Mediterranean migrants crisis: Europe ‘must do more’

Local residents and rescue workers help a migrant woman after a boat carrying migrants sank off the island of Rhodes, south-eastern Greece
On Monday a boat ran aground off the Greek island of Rhodes

A Greek minister has said the “great powers” of Europe need to take more responsibility for the unfolding crisis in the Mediterranean Sea.

Deputy Defence Minister Kostas Isichos told the BBC northern Europe must do more to rescue and shelter migrants.

He said that Greece, Italy and Spain were working on a common position ahead of an emergency EU summit on Thursday.

Meanwhile, more than 500 rescued people were brought ashore by Italian coastguards on Wednesday morning.

The number of people attempting to flee war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, particularly Eritreans and Syrians, has spiked in recent months, leading to huge numbers of people drowning in unseaworthy vessels.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says there have been 30 times as many deaths so far in 2015 as in the same period last year and the figure could rise to 30,000.

Migrants wait to disembark from an Italian ship in Salerno, Italy. Photo: 22 April 2015
More than 500 rescued people were brought ashore to Italy on Wednesday
Children gesture on a ship landing on the Sicilian coast
Medics have been checking how many migrants – particularly young children – required immediate treatment
Rescued migrants line up after disembarking from an Italian ship on Italy's southern island of Lampedusa. Photo: 22 April 2015
A number of those rescued were barefooted and looked exhausted

Also on Wednesday, Italy’s parliament held a minute’s silence for Sunday’s disaster, in which more than 800 people died.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi then addressed MPs, saying he wanted asylum applications in Italy to start being processed by a “European team” and that more action was needed in countries where migrants originate in sub-Saharan Africa.

However, the UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants has said wealthy countries should agree to accept one million Syrian refugees over the next five years to help end the series of boat disasters.

“If we don’t provide any official mechanism for… [migrants], they will resort to smugglers. The inaction of Europe is actually what creates the market for smugglers,” Francois Crepeau told the Guardian newspaper.

Map showing the most deadly Mediterranean migrant routes

Special report: Europe’s migrant crisis

More on the Mediterranean’s deadly migrant routes

On Monday, the EU set out a package of measures to try to ease the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.

They include an increase in the financial resources of Frontex, the border agency which runs the EU’s Mediterranean rescue service Triton, and an extension of Triton’s operational area.

The EU had been criticised over the scope of Triton, which replaced the larger Italian operation Mare Nostrum at the end of last year.

There will also be a new campaign to destroy traffickers’ boats.

Human rights group Amnesty International said that the decision to end Mare Nostrum had “contributed to a dramatic increase in migrant and refugee deaths” and called for “the immediate launch of a humanitarian operation to save lives at sea”.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) welcomed the EU’s proposals, but stressed that“much more was needed” to tackle the issue.

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International Workers Day – Immigrant Rights March

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Seattle CEO to Cut His Pay So Every Worker Earns $70,000

70000 Minimum Wage

A Seattle CEO who announced that he’s giving himself a drastic pay cut to help cover the cost of big raises for his employees didn’t just make those workers happy.

He’s already gained new customers, too.

“We’ve definitely gained a handful of customers in the last day or two,” said Stefan Bennett, a customer relations manager at Gravity Payments, a credit card payment processing firm. “We’re showing people you can run a good company, and you can pay people fairly, and it can be profitable.”

Dan Price, chief executive of the company, stunned his 100-plus workers on Monday when he told them he was cutting his roughly $1 million salary to $70,000 and using company profits to ensure that everyone there would earn at least that much within three years.

For some workers, the increase will more than double their pay. One 21-year-old mother said she’ll buy a house.

At a time of increasing anger nationally over the enormous gap between the pay of top executives and their employees, the announcement received immense attention. But corporate governance professor David Larcker of the Stanford University Graduate School of Business said it’s unclear if Price’s unusual gesture will start a trend.

