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[l] at 9/12/19 9:54am

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been jailed in London’s Belmarsh Prison since April 11, when Ecuador authorities revoked his political asylum in their embassy and British authorities arrested him.

The United States government had Assange arrested for extradition on charges of violating the Espionage Act and conspiracy to commit a computer crime that stem from the disclosures from U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning that were published in 2010.

As part of a questionnaire on presidential executive power, the New York Times asked each candidate for president whether they support the charges against Assange and if they believed they were constitutional.

Multiple candidates gave exceptional answers. A few plainly stated they would drop the charges immediately while Senator Michael Bennet, former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Cory Booker, and Senator Kamala Harris offered responses that were particularly mediocre.

“Prosecutors recently expanded a criminal case against Julian Assange to include accusations that he violated the Espionage Act by soliciting, obtaining, and publishing classified documents leaked in 2010 by Chelsea Manning, which could establish a precedent that such common journalistic activities (a separate question from whether Assange counts as a “journalist”) can be treated as a crime in America,” the Times wrote.

“Are these charges constitutional? Would your administration continue the Espionage Act part of the case against Assange?” the Times asked.

Before getting to the answers from candidates, there is a flaw in the question. The computer crime charge against Assange stems from the publication of information just like the Espionage Act charges. Media organizations should not be suggesting that a smaller part of the prosecution is possibly defensible, especially since it was the first public charge put out as he was arrested. It set this whole process of jailing a journalist in motion.

Biden, Booker, Harris, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, and former Representative Beto O’Rourke each declined to answer the specific question.

“I won’t speak specifically about the Assange case—it isn’t appropriate for me to offer an opinion on an ongoing criminal prosecution that is now pending in court and about which all the details are not publicly available,” Biden stated.

Biden spoke specifically in 2010 when he was part of President Barack Obama’s administration. He suggested Assange probably “conspired to get these classified documents with a member of the U.S. military” and added “that’s fundamentally different than if someone drops [documents] on your lap” and says “you’re a press person. Here’s classified material.”

He even agreed with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that Assange is much more like a “high-tech terrorist” than a journalist.

Biden wrote, “I’m not assuming in any way that Assange is in fact a journalist,” which indicates he believes he would have the authority to decide who is and is not a journalist.

“Government officials often have compelling reasons to keep national security information confidential, and professional journalists have long recognized and respected those reasons. Unlike WikiLeaks, responsible journalists historically have declined to publish information when publication would put lives in danger or threaten harm to the national interest,” Biden declared.

When current and former government officials like Biden reflexively state that WikiLeaks has endangered lives, they typically are referring to the publication of the Afghanistan War Logs. But Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell stated, “We have yet to see any harm come to anyone in Afghanistan that we can directly tie to exposure in the WikiLeaks documents,” and later, the Associated Press concluded on August 17, “There is no evidence that any Afghans named in the leaked documents as defectors or informants from the Taliban insurgency have been harmed in retaliation.”

Biden continued, “The First Amendment does not immunize journalists from responsibility for breaking the law. Journalists have no constitutional right to break into a government office, or hack into a government computer, or bribe a government employee, to get information. The perpetrator of a crime should be subject to prosecution.”

This may seem like a fairly innocent statement, however, it was essentially the argument the Obama Justice Department employed when it targeted New York Times reporter James Risen with a subpoena and tried to force him to divulge his confidential sources for a leak prosecution.

The Fourth Circuit agreed with the Obama Justice Department. “There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify by the prosecution or the defense in criminal proceedings about criminal conduct that the reporter personally witnessed or participated in, absent a showing of bad faith, harassment or other such non-legitimate motive, even though the reporter promised confidentiality to his source.”

Biden did concede the government should be “hesitant to prosecute a journalist who has done nothing more than receive and publish confidential information and has not otherwise broken the law.” He referenced the Pentagon Papers case. Yet, Biden does not think Assange is a journalist so this remark carries no benefit for the dissidents who his administration may seek to exclude from First Amendment protections.

“I would ask my Attorney General to review DOJ policy and guidelines to ensure that my administration is upholding the First Amendment and protecting the free press,” Booker answered.

Booker engaged in sloganeering about democracy needing a free press to operate and opined about Trump’s vilification of the press, although Trump’s clashes with reporters are not relevant to the basic question.

The answer from Harris was terribly abstract. “The Justice Department should make independent decisions about prosecutions based on facts and the law. I would restore an independent DOJ and would not dictate or direct prosecutions.”

No one would guess from reading only that answer that she was responding to a question about the Assange prosecution and the threat it poses to press freedom.

Similar to Biden, Bennet said there should be a “distinction” between the press and whistleblowers who serve a public purpose and “those, like Assange, who publish classified information without regard to whether it may put American forces in danger.”

Of the candidates who oppose the prosecution of Assange, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Representative Tulsi Gabbard, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren, former Representative Joe Walsh, and Marianne Williamson gave the best answers.

Buttigieg said the charges against Assange may be unconstitutional, depending on how the Justice Department argues the case. Warren contended prosecuting Assange could set a dangerous precedent. (Both used qualifiers to make it clear they were not defending Assange.)

“It is not up to the president to determine who is or is not a journalist,” Sanders declared. “The actions of the Trump administration represent a disturbing attack on the First Amendment and threaten to undermine the important work that investigative reporters conduct every day.”

Williamson deserves credit for an answer that, unlike the other responses, incorporated some of the history of the Espionage Act.

“The Espionage Act is a relic of President Woodrow Wilson’s prosecution of Eugene Debs for opposing his military frolic in the Soviet Union,” Williamson wrote. “The Act violates freedom of speech and press by criminalizing publications without proof that the disclosures were intended to and did cause material harm to the national security of the United States.”

Williamson added, “The First Amendment does not permit a British-style Official Secrets Act for classified information. I would drop the Espionage Act counts against Assange.”

The Obama administration transformed the Espionage Act into a de facto Official Secrets Act by using it to prosecute more leakers or whistleblowers than all previous presidential administrations combined (something which Biden ignored entirely in his answer).

“No, this is a violation of freedom of speech—unconstitutional,” Gabbard plainly replied. “No, my administration would drop this case.”

Stunningly, Walsh, a Republican, gave a really good response. “I’m troubled that within the lens of the Assange case, much of the coverage has focused on whether his activity was ‘journalistic’ or not. I reject this lens insofar as freedom of the press is vital as a manifestation of our constitutionally enshrined First Amendment rights to freedom of expression, a right that extends to many forms of expression and speech.”

“Leaving it up to the court in our age of new media to make a determination about what constitutes journalistic activity and what doesn’t is dicey.”

Walsh added, “The burden must not be on a journalist to make a determination about whether information may legally be disclosed or not—that goes against the spirit of the Fourth Estate that is so central to our democracy.”

“Rather, to the matter of how to prevent classified information [from] finding its way into the wrong hands, I would work as president to strengthen whistleblower protections to prevent situations where otherwise law-abiding government employees or contractors feel that the only option for recourse when attempting to ring the alarm on bad actors (individuals, agencies, or otherwise) is to go to the media,” Walsh concluded.

Walsh’s answer contemplated issues that relate to the war against leaks waged by the government in the past decade. He did not specifically mention the overclassification of information but both that systemic problem and weak whistleblower protections (particularly for national security or intelligence officials) ensures there will be leaks to the press.

Overall, the vast majority of presidential candidates oppose the Assange prosecution. Many demonstrate a decent understanding of how this threatens press freedom.

Either would be in a position to stop the prosecution after they were elected because Assange’s first extradition hearing is not until February 20 and it could be years before the government succeeds in transferring him to the U.S. for a trial.

The post The Prosecution Against Julian Assange: Where Presidential Candidates Stand appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, 2020 Presidential Primary, Espionage Act, WikiLeaks]

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[l] at 9/10/19 2:57pm
Editor’s Note Disclosure: Kevin Gosztola co-hosts the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast with Rania Khalek. Yes, this is absolutely a biased defense of Rania Khalek and Max Blumenthal.

Journalists Rania Khalek and Max Blumenthal were condemned for traveling to Damascus, Syria, to report on recent developments in the country.

The attacks came from a select but influential group of individuals, who resent the manner in which Khalek and Blumenthal have undermined that narrative for supporting regime change operations by Western forces and the militia groups aligned with them.

Both have been targeted before by these individuals who have forced or attempted to force the cancellation of their speaking events or render them toxic to publishers so their journalism does not reach a wider audience. This resentment is a product of an obsession that involves exaggerating their influence in order to justify a campaign that convinces people they should be viewed as pariahs.

Molly Crabapple is a New York artist and writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Guardian, CNN, and Vanity Fair. She equated their journalism to Nazi propaganda.

“This is some Goebbels shit,” Crabapple declared. “Prancing around Syria on a government luxury tour, posting tourist photos near torture centers, and mocking Syrian refugees who can never return to their country without risking being tortured to death.”

It was part of a thread on Twitter that received more than 1,900 likes and was shared over 700 times.

Referring to a photo Khalek shared on Instagram, Crabapple added, “Note that no one in this photo knows Arabic. They are traveling around with a regime driver and translator, on a regime junket. There is zero independent journalism being done, though lots of eating at swanky restaurants.”

Mariam Elba, a fact-checker and associate research editor for the Intercept, reacted, “LMAO Rania and Max are in Damascus. Neither of them speak Arabic, yet they claim to be ‘talking’ to many Syrians there. Why aren’t they disclosing who’s translating for them and helping them out?”

However, Khalek can speak Arabic. “I speak a good amount of Arabic,” Khalek told Shadowproof. “[I] still struggle a bit with some words, but I was basically their translator this whole trip.”

Khalek has lived in Lebanon for nearly three years. She suggested her Arabic has improved a lot since she moved there.

Tana Ganeva, who has been published by the Washington Post, the Intercept, Rolling Stone, and Glamour, replied to Crabapple, “Do the regime driver and translator know how irrelevant these people are? Where do they even publish at this point?”

Replying to Crabapple and Ganeva’s jokes about Khalek and Blumenthal, Maryam Saleh, an editor and reporter for the Intercept, added, “I wonder whether Verso still stands by its decision to publish Max’s Islamophobic drivel.”

Verso Books published Blumenthal’s book, The Management of Savagery: How America’s National Security State Fueled the Rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald Trump, in April. He received praise from Reza Aslan, Gabriel Byrne, Andrew Cockburn, Juan Cole, Chris Hedges, Oliver Stone, and Asa Winstanley.

The book examined how the United States funded the mujahideen in Afghanistan and drew the Soviet Union into a prolonged war then allowed these same militants to become threats to the safety and security of Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian countries. Through extensive research, it argued America’s efforts to nation-build and overthrow regimes have made the U.S. more vulnerable to terrorism and the rise of ultra-nationalism, including Islamophobia.

Clarissa Ward hyperventilated. “Started to read a certain ‘journalist’s’ thread from inside Damascus this AM, then found myself getting palpitations which progressed into spasms of rage. How can anyone be so blindly credulous? Are narcotics involved? It is such a disgrace.”

Remarkably, Ward was a CNN correspondent and subject of reporting by Blumenthal that showed she contracted Bilal Abdul Kareem to take her into “rebel-controlled territory.” Kareem was an English-language propagandist for Jabhat al Nusra, the al Qaida affiliate in Syria.

One of the photographs Khalek posted to Instagram from Saydnaya, Syria, went viral because she described what she saw as a “breathtaking view in Syria” and these people objected.

According to Khalek, Saydnaya is known to Syrians as a “historic Christian village in the mountains that has a church more than 1000 years old at the very top.” Not only is it a summer destination for Syrians but the village also “managed to protect itself from jihadists during the war with its own militia.”

Nick Waters, a senior investigator for Bellingcat, which has produced analyses of the war in Syria that promote regime change, mapped where Khalek snapped the image. In a tweet with 400-plus likes, Waters asserted she was “only a couple of degrees away from the infamous Saydnaya prison, where tens of thousands of people have been tortured and executed.”

Outrage spread immediately as these individuals contended Khalek was trying to whitewash the crimes of Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s regime. But given how Khalek and Blumenthal frequently are labeled as “Assadists” by this faction of people, how does that allegation make any sense?

These two journalists cannot both be Assadists and be hiding a torture chamber, where prisoners are said to have been brutalized and hanged. A good Assadist would make sure it was in the photograph because they would want to send a message to the world that they will not bow to malicious propaganda spread in order to whip up opposition to the regime. So, it would seem they aren’t very good regime boosters at all.

Aside from the baseless and contradictory allegation, Blumenthal covered the 2017 Amnesty International report on the Saydnaya prison. It claimed 5,000 to 13,000 prisoners were executed, but then in a footnote it mentioned that these were “hypothetical calculations.” It actually was only able to document and confirm 375 deaths.

Even that number may be questionable. The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) is a public relations operation for opposition groups in Syria. It operates out of Doha, Qatar, and it was the SNHR’s numbers that Amnesty relied upon for this non-hypothetical number.

Khalek, Blumenthal, Anya Parampil, who traveled with them, and several others were pictured at a conference for union activists. Members of U.S. Labor Against the War attended, and later, the three journalists met with people through arrangements of their own. None of this was part of any government-planned itinerary.

A broader yet similar backlash occurred in November 2016 when Khalek went to Damascus as part of a delegation of journalists that included reporters from the BBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and various other Western media outlets. There were people from think tanks as well, and they were going to cover a conference organized by the British Syrian Society, which is a nongovernmental organization that was co-founded the father of Asma al-Assad, the wife of the Syrian president.

Charles Lister, who was a lobbyist for the arming of Salafi-jihadist militants in Syria at the Qatari-funded Middle East Institute in Washington D.C., posted a copy of a program for the conference. It listed Khalek as a speaker, although she never agreed to speak at the gathering.

