Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Should the Verizon-Google prescription for case-by-case oversight of wired access apply to wireless connections as well? Or should the FCC stick to its announced plan to apply a subset of the existing common-carrier rules to wired and wireless carriers alike?
Rob Pegoraro, Washington Post
OK Go on Net Neutrality: A Lesson from the Music Industry
Right now the FCC can lastingly protect freedom and equality on the Net. To establish that authority, the agency needs the support of three of its five Commissioners. Two Commissioners, Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn, have loudly backed the effort. What we need is for the chairman to join them and follow through on the plans he laid out months ago. Mr. Genachowski, we, the citizens of the Internet, are with you.
Damian Kulash, Washington Post
Why Al Franken Was Right About Net Neutrality
The Internet is at a crossroads. The FCC's Net Neutrality proceedings have exposed two competing visions for the future of the network that the Supreme Court has called "the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed." Here's the brutal truth: When the dust from rulemaking and the inevitable court battles to follow has settled-- the Internet that we know and love may no longer exist.
Leslie Harris, Huffington Post
FAQ: Net Neutrality and Why You Should Care
Net Neutrality is one of the most important issues -- if not the most important -- in the life of the Internet so far. Yet it's widely misunderstood. Here are the facts.
Paul Kapustka, PC World
Google's 'Open Internet' Proposal Looks Disappointingly Conventional
Google's stance on Net Neutrality shows it's trying to monopolize a market just like a conventional, Microsoft-style Bigfoot would, with corporate guile and misdirection.
Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times
Black August 30, 2010
On March 4, 2010 Sundiata Acoli, who is 73 years old, was denied parole for the third time by the New Jersey State parole board. Sundiata has served 37 years in prison as he was convicted in the May 2, 1973 shooting of a New Jersey State Trooper on the NJ Turnpike. Sundiata was last denied parole in 1994, the parole board continues to cite among other things, that “He was not rehabilitated.” Sundiata has maintained an infraction free prison record since 1996.
Over a thousand letters and petitions from a diverse group of influential people, including psychologists, lawyers, clergy, professors, journalists and community members were sent to the parole board expressing love from the community and support for his release.
Nevertheless, Sundiata was denied parole just minutes after an in-person review by two members of the board. No time was taken to deliberate the decision, and notice of the denial was given to him on a sheet with barely legible hand-written notes on it. Not only was he denied but he was told his case would be referred to a 3-member panel to establish a FET (“hit”) outside the guidelines. In mid July, Sundiata received written notice that a three member panel, two of which included the two members who denied him, had decided to give him a 10 year hit which means he must serve an additional 6 years in prison before he will again be eligible for a parole hearing. He will be 79 years old.
The “hit” is particularly harsh since on August 1, 2010 a new law was passed in New Jersey capping to 36 months, the number of years the parole board can establish a FET. The New Jersey Parole Board rushed to send this letter to Sundiata to avoid the August 1st deadline. As of this posting, Sundiata has not yet received any explanation from the board for this 10 year “hit”.
The Sundiata Acoli Freedom Campaign continues to be vigilant in seeking justice for Sundiata and his right to freedom. Sundiata’s legal advisors have consulted with a NJ attorney to appeal the decision. The attorney has been retained and has prepared and filed an administrative appeal to the NJ Parole Board outlining in very clear terms, the errors made by the panel in denying Sundiata’s parole. The appeal was filed on August 27, 2010.
We believe the case for appealing the NJ Parole Board’s decision is strong! SAFC will continue to keep pushing for Sundiata’s release and raising awareness about his case. Members of SAFC are available to speak and share information with any group who requests it. Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sundiata needs your love and support and SAFC needs to raise funds to cover Sundiata’s legal expenses. Regular commissary donations to keep Sundiata smiling and knowing he is loved are also encouraged. We understand the financial limitations of people during these times and we appreciate anything you can give.
Please take a moment and give what you can to support his release:
To make a contribution to Sundiata’s legal expenses, please send a check or money order payable to SAFC:
PO BOX 766
New York, New York 10027
Please be sure to note in the memo field that your check is for Legal Fees
To send money directly to Sundiata’s commissary send money orders only made out to:
Clark Squire #39794-066 and mail to:
Federal Bureau of Prisons
Clark Squire #39794-066
Post Office Box 474701
Des Moines, Iowa 50947-0001
Do not send a note with your money order or it will be returned.
Commissary donations can also be made online or by phone using a debit or credit card through Western Union Quick Collect. For more instructions on that just email email@example.com.
To send Sundiata a card, a photo, a poem, artwork or just a simple letter saying you are thinking about him, write him:
Sundiata Acoli #39794-066 (Squire)
PO Box 3000
Otisville, NY 10963-1000
Any one of these things is a great way to show your love and support.
Thank you in advance!
A message from Sundiata to his supporters:
Deadline looms for tribes in New York over state tobacco taxes (8/31)
Long-running Indian public affairs television program cancelled (8/31)
ICT Series: Native women and girls exploited throughout Canada (8/31)
City considers sale of water to ski resort in San Francisco Peaks (8/31)
Tohono O'odham Nation reported 44 migrant deaths last month (8/31)
Suspect accused of killing two officers in custody after stand-off (8/31)
Jicarilla Apache family thanks officer who saved young girl's life (8/31)
OPB: Yakama Nation wins preliminary injunction against landfill (8/31)
Guitarist from Indigenous raises money for Marty Indian School (8/31)
KUOW: Fisherman from Lummi Nation preserves tribal traditions (8/31)
Lawsuit alleges abuse at Cheyenne River Sioux detention center (8/31)
Judge who jailed Taos Pueblo group for contempt faces sanction (8/31)
Three children died in vehicle accident on Pine Ridge Reservation (8/31)
Tribes in California join county's request for long-promised water (8/31)
Museum in Kansas agrees to repatriate property to Wichita Tribe (8/31)
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation wins accreditation for fire department (8/31)
Seneca Nation accuses state of violating Class III casino compact (8/31)
Choctaw Nation starts offering alcohol at its newest casino resort (8/31)
Yankton Sioux Tribe breaks ground on expansion project at casino (8/31)
Editorial: Little River Band off-reservation casino is about thejobs (8/31)
Judge won't change wording on Guidiville Band casino referendum (8/31)
Melvin Martin: An Oglala Sioux veteran's trip down 'memory lane' (8/30)
Draft UN Report Accuses Rwandan Troops of Committing Genocide in the Congo
Rwanda is facing explosive allegations from the United Nations of committing war crimes and possibly even genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A leaked report from the UN high commissioner for human rights says that after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Tutsi-led Rwandan troops and their rebel allies killed tens of thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group inside the Congo. [includes rush transcript]
Slain Latino Journalist Rubén Salazar, Killed 40 Years Ago in Police Attack, Remembered as Champion of Chicano Rights
