Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tsarnaev Banned from Group Prayers Under SAMs


On October 2, 2013, Boston marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense team submitted a request that the Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) be removed from their client. These measures severely restrict his communication. His lawyers, William Fick, Miriam Conrad and Judy Clarke, argue in court papers that the measures create “obstacles” that have a “dramatic chilling effect on the defense team’s ability to prepare a thorough and vigorous defense.”
“His lawyers also said Tsarnaev has done nothing during his incarceration to warrant such restrictions or to suggest he is dangerous, nor is there evidence the attack was “directed by others still at large or that Mr. Tsarnaev ever had operational authority to direct the activities of others” to whom he may want to communicate,” reports CNN.
The SAMs were put into place on August 27, at the request of notoriously dirty player US prosecutor Carmen Oritz four months after he was put in prison awaiting trial. Under the SAMs, Tsarnaev is detained in a single cell and may not communicate with other inmates. He may not engage in group prayer with other inmates, and his access to newspapers and other publications is restricted.
The reason stated by US prosecutors for these additional restrictions is that the 20 year old, who was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, received over 1000 letters of support while in prison. The government alleges that Tsarnaev committed the bombing because he wanted to engage in jihad, and therefore any communication with the outside world could result in him encouraging others to commit acts of violence.
Defense lawyers say the SAMs limit Tsarnaev’s interactions with individuals assisting defense counsel and restrict the communications and other activities of the defense team. Under these new restrictions, he was not allowed to look at photos of his family that his lawyer had brought him. Defense counsel first learned of the SAMs on Friday, August 30, 2013, after members of the defense team were denied entrance to FMC Devens for a previously-scheduled and approved visit with Tsarnaev.
Tsarnaev’s defense argues that SAMs are unlawful and unwarranted. “The government has provided scant factual support for its conclusory assertion that SAMs are required now, more than four months into Mr. Tsarnaev’s already highly restrictive pretrial confinement, in order to protect others from ‘death or serious bodily injury.’ The government has not alleged that Mr. Tsarnaev has done or said anything since his arrest to commit violence, incite violence, or engage in communications that pose a security threat. Moreover, the SAMs violate the First, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The Court therefore should declare that the SAMs are unlawful and order that they be vacated.”
The Attorney General may issue an order for SAMs based upon a finding of “reasonable suspicion” that an “inmate may use communications with attorneys or their agents to further or facilitate acts of terrorism.” Holder okayed the restrictions based on “Tsarnaev’s participation in planning and executing the Boston Marathon bombings; his ensuing acts of violence and flight to avoid apprehension; his extensive obstruction of justice; and his explicit and continuing desire to incite others to engage in violent jihad.”
It is indeed worrying that the Attorney General is assuming guilt before trial, as well as claiming to know the intentions of the suspect, which have not been stated in any public forum. There is really no evidence that the suspect had any jihad-focused mindset prior to the bombing. This claim is based on unsubstantiated and unrecorded statements made by the FBI based on hospital bed interrogations without any lawyer present. Prosecutors claim that “Tsarnaev has openly said he was inspired by al Qaeda, and he hopes his actions inspired others.”
Defense lawyers said that Tsarnaev had not responded to any of the mail that he received and should not be punished for receiving mail he had no control over.
“The government also fails to mention that none of this unsolicited mail could be characterized as ‘jihadist’ in nature. Rather, it consisted almost entirely of letters and cards from individuals who believe he is innocent and people urging him to repent and convert to Christianity.”
Tsarnaev’s defense lawyers argued that there is no evidence their client has inspired violence or that he would try to inspire further violence. They said the restrictions unduly put him in near isolation, affecting his mental health, and interfere with their ability to properly prepare a legal defense, reports Milton Valencia in the Boston Globe.
Under US Department of Justice guidelines, US Attorney General Eric Holder will ultimately decide whether to seek the death penalty against Tsarnaev. Prosecutors had planned to make a recommendation to Holder by Oct. 31, and they gave Tsarnaev’s lawyers until Oct. 24 to make a presentation on “mitigating factors,” arguments why Tsarnaev should not be subject to the death penalty. Last month, Tsarnaev’s lawyers asked O’Toole to postpone the deadline. They also filed a separate request asking the judge to order prosecutors to turn over the information.
US District Court Judge George O’Toole complied with the US attorney request by rejecting Tsarnaev’s lawyers’ request to postpone deadlines set by prosecutors, saying that he has no authority to grant such a request. So basically, the death penalty is being argued even before the prosecution has turned in its evidence.
On October 16, Senator Chuck Grassley called for detailed answers to questions regarding FBI involvement in the Boston case. It appears the FBI had been operating without consulting with local police, and that the murder of MIT police officer Sean Collier took place while the campus was swarming with FBI agents.
Blogger B. Blake comments: “With the Collier murder charge against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appearing weaker by the day, point blank refusals to comment are becoming increasingly frowned upon. The evidence purporting to demonstrate Tsarnaev’s complicity in the crime is extremely flawed with many now asking why he was ever charged with the crime in the first place.”

