multiple pig-nannies, the bond between the mother sow and her piglets is unbreakable.

On factory farms, sows and piglets are unable to do any of these things. Sows are confined to gestation crates that are only two feet wide for the duration of their four-month pregnancy. When a sow gives birth, she is moved to a farrowing crate which is only slightly larger than the gestation crate. Her piglets are allowed to nurse, however, they are separated by the crate’s bars.

Piglets are then taken from their mothers as young as ten days old, a traumatic experience for both the mothers and piglets. After suffering through the loss of her children, the sow is subjected to another pregnancy and the cycle continues. This is truly a miserable existence for any living being.

Luckily, some pigs escape these terrible situations thanks to farm animal sanctuaries. These organizations save sows and their piglets from factory farms and give them a chance to enjoy life on their own right. At these amazing facilities, sows and their piglets are free to experience the bond of a mother and child. Looking at a few of these porcine moms and their babies, we can’t help but to notice that pigs aren’t so
different from humans.

1. Julia

Before her rescue, Julia was subjected to terrible abuse, including kicking, beating and being dragged by the ears. Luckily for this sow, the police and SPCA prosecuted the farm responsible for her abuse and she was released from the farm. Local authorities contacted Farm Sanctuary and rescuers quickly came to take Julia to her new forever home. Due to the combination of the stress and abuse she had endured, Julia gave birth to 16 premature piglets only hours after arrival at the sanctuary.

The piglets required around-the-clock care to ensure their survival. Julia was also in bad shape; the poor sow had flat feet and leg sores as well as bruises and burns from her recent abuse. Despite her horrific past, Julia quickly learned to trust her rescuers and made great progress in her recovery. In time, the piglets also grew strong and healthy.

This happy family can now be seen wandering around Farm Sanctuary’s Watkin’s Glen shelter, making nests and snuggling with one another. Julia’s love for her piglets is undeniable.

2. Cupcake

Cupcake was rescued by PIGS Animal Sanctuary in November 2013 along with a male pig named Elmer and two other female pigs. These pigs were originally seized by Animal Control in an animal cruelty case. The pigs had to stay with a foster family while the court case was completed, and Animal Control allowed Elmer, who was not castrated, to stay with the females. This led to a surprise when Cupcake turned out to be pregnant! She gave birth to her litter a month after arriving a PIGS Animal Sanctuary and is able to live out her life with her piglets in the comfort of the sanctuary.

3. Mumma Pig and Her Piglets

You would be hard-pressed to find an example of an amazing mother-child relationship that is more adorable than that of Mumma Pig and her piglets. This happy little family now resides at Edgar’s Mission Farm Animal Sanctuary, but their lives weren’t always so blissful.

Mumma pig was raised on a farm as a breeding sow, clearly a life she did not enjoy as she managed to escape in 2013. When someone finally managed to catch this brave sow, she was sent to live at Edgar’s. The facilities must have been to her liking because she gave birth to a litter of piglets shortly thereafter.

Edgar’s has nicknamed Mumma Pig “Wonder Woman,” for her ability to manage her piglets with amazing ease. This adorable family can be spotted nestled in straw beds or out rooting with one another; truly the joyous life that all pigs should be able to enjoy.

 on: May 25, 2016, 06:35 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
This Donkey Was Supposed to Be a Live Meal for a Wolf, But Became His Best Friend Instead

Kate Good
May 25 2016
Green Planet

Sometimes, friendship comes in the strangest package. Take for example these unlikely friends: a donkey and a wolf who have become best friends. The wolf was captured from the mountains of Patok, Albania, in 2007, after being held in a cage by a villager. Knowing the wolf would need to eat, the villager brought in a donkey and left the two alone in the wolf’s cage. Thinking the wolf would make the donkey his dinner, the villager was certainly surprised to see what happened next.

The donkey and wolf became best friends, cohabiting the cage in complete peace. The pair quickly gained media attention, which lead Care2 to develop a petition for the wolf’s release. The petition asked the Albanian government to intervene in the village and arrange for the wolf to be transported back to his natural home in the mountains.

The Albanian government obliged and returned the wolf to his native habitat. The donkey was also released to an open pasture where he can roam free. It is said that the wolf comes to visit his friend every now and then. It is true that friendship knows no bounds of species, and these two certainly show us that!

 on: May 25, 2016, 06:32 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Desperation drives American dream in Guatemalan town of lost opportunity

Indigenous farmers in Cajolá have seen their livelihoods devastated by free trade deals and agribusiness, and will take desperate risks to support their families

Nina Lakhani in Cajolá
Wednesday 25 May 2016 11.05 BST   

Honofre Peres doesn’t know whether he should stay or go. The 36-year-old builder wants his four children to stay in school, but construction work is sporadic and poorly paid, and he’s struggling to cover his costs.

That was why last year he borrowed 65,000 Quetzales ($8,000) to pay a coyote, or people smuggler, and make the treacherous journey north, by bus, fishing boat and cargo truck, in hope of reaching the US – and a decently paid job.

Peres was apprehended by border patrol agents near Laredo, Texas, and spent more than four months in detention before being deported back to Cajolá, a sleepy town in Guatemala’s picturesque western volcanic belt.

“It was traumatizing: we were treated worse than criminals and now I’m in the same situation. I don’t earn enough money, I don’t know what to do,” he said.

Stopping the flow of undocumented migrants from Central America’s northern triangle is among the most fiercely debated and divisive issues in the US presidential election race. Immigration agents are set to conduct a fresh series of raids targeting undocumented Central Americans.

Immigration from El Salvador and Honduras is mostly a response to brutal gang violence and resurgent death squads; in Guatemala, although violence is sometimes a factor, the motive is often economic.

Peres earns less than $10 (Q75) a day building houses; sometimes, there’s no work for weeks on end. “I want to be with my family, but I’m always thinking about going north as it’s the only way to support them,” he said.

Cajolá is a topsy-turvy mix of traditional adobe homes and modern brick new-builds among tiny fields tended by women wearing embroidered skirts.

For years, menfolk from this indigenous Mayan Mam community have temporarily migrated to the US to work in restaurants and construction sites, in order to send money to their families to build homes, buy land and send their children to school.

Almost every family has relatives in the US – mainly in Morristown, New Jersey, and Atlanta, Georgia; by some estimates, a third of the town’s 16,000 habitants are in the US.

Like Peres, most migrants take out substantial loans against their home or land to pay a coyote, who in these parts are seen as offering an essential service.

And until recently, coyotes went about their business largely untroubled by Guatemalan authorities. This changed in 2014 when the US set its sights on pursuing people smugglers after President Obama declared the surge in unaccompanied Central American children a humanitarian crisis.

In November, Guatemalan legislators passed legislation that imposed hefty jail time for anyone helping migrants with travel, illegal documents or employment. The law helped guarantee Guatemala a slice of the $750m Alliance for Prosperity aid package approved by Congress.

US immigration agents are now working with Guatemalan prosecutors and a specialist police unit dedicated to pursuing coyotes, and organised crime gangs which have moved into the people-smuggling business.

But desperate people do desperate things, and the law is unlikely to stop migrants trying to escape grinding poverty.

Cajolá sits in the mountains outside Guatemala’s second largest city Quetzaltenango – known locally by its Mam name Xela – where cotton, wheat and staple crops once flourished in the fertile soil and subtropical climate.

But centuries of farming tradition have gradually been eroded by the imperatives of business and a globalized economy.

