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Forty-one years ago this weekend, two US citizens, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi were arrested in Santiago by Chilean security forces in the days following a bloody coup . Both were killed and a quest to understand how and why may be coming to close after four decades. FSRN’s Norman Stockwell files this report.

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Charles Horman was a journalist and filmmaker who went to Chile to document the reality of Salvador Allende’s democratically elected socialist government. Frank Teruggi was a student and an antiwar activist. He, too, was drawn to witness Chile’s experiment. Both men would be killed in the coup that overthrew President Allende and installed Dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Now after over four decades, Chilean Judge Jorge Zepeda ruled this past June that the two men were murdered with the complicity of US intelligence services operating in Chile in support of the coup.

“In December of 2000, the widow of Charles Horman, who was a journalist, living in Chile with his wife Joyce, went to Chile and filed a court case, asking judges to officially investigate who had killed him and why,” explains Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archive. “We finally have a ruling in this case. This is a major step forward in this long saga. It’s a forty year saga since they were killed, and a fourteen year saga of legal efforts to find out who killed them and why.”

The Hollywood film “Missing” told Charles Horman’s story, but Frank Teruggi’s is lesser known. He grew up in a working class family just outside Chicago and became exposed to Liberation Theology through his Catholic High School.

In 1967, Frank went to college at CalTech in Pasadena, where he started the first Student for a Democratic Society chapter on campus. After hearing about Allende’s election in September of 1970, he moved back to Chicago to raise funds to study Economics at the University of Chile in Santiago. While in Chicago, Frank worked at the Chicago Seed, an alternative paper, and the New World Resource Center, a progressive bookstore and meeting space.

“I would characterize him as reliable and very, very honest and principled,” recalls colleague Burny Farber. “He was committed to a variety of what he viewed as just causes, and, you know, he was willing to put himself on the line a lot of times in terms of devoting his time and energy. He was the kind of person who you could ask him to try and do something and he would come through – he wouldn’t let you down.”

When Teruggi arrived in Chile, he joined up with FIN – the “Fuente de Información Norteamericana,” or North American Information Source. FIN was a collective of about a dozen North Americans which produced a newsletter of translated US press accounts for a Chilean audience.

“We were very much in the spirit of a collective,” Mishy Lesser explains. As a college sophomore, she was was the youngest member of FIN. “So, there were meetings and work was divided up and decisions were made on what articles to focus on and what information to try to make available and what translations to do, and it was not hierarchical, it was tremendously collaborative and people were able to sort of play to their strengths. But it was not easy, and then making that available in Spanish, in good Chilean Spanish, was another challenge.”

On September 11th, a long-planned military coup took place, overthrowing the government of Salvador Allende and bombing the Presidential Palace. Allende died the day of the coup and thousands of other supporters and activists were rounded up in the coming days and held in the National Soccer stadium and other locations.

Frank Teruggi with friends in Santiago (photo provided by Teruggi family) Frank Teruggi with friends in Santiago (photo provided by Teruggi family)

Many were tortured, hundreds were killed. Among those arrested were FIN contributors Charles Horman, Frank Teruggi and his roommate, David Hathaway. Hathaway was released after several days, but Horman and Teruggi were never seen alive again.

“David was released the next day from the National Stadium and given 24 hours to leave the country, to pack up his things and leave,” recounts FIN member Steven Volk, continuing “… and he asked me whether I would go to the morgue and see whether Frank’s body was there, because nobody knew at that time where he was. And after about maybe 20 to 30, 35 minutes of looking at the bodies that were there that I discovered Frank’s body…”

The reason that Frank Teruggi and Charles Horman were the only US citizens killed remains unclear. The Chilean government today officially estimates more than 3000 people were killed during the coup and its repressive aftermath. The Teruggi and Horman families suspect these men would not have been killed without some sort of green light from US officials.

For the past forty-one years, they have sought answers. Now Judge Zepeda’s ruling may open the door to the publication of evidence that documents how and why these deaths occurred.

“Nobody’s been ever sent to jail for the murder of these two Americans,” according to Kornbluh.”And almost nobody’s been sent to jail, if I know the Chilean cases correctly, for almost any of the executions …all of this, at the time when the US is actively embracing Pinochet, those executions have really never been fully aired, and the people that committed them held fully accountable.”

Judge Zepeda would not comment for this report because the case is still ongoing, but Frank Teruggi’s sister, Janis Teruggi-Page said she and Joyce Horman both look forward to the court’s evidence being made public.

