Tag Archives | Human Rights

America’s Plan to Kill Online Privacy Rights Everywhere

Dilma Roussef graffitiThe United States of America is shaping up as the evil totalitarian state of the 21st Century if this report from Foreign Policy‘s The Cable is correct:

The United States and its key intelligence allies are quietly working behind the scenes to kneecap a mounting movement in the United Nations to promote a universal human right to online privacy, according to diplomatic sources and an internal American government document obtained by The Cable.

The diplomatic battle is playing out in an obscure U.N. General Assembly committee that is considering a proposal by Brazil and Germany to place constraints on unchecked internet surveillance by the National Security Agency and other foreign intelligence services. American representatives have made it clear that they won’t tolerate such checks on their global surveillance network. The stakes are high, particularly in Washington — which is seeking to contain an international backlash against NSA spying — and in Brasilia, where Brazilian President Dilma Roussef is personally involved in monitoring the U.N.

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Why Snowden’s Passport Matters

Gov-us_passportWhen the State Department revoked Edward Snowden’s passport four months ago, the move was a reprisal from a surveillance-and-warfare state that operates largely in the shadows. Top officials in Washington were furious. Snowden had suddenly exposed what couldn’t stand the light of day, blowing the cover of the world’s Biggest Brother.

Cancelation of the passport wasn’t just an effort to prevent the whistleblower from getting to a country that might grant political asylum. It was also a declaration that the U.S. government can nullify the right to travel just as surely as it can nullify the right to privacy.

“Although I am convicted of nothing,” Snowden said in a July 1 statement after a week at a Moscow airport terminal, the U.S. government “has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody.… Read the rest

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Saudi Arabia’s Brutal ‘Anti-Witchcraft Unit’

saudiThe Atlantic on the Saudi government squad which arrests hundreds of people (many of them low-paid foreign workers) on charges of witchcraft, punishable by long prison sentences or even death:

The campaign of persecution has shown no signs of fizzling. In May, two Asian maids were sentenced to 1,000 lashings and 10 years in prison after their bosses claimed that they had suffered from their magic. Just a few weeks ago, Saudi newspapers began running the image of an Indonesian maid being pursued on accusations that she produced a spell that made her male boss’s family subject to fainting and epileptic fits.

The Saudi government’s obsession with the criminalization of the dark arts reached a new level in 2009, when it created and formalized a special “Anti-Witchcraft Unit” to educate the public about the evils of sorcery, investigate alleged witches, neutralize their cursed paraphernalia, and disarm their spells. Saudi citizens are also urged to use a hotline on the CPVPV website to report any magical misdeeds to local officials.

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The Baby and the Baath Water

syria-attack475-2_2In a piece for the BBC, Adam Curtis gives short history of American intervention in Syria, consisting largely of misguided attempts to foster democracy via military coup. In my opinion, this is essential context as we debate further involvement in that country:

What is happening in Syria feels like one of the last gasps of the age of the military dictators. An old way of running the world is still desperately trying to cling to power, but the underlying feeling in the west is that somehow Assad’s archaic and cruel military rule will inevitably collapse and Syrians will move forward into a democratic age.

That may, or may not, happen, but what is extraordinary is that we have been here before. Between 1947 and 1949 an odd group of idealists and hard realists in the American government set out to intervene in Syria. Their aim was to liberate the Syrian people from a corrupt autocratic elite – and allow true democracy to flourish.… Read the rest

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Russian Artist Forced to Seek Asylum After Painting Putin in Drag

IT"S NOT FUNNY YOU GUYS, VLAD IS SO TOTALLY NOT GAY

IT”S NOT FUNNY YOU GUYS, VLAD IS SO TOTALLY NOT A SELF-HATING, CLOSETED GAY MAN.

Europe’s biggest closet case, Vladimir Putin, is having an official hissy fit because an artist painted him in drag. Apparently he’s never heard of the Streisand Effect.

Raw Story:

A Russian artist said Thursday he has fled to France and is applying for asylum after police seized his painting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in women’s underwear.

Police on Tuesday raided an exhibition in the northwestern city of Saint Petersburg, which next week hosts the G20 summit, and confiscated works including a painting of Putin in a strappy nightie and Medvedev in a bra and skimpy knickers.

