Wednesday, November 19, 2014


This is from Workers World:

Lawsuit challenges Mumia-muzzling act

By on November 15, 2014
Attorneys representing political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal filed a lawsuit in federal court in Harrisburg, Pa., on Nov. 10 seeking to overturn a Pennsylvania censorship bill that had been quickly passed in October and then signed into law by outgoing Gov. Tom Corbett.
The Pittsburgh-based Abolitionist Law Center, the Amistad Law Project and the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center together filed the first challenge to Senate Bill 508, known as the Revictimization Relief Act. They acted on behalf of Abu-Jamal, Prison Radio, Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Human Rights Coalition and two other Philadelphia-area prisoners, Kerry “Shakaboona” Marshall and Robert L. Holbrook.
“This law is clearly unconstitutional,”  said Bret Grote, legal director of the Abolitionist Law Center. “The Pennsylvania legislature and Gov. Corbett wanted to use Mumia Abu-Jamal to score political points and passed a law that can’t pass constitutional muster. We’re suing Attorney General Kane and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams before they can sue to keep Mumia from speaking publicly.”
On Oct. 5, two dozen graduates of Goddard College Undergraduate Programs in Vermont heard a pre-recorded commencement address from Abu-Jamal, who had been a student at the college in the late 1970s and earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1996 while he was on Pennsylvania’s death row. His address was played at the commencement despite police intimidation and threats of violence against students and faculty.
Pennsylvania Corrections Secretary John Wetzel acknowledged that prisoners have a constitutional right to phone access and admitted that the state could not prohibit the address from happening.  On Oct. 6, however, Corbett, other right-wing politicians and members of the Fraternal Order of Police gathered in Harrisburg to introduce legislation designed to silence Abu-Jamal and other prisoners.
House and Senate versions of the Pennsylvania bill, which opponents labeled the “Mumia Muzzling Act,” were quickly rushed through the state Legislature.  Corbett signed the bill on Oct. 21 in Philadelphia at 13th and Locust streets, the site of the 1981 shooting of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, for which Mumia was convicted in 1982.
Prior to his conviction, Abu-Jamal was an internationally celebrated, award-winning Black writer and radio journalist, a former member of the Black Panther Party and one-time president of the Black Journalists’ Association.  His writings and commentaries exposed the racism, brutality and corruption of the Philadelphia police department. They are credited with helping to lay the foundation for Philadelphia being one of two police departments indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Abu-Jamal maintains his innocence in the shooting of Faulkner. His case has gone through decades of the appeals process, including a successful challenge to his death row sentence.
Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio, which regularly broadcasts Abu-Jamal’s commentaries, told Workers World: “The Fraternal Order of Police is using Pennsylvania politicians to try finish the job they started when police shot Mumia on Dec. 9, 1981.  They railroaded him to death row and held him there for over 30 years.  Yet, because he continues to reach the airwaves with his explosive commentaries, they are now trying through SB508 to take away his First Amendment right to speak.”
This is not the first time Pennsylvania has tried to silence Abu-Jamal. In 1996, after the Peoples Video Network aired “The Prison-Industrial Complex,” a filmed conversation Abu-Jamal had with Monica Moorehead and Larry Holmes of Workers World Party, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections bowed to FOP pressure and banned in-person broadcast media visits for all prisoners.
In 1997, Temple University, threatened with funding cuts by then Gov. Tom Ridge, canceled all Pacifica Radio programming on its radio station because Pacifica’s Democracy Now! program was scheduled to air commentaries by Abu-Jamal.
In 1999, Abu-Jamal successfully challenged an attempt by the state to prohibit him from writing after the publication of his first book, “Live from Death Row.”  He has gone on to write seven more books, published in nine languages, with two more set for publication in 2015.  He has recorded over 3,000 essays, many of which have appeared in Workers World newspaper.
There have been three major documentaries on Abu-Jamal, including “Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary,” currently airing on the Starz network.
The new Senate bill says that if a person convicted of a personal injury crime speaks in a manner that produces “a temporary or permanent state of mental anguish” to victims of that crime — as defined by their alleged victim — a district attorney, the Pennsylvania attorney general, or the victim can sue the prisoner, or anyone broadcasting their words, for monetary damages in civil court.
Nikki Grant, policy director of the Philadelphia-based Amistad Law Project, notes that the legislation targeting Abu-Jamal impacts many other people in prison as well as those who have been released.  Grant says, “The fact that this bill is even on the books makes it less likely that people who have been convicted of personal injury crimes will speak out publicly. These are the people who are already most marginalized in our society.”
“How can the state’s legislators pass and politicians sign the recent law described as the ‘Muzzle Mumia Act’?” asked Abu-Jamal. “They can’t, at least not constitutionally. In order to do so they had to knowingly and willingly violate both the U.S. and state constitutions and their very oaths of office.”