The Syrian government never paid for any part of the trip, but the very same people upset with Khalek and Blumenthal for going to Damascus in 2019 made Khalek toxic so that progressive media outlets were discouraged from publishing any reporting from her trip. She lost her position as a member of the editorial board of the Electronic Intifada, a website known for its coverage of the Palestinian struggle for human rights and liberation.

A few months later, this group pushed the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter at the University of North Carolina to cancel a speaking event with Khalek and subsequently the Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) group in Concordia canceled her planned appearance for Israeli Apartheid Week.

Oz Katerji, who works for the Turkish State Broadcaster, TRT World, pledged, “I will never stop fighting against Assad’s propaganda campaign, over my dead body.”

“I will never stop. Not with any of you. I will never rest while you are given platforms or publishing opportunities,” Katerji proclaimed. He maintained Khalek is “no journalist” but rather a “shill” for Assad and Iran. He described people like Khalek (including this author) as enemies of mankind and hoped God would have mercy because he had no plans to show mercy.

More than two years later, Katerji obsessively returned to the campaign he engaged in to have Khalek blacklisted.

“Pro-Assad propagandist Rania Khalek is back in Damascus today on a solidarity trip for the Assad regime from war crimes charges. She was no-platformed by SJP activists,” Katerji wrote. “In response to SJP activists no-platforming Khalek for Assadism, prominent figures signed an open letter in her defense.”

He continued, “Since then she has been employed as a propagandist by the Kremlin and doubled down on war crimes denial.” He bluntly called Khalek a “pro regime war crimes denier and propagandist for mass murder.”

Katerji listed everyone who signed a letter of support for Khalek when she was blacklisted: Ali Abunimah, Max Ajl, Reza Aslan, Medea Benjamin, Noam Chomsky, George Ciccariello-Maher, Andrew Cockburn, Jonathan Cook, Lee Fang, Glenn Greenwald, Bassam Haddad, Doug Henwood, Zaid Jilani, Ken Klippenstein, Antony Loewenstein, John Pilger, Vijay Prashad, and Corey Robin.

While Katerji may not be as influential as Lister or Crabapple, his relentless zeal is effective in stirring animosity on social media through deliberate efforts to slander people who depart from the political narratives for U.S. foreign policy that he supports.

Katerji and others were part of an effort to cancel an event for Blumenthal’s book, Management of Savagery, that was to be held at the Politics and Prose bookstore in D.C. in April.

Many of the outlandish gripes from this faction were incorporated into a scurrilous article from the Jerusalem Post staff about Blumenthal. It was filed under “anti-Semitism” and published while he was in Damascus.

***

Altogether, these campaigns to silence Blumenthal, Khalek, and others have a cumulative impact. They discourage anyone from traveling to Syria to spend money and resources on reporting that may not bolster the agenda for intervention.

Khalek was forced out of regular work in U.S. progressive media and now works for a project called In The Now that openly is funded by Russian state media. Blumenthal independently operates The Grayzone and no longer enjoys the same level of support from progressives that he did a few years ago.

“It is wrong for Westerners to reduce Syria, which is home to some of the oldest cities in the world, to one man,” Khalek argued. “Syria is not Assad. Syria is a historically and culturally rich country of millions who are completely erased by these regime change lobbyists who want to enforce a journalistic siege on the country to prevent Americans from seeing the reality of Syria.”

Khalek maintained, “All the bullying and intimidation is meant to stifle attempts at reporting the reality of the government areas where the overwhelming majority of Syrians live. If Americans saw the reality, the regime change narrative would collapse right away.”

“Journalists should do what they can to report from all areas. That’s a part of the job. But for some reason, they don’t want anyone to report from government areas,” Khalek concluded.

Blumenthal pointed out that the correspondents from the New York Times and the Washington Post, as well as D.C. think tanks, are able to have a great time in Damascus and return home to push for the country’s “continued destabilization.” They can access Syria like anyone else would by getting government visas and face little condemnation because nobody questions their ideological commitment to the broader U.S. foreign policy agenda.

Management of Savagery exposed how detached from reality these people are. They do not want to confront the reality that the U.S. relied on Islamic State militants in Syria to pressure the Syrian government. That eventually pushed Russia to back the Syrian military and its efforts to rid Syria of jihadist elements. They say nothing about how Turkey and Saudi Arabia has funneled millions and tons of weapons into Syria to aid any opposition group that will fight the Syrian regime, regardless of whether this means terrorists are effectively armed.

An array of Gulf countries, pro-Israel lobbyists, and individuals from the defense industry maintain a commitment to “rebels” in Syria, even as an uprising hijacked by Islamic fundamentalists dithers. They are disappointed the CIA backed away from sending advanced TOW missiles and communications equipment to militant groups to fight Assad’s regime. They care little about the costs of meddling in a country in a manner that elevates jihadists.

If they have to resort to exaggerating actual examples of human rights abuses in order to drum up support for war, they will, even if that makes it possible to discredit valiant efforts for justice. And that is why they do not like it when journalists, like Blumenthal and Khalek, travel to Syria.

The post Familiar Faction Of Regime Change Advocates Lash Out At Journalists Reporting From Syria appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Assad, Max Blumenthal, rania khalek, Syria]

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[l] at 9/10/19 10:45am

The post was originally published at Ongoing History Of Protest Songs.

“Warning! The following video contains content that some viewers many not find disturbing. That’s pretty fucked up.”

The following quote was part of a social media teaser for the new video for “Pop Goes The Weapon” the latest single by the rap-rock supergroup Prophets of Rage.

Both the song and video are a scathing indictment of the ongoing incidents of gun violence in the United States. These incidents are so commonplace that many are unmoved by their frequent occurrence.

“Guns are both the subject of religious worship and huge profits in the United States,” guitarist Tom Morello said in a press statement. “Combined with emboldened white nationalism, the recent epidemic of massacres is little surprise. ‘Pop Goes The Weapon’ channels our ‘thoughts & prayers’ through Marshall stacks & microphones.”

The tune’s aggressive musical attack is well suited to the potent lyrics and vocals of B-Real and Chuck D.

“See I’m numb just lookin’ / For a reason for my finger, To be squeezing on the trigger / Through another killin’ season,” and “One gun two gun three guns four / So many guns keep on runnin’ out the store.”

The video lists every mass shooting that occurred in the United States between January 1st-September 2nd, 2019, including the date, location and a tally of those that were killed and injured. The visuals also effectively use various news headlines and images of assault rifles to highlight the current gun violence epidemic.

It concludes with the names of those who were recently murdered by mass shooters in Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

Instead of accepting gun violence as a new reality, Prophets of Rage attacks our collective complacency so that we may be moved to build a world that is not dominated by violence.

The post Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Pop Goes The Weapon’ By Prophets Of Rage appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, Protest Music Project, The Dissenter, Chuck D, Gun violence, Prophets Of Rage, Protest Song of the Week, Tom Morello]

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[l] at 9/9/19 4:06pm

UPDATE: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the nationwide injunction approved by a federal district court on September 10.

****

A federal court restored a nationwide injunction against a rule imposed by President Donald Trump’s administration to block asylum seekers.

On July 16, a rule on asylum eligibility was developed to deny asylum to individuals who enter the United States at the southern border without first applying for asylum in Mexico or a third country. It is commonly referred to as the third-country rule.

The District Court for the Northern District of California found [PDF] a nationwide injunction instead of an injunction limited to the court’s jurisdiction is necessary to “provide complete relief” to the organizations that will be harmed by the rule.

Al Otro Lado, Innovation Law Lab, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, and the Central American Resource Center moved for a nationwide injunction because the legal and social service organizations help asylum seekers outside of the Ninth Circuit. The third-country rule would divert resources from the organizations and hugely impact their ability to assist asylum seekers.

“We are gratified the court recognized the reality on the ground, which is that Trump’s asylum ban is affecting thousands of asylum seekers all across the border—just as it was unlawfully intended to do—and not just at California ports of entry,” Center for Constitutional Rights legal director Baher Azmy declared.

Melissa Crow, a senior supervising attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project, suggested, “This ruling levels the playing field for all the vulnerable individuals and families seeking refuge in the United States. With this decision, regardless of where they cross the border, these people should be able to seek asylum.”

Judge Jon S. Tigar highlighted two of the plaintiff organizations, which need the protection of a nationwide injunction.

Al Otro Lado is in California as well as Tijuana, Mexico. It works with asylum-seekers who often relocate or are detained outside the Ninth Circuit, which covers Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

“If the injunction is limited to the Ninth Circuit, it will force Al Otro Lado to provide a much broader range of advice to pre-entry asylum seekers to account for different outcomes based on where they choose to enter the country and travel within it,” Tigar wrote. “This will require the expenditure of ‘significant organizational resources regarding training materials, staff time, resources, and capacity.’”

Law Lab is another nonprofit that will be impacted. It supports legal service providers at immigrant detention centers throughout the United States. But the third-country rule, if allowed to go into effect, would force the Law Lab to entirely redesign their templates and workshops for assisting asylum seekers.

“Its direct representation work will ‘become significantly more complicated and burdensome,’” Tigar additionally noted.

Asylum seekers would have to apply for relief under the Convention Against Torture, which Tigar pointed out has a “a higher standard of proof than asylum, [does] not allow for derivative applications, and are more time-consuming cases to handle.” Law Lab would be “forced to serve fewer people overall because of the increased time burden required for a subset of all cases.”

Previously, Al Otro Lado and individual asylum seekers challenged a “turnback policy” by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). They linked high-level officials in the Trump administration to efforts to restrict access at ports of entry.

“Every day we work with survivors of horrific physical and sexual violence, doing our best to provide the necessary resources to extremely vulnerable individuals. They come to our border to seek safety for themselves and their children,” Al Otro Lado Border Rights Project director Nicole Ramos shared.

Ramos continued, “The United States, in implementing the ‘turnback policy,’ cavalierly rejects thousands of these individuals, retraumatizing them and stranding them alone and destitute. It is hard to overstate the cruelty with which CBP operates.”

Unfortunately, asylum seekers face a Trump administration universally opposed to asylum for certain racial and ethnic groups. Victories such as this one send a message to the administration, but they do not guarantee asylum seekers will be allowed to seek safety and assistance.

Like Crow stated, “Far too many obstacles remain, as this administration’s war on asylum-seekers appears to know no bounds.”

Correction (Sept. 11): This article previously indicated it was the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that backed a nationwide injunction. That is wrong. It was the District Court of the Northern District of California.

The post Court Approves Nationwide Injunction Against Trump Asylum Rule, Acknowledges Harm To Legal Groups appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, asylum, immigration, Injunction, Trump Administration]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/9/19 4:06pm

A federal appeals court restored a nationwide injunction against a rule imposed by President Donald Trump’s administration to block asylum seekers.

On July 16, a rule on asylum eligibility was developed to deny asylum to individuals who enter the United States at the southern border without first applying for asylum in Mexico or a third country. It is commonly referred to as the third-country rule.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found [PDF] a nationwide injunction instead of an injunction limited to the court’s jurisdiction is necessary to “provide complete relief” to the organizations that will be harmed by the rule.

Al Otro Lado, Innovation Law Lab, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, and the Central American Resource Center moved for a nationwide injunction because the legal and social service organizations help asylum seekers outside of the Ninth Circuit. The third-country rule would divert resources from the organizations and hugely impact their ability to assist asylum seekers.

“We are gratified the court recognized the reality on the ground, which is that Trump’s asylum ban is affecting thousands of asylum seekers all across the border—just as it was unlawfully intended to do—and not just at California ports of entry,” Center for Constitutional Rights legal director Baher Azmy declared.

Melissa Crow, a senior supervising attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project, suggested, “This ruling levels the playing field for all the vulnerable individuals and families seeking refuge in the United States. With this decision, regardless of where they cross the border, these people should be able to seek asylum.”

Judge Jon S. Tigar highlighted two of the plaintiff organizations, which need the protection of a nationwide injunction.

Al Otro Lado is in California as well as Tijuana, Mexico. It works with asylum-seekers who often relocate or are detained outside the Ninth Circuit, which covers Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

“If the injunction is limited to the Ninth Circuit, it will force Al Otro Lado to provide a much broader range of advice to pre-entry asylum seekers to account for different outcomes based on where they choose to enter the country and travel within it,” Tigar wrote. “This will require the expenditure of ‘significant organizational resources regarding training materials, staff time, resources, and capacity.’”

Law Lab is another nonprofit that will be impacted. It supports legal service providers at immigrant detention centers throughout the United States. But the third-country rule, if allowed to go into effect, would force the Law Lab to entirely redesign their templates and workshops for assisting asylum seekers.

“Its direct representation work will ‘become significantly more complicated and burdensome,’” Tigar additionally noted.

Asylum seekers would have to apply for relief under the Convention Against Torture, which Tigar pointed out has a “a higher standard of proof than asylum, [does] not allow for derivative applications, and are more time-consuming cases to handle.” Law Lab would be “forced to serve fewer people overall because of the increased time burden required for a subset of all cases.”

Previously, Al Otro Lado and individual asylum seekers challenged a “turnback policy” by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). They linked high-level officials in the Trump administration to efforts to restrict access at ports of entry.

“Every day we work with survivors of horrific physical and sexual violence, doing our best to provide the necessary resources to extremely vulnerable individuals. They come to our border to seek safety for themselves and their children,” Al Otro Lado Border Rights Project director Nicole Ramos shared.

Ramos continued, “The United States, in implementing the ‘turnback policy,’ cavalierly rejects thousands of these individuals, retraumatizing them and stranding them alone and destitute. It is hard to overstate the cruelty with which CBP operates.”

