Archive | Asia

Myanmar’s “Unpeople Rohingya”: Expose the Duplicity of Aung San Suu Kyi

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Aung San Suu Kyi, Photo by Claude TRUONG-NGOC (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Aung San Suu Kyi has finally her laid her cards on the table. No more bewilderment about why the holder of the Nobel Peace Prize (a worthless honorific most often awarded war criminals), the democracy icon known as “the Mandela of Asia,” the holder of dozens of international honorifics as a champion of human rights has remained dead silent on the genocide against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

Media reports the conflict as primarily a religious one between Muslims & Buddhists but Rohingya have been subject for decades to violent state-sponsored persecution & discrimination conducted by the military, including denial of citizenship (though they have lived in the region for decades), religious persecution, forced labor, land confiscations, arbitrary taxation & various forms of extortion, forced eviction & house destruction, restrictions on travel for health & work, restrictions on marriage, education, & trade. The violence is so extreme & sustained going back decades that hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas flee for asylum to Malaysia & to squalid refugee camps in Thailand & Bangladesh. Myanmar now has forced nearly 150,000 to live in concentration camps.

For years, Suu Kyi dummied up when reporters asked her about the genocide or answered in platitudes urging people to get along with each other or evasions calling for rule of law. Her evasions were taken as diplomacy even though it’s really hard to be a champion of human rights if diplomacy is your schtick. Usually daring & fearlessness are essential qualities of such champions, not cowardice or talking with marbles in your mouth.

But now Suu Kyi is the head of state in what is called (without a hint of sarcasm) ” Myanmar’s first democratically elected government since 1962.” She won that election through a loathsome compromise with the military junta & by supporting their neoliberal policies bringing in foreign investment & mining projects at the expense of farmers & rural workers. Some of those farmers & villagers were way ahead of the rest of the world in understanding her betrayals when they booed her out of town for saying the expropriations of their lands & destruction of the environment were “for the greater good.”

Now the NY Times reports that in a recent meeting, Suu Kyi advised the US ambassador against using the term “Rohingya” to describe the Muslim people of Myanmar because her government does not recognize them as citizens. Using the same kind of marble-mouthed deceits she used to blither to reporters, her representative told the ambassador, “We won’t use the term Rohingya because Rohingya are not recognized as among the 135 official ethnic groups.” He added, “Our position is that using the controversial term does not support the national reconciliation process & solving problems.”

The US government is hardly the champion of human rights in all this. Hillary Clinton & Obama have both made high profile visits to Myanmar & paid homage to Suu Kyi as a human rights advocate. US multinationals are pouring billions of investment into Myanmar. If the US ambassador expresses any concern about genocide against Rohingya, it is only that the genocide not come back to interfere with those investments.

Solidarity with Rohingya Muslims against genocide & for justice means educating about their struggle against genocide & part of that education requires exposing the murderous duplicity & collusion of Suu Kyi.

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China-Thailand Military Exercise Launched Against Backdrop of US-China Confrontation

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Thai-Chinese

China and Thailand launched the Blue Sky 2016 joint military exercise on Saturday. The opening ceremony for the drill was held at the Sattahip Naval Base in Chon Buri, Thailand. It was presided over by Royal Thai Navy Fleet Commander Naris Prathumsuwan and Wang Hai, deputy commander of Chinese Navy. The Blue Sky 2016 exercise was launched against the backdrop of the development of closer bilateral relations and a cohort of domestic, regional and geopolitical challenges.

The Blue Sky 2016 exercise involves joint training at sea and on land, evacuation of people from conflict-affected areas, disaster-stricken areas, as well as counter-terrorism operations with focus on relief for the population.

Blue Sky 2016_Thailand_China_ChonbureeDeputy commander of Chinese Navy, Wang Hai said the drill manifests the perseverance and ability of marine corps from both countries in counter-terrorism and maintaining peace in the region.

Royal Thai Navy Fleet Commander Naris Prathumsuwan for his part, said the Blue Skye 2016 exercise would help boost the long-standing relationship between Thailand and China and the exercise was aimed at increasing cooperation between the two forces by sharing practical knowledge and experiences.

Blue Sky 2016 is the third of its kind, following the Blue Strike 2010 and the Blue Strike 2012 joint exercises. The Sattahip Naval Base, where the headquarters of Royal Thai Marine corps is located, is the biggest naval base in Thailand.

Thailand Reorients Itself After 2014 Military Takeover – Need for Constitutional Reform Remains

Image: The New York Times

Image: The New York Times

Bilateral relations between China and Thailand have been expanded and consolidated since 2014, after the Thai military intervened and took power after months of protests against the government of Yingluck Shinawatra by protesters who demanded that the Pheu Thai party government abides by the constitution. In late 2013 protesters from the popular PDRC movement began a wave of protests demanding reform before elections.

Early 2014 the movement also gained the support from many of Thailand’s rice farmers. Protests were about to bring the country to a stand-still. The Shinawatra regime and armed militant “Red Shirts” and Black Shirts” linked to the Pheu Thai party, on the other hand, carried out a wave of terrorist attacks against protesters before the military intervened to prevent that the country spirals out of control.

The ousted PM Yingluck Shinawatra and the Pheu Thai party overtly admitted that Yingluck governed the country as a proxy for her fugitive brother Thaksin Shinawatra who maintains close ties to U.S. and British think tanks and high-finance. Thaksin is wanted on several charges, including corruption and involvement in crackdowns that led to several deaths. He openly admitted to the New York Times that power in Thailand comes via Skype.

DR_AMORN_thai_constitution

Click on image to enlarge.

Thailand has been through several circles of “Democracy” and military takeovers. Constitutional reform advocates stress that Thailand’s constitution invariably leads to the concentration of power in the hands of small financial and party elites, regardless of which party it is that is in power. The problem is in other words “systemic”.

Professor Dr. Amorn Chandarasomboon, a former Secretary-General of Thailand’s State Council, outlined the systemic problems, stating a truly democratic system means:

  • There must be elections.
  • Elected representatives must have the ability to perform their duties independently according to their conscience, free of external control.
  • Thailand’s Constitution allows capitalist autocracy operating under a parliamentary system because of these three provisions.
  • 1) A Member of Parliament (MP) must be a member of a political party.
  • 2) A political party can expel a member for disobeying a party resolution.
  • 3) The Prime Minister must be a Member of Parliament.

Amorn stressed that such a political system allows those with money to obtain absolute power to run the country like a privately owned business and leads to corruption. The administration of General Prayuth Chan-ocha and Thailand as a nation still have to address this need for constitutional reform.

Many analysts believe that the question whether or not the above mentioned constitutional and systemic problems will be addressed will determine whether or not Thailand escapes its circle of democracy, corruption and nepotism, protests and military interventions. Especially the U.S. and British governments have touted the military intervention as a coup while western media generally describe the government as a “military junta”.

Polls do, however, suggest that the majority of Thai citizens regard the military as an important, independent national institution that functions as an important stabilizing factor. The 2014 military intervention was welcomed by the PDRC and other pro-reform advocates, by the Royal household, by the majority of Thailand’s population, by the important Thai Chamber of Commerce , the Board of Trade, as well as by both Thai Buddhist and Roman Catholic dignitaries. Polls also suggest that the majority of the population prefers a longer period of transition to consolidate the country rather than a rushed return to a dysfunctional democratic system.

With western governments being increasingly hostile towards Thailand, Bangkok has encouraged its business community and finance sector to make use of the opportunities that have been opened up by the opening of China’s economy. Thailand is, however, maintaining a balanced position, making the best of its ties to China and ASEAN.

Bangkok has also initiated projects that aim at closer cooperation with Russia, Belarus and the relatively newly founded Eurasian Economic Union (EEU)The Thai strategy aims at balance, friendly relations with all who are genuinely interested, and in maintaining national sovereignty. Earlier this year, for example, Bangkok turned down the Chinese – Thai High-Speed Rail project and went solo with building parts of the planned railway infrastructure. Bangkok stressed that it could not agree with Chinese demands about exclusive land-development rights along the railway.

Common Denominators With Regard to Terrorism

Aftermath of the bombing at the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok

Aftermath of the bombing at the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok

China and Thailand are facing similar and in part overlapping security challenges with regard to terrorism. Even though there were not made any official, explicit  comments by  Royal Thai Navy Fleet Commander Naris Prathumsuwan and Wang Hai, deputy commander of Chinese Navy it is safe to assume that the Blue Sky 2016 exercise is in part addressing these challenges.

More specifically: China is struggling with armed Turkmen – Uighur insurgents in its Xingjian province. In 2015 Thailand expelled some 100 Uighur for alleged involvement in human trafficking. Uighur networks have also been implicated in the 2015 bombing at the Erawan Shrine that killed 20 and injured another 120 appeared in court in Thailand’s capital Bangkok.

Uighur militants in China’s Xinjiang province are known for ties to Turkish “Grey Wolves”, as well as Turkish and NATO intelligence services. Uighur NGOs in China are also supported by well-known CIA fronts including The National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

325px-Map_of_Thailand_Demis PDThailand has traditionally been very tolerant of other than Therevada Buddhist religions and religious communities. Thailand is, however, plagued by Islamist terrorism in regions with a high percentage of Muslims along the West and East Coasts of the Peninsula across Trang, Krabi, Phuket, Ranong, Nakkon Si Thammarat, and Surat Thani.

Chinese and Thai security analysts and security services, including the military, must be acutely aware of the threat that is being posed by the increased involvement of Islamists in Xinjiang, China and in southwestern Thailand. That is, “Islamists” not to be confused with “Muslims”. Especially precarious links are those between Islamists with ties to Turkish “Grey Wolves”, and Muslim Brotherhood affiliated networks.