Monday, October 21, 2013

Redistributing Wealth on a Local Level: Possible


ff_logoWhy does food get wasted in America? We live in a rich country. To a large extent, our nation is built upon the backs of the poor. It is popular to complain about the unfair distribution of goods and services and even to assign blame to a malicious conspiracy. Conspiracies might exist, on the level of the international banking cartels, but the truth is, there is actually a lot of freedom in this country to recycle and redistribute wealth in the form of goods and raw materials. Restaurants, produce warehouses, and bakeries throw away food because it is easier than recycling. Someone has to pick up the food at a time and in a manner that is convenient to the donors. Someone has to have the time and the means to pick up the food – and the desire.
The Good Samaritan Law, which exists in all continental US states, offers protection against law suits brought by anyone who becomes ill after eating donated food. There are also some tax benefits to donating surpluses. So, if food, lumber, paint and other basic human needs are rotting in a dumpster, it is mainly due to benign neglect. There is no one stopping people in the community from rescuing the goods.
“A store may order more produce than it ends up needing, trucks may be too full to ship all of the ordered produce, or shipments can be delayed or arrive too early due to weather, market fluctuations, and equipment malfunctions. Often, entire pallets of usable food will be refused by markets because some items have slight cosmetic imperfections. The problem with surplus produce is that unlike canned goods, which could be resold or redistributed later, produce will spoil if it sits too long,” reads the website of Fair Foods, a non-profit organization based in Boston, Massachusetts.
Rescuing food and redistributing it to the people requires intensive work and planning. Trucks and strong men are need to pick up the fresh food that is being discarded and to bring it to some location for sorting and cleaning. The food must then be transported into poor communities – especially to locations where people do not have cars or who have other mobility limitations, such as the elderly. Repairs will be needed for the trucks, and of course there is the cost of gasoline. Even free food is never free, but Fair Foods has found a way to distribute huge amounts of fresh food in low income neighborhoods with limited supermarket access for about 10 cents a pound. They truck food in from all over New England and sell 20 pound bags of assorted produce, which will feed a family for a week, for $2 a bag. Their primary pick up location is the Chelsea Market on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, where huge container loads of produce sit in boxes piled up on the docks and warehouses.
Fair Foods has distributed hundreds of millions of pounds of food over the past 20 years, but the food that they have distributed is only a fraction of the food that is available. The organization currently relies on one medium sized truck like that used for movers, which is very old and requires frequent tinkering, in order to pick up the food in bulk; and a pickup truck to take the produce to various locations around Boston. There are a handful of core volunteers who work around the clock and share a home with Nancy Jamison, the founder of Fair Foods. The huge house itself is suffering from benign neglect – the roof leaks and the entire place is in need of a fresh coat of paint. Jamison, 63, though a carpenter by trade, is suffering from health problems and cannot keep up with the home repairs in addition to feeding the poor, so she feeds the poor.
Hundreds of other volunteers pitch in when they can. But if Americans want the poor to be fed, including themselves, more strong hands are needed. The government solution of bureaucracy is not a solution: Food Pantry executives receive 6-digit incomes and only distribute a fraction of the amount of fresh food that Fair Food volunteers distribute at the various drop off locations.
Daniel Fitzpatrick told the Dorchester Reporter, “Everyone looks forward to it. If they don’t show up, people starve.” 10,000 families in Boston rely on the produce.
Fair Foods began in the mid-1980s when Dorchester’s Nancy Jamison, 58, loaded up the back of her pick-up with discarded carrots and parked it in front of her home. As her neighbors walked home from their jobs, they scooped up the carrots. “They were gone in an hour and a half,” she said. Food redistribution is “something that I believe all Americans should do with all the assets and blessings that we have,” said Jamison.
Right now, most people are over-extended, underpaid and exhausted from working jobs to make enough money to buy food and pay bills for their family. Or else, they are unemployed and suffering the mental and emotional breakdown that goes along with having no income. When you are struggling night and day to keep yourself alive, volunteer work does not seem like an option. But when you are underemployed, giving a few hours of work in exchange for a bag of food starts looking really nice.
Rescuing food can address many of our basic problems: we are lonely, we are anxious, we are hungry, and we need more exercise. This author, after volunteering at Fair Foods, realized how deeply and blissfully she could sleep if she simply physically exhausted herself during the day. In order for discarded food to reach the masses, a reorganization of society needs to take place so that communities begin to take personal care of each other. For example, somebody needs to fix Nancy’s roof. People with children need to coordinate their time so they can take turns contributing to society. That means husbands and wives as well as friends and neighbors. Some major grants or donations are required to buy new trucks so that the available volunteers can be used to their capacity.
The good news is, there is so much hope. All we have to do is revolutionize our thinking. Instead of just earning wages in order to pay for groceries and babysitters and cable TV, we can work together to meet our needs and escape the lonely prison of the flat screen. Some people have muscle, some people have personal warmth, some people are super organized, and everyone has something to contribute.
There is no one stopping us. There is just nobody helping us. That in itself is not the worst thing because with help comes dependency and debt. We don’t need help. We just need to get to work.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Israel’s US Funding Rests on Nuclear Secrecy


