If you're in Southern California, here's a week-long event well worth checking out. Starting this weekend, The Santa Barbara Summit for Tibet (SBST) is hosting a "Tibetan Cultural Week of Celebration and Education to increase awareness in our city of the Tibetan culture’s philosophical and spiritual richness, as well as the challenges it faces."
Here's a schedule of events, all of which are free to the public.
Read the rest
Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Laura Poitras
, who is my colleague on the board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation
, has a powerful short-form documentary film out today, via the New York Times
' "op doc" series
"Death of a Prisoner: The Tragic Return Home of a Guantánamo Bay Detainee" follows a journey to Yemen, to return the body of Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif to his family. In 2012, he "died in solitary confinement at Guantánamo at age 36, after nearly 11 years of imprisonment there, despite never having been charged with a crime."
Read the rest
A waterboarding scene from the film "Zero Dark Thirty."
Karen J. Greenberg, executive director of the New York University Center on Law and Security and author of The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo's First One Hundred Days, explains seven simple steps to making US torture and detention policies once again acceptable to the American public, as illustrated in "Zero Dark Thirty."
Read the rest
James Rodriguez, a brave and talented photojournalist in Guatemala, has a striking photo-essay up on his blog.
On this occasion I share a photo essay documenting events in the Guatemalan northern city of Huehuetenango during the much-awaited end of the Mayan Oxlajuj Baktun. These provide a clear reflection of the divisions and challenges faced by Mayan communities today. The media exploited erroneous apocalyptic rumors, the government and business sectors viewed it as an opportunity to gain economically through tourism, and progressive groups seized the opportunity “to strengthen ancestral wisdom and never-ending search for balance” while vindicating what seem never-ending struggles for justice, inclusion, and self-determination.
Read the rest
I'm proud to serve as a board member for the newly-launched Freedom of the Press Foundation, dedicated to helping promote and fund aggressive, public-interest journalism focused on exposing mismanagement, corruption, and law-breaking in government. The project accepts tax-deductible donations to an array of journalism organizations dedicated to government transparency and accountability. The board includes Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow, actor and activist John Cusack, and other journalists and activists with whom I'm honored to serve.
Early news coverage: New York Times, Huffington Post, Firedoglake.
An op-ed by Barlow and Ellsberg is here. A press release on the launch is here. A list of beneficiary organizations here. Twitter: @FreedomofPress.
In a landmark ruling for human rights in the war on terror, the European court of human rights this week found that CIA agents tortured German citizen, Khaled el-Masri
. The agents sodomized, shackled, and beat him, as Macedonian state police observed.
Read the rest
Investigative reports released under a court order to Bloomberg News
show that caregivers at a Florida center for brain-injured and "non-neurotypical" adults physically and sexually abused patients, in a systematic and brutal manner. Caregivers "goaded them to fight each other and fondle female employees and in one instance laughed at complaints of mistreatment." At least five patients have died at the center in question, the Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation, from alleged abuse or neglect there since 1998. Two patients died in just the last two years. (Bloomberg)
Jessica Chastain as CIA agent “Maya” in Zero Dark Thirty. Photo: Sony/Columbia Pictures
• Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian on the new Kathryn Bigelow film about the capture and assassination of Osama Bin Laden: "With its release imminent, [Zero Dark Thirty] is now garnering a pile of top awards and virtually uniform rave reviews. What makes this so remarkable is that, by most accounts, the film glorifies torture by claiming - falsely - that waterboarding and other forms of coercive interrogation tactics were crucial, even indispensable in finding bin Laden."
• Spencer Ackerman in Wired News: "Bigelow is being presented as a torture apologist, and it’s a bum rap. David Edelstein of New York says her movie borders on the “morally reprehensible” for presenting “a case for the efficacy of torture.” The New York Times’ Frank Bruni suspects that Dick Cheney will give the film two thumbs up. Bruni is probably right, since defenders of torture have been known to latch onto any evidence they suspect will vindicate them as American heroes. But that’s not Zero Dark Thirty."
Read the rest
Omems sends us, "ProPublica's point-by-point discussion of why this year's NDAA might not allow for the indefinite detention of US citizens. As clear and concise a summary as I've seen, and provides a bit of hope that our rights aren't completely irrelevant to our representatives."
