Beyond Relief: How the World Failed Haiti
A year and a half after the island was reduced to rubble by an earthquake, the world's unprecedented effort to rebuild it has turned into a disaster of good intentionsAugust 4, 2011 1:35 PM ET--> -->Bodies lie outside the morgue in Port-au-Prince on January 14, 2010 following the earthquake that rocked Haiti on January 12, 2010.JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images
In March of last year, two months after the devastating earthquake that killed 300,000 Haitians and left more than a million homeless, Sean Penn was faced with a monumental challenge. Penn, who had been spending most of his time in Haiti since the quake, was running a large camp for internally displaced persons in the foothills of a wealthy suburb of Port-au-Prince, on what had been the city's lone golf course. Nearly 60,000 poor and middle-class Haitians, most from Haiti's devastated capital, had migrated here, pouring over the crumbled walls of the exclusive country club, and established a spontaneous and overcrowded city of crude dwellings fashioned from plastic sheeting.
One night, a heavy rainstorm reduced much of the golf course to mud. Penn turned to Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, commander of the U.S. military's Joint Task Force Haiti, a 22,000-strong deployment, which was helping to lead the international relief effort. Keen immediately assigned the Army Corps of Engineers to come up with a drainage plan. Before the work could begin, however, some 5,000 refugees would have to leave the golf course. The question was where to put them.
After Penn and Keen met with U.S. and Haitian officials, it was generally agreed that the best option was to relocate the refugees to an area roughly nine miles north of the capital called Corail-Cesselesse, which had recently been commandeered by the Haitian government. The area was secure, and believed to be less vulnerable to flooding than the makeshift camp. "It wasn't the ideal circumstance, but it was safe," recalls Keen. "Given the choice of living in a riverbed that was surely going to be flooded or being safe in Corail, it was a decision made out of necessity."
It fell to Penn to explain the situation to the Haitians. So he took his translator and walked to the bottom of the golf course, where some of the refugees' leaders had gathered. The men were suspicious of Penn, believing him to be in cahoots with Haiti's wealthy landowners, a small and privileged elite who had ruled the country for generations and were now trying to forcibly evict many refugees from their land, often at the point of a gun. To the people living in Penn's camp, the "optional relocation" he was proposing smacked of a prelude to a larger, mandatory exodus.
"Look," said the actor, sitting down with the Haitians in a tent. "I don't give a fuck about the rich guys who own this club." He didn't even want them to leave, he said, but what was the choice? He pulled out a map of the drainage plan the military engineers had devised. Those ditches were a necessity, he said — without them, thousands of people might die in a mudslide or flood. Then he took out a Google Earth photo of Corail, a wide swath of land, some 18,000 acres, and laid out the proposal: Each family that agreed to move to Corail would get $50, courtesy of the American Red Cross, and a hygiene kit. They would also get shelter, food rations, clean water, free medical care and a school for their kids. And they would be first in line for jobs in Korean-owned garment factories that the Haitian government pledged would soon be built in the area.
"That's the plan," Penn said. "We'll step outside, you guys decide. If it were me, I would take my kids out there rather than stay here."
Within days, thousands of refugees had agreed to move to Corail. On Saturday, April 10th, 2010, the first group left the golf course in a caravan of buses, the exodus chaperoned by United Nations peacekeepers. They arrived, disembarking onto a dusty, cactus-strewn patch of land in the shadow of a denuded mountain that turned out to be as vulnerable to the elements as the golf course. Their new homes — bright white tents set up on the baking gravel — were both hot and flimsy; three months after the refugees arrived, hundreds of the tents would blow away in a heavy windstorm. There were no schools, no markets, and the closest hospital was miles away. There were also no jobs, as the hoped-for factories would not be built for months — or even years. To return to the city meant a long walk to a bus stop followed by a several-hour commute. They were marooned.
"I went out there with our engineers, and we were all like, 'What is this? It looks like Chad,'" recalls Julie Schindall, a spokeswoman for the relief organization Oxfam, which signed on to build latrines and provide water to Corail. "I have no idea how they selected that camp. It was all done very last minute — we had to set the entire structure up in a week."
In the aftermath of the move, no one in the State Department or the Haitian government seemed willing to take responsibility for the relocation — or even for the rationale behind it. "I've yet to see any evidence that proves that anyone was in more danger on the golf course than they would have been anywhere else — though everybody in Haiti thinks they were," says a senior U.N. official who asked not to be identified. "What the move proved was that it's possible to 'save' 5,000 people if you say they're in a dangerous situation and put them in what you call a safe situation. It was the most grotesque act of cynicism that I've seen for some time."
Penn, for one, admits that Corail was a problematic choice. "It's a very vulnerable area," he says, adding that he realized this immediately, having toured the site soon after it was selected. "It struck me as desolate, but we had an emergency, and this was an emergency-relocation area — I never said it was anything else," he insists. "I feel like shit. I hope those guys are OK when it rains out there. I feel an extra responsibility — of course I do. But we were betrayed." Penn says he was assured by international monitors and aid agencies that Corail was a safe place to live, and that shelters would be built within three months. A year later, the shelters, constructed of crude plywood, were just being completed. There were still no hospitals and no factory jobs: Corail, it turns out, doesn't have enough water to supply the garment manufacturers who promised to locate there.
But the lure of would-be jobs has driven a mass migration of Haitians to the land abutting Corail. By the first anniversary of the earthquake, the population of the once-deserted territory had swelled to more than 100,000 people. "It was like the gold rush," says one U.N. official, close to the process. "Within about a week of people moving to Corail, you had all these other people rushing out there to stake their claim. People were up there buying and selling plots of land — completely illegally." The going rate, she says, was about $1,000 a plot.
Dubbed "Canaan," after the biblical promised land, the Corail region is now one of Haiti's 10 largest cities, as well as its largest and most squalid camp, a bitter irony lost on no one involved in the relief effort. "Corail is a ton of people living in a flux state, without safe shelter, who don't know what the future holds," says Schindall. "It's Haiti post-earthquake in a nutshell."
It wasn't supposed to be this way. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake on January 12th, 2010, the international community resolved not only to rebuild Haiti, but also to establish new and more efficient models for dispensing humanitarian aid. President Obama, calling the tragedy "cruel and incomprehensible," pledged "every element of our national capacity" to the response. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton created a special fund for Haiti; the American Red Cross launched a wildly successful appeal, raising close to $500 million in one year. In total, an estimated one in two American households donated more than $1.4 billion to Haiti relief, with close to $11 billion more for reconstruction pledged by donor countries and financial institutions. "We will be here today, tomorrow and for the time ahead," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised during a post-quake visit to Port-au-Prince.
American and international officials gave their plan for Haiti a simple and compelling name: Building Back Better, a term that came into vogue after the tsunami that struck Asia in 2004, and that has since become something of a mantra in the development world. In a radical shift away from traditional approaches to foreign aid, "building back better" attempts to go beyond simple relief and not only to rebuild shattered structures, but to restructure, in a sense, shattered societies. At the forefront of this effort is private-sector investment being leveraged to build the kind of infrastructure needed to promote economic development and attract foreign corporations: roads, power lines, factories, markets. "The hope," explains Matthew Bishop, co-author of Philanthrocapitalism: How the Rich Can Save the World, "is that using the private sector will be a lot more efficient. Traditional aid has been extremely wasteful. When it is allowed to take the lead, the private sector is more likely to try something new or entrepreneurial."
But despite all that has been promised, almost nothing has been built back in Haiti, better or otherwise. Within Port-au-Prince, some 3 million people languish in permanent misery, subject to myriad experiments at "fixing" a nation that, to those who are attempting it, stubbornly refuses to be fixed. Mountains of rubble remain in the streets, hundreds of thousands of people continue to live in weather-beaten tents, and cholera, a disease that hadn't been seen in Haiti for 60 years, has swept over the land, infecting more than a quarter million people.