Rubén Salazar was one of the most well-known Latino journalists of the twentieth century and one of the few journalists killed while reporting in the United States. This Sunday marked the fortieth anniversary of his death. He was killed on August 29th, 1970, when he was struck in the head by a tear gas projectile fired by a sheriff’s deputy into an East Los Angeles bar as he was covering the massive National Chicano Moratorium Against the Vietnam War, a massive antiwar march that drew some 30,000 people to LA’s Eastside. For forty years, speculation and controversy have swirled around what happened. We remember the life and legacy of Salazar and the Chicano Moratorium. [includes rush transcript]
Obama to Declare End to Combat Operations in Iraq
UN: Iraq Still Faces Humanitarian Crisis
Gibbs: US Is Increasing Fight Against al-Qaeda in Africa and Southeast Asia
Obama Administration Sued over Plan to Assassinate US Citizens
19 US Troops Killed Since Saturday in Afghanistan
Anti-Mosque Rhetoric in US Reportedly Boosts Taliban Recruitment
Candlelight Vigil in Tennessee Condemns Arson at Mosque Site
Predator Drones to Begin Patrolling Texas-Mexico Border
Obama Urges Senate GOP to Pass $30 Billion Jobs Bill
One in Six Americans Now Enrolled in Anti-Poverty Programs
Mice, Maggots, Manure Found at Factory Egg Farms Linked to Salmonella Outbreak
Monday, August 30, 2010
Headlines for August 30, 2010
"The Big Uneasy"–In New Doc, Harry Shearer Makes the Case that Katrina Was an Unnatural Disaster
Remembering Hurricane Katrina: Voices from the Storm
Community & Resistance After Katrina: Jordan Flaherty and Tracie Washington on the Fight to Save New Orleans
Displaced New Orleans Poet Sunni Patterson: I Will Be a "Cultural Ambassador to Bring a Light to Every Injustice"
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Tribal flooding addressed in new Senate bill
WASHINGTON – A bill has been introduced in the Senate to create a pathway to resolve problems imposed on the seven tribes whose lands were flooded by the infamous Pick-Sloan Program dams. Read more »
McCoy resigns as Quil Ceda general manager
Siletz honor run pays tribute to military, veterans
Native Women’s Leadership Forum Sept. 27 – 28
Indigenous names for state’s two newest ferries
Long journey home
Injunction denied for Everglades/US Sugar deal
Tribal flooding addressed in new Senate bill
‘A Hand to Hold Onto’ seeks nationwide input
Resource concerns transcend tribal boundaries
The Kootenai Tribe’s forgotten war
Indians rally in NYC against Bloomberg’s racist blooper
Saving the Pacific lamprey
Leader’s journey fits agency goals
Parsing the Doctrine of Discovery
Seneca sues state to block cigarette tax implementation
Health information kits headed to Indian country
A sign of the times
FEMA signs disaster agreement with Upper Sioux Community
GAO finds major federal NAGPRA snafus
International Day of the World’s Indigenous People celebrated
Energy giant told to follow rules
Nebraska governor’s office on Whiteclay: No easy solution
Yurok Tribe challenges California Marine Act
EPA seeks comments
Forquera: Major struggle ahead if IRS is to define ‘who is an Indian?’
In a recent article, Mark Trahant described the need to define who is an Indian in order to address the problem the federal government now faces in trying to decide who will be eligible for the Indian exemptions under health reform. He implies that the Internal Revenue Service will need to be involved adding another level of complexity to this age old problem. Read more »
For news you won't get from Indian Country Today, see Censored News.
From a bang to a whimper.
The criminal case against Republican National Convention protester Erik Oseland was resolved this afternoon, when he pleaded guilty to third-degree conspiracy to commit criminal damage to property, a gross misdemeanor.
The other charges against him were dismissed.
The former member of the RNC 8 admitted to talking with several other people before the 2008 event about knocking over newspaper boxes, thus "impeding the flow of convention traffic," said his attorney, Ted Dooley.
"You understand when you tip over these things, it damages the property," Dooley asked Oseland.
"Yes," Oseland said.
Oseland didn't damage any property; he was arrested two days before the convention began.
Ramsey County District Judge Teresa Warner sentenced Oseland to the time agreed upon in the plea agreement: 91 days in the workhouse - with the condition that he not be called to testify against any other RNC defendants.
It was a far cry from two years ago, when investigators raided the homes of two would-be protesters and Sheriff Bob Fletcher displayed at a press conference what they had found: sharp objects to pierce delegates' buses, buckets of alleged urine to throw at police and materials to make Molotov cocktails, among other things, he asserted.
Fletcher said at the time that plans were under way "to both shut down the Republican National Convention and actually harm the officers that are working this convention" and added that Advertisement Quantcast what was found "is only a portion of what is out there."
Eventually, eight members of the RNC Welcoming Committee, an anarchist protest group, were charged with second-degree conspiracy to commit riot in furtherance of terrorism - a charge that carried a potential five years in prison.
The county attorney's office later dropped the terrorism charges. But the eight still faced charges of first-degree conspiracy to commit property damage and second-degree conspiracy to commit riot, both felonies.
The 2008 criminal complaint against the group alleged that Oseland put a video on YouTube entitled "Video Map of the St. Paul Points of Interest," which featured prominent buildings and hotels in downtown St. Paul. It alleged that he and another man had discussed making Molotov cocktails to use during the RNC protests. It also accused him of planning to disable delegates' buses.
Oseland, 23, of Nisswa, Minn., declined comment after the hearing.
County Attorney Susan Gaertner said that whenever a case involves multiple defendants and conspiracy charges, "you're going to have varying degrees of culpability.
"You're also going to have varying degrees of evidence to support the charge of conspiracy," Gaertner said. "That certainly was an aspect of resolving the case against Mr. Oseland."
She said she did not know whether any other plea offers were on the table for the remaining defendants.
Dooley said the fact that Oseland would not have to testify against his co-defendants was "pivotal" to his agreeing to the plea.
"He wouldn't do that if you burned his feet," Dooley said.
At least two of the other RNC defendants attended the hearing.
"The seven of us are still committed to taking it all the way to trial," said defendant Garrett Fitzgerald.
Asked if they were disappointed in today's plea, defendant Max Specktor said, "Conspiracy charges create these situations where the state tries to divide us. That's the greater disappointment."
Critics have derided law enforcement and the county attorney's office for prosecuting the protesters, saying the focus on them has been an attempt to "criminalize dissent."
"This is clearly not about criminalizing dissent," Gaertner said. "It's about criminalizing destructive behavior and prosecuting destructive behavior. He pleaded guilty to that, and I think that's appropriate."
Oseland must report to the Ramsey County workhouse on Oct. 20.
Emily Gurnon can be reached at 651-228-5522.
In solidarity with the National Boricua Human Rights Network's (NBHRN) new campaign to ask for parole for Oscar Lopez Rivera, one of our two Puerto Rican Political Prisoners, ProLibertad has started an online petition to pressure President Brack Obama to give Oscar parole or to commute his sentence.
We are asking all freedom loving people to support both the online petition, which will be sent to President Barack Obama once we have reached our goal of 10,000 petitioners, and to support the letter writing campaign by the NBHRN. Our letters and online support will help us bring one of the longest held political prisoners home!
