(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BRAZIL 247 NEWS AGENCY)
((OPINION OF OLDPOET56) BRAZIL IS SOON TO BE UNDER THE DICTATORSHIP OF AN ILLEGITIMATE PRESIDENT, JAIR BOLSONARO, MAYBE HIS ‘NICKNAME’ SHOULD BE JAIL, NOT JAIR’ AS IN “JAIL BOLSONARO”, SOUNDS ABOUT RIGHT TO ME.)
CITY COUNCIL OF BARCELONA REPUDIATES SPEECH OF BOLSONARO AND DEFENDS LULA’S RELEASE
On November 14, the City of Barcelona released an institutional statement condemning the hate speech and violence of Jair Bolsonaro, president-elect in Brazil; the note repudiates the machista, racist and authoritarian attitudes of Bolsonaro and demands the protection and the strict compliance of the rights foreseen in the Constitution of 1988; in addition, it defends the sending of an international observer mission to evaluate the independence of the Brazilian Judiciary and the release of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
South 21 –On 14 November, the City of Barcelona published an institutional statement condemning the hate speech and violence of Jair Bolsonaro, president-elect in Brazil. The note repudiates the macho, racist and authoritarian attitudes of Bolsonaro and demands the protection and strict compliance of the rights provided for in the 1988 Constitution. In addition, it expresses the support of the city of Barcelona to all the citizens of Brazil who are mobilized against this discourse of hatred. The authorities of the city of Barcelona also expressed “deep concern about the appointment of Judge Sérgio Moro as Minister of Justice, defends the sending of an international observer mission to assess the independence of the Brazilian judiciary and the release of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva , according to habeas corpus granted by Judge Rogério Favretto, of the Federal Regional Court of 4a. Region, of Porto Alegre.
The declaration, approved by the Plenary (maximum authority of the Municipality), also repudiates the ideas of the Movement Without Party, the criminalization of social movements and demands the protection of the rights of the native and quilombola peoples. In a video, the deputy mayor of Barcelona, Gerardo Pisarello, expresses concern about Bolsonaro’s triumph in Brazil, as well as Trump’s triumph in the United States and the rise of the far right across Europe. About Bolsonaro, he says:
“His outrageously authoritarian, homophobic, classist, macho and racist talk will not shut us down. We have not forgotten the murder of Marielle Franco and the social movements that have been fighting for freedom and dignity in Brazil for years. For this reason, the City of Barcelona has approved an institutional declaration condemning the hate speech of the president-elect of Brazil and is committed to the defense of human rights in this brother country and demands the immediate release of former President Lula, sentenced in a marked case by enormous irregularities. “
The statement from the City of Barcelona also sends a message to all the activists, academics and members of social, popular and union movements in Brazil who are being persecuted in Brazil for fighting the extreme right: “you are not alone, Barcelona is yours. side. One must say loud and strong: no one lets go of anyone’s hand. We send a very strong hug from Barcelona, with Brazil always in the head and in the heart. “
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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BRAZIL 247 NEWS AGENCY)
LULA IS INTERROGATED AND SAYS PRISON IS LAVA JATO OPERATION AWARD
Former president began to be questioned by the substitute federal judge Gabriela Hardt at around 3 pm in the Lava Jato process that investigates reforms made in the site of Atibaia (SP); according to people who were present at the testimony, Lula denied any connection with the works at the Atibaia site and stated that his arrest would be a “prize” of Operation Lava Jato; was the second time that Lula has left the Superintendency since he was arrested in April after an arrest warrant issued by Sergio Moro without the exhaustion of all judicial remedies
247 – The interrogation of the former President of the Republic Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) at the Federal Justice headquarters ended at around 5.50 pm in Curitiba (PR). He began to be questioned by substitute federal judge Gabriela Hardt around 3 pm in the Lava Jato trial investigating reforms made at the Atibaia site.
According to people who were present at the testimony, Lula denied any connection with the works at the Atibaia site and stated that his arrest would be a “prize” of Operation Lava Jato. Report of Uol .
The former president left the site about ten minutes after the end of the hearing and was taken to the Federal Police Superintendency (PF). It was the first time Lula left the Superintendency since he was arrested in April after an arrest warrant issued by Sergio Moro without the exhaustion of all legal remedies.
Several people attended the vigil on behalf of the former president, convicted without evidence in the triplex process in Guarujá (SP), with a sentence challenged by several jurists.
Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva denied today (14), in testimony to the Federal Court in Curitiba, to have knowledge about the reforms carried out in the Santa Bárbara Site, in Atibaia (SP). He also denied being the owner of the property.
Lula was questioned by Judge Gabriela Hardt in criminal action in which he and 12 defendants respond to the process, including the entrepreneurs and Marcelo Emílio Odebrecht and Leo Pinheiro, the OAS, and the farmer José Carlos Bumlai. The accusations are of the crimes of corruption and money laundering.
The site was the subject of investigations by Operation Lava Jato, which investigates suspicions that site improvements have been paid by contractors investigated for corruption, such as OAS and Odebrecht.
In the interview, Lula confirmed that he started attending the property in early 2011, when he left the Presidency of the Republic.
However, the reforms that were carried out were already ready and Lula said that he was not aware of them because he was not the owner of the property.
The former president also denied that he had dealt with the matter with Emilio Odebrecht. “When I first met the site, it had no renovation, the site was ready,” he said.
At the beginning of the hearing, the judge asked Lula if he was aware of the charges against him, a procedural plea made to all the accused. He replied that he did not know and wanted to know the contents of the indictment.
“I would like to ask, if you could explain it to me, what is the charge?” “I am willing to answer any and all questions, do I own the site or not?” questioned
Then Gabriela Hardt replied. “This is you who have to answer and not I. I am not being interrogated at this moment.This is an interrogation, and if you start in this tone with me, we will have trouble.”
During the deposition, the former president again said that the accusations against him are “a farce.”
“The first case that I have been victim of, which is a farce, a lie of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, with Power Point, the second one is another farce, I am paying that price. Justice, and one day the truth will prevail what is happening, “he said.
