The mainstream media is under threat. And the threat is in the form of what is known as the ‘alternative media’. Decades ago, the ‘underground’ media took the form of pamphlets and booklets.
These days, it’s no longer ‘underground’ and you don’t need money to cover print and distribution costs. It’s very much alive and kicking above ground and is there for all to access on the net.
The mainstream media includes popular TV channels, newspapers and news websites, from Reuters and CNN to Fox News and NDTV in India. Critics of the mainstream media say that it tends to parrot officialdom’s views, bows to advertising concerns and upholds the prevailing social and economic system, not least because it tends to be privately owned and thus its owners have a vested interest in maintaining a system based on private ownership and thus in manufacturing consent for it. Moreover, media outlets are often part of major conglomerates, which may include armaments manufacturers, banking or industrial concerns. News outlets will not therefore adopt stances or report on stories that are harmful to the wider interests of the organisation.
Todhunter appears to believe (his examples may indicate his article was an elaborate put on) that the alternative media will save us.
What alternative media?
I don't buy David Ickes (to name but one of the examples that Todhunter holds up). As for others who are considered 'alternative media,' I believe that all have embarrassed themselves and demonstrated that they will not be bound by ethics.
That's The Nation magazine, Democracy Now!, you name it.
The last four years have really been about one so-called alternative media outlet after another has imploded when it came to ethics and accountability.
So if Todhunter's right and that mainstream media is beyond hope, let me add that there's no reason to put any faith into the 'alterternaive media.'
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Unlike in the United States where national politics are largely a story of the duopoly parties, in England there are numerous political parties. There is the Labour Party which, prior to the ascent of Tony Blair and his Blair-ites, was considered a party for the working people in the United Kingdom. Labour currently has 257 members in the House of Commons (the lower House in the UK). Tony Blair's ascension was when Big Money really took hold in Labour and it was thought that the Conservative Party was relegated to runner up status. But Blair wanted war on Iraq and the accountability for his War Crimes were, in the end, inflicted upon the Labor Party. To Labour's 257 seats, the Conservative Party can hold up 305 seats in the House of Commons. They also -- via a coalition with the Liberal Democratic Party -- now also claim the spot of prime minister (David Cameron). The Liberal Democrats hold 57 seats. In addition to those three, there are eight other political parties which have seats in the House of Commons. The Green Party of England and Wales is one of the eight other political parties and it has one seat in the House of Commons (Caroline Lucas).
The leader of the Green Party of England and Wales is Australian-born Natalie Bennett who is a journalist, holds a degree in agricultural science (University of Sydney) and whose accomplishments include "the founder of the blog Carnival of Feminists." In addition to founding The Carnival of Feminists, Bennett's blog is Philobiblon. The Green Party is holding their national conference and Natalie Bennett addressed the conference today noting that it was the 40th anniversary of the Green Party of England and Wales. She also noted another anniversary:
But it’s also pressing to highlight just how wrong the current direction of the Coalition government is, and how the Labour party is failing to be the effective opposition that the country desperately needs.
Before I do that, however, there’s another, tragic, anniversary I have to highlight – a 10-year anniversary. For it is a little more than 10 years since the great, 2-million strong anti-war protest took to the streets of London, and a little less than 10 years since the Labour Government utterly ignored the views of those people, and millions of others, and started the Iraq war.
A Guardian survey last week showed that 55 per cent of Britons agree that "the London marchers were right", because "a war sold on a false prospectus delivered little but bloodshed". And the Iraqi people are still struggling, and dying, as a result of the consequences of that war.
Yet Ed Milliband, who HAS apologised for the Blair government’s immigration policy, has failed to apologise for the decision to take Britain into an unjustifiable war.
We’re still waiting for Sir John Chilcot’s report into the war. That’s one landmark that we can expect future historians to look back on this year.
That's only one part of her speech but it's resulting in headlines. BBC News offers "Green Party conference: Natalie Bennett calls for Iraq war apology from Labour," the Guardian offers Rajeev Syal's "Green party leader calls on Ed Miliband to apologise for Iraq war," and politics.co.uk offers Tony Hudson's "Labour 'utterly ignored' millions: Greens demand Miliband apology for Iraq." And the speech is getting attention on Twitter, including:
The Iraq War is not going away for Labour until they address it. Last week's speech by shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy was a step in the right direction. A step. More needs to be done.
