Friday, February 28, 2014

NC Upholds Fake Terror Convictions

From left, Hysen Sherifi, Ziyad Yaghi and Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan: Al-Arabiya
On February 11, 2014, a federal appeals court upheld the convictions of three young Muslim men from North Carolina: Omar Hassan, Hysen Sherifi and Ziyad Yaghi. The three were convicted in 2011 after two paid FBI informants falsely testified that they were part of a home-grown terror group. The men were given prison terms ranging from 15 years to 45 years. Ziyad got 31 years.
Ziyad’s attorney, Robert Boyle said that the appeals court failed to address the key legal issues. “What I find particularly disturbing is the undercurrent of Islamophobia in the decision.”
Like he has done against many other innocents, the fraud Evan Kohlmann served as the government’s expert witness during the trial. He portrayed Muslim men as inherently violent and explained how Muslims supposedly think. He convinced the jury that even though the men had not committed any crime, they would eventually commit an act of terrorism in the future.
“How on earth can he even say that and how on earth can his juvenile testimony be even taken into consideration at court?!” laments Ziyad’s mother Laila Yaghi.
In 2006 and 2007, Ziyad and Omar visited Jordan, the country of Ziyad’s birth, and Egypt, Omar’s country of origin. He and Omar also attempted to visit Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, but were denied entry by Israel. The US indictment claims Ziyad’s intention in his travels was to seek armed conflict. Ziyad’s mother Laila insists otherwise:
“All they did was go sightseeing and visit family members and were looking for a future bride. Nothing out of the ordinary took place. An American with Arab background and dual citizenship was accused of conspiracy and material support based on two trips he took abroad to his own homeland! A young man who wanted to do the right thing and get married so he won’t do anything immoral at a time where women offered themselves cheaply to him!”
The testimony of the woman who met with Ziyad was not allowed in court.
Stephen Lendmann summarizes: “Paid agent provocateur informants entrap unwary targets. Secret evidence unavailable to defense attorneys convicts them.
Government paid bogus experts lie. False testimony given is inflammatory. Credible defense witnesses are ruled out of order and denied. Pre-trial publicity hypes spurious terror threats. Media scoundrels headline them. Juries are intimidated to convict. Right-wing judges facilitate witch-hunt injustice. Targeted Muslims haven’t a chance.”
Laila remembers the horrible day in July 2009 when her son was taken away.
“He was looking ahead to go to college when that day he decided to surprise me, his mother, by cleaning the kitchen floor then marinating the chicken, then afterwards he went for a swim in the neighborhood pool. Of course, who would have even imagined that a SWAT team will come to arrest an unarmed young man of 21! A young man who had not done anything wrong or illegal, who did not even break any law but happened to be a somewhat dedicated Muslim!”
Ziyad was basically punished because he knew a guy named Daniel Patrick Boyd, an American Muslim who spoke against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even though Ziyad’s association with Boyd was very limited the FBI wanted something from Ziyad that was immoral, to lie against Boyd and say whatever pleases the FBI so they can say, “we caught a terrorist,” Laila explained.
When Ziyad and his friend Omar refused to lie, the FBI retaliated. Everything they did was interpreted by the FBI in the most bizarre way. Wrestling, paintball and kickboxing became training for jihad! The word ‘marriage’ became a code word for Jihad and so was ‘the beach’. Ziyad was charged and convicted of conspiracy and material support yet the indictment does not even say which “terrorist organization.” 
“The trial was set in a town 2 1/2 hours away from us to make it hard on people to come and support us. The jury consisted of mostly senior citizens who dozed off during the trial! Most of the jury had family members in the military and were not highly educated, handpicked by the judge! Everything was done deliberately to convict these young men. Hate for our religion is growing tremendously in the US! To top it all, they tried to single us out as un-American based on our religion!” Laila continued.
“They have Ziyad in what is called the SHU, Special Housing Unit, a cell underground like a grave designed to make one lose his/her mind. A cell as small as your bathroom where Ziyad is alone in it and only allowed out of his cell an hour every two days! A country that tries to portray itself as democratic, as a first world country, treats its Muslim citizens with so much unfairness and in such an inhumane way that any reader or observer will be shocked!
“How is my son convicted of material support when he did not spend any money on anything illegal or any terrorist organization? How is he convicted of conspiracy when there hasn’t been a crime that has taken place or even a plan to commit a crime?”
One way the prosecutors manipulated the jury into thinking that these young men were jihadis was by playing endless hours of boring unclear tape recordings of Boyd, who they referred to as “the ring leader.” The prosecutors gave the jury some transcripts with words filled in by the prosecutors.
Then, even though Ziyad was not in any of these tape recordings, the prosecutors kept bringing up his name and showing his picture while the tape recordings were being played, while the jury were reading a fabricated filled in transcript by the prosecutors. Not only that, the prosecutors kept showing pictures of jihadis beheading and killing people.

“So an uninformed jury, not well educated, not traveled and elderly people who some of them mind you, can barely walk and keep awake, were anxious of getting this ordeal over and in favor of whom, of course, the well convincing prosecutors,” Laila concluded.
“Nobody should feign surprise or shock, it is painfully obvious that this is about cops and prosecutors trying to make a name for themselves when in fact, they had to rely on the anti-Islam hysteria that has gripped this nation for years now. In other words, they took the easy road toward conviction using full advantage of public ignorance and blind faith; two very dangerous commodities in this day and age. I find no honor in this and suspect future generations will look back at this time as a renaissance of the Salem Witch Trials,” writes Tim King of Salem News.
“The War on Terrorism has created a breeding ground wherein racists, political pundits, religious zealots, and more have been the catalysts of impregnating the general American mind with detrimental emotions and thoughts that challenge those founding principles,” writes Siraj Davis.
“Ziyad Yaghi is a victim, not only because he is innocent of the charges against him, but because our silence allowed it.”
“Why would my own country do this to my son and I?” Laila weeps.
“Nights seem to not end with the nightmares of my son cooped up in a tiny cell!  In the morning, the first thing that comes to my mind is that my son is in jail and when I sleep that is the last thing I pray for which is his release! All my senses are abused and hurt by what has happened to my son and until this ends and my son is out, I will continue to scream that this is a grave injustice that has happened to us just because we are Muslims.”
“I wake up every morning as if I were dead but I am still counted as alive. I wake up hoping that this world never existed that there was no such thing as life! In spite of all this pain, I have to pull all my shattered pieces together and go to work,” Laila told TMO.
Ziyad Yaghi, #51771-056; Federal Correctional Complex-USP-2; PO Box 1034; Coleman, FL 33521-0879.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Standing Tall Despite Execution Threat


