Saturday, December 28, 2013

Free At Last

Greenpeace International announces that Arctic Sunrise crew members including two journalists are finally going home. All but one of the 26 non-Russian "Arctic 30" were issued their exit visas at the time of the Greenpeace press release.

Twitter has been lively with the information, tracking progress.  Below, Mannes Ubels of the Netherlands gets the great news:
Faiza Oulahsen of the Netherlands:
A plane with all six Britons and one of two Canadians, Alexandre Paul, left Saint Petersburg heading for Paris.  (Guardian video below.)  They made it to London:
Twitter reports that Canadian Paul Ruzycki is also out, arrived in Toronto: reports that Argentina activists Camila Speziale and Miguel Hernan Perez Orsi arrive Saturday morning via Air France in Ezeiza, family members having spoken to them by phone in Paris.

Australian activist Colin Russell is reported out of Russia, bound for Amsterdam, first, where Greenpeace International is located.  He is expected back in Hobart January 2nd.

New Zealand activists Jonathan Beauchamp and David John Haussman are reported in transit.  Mr. Beauchamp lives in Australia.

Italian activist Cristian D'Alessandro was reported as arriving in Naples today.  His father told reporters that he is fine, but would not provide details.

Finland activist Sini Saarela is reported back.  Speaking to a crowd of reporters as she arrived in Helsinki, she described the Russian amnesty (video at link) as a publicity stunt.

Danish activist Anne Mie Roer Jensen landed in Copenhagen after having described, on the way out, "100 days of theater of the absurd" while expressing the group's commitment to end oil drilling in the Arctic.

Turkish activist Gizem Akhan is reported as having arrived home in Istanbul (video at link).

Activist and biologist Ana Paula Alminhana Maciel of Brazil is on her way back.

Arctic Sunrise Captain and American Peter Henry Willcox is described in the photo taken below as leaving for the departure lounge at the Saint Petersburg airport:

In this photo released by Greenpeace, Greenpeace International activist Captain Peter Willcox of the U.S. leaves for the departure lounge at St. Petersburg airport, in St. Petersburg, Russia, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. Greenpeace activists released from custody following an amnesty over their protest in the Russian Arctic say they have no regrets. (AP Photo/Greenpeace International/ Dmitri Sharomov)

RMF 24 reports that Tomasz Dziemianczuk of Poland received his exit visa and flies Sunday from Saint Petersburg to Warsaw.

Ruslan Yakushev of the Ukraine has left Russia and is returning home. 

Dima Litvinov, a Soviet born Swedish activist, was the first 
to leave the country, taking a train across the border to Finland.

News is still awaited concerning Francesco Pisanu of France and Marco Weber of Switzerland.

The Russian activists released include the ship's physician Ekaterina Zaspa, international journalist Andrey Allakhverdov, international photojournalist Denis Sinyakov, and translator Roman Dolgov.

Departing activists speaking with reporters expressed relief that they were going home, while maintaining their innocence, deep concern about invasive oil drilling in the Arctic, and their commitment to stop drilling in this fragile region of our planet.

Dima Litvinov told press,  "I'm glad that this chapter is over but the book still remains to be written.  As long as there's threat for the Arctic, as long as there's multinational companies like Gasprom, like Shell, like Exxon - and the puppet regimes intent on raping the Arctic - we'll certainly continue to fight against that and work towards a sane future."  

He also said, “I’ve never regretted what we did, not once, not in prison and definitely not now. Sometimes you just have to stand up and ask to be counted, and that’s what we did in the Arctic. They didn’t throw us in jail for what we did, they locked us up because of what we stood for."

More in the Guardian video below as activists departed Russia:

*Photo credit/top, Via Times Live,"Twenty-six of the Arctic 30 (24 Greenpeace International activists and two freelance journalists) pose in St. Petersburg, in this December 3, 2013 handout from Greenpeace. The four not pictured are: Francesco Pisanu of France, Andrey Allakhverdov of Russia, Tomasz Dziemianczuk of Poland and Ekaterina Zaspa of Russia."

Editor's Update, 1.1.2014.  The Executive Director of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo has confirmed reports that all 26 non-Russian Greenpeace activists have left Russia.

Swiss Greenpeace Activist Marco Weber back in Switzerland where he tells the press that he would do it again:

Another photo of Paul Ruzycki in Toronto:

A thank you video is circulating:

And, now it's time for the ship to be returned:

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


640_parole_leonard_peltier_banner.jpg original image ( 2272x1704) 

Another Christmas message here from Leonard Peltier who still does not have amnesty after thirty-seven years in prison.

