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O Novo Conflito de Gerações

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Escrito por Joseph E. Stiglitz:

“Algo interessante surgiu nos padrões de voto em ambos os lados do Atlântico: os jovens estão votando de maneira marcadamente diferente dos mais velhos. A grande divisão não se baseia tanto na renda, na educação formal ou no gênero dos eleitores. Há boas razões para esta divisão. A vida de ambos, velhos e jovens, são diferentes. Seus passados são diferentes e, por isso, são diferentes as suas perspectivas.

A Guerra Fria, por exemplo, tinha acabado antes mesmo de alguns nasceram e enquanto outros ainda eram crianças. Palavras como o socialismo não transmitem o significado que uma vez transmitiam. Se o socialismo significa a criação de uma sociedade onde as preocupações compartilhadas não recebem apenas pouca atenção – onde as pessoas se preocupam com outras pessoas e ao meio ambiente em que vivem – que assim seja. Sim, pode ter sido falho os experimentos sob essa rubrica meio século atrás; mas as experiências de hoje não têm qualquer semelhança com as do passado. Assim, o fracasso dessas experiências passadas não diz nada sobre os novos.

Os mais velhos da classe média alta americana e os europeus tiveram uma boa vida. Quando eles entraram para a força de trabalho, empregos bem remunerados estavam esperando por eles. A pergunta que fizeram foi o que eles queriam fazer, e não o tempo que precisariam viver com seus pais antes de conseguir um trabalho que lhes permitisse sair da casa de seus pais.

Essa geração tinha como certa a segurança no emprego, o casar jovem, o comprar uma casa – talvez uma casa de verão, também – e, finalmente, aposentar-se com uma razoável segurança. No geral, eles tinham a expectativa (e geralemnte conseguiam) ser melhores do que seus pais.

Enquanto a geração mais velha de hoje encontrou solavancos ao longo do caminho, na maior parte dos casos, suas expectativas foram atendidas. Eles podem ter feito mais sobre ganhos de capital em suas casas do que de trabalho. Eles quase certamente descobriram que era estranho, mas aceitaram de bom grado o presente de nossos mercados especulativos, e muitas vezes deu-se o crédito para a compra no lugar certo e no momento certo.

Hoje, a expectativa dos jovens, onde quer que estejam na distribuição de renda, é o oposto. Eles enfrentam a insegurança do emprego ao longo das suas vidas. Em média, muitos graduados universitários irão procurar por meses antes de encontrar um emprego – muitas vezes só depois de ter feito um ou dois estágios não-remunerados. E eles se consideram jovens com sorte, porque eles sabem que seus pares mais pobres, alguns dos quais também foram para as melhores escolas, não pode se dar ao luxo de passar um ou dois anos sem renda, e nem tem as conexões para conseguir um estágio em primeiro lugar.

Os jovens recém formados de hoje estão sobrecarregados com a dívida – quanto mais pobre se é, mais eles devem. Assim, eles não se perguntam o trabalho que gostariam de ter; eles simplesmente se perguntam qual o trabalho que vai permitir-lhes pagar suas dívidas da faculdade, que muitas vezes vai sobrecarregá-los por 20 anos ou mais. Da mesma forma, a compra de uma casa é um sonho distante.

Isso significa que os jovens não estão pensando muito sobre aposentadoria. Se o fizessem, eles estariam apenas horrorizados com o quanto eles deveriam estar poupando para viver uma vida decente (porque a previdência social não garante uma vida decente), dada a provável persistência das taxas de juro do fundo do poço.

Em suma, os jovens de hoje vêem o mundo através da lente da equidade intergeracional. Os filhos da classe média alta podem se dar bem no final porque eles herdarão a riqueza de seus pais. No entanto, eles geralmente não gostam deste tipo de dependência, e gostam menos ainda da alternativa de um “recomeço” em que as cartas na mesa jogam contra qualquer coisa que se aproxime o mínimo do estilo de vida básico da classe média.

Estas desigualdades não podem ser facilmente explicadas. Não é que esses jovens não trabalham duro: estas dificuldades afetam aqueles que passaram longas horas estudando, se destacaram na escola, e fizeram tudo “certo”. O senso de injustiça social – que o jogo econômico é manipulado – reforçando como eles vêem os banqueiros que trouxeram a crise financeira, a causa do mal-estar contínuo na economia, e saíram ilesos e ainda com mega-bônus, e com ninguém sendo responsabilizado por seus erros. Fraudes maciças foram cometidas, mas de alguma forma, ninguém realmente foi responsabilizado por elas. Elites políticas prometeram que “reformas” trariam prosperidade sem precedentes. E eles fizeram, mas apenas para o top 1%. Todos os outros, incluindo os jovens, ganharam uma insegurança sem precedentes.

Essas três realidades – a injustiça social numa escala sem precedentes, inequidades em massa, e uma perda de confiança nas elites – definem o nosso momento político, e com razão.

(…)

Mais importante, o jovem não vai encontrar um caminho suave para o mercado de trabalho a menos que a economia funcione de forma muito melhor. A taxa “oficial” de desemprego nos Estados Unidos gira em torno de 4,9%, mas máscara níveis muito mais elevados de desemprego disfarçado que, pelo menos, estão mantendo os salários baixos.

Mas não seremos capaz de corrigir o problema se não o reconhecermos. Nossos jovens reconhecem. Eles percebem a ausência de justiça entre gerações, e eles têm razão de ficarem com raiva.”

Esse artigo foi originalmente postado no Project Syndicate.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, ganhador do Prêmio Nobel de Ciências Econômicas em 2001 e a medalha Clark John Bates em 1979, é professor da Universidade de Columbia.

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Vai pra Baltimore!

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Vai pra Cuba! Espera aí: Vai pra Baltimore!