In the midst of such suffering, only a fraction of the money devoted to Haitian relief has actually been spent. This May, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that of the $1.14 billion allocated by Congress for Haiti last year, only $184 million has been "obligated." In a letter to the Obama administration this spring, 53 Democratic members of Congress blasted the "appalling" conditions in the refugee camps. "The unprecedented relief effort has given way to a sluggish, at best, reconstruction effort," said Rep. Barbara Lee, who is demanding an accounting of how the relief money is being spent. There is, she said, a "lack of urgency on the part of the international community."
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Saturday, 1 October 2011
WASHINGTON | Fri Sep 30, 2011 4:00pm EDT(Reuters) - Hate mornings, especially on Mondays? You may be surprised to know that much of the world doesn't share that grumpy feeling.
Twitter shows people are more cheerful in the morning, get gloomier as the day wears on and rebound in the evening, with a peak right before bedtime. They're also happier from December to late June, when days gradually lengthen in the Northern Hemisphere.
Using the micro-blogging site Twitter as a gauge of global sentiment, social scientists studied 509 million tweets from 2.4 million users in 84 countries between February 2008 and January 2010, according to research reported on Thursday in the journal Science.
Bad news, even if it happens to a complete stranger, brings Twitter users down, research by scientists from Cornell University suggests.
Twitter, the five-year-old site that lets users communicate 140-character posts, offers an unprecedented chance to study human behavior and social networks, the scientists said.
Those brief posts get down to the nitty-gritty, showing that Twitter users prefer bacon to sausage and Cheerios to Frosted Flakes, Cornell sociologist and co-author Michael Macy said in a telephone interview on Friday.
"Twitter offers an unprecedented opportunity for social and behavioral scientists to study social behavior and interaction in real time with high temporal granularity -- hour by hour, day by day, over the course of the year -- and to do this at population scale with millions of people all over the world," Macy said.
DON'T BLAME WORK
It may seem intuitive that most people's moods go downhill through the day, but Macy said previous studies have been inconclusive, possibly because they relied on unrepresentative samples, often college students.
The daily mood swing was the same on weekends as during the week, Macy said, "which suggests that it's not caused by work, because on the weekend most people are not working."
This rhythm was the same across the globe, he said, from India, Africa, Australia and New Zealand to Britain, Canada and the United States.
Going forward, Macy said his group will focus more on behavior and not just on feeling, and will "decompose" the mood into more specific emotions such as anxiety or depression, and even home in on such issues as references to body image.
To get a picture of the global mood, the scientists searched tweets for about 1,000 words that reliably indicate positive emotions -- "agree," "fantastic," "super" -- and negative ones, such as "afraid," "mad," and "panic."
The researchers considered up to 400 tweets from each person, and excluded those with fewer than 25 tweets.
The scientists noted a recent survey of U.S. Twitter users found they are 51 percent white, 24 percent African American and 17 percent Hispanic. People with college and advanced degrees and with higher household incomes show up in higher numbers. The researchers said this still makes their study more representative than earlier ones on college students.
In another study cited in Science, researchers at the University of Vermont created a timeline to track the last year in tweets, ending in early September 2011, showing the world's average happiness slid from last October.
The death of Osama bin Laden was the apparent low point, followed closely by the earthquake in Japan, the London riots in August, the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks and the death of Amy Winehouse.
Emotional highs, as tracked on Twitter, were the Christmas and New Year holidays, followed by Valentines Day, Thanksgiving and Easter. The wedding of Britain's Prince William to Kate Middleton was a bright spot, comparable to Easter and Father's Day.
Good afternoon Mark
Eastman Kodak Co shares fell almost 70 percent on Friday afternoon on concerns the photography pioneer could file for bankruptcy.
Kodak's stock had already hit a 38-year low earlier this week as investors worried about its cash position after the company tapped a credit line for $160 million.
Amazon.com Inc's new tablet computer costs $209.63 to make, IHS iSuppli estimated on Friday, highlighting how the e-commerce giant is taking a financial hit upfront to get the device into as many hands as possible. Amazon's billionaire Chief Executive Jeff Bezos unveiled the Kindle Fire at a lower-than-expected $199 price on Wednesday.
"The real benefit of the Kindle Fire to Amazon will not be in selling hardware or digital content. Rather, the Kindle Fire, and the content demand it stimulates, will serve to promote sales of the kinds of physical goods that comprise the majority of Amazon's business," IHS iSuppli said in a statement.
Using the micro-blogging site Twitter as a gauge of global sentiment, social scientists studied 509 million tweets from 2.4 million users in 84 countries between February 2008 and January 2010, according to research reported in the journal Science. Twitter, the five-year-old site that lets users communicate 140-character posts, offers an unprecedented chance to study human behavior and social networks, the scientists said.
PE Hub's Connie Loizos discovers that despite Groupon's recent turmoil, the Chicago startup community is sticking with the daily deal giant.
GigaOm reviews AT&T's upcoming Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone that will hit stores Oct. 2 and will retail for $200.
Friday, 30 September 2011
Cannabis campaigner Dakta Green jailed
Published: Wed, 29 Jun 2011 11:01a.m.
By Dan Satherley / 3news.co.nz staff
Cannabis campaigner Dakta Green has been sentenced to eight months' jail on charges relating to the possession, supply and sale of cannabis.
Green, 61, operated a high-profile warehouse called The Daktory, where cannabis was openly sold and consumed.
Appearing in the Auckland District Court this morning, he rejected the judge’s offer of home detention, instead opting for jail time.
This morning, prior to sentencing, Green told RadioLIVE's Marcus Lush his conviction was down to "politics".
"One day, and I hope in the near future, our members of Parliament will understand that there is no good reason to send people to jail for cannabis, other than the fact it is an illegal product," said Green.
"It's time we questioned why cannabis is illegal, and the fact that there might be one in a million that have some adverse reaction to cannabis is not a reason to send me to jail – it's a reason to have a health-related approach to dealing with these issues."
- VIDEO: Pro-cannabis protesters outside the Auckland District Court
- AUDIO: Dakta Green talks to RadioLIVE
Green said the appearance of synthetic, legal cannabis substitutes such as Kronic shows the Government's hypocrisy on drug issues. But apart from that, he doesn't think Kronic helps the legalisation campaign.
"It certainly shows a hypocrisy, but I don't think it's good for our cause at all.
"The fact it's called 'artificial cannabis' means that it is something that is made in a laboratory, and it's a green, leafy material that's had chemicals sprayed on it.
"I agree with the inventor of the product it is not something that one should be consuming."
American organic chemist Prof John Huffman created JWH 018, an appetite stimulant that replicates the effects of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. He says Kronic could cause irreversible psychological damage, but stopped short of calling for its banning.
"It would probably be useless as marijuana has been illegal in the United States since 1937," Prof Huffman told the Otago Daily Times earlier this week.
Green said he tried Kronic, but it didn't like it, because it tasted nothing like cannabis.
He doesn't think it should be sold in dairies – and nor should alcohol be – instead saying they should only be available through adults-only stores.
"It certainly should be taken out of dairies," he told RadioLIVE. "Alcohol is available from our dairies as well, and that's the most dangerous drug in our society today."
Green argues that cannabis is safer than alcohol and Kronic.
"There are issues with people appearing in hospitals these days on this Kronic, and anybody that ever appears in hospital on cannabis – which has been used safely for thousands of years – it's just because they're inexperienced.
"It's impossible to overdose on cannabis, and there is no chronic after-effect."
Despite years of campaigning, Green doesn't hold out much hope the Government will change its mind.
"[There is] absolutely no indication that there will be any change – in fact, quite the reverse. Any time our Prime Minister or Peter Dunne make comment on cannabis, it's always no, there will be no change.
"But we are very hopeful there will be change in the near future."
The Crown had sought four years' imprisonment for Green.
The Daktory's retail operation might have closed, but the warehouse, located in the West Auckland suburb of New Lynn, will continue to operate as a base for cannabis activists.
US Government admits growing marijuana for supply
Thu, 29 Sep 2011 5:46a.m.
By Nigel Duara
Sometime after midnight on a moonlit rural Oregon highway, a state trooper checking a car he had just pulled over found pot on a passenger.
The discovery was not surprising in a marijuana-friendly state like Oregon, but the 72-year-old woman's defense was: She insisted the weed was legal and given to her by none other than the federal government.
