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Is the new Osama bin Laden snuff flick "Zero Dark Thirty" pro-torture?

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

Understanding the NDAA, a US law that makes it possible to indefinitely detain people without charge or trial

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 (Thanks, Omem!)

Demonstrations in Ljubljana: Carnations, Neo-Nazis and a Water Cannon

Bob at Piran Café blog in Slovenia shares this photograph in the Boing Boing Flickr Pool. On his blog, he explains:
This [photograph of a policeman behind a riot shield] was taken at about 6 pm last night, shortly after protesters were giving carnations to police officers stationed in front of Parliament. About four hours later police used a water cannon in Slovenia for the first time.

I’m sick as a dog and didn’t stay in the chill and drizzle for very long, so this is a rundown based mostly on local press accounts of what was, somewhat astonishingly, the second demonstration in a week here in Slovenia to turn violent.

Upwards of 10,000 people gathered in Ljubljana yesterday, one of seven Slovenian cities where hastily organized demonstrations took place to protest what’s perceived as widespread fraud and corruption, austerity measures, and the economic reform policies of the center-right government of Prime Minister Janez Jansa.

More here at Piran Café blog.

Amazons with a Cause

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

ORG needs your money to kill UK copyright trolls

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 (Thanks, Jim!)

(Disclosure: I helped found ORG and volunteer on its advisory board)

UPS to Scouts: no more money until you drop anti-gay policy

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)

Six strikes event in NYC, Nov 15

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 (Thanks, Joly!)

China won't permit human rights monitors in Tibet, because hey, come on, nothing bad is going on there, you guys

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." Xeni

Free/open source programmer and Creative Commons activist Bassel Khartabil faces torture in notorious Syrian prison


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 info@freebassel.org.

Torture Fears for Open Source Software Activist Detained in Syria

(Image: Bassel, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from joi's photostream)

Supreme Court asked to reconsider effectiveness of drug-sniffing dogs in narcotics cases

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 has more. Xeni

Pussy Riot activists sent to secret harsh labor camps


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)

American once placed in solitary confinement in Iran explores solitary confinement in US prisons

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

Corruption in Arizona National Guard, from "bum-hunts" to sexual harassment

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 will not be extradited to the US for hacking the Pentagon

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

Pinochet 2.0: US economist talks Honduras' military dictator into establishing a private city owned and regulated by offshore corporations

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]

(via MeFi)