The Death of Laquan McDonald – A Bullet for Almost Every Year He Was Alive

A police officer who fatally shot a black teenager last year was charged with first-degree murder on Tuesday as graphic video of the killing, just released, sparked unrest.

The full length video shows 17-year old Laquan McDonald walking down the middle of the 4100 block of South Pulaski Road toward the flashing blue lights of the police cruisers trying to stop him. With a tug of his pants and a quickened step, the teen veers away from them.

The first two officers on the scene trailed McDonald for nearly a half-mile, from a trucking yard where he had been breaking into vehicles through a Burger King parking lot and onto busy Pulaski Road. As officers awaited backup units armed with Tasers, they tried to corral McDonald to keep him away from passers-by. At one point, McDonald used the knife to slash the front tire of a squad car trying to block his path.

Officer Jason Van Dyke and his partner arrived 10 minutes after the first call. Their weapons were drawn as they stepped from the Chevrolet Tahoe. McDonald keeps moving, apparently trying to pass the officers who are several feet to his left. McDonald, holding something in his right hand, swings his right arm in the split second before an officer opens fire.

There is no sound on the controversial dash-cam video released late Tuesday afternoon by the city, only startling images that show a white Chicago police officer unloading 16 rounds on an African-American teen.

Within six seconds of exiting the police car, Van Dyke opened fire. Fifteen seconds later, he had emptied his 16-round handgun, authorities said. The force of the bullets spins McDonald around. His legs stiffen as he falls backward to the pavement. Two clouds of smoke-like debris silently puff upward immediately after McDonald falls.

The teen rolls onto his right side in the middle of the roadway. His head appears to lift, his arm moves. Then more bullets. Another cloud of white debris kicks up from behind his head. And then it is over. The video captures 15 seconds of shooting. For 13 seconds of it, McDonald is lying on the street.

His partner asked him to hold his fire as Van Dyke reloaded, authorities said. Van Dyke’s partner then walked to McDonald’s body and kicked a knife with a 3-inch blade out of his hand.

The teen lies on the road for nearly a minute alone. The teen was alive when paramedics arrived but died on the way to the hospital, authorities said.

L McDonald

Officer Jason Van Dyke, 37, is now charged with first-degree murder in the October 2014 slaying of Laquan McDonald, who suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his chest, scalp, neck, back, arms and right hand and leg.

He has been ordered held without bail until at least his next court appearance Monday. In outlining the charges, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said the officers first on the scene said they felt no need to use force on the teen.

Autopsy of Laquan McDonald

An autopsy report noting the gunshot wounds to Laquan McDonald, 17, who was fatally shot in October 2014. According to the Cook County medical examiner’s office, he was shot 16 times. (Credit: Cook County Medical Examiner).

The charges and the release of the video came amid a national debate over race, police shootings and a growing number of violent encounters with the police captured on video. Chicago’s police force has its own sometimes painful history, which by some estimates includes more than $500 million in settlements and other costs over the last decade tied to police misconduct as well as reparations for black residents who said a group of officers abused and tortured them in the 1970s and ’80s.

In April, the city agreed to pay $5 million to the McDonald family, even before a suit had been filed in the case.

Police said McDonald, who had PCP in his system when he died, was behaving erratically and refusing police commands to drop the folding knife. At the time of the shooting, the police union maintained that the officer fired in fear for his life because the teen lunged at him and his partner with the knife.

Van Dyke’s attorney, Daniel Herbert, has said the footage from the dash cam captures only one aspect of the shooting. In court Tuesday, he told Judge Donald Panarese Jr. there was a “valid defense” in the case. And after court, Herbert, who has previously said Van Dyke feared for his life, questioned the filing of a first-degree murder charge over the shooting.

Van Dyke, who is married and has two children, was born in Hinsdale and attended grade school in Burr Ridge and graduated from Hinsdale South High School in Darien in 1996, according to his personnel file obtained by the Chicago Tribune through an open records request.

Before joining the Chicago Police Department, Van Dyke applied to work as a officer with the state prison system but was rejected because he did not have a college degree. He went on to earn both a two-year and four-year degree in criminal justice. He earned his bachelor’s at St. Xavier University, where he was a straight-A student, according to his personnel file and a spokesman for St. Xavier.

Department records show that over the years, Van Dyke has been accused by residents of a number of abuses, from hurling racial epithets to manhandling suspects and, in one complaint, pointing his gun at an arrestee without justification. But he was never disciplined for any of the 15 complaints that have been resolved.

Van Dyke worked in mostly high-crime districts over his career, including Englewood and Chicago Lawn, where he was most recently assigned. He was a member of the targeted response unit, which aggressively went into neighborhoods experiencing spikes in violent crimes before McCarthy abandoned that strategy several years ago.

Early Tuesday, Van Dyke’s wife described her husband as a “highly decorated and respected officer” on a GoFundMe page seeking online donations for his bond. The page, which has since been taken down, described him as a 15-year veteran officer “fighting for freedom and justice.”

Sources: A Moment-by-Moment Account of What the Laquan McDonald Video Shows -By Annie Sweeney and Jason Meisner | Chicago Tribune

Chicago Protests Mostly Peaceful After Video of Police Shooting Is Released -By Monica Davey & Mitch Smith | New York Times


A Timeline of Terror: Coordinated Attacks in Paris Leave 129 Dead, Over 350 Injured

A victim under a sheet lies dead outside the Bataclan concert hall on November 13, 2015. (Jerome Delay / AP)

It was truly a horrifying Friday the 13th when coordinated terrorist attacks across Paris, France killed at least 129 people and injured more than 350 others — all in a matter of minutes. The assaults unfolded at various locations throughout the French capital and its suburbs, among them restaurants, a popular nightclub, and a soccer stadium. Seven suspects are dead, six from blowing themselves up, authorities said, and one shot by police. Their attacks all began around 9:30 p.m. local time, or 3:30 p.m. EST.

