Category Archives: campaigns & events

speaking up for Palestine | defend Shahd Abusalama!

Today I received the following statement from the Sheffield Labour Left (SLL), a network that helps coordinate the genuine Labour Party left across the six CLPs covered by Sheffield.

Their message of support for Shahd Abusalama, an artist and activist from Gaza, the author of Palestine from My Eyes blog, and associate lecturer in Media Arts and Communication at Sheffield Hallam University, is reprinted in full below.

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In a classic case of “target the messenger” if you cannot win the argument, a Palestinian lecturer has been dropped by Sheffield Hallam University after an onslaught by pro-Israeli groups accusing her of antisemitism.

Shahd Abusalama, who was born and raised in Jabalia refugee camp on the Gaza Strip, has been an active voice in the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign and so came to the attention of the pro-Israeli lobby.

In typical fashion, Shahd was targeted online and, in an increasingly sinister move, her employer, Sheffield Hallam University received complaints about her views.

Shahd chronicled the attacks on her which started with articles in the Jewish Chronicle and comments from the UK Zionist Federation:

“Those attacks were routed through my university, Sheffield Hallam, as part of an organized attack on the Palestinian-led movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel, especially in England and Germany. Its purpose is to silence the rights-based movement that has succeeded in threatening Israel’s culture of impunity. It aims to undermine BDS activists’ credibility and in my case, smear my academic reputation.”

To its eternal shame, Sheffield Hallam has presently cancelled her Associate Lecturer contract – part of the increasingly tenuous employment contracts for those working in higher education.

For a university, supposedly there to provide students with the opportunity to consider all sides of a debate as part of their studies, to drop Shahd is further evidence of the one-sided nature of any narrative on Israel.

The basis for the university action against her? She explains:

“The Jewish Chronicle published two articles, one online and a shorter print version two days later, accusing me of anti-Semitism over a tweet I made in 2012 when I was barely twenty years old. The irrational wave of hate and racism kept flooding my way, despite deleting the tweet, recognizing its unintended offensive content, and clarifying that in my whole life in Gaza’s prison until September 2013, I had never interacted with any Israeli Jew outside the framework of the ongoing wars which cost us horrific human and material loss.”

But she is not the only activist being targeted by the pro-Israeli lobby with countless Labour Party members suspended or expelled simply for expressing concerns about Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians.

Shahd has made her opposition to antisemitism clear, but this cuts little ice with those willing to be complicit with the Israeli Government and its apartheid policies towards the Palestinian people.

Shahd commented: “I may be vulnerable due to my Palestinian identity, my history of trauma, my UK refugee residency, and being far from my family who are locked in Gaza. I belong, however, to a much bigger family of solidarity, for whose dedication to our struggle for justice I am forever grateful.”

SLL sends its full solidarity to Shahd and any other activists targeted by the Israeli Government simply because they oppose that Government’s inhumane and illegal war on the Palestinian people.

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I wish to add my own full support to Shahd.

Click here to visit the Sheffield Labour Left (SLL) website and here to find their official page on Facebook.

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Desmond Tutu RIP, Keir Starmer and Jeffrey Epstein’s mate, Peter Mandelson

Commemorating the life of Desmond Tutu, his friend, fellow anti-apartheid activist and former African National Congress MP, Andrew Feinstein, spoke to Double Down News on January 4th.

Andrew Feinstein contrasted Desmond Tutu’s lifelong commitment to end apartheid in all countries across the world with the hypocrisy of Boris Johnson and his current UK government, western mainstream media outlets and Keir Starmer’s Labour Party, which would certainly have expelled him for his unflinching condemnation of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians and his advocacy of boycott, divestment and sanctions [BDS]:

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A full transcript is reproduced below with relevant images and links provided:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu because of his views on Israel would be expelled from Keir Starmer’s Labour Party. This is the same Labour Party whose leadership is currently being advised by Lord Peter Mandelson, a friend of Jeffrey Epstein who appears on ten occasions in Ghislaine Maxwell’s “little black book”; someone who phoned Jeffrey Epstein when he was in jail on child abuse convictions.