According to the researchers, the reforms began after the purchase of the property by businessmen Fernando Bittar and Jonas Suassuna, friends of Lula, when “the first architectural drawings were elaborated to accommodate the needs of the family of the former president.”
In the report prepared by the Federal Police in 2016, experts cite the works that were made, including a kitchen valued at R $ 252 thousand. The estimate is that a value of around R $ 1.7 million has been spent, adding the purchase of the site (R $ 1.1 million) and the reform (R $ 544,800).
It is the first time that Lula leaves the Federal Police (PF) prison in Curitiba after being arrested for the conviction in another case, which deals with the triplex apartment in Guarujá (SP). Since April 7, Lula has been serving a sentence of 12 years and a month in prison, imposed by the Federal Regional Court of the 4th Region (TRF4), for crimes of passive corruption and money laundering.
Defense of the ex-president
In a statement, the former president’s defense stated that Lula’s testimony shows the arbitrariness of the accusation. This is because although the Federal Public Prosecutor cites that specific Petrobras contracts would have generated benefits to Lula, no question in this regard was made: “The situation confirms that the reference to such Petrobras contracts in the complaint was a reproachable pretext created by Lava Jato to submit Lula to arbitrary proceedings before the Federal Court of Curitiba. “
The defense also reaffirms the ownership of the Santa Bárbara site, “which belongs in fact and right to the Bittar family, as documented in the process.”
“The testimony given by former President Lula also reinforced his indignation at being imprisoned without having committed any crime and for being subjected to judicial persecution for political reasons embodied in several offensive and unreasonable charges for someone who ruled exclusively in the interests of the country,” ends the note signed by lawyer Cristian Zanin Martins.
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Imelda Marcos convicted of graft, sentenced to prison
Marcos, 89, was sentenced for funneling $200 million to Swiss foundations.
Former First Lady Imelda Marcos visits the gravesite of her late husband former strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the Heroes Cemetery on Nov. 1, 2018.Francis R. Malasig / EPA
By Associated Press
MANILA, Philippines — A Philippine court found former first lady Imelda Marcos guilty of graft and ordered her arrest Friday in a rare conviction among many corruption cases that she plans to appeal to avoid jail and losing her seat in Congress.
The special anti-graft Sandiganbayan court sentenced Marcos, 89, to serve 6 to 11 years in prison for each of the seven counts of violating an anti-corruption law when she illegally funneled about $200 million to Swiss foundations in the 1970s as Metropolitan Manila governor.
Neither Marcos nor anyone representing her attended Friday’s court hearing.
Marcos said in a statement that the decision was being studied by one of her lawyers who notified the Marcos family that he intends to appeal the decision. Anti-Marcos activists and human rights victims welcomed the conviction as long overdue.
The court disqualified Marcos from holding public office, but she can remain a member of the powerful House of Representatives while appealing the decision. Her congressional term will end next year but she has registered to run to replace her daughter as governor of northern Ilocos Norte province.
“I was jumping up and down in joy in disbelief,” said former Commission on Human Rights chairwoman Loretta Ann Rosales, who was among many activists locked up after Imelda’s husband, former President Ferdinand Marcos, declared martial law in the Philippines in 1972.
Rosales said the decision was a huge setback to efforts by the Marcos family to revise history by denying many of the atrocities under the dictatorship, and urged Filipinos to fight all threats against democracy and civil liberties.
Former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who was also jailed during the Marcos dictatorship, said it was up to voters in next year’s May 13 local elections, where Marcos is a candidate, if they want “somebody who has a bad name representing them, that’s your call.”
Imelda Marcos’ husband was ousted by an army-backed “people power” revolt in 1986. He died in self-exile in Hawaii in 1989 but his widow and children returned to the Philippines. Most have been elected to public offices in an impressive political comeback.
Government prosecutor Ryan Quilala told reporters that Marcos and her husband opened and managed Swiss foundations in violation of the Philippine Constitution, using aliases in a bid to hide stolen funds. The Marcoses have been accused of plundering the government’s coffers amid crushing poverty. They have denied any wrongdoing and have successfully fought many other corruption cases.
Imelda Marcos was acquitted Friday in three other cases, which were filed in 1991 and took nearly three decades of trial by several judges and prosecutors. She was once convicted of a graft case in 1993, but the Supreme Court later cleared her of any wrongdoing.
President Rodrigo Duterte, an ally of the Marcoses, said last year the Marcos family had indicated a willingness to return a still-unspecified amount of money and “a few gold bars” to help ease budget deficits. He indicated the family still denied that the assets had been stolen as alleged by political opponents.
Ferdinand Marcos had placed the Philippines under martial rule a year before his term was to expire. He padlocked Congress, ordered the arrest of political rivals and left-wing activists and ruled by decree. His family is said to have amassed an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion while he was in power.
A Hawaii court found Marcos liable for human rights violations and awarded $2 billion from his estate to compensate more than 9,000 Filipinos who filed a lawsuit against him for torture, incarceration, extrajudicial killings and disappearances.
Duterte has acknowledged that Imee Marcos, the couple’s daughter and a provincial governor, backed his presidential candidacy.
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Republicans Are Only For White Males: Democrats For Everyone Except White Males?
For those who are reading this article and are unaware of it, I am a 62-year-old white man who lives in the state of Kentucky, I also am a registered Independent when it comes to politics. So, this article to you today is simply my opinion, nothing more, nothing less. A person comes to their opinions mostly through life’s experiences and I am simply giving you mine at this time. In my life I have voted for several Republicans and for several Democrats as well as for people from various Independent movements. I like some of the things that each of the two main Parties stand for, at least on paper, and I am against several things that each of those Parties stand behind.
During my years I have come across racism from several people. I have been hated on sight because I am a white man and I absolutely have no doubt about that statement, yet I have also had people of many races stand up for me and against people of their own race because of me. Being one skin color of another should have nothing to do with how you act or are viewed, yet often, it does. I have to admit that I have been a bit surprised by the amount of racism some White folks who have shown since the Electoral College elected Donald Trump as our President, and it does sadden me. I try to be a devout Christian everyday of my life (though I fail often) but I am sure that G-d The Father and G-d The Son are not racists. I am 100% sure that if a person hates another because of their skin color, they are not a Christian, they are nothing but “luke warm water,” at best.