First, the overuse of industrial pesticides contributed to the demise of cotton and wheat industries. Then, regional free trade agreements flooded local markets with cheap maize, tomatoes and eggs from Mexico and the US.

Until recently, many locals, like Peres and his neighbour Israel López, topped up their dwindling incomes by spending part of each year working on coffee plantations on the Pacific coast.

But that work dried up when the coffee market crashed at the turn of the millennium, leaving many families with few options.

López, 45, went to the US in 1999 after cheap maize imports devalued his crops. He spent most of the next decade in Morristown and New York working as a chef and decorator, which helped him settle his debts, move home, build a small house and buy some land.

For a while, López and his two teenage sons supported the family by growing maize, beans, watermelons and papaya.

Then large swaths of coastal land were bought by international sugar cane companies, which sprayed their crops with pesticides from low-flying aircraft.

“The chemicals killed our crops and contaminated our land, it’s worthless now,” said López. “After this, many young farmers went to the US as the only other options were to starve or join a gang.”

The dearth of opportunities remains the main driver for migration in this region, but the growing presence of warring street gangs is becoming another important push factor, especially for youngsters.

López’s eldest son Josué left in 2012 at the age of 18. En route he was kidnapped by the violent Mexican cartel Los Zetas and only released after López borrowed $1,500 to pay the ransom.

Shortly after, Josué was detained and deported by US border agents.

López recalls collecting his son from Xela’s pretty colonial square. “He was crying. But we’d borrowed money to pay the coyote so he had to try again, or we’d lose the house.”

On his second attempt, Josué made it to Morristown, and last year his brother Juan, 17, followed. They regularly send home money, but still owe $5,000 which accumulates 10% interest each month.

Despite the debt, López feels no animosity towards the coyotes. “They’re providing a service, so the community will always protect them from the authorities,” he said.

Donald Trump has called for a wall along the Mexican border to keep undocumented migrants like the López family out; the Obama administration hopes to dissuade would-be migrants with deportation sweeps, tough action against coyotes, and efforts to boost the rule of law in the northern triangle.

Activists on the ground are opting for a different approach: instead of seeking to deter local youngsters from migrating, they are offering them reasons to stay.

Café Red is a restaurant and cultural space in Xela’s historic centre run by ex-migrants – including Israel López – and a team of newly qualified young chefs from some of the poorest surrounding communities.

It’s the brainchild of Willy Barreno, 43, who returned from the US in 2008 with a dream of stopping the drain of talent from his home town.

“We’re trying to capture the intellectual capital and experience of returnees and pass that on to youngsters who otherwise might see the American dream as their only option,” Barreno told the Guardian. “We want to create a Guatemala where young people can prosper.”

The restaurant sources its local produce and quirky wooden furniture from like-minded cooperatives, and hosts hip-hop nights and art fairs to help nurture relationships between old and young talent.

Jesica Tixal, 21, a shy young woman from the nearby Mayan K’iche town Zunil, is one of the graduate chefs. Her personal tragedy is the kind Barreno wants others to avoid.

Tixal was 10 her father Marco fell into debt and depression due to falling crop prices. He borrowed money against the family land to pay his way to the US, but three weeks after leaving home, the coyote who guided him called to say Marco had collapsed in the desert near the US border. The coyote fled when the ambulance arrived, and could tell the family no more details.

Tixal’s mother Manuela tried to find out what became of her husband, but with no money and little clue on where or how to look, resigned herself to raising seven children alone.

Five years later, a Guatemalan consulate official informed the family that Marco had died in hospital in Houston, Texas.

“He went because he was ambitious for us, because he loved us, but we were left alone,” said Tixal, wiping the tears with her apron. After her father disappeared, Tixal and her siblings had to leave school.

Cooking has revived Tixal’s lust for life, and she promises one day to train youngsters in her own restaurant. “We need more opportunities so people don’t feel forced to leave. I don’t want others to suffer like me, I don’t want my story to be repeated.”

 on: May 25, 2016, 06:27 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
The enduring whiteness of the American corporate media

What three decades in journalism has taught me about the persistence of racism in the US

by Howard W French
Wednesday 25 May 2016 06.00 BST
Over the course of 2014, America seemed to reawaken to one of its oldest preoccupations: the reality of how race is lived in the United States, and in particular the many stark disparities that persist between black and white people.

The continued existence of racial inequality in the United States was not exactly news – but the shocking deaths of a series of unarmed black men at the hands of the police made the issue impossible to ignore. The killing of Eric Garner, who was wrestled to the ground and choked to death by police on a New York City sidewalk in July 2014, confronted the public with a disturbing question: how was it possible that a black man could be killed for the trifling infraction of selling loose cigarettes? Garner’s dying words – “I can’t breathe” – captured on video, would soon become the rallying cry of a nascent movement, Black Lives Matter.

When Michael Brown was killed by a policeman the following month, enormous protests erupted, and the attention of the entire country – and much of the world – turned to Ferguson, Missouri. Television news was filled with scenes of mostly black protesters surrounded by heavily armoured riot police, evoking images from an era that American liberals liked to believe was long in the past.

Brown’s death, in the heat of the summer, produced a huge swell of anger and a fierce debate, but a tentative conclusion soon emerged: though his death had first seemed disturbing, many came to see him as a flawed victim. Brown had not led an unblemished life: he had shoplifted minutes before his demise, he had smoked pot, and investigators insisted that he had resisted arrest, tussling with the policeman who shot him. He was “no angel”, in the uncharitable words of a New York Times story published two weeks after his death. This tone could be heard in much of the coverage of Brown’s killing and the ensuing protests in Ferguson – and not just at that newspaper. What this tone suggested was that a black person who died at the hands of police needed to have been perfect, and utterly blameless, to justify outrage at their death and national attention to the problem.

But such a case came along soon enough, when police officers in Cleveland, Ohio, encountered Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy playing with a toy gun on a deserted playground. What ensued was captured on video, otherwise many would have dismissed an objective account of the incident as the product of fevered black imagination. A white officer is seen jumping out of his car and without pausing even to exchange words, immediately opening fire, leaving the child dead. Here, for all those who had demanded it, was the immaculate victim. A grave problem, it seemed, could no longer be denied.

Tamir Rice: police release video of 12-year-old’s fatal shooting: <iframe src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

By late 2014, newspapers and TV networks had begun to dedicate substantial time to the subject of excessive force routinely used by police against black people, and to the protest movement that grew in the wake of these incidents. Television news channels – even the very conservative Fox News – devoted hours of their nightly broadcasts to discussions of this problem, often heated, and to a consideration of its roots. Not coincidentally, minority voices suddenly proliferated on the air.

Having rediscovered the crisis of American race relations, there were reasons to hope that the media might make the colour line, as the eminent early-20th-century black American intellectual WEB Dubois famously called it, the focus of even deeper and more serious ongoing attention. But the attention of US journalism – and along with it, the attention of the nation – soon drifted away. What happened?

The easy part of the answer is that 2015 marked the start of a seemingly endless season of obsessive American political coverage, in the long run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Journalists descended on Baltimore to cover the protests over the death of Freddie Gray in April, but in the months that followed, reporters started to turn their focus to places such as Iowa and New Hampshire, where Republican candidates were already visiting county fairs and meeting voters in greasy spoons.