Below is a timeline of the chaos, as recounted by Paris prosecutor François Molins at a news conference Saturday:


Paris Timeline

9:20 p.m.
First Suicide Bombing Near Stadium
A suicide bomber detonated an explosives belt near Gate D of the Stade de France, the country’s national stadium in the northern Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis, as the French and German national teams square off. The blast by a suicide bomber using an explosive belt packed with bolts kills the bomber and another person. A Syrian passport of a person born in 1990 would be found near the bomber’s body. French President François Hollande, who is among the spectators at the match, is evacuated from the stadium after the blast, but the game continues. France wins.

9:25 p.m.
Restaurant Shootings
In the 10th arrondissement of Paris — a neighborhood that’s home to many bars, restaurants and cafes on the banks surrounding the Canal St. Martin — gunmen in a black vehicle wielding Kalashnikovs open fire on patrons at the Le Carillon bar and at Le Petit Cambodge, a Cambodian and Vietnamese restaurant. Fifteen people are killed and 10 suffered critical injuries, Molins said. Investigators would later find around 100 spent casings of different calibers at the scene.

9:30 p.m.
Second Suicide Bombing Near Stadium
A suicide bomber detonates an explosive vest near Gate H of the stadium, but only the bomber is killed. An explosive waistcoat, packed with bolts in order to maximize the damage, is identical to the one used in the earlier stadium attack.

9:32 p.m. 
Restaurant Shooting
Gunmen in a black vehicle opened fire at the Cafe Bonne Bière on Rue de la Fontaine au Roi in the 11th arrondissement, killing 5 people and seriously wounding 8 others. Again, witnesses report that the shooters were in a black vehicle.

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9:36 p.m.
Restaurant Shooting
At the Belle Equipe, a popular bar in the 11th arrondissement, shooters in a black vehicle gun down 19 people using assault weapons. Nine people are wounded. A woman who hears gunshots and looked out her window said she “saw people on the ground, some motionless and [others] curled who were scared to move.” One of the gunmen was on foot and another was in the car during the attack, she said. Around 100 spent casings of different calibers were later found. Like in the previous shootings, the they included 7.62 mm, the kind used in Kalashnikovs.

9:40 p.m.
Suicide Bombing at Restaurant
A suicide bomber detonated an explosives device identical to those of the first two suicide bombers inside the Comptoir Voltaire restaurant in the 11th arrondissement, seriously wounding one person.

9:40 p.m.
Shooting at Concert Hall
Three gunmen emerge from a black car parked in front of the Bataclan concert hall,”carrying weapons of war,” Molins said. They storm the nightclub, where American band Eagles of Death Metal are playing before a packed crowd, firing bursts as they enter and taking the audience hostage. Then they turn their weapons on the crowd. Concertgoers dropped to the floor, some playing dead. The gunmen fired randomly, pausing to reload several times. “They tried to kill as many people as possible, and they were very calm. They reloaded many times,” Julien Pearce, a French radio reporter who managed to escape, told a news reporter. Eighty-nine were killed. Witnesses reported the attackers cried “Allahu Akbar

width="695"This combination of four still images made from a smartphone video by Le Monde French Journalist Daniel Psenny shows spectators fleeing the Bataclan concert hall from the backdoor and windows on November 13, 2015 during a terrorist attack in and around Paris which left at least 128 people dead. Daniel Psenny was later injured as he was trying to help wounded victims of the attack. (Daniel Psenny/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

9:53 p.m.
Third Suicide Bombing Near Stadium
A third explosion occurred about 437 yards from the stadium, and the body of a suicide bomber was found.

November 14 at 12:20 a.m.
Police Raid Concert Hall
Security forces launch an assault at the Bataclan. Three of the attackers are killed: one is shot and the explosive he was carrying detonates. The other two kill themselves using explosive belts as the police assault takes place.

Timeline of Terror: How the Horror Unfolded in Paris -By Elizabeth Chuck | NBC News

Three Hours of Terror in Paris, Moment by Moment | The New York Times


The White Man in That Photo

Gold medallist Tommie Smith (center) and bronze medalist John Carlos (right) showing the raised fist on the podium after the 200 m race at the 1968 Summer Olympics; both wear Olympic Project for Human Rights badges. Peter Norman (silver medalist, left) from Australia also wears an OPHR badge in solidarity to Smith and Carlos. (AP Photo/File)

Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, and it certainly deceived me for a long time.

I always saw the photo as a powerful image of two barefoot black men, with their heads bowed, their black-gloved fists in the air while the US National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” played. It was a strong symbolic gesture – taking a stand for African American civil rights in a year of tragedies that included the death of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy.

It’s a historic photo of two men of color. For this reason I never really paid attention to the other man, white, like me, motionless on the second step of the medal podium. I considered him as a random presence, an extra in Carlos and Smith’s moment, or a kind of intruder. Actually, I even thought that that guy – who seemed to be just a simpering Englishman – represented, in his icy immobility, the will to resist the change that Smith and Carlos were invoking in their silent protest. But I was wrong.

Thanks to an old article by Gianni Mura, today I discovered the truth: that white man in the photo is, perhaps, the third hero of that night in 1968. His name was Peter Norman, he was an Australian that arrived in the 200 meters finals after having ran an amazing 20.22 in the semi finals. Only the two Americans, Tommie “The Jet” Smith and John Carlos had done better: 20.14 and 20.12, respectively.

It seemed as if the victory would be decided between the two Americans. Norman was an unknown sprinter, who seemed to just be having a good couple of heats. John Carlos, years later, said that he was asked what happened to the small white guy – standing at 5’6”tall, and running as fast as him and Smith, both taller than 6’2”.

The time for the finals arrives, and the outsider Peter Norman runs the race of a lifetime, improving on his time yet again. He finishes the race at 20.06, his best performance ever, an Australian record that still stands today, 47 years later.