Trial Scheduled for November, No Plea Bargain in Sight

Artist’s rendering of an earlier Tsarnaev appearance in court.

“Attorney General Eric Holder’s January 30th announcement authorizing Federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty for Tsarnaev (if convicted), does not appear to have alarmed attorney’s for the accused in any way: In fact, they now appear wholly intent on taking the case to trial,” reports blogger B. Blake.
“This is in stark contrast to virtually all of death penalty lawyer Judy Clarke’s previous cases, none of which have ever proceeded to the trial stage. For example, Jared Lee Loughner, Eric Rudolf and bomber Ted Kaczynski all accepted plea deals in their efforts to avoid a trial and face possible execution.
The courtroom was packed on February 12, 2014 for the latest status hearing for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, which lasted about 30 minutes. Several Boston Marathon bombing victims were in attendance, organized by lead prosecutor Carmen Ortiz, who was reportedly very “friendly and familiar with them.” The victims were kept in a separate room from the public before the hearing. MIT Police Chief John DiFava was there, claiming to represent MIT Officer Sean Collier, who was allegedly killed by the Tsarnaev brothers. DiFava is pushing for the death penalty. Many Tsarnaev supporters and media skeptics were also in attendance, as well as the usual throng of journalists.
The crowded courtroom provided witnesses a lively debate that demonstrated that the government might be overconfident about their sure win. While the prosecution talked, balked and stuttered in boring circles, defense attorneys Judy Clark and Miriam Conrad were on point and downright entertaining. Prosecutors had not heeded Judge O’Toole’s order from the last hearing to start cooperating with discovery. This naturally cast doubt upon the validity of the prosecution’s case against Tsarnaev.
The issues at hand were the trial schedule and discovery. The defense asked for a September 2015 trial date in order to have enough time to prepare, in light of ongoing government obstructions of discovery, while the prosecution wanted to rush through the legal proceedings and go straight to the penalty phase. On the surface, O’Toole appeared to side with the prosecution, setting a November 2014 trial date, saying, “I think it is appropriate to do some scheduling.”
“The judge probably knows full well that 11/3/14 isn’t a realistic trial date but set it in part to keep things moving along,” tweeted Attorney David Frank, managing editor of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.
Judy Clarke explained to the judge, “I understand the court’s desire to move this along but I don’t see us identifying experts by the time we go to trial.” She pointed out that death penalty trials are broken into two parts: a liability phase and a punishment phase.
US Attorney Aloke Chakravarty answered sourly, “Let’s not kid ourselves. The issue here is going to be in the penalty phase.”
This degree of prosecutorial arrogance did not come across well. If Tsarnaev is convicted it will be the same jury that will determine if he will live or die.
“I considered Chakravarty’s comment to be totally inappropriate,” stated a court observer named Jane.
Frank tweeted, “If judge forces Tsarnaev to trial before his lawyers are ready, the judge would be creating a whopper of a legal issue on appeal if convicted.”
Clarke complained that they cannot go forward with the case because the government has not been complying with requests for evidence. Defense attorney Miriam Conrad pointed out that the government is supposed to respond to a request within two weeks.
“They said they’d get back to us after the holidays. Apparently their definition of ‘the holidays’ includes Martin Luther King Day!” Ms. Conrad then went on to say that she had been unaware that “the holidays” extended nearly up until President’s Day!
“Chakravarty’s excuse for the delay in providing access to discovery to the defense was that the defense had not been ‘specific’ in regards to what items of evidence they wished to have access to,” reported Jane.
Tsarnaev’s defense team said they had never experienced anything like this.
“We got radio silence from December 18 to February 7,” Conrad said. “With that kind of response, I don’t know how we could possibly move forward.”
“Discovery in this case has been way outside the norm in my experience,” complained Clarke, who has taken on many capital cases.
“We’re really having a hard time getting access to information. Discovery is not completed. It has been a laborious process… slow and cumbersome. When we ask for something they say narrow it down. We do, and then it’s not enough… We can’t get forensic reports. We have no idea where they are going.”
The government has handed over millions of pages of electronic files, but these are still not even labeled, let alone searchable, despite previous court orders. Additionally, the defense is asking for information on how this evidence was gathered.
The FBI is holding some 2,000 pieces of physical evidence in Quantico, Virginia and two other locations. Chakravarty claimed that the defense has had the opportunity to review this evidence, but Clarke responded that she has a “slightly different view” of where the evidence is and how it can be obtained. The FBI keeps giving them the runaround.
“It’s not us that’s dragging our feet, we’re really struggling to get access… We’ve had a little bit of a sluggish shall I say start to reviewing physical evidence.”
Clarke said that defense attorneys have repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to schedule an appointment with the FBI to view these pieces of evidence and have no idea what they are. “As far as we know, the evidence is 2,000 BBs.”
She also pointed out the hardship of traveling back and forth each time. She flew in from San Diego for this hearing. She is also having trouble meeting family in Russia because of the Olympics.
“There’s just a tremendous amount of logistical hurdles,” she said.
The judge asked Chakravarty if he was going to start supplying the defense with some actual information. The prosecuting attorney stammered and stalled for at least a full minute before agreeing.
Judy Clarke quipped to the judge: “You have a black robe and it took you that long to get an answer from the government on discovery. Imagine what we are going through.”
“This is undoubtedly going to be a lengthy trial,” O’Toole said. He warned the prosecution that their lack of cooperation could endanger the trial schedule and instructed them to “avoid unnecessary accumulation of even relevant evidence.” He ordered the government to supply a list of evidence by the end of the week.
Unfortunately for reporters and the public, the evidence files will be sealed. Likewise, the court documents filed on February 11 were sealed.
“Outside the courthouse, some supporters of Tsarnaev said they still believe the teen is innocent,” reported Michele McPhee from ABC. One woman, Lisa Figueroa, 36, drove to the federal courthouse in South Boston from New York City to show her support.
“They won’t let him write letters which is wrong,’’ Figueroa said. “I’m not one of these girls who thinks he is a rock star. He’s accused of terrorism. It’s serious. I just think he could be my little brother.”
Kevin, 31, of Boston told TMO he believes Dzhokhar was set up by the government.
A woman who was a bystander at the marathon in front of the forum said she witnessed them remove a mailbox to hide evidence. Even a tree was uprooted from the crime scene.  Some believe the angular momentum of the shrapnel would help narrow down where in the crowd the explosion came from. The witness mentioned that the smoke smelled like sulphur or rotten eggs. It did not smell like fireworks.
“It’s not American for a suspect to go from isolation to execution without ever getting to explain his side of the story,” another bystander told reporters, questioning the plausibility of many of the government accusations.
“I left the courthouse today feeling a lot more positive than I have done in a long time.” said Jane. “There is no way the prosecution is going to be allowed to continue their prevarication.”
Several Tsarnaev supporters told TMO that their mail is being returned, opened.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Holding Gov’t Hostage?

