What Would Your Life Be Like If You Were Born In North Korea?

Editors’ note

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2. What would your life be like if you were born in North Korea?


Much of this information is based on the “Quality of Life of North Korean” report compiled by the Korea Institute for National Unification.

3. There’s a one in three chance you would have been born stunted or with malnutrition defects, according to the World Food Program and as reported by U.S. News & World Reports.

Damir Sagolj / Via wfp.org

4. There’s a 50% chance you would have been born into “extreme poverty,” according to U.S. News & World Reports, and your diet would consist of corn and kimchi as you would have “severely restricted in access to fuel for cooking and heating.”

Damir Sagolj / Via latinospost.com

5. You would have grown up having to depend on a fireplace for warmth as it is unlikely that you would have been born into a family with indoor heating privileges.

Lee Jae-Won / Via kinu.or.kr

6. Electric power would only last a few hours per day, if you received it at all. Flush toilets would be a luxury enjoyed by only half the country, as water is only provided for 2-3 hours a day.

Damir Sagolj / Via kinu.or.kr

7. If your parents decided to send you to a “free” state school, they would be expected to provide “the schools with sand, cement, glass panes and other material goods as well as cash for management.” They would also have to pay for your desk and chair.

Kcna / Via kinu.or.kr

8. Some of your day at school would be devoted to working for the state. You might have to salvage “discarded steel, copper and lead” as well as wastepaper. Your parents could bribe your teachers to exempt you from this forced labor.

Yonhap / Via kinu.or.kr

9. At the age of 7, you would be inducted into the Korean Children’s Union, where you would have had to pledge your lifelong allegiance to Kim Jong Un, according to the Daily Mail.

Kcna / Via dailymail.co.uk

10. From this point on you would refer to Kim Jong Un as “father.”

Kcna / Via dailymail.co.uk

11. This is be one of many political organizations you would be forced to join in your lifetime.

David Guttenfelder / Via dailymail.co.uk

12. After the age of 13 you would be enlisted in the Red Guard Youth and receive about 300 hours of rudimentary military training annually, according to Country Data.

After formal education, you would be required to perform military service. The constitution states: “Defending the fatherland is the supreme duty and honor of citizens. Citizens shall defend the fatherland and serve in the armed forces as prescribed by law.”

13. If you’re male, you would be conscripted into the Korean Peoples Army at the age of 17, according to the CIA Factbook.

Kcna / Via cia.gov

14. Women are conscripted selectively with many pre- and post-service requirements, according to UN data.

Kcna / Via unstats.un.org

15. Conditions are harsh in the military. Your rations would be hardly enough for sustenance and your exhaustive work day would extend from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Kcna / Via princeton.edu

You would have to spend ten years in the military.

16. As an adult, you would be allowed to join one political organization: The Workers’ Party of Korea.

Kcna / Via mapsofworld.com

No other political ideology is allowed. Defection from the party is a high crime and would be treated as treason.

17. After your military service you would be directed to the industry that needed your labor the most. Most workers will make on average of $2 to $3 per month in pay from the government, as reported by U.S. News & World Reports, if they get paid at all.

Lee Jae-Won / Via kinu.or.kr

Unless you are highly skilled or privileged, the only work available would be labor or factory work. There are even reports of having to pay your company to work there.

18. You only would have been allowed a university education if you were very privileged. That would be the only hope of securing a position outside manual labor and ensuring a place in the state sanctioned aristocracy.

David Guttenfelder, File / Via kinu.or.kr

All real power and privilege in society would stem from connection to the tight-knit political and military aristocracy.

19. The life of this aristocracy would be unimaginable to the average North Korean.

David Guttenfelder / Via kinu.or.kr

Cell phones, coffee, meats, new clothing, heating oil, fuel and cosmetics.

20. Your leader, Kim Jong Un would reportedly be worth $5 billion, according to Business Insider.

The Associated Press / Via au.pfinance.yahoo.com

21. But according to government insiders, none of “Dear Leaders” money is invested in North Korea. It is instead spread around the world in elite private accounts.

22. You would have to pay for your prescriptions, heating and food in the hospital.

AP / Via kinu.or.kr

Bribing of doctors for better care is commonplace. The North Korean “free” medical system would be chronically short on staff and supplies.

23. You would receive no realistic news of the outside world.

Petar Kujundzic / Reuters

All of the information you receive as an adult would be filtered through the state.

24. Your travel would have to be state sanctioned within North Korea.

Newsis / Via npr.org

You would need highly specialized credentials to leave the country.

25. The chances of living to old age would be slim.

Alexander F. Yuan / Via guardian.co.uk

Life expectancy in North Korea has decreased by 4 years since the 1980s, with “men living to only 65.6 and women to only 72.7 years on average,” according to the Guardian.

26. Just a glimpse….

Lee Jae Won / Reuters

10 Signs We Are Headed Into World War III

When confusion and misinformation get together in the dark, paranoia is born. Fears of war, violence, and oppression fester and grow in the minds of the populace pushing everything but a misguided assurance of certain doom into the shadows. Out of this cramped and huddled mindset we get the bastardized half-brother of critical thinking: conspiracy theories.

Claiming that World War III is just over the horizon is as crazy as it gets, but the state of the world is showing some eerie similarities to the pre–World War II global picture. And history is a creature of habit.

10 An Unexpected Invasion


On February 27, 2014, Russian soldiers strapped on their marching boots and took over several airports in Crimea. As this is being written, roughly 6,000 Russian troops are moving across the Crimean peninsula and forcibly taking operational control of military bases, communications centers, and government buildings.

This is an invasion that has been a long time in the making, and it’s certainly not the first time Russia has made power plays in the Ukraine. Ever since 1783, Ukraine and Russia (for a time the Soviet Union) have played hot potato with Crimea, leaving a bubbling brew of split nationalism struggling to coexist on the little peninsula.

But the arrival of Russian troops is just the most recent step in a tumultuous few weeks for Ukraine. The country has seen its Russia-sympathizing president, Viktor Yanukovych, become a fugitive, a Russian citizen become the Crimean city of Sevastopol’s mayor, and an emergency meeting of Crimea’s parliament elect Sergey Aksyonov as the new Prime Minister of Crimea—at gunpoint. Aksyonov has declared that he will follow orders from the ousted Yanukovych, who is currently seeking refuge in Russia. The country’s politics are in tatters.

9 The Ukrainian Conflict Is Reaching A Boiling Point


Ukrainian nationalists are calling Putin’s invasion an act of war; Russians in Ukraine are calling it an act of salvation. Riots are flaring up all across the country as the two dominant political forces come to a head. This video shows two men being beaten by a pro-Russian mob in Kharkiv, the USSR’s Bolshevik-run capital leading up to World War II—and that’s where Putin’s army looks headed next.

You can get a pretty clear view of the political alliances of Ukraine with the above map, which shows the results of the 2010 election. Blue represents areas that supported Viktor Yanukovych, so you can consider those regions comparatively pro-Russian. The purple areas voted for an opposing candidate, Yulia Tymoshenko. The darker the color, the stronger the support. Kharkiv and Donetsk are firmly in the blue, and represent two major Ukrainian cities with a strong industrial infrastructure—and both are historically Russian.

This is a group of very assertive, very nationalistic people at arms over the one issue that holds paramount importance: heritage. And historically, gray areas are reserved for the losers; it’s the inflexible, dyed-in-the-wool believers in a cause who triumph in a conflict. Russia sees this as good news, picturing much support from the country they’re invading. As one Ukrainian bitterly put it, “No one asked us. We are like puppets for them. We have one Tsar and one god—Putin.”