But that record wasn’t enough, because Tommie Smith was really “The Jet,” and he responded to Norman’s Australian record with a world record. In short, it was a great race.

Yet that race will never be as memorable as what followed at the award ceremony.

It didn’t take long after the race to realize that something big, unprecedented, was about to take place on the medal podium. Smith and Carlos decided they wanted to show the entire world what their fight for human rights looked like, and word spread among the athletes.

Norman was a white man from Australia, a country that had strict apartheid laws, almost as strict as South Africa. There was tension and protests in the streets of Australia following heavy restrictions on non-white immigration and discriminatory laws against aboriginal people, some of which consisted of forced adoptions of native children to white families.

OPHRThe two Americans had asked Norman if he believed in human rights. Norman said he did. They asked him if he believed in God, and he, who had been in the Salvation Army, said he believed strongly in God. “We knew that what we were going to do was far greater than any athletic feat, and he said “I’ll stand with you” – remembers John Carlos – “I expected to see fear in Norman’s eyes, but instead we saw love.”

Smith and Carlos had decided to get up on the stadium wearing the Olympic Project for Human Rights badge, a movement of athletes in support of the battle for equality.

They would receive their medals barefoot, representing the poverty facing people of color. They would wear the famous black gloves, a symbol of the Black Panthers’ cause. But before going up on the podium they realized they only had one pair of black gloves. “Take one each”, Norman suggested. Smith and Carlos took his advice.

But then Norman did something else. “I believe in what you believe. Do you have another one of those for me ?” he asked pointing to the Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on the others’ chests. “That way I can show my support in your cause.” Smith admitted to being astonished, ruminating: “Who is this white Australian guy? He won his silver medal, can’t he just take it and that be enough!”.

Smith responded that he didn’t, also because he would not be denied his badge. There happened to be a white American rower with them, Paul Hoffman, an activist with the Olympic Project for Human Rights. After hearing everything he thought “if a white Australian is going to ask me for an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge, then by God he would have one!” Hoffman didn’t hesitate: “I gave him the only one I had: mine”.

The three went out on the field and got up on the podium: the rest is history, preserved in the power of the photo. “I couldn’t see what was happening,” Norman recounts, “[but] I had known they had gone through with their plans when a voice in the crowd sang the American anthem but then faded to nothing. The stadium went quiet.”

October 16, 2005 – Statue of Tommie Smith & John Carlos, San Jose State University (SJSU), San Jose, California (USA). By political artist Rigo 23.

The head of the American delegation vowed that these athletes would pay the price their entire lives for that gesture, a gesture he thought had nothing to do with the sport. Smith and Carlos were immediately suspended from the American Olympic team and expelled from the Olympic Village, while the rower Hoffman was accused of conspiracy.

Once home the two fastest men in the world faced heavy repercussions and death threats.

But time, in the end, proved that they had been right and they became champions in the fight for human rights. With their image restored they collaborated with the American team of Athletics, and a statue of them was erected at the San Jose State University. Peter Norman is absent from this statue. His absence from the podium step seems an epitaph of a hero that no one ever noticed. A forgotten athlete, deleted from history, even in Australia, his own country.

Four years later at the 1972 Summer Olympics that took place in Munich, Germany, Norman wasn’t part of the Australian sprinters team, despite having run qualifying times for the 200 meters thirteen times and the 100 meters five times.

Norman left competitive athletics behind after this disappointment, continuing to run at the amatuer level.

Back in the change-resisting, whitewashed Australia he was treated like an outsider, his family outcasted, and work impossible to find. For a time he worked as a gym teacher, continuing to struggle against inequalities as a trade unionist and occasionally working in a butcher shop. An injury caused Norman to contract gangrene which led to issues with depression and alcoholism.

As John Carlos said, “If we were getting beat up, Peter was facing an entire country and suffering alone.” For years Norman had only one chance to save himself: he was invited to condemn his co-athletes, John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s gesture in exchange for a pardon from the system that ostracized him.

A pardon that would have allowed him to find a stable job through the Australian Olympic Committee and be part of the organization of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Norman never gave in and never condemned the choice of the two Americans.

He was the greatest Australian sprinter in history and the holder of the 200 meter record, yet he wasn’t even invited to the Olympics in Sydney. It was the American Olympic Committee, that once they learned of this news asked him to join their group and invited him to Olympic champion Michael Johnson’s birthday party, for whom Peter Norman was a role model and a hero.

Norman died suddenly from a heart attack in 2006, without his country ever having apologized for their treatment of him. At his funeral Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Norman’s friends since that moment in 1968, were his pallbearers, sending him off as a hero.

Tommie Smith (left) and John Carlos carry the coffin of Peter Norman from Williamstown Town Hall in Melbourne, Monday, Oct. 9, 2006. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

“Peter was a lone soldier. He consciously chose to be a sacrificial lamb in the name of human rights. There’s no one more than him that Australia should honor, recognize and appreciate” John Carlos said.

“He paid the price with his choice,” explained Tommie Smith, “It wasn’t just a simple gesture to help us, it was HIS fight. He was a white man, a white Australian man among two men of color, standing up in the moment of victory, all in the name of the same thing”.

Only in 2012 did the Australian Parliament approve a motion to formally apologize to Peter Norman and rewrite him into history with the following statement:

This House recognises the extraordinary athletic achievements of the late Peter Norman, who won the silver medal in the 200 meters sprint running event at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, in a time of 20.06 seconds, which still stands as the Australian record.

Acknowledges the bravery of Peter Norman in donning an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on the podium, in solidarity with African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who gave the ‘black power’ salute.

Apologises to Peter Norman for the wrong done by Australia in failing to send him to the 1972 Munich Olympics, despite repeatedly qualifying; and belatedly recognises the powerful role that Peter Norman played in furthering racial equality.

