The NSO Group is one of the world's most notorious cyber-arms dealers, selling hacking tools to some of the world's most oppressive regimes that are used to identify targets for arrest, torture and even murder. Read the rest
Sayragul Sauytbay is a Chinese Muslim of Kazakh descent who escaped en route to one of the notorious Xinjiang province concentration camps for Muslims in 2018, after she was sentenced to serve as a regular inmate following her release after more than a year's incarceration as a camp teacher; after she escaped into Kazakhstan, she was given asylum in Sweden. Read the rest
Inventor William Cubitt subscribed to the “no pain, no gain” philosophy. His “Tread-Wheel,” which was described in the 1822 edition of Rules for the Government of Gaols, Houses of Correction, and Penitentiaries (published by the British Society for the Improvement of Prison Discipline and for the Reformation of Juvenile Offenders), was presented as a way for prisoners to put in an honest day’s labor. Prisoners used treadmills in groups, with up to two dozen convicts working a single machine, usually grinding grain or pumping water, sometimes for as long as eight hours at a stretch. They’d do so “by means of steps … the gang of prisoners ascend[ing] at one end … their combined weight acting upon every successive stepping board, precisely as a stream upon the float-boards of a water wheel.”...
This was considered to be more humane, at least compared with earlier methods of punishment, which centered on hanging or exile to British colonies. Hard labor on a treadmill for a fixed term, the theory went, could rehabilitate an offender, who could then return to society and family. Never mind that the prisoner was often left shattered by the experience. Oscar Wilde spent two years on the treadmill as punishment for “gross indecency with certain male persons.” In a poem about his incarceration, he wrote: “We banged the tins, and bawled the hymns, /And sweated on the mill: /But in the heart of every man /Terror was lying still.”
Federal convict and Trump crony Paul Manafort is to be held in solitary confinement at the notorious Riker's Island prison while he faces trial for fraud in a New York court (solitary confinement is standard procedure for high-profile prisoners); Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (whose district includes Riker's) publicly condemned the use of solitary confinement for any prisoner, including Manafort, adding that, "if people aren’t willing to apply principles evenly, no matter the person, then they aren’t fighting for criminal justice reform" and "a prison sentence is not a license for gov torture and human rights violations. That‘s what solitary confinement is." She concluded with "Manafort should be released, along with all people being held in solitary." Read the rest
Newly obtained documents show that under the administration of Donald Trump, thousands of ICE detainees who are mostly from Central America are “sometimes forced into extended periods of solitary confinement for reasons that have nothing to do with rule violations.” Read the rest
China's Xinjiang province is home to the country's Uyghur ethnic minority and other people of Turkic Muslim descent; it has become a living laboratory for next-generation, electronically mediated totalitarianism; up to 1,000,000 people have been sent to concentration/torture camps in the region, and targets for rendition ot these camps come via compulsory mobile apps that spy on residents in every conceivable way (naturally, war criminal Eric "Blackwater" Prince, brother of billionaire heiress Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is into this stuff up to his eyeballs, as are other American collaborators). Read the rest
One of my mottoes is that the important thing about tech isn't what it does, it's who it does it to, and who it does it for; this is especially important in discussions of "smart city" tech, which can easily be turned to systems of population-scale surveillance, control and oppression. Read the rest
Martin Shkreli's poor impulse control continues to land him in terrible trouble: his price-gouging on lifesaving drugs didn't land him in prison, but his profligate boasting about it did (to say nothing of the revocation of his bail after he put a bounty on Hillary Clinton's hair follicles). Read the rest
Chelsea Manning -- whistleblower, torture survivor, hero -- is back behind bars for refusing to testify before a grand jury about her whistleblowing activity; for 16 days, she has been held in solitary confinement in a cell for 22 hours/day, not able to speak to others, denied access to the law library, and prohibited from having reading materials. Read the rest
Last week, Chelsea Manning announced that she would fight a subpoena to appear before a Grand Jury and testify about her whistleblowing activities, citing her concern that "testimony before grand juries is secret, grand juries can create fear by suggesting that some members of a political community may be secretly cooperating with the government. In this way, grand juries can seed suspicion and fear in activist communities." Read the rest
CIA director Gina Haspel listened to audio of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi's torture and execution in Istanbul's Saudi embassy, reports the BBC.
They say Ms Haspel was allowed to listen to the audio during a visit to Turkey earlier this week....Soon after the murder on 2 October, Turkish media quoted officials as saying they had audio recordings of Khashoggi's interrogation and death, but gave no details about the contents or how the audio had been obtained
Gina Haspel somehow getting to listen in on Khashoggi being tortured is like when the editor of a travel magazine somehow gets to spend a month in Bali. Read the rest
During the Cultural Revolution, millions of dissidents (and those suspected of dissidence) were sent to "re-education camps" where torture and slave labor were augmented by marathon "self-criticism" sessions where prisoners would have to engage in prolonged recitations and disavowals of their heresies. Read the rest
In 1911, inventor Frank P. Snow invented this "hat guard" to inflict a painful punishment on any creep with the gall to steal a chapeau belonging to another gentleman. From Weird Universe:
Read the rest
A thief could take the hat, but if he tried to put it on, a "guarding prong" would jab into his skull. The prong locked in place and could only be moved if you knew the code to the combination lock.
When Yeonmi Park was just 13 years old, after suffering inhumanely under the North Korean regime, she and her family escaped to China (and eventually to South Korea).
She is now 24 years old and has become a vocal advocate for human rights in the country she once fled from. In this New York Times video, this brave young defector describes the terrible conditions for people in her home country and asks Trump to hold its dictator Kim Jong-un accountable for these human rights violations.
You may remember Park from a few years ago when she told her story at the One Young World Summit 2014 in Dublin, Ireland:
If her story interests you, give her powerful and inspiring 2016 memoir, In Order To Live, A North Korean Girl’s Journey To Freedom, a read:
Read the rest
Park’s family was loving and close-knit, but life in North Korea was brutal, practically medieval. Park would regularly go without food and was made to believe that, Kim Jong Il, the country’s dictator, could read her mind. After her father was imprisoned and tortured by the regime for trading on the black-market, a risk he took in order to provide for his wife and two young daughters, Yeonmi and her family were branded as criminals and forced to the cruel margins of North Korean society. With thirteen-year-old Park suffering from a botched appendectomy and weighing a mere sixty pounds, she and her mother were smuggled across the border into China.
I wasn’t dreaming of freedom when I escaped from North Korea.