Category activism

New York Magazine Interviews Andy Stepanian About The CMU

Q. You were a “balancer.” What exactly did that mean, and when did you come to this realization?

A. I was actually doing my laundry, and a guard comes up to me and says, “You’re not like all the other Muslim guys, you’re going to go home soon. Keep your head up, you’re only here to balance.”

 

Following his hard-hitting investigative report on Communications Management Units titled ‘Little Gitmo‘, New York Magazine‘s Christopher Stewart  conducted a short interview with Sparrow’s Andy Stepanian about his personal experience as an inmate there.  You can read the interview online HERE or read commentary in this week’s printed edition available on news stands everywhere.

Please take a moment to comment on New York’s website and thank them for their continued coverage of the CMU issue.

 

 

The Financial Institutions Fight Back

A Look at the Unapologetic Greed of the Financial Sector
by Stephanie Basile

After causing the largest economic collapse in recent memory and taking our taxpayer dollars to help themselves (but no one else) weather the storm, the financial institutions have somehow decided that the financial laws in this country are too strict! Two recent news stories in the New York Times illuminate just how incredibly greedy and unapologetic the people running these institutions are, and just how unwilling the federal government is to challenge this unmitigated greed.

It’s important that we, as activists, are aware of the aggressive and often behind-the-scenes lobbying that the industry does so that we can challenge and offer an alternative voice to the destructive behavior of the financial institutions.

First, the federal government has apparently decided that the financial institutions can be trusted to police themselves! A July 7th story details how the government adopted new guidelines which allow corporations to report their own crimes to the government. They can then negotiate a deal in order to delay or altogether avoid criminal prosecution.

In one example, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) began an investigation into Beazer Homes, one of the nation’s 10 largest home builders. They found that Beazer took part in such fraudulent activities as offering a lower mortgage rate if buyers paid an extra fee, but then not giving them the lower rate, and enticing homeowners by offering down payment assistance, but not disclosing that it then raised the price of the house by the same amount. After learning of the HUD investigation, Beazer paid a law firm to conduct its own investigation. The company ended up entering into an agreement with the government in which it would pay consumers and the government $55 million in exchange for the HUD dropping its investigation, thus avoiding criminal charges.

Eerily, this brings us one step closer to the ideal corporatist state, in which the lines between corporate power and government power are not just blurry but nonexistent. With these new guidelines, now we don’t just have a government that weakly enforces the law, but instead actually allows corporations to police themselves and pay their way out of criminal prosecution.

Then on July 14th, the Times featured a story on Steve Bartlett, the head of Financial Services Roundtable, which represents 100 of the country’s largest financial institutions. Bartlett is on a mission to challenge the injustices done to the financial institutions in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which Obama signed into law in July 2010. This bill contains nearly 300 new rules aimed at regulating the financial institutions.

While the bill don’t substantially change the unwieldy amount of power already enjoyed by the financial institutions, these pesky new rules are offensive enough that Bartlett and others are lobbying hard to have at least two dozen of them repealed. Among the offensive rules: executive compensation disclosure, in which companies must disclose CEO pay and the ratio of CEO pay to median pay of regular employees. There’s nothing about actually limiting the absurd amount of money CEOs make, just filling the rest of us in on the enormous gap between CEO and employee pay. Another rule: improved credit rating guidelines, in which credit rating agencies must follow tighter accounting guidelines when issuing credit ratings. This measure addresses the problem in which credit rating agencies often mislead investors by releasing overly positive credit ratings.

The powers that be do not like these rules, and they’ve gone into hyper-defense mode. The Times reports that Wall Street spent $52 million in lobbying in the first three months of 2011, up 10% from the previous quarter.

Barlett estimates that the new rules will cost the financial industry $14 billion. Even in the world of cutthroat lobbyists and shrewd businesspeople, Bartlett is known for being particularly aggressive. The Times article quotes him as saying, “I wish I could look the other way. I’ve got 14 billion reasons to be aggressive.”