The United States, United Kingdom, Russia, China, France and Germany (known as the  P5+1) have a meeting scheduled in Geneva on October 15 and 16 to hear new, concrete proposals from Iran designed to assure the peaceful nature of its nuclear program. In return, Iran would get some relief from economic sanctions, reports Walter Pincus in the Washington Post. He then wonders, “Behind closed doors, do the P5+1 acknowledge Israel has nuclear weapons?”
Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski in the New York Times similarly note: “While the world endlessly discusses Iran’s nuclear capabilities and the likelihood that it will succeed in developing an atomic arsenal, hardly anyone in the United States ever mentions Israel’s nuclear weapons. Obama, like his predecessors, pretends that he doesn’t know anything about them.”
If this October 15 meeting would bring up the subject of Israel’s leaking nuclear reactor and Israel’s stockpile of atomic weapons, it will be a happy birthday for Mordechai Vanunu, who lives under permanent house arrest in Israel. He turns 59 on October 13.
Vanunu, a former Israeli nuclear technician, worked from 1977-1985 at the Negev Nuclear Research Center near Dimona, an Israeli facility that develops and manufactures nuclear weapons. Just before he was fired (for advocating Palestinian rights), Vanunu secretly took 57 photographs of the Dimona facility in 1985.
On October 5, 1986, the British newspaper The Sunday Times ran the story with photos on its front page under the headline: “Revealed: the secrets of Israel’s nuclear arsenal.” In this interview with Peter Hounam, Vanunu gave detailed descriptions of lithium-6 separation required for the production of tritium, an essential ingredient of fusion-boosted fission  bombs. Vanunu described the plutonium processing used, giving a production rate of about 30 kg per year, and stated that Israel used about 4 kg per weapon. From this information it was estimated that Israel had sufficient plutonium for about 150 nuclear weapons.
With the help of a female secret agent, the Mossad kidnapped Vanunu, who was subsequently imprisoned for 18 years in Israel, 11 years of which he spent in solitary confinement. But it was too late to stop the press. The world now already knew that Israel possesses nuclear weapons.
Upon his release in 2004, Vanunu immediately began speaking to the media despite being ordered by Shin Bet not to talk to any foreigners. He has been re-arrested several times since then. Vanunu continues to call for Israel’s nuclear disarmament, and for its dismantlement as a Jewish state.
In July 2004 he warned the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al Hayat that the Dimona reactor endangers millions with its radioactive pollution. Vanunu advised the Jordanian government to prepare for possible leaks from the reactor, since the reactor operates mainly when “the wind blows toward Jordan.”
But by then, this was already old news. On February 6, 2000 the London Sunday Times had quoted Professor Uzi Even, formerly a senior scientist at the reactor, saying, “The Dimona reactor is old and dangerous; It should be closed.” Another scientist, who was not named, stated that the structure of the reactor has been damaged as the result of radiation and is now “vulnerable and dangerous.”
Furthermore, Dimona’s buried nuclear waste has resulted in skyrocketing cancer rates in Palestinian and Bedouin villages near Southern Hebron and Negev. The leaking reactor in Dimona has now been active without any foreign inspection for 50 years.
However, closing Dimona wouldn’t stop Israeli nukes, said Dr. Daniel Rohrlich, a research physicist at Tel Aviv University.
“In August, 1998, Israel joined an international initiative to cut off production of nuclear materials, i.e., plutonium and enriched uranium… But Israel only pretended to join… One day, a treaty to cut off production of fissionable materials will be ready for signing, and Israel will have to decide whether or not to go along. Signing a cutoff treaty would oblige Israel to demonstrate that it does not produce fissionable materials. If Israel is unwilling to open the Dimona reactor to international inspection, it has another option: to close and dismantle the reactor once and for all.
“It does not need the reactor. Israel already has enough fissionable material for hundreds of nuclear bombs. Over the decades, the reactor has produced hundreds of kilograms of plutonium. A cutoff would not affect this supply. Since the half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years, this plutonium would remain at Israel’s disposal for thousands of years,” said Rohrlich.
Walter Pincus reports in the Washington Post, “Back in the 1960s, Israel apparently hid the nuclear weapons program being carried on at its Negev Nuclear Research Center (NNRC) at Dimona. It deceived not only the international community but also its close U.S. ally. It repeatedly pledged “it would not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the area.”
In early 1966, at the time of a U.S. sale of F-4 fighter-bombers to Israel, the Johnson administration insisted that Israel reaffirm that pledge. “Foreign Minister Abba Eban told Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara that Israel did not intend to build nuclear weapons, ‘so we will not use your aircraft to carry weapons we haven’t got and hope we will never have,’” according to the State Department’s Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964–1968, Volume XVIII.
“America is locked into covering up Israeli nuclear bombs because of a 1969 agreement between President Richard M. Nixon and Israel’s prime minister, Golda Meir,” write Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski in the New York Times.
“If Washington wants negotiations over weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East to work — or even just to avoid making America appear ridiculous — Mr. Obama should begin by being candid. He cannot expect the countries participating in a conference to take America seriously if the White House continues to pretend that we don’t know whether Israel has nuclear weapons, or for that matter whether Egypt and Israel have chemical or biological ones.”
So why is Israel so hesitant to admit its capabilities, which have long been public?
By not acknowledging possession of nuclear weapons, Israel avoids a US legal prohibition on funding countries which proliferate weapons of mass destruction. Open possession of nuclear weapon capabilities would prevent Israel from receiving over $2 billion each year in military and other aid from United States’ taxpayers.