But what was less predictable, and much more striking, was the brazen way that the Republican candidates competed in pandering to white voters using racial themes. Perhaps they sensed that, after two terms under Barack Obama, many Republican primary voters were incensed by the appearance of cracks in what might be called the hegemony of whiteness. Donald Trump led the way, and provided the most famous examples – describing immigrants from Mexico as criminals and rapists, proposing to ban Muslims from entering the country – but he was far from alone.

Only months after the country had begun a tentative interrogation of its history of racism, that had all been forgotten. Early on, Trump was criticised for the unusual crudeness of his racial appeals, but by the time the candidate had eliminated the last of his Republican rivals, in early May, the media seemed inured to Trump’s rhetoric. But even as the US media has devoted vast time and resources to covering every twist and turn of the primary campaigns, almost none of this journalism has posed deeper questions about the social pathology of racism that makes nativist demagoguery so appealing to white voters. Instead, this fact is simply taken for granted – much like the persistent disparity in rates of unemployment and incarceration between black and white people, or the staggering gap in household wealth between the races. One could say much the same about the crude contempt for Barack Obama that has become a powerful undercurrent in Republican politics over the last seven years.

With Trump all but certain to be the Republican nominee, all signs point towards a tense and extraordinarily racialised campaign – and one that will pose a severe test for American journalism, which has been as beset by the crisis of race as the society it claims to rigorously examine.

The intersection between America’s age-old race problem and the crisis of race in journalism takes two forms. The first is a simple failure of integration: the news organisations that have traditionally comprised “mainstream” journalism have done little to welcome or encourage African-Americans, who are substantially underrepresented by comparison to their numbers in the overall population. This problem is obvious to anyone who cares to look – and it has become sufficiently embarrassing for a number of publications to make sporadic but ultimately ineffectual efforts to redress it. As soon as one or two hires are made, attention inevitably shifts elsewhere, much as the focus of the press drifted away from racial bias in the criminal justice system once a whiff of the campaign season could be sensed in the air.

    All signs point towards a tense and extraordinarily racialised campaign that will be a severe test for US journalism

But the second and more subtle issue is a persistent problem of typecasting – a deeply embedded view that regards certain topics as “black” and the rest as “white”. Those black people who make their way into the business are heavily concentrated in stereotypical roles. This has meant sport, entertainment and especially what is euphemistically called urban affairs, often meaning reporting on black people. By contrast, there are very few black journalists writing about politics and national security, international news, big business, culture (as opposed to entertainment) or science and technology – they are essentially absent from large swaths of coverage, and even more sparsely represented among the ranks of editors. This is not a trivial matter, or a subject of concern solely to journalists: the overwhelming whiteness of the media strongly but silently conditions how Americans understand their own country and the rest of the world.

These problems are not new, and they are not unknown: they have been confirmed by survey after survey measuring diversity in the country’s newsrooms and on its airwaves, but this is not how I discovered them. The lessons I received in the matter all came through direct experience, inside what many consider America’s foremost news organisation.

When I first arrived at the New York Times in 1986, fresh from freelancing in West Africa, I was as eager as anyone can possibly imagine – but more than a little bit nervous about trying to break into the big time of American journalism at the age of 27, as a new father working in a city I had never lived in before. I had never worked in a newsroom; I had never even worked under the close supervision of editors. So there was much to learn. I would have been lying if I had said I was looking forward to covering what seemed to me mundane things such as cops and courts – but, looking back, there is no doubt that my three years in New York gave me an education in journalism I could not have received anywhere else.

This was not the only invaluable education I received in New York – far from it. As an idealistic young black man there was a whole universe of knowledge to be acquired about how this industry handles the question of race in America, and this was vital to one’s survival. One quickly learned that the newsroom was a place rife with powerful networks, which nurtured and anointed a few golden boys – and occasionally, although much less frequently back then, golden girls. These networks took shape along lines of educational pedigree, social status and religion – all categories that helped make it appear that race was not relevant. Indeed, to the casual onlooker it all passed for merit.

Some of my first lessons came while paying my dues, working weekends in the nearly-empty newsroom, where I was asked to monitor the police blotter for noteworthy crimes. Early on, I was bluntly reproached by an editor for bringing the uptown murder of a black person by another black person to his attention, as if I didn’t know that these were “penny crimes”, in his words, meaning things that could never rise to the level of interest of New York Times readers on a Sunday. If a black man had killed a white man, or if there was white-on-white murder, he explained, this, of course, would be a different matter.

The Counted: people killed by police in the United States – interactive
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This was not the only kind of race logic common in the business, as I was just discovering at a place that was regarded – and regarded itself – as a bastion of liberalism. I had watched in surprise one winter evening, when a power outage in the Bronx sent editors casting about the cavernous old newsroom for black reporters, something that immediately made painfully clear how few of us there were. In a cast of hundreds, it seemed that it would not take much more than two hands to count us on. It was freely said that white reporters were uncomfortable venturing to that part of the city in the dark – the first of many times I would hear such thinking in my career. These were the high-crime, crack cocaine years, and so off black reporters were sent, based on the theory that even dressed in business suits and ties, as nearly all the staff were in that era, we would be safer and more comfortable in the dark of a ghetto.

Around that same time, I was sent to cover the aftermath of a huge shootout in the Bronx between a notorious drug dealer, Larry Davis, and the police, in which the suspect briefly escaped. My reward, after Davis was captured, was being assigned to cover one of his trials, which an editor advised me not to take too seriously, regarding it as a foregone conclusion – despite Davis hiring a famous civil rights attorney, William Kunstler, who tied the prosecution up in knots by emphasising what most black people intuitively knew or suspected: a rich history of police abuse and procedural irregularities. After this, I was briefly assigned something called “the race beat”, which was basically intended to mean covering black civil rights complaints against the city in that highly polarised era. This was in keeping with perhaps the oldest tradition in the business, since its integration began tentatively in the 1960s: let black people cover black topics, which were perceived as impenetrable, if not outright dangerous.

In those days, a tiny coterie of black reporters often huddled together to fume over coverage of the 1988 presidential race by an all-white political staff, whose dismissive treatment of Jesse Jackson, the sole black candidate, often bordered on insulting – repeatedly describing him with code words such as “street smart”. Early one morning, a pair of black colleagues successfully goaded me into challenging the brilliant and deadly serious managing editor, Joseph Lelyveld – then the second-most-powerful person in the newsroom – over one story’s description of Jackson as “flamboyant”, which seemed to us gratuitously pejorative. Approaching Lelyveld to challenge him was as forbidding as seeking an audience with the Wizard of Oz. My friends stood in the wings, watching as the two of us, side by side, looked at the definition of “flamboyant” in a giant tabletop dictionary, which led Lelyveld to admit our complaint was correct.

My big break came when I was sent on a series of short-term deployments to cover a series of military coups and popular uprisings in Haiti – on the same logic that had seen black reporters dispatched to cover the Bronx. There was a white correspondent covering Haiti at the time, who was very good at gaining access to diplomats and political sources, but seemed to shun the frequently chaotic events in the streets, which were filled with angry and presumably dangerous black protesters.

I had been lobbying my editors for nearly three years for a full-time foreign assignment of my own, enrolling in Spanish classes, reading histories of India, and visiting Mexico. When the call came to tell me I had finally been named as the fourth black foreign correspondent in the long history of the newspaper, it was to inform me that I was being sent to cover the Caribbean. This was neither what I had hoped for nor imagined, but it was an innovation of sorts; the traditional move had been to send people like us to Africa.