A series of phone calls from a dubious trooper and his supervisor to federal authorities determined that the glaucoma patient was not joking - the US government does grow and provide pot to a select few people across the United States.
For the past three decades, Uncle Sam has been providing patients with some of the highest grade marijuana around as part of a little-known program that grew out of a 1976 court settlement and created the country's first legal pot smoker. The program once provided 14 people government pot. Now, there are four left.
Advocates for legalizing marijuana or treating it as a medicine say the program is a glaring contradiction in the nation's 40-year war on drugs - maintaining the federal ban on pot while at the same time supplying it.
Government officials say there is no contradiction. The program is no longer accepting new patients, and public health authorities have concluded that there was no scientific value to it, Steven Gust of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse told The Associated Press. The government has only continued to supply the marijuana "for compassionate reasons," Gust said.
One of the recipients is Elvy Musikka, the chatty Oregon woman. A vocal marijuana advocate, Musikka relies on the pot to keep her glaucoma under control. She entered the program in 1988, and said that her experience with marijuana is proof that it works as a medicine.
They "won't acknowledge the fact that I do not have even one aspirin in this house," she said, leaning back on her couch, glass bong cradled in her hand. "I have no pain."
Marijuana is getting a look from states around the country considering calls to repeal decades-old marijuana prohibition laws. There are 16 states that have medical marijuana programs. In the three West Coast states, advocates are readying tax-and-sell or other legalization programs.
Marijuana was legal for much of US history and was recognized as a medicine in 1850. Opposition to it began to gather and, by 1936, 48 states had passed laws regulating pot, fearing it could lead to addiction.
Anti-marijuana literature and films, like the infamous "Reefer Madness," helped fan those fears. Eventually, pot was classified among the most harmful of drugs, meaning it had no usefulness and a high potential for addiction.
In 1976, a federal judge ruled that the Food and Drug Administration must provide Robert Randall of Washington, DC with marijuana because of his glaucoma - no other drug could effectively combat his condition. Randall became the nation's first legal pot smoker since the drug's prohibition.
Eventually, the government created its program as part of a compromise over Randall's care in 1978, long before a single state passed a medical marijuana law. What followed were a series of petitions from people like Musikka to join the program.
President George H W Bush's administration, getting tough on crime and drugs, stopped accepting new patients in 1992. Many of the patients who had qualified had AIDS, and they were dying.
The AP asked the agency that administers the program, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, for documents showing how much marijuana has been sent to patients since the first patient in 1976.
The agency supplied full data for 2005-2011, which showed that during that period the federal government distributed more than 100 pounds of high-grade marijuana to patients.
Agency officials said records related to the program before 2005 had been destroyed, but were able to provide scattered records for a couple of years in the early 2000s.
The four patients remaining in the program estimate they have received a total of 584 pounds from the federal government over the years. On the street, that would be worth more than US $500,000.
All of the marijuana comes from the University of Mississippi, where it is grown, harvested and stored.
Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly, who directs the operation, said the marijuana was a small part of the crop the university has been growing since 1968 for all cannabis research in the US. Among the studies are the pharmaceutical uses for synthetic mimics of pot's psychoactive ingredient, THC.
ElSohly said the four patients are getting pot with about 3 percent THC. He said 3 percent is about the range patients have preferred in blind tests.
The marijuana is then sent from Mississippi to a tightly controlled North Carolina lab, where they are rolled into cigarettes. And every month, steel tins with white labels are sent to Florida and Iowa. Packed inside each is a half-pound of marijuana rolled into 300 perfectly-wrapped joints.
With Musikka living in Oregon, she is entitled to more legal pot than anyone in the nation because she's also enrolled in the state's medical marijuana program. Neither Iowa nor Florida has approved marijuana as a medicine, so the federal pot is the only legal access to the drug for the other three patients.
The three other people in the program range in ages and doses of marijuana provided to them, but all consider themselves an endangered species that, once extinct, can be brushed aside by a federal government that pretends they don't exist.
All four have become crusaders for the marijuana-legalization movement. They're rock stars at pro-marijuana conferences, sought-after speakers and recognizable celebrities in the movement.
Irv Rosenfeld, a financial adviser in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., has been in the program since November 1982. His condition produces painful bone tumours, but he said marijuana has replaced prescription painkillers.
Rosenfeld likes to tell this story: In the mid-1980s, the federal government asked his doctor for an update on how Rosenfeld was doing. It was an update the doctor didn't believe the government was truly interested in. He had earlier tried to get a copy of the previous update, and was told the government couldn't find it, Rosenfeld said.
So instead of filling out the form, the doctor responded with a simple sentence written in large, red letters: "It's working."
Australians Increased Shared Care Due to 2006 Family Law AmendmentSeptember 28th, 2011 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
In Australia, it’s a race against the clock. Can the Labor government of Julia Gillard squelch shared parenting in time, or will Australians stop the effort with their preference for greater equality for both parents?
As most readers of this blog know, the Howard government ushered in amendments to the Family Law Act in 2006 that urged greater equality in parenting time post-divorce or separation. That prompted the anti-dad crowd to leap to the barricades with the battle cry “domestic violence and child abuse.” Maybe it should replace the Internationale.
Long before the real effects of the amendments were known, anti-father advocates pronounced it flawed because it allowed abusive fathers to get custody of children. As a practical matter, what that meant was that any father who was claimed by his ex to have been abusive, was considered by the anti-dad crowd to be charged tried and convicted of same.
In vain did many people point out that it’s mothers far more than fathers who abuse children. No, for those opposed to any improvement in a child’s ability to maintain a relationship with his/her father, facts are superfluous. They had their story and they stick to it.
And Labor listened. Soon enough it put forward yet another amendment to the Family Law Act that, if enacted, would not only knock the props out from under the 2006 amendment, but would gut fathers’ rights entirely. Not surprisingly, it would do that by (a) expanding the definition of domestic abuse to include virtually any subjectively negative state of mind offered in evidence by a mother against a father, and (b) removing all penalties for false allegations.
If that’s not an open invitation for denying children access to their fathers, I don’t know what is.
Indeed, recent research done in the United States shows that, when Oregon attempted to promote shared parenting in the late 1990s, the intent of the law was thwarted by one major thing - claims of abuse. Eighty-two percent of those claims were made by mothers, and they resulted in no improvement in shared parenting. (Another study shows that non-feminist custody evaluators estimate that between 40% and 80% of all such claims are fabricated.)
So it’s no surprise that, in Australia, those opposed to children maintaining a relationship with their dads post-divorce, used claims of abuse as their weapon of choice. The simple fact is, it works.
But there’s another side to this coin that this article tells us about (f4e, 9/5/11). It seems that, in the five years following the effective date of the 2006 amendment, Australians voted with their feet. They’ve embraced shared parenting as never before.
Research published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) has shown that more children from separated families are now spending time with both parents than in the past.
The finding has been claimed as evidence that changes to shared care arrangements under the family law system were working.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said among new cases registered with the Child Support Agency each year, the proportion with a shared or near shared care-time arrangement increased from 9 per cent to 17 over five years.
Mr McClelland said that in addition, a survey of 10,000 parents who had been separated after the reforms for an average of 15 months found 16 per cent had a shared care arrangement.
Stated another way, given the opportunity to do so by the 2006 amendment, Australians said ‘yes’ to shared parenting. So yet again, we find a disconnect between the people and their leadership. Australian’s gravitate toward greater rights for fathers, but political leadership isn’t having it. Labor seems bent on protecting parents from the wisdom of their own decisions.
In this country and Canada, popular support for greater equality in parenting post-divorce is widespread. Studies by Sanford Braver at Arizona State University showed respondents much more willing to grant equal or near-equal custody than judges in fact order. In Canada, survey after survey shows support for shared parenting in the mid-to-high 70% range.
But in no country is equal parenting the law. People like the idea, but politicians don’t. And in Australia at least, they rely on some pretty strange ideas to justify their opposition. Most remarkably, the Labor government, in lock step with the anti-dad crowd, believes that existing laws on domestic violence and child abuse are in some way not harsh enough.
