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[l] at 5/11/22 8:48am
The post was originally published at Ongoing History Of Protest Music.Bob Vylan is a grime punk duo that recently released their second album Bob Vylan Present ThePrice Of Life.Just like their 2020 debut album, We Live Here, the album features incisive political commentary addressing issues such as systemic racism and poverty. Their songs feature radical and potent lyrics like, Wage war against the state, England’s fucking dead, let it burn, and Alexa, take me to prison.One of the albums best tracks is the song GDP, which is a poignant statement on economic policies which benefits the rich but screws over the poor. It points out the lunacy of countries that base their economic growth on gross domestic products, especially when those figures can be bolstered by negative factors, such as Russias war on Ukraine. Yeah, the BBC are talking bout the GDP. That means fuck all to me. I gotta eat. You know I gotta eat, right? the duo raps. They add, Cash rules everything around me that matters. So the purse strings are tighter than Thatchers.Pulling no punches, they declare, “Let me make it clear: This wretched system isn’t playing fair,” and “I couldn’t give a fuck if this country hates me here. They stole our people, displaced and placed us here.Singer Bobby Vylan (not to be confused with the drummer Bobbie Vylan) said of the album: Money is a tool. It’s neither good nor bad. Unfortunately, there are some people that are using it for evil and to keep other people down. Listen to and or watch Bob Vylans GDP: The post Protest Song Of The Week: GDP By Bob Vylan appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, The Dissenter, The Protest Music Project, Bob Vylan, Protest Song of the Week]

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[l] at 4/27/22 8:43am
Originally published at Ongoing History of Protest MusicBack in 1973, Seattle singer-songwriter Patrick Haggerty released what is widely considered tobe the first gay-themed country album under the moniker Lavender Country.At the time only 1000 copies of the self-titled album were printed. In later years, the album generated interest among music journalists, historians, and record collectors. The resulted in a reissue of the album in 2014 by the Paradise of Bachelors label.Haggerty also went on a nationwide tour, introducing a new generation to music that was previously buried in the dust bin of obscurity.In 2019, Haggerty finally released his sophomore album, Blackberry Rose. The album received even wider recognition after Don Giovanni Records reissued it.As an openly gay artist in a genre associated with conservativism, the simple act of making music was already a political statement, and even more so in the 1970s. But Haggerty took it further by not shying away from including bold messages in his lyrics.Considering his role as a groundbreaker, it is appropriate that his latest album pays tribute to radical feminist Clara Fraser. Like Haggerty, Fraser was a staunch Marxist who spoke out on behalf of the oppressed. In Clara Fraser, Clara Fraser he takes on the role of a villainous strike breaker who opposes fair labor practices and gender equality.Listen to Clara Fraser, Clara Fraser by Lavender Country: The post Protest Song Of The Week: Clara Fraser, Clara Fraser By Lavender Country appeared first on Shadowproof.

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

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[l] at 4/20/22 9:36am
This article was funded by paid subscribers of The Dissenter Newsletter. Become a monthly subscriber to help us continue our independent journalism.A British magistrates court ordered the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States and sent the request for his extradition to Home Office Secretary Priti Patel for approval. The order came a little more than a month after the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom refused to hear Assange’s appeal. In December, the UK High Court of Justice granted the US governments appeal and overturned a district court decision that spared Assange. Chief Magistrate Senior District Judge Paul Goldspring contended he was “duty-bound” to send the extradition request to Patel. Goldspring also told Assange he had a right to appeal if the Home Office approved the extradition before issuing the order. Mark Summers QC, an attorney for Assange, asserted there were “fresh developments” in the case and bemoaned the fact that the defense was not permitted at this stage to raise this evidence, according to Computer Weekly’s Bill Goodwin. Assange’s legal team has until May 18 to submit evidence to the Home Office and argue why the department should block the extradition request. In two months, Patel is expected to make a decision.If approved by Patel, attorneys for Assange may request permission to appeal to the British High Court of Justice. His attorneys may appeal the decision of the district judge to send the case to the Home Office for approval and may also appeal the Home Office secretary’s order. While the defense for Assange objected to District Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s ruling on January 4, 2021, particularly as it related to issues of press freedom, they never had an appropriate opportunity to raise their objections. She denied the extradition request after determining it would be “oppressive” for mental health reasons. His attorneys would likely challenge many of Baraitsers conclusions about Assange if Patel allowed the request. (Note: Baraitser is no longer a district judge at the Westminster Magistrates Court.) Assange is detained at Her Majestys Prison Belmarsh. He faces 18 charges brought against him by the US Justice Department, 17 of which are under the Espionage Act. All the charges relate to documents WikiLeaks released in 2010 and 2011, which were provided by US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning. The prosecution makes Assange the first publisher to be charged under the 1917 law, and globally the case has been condemned by virtually all reputable civil liberties, human rights, and press freedom organizations. Patel and the Home Office support an expansion of the Official Secrets Laws in the UK, which Elmaazi reported “would expand possible imprisonment for leakers, recipients of leaks and secondary publishers–including journalists–from the current maximum of two years to as high as 14 years in prison.”The Home Office contends there is no longer much of a difference between “espionage and the most serious unauthorized disclosures.” That includes what Patel would call “onward disclosure.” The department treats journalism as an act capable of “far more serious damage” than traditional espionage.In the UK, the Office for Security and Counterterrorism is a part of the Home Office. The division is responsible for MI5 (Britain’s FBI) and anti-terrorism police operations. Operation Pelican, the name for the pressure campaign to force Assange out of the Ecuador embassy in London, was supported by the Home Office. But as Declassified UK chief investigator Matt Kennard noted, the Home Office claims it does not “hold” any records containing details related to the operation, even though eight officials from the department were involved. Kennard also reported that Patel was on the advisory council for a right-wing group linked to the CIA called the Henry Jackson Society, which has attacked Assange in the press for over a decade.[Prime Minister] Boris Johnson and Priti Patel, dont extradite Julian to the country that conspired to murder him, Stella Assange declared. They can stop this nightmare today and return to Julian to his family. They can do the right thing and enforce Article 4 of the US/UK extradition treaty, which prohibits extradition for political offenses.This is a political case, and with the signature of the magistrate, this now passes squarely into the political domain, Stella added. “The next four weeks will prove crucial in the fight to block extradition and secure the release of Julian Assange,” stated Rebecca Vincent, the director of operations and campaigns for Reporters Without Borders (RSF). “The Home Secretary must act now to protect journalism and adhere to the UK’s commitment to media freedom by rejecting the extradition order and releasing Assange.”RSF, a global press freedom organization, launched a “Free Assange” petition urging supporters to sign on before May 18, the last day Assange can make any submissions to the Home Office. The National Union for Journalists (NUJ) in the UK renewed their call for his release from Belmarsh prison and charges to be dropped.Assange defense groups and a coalition of civil liberties, human rights, and press freedom organizations will build on prior work and use the next several weeks to ramp up their campaigning. Their intent will be to make the extradition request a political issue in the UK and throughout Europe. The WikiLeaks founder will remain in detention at Belmarsh until Patels decision and during any appeal. The post Dark Day For Press Freedom As British Court Orders Assange Extradition appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Assange Extradition, Julian Assange, WikiLeaks]

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[l] at 4/20/22 8:51am
“THEY TALK WHILE WE CONTINUE TO DIE.” Out of context, those words written on a piece of cardboard that hung in a Massachusetts window in November 2021 read like a rallying cry for any number of movements.  The sign couldve been in protest of inadequate responses to the climate crisis or COVID-19. But it had nothing to do with either; it was a response to the poisoned drug supply and overdose crises. These crises have been worsened over decades by policies that are either indifferent to the need for comprehensive solutions or are actively harmful, such as the criminalization and policing of drug users.  Over the past three decades, people who use drugs have recognized this policy program as one of organized abandonment: a concept used by Ruth Wilson Gilmore and others to explain how the profit-seeking organization of business and government exploits and neglects specific populations deemed to be surplus or unproductive. It can look like governments prohibiting the distribution of clean and safe equipment for using drugs, or forcing people to work without enacting basic public health protections to stem the spread of COVID-19. Drug users have organized back. From New York City, to Vancouver, British Columbia, to the midwest in Iowa, they’ve gathered together to determine what they need to live well and in safety, and then worked cooperatively to build those things. Some of these struggles are visible and above-ground, like the establishment in the early 2000s of Vancouver’s safe injection sites and, more recently, the Drug User Liberation Front [DULF]’s distribution of tested and safe drugs in the city. Some are still, by necessity, obscured and secret, like underground syringe exchanges and community-run safe injection sites.  Most of these solutions were at one point illegal. Some have since been approved and/or co-opted by the state (depending on how you look at it) after years of conflict and prohibition, while others still operate under threat of incarceration. But while politicians maintained policies that resulted in drug user deaths, drug-user organizers worked to stop as many deaths as possible. Now, states around the world are broadening their programs of organized abandonment, threatening broader groups of people with harm and death through their roles in overlapping crises from the pandemic to the climate emergency. More communities are struggling to figure out how best to survive. Drug-user organizers know how to fight back and get what they need when they’re left to die. The skills and experience these organizers have built are increasingly relevant for grave new contexts. * In 2003, Cameroonian historian and political theorist Achille Mbembe coined the term “necropolitics” to describe the power of the state to normalize and enforce conditions that will cause death for certain people, and especially how racism and white supremacy shape that power.  While the context is different, Garth Mullins, the host of the Crackdown podcast and organizer with the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), uses the term to describe government policies toward people who use drugs. “It’s the power to decide who lives and dies,” says Mullins. In British Columbia where Mullins lives, this power is exercised with lethal results each year. Since 2016, recorded overdose deaths in the province have more than doubled and it is likely this figure is an undercount. Last year, more than 2000 people died.  Mullins and his cohort learned long ago that they were on their own, and it was up to them to protect one another. He came to drug-user organizing in Vancouver in the 1990s, when the province had declared a public health emergency in response to a spike in overdose deaths from potent heroin alongside rising HIV deaths.  The provincial government was holding out on needle distribution. To a younger Mullins, their stance was clear: “‘Oh, they don’t care if we die. It doesn’t matter to them.’” The policy didn’t sit well with him. “I guess I thought of my own life as not very valuable either,” says Mullins. “I thought, ‘well, maybe I don’t care if I die also.’ If all the structures around you treat you like you’re not very valuable or useful, then you start to feel that about yourself.” Mullins began attending meetings with fellow drug users in the city, gatherings that would eventually lead to the creation of VANDU. At these meetings, demands and analyses weren’t tempered by expectations of what the state might consider to be “realistic,” nor were they limited to what was legal. People could speak the truth of the situation and decide how to proceed with shared understanding.  This sort of organizing created liberatory actions and projects like North America’s first illegal safe injection site, and DULF’s distribution of safe drugs. Mullins argues these actions, determined internally according to their own needs, serve two purposes.  The first is immediate and material: they save and positively impact lives on that day. “There kinda can’t be even a bigger unit of success than someone not dying,” says Mullins.  But the other result is just as powerful. “It also shows you and everyone around a little glimpse of a possible future,” he said. “This future has had the door sealed shut by the state for so long, and now we’ve just taken a pry bar, popped that lock, and had a little glance through into what’s possible.” “Across the board, the state has just decided they’re abandoning people and they can die,” says Mullins. “Maybe they’re gonna die of COVID, maybe they’re gonna die in climate emergencies like the heat dome, maybe they’ll die of overdose.” Like Mbembe’s concept highlighted, Indigenous and Black people in North America know these policies to be baked into the Canadian and American states.  “It’s been here the whole time,” says Mullins, “and I think what we’re seeing is an expansion of that.” * Any drug user could likely rattle off a list of names of friends and loved ones who died along the bloody road to state concessions to efforts like legal safe injection sites and needle exchanges. To add insult to injury, the state usually paints demands for basic survival needs as radical and unattainable. This tactic sows discord and encourages movements to water down their convictions. Sarah Ziegenhorn, a founder and former organizer of Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition (IHRC) , was surprised by the intensity and character of resistance from state government while working with the group.  Founded in 2015 and based in Iowa City, IHRC ran an underground syringe exchange while formally connecting people to treatments and services for HIV and hepatitis C. By 2019, they were handing out a million syringes per year in a state of just three million people, with no official funding.  Undercover cops would come to their space, snap pictures of the group handing out syringes and Narcan, and email them to state legislators, who would then withdraw support for IHRC.  Historically, when drug-user organizers have built enough power, the government concedes to some degree and signals a willingness to negotiate. The compromises that result from that process can be tempting, especially in desperate situations, but can result in services that are often judgemental, punitive, or too little, too late.. Ziegenhorn warns that for others beginning to organize in the face of abandonment, this situation can produce a chilling effect by introducing a conservative sense of “moral superiority” to the work that influences people toward compromise. “That can be a kiss of death in organizing if people decide to believe that,” says Ziegenhorn. When she would go to meetings with elected officials to discuss IHRC’s work, Ziegenhorn would bring physicians who were newly supportive of harm reduction efforts. After meeting with politicians who chastised them for the efforts, the physicians would balk.  “They’d be like, ‘Okay, my peers are saying this is wrong, we have to wait for the laws to change, it’s really dangerous to do these things that are illegal, this is crazy.’” This characterization of basic material demands as radical and immoral helps to discredit ideas and undermine grassroots organizing against abandonment. The key to avoiding this, says Ziegenhorn, is “a really well-established network of people who trust each other and believe in one another and the work they’re doing.”  “You have to be comfortable with sticking to a set of values, and remembering your grounding in things that are important to you, like one another’s wellbeing and happiness and ease of living,” says Ziegenhorn. “Doing things that clearly further those goals is not radical or too out there or crazy.” * Some drug users maintain that even though government negotiation and compromise can be thought of as an acceptable end goal of organizing, decisions made by and for impacted community members are the only proven tactic for attaining better living conditions. Sessi Kuwabara Blanchard noticed fellow trans sex workers and drug users in New York City weren’t accessing harm reduction services that were available. The reason was that providers operated on schedules that conflicted with that of sex workers. So, she started a mutual aid group for trans sex workers using drugs.  Do It Safe, Heaux! (DISH!]) and its members distributed harm reduction supplies to one another. When trans sex workers faced transphobia and judgment at Narcotics Anonymous programs, DISH! started their own support group. But for Blanchard, who is an organizer with VOCAL NY’s Drug Users Union, the clearest indictment of fighting for state policy concessions came when she wanted to get a prescription for Suboxone to transition from using heroin and fentanyl.  She called a telehealth Suboxone clinic that advertised rapid access, but was told on the call that she’d be contacted later with an appointment date. Blanchard, already experiencing withdrawal, began to cry. The person she was speaking with hung up. “It was one of the most devastating feelings,” Blanchard recalled. “The clinic staff hanging up on me was the distilled, purest form of abandonment that I felt.” The lesson was that even services that purport to work toward the same goals as militants will often only do so on their terms. Blanchard says one way to avoid being upended by this is to adopt and adhere to immediate local goals. “We only have to work with what’s in front of us and how the world is set up today,” she says. “Building trusting relationships with the people that are surviving the conditions they wish to change is the absolute first starting place. You have to respond and strategize from the point of your everyday life.” * When hostile conditions like the climate crisis seem insurmountable, organizing can seem impossible, especially to people who are becoming acutely aware of their vulnerability.  “Any action that you consider to be unsuccessful, maybe it’s just not successful yet,” Mullins said. “If you asked this question around civil disobedience around safe injection sites in 1997 in the peak of the HIV and overdose deaths, it would’ve been several years into the campaign but there was no InSite on the horizon for years.” “Unfortunately, the timelines are really long. We also were asking for Narcan for a long time, and finally getting that five to six years ago. But there’s nothing about civil disobedience that need take a long time.” Crises often scream for urgency, but trying to accomplish too much all at once can stifle action and morale. Vince Tao, an organizer with VANDU and the Vancouver Tenants’ Union, says that centering immediate material conditions is important to momentum and community cohesion. While VANDU’s primary emphasis is drugs, Tao says they view it as just one piece of a larger puzzle. Siloing the issues of class struggle, he says, allows the state to play “whack-a-mole” in suppressing them, so building impactful movements means starting from the bottom. Tao adds that good organizing leaves room for people to come in and out of activities, forgiving rather than chastising someone for falling behind on tasks or missing meetings. He says that members often can’t make VANDU meetings because they’re busy trying to evade eviction, policing, or other forms of violence, and “as the rising tide starts to swallow up our planet, this is gonna get more fucking crazy, and we’re gonna have to give each other a lot of forgiveness for not being able to do stuff.”  “That is the work of organizing,” he continues, “not meeting every Thursday night on Zoom at 7PM after a work day and spending an hour on introductions then getting two things done. That’s not it. The real organizing is being able to navigate really complex social relations.” VANDU has a small ritual that keeps the long-term scope in focus: at the end of every meeting, regardless of size or length, they have a moment of silence and speak the names of people they’ve lost. This can happen up to five times a day. “Whether you’re in the downtown eastside and you’re literally losing hundreds of people in your life from drug toxicity, or you’re on a dying planet, we have to be able to mourn these things and not forget them,” says Tao. Every time he repeats his friends’ names, he still tears up.  “It recommits me to the fight,” he says. “It’s a very practical method that we use, but it’s really important to keep up that militancy. We mourn the dead and we fight like hell for the living.” The post In Era Of Overlapping Crises, Drug-User Organizers Share Lessons Learned Fighting Abandonment appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, Prison Protest, Drug user organizing, Movement organizing, Organized Abandonment]