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At least 700 migrants and refugees killed in recent Mediterranean shipwrecks

This year is on course to become the deadliest in recent memory for undocumented migrants and refugees trying to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa.  International migrant advocacy groups believe at least 700 people have drowned in shipwrecks so far this month — in one recent  case, there may have been as many as 500 passengers on board a single vessel when it sank. That’s according to UN estimates based on survivor testimonies. FSRN’s Shannon Young has more.

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At least five ships carrying migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa have sunk in the Mediterranean in recent weeks. The deadliest shipwreck occurred about 300 miles off the coast of the island of Malta. Survivors estimate as many as 500 passengers were on board when a second boat piloted by human smugglers rammed into it, causing it to sink. Smugglers had already forced the passengers – who had set out from Damietta, Egypt on September sixth – to change ships three times. Survivors of the shipwreck told investigators from the International Organization for Migration they were refusing to change boats a fourth time due to safety concerns when the ramming occurred.

“There was some kind of scuffle or something happened,” says IOM spokesperson, Joel Millman. “We have different reports, but the traffickers who were monitoring this ship from another smaller ship – supposedly there were about 10 of them just off the side of the ship in another boat – began ramming it until it began to sink. And it sank pretty quickly. There was an almost total loss of life. There have been a few bodies recovered. We have 11 survivors that we know of. And of those 11, eight are Palestinians who we think are all from Gaza. And we have reason to think that most of the passengers on this boat were from Gaza.”

An immigration agreement between Italy and Egypt may give undocumented Egyptians an incentive to claim they are Palestinians. However, Millman says survivors of this shipwreck indicated many of the passengers had received aid money to repair homes damaged in the recent Israeli bombing campaign. Some opted to use those funds to flee to Europe rather than rebuild.

Millman says reckless negligence has become common in the human smuggling trade, but the ramming incident seems like an escalation of violence against migrants that has been steadily building over time. “We’re hearing all those kinds of things all summer and this is the first time anyone has described alleged traffickers laughing as they ram the boat so I would say, yes that seems a first, but something awful close to this has been going on for weeks. So we’ve been trying to call attention to it.”

While the IOM has noticed a spike in Palestinians attempting to enter Europe since this summer, conflicts in other countries have been fueling a massive wave of migration.

The Unites Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, estimates three million Syrians have fled since the start of the civil war there in 2011.

Carlotta Sami, UNHCR spokesperson for the region of southern Europe, says Syrians and Eritreans make up half of the refugees arriving in Europe via Italy. “We have also Iraqis and Palestinians from Gaza. And what we are calling for is to maintain the rescue operations in place – it’s so much needed at the moment – but also, to pair these rescue operations with a strategy that European countries should put in place. You know, that you offer actions, specific actions, specific programs to refugees to find protection in Europe in a legal way.

Sami says government have done far too little to mitigate the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

This year’s current death toll for migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean is already triple what it was in 2013. and is predicted to top three thousand by year’s end.

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Pennsylvania parents call for buffers zones between fracking facilities and schools

On the front lines of the fracking wars in western Pennsylvania, a group called Protect Our Children is fighting for a one mile buffer between schools and natural gas infrastructure; another group is even calling for a two-mile buffer. Meanwhile gas wells, compressor stations and processing plants proliferate all around them. And two studies just released draw opposite conclusions about the safety of living near the industry. Melinda Tuhus reports from Butler County, Pennsylvania.

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On a beautiful late summer day, the green rolling hills of western Pennsylvania seem a picture of tranquility and rural bliss. But up close to the growing infrastructure of natural gas fracking, it’s a different story. The lights and noise of the drilling process, the truck traffic, the air pollution and concerns about water contamination have affected the quality of life of many residents. Some are drawing the line at their children’s exposure to fracking while at school. A group called Protect Our Children has united groups of parents around the state to call for no fracking within a one-mile radius of school campuses.

Penni Lechner is 36-years-old and has lived her whole life around Summit Township. She says she fought to stay there and raise her four kids away from the city, but she’s living now in an industrial zone. Her three teenage boys attended Summit Township School, which now has a well pad 900 feet from the school and 500 feet from the playground.

Sitting on a bench on the grounds of Summit Township School, she describes what happened over the past couple of years when XTO, a subsidiary of Exxon, set up shop nearby.

