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Report: Facebook “Complicit” in Role as “World’s Engine for Anti-Muslim Violence”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 24/10/2020 - 8:29am in

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News, Facebook, Islam, Study

Facebook has been described as “the world’s engine for anti-Muslim violence” in a new report on Islamophobia. Entitled “Complicit: the human cost of facebook’s disregard for Muslim life,” the report was written by Muslim Advocates and the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism and details how in nine countries studied, Facebook has played a leading role in facilitating anti-Muslim violence by providing a platform for Islamophobic groups to organize and refusing to stop them when their activities are brought to its attention. The countries studied were the United States, India, China, Germany, Myanmar, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Sweden and Hungary.

Part of the problem, according to the report’s authors, is the company’s own attitude towards Islam. “In country after country, anti-Muslim staff at Facebook support anti-Muslim regimes, amplify anti-Muslim rhetoric, and enable anti-Muslim violence,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates. “This groundbreaking report shows that there are no excuses for this; it’s simply willful disregard for the well-being of people simply because they are Muslim. Facebook has been warned at every level — by individuals, NGOs, international institutions and by the victims themselves. These are not simple mistakes or oversights, this is complicity.”

“For far too long, Facebook has been complicit in allowing anti-Muslim hate and violence to thrive and grow,” added Heidi Beirich, executive vice president of Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. “There are real consequences to their actions—namely the loss of Muslim lives across the globe.”

 

The United States

In 2015, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended Muslims from Donald Trump’s calls for an outright Muslim ban in the United States. “I can only imagine the fear Muslims feel that they will be persecuted for the actions of others. As the leader of Facebook… we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you,” he wrote. Yet when Trump used the platform again the next year to organize for exactly such a ban, Zuckerberg refused to remove the content, despite accepting that it broke Facebook’s own hate speech laws.

Studies have also shown that Zuckerberg’s platform is a haven for far-right, racist and violently Islamophobic groups and organizations around the world. One found that Islamophobia was a lynchpin tying together other forms of organized hatred, a gateway prejudice towards other forms of hate. Yet when confronted with the reality of the situation, the social media giant’s response has been slow to non-existent.

Partially as a result of apathy on the part of online companies to curb the racist rhetoric, Islamophobia has become normalized in the United States, from Republican presidential candidate John McCain defending his opponent Barack Obama from the “charge” of being a Muslim by saying that he was actually a “decent family man,” implying that there was a dichotomy between those two things, to the casual Islamophobia of “liberal” talk show hosts like Bill Maher. This has led to a situation where the president of the United States feels comfortable implementing what amounts to a ban on Muslims entering the country.

Facebook has played their part in this, allowing the flourishing of a myriad of private and public groups with names like “Veterans Against Islamic Filth,” “Purge Worldwide (The Cure for the Islamic disease in your country)” and “Americans Against Mosques,” many of which are filled with active duty soldiers and police officers.

And while Trump’s own speech has been protected, prominent Muslim politicians have been attacked and threatened. Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D—MI) were targeted by an international fake news campaign on Facebook that spread dangerous Islamophobic sentiment. Facebook even allowed a man who was charged with threatening to kill Omar to continue to post racist and violent content on its platform, originally taking no action, even after police intervened and arrested him (he is currently serving a 12-month prison sentence). Of course, Islamophobic content is not only limited to Facebook; an academic study published by the Social Science Research Council found that fully half the posts on Twitter mentioning Omar’s name contained some form of hate speech directed at her.

While conservatives often claim their speech is being suppressed on the platform, in reality, their views dominate Facebook, with notoriously Islamophobic individuals like Ben Shapiro or websites like Breitbart vastly outperforming mainstream news outlets such as CNN or The New York Times. It is well documented that Shapiro and his site The Daily Wire are in constant breach of a number of Facebook’s rules on false advertising and coordinated posting. Yet Zuckerberg allows him to get away with it, perhaps because he appears to have a growing friendship with Shapiro, having met with him a number of times to hear his grievances about how his ilk are being silenced (despite being by far the most shared figure on the platform). Needless to say, alternative left-wing media have not been granted any audiences with the multi-billionaire tech businessman. Indeed, Facebook admitted that they specifically redesigned their algorithm to disadvantage left-wing news sites.

 

India

A second country the report studied was India, Facebook’s largest and most lucrative market. Facebook has signed a number of lucrative deals with the Modi government, and Zuckerberg appears to be a fan of the far-right Hindu nationalist, having met and even introduced his parents to him before he was even prime minister.

Facebook Islamophobia

Zuckerberg hugs Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi at Facebook HQ in Menlo Park, Calif, Sept. 27, 2015. Jeff Chiu | AP

350 million Indians use Facebook, and 400 million use its subsidiary messaging client WhatsApp. India is currently ruled by the far-right Hindu nationalist BJP government. Its leader, Narendra Modi, first came to global attention in 2002 when, as Chief Minister of Gujarat state, he oversaw a massive Islamophobic pogrom that led to over 2,000 deaths and 200,000 Muslims being driven from their homes.

As prime minister, Modi has continued to push a strongly anti-Muslim agenda, including a new national registration council, which redefines Indian citizenship and has been used to strip it from two million people in northeast India, the majority of whom are Muslims. The coronavirus pandemic has slowed progress on the BJP’s network of detention centers, not unlike those on the U.S./Mexico border, to house the population of newly illegal Indians. But other members of Modi’s party have expressed a desire to go further; in February, Modi’s minister of animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries declared that India made a mistake not fully ethnically cleansing the entire subcontinent of Muslims at the time of its independence in 1947.

Islamophobic content is rife on Indian Facebook and WhatsApp, where the BJP and its paramilitary groups use the platforms to spread communal hatred. Last October, a report from nonprofit organization Avaaz accused Facebook of having become a “megaphone for hate” against Muslims in northeastern India, facilitating the state’s violence against the Muslim population. According to Avaaz, Facebook refused to rein in a “tsunami” of hate speech depicting Muslims as criminals, rapists, terrorists and dogs, in shockingly similar rhetoric used before the commencement of the genocide against the Rohingya Muslims in nearby Myanmar.

Ultimately, the report alleges, Zuckerberg’s inaction to curb hate speech against Muslims comes down to economics. “Facebook has no regard for the lives of Muslims. For Facebook, jeopardizing the safety and security of Muslims is just the cost of doing business,” it concludes. “The only reason to allow dangerous hate content from anyone to stay up, and especially from political figures with reach and influence, is because it’s profitable.”

Feature photo | Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies remotely during a House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust on Capitol Hill, July 29, 2020, in Washington. Mandel Ngan | Pool via AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, Common Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Report: Facebook “Complicit” in Role as “World’s Engine for Anti-Muslim Violence” appeared first on MintPress News.

A Historical Reckoning: Oxford Study Challenges Israel’s Claims Concerning Palestinian Refugees

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/10/2020 - 10:10am in

There needs to be a fundamental change in the way Palestinian refugees are seen, no longer as victims but as people with rights who are entitled to shape their own destiny. This assertion is made in a new study whose importance cannot be overstated.

According to international law, Palestinian refugees have a right to return to their homes and land and receive restitution and compensation for their suffering and personal and communal losses. Furthermore, the State of Israel, which is responsible for Palestine’s ethnic cleansing, must pay for the repatriation, the rehabilitation, and the rebuilding that the return will necessitate. A thorough understanding of why millions of Palestinians live as refugees and what international law says about their situation is critical, and a recently published study sheds unprecedented light on the Palestinian refugee issue.

Palestinian Refugees in International Law” (2nd Edition), by Francesca P. Albanese and Lex Takkenberg, was published in May 2020 by Oxford University Press. It is a comprehensive body of work on the Palestinian refugee issue, and its importance cannot be overstated. This study sets the record straight on what caused the refugee crisis, provides vital statistics and fills in crucial pieces of information regarding what international law says regarding Palestinian refugees.

