2014 Last updated at 17:02
In the wake of
several high-profile cases involving black Americans killed
after encounters with the police, writers Stacey Patton and
David J Leonard examine why blame is often shifted to the
Last week a Staten Island grand jury concluded that no
crime was committed when an NYPD officer choked 43-year-old
Eric Garner to death in broad daylight. Never mind what we
all have seen on the video
recording; his pleas, and his pronouncement, "I can't
So what if the medical examiner ruled it a homicide? An
unfortunate tragedy for sure, but not a crime.
In fact, in
the eyes of many, it was Garner's own fault.
"You had a 350lb (158.8kg) person who was resisting
arrest. The police were trying to bring him down as quickly
as possible," New York Representative
Peter King told the press. "If he had not had asthma
and a heart condition and was so obese, almost definitely he
would not have died."
This sort of logic sees Garner's choices as the reasons for
his death. Everything is about what he did. He had a petty
criminal record with dozens of arrests, he (allegedly) sold
untaxed cigarettes, he resisted arrest and disrespected the
officers by not complying.
According to Bob
McManus, a columnist for The New York Post, both Eric
Garner and Michael Brown, the teenager shot dead by a police
officer in Ferguson Missouri, "had much in common, not the
least of which was this: On the last day of their lives,
they made bad decisions. Especially bad decisions. Each
broke the law - petty offenses, to be sure, but sufficient
to attract the attention of the police. And then -
tragically, stupidly, fatally, inexplicably - each fought
If only we turned our attention on
those who are responsible. Had Officer Daniel Pantaleo not
choked Eric Garner, the father and husband would be alive
Had Officer Pantaleo listened to his pleas, Garner would be
Had the other four officers interceded, Garner would be
There is plenty of blame to go around. The NYPD's embrace
policies rooted in the "broken
windows" method of policing is a co-conspirator worthy
of public scrutiny and outrage.
Yet, we focus on Eric Garner's choices.
Such victim-blaming is central to white supremacy.
Emmett Till should not have whistled
at a white woman.
Amadou Diallo should not have reached for his wallet.
Trayvon Martin should not have been wearing a hoodie.
Jonathan Ferrell should not have run
toward the police after getting into a car
Renisha McBride should not have been drinking
or knocked on a stranger's door for help in the middle
of the night.
Jordan Davis should not have been playing
loud rap music.
Michael Brown should not have stolen
cigarillos or allegedly
assaulted a cop.
The irony is these statements are made in a society where
white men brazenly walk around with rifles and machine guns,
citing their constitutional right to do so when confronted
by the police.
Look at the twitter campaign "#CrimingWhileWhite"
to bear witness to all the white law-breakers who lived to
brag about the tale.
Just think about the epidemic of white
men who walk into public spaces, open fire and still
walk away with their lives. In those cases, we are told we
must understand "why" and change laws or mental health
system to make sure it never happens again.
The audacity of whiteness and anti-black racism is
condemning black bodies for their own deaths, while seeking
understanding for white criminals.
No matter the situation or circumstance, throughout US
history the devaluing of black life can be seen in the
failure to prosecute police officers, lynch mobs, freelance
vigilantes, and others empowered to protect white supremacy
because the deaths of their black victims were seen as
The practice of blaming blacks for their own killings is
not reserved for adults.
Last month 12-year old Tamir
Rice was killed by police who opened fired seconds
after arriving at the scene.
Rice was blamed for playing with a toy gun outside a
recreation centre in Cleveland, Ohio. A 911-caller said he
kept taking the gun in and out of his pocket and scaring
people with it.
Not even a day after Rice was killed, his parents' criminal
records and parenting decisions were front-page news. An
early news story made references to his mother's
past drug charges, another focused on Tamir
Rice's father's history of violence against women.
The implication was clear: Tamir grew up in a family of
"criminals" and therefore it is no wonder he died. Never
mind that he was the victim, never mind his parent's grief,
never mind that his killer, Timothy A Loehmann was
deemed unfit for police work in 2012.
In the aftermath of these racially charged killings there's
a predictable pattern of putting victims on trial in the
media, in district attorney's offices, and in the court of
This post-mortem narrative discredits the victims and feeds
popular myths about black people as innately criminal,
violent, and so deeply flawed that their lives are
Pinning the blame on the victims reinforces ideas of a
post-racial America and racial progress.