Nowhere in Bartlett’s “14 billion reasons” is the human cost caused to working families all around the country thanks to the reckless corporate greed of his clients. But then again, in the corporatist state, in which government’s sole purpose is to ensure unlimited power and profits for corporations, pesky things like people’s livelihoods just don’t factor into the equation.

Stephanie Basile is a union organizer who lives in Brooklyn.

New York Magazine Investigates CMU Program & Deceptive Sting Used to Entrap Yassin Aref

This week New York Magazines Christopher S. Stewart published a hard-hitting and deeply personal investigation into the secretive federal prison programs known as Communication Management Units.

The units have been given nicknames like “Little Gitmo” and “Guantanamo North” because of the glaring ethnic and racial disparity of inmates designated to these units.  62% of inmates designated to the CMUs are Muslim men — a fact that both the ACLU & The Center For Constitutional Rights (CCR) highlight in their pending lawsuits against the prisons.  Labeled by the CCR  as an “experiment in social isolation” these institutions specifically isolate and silence inmates whose cases involve abundant press attention or possible prosecutorial misconduct, like that of the case against the Albany, NY Imam, Yassin Aref.

Stewart highlights the case against Aref in his feature, providing intimate details that the public has never seen before and that the federal government has made efforts to bury.  The sting employed to entrap Aref was a layered mess of corrupt government informants, uninformed innocent merchants, and high tech spying.   The three year operation to entrap Aref started with a hunch provided by military intel that was later redacted because it was grossly incorrect.  However once the ball started rolling it did not stop, and Aref now sits in federal prison serving a 15 year sentence for allegedly providing material support for a terror organization he knew nothing of…

Click HERE to to read Christopher Stewart’s article in New York Magazine

Be sure to share this important article & leave comments thanking New York Magazine for their continued commitment to important issues like this one.

 

A Message to the Media Regarding the US Boat to Gaza (video)

An update from  Andy Stepanian, co-founder of the Sparrow Project.

For the past 24 hours I have been glued to twitter as a few of my close friends set out with the US Boat to Gaza with hopes of documenting the breaking of the maritime blockade that has economically crippled Gaza since 2006 and isolated 1.6 million Palestinians in what some humanitarians are calling “the world’s largest open-air prison.”

Shortly after my release from the Communications Management Unit I started a project, reaching out to families of political prisoners still held in the CMU.  It was through these efforts that I met two amazing people — Paul Park and Noor Elashi.  I met Paul while documenting the efforts of Project Palestine. Paul directed and shot this video and Noor helped story board the piece.

With high profile interviews from academics, humanitarians and artists their video provides a brilliant response to the accusations levied against the flotilla by media outlets that support the blockade.  As activists we already understand that the flotilla’s purpose is not one of confrontation nor is it aligned with any Palestinian authority, but savvy PR initiatives by many special interests are quick to label the flotilla as such and in-tern they cultivate fear and distrust within the Israeli populace, inflame IDF forces that may at one point engage the flotilla, and control the flotilla narrative amidst the international community.  It is important that we as activists turn the tide in the smothering public relations efforts levied from these special interests.   Please take a moment this afternoon to share their video on social networks, twitter, etc.

We will be posting updates on and from the flotilla in real time via our twitter account http://twitter.com/sparrowmedia we invite you to join this conversation and help us to wage our own grassroots PR effort in solidarity with the people of Gaza.

All the best,

Andy

Friday Declared a Day of Solidarity with Arrested Spanish Animal Rights Activists the #Spanish12

 

 

12 animal rights activists with the group Igualdad Animal were arrested in Spain on Wednesday and charged by officials as “ecoterrorists.”  Although all of the details of the Spanish government’s allegations have not been revealed, it has been confirmed that the charges stem from non-violent, non-sabotage, actions related to the open rescue and liberation of animals in deplorable conditions and the video documentation of cruelty on factory farms (as captured in the groups video above.)

These charges present a new chapter in an increasingly diluted industry-driven narrative that abolitionists who oppose animal cruelty are in some manner on par with “terrorists.”