Unfortunately, asylum seekers face a Trump administration universally opposed to asylum for certain racial and ethnic groups. Victories such as this one send a message to the administration, but they do not guarantee asylum seekers will be allowed to seek safety and assistance.

Like Crow stated, “Far too many obstacles remain, as this administration’s war on asylum-seekers appears to know no bounds.”

The post Appeals Court Approves Nationwide Injunction Against Trump Asylum Rule, Acknowledges Harm To Legal Groups appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, appeals court, asylum, immigration, Injunction, Trump Administration]

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[l] at 9/6/19 8:40am

In a key victory for American Muslims, a federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia ruled that the terrorism watchlist fails to provide due process and therefore violates the United States Constitution.

Judge Anthony Trenga acknowledged the “administrative process” used to place a person in the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), the terrorism watchlist, carries an “inherent substantial risk of erroneous deprivation” of rights.

He recognized that all Americans have a right to international travel as well as a fundamental right to travel within the United States.

Not only can the watchlist undermine these rights when innocent people are listed, but it also can do “reputational harm.”

The FBI shares an individual’s status on the terrorism watchlist “with over 18,000 state, local, county, city, university and college, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies and approximately 533 private entities through its National Crime Information Center (NCIC), which these law enforcement agencies and private entities then use to screen individuals they encounter in traffic stops, field interviews, house visits, and municipal permit processes.”

What the 500-plus private entities do with the information remains shrouded in secrecy, but the lawsuit did establish that these entities include “police and security forces of private railroads, colleges, universities, hospitals, and prisons, as well as animal welfare organizations, information technology, fingerprint databases, and forensic analysis providers, and private probation and pretrial services.”

“It is easy to imagine completely innocent conduct serving as the starting point for a string of subjective, speculative inferences that result in a person’s inclusion in the Terrorist Screening Database,” Trenga declared.

The Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) may consider a “wide range of factors” when it comes to designating a person for the terrorism watchlist. That could include race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, beliefs and activities protected by the First Amendment, travel history, personal and professional associations, and financial transactions. It is unclear what may be “derogatory” enough to get a person listed.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed the lawsuit in April 2016 on behalf of 23 innocent American Muslims. These are individuals who have endured significant harm, which gave them standing to challenge the terrorism watchlist.

“They’ve been handcuffed repeatedly at the border,” CAIR national litigation and civil rights director Lena Masri said. “One has been hospitalized due to confinement conditions at the border. There’s been loss of employment, severe immigration delays, and worst of all, long term separation from their loved ones.”

Over the course of litigation, CAIR attorneys uncovered many secretive aspects of the watchlist, including how 18,000 agencies throughout the country have access to the watchlist and the existence of a previously unknown Watchdog Advisory Council.

The Watchdog Advisory Council is chaired by the Terrorist Screening Center and National Counterterrorism Center. Through the State Department, this watchlist is exported to at least sixty foreign countries, according to CAIR senior litigation attorney Gadeir Abbas.

Those countries share their watchlisting information with the United States and then that information from those foreign government is input into the terrorism watchlist.

“Watchlisting occurs in clusters,” Abbas said. “The FBI field office, for whatever reason, many years ago started focusing on the Oregon Muslim community. We saw watchlisting cases from there. We see a cluster of watchlisting cases from the northern Virginia area.”

Abbas added, “There’s a cluster of watchlisting cases among Muslim community leadership—imams, activists, institutional leaders. Those folks are networked. And so, when one gets watchlisted, your association with that person becomes a basis for your own listing.”

Hassan Shibly, the chief executive director for CAIR’s Florida chapter and a plaintiff in the case, shared what it meant for him to win this victory.

“Since I’ve been a teenager, every time almost that I want to travel I get pulled aside by armed guards, sometimes placed in handcuffs, questioned about my religious beliefs, questioned about my religious practice, treated like a criminal having done nothing wrong,” Shibly declared.

Shibly called it an “extremely traumatizing experience” that was not unique to him but well-known to all American Muslims, particularly during the past 15 years. Which is why he said it was impossible to overstate the significance of prevailing in this lawsuit.

One of the plaintiffs was a four year-old, who was apparently on the terrorism watch list when he was seven months old. “Baby Doe” had his boarding pass stamped with the “SSSS” designation, which indicates a person is a “known or suspected terrorist.” Agents subject the baby to extensive searches, pat downs, and chemical tests. All the items in his mother’s bag were searched, including each of his diapers.

The court asked the plaintiffs and defendants to submit briefs outlining how they would like to remedy the constitutional violations.

What the plaintiffs would like is a notice of removal from the terrorism watchlist as well as a legal mechanism that “affords them notice of the reasons and bases for their placement” on the list. They would like a “meaningful opportunity” to contest their inclusion.

Previously, American Muslims prevailed in cases challenging their inclusion on the No Fly List. In 2014, a federal court in Oregon ruled that 13 U.S. citizens had their due process rights violated and forced the government to confirm—for the first time—whether or not particular persons were on the No Fly List or not.

The following year, the government notified four American Muslim men that they were removed from the No Fly List. They sued the government for allegedly placing them on the list because they refused to become FBI informants.

Most lawsuits have revolved around the No Fly List. This lawsuit challenged the wider system of watchlisting people that was largely established after the September 11th attacks, which disproportionately targets American Muslims. And the court’s decision built on prior litigation against the lack of due process in the system of placing someone on the No Fly List.

As Abbas concluded, the 23 innocent American Muslims who challenged the government’s decision to place them under “permanent suspicion” courageously demonstrated that “the whole watchlist is illegal. Not a small portion of it, not the way [the government does] it. The whole thing, the entire enterprise,” is, in fact, routinely responsible for rights violations.

The post American Muslims Claim Victory In Challenging And Exposing Unconstitutional Terrorism Watchlist appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, American Muslims, CAIR, Department of Homeland Security, No Fly List, terrorism watch list]

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[l] at 9/5/19 8:45am

Several workers recently filed equal employment opportunity complaints against Verizon, accusing their employer of racial discrimination and ignoring or retaliating against them for making allegations.

Latasha French has worked at a call center in Verizon’ corporate office in Irving, Texas for over 17 years. She recently filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint with the support of her colleague, Jennifer Womack. She claimed rampant racial discrimination has occurred within their department at Verizon, which is the largest wireless provider in the United States.

The allegations include claims that Verizon enables a work environment where managers, who are all white, have engaged in racially discriminatory behavior toward a predominantly black workforce and engaged in retaliation against workers, who have made formal complaints.

Both workers have also publicly supported unionization efforts at Verizon with the Communications Workers of America, and noted they’ve experienced harassment and intimidation from management for their union support, and that racism is interlinked with the struggle for union and workers’ rights at Verizon. The workers have called for management to be held accountable for their behavior and for a racial sensitivity training to be implemented company-wide.

A white male manager was accused of constantly wearing an afro wig during work from December 2018 until recent months, despite several complaints from French, Womack, and other workers about the behavior.

“He was making a mockery of us and chastising us with that wig on,” said French. “It was very inappropriate. All our senior managers are white, so it’s not a comfortable working environment.”

French claimed she was ostracized for making complaints about the behavior and harassed with several phone calls from management while on short term medical leave as she was diagnosed with lupus earlier this year.

In the few days she has been able to work since her diagnosis, French said she was written up twice by management, despite never previously receiving any write-ups or reprimands throughout her career at Verizon. She also noted her paychecks have been short for the past two months and have yet to be corrected.

When French was out on medical leave in January 2019, workers recorded another white male manager joyriding on French’s scooter, which she was provided for a disability.

“He decide[d] to play in my chair when I’m not there. A lot of people recorded it. Every time I think about that and go into work, I feel victimized all over again,” French added.”I go into anxiety attacks every time I go into work. My stomach and head hurts because none of my issues have been resolved.”

French and her colleague, Womack, were wrongly accused of stealing from the cafeteria at Verizon in July. The accusation sparked an investigation by Verizon’s human resources department, which ended with French and Womack getting blamed for the baseless accusation.

“After the investigation, we were told by HR we should have just walked away,” Womack recalled.

Earlier this year, Womack confronted Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg in person over the harassment of workers and retaliation.

Several other workers at Verizon have reported issues of racial discrimination against management.

In March, Marisa Powell, a 30-year Verizon employee in Morristown, New Jersey filed a lawsuit against Verizon, alleging that a white co-worker harassed and stalked her in June 2015 but management took no action.

The lawsuit noted the issues persisted for several years, even after she was transferred to a different office in Madison, New Jersey. In a recent incident, Powell discovered a noose left on her desk in February 2019.

At a Verizon retail store in Lancaster, Ohio, Martin Hopkins recently filed an EEOC complaint alleging he was wrongly fired on June 13, after enduring years of racial discrimination and retaliation from management in the six years he worked at the store as a solutions specialist.

“There would be times when customers would come in, either ask or refuse to work with the colored boy, some referred to me with the n-word,” Hopkins said. “Management would say you can’t say anything. A lot of times they would say I would have to take the customer.”

Hopkins claimed one of his managers frequently used the n-word and was never reprimanded by upper management for doing so, despite their knowledge of it. Another manager Hopkins worked under had a Confederate flag tattoo. He did not feel comfortable addressing any racial issues he encountered with that manager.

In a separate incident, Hopkins claimed a manager responded to a complaint he made about air conditioning in the store by suggesting Hopkins could be outside breaking rocks, a reference to chain gangs during the Jim Crow era.

His firing was a result of a disagreement Hopkins had with an assistant manager over providing a customer with a $240 credit they were previously promised as part of turning in a used cell phone. The disagreement ended with a handshake and a laugh, but human resources was later notified by management and terminated Hopkins.

The assistant manager, who worked less time for the company than Hopkins, received no reprimand until local news reports put pressure on Verizon to take action. At that point, the manager was demoted.

Shortly after the incident, Hopkins was notified by phone that there would be an investigation. He was later fired at the store in person by the district manager.

“I felt sick and humiliated, I felt like I was going to throw up watching this guy do this and get enjoyment from it,” Hopkins shared. “I played by the rules but was never approached for management possibility. People were getting promoted over me and getting information to apply to higher positions.”

A coalition of labor unions, local community groups, and faith organizations started a petition and sent Verizon a letter calling on the company to rehire Hopkins and to implement implicit bias training across the company.

“Verizon needs to rehire him in the store and they need to have some serious meaningful training on bias and diversity,” said Linda Hinton, the vice president of the Communications Workers of America District 4 which represents workers in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois.

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) also released a statement in August urging Verizon to take action and noted that fighting racism is interconnected with the constant struggle for workers’ rights.

“Dr. King preached the deep connection between civil rights and workers’ rights. The two are inextricably linked and fighting for workers must also mean fighting racism – both blatant and institutional – that makes it even harder for people of color to get ahead, no matter how hard they work,” Brown asserted.

In July 2018, Mario Allen was forced to resign as part of a settlement agreement with Verizon over racist discrimination allegations he made after working as a retail associate in Murfreesboro, Tennessee for nine years.

Allene signed a non-disclosure agreement that prevents him from discussing the details of the allegations but told Shadowproof that racism was pervasive among management throughout his career at the company.

“Verizon supports a racist culture,” Allen said. “Verizon either bullied you out or they fired you for small reasons.”

Verizon did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story. 

The post Verizon Workers File Federal Complaints Against Alleged Racist Workplace Culture appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Features, Latest News, The Dissenter, labor, Racism, Verizon, Workplace Discrimination]

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[l] at 9/4/19 1:11pm

FBI informant Hector Xavier Monsegur was instrumental in targeting and carrying out a cyberattack on the private intelligence firm, Stratfor, in 2011. The FBI allowed several individuals to submit stolen information from the firm to WikiLeaks, and it ultimately led to the prosecution of hacktivist Jeremy Hammond, who was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison in 2013.

Now, the Justice Department has transferred Hammond from the Federal Correctional Institution Milan in Michigan to the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria, Virginia so they can force him to testify before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks.

In a statement put out by the Jeremy Hammond Support Committee, the group declared, “Given the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, we don’t know the nature or scope of the grand jury’s investigation. However, our assumption is that this is the same grand jury that Chelsea Manning is currently being incarcerated for refusing to testify before.”

“The government’s effort to try to compel Jeremy to testify is punitive and mean-spirited. Jeremy has spent nearly 10 years in prison because of his commitment to his firmly held beliefs. There is no way that he would ever testify before a grand jury. The government knew this when they gave him immunity in every federal jurisdiction in exchange for his guilty plea,” the group added.

Hammond was arrested in March 2012. He was charged with violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), and co-defendants were arrested at the same time as well. At no point did Hammond turn on any of the people who were allegedly involved in hacking, including but not limited to the actions encouraged by Monsegur, who was known to them as “Sabu.”

He pled guilty in May 2013 to one count of violating the CFAA simply because prosecutors threatened him with the prospect of indictments in various other jurisdictions in the United States if he was found not guilty. The non-cooperating plea agreement granted him immunity from future prosecution and freed him to speak about the tactics he engaged in to expose what he viewed as corruption by government and corporate actors.

Manning has been jailed for 175 days and fined $66,000 for refusing to testify before the grand jury investigating WikiLeaks. Her principled opposition stems from concerns about the process itself and how it is used to target activists. And Hammond appears to hold the same views.

If Hammond refuses to testify, a judge is likely to hold Hammond in contempt. When he is sent to jail for contempt, the judge may have Hammond serve time consecutively because he still has not completed his federal prison sentence.

The Justice Department does not need testimony from either Hammond or Manning to prosecute WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, who was charged in May with violating the Espionage Act. They already submitted an extradition packet to a court in the United Kingdom and a hearing is scheduled for February.

That suggests the government is not only pursuing charges against Assange but also charges against other journalists and staffers who worked on publications for WikiLeaks.