Also popping up on Twitter today?
It's Friday, the Iraqi Spring continues. Alsumaria reports today is dubbed "Iraq or al-Maliki." al-Maliki would be Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister since 2006 when Bully Boy Bush said no to the Parliament's choice of Ibrahaim al-Jaafari. In 2010, Iraqis said no to to Nouri but he refused to step down and the White House again backed Nouri (though now Barack Obama was president). To get around the vote and the Iraqi Constitution, the US brokered a contract giving Nouri a second term in exchange for Nouri agreeing to various demands from the political blocs signing off on the contract. Nouri used The Erbil Agreement to grab a second term and then refused to honor his written promises within the contract. Alsumaria notes that thousands of demonstrators turned out in Kirkuk and Hawija. Mohammed al-Jubouri tells Alsumaria that over 15,000 took to the streets in Hawija for "legal, civil and peaceful demonstrations as guaranteed in the Constitution." Protesters also demonstrated in Mosul where Shabak and Yezidis participated and thousands took part in the ongoing sit-in which has lasted more than 57 days. Alsumaria notes that participants in Kut included "hundreds" of Shi'ite followers of Moqtada al-Sadr and that there was a call for an end to the violations of Palestinians by the Israeli government.
Al Mada notes that the number of participants continued to increase today -- as has happened each Friday over the last three months. One count places the number demonstrating at 3,955,000. The newspaper notes, in Samarra, a sit-in continues and demonstrators called for Baghdad to be returned to the citizens of Iraq, the real owners. Sheikh Mohammed Taha Saadoun said it was time to change hands of leadership and that government promises continue to go unfulfilled. National Iraq News Agency reports multiple protests in Diyala Province (including Baquba) and quotes Sheikh Shibab al-Badri ("Vice President of the clerics of Iraq, Diyala branch"), stating, "Thousands of participants in the unified prayer flocked to mosques merging in eight administrative units amid tight security. Calling on the Iraqi government to speed up the implementation of constitutional and legitimate usurped rights of the demonstrators in the provinces." Iraqi Spring MC adds that the Sheikh said the sit-in continues in support of the detained and oppressed. Iraqi Spring MC notes that children participated in the protests in Falluja (here and here). National Iraq News Agency notes that an Anbar Province coordinating committee member stated, "The masses determined to topple the government of Maliki that ignore the restitution of the usurped rights of the people, but cause them harm." Iraqi Spring MC also offers video of the Tikrit protest and Baiji protests. Protests also took place in Baghdad and Stop Killing Muslims in Iraq posts this photo of the Baghdad demonstration. And if you're trying to get a sense of how large the Baghdad group was (it was huge), this photo is a must see.
One sermon delivered in Ramadi by Sheikh Abdel Moneym Badrani called for the government to cease the stalling and procrastination and respond to the demands of the protesters. Iraqi Spring MC posts a video of an Iman in Duluiya this morning delivering a sermon about how Iraq is bleeding internally and the country needs attention -- which is why the people are protesting.
What are they calling for? Workers World offered this list last month:
The protesters are justly demanding:
1. The immediate release of detained protesters and dissident prisoners.
2 . A stop to the death penalty.
3. The approval of an amnesty law for innocent detainees.
4. The abolition of anti-terrorism laws (especially Clause 4 used to target them).
5. The repeal of unfair rulings against dissidents.
6. Fair opportunities for work based on professionalism.
7.The end of the use of all military command based on geographic areas.
8. The provision of essential services to all areas in Iraq neglected by the state.
9. The holding of all … governmental officials, army or security units who have committed crimes against dissidents accountable, especially those who have violated the honor of women in prisons.
10. A U.N.-sponsored population count.
11. An end to marginalization, a stop to agitating divisions between ethnic and religious groups, and a stop to the house raids without legal warrant based on the information of secret informers.