Likewise, the increased involvement of fundamentalist, Saudi Arabia supported Wahhabi and networks to remnants of Al-Qaeda networks have the potential of posing threats to Thailand, Myanmar, as well as to China.

It is worth noting that displaced Rohingya from Bangladesh and Rohingya refugee camps in Myanmar have been infiltrated by the Bangladeshi Al-Qaeda Franchise Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islam (HuJI). Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islam, for its part, is known for being infiltrated by, and in part run by intelligence services of Bangladesh, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other’s  who used the Al-Qaeda “Mujahedeen” in the fight against Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

Finally, the joint Chinese – Thai Blue Sky 2016 military exercise must also be viewed within the context of growing tensions over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. While it is unlikely that open warfare would erupt between China and the USA, or between China and one of the United States’ Asian – Pacific  allies, the risk of 4th generation, asymmetric warfare by terrorist proxy is very real and potentially implicates Thailand and Thailand’s neighbors, including Malaysia, Philippines as well as Indonesia.

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Philippines-Malaysia Conflict: Drop the Sabah Claim; Focus on the Bangsamoro Agreement

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Flag_of_Sabah.svg

According to media reports, President-Elect Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines would be staking a fresh claim on Sabah. He recognises Sabah as a Sulu Sultanate territory.

It is a recognition that has been challenged by various quarters including the Malaysian federal government and the Sabah state government. Many students of law have also disputed the Sulu-Philippine claim which to a large extent has revolved around the question of whether Sabah was leased or ceded by the Sultan of Sulu to representatives of the British North Borneo Company in 1878.  

Whatever happened in 1878, many would argue that what really matters is that the Cobbold Commission established in 1962 to ascertain the sentiments of the people of Sabah and Sarawak towards the formation of Malaysia in 1963 found that the majority in both states wanted to be part of Malaysia. Since the Commission’s findings were endorsed by the UN, Sabah’s position in Malaysia has the imprimatur of international law.

Even more significant from the perspectives of both International and domestic law is the fact that the people of Sabah have on numerous occasions proven that they are part and parcel of the Malaysian nation. This they have done through their voluntary participation in democratic state and general elections since the sixties. By exercising their fundamental right as citizens, they have re-affirmed that Sabah is an integral part of the Malaysian Federation. By fulfilling their duty as voters, the people of Sabah have in a sense expressed their right of self-determination.

In this regard, it is important to observe that no political party or politician contesting in elections in Sabah has ever championed the Sulu-Philippine claim to Sabah. No individual or group in Sabah outside the political process has ever espoused this meaningless cause.  It is a claim that has no takers in Sabah itself.

It is only within political circles in the Philippines that this claim is kept alive. Every time there is a Presidential election, it is trotted out by some candidate or other in the hope of gaining some political mileage. After all, it is an issue related to territory and history and therefore evokes some emotions within a segment of the populace.

Instead of pursuing the claim on Sabah, Duterte should push for the adoption of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro by the Philippine Congress. The peace Agreement signed between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the 27th of March 2014 in Manila paves the way for the creation of a new Muslim autonomous entity, the Bangsamoro, in the southern island of Mindanao. If it is successfully implemented it may bring to an end the conflict and the bloodshed that has blighted southern Philippines for centuries.

Duterte had said on the 28th of February 2016 that he would like to see the Philippine Congress adopt the Agreement in the form of the Bangsamoro Basic Law within the context of a Federal system of government. He wants the law to be an example for the rest of the Philippines in his drive to transform the nation into a viable federation. He has shown some sympathy for the Muslims in the South and has vowed to “correct historical wrongs.”  Duterte has acknowledged publicly that his grandmother is a Moro and he has daughters-in- law and grandchildren who are Moro.

If under Duterte’s presidency, the longstanding claim of the Philippines government and the descendants of the Sulu Sultan to Sabah is dropped once and for all and an earnest attempt is made to recognise the rights of the Moro people within the framework of a sovereign, independent Philippine nation, the prospects for peace and development in the Philippines as a whole will be much brighter than it has been for decades.  Malaysia and ASEAN will also benefit immensely from these moves.

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Fukushima and Nuclear Power: Does the Advertising Giant Dentsu Pull the Strings of Japan’s Media?

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japan

French journalist Mathieu Gaulène describes the business practices of Dentsu and its competitor Hakuhodo, the biggest and the second biggest advertising companies of Japan respectively. Specifically, it examines how their close relations to the media and the nuclear industry play out in the wake of the 3.11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. Focusing Dentsu, Gaulène discusses how the marketing and public relations (PR) giant has dominated major media which large advertising contracts from the nuclear industry. The article is particularly timely as Dentsu unveils its deep ties to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic bid and the Panama Papers. Regrettably, however, with rare exceptions, there is little media coverage of the influence of Dentsu in mainstream Japanese newspapers and magazines.

According to the author, a partial translation of the French original was made by Kazparis (username), and quickly received more than 70,000 views on Twitter. Then, Uchida Tatsuru, a specialist in French literature, and HACK & SOCIETAS published two other Japanese translations. Soon after, Tokyo Shimbun and Mainichi Shimbun published long articles about Dentsu. SN

Dentsu, the fifth largest communication group in the world, holds a large share of the Japanese advertising market, which impacts media freedom in Japan. This is particularly true in relation to the nuclear power industry.

– Dentsu and information on nuclear power

– Indirect pressures on press journalists

– The 2016 comeback of nuclear advertisements and the resignations of TV journalists

The moment remains famous. On the eve of Japan’s Upper House elections, former actor Yamamoto Taro, an anti-nuclear power candidate supported by no party, campaigned on Twitter to win an upper house seat in the Diet. Censored by the media, the young candidate, famous for his verve, had mainly campaigned against nuclear power, but he also called out the big media, accusing it of being in the pay of sponsors and thus of electric companies and of systematically censoring critical information on nuclear power.

A television channel granted him an interview at the end of a program, but only after presenting a journalist to defend his profession. On screen, the young senator was given only one minute to respond. “I will take a simple example. Food can now hold up to 100 becquerels per kilogram; that means even just via eating we are irradiated. It is never said on television… ” Yamamoto had to stop. The ending jingle started, and the presenter at the studio announced, bantering, that the show was over, before launching an advertising page.

The video, which was available online for 3 years, was removed on May 16, 2016 shortly after the publication of this article.

Yamamoto Taro on NHK, 21 July 2013

Advertisements in Japan are literally everywhere: a veritable hell of posters or screens in trains and stations, giant posters on buildings, bearers of advertising placards or lorries with huge posters and loud PA systems in the streets: even advertising displays mounted atop urinals in some restaurants. In this advertising empire, the media are no exception. In the press, naturally, as in France, major companies pay for full page advertisements. But, above all in television. An entertainment show generally starts with the announcement of sponsors, and is interrupted every five minutes by numerous short advertising spots, where we often find the same sponsors. There is virtually no time for thinking, most TV channels offer programs close to the world of pachinko: garish colors, constant noise, and frat humor even of the most vulgar kind.

In this immense television arena, advertising is orchestrated by one of the global giants, Dentsu, the 5th communication group in the world and the number one ad agency. With its rival Hakuhodo, 2nd in the archipelago, the two agencies nicknamed “Denpaku,” combine advertising, public relations, media monitoring, crisis management for the largest Japanese and foreign companies, the local authorities, political parties or the government. Together they hold nearly 70% of the market. A true empire that some accuse of ruling the roost in the Japanese media.

A figure allows sizing up Dentsu’s reach: in 2015, the group secured nearly 7 billion euros in revenue, second only to the French Publicis with 9.6 billion euros during the same period. Most of its business is in TV advertisements. For example, Dentsu has created a commercial series for Softbank for almost ten years: the famous “Shirato” family characterized by a white dog as the father; an American black actor as the older brother; and Tommy Lee Jones as a housekeeper.

In July 2013, the group expanded internationally by acquiring the British Aegis for 3.7 billion euros to establish the Dentsu Aegis Network in London. This international network, consisting of ten advertising agencies in more than 140 countries, allowed the Japanese to beef up their activities, particularly in digital marketing, and to secure a position in the international market which accounts for more than half of its total global business (54.3% in 2015). Dentsu employs 47,000 people worldwide, including 7,000 in Japan.

Dentsu and information on nuclear power

Dentsu headquarters, Shiodome

Located in the business district of Shiodome, not far from Nippon TV, Fuji TV and the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, the Dentsu tower dominates the skyline with its imposing beauty. Designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel, its gentle curves and perfect glass walls soothe the eye. Inside the building, Mr. Kannan Shusaku, communications director of the group, receives us, all smiles for a visit of the site. The ground floor is filled with contemporary art, like a white chessboard by Yoko Ono. From there, a noria of lifts takes employees towards different floors and rigorously separates departments. The group’s customers are the top 5 in each industry, and “everything is done so that employees working for competing enterprises never meet each other.” Mr. Kannan assures us. Dentsu obviously prizes transparency, but is its image that stainless?

In a book published in 2012, Honma Ryu looked into some of Dentsu’s backstage, and its tight control over the media, especially on behalf of one of its major clients: Tokyo Electric Power Company, Tepco. Honma is not alien to advertising circles; he worked for 18 years at number 2, Hakuhodo, then after one year imprisonment for fraud, he began writing, first about his prison experience, then about his years of advertising and the methods he used to coax the media. In 2012, his book Dentsu and Nuclear Coverage became a bestseller within a few months, despite almost universal media blackout.