When former President Obama was the President from 2009-2017 I used to often hear about the “angry White Males.” Honestly I did not know just how many and how deep this hatred is and it greatly saddens me as a person and as a Christian. Often I heard this philosophy and when I did it always seemed to generate from GOP affiliated mouth pieces. I know that there is racism all over the world it is not something that is exclusive to North America Americans, nor only to some Republicans. Obviously about 50% of white folks are women and it is my belief that many White Women who voted for Mr. Trump will either not vote in the midterm election next Tuesday, or they will vote against the GOP because they have seen the hate coming out of the mouth of Mr. Trump and many other GOP Politicians since they took total power in January of 2017.
Unfortunately it appears that many people and Politicians who are Democrats and Democratic mouth pieces have seemed to be hating the White Males for many years. Too me, it has seemed that the leadership of the Democratic Party has for many years been working hard at becoming the party of ‘only’ the minorities. Too me, it has felt that the Democratic Leadership has worked hard to be inclusive to all people, except White People, especially the men. Our Nation, or any Nation, cannot survive if its core is poisoned and all racism is poison. I have heard this quote several times during my years and it is true that “great Nations are not usually conquered from the outside, they are conquered from the inside” and I do believe that is true of America also.
There are two main reasons that I have ever voted for a Republican and against a Democrat and neither have anything to do with race, nationality, or someone’s religion. These two issues are Abortion and Gun laws, as a Christian I cannot and will not condone what I believe to be blatant murder of babies. Regarding guns, I am for a 3-5 day waiting period when purchasing a firearm and I do believe that the loophole of Gun Shows needs to be closed. But I do believe in everyone has the right to defend themselves and their families by any means necessary. Here in Kentucky almost all people can open carry without a special permit and folks like myself who have taken weapons classes can conceal carry. When I do go into a business with a weapon in a gun belt no one has ever freaked out, not other customers or the workers, not even the workers at the cash registers. I know that these people look at this issue the same as I do, if anything, I am extra free security for the business I am in. Folks something that the Democratic Party does not seem to understand or even care about is why almost all people should be allowed to have firearms if they so choose and that is defense, not offense. People need to notice that gunmen go to places to shoot people where they know there will be no guns to shoot back at them, these people are cowards. When was the last time you saw a Police Station or a Donut Shop shot up? Folks, the times are coming where the people have to be able to defend themselves from crooked government officials and crooked policing agencies. The time is coming where the people need to be able to defend themselves from invasions from other Nations and the time is very close where we all need to be able to defend ourselves from terrorists, homegrown and otherwise. Well, that is all for now friends, I hope that you are able to enjoy your weekend, stay warm, stay safe, G-d’s blessings I wish to all of you.
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James “Whitey’’ Bulger, the Boston gangster who eluded authorities for 16 years before being captured and convicted of participating in 11 murders in 2013, has died at a prison in West Virginia, according to media reports.
Bulger, who was 89, was found dead Tuesday, according to the Boston Globe and NBC News.
Bulger was the head of a violent South Boston crime ring known as the Winter Hill Gang from the 1970’s into the 1990s. In 1995, Bulger was tipped off about his imminent indictment by an FBI agent and escaped, remaining on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list until getting apprehended in 2011 in Santa Monica, California.
His life of crime was the subject of several movies, including “The Departed,’’ which won an Oscar for the Best Picture of 2006.
Bulger, who was serving a life sentence, had been recently moved from a federal prison in Florida to a transfer facility in Oklahoma City before being relocated to the Hazelton Penitentiary. He had been in ill health for some time.
Among the slayings linked to Bulger was that of Roger Wheeler, who was gunned down outside his country club in Tulsa in 1981. Bulger was also convicted for his role in murders in several states and for racketeering.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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China Seeks to Re-brand Internment Camps as ’Vocational Education and Training’ Centers
Chairman of the Government of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region
“Xinjiang has launched a vocational education and training program according to the law. Its purpose is to get rid of the environment and soil that breeds terrorism and religious extremism and stop violent terrorist activities from happening … In daily life, vocational institutions and schools strictly implement the spirit of laws and regulations, including the Constitution and religious affairs regulations, and respect and protect the customs and habits of various ethnic groups and their beliefs in diet and daily life.”
Efforts to spin internment camps into vocational schools fall flat without unfettered access.
Beijing has gone on the PR offensive, following condemnation in response to growing evidence that China has detained one million ethnic Muslims and put as many as two million into re-education and indoctrination training camps in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang.
This is a lengthy fact check, because the Xinjiang chairman’s claims are voluminous and, ultimately, unverifiable.
“It is safe to say that the Chinese government is starting to feel the international pressure groups generated by the human rights community and foreign governments around the world,” Francisco Bencosme, Asia Pacific Advocacy Manager at Amnesty International USA, told Polygraph.info.
Having previously denied such camps even existed, a high-ranking regional official has now rebranded the facilities as “people oriented” vocational institutes and schools.
Shohrat Zakir, chairman of the Government of Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, told state-run Xinhua News Agency that the “three evil forces” of terrorism, extremism, and separatism were the driving forces for launching the “vocational education and training program.” He added that the country has spared no efforts in protecting the basic human rights of citizens from the harm of terrorism and extremism.
Zakir said the vocational education and training program is in accordance with the constitution, the law on regional ethnic autonomy (which entitles citizens to the right of freedom of religious belief) and the “legislation law,” a set of official rules governing the adoption of Chinese national laws.
Zakir said vocational training had “enhanced” the sense of community of the Chinese nation, helped “trainees” master the country’s common language, increased their knowledge of the rule of law, and helped trainees realize they “are firstly citizens of the nation.”
He also claimed that training had led to “notable changes” in the social environment.
Zakir said the faculties of the “institutions and schools” had done their best to “meet the trainees’ needs in study, life, and entertainment on the basis of free education.”