Manning Support Network co-founder David House was subpoenaed to testify in 2018. He said he was asked questions that seemed to relate to the Afghanistan or Iraq War Logs.

In April, the Justice Department tried to question former WikiLeaks staffer Daniel Domscheit-Berg in Germany just after Assange was charged with a single count of conspiracy to commit a computer crime.

When it comes to Manning and Hammond, there is nothing they know that the U.S. government does not—or should not—know already.

Hammond was the target of an FBI operation. As the Dell Cameron previously reported for the Daily Dot, chat logs, surveillance photos, and government documents showed it was Monsegur who introduced Hammond to a hacker named Hyrriya, who “supplied download links to the full credit card database as well as the initial vulnerability access point to Stratfor’s systems.”

According to Hammond, he had not heard of Stratfor until Monsegur brought the firm to his attention. Monsegur transferred the details for at least two stolen credit cards.

In December 2011, Monsegur gave “AntiSec” or the group of hackers targeting Stratfor access to the private intelligence firm’s systems. He pushed Hammond and others to “unknowingly transfer ‘multiple gigabytes of confidential data’ to one of the FBI’s servers. That included roughly 60,000 credit card number and records for Stratfor customers that Hammond was ultimately charged with stealing,” according to Daily Dot.

Anthropologist Gabriella Coleman wrote in her book, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous, that AntiSec went to the WikiLeaks internet relay chat server. Monsegur was largely unaware. A deal was made to provide files from Stratfor to WikiLeaks.

”When talking to WikiLeaks,” Hammond recounted to me, “they first asked to authenticate the leak by pasting them some samples, which I did, [but] they didn’t ask who I was or even really how I got access to it, but I told them voluntarily that I was working with AntiSec and had hacked Stratfor.” Soon after, he arranged the handoff. When Sabu found out, he insisted on dealing with Assange, personally. After all, he told Hammond, he was already in contact with Assange’s trusted assistant “Q.”

“Q” was an Icelandic teenager named Sigurdur “Siggi” Thordarson. It turns out that he, too, was a paid FBI informant who was handing over WikiLeaks chats and documents to law enforcement.

Monsegur had “conversations with [WikiLeaks] about getting some cash for the leaks,” according to Hammond, but by that time WikiLeaks already had the documents and were well on their way to processing them for release,” Coleman added.

Through forensic files obtained during the investigation that eventually led to the destruction of Stratfor, the Justice Department should be able to glean whatever information Hammond would provide in testimony.

Note, Monsegur was apparently trying to convince Assange to commit a crime by paying for the Stratfor files. Assange did not pay for the files that were published as the “Global Intelligence Files” in February 2012.

Finally, compounding the repressive nature of hauling Hammond before a grand jury to testify against a media organization, which has already had its editor-in-chief jailed and charged with crimes, is the reality that Hammond was participating in a residential drug abuse program (RDAP) that involves 500 hours of substance abuse rehabilitation over a span of nine months.

When a prisoner completes this program, they are able to reduce their sentence. Hammond was offered a 1-year sentence reduction. However, because the Justice Department shipped him to Alexandria to force him to testify, he will no longer be released from prison in December.

The post Justice Department To Force Imprisoned Hacktivist Jeremy Hammond To Testify Against WikiLeaks appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Bureau of Prisons, Department of Justice, Jeremy Hammond, WikiLeaks, WikiLeaks Grand Jury]

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[l] at 9/4/19 9:49am

The head of California’s prison system visited the Correctional Training Facility (CTF) in Soledad the day before dozens of prisoners were injured and hospitalized in a fight, which prisoners and advocates say was entirely predictable.

During the visit, prisoners say they told California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Secretary Ralph Diaz they wanted an end to the violence.

Dozens of fights have broken out at CTF over the last year. Prisoners and advocates contend this is the result of prison officials forcing rival Latinx groups to have recreation together. Every time this happens, fights break out, people get hurt, and prisoners are punished with lockdowns.

Additionally, some prisoners face punishment that may negatively impact their chances at parole.

Prisoners said Diaz was adamant the groups will share the yard and, if they are unable to get along, they will have to live with the violence.

The next day, on August 14, members of Latinx formations that are known to be in conflict—Bulldogs and Southerners—were once again forced to share the yard at Facility C. Prisoners said Bulldogs taunted others with barking and used Southerners’ phones, a sign of disrespect in the state’s highly segregated prisons.

Corrections officers gathered above as tensions escalated. Eventually, Bulldogs attacked and officers fired rubber bullets into the melee, which involved around 200 prisoners.

Around 50 prisoners were injured. Eight were hospitalized. “When they did not comply [with orders to cease fighting], staff deployed chemical agents, non-lethal weapons and discharged nine rounds from the state-issued Ruger Mini-14 rifle as warning shots to end the incident,” CDCR said in a press release.

According to sources, one prisoner was shot in the back of the head with a rubber bullet and required stitches. Another prisoner was shot in the mouth, and his teeth were “bent up.” A third prisoner, who was one of the younger prisoners out in the yard, lost an eye.

CDCR held prisoners under lockdown conditions for twelve days after the fight. On August 26, officials moved 50 prisoners into administrative segregation (more commonly known as solitary confinement). Sources said some were still recovering from injuries at the time of their isolation.

The department euphemistically refers to lockdown-like restrictions imposed after these fights as a “modified program.” They are similar to lockdowns except they target only a segment of the population with restrictions on movement, programming, visitation, commissary, showers, mail, and other basic necessities.

The Monterey County District Attorney’s office is investigating.

*

Shadowproof interviewed the wife of a prisoner who was sent to solitary confinement after the fight. She will be referred to as Alice because of the risk of retaliation for speaking out.

Alice argued CDCR is punishing these men so they can be scapegoated for a fight that was entirely of the department’s own making.

“My husband has been down since he was 16,” Alice said. “My husband is a lifer. He possibly has a chance to parole next year because of SB 260. He’s worked hard. He made it all the way down to a Level 2 because he knew he had a chance to come home. And they’re taking that from us.” (Note: CDCR security classification range from Levels 1 to 4, with Level 1 being the lowest security level).

Officials are harming prisoners’ chances at parole and taking away earned time credits, which extends their confinement.

“I know that they’re in prison. I know that he committed a crime but he’s already serving his sentence for that crime. He’s already being punished. To keep putting them out in the yard to kill each other, essentially, is irresponsible of CDCR because they all took an oath to keep them safe and they aren’t doing a thing to do that.”

“It’s heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking,” Alice added. “ We don’t know what’s going on. Nobody is keeping us informed. Nobody is telling us anything. There’s nothing.”

She is worried prison officials will withhold his treatment for his medical condition while he’s in solitary confinement. “It’s vicious what they’re doing.”

Alice is one of several women engaged in the difficult labor of supporting prisoners from the outside.

These women organize protests and actions, share information among each other and the public, and look after one another as best they can. They spend significant time and energy pushing back on the various injustices visited upon them and their loved ones—calling and emailing prison officials, watchdogs, and even the governor. They also meticulously document everything as it unfolds.

Many juggle this labor along with their job, raising children, and projecting emotional strength for their incarcerated loved ones.

“ We are a small but powerful group,” Alice declared. “And we’re going to come together and band together to support each other. This is an effort to show everyone that just because they’re on the inside doesn’t mean they don’t have a voice on the outside. We are their voice.”

“If it takes me a lifetime, and if it takes us a lifetime because we’re a group together, we’re going to do it.”

*

Prisoners spoke with the CDCR Secretary the day before the fight “to try to find a solution,” Alice said, but he refused because “it would destroy his public image” as the first Latinx person to lead the department.

One prisoner, who we are calling Michael to protect him from retaliation for speaking to media, recounted Diaz’s visit to Soledad.

“During his visit, [Diaz] engaged in extensive dialogue with inmates at [Soledad]. The subject of this dialogue was in regards to CDCR’s goal of incremental releases and reintegrating two factions which are at odds and have been since last year,” Michael said.

[Note: “Incremental releases” and “reintegration” are CDCR jargon for making different factions share the yard.]

Michael insisted it was made very clear that if the groups were forced to share the yard then “without a doubt inmate lives would be in danger.”

“Ralph Diaz, armed with this information, showed complete disregard for institutional safety and security” for the prisoners thrown in the middle of “gladiator wars,” Michael added.

He recalled Diaz was “adamant about his position” that “both factions would have to learn to get along or else we would have to live with the violence and that we would be deprived of any milestones credit earning in [higher security] Level 3 and 4 prisons.”

Under a 2016 ballot initiative known as Proposition 57, prisoners earn credits off their time in prison for participating in education and rehabilitation programs. However, CDCR can revoke them for disciplinary infractions.

Alice said Diaz “knew this was going to happen and neglected to do anything.”

*

The media has been relatively silent on these fights, which have taken place at Soledad, Corcoran, Pleasant Valley State Prison, and elsewhere since at least September 2018.

The outlets that covered it offer readers little information beyond “an investigation is ongoing.” Local journalists exclusively quote law enforcement, who give the impression that unruly criminals are assaulting one another for reasons that remain unclear.

Prisoners, their families, and allied activists strongly contest this narrative. To the contrary, the violence is entirely predictable. That is why they have taken to calling these incidents “gladiator fights.”

In the 1990s, Corcoran State Prison made headlines when whistleblowers disclosed corrections officers arranged deadly “gladiator fights” for amusement and financial gain. Similar stories emerged from other state prisons and it became clear this was not an isolated incident. However, corrections officers brought to trial were ultimately acquitted of the charges.

Practically, all aspects of life in California prisons have been racially segregated for decades. CDCR traditionally uses these factions to maintain order and keep prisoners from building solidarity. Prisoners join them for reasons ranging from protection to a sense that they have no choice.

In 2005, CDCR was forced to end its policy of segregation as part of a settlement agreement. But the following year CDCR saw an uptick in violence as it attempted to force integration of these groups, including Bulldogs and Southerners.

Many of CDCR’s racial factions joined what is known as the “Agreement To End Hostilities” in 2012. The agreement was forged by prisoners engaged in historic hunger strikes at Pelican Bay State Prison against indefinite solitary confinement, which was employed coerce prisoners into snitching on fellow prisoners.

Instead of fighting among themselves, they agreed to organize together for better conditions. “We can no longer allow CDCR to use us against each other for their benefit!!” prisoners declared in the agreement.

Prisoners recognized they were an “empowered, mighty force” that could “positively change this entire corrupt system into a system that actually benefits prisoners, and thereby, the public as a whole.”

The Southerners are a party to the “Agreement To End Hostilities.” The Bulldogs, however, are not.

As a result of the hunger strikes and lawsuits, California moved to end its use of indefinite solitary confinement. Now, corrections officers appear to be weaponizing Bulldogs’ reputation as antagonists to foster an increasingly violent environment that can be used as a pretext for unending cycles of punishment and isolation.

Sources say the only times Bulldogs have not fought during yard integrations are when corrections officers are there protecting them like bodyguards.

Some advocates told Shadowproof that CDCR should transfer Bulldogs to facilities where they can have their own yards. Most other groups are able to program together peacefully.

“Unfortunately, Bulldogs have historically derived power from being a ‘spoiler,'” explained Brooke Terpstra, who organizes in support of prisoners and their families with the Oakland chapter of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC).

“They can exert power by sabotaging whatever stability or agreements have been reached in the yard. In this way, they hold a ‘trump card.'”

“This syndrome is very familiar across all systems, in all periods,” Terpstra added. “It is a product of the state successfully enforcing scarcity in all aspects of life by sowing division.”

Likening the situation to “crabs fighting in a barrel,” Terpstra suggested the solution is to “demolish the barrel, not kill the ‘competition.'”

*

Prisoners and their families argue August 14 fits into a pattern of fights instigated by Bulldogs over the past year at Soledad, Corcoran, Pleasant Valley, and other facilities.

They are incredulous at CDCR’s insistence that officers don’t expect violence when these groups are made to share the yard.

“CDCR will continue to claim that they do not know fights will occur but these are fights set up by them every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday,” Alice said.

“They have interviewed the men. The men will tell them violence will occur, and they also have loved ones, spouses, and family members sending emails to everyone notifying them that violence will occur.”

Alice called the claim “ridiculous” and said CDCR has had “plenty indication that violence will occur.”

There is evidence going back over a decade, such as news articles in major publications and even commentary in the California prison union’s magazine Peacekeeper, that the potential for violence between Bulldogs and Southerners during integrations was well known.

Alice shared numerous emails with the warden, the governor, the office of the inspector general, and the ombudsman about the violence and her husband’s loss of visitation, mail, and food over the past year. Sometimes she received unhelpful or gaslighting responses, such as claims that mail was being delivered normally, even though it had been months since anyone received it.

Other times, she received what seemed to be automated responses that mentions yards that have nothing to do with her husband or her messages simply went ignored.

Sometimes the same games are played when women try to visit their loved ones at these facilities, calling ahead for days to make sure there is visitation only to be turned away after traveling and waiting for hours at the prison.

“The [Office of Inspector General] is over there watching these men kill themselves and they’re okay with it, and it’s kind of baffling to me that they would allow that,” Alice said.

“They’re withholding his mail, he hasn’t received his mail since May. They don’t answer me on that. I’m tracking everything, and they won’t answer me. They keep withholding it, and I know they’re throwing it away. I don’t know what to do.”

“When I contact the ombudsman, she gives me the same automated response. And I just want a real answer because if the shoe was on the other foot I guarantee they would do whatever it took to get their loved one safe.”

Recently, the inspector general’s office said it was assigning staff to monitor “integrations” at CTF and other facilities, and that CDCR notified them it was “reviewing” the process as well. But they said the same thing in April and found “no evidence” of fights taking place during integrations at that time.