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[l] at 4/20/22 5:53am
The following was originally published at Ongoing History Of Protest Music.For Soul Glo, being a black hardcore band already made the simple act of making music a political statement. Add to that their radical rhetoric, and you have a group capable of producing fierce protest songs.The group recently released the stunning new album Diaspora Problems. It marks their debut on the well-known punk label Epitaph.One of the albums many highlights is the incisive Fucked Up If True. It is the perfect synopsis of 2016-2020, where there seemed to be an increase in political awareness and activism but much of that was focused on anti-Trump sentiment and a left vs. right mentality.Fuck I look like wearing emotions like an ankle-weight or ball-and-chain and wading in the four-year blue tide just to have a side? Soul Glo laments. So we just gon always vote in false elections and accept each result and its effects as though people were powerless.Do you feel supportive care? How do you wake up everyday? What enforced your belief that you can vote their power away? they add.Even though the collective relief of voting President Donald Trump out of office is understandable, how much has really changed in the two-plus years since? Soul Glo recognizes lasting change wont come by only voting for the supposed lesser than two evils on the ballot. It will take much more concrete action. Listen to Soul Glos Fucked Up If True: The post Protest Song Of The Week: Fucked Up If True By Soul Glo appeared first on Shadowproof.

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

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[l] at 3/23/22 11:26am
The article originally appeared at Ongoing History of Protest Music.Zeal & Ardor is the brainchild of Swedish musician Manuel Gagneux. It started as an online project,where Gagneux sought feedback on blending two musical genres that dont traditionally gotogether. He ultimately paired black metal with spirituals and that led to three studio albums, including a recently released self-titled album.Lyrically, it’s a continuation of the alternate history narrative we have going on—what if American slaves had turned to Satan instead of God? Gagneux said. Where Devil Is Fine was about life in captivity and Stranger Fruit was about the escape, this record is about the many things that come after—being on the run, clandestine ruminations, and grand plan.As in his previous efforts, the lyrics touch upon themes of religious hypocrisy and race relations. Eventhough it might be written from the perspective of the African American experience, as a black man in apredominately white country and music genre, racism is something that Gagneux has routinely dealt with.One of the albums more aggressive tracks is Götterdämmerung. This is the title of a movement in a Wagner opera, and Wagner was heavily used by not-so-great people in the ’30s and ’40s in Germany. So I wanted to re-appropriate and reclaim Wagner, even though he himself was a huge dick, too—but dude wrote brilliant music, Gagneux shared.Politicians co-opting music for their agenda is a trend. For example, back in the 1980s, Bruce Springsteen spoke up when politicians such as Ronald Reagan tried to adopt Born in the USA as a campaign theme (missing the point of the lyrics). During Donald Trumps presidency, many opposed his use of their music at his rallies. Neil Young in particular composed an open letter voicing his displeasure over Trump using his political protest anthem, Rockin in the Free World.Listen to Zeal & Ardors Gotterdämmerung: The post Protest Song Of The Week: Gotterdämmerung By Zeal Ardor appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, The Dissenter, The Protest Music Project]

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[l] at 3/15/22 9:09am
This article was funded by paid subscribers of The Dissenter Newsletter. Become a monthly subscriber to help us continue our independent journalism.Without any explanation, the British Supreme Court denied WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange “permission to appeal” a decision by the British High Court.The Supreme Court maintained the appeal did not “raise an arguable point of law” and sent the case back to the Westminster Magistrates’ Court, the district court which initially blocked the United States government’s extradition request on January 4, 2021.By refusing to grant Assange a hearing, the U.S. government effectively won their appeal. Prosecutors convinced the British courts to disregard concerns that he may be subject to treatment in a U.S. jail or prison that would be oppressive to his mental health. Whether Julian is extradited or not, which is the same as saying whether he lives or dies, is decided through a process of legal avoidance—avoiding to hear arguments that challenge the U.K. courts deference to unenforceable and caveated claims regarding his treatment made by the United States, the country that plotted to murder him, declared Stella Moris, his partner. Moris continued, Julian is the key witness, the principle indicter, and the cause of enormous embarrassment to successive U.S. governments. He brought the countrys atrocities into the public domain.The Westminster Magistrates’ Court may now refer the extradition to the British Home Office for Home Secretary Priti Patel to review. According to Birnberg Peirce, the law firm representing Assange, they are entitled to make submissions to the Home Secretary for consideration before the extradition request is approved. If Patel approves the extradition, Assange’s defense may submit an appeal on the issues of freedom of the press that were not addressed before the High Court yet. That would likely prevent Assange from extradition. However, if the High Court and Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal because they did not believe it raised “arguable points of law,” he could potentially be transferred to the U.S. before the year is over. Assange is detained at Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh in London, a high-security prison where he has been held since he was expelled from the Ecuador Embassy on April 11, 2019. He faces 18 charges—17 of which are charges under the Espionage Act. The Espionage Act is a law in the United States passed in 1917 that the Justice Department has increasingly wielded against media sources who share “classified” documents or talk about sensitive information with journalists. On December 10, 2021, the High Court, the same court which was asked to certify points of law for an appeal, granted the U.S. government’s appeal and overturned a district court decision that previously blocked Assange’s extradition. The High Court did not grant permission for an appeal but certified one issue as a “matter of public importance,” which cracked the door open for an appeal before it was slammed shut on March 14. Beyond Normal Or Acceptable Criminal Justice Objectives The district court heard evidence during a month-long hearing in September 2020 that U.S. prison conditions would likely drive Assange to commit suicide, particularly as a result of his mental health issues. One of the U.S. agencies that provides input into whether to designate a detainee or prisoner for SAMs is the CIA, which designated WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence agency” and reportedly considered plans to kidnap or poison Assange while he was in the Ecuador Embassy.Attorneys for Assange showed the CIA’s interest in Assange goes beyond the “pursuit of normal or acceptable criminal justice objectives.” Assange’s legal team asked the Supreme Court to consider what circumstances an appeals court could receive “assurances” from a requesting state, which were not initially before the “court of first instance in extradition proceedings.” (In this case, that was the Westminster Magistrates’ Court.) Following District Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s decision to block the extradition request, the U.S. State Department put forward assurances to save their case.Officials told the British government they would not impose special administrative measures (SAMs) on Assange before trial or after he was convicted. They also insisted they would not incarcerate Assange in ADX Florence, a supermax prison. Additionally, the U.S. State Department claimed Assange, an Australian citizen, could apply for a prisoner transfer under the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons to Australia to serve any prison sentence in his home country. He would also receive “clinical and psychological treatment” as recommended by a “qualified treating clinician employed or retained” while in U.S. custody. Each of the conditional assurances offered by the U.S. State Department contained glaring loopholes that were highlighted by Assange’s attorneys during an appeal hearing at the end of October 2021. Yet the High Court found those loopholes to be insignificant, and the court granted the U.S. government’s appeal. Regressive Measures Which Have No Place In A Democracy An application for appeal released by Assange’s legal team reflects the arguments they were blocked from presenting to the Supreme Court. “The manner in which assurances were permitted to be introduced in this case for the first time on appeal totally undermines the primacy of the extradition hearing and deprives the defendant of an opportunity to test them and their implications before the district judge,” attorneys argued.“It is generally regarded as unfair, wrong, and abusive for a party to elect—for a perceived or actual tactical advantage—to conduct litigation in one way and then, when met with an adverse judicial decision on that, to attempt to re-litigate or appeal on a new and different basis.” The High Court asserted the assurances were not evidence, and as such, there was no unfairness on the part of the U.S. government. In response, Assange’s attorneys raised the fact that there lengthy proceedings on alleged confinement conditions in U.S. prisons, which gave the U.S. plenty of opportunity to neutralize concerns about inhuman treatment. Officials never offered an assurance related to SAMs or ADX Florence. Evidence presented by Assange’s defense clearly resonated with Baraitser. Only then did U.S. officials accept that the state of U.S. jails and prisons may require them to make some assurances to secure the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition. According to Assanges attorneys, withholding assurances from the district judge meant that there was no opportunity for the judge to hear or test evidence. There was also no chance for the judge to take into account the assurances when “reaching her overall value judgments.” “Assange was, of course, in custody throughout the entire proceedings below, and parachuting this issue into these proceedings, at this remove of time, was fundamentally unfair,” his attorneys added. Julia Hall, Amnesty Internationals deputy research director for Europe, called the Supreme Court decision a blow to Julian Assange and to justice. “Prolonged solitary confinement is a key feature of life for many people in U.S. maximum security prisons and amounts to torture or other ill treatment under international law. The ban on torture and other ill-treatment is absolute and empty promises of fair treatment, such as those offered by the U.S.A. in the Assange case threaten to profoundly undermine that international prohibition. Hall also contended the refusal left intact the nefarious route the U.S. has employed to attempt to prosecute publishers for espionage. Demanding that states like the UK extradite people for publishing classified information that is in the public interest sets a dangerous precedent and must be rejected.Reporters Without Borders (RSF) expressed deep disappointment in response to the Supreme Court’s decision. “Assange’s case is overwhelmingly in the public interest, and it deserved review by the highest court in the U.K. After two full years of extradition proceedings, once again Assange’s fate has become a political decision,” stated Rebecca Vincent, RSF’s Director of Operations and Campaigns. “We call on the Home Office to act in the interest of journalism and press freedom by refusing extradition and releasing Assange from prison without further delay,” Vincent added. While press freedom issues in the Assange case have not been litigated since the district court decision, the first major changes to the U.K.’s Official Secrets Acts since 1989 were proposed by Patel, who supports expanding the law to prosecute and jail whistleblowers and journalists who publish state secrets. “Although the Official Secrets Acts are indeed long overdue for reform, what the Home Office is proposing is alarming,” Vincent previously declared. “The failure to include a public interest defense would increase risks for journalists, sources, and others who could face the threat of up to 14 years in prison simply for doing their jobs—regressive measures that have no place in any modern democracy.” The post UK Supreme Court Slams Door On Assange Appeal, Extradition May Be Authorized appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, The Dissenter, Assange Extradition, Julian Assange, The Dissenter Newsletter]

