A. Loewenstein Online Newsletter


* Newsflash; Israel still has many responsibilities in Gaza

Newsflash; Israel still has many responsibilities in Gaza

Posted: 28 Nov 2011


From leading Israeli human rights, Gisha:

Hard to disagree with Assange calling many mainstream editors shills for power

Posted: 28 Nov 2011


Mainstream media and editors came under fire from WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange at the Global Editors Network summit in Hong Kong today, as he accused most journalists of entering the profession to “crawl up the ladder of power to become associated with power”.

Addressing the conference via Skype, Assange told the audience of editors that most journalists aim to “sit at same table as those you hold to account” and as a result editors “become corrupted”.

“We all know what is going on. As insiders we all know when people in the media become powerful … editors are invited to sit at the table of those powerful individuals and the reality is that’s why most journalists go into journalism. It is to crawl up the ladder of power to become associated with power, to sit at the same table as those you hold to account.

“Editors become corrupted and they do not hold those very people to account, we know that. What is new is that the rest of the world is starting to know it. Not just as a result of reaction to attack by Washington on WikiLeaks, it is starting to know it as a result of there being other forms of publishing, unmediated publishing. There is a crisis of legitimacy within the mainstream press, a rightful crisis of legitimacy.

“We always maintained the line that our moral justification for our existence … is our moral virtue and our moral virtue is holding power to account. If the press doesn’t hold powerful corporations and governments to account then how can a democratic process work? But the mainstream press has failed in that task and failures are becoming evident and corruption in individual cases are becoming evident.

“The mainstream press is not able to be its own gatekeeper any more,” he added.

Speaking after Assange, Sylvie Kauffmann, editorial director of Le Monde – one of the media partners involved in the release of the US embassy cables – responded saying “I didn’t do this job to crawl up the ladder of the powerful”.

“I don’t think this accusation stands,” she added.

During Assange’s speech – which came a day before the one year anniversary of the US embassy cables releaseand a day after WikiLeaks was awarded a Walkley award for most outstanding contribution to journalism – he also discussed the redaction process carried out by its news partners to remove material from the cables which he said would breach human rights.

As a comparison, he claimed that while the Guardian redacted one in four cables, the Hindu in India redacted just three out of 5000 cables, and questioned this “discrepancy”.

Kauffmann said she was “sorry” certain papers had been singled out which were not represented on the panel.

Returning to the debate later, Assange responded to Kauffmann by also questioning Le Monde’s redaction decisions. He also followed up on earlier criticisms of former media partners such as the Guardian and New York Times by saying: “Both of these organisations have done fine work with us, their best stories were very good.”

But he said, in his opinion, the “best journalism” from the cables has come not from “old democracies” but from countries including “India, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Kenya”.

“Those journalists are more courageous, hard working and often younger than ones in older democracies. And for them the stakes are higher and therefore journalism has more ability to impact the power structures within the country.”

When asked whether any information should be kept private, he re-stated the “duty” of news organisations. “Media organisations have a duty and that is to inform the public. We should be very careful about compromising that prime objective.”

Woodside in the Kimberley; Exploitation Inc

Posted: 28 Nov 2011

My following investigation appears in today’s Crikey:

When West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said recently that he welcomed the announcement of a permanent US military presence in northern Australia, his words were worth considering in a wider context.

“We have a large open expanse in northern Australia, we are near one of the most troubled regions in the world and the problems of Asia are now our problems,” Barnett argued. “There’s no doubt that the offshore gas facilities are vulnerable … so I think we are wise to have a friendly military presence in our north.”

The premier was effectively advocating militarising the vast Kimberley, an expanse of desert that potentially holds billions of dollars of resources to be exploited in the coming decades. The current campaign by Woodside to develop James Price Point (JPP) near Broome is just the latest example of this trend.

Crikey recently visited the area — about one hour by car from Broome along mostly red, dirt tracks — and found a pristine area of coastline and signs of collusion between the West Australian police and private security forces against indigenous owners and protesters opposed to the massive $50 billion development. Crikey was told by local campaigners and activists that footage shot by private security is handed over to the police and used against them in a court of law, all without proper accountability of the process. Police have publicly said they support private companies suing peaceful protesters against JPP and Crikey was told many times that police would often turn up at the blockade and show them footage shot by a private security company.

Environmental issues continue to haunt the project.

Most of the mainstream media have ignored instances of strict policing, not least because the corporate press in Perth and elsewhere largely support the Woodside plans, despite investors questioning the company’s “execution risks” over various gas projects.

The company itself released its own draft environmental impact statement in mid-November (claims dismissed by a range of green groups with whom I spoke in Broome) and the company claimed JPP would bring 8000 jobs and “did not represent a significant risk” to the ecology of the area.

What I saw on the current Woodside compound near JPP challenged this assertion, with countless bits of broken concrete in the dirt, air-conditioners attached with flimsy pieces of rope and leaking waterEvidence for this damage is constant and includes environmental experts disputing Woodside claims.