“I just want the public to educate themselves. Stop with the ignorance. Educate yourselves to see what’s really going on,” Alice urged. “At the end of the day, these men have [release] dates, and these men are just another dollar sign for CDCR, another way to make money.”

The post Officials Ignored Warnings Before Massive ‘Gladiator Fight’ At Soledad State Prison In California appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, Prison Protest, CDCR, Correctional Training Facility, Gladiator Fights, Soledad]

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[l] at 9/3/19 12:44pm

Dozens of activists met at Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan to demonstrate against financial institutions connected to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) through for-profit prison companies.

The protesters engaged in a “rolling picket” on August 27, rallying at branches of HSBC, Vanguard, BlackRock, and Prudential in order to pressure the companies to divest from CoreCivic and GEO Group, which imprison immigrants for ICE.

“The widespread human rights abuses wrought by ICE and private prisons have got to end,” declared Ali Jaffery, an organizer with the Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council, a local activist network which led the effort.

ICE relies on at least 130 detention facilities across the United States. While the agency claims that only 18 percent of its adult prisoners are held in facilities owned by private companies, that figure obscures the reality.

Sixty-six percent of adult detainees are held in prisons under so-called “intergovernmental service agreements,” or contracts between ICE and local government agencies. The facilities may be private, but because ICE is not contracting their use directly from a for-profit prison company, the agency does not count it as such.

The Migration Policy Institute, an immigration research and advocacy organization, estimates that 62 percent of the agency’s detainees are held in private facilities. The Institute also identifies CoreCivic and GEO Group as the largest operators of these for-profit prisons.

Through further scrutiny of CoreCivic and GEO Group, activists identified the companies’ financiers as potential vulnerabilities in ICE’s operations.

A report from In the Public Interest, which researches public-private ownership, listed HSBC among the major creditors of GEO Group, underwriting nearly $33 million in bonds for the private prison company. Stock details revealed that Vanguard, BlackRock, and Prudential are some of the largest shareholders in CoreCivic and GEO Group, at a combined value of more than $1 billion.

“CoreCivic is a publicly traded company with a high percentage of outstanding shares held by passive index funds that are managed by companies like the ones referenced,” said Brandon Bissell, the company’s public affairs manager, of its relationship with the financial institutions targeted by activists.

Financiers are less forthcoming about their business with for-profit prisons.

“We don’t comment on our customer relationships, even to confirm or deny that there is a relationship,” replied Robert Sherman, U.S. head of media relations at HSBC, when asked about CoreCivic and GEO Group.

Carolyn Wegemann, a part of Vanguard’s public relations department, also declined to address specifics regarding the mutual fund’s connection to ICE via private prisons, instead suggesting, “This troubling issue needs to be solved by our elected officials.”

“Over the years, mutual funds have been called upon to take actions against a wide range of companies,” she continued. “We believe it would be exceedingly difficult to manage our funds effectively and efficiently while seeking to address the many social, political, and environmental concerns of our 20 million clients and the broader global community.”

On August 27th, NYC activists participated in a rolling picket against HSBC, State Street, and BlackRock as part of the #ShutdownICEProfiteers campaign.

So far GEO Group and CoreCivic have lost a third of their value. Fight on!#AbolishICE @HSBC @blackrock @StateStreet pic.twitter.com/DXNp4hhJkE

— Ali (@aijaffery) August 30, 2019

Regardless of Vanguard’s insistence on a division between the financial and the political, activists chose to target the mutual fund, along with HSBC, BlackRock, and Prudential.

After meeting at Bryant Park, the demonstrators marched to local branches of the financial institutions, chanting along the way, then rallying outside or, in some cases, inside the businesses’ lobbies.

“As we marched, we were greeted with occasional applause and folks joining in our chants,” recalled Jaffery. “We entered each building’s lobby and read off a written statement demanding that these companies divest from ICE and then read a list of the names of migrants who have died in ICE custody this year.”

In the days following the demonstration, some of the financiers, such as HSBC, denied that any disruption to business had taken place, but activists have already seen some proof of their impact.

“A small scouting team went to several HSBC branches in Manhattan to hand out flyers and were informed by workers at these branches that HSBC had their staff attend meetings about MACC’s campaign to shutdown ICE profiteers,” according to Jaffery. “Clearly, they are paying attention to us.”

A similar campaign led by MACC in July illustrated their potential: Less than one month after a demonstration shut down at least three PNC branches in Manhattan, the bank announced that it would divest from the entire private prison industry.

“We will continue to ratchet up the pressure, spread the word, and encourage others to mount their own protests against these institutions across the country until our demands are met,” declared Jaffery.

As MACC has previously demonstrated, the financiers may turn out to be less committed than they admit.

HSBC denied that the activists had any influence on their business, but Sherman, the head of media relations, also mentioned that the bank was “pulling back” from the for-profit prison sector. He would not say why, but the shift is not happening in a political vacuum.

GEO Group, BlackRock, Prudential, and ICE each declined or refused to comment for this story.

The post Financiers Of For-Profit Prisons Targeted With ‘Rolling Picket’ Organized By Anti-ICE Activists appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Features, Latest News, The Dissenter, CoreCivic, geo group, HSBC, immigration and customs enforcement, private prisons, Protest]

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[l] at 8/29/19 5:00pm

When former FBI director James Comey retained, mishandled, and disseminated certain memos from his meetings with President Donald Trump, he violated FBI and Justice Department policies, as well as the FBI employment agreement he signed, according to the department’s inspector general.

However, the inspector general did not recommend prosecution for Comey. That fits into the two-tiered justice system that exists for federal government employees in the United States.

High-ranking officials, like Comey, David Petraeus, Hillary Clinton, and Leon Panetta, each mishandled classified information. They served no jail time.

Meanwhile, low-level government employees like Reality Winner, Terry Albury, Jeffrey Sterling, John Kiriakou, and Stephen Kim have endured prison sentences for their actions.

As detailed in the inspector general’s report [PDF], “Between January 6, 2017, and April 11, 2017, while Comey was director of the FBI, he memorialized seven one-on-one interactions that he had” with Trump.

Comey inappropriately asserted several of the memos were his own “personal documents.” He provided a memo (referred to as “Memo 4”) to Daniel Richman, his attorney, which was passed on to the New York Times. But the FBI had not authorized this disclosure.

The former FBI director “made public sensitive investigative information related to an ongoing FBI investigation, information he had properly declined to disclose while still FBI director during his March 20, 2017 congressional testimony.”

“Comey was not authorized to disclose the statements he attributed to President Trump in Memo 4, which Comey viewed as evidence of an alleged attempt to obstruct the [Michael] Flynn investigation and which were relevant to the ongoing Flynn investigation. Comey clearly considered the contents of Memo 4 highly sensitive—in fact, as he stated in his June 8, 2017, congressional testimony, Comey and other senior leaders of the FBI had decided not to report the President’s statements to the Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General and to keep the President’s statements “very closely held” so that the FBI leadership could “figure out what to do with it down the road as our investigation progressed.”

The report adds, “Comey placed in the public domain evidence relevant to the investigation of Flynn, and what he clearly viewed as evidence of an attempt to obstruct justice by President Trump. Rather than continuing to safeguard such evidence, Comey unilaterally and without authorization disclosed it all. By his own admission, Comey disclosed the contents of Memo 4 in an attempt to force the Department to take official investigative actions—to appoint a Special Counsel and preserve any tapes as evidence.”

Apparently, Comey told the inspector general that he viewed the unauthorized disclosure as one of “incredible importance to the nation, as a whole.” He felt that “taking action was ‘something I [had] to do if I love this country…and I love the Department of Justice, and I love the FBI.”

“Comey’s own, personal conception of what was necessary was not an appropriate basis for ignoring the policies and agreements governing the use of FBI records, especially given the other lawful and appropriate actions he could have taken to achieve his desired end,” the report declares.

Furthermore, as the report concludes, “Comey’s characterization of the memos as personal records finds no support in the law and is wholly incompatible with the plain language of the statutes, regulations, and policies defining federal records, and the terms of Comey’s FBI employment agreement.”

John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer who brought attention to the use of waterboarding and became the target of a leak investigation. He received a 30-month prison sentence in a case, where the Justice Department and Judge Leonie Brinkema expanded the definition of “espionage” under the Espionage Act to aid the prosecution against him.

“Judge Brinkema said that the definition of espionage was providing national defense information to any person not entitled to receive it,” Kiriakou recalled. “What the [inspector general] said in this long awaited report was that, despite the fact that James Comey said the information was unclassified, it was actually classified at the confidential level because it contained the names of countries that Trump had raised in the conversation. So, what Comey did is he illegally released classified information. That is the very definition of espionage.”

Indeed, the inspector general report recounts how “Memo 2” specifically included a “comparison of three countries” by Trump that could be viewed as “disparaging.” To ensure a “foreign incident” was not accidentally caused, that information was deemed to be classified like similar information that was involved in the Clinton email case.

NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake was accused of improperly retaining documents in his case. He faced a prosecution that ultimately collapsed, however, at one point, he was faced with the potential of serving decades in prison.

Kiriakou said if a CIA employee had improperly retained documents, “that would have been immediate cause for dismissal.”

“When you are an official American, you are acting in an official capacity. You are carrying out your official government duty. Your notes, anything that comes from your brain, belongs to the U.S. government,” Kiriakou added.

On one hand, it appears Comey offered up a kind of whistleblower defense for his actions, even though he previously was involved in aggressive prosecutions of low-level government employees. If he plans to do a complete about-face and support those individuals who released information and faced punishment, then his words are welcome.

But Kiriakou did not believe that he had a change of heart on these types of cases. What Comey said to the inspector general was part of an effort to “save his own skin and [try] to convince the American people that he didn’t illegally leak information.”

Anyone of these lower level employees could argue they engaged in their disclosures because they love the United States.

NSA contractor Reality Winner released an NSA report, which she believed at the time contained evidence of Russian interference in U.S. voter registration databases. Terry Albury disclosed records that showed the way in which the FBI engages in racial profiling when pressuring people to become informants. Either could say they did so because making the information public was important to “the nation, as a whole.”

Yet, President Donald Trump’s administration prosecuted them, and they are both in prison.

“Why the double standard? Why does James Comey get special treatment? What makes James Comey special?” Kiriakou asked.

Certainly, Kiriakou could say he loved his country and the CIA. He did not want the agency to become an agency that was the business of torture.

Drake loved his country. He did not like the way the country was morphing into a surveillance state after the September 11th attacks. He also probably loved the NSA and wanted it to operate within the confines of the Constitution.

Both Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, and Chelsea Manning, a former US Army intelligence analyst, released substantial amounts of classified information. The scope of what was released may make this comparison difficult. Still, they released the materials out of a concern for “the nation, as a whole.”

Unfortunately, these individuals were never given an opportunity to make the case that they were not trying to harm the United States in the way that Comey was able to do with the inspector general. They simply were charged with Espionage Act violations and zealously pursued.

In April 2017, it was reported the FBI was tightening restrictions on personnel to crack down on leaks to the press. The following month Comey disclosed one of his memos to his attorney, who passed it on to the New York Times.

Comey himself lectured former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who was sentenced to prison in a leak case in 2015. “He violated his sworn duty to protect our nation’s secrets and he betrayed our country. The FBI will continue to pursue these cases vigorously.”

A hard-nosed prosecutor could argue Comey violated his sworn duty as well. They could say to a judge that Comey betrayed his country. Except such words are typically reserved for low-level employees, particularly those who go against the grain of the political culture within institutions.

Comey during his time as FBI director would have supported the prosecution of any lower level employee, who did what he did. But for any high-ranking colleague, he would have ensured that person never had to face the consequences of flouting the rules just so he would know the same discretion would be shown toward him if he was threatened with accountability.

The post Former FBI Director James Comey Saved By America’s Two-Tiered Justice System Of Prosecuting Leaks appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Espionage Act, Inspector General, James Comey, Justice Department, Leaks]

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[l] at 8/29/19 10:49am

The United Kingdom is going through a renaissance in socially conscious music. Some of that is owed to Brexit. However, London-based percussionist Sarathy Korwar says it is primarily due to young working class musicians, who are driving the scene.

Korwar was born in the United States. He lived in India for 22 years and has lived in the United Kingdom for the past decade. His work fuses styles of jazz, electronica, hip hop, and Indian classical music.

His recent album, “More Arriving,” comes from the independent Leaf Label. It celebrates the influx of refugees and migrants who continue to flow into the UK and serves as a statement of brown pride.

“People have always moved for centuries, and people will continue to move regardless of borders and the state of the world,” Korwar told Shadowproof.

Its universal theme can speak to how India deals with Kashmir or how China deals with Hong Kong or how the United States deals with Mexico and various Central American countries. The album may also resonate with people who have fled war-ravaged countries, like Syria and Yemen.

The concept for the album came from Korwar’s desire to capture “diverse South Asian voices, both from India but also from the diaspora.” He felt “a part of both of those realities, growing up in India.”

“I felt like I wanted to capture these multiple different realities that South Asians face and showcase that there is no one particular south Asian voice. There’s no homogenous South Asian voice.”

Korwar added, “I heard about the hip hop scene in India back in early 2016. I began to check out a few of these MCs that some friends of mine were talking about, who were coming from Mumbai particularly. I got really interested in what was happening in India in hip hop.”

He saw parallels between the Indian hip hop scene and the jazz scene in the United Kingdom. Many of the new and rising musicians were from working class backgrounds.

The process involved making music with his band in the UK. He laid down foundations and then traveled to India with these jams. The MCs in India worked with those jams, and he would bring back what they did to the UK. The cross-pollination unfolded throughout 2017 and 2018.

Tracks like “Bol,” “Mango,” and “Pravasis,” grapple with the otherization that occurs in British society. The lyrics rattle off stereotypes and turn them around on the very residents who perpetuate a culture that excludes brown people.

