Sunday, October 16, 2011

'Occupy Wall Street': A media blackout?

Protesters take on Wall Street and battle to get themselves heard in the mainstream media.
It started in Lower Manhattan. A handful of protesters descended on Wall Street calling themselves representatives of 'the 99 per cent' – the majority of Americans who feel unfairly treated by an economic system in which wealth accrues to the already rich.

Despite an initial lack of coverage, the protests spread country-wide and the crowds grew. The coverage however was disappointing. Protesters accused media outlets of marginalising the demonstrations and not representing public interest. They pointed to the deep connections between the corporate system the demonstrations aimed to change and the mainstream media.

Occupy Wall Street at Times Square, October 15, VIDEO

Afghan Symbol of Identity Is Subject to Search

Straight-backed, his bearing almost regal, Malik Niaz, 82, entered the Afghan president’s compound this month, proudly wearing his best turban: a silk one from Turkestan in the north of the country, gray and black and white, its long tail draped gracefully over his shoulder

He watched in disbelief as the guard asked the elder ahead of him to remove his turban

and lay it on the table. Mr. Niaz, who had journeyed more than eight hours on rugged roads, shuddered.

“That made us so embarrassed, and it made me so sad,” he said. “I felt dishonored when the guard said,” he hesitated, as if even recalling the words made him upset, “ ‘undo your turban.’ ”

“I had wanted to see the president,” he added, “but after that search, I thought it would have been better if I had not come.”

The turban-searching rule at President Hamid Karzai’s presidential palace has been rigorously enforced since the assassination of the head of Afghanistan’s peace process, Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was killed by a bomb hidden in the attacker’s turban. It was the third such killing in four months, leading youths in Kabul to coin the word “Turbanator” and American soldiers to invent the new acronym TBIED, for turban-borne improvised explosive device.

The other two instances were the killing in July of Kandahar’s senior cleric as he prayed in a mosque, and a few weeks later the killing of Kandahar’s mayor.

The searches are deeply disturbing for most Afghan men, as the turban here at once signifies one’s religious faith and is a national dress — not to mention being something of a fashion statement.

Turbans are worn across the Muslim world because the Prophet Muhammad was believed to have worn one, and they are especially favored by imams and mullahs. In Afghanistan, which is a deeply pious country, usage is broader, with dozens of styles and colors. There are ones made of synthetics from Pakistan that cost about $20, silk ones from Herat that cost twice as much and ones made of more luxuriant silks from the north of Afghanistan that cost still more.

The people of southeastern Afghanistan wind the cloth large and loose so it looks as if the whole structure might topple off; Kabul residents prefer a smaller, tighter look. Those in eastern Afghanistan tuck the last bit of cloth so it sticks up out of the turban like a cockscomb, known as a “shimla,” and its size has something to do, loosely, with a person’s view of his own standing. The Taliban were known for wearing turbans made of a very soft cotton that had especially long tails and were either black or white; the former signifies that the wearer’s family members are descendants of Muhammad.

However, most turbans in Afghanistan now — and in the pre-Taliban era — are subtle grays and charcoals, deep olive greens, lighter soft greens and browns.

“I have four or five turbans,” said Hajji Mohammad Zaman Ahmadi, a 57-year-old Kabul resident who was in a bazaar to buy a white skullcap for wearing at home but had his turban on for the workday. He had just gotten a miniature turban for his 2-year-old nephew, he said.

“It is made out of the softest of our country’s wool,” he said.

Mr. Ahmadi, like Mr. Niaz, believes that bombers who use their turbans to hide explosives are committing an offense not just against Islam, but against the nation. They are trying to “defame the Afghan turbans and chase the Afghans from their ancient traditions and try to scare them into not wearing their turbans,” he said.

On the back streets of Kabul’s central bazaar, where the turbans are sold neatly folded, thin as a pamphlet and wrapped in torn pages from old glossy magazines, many turban wearers are so angry about the situation that they blame the Americans. Before their arrival, intrusive searches were unknown.

“My father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather, my prophet wore a turban, and that’s why I wear it,” said an older man, looking irritable at the question, adding: “Who brought these turban bombers and turban searchers? You did,” he said angrily, referring to Westerners, which many Afghans feel are agents of the decline of the society.

