Category Archives: Blog

ExxonMobil accused of torture, murder in Indonesia civil war

Mother Jones: Did ExxonMobil Pay Torturers?

The oil giant has long said it has no responsibility for atrocities committed by the government soldiers it hired to protect its plant in Indonesia. Now the issue could be headed to the Supreme Court.


By Ian T. Shearn and Laird Townsend 

EVEN IN THE DRY LEGALESE OF a court complaint, the account of John Doe III is not for the faint of heart:

In the summer of 2000, soldiers detained him while he was visiting a refugee camp. They shot him “in three places on his leg,” then “tortured him for several hours.” The soldiers “broke his kneecap, smashed his skull, and burned him with cigarettes.” After he was taken to a hospital to treat his wounds, he was returned to this captors, who held him for roughly a month and “tortured him regularly.”

This was the Aceh Province, Sumatra, Indonesia, at the height of a bloody civil war. Such accounts were commonplace. But in this case, according to the complaint, the man’s captors were not just any soldiers. They were “ExxonMobil security personnel.” And now, more than a decade later, ExxonMobil has been ordered to stand trial in a human rights lawsuit.

Click here to view Mother Jones story.

The Nation: Whose side is the American Farm Bureau on?

The answer — Big Ag. Just ask the family farmers who dared to protest an industrial hog farm in Missouri.

By Ian T. Shearn


Click here to see and hear farmer Rolf Christen’s story

The American Farm Bureau, with its 6 million “member families” and carefully cultivated grassroots image, talks a good game. In the pitched battle over US farm policy—with agribusiness giants on one side, and small family farmers, organic and local food advocates and environmentalists on the other—the Farm Bureau positions itself as the voice of the farmer.

“If you know agriculture in this country, it is dominated by family farms, and those are the people who come to our meetings, those are the people who set our policies,” claims Mark Maslyn, executive director of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s public policy department, a team of twenty-two registered federal lobbyists that spend more than $2 million annually on a variety of agriculture issues.

But Rolf Christen, a cattle farmer in Missouri who was at one time an enthusiastic member of his local farm bureau’s board, tells a different story.

Click here to view the entire story in The Nation

ABC News analysis: The cyberbullying trial of Dharun Ravi (Tyler Clementi)


By Ian T. Shearn

The verdict in the State of New Jersey v. Dharun Ravi has been rendered. Beholden to America’s short attention span, often preferring the presumption of guilt, reporters and advocates now sprint to the next story, the next cause, the next simplistic scandal.

But each story leaves a legacy, always more complex than we initially imagined, and now we must ask in the case of Dharun Ravi and Tyler Clementi how and if justice was served. . . .

. . . This particular path to justice began in 2001, when New Jersey lawmakers amended the state’s hate crimes statute to, among other things, include sexual preference.

And here we find the chain’s weakest link.

Click here to read entire story

More Tyler Clementi trial analysis by Shearn:

Rutgers Trial: The Political Firestorm Before the Indictment

The Elephant in the Clementi Trial

This Camera Was Pointed at the Defendant

A Case of Prosecutorial Discretion

Investigative Report: Richard Berman. Corporate fron-man makes a fine living attacking charities


By Ian T. Shearn

If charity does indeed begin at home, in the case of Richard Berman, it starts in a $3 million, 8,800-square-foot mansion he shares with his second wife in McLean, Va. One of his first decisions in a day of many is whether to drive the Bentley or the Ferrari to work. On this particular spring morning, he goes with the Bentley.

Capable of zero to 60 in 4.4 seconds, the commute to his Washington D.C. office is no doubt enjoyable, even if the car’s 500-plus horsepower is bridled in congestion. He glides into his parking garage in the K Street corridor, gently backs the Bentley into a reserved spot and exits the car, clutching a bundle of newspapers under his arm.

He walks with a quick, determined gait to the elevator that takes him to his office, Berman and Co., a public relations/lobbying firm that consumes the entire eighth floor. According to one visitor, the bustling office has all the appearances of a political boiler-room operation, a roomful of 25 to 30 young adults fervently attending to their computers and phones. The walls are covered with ornate, mill-worked wood, and there is a constant stream of visitors.

But this is no ordinary PR operation. This is where white-knuckle lobbying and media buys merge with a handful of public charities Berman has created to spin and cajole public perception on a variety of issues. But for the most part, he attacks and intimidates those with contrary views, and under the banner of the public good serves the agendas of corporate America.

To read the US Humane Society report, click here