Black colleagues on the staff were proud of me nonetheless, so much so that a fistfight nearly broke out when one of them, a friend named Don Terry, overheard a white reporter who was roughly our age grumbling openly that I had unjustly benefited from affirmative action. This was a standard complaint, a claim that filled the air with every word of our advancement: never mind that I had performed well enough in Haiti to repeatedly win in-house prizes at the paper, or that I spoke excellent French and was already becoming passably fluent in Creole. By this time, I was far enough along in my apprenticeship so as not be surprised by such sentiments.

In his memoir, My Times in Black and White: Race and Power at the New York Times, Gerald Boyd, one of the first black people to rise to a senior management position at the newspaper, recalled that when he was first hired, in 1983, a senior editor told him: “I really enjoy your clips – they’re so well written. Did you write them yourself, or did someone write them for you?” As he rose through the ranks, he was frequently told by his superiors that he would be “our Jackie Robinson” – the man who broke the colour barrier in professional baseball in the late 1940s. Like me, Boyd was assigned to the “urban affairs” beat, and then to Atlanta, a job he was told was perfect for him, since he could “cover the South as a black man”. Boyd overcame these indignities to rise to the number-two job at the paper – inducing resentment among some white peers. Finally, he was brought down by a scandal involving a young black reporter, Jayson Blair, who had fabricated information in a string of stories. Boyd was forced to resign along with the paper’s top editor, Howell Raines, and suggested in his memoir, which was published after his death in 2006, that he had been judged guilty by association, simply because he and Blair were both black.

These experiences were not in any way unique to the New York Times. In Volunteer Slavery, her memoir of working at the Washington Post in the same era, Jill Nelson describes joining the paper’s prestigious new Sunday magazine after a successful freelance career, only to find its culture dominated by white editors with no interest in people of colour. “For the average white newspaperman, those worlds beyond the narrow one he inhabits exist primarily as paths to career development,” Nelson writes. “When it comes to black folks, we exist mostly as potential sociological, pathological, or scatological slices of life waiting to be chewed, digested, and excreted into the requisite number of column inches in the paper.”

In 1994, after four years of covering continuous tumult in Haiti and the winding down of the cold war in Central America, I received a call asking me to do what the paper’s three previous black foreign correspondents had all done: to go – or go back, in my case – to Africa. It was an extension of the race beat into the world of international coverage.

From my earliest days at the paper, I had told my editors that although I was determined to work overseas, I did not want to be sent to Africa. To be clear, this was in no way due to a lack of interest in the continent on my part, but rather because the news business itself accorded such little attention to Africa, and when it bothered to it tended to cover it in only the most sporadic and stilted ways, as if Africans were as impossible to grasp as extraterrestrials.

It didn’t help when a white senior editor at the paper who had himself been a correspondent in Africa tried to encourage me by saying that between the episodic hard news provided by the occasional conflict or coup, one could amuse oneself there scribbling postcards about the exotic and primitive, or what he called “oogah-boogah”.

But the paper pressed hard for me to accept the posting, and I complied, covering the continent again for four-and-a-half years – during which the biggest stories were the ferocious wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and especially Zaire (now Congo). Late in this African stint, an unexpected call came from my editor in New York. Where would I like to go next, he asked? With little more premeditation than a gut sense of which bureaux were likely to be opening up soon, I blurted “Tokyo!” To which, after an awkward moment’s pause, he replied stutteringly, “Really? Could you do that? How would you cover Japan?” I told him to give me a chance to study the language first and I would manage, and to his credit I was soon given the job.

Many years later, I learned that my closest black colleagues in New York had celebrated this news, with one of them, Michel Marriott, exclaiming, “Howard has reached the river!” Someone had escaped, or so it seemed, what we sometimes called the “corporate negro calculus” – the careful tending of our presence, never dramatically expanding our numbers but also never letting them fall too low, all the while keeping us employed in predictable roles, while breaking the pattern every so often with the occasional exception. To be clear, the New York Times did not stand out in this regard. Few other publications did any better.

Michel revealed to me that his strategy in those early years was to focus on subjects that he knew white peers would find unattractive – which frequently meant doing things that required going deep into black communities, often during moments of violence or trauma. “You would try to do a really good job, to really bring it, and hope that this would win you some recognition,” he said. Michel was already an extraordinary journalist, and this strategy and his talents led him to cover racial tensions in New York, Miami and Los Angeles, where he reported on the 1992 riots with distinction.

The limits of his political approach to race within the paper became apparent, though, when he successfully pushed to cover computers, games and consumer electronics during the technology boom of the 2000s. There was immediate pushback from his white colleagues, who claimed he had no background in tech and was not the right person for the job. A black man occupying this space did not fit preconceptions, any more than me heading to Tokyo did, and perhaps even less. Implicitly, it also meant depriving a white person of a coveted job covering a hot sector, and the ensuing resentment, much like the howls against supposed affirmative action that I had faced upon ascension to the foreign staff, laid bare the limits of liberal generosity in our profession.

As a black reporter, one had little choice but to get used to lots of little insults; many of them came from unexpected places. From my earliest days as the New York Times bureau chief in Tokyo, I struggled with a veteran Japanese office manager in late middle age, who had almost immediately begun to defy me at every turn. I learned from his fellow Japanese office employees, for example, that they should run by him all my requests for research on stories, before doing anything to assist me. Little by little I learned that he resented that the Times had sent a black man with an African wife to cover Japan, interrupting an endless line of white bureau chiefs, many of whom had Ivy League educations and academic backgrounds in Asian affairs. He took it as a sort of implicit downgrade of his country.

Naturally enough, the history of black people in journalism shadows the history of race in America itself, which across the ages has slowly and ever reluctantly ceded space to people of African ancestry. In the public sphere, this happened first in entertainment, meaning song and dance, then in sport, all areas where black people still enjoy heavily disproportionate representation. The opening eventually reached journalism, which for most of its history in America had been a strictly segregated industry.

In the 1950s and 1960s, very much belatedly, it was decided that black people should be allowed to write about race in the mainstream press. A sudden urgency attached to this discovery after violent attacks on civil rights demonstrators in the South, and especially after the urban riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr in 1968. A great uncle of mine, Simeon Booker, had been in the forefront of this wave, as the first African American reporter hired by the Washington Post, in 1952. Booker says the publisher, Phil Graham, told him: “If you can take it, I’m ready to gamble.” The roles newly granted to black people in the press were often dressed up in euphemisms of various kinds, with terms such as “urban affairs”, and in their own way they constituted a new ghettoisation.

When I joined the New York Times, there were no black reporters covering presidential campaigns. Thirty years later, to its credit, the Times, which remains America’s leading newspaper, has its first black editor-in-chief, Dean Baquet. But in a year of open and often shrill racism on the campaign trail, there is only one black reporter, newly hired, covering the presidential elections – and similar circumstances can be found at other top newspapers.

Looking at the traditional media industry as a whole, there are relatively few organisations where things are dramatically better. This is not to say that black people have not come to penetrate previously off-limits areas of the American media. In small numbers, with great perseverance, they have. Television news, in particular, seems to have grown more diversified, with the inclusion of black commentators, for example, now de rigueur on many networks. In the newspaper industry overall, however, the numbers of African Americans have been dwindling, from 5.4% of employees in 2003 to 4.8% in 2013, according to the Pew Research Center.