Honma meticulously described the mechanisms by which Dentsu, the inevitable intermediary, implicitly imposes on media what can or cannot be written on nuclear power, and under what conditions. “Dentsu occupies a special position since the agency holds 80% of the market for nuclear advertising in Japan,” he reminded us during an interview in a coffee shop at Ueno Station. In 2010, in this huge advertising market, Tepco, a regional firm, indeed ranked 10th in terms of advertising expenses, next to power plant manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. That year, on the eve of the Fukushima accident, Tepco had spent more than 2 million euros on advertising. The overall advertising expenses of the 10 regional electrical power companies amounted to 7 million euros.

Honma Ryu, Dentsu and Nuclear Coverage

For decades, especially since the 1990s when public opinion began to become critical of nuclear power following several accidents, Tepco and other power companies stepped up commercials and advertorials in the press.

On television, the advertisements can be enough in themselves to overwhelm criticism. Big groups often sponsor TV programs, talk shows or series for an entire season. Sometimes, entire documentaries are produced by Denjiren, [the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC)], a key player in the nuclear lobby, to promote the industry. Any dissenting voice is unwelcome for fear of losing sponsors. After Fukushima, Yamamoto Taro paid the price; appearing regularly on TV as a tarento [talent] until then when he suddenly became persona non grata on TV and even in cinema for having expressed opposition to nuclear power. This is hardly new since the great figures of the anti-nuclear movement, best-selling authors such as Hirose Takashi or Koide Hiroaki are almost never invited to appear on TV, especially after the Fukushima accident. This “control by media” denounced by Honma Ryu obviously is not limited to the nuclear power industry. Thus, he reminds us of the case of the millions of Toyota vehicle recalls due to a defective accelerator pedal. It was necessary to wait until the Toyota CEO apologized to the U.S. Congress before that affair really appeared in the Japanese press. “No doubt the advertising agency had succeeded until then in preserving the image of its client, but when the scandal became too big and was in the public eye abroad, the media had no choice but to reveal the affair” he states. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that apart from some programs such as “Hodo Station” on TV Asahi, which provide good quality information, sometimes being critical of the government, most TV news in Japan rarely address subjects that can offend one or another group, relaying communications from the government without critically stepping back, and not introducing international news except when the subject involves Japanese citizens.

Momii Katsuto apologizing at Lower House Budget Committee session, 13 January 2016

Amid all these private media groups, only NHK escapes this advertising empire and can claim to be independent, receiving its funding directly from viewers. Alas, the situation at NHK is even more disastrous, its president Momii Katsuto having said without embarrassment on several occasions that the chain had to be the spokesman for the Abe government. In a recent statement before 200 retired NHK employees, he even seemingly acknowledged having ordered NHK journalists to confine broadcasts to reassuring communiqués from the authorities about Kyushu earthquakes and potential risks they pose to nuclear plants and instructing them not to interview independent experts.

Indirect pressures on the press

What about the press? Dentsu has long had a special relationship with the two news agencies Kyodo News and Jiji Press: the three entities formed a single information group before the war. If information in the press is more difficult to control, Dentsu not only advertises, but provides after-sales customer service — media monitoring, advice on crisis management, and indirect pressure on newspapers.

Whereas in France, the acquisition of media companies by large industrial groups is the prelude to direct pressure, in Japan pressure comes via advertising agencies that act as true ambassadors for the groups. “I know very well how this happens, as Honma Ryu amusingly relates, I did the same thing when I was at Hakuhodo. If an incident occurs in a factory or a plant and the press reports it, Dentsu directly intervenes and visits the business department of the newspaper in question.” Things are done in the “Japanese” way. “We ask them politely to try to speak less about the case, not to put the article on the front page, or to publish it in the evening paper which is less read.” Such messages are directly transmitted by the business staff of the journal to top management.

Journalists will never know, but the next day their article will be relegated to the inside pages, or sometimes simply not published, or, for example, claiming lack of space. But, suspicions are numerous, and, Honma reports, after the publication of his book, many journalists came to see him confirming cases of censorship. Advertisements of nuclear power are mainly distributed in weekly and daily newspapers. Since the accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant, they stopped; but for Dentsu, a profitable new business emerged: promoting agricultural products from Fukushima. Since 2011, with the participation of star singers, Fukushima Prefecture has never skimped on promoting its peaches, rice, or tomatoes, with slogans like “Fukushima Pride” or “Fukushima is well!”

 “Fukushima Pride”

All this thanks to the help of Dentsu and Dentsu Public Relations (PR). “Dentsu PR also works for the METI [Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry],” explains Ms. Fujii Kyoko, Director of communications at Dentsu PR. “We organized free tours of Tohoku for foreign journalists, such as Thai and Malaysian journalists, to show that the region is recovering from the disaster.” And to expunge the surrounding radioactivity?

Dentsu thus occupies a very special position in the promotion of nuclear power, beside Tepco but also the powerful Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), both clients of the advertising company. Under these conditions, can Dentsu not be considered to actively underwrite the “nuclear village”? To this question, Mr. Kannan Shusaku, who received us in his office at the top of the Dentsu tower, answered without beating around the bush. “We have no power to influence the media and we do not practice politics.” Yet when asked why Dentsu is a member of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF), the main organization of nuclear lobbying, along with Japanese electric utility companies and EDF [Electricity of France, Électricité de France], Mr. Kannan became more circumspect. “I do not know this association… Really, are you sure?” he replied, slightly annoyed, before reaching for his smartphone. “Oh, yes, we are members. But, you know we are members of many associations. People ask us to send someone and sign, that’s all.” Apparently unconvinced by his own argument, he finally found a getaway and suddenly exclaimed: “You see, Hakuhodo is also a member!” obviously happy about not being the only one enlisted in the lobby.

The 2016 comeback of nuclear advertisements and resignations of TV journalists

For Honma Ryu, this is a sign of a resumption of promotion activities of nuclear power. “Hakuhodo has actually been a member of the JAIF for two years,” he explained, after the Fukushima accident. Obviously, having been sidelined for several decades from this gold mine of nuclear advertisements, the rival agency wants to restore its share in the promotion of nuclear power in the post-Fukushima era. These ads had, however, completely disappeared since the accident on March 11, 2011. After a final full page apology in the press and broadcast on television by Tepco, the plant operators and manufacturers had chosen to keep a low profile, not broadcasting advertisements on nuclear power for five years.

But, although plant restarts have been hindered by dozens of lawsuits, some victorious as in Takahama, and the general population has generally been reluctant to see resumption of reactors, promoting nuclear power has again become intense. After restarting one plant in 2015, 2016 is the year of a discreet comeback for nuclear advertisements. These appear in the press and on local television of the prefectures with power stations. Honma Ryu reports that since February 2016, full-page advertisements have been published inFukui Shimbun by the Kansai Electric Power Company, where the Takahama plant was closed a month after its restart due to a lawsuit filed by citizens. Tepco advertisements for restarting Kashiwazaki-Kariwa have also appeared in the Niigata Nippo and on local television in a particular context: the current governor is firmly anti-nuclear and opposes any restart, but elections will be held by the end of this year when his term ends. This resurgence of Tepco nuclear advertising, however, has raised the ire of Niigata citizens, especially refugees from Fukushima who have launched a petition to stop them.

The message of all of these advertisements is identical, revealing the hand of Dentsu behind the scenes. Electric companies promise to make every effort to ensure the safety of power plants, while photographs highlight the plight of nuclear workers who are often poor and sometimes dependent on jobs in the nuclear industry. According to Honma Ryu, these advertisements are certainly only the tip of the iceberg. They are part of a campaign to closely monitor all information published on nuclear power, as well as the quasi-guarantee that local newspapers will limit the voice of opponents.

Furutachi Ichiro on “Hodo Station”

In a report on press freedom released in April 2016, Reporters Without Borders ranked Japan 72nd, behind Hungary and Tanzania. Six years ago, it ranked 11th. Visiting Tokyo, a United Nations rapporteur alerted the country to the growing pressures on Japanese journalists who work for private media or NHK. This is because of increasing government pressure, exacerbated by the entry into force in the past year of a law on state secrets, including nuclear related matters. A law with vague outlines threatens journalists with imprisonment for disclosing “secret” information. A sign of the times is that three television journalists known for their independence announced their resignation at the beginning of the year. Among them is Furutachi Ichiro, presenter of “Hodo Station,” which, according to Honma Ryu, was targeted by Dentsu for several years because of his critical views on nuclear power and the Abe administration. No doubt Dentsu, privileged ambassador of the largest industrial groups, will continue to play its role in the great media lockdown ongoing in Japan.

 

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How the Media Supported Corruption During the Elections in the Philippines

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Philippine Elections 2016

The 2016 general election of the Republic of the Philippines resulted in the most widely followed electoral period in Philippine political history. Officially starting on February 9, 2016, a hodgepodge of candidates, political parties, coalitions, and electoral alliances campaigned for multiple levels of executive and legislative government positions across the officially unitary—but in practice semi-unitary—polity of the Philippines on Monday, May 9, 2016. Without question, the most watched electoral races were those for the offices of the president and vice-president.

Aside from the presidency and vice-presidency, heated contests were waged over most of the legislative seats in the bicameral Congress of the Philippines. Half of the 24 seats in the Senate—the upper chamber of the Philippine Congress—and almost 300 seats in the House of Representatives—the lower chamber of the Philippine Congress—were contested. Furthermore, the Cotabato City-based executive and legislative regional government posts of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)—formed by the Mindanaoan provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi—consisting of the ARMM governorship, ARMM vice-governorship, three ARMM deputy governorships, and regional representatives in the unicameral ARMM Regional Legislative Assembly were all campaigned for.