An international day of solidarity and action has been planned for tomorrow, Friday June 24th, 2011.  Events will be happening from Spain to New York to Toronto to Berlin.   Will Potter, author of Green is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Movement Under Siege has compiled an up-to-date roundup of all the solidarity events being planned world-wide on his blog http://greenisthenewred.com …if you don’t see an event in your country PLAN YOUR OWN!

A list of all the Spanish embassies can be found HERE!

These updates are reposted from Will Potter’s http://greenisthenewred.com

UPDATE: No prisoner support page yet, but you can donate to their legal support here (in English)

UPDATE 2: Official statement from Animal Equality. The Spanish government is saying the arrests are related to the recent release of mink from fur farms. Above-ground activists respond:

These two organisations, which define their activism as being non-violent, dedicate their efforts to raising public awareness of animal rights, by informing society of the consequences of the consumption of animal products and the promotion of alternatives. On the other hand, even though the organisations were not involved in the mink liberations, neither condemns these types of actions, to the extent that they defend the interests of all animals regardless of species, as none of the minks exploited by the fur industry deserves to live and die on a Spanish fur farm….

The animal exploitation lobbies and powerful multinationals wish to put the brakes on the animal rights movement in Spain, and now we are seeing the arrival of repression.

UPDATE 3: International day of protest and solidarity called for FRIDAY, JUNE 24th, 2011.Here’s a list of Spanish embassies.

Update 4: Protests planned for San FranciscoTorontoNew York CityWashington DCand more. Post a link in the comments and I’ll add them. Also, a quick thing you can do is update your social media profile photos with the banner above.

UPDATE 5: Protest in Munich, Germany, Friday 6/24 from 9 am – 1 pm in front of the Spanish embassy (Oberföhriger Str. 45).

UPDATE 6: Protest in Brussels, Belgium, Friday, 6/24 at 2 pm in front of the Spanish embassy (Wetenschapsstraat 19).

UPDATE 7: Animal Equality lawyers report:

“…the treatment of those detained is currently adequate, although they are not being given a vegan diet. Some of the activists have declared themselves on hunger strike until they receive vegan food…They are calm, but strong and determined, and many people are currently working on this situation. Many thanks for all the support that has been received so far.

“You can make your support for the detained activists reach further by calling the police stations in Santiago de Compostela and A Coruña where they are currently being held and inquiring about the health of the activists..

The following is a suggested text to read:

“Hello. I am calling because I am concerned about the health of the activists who were arrested yesterday and who are currently being held in the police station. I would like to request that they be given a vegan diet.. I wish to express my concern for the health of those detained, and in particular, Sharon Nunez Gough, who has certain health problems.”

Telephone numbers:

- Comandancia de la Guardia Civil A Coruña, 0034 981 16 78 00, where the following activists are being held:

Sara, Olaia, Eneko, José Ramon, Eladio, Rafael, Jennifer y Borja

- Comandancia de la Guardia Civil Santiago de Compostela, 0034 981 581 611, where the following activists are being held:

Jose, Sharon y David.

UPDATE 8: Leaflets and posters are available for download for the solidarity events.

UPDATE 9: Protest in Vienna, Austria, Friday, 6/24 at 11 am in front of the Spanish embassy (Argentinierstraße 34, A-1040 Wien)

Protest in Berlin, Germany, Friday, 6/24, at noon in front of the Spanish embassy (Lichtensteinallee 1)

Democracy Now! Invites Will Potter, Marshall Curry & Andy Stepanian to Discuss ‘If a Tree Falls’

Today Andy Stepanian of the Sparrow Project, Will Potter, author of Green is the New Red, and Marshal Curry were invited on Democracy Now to discuss ‘If a Tree Falls: The Story of the Earth Liberation Front Curry’s new documentary about the life of Daniel McGowan and the Earth Liberation Front. ‘If a Tree Falls’ will premier nation-wide on wednesday after a successful and critically acclaimed stint on the festival circuit.

To watch the full interview visit — http://www.democracynow.org/2011/6/21/if_a_tree_falls_new_documentary

If a Tree Falls will be screening from June 22nd to the 28th at The IFC theatre located at 323 6th avenue (at west 3rd street) in NYC.

