monday | 6 may 2013

GUANTÁNAMO

THE GUANTÁNAMO DIARIES OF MOHAMEDOU OULD SLAHI – PART ONE

Mohamedou Ould Slahi | Slate

PART ONE: ENDLESS INTERROGATIONS

Mohamedou Ould Slahi voluntarily turned himself in for questioning to police in his native Mauritania on Nov. 20, 2001; a week later, at the behest of the U.S. government, he was placed on a rendition flight to Jordan. Slahi, who had lived in Germany and Canada, was interrogated and cleared by Jordanian intelligence of any connection to the Millennium Bomb Plot, the foiled plan of Canadian resident Ahmed Ressam to explode a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport on New Year’s Eve, 1999. Unsatisfied, on July 19, 2002 the CIA retrieved Slahi from Jordan and flew him to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan.

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mohamedou_ould_slahi_s_guantanamo_memoirs. . . Technically, the interrogators turned the AC all the way down trying to reach 0 F, but obviously the AC is not designed to kill. In the well-isolated room the AC fought its way to 49 F, and if you are interested in math like me, that is 9.4 C—in other words very, very cold, especially for somebody who had to stay in it more than 12 hours, had no underwear, had a very thin uniform, and comes from a hot country. Somebody from Saudi Arabia cannot take as much cold as somebody from Sweden, and vice versa, when it comes to hot weather.

You may ask me, “Where were the interrogators, after installing me in the frozen room?” Actually, it’s a good question, and the answer is: First, the interrogators didn’t stay in the room, they just come for humiliation, degradation, and discouragement, or another factor of torture; after that they left and went to the monitoring room next door. Second, interrogators were dressed adequately. For instance, XXXXX was dressed like somebody entering a meat locker. In spite of that, they didn’t stay a long time with the detainees. Third, interrogators kept moving in the room, which meant blood circulation, which meant keeping themselves warm while the detainee was XXXXX all the time, on the floor, standing up for the most part. All I could do was move my feet and rub my hands. But the Marine guy stopped me from rubbing my hands by ordering a special chain that shackled my hands on my opposite hips. If I get nervous I always start to rub my hands together and write on my body, and that drove my interrogators crazy.

“What are you writing?” shouted XXXXX “Either you tell me or you stop the fuck,” but I couldn’t stop anyway, it was unintentional.

The man in [charge of] the show started to throw chairs around, and hit me with his forehead, and described me with all kinds of adjectives I don’t deserve, for no reason. The guy was nuts; he asked me about things I have no clue about, and names I never heard. “I have been in XXXXX,” he said, “and you know who was our host? The president! We had a good time in the palace.”

The Marine guy asked questions and answered himself. When the man failed to impress me with all the talk and humiliation and the threat to arrest my family (since the XXXX “was an obedient servant of the U.S.”), he started to hurt me more. He brought ice-cold water and soaked me all over my body. My clothes stuck on me. It was so awful, I kept shaking like a Parkinson’s patient. Technically I wasn’t able to talk anymore. The guy was stupid, he was literally executing me but in a slow way. XXXX gestured to him to stop pouring water on me. I refused to eat anything; I couldn’t open my mouth anyway.

The guy was very hot, when XXXXX stopped him because he was afraid of the paperwork which would [result] in case of my death. He found another technique; namely, he brought a CD-player with booster and started to play some rap music. I didn’t really mind the music because it made me forget my pain; actually, the music was a blessing in disguise, I was trying to make sense of the words. All I understood was that the music was about love, can you believe it? Love! All I had experienced lately was hatred or the consequences thereof. “Listen to that, motherfucker!” said the guest, while closing the door violently behind him. “You’re gonna get the same shit day after day, and guess what? It’s getting worse. What you’re seeing is only the beginning,” said XXXXX. I kept praying and ignoring what they were doing.

“Oh, ALLAH, help me. … Oh, Allah, have mercy on me,” XXXXX kept mimicking my prayers, “ALLAH … ALLAH … There is no Allah. He let you down!” I smiled at how ignorant XXXXX was by talking about the Lord like that.