Though the history of race in America makes this an especially important issue in the US media, there are comparable narratives in many other societies – mirroring the way that an entrenched majority only reluctantly cedes any authority to a growing minority in the business. British journalism, for example, has by any objective measure done even less to integrate than American news organisations, especially at the highest levels of the profession.

It must be said that in the past few years, a small number of prestige publications – often magazines such as the New Yorker, New York magazine, and the New York Times magazine – have made visible efforts to hire high-profile black writers. This has taken place amid a broader democratisation of the media, owing to the proliferation of online publications with national ambitions – which has allowed many new non-white voices to emerge. But it’s still difficult to tell whether this marks the beginning of an important shift, or is simply a short-term trend.

    British journalism has by any objective measure done even less to integrate than American news organisations

For decades it has been clear that space is made in the firmament for a tiny number of black journalists at any given time, if mostly to write about race. These figures, however brilliant, find themselves transformed into unwilling emblems of inclusivity – the journalistic and literary equivalent of a black president, a figure whose ascendancy can be cited by white people as proof that we don’t have a race problem any more.

For the past few years, this role has been thrust most of all upon Ta-Nehisi Coates – especially since the publication, in May 2014, of his blockbuster cover story in the Atlantic, The Case for Reparations. This was clearly a work of enormous ambition, and it announced itself as such: “American prosperity was built on two-and-a-half centuries of slavery, a deep wound that has never been healed or fully atoned for – and that has been deepened by years of discrimination, segregation, and racist housing policies that persists to this day. Until America reckons with the moral debt it has accrued – and the practical damage it has done – to generations of black Americans, it will fail to live up to its own ideals.”

For Coates, the oppressive regime that black people were subjected to, first in the American South and later in northern industrial cities, such as Chicago, was nothing less than a “kleptocracy”, one that worked zealously to keep black people in “debt peonage”. This all flew in the face of a cherished and prevalent idea in the US: that the place of African Americans in the society has been transformed dramatically for the better – first through the arrival of legal equality, thanks to the 1965 Voting Rights Act and other anti-discrimination laws dating to the 1950s and 1960s, and then by decades of state investments in social welfare programmes. In the popular imagination, this happy narrative concludes, finally, with the exclamation point of a black president, Barack Obama.

Coates’s work firmly rejected that sunny narrative – which made its popularity all the more astounding: the venerable Atlantic boasts a rich journalistic history, but it has not been known for provocation, and yet The Case For Reparations quickly became one of the most-read online pieces in the magazine’s history. A year later, in the summer of 2015, Coates published his second book, Between the World and Me: Notes on the First 150 Years in America, which takes the form of a letter to his teenage son. In it, Coates expounds more on his unsparing vision of race in America, denouncing what he calls “an apparatus urging us to accept American innocence at face value and not to inquire too much”.

    Space is made in the firmament for a few black journalists, who are turned into unwilling emblems of inclusivity

An extraordinary deluge of plaudits began raining down on Coates with the publication of this book. The many prizes and honours that he won in quick succession included a MacArthur fellowship – known popularly as the “genius grant” for its no-strings-attached $625,000 prize, paid over five years – and the prestigious National Book award for nonfiction. Suddenly, the exceedingly white cream of the American book and humanities world were seemingly falling over themselves to celebrate a black man whose work, without too much of a stretch, could be described as a giant thumb in their eye. (“I don’t know why white people read what I write,” Coates has said. “I didn’t set out to accumulate a mass of white fans.”)

This, to be sure, was great work being celebrated, and yet at the same time it was hard to avoid the feeling that we were witnessing the re-enactment of an old, insidious ritual of confinement, even though it was being carried out via fulsome praise. Coates was doing, after all, the one thing that black writers have long been permitted – if not always encouraged – to do: write about the experience of race and racism in the world and in their own lives.

The media industry has long been selective in opening up spaces for African American people, while silently reserving all the rest for members of the white majority – and the showering of great prizes on black writers such as Coates, however deserved, was in a way a celebration, by the people who maintain this exclusion, of their own enlightenment and generosity.

There is a tradition of elevating a single tenor for the entire race, or less commonly, a small number of people who were deemed worthy of the attentions of a national audience. This is where the James Baldwin comparisons that have so often been drawn with Coates become interesting. Baldwin, like Coates, occupied this carefully guarded stage. To be sure, neither of them were asked their feelings about this, and if they had been, neither could have approved. Coates, for his part, has rejected the very mantle of the public intellectual. Baldwin, before him, had clearly understood this trap and rebelled against it, vowing not to allow himself to become “merely a Negro, or even, merely a Negro writer”.

This process of assigning discrete bandwidth to a singular black figure for a limited, if indeterminate period of time (the whims of the majority will decide) is ultimately a mechanism for feeling good about oneself. That figure can always be pointed to, cited at cocktail parties, maybe even invited, as evidence that black opinion is being heard, even better, perhaps, if it is angry, because that demonstrates white forbearance.

That singular figure, then, quickly becomes the start and finish of any belated attempts to demonstrate one’s efforts at “diversity”. I witnessed this dynamic in action last year, during a staff meeting at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where I am now a professor. There was a discussion under way about the need to achieve more diversity in the classroom, and one of my white colleagues earnestly explained that he had tried hard to address this problem. “We invited Ta-Nehisi Coates to speak,” he protested. “But he was fully booked up.”

The importance of diversity in the media – as in other sectors of society – is not about scoring points in some imaginary scale of civic virtue. It has nothing to do with the granting of favours – or even concessions – by a white majority. It is akin to restoring vision to a creature with impaired sight, making it whole and allowing it to function at the full limits of its perceptive and analytical capacity. The majority cannot understand this – cannot realise that it is partly blind – because its own provincialism has persisted uninterrupted for so long.

I am reminded of a conversation I had with an editor when I left West Africa for Asia, and was replaced by a Canadian reporter of Japanese heritage, Norimitsu Onishi. When I expressed excitement that a non-white person would be filling this job, in a region where coverage has so long been dominated by unchallenged white paradigms of race, the editor was puzzled. “Really, do you think that would make a difference?” the editor asked me. “I had never thought of it that way.”

The tokenism of various kinds that still represents the media’s best efforts at diversity remains a sort of mockery of the term. Going beyond this requires more than hiring non-white reporters and editors – though that is necessary. Meaningful diversity, of a sort that changes how news organisations see the world, requires boosting the number of non-white figures in positions of editorial decision-making from top to bottom. The industry employment statistics are disheartening enough, but in many ways they understate the scale of the problem: the people whose decisions shape the news Americans read and watch are almost all white – as I was reminded, almost by accident, last year.

One nearly snowed-in weekend afternoon, I returned to my university office to fetch a book I had forgotten there. In doing so, I stumbled into a milling crowd of editors who had gathered there to vote in various committees for the prestigious National Magazine awards. Surprised by what I found, I lingered a few moments to take in the scene: except for a lone woman of Asian descent spotted in the elevator, everyone else I chanced upon was white. As if in a deathbed experience, in that instant, my entire career flashed before my eyes. This little microcosm consisted of the people who hire and fire throughout the American magazine world. They decide what will be commissioned and published, and exactly where this content will appear. Careers rise and fall on the basis of their judgments. Here, they were gathered to decide what was the most important work in American journalism over the last year, and they were quite nearly all white.

 on: May 25, 2016, 06:17 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
How Russia's independent media was dismantled piece by piece

Following the resignation of three editors from one of the last non-aligned outlets in Moscow, Meduza surveys five years of newsroom destruction

Konstantin Benyumov for, part of the New East network
Wednesday 25 May 2016 07.00 BST

When three senior editors resigned from one of the last independent publications in Russia last week, it was condemned as yet another sign of the mounting pressures on journalists under president Pig Putin’s rule.