February 13, 2014 by  

A picture of Edward Snowden, a contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), is seen on a computer screen displaying a page of a Chinese news website, in Beijing in this June 13, 2013 photo illustration. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Edward Snowden is best known for revealing to the public how intensely the US government is spying on its own citizens. But even more interesting is how he used this surveillance capacity to collect government information.
According to a classified briefing for members of Congress that took place on February 5, 2014, Snowden has compiled a huge phone book of absolutely every employee and official of the entire US Government that includes the names, home addresses, unlisted personal home telephone and personal cellular phone numbers, dates of birth and social security numbers of every person involved in any way, with any department of the US government. The files include elected officials, Cabinet appointees, judges, police officers, every government contractor and all employees of that contractor, reports TRN.
Snowden obtained the personal information of every bank corporation, their operating officers and their Boards of Directors, including all current and former members of the Federal Reserve; all personal information about anyone holding any type of government license including lawyers, stock brokers and commodities traders; and all the personal information of every non-bank corporation in the US, including their operating officers and Boards of Directors.
“He stole everything — literally everything,” a ranking DOD official told the Daily Caller.
Snowden has made it known that if he is arrested, if he vanishes, or if he dies from any cause whatsoever, ALL of the information in his possession will be published publicly.
Snowden used nothing but the inexpensive and widely available Webcrawler software to explore the NSA agency’s networks. Web crawlers, also known as spiders, move from website to website, following links embedded in each document, and can copy everything they encounter. According to the Guardian, Snowden is believed to have accessed about 1.7 million documents.
Copies of his encrypted data have already been distributed to more than 1,200 web sites around the world. Those sites have agreed to conceal the information until such time as contact with Snowden is “lost.” Once contact is lost, the sites have been told they will receive the Decryption keys via CD ROM, E-mail and P2P / Bit-Torrent file transfer. Once the decryption keys are sent, the sites have been instructed to wait a specific amount of time to confirm Snowden’s disappearance, arrest or death and upon expiration of that time period, to publish the decrypted materials. TRN reports:
“Making the situation all the more dire for the government is that Snowden has made clear he will release some of the information under certain “other” circumstances. For instance, if Martial Law is declared in the US or if any elections are canceled for any reason, all the government employee info goes out. If an economic collapse takes place, all the Banker/Stock Broker/Commodities Trader information goes out. If Corporations start hyper-inflating prices, all the information about them, their officers and Board of Directors will go out.”
Sources say the material Snowden copied includes information, possibly personnel names, on the CIA and other US intelligence agencies, such as the National Reconnaissance Center and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which operate US image-producing satellites and analyze their data.
“Snowden literally has the most powerful people in the United States in an inescapable stranglehold. If any of the things articulated above take place, everyone throughout the country will know exactly who to blame and exactly where they live. One can only speculate that under the right conditions, it might not be long until those responsible for the problems of our country, faced consequences for their actions.”
The damage would be “of biblical proportions,” a US official said.
Yet, why should Americans have to wait until a calamity for such basic information to be published? The names of government servants should legally be considered public record, as a matter of course. Why do our unelected public servants feel so threatened about the idea of the American people knowing who they are and where they live? How many of them are acting in bad faith? Just knowing that we know who they are might cause “them” to behave.
Americans live under a shadowy rule where we don’t know who is who, or who is making the decisions. If you are a banker and you wanted to for example make money from insider trading related to 9/11, the public should know your name and address, so that the authorities know where to go to arrest you and question you to the extent of your pre-knowledge about that crime – and if they don’t, so the public can picket in front of your house until they do!
Snowden is being called a traitor and a spy but he has simply collected information. Snowden himself did not do any spying, he just had access to the information that the NSA had already collected, as part of his job as a system administrator whose job it was to maintain, reprogram or repair the software.
Snowden said he “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no help from anyone, much less a government.”
Michael Ratner writes in the Guardian that “the focus on Snowden’s singular case seriously deflects from the fact that the Obama administration has been a nightmare for whistleblowers and truth tellers, and that several others currently in prison or in exile deserve the same clemency or clear assurances they will not be prosecuted.”
Ratner believes that “all of these truth tellers exposed or published documents exposing government misdeeds and crimes. All of the disclosures were of information that was valuable to the public debate of US war tactics, intelligence gathering and privacy concerns, with no documentable damage to national security interests… Manning, Assange, and Hammond all did their civic duty by disclosing information on government overreaching. They all exhibited great moral courage in doing so. And they all deserve far more than unfair imprisonment and exile for the service they have done for the American people and for people all around the world.”
Among the unpublished material which Snowden acquired from classified government computer servers are documents reportedly containing the names and resumes of employees working for NSA’s British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
U.S. and British authorities say they are focused more on dealing with the consequences of the material he has released than trying to apprehend Snowden.
“All I can say right now is the US government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me,” Snowden said on June 17. “The truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.”
Meanwhile the NSA is continuing to improve upon how effectively it spies on Americans.