However, perhaps, the words that remind us best of Peter Norman are simply his own words when describing the reasons for his gesture, in the documentary film “Salute,” written, directed and produced by his nephew Matt.

I couldn’t see why a black man couldn’t drink the same water from a water fountain, take the same bus or go to the same school as a white man. There was a social injustice that I couldn’t do anything for from where I was, but I certainly hated it. It has been said that sharing my silver medal with that incident on the victory dais detracted from my performance. 

On the contrary. I have to confess, I was rather proud to be part of it.

Reprint: The White Man in That Photo – By Riccardo Gazzaniga | FILMS FOR ACTION

A word about the statute at San Jose State University: There has been a great deal of discussion about this article and one of the recurring themes concerns the statue at San Jose (pictured in the article). Specifically, people noticed the glaring absence of Peter Norman. There has been talk of reaching out to the university or starting an online petition. No need!  Turns out this was not something Norman wanted. In an interview on Democracy Now!, John Carlos explained that Norman wanted his spot empty so that anyone visiting the statue could stand on it and have their photo taken on the plinth, standing in solidarity with Smith and Carlos, as he had done.

Body Part Hunters Target Albino Children in Tanzania

Twelve-year-old Mwigulu Matonage poses with a stuffed animal that he says makes him feel safe at night and that he sleeps with on September 21, 2015. Shy, soft-spoken Mwigulu is missing an arm from a brutal attack in Tanzania  (Photographer: Carlo Allegri / Reuters)

Children born with albinism in Tanzania live in constant danger of being attacked by people looking to profit from superstitious beliefs. About one in 20,000 people is born with albinism, lacking pigment in their hair, skin, and eyes. In Tanzania, according to reporting from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, albino body parts are highly valued in witchcraft and can fetch a high price: “Superstition leads many to believe albino children are ghosts who bring bad luck.

Some believe the limbs are more potent if the victims scream during amputation, according to a 2013 United Nations report.” Reuters also notes, “The United Nations estimates about 75 albinos have been killed in the east African nation since 2000 and have voiced fears of rising attacks ahead of this year’s election, as politicians seek good luck charms from witch doctors.”

Reuters photographer Carlo Allegri recently documented the lives of several Tanzanian children receiving care in New York after being brutalized in their home country.

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Sources & Additional Images: & Albino Children in Tanzania Targeted by Body Part Hunters -By Alan Taylor | The Atlantic & Rescued from the Albino Hunters | Thomson Reuters Foundation

Médecins Sans Frontières: “Even War Has Rules!”

Graphic: Thomas Bræstrup/ Behance

President Obama personally apologized on Wednesday to the head of Médecins Sans Frontières – MSF (Doctors Without Borders) for what he described as the mistaken bombing of its field hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, promising a full investigation into the episode, which took the lives of nearly two dozen doctors and 10 patients.

The Oct. 3 airstrike took place as Afghan forces were fighting to retake the strategic northern city of Kunduz, which was overrun and briefly held last week by the Taliban. The insurgents, who have been massing around the city for months, launched a multi-pronged attack that took authorities by surprise.  An American AC-130 gunship devastated the medical facility.

White House officials said Mr. Obama told Dr. Joanne Liu, the international president of Médecins Sans Frontières, that he would make any changes necessary to ensure that such incidents were less likely in the future. And they said that the president promised a “full accounting” of who was to blame, and whether the military’s rules of engagement need to change.

That may not be enough for MSF, which has said they do not believe the three investigations that have been begun into the incident — by NATO and a joint United States-Afghan group and the Defense Department — are independent enough to find the truth about what happened.

Dr. Liu said the President’s apology had been “received” then repeated her request that the United States “consent to an independent investigation led by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission” establish what happened in Kunduz, how it happened, and why it happened.

The use of the word “consent” in her statement was central to the group’s demand that the United States endorse a more independent investigation. The International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC) is a body set up under the Geneva Conventions that can investigate violations of international humanitarian law, but only if the countries involved give their permission. In this case that would mean extracting the blessings of both Afghanistan and the United States, which seems unlikely.

The commission is made up of 15 members, elected by the 76 countries that recognize its authority. Neither the United States nor Afghanistan is among the 76. The commission was created in 1991 but has never been used.

At a news conference in Geneva on Wednesday, Dr. Liu said that patients at the Kunduz hospital burned in their beds, and that doctors, nurses and other staff members were killed as they worked. “Our colleagues had to operate on each other,” she said. “One of our doctors died on an improvised operating table — an office desk — while his colleagues tried to save his life.”

Jason Cone, the executive director of Doctors Without Borders in the United States, said that the organization’s staff called the office of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the bombardment of the hospital. Mr. Cone would not discuss the contents of the calls, saying that Doctors Without Borders wanted to preserve the privileged nature of its communications with the government.

But he did say that the chairman’s office was the same office to which MSF had provided GPS coordinates for the hospital on Sept. 30. The group also provided the same GPS coordinates to the American-led coalition in Afghanistan on Sept. 29.

Mr. Cone could not say who or what office at the American-led coalition in Afghanistan was contacted during the attack.

“All we know is that our one hospital was struck repeatedly after we told them where we were located, and called them in desperation to stop the attack,” he said.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday in Kabul, MSF’s General Director, Christopher Stokes, reiterated the group’s demand for the probe, saying it would be important and a precedent for non-government organizations working in conflict zones worldwide.

Stokes said MSF wanted the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission “to get the facts of what happened, the truth.”

The IHFFC is based in the Swiss capital, Bern. It is made up of diplomats, legal experts, doctors and some former military officials from nine European countries, including Britain and Russia. Created after the Gulf War in 1991, the commission has never deployed a fact-finding mission.