“Faculties of the institutions and schools also try their best to ensure and meet the trainees’ needs in study, life, and entertainment on the basis of free education. The cafeteria prepares nutritious free diets, and the dormitories are fully equipped with radio, TV, air conditioning, bathroom and shower. Indoor and outdoor sports venues for basketball, volleyball and table tennis have been built, along with reading rooms, computer labs, film screening rooms, as well as performance venues such as small auditoriums and open-air stages,” Zakir said.
“Various activities such as contests on speech, writing, dancing, singing and sports are organized. Many trainees have said that they were previously affected by extremist thought and had never participated in such kinds of art and sports activities, and now they have realized that life can be so colorful.”
Mental health care, access to garment making and ethnic cuisine catering courses, and a paid basic income are all purportedly on offer.
“I didn’t understand the country’s common language, nor did I know about the laws,” Zakir cites one trainee as allegedly saying. “I wouldn’t even have known that I had made mistakes. But the government didn’t give me up. It has actively saved and assisted me, giving me free food, accommodation and education. Now I have made great progress in many aspects. I will cherish this opportunity and become a person useful to the country and society.”
His comments followed a statement by outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who described the reeducation camps in Xinjiang as “straight out of George Orwell.”
“At least a million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities have been imprisoned in so-called ‘re-education camps’ in western China,” Fox News cited her as saying at the Chiefs of Defense Conference Dinner in Washington on Tuesday, October 16. She added that detainees are “tortured … forced to renounce their religion and to pledge allegiance to the Communist Party.”
Haley’s comments echoed similar sentiments expressed by a member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Gay McDougall, who said Beijing had “turned the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internment camp.”
Gay and other rights experts expressed alarm over “credible reports” that China had interned one million people in counter-extremism centers and forced another two million into “re-education camps for political and cultural indoctrination.”
The subtext here being, we’re not stomping on their culture! We’re helping them learn their own culture! As if culture is contained only in rugs or bread, and not in the language and spiritual traditions of a people.
Yu Jianhua, China’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva, denied that such “reeducation centers” exist and that arbitrary detention is practiced. He said “the argument that a million Uighurs are detained in re-education centers is completely untrue.”
Then, last week, the South China Morning reported that the regional government in Xinjiang had “legalized” the use of vocational and training centers to combat extremism.
“Governments at the county level and above can set up education and transformation organizations and supervising departments such as vocational training centers, to educate and transform people who have been influenced by extremism,” the newspaper cited a new clause in the “Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region Regulation on Anti-Extremism” as saying.
But the legality of what has been described as a “retrospective justification” for the camps has been called into question.
“The Party and the government saved me. They gave me the chance to mend my ways and turn over a new leaf.” Yeah, so far pretty much all of the interviews with students are sounding like forced confessions.
Now CCTV talks about how poor and hard life is in Hotan, and how people don’t really understand the laws or written Mandarin, which makes the area susceptible to extremism. This is the set up for the narrative about the CCP lifting people out of poverty. pic.twitter.com/NcPXOvsZgk
“I don’t think the authorities ‘legalized’ these camps — the regional authorities have no legal authority to authorize detention systems, only the national legislature has that authority, and the latter has not legalized these facilities. These camps remain illegal under Chinese law,” Maya Wang, a senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Polygraph.info.
Government Control of the Press in Xinjiang
Following Beijing’s most recent volte-face, it remains difficult to separate fact from fiction due to the opaque media environment. As Wang noted, all Chinese journalists know to “steer clear” from XinJiang, while foreign journalists “are heavily surveilled if they set foot in the region, making reporting very difficult.”
Visits by Western journalists to Xinjian are rare, making it difficult or impossible to independently verify the government’s rosy picture or the claims of human rights groups and Western governments. Reporters for the Wall Street Journal traveled to the province 10 months ago, finding one detention facility “surrounded by imposing walls topped with razor wire, with watchtowers at two corners… Villagers describe it as a detention center.”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked China 176th out of 180 countries in its most recent annual World Press Freedom index.
Last month, a deputy editor, a head of a subsidiary newspaper, and two directors of the Xinjiang Daily group were arrested for being “two-faced” – a vague term “adopted by the Chinese authorities to accuse those who allegedly secretly oppose government policies,” RSF said.
Also in September, the Uighur editor-in-chief of a state-run literature magazine reportedly committed suicide “out of fear” of being detained in a political “re-education camp,” sources told Radio Free Asia (RFA).
“Not satisfied with having virtually banned the region’s access to foreign media, President Xi Jinping is obviously trying to gag local media that does not print his propaganda,” Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia bureau, said.
In March, China detained the close relatives of five reporters for RFA’s Uighur service in alleged “retaliation for their coverage of the Xinjiang region,” sparking condemnation from human rights and press freedom groups.
In August, Buzzfeed’s China bureau chief, Megha Rajagopalan, was effectively expelled from China after the country’s foreign ministry declined to issue her a new journalist visa – a move she linked to “reporting on and speaking about state surveillance, repression and incarceration of millions of Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.”
Some news from me— I’m really excited to be moving to a new role @BuzzFeedNews focusing on technology and human rights. I’ll be reporting from the Middle East and beyond. I’m looking forward to continuing to report on tech companies, authoritarianism, surveillance & other issues.
It is bittersweet to leave Beijing after spending six wonderful and eye-opening years as a journalist there. In May, China’s Foreign Ministry declined to issue me a new journalist visa. They say this is a process thing, we are not totally clear why.
In December 2015, China’s foreign ministry refused to renew the accreditation of Ursula Gauthier, the Beijing-based correspondent for French news magazine L’Obs, claiming she had” flagrantly championed acts of terrorism and acts of cruelly killing innocents.”
Despite a near media blackout, reports do trickle out.
In August, the Wall Street Journal reported eye-witness accounts that “dozens of people had been crammed into one room, forced to share a single toilet, being fed one meal of cabbage per day and told not to talk to anyone else.”
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, told RFA harsh consequences await those who resist reeducation.