Can Empathy Be Learned?

February 6, 2014 by  

ScreenShot028Nature versus Nurture has been a long-standing question regarding human growth: What traits are we born with and what traits develop because of our situation – what people (our parents, “the system,” religion etc.) do to us and what choices we ourselves make about everything from diet to employment to spiritual practice. 
Current psychological sciences seem to be focusing more and more on neurology rather than psychiatry to understand human behavior. Emotional trauma can have a huge effect on a person’s life, and we can’t deny that our genetic make-up plays a role in how we react to stress. Yet, how successfully we respond to stress or trauma also has a lot to do with our emotional reservoirs (how well we were treated as a child, happy memories of feeling successful, adults modeling good behavior), and with the timely appearance of appropriate guidance.
Appropriate guidance is advice that is given in a way that the person who needs the advice is able to comprehend and absorb it. Guidance is probably the number one factor in long term human survival.
John Gray, PhD, a best-selling self-help author, became interested in the concept of guidance to resolve problems, even as complicated as relationship problems, after his beloved father was found dead in the trunk of his car. He had been robbed by a hitchhiker. The trunk of the car was dented and bloody from his father’s desperate panicked attempts to escape. Gray climbed into the trunk to try and feel what his father would have felt in his final hours. Just then, Gray’s brother discovered that there was actually a hidden latch that would have opened the trunk from the inside. By speaking to Gray inside the car, his brother was able to explain to him, cramped in total darkness, where the latch was. Gray was able to calmly get out of the trunk within a few minutes instead of dying in a terrible way. Because meaningful and loving guidance was there.
Neurology is extremely important in order to know how to give appropriate guidance. Different personality types will respond differently to the same stimuli, and a good teacher learns to teach in different ways for different personalities.
According to Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types, human consciousness is characterized by its preference of the general attitude: Extraverted (E) vs. Introverted. It is also characterized by its preferences within the two pairs of its mental functions: Sensing (S) – Intuition (N) and Thinking (T) – Feeling (F). Isabel Briggs Myers proposed a fourth dichotomy: Judging (J) – Perceiving (P). 

All possible variables result in 16 different combinations that define 16 scientifically different personality types. This author took the test and found out that my personality type occurs in 1 out of 10,000 people. And it’s true, I would have to talk to 40,000 people to find four people who agree with me on all things personal. Forget about politics! It was definitely healing to note that my personality type is the most commonly misunderstood because 9,999 out of 10,000 people think I’m “different.”
Kristie Karima Burns, MH, ND writes in “The Temperaments and the Adult-Child Relationship” that:
“There are four temperaments in the Waldorf system of education. These correspond with the four temperaments as studied by Greek healers as well as healers and scholars in the Middle East. The sanguine is restless like the butterfly and adaptive like the seasons. The choleric is vibrant like the fire. The melancholic is solid and steady like the earth. The phlegmatic is like a river, both peaceful and mysterious, and can look flowing and simple on the outside but have a rich inner world. If a person considers each of these natural phenomena it cannot be said that one is more important than the other or that one is better than the other.  A flowing river is just as beautiful and important as a colorful fluttering butterfly. The earth and the fire are equally important elements, each with their own beauty, power, and value. However, when people consider each other they often have difficulty feeling this way about their fellow man.”
However all these personality categories assume that a person is neurologically healthy.
In our modern times we are dealing with a combination of environmental pollution and pharmaceutical assault on brain function as well as a rise in computer sciences, which result in high paying jobs for people with low social functioning skills. So, people who in past centuries would be rejected for marriage or normal societal recognition, are now wealthy enough to buy themselves a family. The result being more and more people are being born with various neurological problems which are lumped together as “Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
The spectrum is understood as linear, with “Empathic” on one end and “Autistic” on the other end. Everyone is somewhere on the spectrum. A super empath might be so sensitive to the needs of others that she is clairvoyant whereas a super autistic would be so sensitive to his own internal experience that he doesn’t make eye contact or speak. High-functioning autism, often diagnosed as Asperger Syndrome, is a personality type that can succeed in certain areas of brain function such as math and science but neurologically lacks the ability to understand another person’s point of view especially on an emotional level. Grace Myhill, a therapist associated with the Aspergers Association of New England (AANE), believes that 50% of the population these days has some degree of autism and could be diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.
Autism spectrum disorders differ from personality types because they describe a profound and incurable inability to notice or care about the needs of others, especially in moments of stress. Statistically, there are certain people who would climb over their own children to get out of a burning airplane while there are other people who would enter a burning airplane to save others. On an individual level, the self-absorbed person has a higher chance of survival and thus procreating. Altruistic thinking and behavior works on a group level and enhances the survival of the group.
When intuition and empathy are lacking, only religion can fill the gap. Rules for what to do and what not to do go a long way in helping people to emulate caring behavior. However, the problem of people lacking empathy is not going away. In addition to the involvement of psychiatric drugs in many recent mass murders committed by young people, there seems to be increasing awareness about autism playing a role in school shootings.
When half of the population has autism, the other half of the population is trying to cope with the additional responsibilities of caring for them. It’s hard. Especially when that person with autism is you, or your spouse, or your child. Guidance is everything. Thankfully, there is so much information and help out there.