“They put the drilling rig up, then they put a bigger drilling rig up and that went on for almost a year, and then they fracked it,” Lechner recalls. “They put a bunch of chemicals into the ground. And then they flared it off. Last school year the first two days of school they flared it. They didn’t even wait for the kids to not be here, they just flared it. There was methane shooting up 250 feet into the air. There’s an impoundment pond back there, and that holds chemical water. There’s no fence there; the kids can just walk right up there if they want to.”

The proximity of the fracking operation to the town’s school confirmed Lechner’s decision to continue to home school her 8-year-old daughter – who had leukemia as a toddler – because she worries about how exposure could affect her daughter’s compromised immune system.

Lechner says she and her family have experienced many health problems since fracking came to town, namely nosebleeds, headaches and rashes.

Parent activists Crystal Yost and Penni Lechner  want at least a one-mile buffer zone between  fracking facilities and schools (Photo Credit: Melinda Tuhus) Parent activists Crystal Yost and Penni Lechner want at least a one-mile buffer zone between fracking facilities and schools (Photo Credit: Melinda Tuhus)

Crystal Yost is a newcomer to the area, having moved here in 2012. Her twin 11-year-old daughters are sixth graders in the Mars School District. After the local school board rejected a proposal by Rex Energy to lease the school grounds for sub-surface drilling, the company announced its plans to put six wells within a half-mile of the school.

“We are worried about health effects on the children from air emissions, the air pollution, the VOCs,” says Yost, who along with other parents has organized against that plan as well, and so far the state Department of Environmental Protection has not issued drilling permits. “We are worried about an accident, specifically if there were to be an explosion, in some other cases in PA specifically, they have a one to two mile radius of evacuation. So if this well pad exploded within a half mile of the school, theoretically the entire school district would be in an evacuation zone, and we just felt it’s not using common sense to put your school district in an evacuation zone.”

Yost says after researching the matter, the Mars Parent Group thinks a two-mile buffer is a better plan.

A new peer-reviewed study conducted by a researcher at Yale University shows that people living within a kilometer — about half a mile — of a working well reported upper respiratory or skin problems more than twice as often as those living more than two miles away. The Heinz Endowments, which has taken an anti-drilling position, funded the study, which has been criticized by pro-industry groups.

At the same time, a non-peer reviewed study at Penn State University funded by the industry showed that fracking is safe. Its conclusions were predictably attacked by anti-fracking groups.

David Brown is a toxicologist who works with the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, which has identified many residents with health problems.

“They were seeing effects in 30-40 percent of the people who were reporting, and there were a dozen or more different health effects,” Brown says of another study from Earth Works that showed similar results to the Yale study. “They ranged from rashes to difficulty breathing to heart problems to confusion; a lot of cognitive effects; headaches, and an intense sense of fatigue. There were differences between those people who were within 1,500 feet of a facility and those that were outside 1,500 feet of a facility. You shouldn’t interpret that beyond 1,500 feet there weren’t effects, because there were effects even there. We would expect you’d have to be out a minimum of a mile, and maybe two miles.

Neither study concluded definitively that the health impacts resulted from fracking, and researchers called for further investigation. Supporters of the buffer for schools note that although their campaign calls for no drilling infrastructure within a mile, it will be hard to put the genie back in the bottle where it already exists, but they are adamant about keeping future gas industry development away from their kids.

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Hindsight: The buildup to the Scottish independence referendum

Scottish voters will head to the polls Thursday to vote on independence from the United Kingdom. The referendum is the result of several years of political organizing and maneuvering. In 2008, Tom Allen produced a documentary for FSRN on the Scottish independence movement, which we republish here for historical context behind the current events. Original anchor introduction below.

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Scotland: The Other Independence
Scotland has its own Parliament, its own flag, its own football team. It has it own legal and educational systems. It has a distinctive and world famous culture – the Gaelic language, the Highlands, tartan, and whiskey. Yet Scotland is not an independent country: for three hundred years Scotland and England have been bound in a union that concentrated all political power in the British Parliament in London. But that could change. Scotland currently has its first Nationalist Government, a Government that is committed to securing independence. It wants Scotland to become a small, progressive and independent country within Europe. To achieve that, they would have to hold a referendum, and persuade a majority of the Scottish people to take the plunge. In this exclusive FSRN documentary, Tom Allan looks at some of the twists and turns that lie on the path to independence.

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Scottish independence referendum rekindles debate over nuclear disarmament

This Thursday voters in Scotland will decide whether to break away from the United Kingdom. One of the driving issues of the debate is the fate of Britain’s nuclear­ armed submarines. That’s because the UK’s Trident submarine fleet and its 225 warheads are based near Glasgow and the Scottish government wants them gone. As FSRN’s Jacob Resneck reports the debate in Scotland isn’t just over independence it’s rekindled the debate over nuclear freeze.