“People have been tortured to death, while others have been beaten to death, or prevented from sleeping, or refused food or water,” Raxit said. “Either that or they do whatever would be most humiliating to that person’s psychological profile. Sometimes they humiliate them physically, and have been known to employ electric batons.”
Murat, another Muslim from Xinjiang, told RFA “political education centers are generally like prisons.” He added: “Electric shocks, beatings, and humiliation all take place in there. It’s very cruel.”
Bencosme noted an interview that Amnesty International had conducted with Kairat Samarkan, who outlined his treatment in a “re-education” camp.
“Kairat said when he was detained at one of these camps he was hooded and made to wear shackles on his arms and legs,” Bencosme said. “They attached an iron bar with his arms spread wide and his body fixed in place so that he had to stand straight, unable to bend. They were forced to sing political songs and study the speeches of the Chinese Communist Party and praise the country. Kairat tried to take his own life while he was detained.”
And despite the alleged right to freedom of religious belief, Human Rights Watch claimed that with “unprecedented levels of control over religious practices, the authorities have effectively outlawed Islam in the region.”
Security and Surveillance in Xinjiang
For the 10-million strong Uighur population, the control reportedly extends far beyond camp walls.
A high-tech system of digital and biometric surveillance, checkpoints at virtually every corner, and the policing of individuals’ clothing and hair “are just some of the ways in which residents of Xinjiang experience restrictions on their individual rights even outside these camps,” Jessica Batke, a senior editor with the ChinaFile online magazine and a former research analyst at the U.S. State Department, told theCongressional Executive Commission on China, an independent U.S. government agency, in July.
Ultimately, the fact that there is a relatively small stream of eyewitness accounts aids China in its attempt to deny or obfuscate what is going on inside the camps.
Benscome said the restrictive nature of the camps forces rights groups to rely on interviews of those who have been released, making it difficult for those groups from independently verify many of the accounts of former detainees.
But Chinese authorities’ initial denials, followed by alleged ad hoc legal justifications for what is going on in the detention camps, point towards a concerted effort to shape public perceptions of what is really going in in Xinjiang.
“There is not enough lipstick on a pig that could hide the systematic repression that is going on in [Xinjiang] with up to one million people being arbitrarily detained. The Chinese government cannot continue to hide from the international community the ongoing human rights crisis occurring,” Benscome said.
Wang said HRW makes certain to “triangulate” its findings, not relying solely on accounts by eyewitnesses and families, but also examining documentary evidence, such as official documents and official social media posts.
“All of these point to an abusive campaign of mass arbitrary detention and other severe abuses in Xinjiang,” she said. “If the authorities are so confident that their detention camps are, in fact, just idyllic summer camps, then they should allow UN investigators, journalists and human rights organizations unfettered access to the region, including to these facilities, so we can see it for ourselves.”
The lack of verifiable information leads us to the verdict of “unclear.” However all signs point to a much darker conclusion. And with China itself stifling every effort at openness and transparency in Xinjiang’s allegedly life-affirming vocational schools, Polygraph.info finds its latest claims to be dubious at best.
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But before we embark on our prison scouting, we have something else on the agenda: a visit to the city’s only Walmart store. It feels important, given the note was found in a Walmart, albeit one on the other side of the globe. Perhaps a Chinese Walmart close to where the note supposedly originated can provide clues, or at least context.
The Guilin Walmart is a 10-minute drive from the center of the city, spread across two floors in a shopping mall, on a road lined with scooter repair shops. Walmart is the world’s biggest retailer; it owns 11,700 retail units in 27 countriesaround the world, including Brazil and South Africa, under various banner names. In China, Walmart owns 389 Walmart Supercenters, in addition to 21 Sam’s Clubs and 15 Hypermarkets.
A note on Walmart’s Chinese site reads: “Walmart China firmly believes in local sourcing. We have established partnerships with more than seven thousand suppliers in China. Over 95% of the merchandise in our stores in China is sourced locally.”
The Guilin Walmart sells athletic shorts made in Vietnam, girls’ T-shirts made in Bangladesh, and sports jackets made in Cambodia. But for the most part, the store’s clothing is made in China, some of it just a few hours away. There are England football shirts and women’s purses from Guangdong, World Cup Russia sandals from Fujian, Frozen and Mickey Mouse tees from Shanghai, and baseball jerseys and Peppa Pig sun hats from Jiangxi.
Countries the world over encourage citizens to “buy local,” so why would China be any different? Still, necessarily, what is local to one place — local practice, local perspective — is foreign to all others. To those in the country, “made in China” means items produced by their fellow Chinese that contribute to the robust economy. Elsewhere in the world, particularly in the US, the phrase draws ire, conjuring images of goods mass-produced in factories with questionable conditions by workers who have supplanted their own country’s workforce.
Walmart in the US has tried and tested the homemade idea. In 1985, founder Sam Walton voiced a commitment to “made in America” products, launching a program called “Bring It Home to the USA” to buy more US-made goods. Around that time, according to reporter Bob Ortega’s book In Sam We Trust, Walton estimated 6 percent of his company’s total sales came from imports; a Frontline report found that number may have been closer to 40 percent. Bill Clinton, then the governor of Walmart’s home state of Arkansas, described “Bring It Home to the USA” as an “act of patriotism.” The program failed.
It’s easy to understand why. The “made in America” ideal comes second to finding the cheapest sources of production — this was true in the ’80s, and it’s true now. A study released in 2016 found that three in four Americans say they would like to buy US-made goods but consider those items too costly or difficult to find. When asked if they’d buy an $85 pair of pants made in the US or a $50 pair made in a different country, 67 percent chose the latter.
Today, Walmart outsources the majority of its production around the world. According to a 2011 report in the Atlantic, Chinese suppliers are believed to account for around 70 percent of the company’s merchandise. A 2015 analysis from the Economic Institute, a progressive think tank, found that Walmart’s trade with China may have eliminated 400,000 jobs in the US between 2001 and 2013.
This is something Walmart says it’s trying to change. In its 2014 annual report, the company pledged to spend an additional $250 billion on US-made goods by 2023, saying it believes “we can drive cost savings by sourcing closer to the point of consumption.” Research from Boston Consulting Group projected this could create a million new US jobs.