Water Contamination Worsens: Ongoing Struggle over Public Safety

January 30, 2014 by  

“Only when the last tree has died, and the last river has been poisoned, and the last fish has been caught, will we realize we cannot eat money.”
- Cree proverb
It’s a lesson that can’t be learned too early if you ask me. Support for Elsipogtog and other groups as they fight the good fight!

After seven months of anti-fracking protests led by the native Elsipogog tribe, Southwestern Energy (SWN), a Houston based energy company, has pulled out of New Brunswick, Canada, for the time being.
“We can’t allow any drilling, we didn’t allow them to do the testing from the beginning,” said Elsipogtog War Chief John Levi.
The decision to delay further shale exploration in the area was the result of relentless and passionate demonstrators who blocked Hwy 11 with burning tires and with their own bodies, in order to prevent trucks from passing.
Levi said word that SWN is leaving is no cause for celebration just yet. SWN is ending its exploration work, but will return in 2015. This pause will at least give the exhausted protesters a break.
“We went through a lot,” he said. “We need some time for this to sink in and think about everything, think about what we went through…People did a lot of sacrificing.”
Despite this small victory, things continue to get worse. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that “according to figures from a National Energy Board (NEB) data set obtained under access-to-information by CBC, the rate of overall pipeline incidents has doubled since 2000. By 2011, safety-related incidents — covering everything from unintentional fires to spills — rose from one to two for every 1,000 kilometers of federally-regulated pipeline. That reflects an increase from 45 total incidents in 2000 to 142 in 2011.”
On January 26, a natural gas pipeline in Otterburne, Manitoba owned by TransCanada exploded at 1:05am into billowing flames which burned for twelve hours before it was finally extinguished.
A nearby resident, Paul Rawluklives told reporters, “As we got closer, we could see these massive 200 to 300 meter high flames just shooting out of the ground and it literally sounded like a jet plane… Massive, like absolutely massive… And bright, I mean it lit up the sky.”
“It was like the sun coming up,” said neighbor Tyler Holigroski.
There were no reported injuries, but 4,000 people had no heat for several days during the bitter -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit) weather while the pipeline was being repaired. Several homes were evacuated as a result of the explosion and roads leading into the site were closed. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada and the National Energy Board are investigating. 

The nearby Beaver Lake Cree and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation tribes are currently in litigation with the Canadian federal and provincial governments to not only halt expansion of mining operations but to revisit the original permitting of the sites altogether, due to egregious violations of Treaties 6 and 8, to which these First Nations are signatories.
Meanwhile in Texas and Oklahoma, a grassroots environmental movement is also growing due to personal safety concerns about fracking and because the danger of transporting the oil and gas.
“This pipeline is a big accident waiting to happen, ” says East Texas landowner Mike Hathorn. “A spill is going to happen on this pipeline somewhere.”
He has good reason to worry. Methane gas has already leeched into the drinking water in North Texas. Scientist Geoffrey Thyne said the contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing continues to spread to more wells.
Energy company Range Resources claims there is no evidence the gas in the water and the gas it is producing is the same, using a common legal loophole that takes advantage of the fact that most homeowners do not test their well water until after they suspect a problem. But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Duke University scientists have done detailed isotopic analyses that demonstrate that the chemical mixture found in local residents’ drinking water did indeed originate from Range Resources’ drilling.
Even without doing any testing, local residents say the water contamination is obvious.
Steve Lipsky, who lives in an upscale subdivision in Weatherford, Texas complained to the Railroad Commission that his water was bubbling. The agency found methane in Lipsky’s water. Lipsky showed news reporters how the well spigot – with water flowing – would ignite when exposed to flame!
The Associated Press (AP) reports that the EPA issued a rare emergency order in late 2010 demanding that Range Resources resolve the problem and supply Lipsky’s family with water. But in March 2011 the Railroad Commission ruled Range Resources was not to blame. Range thus refused to comply with the EPA’s order, which landed the company in court. Range settled in March 2012 and the EPA withdrew its order. The company agreed to conduct testing for a year.
A separate isotopic study of drinking water by the National Science Foundation showed five times the level of methane in some water wells than what Range Resources had admitted to.
“We’re seeing high methane concentrations and that result alone indicates to me that EPA closing the case was premature,” Rob Jackson told the AP.
Elizabeth Struhs, Lipsky’s neighbor, fears for her family. “We had good water before they came here,” she said, referring to Range Resources.
Finally, in Michigan, four activists from Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands will be going to trial on felony charges this week because they hindered the construction of an Enbridge pipeline by attaching themselves to construction equipment last July near Stockbridge, Michigan. That same pipeline ruptured in 2010, spilling more than 800,000 gallons of heavy crude oil into Talmadge Creek and Kalamazoo River.
Lisa Leggio, one of the protesters facing trial, used to swim and go kayaking in the Kalamazoo River before the oil spill.
“People were made to leave their homes and the ones that couldn’t have become sick, have died, and are dying. The wildlife is sick and diminishing. Enbridge, the corporation responsible, is not being held accountable and is not even sure how and if it can properly clean it up. And the current dredging process currently active poses a GREAT threat to our drinking water and environment, so much so that some towns are fighting the dredging and winning,” she said.