The simple fact is that the 2006 amendment clearly restricts the parental rights of anyone found to have committed domestic violence or child abuse. Does any sane person believe for an instant that it wouldn’t? Can anyone possibly pretend that any Australian government would give violent or abusive parents a pass? The idea is absurd, but it is that very idea that’s currently animating Australian politics in the area of family law.
Now, faced with the cold hard facts of the AIFS findings, Labor is now claiming that it’s supported shared parenting all along. Attorney General Robert McClelland, long one of the most vocal advocates of rolling back the meager rights gained for fathers by the 2006 amendments now pretends he’s all for greater access to children by dads.
In his defence, Robert McClelland stated that the Bill has tried to focus on the safety of children as a priority, but he failed to explain how that would be achieved by forcing children into sole-custody households, even when their fathers’ had never and were never likely to engage in abusive behaviour.
The Attorney General was also asked to explain how children would be better off with these amendments that undo Shared Parenting and force children into sole custody households, when up to 80% of all familial child abuse occurs in sole mother households.
We have still to get an answer from him on that one.
That of course is the heart of the matter. A mountain of science shows that children do better when they have continued parenting by both parents post-divorce. It also shows that children prefer shared parenting, not wanting to lose one parent when the two split up. So those opposed to fathers having access to their children have a tough case to make when, ostensibly in the name of protecting children, they support laws that all but guarantee their physical and emotional injury.
But those are facts and, as we see time and again, the anti-dad crowd isn’t interested in those. Whatever the outcome of the current proposed amendment, the fight for children’s rights to a father is far from over. But will the current surge in shared parenting courtesy of the 2006 amendment turn out to be just an idiosyncratic blip in the data on custody, or will it simply be part of a salutary trend?
The politicians will decide.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 at 1:11 pm and is filed under Family Law/Divorce/Separation/Child Custody, Shared Parenting. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.
The Dale Farm Eviction: How Racism Against Gypsies and Travellers Grips Modern-Day Britain – OpEd
Written by: Andy WorthingtonSeptember 30, 2011
As the Gypsy and Traveller community at Dale Farm in Essex continues its long struggle against eviction with another High Court hearing today, seeking a judicial review on a number of grounds, including the absolutely crucial basis that it is “disproportionate” to remove a family from their home when no suitable alternative accommodation exists, a YouGov poll reveals that two-thirds of those asked believe that it is appropriate for Basildon Council to spend £18 million on evicting around 400 people (86 families, including many children) from land they own, but on which they were not given permission to build permanent residences by the council.
Many of those who support the eviction claim to believe that spending £18 million that surely could be spent more usefully elsewhere in the Basildon area is appropriate, because the site the Dale Farm residents own in on green belt land (albeit on the site of a former scrap yard) and it is a necessary principle.
There is some truth in this, to the extent that British people across the political spectrum are obsessed with protecting green belt land from anyone developing it — and not just Gypsies and Travellers — but I find it impossible not to detect the stench of hypocrisy emanating from those taking time out of their otherwise busy lives to obsess about the Dale Farm residents, as I cannot conceive of this happening if the men, women and children to be evicted — at £45,000 a head – were not Travellers and Gypsies.
Racism towards Gypsies is something that settled communities like to pretend doesn’t exist, but it remains virulent and disgraceful, and is clearly at the heart of the conflict over Dale Farm.
The state’s war against Gypsies and Travellers: The 1980s
Disliking one’s neighbours ought not to be sufficient to establish policies in council offices and in central government, but around the country it is and has been for decades — and historically, of course, there is a much longer record of conflict between settled and nomadic people.
Relentlessly persecuted by settled communities, Gypsies in the UK supposedly gained support and protection in 1968, with the passage of the Caravan Sites Act, which required local authorities to provide sites for Gypsies — defined as “persons of nomadic habit of life, whatever their race or origin” — and which empowered the Secretary of State for the Environment to force them to do so.
Despite the lofty aims, however, providing support for Gypsies and Travellers is never politically popular, because of racism — more generally recognised as NIMBYism, from the phrase “Not in My Back Yard” — and in 1986, there was bleak news when the Thatcher government came to review the legislation.
The context for the 1986 changes, as I explained in my books Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield, both of which deal with the state’s antipathy towards nomadic people in the UK, was the rise of the New Age Traveller movement which Margaret Thatcher had declared war on in 1985.
To deal with the New Age Travellers, Thatcher first — in February 1985 — evicted a community of 150 travellers and protestors from RAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire, where they were protesting at its planned use as the second cruise missile base in the UK after Greenham Common (where, of course, there was a celebrated and long-established women’s peace camp), in what was the largest ever peacetime mobilisation of troops and police (1,500 Royal Engineers, 600 MoD police and a thousand regular police).
Thatcher’s forces then hounded the travellers across the country until, on June 1, 1985, 1,300 police from six counties and the MoD rounded up and destroyed a convoy of 420 travellers en route to Stonehenge, in an attempt to establish what would have been the 12th Stonehenge Free Festival.
When legislation was passed in the wake of the Beanfield, the victors attempted to secure the advantage they had gained through violence in a legislative manner. As I explained in Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion, Clause 39 of the Public Order Act of 1986 “edged closer to the criminalisation of trespass.” Applied to scheduled monuments (i.e. Stonehenge), “land forming part of a highway,” and agricultural buildings (and, by extension, the land around them), the clause “enabled the police to arrest two or more people for trespass, provided that ‘reasonable steps have been taken by or on behalf of the occupier to ask them to leave.’ In addition, the previous requirement for arrest under these circumstances — damage to property — was amended to include the use of ‘threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour’ and/or the presence of twelve or more vehicles.’”
When the Act was passed, the National Council for Civil Liberties (now Liberty) noted that, in January 1986, “less than 40 percent of ‘official’ Gypsies had been housed, that the Secretary of State had failed to enforce a single omission and that the ‘new’ travellers were not cared for, despite fulfilling the criteria outlined in the 1968 Act.” the NCCL “proposed immediate action to quell the traditional conflict between travelling people and settled people and to bring to an end the situation whereby ‘both central and local government sat back and waited for the police to use their public order powers to deal with the inevitable conflict.’”
The government, however, ignored the NCCL, and when the Public Order Act became law, not only were some of the worst fears of both the travellers and the NCCL confirmed, but more “traditional” Gypsies also suffered. As I explained, “despite assurances that traditional Gypsies, the long-suffering victims of the state’s aversion to a nomadic way of life, would not be targeted, a group of Gypsies in Somerset were evicted as soon as the Act became law.”
The state’s war against Gypsies and Travellers: The 1990s
With the 1986 Act, the government had stepped up its assault on nomadic people, and a further opportunity to attack Gypsies and Travellers came in 1992, after an unexpected new youth movement — acid house — had erupted in 1987 and 1988, leading to huge raves across the country and, eventually, a cross-over with travellers that led to a gigantic free party — of at least 50,000 people — on Castlemorton Common in Gloucestershire in May 1992. In response, the Criminal Justice Act of 1994, notorious for its attempt to criminalise music consisting of “a succession of repetitive beats,” largely completed what Thatcher had set out to achieve in 1985 and 1986.
As I explained in The Battle of the Beanfield, the 1994 Act, as well as attempting to criminalise dance music, reduced the number of vehicles that could come together in one place from twelve to six before their occupants could be arrested, and criminalised any unauthorised gatherings of 20 people or more to which the state took exception. Identified as “trespassory assemblies,” they could be broken up by the police if they feared “serious disruption to the life of the community,” even if the meeting was non-obstructive and non-violent. The Act also created the crime of “aggravated trespass,” which, as I explained, “fulfilled the right-wing dream of transforming trespass from a civil to a criminal concern.”
As I also explained, the creation of “trespassory assemblies” and “aggravated trespass” had “disturbing ramifications for almost al kinds of protests and alternative gatherings, and clearly had its origins in the problems encountered by the authorities both before and during the Beanfield, when there remained a quaint assumption in British law of a right of assembly without prior state permission.” In legal action taken by travellers after the Battle of the Beanfield, the state had been humiliated in its attempts to make an ancient charge of “unlawful assembly” stick, so the new legislation finally sealed that loophole.