“I’m really targeting people who feel like there isn’t space anymore for people to come over to our shores, people who think that the country is full, people who think that South Asian-ness is one particular thing, people who think that Indian music needs to look or sound a particular way,” Kor shared.

“If there’s no sitars in it, no tablas, is it really Indian music?”

Korwar’s sound does not fit tidily into one compartment. Nor should it. However, that can fluster music critics seeking to label the music as part of a particular genre. That seems to parallel the way Western societies typically reject the mixing of certain cultures.

“If you can’t see it in black and white or in the compartments you’ve learned to see it in, suddenly the world doesn’t make sense anymore,” Korwar suggested. “Some people are like, ugh, now I can’t take it. This is not right. And some people might want to actually find out more. So, there’s a choice that you rationally or irrationally make as an individual all the time.”

“And I think that’s definitely where my music lies for people who find it difficult to take because it is between jazz and Indian classical music and electronic music, and they just can’t figure it out.”

Korwar lists John Coltrane, Ahmad Jamal, Muddy Waters, and The Doors, as some of his influences. He frequently mentions that he listened to classic rock while developing his sense of music. The inclusion of The Doors is deliberate, a way to define himself when met with critics or reporters, who have conceived notions of an Indian musician (e.g. Ravi Shankar).

“People don’t expect me to have grown up listening to the music I did because they have an assumption of what my life growing up in India was without anybody knowing about it,” Korwar asserted. “The reason why any of this happens is so I can get to control my own narrative. I get to control my own story and say this is what it was for me. This is what it is for me, and being able to get the chance to showcase that to the rest of the world is a really great thing for me.”

Both the lyrics and the music video for “Bol” deal with the stereotypes a British Asian or south Asian deals with while living in the UK. It has a “tongue-in-cheek” element to it, which to Korwar makes the song rather empowering. It flips the racism on its head and allows the victims to mock the oppression.

Spoken word artist Zia Ahmed provided the lyrics for “Bol,” as well as “Mango,” which Korwar said is both playful and a bit sinister. Ahmed plays with the word mango. He also confronts the colonialism that South Asian families endured.

“When [Ahmed] talks about how the British [cut] through your country as if it were a mango, you know all these things are real,” Korwar added. “But equally is the exoticism of the mango fruit and how everybody associates mangoes with the Indian subcontinent.”

Korwar crafted the album with an arc that gave off a particular sonic experience.

For example, his love of Qawwali music, which is a form of Sufi Islam music, led to the sound for “Bol.” Qawwali typically consists of musical compositions that may last up to 30 minutes or longer. It involves rhythmic patterns that feature hypnotic loops.

As a project, it defies the pervasive corporate culture within the industry that pushes artists to record hits, which can quickly shoot up to the top of lists of most streamed songs on Spotify, Pandora, etc. Each song is part of a larger illustration, varying in length from two to 12 minutes.

Korwar praised the Leaf Label for giving him the autonomy to create the album. They let him bring in his own person to do artwork for the cover. He was able to hire a South Asian to write the press announcement for the album’s release.

“Often labels have a particular way of working and that’s the way they do it, whereas these people were really malleable and interested [in the music],” according to Korwar.

In 2016, Korwar had the opportunity to support jazz musician Kamasi Washington.

“There’s a certain hope that comes with his music. At a time where it was the age of austerity, people telling you jazz is dead, people telling you your band needs to be small because you can’t tour with a band that’s more than four people, for example—the very kind of like pragmatic efforts to tell you how to build your career—here comes Kamasi with a ten-piece band.”

Korwar recalled, To see that it’s possible to be a jazz musician and to be playing to these kinds of venues and crowds that he was playing to is incredibly inspirational.”

“More Arriving” is available on streaming services and for purchase. It will have an album launch in September. Korwar will tour, and he hopes to perform the album in its entirety in mostly the same order as the tracks appear on the album.

The post London-Based Musician Sarathy Korwar Celebrates South Asian Voices, Turns Racial Stereotypes On Their Head appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, Protest Music Project, The Dissenter, Migration, protest music, Sarathy Korwar, South Asian]

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[l] at 8/27/19 4:40pm

Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign put out a plan for addressing the collapse in journalism in the United States. He became the first presidential candidate to propose solutions to a crisis that has greatly intensified since 2000.

The plan was introduced through an op-ed that was published by the Columbia Journalism Review.

In the op-ed, Sanders contended the decimation of journalism was largely owed to the control technology corporations, like Facebook and Google, have over digital advertising, as well as how “corporate conglomerates” and “hedge fund vultures” buy and consolidate “beleaguered” news organizations, which results in layoffs.

Sanders proposed an end to the “rubber-stamping” of media mergers and a moratorium on future mergers. He suggested that employees should be able to purchase stock in a media company before mergers are approved.

Limits on media ownership have been relaxed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Sanders called for a return to regulations on the number of stations that a broadcasting corporation may own.

Sanders pledged to enforce antitrust laws against technology corporations and seek out new ways to empower media employees so they may collectively bargain with what are effectively monopolies.

Plus, Sanders claimed his “Workplace Democracy Plan” would go a long way toward helping struggling journalists and media employees, and he endorsed a tax on targeted digital advertising, which the media reform advocacy group, Free Press, recommended in February.

“A 2 percent ad tax on all online enterprises that in 2018 earned more than $200 million in annual digital ad revenues would yield more than $1.8 billion a year for a new and independent Public Interest Media Endowment that would hand out grants to news and information projects,” according to Free Press.

Stunningly, as Free Press outlined, “Since 2004, about 20 percent of U.S. newspapers have stopped printing, leaving nearly 200,000 newsroom employees without work and at least 900 communities without anyone covering local news.”

Such a proposal could fund “local news startups, sustain investigative projects, seed civic engagement initiatives, and lift up diverse voices that have long been excluded from traditional media coverage.”

Generally, the “Workplace Democracy Plan” would make it easier for employees of a media organization to form a union. Employees could organize through a “majority sign up process.” A company would not be able to prevent a union by denying a first contract. “Misclassifying” employees as independent contractors would end, and no longer would employees be required to attend anti-union meetings.

Furthermore, Sanders believes a Medicare For All plan would take some pressure off employees in the media industry. It could be especially beneficial for freelancers, who do not have salaried jobs that come with access to employer health insurance packages.

The FCC, led by Ajit Pai, who was a lobbyist and former associate general counsel for Verizon, eliminated a media ownership rule in 2017 that had existed for 40 years. It prohibited corporations from owning newspapers and broadcast stations in the same market.

It was viewed as a gift to companies like the right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group that would further enable media consolidation.

“Today’s FCC vote should be a national scandal,” Free Press president Craig Aaron declared. “Chairman [Ajit] Pai has warped FCC policies and process to accommodate the creation of a [Donald] Trump-friendly local-television conglomerate. The Sinclair Broadcast Group’s unabashed goal is to monopolize local television markets and push its pro-Trump brand of propaganda over the public airwaves.”

The vote likely encouraged CBS to re-merge with Viacom. That takes the country back to five corporations controlling 90 percent of the media that most Americans consume.

As far as corporate conglomerates and hedge fund vultures are concerned, Sanders points to “Gannett’s proposed merger with Gatehouse Media,” which “will consolidate hundreds of publications under one mega-corporation’s control and slash $300 million worth of ‘synergies.’” The new Gannett/Gatehouse CEO stands to earn $4.5 million bonuses and stock while any number of employees could be terminated.

Senator Bernie Sanders has long been at the forefront when it comes to making media a political issue.

In April 2002, Sanders, who was a congressman, welcomed people in Vermont to two town meetings. A post by John Nichols and Robert McChesney indicates that he talked about the “rabidly pro-corporate bias in the news media, the ways this bias undermines movements for economic and social justice, and the closing of lines of information and insight that are necessary for informed self-governance.”

Sanders insisted that corporate media was a “part of a corrupt ‘best government money can buy’ system, in particular through their dreadful coverage of political campaigns.”

These meetings were regarded by Nichols and McChesney as a “milestone” event for the U.S. media reform movement that had already forced the government to license low-power FM community radio stations and fueled the spread of “Indymedia” or people’s journalism.

Activism around media reform issues grew throughout the 2000s, especially while President George W. Bush’s administration moved to relax media ownership rules. There was optimism for legislation that could address some of the most critical problems. However, nothing came of it. By 2010, more than a year into President Barack Obama’s administration, there had been an epidemic of newspapers shutting down.

Nichols and McChesney described what was happening as a “dire moment for democracy,” but their recommendation that government subsidize newspapers was rejected as an idea that would “foster totalitarianism,” despite the fact that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and others had instituted postal and printing subsidies to ensure freedom of the press.

Two of the country’s leading advocates for media democracy further noted:

As 2009 wore on and the crisis extended–with the venerable Christian Science Monitor cutting print production from daily to weekly, newspapers in Seattle and Ann Arbor ceasing print publication to exist solely online, with papers in Denver, Tucson and other cities closing altogether, and with talk of closures from San Francisco to Boston–the urgency of the moment, and the recognition that journalism would not be reborn on the Internet or saved by foundation grants, made it harder to dismiss subsidies. By year’s end, the Columbia Journalism Review was highlighting a report by Leonard Downie Jr. and Michael Schudson that proposed requiring “broadcasters, Internet service providers, and telecom users to pay into a fund that would be used to support local accountability journalism in communities around the country.” CJR called the idea a “radical suggestion.”

Downie was the executive editor for the Washington Post, and Schudson is a Columbia University journalism professor. Their proposal was put forward to achieve many of the same goals Sanders would like to achieve through a tax on digital advertising.

With the Democratic presidential primary unfolding, this is the state of journalism, as summarized by Sanders.

Over the past 15 years, more than 1,400 communities across the country have lost newspapers, which are the outlets local television, radio, and digital news sites rely on for reporting. Since 2008, we have seen newsrooms lose 28,000 employees—and in the past year alone, 3,200 people in the media industry have been laid off. Today, for every working journalist, there are six people now working in public relations, often pushing a corporate line.

Most recently, the Pacific Standard was cut off from Sage Publications, its primary source of funding, and shut down. Governing, which published reporting on state and local government for 32 years, also shut down after management concluded the publication was no longer sustainable in the present media environment.

To reflect on his 2016 presidential campaign, but ensure that movements he aligned with and energized would continue their work, Sanders wrote Our Revolution: A Future To Believe In. The final chapter before the conclusion is “Corporate Media And The Threat To Our Democracy.”

“Media shapes our very lives. It tells us what products we need to buy and by the quantity of coverage and nature of coverage what is ‘important’ and what is ‘unimportant.’ Media shapes our political consciousness and informs us, as to the scope of what is ‘realistic’ and ‘possible,’” Sanders stated.

It highlighted how issues the richest one percent of Americans want to promote receive airtime while issues important to working families, like poverty, receive little to no airtime.

“Political coverage is the drama of what happens on the campaign trail,” Sanders contended. He acknowledged the way in which politics is presented as entertainment. The way corporate media presented Donald Trump’s presidential campaign directly benefited him because he was a reality television star.

Previously, the Sanders campaign argued most in the establishment press dislike him and even see his supporters as “annoying.” The campaign specifically singled out the Washington Post for its publication of editorials, op-eds, and reporting that consistently sustain the most negative prejudices toward the campaign. They suggested it may have something to do with the fact that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns the newspaper.

“We are taking on corporate America. Large corporations own the media in America, by and large, and I think there is a framework, about how the corporate media focuses on politics. That is my concern. It’s not that Jeff Bezos is on the phone every day; he’s not,” Sanders said.

Critiques of the media have opened up the campaign to comments from pundits that equate Sanders with Trump, who regularly labels media coverage he does not like as “fake news.” But Sanders’ media plan exposes the shallowness of this viewpoint.

Sanders sees democratizing media as an objective that is crucial to movements for social justice. His campaign understands that news personalities have “generous contracts,” which make them inclined to present perspectives favored by wealthy and corporate individuals.

The Sanders campaign is not promoting solutions that will enable “real journalism” in order to make it easier for him to amass power if he is elected, and “real journalism” is not some catch-all phrase that is the opposite of “fake news.”

Sanders has proposed meaningful reforms so that pervasive corruption, like mortgage fraud, is less likely to go unreported or under-reported. He also recognizes that the only profession protected under the Constitution is in deep crisis, and the country will be worse off if the government does not step in to try and save journalism.

The post Bernie Sanders Makes Media Democracy An Issue For 2020 Primary Voters appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, 2020 Campaign, Bernie Sanders, corporate media, Establishment Media, Local News, media]

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[l] at 8/27/19 8:34am

The post originally appeared at Ongoing History Of Protest Songs.

The Felice Brothers are a veteran folk-rock band, who throughout their career have sacrificed commercial success by sticking to their principles. They have turned down offers to work with big-name producers and resisted pressure to adopt a more mainstream sound.

In 2011, the band turned down a lucrative offer from Dow Chemical to use their 2008 tune “Take This Bread” for a gluten-free bread commercial.

On their latest album, “Undress,” the band uses several tunes to address greed and capitalism. One such song is the satirical “Special Announcement,” which features the lyric, “I’m saving up my money to be president.” The line highlights the role money plays in politics.

Ian Felice, the primary singer and songwriter of the group, expresses what he would want to accomplish as president, such as “I’ll gather up all the cash, toss it to the birds,” and, “Burn down the stock exchange, the Federal Reserve.”

The lyrics also address how being president is generally linked to “Pleasing all the financiers. All the corporate goons” and confronts political and corporate corruption. “They wanna eat their enemies’ hearts and brains and lick the bloody plates.”