In the following video, Michael Moore reads his 2012 poem asking President Obama to release Mr. Peltier, Native American human rights activist and poet.  On December 14th of last year, Harry Belafonte, Jackson Browne, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, Bruce Cockburn, Common (with Mos Def), Peter Coyote, Danny Glover, Jack Healey, Jennifer Kreisberg, Bill Means, Bill Miller, Pete Seeger, Margo Thunderbird, Tom Poor Bear and Michael Moore gathered at the Beacon Theater, in NYC to sing, speak and dance for Leonard Peltier's freedom.  In the video, Moore's poem, asking for his release, starts at about 12:45.

As blogged last year, and mentioned by Michael Moore, Mr. Peltier is a poet.  So here is another one of Leonard Peltier's poems, We Are Not Separate, read by Jean Aked:


*Photo credit/top, via IndyBay, photographer: Jonathan Nack, 2010 San Francisco protesters demand parole for Leonard Peltier.

Christmas Message

Edward Snowden delivers a Christmas message to the United States on the importance of privacy.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Guess Who's Listening Down The Chimney

Ain't really Santa.


Happy Holidays

A bluegrass version of "Children Go Where I Send Thee" from singer Kristin Andreassen, Chris "Critter" Eldridge on guitar, and Stephanie Coleman on the fiddle.

Pussy Riot Free

The two Pussy Riot members have been freed from prison following a sweeping Russian amnesty bill that releases up to a reported 26,000 Russian prisoners including the Greenpeace Arctic 30.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina told reporters they would like to focus on helping prisoners and setting up a human rights organization.  Prior to the amnesty, both women were serving a two year sentence for "hooliganism" after staging an anti-Putin protest on the podium of a Russian Orthodox Church. 

More from Euronews:


More from Reuters:

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Women and UBI

Continuing coverage of the basic income movement.  In the videos below, women's rights activists discuss UBI in relation to its impact on women.  Courtesy of the Vancouver B.C. public library, Kathleen Piovesan of Vancouver Rape Relief, followed by York University political science and equities studies professor Barbara Cameron, and Elsie Dean of Women Elders In Action.  Dr. Cameron also summarizes some of the different proposals on the table insofar as basic income guarantees are concerned in Canada.  The United States is also a signatory to the U.N. multilateral treaty she references, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Uploaded 2007.  More here on the discussed 2004 Nova Scotia "Pictou Statement" or "Feminist Statement on Guaranteed Liveable Income."

Part 1:


Part 2:


Truth Is? from Four Women, Canada's first all-women poetry slam team at Speak Out 2009.  Speak Out is a Children's Peace Theatre presentation.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Aldeia Maracanã

Urutau Jose Guajajara, who belongs to the native Indian community, looks out from the top of a tree inside the Indian Museum, next to the Maracana stadium, during his protest in Rio de Janeiro 

Another violent eviction in the name of sports as the fight for Aldeia Maracanã continues.  As reported in March 2013 on this blog, the Guajajara Indians and indigenous peoples from across Brazil were resisting removal from the historic ruins of an Indian Museum in Rio de Janeiro known as "Maracana Village."  The grounds have been informally recognized as indigenous territory for some time.  The building and surrounding area have been continually occupied since at least 2006.

The village has been an icon for indigenous peoples across Brazil, many staying at Aldeia Maracanã when coming to Rio for medical treatment, studies, or to sell handcrafts in an open market.  Local industry was developing quite a bit in this central Rio location with various educational, therapeutic, and cultural collaborations, tribal language and dialect studies, the on-site production and sale of crafts and traditional arts.  This arrangement would have continued, and continued to grow except that .. one day, the government decided they wanted the property for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.  

Since the last report here, activists obtained more formalized rights to the old museum for establishing a first-time-ever indigenous peoples university.  There are two other buildings in the compound of the territory, one with fully equipped rooms (a former national agriculture laboratory), and another that had been partly destroyed.  The group has wanted the fully equipped building as the future headquarters of the university, and the Rio governor, Sergio Cabral, assured them that the building would not be demolished.   

However, on Thursday, December 12th, the Maracana Consortium - established by Odebrecht, IMX of Brazil, and Seattle-based AEG of the U.S. - began demolition, regardless.  Greatly disturbed by the demolition, the group decided to risk stronger opposition, and they entered and occupied the empty laboratory - and to stop it.