The study states at the outset that, “At the time of publication, the unresolved exile of Palestinian refugees has entered its eighth decade.” Some refugees are third or even fourth generation, and they account for “the largest group of refugees globally.” Furthermore, it says, “theirs is the most protracted refugee situation in modern history.”

 

Background

The original mass ethnic cleansing campaign of Palestinians by Zionist forces took place from 1947 to 1949. Although ethnic cleansing and internal displacement of Palestinians by Israel continued well into the 1950s, and in fact, continues to the present day, the ethnic cleansing campaign of 1947-1949 is what brought about the destruction of Palestine as it had been known for centuries. That campaign was responsible for the emergence of what the study calls “one of the largest and most protracted refugee crises of all times.” The majority of these refugees and their descendants, third and even fourth generation, are registered as ‘Palestine refugees’ with UNRWA and are commonly referred to as 1948 refugees.

The Palestinians who were exiled from the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967 are commonly referred to as “displaced persons” or “1967 refugees.” Their fate and status under international law are similar to that of the 1948 refugees. Still, different terminology is used regarding them because of the status of the land from which they were displaced – the Kingdom of Jordan, which at that point was an independent state. Each year, the United Nations General Assembly passes a separate annual resolution focusing specifically on them.

 

Refugee rights

Suffering a violent assault on their lives and property and suddenly deprived of protection by the government of Mandate Palestine of which they were citizens, Palestinians became stateless refugees. They were admitted into neighboring countries on what many expected would be a temporary basis. However, one could argue, as I do, that this expectation stemmed from a serious misunderstanding of the objectives and influence of the Zionist movement.

“For historical and political reasons Palestinian refugees enjoy a distinctive regime made up of specific norms and institutional arrangements different from those for other refugees.” This reality has affected the protection Palestinians  deserve as refugees and often leaves them “excluded from the rights and standards of treatment afforded to other refugees.” In other words, Palestinian refugees are internationally recognized yet subject to a distinctive institutional regime compared to other refugees around the world. The distinction stems from special arrangements the UN had to make for them in 1948, seeing that the newly established Zionist state would not allow them to return.

One of the common mistakes people make regarding Palestinian refugees’ rights is the belief that securing rights in their host countries, including citizenship, will somehow undermine their claims towards Israel. This belief, according to this study, “must be put to rest.” In fact, the study goes on to state that for the rights of Palestinian refugees to be realized, the Palestinian community needs to make a paradigm shift, and international and regional diplomacy needs to provide a level of support “that has hitherto been largely lacking.”

Furthermore, the physical and political fragmentation that has befallen the Palestinian people and the diversity of legal frameworks and actors responsible for them have become features of their experience and misfortune. There needs to be a fundamental change in the way Palestinian refugees are seen, “not the victims of a failed political process, but as people with rights, entitled to shape their own destiny.”

 

Identity and numbers

“Today, out of over thirteen million Palestinians globally, about eight million are refugees.” 5.5 million are registered as ‘Palestine refugees’ with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency or (UNRWA) in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank.

The study estimates that some 1.5 million Palestinians are currently dispersed outside Arab countries, and their status and documentation make them statistically invisible and, therefore, difficult to track. As a result of their dispersal, Palestinian refugees’ identity is often hyphenated: Palestinian-Jordanian, Palestinian-Syrian, Palestinian-American, Palestinian-Iraqi, etc. It should be noted that for most Palestinians, long-term residence in host countries has not resulted in the protection afforded through citizenship.

Palestinian refugees

Palestinian refugees gather in the Bekaa refugee camp outside of Amman, Jordan, Oct. 28, 1970. Photo | AP

Another little known fact revealed repealed in this study is that since the late 1960s, more than 700,000 Palestinian refugees have been ejected from Arab countries, creating enormous challenges, including the need to seek asylum again in another country. What is worse is that the UN General Assembly did not confer a mandate to care for them. They are not included as a registered refugee population by UNRWA and do not receive comprehensive assistance from the agency.

 

A demographic issue

What has become known as the “demographic issue” is code for a Zionist obsession to establish a Jewish majority in Palestine – a territory that until then 1948 had a large Arab majority. This has been a pressing issue for Zionist leadership since the early years of the British Mandate. Still, despite British support for the Jewish national project and the waves of Jewish migration to Palestine since the late nineteenth century, at the end of 1947, Palestine’s Jewish population was only one-third of the total population of Palestine.

Britain facilitated Jewish migration to Palestine and turned hundreds of thousands of Jewish migrants from Europe into Palestine Mandate citizens. “The Citizenship Order of August 1, 1925, extended full citizenship rights to all Turkish (Ottoman) subjects habitually resident in Palestine.” This included the original 729,873 Ottoman citizens of Palestine, of whom the vast majority were Palestinian Arabs.

By 1946, the population of Palestine was estimated at 1,846,000. This included 1,203,000 Palestinian Arabs and 608,000 Jews. In the 30 years of British control over Palestine, the Jewish population grew over 30 percent compared to an average of 10 percent growth during the final 20 years of the Ottoman Empire, a time period already marked by increased Jewish immigration.

The idea of forcing the Arab Palestinians out of Palestine through expulsion and transfer had become ingrained in the Zionist leadership mindset very early on. As early as the 1930s, the Jewish Agency had established a Population Transfer Committee which devised schemes to remove the Palestinian population “by securing land for them in neighboring states, or by having Britain remove them.” During 1948, several Transfer Committees were set up by the Jewish Agency, and later the Israeli government to “facilitate the exodus.”

By the time the armistice agreements were signed in 1949 between the new State of Israel and its Arab neighbors, only 15 percent of Palestine’s pre-1948 Arab population remained in the area that would become Israel.

 

Criminalizing return and confiscating property

The State of Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948. By June of that year, the Israeli government had decided to bar refugees from returning. In 1952, Israel passed the Nationality Law, which effectively excluded over two-thirds of Palestinian Arab citizens from retaining citizenship in British Mandate Palestine, a land that was still their own country.

In 1954, Israel passed the ‘The Prevention of Infiltration Law,’ which effectively criminalized the return of Palestinian refugees. Soldiers who saw “infiltrators,” a term used to describe any Palestinian attempting to return to their home or lands, were authorized to shoot them on sight. Those who were caught and not killed on the spot were imprisoned and expelled again.

This was not merely motivated by Zionist cruelty but also by greed.

The wealth that Palestinians left behind “was strategic to the emerging State of Israel.” Palestinians left behind huge tracts of farmland, tools, livestock, shops, factories, houses of worship, private homes, financial assets, and personal belongings. Produce from fields and orchards was also left behind, with large citrus fruit stores waiting to be exported for hard currency.

Moveable property was sold by Israeli authorities. The government even leased abandoned stone quarries and sold cactus fruit from abandoned fields. “Beyond this monetary gain, control of the refugees’ property allowed Israel and the Jewish Agency to cheaply settle hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants who began pouring into Israel after 1948.”

“The gap between such properties and their original owners/holders was further widened by the transfer, through ‘purchase agreements,’ to the Israeli Development Authority, and subsequently to the Jewish National Fund, for administration.” These Zionist institutions made it impossible for properties – both movable and immovable – of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced Palestinians to be restored to their rightful, legal owners.

In addition to severing the links between the land and its original owners, Israel transformed the territory to benefit its own economic growth. “By 1950, the Custodian had become the largest landlord in Israel.” It had acquired the legal authority to allocate Palestinian property to incoming Jewish immigrants.