In a statement made to Paste, Felice said: “This song should feel like you’re reading the Financial Times in a motel at the edge of reality. You feel very frustrated by the corrupting power of money in politics, and a piano’s cloud-like chords are hovering over a terrace.”

Listen to “Special Announcement”:

The post Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Special Announcement’ By The Felice Brothers appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, Protest Music Project, The Dissenter, capitalism, Folk, Protest Song of the Week]

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[l] at 8/26/19 1:46pm

The most popular statistic regarding the United States’ prison system is that there are 2.5 million people incarcerated. However, this figure significantly under-represents the number of people caged in this country each year.

According to a new analysis released by the Prison Policy Initiative, at least 4.9 million people are arrested and jailed each year. Those individuals are disproportionately poor, Black, and lack access to education and health care.

Researchers say the 4.9 million figure represents a minimum estimate, as data on arrests and incarceration in the U.S. are woefully inadequate at every jurisdictional level.

PPI obtained data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which excludes groups of people that may have significant contacts with the system, such as those who are homeless and do not use shelters. It was “not possible to estimate how many people arrested in 2017 were excluded from the survey,” according to the organization, so the number of arrests is likely far greater.

Nonetheless, of those 4.9 million people jailed each year, researchers found 930,000 people were arrested twice and 430,000 were arrested three times or more. As the number of arrests increases, disparities in race, income, education, and health, and ability become more pronounced.

From Prison Policy Initiative analysis on those arrested and jailed each year in the United States

Black people represented 28 percent of people arrested twice in the past year, despite making up roughly 13 percent of the population. When looking at people who were arrested three or more times, the percentage of those who are Black increased to 42 percent.

Eighty-three percent of people arrested three or more times in the past year had incomes below $20,000 and half had incomes below $10,000.

Three-quarters of people with three or more arrests in the past year had a high school education or less.

People with two arrests were four times more likely to be unemployed than those who were not arrested in the past year.

Eighty-eight percent of people, who endured multiple arrests per year, were not picked up for serious violent offenses.

Over half of the people arrested twice reported a substance use disorder compared to 61 percent of those arrested three or more times.

More than a quarter of those arrested three or more times had a serious mental illness. This segment was more likely to have been diagnosed with chronic health conditions and use emergency rooms multiple times in the past year.

The prevalence of HIV diagnosis was 11 times higher among people with multiple arrests. At the same time, these individuals were less likely to have health insurance than those who were not arrested.

That so many vulnerable and marginalized people cycle through jails each year should not be understood as a failure or aberration of the system. Instead, it is a sign of the system’s design and its function as a tool of social exclusion for groups that have been historically oppressed in America.

Additionally, the findings further underscore how those with overlapping marginalized identities are even more likely to be impacted by systems of incarceration.

The post The Number Of People Incarcerated In United States Is Far Higher Than 2.5 Million appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, Prison Protest, Mass Incarceration, prison policy initiative, structural racism]

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[l] at 8/24/19 9:24am

Beyond Prisons is back from summer break with a special double episode with Brooke Terpstra, Oaklander forever, movement veteran, and worker who organized with the Incarcerated Workers Organizer Committee (IWOC).

Brooke is an organizer with the Oakland chapter of IWOC and was a member of the IWOC national media committee for the 2018 prison strike. In the first hour of this episode, Brooke walks us through incidents of prison-orchestrated violence in California, known as “Gladiator Fights.” He shares the history and backstory of why California prisons are organizing these fights, dismantles the corrections department’s spin on these incidents, and details the experiences of prisoners and their loved ones who are fighting for survival and to end the practice.

In the second hour, Kim and Brian debrief after their conversation with Brooke. They discuss their reactions and experiences reporting on these fights and the trauma of being in proximity to the multifaceted violence of incarceration.

Follow IWOC on Twitter: @IWW_IWOC

IWOC Website

Resources & Additional Reading

The Agreement To End Hostilities by the Pelican Bay State Prison-SHU Short Corridor Hunger Strike Representatives.

NOTHING NEW: CDCr Fuels and Socially Engineers Violence between Prisoners By Mutope Duguma

How CDCr Undermines Peace: An Essay on Gladiator Fights by IWOC Oakland

Following Hunger Strike, Corcoran Prisoners Say Negotiations With Warden Have Fallen Apart by Brian Sonenstein

Corcoran Prisoners Describe Life Under Lockdown by Brian Sonenstein

California Prisoners Say Videos Show ‘Gladiator Fights’ At Soledad State Prison by Brian Sonenstein

More Reports Of ‘Gladiator Fights’ As California Prison Officials Tear Up Cells To Find Recording Device by Brian Sonenstein


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Send tips, comments, and questions to beyondprisonspodcast@gmail.com

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Hosts: Kim Wilson and Brian Sonenstein

Music: Jared Ware

The post Beyond Prisons: Gladiator Fights Feat. IWOC’s Brooke Terpstra appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Beyond Prisons, Latest News, Podcasts, Prison Protest, CDCR, Gladiator Fights, Podcast]

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[l] at 8/22/19 5:40pm

Symone Sanders, a senior adviser to Joe Biden, described a grassroots push for a presidential climate debate sponsored by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as “dangerous territory in the middle of a Democratic primary process.”

The remarks came during a meeting of the DNC Resolutions Committee, which defeated the resolution in an 8-17 vote.

A DNC member, Sanders contended if the DNC was going to host “theme-focused” debates then members should have approved such debates back in 2018, not now “one-third of the way through the Democratic primary.”

She also suggested that media networks have ultimate control over what debates are televised. The DNC could approve a climate debate but find that no network would want to establish a contract to air the debate. However, Sanders put forward zero evidence that a media network would be inclined to refuse to air a climate debate.

Sanders invoked identity politics as well, saying, “I know that over the course of the last couple months, and even before in 2018 and even in early 2017, a number of people made their voices heard to the DNC that said they wanted a debate on black women. They wanted a debate on Latinx issues. That there should be a debate specifically focused on the indigenous community.”

“And my question is, what do we tell those folks who were told they cannot have a debate but then were encouraged and told they could have platforms? And I do believe there were a number of forums.”

Essentially, Biden’s senior advisor invoked black women, Latinx people, and indigenous communities to urge the committee to kill a resolution for a debate focused on climate issues, which would naturally involve matters of environmental justice that affect all of the aforementioned groups.

Doug Sovern, a reporter for KCBS radio, asked Florida DNC member Craig Smith, who was part of President Bill Clinton’s administration, why he opposed the resolution.

“How do I go back to my neighbors who lost kids at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas and explain to them why they don’t get a special debate on guns?” Smith replied.

Sanders posed a similar question. DNC member Christine Pelosi, who introduced the amendment for a climate debate, told Sanders, “Do you want to propose an amendment to have a gun violence debate? Because if you propose it, I’ll support it.”

The Sunrise Movement is a youth advocacy group that has urged presidential candidates to support a climate debate as well as the Green New Deal.

Washington State Democratic Party Chair Tina Padlowdowski, a key backer of the resolution in the DNC, asserted, “ This is about our own survival on the planet,” and, “We don’t have to lock ourselves into debates that don’t work for us.”

In July, Biden supported a DNC-sponsored debate. “I think we should have a climate debate. It’s the single most existential threat facing the country.”

Sierra Club national political director Ariel Hayes condemned the vote. “The DNC resolution committee made the wrong decision for our future, for our planet, and for the Democratic party, but we are hopeful that the voices of the nearly half million grassroots activists who have demanded a dedicated climate debate are heard during the DNC general session this weekend.”

Grassroots activists, including those with the Sunrise Movement, packed the room where the resolution committee meeting was held. Several sang the union protest song, “Which Side Are You On?” when members voted against the resolution.

A small victory was achieved in the sense that a different resolution passed to allow candidates to appear in forums on the “same stage, engaging one another in discussion.” Yet, as the Mercury News pointed out, the DNC’s own rules may still prohibit that from happening.

There will be a general session with DNC members on Saturday, August 24. Members who support the defeated resolution will once again urge the DNC to support a climate debate.

For this meeting, the Sunrise Movement apparently has the support of over 100 members of the DNC, who will be able to vote for the resolution.

Joining others appalled at the DNC resolutions committee, former Vice President Al Gore declared, “The Democratic National Committee’s decision to sabotage a climate debate is extremely disappointing. Voters all over the U.S. are demanding we focus on the biggest threat to our nation and humanity’s future and prioritize solving the climate crisis instead of continuing business as usual.”

While certain influential DNC members fixate on process and pit groups against those who want a substantive policy debate on climate change, Brazil’s Amazon rainforest is burning. There are glaciers in Greenland that are rapidly melting. Severe heat waves have occurred as far north as the Arctic Circle.

President Donald Trump’s administration continues to fundamentally transform the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) into an institution that can shield polluters from accountability and regulation.

Several presidential candidates have proposed their own climate plans. Voters would benefit from hearing the candidates discuss why they support certain ideas but oppose certain proposals. However, the DNC apparently fears a climate debate might push centrist liberal candidates to endorse radical solutions that would benefit humanity but create liabilities Republicans could seize upon for attacks during the general election.

So, at least for now, the world will keep burning and melting as the DNC timidly cowers in the face of climate change deniers and fossil fuel interests that currently hold the U.S. government captive.

The post Biden Senior Adviser: Push For Climate Debate Takes DNC Into ‘Dangerous Territory’ appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, 2020 Presidential Primary, climate change, democratic national committee, Joe Biden, Symone Sanders]

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[l] at 8/21/19 4:29pm

Unheard Voices OTCJ is a group of organizers working to confront injustices in the United States’ systems of mass incarceration. Two volunteers were conducting outreach to family members of prisoners at Holman Prison in Alabama on the side of a highway when law enforcement insisted they were trespassing on state property.

On August 18, an officer, who identified himself as Sergeant Davis, urged volunteers to go to a “designated protest area,” away from where visiting family members turn.

Mona Song and Queen Dara stood on the side of Route 21. They were able to give leaflets to at least eight people who stopped to speak with them.

Video shows Song saying, “Everyone that we’ve talked to that’s going to visit family so far has been really encouraging and receptive to what we’re doing.” They discussed how visitation may be eliminated by the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) and connected it to a trip planned for Washington, D.C., where organizers intend to travel with family of prisoners to speak their truth at an event in September.

Unheard Voices OTCJ would like to ramp up pressure on the Justice Department to go beyond their report on abuses and corruption in the Alabama prison system and take action to hold officials accountable in some manner.

Sgt. Davis and another officer, who identified himself as Lieutenant Wilson, watched the volunteers on the side of the highway from white pickup trucks. Both were apparently part of the ADOC K-9 Unit. They called the Escambia Sheriff Department and an officer, who identified himself as Deputy Peebles, arrived to move the volunteers from the area or cite them with “trespassing.”

As Song recalled, the deputy turned it into a “public hazard issue.”

“They’re going to say you’re slowing down traffic,” Song told Shadowproof. “At the same time, we want to make the argument that our right to free speech and doing this outreach, which is volunteer—It’s not even a protest. It’s just free speech and people are voluntarily slowing down to talk to us—that right should trump any arbitrary rules authored by prison officials that don’t want us to be there and simply are going to push us around until we push back.”

Video shows the officers claiming during their interaction that a policy was possibly adopted to control the presence of demonstrators two or three years ago. However, no specific policy was ever cited. Neither of the officers said anything about why the change in policy may have occurred.

According to Song, when they moved to the “designated protest area,” “nobody stopped at all.” Visitors coming from one direction cannot see them because they do not pass on the side of the road with the facility. Visitors coming from the other direction drive around a bend at 50-55 mph at least. They may see them in a rearview mirror. So there is very little opportunity for interaction with family members of prisoners.

A press release from Unheard Voices OTCJ indicates the volunteers consulted with lawyers, who are also a part of the organization.

“There is absolutely no law that forbids law-abiding citizens from being on a public road right of way and distributing pamphlets,” declared Mobile Attorney Donna Wesson Smalley. “These were not protestors, they were doing a public outreach targeting friends and family who voluntarily come to Holman to see loved ones.”

Tuscaloosa Attorney Michael Cornwell added, “Those volunteers have every right to be anywhere on public property, so long as they are not breaking the law, and not entering the designated prison property.”

In the video, it appears the officers are claiming the side of the road is “prison property.” They also are treating the volunteers as if they are protesting, even though they were not there for that purpose.

Asked about why it is important to do outreach with family of prisoners, Song replied, “Doing outreach outside of some of these facilities is the best way to reach those most impacted by the ongoing violence inside these prisons, by the ongoing corruption. This is the way that we can reach out to folks that otherwise are oftentimes pretty isolated.”

“It also proves that there’s a presence of people that care and are fighting with them, alongside them, to try to improve conditions,” Song added.

“For example, at Holman, they are trying to restrict even the visiting family members from gathering or communicating with each other because they patrol the parking lot, where they wait before it’s time to lineup to go in and see their family members, and they tell women who are talking to each other from their cars or standing outside their cars that they need to be in their cars. They need to not be talking to each other.”

“It’s a smart move by the Alabama Department of Corrections to be trying to limit free speech, communications, between folks that are the ones that are most impacted and the ones that are ready to engage in activities to try to confront the injustices, especially at a very critical time in Alabama when national media has its eyes on Alabama after the Department of Justice report,” Song acknowledged.

The report from the Justice Department, which was widely covered, highlighted routine violations in Alabama facilities of prisoners’ Eighth Amendment right to be free from “cruel and unusual punishment.” It detailed rampant violence, rape and sexual abuse, and prisoner deaths that occur on a regular basis in the facilities.

According to PBS, “Alabama has one of the highest incarceration rates in the U.S., with 840 inmates per 100,000 residents in 2016. That figure is 27 percent higher than the national average, and the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country on Earth.”