Médecins Sans Frontières, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization that provides medical aid in conflict zones, is awaiting responses to letters it sent Tuesday to 76 countries that signed Article 90 of the additional protocol to the Geneva Conventions, seeking to mobilize the 15-member commission.  MSF says no country has responded yet.

Source: MSF: Enough! Even War Has Rules

What Happened: Download MSF’s Kunduz Air Bombing Fact Sheet (PDF)

Action: #Kunduz Outrage: Demand an #IndependentInvestigation

HUMAN, A Film Project About Humanity


“I am one man among seven billion others. For the past 40 years, I have been photographing our planet and its human diversity, and I have the feeling that humanity is not making any progress. We can’t always manage to live together. Why is that? I didn’t look for an answer in statistics or analysis, but in man himself.”

Yann Arthus-Bertrand


HUMAN is a collection of stories about and images of our world, offering an immersion to the core of what it means to be human. Through these stories full of love and happiness, as well as hatred and violence, HUMAN brings us face to face with the Other, making us reflect on our lives. From stories of everyday experiences to accounts of the most unbelievable lives, these poignant encounters share a rare sincerity and underline who we are – our darker side, but also what is most noble in us, and what is universal. Our Earth is shown at its most sublime through never-before-seen aerial images accompanied by soaring music, resulting in an ode to the beauty of the world, providing a moment to draw breath and for introspection.

HUMAN is a politically engaged work which allows us to embrace the human condition and to reflect on the meaning of our existence.


To create HUMAN, Arthus-Bertrand and his team of 16 journalists interviewed 2,020 people in 60 countries. Each interview consisted of the same 40 questions, covering heavy subjects from religion and family (“When is the last time you said ‘I love you’ to your parents?”) to ambition and failure (“What is the toughest trial you have had to face, and what did you learn from it?”). The questions stemmed from those asked in 7 Billion Others, Arthus-Bertrand’s 2003 project and traveling exhibition that features over 6,000 interviews.

In the film, single-frame interviews are interspersed with the sweeping shots of deserts and mountains that Arthus-Bertrand is known for, against a soundtrack of world music composed by Armand Amar.  Arthus-Bertrand, who points to Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi and Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life as influences, sees the film as a portrayal of the world through three voices: people, landscape, and traditional music. “Getting at the heart of what it means to be a human can be a little heavy,” he says. “The aerial images give you a respite, a moment to reflect on what has been said before.”

One thing HUMAN does not offer is background. The film cuts between interviews and landscapes without an introduction of name or country or language.  Arthus-Bertrand hopes that removing personal identifiers will draw focus to our similarities. “We wanted to concentrate on what we all share,” he explains.  “If you put the name of a person, or what country they’re from, you don’t feel that as strongly.”

Arthus-Bertrand hopes that message will lead those watching HUMAN—whether in the U.N. General Assembly Hall or on a smartphone browser in a rural village in Mali—to seek out meaningful conversations about our responsibilities to each other.  It’s a lofty goal, and one that he believes we should all build our lives around.  “To succeed in your professional life isn’t that hard, but to succeed in your personal life is a lot harder,” says Arthus-Bertrand. “To really be a human is a lot harder.  We forget about that.”

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Since 2012, the crew behind human has been gathering an exceptional range of content. This unique collection of interviews and images is intended to be shared with the widest possible audience.

Drawing on this unrivalled collection of images, Arthus-Bertrand offers us a galaxy of works adapted for all platforms and every type of interaction: cinema, television, the digital space, and major public events.

HUMAN: The Cinematographic Movie (190 mins)

The movie will be in theaters from 12 September in France, and from 22 September will be available for free to local authorities, NGOs, and charities that wish to organize screenings.

A selection of exclusive, hypnotic and contemplative longer testimonies, combined with breathtaking aerial views: that is The Stories of HUMAN, going ever further. Broadcast on french TV France 2.

Excerpts from HUMAN (Website) and The Documentary That Found Humanity by Interviewing 2,000 People -by Charley Locke | WIRED MAGAZINE

HUMAN Extended Version, Volume 2

HUMAN Extended Version, Volume 3

HUMAN Presentation Kit 

Yann Arthus-Bertrand is a photographer and renowned specialist in aerial imagery. He has written several books, including The Earth from the Air, which has been translated into 24 languages and has sold more than three million copies. His 2009 film Home has been viewed by more than 600 million people around the world.  It is the most successful environmental film of the decade. 7 Billion Others, a portrait of humanity today, has so far been seen by 350 million people. 

Yann Arthus-Bertrand is also known for his commitment to the ecological battle. For five years, he hosted the famous show Vu du Ciel which explored environmental issues for the public broadcaster, france télévisions. In 2011, he made the film Planet Ocean with Michaël Pitiot, which took audiences on a unique journey into the very heart of our blue planet.

Since 2005 and the creation of the GoodPlanet Foundation, Arthus-Bertrand has been committed to educating about the environment and the fight against climate change and its consequences. This commitment led to him being named a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Program on 22 April 2009. It was the first step on the path that led Arthus-Bertrand to make “HUMAN”.

ISIS Fighter to Child: ‘Raping You Draws Me Closer to God’

Photo by Sheren Khalel / MintPress News

QADIYA, Iraq — In the moments before he raped the 12-year-old girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to explain that what he was about to do was not a sin. Because the preteen girl practiced a religion other than Islam, the Quran not only gave him the right to rape her — it condoned and encouraged it, he insisted.

He bound her hands and gagged her. Then he knelt beside the bed and prostrated himself in prayer before getting on top of her. When it was over, he knelt to pray again, bookending the rape with acts of religious devotion.

“I kept telling him it hurts — please stop,” said the girl, whose body is so small an adult could circle her waist with two hands. “He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever. He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God,” she said in an interview alongside her family in a refugee camp here, to which she escaped after 11 months of captivity.