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[l] at 3/9/22 3:07pm
This article was funded by paid subscribers of The Dissenter Newsletter. Become a monthly subscriber to help us continue our independent journalism.In the wake of Russias invasion of Ukraine, the country has been flooded with weapons and military hardware from Europe and North America. An exclusive report published on March 5 by the Washington Post quoted anonymous sources, who claimed the U.S. and its overseas allies were “quietly” prepared to support a Ukrainian government-in-exile. This expatriated administration would “direct guerrilla operations against Russian occupiers” over the course of a “long insurgency” following Moscow’s takeover of Kiev.As Russia presses on with their military operation, Western countries are increasingly determined to fuel a counter-offensive in Kiev. There is little consideration or concern for the potentially catastrophic blowback that may result for Ukrainians and the world.While opposed to the establishment of a no-fly zone, the U.S. increasingly appears to be directly involved in the conflict against nuclear-armed Russia, which would make U.S. forces legitimate military targets or “co-combatants.” The U.S. and its allies could urge Ukraine to enter ceasefire negotiations with Moscow and accept the likelihood that the country cannot become a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) without permanently threatening peace in the region. This would stabilize the global economy to avert a full-blown collapse and prevent the outbreak of another refugee crisis on Europe’s periphery. Instead, the U.S. and NATO have chosen Ukraine as a staging ground for a proxy war with Russia, creating an environment that has the terrifying potential to result in nuclear catastrophe. Ukrainians, as well as Russians collectively punished by sanctions against their economy, will bear the long-term impacts of this belligerent brinkmanship.But the strategy will significantly expand the growth prospects for military companies like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. All-In For Ukraine Although the European Union has never supplied lethal aid to any country, Brussels is now providing arms to Kiev worth around $489 million. Germany will dispatch 1,000 rocket launchers, 500 stinger surface-to-air missiles, numerous howitzers and armored vehicles, and 10,000 tons of fuel, in contravention of Berlin’s longstanding policy of not exporting lethal weapons to war zones. Sweden has also broken with their two-century-long commitment to neutrality, by sending missile systems to Kiev. Neighboring Finland, long-averse to foreign entanglements of any kind, also pledged to provide thousands of assault rifles, rocket launchers, and vast quantities of ammunition. Over 20 countries, including Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, France, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal and Romania, have shipped arms packages. On top of sending weapons to Ukraine, Denmark officially permitted their population to travel to Kiev and deploy as foreign fighters. Ukrainian officials claimed “around 20,000” foreign volunteers, “mostly” from European countries, are now active in the conflict, as of March 6. President Volodomyr Zelenskyy encouraged more to join them. From the outset, the Brtish government has taken a leading role in underwriting Ukraine’s war effort. Zelenskyy purportedly views Prime Minister Boris Johnson as his “closest ally, and the pair have daily phone conversations to coordinate war efforts. In the lead-up to Russia’s invasion, Johnson met with Lithuanian and Polish leaders to discuss battle plans, deployed specialist British troops to the region, and provided a welter of anti-tank missiles. London also trained 20,000 Ukrainian snipers.British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss voiced her support for citizens who wish to fight in Ukraine. (Note: The same support has not been shown for Britons, who battled ISIS in Iraq and Syria several have been prosecuted.) Support from Britain pales in comparison to the military investment by Washington. Two days after the invasion, President Joe Bidens administration approved a $350 million lethal aid package for Kiev. Congressional oversight was bypassed to expedite delivery to Kiev. Even prior to the Maidan coup in 2014, Ukraine was a leading recipient of U.S. military aid in Europe and Eurasia.Funds provided to Ukraine over the past year surpassed $1 billion, and the White House has since asked Congress for an additional $10 billion, with just under half assigned to the Pentagon to ensure U.S. troops in NATO countries can continue to replenish weapons supplies for the Ukrainian military and volunteer forces.As reported in the New York Times, the U.S. and NATO have pushed more than 17,000 antitank weapons, including Javelin missiles, over the borders of Poland and Romania, unloading them from giant military cargo planes so they can make the trip by land to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and other major cities.”Stinger missiles largely came from U.S. stockpiles in Germany, and one Pentagon official described the shipment as the largest single authorized transfer of arms from U.S. military warehouses to another country. Though Ukraine has a right to self-defense, Responsible Statecraft warned, Flooding weapons into what the Global Organized Crime Index describes as one of the largest arms trafficking markets in Europe is a recipe for disaster. The index called attention to Ukraine’s role as a key link in the global arms trade, which has grown since conflicts intensified in eastern Ukraine in recent years. The dimensions of U.S. intelligence sharing with Ukraine are indistinct. Officials have consistently refused to share precise details of what is being shared, when, and with whom. Reporting has suggested some sensitive information, which could facilitate decisive strikes on the Russian military, is being withheld due to Washington’s unwillingness to be seen as a direct participant in the conflict. But Moscow has already declared that any country supplying Kiev with equipment such as fighter jets is considered an active participant. Supporting An Insurgency Is In the CIA’s DNA While official permission for Americans to volunteer in Ukraine hasn’t been granted, the New York Times along with U.S. state-funded media outlet Voice of America, have reported approvingly on how scores of veterans of U.S. conflicts, such as Iraq, are flocking to Kiev, often bringing with them military equipment. Under normal circumstances, passengers would not be able to carry such items as baggage. It seems likely upon arrival at least some veterans will make contact with the large number of “stay-behind” paramilitary units the CIA has since 2015 covertly trained at a secret facility in the southern United States. The facility has taught Ukrainians about the use of “firearms, camouflage techniques, land navigation, tactics like ‘cover and move,’ intelligence, and other areas.” A former agency official spelled out the purpose of this program bluntly: “the US is training an insurgency to kill Russians.” This program has palpable parallels with Operation Gladio’, a clandestine pan-European nexus of NATO, CIA, and MI6-supported fascist guerrilla units, which throughout the Cold War carried out false flag terror attacks, assassinations, and other heinous crimes with impunity for over four decades, as part of a “strategy of tension” to discredit the left, and justify ever-greater security measures. Among other atrocities, Gladio operatives were responsible for the August 1980 bombing of Bologna train station, which killed 85 people, including a three-year-old child, and wounded over 200. Members of Gladio’s Italian unit were trained on British soil, and the CIA and MI6 provided the explosives used in the massacre. It also bears similarities to U.S. assistance to the mujahideen before and during the Soviet–Afghan War. In fact, such a comparison was drawn by U.S. lawmaker Adam Smith, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, after legislation to establish a “Ukraine Resistance Fund” was drafted. Writing in Foreign Affairs the day after the war began, four-decade CIA veteran Douglas London prophesized a “coming” insurrection, very much along Soviet-Afghan lines. (Note: Foreign Affairs is published by the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank headquartered in New York.) Acknowledging the far more powerful Russia “can likely seize as much of Ukraine’s territory as it chooses,” it conversely argues a well-financed and armed insurgency with “reliable supply lines, ample reserves of fighters, and sanctuary over the border can sustain itself indefinitely,” and in the process “sap an occupying army’s will to fight, and exhaust political support for the occupation at home.” “Supporting an insurgency is in the CIA’s DNA, London wrote. The CIA’s recent experience in supporting and fighting insurgencies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria prepares it well for opposing Russia’s modern conventional forces,” London added. “The U.S. can help Ukrainian insurgents in hitting targets with the greatest military value and psychological impact.” A Veritable Tinderbox Backing the mujahideen is widely venerated by U.S. foreign policy apparatchiks and nostalgically hailed as the decisive blow that destroyed the Soviet Union. Speaking to MSNBC  on February 28, twice-failed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton stated this was “the model that people are now looking toward” in respect to Ukraine, as “armed insurgency basically drove the Russians out of Afghanistan.” “The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war,” the strategy’s architect Zbigniew Brzezinski bragged in 1998. “For almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.” However, the Afghan fighters role in the USSR’s disintegration is considered by many historians—and Melvin Goodman, chief of the CIA’s Office of Soviet Affairs during this period—to be hugely overrated, if not an outright fantasy. What the policy primarily achieved was a wantonly protracted and bloody quagmire, in which thousands of people died needlessly. The very same horror is likely to play out in Ukraine too. Zelenskyy has armed Ukrainian citizens and circulated instructions for making Molotov cocktails, urging the public to hurl improvised explosives at the invading Russians—potentially putting civilians lives at risk by making them military targets. In one instance, this encouragement purportedly resulted in a battery of BM21 Grad MLRS inadvertently detonating and devastating the surrounding area. In another, a Ukrainian woman who flung a Molotov cocktail at a Russian army vehicle from a moving car set herself on fire in the process. Add to this incendiary mix an influx of foreign fighters, one of whom told NPR of their desire to “hang from lamps as many Muscovites as I can,” and Ukrainian authorities releasing inmates with military experience from prison to fight invasion forces. In sum, the country has been transformed into a veritable tinderbox, primed to explode in a gruesome manner. When civil war erupted in Tripoli in 2011, London offered an “open door” to Libyan exiles residing in the country including members of MI6-connected Al Qaeda-affiliate Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. These fighters proved pivotal in the brutal overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, and remained in Libya for years thereafter. In 2014, several were rescued by a Royal Navy vessel due to a “deteriorating security situation.” Among the evacuees was Salman Abedi, who in May 2017 perpetrated a suicide bombing in Manchester Arena, killing 22, injuring over a thousand, and leaving hundreds suffering from psychological trauma. The EU estimates that up to seven million refugees will be created by the war in Ukraine. That number likely does not account for a future where an insurgency turns the war into a ten year event.The world can expect some who flee and take up refuge in Western countries will be battle-hardened and embittered former guerrilla fighters, like Abedi. Clearly, Western countries are averse to learning the lessons that should be learned from previous protracted wars. No matter the global consequences, London and Washington will fight to the last Ukrainian. The post Arms Flood Into Ukraine As US, NATO Pursue Proxy War Over Peace appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, NATO, Russia-Ukraine War, The Dissenter Newsletter]

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[l] at 3/9/22 8:15am
This post was originally published at Ongoing History of Protest Songs.Hurray For The Riff Raff is the project of Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Alynda Segarra. Segarra explained the motivation behind the name in a 2017 PBS News Hour interview: The people who have gotten me through my life are the weirdoes and the poets, the rebellious women, and the activists. They were considered the riffraff by people in power, and theyre the ones that make history.Their new album Life On Earth is a powerful follow-up to their exceptional 2017 album The Navigator. Described by the project as nature punk, the tunes confront environmental issues as well as other social ills. The song Precious Cargo speaks to anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies. Segarra sings, We made it to the border. I jumped, and I was detained. Split me from my family. Now the light begins to fade.They took me to the cold room, where I sat down on the floor. Just a foil for a blanket. For 17 days or more.Segarra continues, I dont know why he would lie on me. The man from the I.C.E. And I dont know why he hate on me. The man from the I.C.E. It humanizes what the downtrodden experience at the hands border security and immigration officials. The post Protest Song Of The Week: Precious Cargo By Hurray For The Riff Raff appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: The Dissenter, The Protest Music Project, Protest Song of the Week]

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[l] at 3/1/22 5:08pm
This article was funded by paid subscribers of The Dissenter Newsletter. Become a monthly subscriber to help us continue our independent journalism.The world is in a nuclear crisis, and instead of strongly supporting ceasefire talks to end the Russia-Ukraine war, Western countries are pouring gasoline on the fire. On February 24, delegations from Ukraine and Russia met on the Ukraine-Belarus border near the Pripyat river. It was the first round of negotiations since Russian military forces invaded Ukraine. No breakthrough occurred during the meeting, which lasted nearly five hours. Yet the two delegations agreed to meet again on March 2 near the border between Poland and Belarus. According to Al Jazeera English, Vladimir Medinsky, the head of the Russian delegation, said there were “certain points on which common positions could be foreseen.” Ukraine’s delegation was not as optimistic. “The talks were taking place against the backdrop of bombing and shelling of our territory, our cities. Synchronizing of the shelling with the negotiating process was obvious. I believe Russia is trying to put pressure [on Ukraine] with this simple method,” Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared in his evening address on February 28. Prior to the talks, French President Emmanuel Macron was urged by Ukraine to speak to Russia President Vladimir Putin. The Guardian reported that he asked “Putin to ensure that for the duration of the negotiations all strikes and attacks on civilians and their homes would be halted, civilian infrastructure would be preserved, and all main roads—particularly the road south out of Kiev—would remain safe to use.” Putin reportedly agreed.Videos of Russia attacking Kharkiv with “short- to medium-range, truck-mounted multiple-rocket launchers” known as “Grads” were posted to Telegram the day of talks, leading numerous media outlets to report on the shelling as a violation of Putin’s pledge to Macron. Yet it was unclear if Russian military forces “synchronized” the attack with negotiations. Putin told Macron a ceasefire would be possible if there was “unconditional consideration of Russia’s legitimate security interests,” such as: Ukraine staying out of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the demilitarization and “de-Nazification” of Ukraine, and “recognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea.” He was open to negotiate with Ukraine’s representatives on these terms. While there are armed neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine, perceived as a problem in recent years, Putin has exaggerated their influence over Ukraine’s government. Zelenskyy’s election diminished the mobilization of the far right (though generally they have enjoyed a resurgence during the war). Of course, Ukraine’s delegation demands Russia withdraw all of their military forces and respect Ukraines sovereignty. Diplomacy At The Barrel Of A Gun State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters at a briefing that Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba consulted with G7 ministers ahead of the negotiations. Zelenskyy spoke to President Joe Biden, and Biden talked with Kuleba. U.S. officials compared notes and coordinated closely. This may explain the U.S. State Department’s skepticism. It does not appear the U.S. has advised Ukraine to offer Russia an offramp, even though Putin ordered his nuclear forces into “special combat readiness.” “You would be right to color us skeptical of what it is that Moscow intends. What we’ve said before, including last week, applies equally today. Diplomacy at the barrel of a gun, diplomacy at the turret of a tank – that is not real diplomacy,” Price stated. In fact, the U.S. is a hegemon that uses its vast military power to advance a worldwide agenda. Alexander L. George, who was globally renowned for his work on international relations, argued, “The proposition that force and threats of force are a necessary instrument of diplomacy and have a role to play in foreign policy is part of the conventional wisdom of statecraft.” “Diplomacy is not an alternative to military force; it is the use of all elements of U.S. force in a coordinated, cumulative way to achieve our results in other countries,” former U.S. ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey told Defense One in 2014. Jeffrey was a diplomat in Iraq after President George W. Bush preemptively invaded Iraq in 2003. Cheering President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Jeffrey said, “I saw them do major groundbreaking diplomatic initiatives that were revolutionary, but those guys were kicking ass and deploying military forces as an integral part of their diplomacy.” “That is why they were successful in their diplomacy, and I don’t see any difference between the two—negotiating agreements and threatening force, and when necessary delivering on the threat,” Jeffrey added. Elementary school children in the United States are taught the concept of “Big Stick Diplomacy,” which was promoted by President Theodore Roosevelt. He relied on the military strength of the U.S. to seize land and build the Panama Canal. He had the Great White Fleet travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean in a show of force to deter Japan from expanding their dominance in Asia.The reality is the U.S. may pursue peace by flaunting its monopoly on violence, but any adversarial power will be condemned for acting similarly. “We are ready and willing, just as our Ukrainian partners are, just as our European allies are, to engage in real, in substantive, in genuine diplomacy in order to see if we can find a way out of what is a needless, brutal conflict,” Price said. “But that diplomacy is highly unlikely to bear fruit, to prove effective, in the midst of not only confrontation but escalation.”It is absurd to spell this out, but ceasefires are only necessary during conflicts that involve confrontations and escalations of violence. Diplomats negotiate to establish a stoppage in warfare so that a political agreement or peace treaty may be established. An Offramp For Russia Diplomats may pursue a ceasefire to prevent catastrophic events that could result in a substantial amount of death. Preventing further death does not necessarily equal appeasement. Nevertheless, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss parroted the U.S. State Department’s talking point the day before the talks. “[Ukraine] cannot negotiate with a gun to the head of Ukrainians…So frankly, I don’t trust these so-called efforts of negotiations.” The same day Truss expressed absolute support for Britons, who would like to travel to Ukraine and become foreign fighters. Russia’s act of aggression has been met with economic warfare in the form of harsh sanctions from the U.S. and European countries, including the removal from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a messaging system that allows for international banking; barring Russian financial institutions from transactions with currencies other than the ruble; export “restrictions on semiconductors, telecommunication, encryption security, lasers, sensors, navigation, avionics, and maritime technologies”; asset freezes; and cutting off 13 state-owned companies from “raising money” in the United States. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson proclaimed, “We will continue on a remorseless mission to squeeze Russia, from the global economy, piece by piece. Day by day, and week by week.”In this context, supporting a ceasefire would not be capitulating to Russia’s invasion. The Western world is inflicting lasting damage on Russia that will make it a pariah state for the foreseeable future—and collectively punish Russia’s population of 144 million. Sanctions could be wielded to force Putin to negotiate a ceasefire and withdraw forces, however, there is no indication that leaders from any NATO country are leveraging them by offering to rescind certain sanctions if Russia reverses course. Norman Eisen, the former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, appeared on CNN and was asked about the talks. He said it was too early for Ukraine and the West to give Russia a “diplomatic way” out of the nuclear crisis. “I’m extremely dubious, like President Zelensky, about the negotiations that have started. But I do think over time, particularly as—remember, we’re only five days into the conflict. I think as the situation on the ground evolves there will be opportunities over time for offramps, things like discussing a Ukrainian pledge never to be a part of NATO,” Eisen answered.Retired military general David Petraeus played a key role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that destroyed the two countries. But stunningly, in his appearance on CNN, he showed more humanity than Eisen and contemplated why the U.S. should not merely accept that the war may drag on.“We have to start thinking through how do we provide Russia an out. You never want to put a guy who has nuclear weapons truly in a corner, where he feels that he has nothing left to lose,” Petraeus said.“So as the weight of the world is coming down on [Putin], on his economy, on his financial institutions, and the forces in the field,” Petraeus suggested we need to think about how he gets out of this but not capitulate to demands that he has placed on Ukraine or on NATO and the European Union.China, India, Pakistan, and Turkey all seem to recognize the extraordinary threat posed by the crisis, and they encouraged Russia to engage in ceasefire talks. They were even willing to mediate. Meanwhile, the interests of the U.S. military industrial-complex, which profits off NATOs alignment against Russia, has surged. The U.S. approved $350 million in additional weapons for Ukraine, and other European countries, particularly Germany, followed suit. With Russia’s advance on Kiev momentarily stalled, the west has had ample opportunity to recognize the devastation that could come with a nuclear war and make a deal. It will not be long before Russian air strikes pummel targets in Kiev and drive more Ukrainians to flee their country.The State Department claims de-confliction channels remain open with Moscow, but funneling weapons to Ukraine won’t save Ukrainians. It will only increase the chance that Ukraine becomes a quagmire. The post Amid Nuclear Crisis, US Officials Reluctant To Pursue Ceasefire In Russia-Ukraine War appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, The Dissenter, Russia, Russia-Ukraine War, Ukraine]