On a bluff over Faslane Naval Base on the River Clyde, a polite but suspicious military policeman shadows myself and two local anti­nuclear critics as we gaze down on what’s perhaps Britain’s most sensitive military installation.

“We’re not happy about being the home for it and we don’t actually think it’s necessary,” says real estate attorney Graeme McCormick ­ is a stalwart pro-­independence YES campaigner ­ and he wants Faslane’s warheads removed for good. “God forbid but if one was ever going to go off then that would really be the end of civilization as we know it.”

If the Scottish referendum succeeds he may get his way. The Scottish National Party which is driving politics from Edinburgh has pledged to evict the Trident submarines and the warheads being stored near the town of Helensburgh within four years.

It’s not an idle threat. The SNP has been campaigning for nuclear disarmament for years and public opinion supports it.

Across other parties, across the population as a whole, there’s no real appetite to have nuclear weapons in Scotland,” says defense expert Stuart Crawford, a retired Lt. Colonel in the British Army. “So that is why it’s become ­ for many people ­ a red­ line issue.”

Crawford argues should Scotland become independent, the Trident issue could be a top priority after the inevitable horse trading begins over the myriad of issues that will inevitably arise as it negotiates its exit from the United Kingdom.

“All roads lead to Trident on the Clyde and whether it stays or whether it goes,” Crawford argues. “You have a government in power which seeks independence which says it needs to go because that’s what it believes ­ in principle and has support of that point of view but the practicalities are such that it can’t be done quickly.”

But in the community of Helensburgh, it’s a hot issue. Not least because so many have moved here to work on the base.

“This is probably the most challenging area that the YES campaign has in Scotland because of the base and because of the emotional attachment people have to it,” says McCormick.

There are many surprises and contradictions here. Vivien Dance, an elected councilor and vocal critic of nuclear arms, moved here in the 1970s when her husband, a submarine officer, was transferred to work on the nuclear­-armed Polaris submarines.

Today she’s a vocal YES campaigner despite the fact that both she and her husband hail from Yorkshire in England.

“I think in the ‘70s we needed the nuclear deterrent,” she says. “The Cold War was upon us but I think we’ve moved on from there. Um… the kind of wars we’re fighting now will not be won by nuclear weapons. Trident now has had its day. It’s not a weapon that will be needed in the future.”

But not everyone in this community feels this way.

These very nuclear weapons have kept the peace since World War II so they’re exceedingly valuable,” says NO campaigner Alan Johnson, 72. “We’d be wide open to attack from jihadists all sorts of people if our defenses were taken away.”

Jobs are also at stake. Member of the Scottish Parliament Jackie Baillie of the Scottish Labour Party has been campaigning against the YES vote.

“Faslane is the biggest single site employer in the whole of Scotland,” she says. “It accounts for a quarter of the full­ time jobs within my local area so the impact of removal of Trident and the closure of Faslane would be devastating on the local economy and on local jobs.”

Nuclear arms have been a divisive issue in the UK since at least the 1970s.

Across the road from the base’s main gate, is the Faslane Peace Camp, an encampment of activists that have kept a constant presence since 1982.

Colorful hand painted trailers welcome visitors. Activists here are a mix of hostile to the referendum to cautiously optimistic.

“We need to keep the pressure on and make sure that our politicians don’t compromise or negotiate and we get what we’re being promised at the moment,” says 32-­year­-old resident activist Jimmie Watson of Glasgow.

He argues that timing is key. If Trident is evicted in less than four years, that could force the British military to move its arsenal out of the UK entirely or even scrap them entirely.

“Any shorter time scale is a disarmament time scale a time scale for it to be decommissioned completely and removed from the world and that’s what we hope will happen,” Watson says.

Already there’s been talk about moving the warheads to neighboring France or even the Atlantic seaboard of the United States.

But whatever the case, should Scotland achieve independence it would find itself with real leverage over its larger neighbor with regards to the future of Britain’s nuclear arsenal.

(All photos by Jacob Resneck. Click any thumbnail to launch slideshow.)

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Civil rights groups urge congressional action on racial profiling

Civil rights groups gathered Tuesday on Capitol Hill to urge Congress to take up a measure that aims to end racial profiling by law enforcement. Advocates say the events that took place in Ferguson, Missouri this summer – when an unarmed black teenager was shot by police – have highlighted a need for comprehensive law enforcement reform. Ashley Westerman reports from Washington, D.C.