Extraordinary Rendition and Citizenship Stripping


Friends of Ibragim Todashev, a Chechen man murdered in his Orlando home by the FBI, told the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that FBI agents asked them to spy on Orlando-area mosques, threatening arrest if they failed to comply. CAIR “has received several corroborating reports from friends of Todashev that FBI agents have threatened to wrongfully arrest them if they do not work with the agency to spy on local mosques, Muslim restaurants and hookah lounges.”
But a similar case involving a young Somalian man has flown under the public radar. It was only because of his month long hunger strike inside a Brooklyn, New York prison (MCC) that this author heard about the extraordinary rendition of Mahdi Hashi.
Falguni Sheth reports that Hashi, a British citizen of Somali descent “was continually pressured by M15 (the British equivalent of the CIA) to cooperate with them and spy on fellow Somalis.” His friend, Nur Mohamed, said a British intelligence officer told him, “If you do not work for us we will tell any foreign country you try to travel to that you are a suspected terrorist.”
When Hashi refused to become an informant, he became a target of government harassment. The reason for suspicion seems to be his interest in studying Arabic language abroad. When he was 16, he was arrested in Egypt and held for 11 days for a visa violation, even though his visa was not expired. During that time he was interrogated and pressured to confess something he knew nothing about.
“Egyptian authorities are saying that you have links to Al-Qaida and other terror networks, specifically the Chechen mujahedeen and also the mujahedeen in Caucasus.”
“I didn’t know what ‘Caucasus’ was,” Hashi told Cageprisoners. “They said that you’ve actually trained as well, you done training with them, extremist training.”
After being deported back to the UK, he decided to go to Syria to continue his studies. Upon his return, he was interrogated and fingerprinted at Heathrow airport and told he was on a Terrorism Database. Hashi was told that his ‘suspect’ status and travel restrictions would be lifted only if he agreed to co-operate with M15. Hashi complained to his Member of Parliament, Frank Dobson and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the body which oversees M15, that he was being harassed by security officers because he had refused to work as a spy in his North London Muslim community.
Soon later, his grandmother became ill so he decided to fly back to Somalia for a visit. He was stopped at Gatwick airport and a man from M15 warned him not to get on the plane, saying, “Whatever happens to you outside the UK is not our responsibility.” Hashmi got on the plane anyway.
When he landed, he was immediately arrested by police in Djibouti who told him, “We don’t know why you’re here but we’ve been told to keep you here. It’s coming from the government and its coming from your government.” He was deported back to the UK.
Finally, in 2012, Hashi returned to Somalia where he married and had a child.
Shortly thereafter, British Home Secretary Theresa May sent him a letter in the mail which stripped him of his UK citizenship. “The reason for this decision is that the Security Service assess that you have been involved in Islamicist (sic) extremism and present a risk to the national security of the United Kingdom due to your extremist activities,” wrote May, even though Hashi had never been accused of any crime.
A few weeks later, he disappeared from Mogadishu. “Worried, his family appealed to the British government, who informed them that their hands were tied, because—alas—he was no longer a citizen,” reports Falguni Sheth in Salon. Hashi had been kidnapped and secretly rendered to The US drone base at Camp Lemmonier in Djibouti. His family learned of his whereabouts from someone who had recently been released from the prison in Djibouti that Mahdi had been detained alongside him.
“Hashi was detained, abused, and interrogated in Djibouti for several months before being handed over for more interrogations to the Americans. After several months, he suddenly appeared in handcuffs in a Brooklyn Federal Court right before Christmas of 2012, along with 2 Swedish men of Somali descent,” reports Sheth. He is being held in solitary confinement under special administrative measures (SAMs), which restrict his communication with attorneys.
Saghir Hussain, the attorney for Hashi’s family, said they learned of his hunger strike through a phone call with Hashi, which was interrupted “after about 60 seconds or so.”
CBS news reported that a letter, written by US Attorney Loretta Lynch, has suddenly appeared in Hashmi’s file, alleging without providing any evidence, that Hashi and two other Somalis, Ali Yasin Ahmed and Mohammed Yusuf “had substantial knowledge that al-Qaida was building a chemical weapons factory, and that they had substantial countersurveillance expertise.”
Tom Foot writes in the Camden New Journal, “According to the FBI, Mr Hashi was ‘deployed in combat operations to support al-Shabaab action in Somalia.’” Further details of the case against him have not been made available to the defense team. Mr Hashi has not been told of what he is accused. Campaigners fear that his rights will be denied to him in what they describe as a “secret court” set-up. They are calling for him to face charges in Britain and for his citizenship to be restored.
Geoffrey Robertson, QC, a prominent human rights barrister told the Daily Mail, UK: “The increase in orders under this Government of depriving British people of their citizenship on non-conducive grounds is a matter of concern because it is always very difficult to challenge fairly. It means people are being deprived of their rights as a British citizen on the say-so of security officials who can’t be challenged in court.”
Several other Britons have had their citizenship stripped as soon as they left the country. Bilal al-Berjawi and Mohamed Sakr of London were stripped of their UK citizenship and were then killed by two US drone strikes in Somalia.
Meanwhile, a Nigerian man Lawal Babafemi, 33, has also been targeted by the same US Attorney Loretta Lynch in Brooklyn. Babafemi, who pled Not Guilty on September 27, 2013, was detained in Nigeria in 2011 and then transferred to the US, for working on the online magazine “Inspire,” whose publisher, Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a US drone strike in Yemen. 