According to insiders, the resignations came as a result of coercion from the Kremlin after anger over several recent investigations, including reports on the Panama Papers revelations.

The head of the International Federation of Journalists, Jim Boumelha, described the resignations as “not only a loss for the RBC but also a major blow for press freedom”, adding that censorship was putting journalism, and journalists, at risk.

Many fellow editors and reporters at RBC say they plan to resign too, while others have vowed to continue their work “until the first story is censored”.

But RBC is not the first media organisation that has faced serious pressure to conform to Kremlin narratives. Since Putin began his re-election campaign in 2011, 12 prominent newsrooms have battled resignations, restrictions and closures.

Here’s what happened, and where they are now:

Allegedly as a result of pressure from the Kremlin (which Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, firmly denies), the news company lost its three top editors: Elizaveta Osetinskaya, Roman Badanin and Maxim Solyus.

It’s too soon to say who will replace them, or what kind of relationship the next editor will build with the Kremlin and RBC’s liberal owner, Mikhail Prokhorov.

When leaving his post, Soluys pointed out that police recently brought fraud charges against Nikolai Molibog, RBC’s general director, making it unlikely that Prokhorov will escape this conflict unscathed.
Forbes - January 2016

Because of a new law restricting foreign ownership in Russian media companies, the German group Axel Springer was earlier this year forced to sell off its shares in Forbes and other assets held in Russia.

Negotiations with potential buyers lasted several months. Initially, it was assumed that 20% of the company would remain with general director Regina von Flemming, preserving a certain level of continuity with the previous owner.

But the deal fell through, and businessman Alexander Fedotov ended up buying 100% of Forbes in Russia instead. The chief editor, Elmar Murtazaev, then quickly left the organisation in mid-January, citing “personal reasons”.

After Murtazaev’s departure, Forbes hired Nikolai Uskov, a journalist with little experience in business reporting, as its chief editor. He quickly announced that under his stewardship, Forbes wouldn’t be about politics, though he vowed to remain “a thorn” in the side of the powerful.
Russian Media Group – August 2015

In the summer of 2015, Vladimir Kiselyov, the founder of the Federation Foundation, a pro-Kremlin NGO, suggested the creation of a “patriotic media holding company” to Putin.

Kiselyov proposed merging “several television stations” and Russian Media Group (RMG) assets, such as Russkoe Radio, Hit FM, Radio Maxim, DFM, Monte Carlo and the music station

RMG, owned by a holding company, would then be sold to Gosconcert, part of the Russian Ministry of Culture.

A consortium of managers, producers, and artists tried to buy out the owners, investment fund IFD Capital, but failed. In August, the holding company appointed a new executive director but he quit after a week, complaining about interference from the Ministry of Communications in the company’s editorial policies.

In autumn, much of the staff at RMG, including most of the employees at Russkoe Radio, resigned.

Today, the sale of RMG to Gosconcert is still being negotiated.

In late 2014, the Tomsk-based TV station, TV2 – one of the oldest independent television networks in Russia – was suddenly in danger of being shut down.

Loyal viewers speculated it was because of its independent editorial policy. Tomsk residents even hosted a mass rally in support of the station, just as its shows were terminated by the agency in charge of broadcast licences. Internet and cable broadcasting ceased soon after.

In February, TV2 launched a fundraising effort to keep the channel alive on the internet. An NGO called Sreda, a charity supporting independent media, art and sciences, came to the rescue and announced that it was giving TV2 a 7.5m rouble grant. Today, the station exists as an internet project and continues to produce video content online.

One day in 2014, investors at Russkaya Planeta, an online news service, suddenly announced that chief editor Pavel Pryanikov was out, and new leadership would be moving in.

Apparently due to one of the investors’ interests in “Russian cosmism”, the editors were told their staff was “weak cosmists”, and not up to the journal’s tasks. They were let go, and the site was redesigned.

Along with Pryanikov, who managed to transform Planeta into one of Russia’s most original publications, several other editors left, saying the change in leadership was part of an effort to overhaul the journal’s editorial policy.

Lots of reporters have since left the journal, which has become a patriotic media outlet, publishing articles about Russian weapons, op-eds by nationalists commentators and criticism of the Russian opposition.

Pryanikov ended up as chief editor of the website Takie Dela, a media outlet launched with the support of a Moscow charity foundation.

In August, the network shut down The Week with Marianna Maksimovskaya, one of the last remaining analytical political programmes on Russian television. According to research data, it was also one of the most popular shows on REN TV, but the station never offered a reason for cancelling the program.

After the news broke, Maksimovskaya briefly remained at REN TV as a deputy editor, but eventually resigned in December 2014.

The station has since replaced Maksimovskaya’s show with a new program called Dobrov on Air, hosted by Andrei Dobrov, who claims to present the news “from a normal person’s perspective”.

In March, Russia’s attorney general ordered federal censors to block the opposition website, accusing it of publishing “incitements to illegal action”, including unsanctioned political rallies. was the first online news publication to be blocked in Russia, but it soon had company as the opposition websites and Ezhedvevnyi Zhurnal, were blocked for the same reasons.

The site, which was struggling financially even before being taken down, continues to operate using an array of mirror sites, and hosts instructions for circumventing internet censorship. Though it still publishes reports about current events, its content is exclusively political.

Also in March, not long before the annexation of Crimea, the managing shareholder of the company Afisha-Rambler-Sup, Alexander Mamut, fired the chief editor of, Galina Timchenko.

The reason given for the dismissal was an official warning from Russian state censors, issued because one of the website’s stories (an interview with a Ukrainian nationalist leader) contained a hyperlink to materials deemed extremist.

Salutin' Putin: inside a Russian troll house..Read more:

More than 80 editors and reporters – nearly the entire newsroom – quit in protest, publishing an open letter calling Timchenko’s outster “an act of censorship” and a violation of Russia’s media laws.’s next chief editor was Alexey Goreslavsky, the former chief of the pro-Kremlin website Vzglyad, where he had primarily managed the company’s relationships with various government offices.

As a result of this decision, the staff who resigned went on to found the media outlets N+1 and Meduza, as well as a social media marketing firm called Fuzzy Cheese. Other reporters went on to find work at Forbes, RBC, Vedomosti and Arzamas.

At the start of the year Dozhd, an opposition television station, published an online survey asking viewers if Leningrad should have been surrendered to the Nazis “in order to save hundreds of thousands of lives”.

Afterwards, Russia’s biggest cable television providers started, one after another, dropping Dozhd from their coverage, saying it was in response to angry calls from customers upset about the Leningrad poll.

Dozhd’s chief editor, Natalia Sindeeva, accused the cable providers of bowing to pressure from above, saying these companies admitted as much to her in private conversations. According to Sindeeva, Dozhd was being punished for reporting on high-ranking officials’ luxurious country homes, not the Leningrad poll.

Before the end of the year, the station was evicted from its studio in downtown Moscow, though it has continued to broadcast, even operating temporarily out of a private apartment for several months.

Dozhd has since been forced to change its business model, shifting its focus to broadcasting online to paid subscribers.