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The so-called End Racial Profiling Act – or ERPA – aims to prevent racial profiling by law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels. Among other things, the measure requires agencies to maintain adequate policies and procedures to eliminate racial profiling or risk losing federal funding. It would also make it easier for any individual who felt they were injured by racial profiling to have their case heard by a court.

At Tuesday’s briefing, the bill’s author is Maryland Democratic Senator Ben Cardin asked how many more cases of police shooting of black teens like Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin would it take to spark a policy change. “We all know that profiling is un-American and wrong, but we also know it’s deadly, it’s causing loss of life.”

Proponents of the law say it would also be an unprecedented step in gathering much-needed data about racial profiling incidents, as the measure would award grants and contracts for the collection of that information.

Panelist Phillip Goff, president for the Center for Policing Equity, said at the briefing that the lack of data has impeded development of effective policies to combat racial profiling. “We have a racial problem with policing in the United States and the way we’ve been approaching it has not been serious,” he commented. “We don’t have a plan because we don’t even know what the numbers are.”

What empirical evidence is available, much of it does show that law enforcement actions are not uniform across race and ethnicity. For example, a 2005 study by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that during that year, black drivers were twice as likely as white drivers to be arrested during a traffic stop.

However, opponents of the bill say it’s redundant, too vague and an overall a slap in the face to law enforcement. James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, says ERPA is an automatic indictment of law enforcement and that “in this country, you have to prove something was done wrong before you impose sanctions on someone.”

Pasco says there is no systemic racial profiling problem in law enforcement, so there’s no need for a law to make it go away. He also says the legal remedies currently available to people who feel like they’re victims of racial profiling are sufficient.

Legal director of the ACLU of Missouri Anthony Rothert, who was also a panelist, said after the briefing that passing ERPA is especially important now since local police forces have become so militarized – another issue the events in Ferguson highlighted. “I think it was shocking to many Americans,” he told FSRN. “It was shocking to those of us in Missouri to see that kind of military force brought to people peacefully in the street.”

Missouri is actually one of seven states that prohibit the racial profiling of motorists. Another 16 states prohibit the racial profiling of both motorists and pedestrians.

While political analysts say this bill is unlikely to pass, civil rights advocates are hopeful that on the heels of the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, the Trayvon Martin case and many others, that it will gain bipartisan support and be taken up by Congress in the future.

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Thai media under pressure since May military coup

Thai media outlets have been operating under pressure since the military took power in a May coup. While there have been some concessions by the junta, the outlook is uncertain even as a military-backed government moves on national reform and debate. Ron Corben reports from Bangkok.

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Thailand’s media is facing tough times since the May 22nd coup with Thai editors and executives already summoned to meetings and told by the military to tread carefully in reporting on national events. An initial hard line towards media criticism has eased slightly, but only after the military shut down news media it deemed as politically divisive.

A first major step was the junta’s pull back from a ban on all criticism of the military leaders after pressure from the media. But restrictions remain. Talk shows are banned, as are live interviews of academics and former government officials and analysts, especially by Thai broadcast media.

International satellite TV news broadcasters, CNN and BBC, were both off the air for days immediately after the May 22nd coup.

“Under previous governments, the way they put on pressure was different,” says Pichai Chuensuksawadi, editor-in-chief of the English language Bangkok Post, illustrating the close scrutiny under which TV and radio news broadcasts are operating. “But here it’s clear. They use announcements. (But) they are willing to listen to a certain extent and make changes. The fact I think for television, for radio for satellite they are under the gun more than print media that’s for sure.”

Thailand’s media has developed certain coping mechanisms for operating under the challenge of long periods of military rule. Since becoming a constitutional monarchy in 1932, Thailand has faced 12 coups. But under civilian governments, threats to the media were largely indirect and economic in nature. Here they relied on lawsuits, buying up shares in newspapers, or steps to trigger losses as advertising was withdrawn.

Such indirect threats were a feature of the administrations linked to former leader Thaksin Shinawatra – ousted in a 2006 coup. It was the government of his younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra that was overthrown in May.

Supinya Klangnarong, a media rights activist and member of Thailand’s National Broadcasting Commission (NBTC), says nowadays the climate of fear is spreading “at the national level and also the organizational level because of the coup itself and the criminalization of our acts.”