The authorities responded by sending 80 warrantless riot police in full militarized gear who can be seen in the photo below on December 15th forcibly removing a small and very young barefoot child in the group (photo via

Coupe du monde 2014 : 15/12/2013, le scandale de la nouvelle expulsion violente d'indigènes de l'aldeia Maracanã

Little information appears available on this recent eviction, though we understand that 25 people were arrested with one accused of stealing documents.  

The photo at the top of this post shows Guajajara Indian Uratau Jose in a tree as the last remaining resistance at the village.  He maintained his position in the branches for 26 hours before being removed by firefighters on Tuesday morning, December 17th (photo via Pilar Olivares with Reuters). 

Following eviction from the laboratory, people immediately reoccupied the museum.  

Raoni reports the government now saying that, while the Indians will be able to have the museum, the laboratory will be destroyed in order to build a new football museum within the indigenous territory, and in time for the Olympics;  that the museum's use will be determined by the state first - in collaboration with indigenous leaders - and not in the spirit or way it was intended by the indigenous groups who have been using it for many years - and, that it will be not be operational before the end of the World Cup.  

However, it appears the museum is still occupied.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Isn't It (Also) Time For A U.S. Amnesty?

Arctic 30 to be set free

As people around the world rejoice hearing news of a sweeping Russian amnesty freeing 26,000 prisoners - and one that targets non-violent offenders and vulnerable populations such as mothers of young children, minors, and the elderly - my thoughts couldn't help but turn to the U.S. prison system, and in my own land.

For just two days earlier, Bill Moyers & Company reported that the U.S. has 5 percent of the world's population yet houses 25 percent of its prisoners, with a total of 2 million of our inhabitants behind bars (compared to Russia's 700,000).  Joshua Holland writes:
In large part, that’s the result of the “war on drugs” and long mandatory minimum sentences, but it also reflects America’s tendency to criminalize acts that other countries view as civil violations.
Mr. Holland further elaborates with cases including, in "the land of the free," anything from absurd eight year sentences for importing lobster tails in plastic bags instead of cardboard boxes, to dozens of impoverished Alabama residents cruelly arrested because they couldn't afford to repair septic systems violating state health laws.  (Would the state, on behalf of the public interest, fix those septic systems instead?)  One of those arrested Americans was a single mother living in a mobile home with her autistic child, adding one vulnerable population on top of yet another, and yet another - if we'd like to look at this in terms of the standards set out by the Russian amnesty.

I mean, whose prison system makes whose prison system look worse?  "My fellow Americans," in "the land of the free," presumptuously pleased to see Putin bringing Russia into the 21st century of America's so-called democracy - and with this modern day version of "Bastille" - please - please - look again, but at our own backyard.

Eight female prisoners are shown sleeping on the floor of an intake cell in the Livingston County Jail in this photograph, taken over Veteran's Day weekend and obtained Friday by the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus and through the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.

The crowded gymLocker

According to Moyers, the American federal system alone has grown by 40 percent since 2001, with the number of federal inmates growing by 500 percent in the past 50 years, and nearly half of those imprisoned for drug offenses.  Spending on locking human beings up in federal prisons has grown by 1100 percent, with our nation spending 29,000 dollars per year to jail each adult individual.

Consider, for a moment, how that money could be otherwise spent - on a national single payer health care system, for example, or an improved and expanded social security system providing an unconditional basic income (UBI).  The amount of money the Swiss will be voting on as a UBI is roughly comparable at 33,516 USD per free individual per year.  Wouldn't you rather see the money we spend incarcerating people spent, instead, on basic 21st century social safety nets?  What is more "democratic?"  A home or a cage?  What makes for a better quality of living?

I mean, while we pour money down the proverbial drain unjustly locking people behind bars, there are (also) some serious problems "out here in the free world," as Dr. Seuss might say.  Poverty, for one, among elderly American women is soaring, and, with the exception of Romania, Mr. Moyers has told us (yet again), no other developed nation has more children growing up in poverty than the U.S.  The majority of Americans don't have enough money to save.  There's all those people who could, instead, be going to college.  In one fell swoop, we could (pretty much) directly abolish poverty, and as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., himself, proposed.  Plus - as we breathe with relief at the release of the Arctic 30 and Pussy Riot - there are all the political prisoners we have locked up (if not driven out of the country altogether - one of whom even fled to Russia for his freedom);  just to name a small few - Native American activist and poet Leonard Peltier - unjustly imprisoned since the 1970's, army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, along with the Guantanamo hunger strikers and those not even charged.