Vai pra Baltimore! by Pedro Abramovay

A cerca de 40 minutos de trem da capital dos EUA e um pouco mais de duas horas de Nova York, fica a cidade de Baltimore, capital do estado de Maryland.

Acabo de sair de lá depois de um dia bastante intenso visitando projetos da Fundação Open Society na cidade.

Logo de manhã ouvi o depoimento de uma moça chamada Jabria. Jabria, quando tinha 16 anos, estava discutindo com sua avó. A avó teve um ataque do coração durante a discussão. Jabria foi presa , em um estabelecimento para adultos, por homicídio. Após cerca de um ano experimentando todo tipo de violências no cárcere, Jabria poderia ter direito a liberdade condicional. O pedido foi negado pelo juiz pelo fato de Jabria ter tido mais de 30 suspensões na escola. As suspensões foram ocasionadas por Jabria chegar na escola com o uniforme sujo, pois sua avó não a deixava lavar o uniforme quando elas discutiam.

Jabria hoje lidera uma iniciativa contra a prisão de adolescentes nos Estados Unidos e sabe que histórias como essa são a regra na sua comunidade.

Depois fui a uma escola. Uma escola que, como todas as outras nos bairros pobres de Baltimore convivia com altos níveis de violência, de suspensão de alunos e, não surpreendentemente, péssimos resultados acadêmicos.

Vale dizer que, até recentemente, Baltimore distribuía seus recursos educacionais da mesma forma perversa com que esses recursos são distribuídos na maiora dos EUA. A escola recebe impostos de acordo com a arrecadação de IPTU no bairro em que ela fica. Assim, escolas de bairros ricos recebem uma enormidade de recursos públicos. Em bairros pobres, vivem na miséria. Felizmente, após uma batalha judicial, foi possível mudar isso em Baltimore.

Fiquei muito impressionado ao entrar na escola. 50 anos após os movimentos contra a segregação racial nos EUA, todos, TODOS, os alunos na escola são negros. O trabalho de jusitça restaurativa feito na escola em que eu fui era incrível. As brigas caíram, as suspensões praticamente acabaram e os níveis acadêmicos melhoraram muito. Mas isso ainda é uma gota no oceano em um bairro onde 1/3 dos alunos foram suspensos no ano passado.

Depois da escola fui a uma igreja, ver o trabalho social que eles faziam. Uma senhora, especialista em segurança alimentar, me explicou que um dos maiores problemas da cidade, que contabiliza 25% dos seus habitantes abaixo da linha de pobreza, eram os food deserts (algo como desertos de comida). Áreas da cidade na qual os moradores não tem acesso a comida. Não há um supermercado ou uma loja que venda comida em um raio de mais de 8 kilómetros. O sistema de transporte público é precário. Assim, as pessoas têm que andar grandes distância ter acesso a comida. Muitas vezes elas não fazem isso. E acabam comprando Doritos e balas na loja da esquina para alimentar suas famílias, gastando muito mais do que gastariam se comprassem alimentação decente. Ou, simplesmente, passam fome.

Vale lembrar que essa é uma cidade na qualo comparecimento eleitoral chega a 17% da população com idade de votar. O voto, como em todos os EUA, é facultativo.

A taxa de homicídios em Baltimore é altíssima (55 por 100.000 habitantes), equivalente à taxa de cidades da baixada fluminense. Mais que o dobro da taxa do Rio de Janeiro.

Em abril, a polícia matou um rapaz, negro, chamado Freddie Gray. Jovens negros incendiaram a cidade em protesto.

Esse panorama é fundamental para que possamos entender que o capitalismo norte-americano não pode ser visto como um modelo a ser replicado. Baltimore não é um caso isolado nos EUA, não é um acidente. Baltimore é produto de uma sociedade desigual, racista, violenta, injusta e pouco democrática.

Atualmente, sempre que alguém faz um comentário em defesa de mais justiça social, rapidamente ouve-se a resposta: Vai pra Cuba! Não considero Cuba um modelo a ser seguido pelo Brasil. Mas um dia em Baltimore reforçou a ideia de que o modelo de sociedade baseado em um Estado que pune adolescentes, que fortalece o capital privado na decisão de como alocar recursos públicos, que ignora as desigualdades raciais, que acha que o voto facultativo salva a política, esse modelo de sociedade defendido por tanta gente raivosa na internet e inspirados nos EUA. Esse modelo não nos leva ao mundo mágico da Disneyworld. Esse modelo nos leva a Baltimore.

E não vou responder aos ‪#‎vaipraCuba‬! que eu ouço com um ‪#‎vaipraBaltimore‬. A Baltimore que eu conheci hoje não desejo para ninguém.

Talvez seja difícil saber o que queremos para o Brasil. Mas certamente começar o debate sabendo que não queremos ser nem Cuba nem Baltimore já seria um bom começo.
Pedro Abramovay, é Diretor da Open Society Foundations para a América Latina e escreve para o Quebrando o Tabu quinzenalmente.

The Fifth Estate, the Movie

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“It may be decades before we understand the full impact of WikiLeaks and how it’s revolutionized the spread of information. So this film won’t claim any long view authority on its subject, or attempt any final judgment. We want to explore the complexities and challenges of transparency in the information age and, we hope, enliven and enrich the conversations WikiLeaks has already provoked.” by Bill Condon the director of The Fifth Estate.

Julien Assange & Daniel Domscheit-Berg

Julien Assange & Daniel Domscheit-Berg

It was not approved by Julian Assange but it is worth watching. Why? It does not matter if Assange is paranoid or not, if he is manipulative or not, if he is weird or not, etc. What matters is the fact that he and his collaborators, including the author of the book in which the movie was inspired,  Daniel Domscheit-Berg, changed the history of how information is released, making possible to expose tons of war crimes and government’s corruption. What matters is to expose how much we are manipulated with stupid stories just to distract us. What matters is to see that Democrats don’t differ much from Republicans. This is all that matters. Access to the truth that we have the right to. Access to know that real criminals are free while Assange cannot leave the Equator Embassy in London, Chelsea Manning (former Bradley Manning) was tortured by the US Government and will be in jail for 35 years, Edward Snowden is in Russia and we have no idea if he is safe or not, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras are living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and don’t feel safe to come home. This is what matters.