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[l] at 2/23/22 9:27am
The Cowboy Junkies are a Canadian alt-country band, who released their first album back in 1986. They are most known for their 1988 album The Trinity Session, which featured their cover of TheVelvet Undergrounds Sweet Jane. The lo-fi classic album was recorded in a church for under $250, and it ended up selling over a million copies.While the Cowboy Junkies arent necessarily a political band, they have delved into socially conscious material on several occasions. For example, in 2005 they released the anti-war protest album 21st Century Blues, which features mostly covers, along with a couple of originals. Their 2018 album All That Reckoning also explored political themes.The band recently released their version of David Bowies Five Years, which appears on theirupcoming covers album Songs of the Recollection. It is due out on March 25.Bowies version appeared on his 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders fromMars. The song depicts an impending apocalyptic disaster that will destroy the earth within five years.For example, the lyric, News guy wept and told us. Earth was really dying, may be even more relevant today.The Cowboy Junkies produced a video, complete with visuals that contemplate the bands mournful rendering. Earth may not literally have five years left, but their rendition is a reminder that if climate change and other social ills continue to go unchecked, time will eventually run out. The post Protest Song Of The Week: Five Years (Cover) By Cowboy Junkies appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, The Dissenter, Protest Song of the Week]

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[l] at 2/22/22 8:16am
Denied meals, forced to endure painful restraints, and subject to retaliation for participating in hunger strikes when he was incarcerated inside Riverside County jails, Salvador Venegas took the law into his own hands when he filed a lawsuit pro se against Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco in August 2019.  Venegas, who is currently imprisoned in the SATF-CSP in California’s Central Valley, organized and participated in more than one hunger strike while detained in Riverside County (RivCo) between February 2014 and September 2020. In his capacity as a pro se litigant, he also crafted and filed multiple lawsuits against the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) and the county – four in federal and three in state courts.    Others who have been locked up in RivCo, in the Inland Empire region of Southern California, have followed suit, refusing food and taking legal action against a system that uses intimidation, violence, and retaliation to control the county’s incarcerated population. With assistance from outside community organizers and legal advocates, the incarcerated have mounted sustained resistance to the routine cycles of abuse perpetrated inside RivCo jails, sometimes at great risk to themselves. The county maintains five so-called “correctional facilities” – Blythe Jail, the Cois M. Byrd Detention Center, the Joan J. Benoit Detention Center, the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility and the Robert Presley Detention Center – all of which are run by the RCSD. Bianco, who was elected RivCo sheriff, coroner, and public administrator in November 2018, runs the RCSD and oversees the jails, which hold persons arrested in the county.  Roughly 70 percent of people inside RivCo jails haven’t been convicted of a crime and remain there only because they don’t have the money for bail, explained Dylan Rodriguez, a professor of media and cultural studies at the University of California, Riverside. Rodriguez is a founding member of Critical Resistance, a national organization committed to the abolition of the prison-industrial complex.  Bianco is a former dues-paying member of the right-wing Oath Keepers organization and assumed the role of sheriff after defeating Stan Sniff. Sniff previously bested Bianco in a 2014 election and controlled the department for a decade beginning in 2007. They butted heads during the last campaign and post-election transition. A Fox News favorite who started his career in corrections at a county jail in the 1990s, Bianco earned a reputation that now precedes him.  “Chad Bianco and his administration have stoked a climate of punitive violence, retaliation, and fear that has necessitated acts of resistance and survival among jailed people and their loved ones,” Rodriguez affirmed.  Hunger Strikes Against RCSD Repression Food is a major focal point of struggle inside the county jails.  Some 21 persons inside the administrative segregation or ‘ad-seg’ unit in the Robert Presley Detention Center (RPDC) started refusing food on April 13, 2017, in response to conditions including only being allowed to leave their cells for 30 minutes a day.  The jail is located in downtown Riverside, a mini-metropolis of more than 310,000 people that serves as the county seat. “Inmates would customarily be confined to their cells for days without any dayroom time,” Venegas stated regarding his time inside RivCo jails. The 2017 hunger strike reportedly ended after 19 days, with no noticeable change in conditions or policies.  Venegas helped orchestrate that one and later assisted in organizing another two years later.  An August 2019 complaint [PDF] Venegas filed against Bianco and the county while he was incarcerated in the RPDC states that he and 15 others “initiated a collectively peaceful protest in the form of a hunger strike” on January 14 of that year. During the intentionally multi-racial action, detainees refused food “to bring awareness to the conditions of confinement deemed punitive.”  The suit mentions a 13-page letter that outlined the concerns of hunger strike participants and served as an attempt to facilitate “diplomatic dialogue between inmates and those responsible for participants health and safety, and to edify them of illegal policies that can be corrected without litigation.”  Damon Anderson (no relation to this reporter) said he engaged in four separate hunger strikes while in RivCo custody and coordinated collective actions with Venegas. He said correctional staff subsequently targeted them both for insubordination.  “They would retaliate against us by coming in and searching our cells every day that were on a hunger strike as a way to try to get us to stop the hunger strikes,” he said. Over the course of three months, the jail returned 12 items mailed to him – periodicals and books from family and friends – for, it appears, “absolutely no reason,” except as a way of retaliating against him, Anderson said.  Four women incarcerated in the RPDC also refused food for 16 days several months after Venegas and his crew collectively declined to eat.  The men in the RPDC started receiving a bit more dayroom time as a result of their own hunger strike in January, Yolanda Velasco, who is no longer in custody, wrote after she and the other women ended their hunger strike in mid-July 2019.  “We had put multiple [grievances in] to be treated fairly. They would not budge. So we [decided] to take drastic measures,” Velasco wrote.  Chantel Cox, who participated in the hunger strike with Velasco, wrote that they exhausted all formal remedies, like grievances and appeals.  “For the record, giving up is not an option,” she wrote while still incarcerated in the RPDC. “The treatment, conditions, and misconduct within these walls has gotten completely out of hand.”  But, Cox added, she, Velasco and two other women stood their ground and in so doing managed to disrupt what had gone on so long it was “normal routine” there.  “As a form of retaliation deputies have searched my cell,” Cox wrote, “and legal work went missing on 3 occasions.”  Routine Violence In Riverside County Jails The California Department of Corrections (CDCR) has a documented history of staging “gladiator fights,” pitting incarcerated members of opposing gangs or men with bad blood between them against each other in state prisons. Similar sorts of guard-coordinated fights have taken place within RivCo jails.  Venegas told Shadowproof he was forced to fight a man inside one of the county jails in February 2017. A jail gang investigator at what was then called the Southwest Detention Center – now commonly known as the Cois M. Byrd Detention Center – threatened to have him assaulted because he was on a hunger strike, he explained.  “I took that threat seriously and I knew that these threats would be accomplished. The deputies often manipulate the surveillance cameras to omit evidence of such incidents and only save the video footage to prosecute cases against inmates. The Grand Jury (2017-2018) made note of this fact in their reports,” Venegas wrote. He was referring to the Grand Jury’s comment that jail video recordings requested in 2017 “were not provided because they had been reported lost due to a failure of the recording device.”  Venegas recalled being warned by several detainees that deputies wanted to set him up and have him assaulted when he’d least expect it.  “The jail allows me almost 30 minutes a day to shower, use the phone, throw my trash and watch T.V. and I am confined to my cell 23 ½ hours a day,” Venegas wrote. “While on the phone talking to my son, I was sitting down with my back towards the sally port slider door. And behind me [a deputy] opens the door.” He believes the deputy deliberately opened the door and let in a guy who was housed in Dayroom 3. Trying to run did not work, Venegas explained.  “I knew that at any moment the [Sheriff’s officers] were going to set me up,” he wrote. “When I saw this [6-foot, 11-inch tall] individual at the entrance I knew it was going to be an assault. And I didn’t want to be the victim. This guy was 6-11, almost 7 feet tall, a giant to my [5-foot, 8-inch] stature. He had two stabbing instruments in each of his hands.”  If the other man attacked him in the relatively wide dayroom space, Venegas believed his defense would suffer, so he needed to contain him inside the sally port.  “I was a boxer in my youth,” he continued. “I competed in boxing tournaments so I could defend myself. Being raised in the California Youth Authority, I further learned to defend myself and fight smart.”  The other guy hit his own shoulder on the side of the entrance, according to Venegas, who noted he needed to take advantage of the opening.  “I capitalized and hit him 2 or 3 times … until he [collapsed] and fell to the floor,” Venegas explained. “I walked away and resumed my phone call with my family. It took the deputies several minutes, I’m guessing 5 -7 minutes, to respond to the incident.” He thinks the deputies presumed they would find him beaten senseless and therefore took their time to respond.  He’s not the only one to face physical violence inside RivCo jails.  Anderson said he acquired a misdemeanor charge after a deputy inside the RPDC told him jail staff would leave him alone and give him his own cell if he assaulted a guy officers disdained because the man was filing lawsuits against the county. Anderson did but said he shouldn’t have. He was just tired of being harassed on the seventh floor of the facility.  “And that type of shit happens all the time,” Anderson said. But, he added, he’s also been on the receiving end of sadism inside there.  At one point, while downstairs in holding at the RPDC, Anderson suffered an unidentified medical incident he assumes was a seizure.  “I woke up with all these officers around me, and I didnt know what was going on,” he said.  One rammed a knee into his head, he said, and they dragged him out of there by handcuffs. Marlo McGee wrote that she “witnessed an inmate who had been ‘jumped’ by three men” while she was incarcerated at RPDC. The individual was “absolutely ignored by medical staff after returning from ICU at the hospital. He sustained multiple fractured ribs, facial fractures, and several other injuries. When he got back to the jail, he was given absolutely no pain medication for several days.”  Maurice Jennings, who spent time in RivCo jails before being sent to Corcoran, corroborated the trend, noting he’d also witnessed men intentionally sent to housing units where they would be assaulted.  “One man while at the Cois Byrd Detention Center had his face and body sliced so bad with razors he didn’t look human,” Jennings wrote, adding: “I was forced to witness a young man beaten and hazed unconscious while at the Banning Detention Center,” otherwise known as the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility. “This transpired due to the young man having safety concerns that officers ignored, forcing him to house where known enemies were threatening his life. Officers routinely slam handcuffed inmates face-first into walls as well as body slam them.” Jennings wrote that jail staff kept him confined in a 7-by-3 foot room with no ventilation for a week with 10 other men.  “It was impossible to sleep as you lost track of whether it was day or night,” he explained. “Men became violent and delirious waiting to be housed and processed. Men are often forced to soil themselves or use the shower as a toilet as staff refuse to allow access to restrooms, creating unsanitary living conditions.”  In a lawsuit [PDF] Jennings filed against the county in August 2019, he claimed correctional deputies denied him restroom access, too.  “I’ve been retaliated against and harassed since my arrival at Cois M. Byrd Detention Center,” he wrote in the complaint.  Venegas told Shadowproof about the RCSD’s practice of applying excessive “cross-chain” restraints, which dislocated his left shoulder on several occasions. X-rays taken within the Riverside University Healthcare system in Moreno Valley revealed shoulder damage – including some six lesions or tears – akin to what one might have after a car accident, he explained. He noted the approximate number of tissue abnormalities roughly corresponded with the number of times he had been cross-chained by deputies when transported from the jail to court.  A lawsuit [PDF] filed in September 2020 against Bianco and the county of Riverside, along with photographic evidence shared with Shadowproof, indicate Bryonte Virgil endured comparable physical abuse in the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility.  Herbert Hayden, attorney and partner at Harris & Hayden Law Firm, filed the suit on Virgil’s behalf. It alleges that as Virgil and others laid on the ground facing the wall on jail staff orders, two deputies approached him and told him to stand up and face the wall.  He complied but asked why he had been singled out.  “Don’t worry about it you ask too many questions,” he was told, according to the complaint, which also states he was issued the following order: “Shut up you dumb motherfucker.” When Virgil asserted his rights, he was escorted to a hallway facing the recreation yard. He received a familiar reply – “Shut the fuck up!!! You talk too fucking much!!!” – when he again inquired what he did.  “Without reasonable cause or warning, one of the [sheriff’s deputies] slammed Plaintiff’s face into the wall and began to repeatedly punch Plaintiff in the head and face,” the complaint states. “One of the [deputies] then took Plaintiff’s right hand and jerked it upwards, ‘chicken-winging’ him.”  Hayden said the ‘chicken-winging’ almost broke his client’s wrist. “I think he had to have his wrist in a sling for about a month after that,” he said.  Although Virgil complied with orders and remained restrained throughout the ordeal, the complaint notes that one deputy claimed he was “resisting” and threatened to hit him.  “The deputy who claimed Plaintiff resisted proceeded to punch and beat Plaintiff in the head, face, and body although Plaintiff posed no threat to either of the [deputies],” the complaint reads. “While one deputy assaulted and battered Plaintiff, the other deputy held Plaintiff down with his knees on Plaintiff’s back and legs. After the beating, the [deputies] handcuffed Plaintiff, picked him up and took him to the infirmary. The [deputies] proceeded to punch, kick and beat Plaintiff repeatedly while he was pinned to the ground by them.” Hayden, who said he believes the facts in the complaint to be accurate, also referred to video footage he viewed but was not at liberty to share. He claimed it shows that after Virgil had already been severely beaten and carried “around like a rag doll,” an officer kicked him like a punter would a football.  Taking Legal Action  Before his transfer to the SATF-CSP, Anderson, who earned a diploma in paralegal studies, assisted McGee and her father with a lawsuit that ended in a settlement and payout.  Anderson, who started a fundraiser in early 2022 to help support his pro se litigation, recommends the “Prisoners Self-Help Litigation Manual” to anyone on the inside interested in pursuing legal action.  