8 Russia’s License For Aggression


Though the UN, NATO, and the US have all gone on high alert, the Crimean invasion isn’t an act of aggression against the whole world. It’s a move to make parts of Ukraine decisively Russian, both culturally and politically. Obama initially warned that there would be “costs” to this invasion, but he won’t back it up—he can’t, not without a game of nuclear Russian roulette, which nobody wants.

The problem isn’t that America and the UN will start tossing bombs into Russia; the problem is that Putin knows they won’t. This is a man who once said that the fall of the Soviet Union was the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century,” a viewpoint which harkens to the days of Stalin’s Great Purge and Khrushchev’s missile diplomacy with Cuba.

And Putin’s already on round two. In 2008, when Putin was still Prime Minister, Russia and Georgia entered a five-day conflict that culminated in Russian bombs falling on the Georgian capital. Humanitarian groups around the world cried out, governments issued strict warnings for Russia to fall back, and nobody lifted an actual finger to stop it. At the end of it all, Russia calmly strolled back home and declared that Georgia had been “sufficiently punished.” Each time this happens, Russia becomes more assured that the warnings of the rest of the world are just that—words, empty and hollow.

The situation in Ukraine may not be a match that’s going to ignite the fires of World War III, but it’s a nod to a superpower that they have a free license to do what they want. And if you give a mouse a cookie . . . 

7 The Senkaku Island Dispute


Russia’s not the only country setting the stage for World War III. As is the case with most important things, World War II didn’t suddenly flash into existence; it edged its way into the world consciousness one little bit at a time, like a slowly rusting bicycle, until war was officially declared. While it’s easy to put the conflict into the simplest terms, a lot of factors combined to make up what we now view as one war.

The years leading up to the war held a lot of indicators that, in hindsight, revealed aggressive countries testing the waters of what they could get away with. Japan, Italy, and Germany were all involved in minor conflicts that the League of Nations couldn’t stop, such as Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 and Japan’s chemical-infused invasion of China in 1937.

These days, China is reversing the balance by threatening an invasion of its own. The territory in question is a group of rocks known as the Senkaku islands, which are located in the East China Sea. The problem, of course, is that both China and Japan feel that the islands belong to them, and whoever controls the islands also controls shipping lanes, fishing waters, and a potential oil field.

6 A Third Sino-Japanese War In The Making

China hasn’t been the nicest neighbor recently. In November 2013, China startled the world by announcing a newly configured air defense zone in the East China Sea—a zone that they and they alone would control, to the point of shooting down aircraft that wandered into it. But, in addition to Japan, other regions originally had claim to that airspace, including Taiwan and South Korea.

Whether or not China was planning an invasion at that point, the Senkaku islands fall inside their “newly acquired” airspace, and now they’re threatening to forcefully move Japan out of the area. Tensions have been building in the Pacific Rim for a while now, and if military action puts too much pressure on the skeleton of their current political disputes, bones could break.

And unlike the first two Sino-Japanese wars, this conflict could involve other countries in the region. South Korea quietly expanded their own airspace in December 2013, pushing back into territory that China had already claimed. Combined with both China and Japan aggressively rearming themselves in recent years, this territorial dispute has the potential to explode.

5 America Is Legally Bound To Protect South Pacific Countries


A war only becomes a World War when the US gets involved. Unlike their official policy of stern warnings and disapproving looks in response to Russia, the White House has publicly and unwaveringly declared that it will back Japan against any acts of aggression by China.

With about 50 percent of its Naval force stationed in the Pacific, the US will also be in a position to help the Philippines if China continues pressing to the south. They’re yet another country that has been affected by the airspace changes, and the US is legally bound to protect the Philippines based on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

This treaty doesn’t even require anything as outright as a full-scale land invasion. The Philippines owns disputed islands within China’s new airspace in the South China Sea (much like Japan claims to own the Senkaku islands). If China makes a move on any of those, the US Navy has to retaliate on their behalf, or they’ll break the conditions of the treaty.

4 Unlikely Alliances


But beneath it all, what do China’s problems and Russia’s problems have to do with each other?

Although they initially ended up on opposite sides of the conflict, Germany and the USSR went into World War II with a non-aggression pact, which lasted two years until Hitler ripped it up and sent Nazis onto Soviet ice.

With perhaps some similarities to that historic pact, China and Ukraine signed a nuclear security pact in December 2013. The conditions: China won’t use any nuclear weapons against Ukraine, and if Ukraine is ever attacked by a nuclear force—or “threatened by such aggression“—China will provide Ukraine with security guarantees.

Why would China want to create such a pact with a country 5,800 kilometers (3,600 mi) away? And more importantly, with which government is China going to honor the pact? The past two months have seen a see-saw of political parties in control of Ukraine, but it’s likely that China’s involvement will be dependent on Yanukovych’s politics, which are decidedly pro-Russian. He’s the one who signed the pact. China says its relationship with Russia is warmer than ever, with China’s People Daily describing it as “one of the most active power relationships [in the world].”

It’s been speculated that Russia is hoping to draw a Western attack onto Ukraine, so that China’s entry to back Ukraine will cement the alliance between China and Russia. That idea reeks of conspiracy theory. But with Russia’s recent agreement to supply $270 billion in oil supplies to China, and with the majority of Russia’s pipelines running through Ukraine, China would want to protect its own interests. Either way, the enemy of an enemy is always a friend, and US-Russian relations are on very shaky ground.

3 Iran Is Itching For War


While tension rises on the Eastern European front and Southeast Asia is mired in an explosive territorial dispute, rumors of war are also being whispered in the Middle East—specifically, Iran. But is Iran any real threat? Depending on the spin, it’s easy to think so.

In January 2014, Iran dispatched a fleet of ships toward US national waters. The Senate has decided that unless military action is taken, Iran’s nuclear development will continue unchecked. And on February 12, 2014, Iran’s military chief answered that claim by declaring the country’s willingness to go toe-to-toe with American forces, on land or at sea.

It sounds like a crisis in the making, but it’s not as bad as it seems. Those “warships” were a rusty frigate and a supply boat, the White House in no way backs the Senate’s bill, and while Iranian general Hassan Firouzabadi did threaten the US and the “Zionist regime” (Israel), it’s worth remembering that they’ve done so plenty of times in the past.

Another point of contention is Iran’s military force. Including paramilitaries, Iran states that they have 13.6 million people who can pick up a weapon at a moment’s notice. While that number is probably exaggerated, it doesn’t matter much anyway—World War III, if it happens, will be mostly an aerial war dependent more on long-range technologies than close-quarters combat. And that, surprisingly, is an example of why not to count Iran out of the picture. They have an air force of 30,000 men with several hundred aircraft, along with cruise missiles with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,240 mi). That’s plenty of range to hit US bases in the Gulf.

But most importantly, continued attention on Iran, Syria, and other Middle Eastern countries is spreading the West’s foreign resources a little too thin, especially now that Russia won’t be any help in that region.

2 North Korea Is A Wild Card

North Korea tends to get relegated to the back row in discussions on world powers. They’re potentially dangerous, sure, but it’s a short-range type of danger, similar to the way you can still skip away from a mugger with a knife. But turn your back for too long, and that mugger can sneak up and give you some scars.

North Korea is still firing missiles in South Korea’s direction for no good reason. The most recent launch was March 2, 2014; they fired more the week before that. With a range of about 500 kilometers (300 mi), the missiles won’t reach far—just to, say, Japan. Or China. Or South Korea, or Russia. And since they’re nestled right in the center of three of the biggest threats to peace at this time, they could—purposely or not—stir up something bigger than themselves, like dropping a starved weasel into a den of sleeping bears.

Most frightening of all, North Korea is building a nuclear arsenal. It’s unlikely that they’ll ever lead with a nuclear attack, but if there’s enough chaos going on around them, it’s not impossible that they’ll try to slip one into the mix.