Note: Assange’s son and mother have moved and changed their names. They are not safe.

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The Boston bomb suspect’s Rolling Stone cover: Aren’t we forgetting people used to be innocent until proven guilty?

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Rolling Stone Non-Sense Cover

By Sophie McAdam.

“”The Rolling Stone story breaks not only “traditions of journalism”, but several media laws and ethical boundaries that are crucial in a fair, free, democratic society.  Cast your mind back, if you can, to that sunny and carefree pre-911 world, where intelligent people didn’t have panic attacks over dark-skinned men on buses carrying electronic cigarettes.  Back then, the Rolling Stone article would have caused outrage for a very different reason- it assumes the guilt of a man who is still awaiting trial.

Damn right we should be angry. And very concerned. We should be looking very closely at the emotive and dehumanizing “monster” label Rolling Stone have pinned to the alleged terrorist and we should be asking: What happens when the trial begins? How can we expect the jurors not to be influenced by mainstream media’s premature guilty verdict? And what if- just what if- Dzhokhar and his brother are innocent?

Habeus Corpus is the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. Before 9/11, we took this simple concept for granted. It’s what made western societies so great, with liberty and justice for all. It’s a vital part of a civilized society- and wait a minute, isn’t that why those terrorist boogeymen are so envious of us in the first place? It’s an ancient human right dating back to a time where we were still burning witches, with its first recorded usage in Britain as far back as 1305 (later enshrined as a legal civil liberty in 1679). But in the UK this long -standing law- taken for granted for centuries – was nullified in the blink of an eye by Tony Blair’s 2005 Prevention of Terrorism Act. The situation in the US is no different: having adopted the British system, US law had prohibited the restriction of Habeus Corpus up until 2001, but 911 gave the government a convenient excuse to start chipping away at this most basic of liberties.

The media, of course, are complicit. “Terrorists are everywhere!” scream news bulletins and newspapers. On buses and the subway, on planes and trains, under your bed and inside your closet! You’re either with us or against us, folks- and don’t you dare complain, it’s unpatriotic. Go shopping,  go back to sleep, just shut up.

Mainstream media has consistently reflected the state’s official bullshit story that you can’t possibly have freedom and security. But it’s ok, because if you allow the state to “protect” you – through the collection of your emails and telephone calls, increased airport security, more CCTV cameras recording your every move and terrifying SWAT teams terrorizing innocent families, you will be safer from the ever-present threat of these evil men who “hate our freedoms”.  A good trade-off, right?

Wrong. We are now living in a time where we have neither freedom nor security. In 2011, Habeus Corpus was killed once and for all by an NDAA amendment authorizing the U.S. military to arrest and indefinitely imprison (without charge or trial) any civilian, including its own citizens, anywhere in the world, simply for suspicion of any (intentionally vague) “belligerent acts” against the U.S government. Activist and veteran journalist Chris Hedges, along with Noam Chomsky and others, has tried to overturn this chilling piece of legislation, but the group lost their appeal this month. This alone should terrify every single one of us.

Hedges called it a “black day for liberty” and indeed it is. But not only for journalists and activists who dare to criticize the government, but also those (inevitable) cases where innocent people are accused of terrorism. Could Tsarnaev be one of them? It’s not my intention to speculate, because it is the justice system, and only the justice system, which has the job of deciding one way or another. What the Rolling Stone cover really exposes is the death of real journalism, which should be about truth, not conjecture; reporting hard facts, not fear-mongering.

Was it ethical, for example, that images of the Tsarnaev brothers be released immediately after the bombings? Don’t forget that at that point, the FBI purported to be as much in the dark as the rest of us. “We don’t know who caused this tragedy” was quickly replaced by “we got them, and here’s what they look like!” without so much as a “how?” from so – called journalists. What concrete evidence – I mean something more than the fact the brothers wore rucksacks and looked slightly foreign – did police have against them before quickly distributing CCTV images to the baying press?

The publication of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s Amazon wishlist just hours after the event was another oddity: this was before the PRISM scandal broke, and I for one was baffled. How does the state have immediate access to this guy’s Amazon account? Is the publication of his literary preferences really in the public interest? Why are newsreaders telling us in sad and serious tomes that the elder Tsarnaev brother had ordered a book on the Chechnyan struggle, as though this somehow wraps up the case against him? My bookshelves reflect my own interest in history and politics, and I even have a couple of books about Al-Qaeda, so bite me. If curiosity equals crime then we’ve slipped further into dystopia than I realized.

Apparenly Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had written “Fuck America” on the inside of his stowaway boat as he lay bleeding from a gunshot wound surrounded by armed feds, along with comments bemoaning the death of fellow muslims at the hands of the US. But even if this doesn’t sound a least slightly doubtful, can being faithful to Islam and feeling resentful of American foreign policy really be taken as proof of terrorism?  Most educated non-muslims now agree that the US – led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were illegal, unethical and frankly barbaric. Critical thinkers should be wary: without a doubt, there are far more questions than answers in the Boston case.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that anything and everything you do, say and think can and will be used against you, with the mainstream media acting as government’s chief executioner. Trial by media seems to have replaced the courts, leaving heroes of our time like Manning, Assange and Snowden languishing in military prisons, embassies and airports respectively. On the other hand, it hardly matters whether the press perverts the cause of justice or not, when it’s likely you’ll be shipped to Guantanamo or swiftly murdered by the feds before you ever have your day in court.