At the initiative’s 2018 halfway point, though, it’s unclear how many jobs have been created or how much money has actually been spent. Additionally, in 2015, the Federal Trade Commission initiated a probe into Walmart’s mislabeling of foreign goods as “Made in the USA.” Walmart took action by removing inaccurate logos and making its disclosures more transparent, only to come under fire for deceptive “Made in the USA” labels yet again the very next year.
Forced labor is commonly practiced in the Chinese prison system, which the Chinese Communist Party first established countrywide in 1949, modeling it on Soviet gulags. The kind of crimes that land someone in the Chinese penal system range widely, from murder and bribery to saying anything remotely bad about the government. Freedom of speech isn’t a reality for Chinese citizens, who can face decades in prison for publishing articles about human rights online.
Peter E. Müller, a leading specialist at the Laogai Research Foundation, and his team extensively document the human rights abuses inside China’s prison system. This work includes identifying prisons and camps that employ forced labor, tracking the inmate population, and gathering personal testimony from those who have experienced forced labor.
He says prisoners in China, the US, and elsewhere are sometimes paid for their labor. (In the Walmart note, the writer describes forced labor and beatings, as well as low pay for long hours and health care deducted from payment.) The amount depends on the financial situation of the prison; the average pay in American state prisons is 20 cents an hour. Müller says the monthly salary specified in the note (2,000 yuan, or $295) is “unusually high,” but speculates that it may be because the prison “makes good money because of high-quality workers.”
Human rights organizations, such as the Laogai Research Foundation and China Labor Watch, say the biggest problem in stopping the export of products made in prisons is that the supply lines are “almost untraceable.” Supply lines, in general, are very difficult to trace due to the enormous complexity of supplier networks, a lack of communication between actors, and a general dearth of data that can be shared in the first place. The result is a frustratingly opaque global system of production.
Li Qiang, the founder and executive director of China Labor Watch, explains that American companies that manufacture abroad place their orders directly with factories or sourcing companies, and that those factories and companies can transfer the orders to prisons without the company’s knowledge. In fact, some of these relationships are formalized to the point where prisons that use forced labor have a sister factory that coordinates the prison manufacturing.
It’s essentially a front, as sister factories will use a commercial name for outside trade, intentionally mislabeled products that are made in prisons. Prisoners are never physically sent to the sister factories; the main bulk of the production happens on prison grounds. Once nearly complete, items are then sent to the sister factories, where they are prepared and labeled for international delivery. This system isn’t easy for companies to monitor. Suppliers conceal these practices from clients, and supplier checks are not frequent, especially for large corporations like Walmart, which use a large number of suppliers and subcontractors.
Qiang says the issue can feel intractable. “Even if shoppers in the US understand that the items are being made under poor working conditions, there is nothing they can really do,” he says. “Multinational corporations will not invest in improving their supply chain if there are few laws to protect workers whose rights are being violated, and no successful lawsuits against brands, companies, or their factories for violating them.”
On a Tuesday morning in late May, Channing and I sit at a table in our hotel lobby. We browse message boards on Baidu, one of the country’s most popular search engines and social networking sites, to see if the issue of prison labor is discussed on Chinese social media, or if it’s a subject the government censors.
In a matter of seconds, Channing is able to find discussion boards filled with suppliers looking to outsource labor to prisons. The conversations are quite ordinary — there is no coded language, and full addresses and contact numbers are included in postings. We also find dozens of posts from people offering the services of prisons they work with to mass-produce items for overseas companies, including “electronic accessories, bracelets, necklace bead processing, toy assembly, and shirt processing.”
One post in Chinese reads: “Because our processing personnel are from prison, it has the following advantages. The prison personnel are centralized and stable, and they are managed by the prison. There is no need to worry about the flow of people and the shortage of labor. The processing price is low: Since the processing location is in prison, there is no need for manufacturers to provide space and accommodation; and the prison works in the principle of serving the people, so the processing price is guaranteed to be absolutely lower than the market price. If your company needs it, please contact!”
In an effort to verify not only that Yingshan prison exists but also that it’s one of many Chinese factories that use forced labor and contract with manufacturers, Channing and I drive toward the suburbs in the eastern part of Guilin.
Channing asks our driver to drop us at a high school so we can remain undetected. Nearby, I’d marked a spot where I believed the prison to be according to the human rights report I’d found before arriving in China. But theprison isn’t there. In its place is a crossing, though there’s reason to believe the prison is closed — a dilapidated sign pointing left reads: Yingshan.
We walk down the road and find the area under heavy surveillance. Security cameras are hitched onto poles on every corner of the pathway. The farther we walk, the more literal the warnings that we shouldn’t be there. Three different signs hammered into a tree read: “DO NOT APPROACH.”
Yingshan prison, described in a note found in a Walmart handbag thousands of miles away in the US, does exist — and we are standing in front of it.
Though it had been difficult to find, it actually doesn’t seem so hidden after all. It is integrated into the neighborhood, just around the corner from a driving school, near leafy streets and apartment blocks.
The prison doesn’t look like an archetypal prison you’d see in the US. If it weren’t for the two security watchtowers, Yingshan could be mistaken for a modern residential building. Thick bushes cover dark blue metal fences lined with barbed wire. The high walls are painted cream with decorative white lines demarcating each of the building’s five floors. Each window has a neat white frame, with a metal air vent attached.
Several guards in uniform are standing in the parking lot of the building next door. We don’t approach them for fear of being detained. The Chinese government treats both domestic and foreign journalists hostilely. Reporters are often banned from entering the country, and they have also been detained for their work. Our safest bet for gathering information is to speak to people in the area who may have ties to the prison.
Walking down a second pathway that runs alongside Yingshan, the village of Sanjia comes into view. Sanjia is a small village that abuts the prison grounds. In the village, crumbling homes stand alongside gated, modern ones painted gold. Locals say this is because the land is being bought out, and that the village is grappling with redevelopment.