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GRAFFITI

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ESCIF

Jeff Hamada | BOOOOOOOM!

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THE NATIONAL SECURITY STATE

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WHY THE HUNT FOR ASSATA SHAKUR MATTERS

Joseph Lowndes | The Huffington Post

The FBI’s recent announcement that it has placed former Black Panther and escaped prisoner Assata Shakur at the top of its Most Wanted list and the doubling of the reward for her capture by the State of New Jersey is a development that progressives should not ignore. This newly intensified effort to put Shakur back in prison matters for a number of reasons.

First, by elevating this 40-year-old case to top priority, Obama’s Justice Department is actively memorializing the struggle for black freedom of that era, but in a way that offers us a criminalized, even militarized interpretation of it.

. . . Second, the legal and rhetorical framework of terrorism being used in this case strengthens the U.S. state’s ongoing and intensifying campaign to threaten, harass and detain not only Muslims and Arabs, but antiwar, and green activists. Shakur was given the designation of “domestic terrorist” under the Patriot Act in 2005, and a glance at mainstream news stories on the Shakur case right now shows the casual interchangeability of the terms “militant” and “terrorist,” turning the domestic racial conflicts into an open war by the United States against oppressed groups inside its borders.

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BANGLADESH

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SURVIVING HELL IN A BANGLADESH FACTORY COLLAPSE

Gillian Wong, Chris Blake & Tim Sullivan | AP Big Story

SAVAR, Bangladesh (AP) — Merina was so tired. It had been three days since the garment factory where she worked had collapsed around her, three days since she’d moved more than a few inches. In that time she’d had nothing to eat and just a few sips of water. The cries for help had long since subsided. The moans of the injured had gone silent.

It was fatigue she feared the most. If sleep took her, Merina was certain she would never wake up.

“I can’t fall asleep,” the 21-year-old thought to herself, her face inches from a concrete slab that had once been the ceiling above her. She’d spent seven years working beneath that ceiling, sewing T-shirts and pants destined for stores from Paris to Los Angeles. She worked 14 hours a day, six days a week, with her two sisters. She made the equivalent of about $16 a week.

Now she lay on her back in the sweltering heat, worrying for her sisters and herself. And as the bodies of her former coworkers began to rot, the stench filled the darkness.

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HISTORY

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WINNING THE FIELD, BUT NOT THE WAR

James Q. Whitman | Disunion | The New York Times

One hundred and fifty years ago this week, more than 133,000 Union soldiers squared off against more than 60,000 Confederates in the Battle of Chancellorsville. Though the battle swung back and forth for several days, it ended with a decisive Southern victory. And yet the war ground on, for another two years. The war only ended when the devastation spilled off the battlefield, as Sherman and his army took the conflict to the farmland and cities of the South.

It is important to understand the change this pattern marked in military history. Victory in pitched battle was not enough to end the Civil War — and that was an ominous sign for the wars of the future. Pitched battles like Chancellorsville or Gettysburg are terrifying events for the soldiers who participate in them. But for society at large they are a blessing: they confine the horror of war to a single field, ideally for a single day. Strange though it may sound, a pitched battle functions as a kind of orderly legal procedure. It is a formal trial by combat, and when it works, it puts a quick and tidy end to conflict. The verdict of battle settles a war before it spins out of control.

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BRAZIL | TIME LAPSE

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MAR DE LUZ

MOOV | Vimeo

A walk through Fortaleza, one of the most beautiful cities in Brazil! The capital of Ceará grows bathed by the sea of light in Northeast of the country. Follow us on Facebook: facebook.com/imagemoov

TIME OF RIO

MOOV | Vimeo

Time of Rio is a taste of our project about Rio de Janeiro, nature, city and life.
Produced using different image production techniques, like slow motion sequences, Time Lapse, Hyper Lapse, Rails and Motion Controllers.