Habeus corpus wasn’t the only thing to have died after 911. Along with it went common sense, good judgement, logical thinking, and empathy for our fellow human beings. We are paranoid, full of hate and fear of “the other”, and we have traded all our liberties for a security which was not, and can never be, delivered. Day after day, we mindlessly eat what the media feed us,  a spaghetti dish of lies and half-truths served with a cup of hysteria to keep us from thinking critically.

I don’t know about anyone else, but the US and British governments – along with their yapping poodles in the media – terrify me far more than Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s YouTube account.  All of us who care about freedom and justice have an obligation and a duty to call for the press to keep quiet until a jury- one not tainted by screeching, delirious media speculation – has decided whether there is enough real evidence to convict Tsarnaev in a court of law.””

Written by Sophie McAdam at True Activist blog.

Netflix: The Big Brother and the Entertainment Manipulation

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by Kate Epstein

The Snowden leaks and ensuing debates about our government, big data, and privacy have led to more Orwell allusions than I’ve heard in all of my (admittedly post-1984) life. It’s hard not to compare the constant surveillance of twenty-first-century America to the ubiquitous presence of Big Brother in the prescient 1949 novel. And that’s not to mention the doublethink involved in our never-ending war with an ever-shifting enemy to keep the homeland safe (war is peace), our ballooning prison population, up 790% since 1980 (freedom is slavery), and the current administration’s brutal crackdown on truth-tellers and public education (ignorance is strength).

But big data has another side, better predicted by Aldous Huxley’s very different 1932 dystopia Brave New World. In that version of the future, consumer desire, and not thought-policing, keeps the citizens of the World State in line in a year defined not by A.D. but by A.F., or “After Ford.” Sex-hormone chewing gum, the ecstasy-inducing drug soma (“one cubic centimeter cures ten gloomy sentiments,”) and recreational sex are all encouraged, as is attending the popular “feelies,” which combine sight, smell, and touch to create the ultimate entertainment experience.

In many ways we are living out some bizarre combination of 1984’s total surveillance and perception management and Brave New World’s post-Fordist corporatocracy, in which our actions are monitored and our perceptions managed just as much to shape our desires and then fulfill them as to root out dissidents and quash dissent. It is, after all, corporations like Booz Allen that conduct most of the government surveillance in our brave, deregulated, new world. Although one function of all that data is “security,” which is a lucrative enough industry on its own, an even more profitable function is the better understanding of consumer decision-making that can be assembled from the over 2.8 zettabytes of data that exists in the world.

Like the characters in Huxley’s dystopia (most of whom believed they lived in a utopia), we exist in an entertainment-saturated society. Much of that entertainment is delivered to us through one company: Netflix, which caters to approximately 30 million viewers and is more watched than cable television. I thought of feelies, and of Huxley’s broader vision, when I heard about Netflix’s new strategy for creating original content, employed for the first time with “House of Cards” this past February—one that involves using billions of data points to better understand what its viewers want to see.

Netflix, much like the NSA, knows a lot about us. Think about what your viewing patterns (what you watch, when you watch it, how often you pause it, etc.) expose about you. It was concern over privacy in video renting that brought about the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act, after Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s video rental records were published a newspaper. Congress was outraged that such personal information could be made public (consider it the “meta data” of the time), but the bill hasn’t been updated since, despite certain developments, including the invention of the Internet.

Consider just how much Netflix must know about you given that, according to GigaOm, it also collects geo-location data, device information, metadata from third-parties such as Nielson, and social media data from Facebook and Twitter, in addition to the more obvious “data events”: over 30 million plays per day, 4 million ratings, 3 million searches, and all pauses, fast-forwards, rewinds, and replays. (Nielson is the original market research company, founded in 1923 by Arthur Nielson who coined the term “market share.” It tracks global information on what consumers watch and buy for advertisers and corporate clients including Coca-Cola, Nestle, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Walmart, CBS, NBC, News Corp., and Disney.)

This information has long dictated what content Netflix decides to license and recommend to different viewers, but “House of Cards” was the first time any company had ever used such data in the creative production process for a T.V. show. It started when Netflix noticed that there was significant overlap between the circles of viewers who watched movies starring Kevin Spacey and movies directed by David Fincher from beginning to end, and viewers who loved the original 1990 BBC miniseries “House of Cards.” Subscribers were shown one of ten different trailers for the series based on their consumer profiles. The producers also knew, from studying viewers’ watching patterns, that releasing all thirteen episodes at once would promote and reward the binge-like behavior demonstrated by their target audience. The new strategy paid off, with ten percent of Netflix subscribers watching the series within two weeks of its debut, and 80% of viewers rating it “good” or “exceptional.”

On the heels of its “House of Cards” success, Netflix premiered a new series, “Orange is the New Black,” on Thursday, July 11. Described as a “hilarious, heartbreaking, and critically acclaimed series based on the true story of Piper, an upper-class New Yorker who finds herself sentenced to fifteen months in a women’s correctional facility for a crime she committed long ago,” the show has indeed already garnered critical acclaim. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that it achieves a “new definition of television excellence.”

Just as retail companies like Target can know when a teenager is pregnant before her own parents through the mining of extensive data sets, entertainment producers across industries are becoming savvier about the potential of big data to transform the creative process, and to meet consumer demand in unprecedented ways. The idea of computer algorithms displaying what we would normally think of as uniquely human creativity is relatively new, but it’s rapidly spreading. Algorithms that sift through and crunch the exponentially-growing pool of data can now grade essays, compose music that imitates Bach so well many can’t tell the difference, and write news articles on events no journalist attended. (See “Can Creativity Be Automated?”)

“We know what people watch on Netflix and we’re able with a high degree of confidence to understand how big a likely audience is for a given show based on people’s viewing habits,” Netflix communications director Jonathan Friedland told Wired in 2012. “We want to continue to have something for everybody. But as time goes on, we get better at selecting what that something for everybody is that gets high engagement.”