Pre-Trial for Tsarnaev Friends Proceeds

January 23, 2014 by  

US prosecutors and defense attorneys for Dias Kadyrbayev, Azamat Tazhayakov and Robel Phillipos faced Judge Douglas Woodlock on January 15, 2014 at Moakely Federal Courthouse in Boston.
Dias’ lawyer Robert Stahl began the pre-trial hearing by complaining that the defense needs more time to go through the 3 million pages of discovery documents the government provided to them in a compressed zip file, which is not searchable with a browser. They must click on each file to open it. The evidence includes forensic imaging from computers and cell phones, including text messages in Russian.
“People can use some judgment,” the judge said. “I don’t buy into the idea that when the government dumps a lot of stuff on you that imposes an obligation on you to spend endless hours reviewing everything.”
Stahl argued that the defense interpretation of text messages in the indictment differs from that of the government. In order to understand whether or not there was knowledge about the bombing or any intent to dispose of evidence, we need to know the context and background of the conversation, including the the boys’ relationships. For example, Dzhokhar’s text message saying they could take what they wanted from his room should be interpreted in light of the college students’ use of marijuana. If the related evidence can demonstrate that Dzhokhar was not understood to be advising the friends to remove bomb making materials from the room, the defense will consider filing a motion to suppress this statement from the record of evidence. Stahl stated he wants the same ability to access relevant information as the government.
Judge Woodlock felt that this analysis went beyond the scope of the indictment, but told US attorneys, “The defense is entitled to see what evidence you are using.” He gave the government five days to provide the defense with whatever keyword search engine they are using. He lectured the attorneys that the case needs to be focused and proceed in a timely manner. He ordered the government to supply a witness list by January 31 as well as a list of which exhibits out of the 800,000 they submitted as evidence will actually be used in the trial and gave the same deadline for discovery requests from the defense.
Stahl continued to argue, saying that he could not know what more to ask for in terms of information until after he had gone through all the available evidence. He said this is a very complex case, given its relationship with the ongoing marathon bombing trial.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t review things because what I don’t know is what comes back and hurts me,” said the attorney. “We have one chance and it has to be done right.”
However, the judge dismissed him. “The issues that are involved here have to deal with something very specific.”
According to earlier reports, the FBI showed up at the boys’ apartment on April 19 armed and wearing masks. Stahl said that if the FBI report is accurate, the boys were taken away from their home at gunpoint, not arrested but held for hours before being taken to state police barracks.
Stahl said that the FBI does not record statements, they write up a report afterwards. So even though they have the FBI report, the defense would also like notes and reports from other agencies and witnesses who were present during the interrogation that might provide exculpatory evidence. The state police station videotape recorded the interview and there were other witnesses present, who were not mentioned on the FBI report since they were outside the room, but who were aware of the interrogation.
The judge insisted that the FBI is not obligated to provide any recordings of their interviews. He stated, unconvincingly, that the information that could be provided by state police is not relevant in federal court. He conceded that the timing and issuing of proper Miranda warning could influence whether evidence is permissible.
Stahl then argued that one of the witnesses who testified before the grand jury disputed the government’s version of events, but her statement is under seal. The defense wants to be able to use her testimony.
Nicholas Wooldridge, Azamat’s attorney, said the unnamed witness could provide “one of the central pieces” of a motion to suppress evidence, namely the confession statements the boys were forced to sign.
The judge told them to either file a motion to unseal the deposition or else submit their arguments to the judge under seal.
Robel’s lawyer said he plans to file a motion to dismiss, saying the charges don’t meet legal requirements of demonstrating intent to obstruct justice or failure to provide material regarding the bombing investigation. He argued that Robel was not in the room when the other two discussed what to do with Dzhokhar’s backpack.
The judge made a series of deadlines for evidence to be submitted, government responses, motions to compel, dismiss, change venue or to separate defendants’ trials. A conference hearing is scheduled for March 10. He rejected Dias and Robel’s request for a January 2015 trial date and set a date in July in accordance with Azamat’s wishes.
However, US attorney Siegmann then derailed the discussion by making an exaggerated facial expression rather than standing to speak – the second time she has behaved in such an obviously unprofessional manner with a judge during this case.
Judge Woodlock interrupted proceedings to say, “I see this pained expression in your face!” Siegmann stated that she has this expensive vacation planned, so the judge changed the date to early August.
Robel’s lawyer then stood and said he had a vacation planned for early August, hoping to defer the trial until September, but Woodlock got tough.
“We’re making it closer, not farther away,” the judge said. He scheduled the trial for June 23. The trial is expected to last 2-3 weeks.
After the hearing, TMO asked Stahl, “Shouldn’t the burden be upon the government to demonstrate that the fireworks were related to the bombing?”
The attorney answered, “One would think!”
Robel’s lawyer encouraged supporters after the hearing to post positive comments on sites like the Boston Globe and Herald, because locals read these rather than the websites dedicated to this case. Robel’s mother thanked friends for their encouraging letters to her son, saying they meant a lot to him.
“I think this is a far-ranging case – only the surface has been scratched,” Stahl told reporters outside. When asked, “How is your client?” Stahl responded:  
“He is strong. He is getting more strong as time goes by, because he has to. Obviously, this is very difficult. His family is not here. His family is having trouble getting visas granted from the United States to come back here, so that makes it that much more difficult. Imagine if you were overseas with no friends or family members there to even visit you. As time goes by we are just as eager to see a speedy and correct and positive resolution to this matter.” 
Azamat’s father, Amir Ismagulov told reporters through his attorney and translator that he welcomed the news of the June trial date.
“We felt it was our first victory on this case,” he said. “We felt this was a great victory for Boston to know the truth nine months earlier… Our sons feel they didn’t harm this city and country, and they never felt they did something negative or harmful.”
Azamat’s father told reporters that his son is now in the general prison population. He has been receiving his books like he is supposed to. He is also going to the going to the library and using the gym. He added that the people they have met these past 9 months in Boston are some of the nicest people he has ever met.

Free Jahar Movement–Spirituality & Politics

January 16, 2014 by  

Boston Marathon Bombing
File: Dzhokhar (Jahar) Tsarnaev appearing before US Magistrate Marianne Bowler in the Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston for his arraignment.