Will mainstream media get on their side too?  

How ironic that these U.S. news establishments recently sang on for at least a week about the death - and celebrated life - of Nelson Mandela, yet another political prisoner I daresay their organizations would easily have ignored for decades, in their own land behind bars.  

Are any of these American political prisoners that different? 

What would Madiba say, unedited?  What would really honor his life and memory? 

The Moyers report comes out on the heels of the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General releasing last week its annual review of DOJ operations. That, we are told, details "a growing crisis within the federal prison system that [also] threatens to undermine the DOJ’s other vital functions, including the enforcement of civil rights legislation, counter-terrorism and [real, for a change] crime-fighting." 

In the following video preview, Mr. Moyers discusses our American "incarceration nation" with prison reform activist Michelle Alexander.  She suggests we pursue the democracy that we deserve.

So, isn't it time the United States also had a mass amnesty - releasing, well, in the case of our country - not just a mere 26,000, but literally, at least, a million of its inhabitants?

Preview: Inequality Behind Bars from on Vimeo.

*Photo credits/top, via Salon/AP, Kresty prison on the Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia, where some of the Arctic 30 were taken./second down, via Lansing State Journal, December 3, 2013, "Eight female prisoners are shown sleeping on the floor of an intake cell in the Livingston County Jail in this photograph, taken over Veteran's Day weekend and obtained Friday by the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus and through the Michigan Freedom of Information Act."/third and fourth photos, next to each other, via NPR, 2008, 360 San Quentin inmates live in what was once the basketball gym.  One inmate shows the reporters a small locker which is his only personal space.  "Trash, white towels, and underwear are everywhere in the gym."/bottom, via British Library, "Free At Last" - 1990 headline from "The Voice - Britain's Best Black Newspaper" upon the release of Nelson Mandela from decades in an apartheid South African prison. 

Amnesty For #FreetheArctic30 and #FreePussyRiot

President Putin and the lower house of the Russian parliament have passed a sweeping amnesty bill that will release at least 25,000 Russian prisoners, including the Greenpeace Arctic 30 and the two remaining members of Pussy Riot.

The amnesty affects prisoners convicted of what are usually considered more petty and non-violent offenses, apparently including "hooliganism," which were charges leveraged against both the Greenpeace Arctic 30 activists along with the musician-activists from the group Pussy Riot.  Initially, the Arctic 30 were charged with "piracy," but those allegations were reduced.

Pussy Riot defiantly staged an anti-Putin "punk prayer protest" on the podium of a Russian Orthodox Church.  The two women still in prison were serving a two year sentence and scheduled for release in March.

The Greenpeace Arctic 30 were arrested by the Russian authorities while scaling an oil rig in the Pechora Sea in non-violent protest of the first oil drilling planned in that ecologically fragile region.  Traveling aboard the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, the 30 crew members with 2 journalists faced initially up to fifteen year sentences, then, up to seven years with the adjusted charges.

The arrests of both groups have inspired worldwide protests including millions of people demanding their release.

Al Jazeera reports that the amnesty affects 26,000 people including the "most vulnerable sectors of society," such as mothers of young children, minors, and the elderly. Pussy Riot is also affected under the provision that will release the mothers of young children.  

Protesters arrested during a May 2012 Moscow rally will also be released, though persons imprisoned for allegedly hitting police officers during these events will not be freed.  That rally took place one day before Putin's inauguration for a third term. 

The amnesty bill was drafted by Putin himself and comes in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Russian constitution, going into effect tomorrow, when Pussy Riot is expected to be out from behind bars.

The joyous news spread quickly on twitter, along with measured reminders about the greater issues at stake in the Arctic, and comments about the irony of being freed for crimes one did not commit in the first place:

Greenpeace released more photos here of the Arctic 30 activists having heard the news in Saint Petersburg where they have been out on bail.

Below, a 2009 Greenpeace video with polar explorer Eric Phillips explaining the dramatic effects of climate change on the Greenland Ice Sheet.  