Many clerics take a more contemplative view. Faith transcends costume, and a man can pray in any outfit as long as the prayer comes from the heart, but it is an honor to God to dress properly, said Abdul Raouf Nafee, the mullah at the Herati mosque in central Kabul.

As an example, he talked about butchers: “Even if their clothes are dirty with blood, they can pray and God will accept their prayers, but it’s kind of disrespectful. God likes beauty and organization, but he will accept your prayers,” Mr. Nafee said.

Sitting on a floor cushion as he read the Koran early one morning in a small room just off his mosque’s prayer hall, Mr. Nafee wore a simple white cap. His turban was neatly prepared and waiting on a couch for the midday prayer when he would don it. A man of both poetry and pragmatism, he views the turban as a link between the holy life and people’s physical needs.

The turban, like the traditional blanket or shawl worn by men and the chador worn by women, is practical as well as religious and cultural, he said. “You are covered to keep off the dust — and now the pollution,” he said. “If you are cold, you can wrap it around you for warmth, you can sit on it, you can use it to tie an animal, a sheep or a goat, and you can use the turban’s cap to carry water.”

There is also a darker view of turban attacks: that the bombers were so distraught that their turbans’ holiness no longer mattered, and that they were forced to use any means available to take revenge on the Americans.

“Is it wrong to respond to the killings of the civilians that you do with your drones, that shoot from the air and do not even have pilots?” asked Hajji Ahmad Farid, a mullah and a conservative member of Parliament from an insurgent-dominated area of Kapisa Province, near Kabul. “Think about why a man blows himself up: Some foreign soldiers go to his house and accuse him and tie his hands and dishonor him and search his wife and his daughters, and this poor man is just watching and can do nothing.

“When a man has lost his dignity, he does not care about his shawl or his turban.”

US decides to go after Haqqanis

daily times

The Obama administration has decided to go all-out against the Haqqani network, which it blames for the September attack on the US embassy in Kabul, Washington Post reported on Saturday.
As part of the latest efforts to cripple the group, a CIA drone strike Thursday killed three of its members, including a senior official, and additional strikes Friday left four dead. The attacks in Pakistan were carried out near Miranshah, capital of North Waziristan Agency, a city rarely targeted in the past because of the difficulty of finding well-concealed insurgent leaders and the possibility of civilian deaths in an urban area.
“The Obama administration has launched the opening salvos of a new, more aggressive approach towards an Afghan insurgent group it asserts is supported by Pakistan’s government,” the newspaper quoted senior US administration officials. “The decision to strike Miranshah was made at a National Security Council meeting chaired by President Obama two weeks ago and was intended to ‘send a signal’ that the United States would no longer tolerate a safe haven for the most lethal enemy of US forces in Afghanistan, or Pakistan’s backing for it,” the paper quoted one of several US officials who spoke about internal deliberations on the condition of anonymity.
The strikes were made possible by focusing intelligence collection to “allow us to pursue certain priorities,” the official said. Senior Haqqani figure Janbaz Zadran was selected along with other targets to “demonstrate how seriously we take the Miranshah” threat, he elaborated.
“Military options debated at the September 29 meeting were set aside for now,” officials said, including the possibility of a ground operation against Haqqani leaders similar to the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May. Although the administration has left the raid option on the table, the potential negatives of such an operation — including the possible collapse of Pakistan’s military leadership and civilian government — are seen as far outweighing its benefits.
The Washington Post report says that in a series of meetings with the national security team, the White House reviewed long-standing options in Pakistan, ranging from outright attack to diplomacy, along with the likely ramifications of each, a process that culminated in the Sept. 29 NSC meeting.
The report quotes officials as saying that Obama had gradually lost faith in Pakistan and its weak civilian leadership. But the core goal of their efforts, the president reminded his team, was the elimination of “Pakistan-based al Qaeda”. It was important, he warned them, that “nobody takes their eye off the ball.”
An additional outcome of the NSC meeting, officials said, was an order for various players – the Defence Department, the CIA, the State Department, and the White House itself – to stop sending mixed messages to Pakistan and others about the administration’s war policies.
The report further reveals that Obama’s National Security Adviser, Thomas E Donilon, conveyed administration resolve to Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Kayani at a secret meeting in Saudi Arabia. The United States wanted a relationship with Pakistan, officials said Donilon told Kayani, but it also wanted the Haqqani attacks to stop. Pakistani officials said Donilon offered Kayani three choices: kill the Haqqani leadership, help us kill them, or persuade them to join a peaceful, democratic Afghan government.