Unheard Voices OTCJ is one of several groups trying to build a movement to confront systemic oppression in facilities, like the ones in Alabama. But efforts are stymied if law enforcement is able to corral volunteers into some free speech zone that is out of sight and out of mind.

Song concluded, “If we don’t push back, then where do our free speech rights begin or end?”

The post As Corruption Runs Rampant In Alabama Prisons, Officers Thwart Organizing Outside Holman Facility appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Alabama, Alabama Department Of Corrections, Holman, Prison Organizing]

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[l] at 8/20/19 4:08pm

Marco Montoya Amaya is 41 years old. He is currently detained at the Mesa Verde Immigration and Customs Enforcement Processing Center in California. He has “end-stage neurocysticercosis,” which is a brain parasite, and has not received any treatment.

According to a class action lawsuit filed by multiple civil rights groups, Amaya entered the United States in 2012. He lived in Napa, California. He was first detained by ICE at Yuba County Jail and later transferred to Mesa Verde in March 2019. He suffers from worsening cognitive and psychiatric symptoms that are potentially irreversible and has also been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder.

Amaya was placed in solitary confinement for about a week in May 2019 for “accidentally eating an extra tray he was given by an officer. He did not understand the officer’s instructions—likely due to his cognitive impairment—that the tray was for other detained individuals who were fasting for Ramadan.”

The lawsuit adds, “He did not receive an opportunity to appeal or challenge his segregation,” and he “was confused as to whether the segregation was disciplinary or instead for his health or protection, as he was housed in medical isolation.”

Amaya is one of fifteen individuals detained at eight different detention facilities in six states. They represent a class of around 55,000 immigrants who allegedly are subject to inhumane and unlawful conditions. Many of these individuals have endured treatment that amounts to torture.

The lawsuit challenges systemic problems that consistently result in denial of medical care, failure to provide mental health treatment, lack of accommodations for persons with disabilities, and solitary confinement.

“Atrocious conditions in immigrant detention are an open secret,” Tim Fox, the co-executive director of Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC), declared.

“Dozens of reports –some by the government itself –over decades substantiate the claims in this lawsuit.  The detainee death reports the government publishes when people in immigration detention die in ICE custody provide textbook examples of medical abuse and neglect, yet DHS [Department of Homeland Security] and ICE have done nothing to address these failures.”

Hamida Ali, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, was confined in solitary confinement for around nine months. Security staff at the Aurora ICE Processing Center in Colorado “placed her alone in a dorm designed for dozens of women.”

The lawsuit describes how Ali has a “documented history of schizophrenia and suicidal ideation and attempts, all of which were exacerbated by this placement.” Mental health staff, as well as ICE officers, apparently informed Ali there was “nothing they could do about” her confinement, “even after she had attempted suicide.”

Ali experienced several episodes of extreme psychological distress and suicidal ideation. She “made repeated requests to her ICE Deportation Officer to move dorms,” which were ignored. In April 2019, she was put on suicide watch after she heard voices, cried uncontrollably, and wrapped a sweater around her neck. “She was placed back in the dorm by herself when she was taken off of suicide watch. The conditions exacerbated her mental health difficulties.”

“During one of the brief periods in which Ms. Ali was not alone in the dorm, the other detained woman with her told security staff that they should not leave Ms. Ali alone because she had a mental health disability,” the lawsuit adds. “Ms. Ali heard security staff say that it was none of their business.”

Ali is a refugee from Sudan. She has lived in the United States for most of her life. She was living in Utah with extended family and three young children, who were born in the state.

Melvin Murillo Hernandez is currently detained at the LaSalle ICE Processing Center in Louisiana. He previously was transferred from the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Mississippi to the River Correctional Center in Louisiana and informed the intake staff that he was allergic to chocolate, jam, and peanuts. But the medical staff did not do anything to ensure he would eat food that did not have these ingredients.

As the lawsuit recalls, Hernandez “went into life-threatening anaphylactic shock requiring hospitalization three separate times over three months while at River.” He was given a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on April 7 and “lost consciousness.” He had to be transported to a local hospital emergency room.

Again, on May 5 and 6, he suffered from anaphylaxis from food allergies and was hospitalized. It happened a couple of times because staff did not screen him for medical issues or ensure he was not exposed to food ingredients that cause allergic reactions.

Staff apparently hold him in a cell for 24 hours a day, where they bring him meals that consist “mostly of eggs and rice.”

Yet another plaintiff, Jimmy Sudney, was put in solitary confinement at Adelanto ICE Processing Center in California. It happened a week after a “verbal altercation with officers, who were harassing him.” He filed a grievance, and the punishment was allegedly retaliation.

Sudney has multiple mental health disabilities, including PTSD. However, medical staff barely conducted an assessment of his health before he was put in isolation. They only asked “if he would harm or kill himself.”

“The noise in segregation triggered a PTSD flashback in which he relived the earthquake in Haiti, where his house collapsed around him,” according to the lawsuit.

Aritoteles Sanchez Martinez, a 46-year-old, has lived in the United States more than half of his life. He was a New York resident. But detained at the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia, his health is deteriorating.”

The lawsuit describes how he has an “expanding hernia, neuropathy, and a foot injury that has caused a bone spur and bone deterioration. As a result, Mr. Martinez has pain and uses a wheelchair for mobility.”

After his transfer to the Stewart Detention Center, staff put him in “full restraints.” He was not able to use his wheelchair, which left him with no choice but to walk, even though his conditions impair his movement.

Collectively, the class action lawsuit aims to challenge the conditions in 158 facilities under the control of ICE, where detainees are held for more than 72 hours. These facilities are operated by local sheriffs’ offices and private prison corporations, like CoreCivic and GEO Group. Five are directly operated by ICE.

There were 24 deaths in ICE custody in the last two years. So far in 2019, seven deaths have occurred.

“Our mission is to help immigrants fight their removal cases,” said Erika Pinheiro, a litigation director for Al Otro, which is one of the civil rights groups bringing the lawsuit.

“Too often, we end up having to help them fight for their lives due to the terrible medical care they are receiving in detention. When our clients’ health is compromised, their cases suffer, due process violations are common, and they are at heightened risk of deportation.”

The lawsuit concludes, “Conditions in detention are so brutal that many people are forced to abandon viable claims for immigration relief and accept deportation out of a desperate desire to escape the torture they are enduring in detention on U.S. soil.”

That may be the goal of such rampant abuse and inhuman treatment in ICE facilities: to make detainees want to leave and send a message to those immigrating to the U.S. that this could happen to them too if they show up to the border.

The post With Record Number Of Immigrants In ICE Detention, Class Action Lawsuit Outlines ‘Atrocious Conditions’ appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, ice, immigrant detention, immigration]

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[l] at 8/19/19 6:32pm

There aren’t any matters that are currently more pressing than grappling with the fact that I listened to what actress Susan Sarandon had to say during the 2016 presidential election and did not vote for Hillary Clinton.

You may see a presidential administration that is going above and beyond to criminalize immigration. There are more migrants in camps or detention centers than ever before, but when I see the crying faces of children without their parents, I don’t think of Donald Trump. All I can think of is Louise and how she and Thelma drove their car off a cliff and that cliff was Donald Trump.

Just as Janet Weiss was seduced by the allure of the sex god, Rocky Horror, Sarandon was entranced by the political revolution promised by Bernie Sanders. Under the spell of the Berns, she became convinced that Clinton was dangerous and would start a war if elected. She also suggested that Trump’s election would lead to an explosive revolt, but that did not happen because Robert Mueller would never have approved and we needed his approval to have Mueller Time.

Sarandon was an obnoxious Bernie Bro. Her influence on the American population may not have been enough to convince Democratic voters to nominate Sanders over Clinton. However, when she trashed Clinton, that is when America finally came through for the star with Bette Davis eyes.

Years have gone by since Clinton did not travel to Wisconsin. All I can think of is how Sarandon still refuses to acknowledge the role she played in getting Trump elected. Her advocacy for Clinton would have made up for every failure committed by her campaign team, as they downplayed polling data that showed she was losing ground to a failing business tycoon.

While other factors, like stagnating wages and the impact of neoliberal globalization may be more responsible, focusing on the way in which Trump astutely exploited economic discontent could never give me the same satisfaction as piling on a movie actress who dissents from the liberal establishment.

If Susan Sarandon gave us Trump, does that mean Russian President Vladimir Putin and his merry band of Kremlin trolls were not responsible as well? Absolutely not. There can be many people we blame over and over and over again so we never have to accept the reality of what happened in this country.

How come I am just now coming to this conclusion nearly three years later? Obviously, I was not sure I needed to add my voice. But I saw Neera Tanden, Eric Boehlert, and Kathy Griffin and thought they may need some reinforcements. Berners are notorious for never letting go of grudges.

Fuck Sister Helen for convincing me and probably no more than a few dozen other Americans to not vote for Clinton. She’ll successfully convince a few dozen more people to vote against the Democrats’ corporate candidate in 2020 if we let her. So let’s align behind Debra Messing, lose our ever loving shit in Sarandon’s mentions, and vote-shame until we’re no longer trending on Twitter.

And then in a couple months, when migrant children are building Trump’s border wall or hungry polar bears are dripping in oil or Iran is bombed by U.S. jets, let’s do it all over again instead of directing our anger at people in power. We’ll rack up another few thousand retweets and amass more followers, which will give us the catharsis we need to ignore the impotency of our ritualistic performances in defeating Trump.

The post I’m Still Sorry I Listened To Susan Sarandon During The 2016 Election appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, Satire, The Idiocrat, 2016 Election, Clinton Democrats, Hillary Clinton, humor, satire, Susan Sarandon]

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[l] at 8/19/19 3:06pm

It was fifty years ago that Jimi Hendrix performed the United States national anthem during a Monday morning for tens of thousands of people at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.

Hendrix was the last act to take the stage. He had top-billing and was supposed to take the stage Sunday evening. Technical and weather delays led to the only morning performance he ever did for an audience. By the time he was introduced, many of the attendees had left to return home.

The national anthem was part of a medley of songs. In the set, Hendrix smoothly segues into the “Star Spangled Banner” after completing “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” As his guitar distorts and wails the last notes, he launches into “Purple Haze.”

In fact, Hendrix performed the U.S. national anthem before, but his rendition had never achieved such a glorious sonic impact.

As journalist Barnard Collier recalled for PBS’ “Woodstock” documentary, “Into my head stabbed this sound. It sounded exactly like rockets, missiles, and bombs bursting in air. I’d never heard anything like that in my life.”

Tom Law, a member of the Hog Farm collective, which helped with food and security at the festival, said, “We’re at the most peaceful gathering that was probably happening on the planet at the time, and he hooked us up with Vietnam. It was the devastation and the brutality and the insanity.”

Hendrix was not the only artist to explicitly or implicitly reference the Vietnam War. Country Joe McDonald famously led attendees in a sing-a-long of the antiwar anthem, “Fish Cheer.” But the guitar virtuoso punctured a kind of bubble that had enveloped people throughout the weekend. It drove home the reality that this massive love-in had reached its end.

Laureen Starobin, one of the attendees, says in the same documentary, “We so did not want to leave. We kind of sensed that we could change the world for three days but the rest of the world wasn’t with us, and we knew that it was going to be a real culture shock coming back into society.”

This was dramatically illustrated in the director’s cut of Michael Wadleigh’s documentary that captures much of the essence of this watershed event. Hendrix’s guitar plays over shots of the emptied field with sleeping bags, wet cardboard, and trash strewn all over the muddy ground. A few individuals trudge through the slop, picking up some of the debris.

Hendrix’s anthem was jaw-dropping because those still at Woodstock experienced the first symptoms of culture shock. It ultimately metastasized into cynicism and despair in the early 1970s and ensured the music festival was a one-off affair.

Because of how Hendrix’s version of the anthem sounded, it was deemed offensive by the very people who had spent the weekend convinced the “hippiefest” would devolve into a disaster. However, Hendrix did not describe his rendition as a protest song. To him, it was simply beautiful.

A counter-perspective suggests his “Star Spangled Banner” was not anti-war but merely inclusive. There were towns that would barely have accepted a gathering of a few dozen “long-haired freaks.” Playing before tens of thousands of people who saw themselves as cultural and political outcasts, his version incorporated the stylings of music from the era and asserted that Woodstock attendees were Americans too.

Hendrix probably never meant to connect the national anthem with the Vietnam War.

In 1967, Hendrix’s band, the Experience, participated in a U.S. Army public radio spot that urged young Americans to enlist. He told the Dutch magazine Kink in 1967 that Americans were “fighting in Vietnam for the complete free world.”

“As soon as they move out, they’ll be at the mercy of the communists,” Hendrix added. “For that matter, the yellow danger [China] should not be underestimated. Of course, war is horrible, but at present, it’s still the only guarantee to maintain peace.”

On January 9, 1969, according to the Rough Guide to Jimi Hendrix, he dedicated a show to the “American Deserters Society” while in Stockholm, Sweden. That appears to be as far as Hendrix went in openly opposing the war.

Regardless of Hendrix’s intentions, it will forever retain an ambiguity that is apolitical and political, idealistic and sober, and liberating as well as haunting.

The hundreds of thousands of people who came together had as much of a right to define the trajectory of the United States as the officials in President Richard Nixon’s administration, who were dividing people and killing people abroad. That is the liberating aspect of Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner.”

On the other hand, there is a pervasive sense that Woodstock (or a Woodstock-like moment) could never happen again. Nostalgia consistently gives way to fear of never achieving such grandeur and fosters a distrust in humanity. The demons we hear in the piercing chords of Hendrix’s guitar will continue to prevail if we let fear win.

The post Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ by Jimi Hendrix appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Jimi Hendrix, National Anthem, Protest Song of the Week, Woodstock]

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