On the 9 December 2013 Putin unexpectedly issued an executive order liquidating Russia’s largest news agency.

With Putin’s decree, the state, which owns RIA Novosti, set about building an entirely new news organisation in its place. The new outfit was called Rossiya Segodnya (the Russian translation of “Russia Today”), and Dmitry Kisleyov, the country’s best known pro-Kremlin commentator, was appointed as general director.

In the remaking of RIA Novosti – once the most innovative and independent of Russia’s state media – most of the correspondents left, many of the agency’s news projects shut down and layoffs swept the newsroom.

Some of its products, such as the legal news desk Rapsi and the foreign news translation portal, InoSMI, survived as separate projects.

Though the original URL still works, the website is just an appendage of Rossiya Segodnya. - September 2013

Before parliamentary elections in 2011, Roman Badanin resigned from his post as deputy editor of, after the website’s managers decided to remove a banner created jointly with a human rights organisation featuring a project to crowdsource reports of election violations.

Mikhail Kotov,’s chief editor, said removing the banner was a purely commercial decision. However other publishers alleged the conflict was due to Badanin’s refusal to run an advertisement for Putin’s political party, United Russia.

After the elections, the holding company that owned was transferred entirely to Alexander Mamut, a businessman who owns several other media outlets. By September 2013 had completely restaffed its politics desk, while many of the reporters who had covered the 2011 and 2012 elections had resigned.

On the 16 December 2011, the Kommersant publishing house fired Maxim Kovalsky, the longtime chief editor of the daily Kommersant-Vlast.

The reason for Kovalsky’s dismissal was his decision to publish a photograph of a voting ballot featuring an obscene word scribbled next to Putin’s name. Both Kommersant’s owner, the billionaire Alisher Usmanov, and Demyan Kudryatsev, the head of the Kommersant publishing house, publicly criticised the photo.

Staff at the newspaper wrote an open letter supporting Kovalsky, calling his ouster an “act of intimidation”.

But Kovalsky’s dismissal wouldn’t be the last time Kommersant found itself in hot water. Twice, in 2012 and 2013, Kommersant FM radio station lost its chief editors under rumoured pressure from the Kremlin.

Despite the frequent turnover of editors and publishers since then, Kommersant remains one of Russia’s largest media holdings, though its executive managers increasingly face accusations that they meddle in the newspaper’s stories.

A version of this article first appeared on

 on: May 25, 2016, 06:09 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko released by Russia in prisoner swap

Savchenko flies home from Russia in deal that sees release of two Russian servicemen by Kiev
Nadiya Savchenko at a court hearing in Moscowin March 2015.

Alec Luhn in Moscow and Luke Harding
Wednesday 25 May 2016 11.39 BST

A Ukrainian pilot detained in Russia since 2014 has arrived home following a dramatic prisoner swap with Russia.

Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, said a plane carrying Nadiya Savchenko had landed in Kiev. He went to the airport to meet her. She arrived home from Russia in exchange for the release of two Russians held by Kiev. Poroshenko is due to address the nation shortly. Dozens of journalists gathered at the airport’s terminal B.

Savchenko’s return marks a triumphant moment for Ukraine, where she is viewed as a national hero. It also marks a significant moment of detente between Moscow and Kiev, and a breakthrough in on-off diplomatic negotiations conducted in Minsk.

It comes a few weeks before the European Union decides whether to extend sanctions against Russia, imposed following Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and his covert invasion of eastern Ukraine.

Quoting unnamed sources, Kommersant newspaper reported that the exchange was agreed late on Monday during a telephone conversation between Putin, Poroshenko, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande.

Russian media said that a special presidential plane sent by Putin had taken off from Kiev to Moscow. On board were Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Alexandrov. They both told Reuters in interviews last year they were Russian special forces soldiers who were captured while carrying out a secret operation in the rebel-held Donbas region.

The plane was due back imminently in Moscow, Russian websites reported.

Savchenko’s lawyer Mark Feygin confirmed she was on her way home. He wrote on Twitter: “Two years ago I promised Ukrainians I would do everything possible to free Nadiya... I know how to keep my word. She’s heading home, to Ukraine.”

Savchenko, a military pilot, volunteered to fight with a ground unit against pro-Moscow separatists who launched an insurrection in eastern Ukraine against Kiev’s pro-western government.

She was captured and put on trial in southern Russia, charged with complicity in the deaths of Russian journalists who were killed by artillery while covering the conflict.

A Russian court in March sentenced her to 22 years in jail. While in Russian jail, she was elected a member of the Ukrainian parliament. She is widely seen in Ukraine as a symbol of resistance against Russia.

Her release is also a boost for Poroshenko, whom critics accuse of failing to tackle Ukraine’s endemic corruption or to confront entrenched oligarchic interests. In April Poroshenko, a multimillionaire businessman, appeared in the Panama Papers in connection with an offshore company registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Opposition activists in Russia hailed the prisoner exchange. Dmitry Gudkov, the lone liberal opposition deputy in Russia’s parliament, argued that if Russia had exchanged Savchenko earlier, Alexandrov’s Ukrainian defense lawyer Yury Grabovsky might not have been murdered near Kiev in March.

“We wouldn’t have embarrassed ourselves before the whole world with the ‘trial’ of a deputy of the Rada and PACE. There wouldn’t have been another split in society over an artificial propaganda story,” Gudkov wrote on Facebook, referring to the fact that Savchenko was elected to the Ukrainian parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe during her imprisonment.

“It’s a good thing both sides had enough political will for the exchange. People shouldn’t be hostages,” opposition PARNAS party member Andrei Pivovarov wrote on Twitter.

But not all Russian commentators greeted the reports as warmly. Pro-Kremlin analyst Dmitry Solonnikov told a local news site that Savchenko’s release would lead to a “strengthening of the anti-Russian wave in the EU, first in the media, then in politics.”

Ukrainian politicians were ecstatic with the reports Savchenko had been freed. MP Alyona Shkrum wrote on Twitter that Savchenko’s mother was complaining that she hadn’t had time to cook a pot of borscht for her daughter’s arrival.

Reuters contributed to this report

 on: May 25, 2016, 06:07 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Gender inequality ‘an insurmountable obstacle for many women’

UN population fund says lack of empowerment affects every aspect of life for women in the world’s 48 least developed countries

Sam Jones
Tuesday 24 May 2016 22.01 BST   

Millions of women and girls in the world’s poorest countries are being denied the opportunity to help drive development because of the “countless barriers” they still face in health, education and employment, a report warns.

The study, by the UN population fund, UNFPA, says that while the 48 least developed countries (LDCs) have made considerable progress over the past few decades in reducing infant, child and maternal mortality, and increasing contraceptive use, gender inequality often remains an insurmountable obstacle.

“From adolescence onwards, millions of girls and women are still denied access to schooling or the chance to fulfil their productive potential. They are marrying at ages too young to ensure independent choice, and they are using modern contraceptives at rates far below the global average, with the resulting consequence that reproductive life starts early, is entered into without access to healthcare, and is sustained for many years at high risk to health and life,” it says.

The report adds that the denial of choice and empowerment affects “every aspect of life” for many women in LDCs – and needs to be placed at the centre of the global development agenda.

Although the study recognises that the rates of death among children under five have more than halved in LDCs since 1990, that life expectancy is growing and that the fertility rate is falling – from 6.2 children in 1985-90 to 4.3 in 2010-12 – it says LDCs need to do more to anticipate the approaching phase of accelerated development.