Both campaigns are important! We must use all avenues available to help win parole/commutation for Oscar.
Sign our petition: http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/Parole4OscarLopezR/
and send a letter out: http://boricuahumanrights.org/
"Agitation, organization, resistance, struggle and love are the ingredients that will guarantee us VICTORY!" -Oscar Lopez Rivera, Puerto Rican Political Prisoner
For more information on Oscar Lopez Rivera and to write to him:
Saturday, August 28, 2010
[This week] a federal district court in Savannah, Georgia denied Troy Davis' petition - ruling that Troy didn't reach the extraordinarily high legal bar to prove his innocence.
But I was in that courtroom in June, along with other Amnesty representatives. We saw the witnesses and heard the facts first-hand, and as Executive Director Larry Cox put it "nobody walking out of that hearing could view this as an open-and-shut case". So how is it that Troy has been put back on track for execution?
The courts have been far too comfortable leaving room for doubt, error and bias. There is no physical or scientific evidence linking Troy to the crime. In fact, Troy had to rely on witnesses whom the judge didn't find credible, even though these are the same witnesses on which his conviction hangs!
Because the courts have failed to resolve the doubts in this case, we're taking Troy's story back to the court of public opinion. We want every news outlet talking about the disastrous system that would allow a man to be put to death even when doubts persist about his guilt.
Write a letter in support of Troy Davis and ask key newspapers to publish it.
Troy's case is so powerful because it has inspired:
-- A majority of witnesses to admit that they lied 19 years ago
-- Four witnesses to finally testify against the person whom they suspect to be the real killer of police officer Mark MacPhail
-- Benedict XVI, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to all call for clemency
-- A movement of human rights supporters to unite and pass Troy's story along from one person to the next to the next...
There are no do-overs when it comes to death. As long as there's doubt, there should be no execution. But as long as there's hope, we'll continue to fight for Troy Davis.
Death Penalty Abolition Campaign Director
Amnesty International USA
Friday, August 27, 2010
Tribes question 'unfunded mandate' from Tribal Law and Order Act (8/27)
Judge expected to issue ruling in Seneca Nation tobacco tax case (8/27)
New York governor cites potential for 'violence' over state taxes (8/27)
Onondaga Nation abandons name brand tobacco amid state tax effort (8/27)
Chris Deschene, Navajo, wins primary for Arizona secretary of state (8/27)
Blackfeet Nation seeks treatment as state designation from EPA (8/27)
Leech Lake Band in talks to host power line through the reservation (8/27)
Blog: Native cultural center the right choice for Seattle Center (8/27)
Man uses permit from Passamaquoddy Tribe to fish in federal waters (8/27)
Editorial: FSU tells high school to stop using 'Seminole' as mascot (8/27)
Mississippi governor asks EPA to block Choctaws from new casino (8/27)
La Jolla Band makes plans for new casino with new gaming partner (8/27)
Mashantucket Tribe implements policies friendly to LGBT employees (8/27)
EXCLUSIVE...Zeitoun: How a Hero in New Orleans After Hurricane Katrina Was Arrested, Labeled a Terrorist and Imprisoned
Today, a personal story of a national tragedy. Five years ago, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian-born New Orleans building contractor, stayed in the city while his wife and children left to Baton Rouge. He paddled the flooded streets in his canoe and helped rescue many of his stranded neighbors. Days later, armed police and National Guardsmen arrested him and accused him of being a terrorist. He was held for nearly a month, most of which he was not allowed to call his wife, Kathy. Today, in a rare broadcast interview, Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun join us to tell their story, along with the man who chronicles it in the book Zeitoun, Dave Eggers. [includes rush transcript–partial]
UN: Over 1 Million Pakistanis Displaced in 2 Days
Report: Many Afghan Officials on CIA Payroll
Security Council Voices Concern on Congo Rapes
In Cuba, Richardson Claims Progress on Jailed US Contractor
North Korea Frees US Citizen After Carter Visit
South African Union Threatens to Wide Labor Strike
Israeli Military Court Convicts Nonviolent Palestinian Activist
Victim of Anti-Muslim Stabbing Speaks Out
Admin Sides with Utilities in Emissions Case
2 Arrested Protesting Mountaintop Removal in West Virginia
Thursday, August 26, 2010
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe files lawsuit against state taxation efforts (8/26)
Sen. Bingaman to discuss Tribal Law and Order Act in New Mexico (8/26)
White Earth attorney appointed a federal magistrate in Minnesota (8/26)
Interview: Chuck Billy, Testament singer, appears in NMAI exhibit (8/26)
Roger Fernandes: Center presents tribal viewpoint in Washington (8/26)
Chickasaw Nation starts work on tourism center in Oklahoma City (8/26)
Modoc Nation seeks federal recognition outside of Klamath Tribes (8/26)
Sen. Murkowski faces loss of seat in close primary vote in Alaska (8/26)
Federal Diary: Interior still has a long way to go on diversityplan (8/26)
Little River off-reservation casino deal fails to come up for a vote (8/26)
Pokagon Band finds receptive audience in plan for second casino (8/26)
Letter: Mississippi Choctaws break compact with new casino plan (8/26)
Colleague of NYC Taxi Driver Stabbed in Anti-Muslim Attack Describes What Happened
A New York City taxi driver was stabbed multiple times Tuesday after a drunken passenger determined he is a Muslim. The victim, Ahmed Sharif, was slashed across his face, neck and hands. Sharif says the suspect, Michael Enright, had asked him several questions about his religion, including whether he’s a Muslim and observing Ramadan. Bhairavi Desai of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance spoke with Sharif at his hospital bed. She describes what he said happened.
Swimming Upstream: Eve Ensler Marks Fifth Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina With Performances of New Play
The award-winning playwright Eve Ensler plans to mark the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina by staging performances of her new work "Swimming Upstream" in New Orleans and New York City. The piece was written by 16 women from New Orleans who describe surviving the flood and living through the aftermath of the storm which permanently changed their city and many of their lives.
Eve Enlser Reads "Congo Cancer: My Cancer is Arbitrary Congo’s Atrocities Are Very Deliberate"
Earlier this year, award-winning playwright and bestselling author, Eve Ensler was diagnosed with uterine cancer. In a widely-read article in the Guardian newspaper of London titled "Congo Cancer," Ensler writes about her illness and relates it to the widespread violence against women in Congo. "The atrocities committed against the people of Congo are not arbitrary, like my cancer. They are systematic, strategic and intentional," she writes.
UN Slow to Respond to Gang-Rape of Almost 200 Women in the Congo
Aid groups reported last week that Rwandan and Congolese rebels took over villages in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and gang-raped almost 200 women and five young boys. The rapes occurred between July 30 and August 3, within miles of a United Nations peacekeeping base. A joint UN-human rights team has now confirmed the rapes of 154 women.