In the 1950s, Absentee Property Laws consolidated the seizure of absentee properties and their transfer to the State of Israel for  exclusive benefit of the Jewish population. Absentee property played a huge role in turning Israel into a viable state. It allowed Israel to take over farms and urban homes of Palestinians and populate them with Jewish newcomers from Europe and Arab countries. Jewish kibbutzim and agricultural settlements began the process of expropriating the land of both refugees and that of the Palestinians who remained in what became Israel. Palestinians who remained had no choice but to work for the same Israeli owners who had stolen their land.

Palestinian refugees

A bulldozer clears land in Palestine to be used by Jewish Yemeni farmers, Sept. 4, 1950. Photo | AP

These enormous tracts of good, arable land were now held by the state and were used by Jewish settlements and individual farmers to grow crops and vegetables. Vacant Arab homes were used to accommodate immigrants. With time, emptied Palestinian villages were either transformed or destroyed. Some were turned into parks and forests; others were used for cultivation and development. “All these measures steadily rendered the possibility of a return of the refugees ever more remote.”

Israel and Zionist spokespeople worldwide like to claim that the Jews came to an empty, barren land and made it bloom. This study makes it clear that they came to an already prosperous country and stole its riches.

 

The report of the UN Mediator for Palestine

One would be remiss to discuss Palestinian refugees without mentioning the contributions and indeed sacrifice of the UN Mediator to Palestine, Count Folke Bernadotte. Bernadotte was a Swedish diplomat, who after successfully negotiating the rescue of some twenty thousand prisoners from Nazi concentration camps (more than half of whom were Jewish), was asked to take on the role of Mediator for Palestine. He visited the country several times and presented several reports.

Count Bernadotte presented his first report regarding the refugees to the United Nations on September 16, 1948. The report describes his efforts to obtain an agreement from the Provisional Government of Israel for a phased return of refugees. This study clearly states that “attempts at finding a diplomatic solution were unsuccessful because of the firm stance of the Provisional Government of Israel against the return of the refugees.” Bernadotte’s report underscored that:

The right of innocent people, uprooted from their homes by the present terror and ravages of war, to return to their homes, should be affirmed and made effective, with assurance of adequate compensation for the property of those who may choose not to return.”

The Palestinian refugees ‘right’ to return and to be adequately compensated is recurrent in his report, notwithstanding the views expressed by the Provisional Government of Israel. The right of return was considered by Bernadotte to be among the most basic premises for the settlement of the conflict. The following passage of his report still resonates today:

No settlement can be just and complete if recognition is not accorded to the right of the Arab refugee to return to the home from which he has been dislodged … It would be an offence against the principles of elemental justice if these innocent victims of the conflict were denied the right to return to their homes while Jewish immigrants flow into Palestine, and, indeed, at least offer the threat of permanent replacement of the Arab refugees.”

The Mediator not only stressed the right of the refugees to return but also made clear that those rights be affirmed rather than established. This reflected the prevailing consensus regarding the norms of international law when dealing with refugees.

Bernadotte also made it clear that,

The right of the Arab refugees to return to their homes in Jewish-controlled territory at the earliest possible date should be affirmed by the United Nations, and their repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation, and payment of adequate compensation for the property of those choosing not to return, should be supervised and assisted by the United Nations.”

Count Bernadotte

Count Bernadotte, left, speaks with the Syrian leaders at a UN Security Council meeting on July 13, 1948. Photo | UN Archive

Bernadotte’s advocacy for the Palestinian refugees and his claim that Jerusalem – by then occupied and subjected to a thorough ethnic cleansing campaign – should come under international control and not Zionist control could not be tolerated by the Zionist government in Palestine. On September 17, 1948, one day after he submitted his progress report, Folke Bernadotte was assassinated in a terrorist attack by members of a Zionist militia.

The terrorists acted on an order to get rid of Bernadotte, and although it was later claimed that the assassins were part of a fringe extremist group and that the central provisional Zionist government formally condemned the assassination, there is little doubt that the entire Zionist established was complicit in Bernadotte’s murder.

Although the assassins were well known and had even given interviews, none were ever brought to justice. One of the people known to have been directly involved in the assassination was Yitzhak Shamir, though he was not a part of the terrorist squad that committed the murder. Shamir went on to serve in many important Israeli government posts, including Prime Minister.

 

Resolution 194

The UN General Assembly accepted Bernadotte’s recommendations when it adopted Resolution 194, and as a result of his death, established the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP), which took over the main functions of the Mediator. Concerning refugees, the resolution states that the General Assembly:

Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible;

Following Israel’s refusal to comply with the Mediator’s request to allow refugees to return to their homes, in paragraph 11, the General Assembly stressed that it,

Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation, and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and, through him, with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations.

The work of the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP) was completed in 1964. According to this study, records in the Commission’s archives reveal that it determined the worth of the Palestinian refugees’ privately owned land was 204,660,250 British Palestine pounds, equivalent to $9.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2019.

The study also states that the Commission’s estimates are considered to be “incomplete and conservative,” yet are the most methodologically accurate ones made to date. “Beyond land losses, a compensation regime should also consider movable property losses, disturbance allowance (representing the loss of income until a refugee could re-establish himself/herself), ex-gratia payment representing a general compensation for hardship, and reintegration costs.”

In August of 1961, at the U.S. government’s suggestion, the Commission appointed Dr. Joseph E. Johnson as a special representative. Johnson’s overall estimate of the amount owed to Palestinian refugees for compensation was $1.377 billion U.S. dollars in 1962. This is equivalent to $22.975 billion in 2019. All of this is for the refugees of 1948 only.

Resolution 194 is one of the most widely reaffirmed resolutions in UN history. This study states that “resolutions that have been reaffirmed hundreds of times not only confirm long-established international consensus but they acquire a legal character.” Resolution 194 has been repeatedly reaffirmed over the years, and it has even served as a precedent in international responses to other refugee crises.

 

Military Order 58

In the aftermath of the 1967 Israeli assault and conquest of Arab lands, and immediately after it seized the West Bank, the Israeli army issued Military Order 58. It authorizes the seizure of any property held by West Bank residents who were outside the area on June 7, 1967, and that of those who subsequently left. “Military Order 58 replicates the Absentees’ Property Law of 1950 for the 1967 territories, applying it to territory that Israel supposedly “merely occupies and over which it has no sovereignty.”

According to this study, Military Order 58 “has a broader scope than the Absentees’ Property Law,” in that it allowed Israel to take control over property that had been held by Jordan since 1948 and placed it under the control of the Custodian’s authority of Israel. Furthermore, it has no time restrictions, covers any Palestinian who leaves the West Bank, and remains in force to this day.

 

International law

The British government initially made two conflicting promises regarding Palestine, one to the indigenous Palestinian Arabs and the other to the immigrant-colonizer Jewish community. However, the British government’s actions made it clear that Britain favored the creation of what became known as a Jewish state – or more accurately, a Zionist state – in Palestine. As a side note, it is worth mentioning that the local Orthodox Jewish community residing in Palestine at the time vehemently opposed the Zionists and the creation of a Zionist state. They made their opposition known to the British, the United Nations, and the local Palestinian Arab leadership, with whom they had excellent relations.

British support for Zionist claims to Palestine allowed the all-out military assault by Zionist militias against the indigenous Palestinian community. This ultimately led to the creation of an independent Zionist state and the subjugation, dispossession, exile, and statelessness of indigenous Palestinian Arabs. It also brought about measures preventing the return of the Palestinians forcibly displaced while actively promoting Jewish immigration under the guise of return. As a result of this, there is currently an unresolved refugee crisis “that has evolved into the largest and most protracted in modern history.”

Palestine 1936

Palestinian homes destroyed with dynamite by British troops following clashes between Jewish militias and Palestinians in Jaffa on July 3, 1936. Photo | AP

A crucial point that must be recognized is that the rights of Palestinian refugees to return, restitution, and compensation, were already enshrined in international law in 1948. The UN General Assembly reaffirmed these rights in resolution 194.