1 A Global Recession


World War I and World War II were very different from each other, but they had one striking similarity. Prior to each war, economic recessions hit several of the countries involved. World War II famously brought most of the world’s economies back from the Great Depression, and World War I helped the US recover from a two-year recession that had already slowed trade by 20 percent. Correlation doesn’t imply causation, but it’s worth noting which economies recovered earlier than others, which may have had a huge impact on the way things turned out.

By 1933, Japan had taken moves to devalue its currency, which led to increased exports and a resulting growth in their economy. They pumped the extra money into weapons and munitions, which gave them a decided military advantage in the years leading up to the war. Germany, on the other hand, entirely crashed, which made the Nazi and Communist parties take similar steps and earn overwhelming support among the populace.

We’re seeing some similarities today. While analysts are predicting yet another economic meltdown for Western countries, countries like Iran and Russia are looking to band together to boost their economies. Among other effects, that could lead to a second unit on Iran’s nuclear plant; Germany’s massive internal spending in the 1930s pulled it out of the Depression faster than America or the rest of Europe. And the global recession hit Russia less than much of the rest of the world, due in part to its exports of a quarter of the natural gas used by the entire European continent

And then there’s China. The US government is close to $17 trillion in debt, and China owns seven percent of that, or about $1.19 trillion. China recently flew past Japan to become the world’s second largest economy, and if it keeps growing at this rate, its GDP is going to match America’s in about eight years. The risk is if China decides to dump the US debt. China would take a financial loss, but it could be a crippling blow to the US economy—and much of the world, since the US dollar is held in reserve by most foreign governments.

If China and the US do come to blows over the South China Sea, the US could eradicate the debt and pump the extra revenue into military spending—the exact same monetary flow that happened in World War II, only this time the guns are bigger.

But don’t worry, it won’t happen. Probably.

Al Gore’s Incredible Shrinking Climate Change Footprint

Illustration by John Gara / BuzzFeed; Joe Raedle / Getty Images; Saul Loeb / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Last January, Al Gore took a boatload of scientists, donors, and celebrities to Antarctica to talk about climate change.

Richard Branson, James Cameron, Ted Turner, Tom Brokaw, and Tommy Lee Jones joined more than 100 other paying guests — Gore’s handpicked best and brightest — on the National Geographic Explorer, an ice-class 367-foot cruise ship, to see “up close and personal” the effects of a warming planet, courtesy of the former vice president’s environmental nonprofit, the Climate Reality Project. Singer Jason Mraz, another passenger aboard Gore’s Antarctic voyage, would later describe the trip on his blog as “a kind of floating symposium, much like the TED Talks series.”

Back in the more populated areas of the world, climate change activists snickered. The trip, and the Climate Reality Project, drew headlines but did little, they said privately, to affect the movement Gore hoped to revolutionize when he founded the group in 2006.

In the years since the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth and the Nobel Peace Prize that followed made Gore the number-one climate change advocate in the world, the activist group he created with his fame has been steadily shrinking, as has its once-lofty mandate: to create a new nonpartisan global movement around climate change.

The numbers, according to a review of the nonprofit’s tax filings, show the change has been severe. In 2009, at its peak, Gore’s group had more than 300 employees, with 40 field offices across 28 states, and a serious war chest: It poured $28 million into advertising and promotion, and paid about $200,000 in lobbying fees at the height of the cap-and-trade energy bill fight on Capitol Hill.

Today, the group has just over 30 people on staff and has abandoned its on-the-ground presence — all of its field offices have since shut down — in favor of a far cheaper digital advocacy plan run out of Washington. Advertising expenses have decreased from the millions to the thousands, and the organization no longer lobbies lawmakers. Donations and grants have declined, too — from $87.4 million in 2008 to $17.6 million in 2011, and many of its high-profile donors have drifted away, one telling BuzzFeed she now sees the group’s initial vision as “very naïve.”

Slick and omnipresent television ads from the group’s early years, produced by the same agency that made the Geico Auto Insurance gecko famous, have been replaced by smaller web-based programs. One ongoing effort, “Reality Drop,” helps activists post boilerplate comments to blog entries written by climate change skeptics.

Some climate change activists look at the Climate Reality Project today and question whether it can do much in its newest, stripped-down iteration. In a testament to Gore’s celebrity, however, most of these comments come in private.

“I can’t really think of much to say about Gore’s efforts that I’d want to put on the record,” a prominent climate change activist told BuzzFeed in a typical email.

Gore poses for a photo with singer Jason Mraz (left) on the Climate Reality Project ice cruise to the Southern Hemisphere last January. Jason Mraz / Via jasonmraz.com

Supporters of Gore’s team, including the current leadership of his group, say the changing focus of the organization — first called the Alliance for Climate Protection — reflects the shift in the climate debate that has transformed nearly every player in the movement since Gore won his Oscar in 2007.

In those six years, a Democratic president was elected; a Democratic-led Congress tried and failed to pass legislation limiting carbon emissions; and a conservative revolution inside the GOP has all but banished talk of a bipartisan climate change bill from mainstream Republican politics. In 2008, both candidates vying for the White House had to sell their solutions to climate change on the national stage; in 2012, the subject didn’t come up in a single debate question. The issue got something of a reboot this year when, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, President Obama gave it top billing in his inaugural address, delighting activists and putting the issue back on the table in an era when skeptics are as powerful as ever.

Yet there’s no denying the Gore organization is significantly smaller in size and scope than when it first launched. Back then, the Nobel laureate aimed for a “blitz as sweeping and expensive as a big corporation’s rollout of a new product,” according to a 2008 60 Minutes segment on Gore’s early efforts. Press coverage at the time noted blanket coverage by the group’s signature ads featuring unlikely political allies: Al Sharpton and Pat Robertson in one spot, Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich in another. The ads appeared on American Idol and across prime-time television.

Now, discussing their efforts online, Gore staffers say the effort isn’t smaller — the group has just found its “niche,” said Dan Stiles, the chief operating officer of the Climate Reality Project, in a wide-ranging interview with BuzzFeed on the organization’s history. “I don’t think what we’re doing right now is any less expansive than what we were doing before,” Stiles said. “We’re not narrowing the blitz, but we’re doing it in a digital space.”

Rev. Al Sharpton and Pat Robertson, an unlikely bipartisan pairing, film a climate commercial on Virginia Beach for Gore’s group in 2008 as part of a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign. Alliance for Climate Protection / Via thedailygreen.com

But a person close to Gore, who was present at the creation of the Alliance for Climate Protection and was a former senior official with the group, described an original plan to create something like the Apple Computer of climate change. There was the expensive signature logo, described in The New York Times as an update of “1960s Swiss/Modernist poster design.” There was the CEO, Maggie Fox, a 30-year veteran of environmental and progressive organizing. And then there was the goal: to revitalize climate change activism, building a national movement with fans focused on unique solutions to the problem rather than fear-mongering about a future in which climate change goes unchecked.

“When we first started it, it was about lobbying big national groups and rallying the country,” the former official said. “The Alliance was supposed to be the big force in climate change, the group that united America behind the problem.”

In 2009, the political landscape changed. With climate change-friendly leadership in Washington, Gore’s group shifted gears to focus almost entirely on lobbying Congress to pass climate change legislation. That year, the organization invested in 40 field offices around the country, poured hundreds of thousands into lobbying government officials directly, and beefed up its staff and volunteer army to partner with older and larger grassroots organizing groups like the Sierra Club. “After the stimulus bill, the decision was made to move [the Alliance] to D.C. and go full-court press on a climate bill,” the senior person familiar with the early years of the group said.