12. A stop to financial, administrative and legal corruption.
13. The combating of sectarianism in all its forms by returning religious buildings and all religious properties to their rightful owners, and the abolishment of law No. 19 of 2005.
The International Occupation Network (IAON) welcomes the spread of these non-sectarian protests and supports the efforts of the Iraqi people to regain their full independence and national sovereignty. Ten years of foreign occupation is enough! Ten years of massive human rights violations is enough! Ten years of corruption and depriving the whole population of basic services is enough!
— The International Anti-Occupation Network / IAON
Nouri continued to use the armed forces to intimidate the protesters. Iraqi Spring MC notes that Nouri used the forces to arrest and terrorize peaceful demonstrators (at least three in Mosul -- Rashid Hamid, Faisal Shibley and Saeed Ali) and they note Nouri's action in an important way -- they note that the orders came from the Commander-in-Chief . . . and the Minister of Defense . . . and the Minister of Interior.
Turning to violence, CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq Tweets:
Xinhua reports, "Unidentified gunmen kidnapped eight pro-government militants and killed seven of them on Friday in Iraq's restive central province of Salah ad Din, said the local police." Kitabat reports that the eighth is seriously injured. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) notes that the assailants wore "military uniforms." Alsumaria adds that the assailants used armored vehicles while Reuters notes that the assailants were on motorcycles. AFP locates the attack "in the village of Halaiwat." The attacked were Sahwa which have also been called "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq" when male and "Daughters Of Iraq" when female.
At the April 8, 2008 Senate Armed Services hearing then-top US commander in Iraq Gen David Petraeus explained that "there are now over 91,000 Sons of Iraq -- Shia as well as Sunni -- under contract to help Coalition and Iraqi Forces protect their neighborhoods and secure infrastructure and roads. These volunteers have contributed significantly in various areas, and the savings in vehicles not lost because of reduced violence -- not to mention the priceless lives saved -- have far outweighed the cost of their monthly contracts." World Bulletin notes, "On February 2, a suicide bomber targeted Sahva forces 20 kilometers away from capital Baghdad and 19 of them were killed, 40 wounded."
Officials were also targeted for violence. National Iraqi News Agency notes "that gunmen burst into the house of Judge Mawlood Abdullah, the Judge of Tarmiya Court, in Tarmiya area, 30 km north of Baghdad, opened fire at him from guns with silencers, killing him instantly and fled" while another assassination attempt in Tarmiya failed to kill its intended target, police Col Hameed Mohammed Ali (but did result in the death of 1 civilian and four people injured. In Babil, an assassination attempt succeeded when the Iraqi National Accord nominee for Babil Provincial Council, Hassan Hadi Sayil al-Janabi, and two of his bodyguards were killed. The outlet also notes, "The Governor of Nineveh, Atheel al-Nujaifi, said that a hand-to-hand combat erupted between police and the Governor's guard near the protest area (Ahrar Square) in downtown Mosul, when he was at the area" and 2 Kirkuk bombings left three people injured.
In addition, All Iraq News notes that 1 person was shot dead in Mosul and a Mosul bombing left a police captain injured. Alsumaria notes that a shop owner was shot dead in Baquba and a Baghdad car bombing killed 2 people and left a third injured.
Turning to health news, Alsumaria reports that one of the doctors treating Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has issued a statement that Talabani's recovering and that he's experienced major progress and will be able to return to Iraq to perform his duties. National Iraqi News Agency identified the doctor as Dr. Najmoldeen Kareem. As with Alsumaria, no specific time for a return is given, nor is any estimate offered. Jalal has been out of the country seeking treatment in Germany for months now. Late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot), Jalal Talabani had a stroke and was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital. Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany. He remains in Germany currently. [Saad Abedine (CNN) reported talk that it was a stroke the day the news broke (December 18th) and January 9th, the Office of President Talabani confirmed it had been a stroke.] Talabani was seen by some as a calm voice and one of the few able to restrain Nouri in any way.