Incarcerated persons filed at least six of the active lawsuits concerning RivCo jails last year. Anderson filed one last April and McGee filed one in October.  A few Southern California-based attorneys like Agavni Tulekyan, Kevin Shawn Conlogue, and Ralph Rios took legal action against the RCSD in 2021 over jail conditions and detainee mistreatment. Legal and historical precedent suggests outside aid can make a difference.  The Council on American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles filed a lawsuit against RivCo and the RCSD in March 2019 after the RCSD denied Noor Hussain, a practicing Muslim, proper religious accomodations.  Amr Shabaik, a civil rights managing attorney with CAIR-LA who helped represent Hussain, told Shadowproof the lawsuit alleged the county violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act as well as his client’s constitutional rights.  The suit proved successful. Shabaik and colleagues obtained a monetary settlement on Hussain’s behalf and prompted a policy change within the county so that detainees will be provided religious coverings upon request.  Other jail-specific litigation against the RCSD has produced mixed results.  The Prison Law Office (PLO) and co-counsel filed a lawsuit against RivCo in 2013 in regards to the mental and medical care inside the jails, then under Sniff’s purview.  Scott Allen, MD, a professor emeritus of clinical medicine in the UC Riverside School of Medicine, assessed the medical care provided in the jails at the request of counsel representing both sides of that 2013 case, Gray v. County of Riverside.  “The current level of care in the Riverside County Jails is inadequate, poses a significant risk of serious harm to inmates confined there and in the opinion of this expert does not meet minimal constitutional standards,” Allen concluded in his July 2015 review. The court approved a settlement in April 2016, which required RivCo and the RCSD to make the changes spelled out in the Consent Decree and the Remedial Plan the parties agreed upon.  Sara Norman, a managing attorney at the PLO, said a medical and a mental health expert have been appointed by the court to monitor treatment within the facilities overseen by the Sheriff’s Department .  The RCSD has come into compliance with some but not all of the aspects of the settlement, Norman said.  In early April 2020, two RCSD deputies died after contracting COVID-19. A few days later, the PLO filed an emergency motion in federal court in an effort to get RivCo jails to implement physical distancing and to get supplies to help prevent the spread. The court granted the motion less than two weeks later and ordered the county to develop a pandemic plan.  More recently, the ACLU of Southern California sent a nine-page letter to the California Office of the Attorney General requesting an investigation into the sheriff’s department. Two local community organizations, Riverside All of Us or None (RAOUON) and Starting Over, Inc., co-signed the letter. It cites testimony from those in RivCo custody that suggests the department violated the aforementioned Consent Decree multiple times. The letter, written in the style of a damning report and dated September 16, documents the experience of community members incarcerated in RivCo jails during the pandemic, “including, but not limited to, the denial of soap, cleaning supplies, masks, clean clothes, phone access, regular showers, COVID-tests, and life-saving medications and medical care.” The letter notes that nine people died while in custody between March 2020 and May 2021. It also explains how the RCSD denied Nelson Sims, a 62-year-old man, access to medical treatments and his breathing machine for several weeks after he was booked into the Murrieta detention center in January 2020. Sims, who is now in the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, suffered a brain aneurysm while in RivCo custody. He was brought before a judge while disoriented and given a five-year sentence.  The press office for the California Attorney General told Shadowproof they received the ACLU letter and were reviewing it, but the office stated that they could not “comment on a potential or ongoing investigation.”  Luis Nolasco, a senior community engagement and policy advocate with the ACLU of Southern California, said the authors of the letter hope an Attorney General investigation energizes RivCo residents and jumpstarts a movement.  He spoke of getting “folks up to speed, educated, and hopefully angry enough about whats going on and using that as leverage to do broader organizing and advocacy with the Board of Supervisors to decrease the footprint of the Sheriffs Department.”  Nolasco noted the department also patrols a lot of the county because several municipalities in the area do not have their own police. One related aim, then, is to diminish the RCSD’s foothold by encouraging cities to stop contracting with them without replacing them with another police force.  “All They Do Is Pull Teeth” Beyond a reduction in the RCSD budget, sources and records intimate an urgent need to, in lieu of immediate mass release of people controlled by RivCo custody, improve the medical and mental health care (or the lack thereof) inside RivCo jails.  In June 2020, ProPublica reported on the preventable death of Philip Garcia after staff failed to address his pressing medical and mental health needs while he was incarcerated in 2017. Despite staff determining Garcia to be experiencing a psychiatric crisis, video ProPublica obtained through public records requests shows violent force deployed against him.  Anderson had a similar experience. He wrote that when he was arrested and booked in February 2017, he told deputies about his disabilities. But because of the jail’s dearth of accomodations, he fell from a top bunk as well as in the shower at Indio’s Joan J. Benoit Detention Center.  Later, as he writhed in agony, Anderson averred that his “cries for help were ignored and even laughed at.” He recalls being in so much pain he curled up crying on the floor one morning in June 2017, and a nurse told him he couldn’t see the doctor if he couldn’t walk.  “I wrote a suicide note saying please tell my wife and mother Im sorry but I cannot take this pain no more,” Anderson recounted. “I made a noose and attempted to take my own life.”  He woke up in the emergency room and told the doctor he would rather die than continue to endure the pain and humiliation he had been subjected to in the jail.  The mistreatment prompted him to file lawsuits against the county. Anderson said he was treated worse inside RivCo jails than he had ever been in jails in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo counties.  McGee told Shadowproof some of the worst aspects of RivCo jails include not having input in one’s own medical treatment and not being taken seriously by staff who often minimize medical complaints. Correctional staff seem to believe incarcerated persons do not deserve competent care, she lamented.  “I witnessed a woman withdrawing from heroin having seizures and the medical staff simply looked down at her and said she was faking,” McGee wrote, adding: “If you have a medical issue on the weekend that is not an emergency, the vast majority of nurses will not call the doctor on call to get the patient medication. You have to wait until the doctors are in the jail. They also allow your medication to expire – leaving you without meds for several days.”  Her father, Ernie McGee, a citizen of Riverside County since 1962, said his daughter, who has sickle cell disease, has frequently had to fight to see a doctor.  McGee said the disease has caused his daughter intense, excruciating pain, but staff did not expedite treatment.  “And myself, well they used to completely ignore me when I’d have a sickle cell crisis, however, because my father advocated for me, they no longer ignore me,” his daughter, who still struggles to receive appropriate medical care for her condition, explained.   Her father said she started receiving blood transfusions about every four weeks when a specialist finally arrived. But then they transferred the doctor to UC Irvine, putting a halt to her treatments.  The elder McGee spoke with jail and hospital staff before the doctor specializing in sickle cell left, but to no avail.   “She suffered her first crisis after three years, because they waited so long,” he said.   He also chided the abject misery of dental care on the inside.  “All they do is pull teeth,” McGee said. “They dont put in crowns.”  His daughter agreed, saying dental treatment only includes extractions, dentures, and fillings. Procedures dentists agree are essential to the maintenance of oral health, like a deep cleaning every few months, are denied.  Disability and illness are also used as justification for withholding food and exerting authoritarian control, sources attest.  Aside from In addition to the two suits he settled and the one still in litigation, Anderson explained that he lost a separate lawsuit he filed after jail staff denied him food when he was in too much pain to get dressed. The same repressive RCSD tactic provoked a lawsuit [PDF] from McGee, who claims the RPDC deprived her of food “as punishment for violating jail policy without due process.” She violated policy because her disease made it difficult to get fully dressed when staff demanded, according to her suit.  “Our eyes would burn. Our noses would burn.”  In Venegas’s view, his problems with RivCo jails started when he was first booked and assigned the adverse ‘ad-seg’ classification based on alleged prison gang validation without due process circa 2014.  When detainees are booked, they remain inside intake holding cells for days, Venegas told Shadowproof.  “The holding tanks are very unsanitary,” he explained. “The tanks are extremely cold. Many inmates sleep on the floors, which are filthy. Inmates are not permitted showers. The toilets and sinks are constantly [malfunctioning]. Most inmates do not complain of the unsanitary conditions because deputies threaten them to not house them for days for complaining.” After submitting numerous grievances without a response, Raymundo Ramirez filed a lawsuit [PDF] against the county of Riverside, the Sheriff and the Undersheriff in July 2021. The complaint includes four grievances submitted throughout February 2021 when Ramirez, who is now in the Orwellian-named Pleasant Valley State Prison, was incarcerated at the Cois M. Byrd Detention Center.  “I was confined in my cell with toxic waste water that kept pouring in my cell,” Ramirez wrote on one of those grievance forms, dated February 13, 2021. Deputies stepped in the waste water, which splashed onto the fruit and milk on his meal tray, he wrote.  “They would feed us in the cells with it being flooded,” he told Shadowproof. “Our eyes would burn. Our noses would burn.”  Anderson corroborated claims about poor sanitation, specifically lambasting the literal shit with which those inside have to contend.  “While at RPDC on the medical floor none of the cells got cleaned and even the showers were known to have [feces] in them on a regular basis,” Anderson wrote.  Shit showed up in the shower on several occasions, but staff typically did not view it as a pressing problem.   “A minimum of 15 times Ive gone there and theres a turd, just right there on the floor,” he said. He recounted how one time, when he was wheelchair-bound, he informed a deputy about excrement in the shower only to find it there on the floor the next day.   According to Venegas, persons suffering from mental illness would urinate and defecate inside both showers and cells, and indifferent correctional deputies consistently let the problem pile up, leaving detainees without sufficient cleaning supplies to deal with or dispose of it.   “Toilets had a known problem of spilling into the adjacent cells,” he shared. “For example, when my neighboring cell would flush his toilet, his urine and feces would spillover into my cell. Many times I [awoke] to feces and urine flooding my cell.”  Anderson wrote that when he told a deputy in the Banning facility he wanted to file a grievance to challenge the jail’s policy of making detainees clean showers and toilets without gloves, deputies rushed into the living quarters and destroyed personal belongings. They told everyone that would happen daily if they continued to grieve, he added.  In early 2022, Anderson wrote that RivCo jail staff told detainees writing up a cop would make them “a snitch” and that grievances are further discouraged by incarcerated persons willing to assault those who complete the paperwork. In exchange for roughing up other prisoners, Anderson claimed deputies provide those persons with extra meals, additional phone calls, and a variety of other privileges. Bringing In The Community  Since the RCSD failed to protect the incarcerated as the pandemic raged despite receiving millions of dollars for COVID-19 relief, members of the RAOUON chapter launched a #ReleaseRiverside campaign, urgently demanding releases. They’ve also repeatedly called on the county Board of Supervisors to defund the Sheriff’s Department.  A movement to #BootBianco emerged in June 2020 to demand defunding the RCSD and to raise awareness about the sheriff treating people as disposable.  A Sacramento-based anonymous member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) of the Industrial Workers of the World – an anti-capitalist union that endorses prison abolition – said solidarity with those inside is more important than those outside often realize.  The organizer said IWOC, which does not yet have a Riverside branch or local, generally focuses more on state prisons, but those incarcerated elsewhere are also welcome to join. Those on the inside often express greater interest in becoming a member of a militant union working toward the abolition of incarceration and class society than do those who have never been locked up.  Abolition and solidarity also require more than advocacy aimed at getting the government to release a lot of people from jails and prisons.  “If we’re not about social revolution and overthrowing capitalism, then were basically not about shit, and its literally just a revolving door,” the Sacramento IWOC member said,  adding: “Is the state ever going to just abolish its repressive wing just because you ask it to? Obviously fucking not.”  Rodriguez, who last year helped formalize an Inland Empire Abolition Network – a coalition of persons and organizations across the region who support each other’s work geared toward transforming justice and getting rid of police, prisons and jails – stated resistance among jailed persons indicates those targeted by local state violence have “no choice but to adopt whatever means are at their disposal to survive and publicize the severity of their situation.” “It is an obligation for those of us professing to be on the right side of history, or in support of true justice, to build public solidarity with these struggles!” Rodriguez proclaimed. Giving Advice From Inside  Anderson offered suggestions for those facing the Herculean task of transforming power relations on the inside through direct action and disobedience, be it with hunger strikes or other synchronized efforts.  “If youre going to organize something like that now, you just got to be really discreet about it and hit ‘em all with it all at once, and do it that way,” he said. “Otherwise, theyre going to do to them like they did with me and Venegas and keep us separate from the general population just for that purpose.”  As McGee made clear, the humans held under RCSD authority, ripped from the communities from whence they came, try to contact each other’s loved ones as needed and inform them about what goes on inside there. “We will try to speak to staff on behalf of the inmate in need but are usually met with ‘mind your own business, they can speak for themselves,’” she added. “We will care for one another to the best of our ability – provide food, OTC medication and emotional support.”  Beyond calling for additional rehabilitation programs, greater freedoms for detained persons, and access to technology like tablets that could make confinement a bit more bearable, McGee also encouraged community members outside of custody to listen closely to all those they hope to help free.  “I would advise the staff and activists to take the time out to consult with the inmates to understand better what their needs are,” she wrote.  For his part, Venegas hopes to convey to all who might care that the RivCo jail system is constructed “to break you in every conceivable way prior to a conviction” so as to monopolize control over lives.  “So you better stand on solid ground because they aim to break you, guilty or not,” he advised. The post In Riverside County Jails, Organizing Against Repressive Conditions Takes Many Forms appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Featured Reporting, Latest News, Prison Protest, Hunger Strikes, Jail organizing, jails, Riverside County Jails]