Jeffrey Epstein and Peter Mandelson Mail online

What does it say about our politics, our public life, and, crucially, our media, that Jeremy Corbyn was criticised more for the way in which he pronounced Jeffrey Epstein’s name [here, here, here, here and here] than scrutiny is being given to the fact that Keir Starmer’s leadership is being advised by one of Jeff Epstein’s mates? What does that say about the morality of a party that today is suspending and expelling people who share the vision and the specific political views of Archbishop Desmond Tutu?

Corbyn pronunciation of Epstein in The Sun

Desmond Tutu was the most courageous campaigner against human rights abusers around the world. I was privileged to know him personally because I’d come into contact with him during the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, but even more importantly when I was an ANC Member of Parliament and was trying to investigate millions of dollars worth of corruption in a hugely corrupt arms deal that was facilitated primarily by Tony Blair and BAE Systems. Then Tutu called me to his home to give his support.

Desmond Tutu campaigned against apartheid in South Africa and he campaigned against human rights abuses everywhere in the world including in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. When he visited Israel he was shocked and remarked that he felt that apartheid in Israel was, if anything, worse than it had been in South Africa.

David Frost: You said that what you saw in Israel something that was quite akin to the situation in South Africa before freedom came to the black people of South Africa.

Desmond Tutu: Well in many instances worse.

He was also deeply frustrated by the fact that the Israeli state supported the apartheid South African regime and helped it become a nuclear power and he would often say both privately and publicly that he never understood how a state such as Israel could cooperate with and arm the apartheid state in South Africa that was run by Nazi sympathizers, where a lot of the apartheid legislation was mimicked from the Nazi legislation between 1933 and 1938.

Tutu would often speak about the need to liberate not just those oppressed, but the oppressor as well. He saw how white South Africans became a bitter and hateful people as a consequence of the racism that dominated their daily lives. The dehumanising of the other that is such a central component of any system of oppression.

And when he visited Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories he saw the same thing amongst many Israelis: a hatred of the other who they had dehumanised. A shrinking of their own existence because they defined that existence in relation to those they subjugated and oppressed.

Desmond Tutu: Part of my own concern for what is happening there is, in fact, not what is happening to the Palestinians, but it is what the Israelis are doing to themselves. I mean when you go to those checkpoints and you see these young soldiers behaving abominably badly. They are not aware that when you carry out dehumanising policies. Whether you like it or not those policies dehumanise the perpetrator

He continued his search for a solution to the Palestinian issue throughout his life and continued steadfastly to call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel just as he had against apartheid South Africa. Tutu felt very strongly – and we discussed this on a number of occasions – that the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign was absolutely critical in bringing about an end to apartheid in South Africa because what it did was it started to undermine and corrode the comfortable life that white South Africans lived at the expense of the majority of people in South Africa.

Without the global movement towards BDS, apartheid would never have ended in South Africa, and it’s for that exact reason that he believes it is only when the Israeli government suffers the economic consequences of BDS that they will be forced to the negotiating table to bring an end both to apartheid within Israel, but also to the illegal and brutal occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was fulsome in his praise of Archbishop Desmond Tutu on his passing, despite the reality that Boris Johnson’s government is in the process of trying to ban support for the boycott divestment and sanctions movement, which Desmond Tutu clearly stated was absolutely crucial in bringing about an end to apartheid in South Africa and is absolutely crucial in fighting against apartheid in Israel and the occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

Desmond Tutu campaigned indefatigably against press censorship, freedom of speech, freedom of the media. It is something that on certain uncomfortable topics today like Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories more and more our media our self-censoring. Our political parties are censoring their members what they can and cannot say and believe on these topics.

What Desmond Tutu taught us is that we must always listen to each other we must always hear each other regardless of how uncomfortable it is. In our world of social media we don’t listen. We don’t hear. We abuse. By instinct. Without thought.

Many of those who bandy about the word “antisemite” aren’t doing so because they care about actual anti-semitism or racism, they’re using it as a weapon to attack those who are critical of Israel. They’re trying to boil down Judaism to be equivalent to the State of Israel that is, in itself, an anti-semitic construct. They are doing it in such a way that effectively renders the term “anti-semitic” meaningless.