Maybe it’s a stretch to compare this new entertainment environment to the feelies and obstacle golf of Brave New World, but it’s hard not to be a little skeptical of an industry so in tune with consumer preferences that it can use an algorithm to create The Ultimate Television Program. Despite the reality that we face crises of drastic proportion—environmentally, economically, socially, and politically—we are overwhelmingly marketed a very different reality. In over 3,000 advertisements a day, we are presented with a world in which the consumer is sovereign, freedom of choice reigns, and painless, constant pleasure is possible. Art and entertainment that fail to constantly please, however socially valuable it might be, represents a smaller and smaller proportion of what most Americans consume.

As technology advances, corporations are developing both more precise ways to monitor our behavior and smarter algorithms to crunch that data. Last year, Verizon applied for a patent for a type of monitoring technology that uses infrared cameras and microphones to track and collect consumer behavior—such as eating, exercising, reading, and sleeping—in the vicinity of a TV or mobile device. Embedded in cable boxes in living rooms across America, this Orwellian tool would presumably help companies get to know us just a little bit better. Marketing firms use eye tracking to measure how elements of advertisements are perceived, retained and recalled, and corporations use facial recognition on billboards’ hidden cameras to detect age and gender brackets to display targeted ads. Surely these developments raise many of the same privacy concerns as the U.S. intelligence community’s blanket spying programs. When did we agree to give all this personal data away for free? And do we even know it’s happening?

As founder and CEO of Netflix Reed Hastings told Businessweek, “We’re able to do more and more calculations and big-data statistics so that what we do is represent Netflix more and more as a place where you come for relaxation, escape.” Sounds almost as good as a hangover-free soma holiday.

Kate Epstein is a lawyer and activist who manages the blog The Lone Pamphleteer. She can be reached at katepstein@gmail.com.

Bradley Manning is My Hero

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Bradley Manning

“I want people to see the truth, because without it you cannot make informed decisions as a public” – by  Bradley Manning.

“On June 3rd, after more than 3 years of pretrial confinement, military whistle-blower and democracy advocate Bradley Manning will go to trial for “Aiding the Enemy,” a capital offense that could open future whistle-blowers to the death penalty.

As many have pointed out, there is no basis for this charge in a free and just society, because only the public has benefited from his actions.  The charge will set a dangerous precedent for the first amendment, opening whistle-blowers and those who help them to the death penalty.

Bradley’s actions have helped motivate democratic movements around the world, including the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street.  They have shed light on the undue influence corporations wield in international policy, US-supported torture in Iraq, and the true number of civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The video that Bradley released from Iraq, “Collateral Murder,” is the most stark and obvious evidence of war crimes that the public has seen in our decade. None of those associated with the murder of unarmed civilians and journalists in the video have been brought to justice.

As of yet, the Obama administration and the military court have failed to produce any evidence whatsoever that Bradley’s leaks put the lives of service members of government officials at risk.

After his arrest Bradley suffered nearly a year of solitary confinement, resulting in protests by the UN, the ACLU, and Amnesty International.  Though he has since plead guilty to the charges associated with releasing the files to the public, if Bradley is convicted of “Aiding the Enemy”  he will spend the rest of his life behind bars and future whistle-blowers may face the same.

Join thousands of us already to say: I AM BRADLEY MANNING.

Originally posted on I am Bradley Manning.

Bradley Manning is My Hero

Many Bradley Manning

Malala’s Forgotten Sisters – by Adriana Carranca

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Malala's Forgotten Sisters

KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA, Pakistan — At only 12, Nazia lives in expectation of the worst. As I step through the doorway of the humble compound her parents share with two other families in the Pashtun lands of northwest Pakistan, her small, fragile body trembles unwittingly. She knew I was coming, but learned too young to trust no one.

Nazia was only 5 when her father married her off to a much older man, a stranger, as compensation for a murder her uncle had committed. The decision to give the little girl away as payment, along with two goats and a piece of land, was made by a jirga — an assembly of local elders that makes up the justice system in most of Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s tribal areas, where conventional courts are either not trusted or nonexistent. “One night a man came and took me by the hand,” Nazia says, in a nearly inaudible moan.

Nazia was too young to understand what was happening when that man dragged her into the darkness. But born in a land where women are not to be seen by strangers, she knew enough to realize something was terribly wrong. “I resisted, I cried, and tried to hold on to the doorjamb,” she remembers.

Nazia was taken to the jirga, displayed as a commodity before the circle of men, and examined by the husband to be, who was allowed to decide whether she was good enough to be his wife. Nazia remembers the men starring at her deep brown eyes, her long, black hair — the humiliation of that scene is so utterly marked in her memory that she can barely finish the sentence before dissolving in tears.

The men in her family argued, unsuccessfully, that she was too young to be married off. In a rare decision, however, the jirga did agree that the girl should not be handed over immediately. So the demanding husband would have to wait — and so has Nazia. Even among the women in the house, she wears a full-length black chador, as if a male intruder could suddenly enter that door again. I ask whether she knows how pretty she is, but that only makes things worse. Nazia is afraid of being beautiful, for that implies being desired by that man.

She is terrified of growing up. Her parents have been able to postpone their daughter’s fate — but not for much longer, certainly no later than age 14. Most child brides are pregnant by then.

There is an aggravating factor in the fate of girls such as Nazia. Given away as compensation to resolve tribal disputes — a custom known as swara in Pashtun — the girls will always represent the enemy for the “dishonored” family, a symbol of their disgrace.

According to tradition, the compensation should end the dispute and bring the two warring families together in harmony. In practice, however, the marriage only provides cover for revenge. Swara girlsbecome the targets of all anger and hatred in their new home. They are often bitten, emotionally tortured, and sometimes raped by other men in the family. They are made to suffer for a crime they did not commit.