Stiles described the significant and expensive change of course as a period referred to internally as Climate Reality Project’s “Chapter 2.” (“Chapter 1,” he says, spanned years 2007 and 2008, when the group focused on its national media campaign.) “To build broad public support for the passage of climate change legislation,” Stiles said, the organization “focused on building out a full-scale boots-on-the-ground campaign across the United States, which involved expanding our staff greatly.”

That move turned out to be a mistake. Instead of turning Gore’s group into a major national institution, it left it much diminished.

“Turning the organization into a lobbying group didn’t really work,” the former Alliance official said.

Conservatives quickly villainized the cap-and-trade bill that became the focus of advocates’ efforts in 2009, and the legislation died in the Senate, sending the climate change community and the Gore group into a tailspin from the defeat.

“We all know what happened there,” said Stiles, referring to the failed legislation. “We came up short in the legislative battle, and we took some time as an organization, with our chairman Vice President Gore, to take a step back and look at what was missing, and why we had come up second as a movement.”

That soul-searching process, said Stiles, led to the group’s current iteration: “Chapter 3.” From the embers of the lobbying effort came a smaller, less ambitious Alliance. The group that had planned to bring revolution to climate change advocacy instead sought out a smaller part of the existing movement. “We saw as our niche to bring together leaders in the advertising and social media and marketing worlds from some of the world’s most innovative companies,” Stiles said.

The former top official said it was an end to the broad ambitions. “Everyone hunkered down and stopped going for the moon shots,” the former official said. Gore himself took a step back, as his involvement was seen as politicizing in a way that it hadn’t at the outset, when his documentary was an international hit.

The smaller operation has drawn less interest from the national media — and even from some of the group’s own early backers. Susie Tompkins Buell, a California-based Democratic donor and one of Hillary Clinton’s closest friends, seeded $5 million in 2007 to the organization, but now says she hasn’t “followed it very much” or contributed since.

Buell cited her admiration for Gore — for “sticking with it,” she said in an interview by phone — but acknowledged her frustration at the lack of progress from the group, and the climate movement on the whole. (Last year, she notably declined to contribute to Obama’s reelection campaign because, she said, he had not been “vocal enough” on environmental issues.)

“I don’t regret doing it,” Buell said of her initial donation. “I think, honestly, we were all very naïve. We thought this would catch on. I really felt with the right media, with everything in place, we could really bring this problem to the forefront and really solve it.”

The Gore group’s current era, Stiles said, is focused on a “lean, mean machine” — but practically, that means an organization that is spending less, raising less, and employing fewer people.

Gore gives the climate change slideshow presentation that served as the centerpiece of his Academy Award-winning documentary. Eric Lee / Paramount Classics

Current efforts include “leader trainings” for the “Climate Reality Leadership Corps,” a volunteer group well acquainted with the up-to-date science on climate change, tutored on public speaking best practices, and versed in the rhetoric that made An Inconvenient Truth so accessible. Earlier this year, Gore held two climate leader trainings, one in Istanbul and the other in Chicago. Between the two events, the group trained 1,500 new people, 100 of whom were members of Organizing for Action, Obama’s outside grassroots organizing group, and the latest player in the climate movement. An attendee at the Chicago training said she learned “how to communicate climate change in a compelling and informative way” at the session.

Outside the trainings, the Gore group focuses on the digital world, trying to tell the story of climate change and shame skeptics online. The “Reality Drop” program, still in beta phase, allows users to post prewritten comments on articles the group says distort the facts about climate change. The effort has caught the attention of the Heartland Institute, the biggest skeptic group in the country — but it hasn’t impressed officials there.

“They credit themselves with 55 ‘drops’ into one of our recent environment blog posts, of which I approved one for posterity,” said Jim Lakely, communications director at Heartland and the main author of posts on the group’s blog, “making their claims of ‘victory’ as exaggerated as their claims of man-caused climate catastrophe.”

More than one climate change activist said privately it might be better for Gore to divert his fundraising prowess and brand awareness to other, longer-lasting groups at this point and abandon the idea of running his own operation. Gore and his prowess are still praised, but there seems to be confusion about what exactly the group does.

“[They] did an amazing production end of last year, a 24-hour live broadcast on climate that circled the globe,” said Kert Davies, research director at Greenpeace, referring to a live-stream video project the group aired last November that picked up 14 million unique viewers worldwide. Davies also cited Gore’s continued influence as a singular voice in the climate change community; the former vice president recently gave an interview on the subject to the Washington Post. “They have creative juices and cash and also do a lot of work behind the scenes. And they have Al Gore.”

Though the group has long since abandoned lobbying, current climate change activists still associate the group with those efforts.

“I’m on their email list and that’s about all I know,” said Daniel Kessler, spokesperson for 350.org, a grassroots climate change startup that has worked with billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer. “Their emphasis seems to be on going after congressional deniers.”

Stiles described a third iteration of Gore’s climate change group that no longer casts Gore as Steve Jobs. Rather than revolutionize the movement, Gore’s group is settling into a role of support player in climate change fight.

“Everything from what 350.org is doing and their impact on the movement to what we’re doing and our impact on the movement — we’re all contributing to the momentum that’s out there that we can feel,” said Stiles, when asked what specifically Gore’s group had brought to the climate change movement. “It takes all of us, so that’s really how we’re moving forward on this issue. That’s together, and not really pointing to any particular impact that one organization is having over the other.”

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Everything You Need To Know About Kiev’s Brutal Protest Standoff

Pro-European integration protesters carry Molotov cocktails during clashes with police in Kiev Monday. Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters

The protesters who seized central in Kiev two months ago came to turn Ukraine into a standardized European liberal democracy. Today those streets look like a medieval battlefield. Anti-government rioters with helmets, sticks, and shields have fought pitched battles with police for two days nonstop. Some of them built a wooden catapult. At least one man showed up in an actual suit of armor. Riot police flung back rocks and Molotov cocktails thrown in their direction and shot rubber bullets into the crowd.

Police gingerly retreated from an apparent attempt to clear new barricades on Grushevskogo Street just north of the main protest encampment on Independence Square, known as the Maidan, in sub-zero temperatures Wednesday morning, with neither side declaring victory.

Large gangs of titushki, tracksuit-clad pro-government skinhead thugs who attacked passersby with bats and metal chains, fled when activists chased after them. Twelve of them were captured and brought before a people’s court. Police have arrested and beaten several dozen activists and two Radio Free Europe journalists. Over 100 on each party to the violence have been hospitalized.

The stalemate on the ground reflects the political sclerosis gripping the country since President Viktor Yanukovych abruptly pulled out of a deal with the EU in November under heavy pressure from Russia. Unable to regain control of the capital and, according to every poll, doomed to lose the presidential election scheduled for a year from now, Yanukovych’s position looks all but untenable. But an ineffective opposition and a last-minute $15 billion cash injection from Vladimir Putin have made him feel all but unassailable.

In recent weeks the music-festival euphoria of Euromaidan’s early days has given way to an atmosphere of creeping tension and paranoia, and outbursts of violence. Journalist Tetiana Chornovol accuses Yanukovych of ordering a vicious attack on her late last month as revenge for her work on his luxury residences, a claim he denies. TV coverage of the protest movement, seen as a gauntlet thrown to Yanukovych by the channel’s oligarch owners, has dwindled. The government has made few of the concessions demanded by the movement for earlier violence and made increasing recourse to the legal system to repress it.