Each person we speak to have a personal connection to the prison. They know people imprisoned, have a family member working inside, or have worked inside themselves. They tell us that guards who work in Yingshan are housed with their families in an apartment complex next to the prison. We realize this is the building with the parking lot filled with uniformed guards.
Zhenzhu, who asked that her surname not be used for fear of retribution from the government, can see the prison from her front door. A jovial woman, she has lived in the village for 14 years, moving to the area right after she was married. As we talk, we hear pigs squealing. Zhenzhu explains that those are her pigs, 100 of them, next door in a slaughterhouse she runs with her husband.
When the building of the prison commenced in 2007, Zhenzhu was three months pregnant, and her husband was employed as a construction worker on the project. By the time their daughter turned 3, the building was complete. Zhenzhu has visited the prison before, to see an inmate; Yingshan allows visits from family members under heavy security. She says its walls are buried so deep into the ground that “even if the prisoners want to break out by digging an underground tunnel, they can’t dig through.”
Zhenzhu recounts much of what her husband told her about his experience at Yingshan. For years following the construction, he would visit for maintenance checks and additional building; trucks were always driving fabric in and out of the prison. The trucks, he told Zhenzhu, were from factories located in the Guangdong province. Guangdong is home to an estimated 60,000 factories, which produce around a third of the world’s shoes and much of its textiles, apparel, and toys.
Everyone we speak to, Zhenzhu included, says they’ve seen labor inside the prison or have been told about it directly by inmates. None was familiar with Walmart goods being produced there, but some could confirm that women’s fashion is manufactured inside.
To those in the village, prison labor is not just common knowledge; it’s also necessary. They consider the prisoners “bad guys” who have committed horrible crimes. In their eyes, the labor is a good thing: It helps rehabilitate inmates and gets them to understand the value of work. But that work can come at a great cost. According to local hearsay and furthered by a published account from a woman who was married to a Yingshan prison guard, inmates have been known to kill themselves because of the poor conditions and forced labor.
Zhenzhu leads us around the edge of the village, to get a side view of the prison. She points to the building we first passed and tells us that’s where the inmates eat and sleep. She then points to a building farther in the distance on the left that looks almost exactly the same. It’s also painted cream, but with slightly larger white window frames; a yard obscured behind the prison wall separates the structures. The second building, she tells us, is for “the work.”
The Walmart note followed a tradition of hidden messages found by shoppers. In 2014, shoppers found labels stitched into several items of clothing in Primark stores across the UK. The labels, written in English, read: “forced to work exhausting hours” and “degrading sweatshop conditions.”
As the notes spread across social media, the fast-fashion company conducted an investigation and found the labels were fake. The company said the items were all made by different suppliers, in different factories, on different continents. They stressed it was impossible that the same labels, especially those written in English, would appear on all the items and that they believed the labels were part of an activist stunt carried out in the UK.
Though no one claimed credit for the labels, activist groups had been waging campaigns to protest Primark’s labor practices in the time leading up to their discovery. War on Want led a 2013 campaign against the company after more than 1,100 people died as a result of the Rana Plaza collapse. Primark, along with J.C. Penney and Joe Fresh, was among the retailers whose products were made in the Bangladeshi complex.
Almost all the messages that have been found in stores have come under public scrutiny, as they’re often suspected of being written and planted by activists.The handwriting, the language, and even the paper used for notes have pointed to activist work.For example, several notes and labels, like the Primark ones, were written in English. Many inmates and factory workers in China, as well as Bangladesh, come from poor backgrounds and are unlikely to have had the chance to learn English in school.
There have been, however, at least two instances in which actual workers have claimed the notes. In 2011, a shopper bought a box of Halloween decorations at a Oregon Kmart. She found a note inside the box, allegedly from a prisoner in China explaining that he had made the item under forced labor conditions.
Two years later, Zhang — a man who asked newsrooms to only use his surname for fear of being arrested and imprisoned again — claimed to be the writer of the note. He said he planted 20 such notes during the two years he spent in prison, with hopes they would reach American stores. His handwriting and modest English language proficiency matched those of the note, but even then, it wasn’t feasible to fully corroborate his story. As the New York Timeswrote, “it was impossible to know for sure whether there were perhaps other letter writers, one of whose messages might have reached Oregon.”
The second instance came in 2014, when a shopper in New York found a note in a Saks shopping bag she received when purchasing a pair of Hunter rain boots two years earlier. The note, written in English, claimed to have been written by a man in a Chinese prison; it also included his email address, photo, and name, which led to the finding of the alleged author, Tohnain Emmanuel Njong. Originally from Cameroon, he said he’d been teaching English in China when he was arrested in May 2011 and wrongly jailed for fraud charges.
In both cases, the final step of verification would be to confirm with the prisons mentioned in the notes that Zhang and Njong served sentences at their facilities and that forced labor occurs there. But since Chinese prisons refuse to provide comment on such stories, there’s little way of definitively confirming the prisoners’ accounts.
In 2017, the validity of hidden notes came into question yet again. Shoppers in Istanbul found tags inside clothing items in a Zara store that read: “I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it.”
It turned out Turkish workers, who produced the clothing for Zara in an Istanbul factory, planted the notes in protest. The factory where they had been employed closed down overnight, leaving them suddenly without jobs or a source of income. The workers wrote notes urging shoppers to pressure Zara into giving them the back pay they were owed. They then went to a Zara store in the center of Istanbul and hid the notes in the pockets of clothing being sold inside.
The Turkish workers didn’t come up with the idea of the notes on their own. The Clean Clothes Campaign and its alliance partner Labour Behind the Label (LBL), an organization that campaigns for garment workers’ rights, helped plan the action.
LBL and other campaign groups have organized “note droppings” like this in retail stores like Zara for many years. The notes describe how poor labor practices are behind the store’s items; LBL gathers information about these practices through its own reports and interviews.
“Dropping notes is an extension of leaving leaflets in stores,” says LBL’s director of policy Dominique Muller. “When we think we’re not getting movement from companies, we turn to confrontational tactics like this.”
LBL doesn’t worry that the notes they plant in stores could overshadow any potentially real notes found in stores. “These notes are just a drop in the ocean. They’re still new” — as an activism tool, that is — “and they will continue to have an impact.”
