Friday, December 20, 2013

  • Arctic 30 Members Welcome Russian Amnesty, But Refuse to Apologize for Trying to Stop Oil Drilling


    Amidst international criticism of Russia’s human rights crackdown ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, the country’s parliament has approved a mass amnesty for as many as 22,000 prisoners. The move is officially meant to mark the 20th anniversary of the passage of Russia’s post-Soviet constitution. Among the tens of thousands set to be released are the Arctic 30, members of Greenpeace who were arrested in September after trying to stop Russian oil drilling in the Arctic. "We’re glad it happened, but we’re still wondering why we need to be amnestied for something we didn’t do," says Peter Willcox, who was the captain of the Arctic Sunrise and has worked with Greenpeace for decades. "According to the World Court, we were arrested illegally on the high seas, illegally brought into Russia, and illegally detained." Willcox joins us from St. Petersburg, Russia, along with Dimitri Litvinov, a Russian-born U.S. and Swedish citizen who has worked with Greenpeace since 1989.

  • Indigenous Groups Win Right to Seize Chevron’s Canadian Assets over $18 Billion in Amazon Pollution


    A court in Canada has ruled Ecuadorean farmers and fishermen can try to seize the assets of oil giant Chevron based on a 2011 decision in an Ecuadorean court found it liable for nearly three decades of soil and water pollution near oil wells, and said it had ruined the health and livelihoods of people living in nearby areas of the Amazon rainforest. Since then, the victims have been trying to collect some $18 billion in environmental damages. But Chevron has filed its own lawsuit that argues the verdict was won through fabrication of evidence and bribery. We speak with Paul Barrett of Bloomberg Businessweek about how oil corporations from Chevron to BP are fighting lawsuits brought against them by attacking the lawyers handling the cases.

  • Obama Commutes 8 "Unfair" Crack Cocaine Sentences as the ACLU Calls For More Reforms to Drug Laws


    In a major victory for prisoner rights advocates, President Obama has commuted the sentences of eight people he said were serving unfair sentences for drug crimes. Most of the six men and two women had been sentenced to life in prison for charges related to crack cocaine. All of them have already spent more than 15 years behind bars under what Obama called an "unfair system," where there was a 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses. That disparity was reduced by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, but it came too late for thousands of inmates. "This is huge news. This gives these people the opportunity to return to their families," says Jennifer Turner, human rights researcher with the American Civil Liberties Union and author of the report, "A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses." Turner notes that Obama’s action is "an important first step" and calls on Congress to pass broader sentencing reform.

  • Live from Prison: Jason Hernandez Thanks Obama for Commuting His Drug Sentence, Hopes "More to Come"


    We speak with Jason Hernandez of McKinney, Texas, about his reaction to being one of the eight inmates whose sentences were commuted by President Obama on Thursday. "It’s a dream come true. I just hope this is the beginning of more to come," Hernandez says in a phone call from prison. He describes how he was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1998 for his role in a drug conspiracy starting when he was only 15 years old. Hernandez says he was with the prison warden when he heard the news and that he hopes President Obama and Congress will "decide to do more for the other individuals in here" who were sentenced under similarly harsh drug laws for nonviolent offenses.

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    Juan González on How Puerto Rico’s Economic "Death Spiral" is Tied to Legacy of Colonialism
    Could Puerto Rico become America’s Greece? That’s a question many are asking as the island faces a devastating financial crisis and a rapidly crumbling healthcare system. Puerto Rico owes $72 billion in debt. $355 million in debt payments are due December 1, but it increasingly looks like the U.S. territory may default on at least some of the debt. Congress has so far failed to act on an Obama administration proposal that includes extending bankruptcy protection to Puerto Rico and allocating more equitable Medicaid and Medicare...


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