In 1948, the refugees already had the right to return to their homes. Instead, 750,000 refugees were denationalized en masse, prevented from returning to their houses, and forced into a seemingly endless exile. In other words, Israel had already violated its obligations under international humanitarian law and the law of state responsibility in 1948.

Since then, the policies and practices of successive Israeli governments continue to prevent the return and self-determination of Palestinian people. Israel denies Palestinian refugees the right to return, restitution, and compensation, and Israeli leaders even continue to deny the very existence of a Palestinian people. Israel justifies its actions by challenging the foundation of its obligations and that of the rights of Palestinians, and the international community has been weak and unwilling to intervene.

The practice that has evolved since the Second World War affirms that individual and collective claims of refugees are not mutually exclusive but rather reinforce each other. In fact, these are challenges found in other cases of mass displacement, serious human rights violations, and where the passage of time has increased the number of claimants. The high number of possible claimants among Palestinian refugees is often seen as justifying Israel in its refusal to recognize Palestinian refugees’ rights in general. However, given the clarity of the individual rights and the nature of violations involved in the Palestinian case, “individual claims and claims en masse for groups of individuals must be addressed.”

These are issues that can be overcome, as was demonstrated by the reparations to victims of Nazi persecution. They included multiple claims in different jurisdictions within different countries and on different continents, with settlements being achieved many decades after the violations took place.

The Israeli government aggressively encourages Jews from around the world to settle in Israel while pressing for restitution laws to be adopted regarding losses suffered by the Jewish people. Simultaneously, it adamantly denies Palestinians the right to return and resettle in their homeland and receive restitution. Being that Israel is a settler-colonial state these policies are not unusual, one wonders, however, at what point the international community will intervene on behalf of the millions of Palestinian refugees waiting to retun.

 

Right to return

Israel objects to the return of the Palestinian refugees claiming it is an existential threat. However, what Zionist institutions fear equally as much are demands under international law that they pay restitution and compensation for the properties both private and public, and for the natural resources stolen from the Palestinian people.

In 1949, the Geneva Convention elaborated regarding the prohibition of deportation and expressly referred to the repatriation of protected persons. Article 49 of GCIV prohibits “individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportation of protected persons from occupied territory.” It goes on to say that “All protected persons who may desire to leave the territory at the outset of, or during a conflict, shall be entitled to do so.”

Zionist institutions and spokespeople claim that the refugee issue has somehow reached some imaginary statute of limitations. However, the legal foundation of the rights of the Palestinian refugees to repatriation, restitution, and compensation  – as affirmed in resolution 194 – not only has not expired but, according to this study, “has since become even stronger.” Furthermore, according to the Articles on State Responsibility, “the state responsibility does not diminish with the passing of time.”

It is only for political reasons that the rights of the Palestinian refugees continue to be side-lined. Zionist institutions around the world, with the support of the United States government, are doing all they can to undermine the severity of the Palestinian refugee issue and to absolve Israel of any responsibility. The fall of the Zionist- apartheid regime in Palestine and the emergence of a free and democratic Palestine in its place is arguably the only development that can realistically bring about the return of the refugees.

Feature photo | Palestinian refugees carry their belongings as they flee across the wrecked Allenby Bridge over the Jordan River from the Israeli-occupied section of Jordan, June 22, 1967. Bernard Frye | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post A Historical Reckoning: Oxford Study Challenges Israel’s Claims Concerning Palestinian Refugees appeared first on MintPress News.

Fed Study on Household Wealth Reveals Troubling Trends in American Inequality

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 01/10/2020 - 3:51am in

Millionaires and billionaires hold a remarkable 79.2 percent of the United States’ household wealth. That is according to a newly released triennial study into consumer and household finances from the Federal Reserve. The report paints a picture of an unequal America, where a small minority of the rich control the vast majority of household wealth. 11.9 percent of American households have at least $1 million in wealth. Overall, mean family wealth declined by three percent across the country between 2016 and 2019. However, the study notes, wealthy and highly educated families saw their fortunes rise, but households where the main breadwinner had not achieved a high school diploma saw their wealth fall.

In some parts of the country, one million dollars might not seem like an unusual price for a home. However, nationwide, the median home value dropped to $247,000 in 2020, with much more expensive properties rarer. Those merely having a mortgage on a million-dollar home do not qualify as owning $1 million in household wealth.

At the same time, much of the country is living in serious poverty. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, around 40 percent of Americans reported that they would be unable to cover a small $400 emergency such as a leaking roof or a car repair. In 2018, 14.3 million U.S. households were food insecure, meaning they had problems finding enough to eat. The coronavirus and the economic dislocation that it has caused has greatly exacerbated both poverty and inequality, meaning that the Federal Reserve’s study, based on data collected before the pandemic, is likely out of date and an underestimate of the problem’s severity.

In 2017, just three men — Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Jeff Bezos — held more wealth than the bottom half of America (164 million people). Since the pandemic began, all three have greatly increased their fortunes. Bezos, for example, has added over $73 billion to his since March alone. This is in stark contrast to tens of millions of people who lost their jobs, leading to a massive wave of de facto rent strikes across the country and a boom in demand for food banks.

The Trump administration has used the crisis to force through a number of reforms that amount to a giveaway to the country’s plutocrats. A nonpartisan congressional body found that 82 percent of the tax cuts hidden away in the government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act went to those who earned over $1 million per year, with less than three percent going to the great majority of Americans who earn less than $100,000 yearly. Big businesses have been able to weather the storm far better than smaller ones and stand to be in a much stronger position when the dust settles. Data from business review site Yelp found that 60 percent of businesses that had to close during the pandemic are now permanently shut. Much of the suffering that the pandemic has caused, however, has been silent and invisible, with many quietly forced to live with relatives or staying almost permanently indoors.

Matt Bruenig from the People’s Policy Project also noted that the Fed’s report showed there are massive differences in wealth between racial groups. The mean white household is nearly five times wealthier than the average Hispanic one, and nearly seven times wealthier than a black one. Within each group, however, there are also enormous disparities, with the top decile controlling around 70 percent of all wealth, a small, comfortable, middle class, and a large mass of very poor people at the bottom. Indeed, 10-15 percent of the country not only has no wealth but is in debt.

These sorts of disparities are not limited to the United States alone but are seen across the West and most of the world. A new report in Scotland, for instance, found that the richest 20 families have as much wealth as the bottom 30 percent of the population. Professor Danny Dorling of Oxford University has argued that this kind of global inequality, where houses are regularly bought and sold for $1 million, is completely unsustainable, merely because if it continues for a lot longer the rich will own literally everything.

The November election presents the United States with a stark choice between two candidates on many issues. Yet on the economy, the Democrats and the Republicans do not differ wildly. Biden began his campaign for president promising his ultra-wealthy donors at a ritzy New York fundraiser that “nothing would fundamentally change” if he were president and that he “needed” them greatly. The New York Times recently published an investigative report into Trump’s finances and taxes. Despite the fact that it showed he barely paid any taxes for years, many Democrats chose to attack him on the grounds that he wasn’t a “real” billionaire after all, suggesting this was the major scandal the report exposed. Thus, whoever wins in November, it is unlikely that this problem will get better quickly.

Feature photo | A man is seen at a homeless encampment that sits under Interstate 110 near Ramirez Street in downtown Los Angeles, May 21, 2020. Mark J. Terrill | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Fed Study on Household Wealth Reveals Troubling Trends in American Inequality appeared first on MintPress News.

Top 1% Responsible for Double the Carbon Emissions of Bottom Half: Oxfam

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 22/09/2020 - 4:18am in

A new report published today by international charity Oxfam lays bare the massive disparities in carbon dioxide emissions between the world’s wealthy elite and the rest of society. Titled “Confronting Carbon Inequality,” the study found that over the previous 25 years, the globe’s richest one percent are responsible for 15 percent of all carbon emissions — more than double that of the bottom 50 percent (over three billion people).