Music “Oh Wee” by Immortal Beats and “Whispering Through” by Asura

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ECONOMICS

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THE COST OF HAND TO MOUTH LIVING

Gillian Tett | The Financial Times

A few weeks ago, when I was chatting with the head of one of America’s largest food and drink companies, he made a revealing comment about data flows. Like most consumer groups, this particular company is currently spending a lot of money to monitor its customers with big data.
But it is not simply watching what they do or do not buy. These days it is increasingly scrutinising the micro-level details of pay and benefit cycles in every district in America. The reason? Before 2007, this executive said, consumer spending on food and drink was fairly stable during the month in most US cities. But since 2007, spending patterns have become extremely volatile. More and more consumers appear to be living hand-to-mouth, buying goods only when their pay checks, food stamps or benefit money arrive. And this change has not simply occurred in the poorest areas: even middle-class districts are prone to these swings. Hence the need to study local pay and benefit cycles.

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LABOR | TELEVISION

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AT THE BARRICADES WITH E! WRITERS

Kurt Newman | Jacobin

Nothing scrambles the conventional wisdom on contemporary class politics in the US like a white-collar strike. In our neoliberal era, we’re told that unions might have once been appropriate for the soot-faced and burly proletarians of the 1930s. But since most of those workers have long since disappeared, labor unions — the logic follows — are also no longer necessary.

. . . Eliza Skinner has spent the past year writing jokes for the E! television show Fashion Police. Skinner pens about 200 jokes per episode (almost a full work week’s as far as ‘hours worked’), pitching them at a weekly meeting with the host, Joan Rivers, and the show’s producers. For this, she is paid roughly $500 a week.

What is unique about this arrangement, in comparison with Hollywood norms, is the intensity of the work (the 30-40 hours of work are usually compressed into 3 days), and the meagerness of the compensation. Fashion Police writers’ paychecks say: “Hours worked: 8” every week, regardless of the actual time spent on crafting their contributions to the show. This exploitation is especially galling because the tempo of TV production often requires marathon stretches on the writer’s part: as long as 17 hours in a row, in the case of awards specials. “8 hours. $500,” Skinner marvels. “To write a hit TV show–– one of the top rated shows on the network.”

So on April 13, Skinner and her fellow writers at Fashion Police went on strike.

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ART

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MIYO ANDO’S FLOTILLA OF 1000 BIOLUMINESCENT LEAVES

Christopher Jobson | Colossal

Last year artist Miya Ando traveled to Puerto Rico where she released 1,000 non-toxic resin leaves coated with phosphorescence into a small pond. During the day the leaves would “recharge” and at night would give off a ghostly, ethereal glow much like the light of a firefly. Titled Oban, the installation was inspired by a Japanese Buddhist festival of the same name that honors the spirits of one’s ancestors. The leaves were also meant to simulate Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent bays, a natural phenomenon caused by dinoflagellates, photosynthetic underwater organisms that emit light when agitated.

You can learn more about Ando’s artwork over at Spoon and Tamago who stopped by for a studio visit not to long ago. You can also follow her on Tumblr and if you’re in the NYC area next month she’ll have a solo exhibition at Sundaram Tagore Gallery starting June 20th.

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LITERATURE

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INTERVIEW: DORIS LESSING | THE ART OF FICTION no. 102

Thomas Fricke | The Paris Review | Spring 1988

doris lessing - the making of the representative for planet 8Doris Lessing was interviewed at the home of Robert Gottlieb, in Manhattan’s east forties. Her editor for many years at Knopf, Mr. Gottlieb was then the editor of The New Yorker. Ms. Lessing was briefly in town to attend some casting sessions for the opera Philip Glass has based on her novel The Making of the Representative for Planet 8, for which she had written the libretto. Plans for the opera had been in more or less constant flux, and it was only after a minor flurry of postcards—Ms. Lessing communicates most information on postcards, usually ones from the British Museum—that the appointment was finally arranged.