Monday, December 16, 2013


A new commercial for H.R. 676 and a national single payer health care system.  Pass it on - everyone in, nobody out.  An improved and expanded Medicare for All.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Vermont truthout, Senator Bernie Sanders appears on msnbc (video below) to discuss Vermont's move for a state-wide single payer health care system under the Affordable Care Act.  Salvadore Aversta writes:
The ACA provided states with federal funds to institute a Medicaid expansion.  The states chose to expand the program also were able to set up their own state exchanges, which were relatively free from the problems the federal site had.  Vermont decided to take it a step further by setting up their very own single payer system.
The slogan of the program: Everybody in, nobody out.
The program will be fully operational by 2017, and will be funded through Medicare, Medicaid, federal money for the ACA given to Vermont, and a slight increase in taxes.  In exchange, there will be no more premiums, deductibles, copay’s, hospital bills or anything else aimed at making insurance companies a profit.  Further, all hospitals and healthcare providers will now be nonprofit.

*Photo credit/via The David Pakman Show, "Vermont's Single Payer Push."

Sunday, December 8, 2013


Today is the 33rd anniversary of John Lennon's death.  So here is an incredible rendition of Imagine by Playing for Change.


Guilty of Pacifism

Miguel Hernan Orsi Released On Bail
If you missed the news, the Greenpeace Arctic 30 were released on bail in Saint Petersburg, late November, and from Murmunsk prison where they were held for two months.  An emotional video below as news is shared with the jailed activists and supporters.  It's not over, of course, as members of the long-established non-violent organization still face possible seven year sentencing by Russian authorities.  The trial is expected prior to the end of February 2014.  The Greenpeace activists were arrested at knife and gunpoint in September when two members of the 30 person Arctic Sunrise crew scaled an oil rig in the Pechora Sea to non-violently protest the first oil drilling to target this highly fragile ecosystem.  Plans for drilling have been coordinated between the Russian oil company Gasprom and the multi-national oil and gas corporation giant, Shell.


Greenpeace UK reports that 2.5 million people emailed the Russian embassy to demand the release of the Greenpeace activists.  At long last, the Russian Embassy has replied.  

Read the Greenpeace UK response here.

A phone interview here with British activist Frank Hewetson, one of the Arctic 30 currently out on bail in Saint Petersburg.  He describes grim conditions in the prison, the group's hope for a moratorium on Arctic drilling, as well as hopes for their own release by the Russian government.  Initial charges of "piracy" carrying 15 year sentences were reduced to "hooliganism" which still equates with extensive prison terms.  Greenpeace is, again, an organization with a long-established commitment to non-violent activism, not "hooliganism," and as the Arctic action in question was clearly delineated in advance and videotaped.  At a recent Greenpeace Italy running event designed to bring further attention to the current plight of the Arctic 30, and yet another example of the worldwide outpouring of support on behalf of the jailed environmentalists, one of the runners described a popular Italian Free the Arctic 30 protest sign that read, "Guilty of Pacifism," or "Colpevole di pacifismo," an apt response, one thinks, to these transparently false accusations.

*Photo credits/top, via Greenpeace Blogs bottom, via Greenpeace UK.

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Continuing coverage of the growing Basic Income movement, the following video is an evening English language presentation from the Basic Income initiative in Germany, "Basic Income: An Idea Whose Time Has Come," posted on November 18, 2013 by Basic Income for Europe.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Freedom Speech

Nelson Mandela passes away today. In the video below, "Madiba's" full February 11, 1990 "freedom speech" from the steps of the Capetown City Hall.  This is where he traveled after being officially released that day from 27 years in prison.  He addresses crowds jammed into the Grand Parade or town square and "a stone's throw" from the Castle, the oldest existing colonial building in South Africa. 

In an interesting "media tale" twist to the youtube above, CTNews01 writes,
I was a editor in the UK when I was asked if I would like to return to SA and cover the release of Nelson Mandela. This was 6 months before the announcement was made to the rest of the world. The day before Nelson Mandela's release I think CBS and BBC formed a coalition to cover the release from Victor Verster prison with what they call "pool cameras" and then sell the material to all the other news agencies worldwide. Basically all the independents where thrown off the prison location so I decided to set up a crane with crew on the Grand Parade which actually worked out with me being the only one who got virtually the entire speech.
I have held this material in stock for years and suddenly it dawned on me that the material needs to be archived correctly in case of loss or damage. I approached the SA government for assistance as I have lots of historically material that needs to be archived correctly and was basically decline any assistance. Well the next best thing was to finance it myself and put it on YouTube so at least there is a archive where it cannot get lost as it is a very significant historical document. This material is not even archived in the foundation or any other historical archives in South Africa!.
This is the raw footage captured on the day of his release and the only enhancement has been to improve the audio track. This material needs to be professionally archived when I can raise the funding.
 More coverage on Nelson Mandela's life here and here.