Hashi is taking liquids but no food. So far he is not being force-fed.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Tsarnaev Sister Charged: Government Hiding Key Info

Bella Tsarnaeva appears in a New Jersey court to face drug possession and distribution charges.
The story of the Tsarnaev brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, the alleged Boston bombers, is becoming increasingly complex. On September 16, their stunningly lovely sister, Bella Tsarnaeva appeared in Superior Court in Hackensack, New Jersey, charged with marijuana possession and distribution. She “was arrested in December 2012 after police responded to a domestic violence call to her Fairview home, which they said they searched after smelling marijuana,” reports Kibret Markos of North Jersey News. Bergen County prosecutors said Bella Tsarnaeva will be admitted to a pretrial intervention program, but the case was adjourned till next month while prosecutors and defense attorneys continue to work out a plea deal for her co-defendant, Ahmad Khalil. Bella “will likely be admitted into a diversionary program that could spare her a criminal record.”
Under normal circumstances, a marijuana charge like this is not very interesting news. However, the Federal government has previously tried to link the Tsarnaev family with a triple homicide in Waltham, Massachusetts, where three marijuana dealers were murdered in their own home and their bodies sprinkled with marijuana. An associate of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Ibragim Todashev was murdered by the FBI and Boston police in Florida as they interrogated him in his home. Officials claim he was about to confess to these murders along with implicating Tamerlan, even though he was actually in Atlanta at the time of the crime. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was said to be involved in dealing marijuana, had frequented the house where the triple murder took place. Most likely out of fear, he did not attend the funeral, even though one of the deceased was said to be his best friend.
Two of the three murdered persons are said to be Israelis. This would point to the involvement of the Russian mafia supplying them with the marijuana. It is widely assumed that the deaths were a warning from a rival drug gang, perhaps El Salvadorians.
Do the Tsarnaevs have links to organized crime? While it appears that while the US government has scant evidence that they were actually guilty of the Boston bombing, there seems to be some politics going on behind the scenes. Why would the FBI murder one Chechen man who barely knew the Tsarnaevs, on mere suspicion that he was linked to a drug distribution ring, while not pursuing any type of investigation or prosecution of Bella Tsarnaev, who was actually busted for dealing drugs?
It has been reported that the Tsarnaevs had close ties with the FBI. Their mother, Zubeida Tsarnaeva told reporters that the two brothers spoke with the FBI two days after the bombing on the phone, and that the FBI had been closely monitoring them and meeting with them periodically for some years. Other reports claim that their uncle worked for the CIA. The Russian government contacted the FBI and CIA for a background check on Tamerlan, when he applied for a visa to visit Russia.
With all this governmental investigating going on, it is curious that Bella is not being connected to any of the issues facing her brothers. She is essentially being dismissed. Probably she is a harmless pot smoker but if the US is not going after her to the full extent of their power, like they did with her brothers, it does make one wonder, what exactly is the US government’s relationship with the Russian mafia?
Did the Boston bombing or its prosecutorial aftermath have anything to do with tensions between Russia and the US regarding Syria? Did the government need a Russian fall guy to justify some political actions? Russia has been protecting Syria from a possible US bombing campaign, while Syria protects Hizbollah’s vast marijuana and opium fields on the Syria-Lebanon border, rumored to be much bigger than anything in Afghanistan that is controlled by the CIA. This month, the US shrank back from attacking Assad but instead, sent troops to this Lebanon border area, reports the BBC. In any case, there seem to be a lot of dimensions to this case that are not being openly discussed.
On September 23, 2013, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense team, Timothy Watkins, Judy Clarke and Miriam Conrad spoke to Judge A. O’Toole Jr. about wanting more time to prepare their defense. Unfortunately, the status hearing turned into a debate over the death penalty without focusing on first establishing the guilt of the suspect. The death penalty is not allowed in Massachusetts, but because the trial is taking place in federal court, the death penalty is an option.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley will decide whether to recommend the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev by or before October 31. Eric Holder has ultimate say regarding the death penalty against Tsarnaev. He’s expected to make his decision by January 31.
Could the government have completely made everything up?
Defense attorney Judy Clarke told the court she was concerned that the prosecutors planned to decide whether to seek execution before the defense had finished reviewing the evidence.
“It’s pretty stunning to say they can make a decision based on what they know without any defense input,” Clarke said. “They may have an erroneous story.”
Clarke told U.S. District Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. in Boston that prosecutors did not furnish the defense with key evidence including grand jury testimony by Tsarnaev’s relatives. She said the prosecution had not presented the defense with all of the evidence it plans to use in the case, making it difficult for the defense to create a solid argument against the death penalty.
“We would like to know if they have accurate information,” Clarke said.
“We do plan to deliver to the government, hopefully by the end of the business day today, a detailed discovery request letter,” defense attorney Miriam Conrad said. “But, that is not going to be the end all be all in the discovery requests for this case.”
Tsarnaev’s defense team believes the government is withholding evidence that might help their client.
The case for the prosecution so far seems to be based solely on spurious claims that the brothers were inspired by al-Qaeda publications and that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev allegedly wrote a confession message on the wall of a boat, that justified the bombings as payback for U.S. military action in Muslim countries.
In 2011, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wrote an English assignment while attending UMass Dartmouth about the West Memphis Three, who many believe were wrongly accused.
“In this case it would have been hard to protect or defend these young boys if the whole town exclaimed in happiness at the arrest. Also, to go against the authorities isn’t the easiest thing to do. Don’t get me wrong though, I am appalled at the situation but I think that the town was scared and desperate to blame someone. It’s because of stories like this and such occurrences that make a positive change in this world. I’m pretty sure there won’t be anymore similar tales like this. In any case, if they do, people won’t stand quiet, I hope.”