I don't know that I'd got that far. ProPublica concludes that some of the senators who voted for NDAA clearly believe (and intend) that it will be used to lock up American citizens and lawful residents forever, without a trial or any meaningful due process. And all of them expect that the NDAA will allow for indefinite detention without charge or trial for foreigners who are captured abroad, or who happen to visit the USA (tourists beware). As one of those foreigners who often visits the USA on a work-visa, I'm not exactly comforted by this news.
What about people detained in the U.S. who aren’t citizens or permanent residents?
They could still be indefinitely detained.
Human rights and civil libertarian groups criticized the amendment for falling short of the protections in the constitution under the Fifth Amendment, which says that any “person” in the U.S. be afforded due process.
In the floor debate, Feinstein said she agreed with critics that allowing anybody in the U.S. to be detained indefinitely without charges “violates fundamental American rights.” Feinstein said she didn’t think she had the necessary votes to pass a due-process guarantee for all.
Cutting through the Controversy about Indefinite Detention and the NDAA
Why are women first to pay for every crisis? In every society, capitalist, socialist, or transition? It's because the bodies of women are expendable.
I always noticed how women over eighty in Turin looked incredibly well, beautiful and loved and taken care of: desirable, because old and valuable. I connected this to Italy's long-established and sophisticated health care system. Italian hospitals were famous for methods which preserved the dignity of the patients, in tumor cures, especially breast cancer: the "invisible mastectomy" was invented in Milan. Rather than simply intervening in crisis, they were good at illness prevention and attentive follow-ups.
The economic crisis and financial harassment of Italy has reached this safe haven of health and dignity. In Turin, one of the best clinics for cure and prevention of breast cancer is about to be closed. The patients are on the streets, their appointments cannot be scheduled, they are paying for their urgent operations because their doctors cannot help them. The doctors are on the streets too.
Read the rest
Jim from the UK Open Rights Group sez,
Last year, the porn company Golden Eye asked for 9,000 O2/Telefonica customer details in the UK, in order to send them letters demanding payments for alleged copyright downloads.
However, in March a judge decided that 6,000 names and addresses could not be given to Golden Eye. Golden Eye was not an normal copyright licensee of the works allegedly downloaded by these 8,000, but had instead acquired a licence from the actual copyright holders to pursue infringers on a revenue sharing basis.
The judge wasn't happy with this arrangement, saying:
"that would be tantamount to the court sanctioning the sale of the intended Defendants' privacy and data protection rights to the highest bidder. Accordingly, in my judgment, to make such an order would not proportionately and fairly balance the interests of the Other Claimants with the Intended Defendents' interests."
The judge's decision is now being contested by Golden Eye. If successful they would gain access to the details of just over 6,000 of around 9,000 subscribers.
We are therefore asking for donations, towards the costs of intervening, and for people to join ORG to support the legal project.
As TorrentFreak says, "Donating to ORG is like punching copyright trolls in the face."
ORG applies to intervene in Golden Eye case - and we need your help
(Disclosure: I helped found ORG and volunteer on its advisory board)
United Parcel Service has joined Intel in telling the Boy Scouts of America that it will no longer be eligible for corporate donations unless it ends its anti-gay policies. UPS gives $150,000 a year to the Scouts. Jacques Couret writes more in the Atlanta Business Chronicle:
Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, founder of Scouts for Equality, began a campaign on Change.org to pressure Boy Scout corporate donors just after Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) halted its support for BSA.
“UPS showed true bravery today in standing with the 80,000 Americans, including thousands of Scouts and Scout leaders, who oppose the Boy Scouts’ hurtful anti-gay policy,” Wahls said in a statement. “That bravery is what Scouting is all about,. Corporate America gets it better than most: policies that discriminate aren’t simply wrong, they’re bad for business and they’re hurting the Scouting community.”
GLAAD said UPS told it that under revised guidelines, organizations that are unable to attest to having a policy or practices that align with The UPS Foundation’s non-discrimination policy will no longer be considered eligible for funding.
UPS cuts future funding to Boy Scouts over org’s gay policies
(via Making Light)
Joly from the Internet Society writes,
As Boing Boing readers will know, the Copyright Alert System, the result of a deal between big content and big ISPs, is a graduated response program - popularly known as the six strikes - that escalates from nastygrams, to copyright school, to Internet throttling. Just like SOPA/PIPA, enforcement targets will be arbitralily selected by the content owners, but unlike SOPA/PIPA there will be no appeal via the courts - only to an arbitration firm hired by the program. There is no question that the plan will have a chilling effect on the Open WiFi movement and thus impede speech. In other countries such plans, arguably ineffective, have only been implemented after a lengthy public process - but in the USA, none.