Over 50 Killed in Iraq Violence
Report: Corruption-Linked Afghan Official on CIA Payroll
New York Taxi Driver Stabbed in Anti-Muslim Attack
Religious, Civic Groups Form NY Coalition to Back Islamic Center
Islamic Center Vandalized in California; Kentucky Board Rejects Mosque
Top Obama Environmental Advisers Sidelined During Drilling Talks
72 Killed in Mexico Drug Killings
Pakistani Towns Evacuated; 800,000 Cut Off From Aid
Scores Killed in Somali Clashes
Honduran Journalist Found Dead With Gunshot Wounds
Ex-RNC Chair Reveals He’s Gay
Study: More Than Half of Poor Infants Raised by Mothers Suffering From Depression
Deficit Commission Co-Chair Urged to Resign over Social Security Comments
A group of Clan Mothers and other members of the Grassy Narrows First Nation have returned to the site of their high profile logging blockade to stop the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) from interfering with road repairs on their traditional territory. The First Nation is attempting to fix a network of back-roads near Ball Lake ... Continue Reading: http://intercontinentalcry.org/grassy-narrows-clan-mothers-block-mnr-enforcement-team/
COINTELPRO dirty deeds protected by court order in Omaha Two case
August 25th, 2010 3:18 pm ET
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kopf denied Edward Poindexter a hearing on a new trial request exactly 40 years after the funeral of the Omaha, Nebraska police officer he is accused of killing.
Poindexter was head of the Omaha chapter of the Black Panther affiliate group National Committee to Combat Fascism and a COINTELPRO target when patrolman Larry Minard was killed responding to a 911 call at a vacant house where a bomb waited.
J. Edgar Hoover, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had demanded the Omaha FBI office get Poindexter off the streets along with Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice) as part of the clandestine Operation COINTELPRO.
The day of the bombing, Special Agent in-Charge Paul Young of the Omaha FBI office met with Deputy Chief Glen Gates of the Omaha Police Department and conspired to withhold evidence about the identity of the 911 caller that lured Minard to his death. Instead of a vocal analysis report on the 911 tape recording the FBI crime lab was to only provide an informal review of the killer’s voice.
The presence of an unknown killer, the 911 caller, would complicate Hoover’s plan to get the two Panther leaders and Hoover wanted no lab report that would end up in court.
When Ivan Willard Conrad, the FBI crime lab chief, got the COINTELPRO memo about Minard’s killing, Conrad spoke with Hoover on the phone to verify the killer of the policeman was not to be identified in a report. Conrad made a notation on the memorandum of Hoover’s directive and initialed and dated the entry.
Larry Minard was buried the next day on his 30th birthday leaving a widow with five young children.
The jury that convicted Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa never got to hear the voice of the Minard’s killer and the tape was later destroyed by a police lieutenant, James Perry.
Years later a copy of the 911 recording emerged, secretly recorded by a dispatcher, The tape recording has since been subjected to modern testing that shows the voice is not that of 15 year-old Duane Peak, the confessed bomber, thus leaving an unknown killer at large.
Secret COINTELPRO files about the bombing also came to light years after the crime including the incriminating memo initialed by Conrad about Hoover’s personal role in withholding evidence.
Judge Kopf left room for an appeal of his order denying a new trial based on new evidence about the 911 tape recording. Poindexter will need to obtain permission of the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to proceed further.
Previously the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled against Poindexter on the same issue telling him that it did not matter whose voice was on the 911 tape recording.
Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa are both in their 40th year of imprisonment for the crime while both continue to deny any role in Minard’s death.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Native Sun News: Rosebud Sioux advocate won't remain silenced (8/25)
Column: Mayor alienates Indians who helped build New York City (8/25)
Editorial: New York City mayor must apologize for cowboy remark (8/25)
New York tribes continue meetings over state tobacco tax efforts (8/25)
Oneida Nation moves tobacco manufacturing plant to reservation (8/25)
San Carlos Apache Chairman: Work goes on amid election season (8/25)
Yakama Nation group back home after being stranded in Alabama (8/25)
Menominee Nation man still hoping for return of his stolen regalia (8/25)
Authorities find huge marijuana farm at Santa Ysabel Reservation (8/25)
Mohegan Tribe names acting chairman in preparation for election (8/25)
Washington Sketch: Judge Lamberth once again makes the news (8/25)
Deal of the Week: Eastern Cherokees bet on big casino expansion (8/25)
Navajo Nation finalizes $5.3M loan to begin work on new casinos (8/25)
Little River Band awaits vote for off-reservation casino compact (8/25)
Newest tribal casinos in Michigan take in most on slot machines (8/25)
Eight indicted for stealing more than $102K from Hopland casino (8/25)
Mohegan Tribe reiterates commitment to Massachusetts gaming (8/25)
A federal judge in Georgia has rejected death row prisoner Troy Anthony Davis’s claims of innocence. Last year the Supreme Court took the unusual step of ordering a district court in Georgia to hold a special evidentiary hearing to consider evidence that surfaced after Davis’s conviction and might establish his innocence. Davis was convicted for the 1989 killing of an off-duty white police officer, Mark MacPhail. Since then, seven of the nine non-police witnesses have recanted their testimony, and there is no physical evidence tying him to the crime scene. [includes rush transcript]
As Five States Hold Primaries, a Look at the Role of Money in Politics
Voters headed to the polls in Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma and Vermont yesterday in a big day of state primaries. Florida Rep. Kendrick Meek defeated billionaire real estate mogul Jeff Greene in the state’s Democratic Senate primary. But billionaire businessman Rick Scott pulled off an upset over Attorney General Bill McCollum in the Florida gubernatorial primary after spending $30 million on the race. We take a look at the role of money in those and other primary races with Charles Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity. [includes rush transcript]
The New Yorker: Billionaire Brothers Charles & David Koch Have Quietly Given More Than $100 Million to Right-Wing Causes
An article in the latest issue of The New Yorker magazine by Jane Mayer profiles billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, two of the richest men in America who have quietly given more than a hundred million dollars to right-wing causes. Mayer writes, "The [Koch] brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus." [includes rush transcript]
Shirley Sherrod, Ousted from Agriculture Department, Rejects Offer to Return
Shirley Sherrod, ousted from her job at the Agriculture Department last month, has rejected an offer to return to the USDA. Sherrod was forced out shortly after a right-wing website ran a video clip that was deceptively edited to make it appear that she was racist toward white farmers. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack forced Sherrod to resign shortly after the video was posted. Vilsack met with Sherrod Tuesday morning to try and convince her to return to the department. The two also discussed a settlement pending in the Senate for black farmers who have been victims of racism. We speak with John Boyd, the founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association.
