Posted 1 year ago on Aug. 29, 2012, 6:34 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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Obamacopters Give West Papuans Another Reason to Worry
Wednesday, 29 August 2012 00:00 By Philip Jacobson, Truthout | News Analysis
There has been talk of an arms deal between the United States and Indonesia. Reportedly on the table are eight Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters. These are top-of-the-line attack machines, the best in their class.
The exact status of the deal is unclear, but all indications are that both Boeing and Indonesia have pushed things as far as they can and that the ball on whether to move forward with discussions is somewhere in the US government's court.
For American officials, the presumable cause for concern is the political fallout that could arise from permitting this kind of exchange with Indonesia, as its military is infamous for atrocities committed against the country's own people.
But the Americans must also be weighing the benefits the deal would bring. Not only would Indonesia upgrade its aging arsenal and Boeing make up for business it is losing as the US cuts defense spending, but President Obama would come that much closer to fulfilling his pledge to double exports by 2015.
For the black Melanesian people of West Papua, too, the deal would seem to matter greatly. The region, Indonesia's easternmost, is one of the most militarized places in the world. Since the 1960s, Indonesia has maintained a continuous security presence there, ostensibly to counter a low-level separatist insurgency. It has also carried out a number of full-scale military campaigns, for the same reason. Indonesia is a land of incredible natural diversity, with hundreds of ethnic groups and languages spread across thousands of islands, and since it became independent in 1945, a fracturing of the unitary state has been what the country's nationalist leaders, the vast majority of whom are Javanese, fear most.
Since Indonesia annexed it in 1969, resource-rich West Papua has always been at odds with the central government. The region is unique in that it is the only place in the country subject to a virtual media blackout, with foreign journalists effectively barred from working there. Despite the restrictions, however, reports of human rights abuses by the security forces filter out frequently.
Last winter, the Army and police concluded Operation Annihilate Matoa, a massive joint offensive in the remote central highlands. According to reports by West Papua Media, an independent outlet headquartered in Australia that draws from a network of trained West Papuan journalists, Indonesian troops in search of Free Papua Movement (OPM) commander Jhon Yogi forcibly evacuated more than 130 villages, torched countless homes and killed dozens of civilians.
The operation also involved crude helicopter attacks. Using commercial helicopters borrowed from an Australian gold mining company, troops perched in the sky threw tear gas and grenades, poured fuel onto the hamlets below, and strafed them with machine-gun fire.
Federal Court Finds Texas' Redistricting Plan Violates Voting Rights Act
Wednesday, 29 August 2012 11:26 By Aviva Shen, ThinkProgress | Report
A panel of three federal judges has ruled that Texas’ redistricting plan violates the Voting Rights Act. Texas, because of its history of suppressing minority rights, must have any changes to its election law “pre-cleared” under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. D.C. Circuit Judge and George W. Bush appointee Thomas Griffith wrote the opinion, finding that all 3 redistricting plans dilute minority voting power by carving up minority-heavy congressional districts.
Texas’ normal deep red voting pattern was thrown into flux by the exploding population and rapidly shifting demographics in the state. According to the 2010 Census, Latinos comprised two-thirds of the 4.3 million new Texans, while 11 percent are black. Because of this dramatic population growth, Texas was given four more Congressional seats. But when the Republican-controlled Legislature redrew the congressional map to create the new districts, minority Congress members saw their offices carved out of their districts, while white Congress members retained theirs. Judge Griffith found that “substantial surgery” was done to predominantly black districts to cut them off from their representatives’ offices and their strongest fundraising bases, while the districts of white Congress members were either left untouched or were “redrawn to include particular country clubs and, in one case, the school belonging to the incumbent’s grandchildren.” Furthermore, black and Latino representatives were excluded from the map drawing process. Texas claimed this disparate effect was pure coincidence, but the judges were unconvinced: “We are confident that the mapdrawers can not only draw maps but read them, and the locations of these district offices were not secret.”
The court was also deeply skeptical of the state’s claim that the chief mapdrawer had no idea he used racial data to draw district boundaries:
Texas made [Texas House Republican staffer Gerardo] Interiano’s testimony the cornerstone of its case on purpose in the House Plan. Interiano spent close to a thousand hours…training on the computer program Texas used for redistricting, yet testified that he did not know about the program’s help function, or of its capability to display racial data at the census block level…The implausibility of Interiano’s professed ignorance of these functions suggests that Texas had something to hide in the way it used racial data to draw district lines.
Though Judge Griffith’s opinion will not affect the 2012 race, the court’s finding that the map was drawn with a discriminatory purpose may come into play in the two challenges to the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court. The Texas Republicans’ antics in this case could be used as evidence that the jurisdictions covered by Section 5 do still discriminate racially through election law.
Originally published on ThinkProgress
Robert Reich: How Romney Keeps Lying Through His Big White Teeth
Wednesday, 29 August 2012 10:08 By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog | Op-Ed
"We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers," says Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster.
A half dozen fact-checking organizations and websites have refuted Romney's claims that Obama removed the work requirement from the welfare law and will cut Medicare benefits by $216 billion.
Last Sunday's New York Times even reported on its front page that Romney has been "falsely charging" President Obama with removing the work requirement. Those are strong words from the venerable Times. Yet Romney is still making the false charge. Ads containing it continue to be aired.
Presumably the Romney campaign continues its false claims because they're effective. But this raises a more basic question: How can they remain effective when they've been so overwhelmingly discredited by the media?
The answer is the Republican Party has developed three means of bypassing the mainstream media and its fact-checkers.
The first is by repeating big lies so often in TV spots – financed by a mountain of campaign money – that the public can no longer recall (if it ever knew) that the mainstream media and its fact-checkers have found them to be lies.
The second is by discrediting the mainstream media – asserting it's run by "liberal elites" that can't be trusted to tell the truth. "I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans," Newt Gingrich charged at a Republican debate last January, in what's become a standard GOP attack line.
The third is by using its own misinformation outlets – led by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and his yell-radio imitators, book publisher Regnery, and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, along with a right-wing blogosphere – to spread the lies, or at least spread doubt about what's true.
Together, these three mechanisms are creating a parallel Republican universe of Orwellian dimension – where anything can be asserted, where pollsters and political advisers are free to create whatever concoction of lies will help elect their candidate, and where "fact-checkers" are as irrelevant and intrusive as is the truth. Democracy cannot thrive in such a place. To the contrary, history teaches that this is where demagogues take root.
The Romney campaign has decided it won't be dictated by fact-checkers. But a society without trusted arbiters of what is true and what is false is vulnerable to every lie imaginable.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.