With the plan due to kick in on November 28, on Thursday November 15 2012 the Internet Society will present 'INET New York: An Open Forum on The Copyright Alert System' at the New York Law School, with speakers representing the MPAA, RIAA, Verizon, and Time Warner, plus advocates of the public interest. The forum is open to the public, free, and will also be webcast live. This is the only opportunity for Internet users to speak up. If you are in NYC show up and let your voice be heard, if elsewhere there is an online backchannel.
INET New York: An Open Forum on the Copyright Alert System – Nov 15 @ New York Law School #6strikes #copyright #inetny
At least 68 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since March 2011 in protest against Chinese rule over Tibetan regions; 56 have died. Despite this, Reuters reports
that a government official said today that China "will not allow foreign observers into restive Tibet to probe human rights abuses... dismissing mounting international pressure for an independent investigation in the troubled mountainous region."
Bassel Khartabil, a Palestinian free/open source developer and Creative Commons activist, has been in prison in Syria since June, and his colleagues around the world have been agitating for his release. Now, the news gets worse: a recently released fellow inmate reports that Khartabil has been subject to harsh treatment and torture in Syrian custody. From the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Eva Galperin:
According to a new Amnesty International report, a released detainee has informed Bassel Khartabil’s family that he is being held at the Military Intelligence Branch in Kafr Sousseh and had been tortured and otherwise ill-treated.
In response to this alarming news, Bassel's friends and supporters around the world have launched a letter-writing campaign, hoping to flood Syrian officials and diplomats with physical mail demanding that Khartabil be formally charged and given access to a lawyer or released immediately. Participants are encouraged to send photographs of their letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Torture Fears for Open Source Software Activist Detained in Syria
(Image: Bassel, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from joi's photostream)
Two cases on the Supreme Court docket "present an aggressive challenge to the notion that a dog’s 'alert' to the presence of drugs is enough to legally justify a search of someone’s home or vehicle. Robert Barnes in the Washington Post
Pussy Riot members Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova have been sent to regions known for hosting Russia's harshest hard-labor camps, places that once served as Soviet gulags. The 24 and 22 year old mothers -- who performed a song protesting the Russian Orthodox Church's connection to the Putin regime in a cathedral -- have been sentenced to two years of hard labor. Though the regions to which they've been dispatched is known, no one -- not even their families -- has been allowed to know exactly which prison-camps they are incarcerated in. The Guardian's Miriam Elder reports from Moscow:
"These are the harshest camps of all the possible choices," the band said via its Twitter account on Monday.
...Confusion reigned on Monday as relatives and lawyers tried to assess exactly where the women were sent. Both Perm and Mordovia host several prison camps, some of which comprised the Soviet-era gulag system. Prison authorities declined to comment on the women's whereabouts.
Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova had petitioned to serve their sentences in Moscow, arguing that they wanted to be close to their children. Alyokhina has a five-year-old son named Filipp, while Tolokonnikova has a four-year-old daughter named Gera.
Pussy Riot band members sent to remote prison camps
(Image: Free Pussy Riot Posters & Designs 07, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from centralasian's photostream)
Brilliant multimedia, multi-part feature in Mother Jones by Shane Bauer, one of the American hikers who was arrested by Iranian authorities on the Iran-Iraq border, then placed in solitary, then eventually released.
Read the rest
A long, excellent investigative piece in the Arizona Republic documents a litany of awful and criminal practices by senior officers (especially recruiters) in the Arizona National Guard. Reporter Dennis Wagner spent five months on the project, using Freedom of Information Act requests and internal sources to uncover stomach-turning transgressions, such as recruiters who brought their recruits out to shoot homeless people with paintball guns, and sexual harassment of junior personnel by their seniors that went ignored and unpunished by the Guard.
"Bum hunts" -- Thirty to 35 times in 2007-08, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Amerson, a former "Recruiter of the Year," drove new cadets and prospective enlistees through Phoenix's Sunnyslope community in search of homeless people.
Military investigators were told that Amerson wore his National Guard uniform and drove a government vehicle marked with recruiting insignia as he and other soldiers -- some still minors -- shot transients with paintballs or got them to perform humiliating song-and-dance routines in return for money. During some of these so-called "bum hunts," female recruits said, they were ordered to flash their breasts at transients. Homeless women, conversely, were offered food, money or drinks for showing their breasts.