“It’s an alternative way to think about a tough problem, and I give these guys a lot of credit for laying it out there,” Larcker said. “Whether this would scale to a bigger organization, it’s hard to know. But it’s clever, it’s interesting and it’s fun to think about.”

Washington state already has the nation’s highest minimum wage at $9.47 an hour, and earlier this month Seattle’s minimum wage law went into effect. It will eventually raise base hourly pay to $15.

Labor unions and workers in the Seattle area on Wednesday joined national protests for better pay. Drivers for Uber and Lyft — the app-based car-hailing services — gathered in Seattle, while airport workers rallied at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. In Seattle, police arrested 21 demonstrators who opted for civil disobedience to dramatize their point, refusing to move out of an intersection at the conclusion of their march.

Gravity’s CEO launched the company from his dorm room at Seattle Pacific University when he was just 19. He’s long taken a progressive approach that included adopting a policy allowing his workers to take unlimited paid vacation after their first year.

“I think this is just what everyone deserves,” Price told workers in a video of Monday’s announcement released by the company.

But he also acknowledged it won’t be easy: The increased pay will eat into at least half the company’s profits, he said, and he has no plans to simply raise rates on clients.

“It’s up to us to find a way to make it work,” he said.

Bennett, 28, went to college with Price and has worked for Gravity since graduation. He said he was already happy to work for a company that treats its employees and customers well in what he otherwise considers a predatory industry. For him, the raise will amount to about $10,000.

“I don’t care as much about the money,” he said. “But if I look at my colleagues, and what they talk about on a day-to-day basis and what their concerns are — just looking at their faces when Dan announced the pay increase, it was pretty phenomenal.”

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The Real News: Welfare System Designed to Keep the Poor, Poorer

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National Day of Action: Fight for $15

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Media Were Already Running With Police Fantasy When Video Exploded It

The New York Times (4/7/15) released a video of a black South Carolina man Walter Scott being shot, casually and without apparent mercy, eight times in the back by white police officer Michael T. Slager. The media’s outrage after the video’s publication was righteous and swift. The state of South Carolina followed suit, filing murder charges against Slager. Indeed, the video offers no ambiguity whatsoever:

Before this shocking video surfaced, however, most of the local press coverage,per usual, followed the police’s official narrative and amplified a storyline that, in retrospect, was entirely made up.

The Scott shooting, as Think Progress’s Judd Legum pointed out, provides unique insight into the way the police use inherent asymmetry of information to assert their narrative:

Between the time when he shot and killed Scott early Saturday morning and when charges were filed, Slager — using the both the police department and his attorney — was able to provide his “version” of the events.

He appeared well on his way to avoiding charges and pinning the blame on Scott.

Then a video, shot by an anonymous bystander, revealed exactly what happened.

North Charleston Police (WCIV)

In all police killings, one side–the victim–is, by definition, dead. So the “both sides” type of reporting we’re so often used to almost invariably becomes a one-sided airing of accounts, facts and selective details from the police side that the corporate media repeats without question. Indeed, Charleston’s local ABC affiliate would begin their report with, what turned out to be, an outright lie:

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — A man involved in a traffic stop that turned into a physical altercation with a North Charleston police officer died Saturday after being shot by the officer.

But the New York Times video shows there was no “physical altercation.” There was someone being shot in the back eight times while trying to run away. The report would go on to mix up police assertion with fact again, seeminglyinventing witnesses who weren’t there:

Police and witnesses say Scott tried to run from Slager before turning to fight for the officer’s taser. It was during that scuffle that the officer fired his service weapon, fatally wounding Scott.

But what witnesses? I have asked the reporter, Greg Woods, to name the witnesses he documented; as of press time, he has not responded. Woods did not, in any of his reports, actually quote any witnesses saying they saw a “fight.” What appears to have happened is that Woods was told by police there were witnesses and he reported it, uncritically.

WCSC: 'He Took My Taser'

In another piece–that, in fairness, did have interviews with the victim’s family–localCBS affiliate WCSCeffectively handed the report over to North Charleston police for their uninterrupted retelling of events:

Slager deployed his taser weapon to detain the driver but was unsuccessful, Pryor said.