“I don’t argue with fools who say islam is terrorism it’s not worth a thing, let an idiot remain an idiot” – January 16, 2013 tweet by Jahar @J_tsar

While mainstream media maligns the Tsarnaev brothers as the Chechen terrorists who bombed the Boston marathon long before any convincing evidence has been presented in a court of law, a strong social undercurrent questioning the official version of events has spontaneously, pretty much miraculously emerged without any organization, and without any funding. The Free Jahar movement also supports Jahar’s imprisoned best friends Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, foreign students from Khazakstan, and the family of Tamerlan’s friend Ibrahim Todashev who was murdered in Orlando by the Boston FBI. Thousands of young people, mostly women in their early 20s, impeccably groomed for their online profile photos and savvy with all the modern technology – most of whom have never met each other before – are now enthusiastically and internationally networking. Nothing like this has ever happened before in history.
Baffled and disturbed by the revelation that they can no longer keep up with the latest technology young people are using today, and are thus no longer able to control public opinion, the outdated pro-FBI mainstream media has obnoxiously mocked and dismissed “Jahar’s Army” as a bunch of silly “fangirls” crazed by the boy’s good looks.
However, a closer look reveals that this depiction is inaccurate. The Free Jahar movement is one of the most unique social justice movements that the world has ever seen – nearly all female and fiercely maternal in its passion to protect the innocent:
“Jahar, We will be your voice while your own is taken. Trust in us. We are here. We love you. We will make it right. Justice will be yours.”
Luna, a Native American single mother of four living in Oklahoma who administrates the group Ohana along with Jahar’s sisters, Ibrahim’s widow and her mother, told TMO she had used google translate to locate them, as well as friends and relatives of Azamat and Dias via the Russian social media network VK and invited them to join Facebook. She said she is now “more aware of how the government and courts work” because of this “girl community.”
Alice in New Zealand told TMO, “Like most people, prior to the bombings I sort of took everything on ‘face value’ and believed everything that was shown to me. In a strange way Jahar and his family showed me the truth, if you will, and made me see otherwise… I’m forever grateful for my eyes being opened to it as a result of everything I’ve learned from this case, it’s given my heart so much love and compassion towards Muslims because they deal with so much more than the average person. It’s been the turning point in my life and changed how I see the world and has made me into a better person.”
Every generation has to realize the fact that governments lie. But unlike my generation, instead of despair, this generation of wonderful young people came up with this idea that if we love Jahar, we are no longer alone in this world. Upon believing in Jahar’s innocence, an intensely affectionate global family is formed, whose electronic (((hugs))) are like a tidal wave of divine love washing over this world. Jahar in his true suffering has undeniably and deeply blessed countless lives. He is almost like a Christ figure.
“He was chosen by the higher powers to be – Our makers, We call God, to Wake up the Sheep and turn them into Lions – hear them ROAR !!!” posts Unique Firefly of Florida.
“He has the character of the best person who could exist. Anyone who sees him falls in love with him. Dzhokhar, he is a gift from Allah, not just because he is my son – he is like an angel, this child. The Americans know him better than I do. They taught him. He was in the newspapers everywhere: he was excellent, good, kind. He worked all the time. In his extra moments, he worked so that things would not be difficult for us, his parents. He didn’t keep a penny for himself. This kind of child. You understand,” stated his father Anzor Tsarnaev via let-goletgod.
Most political prisoner support movements in the west have tended to be organized by aging secular leftists who attend meetings, pen statements, organize conferences and demonstrate on the street. The culture of this new movement is very, very different from traditional protest movements. This global women-led cultural movement is charged by prayers for peace and healing, respect for Christian and Muslim values, emotional support for each other, and unconditional, passionate respect for Jahar’s family and friends.
North American Jahar supporters have often found that the world has suddenly opened up for them, as they familiarize themselves with Muslim customs and world geography and learn about history and geopolitics from their new friends around the world.
“Yeah I had no idea Asians lived in Khazakstan!” laughs Jill of Massachusetts.
“You know what I truly admire, whenever it’s their time to pray no matter wherever they are they will stop and pray. Love it,” comments Sharon in Vancouver.
Jahar’s supporters do their share of letter writing and strive to attend status hearings, but their fight to influence public opinion takes place mostly in online forums. Unlike most prisoner support movements that hinge on court dates and then fizzle out, the Jahar groups are active around the clock. Communication takes place on Facebook, Twitter, and other apps that only young people have heard of. The largest Facebook group, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is Innocent, has over 17,000 members and continues to grow. While the group’s political influence on matters of US justice is unclear, Jahar himself has received so many gifts to his prison commissary that he has begged supporters to stop sending money or he might lose his state-funded attorneys!
They don’t just circulate news articles, court documents, and action alerts. Participants post a steady stream of family photos, personal anecdotes, pictures of lions (Jahar’s Twitter symbol), and even poor Ibrahim’s cat, Todashev Pisu Ibragimovich, curled up asleep in the bathroom sink, who misses his daddy very much. The group follows status updates from the Tsarnaev sisters with the same level of excitement other women might reserve for the Kardashians. They look up to Jahar’s mother Zubeida as a source of beauty, strength, courage and advice.
“Zubi told me how her kids are nice and she said I’m nice like her kids. And I’ve read that in Islam you have to be nice to everyone,” Maria from Kosova told TMO. The movement has indeed evolved into something indescribable that’s all about emotionally supporting complete strangers.
Whenever someone loses a family member, falls ill, gets pregnant or goes through a break-up, she receives prayers and best wishes from all around the world. They send each other birthday cards, thank you cards, I love you cards, and even Christmas presents for each others’ children. If a young lady posts a “selfie,” she is told how beautiful she is, inside and out. They visit their new friends while traveling, and confide in each other on personal matters. During the boys’ court hearings, women around the world hover around Twitter for updates, trying to decipher the legal jargon.
Kimberly in Ohio told TMO that “the ‘event’ has had a great impact in many ways on my previously held beliefs… the Boston Bombing has drastically changed my heart and opened my mind about so many things, that I don’t know where to begin, to end…”

Attorney Lynne Stewart Released from Prison!