Amerson, during military interviews, denied paintball assaults but admitted to some wrongdoing. He was demoted to private and given an other-than-honorable discharge. Amerson declined to be interviewed for this story except to say that allegations against him were untrue.
Republic special report: Allegations against National Guard uncovered
(via Super Punch)
Gary McKinnon, is a British man with Asperger's Syndrome who has been fighting extradition to the US after he hacked a US military server "looking for evidence of UFOs." He faced a 60-year sentence if convicted in the US. After a decade-long fight, the UK Home Secretary Theresa May has blocked his extradition, citing "public concern about the extradition regime," in a turn that surprised many of us -- I would have bet cash money against it.
Gary McKinnon extradition decision
Honduran president Porfirio Lobo came to power in a military coup and presides over the most murderous nation on earth. Now he has announced hastily assembled plans to desginate a region in his country to be a "charter city," owned and operated by offshore corporations, a plan inspired by a Chicago-trained economist called Paul Romer from NYU's business-school. The city will have all its laws -- labor laws, environmental laws, criminal codes, civil codes -- set by a private corporation that is unaccountable to anyone except its shareholders, to whom it will owe a duty of maximum profit. Honduran activists have attempted unsuccessfully to have the nation's supreme court hear their case, which rests on the legality of ceding governance over sovereign territory to foreign powers, and on indigenous land claims.
Critics say it will allow a foreign elite to set up a low-tax, sympathetically regulated enclave where they can skirt labour standards and environmental rules.
"This would violate the rights of every citizen because it means the cession of part of our territory to a city that would have its own police, its own juridical power, and its own tax system," said Sandra Marybel Sanchez, who joined a group of protesters who tried to lodge an appeal at the supreme court.
Ismael Moreno, a correspondent for the leftwing Nicaraguan magazine Envio, compared the charter cities to the banana enclaves, which were run on behalf of a foreign elite. He also spelled out the environmental risks, particularly if one of the development sites is the Sico valley, an area of virgin forest on the Mosquito Coast.
"This model city would end up eliminating the last agricultural frontier left to us," he wrote.
Chicago's economists have a grand tradition of helping military dictators establish unregulated zones where human rights take a backseat to profit, including their enormous contributions to Augusto Pinochet's murderous regime, which established the fundamental kinship between high profits and death squads.
Honduras to build new city with its own laws and tax system to attract investors [The Guardian]
'Catastrophe': Critics Slam Neoliberal Plan for Privatized Cities in Honduras [CommonDreams]
ZDNet's Rupert Goodwins is going blind. Most of us will lose a substantial fraction of our visual acuity, should we live long enough. As a service to his readers, Goodwins is documenting the way that technology can be adapted for people with visual disabilities. It's a fascinating story: as he says, "there's never been a better time to go blind: we are busy converting the world to digital, and digital is supremely easy to convert."
But that's only true as long as there's no DRM in the mix. Once DRM gets into your information stream, your ability to adapt what's happening on your screen to work with your disability is severely curtailed. As Goodwins discovered, the world of ebooks is especially hard on people with visual disabilities.
...[I]t turned out I needed Adobe Digital Editions to 'manage my content'. Some fun later — you have to download it from a particularly brain-dead web page with teeny-tiny dialog boxes that were broken in Chrome and invisible in Firefox — and I had a large blob of code to install on my Windows box.
It tried, of course, to force me to give Adobe my email and other details for the 'Adobe ID' that it assured me I needed to get full functionality. I demurred... and was confronted by a user interface that was tiny white text on a black background. Unreadable. Options to change this? If they exist, I couldn't find them.
Getting this far had taken me half an hour fighting my way through a nest of misery and frustration with broken eyes and a sinking heart. Along the way, I'd been bombarded by marketing messages telling me to "enjoy the experience" and "enjoy your book".
Reader, I wept. Marketing departments, here's a top tip: if your customer is reduced to actual, hot, stinging tears, you may wish to fine-tune your messaging.
This is the reward you get for being disabled and wanting to do the right thing. This is how the world's most splendid machine for freeing our minds from our physical shackles is itself being shackled. This is what will happen to all of you reading this as you get old. I know this, I've done the research: most of you will start to go blind before you die.