Occupy protests spread around the world; 70 injured in Rome

Thousands of people across the world railed against corporate power, grinding poverty and government cuts Saturday as the Occupy Wall Street movement spread to the streets of Europe, Asia and Australia -- and took a particularly violent turn in Rome.

Firefighters battled a blaze at an Interior Ministry building near Porta San Giovanni in Rome, the main gathering site of the Italian protesters taking part in the Occupy movement Saturday, said eyewitnesses who reported seeing a Molotov cocktail thrown near the building.

A spokesman for Mayor Gianni Alemanno, who condemned the violence, confirmed 70 people were injured, 40 of them police officers. No arrest numbers were available late Saturday.

Police said hundreds of anarchists in Rome moved in where peaceful demonstrators had gathered as part of the global Occupy movement. The anarchists -- some wearing ski masks and belonging to a group termed "Black Bloc" -- torched cars, broke windows and clashed with police.

"It's been completely hijacked by these violent factions, and the police are nervous, and the situation is very tense," Barbie Nadeau, a Newsweek correspondent, told CNN. "I myself saw at least -- I would say -- a dozen people who probably needed some hospitalization or some care -- some stitches certainly."

Two police officers were seriously injured and two young men lost parts of their hands in explosions when protesters torched cars, she said.

In London, protester Peter Vaughn, reflecting the mood of many in the crowd there, said people criticized financial institutions that have "gambled away our money."

"We're giving people a real voice against a government that just ignored us," he said.

One protester in Belleville, France, referring to the country's leaders, said government isn't listening to the people and dialogue with them is impossible.

"You are not listening to us, whatever we do, however we vote, however we demonstrate. It does not give any result. Quite the opposite, as poverty and austerity plans continue. So we can't go on like this so we are getting out and showing ourselves," he said.

The protests spread amid the growing financial crises for several Western countries. Finance ministers with the Group of 20, meeting in Paris, pledged Saturday to take "all necessary actions" to stabilize global markets and ensure that banks are well capitalized.

Europeans turned out amid debt troubles and austerity plans in Greece, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Germany.

United for Global Change -- the central site for the movement organizing worldwide protests -- said 951 cities in 82 countries were to take part in the demonstrations after online organizers called for a worldwide rally.

More than 10,000 demonstrators of all ages gathered peacefully in Madrid's spacious Plaza de Cibeles on Saturday and than walked uphill to Puerta del Sol. The "May 15 Movement" started five months ago to the day over austerity measures and high unemployment. Some demonstrators said they felt Spain's protest had gone global and that the world had joined the movement started in their country. The newspaper El Pais said tens of thousands of protesters turned out in Barcelona.

Around the world, protesters marched, listened to speeches, and displayed banners reading anti-corporate slogans, including the now ubiquitous "we are the 99%," "Banks are cancer" and tax the rich 1%."

The vandalism that erupted in Rome angered peaceful protesters. There were car fires and masked people breaking windows at banks and stores, where many thousands faced a large police presence. Firefighters were working to contain the blaze and the tensions calmed down in the evening hours. But the echo of Molotov cocktails could be heard and a lingering cloud of black smoke could be seen, Nadeau told CNN.

In Germany, police used pepper spray on two protesters who crossed beyond police lines.

Still, the demonstrations across the world were peaceful overall, inspired by the protests in the United States. In London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spoke to demonstrators. The demonstrations are contained to an area in front of St. Paul's Cathedral. There have also been three arrests, two for assault on police.

"What is happening here today is a culmination of greed that many people all over the world have worked towards from Cairo to London," Assange said.

Tens of thousands demonstrated in German cities, witnesses said. Peaceful protests with a festive atmosphere blended with a mood of anger toward big business, where demonstrators carried signs saying "Goldman Sucks," "Eat Cash," "People should not be afraid of their government," and "The government should be afraid of their people."