The swara custom is a form of collective punishment that persists in the tribal areas. Nazia’s uncle — the perpetrator of the crime for which she is to be punished — killed a neighbor in a land dispute and then ran away. He left no children, so the jirga decided his older brother should pay in his place by sacrificing his own daughter.

Nazia’s father is a poor, uneducated farmer, and he could do nothing to contest this ruling. Having lost his land and livestock in the dispute, he now works in temporary construction jobs, which pay $3 a day. His wife helps by cleaning neighbors’ houses for a few more rupees.

Nazia’s parents have decided this year will be her last year at school. The family has no money to pay for her books, and the expense seemed pointless for them anyway, given that she will soon be married. Nazia herself has lost interest in studying. Since her classmates found out about her fate, she runs back and forth from school, speaking to no one. “They point at me on the streets and call me ‘the swara girl,’ and they make fun of me,” Nazia mumbles. Dogs bark in the distance, making it almost impossible to hear her.

Eventually she blurts out: “That was very painful, and I didn’t understand…. It still hurts and upsets me. I’m so fed up with this feeling! I’m so afraid all the time! I’d rather never leave the house…. People scare me, all people. I trust no one.”

The call for prayer echoes off the mud walls, heralding the day’s end. For security reasons, we have to leave before dusk. As we move away, Nazia remains motionless — head huddled against her chest, eyes on the ground, her pale face immersed in sadness. Every sunset brings her closer to the day that the old man will come and take her away for good.

One girl every three seconds

Despite being illegal, the custom of forcibly marrying girls off to resolve family and tribal disputes happens on an alarming scale across all provinces of Pakistan. It goes by different names — swara in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (formerly the North-West Frontier Province) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, vani in Punjab, lajai in Baluchistan, and sang chati in Sindh — but all its forms are equally cruel.

In Pakistan, at least 180 cases of swara were reported last year — every other day — thanks to the work of local journalists and activists. But there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of undocumented cases. Worldwide, an estimated 51 million girls below age 18 are married, according to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW).

A further 10 million underage girls marry every year — one every three seconds, according to ICRW. The legal age to marry in Pakistan is 18 for boys but 16 for girls, though they can’t drive, vote, or open a bank account until adulthood. According to UNICEF, 70 percent of girls in Pakistan are marriedbefore then.

Mohammad Ayub, a British-trained psychiatrist from Lahore, has worked with child soldiers in Sudan and young Taliban recruits in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He now manages the Saidu Sharif Teaching Hospital in the Swat Valley, an area that came under the spotlight when terrorists attempted to kill 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai because of her struggle to promote girls’ education. “I saw small children holding guns bigger than themselves,” he says. “But these girls…. It’s just as tragic.”

Many child brides come to Ayub with severe pain, sometimes blinded or paralyzed — the effects of a psychiatric condition known as “conversion disorder.” Practically unknown in the West since the beginning of the 20th century, it has reached epidemic proportions in the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to Ayub. It is a sort of psychological stress that manifests in physical ailments, including convulsions, paralysis, or fits.

“Here women don’t have a voice, particularly girls,” Ayub says. “She can’t say, ‘No, I don’t want this marriage’ … so she keeps it all inside, and eventually it will come out in the form of some physical distress. We receive loads of women here, three to four cases with the same symptoms every day only in my clinic, and I mean daily! Thirteen-, 14-year-old girls, all married.”

The average age of swara girls is between 5 and 9 years old, according to registered cases and local accounts. The reason provides an insight into the immense challenge in changing deep-rooted traditions in Pakistan: In the tribal areas, a girl older than this is probably already promised to somebody else.

Mahnun was 8 when a jirga decided she should be given as a swara; her older sister, then 10, had already been promised to a cousin. The stories are disturbingly repetitive: a land dispute, yet another crime, a family seeking revenge, another men-only jirga of powerful local leaders, and an innocent girl’s future taken from her. Mahnun’s case was unusual because her father, both the perpetrator of the crime and a caring parent, would not accept the sentence.

He pleaded with the jirga, offering to give all he owned in exchange for his daughter. Her mother vowed she would not live to see her little girl be taken away by a stranger. “They can behead me, but they won’t take my daughter. I won’t let them to take my daughter,” she screamed when she heard the news. But the offended family said they would only accept the girl, so the jirga consented, recounted Mahnun’s mother.

With no other option available to them, Mahnun’s family gathered up some clothes, whatever utensils they could carry, and escaped in the darkness. They left everything else behind and went into hiding.

The four now live in a single shabby room of a dilapidated compound that they share with other families. They have no electricity. The toilet is a walled-off hole in the ground outside; a few buckets are used to bring water for bathing. Cooking is done in the single pan they brought from home, placed over wood in the courtyard.

Mahnun’s father found a temporary job as a driver, but his contract came to an end and now he is unemployed. “We are borrowing money from others so we can feed the children. We have no choice,” he says. “Nothing matters more to us than our two girls and their lives.”

One window of the room frames the snow-covered mountains in the distance; in the other corner rest heavy blankets, gifts from compassionate neighbors. But Mahnun’s family is still wary of those around them: “In this new village we haven’t told anyone that she is a swara. If people know about this they won’t leave us here alive,” says Mahnun’s mother. Disobeying a jirga’s decision and escaping would be considered an act of betrayal for which the family would not be forgiven.

“Each and every day we live in fear. What if they find us?” says Mahnun’s mother. She accompanies both daughters to school and waits there until they leave. At age 10, Mahnun is in seventh grade and dreams of becoming a judge. “I will ban the custom of swara, and I will put men who do it in jail,” she says hopefully.

“She is getting naughty because she knows she is loved so much,” her father explains, giving Mahnun a warm smile.