The other nine percent of the population who make up the richest decile used up 37 percent of humanity’s CO2 output, meaning that the top 10 percent — mostly located in Europe and North America — are responsible for the majority of the problem. The middle 40 percent used up the remaining 41 percent. This means that the wealthiest one percent use over 100 times the carbon dioxide as someone in the bottom half of humanity.

The current system, the report warns, is completely unsustainable if humanity is to avoid catastrophic global warming that will challenge organized human society. If the planet is to avoid a temperature increase of over 1.5 degrees Celsius — the target set by the Paris Agreement — then we will have to radically reduce our collective carbon footprint. Unfortunately, Oxfam notes, the rich have been blowing through our remaining carbon budget at a perilously fast rate; the per capita carbon usage of the world’s rich being 35 times higher than the targets for 2030 set by the Paris Agreement.

While energy consumption has dropped during the COVID-related lockdown this year, if the wealthiest ten percent of society continues to live as they do, the world’s entire carbon budget will be blown by 2033, even if all other emissions from the bottom 90 percent drop to zero.

“The over-consumption of a wealthy minority is fuelling the climate crisis yet it is poor communities and young people who are paying the price. Such extreme carbon inequality is a direct consequence of our governments decades long pursuit of grossly unequal and carbon intensive economic growth,” said Tim Gore, Head of Climate Policy at Oxfam.

While many in the West brush off any moves towards radical action on climate change by by pointing to growing populations in the Global South, calling for population control rather than limits on emissions, the reality is that the United States has around 160 times the per capita emissions of Malawi or Uganda, two of the fastest growing populations in the world, meaning that life in Africa is vastly more sustainable than in the U.S.

From wildfires in Australia and the Western United States to tornadoes in the midwest, climate catastrophes have been headline news in 2020, along with the COVID-19 pandemic. The causal link between man made climate change and extreme weather events is well established. Yet both the media and politicians continue to shy away from discussing the problem. If inequality is a driver of climate change as the report states, then 2020 is not good news. The world’s billionaire class has added nearly $1 trillion to their wealth during the pandemic, with multinational companies with robust supply chains and delivery services prospering. On the other hand, small businesses are failing en masse. Data from Yelp shows that 60 percent of American businesses that shut their doors during lockdown are now permanently closed.

By far the largest share of emissions from high earners comes from travel, in particular flights, meaning that the jet set elite bear the brunt of the responsibility. Gore suggested that it was possible and necessary to tackle both the climate and inequality crises together. “Governments must curb the emissions of the wealthy through taxes and bans on luxury carbon such as SUVs and frequent flights. Revenues should be invested in public services and low carbon sectors to create jobs, and help end poverty,” he said.

The report also suggested ending airline companies’ right to buy fuel tax free and a huge investment in public infrastructure projects, such as public transportation networks, that would allow individuals to travel in a more sustainable manner. It even suggested a ban on advertising to reduce the consumption of unnecessary items.

Ultimately, the report demonstrates that the income and wealth gap between the world’s rich and everybody else is inherently unsustainable on a planet with finite resources. The question now is whether we change it or simply watch the world burn.

Feature photo | People tour a private jet at Flexjet’s Richmond Heights, OH headquarters on June 27, 2019. Michael Mcelroy | AP via Flexjet

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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According to Oxfam, Rich Countries Have Already Hoarded Most Future COVID Vaccines

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 19/09/2020 - 2:13am in

The world’s wealthiest nations have already quietly bought up more than half of the potential future supply of the most promising COVID-19 vaccine doses, leaving little for anyone else. International charity Oxfam studied five leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates, currently under clinical trials, and found that rich countries had pumped billions of dollars into research, securing 51 percent of the promised doses. This means that the United Kingdom will have 45 times more doses per head of population than a poor country such as Bangladesh.

Worryingly, the vaccines are being researched and produced by for-profit transnational pharmaceutical corporations, who have already announced they intend to make profits on any future sales. Massachusetts-based Moderna, for example, has already sold options for all its supply to rich nations, for up to $35 per dose, effectively pricing out poorer countries who cannot afford to pay such a high price.

More concerning still, however, is that the five companies surveyed have nothing like the capacity to produce enough vaccines for all. Even if all five potential remedies succeed (an extremely unlikely best-case scenario), the large majority of the world’s population will not be able to be treated until at least 2022, Oxfam warns. Moderna, it notes, could only produce enough for around six percent of the world’s population on its own.

Without organized and committed popular pressure, big pharma has shown minimal interest in working together for the good of humanity, sharing knowledge and expertise, another example of the profit motive clashing with the public interest. “Governments will prolong this crisis in all of its human tragedy and economic damage if they allow pharmaceutical companies to protect their monopolies and profits,” said Chema Vera, Interim Executive Director of Oxfam International, “No single corporation will ever be able to meet the world’s need for a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s why we are calling on them to share their knowledge free of patents and to get behind a quantum leap in production to keep everyone safe. We need a people’s vaccine, not a profit vaccine.”

Pharmaceutical corporations are already engaged in serious pandemic profiteering. Antiviral drug Remdesivir has proven relatively effective in fighting COVID-19. California-based operation Gilead Sciences has been charging Americans over $3,000 for a full course of the drug, despite the fact that it costs them less than the price of a Subway sandwich to produce. Indeed, so cheap is the antiviral that the syringes and equipment needed to administer it cost more to make. Gilead’s price gouging was described as “ethically unacceptable” and “a new low” in pharmaceutical malpractice by medical researcher Dr. Andrew Hill.

While morally questionable, the pharmaceutical industry has a long history of reprehensible actions. Gilead itself is being sued in the U.S. and accused of deliberately holding back a lifesaving HIV drug for years to extend the profitability of its previous, inferior one. It has been alleged that this caused 16,000 needless deaths over a nine-year period. Gilead sells the drug for around $8 in Australia, but charges Americans $2,000 per month, thanks to U.S. laws preventing government price bargaining.

Dozens of pharmaceutical companies also took Nelson Mandela’s South African government to court for its decision to use generic HIV medication over infinitely more expensive brand name drugs, claiming it was breaching trade laws. They only dropped the case in 2001 after worldwide public pressure. 7.7 million South Africans live with HIV/AIDS, an official prevalence rate of over 20 percent, according to the U.N., although actual numbers may be higher.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to a rise in highly questionable behavior from nation-states. The U.S. under Trump has led the world in confiscating and stealing vital supplies bound for other nations, seizing ventilators meant for Barbados, masks meant for Germany, and equipment Brazil, France, and Canada had already paid for. It has also used the pandemic to push for harsher sanctions against Iran and Venezuela. Nearly 7 million Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus, and more than 200,000 have died, although some believe the official figure is too low.

The global pandemic presents an opportunity for worldwide solidarity and cooperation, with viruses not respecting international borders. Unfortunately, the crisis seems to have brought out some of the worst behavior from corporations and governments alike. It appears the most powerful nations are treating lifesaving treatments as commodities to be bought and sold, rather than a pressing need for all of humanity.

Feature photo | Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to the Jenner Institute in Oxford, England, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. The Prime Minister toured the laboratory and met scientists who are leading the COVID vaccine research. Kirsty Wigglesworth | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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Study: Billionaires That Donated to Gates-Buffet Giving Pledge Now Richer Than Ever

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/08/2020 - 3:07am in

A study released by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) through its Program on Inequality and the Common Good, titled “Gilded Giving 2020: How Wealth Inequality Distorts Philanthropy and Imperils Democracy” examines the reality behind the ostensible charitableness of the billionaire donor class and the disturbing trend of charitable organizations and foundations relying more and more on fewer and fewer wealthy donors; funds which “end up in family foundations and donor-advised funds that could legally exist in perpetuity,” while donations from lower and middle-income sources are disappearing.

