Friday, July 12, 2013

  • A Hunger Strike Against Solitary Confinement: Shane Bauer on Inhuman Prisons from California to Iran

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    More than 12,000 prisoners in California have entered their fifth day of a hunger strike in a push to end long-term solitary confinement, which they call a form of "indefinite state-sanctioned torture." Other demands include ending harsh group punishment, redefining gang activity, improving food quality, and increasing access to healthcare and education services. In addition to refusing meals, more than a thousand prisoners are also missing classes and prison work programs. This is the third large-scale hunger strike in the past two years. The current fast began at Pelican Bay State Prison and has now spread to two-thirds of the state’s 33 prisons. Corrections officials have reportedly responded by threatening to search prisoners’ cells, subject them to mental health evaluations, and deny them access to visitors and mail. "While the solitary confinement is at the core of it, it’s kind of about a lot of other issues," says Shane Bauer, a reporter who investigated the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons for Mother Jones magazine last year. "It’s become a much more widespread hunger strike. Each prison has its own demands. There are demands you see for rise in wages, from 13 cents an hour to $1 an hour, demand for the return of educational classes, and really the demands for the return of a lot of services that have been cut in recent years." Bauer began investigating solitary confinement in the United States shortly after being released from 26 months in an Iranian prison.

  • Josh Fox on Gasland Part 2, the Fracking-Earthquake Link & the Natural Gas Industry’s Use of PSYOPs

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    Scientists are warning that the controversial practice of natural gas hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, may lead to far more powerful earthquakes than previously thought. Fracking injects millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals deep into the earth in order to break up shale rock and release natural gas. A new study published Thursday in the journal Science by a leading seismology lab warns that pumping water underground can induce dangerous earthquakes, even in regions not otherwise prone to tremors. The new report comes as Academy Award-nominated director Josh Fox has released the sequel to his highly acclaimed documentary "Gasland," which sparked a national discussion on fracking. The new film, "Gasland Part II," exposes how the gas industry and the government’s portrayal of natural gas as a clean and safe alternative to oil is highly suspect. He also discusses how drilling companies have admitted to having several former military psychological operations, or PSYOPs, specialists on staff, applying their skills in Pennsylvania to counter opponents of drilling. "What’s really disappointing about this is that this is a moment when an American president has come forward and spoken about climate change and exhibited his obvious and earnest desire to take on the problem; however, the emphasis on fracked gas makes this plan entirely the wrong plan," says Fox, noting that methane released from fracking sites is more potent than other greenhouse gases. "Moving from coal to fracked gas doesn’t give you any climate benefit at all. So the plan should be about how we’re moving off of fossil fuels and onto alternate energy."

  • From North Carolina to Texas: Grassroots Movement Grows To Resist Anti-Abortion Bills

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    A showdown is expected in Texas today after a state Senate committee approved a bill critics say would shut down nearly all of the state’s abortion clinics and ban abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization. An earlier attempt to pass the bill was thwarted last month when protesters raised their voices to drown out the proceedings following a nearly 11-hour filibuster by Texas State Senator Wendy Davis. Meanwhile in North Carolina, state House Republicans have advanced anti-choice restrictions by secretly attaching them to a bill on motorcycle safety. On Thursday, the state House voted 74 to 41 to approve the bill, which imposes a series of restrictions critics say are aimed at shutting down abortion clinics. The provisions are similar to those passed by the North Carolina state Senate last week without a public hearing as part of a bill ostensibly designed to bar sharia law in the state. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory threatened to veto that bill. We speak to Janet Colm of Planned Parenthood in Central North Carolina. She was arrested on Monday at the state Capitol as part of the ongoing Moral Monday protests.

  • Moral Mondays: 700 Arrested in North Carolina Civil Disobedience Campaign Against GOP Lawmakers

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    For weeks, thousands of people have been gathering at the North Carolina State Legislative Building for the weekly "Moral Monday" protest called by the NAACP to oppose the agenda of the Republican-led state Legislature. Over the past 10 Mondays, 700 people have been arrested, including the Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP. "If you want to change the nation, you have to change the South," Barber says. "If you want to change the South, you have to change the state capitols, and we believe that this extreme ideological group understands that their narrow-minded agenda doesn’t have much longer in the public arena."

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