However, although all of the above was bad news for those on the road, and for anyone perceived to be dissenting in any way against an authoritarian government, the Act’s impact on Gypsies and Travellers seeking the right to live on an officially sanctioned site was also a disaster, as it “repealed the 1968 Caravan Sites Act, removing the obligation on local authorities to provide sites for Gypsies,” as I explained in The Battle of the Beanfield, and “finally criminalised the entire way of life of Gypsies and travellers, with baleful effects that are still being felt to this day.”
New Labour’s failures revealed, and the coalition’s refusal to address the problems
I wrote that back in 2005, but the situation it described has existed for the last 17 years, and the Labour government did little to improve the living conditions of the nomadic communities in the UK (estimated to be between 120,000 and 300,000 people in total).
In 2003, in a report for the Deputy Prime Minister, Pat Niner of the Centre for Urban and Regional Studies at the University of Birmingham established that there was “an accommodation crisis” within the Gypsy and Traveller community. The report “estimated that between 3,000 and 4,500 pitches were required to provide secure accommodation for Gypsies and Travellers.” As Pat Niner explained, “We estimate that between 1,000 and 2,000 additional residential pitches will be needed over the next five years. Between 2,000 and 2,500 additional pitches on transit sites or stopping places will also be needed to accommodate nomadism. The latter need to form a national network.”
As was revealed in the Guardian yesterday, the Labour government’s belated response was The Gypsy and Traveller Sites Grant, launched in 2008, which claimed to have £97m available to “reduce the number of unauthorised sites” and “reduce the need for costly enforcement action.” However, in “a move described as shocking by the Equality and Human Rights Commission,” it was revealed that only £16.9m has been spent, and that “millions of pounds intended for new Gypsy and Traveller sites have been diverted to other projects,” because a “lack of ring-fencing” allowed millions of pounds to be “channelled into affordable homes not intended for Gypsies.”
The government’s Homes and Communities Agency attempted to brush the scandal aside, although their sums didn’t even add up. They told the Guardian that “£15m from the grant was allotted to ‘unfunded commitments in other programmes’ within the National Affordable Homes Programme.”
In light of the revelations, Simon Woolley, a commissioner with responsibility for Travellers, at the EHRC, told the Guardian, “Given that the lack of Traveller sites is central to the Dale Farm problem, it is shocking that millions have been taken away that should have been used for site provision and other projects.” In addition, Lord Avebury, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gypsy, Roma and Travellers, summed up the government’s contributions; to travellers in recent years as “pretty measly”.
Lord Avebury added, “The government’s policy on Gypsies and Travellers is a shambles – if you are going to put a four-year programme in place then local authorities have to be aware of it and ready to use it. It is indicative of the total lack of willingness of successive governments to address the needs of Gypsies and Travellers.”
As the Guardian explained, “The grant programme, which had a stated aim of creating new, permanent, sites, to ‘tackle the inequalities experienced by Travellers … one of the most disadvantaged [groups] in the country,’ has led to building of just four new sites, with a total of 37 pitches; 62 new pitches were created on existing sites and 178 pitches were refurbished.”
Andrew Slaughter MP, who is a member of the APPG for Gypsy, Roma and Travellers, described a “lack of political will” as being “responsible for the failure to provide” the 3,000 sites required, according to the government’s annual caravan count,” which also echoes the findings of the report for John Prescott in 2003.
Touching on the heart of the racist problem that no one want to acknowledge officially, Andrew Slaughter told the Guardian, “Local authorities are unwilling to take the grant often because of pressure from electors who say they do not want a site near them even it will solve local problems and cost nothing.”
He also explained that the situation facing Gypsies and Travellers “will be worsened by the localism bill, which scraps the requirement for local authorities to use a common method for assessing the needs of Gypsies and Travellers,” and which also maintains the lack of an obligation on councils to allocate sites to Gypsies and Travellers.
The Guardian noted that, under the cover of its purportedly essential austerity cuts (which, in fact, mask a purely ideological assault on public spending), the coalition government had initially “scrapped the Gypsy and Traveller sites grant in 2010-11,” but had “reinstated a sum of £60m for 2011-15,” which is only “about half of the yearly total previously available.” Well primed, the Department for Communities and Local Government told the Guardian that the savage budget cut was part of its “contribution to reducing the national deficit”, and added that “targets had been abolished” because, according to the coalition, “they did not work, alienated communities and did not always accurately reflect the need on the ground.”
The Department also tried to claim that councils are being given “more powers to address local housing and planning issues with ‘incentives’ to provide appropriate sites,” including “the new homes bonus, whereby the government matches additional council tax raised by new homes,” but as Andrew Slaughter pointed out, shooting down another “big society” myth, that bonus is “a perverse incentive,” because councils can “draw significantly more council tax from luxury developments than Traveller sites.”
He added that the situation “was likely to create more Dale Farms,” explaining, “The government has given in to pressure from backbenchers to give local authorities a device to veto construction of new sites. That will mean few if any new sites built even if money’s available, more expensive evictions, more conflict and the continuation of appalling life-indicators for Gypsies and Travellers.”
A no-win situation for Gypsies and Travellers
At the end of this tour through the racism of Little England, no answer is provided to address the no-win situation position in which Gypsies and Travellers have found themselves. Deprived of a statutory requirement to be provided with sites, nomadic people have also found it harder to live on the road than ever before, as settled people’s intolerance of them has grown.
And yet, when travellers respond by buying land, as happened at Dale Farm, they are then prohibited from building on that land. As Jake Bowers, a Romani journalist, explained in an informative booklet, “Gypsies and Travellers: Their lifestyle, history and culture” (PDF), Gypsy families that attempt to live on their own land are often denied planning permission … The government’s own studies state that over 80% of planning applications from settled people are granted consent, while more than 90% of applications from Gypsies are refused.”
The bottom line is that, if land had been provided for the Dale Farm residents, there would have been no need for them to buy the land in the first place from which, on a point of principle, Basildon Council is seeking to remove them at a cost of £18 million. If that was my council, I’d be up in arms about the waste of money and the hypocrisy towards Gypsies and Travellers, but in modern Britain, where racism and xenophobia have been permanently stoked over the last two decades, only a third of British people seem able to look beyond their disgraceful prejudices to see that the residents of Dale Farm were, essentially, driven into a trap by a society that, fundamentally, doesn’t want to make any provision for Gypsies and Travellers, and wants them to give up their way of life.
When they refuse, as the erosion of their rights over the last 25 years reveals, settled society has no answer as to what it expects them to do. Fundamentally, if Gypsies and Travellers won’t give up their way of life, settled people want them to disappear. It is the triumph of NIMBYism — a deeply unpleasant manifestation of collective intolerance — and it fails to create a solution to a long-standing problem that settled people and their elected representatives have contributed to over many years.About the author:
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to his RSS feed (he can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see his definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in January 2010, and, if you appreciate his work, feel free to make a donation.
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John Baron MP -Contested Basildon 1997 general election. Member for Billericay 2001-10, for Basildon and Billericay since 6 May 2010 general election - Dale Farm Travellers
Basildon and Billericay
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AAConstituency
Tel: 020 7219 8138
Fax: 020 7219 1743
13 Bentalls Business Park, Basildon, SS14 3BN
Tel: 01268 520765
Fax: 01268 524009
Contested Basildon 1997 general election. Member for Billericay 2001-10, for Basildon and Billericay since 6 May 2010 general election
Shadow Minister for: Health 2002-03 (resigned over Iraq War), Health 2003-07; Opposition Whip 2007-10
Member: Education and Skills 2001-02, Foreign Affairs 2010-
Foreign affairs, economy, civil liberties, defence, cancer
General Election 2010 - Basildon and Billericay
Name Party Votes % Baron, John Con 21922 52.6% Davies, Allan Lab 9584 23% Hibbs, Mike Lib Dem 6538 15.69% Bateman, Irene BNP 1934 4.64% Broad, Alan UKIP 1591 3.82% Majority 12398 29% Turnout 41683 63% Electorate 65515 Result Con Hold (9% from Lab to Con)
THE ABC OF OPINION MANAGEMENT: PART 4
Parts 1 and 2 of this investigative series explored key political drivers, and the framework for the opinion management process as a whole. These were illustrated and evidenced with clear unambiguous supportive examples. Part 3 revealed the mindset of the ABC Board, with apparent desire to preserve the relationship with Indonesia at the expense of Schapelle Corby's welfare.