The Paris-based Reporters without Borders accuses the Thai military of using the pretext of guaranteeing public order to “censor all criticism of the armed forces, discouraging the press from freely expressing opinions.” The group ranks Thailand, once one of the freest in South East Asia, at 130 out of 180 countries on an index of media freedom in 2014.

“There’s a deepening repression of critical media bringing out points of view that the military junta disagree with,” according to Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for the New York-based Human Rights Watch who says the banning of certain content in news reports is a clear message for the media. “What we’re seeing is increased banning of reports, blocking of websites issues a warning to media both print and electronic media not to step across a line that only the military junta really knows where that line lies.”

A harder line is already felt by some journalists.

Chutima Sidasathan a reporter on a Phuket-based web news service, PhuketWan, along with its Australian editor, Alan Morison, face criminal defamation charges brought last year over the publication of a Reuters report that elements within the Thai Navy were tied to trafficking of Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar. “I’ve been intimidated from the Navy officer,” says Chutima. “So very disturbing about this issue. And then I keep telling them – so we are journalists – we can’t keep silent.”

The Bangkok Post’s Editor, Pichai, says the junta seems ready to loosen restrictions in a bid to project a more positive image to the global community. But he adds the military will have no qualms to “bite” if dissatisfied with the media’s message.

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Street Beat: NYC rally for net neutrality on final day for FCC public comments

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Today marks the final day the Federal Communications Commission is accepting public comments on proposed rule changes for the open Internet. Advocates of net neutrality say the proposal submitted by FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler, a former cable industry lobbyist, would create a two-tiered internet with premium fast lanes for those able to pay for faster content delivery. Ahead of the final day, the FCC had already received a record-setting 2.5 million comments on the issue.

Around 50 people gathered outside of New York’s City Hall today to show their support for net neutrality and to publicly oppose the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner. The two largest cable providers in the US are seeking regulatory permission to consolidate their multi-billion dollar operations. A simultaneous rally took place outside of Comcast headquarters in Philadelphia.

FSRN’s Rebecca Myles spoke with rally attendees in New York City about their reasons for taking their digital demands to the streets.

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Sue Tartleton, founder and owner of Celebrate You: I use the internet a lot. I have several different businesses and they require internet access. It has enabled me to have a livelihood and I feel very strongly that would disappear for small businesses. I also feel this is a national treasure. I think the internet is our national treasure but it also spreads across the world. And I have a very strong feeling if we just communicated more with other people we would break down a lot of barriers that are up, and if we take that away, then we are back to having our own little communities with our own separate lives with our own little belief systems and I believe its time we opened up to the world.

Craig Aaron, President of Free Press: The beauty of the open internet is that when you go online, you can go wherever you want, do what you want, download whatever you want. You don’t need permission from a phone company to make your website work. You lose net neutrality, that all goes away and suddenly you’re in a tiered system with fast lanes for the few and slow lanes for everybody else. That’s not a world I want to live in.  The internet has been such an unrivaled source for free speech, for democratic participation, for economic innovation, I don’t want to lose that. You lose net neutrality, and there’s a real danger of losing everything that has made the internet so great.

Jennifer Pozner, Executive Director of Women in Media & News: The loss of net neutrality for me personally would mean a lack of access to readers, it would mean a lack of access to information that I rely on to inform myself as a citizen in this country. It’s the flip side of the coin, right? As an independent journalist and a media literacy educator, I rely on the internet to get my messages out, to get my articles out, to get my independent videos out. I rely on the internet to build relationships with media producers, with fellow activists, with advocates, and to get out my education materials to youth and to other people who need media literacy. But at the same time, I am citizen of this country and I need a free and open internet so I can get uncensored, equal access to the information I need to make adequate, accurate decision, informed decisions on public policy, on legislation on cultural issues.

Without free and open internet, without the protections that net neutrality affords us, I am going to have to rely on what – CNN, The New York Times for all of the information that I need to make decisions about foreign policy issues, to make decisions about economic issues, to make decisions about medical and health issues?  Well, that’s great if you don’t care about women’s health, it’s great if you don’t care about peace issues, it’s great if you don’t care about the feminization of poverty. But if you do you need to be able to rely on Free Speech Radio News, you need to be able to rely on the Crunk Feminist Collective, you need to be able to rely on a variety of independent, non-corporate media outlets and those can be legally censored onto a slow lane or even blocked, actively blocked.