It normalizes inequality and police-on-black violence.
It limits public sympathy and outrage since "they did it to
It limits responsibility and complicity of not only the
police but also those sitting in the halls of political
It ignores larger history and a pattern of systemic
It stifles conversations about implicit bias and systemic
It undermines conversations about state violence and
Rather than account for racism, or hold the perpetrator,
society, and its stained racial history accountable, this
racial gag reflex places blame inside of all too many
The efforts to blame the Eric Garners and Tamir Rices is
not just about exonerating the police but pathologising
blacks so white America can preserve its racial fantasies.
Ultimately, it is about absolving the fundamental
inequality of how black people are perceived and treated in
They are assumed to be criminal, less intelligent, less
In America, black lives don't matter because white
supremacy requires black death, and it requires that its
victims die without sanctuary.
Stacey Patton is a senior enterprise reporter for The
Chronicle of Higher Education and the author of That Mean
2014 Last updated at 18:06
The Mayor of
Paris Anne Hidalgo wants to ban diesel cars and the
pollution they bring from the streets of the French capital.
But not long ago, diesel engines were thought to be
environmentally friendly. What could have gone wrong?
Opinion on diesel cars has swung widely over the years.
Diesel is a more efficient fuel than petrol, but in the
past diesel engines were often noisy and dirty.
Then, with growing concerns over climate change, car
manufacturers were urged to produce cleaner, quieter diesel
cars to capitalise on their extra fuel efficiency.
The cars were fitted with a trap to catch the particles of
smoke associated with the fuel. Several governments rewarded
the manufacturing improvements by incentivising the purchase
and use of diesel cars.
But the policy has backfired.
Going into reverse
First, there have been problems with the particle traps -
some drivers have removed them because they sometimes don't
work properly unless the car is driven hot.
Second, the diesels are still producing nitrogen dioxide
(NO2), which irritates the lungs of people with breathing
problems. Diesels make several times more NO2 than petrol
Now, in order to meet European air pollution laws,
politicians are being forced into an embarrassing U-turn,
telling drivers that they've decided they don't much like
diesels after all.
MPs in the UK have
mooted a scrappage scheme for diesel cars, while the
mayor of Paris has called for a ban.
Several European nations are currently in breach of EU
clean air laws.
The EU’s NO2 limit was exceeded at 301 sites in 2012,
including seven in London. The concentration on Marylebone
Road was more than double the limit.
Districts in Athens, Berlin, Brussels, Madrid, Paris, and
Rome are also
exceeded the ceiling.
Not just carbon: Key pollutants for human health
- Particulate matter (PM): Can cause
or aggravate cardiovascular and lung diseases, heart
attacks and arrhythmias. Can cause cancer. May lead to
atherosclerosis, adverse birth outcomes and childhood
respiratory disease. The outcome can be premature death.
- Ozone (O3): Can decrease lung
function and aggravate asthma and other lung diseases.
Can also lead to premature death.
- Nitrogen oxides (NO2): Exposure to
NO2 is associated with increased deaths from heart and
lung disease, and respiratory illness.
- Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), in
particular benzo a-pyrene (BaP): Carcinogenic.
Politicians are now scurrying to persuade the courts that
they are obeying an EU demand to clean up the air as soon as
The Paris mayor said
at the weekend that she wanted the city to become
‘semi-pedestrianised’, with a ban on diesel cars in the city
centre and some neighbourhoods given entirely to residents’
cars, delivery vehicles and emergency vehicles.
"I want diesel cars out of Paris by 2020," she said.
Ms Hidalgo hopes that her plan will improve the quality of
the air in a city where, on average, people live six or
seven months less than those who are not exposed to the same
levels of pollution.
Adding electric vans and putting limits on tourist buses
would also help lessen the public health risk, she said.
Bikes are expected to become the favoured form of
transport, with cycle lanes doubled by 2020 in a $141m
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson has promised to halve
pollution, spending around $516m (£330m) to bring 2,400
hybrid buses, zero-emission taxis and 10,000 street trees.
The announcement came weeks after he was forced to accept
that Oxford Street has some of the highest levels of NO2 in
Central London will also have an 'Ultra Low Emission Zone'
in 2020. Mr Johnson has previously faced criticism from
health and environment lobby groups complaining that he was
dragging his feet in meeting EU targets.