Last week, Dale Gavlak (AP) reported, "A Syrian government official warned Wednesday of rampant trafficking in antiquities from his country and appealed for U.N. help in halting the illicit trade that has flourished during the nearly 23-month-long civil war [and] asked UNESCO to appeal to Turkey and Iraq to enact stricter measures to prevent the smuggling of artifacts across their borders. Turkey has strained ties with the Assad regime, while Iraq's porous frontier with Syria is difficult to monitor." What Syria is experiencing is something Iraq's experienced throughout the Iraq War. At the end of December, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a press release which noted:
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad hosted a delegation of nine American subject matter experts in the fields of federal law enforcement, justice and cultural heritage protection including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents, from Dec. 17 to 20 at a training conference on "Countering Antiquities Trafficking." The four-day training, sponsored by HSI in collaboration with the U.S. Department of State, was provided to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior police investigators representing 15 provinces on methods of identifying Iraqi cultural heritage sites, and preventing and investigating looting and illegal trafficking within and beyond Iraq's borders. Assistant Chief of Mission Ambassador James Knight opened the conference stating that, "Perhaps the most important reason for organizing a meeting such as this is Iraq's unparalleled cultural heritage. Preserving that heritage is to preserve some of mankind's greatest treasures. Not only are they a precious window into the past, they are tangible reminders to future generations of Iraqis of a glorious history."
"The countering antiquities trafficking conference in Baghdad marked a new beginning in HSI's efforts in assisting Iraqi Antiquities Police in their fight against the illegal trafficking of Iraq's cultural property," said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Ransom Avilla, HSI liaison in Baghdad. "We are hopeful that this training conference will provide the tools necessary for Iraqi Ministry of Interior police to detect, investigate and protect their national heritage."
Other law enforcement agencies that participated in the training conference included U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Department of Justice, Interpol and the U.S. National Park Service.
And again, the effort to steal these national treasures is ongoing. Khayoun Saleh (Azzman) reported this week that "Iraqi police have seized 13 archaelogical pieces in the southern Province of Dhiqar" and that the "initial assessment by scientists dated them to the early periods of Mesopotamian civilization that flourished in southern Iraq more than 5,000 years ago." Also this week, Khalid al-Taie (Al-Shorfa) reported that the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities had agreed to allow "six foreign teams to start archaelogical excavations" and that the "teams [are] from Italy, the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic." On this topic, Samer Hijazi (Arab American News) reports that, from March sixth through ninth, Dr. Hashim al-Tawil will be in Sweden giving lectures at various places. He is an art history professor with Henry Ford Community College in Michigan:
Dr. Al-Tawil, who is chair of the art history area study at HFCC, will be presenting and discussing two key points; the first will be focusing on the looting of Iraq's antiques, which have been eluted and smuggled during and after the U.S. invasion. The second point will focus on the consequences and impact of the deterioration of life conditions in Iraq since the eighties, but more specifically after the invasion in 2003.
Many of the Iraq's archeological sites and museums with rich materials and artifacts were looted, and destroyed; historical artifacts, antiquity pieces, and artworks were smuggled during the course of the invasion and the immediate years that followed. According to Dr. Al-Tawil, thousands of professional Iraqis, scholars, and academicians in all fields were displaced, assassinated, or scared away and sought refuge in neighboring countries, Europe and North America, which left the country void of these professionals. Currently there are too many less qualified, untrained, and under educated individuals who filled that vacuum and are now in charge of Iraq's major cultural and educational institutions. This in turn has negatively affected the different aspects of life in Iraq especially in the field of education, culture, health service and other public services.
"When a country loses knowledgeable and well educated scientists, scholars, professors and well trained archaeologists, inadequate and opportunist individuals jump in to fill their spots illegitimately. Beside the severe deterioration in the quality of the service there is the probability of further compromising Iraq's culture. Thousands of these displaced Iraqi professionals are in the Diasporas with no opportunity to serve their country and there is no indications from the Iraqi authorities to utilize their expertise and knowledge in rebuilding Iraq," Dr. Al-Tawil said.
Final topic, Duncan Roden (Green Left) reports tomorrow will be "the 1000th day in which alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower 24-year-old US Army intelligence officer Bradley Manning, has been jailed by US authorities without trial." Background, Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea and has neither affirmed that he is the leaker nor denied it. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions.