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[l] at 2/16/22 11:10am
This article was funded by paid subscribers of The Dissenter Newsletter. Become a monthly subscriber to help us continue our independent journalism.Months of frenzied speculation about an imminent Russian invasion of Kiev by Western journalists, think tanks, and politicians culminated on February 15 with Moscow reducing its military footprint near Ukraine’s border. The withdrawal came one day beforePresident Joe Bidens administration inexactly forecast a phantom incursion. Panic was stoked to a perplexing degree. Atlantic Council representative Melinda Haring declared on February 11 that Russian President Vladimir Putin had “big weekend plans” forthcoming in Ukraine, including cutting off the nation’s power and heat, knocking out its entire navy and air force, killing a number of general staff in order to install a pro-Russian president, and resorting to “full-scale military invasion if Ukraine doesnt give in.” When none of this came to pass over the weekend, Haring meekly claimed emotions were “running high,” and shed “let them get the better” of her. She said she would be “more judicious” in future.Still, Haring complained of Russian trolls, and as Russia withdrew forces, she conveniently reframed the narrative. We’ve been so focused on Russian troops and tanks that we missed Moscow’s strategy: strangle Ukraine’s economy and sap the resolve of its people. Almost as baffling and bizarre was British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss boldly asserting on January 22 that London possessed “information” indicating Moscow planned to forcibly install a puppet government in Kiev. Forces would invade Ukraine and mount a coup through the help of a quintet of Ukrainian politicians with alleged links to Russian intelligence. The information being released today shines a light on the extent of Russian activity designed to subvert Ukraine, and is an insight into Kremlin thinking, Truss stated. An Illogical Coup Leader When asked to substantiate the claims, British officials were at a loss, and also refused to clarify how the information was obtained and verified.   These claims rapidly circulated. The New York Times praised Britain’s reckless inflaming of a highly volatile situation as “muscular. But the media also acknowledged Truss provided no evidence to support the bombshell allegations. In an ironic twist, Yevhen Murayev, a former Ukrainian MP named by London as the Kremlin’s pick for President, expressed amusement and dismay.“You’ve made my evening. The British Foreign Office seems confused,” he told the Observer while laughing. “It isn’t very logical. I’m banned from Russia. Not only that, but money from my father’s firm there has been confiscated.” Two days later, London followed the US lead in withdrawing its embassy staff from Kiev. Yet hours later, a senior European diplomat made clear European Union member states would not withdraw, adding snidely there was no need to “dramatize” the situation while talks with Moscow continued. The Washington Post added to the confusion on January 29 when they quietly revealed that intelligence underlying Truss’ shock announcement was “collected and declassified” by the US, and the Biden administration had specifically asked British authorities to publicly expose the purported plot. Oddly, details weren’t shared with allies, such as Germany, where officials consistently expressed skepticism toward the notion that Russia would invade Ukraine. Nowhere in the Posts coverage did the newspaper ask a very obvious question—why was the disclosure of the incendiary material outsourced in this manner? An Obliging Client State Britain’s laundering of US intelligence created the illusion that an ally had independently reinforced dodgy claims from US officials of an imminent Russian invasion. It allowed Washington to recast the December transfer of 90 tons of lethal aid to Ukraine as reactive. What’s more, the ruse provided plausible deniability in the event that the false narrative unraveled, as it inevitably did. The Biden administration knew very well that London could be relied upon. At the conclusion of World War II, a Foreign Office official ruefully concluded that a bankrupt Britain’s future lay in serving as “junior partner in an orbit of power predominantly under American aegis.” Ever since, the UK government has consistently gone further than most countries in serving Washington interests.In September 2021, Yahoo! News exposed how the CIA had  secret war plans to kidnap or even assassinate WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange if he attempted to leave the Ecuador embassy in London for Moscow. The report contained a shocking example of Britains willingness to do the bidding of US intelligence. (Note: Assanges legal team says Assange was opposed to Ecuadors proposal to assign him to a diplomatic post in Moscow.) Scenarios to thwart Assanges escape included “gun battles with Kremlin operatives on the streets of London” and “shooting out the tires of a Russian plane carrying Assange before it could take off for Moscow.” US officials reportedly “asked their British counterparts to do the shooting if gunfire was required, and the British agreed.” The British also took the leading role in producing propaganda ahead of the US invasion of Iraq.  As far back as 1998, MI6 “black propaganda specialists” were involved in “psychological warfare” known as Operation Mass Appeal, according to former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter. The foreign spying agency circulated “intelligence” to media outlets “to help shape public opinion about Iraq and the threat posed by WMD [weapons of mass destruction].” “We have some outlets in foreign newspapers – some editors and writers who work with us from time to time – where we can spread some material,” MI6 representatives told Ritter. “We just need to be kept informed on what you are doing and when, so we can time the press releases accordingly.” A particularly controversial British intelligence assessment claimed Iraq President Saddam Hussein was capable of attacking Europe with WMD in just 45 minutes. It turned out the source was a lone Iraqi taxi driver. The claim was repeated in a televised speech by President George W. Bush in September 2002 and proved fundamental to the war in Baghdad two months later. British intelligence led the way in fomenting the US-led conflict against Syria in August 2013, after opposition-controlled Ghouta was allegedly struck by rockets fired by government forces containing the chemical agent sarin. The incident had the hallmarks of a false flag operation. US officials were forced to concede evidence implicating the Syrian government was hardly a “slam dunk,” and communications intercepted by German spies indicated that whatever happened, Syrian President Bashar Assads  government had not sanctioned or been aware of the attack. However, the British Joint Intelligence Committee possessed no such doubts and declared it was “highly likely that the Syrian regime was responsible,” and “there [were] no plausible alternative scenarios.” This resulted in a parliamentary vote on launching military intervention in Syria (alongside Washington and Paris mere days later). But that failed, taking the question of Western military action against Damascus off the table. British Influence Operations In Ukraine Ukraine is a country where Britain consistently seeks to influence events in order to derive economic, political, and military benefits. For example, leaked documents indicate London funded consultants to effectively market neoliberal labor “reforms” to the Ukrainian public, which would destroy employment rights and protections. The Foreign Office also financed Ukraine’s StopFake, a purported “fact-checking” website with deep links to fascist elements in the country. StopFake defended Ukrainian military training camps for children that are run by the Neo-Nazi militia Azov Battalion. They also defended Andrey Parubiy,a Ukrainian parliamentary speaker from 2016 2019 Parubiy is an avowed Adolf Hitler fan. When Parubiy visited Britain in 2018, local reporters sprang to his defence. He was implicated in a reported false flag massacre of Maidan protesters in February 2014. Even more significantly, the Foreign Office is secretly co-opting journalists and media organizations in Kiev via funding, training, and the surreptitious production of anti-Russian, pro-Western, and pro-NATO content. “Girls on HBO…but in Ukraine” was one suggested example of programming to support in leaked internal files. These efforts are a component of a £100 million clandestine drive by London to “weaken the Russian state’s influence” over its neighbors. All of which is another facet of Britains bond with the US that has been absolutely fundamental: relations between Moscow and Washington must remain tense. By presenting itself as a dependable bastion of European security, Britain can remain relevant globally, able to perpetually piggyback off its partner’s might. For this reason, London was willing to circulate bunk US intelligence about an impending Russian invasion of Ukraine. The West Keeps Guessing Fittingly, in the wake of Moscow’s announcement that it would withdraw troop deployments from some annual military exercises, Britain’s notorious Sun tabloid published an “exclusive” stating Russia was still planning to invade at 1 am London time on February 16.No massive missile blitz happened so the Sun updated the exclusive to say Putin continued to keep the West guessing. The article quoted Truss at some length, who said officials were “preparing for the worst,” believed an invasion “highly likely,” and “over the next few days there could be an attempt to claim the Ukrainians are attacking them so the Russians have a justification for invading.” “Certainly, our latest intelligence suggests that an invasion is imminent, that its highly likely, and that weve seen 100,000 troops stationed around the border,” Truss fulminated. “We would expect multiple sequenced attacks and not a single strike.We could be on the brink of a war in Europe. That would have severe consequences not just for the people of Russia and Ukraine but also for the broader security of Europe, Truss added. Such fearmongering has been de rigeur since 1946, when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivered an iconic speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. Churchill warned that communism posed “a growing challenge and peril to Christian civilization. Without “a special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the US,” there may be another World War. At the time, opinion polls indicated American citizens not only valued and trusted their Soviet ally far more than Britain, but they foresaw a much-reduced role for the latter in world affairs following the war. Churchill’s comments were poorly received, but their impact was quickly apparent. Six months later, US-Soviet cooperation collapsed due to disagreements over the future of occupied Germany. Washington became wedded to a hardline anti-Soviet policy, and the Cold War was launched. The post British Officials Spread Moscow Coup Plot Disinformation For United States appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, NATO, Russia, Ukraine, United Kingdom]

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[l] at 2/10/22 8:16am
This article was funded by paid subscribers of The Dissenter Newsletter, a project of Shadowproof. Become a paid subscriber. Save over 20 percent and help us expand our work.The United Kingdom’s right-wing dominated government is on course to greatly expand its ability to prosecute and jail whistleblowers and journalists through amendments to the countrys Official Secrets Acts.These potential amendments would be the first major changes to the law since 1989. They come as the U.K. and U.S. governments continue to seek the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for his role in receiving and publishing the Afghanistan and Iraq war logs, Guantanamo Bay detainee files, and U.S. diplomatic cables. Proposals would expand possible imprisonment for leakers, recipients of leaks and secondary publishers–including journalists–from the current maximum of two years to as high as 14 years in prison.Furthermore, so-called “unjustifiable barriers to prosecution,” such as a requirement that the state actually prove that “unauthorized disclosures” are “damaging,” would be replaced with a less stringent test, like proving knowledge or belief on the part of the defendant that a disclosure “was likely to cause” or “risked causing” damage.This is the standard in the U.S. for prosecutions under the Espionage Act, the 1917 law which Assange is accused of violating 17 times (even though he is not a U.S. citizen). Charges function as strict liability offenses, and intent is largely treated as irrelevant.Laws relating to both espionage and unauthorized disclosures have been under review since the Cabinet Office that supports the Prime Minister, requested the Law Commission review Britain’s official secrets acts back in 2015.The Law Commission, a typically benign statutory body created by British Parliament in 1965, was intended to help reform and modernise the island’s legal systems. However, this latest barrage of recommendations, 33 in total, has numerous observers, civil liberties organizations, and journalists greatly concerned about the worsening state of press freedom and dire condition of whistleblower protections in the U.K. “The proposed changes to the Official Secrets Act are one of many ways in which the Conservative government is seeking to stifle dissent and elude accountability,” Chris Jones, the executive director of civil liberties watchdog Statewatch, told The Dissenter. “While the government is yet to publish its response to the public consultation it launched last year, the direction of travel is clear: they want to introduce new, heavier penalties to discourage journalists and others from doing their work and acting in the public interest.Tip Jar Leaks Worse Than Foreign Espionage The Law Commission’s final report was published in September 2020, though it was not until seven months later that the U.K. government published its responses to the recommendations as part of a further consultation on new legislation “to counter state threats/hostile state activity. The word journalist only appears once in the government’s response, and officials like Home Secretary Priti Patel have argued unauthorized disclosures may be worse than foreign espionage because their publication can be viewed by multiple hostile actors.Patel is currently the official who would sign off on Assanges extradition when all avenues for appeal are exhausted.The government makes clear in its response to the Law Commission recommendations that it believes there is already a fair balance struck between the right to receive and impart information—protected under common law and Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights and the need to protect government secrets. “Safeguards already exist (including existing processes for government whistleblowers) which allow them to raise concerns without needing to undertake an unauthorized disclosure,” the government said, in response to the Law Commission’s proposals for an independent body to accept whistleblower testimony and complaints as well as the reintroduction of a public interest defense to the Official Secrets Act (Note: Reintroducing the public interest defense was one of the few Law Commission recommendations welcomed by most observers). The government explicitly contended the public interest defense proposal may undermine efforts to prevent damaging unauthorized disclosures, which would not be in the public interest.”Ultimately, the government’s “fundamental concern” is that “a person seeking to make an unauthorized disclosure, whether in government or otherwise in possession of official material, will rarely (if ever) be able to accurately judge whether the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the risks against disclosure.”In other words, to the government, no individual, journalist, or government employee is capable of making a decision as to whether a leak is in the public interest so there should be no public interest defense for leaking or publishing government documents without official approval. Tim Dawson is a former president and longtime member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ). He also has covered the extradition case against Assange. According to Dawson, the proposed changes to the law would make the environment for public interest journalism “significantly more hostile”. The NUJ believes that where civil servants take great risks to leak information it is almost always because they have witnessed incompetence, waste, or corruption. Exposing such things is in the public interest and benefits us all, Dawson declared. Normalizing The Prosecution Of Journalists Like Assange The U.K. government does not believe that there is necessarily a distinction in severity between espionage and the most serious unauthorized disclosures. A position they made clear when responding positively to the recommendation that the maximum prison sentence for unauthorized disclosures be increased.Although the Law Commission itself doesn’t recommend a new maximum sentence, the current figure under discussion and being pushed by the Crown Prosecution Service in its submissions is 14 years. (Note: This is the institution helping the U.S. government obtain the extradition of Assange.)In the U.S., a violation of the Espionage Act carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. Someone guilty of leaking or publishing secrets could be punished more harshly. The U.K. government believes both “primary and onward disclosures have the potential to cause equal amounts of harm”, meaning that publications by a journalist or member of the public of information leaked to them or even already published in the public domain such as online should be treated the same under the law. Proposals also seek to apply some of the provisions of the Official Secrets Act to government workers and “notified persons” outside of the U.K.. The government clearly has the desire to go even further, stating that in some cases the state “should be able to consider prosecution against non-British citizens for unauthorized disclosure, who have caused damage.”This is precisely what the U.S. government is doing with Assange through the extraterritorial application of the Espionage Act against a journalist and publisher, who was based in the U.K. at the time of the disclosures in question. The fact that the government has responded to the Law Commissions recommendations in the context of a further consultation on countering “hostile state” activity exposes the ideology of state officials, when it comes to the matter of whistleblowing and national security journalism.Officials would like whistleblowers and national security journalists to be treated as severely as actual acts of espionage by a “hostile” state power, if not more so, in some cases. Immense Chilling Effect Will Intensify Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed warrantless mass surveillance by the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Waste, fraud, and abuse was exposed by Chelsea Manning.The publication of this information by WikiLeaks and various media organizations woke millions up to hidden acts of corruption and resulted in numerous successful legal challenges in the U.S. and Europe. Yet it is this very kind of whistleblowing and journalism, which would become substantially more difficult if the current proposals were to become law. National security reporting, which is adversarial to state power, is already suffering an immense chilling effect in the U.K., as noted by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in its response to the Law Commission. In 2018,  Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey, two investigative journalists based in Northern Ireland, were arrested by members of the armed police.The arrests followed the airing of Alex Gibney’s documentary No Stone Left Unturned, which examined the role of British state collusion in the 1994 Loughinisland pub massacre of six Catholics by loyalist paramilitaries. The two were accused of breaching the Official Secrets Act when they used leaked documents in the film. “When a knock came to the family’s door, Sheila looked out and saw what appeared to be about 30 armed police officers, uniformed and in plain clothes, alighting from vehicles, Statewatch recounted:The house quickly filled up with police. His eight-year-old became frightened and began to sob. Birney, who had, like McCaffrey, to shower and dress in front of an officer, told his wife he was being arrested, and was taken away.” Although the two were freed after a judge threw out their arrests, it is widely believed the targeting of journalists will inevitably increase with the proposed expansion of the Official Secrets Acts.Once the U.K. government formally announces the exact changes it wants to the official secrets legislation, “those defending civil liberties in the U.K. will have yet another fight on their hands, Jones concluded. The post UK Official Secrets Act Proposals Take Cues From US Espionage Act Cases appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Espionage Act, Julian Assange, Official Secrets Act, The Dissenter Newsletter, United Kingdom]