In particular, the paper looks at The Giving Pledge initiative started in 2010 by a few dozen U.S. billionaires and led by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. The professed goal of the initiative was to have the wealthiest people in the world pledge to give at least half of their fortunes away to charitable causes before their death. The study found that contrary to the stated purpose of the philanthropic commitment of the organization, a full 75 percent of participants have actually increased their net worth in the ten years since they made their charitable vow.

More concerning is the finding that a growing share of “high-end” donations never ends up in organizations that do any kind of altruistic work. Rather, they go to tax-privileged private foundations designed to serve as tax shelters for the very wealthy, which then only disburse a small percentage of their assets to charitable non-profits; a particularly galling fact considering how much more wealthy the one-percenters have gotten over the course of the pandemic in contrast to the 54 million Americans who’ve filed for unemployment in that same span of time.

 

Top-heavy risk

Among its key findings, the study notes that giving intermediaries like donor-advised funds (DAFs) like Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund (the largest in the country), and private foundations have grown dramatically over the last few years, with assets ballooning 118 percent between 2005 and 2019. The number of private foundations has multiplied as well by a whopping 68 percent over the same period.

In addition, IPS found that there has been a “marked increase in mega-gifting,” or donations of $50 million or more. The trend highlights one of the main risks identified by the study, characterized in the paper as “Top-Heavy Philanthropy,” which “poses significant implications for the practice of fundraising, the role of the independent nonprofit sector, and the health of our larger democratic civil society.”

These risks associated with top-heavy philanthropy are clearly illustrated in their case study of the Gates/Buffet Giving Pledge, exposing it as a vehicle for the “concentration of taxpayer-subsidized private charitable power.” In other words, the majority of donations given to the organization end up “sequestered” in private foundations and DAFs, guaranteeing that donors and their heirs will retain control over the very assets they ostensibly donated to the greater good.

Remarkably, the study found that a vast majority of the foundation’s 62 billionaire pledgers substantially increased their wealth in the span of the ten years since their initial donations. Only 11 saw their fortunes dwindle due to “aggressive charitable giving” or market conditions. Nine of the mega-wealthy donors saw their collective riches swell by an average of 200 percent. Among the charmed list, Mark Zuckerberg saw the largest surge by an outlandish 1,783 percent.

 

Hardly charity

The significance for U.S. taxpayers of these and other factors analyzed are revealed by a hypothetical calculation made by researchers regarding the tax-subsidy, which DAF-parked donations represent for the average American. According to July survey by Forbes magazine, U.S. billionaires currently hold $971.9 billion in assets; if the top 100 gave away half their wealth to foundations like these, the U.S. Treasury would lose roughly $360 billion in tax revenue.

While researchers admit that it is difficult to determine the “exact amount of taxpayer subsidies for these donations,” the reality is that the wealthiest among us are using these foundations to reduce their “taxable estates” by millions and even billions of dollars, while the resources that actually make it to organizations doing charitable work dwindles. Such a state of affairs combined with the economic recession unfolding as a result of the pandemic and tax-breaks for the rich poses serious challenges to charities, in general.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) passed in 2018 drastically reduced income tax rates for top earners and doubled the standard deduction, both of which reduced incentives for charitable giving. Meanwhile, non-profit charitable organizations whose mission does not fall into the sectors related to the pandemic, itself, are suffering financially resulting in program cutbacks for 64 percent of these, according to an April survey by Charity Navigator and Reuters.

In February 2020, the Chronicle of Philanthropy published a list of the top 50 philanthropists in the United States. 42 percent of those contributions, which totaled $15.8 billion, went to DAFs. Most of these were to the donors’ own private funds and nearly 30 percent went to colleges and universities, leaving actual charitable causes very low in the philanthropic totem pole.

Feature photo | American investor Warren Buffett, left, and Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates, right, talk during their visit to a Dairy Queen in Beijing, China, Sept. 30, 2010. Alexander F. Yuan | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post Study: Billionaires That Donated to Gates-Buffet Giving Pledge Now Richer Than Ever appeared first on MintPress News.

Partisan Media Coverage of Epstein Masks His Links to Both Sides of the Political Establishment

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/07/2020 - 3:08am in

The Jeffrey Epstein saga continues to rumble on. Earlier this month, the deceased sexual predator’s longtime associate Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested and charged with luring and grooming children into his sex ring. Epstein, who died in prison in suspicious circumstances last August, was connected to huge swaths of the global elite, counting billionaire business owners, hotshot lawyers and professors, members of the royal family, and foreign leaders among his closest acquaintances.

Perhaps the two most important and notable, however, given their enormous influence, are former President Bill Clinton and current President, Donald Trump. Clinton, already infamous for the numerous women accusing him of sexual misconduct (including rape), is known to have flown all around the world with Epstein on his private jet, the Lolita Express, which he used to ferry girls to his private Caribbean island where he allegedly imprisoned and raped them. Locals report seeing the former president there.

President Trump also has deep ties to the disgraced New York fraudster. “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy,” he said in 2002, “He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it.” Like Clinton, Trump was also a flyer on the Lolita Express, Epstein claiming both that it was he who introduced him to his wife Melania and that Clinton “owed him some favors.”

The office of the president of the United States is the most powerful in the world. Epstein is known to have cajoled and blackmailed his powerful associates. Did the two presidents’ connections to him influence U.S. public policy? If we do not investigate, we cannot know.

We rely largely on the corporate press to carry out such investigations, shaping our understanding of the world in the process. However, the great majority of what we consume comes mediated through ultra-partisan outlets pushing a clear agenda. The two most widely viewed networks in the U.S. are Fox News and MSNBC, both of which have clear party loyalties, Fox to the Republicans, and MSNBC to the Democrats. Unfortunately, as well shall see, they are both spinning the Epstein story hard to shield their champion from blame while simultaneously demonizing the opposing president. As Liz Franczak from the Epstein-focused TrueAnon podcast said, the story, “so perfectly encapsulates and implicates both sides of the ruling class and yet you have these polarized sides, team red, team blue, pulling out what they want for their own purposes and refusing to understand, see or even admit that this crosses both. This encapsulates everyone.”

Media have already been under the spotlight for their poor coverage of the affair. Epstein is known to have had connections to influential media figures like George Stephanopoulos, Katie Couric, Charlie Rose in addition to some of the media’s biggest sponsors, such as Bill Gates. Last year, ABC News anchor Amy Robach was caught on a hot mic lambasting network executives for killing her investigations into his network — precisely because of his connections — allowing him to remain at large for three more years. Yet the only one facing consequences was the producer accused of leaking the clip in the first place, not those who protected, “ the most prolific pedophile this country has ever known,” as Robach described him.

In order to gauge the level of partisan coverage, this study analyzed all articles or show transcripts from MSNBC.com featuring the words “Jeffrey Epstein Donald Trump” or “Jeffrey Epstein Bill Clinton” and all results appearing under the “Jeffrey Epstein” topic on FoxNews.com, counting the number of articles mentioning each president’s links to the deceased sex offender. The date range was July 6, 2019 (Epstein’s arrest) to July 13, 2020 (the first day of data collection). Full documentation can be found here.

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The results were exactly as Franczak suspected, with both networks showing a strong bias (an over 2:1 ratio) towards associating the opposing party to the pedophile, while downplaying their own candidate’s incriminating ties to him. 19 MSNBC articles or segments mentioned Clinton’s links to Epstein, as opposed to 45 for Trump. But Fox News flipped that on its head, associating Epstein far more with Clinton (78 times) than with Trump (37 times).