Finding Yingshan brought some answers about the validity of the note. For one, the prison named in the Walmart note exists. We heard firsthand accounts from locals who said forced labor does occur inside the prison as the note described. What we were told about the work is that the hours are long, the work is done indoors, and the labor involves manufacturing fashion items, which might include bags like the purse Christel bought in Arizona.
After Walmart issued its statement about their being “no way to verify the origin of the letter,” the company launched an internal investigation. It was found that the factory that made the purse didn’t adhere to Walmart’s standards, which stress the need for “labor to be voluntary” and state that “slave, child, underage, forced, bonded, or indentured labor will not be tolerated.” As a result, the company cut ties with the supplier, a decision the company only disclosed after it was contacted for this story. Walmart declined to clarify whether the supplier in question had contracted with Yingshan prison.
In a statement to Vox, a Walmart spokesperson wrote: “Walmart has strict standards for our suppliers, and they must tell us where our products are being made. Through our investigation into this matter, we found the supplier’s factory sent purses to be made at other factories in the region that were not disclosed to us. The supplier failed to follow our standards, so we stopped doing business with them. We take allegations like this seriously, and we are committed to a responsible and transparent supply chain. There are consequences for our suppliers when our standards are not followed.”
One last question did remain unanswered. Was the note written by an actual prisoner, or by an activist with knowledge of the conditions that produced the bag? Müller of the Laogai Research Foundation believes the note is indeed real.
The description and details referenced in the note, he says, mirror much of what he’s heard in interviews with former prisoners. He says the language, the style of writing, and the use of the phrase “horse cow goat pig dog” — a common expression in China that compares the treatment of prisoners to that of animals — add to its authenticity. He believes the writer of the note certainly risked his life to send his message.
Even if the note is real, though, what’s come to light during the reporting of this story is that the Walmart note won’t end forced labor in China. The government is not going to release a public statement condemning human rights abuses inside its prisons because of stories like this one. It doesn’t see forced labor as a human rights abuse; Chinese citizens who don’t support the practices risk arrest if they speak out, and so most won’t.
The pitfall of pinning reform on awareness is expecting a bad thing to end if enough people know about it. Very rarely does mass attention on an issue result in a tangible shift in how things work. If merely sharing information were enough, the countless viral stories about forced labor recounted here would have already resulted in widespread reform.
Still, the incremental change the Walmart note led to — however impossibly small, however seemingly inconsequential — is a step. It has to be.
Additional reporting by Channing Huang.
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Folks: How Do We Personally Believe In The Independence Of OUR OWN: Supreme Court?
Well Folks, do We? This is a case where 1/3 of Our National Government is in the hands and minds of just 9 of Our own People. I personally would not want to have to be a judge, at any level. Not with all the sins that I know that I have committed. I don’t want to have to have a job of being a Judge where what the 9 of you say, is final. Folks, that’s just like being one step away, or below, God! I am not saying that this Job can’t be done, but to be Truly Independent of the Other 2 Branches of Our Government, at every level is necessary. To me, and I know that I could be wrong, but I believe that in Our Country’s Supreme Court Job Description, that Job Description is to make sure that all Laws are Constitutional! Now again, do the Nine Folks we now have on The Nations Top Court realize the weight upon each of them to be in charge of 1/3 of Our Government? Personally, there is no way, no amount of money that could get me to want that Job. Think of the pressure on all 9 of these folks to be, Honest. Has Our Nations Supreme Court become nothing but pawns of Big Politics, and Big Money? Do you have the Intelligence, and the Morals, do you Mr. Kavanaugh? What are you walking into Mr. Kavanaugh, do you really know? Well folks, as a very dear friend of mine used to say once in a while, “we shall see what we shall see.” Fore without an independent Supreme Court, there is no Democracy and as little as 9 people holds in their hands the weight of 1/3 of the Constitutional Government. Their sort of like those “Super Delegates” the Democrats been hosting, aren’t they? Except if you can totally control one of these 3 Branches of our Government, 9 people could control our Country. How much weight is on Mr. Kavanaugh? How much weight is on all 9 of these people? As I said earlier, I wouldn’t want this job no matter what the pay. When we add in the reality that another 1/3 of Our Government is in the hands of just One Person. Folks this means that 2/3 of Our whole Government is the Hands of 10 people. That is too much power if those positions aren’t filled with quality persons, now who decides what “Quality” is. Now Folks, does this help you see why I would not want to ever have to be in the place of one of these nine Folks.
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HADDAD THRILLED TO TALK ABOUT INJUSTICE AGAINST LULA
In a video released on Saturday, January 22, by PT and that viralized in the networks, the candidate Fernando Haddad, relates excited the visit that his daughter Ana Carolina Haddad made to the former president Lula the day before he was arrested in São Bernardo do Campo in April ; “It’s a historical mistake, it’s not just about the person, it’s a historical mistake against the person, it’s a mistake, it’s a mistake. Country, “says the PT candidate; watch
247 – The PT announced on Saturday, 22, a video in which the candidate of the party to the president, Fernando Haddad, relates in an emotional tone an episode on the eve of the prison of the ex- president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, on April 7 of this year , in São Bernardo do Campo.
The presidential candidate was not able to restrain his tears when he recalled the joy of Lula, already knowing that he would be arrested, when he met the daughter of the former mayor, Ana Carolina Haddad, who had joined the Polytechnic School of USP.
“When he saw Carol, he asked, ‘How are you in college?’ When he said goodbye to me, she hugged me and cried like a child, asking me ‘how could he be worried about me in a situation like this, ‘”says Haddad.
“It’s a historical mistake, it’s not just about the person, it’s a historical mistake against the person, it’s a mistake, it’s a mistake. Country, “says the PT candidate, excited.
Car le poète est un four à brûler le réel. De toutes les émotions brutes qu’il reçoit, il sort parfois un léger diamant d’une eau et d’un éclat incomparables. Voilà toute une vie comprimée dans quelques images et quelques phrases. Pierre Reverdy