Alan Dershowitz: The world is mourning Bishop Tutu, who just died the other day. Can I remind the world that although he did some good things – a lot of good things on apartheid –  the man was a rampant anti-semite and bigot.

The fact that Dershowitz used the slur of “anti-semitism” to attempt to demean the reputation and legacy of this remarkable human being very sadly says more about Dershowitz and more about the way in which “anti-semitism” has been weaponised and equated with any criticism of Israel; its own discrimination – what is often called apartheid within Israel; and its brutal and illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories. It is the same slur of “anti-semitism” that was used against Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom; that was used against Bernie Sanders in the United States; and that is still being used supposedly in the name of fighting anti-semitism.

This is the same Alan Dershowitz who acted as Jeffrey Epstein’s defence attorney securing a sweetheart deal in a 2008 plea agreement thereby enabling his friend to serve out his jail term on day-release, and who later confessed to receiving a massage courtesy of Epstein although he says he kept his underpants on, and who the BBC very recently saw fit to share his twisted opinion on the verdict against Ghislaine Maxwell:

So in today’s Labour Party, for instance, a Jewish member of the Labour Party is five times more likely to be investigated, suspended or expelled by the Labour Party for “anti-semitism” than anyone else in the party. Think for a moment of the absurdity of expelling anti-racist Jews to thwart anti-semitism. It is into that complete madness that Dershowitz’s comments about Desmond Tutu should be located.

Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, eulogised Desmond Tutu despite the fact that the former leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn, who was a tireless campaigner against apartheid South Africa at a time when it was not fashionable to be so, remains suspended from Keir Starmer’s Labour Party along with countless other anti-racists who echo the words of Desmond Tutu on Israel, on the Palestinian territories, on injustice, and on true anti-racism. This was craven hypocrisy from Keir Starmer.

corbyn-arrest-1984-c2a9rob-scott-higher-compression-1-scaled-1

Jeremy Corbyn MP is arrested during the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group picket of South Africa House in 1984 [Photo: Rob Scott]

The Labour Party’s shadow Foreign Secretary, David Lammy, was also full of praise for Archbishop Desmond Tutu in virtually the same moment at which he apologised for having nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership of the Labour Party, despite the fact that just a few years ago he was singing Corbyn’s praises.

It is worth bearing in mind that David Lammy never thought it necessary to apologise for voting for the invasion of Iraq that has led to over a million deaths, that accelerated the rise of ISIS, that has caused untold suffering in Iraq and the wider Middle East region, but he did feel it necessary to apologise having nominated the only Labour leader who has apologised for the invasion of Iraq.

Jeremy Corbyn: So I now apologise sincerely on behalf of my party for the disastrous decision to go toward Iraq.

Desmond Tutu refused to share a platform with Tony Blair because he believed that Tony Blair should be on trial for war crimes at the International Criminal Court. I know which Desmond Tutu would apologise for.

Desmond Tutu: Those who want to wage war against Iraq must know it would be an immoral war.

It is my belief that the most important thing we can do is to learn from our history rather than repeat it.

It is incredibly hypocritical of our political leaders to praise the person who fought and overcame apartheid in the past while at exactly the same time they are stifling and trying to prevent us from halting apartheid today. The reality that Desmond Tutu would be suspended or expelled by the current Labour Party for his support of BDS against Israel is a reflection on the current morality of Keir Starmer’s Labour Party.

That is not the legacy of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Tutu’s legacy is that we have the principles, the courage, and the convictions, to stand up against all racism, to stand up against human rights abuses wherever they occur, and whoever they are perpetrated by.

Desmond Tutu: Let’s send a message to governments that a critical mass of people want to see an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the oppression of its people by acting together we can break cycles of injustice and the occupation and build a new world based on our common humanity and justice. Support freedom for Palestine. Peace. Shalom. Salam.

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Additional:

The following comment and link was received shortly after posting the article above.