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[l] at 2/9/22 9:19am
Grace Victoria is a Virginia-born and New York City-based singer-songwriter, who recently released thealbum, Love & Justice. The album deals heavily with themes connected to the Black Americanexperience.Black Looks Better On Me, No, and Let Me Tell You each deal with Black empowerment, and on the samba-influenced tune “Down in Virginia, the song grapples with Victorias own experience growing up in the South. Composed around the time that George Floyd was murdered by police in 2020, the tune is an exploration of the racism and violence faced by Black people on a constant basis.The lyrics include an indictment of blatant racism as well as liberal complacency: The people in thecountry can get pretty mean. A crazy woman called me n*gger made me wanna scream. But my angernever brought me a single thing, down in Virginia, baby. When I was older I took a trip to the North. Youll never guess what I found: The liberals are under the impression that racism is no longer around.Grace Victoria sheds a needed spotlight on the fact that silence is violence. If we are not speaking outagainst racism, then we are part of the problem. The post Protest Song Of The Week: Down In Virginia By Grace Victoria appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, The Dissenter, The Protest Music Project]

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[l] at 2/2/22 12:30pm
We all feel the malaise of what has become normal, whether it is life under a global pandemic and/or the expansion of austerity measures that impact everyone. “The Overload,” Yard Act’s single from their debut album, is an anthem for those struggling to keep their head above water.Yard Act is a post-punk band that hails from Leeds, England, and the influence of the Arctic Monkeys is pretty evident. They also count the Gorillaz’ “Plastic Beach” album as inspiration. The chorus is a concise expression of the present: The overload of discontentThe constant burden of making sense It won’t relent, it wont repent How to remain in dissonance It evokes the thought of the infinite scroll on our devices and the deluge of information that we are bombarded with day in and day out, which saps our energy. Every other news headline is another indication that society is in decline.The “burden of making sense” is knowing that what we are told to fear is likely manufactured. What we are asked to tolerate and live with is probably worse than politicians will concede. Few people have the time to sit and sort out what is the truth, and knowing that you do not have all the information you need to make decisions wears on anyone muddling through their lives.“How to remain in dissonance” becomes the eternal question. Making sense of it all is near impossible. To an extent, one has to accept that they will never fully understand, but they will strive to be good to others and not add to the collective hopelessness. The first verse is vocalist James Smith’s whirlwind tour of the bleakness of post-Brexit Britain. “Fuck me, how am I supposed to cope, in the age of the gentrified savage. There’s no hope.”Smith takes on the persona of Graham in the second verse, who is a corporate industry hack against “getting political” and the “dickhead singer” in the band. Basically, he disapproves of everything that make the Yard Act unique when compared to other cookie cutter bands.  As Smith said in an interview for Under the Radar, Brexit has “formed so much of the state of this country’s mindset. It’s shaped the day to day lives of so many people.” It’s hard not to reference or allude to when making music.But the album is more of a social document of life in 2021 or 2022, Smith adds. It’s about people more than politics. These are expressions that turn pretension inward and contemplate the anxieties and stress of getting by when everything around is moving so fast and you feel like you are being left behind.Watch/listen to Yard Act’s “The Overload”:  The post Protest Song Of The Week: The Overload By Yard Act appeared first on Shadowproof.

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

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[l] at 2/1/22 9:36am
Shadowproof is proud to welcome applications for the 2022 Marvel Cooke Fellowship.  The fellowship’s mission is to fund reporting from writers of color on abolition movements around the world. We are specifically looking for journalists who have a history of engagement and experience with abolition, and who produce journalism with an abolitionist ethic. The deadline to apply is March 1, 2022. Details on the process and guidelines for submission are below. Please read carefully before submitting your application. Incarcerated journalists are especially encouraged to apply.  This year, thanks to support from Mariame Kaba and readers who donated to generously increase our fellowship funding from last year, each fellow will receive $2,000. In addition to increasing the size of awards this year, we hope to provide fellowships to a greater number of incarcerated journalists. The fellowship will continue to offer those writers additional funds to cover incidental costs related to producing reporting behind prison walls, such as purchasing stamps and phone credits.  Finally, we plan to commission artwork from the talented incarcerated artist Paul Lacombe to accompany each piece. * Shadowproof has reported on abolitionist movements since our founding in 2015. Following the George Floyd uprisings of 2020, Shadowproof launched the Marvel Cooke Fellowship, named for the legendary Black radical activist and journalist from Monkato, Minnesota. We encourage prospective applicants to read more about Marvel Cooke’s life and influence on this project as we urge fellows to produce journalism that follows in her footsteps. Last year, our Marvel Cooke fellows produced serious reporting on abolition at a time when much of the reporting and analysis was confused, inadequate, or simply in bad faith. We published eight pieces that covered topics ranging from fighting COVID-19 in jails and prisons, reparations for forced sterilizations, international solidarity, abolitionist approaches to violence, and beyond. This included two excellent contributions from incarcerated journalists Rahsaan “New York” Thomas and Juan Moreno Haines. Applicants should also read the work of last year’s fellows, as well as our other reporting on abolition, to get an idea of the kind of work we’re pursuing. How To Apply DEADLINE March 1, 2022 Incarcerated applicants may apply directly or work via a sponsor on the outside. Those applying directly can mail their pitches to: FDL Media GroupPO Box 117Cumberland Center, ME 04021-0117 If you are concerned about meeting our application deadline given prison obstacles and delays, please let us know and we will work with you. Outside applicants must submit pitches via email to brian@shadowproof.com. Please begin the subject line of your email with: “MARVEL COOKE:” For all applicants: Shadowproof will only consider detailed pitches. We will not consider pre-written stories or drafts. Please do not pitch personal essays, editorials, or first-person narratives. To be considered, your pitch must include: 1-2 paragraph summary of the story you want to tell. A bulleted outline with examples of research and sources you plan to consult for each section. It’s OK if this information or structure changes later, and you don’t need to divulge sensitive or identifying source information.How long you expect the story to be, and whether you plan to incorporate any original media (photos, infographics, video, etc.)How much time you think you will need to produce your first draft. We will use this to negotiate your first deadline.A few sentences introducing yourself, as well as any relevant details about your experience as a journalist and why you are applying for the fellowship. You may include any websites, portfolios, or other materials relevant to this work.OPTIONAL (but encouraged): A writing sample if you haven’t been previously published by Shadowproof. Who Should Apply & What Are You Looking For? Black people, people of color, people from poor and working-class backgrounds, immigrants, lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex, trans and gender non-conforming people, women, young people, criminalized people, and disabled people are strongly encouraged to apply. Shadowproof is an equal-opportunity employer and we do not discriminate based upon gender, race, national origin, disability, age, religion, sexual orientation, or gender expression. Journalists are encouraged to pitch original news stories and analyses related to abolition movements around the world. We seek fact-based reporting that involves primary source materials and interviews with organizers and people directly impacted by the issues being covered.  Potential areas of investigation include but are not limited to: Reporting on abolitionist approaches to organizing in spaces such as labor, health care, the environment, housing, transportation, etc.Grassroots abolitionist organizing to redistribute power and resources away from policing, prisons, or other arms of the carceral stateExamples of transformative justice, community accountability, and other non-carceral harm intervention and disruption practicesCritical analysis of reformist-reforms and exploration of non-reformist (abolitionist) reform proposals Ideally, applicants will demonstrate an understanding of and experience with reporting on the abolition movement, including the delicate nature of working with criminalized and policed sources. Shadowproof is committed to the safety and privacy of our sources. We are open to discussing measures to protect people featured in our reporting, as we acknowledge the sensitive and often dangerous nature of this work. What Happens After I Apply? We’re eager to read your application. We will begin reviewing applications after the March 1 deadline. During that time, Shadowproof will consider your application alongside the others we have received and respond if we have any additional questions. Once we have all of the information we need, we will mail or email acceptance letters by March 11. If your application is approved, we’ll share information on our process, our style guidelines, and establish a deadline. We can also set up phone calls to discuss your piece in further detail. Shadowproof has a collaborative editorial process in which we encourage your active participation. We’re here to help you at every stage along the way, and you will have ample opportunity to review, discuss, and approve our edits and your final draft before publication.  We support all paid contributions by featuring them prominently on our homepage and sharing them widely on social media. Occasionally, we’ll also invite authors to participate in community activities with us, like Q&A’s. Unless all parties involved have made a written agreement stating otherwise, we pay writers in-full no later than the day of publication. The post Apply For The 2022 Marvel Cooke Fellowship For Abolition Journalism appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Announcements, Featured Reporting, Latest News, Marvel Cooke Fellowship, Abolition, Freelance Journalism, Open Call]

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[l] at 1/26/22 4:18pm
This article was funded by paid subscribers of The Dissenter, a project of Shadowproof. Become a paid subscriber and help us expand our work. An extraordinary Danish Radio report exposed how scores of children in Denmark, many of them orphans, were subject to CIA-funded experiments for at least two decades. The purpose of these activities remains unknown, as authorities continue to actively suppress the truth of what happened in the 1960s and early 1970s. The startling exposé is based on the work of documentarian Per Wennick, who was one of 311 participants in the mysterious trials. The children never learned the objective of the tortuous assessments to which they were exposed, even after they ended.Such trials are in conflict with the Nuremberg Code, which enforces the vital requirement of obtaining consent from human subjects in all medical research. According to Wennick, when he was 11 years old, he was asked at an authoritarian orphanage in Copenhagen if he wanted to try something “fun” at the local municipal hospital. It was vaguely described as an examination of how children “feel”. Believing it would be a welcome diversion, he acquiesced and even received a small sum for his participation. Wennick went on to undergo a series of regular tests, which included being forced to listen to recordings on headphones of loud noises, screams, and statements intended to scare him. Staff strapped him to a chair while electrodes were placed on his arms, legs, and chest, measuring his heart rate, temperature, and sweat levels. These experiments continued until 1973, when Wennick was 24-years-old. However, a decade later, while in a hospital due to a skin complaint, he learned his visit—in fact, his every contact with healthcare services— was reported to the Danish Psychological Institute for reasons never made clear to him. Fast forward to 2018. While at a film festival in the United States, he saw the documentary Three Identical Strangers, which tells the story of triplets deliberately separated at birth and offered up for adoption to families of differing socioeconomic backgrounds, in a covert and highly unethical scientific “nature versus nurture” study.It occurred to Wennick he too may have been unwittingly caught up in a similar experiment. The Search For More Records On Human Experiments Diligent digging in local archives unearthed a number of papers revealing that the project in which Wennick became embroiled was the brainchild of Zarnoff A. Mednick, a U.S. psychologist interested in what distinguishes schizophrenic patients from neurotypical people and patients with other disorders. Denmark was an attractive testing ground. Unlike the U.S., it boasted a central population register, meaning participants could be tracked over the course of many years. Mednick collaborated with Danish professor Fini Schulsinger, constructing a study of 207 children with schizophrenic mothers, and a control group of 104 children without schizophrenic mothers, including Wennick. He sought to ascertain how many would develop schizophrenia and how it might manifest. Over a third of the participants were orphans. In 1977, Schulsinger published a doctoral dissertation on the project. Denmark’s Ministry of Justice intervened to ensure, contrary to standard practice, he was not required to undertake a ‘viva,’ which is a public defence of his thesis. That kept the survey’s background a secret. Having piqued his curiosity, Wennick went off in search of more records related to the experiments. Eventually, he identified 36 boxes of material stored in the basement of a psychiatric center in a Copenhagen suburb. He asked Josef Parnas, a psychiatrist he interviewed for his documentary series, to assist him. But when the center learned of his request, it began shredding the documents, on the alleged basis it was unable to store research papers after a project’s conclusion. This may have been a violation of Danish law.. There are further reasons to doubt the psychiatric center’s stated rationale. The project was lavishly funded and received  around $700,000 when adjusted for inflation.Roughly a quarter of that money flowed from the Human Ecology Fund, a CIA front and outgrowth of QKHILLTOP, one of a cluster of mind control programs launched by the agency in the 1950s to study alleged communist brainwashing techniques and develop interrogation strategies. It was eventually absorbed into the notorious MKULTRA. This may explain why, along with invasive and cruel psychological exams, the Danish children were also subject to extensive physiological and mental assessments. In one of the Funds experiments, participants had to agree or disagree with around 600 different statements, a test originally designed to screen soldiers for fascist sympathies around World War II. Scant information is available publicly on QKHILLTOP’s dimensions even today, although an academic paper published in June 2007 shed significant light on the Human Ecology Fund’s cloak-and-dagger activities. Originally named the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology, it was founded in 1954 by Harold G. Wolff. A renowned neurologist and leading authority on stress, migraines, and bio-physiological mechanisms of human pain, he was personally recruited for the project by CIA chief Allen Dulles, who fostered business in Adolf Hitlers Germany. Thereafter, the Society provided sizable financing to social scientists and medical researchers, primarily in furtherance of the CIA’s behavior modification and persuasion goals. They also identified “specific cultural information” about Cold War enemy populations, such as China or Russia.Sexuality was a subject of intense study. “Both pleasure and pain were areas of interest for those studying interrogation,” the paper recorded. Projects were awarded smaller grants that likely had no intelligence or national security applications but provided the organization with “a necessary false appearance of legitimacy for the public and the academic community,” such as studies on cranial analysis and Puerto Rican migration. ‘Becoming More Childlike’ A 1963 CIA Inspector General review of MKULTRA opaquely noted that in certain cases academics employed under its auspices “may be aware of our interest” in a research program.It added “experience has shown that qualified, competent individuals in the field of pharmacological, physiological, psychiatric, and other biological sciences are most reluctant to enter into signed agreements of any sort which connect them with this activity, since such a connection would jeopardize their professional reputations.” Langley got around this problem by simply keeping most participating scientists in the dark as to the agencys role in commissioning the research program. They hoodwinked scientists and hid the malign purposes behind their labor. For example, in the late 1950s the Human Ecology Fund bankrolled a trip to Nigeria for psychiatrist Raymond Prince to undertake “transcultural psychological studies.”Prince had no idea the CIA intended for his work to “add somewhat to our understanding of native Yoruba psychiatry, including the use of drugs, many of which are unknown or not much used by Western practitioners.” and “assist in the identification of promising young [redacted] who may be of direct interest to the agency.” He later concluded that overseas trips sponsored by the Fund were attempts to recruit foreign nationals and collect data “on cultures and countries of interest to the CIA for psychological warfare purposes.” Seemingly innocuous surveys of the personality types and family structure of Chinese nationals residing in the U.S. could be maliciously exploited, “to identify disgruntled refugees with suitable personality profiles who had fled the communist regime 10 years earlier and might be persuaded to act as CIA agents back in China.” Research findings from the Fund’s assorted initiatives furthermore appear to have provided major components of the CIA’s 1963 KUBARK interrogation manual, given that document, which advocates the use of electric shock, threats, fear, sensory deprivation and isolation, repeatedly cited the work of Human Ecology-supported scholars. As historian Alfred W. McCoy recorded, most confirmed MKULTRA research efforts did not actually relate to propaganda or brainwashing at all but involved physical and psychological torture techniques. It is, therefore, disturbing that the Fund’s 1961–1963 progress report lists several studies related to childhood, which it supported, such as “conceptual development in children and young adults.”This may relate to the KUBARK manual, given the document discusses how, when its assorted techniques are applied, “the usual effect…is regression,” and a subject’s “mature defenses crumbles [sic] as he becomes more childlike [emphasis added].” The CIA considered it “usually useful to intensify” such feelings. Did the Danish experiments inform CIA torture techniques, which were employed in recent years?Agency chemist Sidney Gottlieb, who headed MKULTRA from its inception until retiring in 1973, died in March 1999. He helped hatch numerous assassination plots that targeted leaders in the Global South.A New York Times obituary quoted a nameless Langley operative as saying MKULTRA specifically targeted mental patients, prisoners, drug addicts, and prostitutes as human guinea pigs. They were considered good subjects because they were “people who could not fight back.” Altogether, Wennicks investigation raises grim questions. Where else in the world might the CIA have supported unethical human experiments on vulnerable and defenseless youths, and why? This is the first installment of a two-part series. Part two will be posted next week. The post CIA Funded Experiments On Danish Orphans For Decades appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, CIA, The Dissenter Newsletter]