33 Killed, Dozens Wounded in Iraq Violence
Witnesses: 8 Afghan Civilians Killed in US Attack
Top US Marine: Withdrawal Deadline Boosting Taliban Morale
WikiLeaks Announces Release of CIA Paper
Study: Microbes Eating Up Oil in Gulf of Mexico
McCain Holds Off Challenger; Murkowski Trails in Alaska GOP Race
Rep. Meek Defeats Billionaire Challenger in Fla. Dem Senate
MSHA Fines Safety Violations at 4 Mines
Admin to Appeal Blocking of Stem Cell Funding
Report: NOLA Officers Ordered to Shoot Looters After Katrina
Carter Lands in North Korea to Free US Prisoner
Israeli FM: Settlement Construction to Resume Next Month
Texas School Rejects Admission for Daughter of Lesbian Couple
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Friday September 17th, 2010 at 7:30pm
East Harlem Cafe, 1651 Lexington Avenue (btwn. E104-105th St.), NY
Take the 6 train to E. 103rd St.
Join us for a night of incredible poetry, rap and spoken word as we unite to help our brother former Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Carlos Alberto Torres!
Carlos Alberto, freed from 30 years in jail this July, is trying to open up a ceramics workshop in Puerto Rico! He needs our help to pay rent, buy supplies and many other expenses!
Come through and Help our brother Carlos Alberto, make his dream a reality!
The Welfare Poets
The Welfare Poets
Sandra Maria Estevez
The Mahina Movement
By Bill Rankin
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A federal judge on Tuesday emphatically rejected condemned inmate Troy Anthony Davis' claims that he was wrongly convicted of killing a Savannah Police officer in 1989.
In a 174-page order, U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. said Davis had failed to prove his innocence during an extraordinary hearing this summer ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Ultimately, while Mr. Davis' new evidence casts some additional, minimal doubt on his conviction, it is largely smoke and mirrors," Moore wrote. "The vast majority of the evidence at trial remains largely intact, and the new evidence is largely not credible or lacking in probative value."
Davis sits on death row for killing off-duty police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail as MacPhail ran to the aid of a homeless man being pistol-whipped. Davis's case has attracted international attention because a number of key prosecution witnesses have either recanted or backed off their trial testimony. Other witnesses have come forward and said another man at the scene, Sylvester "Redd" Coles, told them he was the actual killer.
Moore faulted Davis' legal team for not calling Coles to the witness stand during the specially ordered hearing to test the validity of his alleged confessions.
Moore did answer one question posed by the U.S. Supreme Court. He found that executing an innocent person would violate the Eighth Amendment's ban against cruel and unusual punishment.
"However, Mr. Davis is not innocent," Moore wrote.
Davis' new evidence, offered during a two-day hearing in June, "does not change the balance of the trial," the judge found.
Of the seven witnesses Davis' legal team say have recanted their trial testimony, "only one is a meaningful, credible recantation." The value of this recantation is diminished, the judge added, because it was already obvious the witness was testifying falsely at trial, Moore wrote.
Davis’ sister, Martina Correia, told The Associated Press her family wasn’t giving up hope.
“We will continue to fight. And we’ll appeal,” Correia said. “I have to talk to the lawyers and find out what the next steps are.”
The victim’s mother, Anneliese MacPhail, said she was pleased by the ruling but nervous that it may not stick.
“I’m not holding my breath,” said MacPhail, 76. “We’ve been through to much to think this is over soon. For 19 years we’ve been going back and forth, and too often in the 11th hour something happens.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Mark Trahant: One year of lessons from the Indian Health Service (8/24)
Opinion: Native children punished in Canada's residential schools (8/24)
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe narrows the field for chairman's post (8/24)
Three brothers from Sault Tribe found guilty of fishing violations (8/24)
PhotoBlog: Slow and steady progress for Crazy Horse memorial (8/24)
New NIGC chair speaks at Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (8/24)
Turtle Talk: Big news from BIA on revenue sharing and compacts (8/24)
Nottawaseppi Huron Band pays off gaming loan four years early (8/24)
Largest Egg Recall in US History Brings Renewed Attention to Dangers of Industrial Farming
The largest egg recall in US history is bringing renewed attention to the dangers of factory farming and to growing consolidation in the industries responsible for the food many Americans eat. Over half a billion eggs have been pulled off US shelves in the past two weeks following an outbreak of salmonella in the Midwest. Nearly 1,300 cases of people sickened by the eggs have been reported. Despite the size of the recall, responsibility falls on just two factory farms: Hillandale Farms and Wright County Egg, both from Iowa. [includes rush transcript]
David Kirby on "The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy and Poultry Farms on Humans and the Environment"
We speak with David Kirby about his book Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy and Poultry Farms on Humans and the Environment. "We need more regulations, and we need enforcement of the regulations," Kirby says. "These [food] companies are self-policing, and they are operating on the honor system, and consumers are obviously paying the price."
Report: Global Food Security and Sovereignty Threatened by Corporate and Government "Land Grabs" in Poor Countries
Since the food crisis of 2008, food justice activists have warned that governments in concert with multinational corporations have accelerated a worldwide "land grab" to buy up vast swaths of arable land in poor countries. According to The Economist magazine, between 37 to 49 million acres of farmland were put up for sale in deals involving foreign nationals between 2006 and mid-2009.
Judge Blocks Federal Funding for Embryonic Stem Cell Research
A federal judge has blocked President Obama’s executive order restoring funding for embryonic stem cell research. On Monday, US District Judge Royce Lamberth said the funding violates a 1996 law prohibiting federal money for any research that destroys or threatens human embryos. Obama’s order had overturned a move by his predecessor George W. Bush to further restrict stem cell funding.
Senators McCain, Murkowski Face Primary Challenges
Judge Blocks Federal Funding for Embryonic Stem Cell Research
One Million Pakistanis Face Starvation in Balochistan
Relief Agencies Blocked from Using Pakistani Air Base Tied to US
US Drone Strike in Pakistan Kills 4 Women, 3 Children
NATO Troops Accused of Killing Eight Afghan Civilians
Imam Feisal Defends Islam as a Peaceful Religion
Thousands of Dead Fish Found in Mississippi River
Almost 200 Women Gang-Raped in the Congo
Report: 8.4 Million Californians Lack Health Insurance
US Submits First Ever Human Rights Report to the UN
Charges Dropped for 100 G20 Protesters
Monday, August 23, 2010
earthfirstnews.wordpress.com Aug 21, 2010
by Ben Rosenfeld
On August 3, 2010, Rod Coronado was sentenced to four months in federal prison for allegedly violating the terms of his probation, i.e., for “associating” with Earth First! cofounder and former Greenpeace U.S.A. Director Mike Roselle, by accepting his “friendship” on Facebook, and for accessing an unauthorized computer outside his home. (There is no current evidence that the FBI surreptitiously surveiled Mr. Coronado’s Facebook account. Mike Roselle is a prominent environmental organizer and author, active most recently in the campaign to ban mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia.)
The probation terms Mr. Coronado is said to have violated were not related to his most recent case, which resulted in a hung jury and a plea deal in 2008. In that case, a San Diego jury declined to convict Coronado for answering a question after a talk in which an audience member asked him how incendiary devices were made. (Coronado answered generally while holding up a jug of apple juice from the concession table; the government’s own presentation at trial contained far more detailed and accurate information.)