*For a full list of the screenings at the IFC visit — http://www.ifccenter.com/films/if-a-tree-falls-a-story-of-the-earth-liberation-front/

*For a list of screenings nationally visit — http://ifatreefallsfilm.com/screenings.html

Daniel McGowan is currently being housed in the Communications Management Unit (CMU) at the United States Penitentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana. In a controversial ruling an Oregon court ruled that McGowan’s acts of property destruction as part of the ELF although wholly non-violent were to be considered acts of terrorism and designated McGowan as such. The CMU is a designer penal program aimed at severely restricting the communications of McGowan and other specially designated inmates like him as well as cutting off their access to the outside world. This includes a ban on contact visitation with immediate family members.

Daniel and all of the men housed at the CMU need your support! For a list of things that you can do to support Daniel McGowan as well as information about Daniels case visit — http://supportdaniel.org/

To learn what you can do to fight for the rights of prisoners secretly held within CMUs the Center For Constitutional Rights has set up a webpage dedicated to the CMU at — http://ccrjustice.org/cmu-factsheet

 

Vote Today to Help Food Not Bombs Earn a Grant to Continue Feeding Hundreds of Hungry Families

Food Not Bombs, Long Island, is an entirely volunteer-based organization that has brought free plant-based meals, groceries,and clothing to those in need for over 14 years. In the last five years the group has seen an exponential growth in the number of volunteers, amount of donations, sponsors, as well as in the community participation at the food shares —all without any operating budget. Following a mantra of “solidarity, not charity” Food Not Bombs community food shares feed hundreds of families vegan meals & groceries each week in 5 cities across suburban Long Island.

Vivint is giving away $1.25 Million to charities. Help us win!

Food Not Bombs DIY ethos and decentralized structure is what has allowed it to flourish and spread its feedings virally to countries all around the world. Maintaining the ideals, autonomy & purely volunteer framework of Food Not Bombs is what will assure it’s continued success and continued growth within the community. It is for these reasons that Food Not Bombs volunteers have started a partner non-profit with the purpose of increasing access to recovered food, increasing distribution of food to communities in need, and for the purpose of coaching existing soup kitchens & pantries to more efficiently serve the community even while operating on a shoestring budget.

Vivint is giving away $1.25 Million to charities. Help us win!

This new partner non-profit, properly named ‘Community Solidarity‘ can use your help. They have been nominated to the Vivint Gives Back Project, a socially-driven non profit incubator, and if they receive enough endorsements from people like you they can earn one of a handful of grants for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Vivint is giving away $1.25 Million to charities. Help us win!

Food Not Bombs is asking all of their supporters to endorse the Community Solidarity project by visiting http://vivint.com/givesbackproject/charity/647 and casting your vote for them. You can continue to help them by sharing the endorsement link with your friends on social networks. You can return back to the Vivint link to vote once a day until the drawing in August.

Vivint is giving away $1.25 Million to charities. Help us win!

It is a sobering fact to learn that poverty and a lack of access to food and water kills more people every day then violent conflicts do. A fact that we so often ignore is that the blight of scarcity, poverty, and hunger are things we can do something about it. Food Not Bombs & Community Solidarity are showing us that DIY hunger relief and community empowerment are more then just bright-eyed ideals, they are an ever-growing concrete reality.

Will Potter at Bluestockings Books, 7pm Sunday, May 29th

172 Allen Street, New York, NY 10002 //  Get Directions

RSVP & SHARE THIS EVENT ON FACEBOOK HERE*

Please join Will Potter at Bluestockings Books for a reading and discussion of his new book Green Is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege, which was just released by City Lights Books.

“Part history, part action thriller and courtroom drama, part memoir, Green Is the New Red plunges us into the wild, unruly, and entirely inspirational world of extreme environmental activism. Will Potter, participant-observer and partisan-reporter, is the perfect guide… Green Is the New Red is an indispensable book that will change the way we think about commitment, the limits of protest, and the possibility of radical change.”