No man’s land

Both Nazia’s and Mahnun’s stories pose a fundamental question to Pakistan: Why didn’t the families seek justice in traditional courts in the first place? Part of the answer is tradition — specifically an unwritten, pre-Islamic set of rules that forms a code of honor in Pashtun societies.

Nazia’s father committed no crime, but he did not report his brother, the jirga, or the family that demanded his daughter. In “normal” circumstances, Mahnun’s father, an educated man, could have gone to the courts when his neighbor tried to steal parts of his land. Instead, he killed the man.

“There is something about the Pashtuns to be considered, and that is the burden of honor,” says Fazal Khaliq, a Pakistani journalist and activist who is working to disclose swara cases and denounce the perpetrators. “They kill each other over petty issues for the sake of honor!”

Mahnun’s father was a farmer until a newcomer built a barbed-wire fence inside his property. They argued. A few days later, the man advanced a little further into the land. “I told him so many times…. But he’d keep moving in, few meters at a time,” says Mahnun’s father. He quietly erected heavy cement blocks to mark the boundaries of his 2 acres. The next day, the man removed them.

“But the worst was that the villagers would come and harass me,” he said, his voice shaking. “They said I was not brave enough, insinuated that if I didn’t seek revenge he might even take my wife, and suggested I should bury his body in my land for what he was doing…. So, next time that man invaded my land, I shot him.”

The power of the Pashtun honor code, however, is only part of the story. During the days of the British Empire, the region’s colonial rulers granted titles of nobility to powerful tribal leaders known as maliks in exchange for their loyalty; all local matters were devolved to the jirgas. To counter any rebellion of the wild Pashtuns, the British instituted a set of laws — the Frontier Crimes Regulations — that deprived residents of legal representation in the traditional justice system. At the least sign of rebellion, the British could arrest suspects without trial and sometimes arrested whole tribes.

It was only in 2011 that President Asif Ali Zardari signed amendments to the regulations that now give citizens of the tribal areas the right to appeal decisions made by local political agents. The amendments also prohibit collective punishment and the arrest of children under 16 for crimes committed by others. Despite such reforms, however, little change has been seen on the ground. A century after the set of laws was established, minors continue to be jailed or suffer for the crimes of others, according to human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Flaws in Pakistan’s judicial system also lead residents to rely on the jirgas. “Traditional courts in Pakistan have very bad records. There are unsolved cases going back more than 30 years, still in process, and the whole justice system is seen as highly corrupt,” says Khaliq. “It is also very expensive. Courts charge for each and every service, so the poor can’t afford it, whereas the Islamic courts [jirgas] are free and speedy.”

The rise of Islamic militancy in Pakistan could only make things worse. As extremists grow more powerful, they have started imposing their own draconian rules on society — including even more discrimination against women.

No women’s land

In December 2012, I crossed from Islamabad into the heart of Pashtun lands. In the scenic Swat Valley, where the Pakistani Army now strictly controls journalists’ access, Khaliq and I tried to visit the family of an 8-year-old girl who had just been given away as a swara. Her mother, however, was too afraid to speak. We made other attempts, but Taliban militiamen were still around, locals said, and an informal code of silence remains in force despite the heavy presence of the military.

Once a tourist destination for the Pakistani bourgeoisie and even British monarchs, the Swat Valley was under the sway of a faction of the Pakistani Taliban from 2007 to 2009. Radicals bombed schools, banned girls’ education, and held public executions.

After an offensive that left thousands dead and caused a massive exodus, the Army eventually regained control of the region. But terrorists continue to carry out attacks, such as the shooting of Malala and the bombing of four schools in the northwestern tribal belt this past February.

In the valley, we hardly saw any women on the streets. The few outside wore burqas and were always accompanied by men. In Mingora, the capital of Swat district, women are only allowed in the markets for a few hours each day, and even then most husbands don’t let their wives go. Those women who can go to the markets buy enough to sell to others in improvised bazaars at home.

During the evenings, as we sat around the fire in my host family’s home, the women would describe episodes of violence against them as nighttime fairy tales. The stories were retold to me by one of the men, as none of the women spoke English. Although these men were the perpetrators of the acts being described, they showed no shame in translating them.

City of men

On my way back from Swat, I stopped in Peshawar to meet Samar Minallah, an anthropologist and award-winning filmmaker who has worked with Pashtun women for years.

Peshawar is the nerve center of the tribal belt. It was the headquarters of the Afghan insurgency against the Soviets in the 1980s, and the Taliban rushed back in after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. Partnering with local extremist movements, the group has been tightening its grip on the city. In 2012 alone, rockets fell on the local airport, police stations and checkpoints were bombed, vehicles transporting government officials were targeted, and senior public figures were gunned down in daylight. Bombings have continued this year, and sectarian violence in on the rise.

Today, Peshawar is under siege. Vestiges of the old city are now hidden behind sandbags and spirals of barbed wire, while heavily armed soldiers in bulletproof vests guard its ancient, tree-lined avenues. We were stopped three times and interrogated while officers checked the car for bombs. Eventually, they cleared the way ahead toward Edwardes College, which was founded in 1900 by Christian missionaries and has survived in recent years thanks to a heavy security presence.

To my surprise, a teenage female student in a green uniform and white chador came to guide me inside. Up until 2007, Edwardes College did not admit women. Today 305 girls are enrolled alongside more than 2,000 boys. Although still a minority in the classroom, these are the privileged — two-thirds of girls from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are illiterate.

I entered a crowded gymnasium, where about a hundred teenagers, boys and girls, were awaiting a lecture by Minallah about swara.

“Education alone can’t stop violence against women, for there are many educated parliamentarians who sit in the tribal jirgas and they are the ones who decide these little girls should be given…. To stop that we have to change the mindset, and you are the ones who can do it,” Minallah began.

She turned suddenly to the boys: “And especially you.” A loud murmur filled the room; the boys looked confused. “How?” called out one Justin Bieber look-alike. “When you consider this your problem, I assure you that you will also be part of the change,” Minallah answered.