Other local contested government offices were: the gubernatorial executive and legislative posts of governor, vice-governor, and Provincial Board legislator in the eighty-one Philippine provinces; and the country’s mayoral, vice-mayoral, and councilor offices forming the local government units for the highly urbanized component cities, independent component cities, component cities, and municipalities formed by the towns and townships of the Philippines.

The Media Centrality to 2016’s General Election

What made the 2016 election season and its campaigns unique is the integral role that the media played. The 2016 campaign period received widespread public attention and scrutiny due to the intense media coverage and the dependency of the candidates on different modes of communication and mass communication technologies, specifically the internet and social media. From the presence of the electoral candidates on social media to the mammoth advertisement campaigns they conducted and the heavy coverage provided to them by the largest news networks and newspapers in the Philippines, 2016 has been a multimodal media extravaganza par excellence for Philippine politics. From blogs, Twitter, Facebook, the online comment sections of news outlets, and public forums to community spaces and religious congregations across the Philippines, the public sphere has been abuzz. Public discussions focused on political dynasties, corruption, change, patronage, clientelism, constitutionalism, embezzlement, fraud, integrity, morality, the rule of law, and the future of the peoples of the Philippines. Despite the continued societal cynicisms about political corruption, this has led to a renewal of popular interest in Filipino politics. The supporters of all the candidates were active participants replicating the political messages and discourse(s) of those that they supported; even when campaigning was supposed to be stopped, supporters continued campaigning for their candidates on social media and in their daily exchanges.

The series of heated debates purportedly managed by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) that Filipinos and Filipinas from all over the country watched and listened to on their televisions, radios, computers, or smart phones added greatly to the public debate(s) about who should administer the next government of the Philippines. Millions of Filipinos and Filipinas listened and watched the live broadcasts of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates debating one another. The insults and accusations that the presidential contenders—Vice-President Jejomar Cabauatan Binay (the United Nationalist Alliance candidate), Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago (the People’s Reform Party candidate), Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte (the Philippine Democratic Party–People’s Power candidate and the winner of the election), Senator Mary Grace Natividad Sonora Poe Llamanzares (running as an independent), and Manuel Araneta Roxas II (the Liberal Party candidate from Wall Street and himself a secretary in President Benigno Aquino III’s cabinet until September 14, 2015)—hurled and leveled at one another during the live broadcasting captivated and enthralled Filipino and Filipina audiences from Cagayan Valley, Mimaropa and Central Visayas to Zamboanga, ARMM, and Soccsksargen. In Cebu City, the presidential candidates even delayed the debate when they began arguing backstage for approximately an hour over the rules of the debate. Eventually Mayor Duterte and Senator Poe would enter the stage, followed by Mar Roxas and Vice-President Binay; Senator Defensor-Santiago was absent due to her cancer treatment.

Symbolically choosing the three different regional groupings formed by the archipelago of the Philippines, the presidential candidates participated in three different debates, which were called the 2016 PiliPinas Debates. The first installment of the 2016 PiliPinas Debates was held at Capitol University in Cagayan de Oro, the capital of Misamis Oriental, in Mindanao on February 21, 2016. The second 2016 PiliPinas Debate was held at the University of the Philippines Cebu in Cebu City, Visayas on March 20, 2016. The last part of the 2016 PiliPinas Debates was held at the University of Pagasinan in the City of Dagupan in Luzon on April 24, 2016.

In between the second and third legs of the debates by the presidential candidates, their running-mates and vice-presidential candidates—Senator Alan Peter Schramm Cayetano (Duterte’s running-mate), Senator Francis Joseph Guevara Escudero (Poe’s running-mate), Senator Gregorio Ballesteros Honasan (Binay’s running-mate), Senator Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos (Santiago’s running-mate), Representative Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo (the running-mate of Roxas), and Senator Antonio Fuentes Trillanes IV—held their own debate at the University of San Tomas in Manila on April 10, 2016. As an added note, in the interest of full disclosure, this author was among the audience members at the University of the Philippines Cebu Performing Arts Hall during the Visayan leg of the 2016 PiliPinas Debates.

COMELEC appeared to be very hands-off in its approach to the 2016 PiliPinas Debates, instead opting to let private media enterprises do the managing. This not only highlights the important role of the media in 2016’s general election, but also the influence of private capital over state bodies and national institutions in the Philippines. Each one of the different PiliPinas Debates respectively had designated “media partners” from the major television networks and newspapers of the Philippines that played central roles in the management and organization of the debate program and its coverage. GMA Network and Philippine Daily Inquirer were responsible for the first presidential candidate debate held in Mindanao, which GMA broadcasted under its “E16: Eleksyon 2016” (E16: Election 2016) special campaign season programming. TV5, Philippine Star, and BusinessWorld were responsible for the second presidential candidate debate held in Visayas, which TV5 broadcasted as part of its “Bilang Pilipino: Boto sa Pagbabago 2016” (Count Filipino: Vote for Change 2016) campaign programming. In Luzon, CNN Philippines and BusinessMirrorwere responsible for the vice-presidential candidate debate, whereas ABS-CBN and Manila Bulletin were responsible for the third presidential candidate debate, which were respectively broadcasted by CNN Philippines as part of its “The Filipino Votes” special coverage, and by ABS-CBN as part of its “Halalan 2016: Ipanalo ang Pamilyang Pilipino” (Election 2016: Winning the Filipino Family) special coverage.

Red Flags: Candidates Overspent on Advertisements

During the campaign season, it was reported that the candidates in the Philippines spent sensational amounts on their advertising. It was even reported that Philippine candidates even outspent their US counterparts with regards to their campaign advertising expenditures (Cabacungan and Santos). During the period of January to November, Binay, Poe, and Roxas respectively spent 63.2 million, 63.1 million, and 70.4 million Philippine pesos per month in 2015 (Nielsen cited in ibid.). US candidates like neurosurgeon Benjamin S. Carson, billionaire businessman Donald Trump, and Senator Rafael Edward Cruz respectively spent the equivalent of approximately 33.6 million, 13.5 million and 33.6 million Philippine pesos per month in 2015, during the seven-month period of January to July, whereas Binay, Poe, and Roxas respectively spent an average of 99.4 million, 99.2 million, and 110.6 Philippine pesos per month during a period of seven months in 2015 (Ibid.; figures calculated by author using Nielsen’s dataset).

The spending contrasts between US and Philippine candidates is staggering since the US has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of approximately 17.42 trillion US dollar, according to 2014 statistics (World Bank), and a population of 321.77 million people in mid-2015 (UN 2015) compared to the Philippines, which had a GDP of 284.77 billion US dollars, according to the same 2014 statistics (World Bank), and a population of 100.69 million people in mid-2015 (UN 2015). Citing figures from the US Federal Election Commission to contrast the advertising expenditures of presidential campaigns in the US to the larger advertising expenditures of the candidates in the Philippines, senatorial candidate Walden Belo described this as part of the “corruption of the political process” (Cabacungan and Santos).

What is important to be cognizant about is the pre-election advertisement spending of the candidates and their attempts to circumvent electoral spending laws and COMELEC caps. COMELEC regulations stipulate that every presidential candidate may spend only 10 Philippine pesos per voting citizen. This is a total of 545 million Philippine pesos for the projected fifty-four and a half million eligible Filipino voters that can participate in the 2016 general-election. COMELEC’s spending restrictions are mandated by Article 9, Section 2(7) of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines to “ensure the enforcement of the fair-and-equal exposure rule for political parties and their candidates” and to prevent “a strong party or candidate from taking undue advantage of the weakness of others” (De Leon 2005:299).

In an attempt to circumvent COMELEC’s spending cap, according to Nielsen Media (as cited by Mangahas et al.), many politicians and parties ran “social concern” advertisements, which cost 7.75 billion Philippine pesos, from the period running from January 1, 2015 to January 31, 2016. The advertisements were aired during prime time on Filipino television and during the timeslots of the country’s most popular programs; 86.7 percent of these advertisements (accounting for 6.7 billion Philippine pesos) featured the candidates that would run in the general-election (Ibid.). Despite their pledges against corruption, many of these candidates disregarded the law with impunity before they even got sworn into office. Binay, Poe, and Roxas all spent approximately 1 billion Philippine pesos on their presidential campaign advertisements. According to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, “even the more affluent” candidate should have become bankrupt because of the costs of their pre-campaign advertisements (Mangahas).

It is worth quoting the inference that Senator Defensor-Santiago made when she heard that her rivals had spent over one billion Philippine pesos in 2015 for their presidential bids before they were even legally allowed to begin their advertising campaigns. She rhetorically asked how these politicians paid for the scandalous amounts of their advertisements, especially since whoever becomes the president of the Philippines will make only 120,000 Philippine pesos a month (or 8.64 million in their six-year term). She then answered her own question for voters. “The simple answer is that they will steal from public funds, or will at least be tempted to do so. An alternative would be to give favors to rich contributors, to the detriment of public interest,” she reacted (Adel).

Although the regulations of COMELEC, which has been described as “a haven for fixers who deliver fictitious votes to the moneyed and the powerful” (Quimpo 2009:348), have been violated, COMELEC has not taken any substantive action. Unfortunately, this is business as usual in the Philippines. As the communications scholar Campbell (2002) points out, the Philippines is a place that is known for ineffective regulatory institutions and controls. Like most the other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), either on their own or collectively as a regional bloc, in the Philippines there is a major gap between declarations and regulations, on the one hand, and performance and implementation, on the other (Roberts 2012).