As we walked around the site, a man appeared carrying a video camera — he refused to say what he was doing or for whom he worked — and began filming us. He disappeared 30 seconds later.

Later, another man appeared, wearing a bright-yellow fluorescent Thrifty car rental vest and dark sunglasses, and a small camera attached to his chest was flicked on to film us. He refused to say what he was really doing (apart from claiming he was protecting our “safety” near the Woodside compound) or where the footage would be screened or used.

My guides in the area, Damien and David, two men who have spent months at the blockade at JPP and established a sustainable camp with phone and internet coverage, said that these kinds of acts — the guards are employed by Hostile Environment Services (HRS) — occurred daily.

ABC TV’s Lateline reported in May that Woodside-backed security were harassing and intimidating residents for peacefully protesting the JPP development. Damien said that massive generator-powered lights routinely shone into the camp in the middle of the night and HRS guards appeared at all hours with video cameras filming them on public land.

Nothing has changed since the ABC story and it seems the pressure has only increased as Woodside notices a large swing in Broome against its plans — despite constantly inaccurate and pro-Woodside mainstream coverage.

Activists told Crikey that none of the appropriate state policing or environmental bodies took action against the evasion of privacy with the indiscriminate filming or environmental damage, despite being informed about them on a regular basis. I was shown large amounts of footage detailing HRS interrupting scientists gathering evidence of dinosaur tracks in the area.

The Woodside plans have mostly received unquestioned state and federal government backing but they’ve been surprised by the diverse range of opposition in the Kimberley. Moreover, The Wilderness Society, the group I independently accompanied during my visit, has committed many resources to place JPP as its top campaign priority.

Groups such as Save the Kimberley and Environs Kimberley have utilised people power and social media to generate growing resistance to Woodside’s plans, principally by explaining through community events and actions that the JPP plans will not bring long-term economic gains. Both organisations state they are not ideologically opposed to any development but demand alternative forms of resource exploitation.

Even the former chief of the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority Barry Carbon recently stated toPerth Now that the state’s approval process for development projects was “corrupt”. ”It has now become a universal stand-over for proponents to contribute so called ‘offsets’ to governments, government friends, or favourite causes before approvals are considered,” he said.

The only major local organisation backing the JPP plan, The Kimberley Land Council, voted in highly suspicious circumstances — earlier in the year and every Aboriginal land owner I met told me they believed indigenous people would not benefit from the JPP development despite the financial incentives given by Woodside.

Crikey was told by leading anti-gas hub campaigner Louise Middleton that, “we shouldn’t be bought by big business because they don’t have our interests at heart.”

The JPP development is an attempt by Woodside and its corporate partners to establish a stronghold in the Kimberley that will then allow them to invest in the upcoming gas boom. Crikey heard many times in Broome, including from The Wilderness Society’s Glen Klatovsky, that the Canning Basin could be the ultimate source of shale natural gas and fracking. Is Australia the next global energy hub, a future Saudi Arabia or Qatar? I was shown by the head of Environs Kimberley a document entitled the Petroleum Titles Map and it detailed the literally dozens of proposed fracking places across Western Australia. Rey Resources and TPL are two key companies involved.

This tantalising possibility is why the battle of JPP is so crucial. Stopping a $50 billion project would be an Australian first. This has global resonance as corporations ramp up their bids to win lucrative contracts in remote locations. Witness the successful lobbying in America and Canada against the Keystone XL pipeline that is now on semi-permanent hold  — with public protest a major factor in shaping this outcome  — and the largely ignored energyGreat Game in Afghanistan.

*Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist currently working on a book about disaster capitalism.

Hey #Occupy people; let the 1% enjoy the wealth, and cars, and island holidays

Posted: 28 Nov 2011

John Kenney pleads for understanding in the New Yorker:

We, too, have mobilized.

We come from near and far, by any means necessary, some on private jets, others on extremely large private jets.

But you will not find us sleeping in a park and waiting in line at a Burger King to urinate. Have you heard of Mustique? Because that’s where we have mobilized. Don’t bother trying to Google Earth us, though, because we have proprietary military software that prevents you from doing so.

Our numbers may be smaller than those demonstrating in New York and other cities, but we are still a movement, coalesced around a cause, sleeping two and sometimes three people to a villa.

Perhaps you are wondering what our cause is. Perhaps you’re wondering why we, the richest people on the planet, have come together. Perhaps you’re curious whether what we’re undertaking couldn’t technically be called a vacation. These are all good questions.

We’re angry. We’re angry at something we’re calling “imagined frustration.” By this we mean that, except for Congress, the White House, banks, major lobbyists, and the editorial boards of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, no one is listening to us. And we’re tired of it.

You claim to know something about us. You think we are rich beyond comprehension, that we can do anything we please at any time, go anywhere we want at a moment’s notice, wander the earth in a state of constant bliss, enjoying abundant and fabulous sex. Perhaps you do know us.

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