While these findings already reveal a great disparity in the coverage, they actually undersell the level of bias in reporting because they do not take into account the quality and context of the references. On the MSNBC show, “The 11th Hour,” a former federal prosecutor reacted to the news of Epstein’s arrest by saying “I’m a lifelong Democrat. If there are Democrats in there, let it come out. If there are Republicans in there, let it come out. This should not be about politics. This is – if anybody abused those girls, it ought to come out and they ought to be prosecuted and I’m for it.” Host Brian Williams responded: “Yes, hear hear, I think most thinking individuals would agree with that.”

But the media didn’t do that. MSNBC constantly stressed Trump’s connections to Epstein, downplaying Bill Clinton’s own links. Indeed, on July 17, 2019, five separate MSNBC shows centered around the Trump-Epstein connection, but only one noted any link to Clinton, and even that was merely when a guest began listing a number of powerful people he had ties to, and was not brought up again, the show going back to discussing at length Trump’s complicity. Nevertheless, this counted as one hit for Trump, and one for Clinton.

Epstein Clinton Painting

A painting of Clinton that allegedly hung in Epstein’s New York mansion. Photo | New York Academy of Art

Meanwhile, Fox News did the same but in the opposite direction, putting great emphasis on the former president’s ties to the notorious sexual predator, and rarely discussing the current president in relation to him. Many of Fox’s mentions of Trump were included merely as a sentence of background information, for example, a July 8, 2019 article noting, “Epstein, who once counted as friends former President Bill Clinton, Britain’s Prince Andrew and President Trump, was arrested Saturday after his private jet touched down from France.”

In its “Five Details to Know” article on Epstein, Fox included a section called the “Bill Clinton Connection” where it (accurately) described their long history, his multiple trips on the Lolita Express, and meetings they had in New York. But it did not mention any connection to Trump whatsoever. Indeed, the network appears to have gone to some lengths not to implicate the president, earlier this month cropping Trump out of a photo of Epstein and Maxwell it used to illustrate a segment.

Fox constantly detailed and centered the Clinton-Epstein relationship, one article beginning with the sentence, “Former President Bill Clinton insists he never visited the notorious “orgy island” of his late ex-pal Jeffrey Epstein – but now a second person begs to differ.”

Host Jesse Watters began a TV segment in January by stating:

Bill Clinton flew many times on Jeffrey Epstein’s private jet. A private investigator told us that one of the co-pilots said Bill Clinton flew on the plane without secret service a few times and while young girls were dressed up as candy stripers. Now, new photos have emerged showing the former President on Epstein’s plane and with Epstein’s alleged madam. Here he is with Ghislaine Maxwell, who is under FBI investigation for engaging in alleged underaged sex trafficking. Ghislaine Maxwell also attended Chelsea Clinton’s wedding.”

Watters went on to show viewers a number of incriminating pictures of the ex-president. On Epstein, Tucker Carlson stated that, “He got away with it because he was affluent and he had many powerful friends like Bill Clinton.” Yet Fox was far more likely to miss an opportunity to impugn Trump. In dozens of articles detailing Virginia Roberts’ allegations against Prince Andrew, Fox often highlighted how Roberts accused Clinton of staying on Epstein’s private island, but only two mentioned that the 16-year-old Roberts was working for Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort when she was trafficked by Maxwell.

MSNBC was just as likely to play down unhelpful Epstein connections. Only ten minutes into a segment called “Why Trump’s White House is linked to Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking case” did host Brian Williams mention Clinton’s connections to Epstein, before quickly returning to Trump. Likewise Chris Hayes began a report on Epstein’s arrest with the words, “A notorious convicted sex offender and friend of Donald Trump, a man whose escaped serious accountability for years seemingly thanks to it as enormous wealth and social connections is now behind bars.” He later went on to say that “Epstein is connected to some of the most powerful people in America in the world including Bill Clinton, Alan Dershowitz, Prince Andrew, and yes President Donald Trump – about which more in a bit,” before launching into a long discussion of the Trump-Epstein connection. Both these examples were coded as one article mentioning Trump and one for Clinton, despite the obvious disparity in emphasis. For this reason, the study also counted the number of articles and segments specifically centering on each president’s relationship to the billionaire criminal.

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These findings give a more accurate assessment of the level of partisan coverage, with 15 MSNBC pieces targeting Trump, but only 2 for Clinton, whereas Fox News was its opposite, with 13 on Clinton but only one for Trump.

Much of the time Clinton was brought up on MSNBC it was as an accusation made by Trump, which hosts and guests quickly challenged. On the August 13 edition of Hardball, for instance, Clinton was only mentioned in connection to Epstein because Trump had the “chutzpah” to “trash his name,” according to host Chris Matthews, his guest Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor, immediately turning the attack back on him, stating:

I think Donald Trump is trying to deflect. If Bill Clinton has exposure then so does Donald Trump. Bill Clinton’s social lies with Epstein. So did Donald Trump. Bill Clinton was on the private plane. so was Donald Trump. The fact is that Mr. Epstein took his own life. He died while he was in the custody of the Trump administration. Bill Barr directs the Bureau of Prisons, and they allowed, in so ways that facilitated Mr. Epstein`s suicide.

Thus, both networks did their level best to maintain the illusion that their champion remained relatively taint-free, while the other president was deeply implicated in the scandal, feeding into a climate of extreme polarization, where each side believes that the other is hopelessly implicated, while theirs remain relatively blameless. Regular viewers of each network would routinely be presented with great details about the enemy president’s crimes, but, if relying solely on that network for information, would be largely clueless about their own president’s profoundly suspicious links. Indeed, MSNBC has not mentioned Clinton with regards to Epstein since last September.

The Epstein story should not be a left-right issue. Instead, it exposes how so many of those at the top of society belong to a sordid network of extremely wealthy and powerful people, sharing far more in common with each other than they do with the rest of us. His connections to all manner of business tycoons, royals, celebrities and politicians from both sides of the political spectrum expose the system as rigged and fundamentally corrupt. Yet corporate media, who we rely upon to inform us and curate our reality, have managed to make even Epstein a partisan affair by constantly emphasizing only one party’s connections to the pedophile. Hats off to them: it was not an easy achievement.

Feature photo | From left, Donald Trump, then-girlfriend Melania Knauss, Jeffrey Epstein, and Ghislaine Maxwell pose at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, February 12, 2000. Photo | Davidoff Studios

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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Study: COVID-19 Exacerbating America’s Massive Wealth Inequality and Racial Divide

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 23/06/2020 - 4:47am in

The United States continues to lift emergency COVID-19 restrictions, even as infection rates continue to climb in many states. June 18 and 19 saw over 33,000 new cases each, among the highest daily totals since the pandemic began. Economically, the pressure for tens of millions has not been lifted at all and new data from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) shows that over 45.5 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the lockdown was announced. An untold number of businesses have permanently shuttered, with entire industries like tourism, sports, education and catering facing uncertain futures. Even the American Pyrotechnics Association requested a bailout, warning that cancellation of July 4 fireworks displays will create mass bankruptcies throughout the industry.

Yet one group that has fared exceptionally well is the world’s ultra-wealthy. Since the shutdown began on March 18, America’s billionaire class has seen their wealth grow by $584 billion, or 20 percent. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, again the world’s richest individual, has added nearly $44 billion to his fortune in the last three months, and is now worth an estimated $156.8 billion, according to the IPS. Some, like Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, have more than doubled their wealth.

Chuck Collins, the IPS’ Director the Program on Inequality and the Common Good, told MintPress that this orgy of accumulation cannot continue indefinitely:

These extreme levels of concentrated wealth among billionaires and the racial wealth divide are not sustainable. This gap is fueling economic volatility, a breakdown in civic life, and deep and legitimate anger at an economy rigged in favor of the wealthy.”