— Bill Ayers

 

For info about the book visit  //  http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/book

 

La Jolla Seals Grab National Headlines, Granted Temporary Protection

On May 7th the Sparrow Project was proud to support the efforts of activists in La Jolla, California rallying for added protections and a sanctuary for a colony of Harbor Seals that call La Jolla’s Casa Cove their home.  We were excited to see that our press release generated some great coverage, shedding much-needed light on the plight of the La Jolla Seals.  Following coverage in the La Jolla Light & San Diego Tribune, Dorota Valli of San Diego Seal Watch was invited on CNN’s Headline News to discuss the seals.  In the wake of the buzz on May 13th a judge issued a temporary restraining order protecting the seal colony from shared use of the beach until a future court date in June. Listed below is a roundup of the flurry of coverage dedicated to the La Jolla Seals.

  1. The La Jolla Light — rally re-cap
  2. The Huffington Post
  3. Fuse Music Television — Mark Hoppus column
  4. San Diego Union Tribune — AP Wire Story
  5. San Francisco Examiner
  6. The La Jolla Light — Pro-Seal Opinion Piece
  7. The Discerning Brute
  8. NBC 15 Television
  9. Sacramento Bee
  10. Lighthouse News
  11. AP Daylife Newdesk
  12. CNN Headline News with Jane Valez Mitchell

“Must we humans be so selfish that we would deny the seals a small spot on the coast they can call their own. Those who want the seals removed so children can have the beach have certainly not asked the children what they want. Most children would prefer to see seals living happy on a beach than to see them removed. The people who are victimizing these seals are both anti-nature and anti-children. They have their own agenda of greed and prejudice,”

— Captain Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

 

Activists Protest to Defend Threatened La Jolla Seals, Saturday 5/7/2011

CONSERVATION ACTIVISTS TO HOLD MAJOR RALLY SATURDAY IN DEFENSE OF THREATENED LA JOLA SEALS

La Jolla, CA – As many as a hundred conservationists and animal rights activists are expected to stage a protest march at 10am this Saturday, May 7th demanding adaquate protections for a seal colony in La Jolla’s Casa Cove.  Their march through downtown La Jolla will begin at the corner of Girard Ave. & Prospect St. in La Jolla (map) and end with a rally above the beach at Casa Cove.

 

Casa Cove, also known as “baby beach” by locals has served as a rookery for harbor seals since the construction of an artificial sea wall by the Scripps family in the 1930s.  ”Despite federally mandated protections for these seals, periods of shared use of the beaches at Casa Cove have led to situations where seals were harassed or chased away by people.” says Dorota Valli of the Animal Protection and Rescue League (APRL) of San Diego’s SealWatch.  ”Due to development and human intrusions on the coast the nearest established rookeries for harbor seals are roughly 100 miles to the north and south of Casa Cove thus limiting the harbor seal’s ability to breed, nurse, and raise their young.” says Carly Slawson a volunteer with APRL’s SealWatch.

 

“Must we humans be so selfish that we would deny the seals a small spot on the coast they can call their own. Those who want the seals removed so children can have the beach have certainly not asked the children what they want. Most children would prefer to see seals living happy on a beach than to see them removed. The people who are victimizing these seals are both anti-nature and anti-children. They have their own agenda of greed and prejudice,” say’s Captain Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and star of the hit TV series Whale Wars (Discovery)

 

The activists are an umbrella group of organizations including the Animal Protection and Rescue League of San Diego, Seal Watch San Diego, La Jolla Friends of the Seals, and Orange County People for Animals, who collectively are fighting to establish further protection and an eventual sanctuary for the La Jolla seals.  The activists have implemented a two-tiered approach of non-violent direct action protests like the one they have planed for Saturday as well as a plan of civil action in the La Jolla courts.  The activists have recently petitioned the courts for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in hopes the rope barring access to Casa Cove will not be lifted and that the Baby Beach rookery will not be opened to beach goers.  The case is being revisited in La Jolla court on May 17th, 2011.  For details about this weekends march as well as additional information on the La Jolla seals visit http://SaveSanDiegoSeals.com

 

To arrange an interview with the activists or to obtain high-resolution images of the rookery at Casa Cove please contact Tim Rusmisel at 949.973.7325 or email press@sparrowmedia.net

 

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