In Part 4 we will begin to investigate events at a more operational level. For our first foray into our database we will focus on what appears to pass for acceptable journalistic practice and behaviour within the ABC.
1. ABUSIVE AND AGGRESSIVE INTERVIEWING
Ethical journalists are well aware of the requirement for respect, objectivity and fairness when interviewing members of the public. Indeed, the AJA Code of Ethics covers this through a number of its clauses, amongst them "Use fair, responsible and honest means to obtain material", "Never exploit a person’s vulnerability or ignorance of media practice" and "Respect private grief and personal privacy".
But consider how the ABC interview members of the public. Consider for example how they interviewed Mercedes Corby, in the context of her struggling to support her sister Schapelle during her terrible ordeal. We recently discovered a recording of one such interview. Here are some extracts:
Play Or Download The MP3
(To Download Right Click, 'Save As')[Note: These are short extracts. Much of the interview
is extremely unpleasant and not suitable for a public website]
Mercedes Corby in fact did very well indeed, given the sort of journalist she was confronted with. The bigger issue though is what this open hostility clearly indicates regarding the ABC's position with respect to Schapelle Corby.
Consider those words and listen to the tone in his voice.
Is that the voice of someone adopting a neutral, objective, and truth seeking journalistic perspective? Or is it the voice of someone who has a clearly entrenched hostile position, annoyed that a young woman is standing up for herself and her family?
Is it the voice of true objectivity, or the voice of subjective bias?
Is it the voice of someone you would trust to report neutrally and fairly on this issue?
Indeed. I think the same thing too.
2. UNETHICAL RESEARCH & INVESTIGATION
If you were pursuing the father of Schapelle Corby instead of investigating the real case issues, how would you research him? Perhaps you would use the internet to search for background information.
Or perhaps, because Mr Corby served in the Navy, you would post a question on a naval message board, stating clearly that you were really working on an historical naval piece, and not on Schapelle Corby at all.
No, you wouldn't really do that. And neither would I.
But I'm afraid it appears that the ABC would:
Words escape me.
3. THE DELIVERY OF A SMEAR
So, after months of investigation, and after apparently using every dirty and unethical trick in the book, what did the ABC actually discover? They discovered that Mr Corby once smoked a joint at a party. No, seriously, that is what they established: Schapelle's father once smoked a joint at a party.
But what they actually reported wasn't this at all. What they reported was absolutely appalling. The fruits of their labour were embellished to make a series of false but hugely damaging allegations, and state them as fact.
Subsequently, they were forced to apologise:
For the ABC, that ridiculously lame apology, and a note tucked away on their website, the matter was closed. For Schapelle Corby and her hopes that Australian support would bring her home, it was devastating.
A MEMO TO MR STEWART
Allow me to help you with your story Mr Stewart. This is how an investigative journalist would handle it. He would actually ask the police, officially. Here is what the police had to say, for example, when they were asked if you had contacted them: "I can advise that QPS has not spoken with any journalist from 7:30 Report".
Here is what they have had to say on some similar fiction to your own: "We have found no links, nothing at all...". For the record, they even used the word "laughable" in that particular interview.
But more still: they are clearly sick of people creating smoke to give the public the impression of fire. They have even issued a certificate to make it plain:
That took me five minutes to find. Why didn't you find it, Mr Stewart? Or did you?
THE ABC'S ETHOS
The disturbing methods detailed in this article are apparently endorsed by the ABC, at least with respect to Schapelle Corby related stories. They make every honest and ethical journalist shudder, but the ABC would appear to be perfectly happy with them.
In fact only recently they told us that John Stewart was "a good, honest and ethical journalist". Apparently, he had only "made errors in the way he described certain things".
Ah, got it. That's ok then. Thanks for clearing it up for us!
Michael Corby lost his battle with cancer in March 2008, and Schapelle Corby continues to suffer in her Indonesian prison cell. Much of the Australian public have accepted what the ABC told them as truth, and have had their opinions shaped accordingly.
THE ABC OF OPINION MANAGEMENT: PART 3
THE ABC BOARD: THE POLITICAL DIMENSION
I have received a number of emails recently suggesting that I should investigate the ABC Board. I fully intend to look at this area in due course, but in the meantime I had a quick scratch of the surface.
Readers will recall that part 2 of our investigation cited the astonishing ABC MediaWatch broadcast of 30th May 2005. This was a ferocious and sustained attack on other media organs, whilst defending the Indonesian regime which had so seriously breached Ms Corby's human rights. It appeared to be a very clear and open message to the Australian media regarding the requisite nature of future Schapelle Corby reporting.
Straight out of the blocks was a journalist called Janet Albrechtsen, who two days later, produced a shocking piece in The Australian newspaper laced with open hostility to Schapelle Corby, and defending the Indonesian regime, astonishingly referring to "defensible positions taken by democratic governments to deal with perceived problems". Accusing many Australians of "overdosing on compassion", her position could not have been more stark.
The Australian newspaper is a News Corporation publication. With their significant investments and presence in Indonesia, this is perhaps the sort of disturbing story which might be expected to align with News Corp's general editorial stance on this issue.
But wait, Janet Albrechtsen?
Yes, the same Janet Albrechtsen who had been appointed to the governing board of the ABC by Prime Minister John Howard shortly before Schapelle Corby's imprisonment.
You might wish to read that last sentence again. You did read it correctly.
STRATEGIC RELATIONSHIPS TRUMP HUMAN RIGHTS
Amongst the general vitriol, Ms Albrechtsen did produce one noteworthy remark: "it may damage Australia's relationship with Indonesia". That relationship was indeed under severe threat.
This insight into the ABC's thinking, at Board level, is extremely interesting. As referenced in part 1 of our investigation the Australian government values that relationship higher than Schapelle Corby's human rights, with the apparent ABC led media campaign in support of this policy emerging simultaneously.
Ms Albrechtsen's comment demonstrates clear knowledge of the political dimension in play. Having been appointed by the government, this is perhaps not surprising. But dropping a direct reference like that amongst the general hostility to Schapelle Corby certainly is surprising, as it illustrates openly what was going through her mind at the very point in time at which the hostile media campaign actually began to unfold in earnest.
[Note that Janet Albrechtsen is still a member of the ABC Board.]
CLICK HERE FOR PART 4
Thursday, March 26, 2009
THE ABC OF OPINION MANAGEMENT: PART 2
For a more profound understanding of media influence upon public opinion, it is beneficial to examine the generic models and methods employed across the world, both current and past. This area of research identifies a range of scenarios, with scale varying from selective and superficial influence, to unrelenting social psychological propaganda.
Within this, the role of the official state-owned media organ is often pivotal, both in terms of shaping opinion, and indeed orchestrating the process itself. Whilst this is particularly evident with respect to totalitarian regimes (such as those in North Korea, Iran and even the old Soviet Union) it is important to understand that it is in fact inherent to most nations, to some extent. Equally, whilst the degree and scope may vary considerably, examination of the actual processes used identifies remarkable similarities of approach.
The processes themselves embrace a far wider and more complex model than just crude manipulation of news delivery. They include direct intrusion into cultural output, as well as often less than subtle guidance of commercial media outlets.
This broad model is widely recognized, widely used, and extremely successful in framing and directing public opinion. It is actively used in varying degrees across the world, albeit generally with respect to a limited range of focus.
In Part 1 of this investigation we discussed the ABC's remarkable alignment with apparent government position following the astonishing government backed statements made by AFP Commissioner Keelty, which sent such damaging signals (for Schapelle Corby) to the Indonesian regime in May 2005. We also provided a recent example of the apparent repression of news which is supportive of Schapelle Corby, to illustrate that these issues remain current to this day.
In this part of our investigation we will begin to explore a wider canopy of ABC influence, and by virtue of specific examples, consider how closely it fits the three part model described above.