Born to a Pashtun clan in Peshawar, Minallah was lucky to have a liberal, pro-women father. He was a government official and father to three girls and three boys, whom he treated equally. As Minallah told her story to the audience, a boy in the crowd interrupted: “Sorry, but men and women … we are different. Look at us; we are different.”

Minallah didn’t hesitate: “Yes, you are right,” she responded. “We may be different, but we are not unequal in our rights.”

Her statement encouraged the other girls. A 14-year-old girl, only her eyes uncovered by her veil, turned to the boys: “Don’t you realize you are the ones who sit in the jirga? Go, stop talking, and do something!” Even the boys applauded. The girl went on to tell the audience about her daily struggle to come to school, defying her father’s and brothers’ will.

“These are very brave girls,” Minallah murmured to me. “Just attending school and wearing uniform in the streets is very dangerous for them.”

Minallah only learned about swara in 2003, when she traveled to the scenic village of Matta, at the top of the Swat Valley’s mountain range. There, she met a mother about to give her 11-year-old away in a forced marriage. “That really hit me,” Minallah said. “I just felt very angry and ashamed that such things were happening in Pakistan and we didn’t know about them because they happen in the tribal areas.”

So she became determined that Pakistan should know everything. Minallah’s first award-winning documentary, “Swara: A Bridge Over Troubled Water,” portrayed the mother and daughter from Matta. The film made its way to the highest echelons of the political system: In 2004, the Pakistani parliament passed an amendment to Pakistan’s penal code making swara a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Since then, around 60 decisions made by jirgas involving swara girls have been prevented by local courts, though in most tribal areas the law still does not apply.

Minallah relies on a network of local journalists and activists, like Khaliq, to inform her about swara cases. She also depends on a few local policemen to block upcoming cases.

Abid Ali was one of the few whom Minallah trusted. “When I was informed about a jirga involving swara, I’d just give him a call and he would come!” she says.

Ali, a police officer from Lahore who was married to a Pashtun woman, became known for his bravery in fighting for girls’ rights in areas other officials refused to go. He received threats for interfering in swara cases. One night in 2006, he was driving on the Peshawar-Kohat highway when he was shot dead. His murderer was never brought to justice.

Ali’s last post was in Mardan, on the outskirts of Peshawar Valley. Naturally irrigated by the Swat River’s many tributaries, Mardan is a highly fertile agricultural area. Land disputes are frequent — and so is swara.

Rafaqat, a tiny woman with sun-cracked skin, has dedicated her life to eliminating swara in the area. “I’m an old lady. If they kill me, so what? I’ll die eventually,” she says, laughing loudly.

In 1998, Rafaqat’s teenage nephew fell for a girl already promised to somebody else. He knew his love was prohibited, so he ran away with the girl. To compensate the family’s loss, the jirga decided the boy’s younger sister, Rafaqat’s niece, should be given away as a swara. She was 11.

Rafaqat never saw her again. She managed to stay informed about the niece’s movements, so she knew when the girl became pregnant. When the time came, her new family refused to take her to the hospital. At age 14, the swara girl gave birth to a son, but died in labor. “They never came to her funeral. They never paid condolences to our family,” Rafaqat tells me. “All they said was: We had ourbadal [revenge].”

As an old woman, Rafaqat can walk freely on the streets, her torn veil barely covering her long, gray hair. Well known in the village, mothers secretly contact her to report about swara cases. When she gets a call, she immediately brings in Minallah.

In one such case, Minallah reached the jirga before it had begun. Appropriately veiled, she stepped into the circle of men holding a copy of the Quran. “I am sure you know that the Quran says it is anti-Islamic to give girls as compensation,” she lectured them.

One hour and a half later, the jirga announced it would not take the girl. “That was such a happy day for me! Some tribal elders, they don’t know…. They are illiterate,” Minallah says. “If you tell them and if they see people are being jailed for that, they think again.”

We are edging along between the cracked concrete walls and rusty iron doors of Mardan’s narrow streets when the driver stops abruptly. Lying in the middle of a road of petrified mud is a baby girl, so young she cannot even crawl, dressed in ragged clothes. Her eyes widened with the proximity of the vehicle — her eyelids blackened with kohl.

Minallah and Rafaqat rush to pick up the baby. We spot a woman in the distance, hair covered, only her eyes visible as she stands in the doorway. Laughing nervously, she says she is the baby’s mother. Her older children took their little sister to play outside, but left her behind. The mother could not set foot outside the house without her husband’s permission and he was not at home, so she has been standing there, waiting for someone to come and rescue her baby daughter.

We leave Rafaqat at home and head back to Islamabad. Nowshera Mardan Road is packed with traditional, colorful Pakistani trucks, while a few women walk in monochrome burqas on the roadside; others wear full chador. I find it curious that some have red stains on the fabric. “They represent the blood of women in their families killed in honor killing. A silent protest,” Minallah explains.

Mardan may be known as the city of brave men, but it’s also a place of courageous women. I ask whether Minallah has received any threats: “Oh, so many!” she replies.

Minutes later, Minallah picks up a call. The line is cutting out, but she can hear enough to understand that a Pakistani expat is calling from Prague to inform her about a jirga due to meet in his home village in a few days, to decide about swara girls.

Another case for Minallah to fight. “It’s still a tradition,” she says, “but I think people are starting to realize it’s nothing but a crime.”

Originally published at FOREIGN POLICY

Memories of Adriana Carranca's visit to Jalozai camp, close to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border — in Jalozai, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Memories of Adriana Carranca’s visit to Jalozai camp, close to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border — in Jalozai, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Adriana Carranca writes about conflict, religion, and human rights, with a special eye on the situation of women. Follow her on Twitter: @AdrianaCarranca.