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[l] at 1/26/22 10:56am
Calm is a hip-hop duo featuring rapper Time and producer Awareness. Time has also done engineering work for Common and is a journalist who has worked with Noam Chomsky. They recently released the concept album Conversations with A Willow Tree. The album is an ode to a willow tree set in a dystopian world where plants are the heroes that fight colonialism and environmental collapse.Landlord of the Gentriflies, which appears on the album, is a scathing critique of gentrification. The opening verse from Time features the hard-hitting rebuke: Since that eviction letter, this aint really been home.It continues, Landlord didnt discover this, thats Chris Columbus syndrome. Were just trying to raise the roof, they just wanna raise the rent. Ive been working 3 jobs, I gave that cracker every cent. Landlord of the flies, dollar signs in his eyes. Lets stop working for the rich, so we can live our fucking lives.The second verse is from Canadian rapper Lee Reed, known for his political lyrics and socialactivism. His verse further explores the ill effects of capitalist-fueled gentrification. Half a million evicted they still insisting the system work. Assisted living let you live in thirst. This government place people second, business first. They gentrified our existence, but we been dispersed, Reed raps.Renters rights is a subject close to Reeds heart. He recently released Drop The Charges, acharitable single whose proceeds support the Hamilton Encampment Support Network (HESN).HESN is an organization that supports homeless residents of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Just like several major cities throughout the world, the housing crisis is forcing more people onto the streets.Listen to Landlord of the Gentriflies: The post Protest Song Of The Week: Landlord Of The Gentriflies By Calm. (Featuring Lee Reed and Buddha) appeared first on Shadowproof.

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

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[l] at 1/24/22 8:24am
This article was funded by paid subscribers of The Dissenter Newsletter, a project of Shadowproof. Become a paid subscriber and help us expand our work. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange prevailed in his effort to obtain certification from the British High Court of Justice, which would allow him to appeal their prior decision to the Supreme Court. Under the law, the court must determine that the request for an appeal involves a “point of law” that is of “public importance.” Journalist Mohamed Elmaazi, who was in the courtroom to cover the very brief proceedings, reported that the High Court certified the following point of law: “in what circumstances can an appellate court receive [diplomatic] assurances which were not before the court of first instance in extradition proceedings.” Although the High Court maintained it had settled the question, they acknowledged the Supreme Court had not previously considered the question. The High Court refused to grant Assange leave to appeal to the Supreme Court but left it up to the Supreme Court to decide whether to hear an appeal, a fairly standard outcome. “What happened in court today is precisely what we wanted to happen,” declared Stella Moris, who is Assange’s partner. “The High Court certified that we had raised a point of law of general public importance, and that the Supreme Court has good grounds to hear this appeal. The situation now is that the Supreme Court has to decide whether to hear the appeal. But make no mistake, we won today in court.” Reporters Without Borders international campaigns director Rebecca Vincent reacted, “We welcome the High Court’s decision to allow Julian Assange the right to appeal his extradition case to the Supreme Court. This case will have enormous implications for journalism and press freedom around the world and could be hugely precedent-setting. It deserves consideration by the highest court in the land.We very much hope that the Supreme Court will indeed accept the case for review, Vincent stated. Assange is detained at Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh in London, a high-security prison where he has been held since he was expelled from the Ecuador Embassy on April 11, 2019. He faces 18 charges—17 of which are charges under the Espionage Act. The Espionage Act is a law in the United States passed in 1917 that the Justice Department has increasingly wielded against media sources who share “classified” documents or talk about sensitive information with journalists. On December 10, 2021, the High Court, the same court which was asked to certify points of law for an appeal, granted the U.S. government’s appeal and overturned a district court decision that previously blocked Assange’s extradition. The High Court was “satisfied” with “diplomatic assurances” offered by the U.S. government related to how Assange would be treated in jail or prison, and they stated, “There is no basis for assuming that the U.S.A. has not given the assurances in good faith.”In the request to appeal to the Supreme Court, Assange’s legal team asked the High Court to certify that the court’s approach to the “diplomatic assurances,” especially as it related to the potential jail and prison conditions, was a matter worthy of review. Assange’s attorneys further maintained that Supreme Court review was necessary on the issue of whether the court erred in accepting “diplomatic assurances” that would be “inhuman for someone suffering from his mental disorder.” But the High Court declined to certify those as “points of law” that were of “public importance.”The U.S. government offered diplomatic assurances after they lost their case when District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled on January 4, 2021, that extradition would be oppressive for mental health reasons. According to the diplomatic assurances put forward, the U.S. government would not impose special administrative measures (SAMs) on Assange before trial or after he was convicted. Yet that assurance contains a major loophole. If Assange commits a “future act” that meets “the test” for SAMs, the U.S. may designate him for such restrictive confinement conditions. They did not specify what type of acts might justify revoking this assurance. The U.S. government pledged that Assange would not be designated for ADX Florence, a supermax prison in Colorado. Similarly, they indicated if Assange commits a “future act” that meets the test for such designation” he could still be confined in a maximum security prison. Prosecutors pledged to allow Assange to apply for a prisoner transfer to Australia to serve his U.S. sentence under the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, but that does not necessarily mean they would grant an application for transfer. They merely informed the court that they would allow an application, which is a meaningless gesture. If Assange was extradited and held in a U.S. jail or prison, the U.S. pledged to ensure he receives “clinical and psychological treatment” as recommended by a “qualified treating clinician employed or retained” by the facility where he is held. However, the assurance ignored the reality that if a facility lacks resources or the psychologist or staff does not conclude that Assange needs a higher level of care, he may not receive treatment. On the “point of law,” which the High Court certified, Assange’s attorneys stated, “The introduction of fresh ‘evidence’ in support of an appeal against an adverse ruling, in order to repair holes identified in that ruling, is generally prohibited.” They noted prior cases. “Quite apart from everything else, profound issues of natural justice arise where assurances are introduced by the requesting state for the first time at the High Court stage,” the attorneys added. Assanges attorneys further suggested the Supreme Court may want to consider the “legality of a requirement on judges to call for assurances rather than proceeding to order discharge,” which is how Baraitser ruled. In December, the High Court concluded Baraitser “ought to have notified” the U.S. government that she was going to “discharge” the case against Assange so that prosecutors could offer “assurances” before her decision. Declassified U.K. reported days before the High Court ruled in favor of the U.S. government that Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett had a conflict of interest. Sir Alan Duncan, the former foreign minister who was a key official in the United Kingdom’s campaign to force Assange out of the Ecuador embassy, has been close friends with the courts chief justice for over 40 years.Let’s not forget that every time we win, as long as this case isn’t dropped, as long as Julian isn’t freed, Julian continues to suffer,” Moris reminded the public after the ruling. “For almost three years, he’s been in Belmarsh prison, and he is suffering profoundly, day after day, week after week, year after year. Julian has to be freed, and we hope that this will soon end.”“We are far from achieving justice in this case because Julian has been incarcerated for so long, and he should not have spent a single day in prison. If there had been justice, the officials who plotted, who conspired to murder Julian, would be in the courtroom right now.” “If there were justice, the crimes that Julian exposed, war crimes, the killing of innocent civilians, would not be impugned. Our fight goes on, and we will fight this until Julian is free,” Moris concluded. The High Court’s certification guaranteed the extradition request would not be sent to the British Home Office for Home Secretary Priti Patel to authorize Assange’s transfer to the United States. Yet it was another judicial decision that prolonged a process, which will continue to exact a great mental and physical toll on Assange so long as President Joe Biden’s Justice Department keeps pursuing a case widely recognized as a threat to global press freedom. The post British High Court Opens Door For Assange To Appeal To Supreme Court appeared first on Shadowproof.

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[l] at 1/19/22 3:03pm
This article was funded by paid subscribers of The Dissenter, a project of Shadowproof. Become a paid subscriber and help us expand our work. An Iowa judge upheld one of the state’s “ag-gag” laws in a case brought against an animal rights activist, hours before dismissing all charges. In Iowa, a person may be criminalized for “food operation trespass” if they enter or remain on the property of a factory farm “without the consent of a person who has real or apparent authority to allow the person to enter or remain on the property.” Matt Johnson, an investigator with the grassroots animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), was charged with violating the ag-gag law after he exposed the extermination of pigs by Iowa Select Farms. He argued the law is “actually intended to punish individuals for expressing viewpoints disfavored by the Iowa legislature” and reminded the court that a similar Iowa ag-gag law was previously ruled unconstitutional by a federal court.State prosecutors abandoned their case two days before trial and moved to dismiss charges, but the court defended the ag-gag charge, which was challenged by Matt Johnson as unconstitutional. District Court Judge Derek Johnson ruled that the law “does not discriminate on the basis of the viewpoint of the offender. A person who trespasses on a food operation to abuse an animal is treated the same as a person who trespasses on a food operation to rescue one.” “That is logically true. It’s factually preposterous, and it’s very clear from the legislative history that the intent of this law was to target animal rights activists, people with a particular viewpoint,” replied Wayne Hsiung, an attorney for Matt Johnson and co-founder of DxE. “You can critique an animal rights activist’s views. You can say that what they’re saying is factually false. What you cannot do under the First Amendment is criminalize their speech, and that is the purpose of this law even if facially it doesn’t say that,” Hsiung added. Iowa already had a law criminalizing trespassing prior to the passage of the “food operation trespass” law. Trespassing is generally a fine between $65 and $625 with the possibility of up to 30 days in prison. But under Iowa’s ag-gag law, trespassing is an aggravated misdemeanor that carries the possibility of up to two years in prison.  A repeat offense may result in a felony charge. Matt Johnson was charged on July 14, 2020, with “burglary in the third degree” and “electronic or mechanical eavesdropping.” He was later charged under the ag-gag law on April 8, 2021. The charges came after Matt Johnson captured “video and audio recordings of pigs screaming in agony for several hours as they died. Thousands of pigs were exterminated at Iowa Select Farms using ventilation shutdown after COVID-19 outbreaks caused the closure of many slaughterhouses,” according to a press statement from DxE. A whistleblower informed the activists of conditions at the factory farm. They rescued a “sickly piglet,” which they later named Gilly. Without saving the piglet, it would have gone to a landfill. During an afternoon hearing on January 19, prosecutors argued for the dismissal of charges while Matt Johnson contended the charges should be dismissed with prejudice and the prosecutors should be required to outline why they were no longer pursuing the case. The judge conceded in his order upholding the ag-gag charge that animal rights activists are disparately impacted because “some animal rights advocates have an ideological motive to gain physical access to the food animal operations.” However, he justified the targeting of animal rights activists by contending the law is “facially neutral” and does not “constitute viewpoint discrimination simply because it may disproportionately affect some speakers or messages more than others.” On that point, Hsiung said the judge is allowing the Iowa legislature to “play games with our constitutional rights.” Iowa has passed four ag-gag laws. The first two ag-gag laws were struck down in part or in their entirety as unconstitutional because they infringe upon First Amendment rights. According to Hsiung, the state legislature went forward with two laws that were constructed to “cover the same conduct” but avoid “constitutional scrutiny” by targeting anyone with severe penalties instead of only animal rights activists, Hsiung also stated, “The notion that someone is going to trespass on property to abuse an animal first of all is just pretty factually unlikely. The only abuse of animals that is happening is by people who own the facility and operate the facility.” Each expansion of ag-gag laws throughout the United States is aimed at suppressing journalism, whistleblowing, and speech around animal abuses. They are designed to protect the interests of agribusinesses and their lobbyists, who are threatened by transparency and accountability. As of August 2021, such laws in Idaho, Kansas, North Carolina, Wyoming, and Utah, as well as in Iowa, were declared to be unconstitutional in whole or in part. Iowa Republican State Senator Ken Rozenboom Matt Johnson told The Dissenter in 2019 he led an investigation into a factory farm owned by Iowa Republican state senator Ken Rozenboom. It was a response to his support for ag-gag laws. The investigation was released in spring 2020. “Inside the barns, we documented severe rectal prolapses, intense overcrowding with noxious ammonia in the air, and excrement coating the floors. One piglet was unable to stand, gasping for air while thrashing wildly for several minutes before dying before our eyes,” DxE reported. “It was actually that investigation that led the Iowa Select Farms truck driver to contact us because of the abuse at Iowa Select Farms, which led to the ventilation shutdown exposé,” Johnson shared. After the ventilation shutdown was exposed at the end of May, Rozenboom backed another Iowa ag-gag law, which passed less than two weeks later. He said the law addressed the “gravest threats to animal agriculture in Iowa.” Rozenboom discussed how DxE investigated his farm and described the organization as an “extreme animal rights group.” He cheered the law for imposing a felony against animal rights activists who commit a second offense. The ag-gag law was passed specifically as a response to the investigations and activism of DxE. As Matt Johnson said, it subsequently was used to charge him. He was the “inspiration for the law,” and he became the first person to be charged under the law. Iowa lawmakers escalated their attacks on journalism and whistleblowing around animal abuse in the food industry in 2021, passing a recording ban that explicitly designates audio or video recording as “trespassing” crimes.The Animal Legal Defense Fund sued the state of Iowa and argued “the law threatens increased penalties for recording even in public places and locations advocates have long used for public advocacy, such as in open areas of legislators’ offices and parts of businesses in which other members of the public regularly come and go.” The post Iowa Judge Upholds Ag-Gag Charge Brought Against Animal Rights Activist Hours Before Dismissing The Case appeared first on Shadowproof.

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