"They are stealing our rights," one banner read at a demonstration of several thousand people in Madrid.

Canadians turned out in Toronto, with placards jutting up from a crowd saying "Arrest the 1%" and "Stop ignoring the youth, we are your tomorrow." A sign on a dog said "99% against (corporate) fat cats."

Retired businessman Wong Chi Keung, in Hong Kong, said, "We should not let the banks get away with being big bullies."

Debbie Chen works for a group protesting against Apple's treatment of its workers in China.

"As the world's most valuable company they earn the lion's share while the workers on the production line earn only 1% of the selling price of an iPhone. We hope there can be more even distribution of profits," she said.

About 200 people marched through Tokyo carrying various signs, including "No More Nukes and "Free Tibet." The crowd included children jumping and skipping behind the adults. Some protesters wore costumes -- including a giant panda.

"I'm here because young Japanese people are suffering for losing their jobs, but not many speak out their issue to the public," said Kesao Murakami. "I really want young people to appeal forcefully to the public saying, 'We are in trouble.' "

In the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, about two dozen people -- some wearing masks -- gathered near the U.S. Embassy.

"We wanted to show that the American regime, its system of imperialism needs to be destroyed," said Rudi Daman, leader of the International League of Peoples' Struggle.

The group urged its chapters to stage a global day of action against "imperialist plunder, repression and war."

Australian cities of Melbourne and Sydney joined rallies against "corporate greed" as protesters aligned themselves with the global movement.

"Our protests are to show our solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and also protest various problems -- from indigenous issues in this country to government problems," said Alex Gard, one of the Melbourne organizers. "We know we have it better than the protesters in the States ... but there are still problems in this country."

Organizers urged protesters to bring sleeping bags and other soft items to sleep on.

"I've heard people say they plan to be there for days, even months," Gard said.

Organizers worldwide started social media pages on Facebook and Twitter devoted to "October 15" — #O15 on Twitter — urging protesters to join the global call for protests.

The worldwide movement is galvanized by the Occupy Wall Street movement started last month as a backlash against the economy and what demonstrators say is an out-of-touch corporate, financial and political elite.

Occupy Wall Street organizers say they are inspired by the Arab Spring that led to the toppling of regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.

The founding movement in the United States has spread to other major cities in the nation.

Thousands of protesters fill NYC's Times Square

Thousands of demonstrators protesting corporate greed filled Times Square on Saturday night, mixing with gawkers, Broadway showgoers, tourists and police to create a chaotic scene in the midst of Manhattan.

"Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!" protesters chanted from within police barricades. Police, some in riot gear and mounted on horses, tried to push them out of the square and onto the sidewalks in an attempt to funnel the crowds away.

Sandy Peterson of Salt Lake City, who was in Times Square after seeing "The Book of Mormon" musical on Broadway, got caught up in the disorder.

"We're getting out of here before this gets ugly," she said.

Sandra Fox, 69, of Baton Rouge, La., stood, confused, on 46th Street with a ticket for "Anything Goes" in her hand as riot police pushed a knot of about 200 shouting protesters toward her.

"I think it's horrible what they're doing," she said of the protesters. "These people need to go get jobs."

The Occupy Wall Street demonstrators had marched north through Manhattan from Washington Square Park earlier in the afternoon. Once in Times Square, they held a rally for several hours before dispersing. Over the course of the day, more than 80 people were arrested.

After midnight, about 10 people were loaded into a police van after refusing to leave Washington Square Park, where protesters had returned to convene a meeting following the Times Square rally. The police had warned protesters that the park had closed, and began massing in riot gear and on horses a few minutes before then; most people had left by then.

Police spokesman Paul Browne said 42 people were arrested in Times Square on Saturday night after being warned repeatedly to disperse; three others were arrested while trying to take down police barriers.

Two police officers were injured during the protest and had to be hospitalized. One suffered a head injury, the other a foot injury, Browne said.

Five people wearing masks were arrested earlier in the day, and two dozen were arrested on charges of criminal trespass when demonstrators entered a Citibank bank branch near Washington Square Park and refused to leave, police said. One protester was arrested on a charge of resisting arrest.