Articles copyright 1995-2014 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

I looked over and over for something to write about and found nothing.  So I'm just highlighting Mumia via Workers World above and the snapshot.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, November 18, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Tony Blair gets cheat sheets from the Iraq Inquiry, the bombing of Falluja's residential neighborhood continues, the persecution of Iraqi Christians continue, and much more.

Shocking news out of England where the  Iraq Inquiry appears to have come to some conclusions (finally).  The Inquiry kicked off with Chair John Chilcot declaring:

This is an Inquiry by a committee of Privy Counsellors.  It will consider the period from the summer of 2001 to the end of July 2009, embracing the run-up to the conflict in Iraq, the military action and its aftermath.  We will therefore be considering the UK's involvement in Iraq, including the way decisions were made and actions taken, to establish, as accurately as possible, what happened and to identify the lessons that can be learned. Those lessons will help ensure that, if we face similar situations in future, the government of the day is best equipped to respond to those situations in the most effective manner in the best interests of the country.

The Inquiry held public hearings starting in November 2009 and concluding in February 2011.

That was nearly four years ago and still people wait for the Inquiry to issue its findings.

Well . . .

It turns out only some people wait.

Some people already know the findings.

RT reports:

Letters containing in-depth conclusions of a public inquiry into Britain’s 2003 Iraq War have been dispatched to the probe’s primary participants. Critics charge that the brutal eight-year war divided Britain and blackened Tony Blair’s legacy.
Under UK law, any individual that faces criticism in a public inquiry must be issued with an official letter warning them of allegations in its findings. They are subsequently then permitted to rebut and counter unsavory or unsatisfactory findings. 

The Daily Mail adds:

In May [UK Prime Minister] David Cameron said he expected the report to be published ‘before the end of the year’.
He added: ‘The public wants to see the answers of the inquiry and I think we shouldn’t have to wait too much longer.’
But just four weeks of the Parliamentary term remain – making it unlikely that it will be published before MPs recess for Christmas.

The big fear politically about the report has been Labour's fear that anchor around the neck Tony Blair will sink them all, that the report -- even if it's a whitewash -- has to hold the War Criminal accountable for his actions and words.

If the report doesn't come out by the end of the year, however, Labour could score points by painting Cameron (of the Conservative Party) as an obstructionist refusing to allow the British people to know the truth.

Space has already been created between the current Labour leadership and disgraced War Criminal Tony Blair.  Demanding the release of the report and painting the Conservative Party as a barrier to the report's release could actually help Labour improve their numbers in Parliament.

As for the discarded Tony Blair?

Dominic Grover (IBT) notes:

Blair continues to be a deeply divisive figure in Britain, due to his decision to back George W Bush campaign to topple Saddam and the controversial "sexed up" dossier, which critics claim mis-sold the need for war to the British people.
France's foreign minister recently said Blair was "not best placed" to issue advice on the Middle East, in light of his track record.
There have even been alleged threats to his life, with terror suspect Erol Incedal accused of plotting an attack on him.
To cap it all, Mayor of London Boris Johnson has chosen to compare the three-time New Labour leader to tyrant Adolf Hitler in a new book.

Despite that, War Criminal Tony feels the world needs to listen to him on Iraq.  The criminal doesn't want to confess, please understand, he just laughably believes he has expertise and wisdom to share.

He has nothing to share.

Blair fancies himself a Christian yet he's never taken accountability for how the Iraq War has destroyed the Christian communities in Iraq.