Electoral Irregularities and Abuses

During voting day there were multiple irregularities, abuses, and infringements. Ahead of the voting on May 9, it is widely known that the governing Liberal Party distributed money to buy votes. The same behavior was replicated with the country’s civil servants by the Liberal Party when government workers were given pay for a “fourteenth month” as a form of enticement to vote for Mar Roxas and the Liberal Party’s other candidates.

At the polls, the names of many voters were missing from the voting lists, while other voters were oddly moved from one voting cluster to another without explanation by COMELEC, which may possibly be part of an attempt to redistribute voters in a de facto form of gerrymandering. The names of dead people were included in the voting lists of different precincts, such as in Manila. The former ambassador of the Philippines to the United Arab Emirates Roy Villareal Señeres—the presidential candidate that died in the hospital on February 8, 2016, just three days before withdrawing his bid for the presidency on February 5, 2016—was kept on the ballots by COMELEC and got at least 22,726 votes by the time the ballots in approximately 87 percent of the precincts had been counted, according to report by Rappler published on May 10, 2016.

Procedural rules were not followed on voting day. As observed by the author in Central Visayas, the polling clerks did not check the identification cards of voters. Candidates did not even stop their campaigning as COMELEC required them to do one day before the vote on May 8, 2016. The voting cards that the candidates distributed to voters had political advertising that, if not outright, in spirit violated the COMELEC regulations requiring politicians to end their campaigning. While on average 33.7 percent or one-third of registered voters in the Philippines will not vote or will never be able to vote (Panao 2016:2), even worse, many Filipinos and Filipinas were disenfranchised from voting because they could not access voting stations or pay for government documents, which they need to register for voting.

Media Filters: Constructing and Framing Philippine Electoral Issues

The media has played an important role in framing the direction and discourse of the election campaigns. It not only has the power to inform voters, but it can mislead and distract voters, which makes it important to material processes (physical action). Media organizations and those operating them directly as owners and managers, or indirectly as sponsors and sources of funding, decide which voices will be ignored, reported, exposed, and given importance. In this respect, the media can function as a filter and inform and distort the perception(s) of voters. This means that the media is not only being constructed, but helping construct the opinions of voters. This process is largely based on the stance of the media, which is based on political and social attitudes and the beliefs of media ownership and those reporting and producing the information that people consume.

Philippine society’s most important issues went largely ignored or have been under-reported by Philippine media. In the process, the 2016 general election was transformed—if not in whole, then in part—into an entertaining circus. The policy platforms of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates were largely overlooked and disregarded by the media, albeit the candidates were mostly indistinguishable from one another in their political platforms and agendas (or absence thereof); the main Philippine political parties “are built around personalities, rather than around” platforms, and “ideologies and platforms are just adornments for them” (Quimpo 2007:277). Laying testimony to this were the cross-cutting electoral alliances that were exhibited by posters of Liberal Party candidates alongside Duterte, such as Cebu City’s Liberal Party mayoral candidate Tomas de la Rama Osmeña.

Trying to compensate for the missing substance, the media focused instead on the personal attacks of the candidates directed against one another’s characters, albeit the candidates themselves in general neither focused on analyzing the shortcomings of one another’s policies nor presented any real policies of their own in their campaign advertisements. Because of this, the presidential and vice-presidential election campaigns largely became daily doses of television dramas or, as they are more popularly called by Filipinos and Filipinas, Pinoy telenovelas and teleseryes.

Aside from the consistent barrage of controversial performances by former professional boxer Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao and Rodrigo Duterte—dubbed as the “Filipino Donald Trump” because of his heated comments during the elections that paralleled those of Donald Trump (Yap and Lopez; Thomas)—and the continuous revelations of corruption among the different candidates, the saga behind Grace Poe’s eligibility was a key focus of the media.

Just as Mar Roxas began courting Grace Poe on the last days of the campaign, Vice-President Binay and his camp tried to court Poe in the heydays of the 2016 general-election. When Senator Poe and Binay did not make any agreement in 2015, Poe’s problems about her residency and citizenship began when United Nationalist Alliance Representative Tobias Tiangco challenged her eligibility for the presidency. Questions about Poe being able to meet the ten-year residency qualification for the presidency were all over the news.

Poe was forced to go on the defensive and get a team of lawyers to defend her. According to Senator Poe, she denounced her Filipina citizenship on October 18, 2001 for a US citizenship. She would then become a citizen of the Philippines again on July 7, 2006, but would continue to enter and leave the Philippines with a US passport until she finally bothered to get her Philippine passport on October 13, 2009 (Rufo). After an electoral campaign for the Senate, Poe then renounced her US citizenship when she took office on October 21, 2010. After a stretched out drama, the Senate Electoral Tribunal and Supreme Court of the Philippines would eventually rule in her favor, allowing her to campaign for the presidency.

Disregarded and Overlooked Issues

The continued land struggle in the Philippines was largely absent from the political discourse at the top. This struggle between the wealthy land-owning economic oligarchs—mostly the descendents of the ilustrados (Mestizo landowners) that collaborated with the US when it invaded and occupied the Philippines (Reid 2007:1007)—and their development companies, on one side, and, on the other side, substantially larger strata of Philippine society—ranging from farmers in rural areas to squatters and low-income laborers in the country’s expanding urban environs—at best received lip service during the elections. Philippine farmers and citizens in poor neighborhoods in the country’s urban hubs frequently face threats, acts of violence, and appropriation of their property. They have become destitute, having their homes demolished, and their livelihood lost. As the country’s agricultural base is eroded, social inequality grows, and social unrest is fuelled by policies of marginalization, in the long-term this will have severe consequences for the economic health and political stability of the Philippines. This trend is epitomized by the tragic deaths and injuries of the farmers in Kidapawan that gathered to protest a lack of governmental assistance from North Cotabato on March 30, 2016. More of this can be expected in the future as desperation grows among the farmers, the urban and rural land struggles inside the Philippines intensify, and socio-economic disparity escalates.

No serious critique or analysis about the economic path of the Philippines was presented either by the vast majority of candidates. According to Japanese financial holdings company Nomura, the dependence of the Philippine economy on remittance from Filipinos and Filipinas working overseas has increased (de Vera). There is also the issue of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI); the increased FDI in the Philippines has simplistically been presented as an indicator of economic growth without any mention of the larger returns and outflows that are expected from the FDIs.

Additionally, largely missing from the political discourse was the subject of the dispute in the South China Sea or, as it is called in the Philippines, the West Philippine Sea and what the ramifications of an escalation of the dispute with Beijing would mean for the Philippines. The winners of the general-elections will have to work with Washington in a time where there is increasing tensions between the US and the People’s Republic of China. The US has a major interest in using the dispute in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea to justify its so-called “Pivot to the Asia-Pacific” and to isolate Beijing. This could entangle the Philippines in a wrestling match between China and the US. Despite the importance of the subject, there has been little critical coverage about the territorial dispute in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea and the only politician who publicly admitted that he went to talk about the issue with the US Embassy in Manila was Rodrigo Duterte (Ramirez).

Duterte’s Winning Discourse: Tough on Crime, Anti-Corruption, and Federalism

Instead of addressing serious issues in a direct manner, the politics of blame were used. In this context, the 2016 election season saw a large and frustrated portion of the lower strata of Philippine society unite under the banner of Rodrigo Duterte and his anti-corruption and anti-crime discourse that pledged to be hard on crime and to challenge “Imperial Manila” as the parasitic political center of the Philippines. “What he lacks in policymaking interest or experience he made up for during the campaign with the showmanship that had been absent from national politics. ‘Many Filipinos loved it,’” was how anEconomist article described Duterte after his victory.

During the campaigning, Duterte became a conceptual representation (Kress and van Leewen 1996), who no longer was viewed in terms of his actions, but in terms of a representation of the frustrated lower strata of the Philippines. This reached the point where support for Duterte transcended local political loyalties in much of the Philippines; for example, in the Camotes Islands, the resident Liberal Party candidates were elected locally while most the population supported Duterte for the presidency. Even the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to Duterte or the last minute reports about the billions of Philippine pesos in his shared Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) account with his daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio or the YouTube video released by Kilab Multimedia showing Duterte indulgingly speaking to Jose Maria Canlas Sison—the Netherlands-based exiled founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines—over an internet video chat failed to undermine him.

Analyzing the semiotics behind Duterte’s campaigning, the fist it used represents the symbol of the strongman that he represents and his overtly tough on crime position. His anti-corruption and anti-crime discourse, however, falls short of addressing the dilemmas of the Philippines; it is mostly populist rhetoric. Duterte’s campaign failed to address the roots of the problem or even to articulate a clear policy agenda. His rhetoric was also contrary: while Duterte pledged to make the rule of law supreme in the Philippines, he paradoxically disclosed that he intended to do so by working outside of the rule of law.

Duterte’s federalist discourse and demands need further critical analyses. The idea of federalism put hand-in-hand with the Duterte transitional team’s announcements that his administration intends to increase FDI in the Philippines should not be overlooked. Mixing the two together can be a lethal economic cocktail. According to a Philippine Daily Inquirer post-election report (published on May 13, 2016), after winning the election, Duterte said he will increase FDI by removing the protective constitutional barriers that prevent foreign ownership or foreign-owned shares above a figure of 40 percent for nationally important and strategic sectors, such as in telecommunications, aviation, pharmaceuticals, and domestic shipping. Along with federalism, this could equate to the fracturing, de-regulating, and auctioning of the economy by the provincial oligarchs.

Philippine Media as an Accessory to Corruption?