One probation term Mr. Coronado was accused of violating (the association term) was left over from his federal conviction in Arizona in 2005 for trying to disrupt a mountain lion hunt through peaceful means. The other (the computer monitoring term) was added by a federal judge in Michigan after Coronado moved there to help raise is son. The San Diego judge did not impose any computer conditions on Coronado, and had also told him he was free to associate with Earth First!ers, in part to spread the message that his views on activism had changed.
In August 2006, Mr. Coronado wrote a Statement from Prison renouncing property damage as a tactic and advocating social change through other means. He wrote, in part: “What our world needs now is a whole lot more love and a lot less violence. Nothing in this world will change overnight. But if we live peace and teach our children well, they might still inherit a world better than ours.”
Mr. Coronado has not veered from this message. He is not accused of any crime. He has been allowed to self-surrender to begin serving the four month sentence locked away from his children, his partner, and his community. His three year term of probation will begin anew upon his release.
Ben Rosenfeld is a San Francisco Civil Rights Attorney and Board Member of
the Civil Liberties Defense Center based in Eugene, OR (www.cldc.org).
Charles Trimble: Discipline needed to preserve tribal sovereignty (8/23)
Mary Pember: Comedian takes new approach to serious problem (8/23)
Ralph Forquera: Urban Indians face major health reform struggle (8/23)
DOJ won't prosecute Alaska figure for sexual abuse of Native girl (8/23)
ICT Series: Native women and girls exploited throughout Canada (8/23)
Marc Simmons: Interference by whites led to divisions at Laguna (8/23)
Alvin Manitopyes: Culture and spirituality are our greatest allies (8/23)
Logan Davis: Indian Country wants same opportunities as others (8/23)
Groups claim Chumash Tribe can't follow land-into-trust process (8/23)
Ask Your Government: North Dakota's Indian Affairs Commission (8/23)
Editorial: DeLay far from 'innocent' in Washington's money game (8/23)
BIA rejects casino compact for Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake (8/23)
OSHA in court over inspection at Tohono O'odham Nation casino (8/23)
Editorial: The good and bad in proposed Tohono O'odham casino (8/23)
Editorial: Bad news for the Northwest on off-reservation casinos (8/23)
Opinion: Questioning the sovereignty behind tribes and casinos (8/23)
Exclusive: US Journalist Deported from Turkey After Reporting on Plight of Kurds
Twenty-five-year-old American journalist Jake Hess was arrested in Turkey nearly two weeks ago and deported back to the United States over the weekend. Turkey accused him of allegedly having ties with the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which Turkey and the United States classify as a terrorist organization. But Hess and his lawyer have maintained that Hess was targeted because of his writings. His recent articles for Inter Press Service have focused on Turkish soldiers deliberately starting forest fires, the depopulation of Kurdish villages, and Turkish-Iranian air strikes on Kurdish homes in northern Iraq. [includes rush transcript]
Scientist Accuses Obama Administration and BP of Underestimating Amount of Oil Left in Gulf of Mexico
New evidence has badly shaken the Obama administration’s rosy narrative about the alleged disappearance of most of the oil that gushed into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s blown-out well. Early this month a report by government scientists declared that three-quarters of the oil had vanished, either collected or dispersed. But numerous reports contradict the administration’s sanguine picture of the cleanup effort. We speak to Ian MacDonald, an oceanographer and expert on measuring oil spills from Florida State University. He testified at a congressional hearing last week and said the actual amount of oil removed from the Gulf is only around ten percent and predicted the spill will likely remain harmful for decades. [includes rush transcript–partial]
Fishing Industry in Gulf Still Worried About Levels of Toxins in the Water and the Impact on Marine Life
The Obama administration announced last week that it is safe to eat fish and shrimp caught in the 78 percent of federal waters in the Gulf that are now reopened to fishing. But many are still concerned about the levels of toxins in the water and the impact on marine life. Independent journalist Dahr Jamail has been reporting from the Gulf Coast for over a month now. Last week he spoke to some commercial fishermen in Mississippi who are refusing to trawl because of the oil and dispersants that are still in the water.
UN: Lack of International Support for Pakistan Is "Quite Extraordinary"
Israeli and Palestinian Authority Agree to Direct Talks
Sweden Drops Rape Charges Against WikiLeaks Founder
Rallies Held For and Against NYC Islamic Cultural Center
Soldiers Punished for Refusing to Attend Christian Concert
Gen. Odierno: US Troops May Stay in Iraq After 2011
Haitian Authorities Release List of Qualified Presidential Candidates
UN Report Exonerates Shell for Oil Pollution in Niger Delta
GOP Candidate Proposes Housing Welfare Recipients in Jails
California Jail to Test Ray Gun on Prisoners
Recall of Eggs Expanded by 170 Million Eggs
Blackwater Agrees to Pay $42 Million in Fines
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) went ahead this week with its draconian drive to impose a new Chief and Council in the Algonquin community of Barriere Lake. According to Barriere Lake Solidarity, the government received somewhere between six and ten nomination mail-in ballots in a community from a community of more than 450 people. ... Continue Reading: http://intercontinentalcry.org/indian-affairs-imposes-new-chief-and-council-on-barriere-lake/
“La Tramacúa”: Colombia’s Abu Ghraib
Part One in a Series on US Designed Repression in Colombia’s Prison System
By James Jordan
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
August 17, 2010
The name commonly used to refer to the Medium and High Security Penitentiary of Valledupar is “La Tramacúa.” What that name means exactly, no one is certain. But it is a name that is infamous throughout Colombia and has become synonymous with reports of torture, beatings and hellish conditions. It conjures up images similar to what we in the United States imagine when we hear the words “Abu Ghraib” or “Guantanamo.” Unlike those prisons, La Tramacua is not directly staffed by the United States government. It was, however, the first of a series of prisons in Colombia to be designed and overseen by the US Bureau of Prisons. The US government provided at least $4.5 million toward the development of La Tramacúa.
In fact, Colombia’s entire medium and maximum security system has been restructured with the partnership and management of the US government. Referred to as the “New Penitentiary Culture,” this partnership stands to usher in a “new culture” of repression and intimidation by increasing the capacity of these institutions by 40 percent, or 24,000 new prisoners. Colombia’s political prisoners are being concentrated in the harshest locations and forced to inhabit prisons with high populations of paramilitary prisoners. Paramilitaries are members of private “death squads” that are allied with the Colombian military and political right wing, private business owners and transnational corporations such as Chiquita, Drummond Coal and Coca-Cola. Along with their military allies, they are responsible for 80% of Colombia’s political violence.
In 2000, the US Ambassador and the Colombian Minister of Justice signed an agreement called the Program for the Improvement of the Colombian Prison System. On the basis of this document the US would provide support to build new prisons throughout Colombia and to restructure the penal system on a US model, one emphasizing security over all other considerations, including the education and resocialization of inmates. The first of these prisons would be in the city of Valledupar, Department of César: La Tramacúa. It was considered to be a model for the “New Penitentiary Culture” and is often referred to as the “the most secure prison in the country”.