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Robel Phillipos Pleads Not Guilty: Kate Russell's Parents Testify

On September 13, Robel Phillipos, the third friend of Boston marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to appear in front of Federal Magistrate Marianne Bowler, pled “Not Guilty” at Moakley Federal Courthouse.

Tsarnaev faces the possibility of the death penalty for the bombing, which killed three and injured over 260 people. Three of his friends were also indicted for allegedly lying to investigators and trying to cover up his role after the bombings, according to a grand jury indictment filed August 29. They are accused of throwing away a backpack containing fireworks and removing a laptop computer from Tsarnaev’s dorm room at UMass Dartmouth. Phillipos is alleged to have concealed from the FBI the fact that the three men had gone into Tsarnaev’s room. Phillipos, who was interrogated without a lawyer present, was charged by the grand jury of making “numerous false and misleading statements to the agents.” 

All three face 20 years in federal prison and could be fined $250,000.

Robel Phillipos, a Cambridge resident and US citizen, is being held on home confinement while Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, who were foreign students from Kazakhstan, await trial under conditions of 24 hour isolation in prison. Tazhayakov’s family was in court during the brief arraignment. The family plans to remain in the United States until the case is resolved.

All three teenagers were scheduled to appear together in court at 10am but only Kadyrbayev and Phillipos arrived there on time. Azamat Tazhayakov's attorney was delayed on a train from New York when a tree fell across the tracks, so his hearing took place at 2pm. Despite the fact that he was late due to circumstances beyond his control, the attorney received a harsh verbal rebuke from Judge Bowler, who had wanted the three to be heard as a group. 

According to US District Attorney spokeswoman Christina Dilorio-Sterling, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, who already pled Not Guilty last month, will not face any new charges, but their indictment has changed to include Phillipos.

Phillipos’ attorneys Derege Demissie and Susan Church stated that Phillipos had nothing to do whatsoever with the Boston Marathon bombing or destroying any evidence. In the end, it will be clear that this prosecution should never have been brought in the first place.” 

Kadyrbayev's attorney Robert Stahl describes his client as "a law-abiding college student whose only crime was befriending a fellow student who spoke his more comfortable native language." 

Tazhayakov’s attorney, Nicholas Wooldridge, said the government “rushed into things” in prosecuting his client. Tazhayakov’s family believe he is being "scapegoated," according to attorney Arkady Bukh.
"If he wanted to assist in terrorism, he would have hid the computer," Bukh said, adding that he gave the computer to investigators as soon as they asked for it.

“This is a witch hunt,” Wooldridge told reporters. 

All three friends are due back in court Oct. 29 for a status conference.

The day before, on September 12, the in-laws of Tamerlan Tsarnaev testified in front of a grand jury. Tamerlan is the brother who was killed in a shootout with Boston police. Judith and Warren Russell, parents of Tamerlan’s widow, Katherine Russell appeared after being subpoenaed to testify. Josh Dratel, a lawyer who represents Katherine Russell and her family, said her parents “told the truth.”

“We know that there’s been pressure on law enforcement and the Justice Department in this case. We don’t want her to be scapegoated as a result of that pressure,” Dratel told reporters.

Amato DeLuca, an attorney for Katherine Russell and her family, told reporters she didn’t suspect her husband of anything before the bombings, and nothing seemed strange in the days after. DeLuca said Russell was working 70 to 80 hours per week as a home health aide and had no reason to suspect her husband of anything. Dratel told reporters that the grand jury’s investigation “is not necessarily an investigation of Katherine.”

DeLuca said on Thursday that Russell’s parents also knew nothing about their son-in-law’s alleged involvement  in the bombing that killed three people and wounded more than 260, until after he was publicly identified by authorities.

“They don’t know anything. They have no knowledge,” he said. “They met Tamerlan, so I’m sure they’re being asked about his background.”

Russell, 24, is from Rhode Island. She and Tamerlan Tsarnaev met at Suffolk University in Boston. She had converted to Islam and married him at a Boston mosque in June 2010 — against her family’s wishes and advice, said her grandmother. She gave birth to their daughter soon after and dropped out of college.

Russell and her daughter moved into her parents’ Rhode Island home immediately after her husband was killed and her brother-in-law was captured in a massive manhunt that shut down the Boston area. Russell has never been charged with any wrongdoing, but she has been questioned several times and was followed for several weeks after the bombings by federal authorities. Federal officials ended surveillance of her home around the time her brother-in-law was indicted, according to neighbors, reported the Associated Press.

The new head of the FBI in Boston, Vincent B. Lisi, said on September 16 that the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombing is ongoing and a priority.

“We owe that to the victims of the bombing,” he said. “Our focus, commitment, is that nobody in our office will rest until we’ve identified everyone that had anything to do with the bombing and make sure they face justice.”

