By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan [source]
If a volcano kills civilians in Indonesia, it’s news. When the government does the killing, sadly, it’s just business as usual, especially if an American president tacitly endorses the killing, as President Barack Obama just did with his visit to Indonesia.
As the people around Mount Merapi dig out of the ash following a series of eruptions that have left more than 150 dead, a darker cloud now hangs over Indonesia in the form of renewed U.S. support for the country’s notorious Kopassus, the military’s special forces commando group. Journalist Allan Nairn released several secret Kopassus documents as the Obamas landed in Jakarta, showing the level of violent political repression administered by the Kopassus—now, for the first time in more than a decade, with United States support.
Last March, Nairn revealed details of a Kopassus assassination program in the Indonesian province of Aceh. These new Kopassus documents shed remarkable detail on the province of West Papua. As Nairn wrote in his piece accompanying the documents, West Papua is “where tens of thousands of civilians have been murdered and where Kopassus is most active. … When the U.S. restored Kopassus aid last July the rationale was fighting terrorism, but the documents show that Kopassus in fact systematically targets civilians.” In the Kopassus’ own words, the civilians are “much more dangerous than any armed opposition.”
One document names 15 leaders of the Papuan civil society, all “civilians, starting with the head of the Baptist Synod of Papua. The others include evangelical ministers, activists, traditional leaders, legislators, students and intellectuals as well as local establishment figures and the head of the Papua Muslim Youth organization.”
President Obama lived in Indonesia from the ages of 6 through 10, after his mother married an Indonesian man. Obama said in Jakarta this week: “[M]uch has been made of the fact that this marks my return to where I lived as a young boy. … But today, as president, I’m here to focus not on the past, but on the future—the Comprehensive Partnership that we’re building between the United States and Indonesia.” Part of that relationship involves the renewed support of Kopassus, which has been denied since the armed forces burned then-Indonesian-occupied East Timor to the ground in 1999, killing more than 1,400 Timorese.
A series of cell-phone videos have come out of Papua showing torture being inflicted on men there at the hands of what appear to be members of the military. In one video that surfaced just two weeks ago, soldiers burn a man’s genitals with a burning stick, cover his head with a plastic bag to suffocate him, and threaten him with a rifle. Another video shows a Papuan man slowly dying from a gunshot wound as the soldier with the cell-phone camera taunts him, calling him a savage.
I spoke with Suciwati Munir, the widow of the renowned Indonesian human-rights activist Munir Said Thalib, at the Bonn, Germany, reunion of Right Livelihood Award laureates. Her husband, an unflinching critic of the Indonesian military, received the award shortly before his death. In 2004, as he traveled to the Netherlands for a law fellowship, on board the Indonesian national airline Garuda, he was given an upgrade to business class. There, he was served tea laced with arsenic. He was dead before the plane landed. Suciwati has a message for Obama:
“If Obama has a commitment to human rights in the world … he has to pay attention to the human-rights situation in Indonesia. And the first thing that he should ask to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is to resolve the Munir case.” I asked her if she wanted to meet President Obama when he came to Indonesia. She replied: “Maybe yes, because I want to remind him about the human-rights situation in Indonesia. Maybe not, because of his wrong decision, he has perpetuated the impunity in Indonesia.”
This was the third attempt by President Obama to visit Indonesia. His first delay was to allow him to push through health-care reform. The second was canceled in the wake of the BP oil disaster. This time he made it, although the Mount Merapi eruption forced him to leave a few hours early. Speaking from Jakarta, journalist Nairn reflected: “It’s nice to be able to go back to where you grew up, but you shouldn’t bring weapons as a gift. You shouldn’t bring training for the people who are torturing your old neighbors.”
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” an independent, daily global TV/radio news hour airing on more than 950 stations in the United States and around the world. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.
© 2011 Amy Goodman
“Three years ago, President Obama cut a secret deal with pharmaceutical company lobbyists to secure the industry’s support for his national health care law. Despite Obama’s promises during his campaign to run a transparent administration, the deal has been shrouded in mystery ever since. But internal emails obtained by House Republicans now provide evidence that a deal was struck and GOP investigators are promising to release more details in the coming weeks.