Please consider publishing / publicizing the petition:

SUSPEND Lord Mandelson from the Labour party while carrying out an independent investigation into the extent of his involvement with the sex traffickers Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.

https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Mandelson

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Assange extradition given go-ahead on International Human Rights Day

Today’s High Court ruling which grants permission for Julian Assange’s extradition to the US with the prospect of a 175 year prison term in a maximum security jail makes it evident that the US-UK “special relationship” overrides justice. With the verdict delivered on UN International Human Rights Day, it seems equally apparent that the British establishment is quite happy to thumb its nose at advocates of human rights and freedom of speech.

The mainstream media has once against relegated this critically important story, taking great care to keep it out of the headlines while they also downplay the menacing significance of the case for all real journalists with an ounce of integrity. Meanwhile Assange’s partner Stella Moris speaking to those rallying outside the court said:

“Today is International Human Rights Day: what a shame; how cynical to have this decision on this day. To have the foremost journalist of the past fifty years in a UK prison accused of publishing the truth about war crimes…

“And in fact every time we have a hearing, we know more about the abusive nature, the criminal nature, of this case. Julian exposed the crimes of CIA torturers, of CIA killers, and now we know those CIA killers were planning to kill him too. How can these courts approve an extradition request under these conditions?”

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Speaking on RT, WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said:

“This is not a case that is being fought on the basis of the law. This is an absolute travesty of any legal process. This is a political case, and Julian’s arrest, as we have said for many, many years is a political persecution.”

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Former Labour MP Chris Williamson also denounced the decision saying, “the British judiciary and the British government are acting like the US’ poodle”:

My intention is to post regular updates as this story continues to develop.

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Updates:

Democracy Now! reported on the day of the High Court ruling and invited Gabriel Shipton, who is a filmmaker and Julian Assange’s brother, and Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, to speak about the case (partial transcript below):

Ben Wizner: “This is the first time in the 100-year ignominious history of U.S. Espionage Act, which was passed during an earlier Red Scare, that someone has been prosecuted with felony charges for publishing truthful information. We’ve never seen a case like this. This was a Rubicon that we didn’t want to see crossed. The Obama administration considered making Julian Assange the first person charged, convened a criminal grand jury, but, at the end, cooler heads prevailed, and they realized that there was simply no way to distinguish the conduct that they would have to charge in this case from what investigative journalists at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker do on a daily basis.

And let’s remember, this case involves disclosures from 2010, 2011, that Chelsea Manning was convicted for providing to WikiLeaks. This was not something that WikiLeaks published on its own. WikiLeaks partnered with The New York Times, with Der Spiegel, with The Guardian. And those newspapers published award-winning journalism covering war crimes that the U.S. and U.K. military had committed in Iraq and in Afghanistan, diplomatic cables that shed light on our support for oppressive regimes and torture and contributed to the Arab Spring. So this was really vital information that the public around the world had a right and a need to know.

And here’s our concern. At the U.S. level, this indictment criminalizes investigative journalism. Now, the Justice Department wants to say this isn’t journalism, this is a criminal conspiracy; he conspired with Chelsea Manning, tried to urge her, cajole her, help her to turn over U.S. government secrets. But that precisely describes what our best investigative journalists do. You could describe everything they do as a criminal conspiracy, because they’re trying to persuade people with access to privileged and important information to violate the law and turn it over to journalists in the public interest. So, this precedent, if there is a conviction here, will chill journalists. It doesn’t mean that The New York Times will be prosecuted the next day, but it means their lawyers will tell their journalists that they can’t publish important things because of that threat of prosecution.

Gabriel Shipton: “Well, I think the appeal was approved based on the assurances given by the U.S. These assurances have been found — you know, Amnesty International has said they’re not worth the paper they’re printed on. If he’s extradited, he, I’m sure — you know, they can’t guarantee his safety in the U.S. prison system. He will likely die here, if not beforehand. So, that’s — really, we live in fear of that happening to Julian.

And as I said, it’s his third Christmas in Belmarsh prison now. You know, the conditions there, they’re not good there, either. He should be at home with his family. He’s just — you know, he’s being crushed, basically. And I’m so — you know, it’s hard to — it’s hard to put into words, really, what we’re seeing happening to Julian. He is so strong and so resilient, but this whole process has really taken its toll on him.