The systematic rape of women and girls from the Yazidi religious minority has become deeply enmeshed in the organization and the radical theology of the Islamic State in the year since the group announced it was reviving slavery as an institution. Interviews with 21 women and girls who recently escaped the Islamic State, as well as an examination of the group’s official communications, illuminate how the practice has been enshrined in the group’s core tenets.

The trade in Yazidi women and girls has created a persistent infrastructure, with a network of warehouses where the victims are held, viewing rooms where they are inspected and marketed, and a dedicated fleet of buses used to transport them.

A total of 5,270 Yazidis were abducted last year, and at least 3,144 are still being held, according to community leaders. To handle them, the Islamic State has developed a detailed bureaucracy of sex slavery, including sales contracts notarized by the ISIS-run Islamic courts. And the practice has become an established recruiting tool to lure men from deeply conservative Muslim societies, where casual sex is taboo and dating is forbidden.

A growing body of internal policy memos and theological discussions has established guidelines for slavery, including a lengthy how-to manual issued by the Islamic State Research and Fatwa Department just last month. Repeatedly, the ISIS leadership has emphasized a narrow and selective reading of the Quran and other religious rulings to not only justify violence, but also to elevate and celebrate each sexual assault as spiritually beneficial, even virtuous.

“Every time that he came to rape me, he would pray,” said F, a 15-year-old girl who was captured on the shoulder of Mount Sinjar one year ago and was sold to an Iraqi fighter in his 20s. Like some others interviewed by The New York Times, she wanted to be identified only by her first initial because of the shame associated with rape.

“He kept telling me this is ibadah,” she said, using a term from Islamic scripture meaning worship. “He said that raping me is his prayer to God. I said to him, ‘What you’re doing to me is wrong, and it will not bring you closer to God.’ And he said, ‘No, it’s allowed. It’s halal,’ ” said the teenager, who escaped in April with the help of smugglers after being enslaved for nearly nine months.

Calculated Conquest

The Islamic State’s formal introduction of systematic sexual slavery dates to Aug. 3, 2014, when its fighters invaded the villages on the southern flank of Mount Sinjar, a craggy massif of dun-colored rock in northern Iraq.

Its valleys and ravines are home to the Yazidis, a tiny religious minority who represent less than 1.5 percent of Iraq’s estimated population of 34 million.

The offensive on the mountain came just two months after the fall of Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq. At first, it appeared that the subsequent advance on the mountain was just another attempt to extend the territory controlled by Islamic State fighters.

Almost immediately, there were signs that their aim this time was different.

Survivors say that men and women were separated within the first hour of their capture. Adolescent boys were told to lift up their shirts, and if they had armpit hair, they were directed to join their older brothers and fathers. In village after village, the men and older boys were driven or marched to nearby fields, where they were forced to lie down in the dirt and sprayed with automatic fire.

The women, girls and children, however, were hauled off in open-bed trucks.

“The offensive on the mountain was as much a sexual conquest as it was for territorial gain,” said Matthew Barber, a University of Chicago expert on the Yazidi minority. He was in Dohuk, near Mount Sinjar, when the onslaught began last summer and helped create a foundation that provides psychological support for the escapees, who number more than 2,000, according to community activists.

Fifteen-year-old F says her family of nine was trying to escape, speeding up mountain switchbacks, when their aging Opel overheated. She, her mother, and her sisters — 14, 7, and 4 years old — were helplessly standing by their stalled car when a convoy of heavily armed Islamic State fighters encircled them.

“Right away, the fighters separated the men from the women,” she said. She, her mother and sisters were first taken in trucks to the nearest town on Mount Sinjar. “There, they separated me from my mom. The young, unmarried girls were forced to get into buses.”

The buses were white, with a painted stripe next to the word “Hajj,” suggesting that the Islamic State had commandeered Iraqi government buses used to transport pilgrims for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. So many Yazidi women and girls were loaded inside F’s bus that they were forced to sit on each other’s laps, she said.

Once the bus headed out, they noticed that the windows were blocked with curtains, an accouterment that appeared to have been added because the fighters planned to transport large numbers of women who were not covered in burqas or head scarves.

F’s account, including the physical description of the bus, the placement of the curtains and the manner in which the women were transported, is echoed by a dozen other female victims interviewed for this article. They described a similar set of circumstances even though they were kidnapped on different days and in locations miles apart.

F says she was driven to the Iraqi city of Mosul some six hours away, where they herded them into the Galaxy Wedding Hall. Other groups of women and girls were taken to a palace from the Saddam Hussein era, the Badoosh prison compound and the Directory of Youth building in Mosul, recent escapees said. And in addition to Mosul, women were herded into elementary schools and municipal buildings in the Iraqi towns of Tal Afar, Solah, Ba’aj and Sinjar City.

They would be held in confinement, some for days, some for months. Then, inevitably, they were loaded into the same fleet of buses again before being sent in smaller groups to Syria or to other locations inside Iraq, where they were bought and sold for sex.

“It was 100 percent preplanned,” said Khider Domle, a Yazidi community activist who maintains a detailed database of the victims. “I spoke by telephone to the first family who arrived at the Directory of Youth in Mosul, and the hall was already prepared for them. They had mattresses, plates and utensils, food and water for hundreds of people.”

Detailed reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reach the same conclusion about the organized nature of the sex trade. In each location, survivors say Islamic State fighters first conducted a census of their female captives.

Inside the voluminous Galaxy banquet hall, F sat on the marble floor, squeezed between other adolescent girls. In all she estimates there were over 1,300 Yazidi girls sitting, crouching, splayed out and leaning against the walls of the ballroom, a number that is confirmed by several other women held in the same location.

A 25-year-old Yazidi woman showed a “Certificate of Emancipation” given to her by a Libyan who had enslaved her. He explained that he had finished his training as a suicide bomber and was planning to blow himself up, and was therefore setting her free. (Photo: Mauricio Lima for The New York Times)

They each described how three Islamic State fighters walked in, holding a register. They told the girls to stand. Each one was instructed to state her first, middle and last name, her age, her hometown, whether she was married, and if she had children.