“What the hell?” White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, who is now Obama’s campaign manager, complained to a lobbyist for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) in January 15, 2010 email. “This wasn’t part of our deal.”
This reference to “our deal” came two months before the final passage of Obamacare in an email with the subject line, “FW: TAUZIN EMAIL.” At the time, Billy Tauzin was president and CEO of PhRMA.
The email was uncovered as part of investigation into Obama’s closed-door health care negotiations launched by the House Energy and Commerce committee’s oversight panel.
“In the coming weeks the Committee intends to show what the White House agreed to do as part of its deal with the pharmaceutical industry and how the full details of this agreement were kept from both the public and the House of Representatives,” the committee’s Republican members wrote in a memo today.
On June 20, 2009, Obama released a terse 296-word statement announcing a deal between pharmaceutical companies and the Senate that didn’t mention any involvement by the White House.
“The investigation has determined that the White House, primarily through Office of Health Reform Director Nancy Ann DeParle and Messina, with involvement from Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, was actively engaged in these negotiations while the role of Congress was limited,” the committee members wrote. “For example, three days before the June 20 statement, the head of PhRMA promised Messina, ‘we will deliver a final yes to you by morning.’ Meanwhile, Ms. DeParle all but confirmed that half of the Legislative Branch was shut out in an email to a PhRMA representative: ‘I think we should have included the House in the discussions, but maybe we never would have gotten anywhere if we had.’”
Obama’s Half-Billion-Dollar Crony Drug Deal
“Here comes Siga-Gate.
This latest Chicago-style payoff on your dime involves a dubious smallpox drug backed by a liberal billionaire investor, along with a former union boss who was one of the White House’s most frequent visitors. They’re the “1 percent” with 100 percent immunity from the selectively outraged Occupier mobs that purport to oppose partisan government bailouts and handouts to privileged corporations.
Ronald Perelman is the New York City-based leveraged buyout wheeler-dealer who controls Siga Technologies. He has donated nearly $130,000 mostly to Democrats over the past two election cycles alone (history here), and he forked over $50,000 to pay for the president’s lavish inaugural parties. A Siga affiliate (MacAndrews and Forbes) pitched in nearly half a million more in contributions — 65 percent of which went to Democrats — and the firms have spent millions on lobbying.
Perelman’s pharma company makes an experimental antiviral pill used by smallpox patients who received diagnoses too late to be treated with the existing smallpox vaccine. Smallpox experts cast doubt on the need for the drug given ample vaccine stockpiles, the remoteness of a mass attack and questions about its efficacy. But over the objections of federal contract negotiators, competitors and scientists, the Obama administration approved a lucrative $433 million no-bid deal for Siga in May. No other manufacturers were able to compete for the “sole source” procurement, according to the Los Angeles Times.”[read more]
Exxon Makes $104 Million In Profit Per Day So Far In 2012, While Americans Are Stuck With A Higher Gas Bill
By Rebecca Leber on Apr 26, 2012 at 10:08 am
Last year, ExxonMobil, one of the world’s most profitable companies, earned $1,300 in profits per second. As consumers paid record-high springtime gas prices, Exxon posted first quarter profits of $9.45 billion.
This is down slightly from the first quarter of 2011, when Exxon posted $10.65 billion in profits. Exxon benefited from the high price of oil, but analysts expected slightly lower profits due in part to the cheap price of natural gas, which the company is heavily invested in.
A by-the-numbers look shows how Exxon’s executives and Big Oil’s allies are rewarded generously for the company’s billions, while Americans are stuck with rising gas bills:
$9.45 billion profits, or almost $104 million per day in the first three months of the year.
13 percent: The tax rate Exxon paid last year, lower than the average American family.
60 percent of its first quarter earnings, or $5.7 billion, on buying back stock. Became world’s largest dividend payer by increasing dividends 21 percent.
$1,091,000: Political contributions sent to federal politicians for the 2012 election cycle, making it the largest oil and gas spender.
91% of these contributions went to Republicans.
More than $52,000,000: Lobbying for the first three years of the Obama presidency, 50 percent more than in the Bush Administration.
$34.9 million: Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson’s salary for 2011, a 20 percent raise.
$52,300: Political contributions from Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson in the 2012 cycle, alone.
No. 2: Fortune 500 list of richest companies and for highest-paid CEO.[read more]