In Bocaue, Bulacan, coin tossing was used to break an electoral tie and decide who becomes mayor. The coin tossing in Bocaue meant that the election results for mayor were ultimately decided by chance, which is an act that can strongly be said to emasculate voting. It was justified, however, by a proviso in Philippine law. This event epitomizes the nature and contradictions of the 2016 general-elections, where undemocratic political traditions have been positioned within a democratic political framework, just like how political dynasties have used political parties and lists to safeguard their interests in a system of non-substantive democracy filled with illusions of democracy that are sustained by democratic rituals that are void of authenticity.

In the last few years the Philippines has increasingly been described as “a patrimonial oligarchic state, a weak state preyed upon and plundered by different factions of the elite, who take advantage of, and extract privilege from, a largely incoherent bureaucracy” (Paul Hutchcroft cited by Quimpo 2007:282) According, to Hutchcroft, “it is not just one person and his/her cronies but the oligarchic elite as a whole that engages in plunder” in the Philippines (Ibid.). Others apply the predatory state description of Peter Evans (cited by Quimpo 2009:337) to the Philippines, which describe the Philippines as a state that “preys on its citizenry, terrorizing them, despoiling their common patrimony, and providing little in the way of services in return.” Others, like Quimpo (Ibid.), began defining the Philippines as a predatory regime under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. This trend has not reversed and instead it has been facilitated by the Philippine media’s pattern(s) of reporting.

The foundations of good governance in a society are established on the abilities of its voters to hold elected officials accountable. One of the tools for this is the media. Analyzing the vocabulary chains used in the 2016 general-election, economic development and fighting corruption were major themes of the different candidates. There were, however, no substantial explanations about how this would be done, which largely means that the discourse was predominately lip service and rhetoric. In many cases the media reported passively about this with declarative reporting that did not probe deeper or challenge the candidates to clarify how exactly they intended to do the things that they promised.

Discourse is much more important in the Philippines and the rest of the world than it was during the past. According to Norman Fairclough (2004:104), “language may have a more significant role in contemporary” sociological, economic, and political developments “than it had had in the past.” In this context, the Philippine media is supposed to play a role in informing citizens, but instead it has largely been involved in sensationalist reporting and the dramatization of Filipino politics as Pinoy telenovelas. By ignoring serious newsworthy issues and refusing to probe deeper into important questions, this pattern of reporting has largely helped keep the oligarchs of the Philippines in power and aided corruption and political malfeasance.

Works Cited

“An election in the Philippines: The dangers of Duterte Harry.” 14 May 2016. Economist. Accessed on 16 May 2016: <http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21698648-return-bad-old-ways-under-rodrigo-duterte-dangers-duterte-harry>.

Adel, Rosette. 10 January 2016. “Miriam: Candidates’ ad overspending ‘red flag for corruption.’” Philippine Star. Accessed on 1 April 2016: <http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/01/10/1541192/miriam-candidates-ad-overspending-red-flag-corruption>.

de Vera, Ben. 26 February 2016. “Faster remittance growth seen in 2016.” Philippine Daily Inquirer. Accessed on 13 May 2015: <http://business.inquirer.net/207466/faster-remittance-growth-seen-in-2016#ixzz40xnZNoVZ>.

Cabacungan, Gil C., and Tina G. Santos. 7 January 2016. “PH presidential candidates outspend billionaire Trump.”Philippine Daily Inquirer. Accessed on 16 May 2016: <http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/753234/ph-presidential-candidates-outspend-billionaire-trump>.

Campbell, Consuelo. 2002. “Private and State Ownership in Telecommunications: A Comparative Analysis of São Paulo, Brazil and Manila, Philippines.” Gazette: The International Journal for Communication Studies 64(4):371-383.

De Leon, Hector S. 2005. Textbook on the Philippine Constitution. 8th ed. Quezon City: Rex Printing Company.

“Despite his death, Roy Señeres picks up presidential votes.” Rappler. May 10, 2016. Accessed on 10 May 2016: <http://www.rappler.com/nation/politics/elections/2016/132506-roy-seneres-presidential-votes >.

“Duterte team unveils 8-point economic plan.” 13 May 2016. Philippine Daily Inquirer. A1+

Fairclough, Norman. 2004. “Critical Discourse Analysis in Researching Language in the New Capitalism: Overdetermination, Transdiscpinarity and Textual Analysis.” Pp.103-122 in Systemic Functional Linguistics and Critical Discourse Analysis: Studies in Social Change. Lynne Young and Claire Harrison, eds. NYC: Continuum.

Kress, Gunther and Theo Leeuwan. 1996. Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. London, UK: Routledge.

Mangahas, Malou. 9 March 2016. “Net worth vs P6.7-B pol ads bill: Top bets in debt, deficit spending?” Philippine Star. Accessed on 16 May 2016: <http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/03/09/1561207/net-worth-vs-p6.7-b-pol-ads-bill-top-bets-debt-deficit-spending>.

Mangahas, Malou, et al. 7 March 2016. “Pre-Campaign Ads: P6.7B. Bribery, tax evasion, impunity?” Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. Accessed on 1 April 2016: <http://pcij.org/stories/bribery-tax-evasion-impunity/>.

Quimpo, Nathan Gilbert. 2007. “The Philippines: Political Parties and Corruption.” Southeast Asian Affairs 2007:277-294.

Quimpo, Nathan Gilbert. 2009. “The Philippines: predatory regime, growing authoritarian features.” The Pacific Review22(3):335–353

Panao, Rogelio Alicor L. 2016. University of the Philippines Forum 17(1):1-2.

Ramirez, Robertzon. 8 March 2016. “Duterte to meet with US embassy officials.” Philippine Star. Accessed on 1 May 2016: <http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/03/08/1560733/duterte-meet-us-embassy-officials>.

Reid, Ben. 2006. “Historical Blocs and Democratic Impasse in the Philippines: 20 years after ‘people power.’” Third World Quarterly 27(6):1003-1020.

Roberts, Christopher B. 2002. ASEAN Regionalism: Cooperation, Values, and Institutionalization. London, UK: Routledge.

Rufo, Aries. 13 July 2015. “Grace Poe and Pandora’s box: Legal issues in her candidacy.” Rappler. Accessed on 12 April 2016: <http://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/in-depth/99144-grace-poe-pandora-box-legal-issues-presidency>.

Thomas, Sylvia. 6 May 2016. “Rodrigo Duterte, the Filipino Donald Trump, favoured to win presidential race.” CBC News. Access 6 May 2016: <http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/rodrigo-duterte-philippines-1.3566738>.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. 2015. World Population 2015. NYC: United Nations Publications.

World Bank. n.d. “GDP at market prices (current US$).” Accessed on 27 April 2016: <http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD>.

Yap, Karl Lester M., and Ditas B Lopez. 25 April 2016. “Duterte Widens Lead in Philippines Race Despite Rape Comment.” Bloomberg. Accessed 6 May 2016: <http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-25/duterte-widens-lead-in-philippines-race-despite-rape-comments>.

Posted in Far East0 Comments

Nazi behind murders of Bangladesh bloggers, minister suggests

NOVANEWS

Image result for NAZI GESTAPO LOGO

Bangladesh’s home minister says Zionist Mossad is spearheading an “international conspiracy” behind the serial killings of secular intellectuals and religious minorities in the Asian country.

Asaduzzaman Khan said on Monday that there was evidence of an “international conspiracy” against the Muslim-majority country, which backs the Palestinian cause and has no diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv.

“Bangladesh has become the target of an international conspiracy. And a foreign intelligence agency has joined the conspiracy,” Khan said.

He touched upon a meeting between an opposition politician and an Zionist intelligence agent as evidence of the Mossad involvement in the murders.

“You must have noticed that an Israeli intelligence agent had a meeting with a politician, it does not need to be verified further, all [Bangladeshis] know about it.”

Opposition MP Aslam Chowdhury was recently arrested and accused of sedition after his photographs with Israeli politician Mendi Safadi in India were published.

Chowdhury has denied the meeting and said he was on a business trip to India.

Reacting to Khan’s remarks, Emmanuel Nahshon, a spokesman of the Nazi Ministry for Foreign Affairs, described the accusation as “utter drivel.”

Serial murders

Khan’s remarks came on the same day that police found the dead body of Ananda Gopal Ganguly, 70-year-old Hindu priest, near his home in a village of western Jhenidah District.

According to police, the victim had his head nearly severed from his body.

A day earlier, a senior police officer’s wife, Mahmuda Aktar, had also been stabbed and shot dead in front of her six-year-old son in the city of Chittagong.

Also on Sunday, Sunil Gomes, a Christian grocer, was hacked to death in the village of Bonpara in an attack claimed by the Daesh terrorist group.

Police say more than 40 people have been killed since January 2015 in the spate of killings.

Most of the attacks against the secular bloggers, academics and members of religious minorities, including Shia Muslims, Hindus and Christians, were claimed by Daesh or al-Qaeda-linked groups.

However, Dhaka has disputed the claims and blamed opposition parties or local militant groups for the killings.

Jewish Nazi regime is believed to be among the staunch supporters of the Takfiri outfits operating against the government in Syria over the past five years.

Posted in South Asia, ZIO-NAZI0 Comments

The Global Trade in Guantánamo Captives

NOVANEWS

By Aisha Maniar

An armed bodyguard stands just behind Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum during a political rally in Shibarghan, Afghanistan, in September 2004. (Scott Eells / The New York Times) An armed bodyguard stands just behind Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum during a political rally in Shibarghan, Afghanistan, in September 2004. (Scott Eells / The New York Times)

The belief that the men imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay are the worst of the worst dangerous terrorists is still commonly held, due in large part to the mainstream corporate media and politicians. But as early as 2006, Seton Hall University School of Law identified, using US Department of Defense data, that only 5 percent of prisoners were captured by the US military. Of the current 80 remaining detainees,only three were captured by US forces, including Pakistani prisoner Saifullah Paracha, who was kidnapped in Thailand.