For two months, F was held inside the Galaxy hall. Then one day, they came and began removing young women. Those who refused were dragged out by their hair, she said.

In the parking lot the same fleet of Hajj buses was waiting to take them to their next destination, said F. Along with 24 other girls and young women, the 15-year-old was driven to an army base in Iraq. It was there in the parking lot that she heard the word “sabaya” for the first time.

“They laughed and jeered at us, saying ‘You are our sabaya.’ I didn’t know what that word meant,” she said. Later on, the local Islamic State leader explained it meant slave.

“He told us that Taus Malik” — one of seven angels to whom the Yazidis pray — “is not God. He said that Taus Malik is the devil and that because you worship the devil, you belong to us. We can sell you and use you as we see fit.”

The Islamic State’s sex trade appears to be based solely on enslaving women and girls from the Yazidi minority. As yet, there has been no widespread campaign aimed at enslaving women from other religious minorities, said Samer Muscati, the author of the recent Human Rights Watch report. That assertion was echoed by community leaders, government officials and other human rights workers.

Mr. Barber, of the University of Chicago, said that the focus on Yazidis was likely because they are seen as polytheists, with an oral tradition rather than a written scripture. In the Islamic State’s eyes that puts them on the fringe of despised unbelievers, even more than Christians and Jews, who are considered to have some limited protections under the Quran as “People of the Book.”

In Kojo, one of the southernmost villages on Mount Sinjar and among the farthest away from escape, residents decided to stay, believing they would be treated as the Christians of Mosul had months earlier. On Aug. 15, 2014, the Islamic State ordered the residents to report to a school in the center of town.

When she got there, 40-year-old Aishan Ali Saleh found a community elder negotiating with the Islamic State, asking if they could be allowed to hand over their money and gold in return for safe passage.

The fighters initially agreed and laid out a blanket, where Ms. Saleh placed her heart-shaped pendant and her gold rings, while the men left crumpled bills. Instead of letting them go, the fighters began shoving the men outside, bound for death.

Sometime later, a fleet of cars arrived and the women, girls and children were driven away.

Excerpt, read full article ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape -By Rukmini Callimachi & Mauricio Lima | NYT

Repeating History: Efforts to Delegitimize The ‘Black Lives Matter’ Movement a Distraction


The Republican Party and its acolytes in the news media are trying to demonize the protest movement that has sprung up in response to the all-too-common police killings of unarmed African-Americans across the country. The intent of the campaign — evident in comments by politicians like Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky — is to cast the phrase “Black Lives Matter” as an inflammatory or even hateful anti-white expression that has no legitimate place in a civil rights campaign.

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas crystallized this view when he said the other week that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., were he alive today, would be “appalled” by the movement’s focus on the skin color of the unarmed people who are disproportionately killed in encounters with the police. This argument betrays a disturbing indifference to or at best a profound ignorance of history in general and of the civil rights movement in particular. From the very beginning, the movement focused unapologetically on bringing an end to state-sanctioned violence against African-Americans and to acts of racial terror very much like the one that took nine lives at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., in June.

The civil rights movement was intended to make Congress and Americans confront the fact that African-Americans were being killed with impunity for offenses like trying to vote, and had the right to life and to equal protection under the law. The movement sought a cross-racial appeal, but at every step of the way used expressly racial terms to describe the death and destruction that was visited upon black people because they were black.

Even in the early 20th century, civil rights groups documented cases in which African-Americans died horrible deaths after being turned away from hospitals reserved for whites, or were lynched — which meant being hanged, burned or dismembered — in front of enormous crowds that had gathered to enjoy the sight.

The Charleston church massacre has eerie parallels to the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. — the most heinous act of that period — which occurred at the height of the early civil rights movement. Four black girls were murdered that Sunday. When Dr. King eulogized them, he did not shy away from the fact that the dead had been killed because they were black, by monstrous men whose leaders fed them “the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism.” He said that the dead “have something to say” to a complacent federal government that cut back-room deals with Southern Dixiecrats, as well as to “every Negro who has passively accepted the evil system of segregation and who has stood on the sidelines in a mighty struggle for justice.” Shock over the bombing pushed Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act the following year.

During this same period, freedom riders and voting rights activists led by the young John Lewis offered themselves up to be beaten nearly to death, week after week, day after day, in the South so that the country would witness Jim Crow brutality and meaningfully respond to it. This grisly method succeeded in Selma, Ala., in 1965 when scenes of troopers bludgeoning voting rights demonstrators compelled a previously hesitant Congress to acknowledge that black people deserved full citizenship, too, and to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Along the way, there was never a doubt as to what the struggle was about: securing citizenship rights for black people who had long been denied them.

The “Black Lives Matter” movement focuses on the fact that black citizens have long been far more likely than whites to die at the hands of the police, and is of a piece with this history. Demonstrators who chant the phrase are making the same declaration that voting rights and civil rights activists made a half-century ago. They are not asserting that black lives are more precious than white lives. They are underlining an indisputable fact — that the lives of black citizens in this country historically have not mattered, and have been discounted and devalued. People who are unacquainted with this history are understandably uncomfortable with the language of the movement. But politicians who know better and seek to strip this issue of its racial content and context are acting in bad faith. They are trying to cover up an unpleasant truth and asking the country to collude with them.

Reprint: The Truth of ‘Black Lives Matter’ | NYT Editorial Board


In 1938, civil rights activist and poet Langston Hughes (1902-1967) wrote his chilling poem “Kids Who Die” which illuminates the horrors of lynchings during the Jim Crow era.  Now, Hughes’ vivid poetry is being featured in a three minute video created by Frank Chi and Terrance Green. It is a startling reminder that the assault on Black lives did not end with the Jim Crow era.