Leon Grombaum, internet user: I am concerned generally about loss of options, as it is there are so few providers. Concerned about rising costs and also control over the flow information. Really everything increasingly is being channeled through the internet so if it is the hands of one corporation who knows what those ties are to the government and some kind of emergency situation we suddenly may be left with no ability to communicate. There’s a lot of issues involved. Just the idea that we have something that is pretty democratic and its being threatened and that is the main concern.

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FSRN Weekly Edition - September 12, 2014

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  • Obama announces expanded offensive against ISIS
  • Kurdish families claim kids kidnapped by PKK
  • Senate GOP whiplash:  switches position on reversal of Citizen’s United 
  • Sex workers left out of conversation on sex trafficking prevention
  • WMO says ocean acidification rate unprecedented in 300 million year
  • Murders of indigenous forest defenders highlight illegal logging in Peruvian Amazon


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Obama announces expanded offensive against ISIS

President Barack Obama has laid out a four-point strategy for an expanded offensive against the radical Islamist militants who call themselves the Islamic State. In a televised address Wednesday night, President Obama said the US would not act alone and would not put combat troops on the ground. First, he announced plans for airstrikes within Syria, where ISIS initially gained strength as an armed faction in the civil war, and now controls large parts of the country’s northeast. Second, he pledged additional logistic and intelligence forces to support Iraqi and Kurdish troops, and said increased support for opposition fighters in Syria is already underway. Obama, however, made it clear that moving against ISIS does not imply cooperation with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

“Tonight I call on Congress again to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters in the fight against ISIL we cannot rely on the Assad regime that terrorizes its own people, a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost. Instead we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.”

The President also talked about continued coalition building, counter-terrorism efforts and economic measures to combat the group.

The announcement came shortly after Iraqi lawmakers formed a new government which includes Sunni and Kurdish representation. FSRN’s Nell Abram speaks with Sajad Jiyad, a UK-based researcher on Iraq, Middle Eastern Politics and Islamic Studies.

Kurdish families claim kids kidnapped by PKK

Various armed groups are engaged in fighting ISIS in the region of the Middle East where the population of ethnic Kurds spans the borders of Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Along with Iraqi troops are Peshmerga forces from Iraqi Kurdistan and guerrillas with the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. PKK rebels have a three-decade-long history of fighting Turkish troops as part of a conflict that has claimed About 40,000 lives. Peace talks began in 2012, but stalled after a few months. Both the US and the EU consider the PKK a terrorist organization.

Now a growing number of Kurdish families accuse the PKK of abducting their children to fill their ranks. Over the weekend, PKK rebels reportedly took 10 adolescents from their hometown in the eastern province of Muş. Its unclear if the youth went of their own accord. Five returned home Tuesday. And as Dorian Jones reports from the main city in the predominantly Kurdish southeast, more families there say they want their children home. Dorian Jones reports from southeastern Turkey.

Senate GOP whiplash:  switches position on reversal of Citizens United

Just days after advancing a measure that would have given Congress the authority to cap donations to federal political campaigns, the Senate GOP reversed itself and blocked any further action on the bill. Earlier in week, 20 Republicans crossed the aisle to limit debate on the so-called Democracy for All amendment that sought to overturn the controversial Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United. Ashley Westerman reports from Washington, D.C.

Sex workers left out of conversation on sex trafficking prevention

Federal authorities are taking steps to crack down on the sex trade under the banner of a nationwide effort to prevent human trafficking. Measures include freezing sex workers’ bank accounts and shutting down adult advertising sites. A bill making its way through Congress would tighten guidelines for placing “adult service” advertisements. In the process, however, legislators have renewed a debate about the distinction between human trafficking and sex work, and the rights of those involved in both. Taylor Sanders reports.


WMO says ocean acidification rate unprecedented in 300 million year

The planet’s atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations reached a new record high in 2013, driven by a surge in carbon dioxide levels. That’s according to a report released this week by the United Nation’s World Meteorological Organization. WMO Secretary General, Michel Jarraud says urgent action is needed to mitigate the effects of climate change.

“The more we wait, the more challenging it will be, because every year passing concentrations are reaching higher and higher values and therefore it will require stronger and stronger action to avoid the climate changes to be so big that adaptation will be either more difficult in some cases impossible and in any case for expensive. Action is still possible. It will require bold decision, courageous decisions. Time is not on our side, the more we wait, the more difficult, the more expensive, the more challenging it will be.”

The United Nations will host a major climate summit later this month in New York City.