La Tramacúa is a modern facility, operational as of November, 2000. As a modern facility one would expect modern conditions. Instead, inmates are only allowed access to water…a trickle coming out of a pipe…ten minutes a day. Sanitation facilities are filthy and more often than not, backed up and not working. Prisoners are frequently fed spoiled food found to contain fecal matter. In 2001, the Office of the UN’s High Commission for Human Rights announced the discovery of fecal contamination after a visit to Valledupar. In 2008, the situation was corroborated by a microbial analysis by the office of the Secretary of Health for the Department of César.
A delegation from the Spanish principality of Asturias tried to visit La Tramacúa in February of this year, but was turned awaythe first time this had happened to such a delegation. But based on past visits, interviews with inmates and the work of previous delegations, they gave this description:
“The place suffers extreme temperatures of 35-40 degrees (95-104 degrees Fahrenheit), without any mechanism for alleviation.
“In addition [the prison] suffers from serious structural failures, foremost the lack of water and use of deficient sewer systems, in which open sewage passes near the kitchen.
“Getting water, putting it in plastic bottles and climbing to the second, third, fourth, fifth floor, becomes the priority for survival of the prisoners, the motive behind fights, of coercion and corruption of the prison personnel.”
The bleak conditions are corroborated by Tatiana Cárdenas in an August 13, 2009 article for Colombia’s El Mundo newspaper:
“The inmates lack the minimum sanitary conditions; there is no water, the place is constantly surrounded with excrement from the same prisoners who, not having sanitary services to use, throw bags [of their waste] outside the prison and the lower floors….
“‘The smell you sense from before arriving is a stench that makes one feel sick. The flies are everywhere and the heat is unbearable,’ remembers Catalina [recalling a visit to her imprisoned husband]....”
A report by Radio Guatapurí illustrates the degree to which conditions at La Tramacúa can sink:
“It has been five days that water has not come to the different towers [of the prison], so much so that the inmates may be at the point of collapse, and the center of incarceration in an imminent sanitary emergency because of the accumulation of malodorous fecal materials and the little opportunity they have to bathe and wash clothes. At the most there is some to drink, said a desperate inmate who called the César Tribune.
“A volunteer for the Fire Department, said that water is getting to “La Tramacúa”, but it is not sufficient for the necessities they have.
“The Director of Valledupar’s Public Services recognized that there is low pressure and reported it is because the farms are breaking into the water lines of the system passing through the area in order to water their fields.”
The diversion of water to these farms has been exacerbated by the fact that Valledupar is a major paramilitary center. The Asturian delegation describes “…a theft of water destined for the jail by the surrounding farms, and when an official tried to stop this theft, he was fired. Why? Because in Valledupar there is the paramilitary presence and domination, and these farms belong to paramilitary murderers such as the “Jorge 40,” holders of political and economic power in the region.”
Because of the conditions, Valledupar suffers from a high suicide rate. Just a month after the situation described by Radio Guatapurí, an inmate was hanged in the custody of guards. There are some, however, that claim this was not a suicide, but an execution.
What is the attitude of the authorities toward the many suicides? In 2009 in Tower Nine, Alexandra Correa, hanged herself. When the women prisoners’ human rights representative, Esmeralda Echeverry, reported beforehand that Correa and her partner, Tatiana Pinzon, were threatening to kill themselves, the then-Director of INPEC (Colombia’s National Institute of Penitentiaries and Jails) Dr. Teresa Moya Suta responded, “Let her kill herselfI will assume responsibility.” A week later when INPEC’s second-in-command, Col. Carlos Alberto Barragán, visited the prison, he laughed in her face when Pinzon fell to her knees, begging to be transferred from Valledupar. When Moya Suta vacated her position, Barragán was promoted to the top position.
Nevertheless, a significant victory has been won with the closure of Tower Nine and the transfer of the women inmates from La Tramacúa. These prisoners had received no consideration or treatment specific to their status as women. Tower Nine was also home to one of the largest concentrations of women political prisoners.
After a campaign of several years initiated by the inmates and supported by the Committee in Solidarity with the Political Prisoners (FCSPP-Federación Comité en Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos), the tower was closed on March 26th. The efforts of the Asturian delegation and statements by United Nations and international groups were important catalysts for this victory, along with the struggles of the women and their Colombian supporters. But it was not a victory without sacrifice. Luciano Romero was a unionist and a member of the FCSPP active in the campaign. He was assassinated after returning from a six month visit to Asturias.
Meanwhile, harsh conditions persist for the men of La Tramacúa. On July 13th, 2010, the Campaña Permanente de Solidaridad con las Detenidas y Los Detenidos Políticos/Traspaso Los Muros distributed an alert concerning the prisoners of La Tramacúa’s Fourth Tower:
“Today we received more information about the serious health conditions suffered over the last three months by 40 political prisoners in Tower 4 in Valledupar. The alarming symptoms are loss of hair and nails as well as bleeding from the mouth and in their bowel movements. They have repeatedly requested medical attention as well as medicines to help decrease their ailments. These requests have been denied by INPEC. These negligent acts…have enabled the spread of the symptoms, which are caused by unsanitary detention conditions.”
For the political prisoners and prisoners of war, the problems are multiplied. Housed where paramilitary criminals are also concentrated, the danger of violence is a daily concern. The paramilitary inmates are granted privileges not available to others and are known to carry weapons, sometimes provided by the guards themselves. Beatings, torture and collective punishment are common at the hands of both the guards and paramilitary gangs.
In an article titled “Life as a Political Prisoner in Colombia”, Vincenzo Gonzalez writes,“…Colombian prisons have been turned into ‘theaters of military operation’, where civil authority is subordinate to military and police authority and where universal and constitutional human rights are persistently violated….”
According to the Political Prisoners Collective “Adan Izquierdo”, founded by FARC-EP prisoners at La Tramacúa, their members are severely tortured and grossly mistreated by the INPEC prison guard:
“Every time the FARC takes any action against paramilitaries on the outside, the prison guard punishes the prisoners inside with beatings and other forms of torture. It is their way of demonstrating their allegiance to the state paramilitary strategy. The prisoners are denied the right to stay in touch with events outside the prison walls and are forbidden to receive newspapers or magazines. They are not allowed radio or television. Getting medical treatment requires extreme measures such as cutting the veins in their own wrists to attract attention. This is what one prisoner Enrique Horta Valle was forced to do when he desperately needed to see a doctor. They are frequently kept in their cells for 24 hours a day. Visiting family and friends are warned by the paramilitaries patrolling the prisons that they will be killed if they ever come back. The INPEC guard goes to great lengths to point out which visitors are coming to see political prisoners.”
A British study carried out in the late 1970s listed some of the forms of torture occurring in Colombian jails, including simulated drowning, simulated executions (usually referring to “firing” an unloaded pistol to the head), and beatings with blunt instruments while handcuffed. With the “New Penitentiary Culture,” these old practices have not disappeared. In the first six months of 2008, INPEC’s office for internal disciplinary control documented some 79 cases of physical and/or verbal abuse directed at prisoners. These included broken bones, beatings, hog-tying prisoners with both hands and feet handcuffed, sexual harassment, threats of death and the denial of medical care.