So, the next stage, so Julian has now two weeks to appeal this decision. The High Court has ordered the magistrates’ court to approve the extradition and send it to Priti Patel to approve. So Julian has two weeks to appeal this decision. And we’re going to keep fighting. We’re going to appeal. And there is also a cross-appeal in the works, which will appeal all the substantive press freedom issues, as well.

Click here to watch the discussion and read the full transcript on the Democracy Now! website.

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Also on the day of the judgement, Useful Idiots Katie Halper and Matt Taibbi spoke with UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Human Rights Chair at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in Switzerland and Professor of International Law at University of Glasgow, Nils Melzer:

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Following his release from prison, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray travelled to London to attend the hearing and afterwards reported on the latest ruling:

The effect of the judgement is that the case is now returned to Judge Baraitser with the instruction to reverse her decision and order Assange’s extradition. In doing so she passes the papers up to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, with whom the final decision on all extraditions lies. Julian has until 23 December to submit an appeal against this High Court decision to the Supreme Court, something he is minded to do.

Now read this very carefully. The United States Government’s appeal to the High Court was only on those points on which Baraitser had ruled against extradition – Assange’s mental health and the effect upon it of extradition and US prisoner conditions. Assange’s appeal now to the Supreme Court will also be restricted to those subjects. The points on which Baraitser originally ruled in favour of the United States, including Assange’s First Amendment protections and the right of freedom of speech, the bar on political extradition and the inapplicability of espionage charges to journalism – will only be heard later, if he loses at the Supreme Court on what is still the US appeal.

If the Supreme Court decides for the US on the basis of diplomatic assurances, and the case returns to Baraitser to exercise the extradition warrant, at that time we finally have the cross appeal on all the issues this case is really about. If the High Court then accepts the cross-appeal as arguable (and Holroyde stated specifically that Assange’s wider points of appeal “would be heard at a later stage in proceedings”), then Patel’s trigger itching hand will be stayed while we restart the appeals process, quite possibly back to Holroyde and Burnett.

This benefits the Machiavellian state in two ways. For up to another year the legal argument will continue to be about Julian’s mental health, where the self-disparagement required by his defence suits the state political narrative. Nobody inside court is currently permitted to be talking about freedom of speech or the exposure of US war crimes, and that of course feeds in to the MSM reporting.

The state also is happy that this convoluted Supreme Court and then cross-appeal process will last for years not months, even before we look at the European Court of Human Rights, and all that time Julian Assange is stuck in high security in Belmarsh jail, treated as a terrorist, and his mental and physical health are visibly deteriorating in a way that is simply horrible. It is not hyperbole to state we may well be watching his slow murder by the state. It certainly appears now probable that he will never fully regain his health. The Julian who went into captivity is not the same man we would get back if ever released.

Click here to read Craig Murray’s report in full on his official website published on December 13th.

Here is Craig Murray speaking outside the High Court on the day of the ruling:

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media is mostly silent as across Europe and beyond anti-restriction protests continue to grow

Every weekend mass protests are now taking place in cities throughout Europe and far beyond with spontaneous demonstrations involving thousands, tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of people carrying banners and marching with demands to bring an end to the increasingly draconian anti-covid measures.

The legacy media pays little to no attention to this rising tide of largely peaceful dissent and for these and other reasons, reports are generally restricted to just a few non-mainstream outlets. I have gathered together clips for the last fortnight wherever footage is available. The compilation below is presented alphabetically in order of nationality.

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Australia

An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 protesters gathered in the streets of Melbourne on Saturday to protest against further lockdowns and restrictions due to the covid-19 pandemic. One topic of focused anger was the recent bill passed by the Victorian government, which gives power to the state’s premier and health minister to enforce further restrictions. Australia reported its first Omicron case in Sydney this Friday after reopening its borders for the first time in months. Anti-vaccination protests have now become a weekly event, drawing in thousands of protesters.

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Austria

Thousands of protesters marched through Vienna on Saturday, denouncing the government’s covid-19 policies.

More than 40,000 people hit the streets to protest against an extended lockdown and plans by the government to make vaccinations compulsory starting from February 2022. A reported 1,500 staged a counter-protest against the rally. More than 1,000 police were deployed to prevent an escalation of the event.