The UK government says it is responding to EU demands by
bringing forward new plans. Labour say the government has
ignored the issue - they demand low-emissions zones in all
of the UK’s major cities.
According to the European Environment Agency, air pollution
is the top environmental risk factor for premature death in
Europe; it increases the incidence of a wide range of
Particulate matter (PM) and ground-level ozone (O3) are the
most harmful pollutants.
Vehicles are by no means the only source of pollutants –
some industries are major polluters too, and shipping in
some places. But the politicians who run Europe’s biggest
cities have protested that they cannot control pollution
from industry elsewhere that drifts into their area.
With so many nations failing to meet pollution laws, the EU
is under pressure to relax air standards.
2014 Last updated at 07:54
After years of
false starts, are we on the brink of a breakthrough in
improving relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, with
the Taliban and al-Qaeda on both sides of the border
suffering an array of defeats and deaths?
For years the Pakistani military has been accused by the
Afghans, the Americans and Nato of playing a double game -
helping the Nato-US coalition in Afghanistan on the one
hand, but at the same time allowing al-Qaeda and the Afghan
Taliban to seek refuge and garner logistical support in
Even the killing of Osama Bin Laden by US special forces in
Abbottabad, a military garrison town in Pakistan, did not
push the military into changing its tune, which was always
one of denial that it supported the Afghan Taliban. Many
leaders of the Afghan Taliban have lived in Pakistan since
These accusations dogged Pakistan's new army chief General
Raheel Sharif when he visited Washington for 10 days last
month - particularly that in the past six months of a
military offensive in North Waziristan the Pakistan army had
failed to capture or kill a single prominent militant
But now those assumptions may be changing and the complex
three-way relationship between the US, Afghanistan and
Pakistan could be on the cusp of undergoing a dramatic
United against al-Qaeda
For the first time in nearly 10 years the Pakistan army has
killed a high-level leader of al-Qaeda. Adnan el
Shukrijumah, a naturalised American citizen, was killed
during a raid by Pakistani forces at a compound in the South
Waziristan tribal agency close to the Afghan border on 6
December. He was accused of involvement in planning several
failed attacks in the US and Britain nearly a decade ago and
had been hiding in the tribal belt along the border ever
The following day, reports said a US drone had killed Umer
Farooq, another top al-Qaeda leader in the North Waziristan
tribal agency. A Pakistani national, he was allegedly
al-Qaeda's operational commander in charge of Afghanistan
Suddenly both Pakistan and the US appear to be
collaborating to root out al-Qaeda in a manner not seen
since 2002-2004 when the Pakistan army killed or captured
many al-Qaeda operatives.
The US has begun obliging Pakistan too. For the first time
the US is targeting Pakistani Taliban insurgents who had
earlier taken refuge in Afghanistan from where they carried
out strikes into Pakistan.
According to senior Afghan sources, they were clandestinely
being supported by the government of former Afghan President
Hamid Karzai in a tit-for-tat revenge game for Pakistan's
support for the Afghan Taliban.
A surprising repatriation
The US has now begun targeting those Pakistani Taliban for
the first time and significantly the Afghan authorities are
not objecting. A US drone strike on 7 December killed nine
suspected Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan's Kunar province.
The dead included a senior Pakistani Taliban commander,
An earlier US drone strike had tried to target Mullah
Fazlullah, the current head of the Pakistani Taliban, who is
also thought to be living in Kunar province. Pakistan has
been asking the US and the Afghans to carry out such attacks
for more than a year, but only now - after gaining Pakistani
co-operation on other fronts - is Washington obliging
Clearly, Washington is pleased the way the Pakistan army is
reacting. Pakistan has been further rewarded by the US. On 7
December the US military confirmed that it had handed over
three Pakistani Taliban, including Latif Mehsud to the
Pakistani authorities. Latif Mehsud had been the
second-in-command of the Pakistani Taliban under its
previous leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US
drone strike last year.
Latif Mehsud was seized by US forces in October 2013 in
eastern Afghanistan as he tried to broker deals between the
Afghan authorities and the Pakistani Taliban living on
Afghan territory. The Pakistani authorities view him as a
danger to the country and have been insisting on his prompt
return. His sudden repatriation - again with no objections
from Kabul - is a signal of improved relations.