While the tape recorder was being prepared, she said, “This is a noisy place here, when you think we’re in a garden behind a row of houses.” She points across the way at the townhouse where Katharine Hepburn lives; the talk is about cities for a while. She has lived in London for almost forty years, and still finds that “everything all the time in a city is extraordinary!” More speculatively, as she has remarked elsewhere, “I would not be at all surprised to find out . . . that the dimensions of buildings affect us in ways we don’t guess.” She spoke about spending six months in England before the age of five, saying, “I think kids ought to travel. I think it’s very good to carry kids around. It’s good for them. Of course it’s tough on the parents.”

The interview was conducted on the garden patio. Silvery-streaked dark hair parted in the middle and pulled back in a bun, a shortish skirt, stockings, blouse, and jacket, she looked much like her book-jacket photos. If she seemed tired, it was hardly surprising considering the extent of her recent travels. She has a strong, melodious voice, which can be both amused and acerbic, solicitous and sarcastic.

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IMMIGRATION

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OBAMA’S DEFENDER OF BORDERS IS AGAIN A VOICE FOR MIGRANTS

Michael Shear | The New York Times

MEXICO CITY — For two decades, Cecilia Muñoz was a fiery immigration rights lobbyist who denounced deportations, demanded change in Congress and once wrote of “that hollow place that outrage carves in your soul.” When she was invited to a White House briefing in 1997 on immigration, Ms. Muñoz, who was born in Detroit, was furious after staff members asked twice if she was an American citizen.

But after a call from Barack Obama in 2008, Ms. Muñoz crossed to the other side to help push the administration’s promised immigration overhaul — only to find herself defending a border enforcement policy under which nearly 1.5 million people have been deported in four years. Critics denounced her as a traitor and demanded that she resign.

“She did become, in some ways, the face of the president’s policy,” said Angela Maria Kelley, a friend of more than 20 years and a fellow immigration activist. Other activists said Ms. Muñoz was championing deportation policies far worse than the ones she had fought against. She was “deployed to defend the indefensible,” said Pablo Alvarado, whose day laborer organization was repeatedly at odds with her.

Now, as Mr. Obama is in Latin America this week as the first president in decades with a chance to get an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws through Congress, Ms. Muñoz’s loyalty in the face of her battering appears to have paid off. After four long years, she has helped Mr. Obama prod a reluctant capital toward citizenship for more than 11 million illegal immigrants.

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MUSIC

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THAO AND THE GET DOWN STAY DOWN: WE THE COMMON

Lisa Marie Ferla | The Arts Desk | Thao & The Get Down Stay Down | amazon

Thao Nguyen is a versatile lady. Nearly two years on from her blissful, tUnE-yArDs-produced collaboration with indie songwriter Mirah, this third album with her own band the Get Down Stay Down brings her back to her exuberant, experimental roots. From the title track’s bouncy rallying cry to the softly-spoken duet with Joanna Newsom at the album’s mid-point, We The Common would be a boundary-pusher for most acts. For Nguyen, it’s just another day at the office.

Inspired by her first visit to Valley State Prison through her involvement with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, “We The Common (For Valerie Boden)” is political discourse masquerading as a jaunty, communal folk song. The eponymous prisoner, sentenced to life without parole on the “county line”, contemplates life, God and family as part of a new community, voices raised in a curiously uplifting “wooh-ooh-ooh” chorus. “All they wanted was a villain, a villain, and all they had was me,” she muses, her words tripping off Nguyen’s tongue.

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CARSIE BLANTON: IDIOT HEART

Jessie Righthand | The Washington Post | amazon | carsieblanton.com

The singer-songwriter’s third album, “Idiot Heart,” is funny. It’s tender. It’s cute. It’s edgy. It’s fresh. It’s folksy without crossing into the realm of kitsch. The songs are clean, most with basic instrumentation and succinct arrangements, but each track bursts with its own pithy,
poignant commentary on that ficklest of organs for which the album is named.

Blanton’s voice is lovely in its earnestness, but the album is more a vehicle for story and songwriting. The singer, now based in Philadelphia, has an uncanny sense for lyric. Her style is conversational and direct — even gleefully sarcastic at times — but it’s also poetic and never overly loquacious. When paired with her understated vocals, it’s a winning combination.



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