The artist, Konstantin Altunin, 45, said by telephone from Paris that he had requested political asylum and was now gathering the necessary documents.

“Yesterday I went to the prefecture in Paris… and made this request.

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United States Refusing To Extradite Bolivia’s Ex-President Facing Genocide Charges

bolivia

Compare and contrast with other ongoing asylum controversies. Via the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald writes:

In October 2003, the intensely pro-US president of Bolivia, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, sent his security forces to suppress growing popular protests against the government’s energy and globalization policies.

Using high-powered rifles and machine guns, his military forces killed 67 men, women and children, and injured 400 more, almost all of whom were poor and from the nation’s indigenous Aymara communities. Dozens of protesters had been killed by government forces in the prior months when troops were sent to suppress them.

The resulting outrage drove Sanchez de Lozada from office and then into exile in the United States, where he was welcomed by his close allies in the Bush administration. He has lived under a shield of asylum in the US ever since.

The Bolivians, however, have never stopped attempting to bring their former leader to justice for ordering the killing of indigenous peaceful protesters in cold blood (as Time Magazine put it: “according to witnesses, the military fired indiscriminately and without warning in El Alto neighborhoods”).

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It’s Time To Introduce A Global Minimum Wage

global minimum wage

Al Jazeera, Dr. Jason Hickel argues that a global minimum wage is not only just, but doable:

Because of neoliberal economic policies imposed over the past few decades, companies now have the power to rove the globe in search of what CEOs refer to as the “best investment conditions”.

So workers are made to face a stark choice: accept dangerous conditions and minimum wages of $0.21 per hour, or lose their jobs. The constant threat of replacement keeps workers cheap and docile, to the tremendous benefit of corporate profits.

The problem with globalisation is that capital has been globalised while the rules that protect people from it have not. If we’re going to have a global labour market, it stands to reason that we need a global system of labour standards [and] a global minimum wage.

Not only is it now conceivable to have a global minimum wage system, it’s also – for the first time in history – quite doable.

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The Five Demands Of California’s 30,000 Hunger Striking Prisoners

prisonersVia Prison Photography, the Pelican Bay State Prison SHU Short Corridor Collective’s statement on the demands of the protest on behalf of which many California prisoners are willing to risk death (with ending long-term solitary confinement being the most significant issue):

1. Eliminate group punishments. Instead, practice individual accountability. When an individual prisoner breaks a rule, the prison often punishes a whole group of prisoners of the same race.

2. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria. Prisoners are accused of being active or inactive participants of prison gangs using false or highly dubious evidence, and are then sent to longterm isolation (SHU).

3. Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons regarding an end to longterm solitary confinement. Some prisoners have been kept in isolation for more than thirty years.

4. Provide adequate food. Prisoners report unsanitary conditions and small quantities of food that do not conform to prison regulations.

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30,000 California Prisoners Go On Hunger Strike Against Conditions

The Los Angeles Times reports on the largest prisoner protest in state history:
California officials don’t plan until Tuesday afternoon to update the situation in prisons throughout the state, where 30,000 inmates on Monday began refusing meals. The mass protest was called for months ago by a group of inmate leaders in isolation at Pelican Bay State Prison over conditions in solitary confinement, where inmates may be held indefinitely without access to phone calls. But inmates in at least five other prisons have provided their own lists of demands. They seek such things as warmer clothing, cleaning supplies, and better food, as well as changes in how suspected gang activity is investigated and punished. Lawyers for a group of Pelican Bay hunger strike leaders, who also are suing in federal court over what they contend are inhumane conditions, are to meet with their clients Tuesday.
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The Rapper Formerly Known As Mos Def Undergoes Force-Feeding In Protest Of Guantanamo

The pressure is being mounted on President Obama to take steps to end the force-feeding of hunger-striking prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Wondering just how brutal force-feeding is? Yasiin Bey (better known as Mos Def) collaborated with the human rights organization Reprieve and filmmaker Asif Kapadia to document himself actually undergoing the procedure, in accordance with the standard operating guidelines found in leaked military documents. The resulting four-minute film is extremely disturbing:
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