So far, there is a change of direction and much greater
co-operation on the ground in military terms between the US,
Pakistan and Afghanistan. But will this bring about a real
change in political attitudes?
The Afghan government will now be waiting to see how the
Pakistani military obliges Kabul. The Afghans will also be
looking to see if the Pakistanis use their clout to try to
rein in Taliban attacks in Kabul. The most important thing
Islamabad can do is to allow Afghan negotiators to meet the
Afghan Taliban leaders who are living in Pakistan.
That could be the most significant move of all and start
the long process of ending the war in Afghanistan.
- Ahmed Rashid is a Pakistani journalist and author based
- His latest book is Pakistan on the Brink - The Future
of America, Pakistan and Afghanistan
- Earlier works include Descent into Chaos and Taliban,
first published in 2000, which became a bestseller
9 December 2014
Last updated at 00:01
Capital and its
associated "ism". It's been one of the hot topics of the
year. People are asking if it's fundamentally unequal,
Often talk of capitalism is wrapped up in ideology and
jargon. Maybe it's worth asking what capitalism is. That's
what I set out to do.
Straight away as I begin this I can sense your unease.
"Uh-oh, a comedian talking about capitalism." You're
probably worried that this will be a glib, dumbed down
version and will barely scratch the surface of such a
You're probably right but in my defence I did get some
cleverer people to help explain at least some of the
I went to the Kilkenomics festival of economics - laced
with a thread of comedy - which is held in November in
Kilkenny every year. It's a good place to go to try and find
out about some basic economic theories as quite a few
eminent thinkers go there. People such as economists Ha-Joon
Chang, Deirdre McCloskey and Mark Blyth, and journalist and
author John Lanchester.
And of course I read some Marx and Keynes.
Finding stereotypes online
But before I met them or read these thinkers, I tried to
take a few shortcuts to see what capitalism meant to people.
The natural place for any journey of knowledge about a
topic - yes I called it a journey, deal with it - is to do a
Google image search to see how capitalism and capitalists
Turns out they are all fat, male with a twirly moustache
and dressed in a nearly bursting pinstripe suit complete
with pocket watch. I often think it must be unfortunate for
anti-capitalists who happen to have a predilection for
pinstripe suits. They run the risk of being called
Surely it can't be as simple as this. There must be more
nuances. Well, if you search on Amazon.co.uk for capitalism
there are tens of thousands of book results.
One that comes up very near the top is Capital in the
Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty. It contains two
centuries of hard data. Indeed it is hard data, it has 600
pages. I knew I was in trouble in the bookshop when I bought
it and the guy behind the counter said: "Good luck with
Ironically the bookshop in which I bought it, Hodges Figgis
in Dublin, is mentioned in James Joyce's Ulysses. Ulysses is
both a modernist classic and a book that a lot of people own
but haven't read. It currently sits on my bookshelf next to
Capital. Both are in equally pristine condition.
But that's me laughing at something I don't understand.
Classic pandering to dumbed down culture. Just because a
book deals with complex ideas doesn't mean one shouldn't at
least attempt to read it. So I am going to persevere, just
not yet. And maybe understanding this topic requires a
little bit of lateral thinking.
'Move to Sweden'
As a comedian, I find it hard to articulate and work out
jokes without knowing how they sound in front of an
audience. So, regardless of how badly formed and misshapen
the material, it must be launched into the big bad world of
a live show like a fledgling nudged out of the nest by a
cruel-to-be-kind mother bird.
Could the same work for ideas like capitalism? Why not give
it a try? As part of my research, I struggled to work out my
limited understanding in front of a reasonably forgiving
radio audience. I used a slide show. Which is utterly
useless to those listening in on the radio, but in its own
way apes a certain facet of crony capitalism. Those within
the circle are beneficiaries of extra information that the
general public are not.
I also wanted to find out other people's understanding of
the word. I "took" to social media to canvass people's
views. Some might say that this is a lazy form of research.