On September 23, family and friends of Sunil Tripathi circulated a heartbreaking statement via social media to commemorate his birthday. Tripathi was found dead in a lake after TV news announced he was the Boston Bomber. Their statement reads:

“We are all thinking of Sunny very much today, as today would have been his 23rd birthday. Today we remember Sunil’s gentleness, his care for others, his desire never to be in the spotlight (yup, we messed up on this one!), his musical talent and passion, his principled stands, his incredible ability to debate abstract philosophical concepts, his hugs, and his deep love and kindness for his family, friends, and strangers alike... Keep reaching out to one another in honor and celebration of Sunil. Remember to always slow down. Turn around and look behind you. Be gentle. Be compassionate. Take care of one another. Lend your hand. We need it. The world needs it. Our family will never be the same, Sunny, without having you close to us. We love and miss you so very much. Happy 23rd birthday, Sunny!”

Friday, September 13, 2013

What Makes You Feel New?

12LEVINE-articleLargeThe school year has begun, bringing order and discipline (or the need thereof) to families that had been enjoying the late night sluggishness of summer. This year, my four children began their first year of Kindergarten, Elementary School, Middle School and High School, leaving me home alone for the first time in 15 years. The change is not quite as shocking as thinking about the change: the weeks leading up to my new freedom were characterized by heart palpitations, migraines, sleeplessness, and vertigo. The vertigo, caused by an inner ear infection, gives me the sensation that the ground is no longer a stable place for standing but will suddenly shift so that I slide without warning at any moment into an abyss. This physical sensation oddly mimics my psychological trepidation of the unknown future.
So, thoughts must turn forward, while also returning to who I am, or who I used to be, before I had children sucking all the strength out of me while at the same time giving me a reason to keep going. If nothing else, my responsibilities require me to continue living. We survived summer. Now what? Part of me wants to have another baby, in order to avoid that question. But a more reasonable part of me realizes it’s time to center my life.
“What makes you feel new?” someone asked me. My most immediate response was love – with the disclaimer that such feelings of new beginnings have always been short lived. It is quite astonishing how quickly pure joy turns into total insecurity. Another person asked, “So does feeling pure joy and thinking life is beginning only happen for you when a man is in your life? Does this happen at other times too?”
I saw her point clearly, though admittedly when human contact remains an unfulfilled need, like food and water, the desire for it becomes all consuming. Nevertheless I’ve lived this long without anyone understanding me or comforting me. There must be other ways I have found a sense of life within myself.
Before I had children, I loved to travel. Nowadays, going to the salon is my confidence boost. One time I went to the gym in the morning, as the guest of a friend. I felt genuinely awake after that workout. Makes me want to join a gym. But that costs money. Seeing old friends reminds me that I’m still a person. But that’s a plane ticket.
So, what makes me feel new that doesn’t involve spending money? A smile from a stranger is always huge (but that also requires another person’s cooperation). All I can think of is sleep. My midwife used to teach, “The difference between total despair and hope is often a good night’s sleep.”
What makes me sleep deeply? The only thing that works for me lately is a sense of personal accomplishment. I’m not sure if personal accomplishment constitutes feeling renewed, or just totally exhausted. A deep prayer or a good cry is often cleansing to the soul. Sometimes the best one can do, rather than feeling “new” is feeling “not scared.” One of the most healing mantras for me, when faced with panic, is the realization that “I can do whatever I want.” In most cases we do have choices.
So many of us are not really able to change our situations to become brand new in any outward sense of the term. We must face each day with less than we need. Maybe we don’t have enough sleep, nor enough time, nor enough food, nor enough money. Maybe we have to worry about being shot by hoodlums, framed by the FBI or bombed with chemical weapons. Maybe we are in prison or maybe we are ill. Yet we all have to get up and deal with each day in the best manner possible.
There are two things we can do to improve our quality of life that cost no money, especially when the kids are at school and we have a little bit more free time. We can stretch and exercise, and we can do housework. Physical activity helps us gain strength, and with strength, our everyday tasks become easier to manage. When get some exercise, we sleep better too. Meanwhile, a clean home creates a feeling of peace and satisfaction that cannot be quantified. Taking the time to cook the leftover things in the refrigerator turns what might have soon become garbage into a dish our family will enjoy. We can all choose to do the best we can with what we have, as long as we possess the mental stamina.
Thinking too much can cause us to burn out. Like the vertigo which turns my world into a rocking boat, too many deep and relentless questions can cause one to flounder. We might ask ourselves, “What if everything I think is true turns out to be false?” and at the same time, “What if everything I doubted turns out to be true?” While there are certainly answers to these questions, they will rarely be found by dwelling on the questions to an unhealthy degree. It is necessary to research, meditate, and to develop trust.
When I was young, a rock climbing friend told me I need to trust that the rock will hold me. Ultimately a rock is just a rock. But the difference between slipping and falling or catching and climbing is the personal confidence that comes with oneness with nature. Trust that the rock wants you to climb it, or that you were born to climb rocks.
In this world, we cannot always think too deeply. Ultimately a rock is not a rock. It is a number of spinning molecules with vast space in between them. A rock might at one time have been flowing lava, and in the future it might become dust. But right now, all we have is that rock to hold onto.
God is infinite beyond description and if we think too much about what He is, we will become dizzy. But right now, right here, we have a rock to lean on. “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,” wrote David in the Psalms. We came from Him and we will return to Him. During this life, we climb the rocks that He created.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Anti-War Protesters Surround Kerry’s House

Boston–On August 31, 2013, approximately 200 people from very divergent political persuasions gathered at Boston Common to rally against a US military strike on Syria. The Boston demonstration was one of many “nationwide demonstrations opposing military strikes against the Syrian government as President Barack Obama announced he would seek congressional approval for such a move,” according to FOX News.