A demographic dividend – which happens when fertility rates fall and the workforce grows at a faster rate than the population dependent on it – would allow many LDCs to make rapid gains in a single generation.

But, says the report: “A demographic dividend is achieved only by ensuring that every adolescent and youth – especially every women and girl – can anticipate excellent health and innovative education, freedom of opportunity and decent employment, and the chance to go through life’s critical transitions – from childhood to family formation and old age – without risk of being derailed by child marriage or unplanned childbearing, maternal morbidity, exposure to violence or displacement, the pain of discrimination, or the risk of early death.”

The scale of the challenges ahead, however, is vast: according to the study, in only five LDCs – Bangladesh, Madagascar, Cambodia, Kiribati and Vanuatu – do the average years of schooling reach or exceed the expected duration of primary school. As of 2010, more than half of the women in LDCs aged 20-24 were married before they were 18; in some countries, the figure was 70%.

    There needs to a revolution that allows women to join the formal workforce
    Rachel Snow, UNFPA

While the prevalence of women using modern contraceptives in LDCs rose from 15% in 1994 to almost 34% in 2015, it lags well behind the global average of 64%. Women in LDCs are also more vulnerable to unemployment than men – 84.1% to 71.4%.

The report coincides with this week’s international meeting to gauge the progress made by LDCs since 2011, when a UN conference in Istanbul agreed a 10-year plan to halve the number of LDCs and bring millions of people out of poverty.

Since the establishment of the LDC category in 1971, only four nations have graduated from the list of countries in which the per capita gross national income is $1,035 (£707) or less: Botswana in 1994; Cape Verde in 2007; the Maldives in 2011 and Samoa in 2014.

Rachel Snow, one of the authors of the report, said that although the gains in maternal and infant health, contraception use and primary education have been “very, very impressive”, huge challenges remain.

As well as the global recession, many LDCs have had to contend with instability, conflict, displacement and migration. And, although the rate of population growth in LDCs is expected to slow, their total population is still projected to double in size over the next 35 years, rising from 954 million people last year to 1.9 billion in 2050.

“That speaks to the need to sustain – if not increase – the types of development revolutions we see in these countries,” said Snow. “As much as I’m enthusiastic about the gains in health and the uptick in the use of contraceptives … there’s still really large numbers of women for whom that technology is not available.”

But if a real difference was to made, she added, there needed to be “above all things, an education revolution – and a revolution that allows women to join the formal workforce”.

 on: May 25, 2016, 06:05 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
'My grandsons' fight to avenge their father': child soldiers in Afghanistan

Despite government pledges to rid its armed forces of children, the number of minors recruited to fight is rising

Sune Engel Rasmussen in Lashkar Gah
Wednesday 25 May 2016 07.00 BST

When Firoza handed her two grandsons Kalashnikovs and enlisted them in her militia, it was, she says, to give them a chance to avenge their father who was killed by the Taliban.

Known in Helmand by her nom de guerre – Hajani – 54-year-old Firoza fought for years to repel the militants from Sistani, in Marjah district, commanding a unit of the US-backed government militia called the Afghan Local Police (ALP). During the war, in which she lost three of her six adult sons, she armed most of her male family members, including two children.

The eldest, Nabi*, a shy boy with bags under his eyes, echoes his grandmother. “The enemy killed my father so I am also fighting,” he says.

According to Firoza, the government pays Nabi the standard 9,500 afghanis (£100) local police salary; his younger brother, Habib, is not paid.

Firoza says Nabi is 18. Many Afghans don’t know their age, but that claim seems improbable. Face smooth, voice unbroken, he looks perhaps 14. Firoza says she gave her grandsons weapons five years ago.

Despite government pledges to rid its armed forces of children, a growing number of minors are recruited to fight in the intensifying war, according to experts.

The UN verified 43 boys recruited to fight last year, more than double the number for 2014. Yet the real number is certainly much higher, given the limited access around the country.

The government forces, including the ALP, receive much of their funding from international partners. The UK has committed £70m annually until at least next year. The US Defense Department alone funds the ALP with about $120m (£80m) a year.

Firoza assumed command of the ALP in Sistani when her husband was removed from duty several years ago. Once in charge, she asked the government for reinforcements. Turned down, she armed 40 members of her family, she says.

Even some of the youngest, though not armed, were useful. A six-year-old boy walked between checkpoints with a flashlight to keep soldiers awake, Firoza says.

When the Taliban advanced earlier this year, Firoza relocated to a small base in Helmand’s provincial capital, Lashkar Gah. For two days after their escape, her grandsons didn’t speak, she says. The six-year-old, who, along with some unarmed female family members, was at the house when the Taliban came, recounts how one Taliban fighter had asked him: “Where is Hajani? We want to cut off her head.”

Firoza agrees that her grandchildren are too young for war. “But they fight to avenge their father. When they see other children with fathers, they become very sad and want to take revenge,” she says. “Everybody wants a good life in peace. But when you’re on the frontline, do you stay silent? We’re compelled to fight.”

She says the government has never told her not to use children. “They can tell me that the day they are able to provide security,” she says.

The war is taking a mounting toll on children. Close to one in three of those killed and injured are now children. Most of them are bystanders, but not all.

In February, the Taliban killed Wasil Ahmad, a 10-year-old boy fighting in his uncle’s local police unit in Uruzgan. After this killing, the interior ministry stressed that the boy was not an ALP employee. But that distinction is irrelevant, says Danielle Bell, human rights director for the UN in Afghanistan.

“Whether children are part of a security force, formally or informally, they are still being denied access to education, and to the normal life to which they are entitled,” Bell said.

To avoid bankrolling forces that employ child soldiers, the US government signed into law the 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA), banning aid to eight countries that use child soldiers. But Afghanistan is not on the list.

Despite several requests, the US State Department did not explain this. In an email, a spokesperson said: “The department has not included Afghanistan on the CSPA list based on its assessment of the relevant facts under the legislation.”

The omission of Afghanistan was criticised by Charu Lata Hogg of Child Soldiers International in a recent editorial: “Excluding the recruitment and use of children by Afghan police forces from the CSPA listing mechanism is inconsistent with international humanitarian and human rights laws.”

According to Brigadier General Charles H Cleveland, spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan, recruitment of children has picked up partly because the US military, after the troop withdrawal, can’t monitor as thoroughly as before.

“There was a period where we didn’t get our hands into the ALP,” he said. “When you’ve got less than 15,000 people here, you don’t have the same visibility of what’s going on in the country.” He said the US had told the Afghan government “to go through a rigorous vetting process”.

The Afghan government denies using child soldiers, telling the Guardian that the ministry of interior has completed two recent assessments of the ALP.

“With completion of these assessments, we are confident that young people under age 18 are not recruited and even under difficult circumstances they will not be recruited or paid by the ministry of the interior,” said Sediq Seddiqi, a ministry spokesman.

The reasons behind child recruitment are complex, ranging from patriotism and honour to financial hardship and exploitation.

Children are not always armed with parental consent. Bilal Siddiqui, head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission in Helmand, said parents had complained to him of police commanders hiring their children without informing them.

For Firoza, fighting is a family duty. At the moment, though, the relative calm of Lashkar Gah has allowed for some normality in her grandchildren’s lives.

“At the moment, they go to school,” she says, “but if we have to go back to Marjah, of course they will take up weapons again.”

*Names have been changed to protect identities

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