  • He may not want it but it may beyond his control.

    Some people have a hard time giving up control -- even those who consider themselves servants of a God or god.  John Bingham (Telegraph of London) presents the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby explaining that, "I think there is an answer that says we need to do more where there is really no choice but we also need to be deeply committed to enabling solutions to be found enabling communities that have been there for 2,000 years to remain there."

    If Welby's so worried that Christians may vanish, he can always pack a suitcase and go live there.

    The notion that Christian refugees should not be granted asylum outside the region?

    I'm sorry, would you also go back in time and argue that Jews in Germany and surrounding areas not be granted asylum to safety because Jews might vanish from the region?

    Because it sounds sort of like you would.

    Too much time by 'caring' people has already been wasted with faux concerns about how refugees are vanishing from the region when the reality is that refugees want to leave and find safety.  I don't know how this is confusing and I don't believe that this or that religious leader is honestly puzzled.

    I think people are actively looking to look the other way just as they did during the Holocaust.

    The Yazidis swooped in on the wave of outrage the targeting of Christians had created.  I am not accusing the Yazidis of anything.  I am saying that outrage was building and certain members of Congress were calling out the treatment of the Chaldeans which the US press was ignoring and then the religious minority (Yazidis) were trapped on Mount Sinjar and the press glommed on it.

    It was an important story.  (The fact that Yazidis remain trapped on Mount Sinjar is an important story -- even if the US press can't find it.)  But somewhere along the way, the press -- the US press -- completely missed what was happening to Iraq's Christian community in the last months.

    Margaret Griffis ( reports, "At least 91 people were killed today, mostly militants, and another 24 people were wounded."  In addition, Iraqi Spring MC reports the bombing of Falluja's residential neighborhood by the Iraqi military continues -- despite Prime Minister Haider al-Baidi promising September 13th that these War Crimes would end.  Today, 3 civilians were injured in these bombings.

    Moving over to food, Justin Worland (Time magazine) reports, "Iraq’s agriculture minister on Tuesday accused the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) of pilfering more than 1.1 million tons of grain from the country’s northern region and delivering it to militant-controlled cities in Syria."  That news comes as US House Rep Rick Crawford's office issues the following:

    Washington, Nov 18 | Mitchell Nail

    In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Congressman Rick Crawford (AR-1) and U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) today urged protecting American rice producers against unfair business practices in Iraq.

    In early November, the Iraqi Grain Board (IGB) paid $1.4 million more to buy rice from Brazil and Uruguay rather than accept the competitive, lower bid by U.S. rice.

    “Given the considerable investment of resources by the American taxpayer in Iraq, it is critical that the United States be on ‘equal footing’ with its foreign competitors when it comes to the ability to win bids issued by the IGB. Simply deciding to pick winners and losers in bids for Iraqi rice tenders based on arbitrary reasons is not only unfair, it deprives rice farmers in Arkansas — a leader in rice production — and across America of a vital trading partnership with Iraq,” the members wrote.

    A tender to buy 30,000 metric tons of rice closed on Sunday, November 16th. Winning bids are expected to be announced later this week.

    To read the letter in its entirety, click here.     

    We'll close with this from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:

    WHAT: Coming off Veterans Day 2014 and a week when politicians and lawmakers touted their support for the veterans community, IAVA urges members of Congress to now step up and take action to pass the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Bill of 2014. The bill, dropped Monday, was introduced by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
    IAVA Legislative Director Alex Nicholson and Susan Selke, mother of Clay Hunt, a Marine veteran who died by suicide, will be available for press ahead of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC) hearing on Mental Health and Suicide Among Veterans at 10 a.m. outside the hearing room in the Russell Senate Office Building SR-418.
    Susan Selke will then testify before SVAC at 10:30 a.m.

    WHO: Alex Nicholson, IAVA Legislative Director and Susan Selke, mother of Clay Hunt, Marine veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and died by suicide in 2011

    WHEN: Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 10 a.m.

    WHERE: Outside Hearing Room- Russell Senate Office Building SR-418

    Note to media: Email or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.

    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has nearly 300,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.