 

“The marker of centuries of injustice”

America’s minority communities have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, both medically and economically. Black Americans are dying at almost three times the rate whites are, with Latinos and Native Americans also dying at elevated levels to the rest of the population. This is due primarily down to structural and historic factors, rather than genetics, with centuries of injustice leading to a myriad of economic and medical inequalities making infection and death more likely for certain groups. Minorities disproportionately hold low-paid jobs that are impossible to do from home, leading to economic ruin for many. The IPS’ calculations find that the 640 American billionaires now have a combined wealth of $3.58 trillion — more than the entire collective wealth of 59 million Latinos in the U.S. ($3.49 trillion).

Perhaps even more startlingly, the 12 richest Americans share a combined wealth of $921 billion, equivalent to the home equity wealth of the entire black population — over 17 million households. “We are living in an intense moment in history — a time when major public policy failures and social inequality are revealing themselves after being obscured by a seemingly strong economy,” wrote the IPS.

“This disparity of wealth is the marker of centuries of injustice, running from the chattel slavery, Jim Crow, separate and unequal, predatory lending, and other forms of systematic discrimination in wealth-building opportunities. This history is reflected in real disparities of wealth in bank accounts, property ownership, and other measures of assets,” Collins told MintPress.

The rapidly expanding class and racial wealth gap, where working- and middle-class Americans were offered only a one-time conditional $1,200 check while the super-wealthy were given tens of billions in tax cuts under the CARES Act, coupled with the mass unemployment the coronavirus brought with it, provided the highly flammable backdrop of discontent. In May, the police killing of unarmed black man George Floyd was the spark that engulfed the nation.

“Behind the anger in the streets at police abuse is the awareness that black, brown, and Native people are disproportionately disenfranchised, suffering, and dying in the pandemic. And behind that is the multi-generational racial wealth divide.  White supremacy is the pre-existing condition to the intensity of the response,” Collins added.

 

Rapid measures are needed

The new IPS report lays out a checklist of eight major policy proposals designed to address the problem of rapidly expanding racial and economic inequality. “We cannot repeat these same mistakes. The program to speed our recovery from the pandemic economy must be designed to reduce the racial asset gap, not inflame it. Surging billionaire wealth contrasting with a worsening racial wealth divide undercuts the solidarity and unity required to overcome the health and economic challenges of this pandemic,” they wrote.

The proposals include four rapid measures:

  1. Improving racial data collection,
  2. A congressional “racial wealth audit” of each stimulus package to help understand its impact on each specific community,
  3. An immediate universal guaranteed income,
  4. An expansion of the Postal Service to include banking, as nearly half of black and Latino households are underbanked, leaving them exposed to predatory lenders.

The four longer-term policies to address the problem include:

  1. Medicare-For-All,
  2. An expansion of affordable housing, both to rent and to buy,
  3. A federal jobs guarantee with a guaranteed living wage, helping the country transition to a more green economy
  4. The creation of “baby bonds”: a scheme where all newborn children are provided with a government-managed endowment accessible when they reach adulthood.

The IPS also suggests that progressive taxation, including a millionaire surtax, a financial transaction tax, and tougher estate and wealth taxes on the super rich would improve the functioning and cohesion of society. A 10 percent surtax on the top 0.2 percent of the U.S.(those with incomes over $2 million per year), they calculate, would net around $636 billion over the next ten years. They also call for the shutting down of offshore tax havens, where an estimated $32 trillion is hidden globally.

While COVID-19 is often spoken about as if it is a thing of the past, the rate of infections is increasing in 23 states, some almost exponentially, sparking fears of the dreaded “second wave.” Given what happened during the previous shutdown, if another one is to occur, it will likely be the poorest and most vulnerable communities who suffer the most.

Feature photo | Dr. Ala Stanford administers a COVID-19 swab test on Wade Jeffries in the parking lot of Pinn Memorial Baptist Church in Philadelphia, April 22, 2020. Stanford and other doctors formed the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium to offer testing and help address heath disparities in the African American community. Matt Rourke | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Study: COVID-19 Exacerbating America’s Massive Wealth Inequality and Racial Divide appeared first on MintPress News.

Study: Coronavirus Has Been a Massive Boon for America’s Billionaires

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/05/2020 - 3:30am in

America’s billionaires have seen their wealth increase by 12.5 percent during the COVID-19 lockdown period. The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, released a study Thursday showing that, in the eight weeks between March 18 and May 14, the country’s super wealthy have added a further $368.8 billion to their already enormous fortunes. 

Among the more famous big winners during the pandemic include Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, who adds $21 billion to his net worth (a 38 percent increase). Failed Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg is up $10 billion as well, meaning he has recouped ten times as much as he lost in his big money political campaign that went nowhere. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has increased his fortune by around $6 billion as well. 

All this comes at the same time that the economy has undeniably imploded for working people. A record 36 million Americans have filed for unemployment insurance, with millions more losing their employer-based healthcare plans, and around a third of the country not paying its rent. Schools, factories, offices, and other businesses remain shuttered. The Trump administration has promised to provide $1,200 to every citizen, but it will be months before everyone receives their check. As a result, there has been an explosion in the use of food banks, as desperate citizens line up for hours in the hopes of receiving a box of food. 

The study, based on figures from Forbes’ annual global billionaire survey, found that Amazon CEO and world’s richest individual Jeff Bezos was the biggest winner during the period of crisis, adding a massive $30 billion to his wealth. If he continues at the current rate, Bezos will become the world’s first trillionaire by 2026, with other oligarchs not far behind. This is possible primarily because of the hyper-exploitation of his workforce; Amazon warehouse employees are infamously forced into wearing adult diapers or peeing in bottles, unable to take bathroom breaks. The company’s own data shows that one-third of its Arizona employees depend upon food stamps to make ends meet. In Pennsylvania, it is the state’s nineteenth largest employer but fifth most common for those receiving SNAP benefits. Bezos’ workers have been organizing amid a pandemic that puts their lives at risk, but instead of providing them with living wages and proper protective equipment, he has given his employees at Whole Foods supermarkets with new uniforms proclaiming that they are heroes. 

“When billionaires like Jeff Bezos see their wealth surge by tens of billions, as they command their underpaid, vulnerable and unprotected workers into the viral line of fire, we should rise up to demand accountability,” Chuck Collins, Director of the Program on Inequality for the IPS told MintPress News, noting that Bezos is on track to amass “a level of concentrated wealth and power that even the greatest kings and oligarchs could never have imagined.”

Even Tesla CEO Elon Musk has seen his wealth balloon by $11.3 billion, despite the fact that his California car plant has been closed for weeks. How could this be? One explanatory reason is the billionaire bonanza that is the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed last month. A nonpartisan congressional body found that 82 percent of the tax benefits will go to those earning over $1 million per year, with exponentially more for the ultra wealthy elite. In contrast, less than three percent goes to the great majority of us who earn less than $100,000 per year. Safe in the knowledge that billionaires will not have to bear the brunt of the costs of the pandemic, their wealth has shot up. “Rising billionaire wealth during a pandemic reveals a level of unequal sacrifice that is unseemly and immoral,” Collins added. 

Of course, the money is not coming from nowhere. It is certainly not coming from billionaires’ hard work. It is coming from us: from our pockets and those of the global poor, who will be forced to pay for the virus and the huge tax cuts later. The fact that billionaires’ wealth is rising so rapidly in a period of economic collapse is a sign that the rich’s wealth is barely even connected to productive forces anymore and has more to do with how much wealth one can take from public coffers.

Feature photo | A protester carries a sign that reads “Unionize Amazon Tax Bezos,” while riding a bike during a car-based protest, May 1, 2020, at the Amazon Spheres in downtown Seattle. Ted S. Warren | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Study: Coronavirus Has Been a Massive Boon for America’s Billionaires appeared first on MintPress News.

Australian CSR Strong on Education

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/01/2015 - 10:19am in

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