Police say an altercation then began between Slager and Scott, resulting in a fight for the officer’s taser.

During the fight, Scott gained control of the taser to use it against the officer who then fired his service weapon at the suspect, Pryor said.

While en route, the sergeant reported that he heard Slager say that he deployed his taser and was requesting for back up units, and seconds later reported “shots fired and the subject is down, he took my taser.”

We now know, by the sheer accident of someone filming the event, this narrative was false. We know Scott never “gained control” of a taser, and we know Scott only received medical attention from police minutes after they planted a weapon on him and handcuffed him as he lay dying. But the media, in an effort to report “both sides,” ends up transcribing the deceptive police report verbatim.

While providing an initial qualifier of “spokesman said,” NBC affiliate News 2,would do one better and go on to drop this modifier altogether and simply report the police account as fact:

The officer deployed his department-issued taser in an effort to detain the driver, which was not effective. An altercation between the officer and the driver took place, leading to a struggle over the officer’s taser.  During the struggle, the suspect gained control of the taser to use it against the officer.

The officer then discharged his service weapon to stop the threat.

Even though lifesaving efforts were conducted by officers prior to EMS’s arrival and EMS efforts on scene, the suspect was pronounced dead.

We now know this account was categorically false, yet it’s presented in the report as a straight recounting of events. The unnamed reporter doesn’t even bother to run through the motions of quoting police or qualifying these various claims with “police say”; it just becomes, like so many local media accounts in the wake of police violence, a forum for authorities to uncritically provide their perfectly honed–if not at this point cliched–narratives.

“There was an altercation.” “They reached for a weapon.” “The officer feared for his life.” One can practically write the police reports before they do.

What makes this case revealing is that, unlike in so many other cases, video evidence exists that can be contrasted with what can be seen to be a police-created alternative fantasy. A fantasy that had been presented as reality by initial police reports, and thus the media’s subsequent reciting of those reports. Without the video, that fantasy would have almost certainly gone unquestioned.

In a corporate media environment where government officials are routinely given benefit of the doubt while those outside of power are treated with incredulity if not hostility, perhaps the Scott shooting can serve as a stark reminder to crime reporters that in the wake of a police killing, what police say should be treated with as much skepticism as any account offered up by those whose lives and careers are on the line.

Adam Johnson is a freelance journalist; formerly he was a founder of the hardware startup Brightbox. You can follow him on Twitter at@adamjohnsonnyc.

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Enrique’s Journey & America’s immigration dilemma

Wed. April 29, 2015      6:30 p.m.

William W. Philip Hall, UW Tacoma

The face of Latino migration is often assumed to be that of an adult male. But the work of Pulitzer Prize winner Sonia Nazario tells a different story, one whose protagonists are increasingly women and children. In this lecture, Nazario revisits her three-month endeavor to document in photographs one migrant boy’s journey atop trains to the United States, and discusses how current proposed immigration legislation offers more shortcomings than solutions.


nazario232Sonia Nazario has spent more than 20 years reporting and writing about social issues, most recently as a projects reporter for the Los Angeles Times. She has won numerous national journalism and book awards tackling some of this country’s most intractable issues: hunger, drug addiction and immigration. In 2003, her story of a Honduran boy’s struggle to find his mother in the U.S., entitled Enrique’s Journey, won more than a dozen awards, among them the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, the George Polk Award for International Reporting, the Grand Prize of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Guillermo Martinez-Marquez Award for Overall Excellence. Expanded into a book, Enrique’s Journey became a national bestseller, winning three book awards, becoming required reading for incoming freshmen at 70 colleges and scores of high schools across the U.S. Nazario, who grew up in Kansas and in Argentina, has been named among the most influential Latinos by Hispanic Business Magazine and a “trendsetter” by Hispanic Magazine. In 2012, Columbia Journalism Review named Nazario among “40 women who changed the media business in the past 40 years.”

For more information, contact the UW Alumni Association at 206-543-0540 or

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