Going blind? DRM will dim your world
David Kravets at Wired News writes on today's demand
by the Obama administration that a federal appeals court immediately halt a ruling that blocks legislation authorizing the government to "indefinitely detain without trial individuals, including U.S. citizens, who are deemed to 'substantially support' groups 'engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.'” The administration maintains the lower court’s ruling is a “dangerous” threat to national security, but the court found the rule so vague it could apply to U.S. citizens and journalists exercising constitutional rights. (PDF
In Malaysia, being gay can get you a caning and 20 years in prison. Now the Malaysian government is holding seminars to help teachers and parents figure out which kids are gay (boys with "tight, light-coloured clothes and large handbags" are under suspicion; girls who "have no affection for men and like to hang out and sleep in the company of women" are also suspect). The seminars are reportedly hugely attended, with 1,500 people turning up to last week's event, which was organized by the Teachers Foundation of Malaysia. The official reasoning for this is that being gay is contagious, so straight kids who are around gay kids might catch it. More a Reuters report:
The latest seminar for the teachers and parents was run by deputy education minister Puad Zarkashi, his office confirmed.
Zarkashi wasn't immediately available for comment but national news agency Bernama quoted him as saying that being able to identify the signs will help contain the spread of the unhealthy lifestyle among the young, especially students.
"Youths are easily influenced by websites and blogs relating to LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] groups," he was quoted as saying.
"This can also spread among their friends. We are worried that this happens during schooling time."
Malaysia holds seminars to help teachers spot 'gay children'
CNN sent its investigative correspondent Amber Lyon to produce an expensive documentary on the Arab Spring, including human rights abuses in Bahrain. Lyon and her crew were violently detained by Bahraini security forces, but soldiered on and made "iRevolution: Online Warriors of the Arab Spring," which went on to win awards and acclaim after its sole airing on CNN.
But CNN International, "the most-watched English-speaking news outlet in the Middle East," has never aired the doc. While cutting the doc, Lyon was pressured to include statements from the Bahraini government that she knew to be lies. And CNN itself under-reported the ongoing abuses in Bahrain. Now, CNN has threatened Lyon with sanction for her continued work to uncover the reason that her doc was blackballed by the international arm of her former employer. CNN itself has been remarkably friendly to the Bahraini regime, with which it has close financial ties.
Here's more from Glenn Greenwald in The Guardian:
On 16 August, Lyon wrote three tweets about this episode. CNNi's refusal to broadcast "iRevolution", she wrote, "baffled producers". Linking to the YouTube clip of the Bahrain segment, she added that the "censorship was devastating to my crew and activists who risked lives to tell [the] story." She posted a picture of herself with Rajab and wrote:
"A proponent of peace, @nabeelrajab risked his safety to show me how the regime oppresses the [people] of #Bahrain."
The following day, a representative of CNN's business affairs office called Lyon's acting agent, George Arquilla of Octagon Entertainment, and threatened that her severance payments and insurance benefits would be immediately terminated if she ever again spoke publicly about this matter, or spoke negatively about CNN.
Why didn't CNN's international arm air its own documentary on Bahrain's Arab Spring repression?
A drug-addicted woman who dropped off her two children at a police station because she recognized that she was unable to care for them was tracked down by LAPD officers who reportedly told her to "get your fat ass in the car," threatened to stomp her genitals, then followed through on that threat.
35-year-old Alesia Thomas is reported to have been "combative." After being stomped in the groin, she suffocated while being taken into custody, and died.
Why do we know about this, and why are five LAPD officers now under internal and criminal investigation in her death? The altercation in front of her apartment was captured by a patrol car's video camera.
Read the rest
Two weeks ago, police in South Africa shot dead 34 striking miners at a protest. Now, some of those who remain will be charged with their colleagues' murder. [BBC]
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesman Frank Lesenyego said they would all face murder charges - including those who were unarmed or were at the back of the crowd.
"This is under common law, where people are charged with common purpose in a situation where there are suspects with guns or any weapons and they confront or attack the police and a shooting takes place and there are fatalities," he said.
Update: "South African prosecutors have provisionally dropped murder charges against 270 miners whose colleagues were shot dead by police."
Lobsang Kalsang, an 18-year-old monk, and Damchoek, a 17-year-old former monk, set themselves on fire on Monday morning near Kirti Monastery in Aba county, in the Tibetan region
. This brings the number of Tibetans who have set themselves on fire since 2009 to 51. (BBC News)
publishes a feature on the hazardous work performed by poor people on an island in Indonesia to mine "The Deadly Tin Inside Your Smartphone
." Some of them are 15 and under.