A slew of laws passed in clear violation of protocol and with no quorum Thursday were meant to draw a line under Ukraine’s lurch east. Yanukovych might de jure have played hard-to-get on joining Putin’s customs union, which would be electoral suicide, but de facto joined the authoritarian ranks of its members, Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Some, like bans on “extremism” and a “foreign agents” act, were copied wholesale from the playbook Putin has used to consolidate power in Moscow. Libel now carries a two-year jail sentence. Internet access can be restricted without a court order. Various penalties for participating in unsanctioned protests stretch up to 15 years. The Automaidan movement, which organizes car rallies outside Yanukovych’s palatial Mezhigorye residence, was all but banned. Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, one of the driving forces behind the EU’s failed plan for Ukraine, called them “the most solid package of repressive laws that I have seen enacted by a European parliament for decades.” Many activists say the laws amount to the establishment of a “dictatorship.”

If credit for keeping the protests going belongs to Yanukovych, however — attendance at Sunday rallies on the Maidan had flagged in previous weeks until the laws were passed — Ukraine’s political opposition shoulders at least some of the blame for their violent turn as well. Where Orange Revolution leaders Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko drew rapturous crowds to demand a re-vote against Yanukovych in 2004’s Orange Revolution, their successors have done little to draw protesters and less still to encourage them. Endless long-winded speeches full of unattainable, ever-changing demands the leaders of the three largest parties rarely agree on are beginning to grate. At Sunday’s rally, the usual cries of “Glory to Ukraine!” and “Down with the gang!” were joined by plaintive chants: “Do something!”

The crowd and the politicians are beginning to turn on each other. Many activists are furious with opposition leaders for calling Euromaidan’s more radical elements “provocateurs” intent on undermining it, which they see as an attempt to smear a movement they did not start and do not control. Sunday’s violence began after opposition politicians scoffed at an Automaidan activist who voiced a widely-held demand that the movement nominate a single leader. Some in the crowd who had been chanting “Give us a leader!” throughout the afternoon slunked off towards Grushevskogo. Right-wing activists and soccer hooligans engaged with police; other protesters soon joined them.

“I can understand why people behaved this way and I can’t call them provocateurs,” Kateryna Kruk, a 22-year-old activist who has been one of the key voices of the movement on Twitter, wrote in The Guardian. “It is sad and wrong that they have expressed their feelings this way, but when there is no leader in the crowd to control people, they start to act as the street teaches them.”

At present, there is little sign of resolving the impasses at state or street level. Yanukovych has paid lip service to opposition calls for dialogue and sent his security chief, reviled for ordering the Nov. 30 crackdown that kickstarted the movement, to negotiate, an obvious slight. Klitschko and Arseny Yatsenyuk, the leader of Tymoshenko’s party, both poll well ahead of Yanukovych in presidential matchups and seem to be spending as much time jockeying with each other as attempting to lead. The United States is said to have drawn up a list of Ukrainian officials implicated in the violence to be sanctioned, but has yet to deploy it. Any move would be little more than symbolic without similar steps from the EU, which has so far refused to consider sanctions publicly.

For now, Ukrainians will have to stay angry and, unless things change, get angrier still. And until that happens, they will have to find other outlets for their anger — at Yanukovych, at the police, at the opposition, at Western inaction, at other Ukrainians, at everything. Sunday’s burnt-out police buses may only be the beginning.

10 Shocking Ways The West Abuses Developing Countries

The developing world has been abused for centuries, used as a resource to be exploited for profit and gain. But now we’re in the 21st century, and everyone cares about being good. That’s why we have Fair Trade coffee with breakfast, right? Well, it’s a nice idea, but there are a lot of people on a lot of continents who could offer a strong argument that rich Westerners are still really bad news.

10 Exporting Medical Nonsense

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Wealthy nations have contributed a lot to the health of many developing nations. The United States Center for Disease Control spearheaded the campaign to eradicate Guinea worm disease from Africa, for example. But not everyone in developed countries is so keen on actual medicine. Proponents of a lot of nonsense also want to make a difference. Some do, and that’s not a good thing.

Among the famous charities that operate on the idea of a shared humanity are Doctors Without Borders and Reporters Without Borders, but there are dozens of organizations that have taken on a snappy “Without Borders” name. The borderless teachers, scientists, vets, and pharmacists are among those who can clearly do some good with their skills. The homeopaths, naturopaths, and chiropractors that shun international boundaries, on the other hand, ultimately end up doing more harm than good.

Aid groups have encouraged midwives in Kenya to use homeopathy during difficult deliveries. In countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, and Sri Lanka, homeopaths have encouraged poor and uneducated people to take their “natural remedies” for malaria, cholera, and typhoid. It’s not hard to figure out the consequences of offering magical water rather than actual medicine to impoverished people with deadly diseases.

Not content with killing children in Australia, the United States, and doing their best in the UK, anti-vaccine campaigners are also spreading their harmful message to developing nations. Vaccine scares, many fueled by the internet, hamper vaccine programs that could save millions of lives. The sad fact is that in less developed countries, nonsense can do even more harm than it does in wealthier nations.

9 Tax Havens

As Elections Loom, Thousands Still Displaced In D.R. Congo
Benjamin Franklin famously wrote that nothing in life is certain except for death and taxes. Western companies disagree: They’re quite happy to leave death as the only certainty, and hide all their money away offshore. If companies stopped avoiding taxes in developing countries, the amount of money left for the country would be more than triple what those countries currently get in aid.

Nearly half of the money invested in the developing world gets channeled through a tax haven. Tax avoidance in developed countries has been a big news story in many places, yet the poorer countries get it much worse—it’s estimated that they lost $5.86 trillion from 2001 to 2010.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, two mining companies on the London Stock Exchange did deals offshore that robbed the African nation of enough to cover its education and health budgets for two years. Kofi Annan has called the current tax situation “unconscionable,” while charity ActionAid says tax havens are among the biggest obstacles to global development.

Despite that, Barclays Bank published a brochure in 2013 promoting Mauritius as the ideal place to use when investing in Africa. It called the island “the offshore financial centre of choice for India and the sub-Saharan region,” and said that it could help investors “make the most of every tax advantage available.” It garnered a lot of criticism, and that brochure is no longer on their website.

8 Medical Experiments

Bhopal Twenty Five Years On From Union Carbide Disaster
The cost of running a clinical trial in the United States is up to 20 times higher than the cost in India. In a related statistic, the chance of dying in a clinical trial is 10 times higher in India. That’s only one issue with the way drug companies are using the world’s poor as guinea pigs.

In September 2013, India’s Supreme Court put a halt to 167 clinical trials. This decision followed the death of several teenage girls in an HPV vaccine trial, which was being run by an American non-profit organization. Investigators found that parental consent forms hadn’t been filled in, and that those taking part had been misled into thinking they were taking part in a national vaccination campaign, not a clinical trial. At the end of 2013, the Indian government brought in sweeping reforms. All trials now need to be scrutinized by an independent ethics committee—as has been the case in the United States since 1975.

Though it was questionably run, at least an HPV trial in India could benefit the Indian people—cervical cancer kills 74,000 women there every year. But some US companies take advantage of the slack regulations in developing nations to run trials on drugs designed for first-world problems like hay fever and overactive bladder. The drugs developed from these trials are ultimately destined for Western markets. Meanwhile, killer diseases like tuberculosis continue to kill the people in the countries being used, while the drug companies simply ignore them.

Some people have criticized the changes in India, mainly due to the financial impact on India’s biotechnology industry. It’s easy to see where they’re coming from. After all, why should the ethical treatment of human beings get in the way of making money?

7 Creating Homophobia

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Many Africans believe that “gayness” is an import from colonial Europe, but they’re almost certainly wrong. Records of sexuality in Africa before the Europeans arrived are slim, but the best of our knowledge suggests homosexual relationship were accepted in many cultures. People have pointed out that same-sex attraction is a universal human trait. The penal codes that made sodomy illegal were introduced by the Europeans, though. So were translations of the Bible, which was presented as a literal text.