Between April and June, 2008, the FCSPP carried out a survey with 230 prisoners. When asked if the inmates had been tortured at least once during their jail time, 54% answered they had 46% did not answer the question. Eighty-six percent said that they had experienced psychological torture, including threats to relatives and simulated executions. At least one Director in one of these “New Penitentiary Culture” prisons has had training at the School of the Americas in psychological operations Col. José Alfonso Bautista Parra. SOA is infamous for its training in techniques of both physical and psychological torture.
The Colombian Coalition Against Torture explains that between July 2003 and June 2008, “at least 899 persons were victims of torture….Of all the cases where the alleged perpetrator is known (666 victims), in 92.6% of the cases the State’s responsibility is involved ….During the same period, the number of victims of torture dropped by 43.56% compared to the cases registered between July 1998 and June 2003. However, the increase by 80.2% in the number of registered cases directly attributed to the Army and Security forces (Army and Police-Fuerza Pública) is worrying.”
Not included in this study were cases of prison torture. However, the skyrocketing increase in incidents of torture by the Public Forces may be some indication. Many of Colombia’s medium and maximum security institutions are under the command of active and retired officers of the Public Forces. This is further evidence of Gonzalez’ assertion that these prisons have been turned into “theaters of military operation.” One also wonders if the general increase in torture is less a decrease than a concentration of such practices in the prisons.
Citizens of the US may well ask why the US has invested time, money and oversight in the Colombian prison system and, especially, in La Tramacúa. Former political prisoner Gustavo Mendoza explains,
“…the Interior Minister said recently that overcrowding is the main cause of the violations of the rights of prisoners. As a…solution, the Minister announced the construction of 11 new prisons with a capacity of 24,000 inmates-an increase of 40% of total capacity at the national level….Thus the Minister unveils plans [in keeping with the goals of]…Phase 2 of Plan Colombia, whose basic theme is the social control of the territory….Phase 2 of the plan is realized through the prosecution of activists from the social movement. By undermining the so-called ‘investor confidence’, these social movements are now the main obstacle to ownership of our natural resources by multinational corporations…. The increase in the number of detainees is also to be linked with the increasing social conflicts caused by the economic crisis looming on the horizon, reflecting the dependence of the Colombian economy to the North American market….”
The idea that Colombia must prepare for social and economic upheaval, and its results, is understandable. The alternative to social investment and development is the “security state.” After the much larger nation of Brazil, Colombia has the second largest military in South America, with more of its federal budget invested in the war (14.2%) than in education (13.9%). Despite being home to the world’s largest population of the internally displaced, only 1.7% of the budget goes toward housing and development. Poorer than its neighbors, Colombia has a 45% poverty rate, with 16% living in abject need. The combinations of displacement + poverty + lack of opportunity and social investment can easily add up to unrest.
But there can be no doubt that this “New Penitentiary Culture” is being developed with political prisoners and prisoners of war in mind. Since the original agreement was signed in 2000, the US has agreed to offer financial funding, design and advice for the construction of at least eleven new prisons. The construction of these prisons must be seen, also, in the context of the US expansion into seven new military bases in Colombia. The bases and the prisons are like right and left hands in an infrastructure created to subdue unrest and dissent. Behind these stand transnational corporations trying to gain access to and control over Colombia’s natural resources and the profits they hope to wrest away from the Colombian people. Dissent and resistance does not fit into that picture.
Currently there are an estimated 7,500 to 8,000 political prisoners in Colombia. Traspaso Los Muros says that there are three kinds of political prisoners: Prisoners of Conscience, arrested for their opposition to Colombian policies, more often than not in jail under the vague charge of “Rebellion;” Victims of Set-ups, prisoners who have been arrested on the basis of frame-ups and paid informants; and prisoners of war, guerrillas captured in battle.
“The majority of political prisoners are not guerrillas. There is an estimated number of 500 incarcerated members of the FARC-EP, based on various media reports, with a smaller number of prisoners associated with the National Liberation Army (ELN) and other armed insurgents.” When asked why they include Prisoners of War as political prisoners, the group explains that the guerrillas exist because of a political and economic conflict and, therefore, need to be dealt with through a political process for peace, based on dialogue among all major parties. In fact, the political prisoner solidarity movement in Colombia is completely linked to the struggle for dialogue and peace. Most progressive Colombian groups agree that a humanitarian exchange of prisoners of war between the guerrillas and the government will be the first step toward such a process. But for the past ten years, such releases have only occurred unilaterally on the part of the guerrillas.
There have been some statements from both the incoming administration of Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that have led some to speculate that both an exchange and dialogue may be real possibilities. The continued pace of prison construction and military base occupation by the US, along with the deplorable human rights records of these new prisons, is evidence for another possibility: that arbitrary arrests of the political opposition will continue and these new prisons will be used to remove dissenters from the public eye.
Between 1992 and 2002, there were some 2,000 provably arbitrary arrests later thrown out of courts for lack of evidence. Between 2002 and 2006, there were 8,000 such arrests. In fact, according to Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva, Colombia has 2.2 million “cooperating civilians” and 3,000 paid informants, giving Colombia the hemisphere’s largest network of civilian and community spies-one out of twenty Colombians. Most of these arbitrarily arrested spend two to three years in jail before their cases are thrown out. The overlap of the period of prison construction with the increase in arbitrary arrests cannot be coincidental.
Author’s Note: There are a few actions people can take to show solidarity with the prisoners of La Tramacúa and all victims of this “New Penitentiary Culture,” especially the political prisoners. The Alliance for Global Justice has begun a campaign calling for the immediate improvement of conditions at La Tramacúa and for Congress to investigate the culpability of the Bureau of Prisons in allowing these conditions to develop. Those who wish to sign and/or circulate a petition for the campaign may do so by going to: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/valledupar/.
Yesid Arteta, a former guerrilla and former La Tramacúa inmate, now author living in exile in Spain, has begun an effort to collect books for a library at La Tramacúa. To learn more about this effort, go to: http://librosparalatramacua.blogspot.com/2010/06/la-tramacua.html.
The Alliance for Global Justice and Traspaso los Muros are among the members of the International Network in Solidarity with the Political Prisoners (of Colombia)the INSPP. The INSPP has begun an English/Spanish language list serve that activists are invited to join to keep up with the latest information regarding the political prisoners. People can join that list by sending their email address to firstname.lastname@example.org . The INSPP has also just debuted a new website, including a greeting from Political Prisoner Liliany Obando at http://www.inspp.org/.
The inmates of La Tramacúa have been emboldened by the recent victory for the women formerly of Tower Nine. Although terrible conditions persist, there is hope in knowing that battles can be won when the prisoners and their national and international allies unite in struggle. When political prisoners and their supporters are asked what kind of solidarity is most needed from us in the US, the oft repeated consensus is that we push to change our government’s policies from sponsorship of war and repression to support for the humanitarian exchange of prisoners and freedom to all political prisoners as a first step toward a peace process based on inclusion and dialogue.