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Ian T. Shearn’s Archives

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Investigative Stories

The Nation

ExxonMobil’s New Guinea Nightmare

How a US government loan enabled an environmentally destructive project plagued by lethal landslide, police repression and civil unrest.

Then, just as he did every night, Jackson fell asleep alongside his father, using his dad’s arm as a pillow. Jokoya Piwago, a prominent Ware tribal chief, recalled that night vividly in a recent conversation. He remembered his son imploring him, “Please, Daddy, buy me the bicycle that I need to go to school and come back…. Buy me a bicycle tomorrow.” Jokoya paused and said, “That’s the last word that he spoke to me.

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A short documentary film about Exxon in Papua New Guineas.
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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 is headed to the Supreme Court.

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The Forging of Ras Baraka: How He Was Made for This Fight

From his earliest days of street protest, Newark’s mayor has echoed many of the same themes as his poet-activist father Amiri Baraka, none more so than the necessity for police reform.

… A relentless current of poetry, jazz, and spirited discourse swirled throughout Ras Baraka’s childhood home in Newark in the 1970s. This was a house where Nina Simone sang him lullabies, Max Roach played on the family piano and Maya Angelou recited her poems to him.

As a young boy, Ras did not see these people as celebrities; they were houseguests. He had yet to grasp how far his father’s fame and influence reached. And he had yet to learn of the historic Newark Riots of 1967, which predated his birth by three years but shaped his destiny.

On June 6, 1979, that would change in one scary New York minute. It would unfold in an unexpected episode that would thrust the 9-year-old boy directly into his father’s orbit. It would mark the end of his innocence and the beginning of his own political awakening. …

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Ras Baraka took office as Newark’s mayor just in time to receive a report from the Justice Department detailing ingrained racism and double standards in the city’s police force. In the six intervening years he has restructured the force more than once to eliminate these problems — with limited success.

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The 1981 Kean race, GOP ‘flying squads’ and a guy called Jack Kelly. Not forgetting Roger Stone. And fears of a repeat.

Like so many covert political conspiracies hatched in New Jersey, this one took shape at a diner — outside Princeton on Route 1, to be precise — in September of 1981.

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The Hate Beat

He called himself the Gypsy Crusader. For his live video streams, he dressed up as the Joker, the Riddler and Super Mario. He sat himself in front of a Nazi flag and launched tirades of hate in all directions as he recruited new believers for the inevitable day of racial reckoning. For effect, he would wave weapons around.

His real name was Paul Nicholas Miller, 32, a once-promising kickboxer from New Brunswick, who by late last year had been banned from all mainstream social media platforms. Still he grew a sizeable following in the darkest corners of “alt-right web” communities. The more racist, antisemitic and violent his message, the more popular he became.

Paul Miller provides one of countless modern-day American stories which illustrate how readily a young man’s disillusionment can rather easily be transformed into unbridled radicalism in today’s social climate. And Miller’s story shows how fragile that construct can be and how unceremoniously it can collapse.

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The Covid Beat

Thousands of migrant workers will soon arrive in the Garden State to pick fruits and vegetables during the COVID-19 pandemic. Can farm camps and packing houses be kept safe?

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To come: Pulitzer Prise Winning Story

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