Today, the struggles faced by LGBT people in the world’s poorest nations eclipse those they face in Western societies. Many religious leaders and politicians in the West have been among the international critics of anti-gay laws in Uganda. Other people see Africa as a convenient place to push their hateful and outdated views on homosexuality.

The Christian Right in the US is at the forefront of this push. Today’s missionaries are very open about their desire to instill anti-gay values—and the fact that they’re doing it because it’s an easier fight there than it is back home. One missionary said, “fifty percent of the population is under fifteen years old. We can multiply ourselves in these young people and they can reach multitudes, they can reach nations.”

Yet it’s not just youngsters that are being targeted. Other pastors host conferences in Africa to teach about the “gay agenda.” These seminars are attended by politicians, police officers, and other influential people. The organizers teach that gay men regularly sodomize teenagers, and that their goal is to destroy marriage and create a promiscuous society. Their influence is directly related to efforts to introduce the death penalty for being gay. Currently, the penalty for being gay is only life in prison.

6 Starving Them

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Ever since Bob Geldof pointed it out in the ’80s, most people have agreed that starvation is a bad thing. Yet sometimes, that sentiment only extends about as far as the willingness to attend a rock concert. Case in point, Westerners are eating food that has been imported from poor parts of Africa and South America, while people in those countries are dying due to a lack of nutrition.

Somalia was exporting food in the 1980s when it was in the midst of a famine. Thirty years later, it continued to export livestock during a famine in 2011. The people of Senegal have survived by fishing for centuries, but their food sources have been severely depleted by European trawlers. Many of these ships ignore regulations completely, and go so far as to fish under a Senegalese flag before shipping their catches north.

Argentina is one of the world’s biggest exporters of food, yet its indigenous communities are often blighted by malnutrition. Neighboring Bolivia is facing a crisis sparked by international demand for quinoa, its staple crop. The grain’s popularity abroad, particularly in the US, has caused the price of the crop to soar to the point that poorer Bolivians can no longer afford it.

It’s not just food—the West’s desire for biofuels has also caused countries to export crops for use as ethanol. Swaziland did so during a famine in 2007. This is encouraged by billions of dollars in subsidies from Europe and the US. Each year, Europe alone fuels cars with crops that could feed 100 million people. The biofuel industry also devastates the land and livelihood of small farmers in many places—all so the Western nations can be “green.”

5 Dumping Waste

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Agbogbloshie, in Ghana, has been given the nickname Sodom and Gomorrah by locals. The name’s not a reference to sexual deviancy, but rather to the flaming wasteland that God made of the two towns in the Bible. An image search for “Agbogbloshie” makes it clear that they’re not at all wrong. The reason for the horrific state of the area is that each year, hundreds of thousands of tons of electronic waste from Europe is dumped there. Locals burn it, which releases toxic fumes, but the process allows them to collect and sell the valuable copper inside.

The impact on the environment—and the people—is dramatic. Lead quantities in the soil have been found to be 45 times the safe levels recommended by the United States Environment Protection Agency. Blood tests on a local volunteer found aluminum levels at 17 times the safe amount.

The European Union has sanctions against exporting waste to developing countries, but those rules are aggressively ignored. Many waste goods are classed as “charitable donations” before they’re dumped on scrap heaps. Millions of the world’s poor, many of them children, dismantle the items in unsafe conditions to sell the small bits of metal as scrap. Guiyu in China is another town that has been overwhelmed with imported waste (as with Agbogbloshie, you only need to do an image search to understand the severity of the problem).

This is one area on this list where the developing countries are fighting back. China has started turning away a lot of plastic that US “recycling” companies are trying to dump there. Ghana has impounded vast quantities of old fridges, almost all of them from the UK. The Ghanaian government implemented a ban on the environmentally damaging appliances in June 2013—the authorities caught 177 illegal shipments by November. It looks like the West may actually have to deal with its own waste pretty soon.

4 Exporting Obesity

By far the biggest food-related health problem in wealthy nations is obesity. In the United States, some ethnic groups are approaching a 50 percent rate of obesity, while even the least impacted groups can count over a third of their members among the seriously overweight. There’s some sign that the trend is going down—for example, childhood obesity has been declining in recent years. Unfortunately, the habits that cause obesity in America are a prime export, along with all the associated problems.

The problems start early. It’s been established that breastfeeding of babies reduces the likelihood of obesity in later life. Big companies such as Nestlé and Danone, based in wealthy European nations, nevertheless promote their baby formula in developing nations. As well as publishing information, companies have also been found to give gifts to healthcare workers, both of which practices infringe on longstanding ethical guidelines.

The other companies making an impact are fast food restaurants. Chains like McDonalds are among the first Western companies to penetrate emerging markets. They target their advertising toward children, who are less attached to native cuisine. Super-size portions are introduced to cultures for the first time, and local restaurants may be inspired to do the same to compete. As with America, it’s often the less affluent that end up spending a large proportion of their money on fast food.

The result of all this is that Africa and Latin America have the highest rate of increasing obesity in the world. It’s not just the poor eating habits introduced from overseas that cause the problems. More people are living in cities on those continents, and that’s a lifestyle with less exercise and more snacking than in the countryside. Nevertheless, corporations have watched their practices trash the health of millions of people in their own countries for decades, and are quite happy doing the same thing in their brand new markets.

3 Taking Their Talent

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You don’t have to be a talented genius to understand the benefit of having talented geniuses around. Doctors, scientists, engineers, and teachers may not be as good looking as most writers on the internet, but they’re certainly far more important for bolstering a developing economy. It’s therefore a big problem that in some of the poorest countries in Africa and Central America, tons of university graduates leave to work in the world’s richer nations.

Even some of the most prominent emerging economies, like China and India, are losing some of their most promising individuals to the lure of a better life elsewhere. Healthcare is one of the most highly impacted areas. In 1970, 90 percent of physicians that left their home country moved to just five countries: the US, the UK, Germany, Canada, and Australia. It’s hard to blame the migrants; the opportunities and working conditions are far greater in richer nations, but the detriment to their home nation—which invested in their training—is clear.

UNESCO is among the international bodies trying to figure out what to do about it. The issue is that refusing to allow talented people to pursue their best opportunities, wherever those opportunities may be, is inherently unfair to individuals. Balancing that against the needs of less developed countries is complicated and there’s really no obvious solution.

2 The Modern Slave Trade

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The practice of wealthy Western nations importing slaves from poorer countries is often thought of as one of history’s greatest horrors—yet it continues in astonishing numbers today. Each year, anywhere from 200,000 to 500,000 women get trafficked to the West from developing countries. Western Europe and North America are the major destinations for forced sex workers. Since the 1970s, 30 million have been sold into slavery. That’s more than the entire African slave trade up to 1850.

One of the methods used to get Asian women into America is to pay soldiers to marry them, often thousands of dollars. Once the new bride is in the country, they divorce and the woman ends up working in an illegal brothel.

The problem is growing, too. In the UK, sex workers and domestic servants are brought over by criminal gangs from Vietnam, China, Nigeria, and Eastern Europe. A third of the victims are children. While slavery is bad enough, an even darker trend is emerging. The UK recently had its first case of trafficking for organs, with a group planning to sell a child’s kidneys. The girl was brought from Somalia, and authorities think that she was almost certainly not an isolated case.

1 Worker Exploitation

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There have been some pretty big news stories on factory conditions abroad. Over 1,000 people were killed when the Rana Plaza building collapsed in Bangladesh. The factory supplied garments to numerous companies, including Wal-Mart and Primark. Workers had been ordered into the building even though there were cracks in the walls and the lower floors had been evacuated. Following the accident, the conditions and safety of factories in Bangladesh were criticized by Human Rights Watch and Pope Francis, while Barack Obama suspended trade privileges with the country.