The event, organized by United for Peace and Justice, made a very strong statement against adding another foreign war to the US repertoire:
The demonstration brought together left wingers, right wingers and the undecided, secular Assad supporters as well as Muslims who weren’t speaking – by their own choice – as the microphone was given to anyone who wanted to make a statement. In spite of all the political confusion and attempts to sort out fact from fiction in the media as well as in alternative media, the people of Massachusetts who converged on Boston all agreed that escalation of war is not in anyone’s best interest.“We the People do not accept another illegitimate War of aggression in our name! We the People do not believe that bombing Syria, or any other overt Act of War, will help the people of Syria. We are demanding that the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Commander-in-Chief, President Barack Obama, cease all threats of aggression against Syria. We are demanding that the People of the United States are not strapped with the burden of another War, a burden that that we bear through our taxes and blood.”
Garret Kirkland, founder of the Massachusetts Pirate Party told TMO, “Does bombing Syria do anything to help the Syrians, when regime change isn’t even on the table? This is punishment, not aid. The people always take the brunt. For the sake of the Syrian people, we need to back off until the international community has come to the table.”
When asked about the Pirate Party platform, Kirkland responded: “We are concerned with 4th Amendment, Freedom of Information, and Transparency in Government.”
Protesters chanted ‘Don’t Bomb Syria! Don’t bomb Syria! Don’t bomb Syria!’ during breaks between speeches that included Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.
The original plan was to march directly to Fanueil Hall but “everything is fluid on the battlefield,” said Kirkland. Marchers spontaneously redirected their route towards Secretary of State John Kerry’s home on Beacon Hill, knocked on the door and left a handwritten sign that said ‘Stay Out of Syria.’ Kerry was not at that particular property of his many properties, at that time, but photos were taken of protesters from the window.
The anti-war demonstrators then marched on to Faneuil Hall and concluded with a vibrant peace rally.
It was a major victory for anti-war activists that FOX News even covered their event, to the effect that there is a feeling like they actually saved the world. Let’s hope so! It is so important for other people of Massachusetts to realize how important it is to come to Boston Common to express their political opinion every Saturday at Park Street Station, because whatever happens here, whatever YOU want, will be looked upon by the general public as whatever the Founding Fathers would want.
This author was present at the rally. I felt very uncomfortable with some of the Islamophobic language that was used during the rally in support of Assad, including a Syrian flag with Assad’s face on it. One speaker went so far as to say that there are Chechen al Qaeda terrorists in Syria that are connected with the Boston bomber (who has yet to have any evidence demonstrated against him and has not yet been tried).
Luckily the rally represented many different opposing factions that just all agreed to agree we don’t need bombs to solve anything, and they let anyone speak.
Someone should step forward to explain to the Americans about the Syrian resistance against Assad that has been going on for decades. I hope that some Syrians who are part of the Muslim majority will dare to speak in future rallies. The Americans that I spoke to on the sidelines of the demonstration seemed genuinely interested in understanding world politics, but at the same time they also seemed very confused. The good thing was that they have decided to keep their focus on the positive, which means peace on earth and respect for the earth and each other.
We should support political freedom for Syrians without bombing Syria. US bombs are known to be radioactive and cause hideous birth defects as we are seeing in Iraq.
Assad is busy completely obliterating any trace that Syrian history ever existed, to the service of Israel, which views Syria as a suburb, claiming that he is pushing out foreign fighters. The CIA has brought in criminals they call al Qaeda to commit atrocities to undermine the Syrian people’s legitimate struggle for political freedom, not to weaken Assad. Yet it is really ridiculous to refer to a Syrian fighter as al Qaeda and use this slur to dehumanize the majority Syrian population. That some volunteers (and who are they calling foreign?) have come to help defend their cousins, or that CIA mercenaries exist, does not negate the people’s genuine struggle for representational governance.
But we can work that all out later. Right now, we need to counteract those political “experts” like Chandler Atwood and Michael Knights, who are pushing the US to declare war for Israel. Binyamin Netanyahu is the one who is funneling “intelligence” at Obama. “Israel has its own agenda. Should they be trusted here?” writes Kevin Zeese.
163 members of Congress wrote letters to President Obama in order to stall the pending US bombing of Syria. This letter, drafted by Rep. Scott Rigel (R-VA) got 140 signatures, 119 Republicans and 21 Democrats. Rep. Barbara Lee of California also got 53 signers to a letter that calls on the president to seek congressional approval.
The Rigel letter warns Obama that engaging in military action “would violate the Separation of Powers Clause that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.” They also note that the justification for war in Libya also violated the Constitution. The Lee letter warns that “we all swore to uphold and defend” the Constitution; and that we should not engage in an “unwise war – especially without adhering to our own Constitutional requirements.” In their concluding paragraph they warn “Before weighing the use of military force, Congress must fully debate and consider the facts and every alternative.”