The vast majority of prisoners (86 percent) “were arrested by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and turned over to United States custody” in return for a bounty. Bounties ranged from $3,000 to $25,000 per person. Initially denied by Pakistan, in his 2006 memoir, former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf admitted, “We have captured 689 and handed over 369 to the United States. We have earned bounties totaling millions of dollars.” Musharraf called it “prize money.”

Another beneficiary of this nefarious trade was Afghan warlord Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, the current vice president of Afghanistan, who was denied entry to the US in April 2016, as he stands accused of war crimes. US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), who maintains the “bad men” myth, has long been a friend of Dostum.

The US largely did not capture the prisoners it continues to hold at Guantánamo — it boughtthem.

The fact remains that the US largely did not capture the prisoners it continues to hold at Guantánamo — it bought them. The same media and politicians that feign concern for ISIS’ slaves conveniently forget that the US, too, trades in captives. Many Guantánamo prisoners have also been sexually abused, and practices such as body cavity searches are tantamount to rape.

The Trade in Prisoners Continues

The last prisoners were brought to Guantánamo in 2008, but the trade in prisoners goes on. Of the 22 Chinese Uighur prisoners purchased for a bounty in Afghanistan, six were transferred to the Pacific island of Palau in 2009, for which the island state was paid $93,333 to accept each man, reportedly to cover living costs, and also received $200 million in development aid.

In early May 2016, former Uruguayan President José Mujica stated, “In order to sell several kilos of oranges to the United States, I had to put up with five crazy guys from Guantánamo.” In December 2014, during his presidency, Uruguay accepted six prisoners as refugees. When the men arrived in the country, Mujica insisted “we are not exchanging human beings for oranges” and that the transfer was on humanitarian grounds.

His latest statements have provoked controversy in Uruguay; the US has denied them. Essentially, Mujica has said that the men were sold twice: once in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which is how they ended up in Guantánamo; and a second time, in exchange for oranges, to get them out.

Mujica explained the situation as being one where the transfer eased trading relations. It is not the first time he has made such statements. In March 2015, he told French state radio that after 18 years of trying, Uruguay succeeded in selling its oranges to the US because “I had agreed to take in several Guantánamo prisoners.”

The real question is why this issue is being raised now. After having initially defended his decision to accept the men, in April 2016, Mujica described their conduct since arriving in Uruguay as “abysmal,” and as having hurt efforts to resettle others in Latin American countries, ultimately labeling their conduct as selfish. He stated that he wished he had not brought them to the country.

Such statements are hurtful and not helpful to the men who still are struggling to settle in a country where they have not yet mastered the language, and have to overcome the ordeal they suffered for 13 years at Guantánamo. None has managed to find sustainable full-time work, and a deal that was reached with the Uruguayan government, following a lengthy protest outside the US Embassy in April and May 2015, only covers the first two years of their stay, thus they remain in a precarious situation.

These statements and frequent media intrusion into the former prisoners’ private lives only serve to exacerbate the prejudice they already face, and effectively mean that they are still not free; the chains of Guantánamo weigh down their efforts to get on with their lives. They are not alone in this predicament, and it is not surprising that in January 2016, Yemeni prisoner Muhammad Bawazir refused to leave Guantánamo for a third state that had offered to accept him.

Controversial Resettlement Arrangements

Transfers in 2016 have also been subject to allegations of cash payments made to governments to accept prisoners who cannot be returned to their own countries. In January, Ghana resettled two Yemeni prisoners. Debate has since arisen over the safety of accepting former Guantánamo prisoners and possible payments to the country to host them. The US ambassador denied this, “except that we are paying for the lodging and maintenance cost of the two detainees for two years.”

Similar concerns have been raised in Senegal, which, like Uruguay, has claimed to have accepted two men as refugees on humanitarian grounds. It is not just poorer states and cash incentives, however. When the Dutch government decided not to take any prisoners from Guantánamo Bay in 2015 following negotiations, the decision strained relations between the two states.

As part of the plan announced in February to close/transfer Guantánamo by the end of his presidency, the Obama administration is keen to transfer all of the current 28 men cleared for release by the end of the summer. The vast majority will have to be transferred to safe third countries. For the US, however, the interest is really in washing its hands off these men. There is not often sufficient concern as to what will happen to them later, particularly as survivors of torture who have been held almost as slaves or hostages for a decade and a half. Conditions on release can sometimes just present new forms of servitude.

Echoes of the Slave Trade

The contemporary trade in human bodies at Guantánamo Bay has been compared to the slave trade. The links are many. Prior to its closure in 2008, British anti-Guantánamo activists protested outside the Birmingham factory of a company called Hiatt, which produced not only the shackles to transport prisoners to Guantánamo, but the shackles to transport slaves to the Caribbean in the 19th century.

In his best-selling book written from inside Guantánamo, Mauritanian prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi states,

I often compared myself with a slave. Slaves were taken forcibly from Africa, and so was I. Slaves were sold a couple of times on their way to their final destination, and so was I. Slaves suddenly were assigned to somebody they didn’t choose, and so was I.

David Bromwich suggests:

Torture and slavery have something in common. They are expressions of a power that admits no restraint on itself. They issue from the instinct for domination …

It has been suggested that while detention at Guantánamo lacks the productivity of the transatlantic slave trade, the prisoners “are the producers of intel,” even though this intelligence may not have much value. Guantánamo’s greatest product, no doubt, through the abuse of the prisoners held there, has been its ability to generate and sustain the lies that have kept it and the so-called “war on terror” going for far too long.

Posted in Afghanistan, Pakistan & Kashmir, USA0 Comments

India Tightens Visa Rules for Afghans

NOVANEWS

Image result for Afghan PASSPORT PHOTO

By Sajjad Shaukat

India which has invested billions of dollars in Afghanistan, signed a wide-ranging strategic agreement with that country on October 5, 2011 also includes to help train Afghan security forces, while assisting Kabul in diversified projects has been playing double game with the war-torn country. Overtly, New Delhi has been claiming friendship with Afghanistan, covertly, it is strengthening Indian grip by creating unending lawlessness in that country which has become a most suitable place for Indian secret agency RAW to implement a conspiracy to fulfill its country’s strategic designs against Iran, China and particularly Pakistan.

As part of India’s dual strategy, RAW has well-established its network in Afghanistan and is in connivance with the Tehreek-i- Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Daesh and is using the militants of these terrorist outfits to destabilize Tibetan regions of China, Iranian Sistan-Baluchistan and especially Pakistan’s province of Balochistan by arranging the subversive activities, promoting acrimonious sense of dissent, political volatility, sectarian violence and arousing sentiments of separatism.

In this context, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is their special target. Now, as part of Indian double game, in the early May, this year, India has tightens visa rules for the Afghan nationals. Regarding India’s imposition of new visa restrictions on Afghan citizens, India media reported, “Visa applicants are now required to submit their personal bank account statements demonstrating financial ability to pay all costs of the trip. Minor applicants (aged 15 or below) and dependents who do not have individual bank accounts can submit bank statements of their parents/spouse/children. For those who travel to India for medical reasons, it is now mandatory to get a letter from a local Afghan doctor clearly stating that treatment for the particular illness or disease is not available in Afghanistan.”

The media elaborated, “Such restrictions are seen as more of a hurdle for people whose country is at war with Taliban and where local people face daily threat to survival. Unlike India, large parts of Afghanistan have little or no rule of government and more often than not, local people have to run away from their homes to protect themselves from Taliban.”

It further said, “Given the grim ground reality, Afghans look to India for medical treatment or to pursue university education. Hundreds of them travel to hospitals in Delhi and surrounding areas for treatment with little or no medical intervention back home.”

While quoting the statement of Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, Indian media pointed out, “India has tightened visa controls for Afghan nationals because of concerns over Afghan passports being found in the possession of citizens of countries neighbouring Afghanistan…he made the remarks after the Meshrano Jirga, or upper house of parliament, summoned to explain visa restrictions imposed by India for Afghan nationals…Rabbani did not name the countries whose citizens had obtained Afghan passports.

However, Afghan media reports quoted senators as saying that the move was linked to Indian concerns about Pakistan…the minister of foreign affairs was directly hinting at Pakistan…Asef Sediqi, a senator, was quoted as saying by Tolo News…the senators said they believed India had taken the step to prevent the entry of militants…regional countries are concerned that suspected militants of Daesh, Taliban and other terrorist groups might enter into their countries from Afghanistan…Rabbani said India is concerned over the easy access to Afghan passports by nationals of neighbouring countries and has urged (the Afghan) government to resolve the issue”.

Nevertheless, Indian double game with Afghanistan has also been exposed by the Indian media which also said, “On 4 June, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Afghanistan’s Herat province to dedicate the India-built Salma Dam to water-starved and electricity-deprived people of the region. This trip will come days after Modi signed the agreement in Tehran that commits India to develop the Chabahar port, a project that is viewed by the people of Afghanistan as one that will help reduce their dependence on Pakistan…the enormous goodwill for India among the people of Afghanistan, however, is threatened by bureaucratic hurdles created in the recent weeks with new visa restrictions imposed by New Delhi.”