Of course, it’s good that people responded to one of the worst industrial disasters in world history with talk of making things better, but doing something beforehand would’ve been nice. We can let Human Rights Watch off on that front; they’d called on Washington to press for improved labor conditions in the past. At least the US government cares now though. Right?

Not so much, it turns out. The US government spends $1.5 billion each year buying things from factories overseas. It does have rules for avoiding companies that exploit and abuse workers, but they simply aren’t followed. The US buys Marine Corps shirts that come from a Bangladesh factory that uses child labor. The Army and Air Force get their clothes made by underage workers in Cambodia.

Rana Plaza was the biggest disaster in Bangladesh recently, but not the only one. A few months before the collapse, 112 people were killed in a fire at a textile factory there. Some European companies that sourced their products from the two factories have set up a compensation fund for workers from both disasters, but none of the American companies have decided to take part. Among the companies turning a cold shoulder to the issue are Sears, Wal-Mart, and Disney.

The entire aid package would cost $5.7 million. Wal-Mart was among the factory’s biggest customers (they also use dozens of other factories in Bangladesh that failed inspections recently). Yet the retailer made a profit of $15.7 billion in 2012. They could fund the entire aid package by themselves with what they make in three hours. But that would involve thinking of workers as human beings that deserve some sort of standard of living, so don’t hold your breath.

Top 11 Methods of Interrogation

These are the approved methods of interrogation taught by SERE – U.S. military training program (survival, evasion, resistance, escape). The use of these techniques is highly controversial and many people say that they are essentially methods of torture and illegal under the Geneva Convention.

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1. Isolation

Isolation is the idea that a person should be left entirely without stimulation by another person. When left for the right amount of time in this state, it leads to a deep feeling of anxiety. The KUBARK document (1) states:

“Little is known about the duration of confinement calculated to make a subject shift from anxiety, coupled with a desire for sensory stimuli and human companionship, to a passive, apathetic acceptance of isolation[…]“

The document recommends that the interrogator should determine whether the person being interrogated has been imprisoned in the past, do better judge the amount of solitary time that will have the greatest effect.

2. Sleep Deprivation

The most common method of sleep deprivation is to keep the prisoner awake for several days. When they are finally allowed to fall asleep, they are awakened and interrogated. Ex-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin describes his experience of this technique when he was a prisoner of the KGB:

“In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep… Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.”

As well as leading to hallucinations, sleep deprivation for periods longer than 24 hours can lead to a state of temporary insanity.

3. Sensory Deprivation

In a study on sensory deprivation, 17 paid subjects were placed in a tank-type respirator that blocked all sensory stimulus. The subjects could breath for themselves through open vents. The time limit for staying in the tank was 36 hours. Only 6 of the subjects completed the full time. Four of the eleven who left the study early complained of anxiety and panic.

“The chief effect of […] solitary confinement, is to deprive the subject of many or most of the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and tactile sensations to which he has grown accustomed”

It is believed that a few hours in this environment is equal to weeks or months of imprisonment in an ordinary cell.


4. Stress Positions

This is posing a detainee in an erect standing position for a period of several hours. No restraints or external devices are used. Variations of this technique include the extension of one’s arms outward to the side.

According to one Army intelligence officer with personal knowledge of these practices, soldiers in the field developed harsher variations of the stress technique. In one position reportedly improvised by soldiers in the field, known as a “short shackle,” detainees are bound at the wrist and ankle with metal or plastic handcuffs and then doubled over with their wrists bound to their ankles, either while lying on the ground or sitting.

Stress positions are commonly used by the U.S. Military. Recruits are often put in stress positions during basic training, the most common being the “front leaning rest”, which is the military term for the pushup positions.

5. Sensory Bombardment

This includes being bombarded with loud noises or music and flashing or bright lights. These methods are designed to overload the senses, interfering with sleep, cognition, and concentration. An Iraqi dissident reported his experience of this form of interrogation technique:

He was made to stand or kneel facing a wall for seven-and-a-half days, hooded, and handcuffed tightly with plastic strips. At the same time a bright light was placed next to his hood whilst distorted music was played.

6. Forced Nudity

Forced nudity is the most common technique used by US forces in Iraq when interrogating prisoners. It involves stripping prisoners in front of other prisoners and forcing them to remain naked for long periods of time. The technique has also been used on people caught looting or stealing. The effect of this act is to cause great shame.

7. Sexual Humiliation

Sexual humiliation comes in a variety of forms and it takes in to account the beliefs and views of the prisoner. For example, a person whose religious beliefs are strongly opposed to homosexuality or transvestitism may be forced to participate in acts of this nature with other prisoners. This may be extreme, or mild (in the case or prisoners being made to wear female underwear). This can also include being subjected to forced displays of sexuality (such as lapdances) in the case of those with extreme views towards women.

8. Cultural Humiliation

Cultural humiliation can include any acts which are contrary to the religious or cultural views of a person. For example, a Muslim may be forced to eat foods forbidden by his religion, or made to witness or commit acts considered blasphemous.

This can also include verbal abuse which is meant to lead to feelings of shame and disgust, further breaking the will of the prisoner.


9. Extreme Cold

This is a particular favourite of the Chinese government towards political or religious prisoners. In many cases they are routinely doused with cold water and left outside or in unheated cells to freeze. Some have been forced to stand in or run through snow wearing only a thin layer of clothing. Thousands are left to sleep on the concrete floors of unheated prison cells in the dead of winter. To make the cold even more unbearable, prison staff have been reported to leave the windows open in practitioners’ cells during the night. Many practitioners are kept in such cells even when badly injured or on the verge of death.

On occasion, extreme heat is also used. In this case the prisoner is lcoked in a “hot box” – a small, hot room which, due to lack of ventilation, essentially functions as an oven. When the prisoner cooperates, he or she is finally released.

10. Phobias

Phobias are able to incite extreme amounts of panic in people. For this reason, a prisoner who has a fear of spiders may be forced to remain in a room filled with spiders. Once he achieves the useful state of anxiety or panic, he is interrogated.

“The threat to inflict pain, can trigger fears more damaging than the immediate sensation of pain. […] The same principle holds for other fears: sustained long enough, a strong fear of anything vague or unknown induces regression[…]“

11. Water Boarding

Waterboarding consists of immobilizing an individual and pouring water over his or her face to simulate drowning. Waterboarding has been used to obtain information, coerce confessions, and also to punish, and/or intimidate. It elicits the gag reflex, making the subject believe his or her death is imminent while ideally not causing permanent physical damage.

Journalist, Julia Leyton, describes the method:

“Water boarding as it is currently described involves strapping a person to an inclined board, with his feet raised and his head lowered. The interrogators bind the person’s arms and legs so he can’t move at all, and they cover his face. In some descriptions, the person is gagged, and some sort of cloth covers his nose and mouth; in others, his face is wrapped in cellophane. The interrogator then repeatedly pours water onto the person’s face. Depending on the exact setup, the water may or may not actually get into the person’s mouth and nose; but the physical experience of being underneath a wave of water seems to be secondary to the psychological experience. The person’s mind believes he is drowning, and his gag reflex kicks in as if he were choking on all that water falling on his face.”

On average, CIA officers who allow themselves to be tested upon last an average of fourteen seconds.

(1) Most of this information is sourced from the KUBARK Interrogation Manual declassified in 1997. And here is the memorandum permitting these techniques to be used by US military personnel.

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Boston Bombing Is A Glimpse Of Kabul And Baghdad

Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters

WASHINGTON — The nature of the Boston Marathon bombing provides a glimpse at American law enforcement’s worst fears in the post-9/11 world: That the kind of low-grade, low-tech, and murderous attacks that have become sadly routine in more troubled parts of the globe will start to appear here.