PART 1: MANAGEMENT OF THE MEDIA
Within regimes such as those referenced above, management of other media outlets tends to be a particularly important aspect of the overall role of the state media organ. Direct behind the scenes communication by government is sometimes backed up by the broadcast and publication of material critical of them, which is intended to keep them in line, and perhaps warn them that the state disapproves of their output, or simply indicate that they are out of sync with perceived national interests.
In Australia, the ABC broadcasts Media Watch. This "investigates" and comments on the material and broadcasts of all media channels and publications. Naturally, it is extremely influential within the media sector itself, and attracts a very media centric audience.
In May 2005 the Australian public witnessed a number of abuses of Schapelle Corby's legal and human rights directly on television. Public opinion was overwhelmingly supportive of her and even public disorder was a possibility.
Much of the media reflected this situation, reporting the actual events. Their output was also aligned with public opinion.
This sympathetic and supportive public opinion was widespread, and was putting the Australian government's strategic relationship with Indonesia at risk of considerable, and possible long term, damage. It was potentially creating political instability between the two nations. This is frequently cited as the reason for the astonishing government backed statements we have referenced, which significantly harmed Schapelle Corby's prospects.
On 30th May 2005 (within days of Keelty's statement), the ABC launched a series of extraordinary attacks upon Channel 9 in particular, via Media Watch. In fact, almost the entire show was dedicated to this. Its ferocity and sustained nature was astonishing:
Radio wasn't immune from the onslaught either. Media Watch vehemently attacked Radio 2GB for simply pointing out that "the judges she addressed yesterday don't speak English and won't get a translation of her comments until today. What's that say about justice".
- It accused the other media of 'feeding xenophobia' against Indonesia: "The media who fed this undercurrent of xenophobia should hang their heads in shame"
- It accused Channel 9 of having been 'bought', using the painfully obvious old trick of quoting anonymous "insiders": "ACA and 60 Minutes have deliberately steered away from any anti Corby stories They don't want to do anything that will blow their access ...it's embarrassing"
- It defended the Indonesian regime which breached Ms Corby's human rights: "Even Ch 9's prestigious 'Sunday' programme followed the station line, and included this swipe at the Indonesian legal system"
- In an article headed "Responsible or Responsive" it also bizarrely tried to accuse journalists of not being hostile to Schapelle Corby because public opinion supported her, whilst at the same time accusing the media of shaping that public opinion! The irony of this contradictory line is also not lost on us.
The open message to the rest of the Australian media from the ABC, regarding requisite Schapelle Corby reporting, would therefore appear to be rather clear.
PART 2: CULTURAL OUTPUT INTRUSION
The use of non-news broadcasts to condition and influence a population is an established channel within the overall framework of opinion management. It can be extremely effective, particularly over the medium and longer terms.
This channel is often used to create a common 'understanding' of values, and generic or subliminal acceptance of key messages, which for various reasons, including sensitivity, cannot be stated openly via direct news or documentary output.
It is a hugely complex field, often embracing great subtlety, but it is also widely recognized, and indeed documented, by students of propaganda and related media studies.
An example of a discipline within this channel is the use of humour or comedy. This lends itself particularly well to certain aspects, such as expanding the parameters and boundaries of political correctness or acceptability, and the insidious undermining of targeted individuals often via insinuation.
It is a matter of record that the ABC's non-news broadcasts were awash with less than helpful references to Schapelle Corby and her family at various stages of the tragic story. This is particularly the case with respect to "comedy".
This is, in fact, evident even to this very day. Take the following, for example, extracted just five minutes ago from the ABC website:
This is far from subtle, but let's analyze it regardless.
Bush and Howard are clearly individuals for whom it is "politically correct" to target humour of the most cutting and perhaps edgy type. They were national leaders, politically hardened, and the subject of countless barbs and jokes worldwide. They effectively signed on for this, with eyes open, when they entered politics.
But Schapelle Corby? A young woman, subjected to a series of legal and human rights abuses, and struggling daily just to survive in barely imaginable conditions?
Why would the ABC place her image there, other than to signal that it is somehow politically correct and socially acceptable to malign her and her family with the same brand of humour as Bush and Howard? Some might even suggest that Bush and Howard are largely discredited (and even depicted as "bad guys") with similar connotations for Schapelle Corby by association.
It is extremely hard to find any sort of justification or rationale for this crude example of image placement which does not involve the play of negative influence on the public at large.
But it is actually the tip of a very large and disturbing iceberg.
PART 3: NEWS MANAGEMENT
The news and documentary channels of state media organs are of course prime vehicles for propaganda and opinion management by regimes throughout the world. The output can range from simple political spin, to sophisticated censorship and message delivery manipulation.
With respect to those individual citizens targeted by states in order to support an underlying political imperative, additional possibilities emerge, which embrace insidious and direct character assassination, false allegation, and relative news positioning.
The ABC's news related output with respect to Schapelle Corby is a matter of record. They have pitched a variety of high profile broadcasts against Schapelle Corby's interests, and those of her family, engaging in some of the most damaging of the false allegations and smears. This has been presented on a systematic basis, over a period of years.
To illustrate that this campaign is still current, in the first part of this series we cited a recent example of apparent censorship. But their long term coverage and non-coverage of Schapelle Corby news is actually littered with serious issues and hugely damaging innuendo. Certain employees of the ABC seem to have excelled in this type of grossly unethical activity.
A simple illustrative example of such an ABC smear? Perhaps that of August 2008, when ABC produced a headline report "Corby's dad linked to drug trade", courtesy of its Lateline broadcast. It presented smear after smear, via scurrilous statements such as "Together, the father Michael Corby senior and his daughter Schapelle Corby represent 30 years in the marijuana business" and "his long drug career, Michael Corby senior avoided going to jail".
Clearly, the significant damage which this caused was not just at point and time of the broadcast itself, but was ongoing, as the seeds had been sown. The subsequent tiny apology on their website ("Lateline apologises for a story aired last month with evidence suggesting that Schapelle Corby's father, the Late Michael Corby Senior was involved in the drug trade.") and a 20 second snippet on air doesn't even begin to repair the harm inflicted to Schapelle Corby's welfare, which this and countless others across the media spectrum have contributed to.
I am sure that all ethical journalists will be appalled by this, especially bearing in mind the high profile nature of the original broadcast, and the fact that the ABC will surely have been well aware of the damaging nature of such smears for the very real prospects of Ms Corby. Unsubstantiated innuendo of a similar nature had been made many times previously, and even, incredibly, whilst Schapelle Corby was in legal process with respect to her appeal.
Again, these are matters we will cover in greater depth in future articles, but in truth they are readily available for readers to research for themselves.
AND THE THREE PART MODEL?
Our own opinion on the degree of alignment and correlation of all this with the three part opinion management model cited at the start of this article is not material: the information produced above largely speaks for itself.
However, the underlying issues discussed should concern everyone: not only ethical journalists. As grave and unacceptable as they are with respect to Schapelle Corby, the implications are actually even wider. If the ABC is as intrinsic to the state apparatus as the above data suggests, then what other issues are they influencing?
CLICK HERE FOR PART 3
Monday, March 9, 2009
THE ABC OF OPINION MANAGEMENT: PART 1
In an ordered world, one might imagine that a state owned broadcasting corporation may uphold a higher level of reporting ethos and journalism with respect to the Schapelle Corby case than some of the other media organizations. Equally, its position within the structural fabric of Australian society might lead one to believe that the corporation would be sensitive to the need to ensure balance and transparency with respect to stories with complex political and social implications.
However, not only is this demonstrably not the case, but due to its consistent and long term adherence to an extremely controversial government position, it is also at risk of being perceived as an organ of state by increasing numbers. This apparent lack of independence clearly has some potential to embarrass both the ABC and the Australian government internationally. It could also fuel increasing distrust from the general public if and when the detailed pattern of events becomes more widely known.
The main chapters of this part of the story began to unfold when AFP Commissioner Keelty, backed up by the 'Minister for Justice and Customs' Ellison, made a number of public utterances which can only have been damaging to the welfare of Schapelle Corby, and simultaneously music to the ears of an Indonesian regime and judicial system which will no doubt have been delighted to interpret them as a "do as you want with her" signal. Signal is a word of choice here, because indications of position do not require formal, contractual or explicit words. Certainly the President of Law Council of Australia received the signal clearly enough, stating that "It is potentially damaging to the Corby defence, as it will no doubt be transmitted to Bali". Schapelle Corby's lawyer also received it, calling it "an absolute disgrace". The same signal will have been received all too clearly by the Indonesians.