Citibank said in a statement that police asked the branch to close until the protesters could be taken away. "One person asked to close an account and was accommodated," Citibank said.

Earlier in the day, demonstrators paraded to a Chase bank branch, banging drums, blowing horns and carrying signs decrying corporate greed. Marchers throughout the country emulated them in protests that ranged from about 50 people in Jackson, Miss., to about 2,000 in the larger city of Pittsburgh.

"Banks got bailed out. We got sold out," the crowd of as many as 1,000 in Manhattan chanted. A few protesters went inside the bank to close their accounts, but the group didn't stop other customers from getting inside or seek to blockade the business.

Police told the marchers to stay on the sidewalk, and the demonstration appeared to be fairly orderly as it wound through downtown streets.

Overseas, violence broke out in Rome, where police fired tear gas and water cannons at some protesters who broke away from the main demonstration, smashing shop and bank windows, torching cars and hurling bottles. Dozens were injured.

Tens of thousands nicknamed "the indignant" marched in cities across Europe, as the protests that began in New York linked up with long-running demonstrations against government cost-cutting and failed financial policies in Europe. Protesters also turned out in Australia and Asia.

Across the Atlantic, hundreds protested in the heart of Toronto's financial district. Some of the protesters announced plans to camp out indefinitely in St. James Park. Protests were also held in other cities across Canada from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Vancouver, British Columbia.

In the U.S., among the demonstrators in New York withdrawing their money from Chase was Lily Paulina, 29, an organizer with the United Auto Workers union who lives in Brooklyn. She said she was taking her money out because she was upset that JPMorgan Chase was making billions, while its customers struggled with bank fees and home foreclosures.

"Chase bank is making tons of money off of everyone ... while people in the working class are fighting just to keep a living wage in their neighborhood," she said.

Other demonstrations in the city Saturday included an anti-war march to mark the 10th anniversary of the Afghanistan War.

Among the people participating in that march was Sergio Jimenez, 25, who said he quit his job in Texas to come to New York to protest.

"These wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were all based on lies," Jimenez said. "And if we're such an intelligent country, we should figure out other ways to respond to terror, instead of with terror."

Elsewhere in the country, nearly 1,500 gathered Saturday for a march past banks in downtown Orlando. About 50 people met in a park in downtown Jackson, Miss., carrying signs calling for "Health Care Not Warfare."

Some made more considerable commitments to try to get their voices heard. Nearly 200 spent a cold night in tents in Grand Circus Park in Detroit, donning gloves, scarves and heavy coats to keep warm, said Helen Stockton, a 34-year-old certified midwife from Ypsilanti, and plan to remain there "as long as it takes to effect change."

"It's easy to ignore us," Stockton said. Then she referred to the financial institutions, saying, "But we are not going to ignore them. Every shiver in our bones reminds us of why we are here."

Hundreds more converged near the Michigan's Capitol in Lansing with the same message, the Lansing State Journal reported.

Rallies drew young and old, laborers and retirees. In Pittsburgh, marchers also included parents with children in strollers and even a doctor. The peaceful crowd of 1,500 to 2,000 stretched for two or three blocks.

"I see our members losing jobs. People are angry," said Janet Hill, 49, who works for the United Steelworkers, which she said hosted a sign-making event before the march.

Retired teacher Albert Siemsen of Milwaukee said at a demonstration there that he'd grown angry watching school funding get cut at the same time that banks and corporations gained more influence in government. The 81-year-old wants to see tighter Wall Street regulation.

Around him, protesters held signs reading, "Keep your corporate hands off my government," and "Mr. Obama, Tear Down That Wall Street."

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick visited protesters in Boston's Dewey Square for the first time. He said after walking through the camp that he better understands the range of views and was sympathetic to concerns about unemployment, health care and the influence of money in politics.

In Denver, about 1,000 people came to a rally in downtown Denver to support the movement.

The Rev. Al Sharpton led a march in Washington that was not affiliated with the Occupy movement but shared similar goals. His rally was aimed at drumming up support for President Barack Obama's jobs plan. Thousands of demonstrators packed the lawn in the shadow of the Washington Monument to hear labor, education and civil rights leaders speak.


Associated Press