This year’s WMO report is the first to contain a section on how oceans are being affected by higher levels of greenhouse gases. Oceans absorb an estimated one quarter of the world’s CO2 emissions. The report found the current rate of ocean acidification appears to be unprecedented in at least 300 million years.

Murders of indigenous forest defenders highlight illegal logging in Peruvian Amazon

The Amazon rainforest is another imperiled carbon sink — one of the most crucial in the world. But deforestation – much of it by logging – is severely affecting the complex ecosystem. Logging activities are also taking a toll on the Amazon Basin’s indigenous communities. News broke this week that a leading forest defender and indigenous rights activist was murdered earlier this month with three members of his community in the Peruvian Amazon region near the border with Brazil. Shannon Young has the details.

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Murders of indigenous forest defenders highlight illegal logging in Peruvian Amazon

The Amazon rainforest is another imperiled carbon sink — one of the most crucial in the world. But deforestation – much of it by logging – is severely affecting the complex ecosystem. Logging activities are also taking a toll on the Amazon Basin’s indigenous communities. News broke this week that a leading forest defender and indigenous rights activist was murdered earlier this month with three members of his community in the Peruvian Amazon region near the border with Brazil. Shannon Young has the details.

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Indigenous Ashéninka leader and prominent rainforest campaigner, Edwin Chota, and three other leaders of the Alto Tamaya Saweto community; Jorge Rios, Francisco Pinedo and Leoncio Quinticima were murdered September first, but news of the crime took several days to travel out of the remote Amazon region.

Prior to his murder, Chota received death threats from illegal loggers.

In a 2013 video interview posted to YouTube, Edwin Chota says institutional abandonment – from basic services to public safety – has created a dangerous vacuum along the border in which the region’s indigenous populations are left to fend for themselves against illegal loggers operating within their ancestral territories.

Henderson Rengifo, a leader of the Interethnic Association for Development of the Peruvian Jungle (AIDESEP), says that last week’s murders in Saweto are a result of the Peruvian government’s foot-dragging on granting indigenous groups legal control of their territories. “This unfortunate incident occurred because the state doesn’t see to the demands of – or its historic debt to – indigenous people to grant titles to their territories so that indigenous people can manage their own lands, forests and resources.”

While the Peruvian government granted concessions to two forestry companies to legally log within parts of Edwin Chota’s homelands, David Salisbury, Associate Professor of Geography and the Environment at the University of Richmond, says that’s not who is logging there. “Both of them have over 50 thousand dollars in debt and they’re not operating,” he told FSRN by phone from his office. “What you do have are illegal loggers who are sort of separate outfits who take advantage of the open space and the lack of legal logging taking place to log indiscriminately.”

A free trade agreement between Peru and the United States requires certification of wood sourced in Peruvian forests to show it has been legally logged. However, a multi-year investigation into the industry by the non-profit Environmental Investigation Agency found evidence of extensive fraud and little meaningful oversight.

“What happens is the loggers use falsified papers to present their timber as coming from somewhere else legally,” says Salisbury. “If you had oversight in these areas, then you could clearly see that the logging was illegal and that’s one of the things that Edwin Chota did was he geo-referenced using a GPS where all the timber was coming from and was able to map this out and show loggers were operating with impunity within his ancestral territory despite the forestry concession being inactive for the last several years.”

Salisbury worked with Edwin Chota for ten years as part of a project to obtain land titles for Saweto’s indigenous Ashéninka residents. He says that just days before the murders of the four community leaders, investigators from Peru’s forestry supervisory body traveled to Saweto to probe the allegations Chota and the others had so diligently documented.

And Saweto isn’t the only community that’s been affected.

In July, members of a so-called “uncontacted tribe” – indigenous populations that live in voluntary or circumstantial isolation – made international headlines when they crossed a river from Peru into Brazil, driven from the rainforest by illegal loggers.

Henderson Rengifo of the AIDESEP says the pressure comes from illegal loggers and also from others entities with vested economic  interest in the area’s natural resources, like mining and oil companies. “Our territories and the territories of the uncontacted peoples are being threatened. That’s why along the border between Peru and Brazil and in the Loreto region along the Peru-Ecuador boundary, the uncontacted have been emerging to cross over to the other side of the border.”

Rengifo says it’s time for the Peruvian government to issue titles for outstanding indigenous territorial claims amounting to around 50 million acres.

Until then, companies with official concessions have legal weight to harvest and mine Peru’s natural resources in disputed lands…and  illegal groups like loggers and drug traffickers are able to operate with apparent impunity.