January 9, 2014 by  

lynne stewart
Lynne Stewart and husband Daniel Poynter stepping off plane.

Famous civil rights defense attorney Lynne Stewart was freed from Carswell medical prison in Texas and welcomed by a group of cheering supporters at Laguardia Airport in New York City on January 1, 2014. Stewart, 74, was granted “compassionate release” because she is suffering from Stage 4 breast cancer, after Stewart’s doctor said she had only 18 months to live.
Earlier petitions for her release had been denied. Stewart’s freedom is the result of organized public pressure, including over 40,000 signatures collected on a petition via
On December 31, 2013, Judge John Koeltl finally conceded that her “terminal medical condition and very limited life expectancy constitute extraordinary and compelling reasons that warrant the requested reduction [of her sentence].”
“We the people got her out!” cheered Lynne’s husband, Ralph Poynter to the crowd.
Stewart will seek treatment at Sloane-Kettering hospital in New York. She lives with her son under the standard rules of parole for an ex-convict. She is allowed to travel within the local area and there are no special restrictions on who she can talk to.
“She would have rather stayed in jail than agreed to be restricted in what she says to people,” Poynter told TMO.
The attorney, known for representing controversial, poor, and often unpopular defendants, is considered the arch-enemy of John Ashcroft. She dedicated her life to fighting his subversions of the US Constitution.
Stewart’s integrity even won the respect of her opponent, US Attorney Andrew McCarthy, who said he found Stewart to be “eminently reasonable and practical” and commented that “when she gave her word on something, she honored it.”
“Her smile is infectious and her manner disarmingly maternal, and she can home in like sonar on the weakness in a prosecution case,” wrote Michael Powell in the Washington Post.
Stewart was convicted on charges of providing material support to the Egyptian group, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya in 2005 “for distributing press releases on behalf of her client, Omar Abdel-Rahman, an Egyptian cleric known as the ‘blind Sheikh.’” reports Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!
Former US attorney general under Ronald Reagan, Ramsey Clark had originally persuaded Stewart to take Rahman’s case.
“We hit it off,” Stewart said about Rahman, “He’s really an incredible person.”
During Rahman’s trial, Stewart argued to the jury that Rahman had been framed for his political and religious teachings and not, as the prosecution alleged, for conspiring in any violent acts against the United States.
She infuriated the government by continuing to speak of the imam as innocent and visiting him in prison, even after he had been convicted. She also alienated fellow defense attorneys, who backed away from supporting her libertarian stance regarding the ongoing struggle for the establishment of an Islamic government in Egypt.
“I’m not going to say what’s healthy for someone who lives somewhere else in the world,” she said.
This was too much for some liberal progressive defense lawyers, many of whom harbor stereotypical Islamophobic sentiments very similar to those of government prosecutors, even while taking on Muslim clients.
Stewart’s outspoken support of her client was interpreted by the government as “a plot to obtain the release” of the imprisoned spiritual leader, who is serving a life sentence in solitary confinement for “inspiring” the first World Trade Center bombing with his politically-charged sermons at a mosque in New York.
The federal government’s indictment of Stewart in April 2002 marked the first time that it had brought charges of conspiring to provide material support for terrorist activity against a defense attorney in a terrorism case.
“It wasn’t just to punish her, but to send a message of intimidation to other committed lawyers who might follow her lead,” writes Mauri Saalakhan of the Peace and Justice Foundation.
“How could I be happier? I feel like I’ve waited my whole life for this fight!” Stewart told supporters in 2004, knowing she was facing the possibility of life in prison.
Chris Hedges describes her trial: “The state demanded an outrageous 30-year prison sentence. It showed the jurors lurid videos of Osama bin Laden and images of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center towers, and spun a fantastic web of Islamic, terrorist intrigue.”
Stewart was accused of speaking gibberish in order to distract the prison guards so that her Arabic translator could converse in Arabic with her client during a prison visit. She then passed along a written statement from the imam regarding Egyptian politics to Reuters. The government argued that Stewart was thus aiding terrorist violence.
“His word matters,” Stewart said regarding the Egyptian imam. “He wouldn’t be the first man accused of terrorism who is released from prison when times change.”
She added that her client’s statement was followed by a clarification: “I [Omar Abdel-Rahman] am not withdrawing my support of the cease-fire (in Egypt), I am merely questioning it and I am urging you, who are on the ground there to discuss it and to include everyone in your discussions as we always have done.”
Judge John Koeltl of Federal District Court in Manhattan originally sentenced Ms. Stewart to only 28 months in prison. Expressing relief to her supporters massed outside the courtroom after the sentencing she exclaimed exuberantly: “As my clients would say, I can do this standing on my head.”
But federal prosecutors goaded by John Ashcroft appealed the light sentence, claiming that Ms. Stewart’s public statement indicated a lack of remorse. Koeltl then resentenced her to 10 years in prison.
Scheduled for surgery the week she was sentenced, Stewart instead had to wait eighteen months for that surgery. Yet, even from prison, Stewart continued to make statements to the media.
“I believe that since 9/11 the government has pursued Muslims with an ever heavier hand. However, cases such as the Sheikh’s in 1995 amply demonstrate that Muslims had been targeted even earlier as the new ENEMY—always suspect, always guilty,” she wrote to Chris Hedges of Truthdig.
“I hope that my imprisonment sends the wake up call that the government is prepared to imprison lawyers who do not conduct legal representation in a manner the government has ordained.”
Lynne Irene Stewart, born October 8, 1939, attended a Calvinist college for her BA and went on to Rutgers for her law degree. She is Swedish/German and Irish/English by parentage.
Dr. Aafia Siddique and Green activist Marie Mason are incarcerated at the same prison federal prison hospital where Stewart was held, but in a separate area. There are about 2,500 women in there, Stewart told Democracy Now!