Alex Kane (In These Times) notes, "40 cities around the world are set to mark the 1,000th day of WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning’s imprisonment. Manning’s whistleblowing acts will be honored and his imprisonment without a speedy trial denounced this weekend in places ranging from Denver to Rome to Sydney." These events will take place today (a few), Saturday (most) and Sunday (a few). BradleyManning.org notes they will be "around the world are planning demonstrations, rallies, and marches on February 23. From California, to Florida, to Italy, to Germany, supporters of PFC Manning will make their protests known." Here's their list:
Tucson, AZ Feb 23, 11am-5pm
Tempe, AZ Feb 23, 5:30-6:30pm
Guerneville, CA Feb 23, 12-1pm
Cahuenga (L.A.), CA Feb 23, 9-11am
Los Angeles, CA Feb 23, 5:30-6:30
Long Beach (L.A.), CA
Feb 23 at 1pm until Feb 24 at 2pm
Montrose (L.A.), CA Feb 23, 5:30-7pm
Studio City (L.A.), CA Feb 22, 6:30-7:30pm
San Francisco, CA Feb 23, 1-4pm
San Diego, CA Feb 23, 7-9pm
Denver, CO Feb 23, 12-3:30pm
Washington, DC Feb 24, 6:30-9pm
Daytona, FL Feb 24, 11am-2pm
Ft. Lauderdale, FL Feb 23, 12-1:30pm
Pensacola, FL Feb 23, 5:30-6:30pm
St. Petersburg, FL Feb 23, 7pm
Tallahassee, FL Feb 23, 12-1pm
Hilo, HI Feb 22, 3:30-5pm
Honolulu, HI Feb 22, 4-5:30pm
Chicago, IL Feb 23, 12-1:30pm
Ft. Leavenworth, KS Feb 23, 1-3pm
New Orleans, LA Feb 23, 2-6pm
Boston, MA Feb 23, 1-2pm
Augusta, ME Feb 23, 11:30am-12pm
Portland, ME Feb 23, 12pm
Detroit, MI Feb 23, 3-8pm
Kalamazoo, MI Feb 23, 2-3pm
Minneapolis, MN Feb 23, 9:30am-12pm
Wilmington, NC Feb 23, 12-1:45pm
Eatentown, NJ Feb 23, 12-1:30pm
Highland Park, NJ Feb 23, 11:30am-12:30pm
Albuquerque, NM Feb 23, 10am-12pm
Santa Fe, NM Feb 23, 12-1pm
New York, NY Feb 23, 2-4pm
Rochester, NY Feb 23, 10am-12pm
Toledo, OH Feb 23, 12pm
Corvallis, OR ongoing
Philadelphia, PA Feb 23, 2-4pm
Newport, RI Feb 23, 1-2pm
Austin, TX Feb 23, 10:30am
Houston, TX Feb 23, All Day
Bristol, VT Feb 23, 10am-12pm
Seattle, WA Feb 23, 12-4pm
Melbourne, Australia Feb 22, 2-4pm
Sydney, Australia Feb 23, 11am-2pm
Brussels, Belgium Feb 23, 1-2pm
Vancouver, Canada Feb 23, 1-5pm
Paris, France Feb 23, 3-5pm
Berlin, Germany Feb 23, 12:30-3pm
Kaiserslautern, Germany Feb 23, All Day
Rome, Italy Feb 23, 4-5pm
Oslo, Norway Feb 23, 10am-12pm
Oporto, Portugal Feb 23, 3-6pm
Seoul, South Korea Feb 23, 11am
Kampala, Uganda Feb 23, 10am-12pm
Dublin, Ireland Feb 23, 1-3pm
Birmingham, UK Feb 23, 2pm
London, UK Feb 23, 2pm
Peterborough, UK Feb 23, 12-2pm
Yorkshire, UK Feb 23, 11am
Fairford, UK Feb 23, 9:30am-12pm
Bangor, Wales, UK Feb 23, 11am-2pm
Cardiff, Wales, UK Feb 23, 10:30am-2:30pm
in these times