Bombing attacks carried out in public, crowded places and using improvised explosive devices have become a regular feature of news out of Kabul and Baghdad. But it’s been more than a decade since a successful terrorist attack on the scale of yesterday’s Boston bombing was carried out in the United States. And while the Boston attack doesn’t yet seem to have the same clear political message of the attacks on abortion clinics in recent years or the left-wing terrorism carried out in the 1960 and 1970s, it bears an uncomfortable technical resemblance to the pattern of terror in far-flung, war-torn parts of the world.

The bombs used in the attack were packed with bits of metal, like nails and ball bearings meant to act as shrapnel, and built inside pressure cookers — the same type of bomb used in the Mumbai subway bombing of 2006 and referenced in a Department of Homeland Security memo from 2004. “A technique commonly taught in Afghan terrorist training camps is the use/conversion of pressure cookers into IEDs,” the DHS memo states about pressure cooker bombs. It cites other instances of use of the pressure cooker, including in Nepal and Algeria.

Another DHS memo from 2010 notes that the pressure cooker method was used in 2010 in an attack in Pakistan in which the bombs were set off by remote control, and in the 2010 car bombing attempt in Times Square.

“Because they are less common in the United States, the presence of a pressure cooker in an unusual location such as a building lobby or busy street corner should be treated as suspicious,” the memo notes. (The pressure cookers involved in the Boston attack were placed in bags and put in trash cans).

Doctors compared the wounds inflicted on the Boston victims to those found on victims of bombings in war zones. “The best experience we have with this has been with the improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan and Iraq,” a doctor at Grady Hospital in Atlanta told NBC News.

“This kind of deplorable violence is all too familiar to my fellow Afghans,” Afghan ambassador to the U.S. Ahmad Eklil Hakimi said on Tuesday.

J.M. Berger, a security expert and proprietor of the popular @intelwire Twitter account, noted in an interview that IEDs are not actually new to these shores: They’ve been in use at least since a 1920 anarchist attack on Wall Street.

“There were reports of ball bearings and nails, screws, etc., which are included in IEDs to create shrapnel that will maim and disfigure people,” Berger said. “This is relatively common in IEDs and pipe bombs and the like, so it doesn’t point us in any particular direction.”

Reports by the Associated Press and NBC news pointed to two Chechen men as suspects, and Chechen militants have used terrorist tactics against Russia after brutal wars for control of the region.

Meanwhile, the atmosphere of tension has led to increased security measures around the country: A terminal at LaGuardia Airport was evacuated on Tuesday because of a suspicious package, and so was the Rayburn House Office Building cafeteria on Capitol Hill in Washington. The incidents prompted Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg to compare the situation to Israel: “America has now definitively entered the Era of the Suspicious Package,” Goldberg wrote on Twitter. “Ask an Israeli what this means for daily life.”

“The thirst for a quick and easy explanation leads everyone astray,” Juliette Kayyem, former Homeland Security adviser to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, wrote in a Boston Globe column on Tuesday. “Foreign terrorists are much less organized than they used to be, so the apparent lack of sophistication of the incendiary devices doesn’t necessarily point to a domestic attacker. But the explosions happened during a particularly local celebration, suggesting a fair amount of preplanning, and the devices were targeted at areas with high volumes of people.”

The Boston bombing has the potential to create a sense of fear familiar in “war-torn contexts,” said Adam Lankford, a criminal justice professor at the University of Alabama and author of a book on the psychology of mass killers and suicide bombers.

“Part of the point of IEDs is you don’t need to be a professional to construct them. Anybody with access to the internet and murderous intent can get a book from the library on what the Unabomber did, get the Anarchist Cookbook, go on YouTube,” he said.

“If these things start to happen regularly, that sense of fear will be pervasive in America much like it is in some cities abroad,” Lankford said.

Nevada Republican Was Accused Of Assault By Ex-Wife In 1988 Court Documents

Julie Jacobson / AP

WASHINGTON, DC – The ex-wife of Nevada Rep. Joe Heck accused the freshman lawmaker of assaulting her during their marriage in the 1980s in a sworn statement, a charge Heck vehemently denies.

In court documents from his 1988 divorce Lisa Bunitksy claimed under oath that the lawmaker “has previously inflicted and threatened to inflict physical harm on [Bunitksy] and as a result thereof, Plaintiff requests a Temporary Restraining Order be entered by this Court without hearing.”

The documents also include a request for more than $600 a month in combined alimony and palimony payments from Heck, as well as requiring Heck to be responsible for any medical bills and high education expenses.

The documents were provided to BuzzFeed by a political opponent of Heck who does not work for his Democratic opponent John Oceguera. No police or hospital records associated with the claim appear to exist.

Numerous attempts to contact Bunitksy, who reportedly still lives in Las Vegas, were unsuccessful. But in an interview Heck flatly denied he ever assaulted his ex-wife.

“Until the day she left, I was unaware of any difficulties in the marriage. We were preparing for my medical school graduation and future,” Heck said.

“Never, did I strike Lisa nor did I ever threaten violence, physical or otherwise, at any point during our marriage. Anyone perpetuating a story like this – that they know to be false – demeans the pain that so many victims of domestic violence experience and the courage it takes to confront it,” Heck added.

Heck’s current wife denounced the accusations, noting that she herself was the victim of domestic abuse in a previous marriage.

“There seems to be no line that will not be crossed, there seems to be no low … I just don’t know how much lower this could go,” Mrs. Heck, who is also named Lisa, said.

“Unless you’ve been through it, nobody can understand it … most people would think, ‘how dare you’ for using this as a campaign tool. I find it not only unethical, but dangerous,” she added.

According to the lawmaker, his first marriage came during a complicated period in his life.

Heck and Bunitsky met in 1986 while Heck was living in Philadelphia and in medical school. Shortly thereafter, Bunitsky became pregnant, and the two were married in January 1987, according to court documents.

After the birth of her child, their relationship quickly soured to the point that one evening while Heck was working as resident, Bunitsky packed her things and, along with her child, moved back to Las Vegas, he said.

In May of 1988, Bunitsky called Heck to congratulate him on his graduation from medical school and, more importantly, inform him that the child may not in fact be his, the congressman said.

According to his account Heck was undeterred, and he pressed her to reconcile. In June of that year, unbeknownst to Heck, Bunitsky swore out an affidavit in which she made the claims of abuse as part of her effort to begin the divorce proceedings.

In June, Heck took a paternity test that showed he was not the father of the couple’s child, a copy of the document provided to BuzzFeed by Heck confirmed. Although he says he continued to seek a reconciliation, Heck says Bunitsky insisted they first get divorced so that the couple “could start fresh,” Heck said.

In September of 1988 the two finalized their divorce. Significantly, the final decree, provided to BuzzFeed by Heck, did not include any mention of assault, nor did it include any financial responsibilities to either Bunitsky or her child.

Following the divorce, the two made several failed attempts at reconciliation during which Heck lived with Bunitsky and her mother, the lawmaker said. According to Heck, he has not had significant contact with her since 1998.

The current Mrs. Heck charged the fact that the 1988 court document has surfaced during the election is evidence of how ugly politics has become in recent years, calling the accusations “dangerous” and that they could permanently hurt her husband’s ability to make a living in the future.

“When somebody smears you like this, how does he go back to his livelihood” if he leaves politics, she said, noting that “people are very quick to believe what they hear.”

“It’s got such far reaching tentacles, the fact that they don’t care about it just disgusts me … it cheapens the severity of what happens and undermines the progress we women have made,” Mrs. Heck said.