It is notable that on June 30, 2014, India had announced liberal visa policy for Afghan nationals—exemption of senior Afghan citizens and children from police reporting, allowing the Afghan nationals to stay in India on stay visa/resident permit up to two years at a time, and upgradation of the amenities at the Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) for the Afghan nationals. While doubting the integrity of the Afghan citizens, a system of biometric enrolment and photography was introduced to ensure that such facilities were not misused by unscrupulous elements, as stated by the home ministry of India. But these facilities have been taken back from the Afghan citizens in the new visa policy which has imposed restrictions.

It is mentionable that unlike India, Pakistan has provided the Afghans with several visa facilities, as per Pakistan policy, no Afghan citizen is denied visa and the same are served to them within 24-48 hours. Visa application fees are waived for all Afghani Nationals upon submission of their Afghani Passport. In case, anyone is not able to provide Afghani passport, invitation letter on the letter head from the sponsor organization, stating details of purpose, duration and cities of visit is enough for obtaining visa. Family visa is issued to Afghan nationals having family relations in Pakistan. Adult (18 years and above) Afghan national can apply for family visa if his/her spouse has Pakistan nationality. Under 18 years old Afghan national can apply for family visa, if either of their parents have Pakistan nationality.

Undoubtedly, Indian new visa policy shows Indian maltreatment vis-à- vis Pakistan’s good behaviour with Afghanistan and Afghanistan’s friendly gestures with India vis-à- vis undue animosity with Pakistan.

Reports of Afghan media suggest that the issue of Indian new visa rules for the Afghan citizens has been has been raised in Afghanistan’s Wolesi Jirga (House of People).

Nonetheless, India has tightens visa rules for the Afghans as part of double game with Afghanistan.

Posted in Afghanistan, India0 Comments

Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Attack: “A Hole in American History”

NOVANEWS
Hiroshima Series, Part 1
Boeing_B-29A-45-BN_Superfortress_44-61784_6_BG_24_BS_-_Incendiary_Journey

President Barack Obama will finish up his current Asia trip by becoming the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima, Japan — site of the fateful atomic bombing attack on Aug. 6, 1945, that killed tens of thousands of Japanese citizens.

The people of Hiroshima and (three days later) Nagasaki suffered unspeakable horrors. Some in the US government didn’t want Americans to see what really happened. Today, WhoWhatWhy revisits our past coverage of that painful final chapter of World War II, whose long shadow still haunts the world today

What follows is the first in a three-part series that first ran on March 16, 2014:

“A Hole in American History”

Dozens of hours of film footage shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the fall and winter of 1945-1946 by an elite US military unit was hidden for decades and almost no one could see it. The raw footage, in striking color, languished in obscurity. As the writer Mary McCarthy observed, the atomic bombing of Japan nearly fell into “a hole in human history.”

US Navy photographer captures Hiroshima atomic bomb victim.  Photo credit: NARA / Wikimedia

As our nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union escalated, all that most Americans saw of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the same black-and-white images: a mushroom cloud, a panorama of emptiness, a battered building topped with the skeleton of a dome — mainly devoid of people.

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Once top secret, the shocking images now carry an “unrestricted” label. You have, quite possibly, seen a few seconds of clips on television or in film documentaries. If so, those images may be burned into your mind. Yet no one was allowed to view them when the horror they captured might have prevented more horror by slowing down or even halting the nuclear arms race.

Compounding the cover-up, the American military seized all of the black-and-white footage of the cities shot by the Japanese in the immediate aftermath of the bombings. They hid the film away for many years. It was known in Japan as the maboroshi, or “phantom,” film. It, too, rests in the National Archives today.

“Never again.” At least not with outmoded bombs

To find out how and why all of this historic footage was suppressed for so long, I tracked down the man who oversaw the handling of both the Japanese and American film. His name is Lt. Col. (Ret.) Daniel A. McGovern. He told me that high officials in the Pentagon didn’t want those images out because,

“…they showed effects on man, woman and child. … They didn’t want the general public to know what their weapons had done — at a time they were planning on more bomb tests.”

Not incidentally, those planned tests were designed to help the US military build bigger and better nuclear bombs.

McGovern also said, “We didn’t want the material out because … we were sorry for our sins.”

* * *

The secret color footage was finally shown to the public, however limited, on June 2, 1982. The New York City screening coincided with the high point of the antinuclear movement.

In response to an escalating arms race stoked by a new president, Ronald Reagan, who said a nuclear war with the Soviets was “winnable” — a “nuclear freeze” campaign had been organized in hundreds of cities and towns. It captured the imagination of the media and a massive anti-nuclear march in Manhattan was set for June 12.

Despite this campaign, few in America challenged the view that dropping the bomb had been necessary. When Hiroshima and Nagasaki were invoked, even within the antinuclear movement, it was usually not to condemn, but merely to make the declaration: never again.

No matter what one thought of Truman’s decision in 1945, this much was clear: Endorsing the bombings and saying “never again” did not fit together comfortably. Washington, after all, maintained its “first-use” nuclear option, and still embraces it today.

According to this policy, under certain circumstances the United States can strike first with nuclear weapons — and ask questions later. In other words, there is no real taboo against using the bomb.

Ten days before the June 12 march, a few dozen Americans first saw some of the historic color footage shot by the American military — but not in an American film.

It was the Japanese who put together the film, and only because of a chance meeting in New York between Herbert Sussan — who, as a young soldier, helped shoot some of the 1946 footage — and a Japanese activist. When the activist learned of the secret film from Sussan, he lead a mass movement in Japan to raise enough money to copy 90,000 feet of it. (They also purchased a copy of the suppressed, black-and-white film shot by the Japanese newsreel team.) The film was shown at the Japan Society in Manhattan.  It was called “Prophecy.”

Herbert Sussan

Photo caption: Herbert Sussan

At the Japan Society, the now-elderly Sussan, who had become a pioneering TV director at CBS, told the audience,

“I have waited so long for this moment. For years, all of my own efforts to obtain this unique footage to show the American people have been frustrated. This film has been locked in vaults, declared classified and held away from the public. I am pleased that the world will finally see a small bit of what the true reality of the nuclear age really is…

“I felt that if we did not capture this horror on film, no one would ever really understand the dimensions of what had happened.”

Then they rolled the film. The footage revealed miles of devastation dotted by rubble and twisted girders, close-ups of artifacts — blackened statues, a collapsed church or school — and victims displaying their inflamed scars. Doctors in shattered hospitals bandaged gruesome wounds.

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The distinctive, rubbery keloid scars left by burns on faces and arms looked all the more painful in blazing color.

Patients, most of them women and children, exposed to the camera their scarred faces and seared trunks. They acted stoic, dignified, yet their intense gaze suggested deep wells of bitterness at the US for dropping the bomb — or perhaps at Sussan for subjecting them to this further humiliation. Or was it both?

A Film That Flopped?

Despite a good turnout that day, there was very little, if any, coverage about “Prophecy” or Herbert Sussan in the days that followed, despite its announcement inThe New York Times’ “Going Out Guide” the day it was to be shown, along with other Japanese films on the bombing.

Weeks passed. The nuclear freeze campaign continued to grow, and that October, I was named editor of the leading antinuclear magazine in the country, Nuclear Times. When I took over, the first major story I assigned was a profile of Herbert Sussan.

When I reached Sussan by telephone, he sounded edgy, maybe a little scared. He had recently retired and was ill, he said, with a form of lymphoma “they are finding in soldiers exposed to radiation.”

 

Posted in Japan0 Comments

Pakistan slams US drone strike reportedly killing Taliban chief

NOVANEWS

 

Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour

Pakistan has denounced the US drone strike believed to have killed the Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour.

In a statement issued to the media, Pakistan’s foreign office said the drone strike was a violation of its sovereignty, adding that information about the drone strike was shared with the prime minister and the army chief after the strike.

“It may be recalled that the fifth meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) held on 18th May had reiterated that a politically negotiated settlement was the only viable option for lasting peace in Afghanistan and called upon the Taliban to give up violence and join peace talks,” the statement said.

Afghanistan’s spy agency known as National Security Directorate (NDS), senior officials in Kabul and some militant sources on Sunday confirmed that the Taliban leader was killed after the US drones targeted his vehicle in a remote area of in a remote area of south-west Pakistan, near the Afghan border, on Saturday.

On Saturday, the US Department of Defense announced in a statement that it had mounted the strike against Mansour “in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.”
File photo shows a picture of the leader of Taliban militant group, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour.

The Pentagon announced on Saturday that the operation had been authorized by President Barack Obama.

The development comes as relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been tense in recent years over the ongoing militancy.

Senior Afghan officials blame elements inside the Pakistani spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), for supporting the Taliban militants and sheltering its leadership, while Islamabad blames the Afghan government for giving shelter to the militants on its side of the border.

Moreover, senior officials in Kabul have been frustrated by what they see as Islamabad’s refusal to honor a pledge to force Taliban leaders based in Pakistan to join negotiations.

They have long blamed Pakistan for turning a blind eye to the Taliban militant group whose leadership is widely believed to be based in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Peshawar, near the border.

The Taliban has seen a string of defections ever since the news about the death of its founder and long-time leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, broke in late July 2015.

Mullah Omar died at a hospital in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi in April 2013.

Pakistan, which wields influence on the insurgent group, mediated the first round of direct peace talks between delegates from the Afghan government and the Taliban last summer, but a planned second meeting was canceled after news broke that Taliban’s founder and long-time leader Mullah Omar had died two years ago. In recent months, a four-member group comprising Afghanistan, the United States, China and Pakistan has been attempting to revive the talks.

There have also been growing differences among Taliban elements over the negotiations, with some vowing to fight for power instead of taking part in the talks.

Posted in Pakistan & Kashmir, USA0 Comments

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