As we approach the one year mark of the Ferguson uprising that has sparked a movement of resistance against state violence, we are reminded of our ability to secure real change. This is a matter of life or death and we need collective power to win. Join the movement and text JUSTICE to 225568.

This is for the kids who die,
Black and white,
For kids will die certainly.
The old and rich will live on awhile,
As always,
Eating blood and gold,
Letting kids die.
Kids will die in the swamps of Mississippi
Organizing sharecroppers
Kids will die in the streets of Chicago
Organizing workers
Kids will die in the orange groves of California
Telling others to get together
Whites and Filipinos,
Negroes and Mexicans,
All kinds of kids will die
Who don’t believe in lies, and bribes, and contentment
And a lousy peace.
Of course, the wise and the learned
Who pen editorials in the papers,
And the gentlemen with Dr. in front of their names
White and black,
Who make surveys and write books
Will live on weaving words to smother the kids who die,
And the sleazy courts,
And the bribe-reaching police,
And the blood-loving generals,
And the money-loving preachers
Will all raise their hands against the kids who die,
Beating them with laws and clubs and bayonets and bullets
To frighten the people—
For the kids who die are like iron in the blood of the people—
And the old and rich don’t want the people
To taste the iron of the kids who die,
Don’t want the people to get wise to their own power,
To believe an Angelo Herndon, or even get together
Listen, kids who die—
Maybe, now, there will be no monument for you
Except in our hearts
Maybe your bodies’ll be lost in a swamp
Or a prison grave, or the potter’s field,
Or the rivers where you’re drowned like Leibknecht
But the day will come—
You are sure yourselves that it is coming—
When the marching feet of the masses
Will raise for you a living monument of love,
And joy, and laughter,
And black hands and white hands clasped as one,
And a song that reaches the sky—
The song of the life triumphant
Through the kids who die.

President Obama Unveils An Ambitious Clean Power Plan

On August 3, President Obama unveiled the final version of his Clean Power Plan, a set of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations that, if implemented, would represent the strongest action ever taken by the United States to combat climate change.

Obama is using the authority of an existing law — the Clean Air Act, enacted in 1970 — to issue the regulations. That law says that the Environmental Protection Agency must regulate any pollutant that is deemed a danger to human health and well-being. The Supreme Court upheld the agency’s finding that carbon dioxide in large amounts did qualify as a dangerous pollutant, since it contributes to climate change, providing the Obama administration with both the legal authority and the legal obligation to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.

The Clean Power Plan is divided into three components.

One is an E.P.A. regulation that would require a 32 percent overall reduction in greenhouse gas emitted by existing power plants from 2005 levels by 2030. The rule will probably lead to the closing of hundreds of coal-fired power plants and give fresh momentum to carbon-free energy sources like wind and solar power, and possibly next-generation nuclear plants.

The second regulation would require power plants built in the future to produce about half the rate of the pollution now produced by current power plants. That rule would effectively ensure that no new coal plants are built in the United States. The plan then assigns every state a target for reducing its emissions and requires them to come up with a draft plan for how to do it by 2016 and a final plan by 2018.

When taken together with the administration’s other initiatives, chiefly the fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, it reinforces Mr. Obama’s credibility and leverage with other nations heading into the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in December.

Full implementation and enforcement of the plan is going to be an uphill battle. The plan’s opponents in industry, the states and Congress are already gathering their forces to try to undermine it on Capitol Hill and in the courts, claiming that the plan is radical, will cost thousands of jobs, drive electricity prices through the roof and irreparably damage the economy.

Attorney generals from states that oppose the plan are coming together in a lawsuit to argue that it represents too broad an interpretation of the Clean Air Act. Their legal challenge is expected to reach the Supreme Court around 2017, which will then have to decide whether to uphold the plan or strike it down.

But the truth is this: There is nothing radical about the Clean Power Plan.

For more than a decade, carbon emissions from power plants have been declining — a result of a shift in energy generation from coal to cheap and abundant natural gas, regulation of other pollutants, like mercury, which has caused utilities to shut down older plants, and investments in cleaner fuels and energy efficiency.

Coal generation, which 10 years ago provided just over half the nation’s electricity, last year provided 39 percent. Meanwhile, renewable energy sources like wind and solar power — driven by federal tax credits, improvements in technology and state mandates — have risen sharply in that time.

The new rules will codify and accelerate these trends, making sure that the shift to cleaner fuels continues quickly. Their main goal is a nationwide reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 32 percent by 2030, from a 2005 baseline. Among their many selling points is flexibility: The rules assign each state a specific target for reducing carbon pollution from plants inside its borders, but allows them to develop custom-tailored plans for meeting these targets. States can choose from a menu of options to meet their targets: switching from coal to natural gas, ramping up wind and solar, reducing energy consumption with so-called demand-side efficiencies, engaging in cap-and-trade systems with other states.

These individual state targets are a result of many months of painstaking negotiations between Washington and the states. Despite this, the plan faces formidable challenges in Congress and the courts. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, for instance, has begun a pre-emptive strike against the rules, urging states not to submit the required plans (a weirdly anti-states’ rights strategy, since the rules authorize the Environmental Protection Agency to impose its own plans on states that do not comply). But the greater threats lie in the courts, where opponents are preparing to argue that the plan usurps states’ rights, exceeds the agency’s authority or is deficient in other ways.

And then there is the little matter of the coming presidential election. Even if the courts rule that the new regulations are fully consistent with the E.P.A.’s authority under the Clean Air Act, a future president could rescind or delay them. Hillary Rodham Clinton has said she supports the plan and will carry it out.

Republicans are unanimously opposed to the plan.

Sources & Reprints: President Obama’s Tough, Achievable Climate Plan | NYT Editorial Board and 5 Questions About Obama’s Climate Change Plan -By Coral Davenport | NYT