The question of why those parties were actually making such startling and hugely damaging comments regarding Schapelle Corby, one of their own citizens, is outside the scope of this project. The most commonly suggested reason however is that the government was desperate to protect its strategic relationship with Indonesia, and the Corby case was causing significant issues stemming from public opinion. In terms of international politics there is no doubt at all that the relationship with Indonesia was, and is, far more important to them than Schapelle Corby's interests or human rights.
Of course, words expressed through government, or state agencies, also send signals to those within its own national borders. In this case, signals are received by both the population and the media, and in the case of the latter, by everyone from journalists and editors, to proprietors. Note also that with respect to the ABC and the media, a number of private channels of communication are also available.
The script which followed this crude intervention is visible to all. The very existence of this investigative project is a direct result of what occurred in the subsequent months and years. The ABC was as enthusiastically loyal to the message apparently supplied by government as any other mainstream player. Indeed, the ABC was actually responsible for some of the most damaging of the false allegations and proven smears.
EXPOSING THE SCRIPT
Against this political landscape some of the ABC's and Australia's most popular news and documentary productions were pitching high profile broadcasts against Schapelle Corby's interests, and those of her family. The broadcasts were clearly having a major impact upon public perception of the case.
A range of specific examples of these false allegations, proven smears, and patent censorship of positive or supportive Schapelle Corby news will be exposed by our forthcoming series of articles on the ABC, as will details of our research into the activities of particular journalists and employees. Note that similar JournOz initiatives are also underway with respect to the other Australian mainstream media organs involved.
ABC CENSORSHIP: EXAMPLE CASE 1
Because it is topical and timely, our first port of call has to be censorship and the most recent example of this to unfold: the global protest in support of Schapelle Corby.
This was in fact an historical event, from a number of perspectives:
1. It was the first ever global protest in support of an Australian in the entire history of the nation
2. The accompanying video had been described as "ground breaking" and "landmark" by European critics
3. It was the first "cyber-driven" protest to end at the United Nations in the history of the world, as far as we have been able to establish
4. And yes, it was actually delivered to the United Nations in New York by indie-pop singer Tara Hack.
Now, even a schoolboy journalist can see the possibilities here for all sorts of compelling stories. There are simply so many winning cards in play from a journalist's point of view: an historical event both in national and international terms, innovative arts and music, politics, internet/technology, people friendly images and photographs, a household name (Schapelle Corby), a well known location, a singer... it just keeps getting better and better.
The story practically writes itself in a multitude of ways, and would clearly stimulate public interest.
Yet the ABC didn't cover it at all, and nor did any other mainstream organ.
Before we look further at the ABC though, we should view the video which was produced prior to the emergence of the United Nations development:
That was made before the UN news broke. When that news actually broke, therefore, JournOz decided to perform an experiment courtesy of the ABC itself. I had received an email from a leading Schapelle Corby advocate stating that there was about to be a significant development and that it would be censored by the media. I therefore decided to intervene myself, and test the ABC directly and specifically.
The PR for the protest, and the story, were sent to every contact I could find within ABC News, including use of forms provided specifically to notify the corporation of scoops and news tips. They were notified within a couple of hours of the UN press release being posted. They had the news when it was red hot, and they were sent it again on subsequent days. To make it even easier for them, they were even sent photographs and video footage of Tara Hack actually at the UN.
Let's put this into wider context too. Clearly the above is a significant newsworthy story even by instinct. But also take a look at the ABC's major news reports and broadcasts, and as a journalist compare this story with each of those which are actually presented on air or online. It becomes rather obvious very quickly: relatively speaking the Schapelle Corby UN Protest story is far more newsworthy than a great deal of their actual content.
But despite having it on a plate, they didn't use it. In fact they didn't even refer to it at all. ABC viewers and website visitors have no idea that any of this ever happened.
Now also cast your mind back to previous Schapelle Corby stories which have been broadcast by the ABC: to the tenuous links to any form of real news, to the allegations made in them, and even to the ABC having to apologize on air for presenting baseless allegations as fact! But here we have an actual and real story of substance, and it is buried: it is not even referenced as a footnote. Not by ABC and not by any of the other mainstream news organizations.
I find it increasingly difficult to disagree with Mr Rumpole, don't you?
CLICK HERE FOR PART 2
Monday, March 2, 2009
MEDIA INFLUENCE BY ROTE
On our project introduction page we published the six-part opinion management process cited by the 'Burying The Truth, Burying Schapelle Corby' video film:
Within this, the second step of the process is described thus:["Routinely refer to her as "Convicted drug smuggler, Schapelle Corby"... as though the wholly discredited show trial had some sort of credibility.Scholars of media influence and branding techniques will understand that the impact of this upon the human psyche over a period of time cannot be over-emphasized in a case like this one. It suggests validity where there is little, and it consistently associates Schapelle Corby in a wholly negative sense with drug smuggling.
EFFECT: This connotation invokes powerful negative imagery in the public mind, re-enforced consistently by repetition."]
But has this particular step of the overall media process been applied through pro-active choice? Or simply by accident or via poor quality journalism? How widely has the phrase actually been used in mainstream reporting?
RESEARCH & ANALYSIS
When describing Schapelle Corby in a textual context, there are countless terms and phrases that could in fact be employed. For example:
"Imprisoned Australian, Schapelle Corby"
"Wrongly convicted, Schapelle Corby"
"Human rights abuse victim, Schapelle Corby"
"27 year old Schapelle Corby"
Or perhaps plain and simple "Schapelle Corby".
The possibilities are endless, and of course span supportive, damaging and neutral terminology.
For a single publication to select the term "Convicted drug smuggler, Schapelle Corby" from all the options available and then repeat it for years, almost by rote, is more than suspicious. For almost the entire mainstream media of Australia to adopt exactly the same phrase is rather more serious.
I recently undertook some research into this aspect using the JournOz archive database. The results were staggering. However, to present this in public via a trusted third party archive database, albeit a much smaller one, I simply used Google News:
- A search on the phrase "Convicted drug smuggler, Schapelle Corby" reveals 357 published returns (1,680 without the quotes).
A search on "Human rights abuse victim, Schapelle Corby" reveals 0 published returns.
A search on "Imprisoned Australian, Schapelle Corby" reveals 2 published returns.
A search on "Wrongly convicted, Schapelle Corby" reveals 0 published returns.
A search on "27 year old Schapelle Corby" reveals 0 published returns (ditto 28, 29, 30 and 31).The search terms themselves are simply illustrative, but the actual search results clearly demonstrate the point. This is also just one of a number of analytical approaches I adopted, all of which indicated exactly the same pattern.
THE STATISTICAL IMPLICATIONS
A key aspect here is to look at the wide range of Australian media organs using precisely the same starkly accusing phrase: Melbourne Herald Sun, News.com.au, Sydney Morning Herald, ABC Regional Online, The Australian, Radio Australia, The Age, The West Australian, Livenews.com.au, Cairns Post - this list just goes on and on.
Presumably they would all suggest that they all chose to routinely use the exact same phrase ["Convicted drug smuggler, Schapelle Corby"], with its hugely harmful and negative connotations, by a coincidence of monumental proportions.
But the real world doesn't work like that. Statistically, this is no coincidence: it is outside the parameters of mere random chance. And again it surely raises questions regarding the sort of agenda adherence or orchestration suggested by the Global Protest Censorship Case.
It is extremely disturbing.
NEWS: ANOTHER VIDEO
The media video which I have posted above outlines the broad process which has been evident in this case for some years.
That film was produced in the United Kingdom. This week, however, another video has emerged, this time from the United States. This tackles the blatant Sydney Morning Herald smear and many other specific media fuelled myths:
Such is the volume of this type of grossly misleading material, its sustained nature, and its grave implications for a human life, that I rather suspect there will be many more investigative films appearing in the future.
Labels: schapelle corby media project