Let me reject that implication. I was merely saluting a new
form of commerce: social media capitalism. The traditional
capitalist paradigms are being additionally disrupted. So
And I "took" to social media, meaning there was certain
dynamism involved. As opposed to "going on social media",
which is just sitting passively and accidentally "liking"
someone's wedding photos from five years ago. Views on
Facebook ranged from "Capitalism is America" to "Capitalism
is great when you're young, healthy and don't have kids. As
soon as you have kids, you need to move to Sweden, believe
What about the man and woman on the physical street? What
do they think? There was no better street on which to find
out than Wall Street, for many people the epicentre of the
I took a selfie in front of the galloping copper bull, I
spoke to others doing the same and got the very trenchant
views of one true capitalist - a street seller called Ty
near Bowling Green subway station. He articulated a common
complaint about capitalism: that for the little guy, the
notion of free enterprise is hollow.
This is something that Mark Blyth, professor of
international political economy at Brown University, echoes:
"We don't really do capitalism.
"So to think about banking you can run a business model
which is an extortion racket against the taxpayer. If the
risks [go wrong] you can't be allowed to fail so you have a
brilliant business model. That's not capitalism - that's
extortion. I think capitalism is a great idea. It's just
that the version we end up with isn't capitalism."
Ha-Joon Chang agrees. He is the author of 23 Things They
Don't Tell You About Capitalism. With a title like that, you
just know that he thinks we've been labouring under a
misapprehension: "Over the years I have come to the
increasing realisation that when people talk about
capitalism or inequality or whatever, they do this on the
basis of a huge range of myths that they think are facts."
Now I'm at the end of my "journey" through capitalism. And
where am I? You were right - I've only scratched the surface
of the topic.
But here's one thing I think I have learned: capitalism
might be a good idea, if we tried it.
9 December 2014 Last updated at 02:51
inequality has a "statistically significant impact" on
economic growth, according to research by the Organisation
for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
In the UK, rising
inequality cost the economy almost nine percentage
points of GDP growth between 1990 and 2010, the
think tank said.
The US lost almost seven points.
The OECD also found that redistribution of wealth via
taxes and benefits does not hamper economic growth.
"This compelling evidence proves that addressing high and
growing inequality is critical to promote strong and
sustained growth and needs to be at the centre of the
policy debate," said OECD's secretary general, Angel
"Countries that promote equal opportunity for all from an
early age are those that will grow and prosper."
In the 34 countries that are members of the OECD, the gap
between rich and poor is at the highest level in 30 years,
the group said.
The richest 10% in those states earn, on average, 9.5
times the poorest.
In the 1980s, they earned 7 times as much.
The only countries in which the OECD found inequality had
fallen were Greece and Turkey.
A lack of investment in education was the key factor
behind rising inequality, the OECD said.
Fewer educational opportunities for disadvantaged
individuals had the effect of "lowering social mobility
and hampering skills development," the report warned.
It also said that those whose parents have low levels of
education suffer most when inequality rises, whereas
family background matters less to those from a more
educated social sphere.
The OECD called for policymakers to do more than just
implement anti-poverty programmes.
"Policy also needs to confront the historical legacy of
underinvestment by low income groups in formal education,"
"Strategies to foster skills development must include
improved job-related training and education for the
low-skilled, over the whole working life."
11 December 2014 Last updated at 23:57
prosecutors have charged executives from six of the
country's largest construction firms in connection with a
corruption scandal at the state-run oil company,
The 22 executives and 13 others are accused of forming a
cartel and channelling kickbacks into a Petrobras scheme
to pay politicians.
They were also charged with money-laundering and
If they are convicted, the accused face more than 20
years in jail.
President Dilma Rousseff who served as chair of the
Petrobras board for seven years has denied any knowledge
of the corruption scheme.
"These people stole the pride of the Brazilian people,"
said Brazil's top prosecutor Rodrigo Janot at a press
"This is the start of the investigation we have a long
way to go." he said.
The executives were accused of forming a "club" to rotate
contracts with Petrobras and cream off cash for
politicians to look the other way.
The bribery scheme funnelled money to dozens of
politicians from several parties including President
Rousseff's ruling Worker's Party.
The scandal broke nine months ago after the arrest of
Paulo Roberto Costa, a former Petrobras director of
Mr Costa has been giving police and prosecutors
information in return for the prospects of a lower jail
Prosecutors hope to recover millions of dollars from
companies involved in the bribery scheme and executives
from other engineering firms could face charges.
Correspondents say the case is expected to implicate
dozens of politicians.