The protest came as Austria issued an extension of the lockdown to 20 days instead of the initial 10 days. A parliamentary committee approved the measure earlier in the week.

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Belgium

Tens of thousands of people marched in Brussels to protest against tightened covid restrictions. Demonstrators are mainly opposed to the use of covid passes, which stop the unvaccinated from entering venues such as restaurants or bars.

Marchers came to protest the measures that were announced Friday, the third week in a row that the government has tightened its rules. One demonstrator brought along her pet alpaca to Sunday’s protest in Brussels.

A small faction within the protest clashed with police some throwing stones and fireworks at a police line. The police deployed tear gas and water cannons in response.

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Catalonia

Thousands demonstrated in Barcelona against the introduction of covid passports in the Spanish autonomous region of Catalonia. Restrictions came into effect on Saturday after the courts authorised a request made by the regional government to introduce the measure.

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Czech Republic

A fortnight ago, thousands gathered in Prague’s Old Town Square to demonstrate against after the Czech government imposed a lockdown for the unvaccinated.

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Denmark

Hundreds marched through Copenhagen on Saturday, in protest over COVID19 restriction. Led by the ‘Men in Black’ activist group, the protesters carried torches and chanted slogans while marching through the city. A large police presence was deployed to prevent an escalation of the event.

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France

A new round of Gilets Jaunes protests against French President Emanuel Macron’s covid-19 policies took place in Paris on Saturday, with police deployed in large numbers. Several thousand protesters dressed in the movement’s characteristic yellow clothing or vests could be seen marching through the city centre, while chanting slogans or drumming. A large contingent of police in riot gear monitored the procession.

The protesters gathered in defence of the public health and social services system, according to local media. Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, France has experienced a shortage of medical staff, with many employees resigning, taking sick leave, or being refused work due to not being vaccinated.

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Georgia

Huge demonstrations took place in Tbilisi on Sunday against a covid passport system. Protesters could be seen marching with posters and Georgian flags, passing by the parliamentary building. A ‘passport’ system has been implemented in Georgia since December 1st, where citizens and tourists can only visit public places, restaurants, entertainment and shopping centers, with a QR-code proving vaccination or recovery from the virus or with a negative PCR test result.

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Germany

Dozens of protesters marched through Erfurt on Sunday, protesting against the government’s restrictions. Protesters lit candles and carried banners reading “We need nursing personnel”, among others, as they marched through Erfurt’s city centre. The protest comes after Thuringia’s authorities have imposed restrictions on public life since November to curb the spread of covid-19, including 2G rules in retail, hotels and restaurants and nightly curfews for the unvaccinated, among other measures.

Hundreds marched in Freiberg yesterday protesting against tightened covid restrictions, despite the current regional ban for any gathering of more than ten people, the protesters marched for almost an hour, until encircled by the police. The unauthorised march took place on the day when the Saxon parliament declared a regional state of emergency amidst record number of covid cases.

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Israel

Anti-restriction protesters gathered in Tel Aviv last Saturday to denounce new stringent measures and the government’s drive towards mandatory vaccination:

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Italy

A fortnight ago, thousands of protesters attended a demonstration to oppose the ‘Green Pass’ in Rome. The certificate is mandatory in order to work and attend all public places and events, including public transport between cities.

The protesters gathered in Rome’s Circus Maximus, after Italian authorities banned demonstrations against the Green Pass in historic or tourist sites.

One protester says “If you want to kick me out of here, you have to kill me.” Another: “Between vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Are we all equal? We are equal human beings. We are equal.” Another says: “Everyone makes their choice. I am not against the vaccine, I am here for freedom of choice.”

This weekend a smaller demonstration against the ‘Green Pass’ went ahead in Trento without police permission. The main protest took place in Piazza Dante.

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Martinique

France has postponed the covid vaccine mandate for healthcare workers in Martinique after widespread social unrest took place in Forte-de-France last Saturday night. Footage shows streets and vehicles on fire amid violent unrest. There have been protests in Martinique and another nearby French island Guadeloupe as the French government imposed stricter measures ostensibly to limit the spread of the virus.

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Netherlands

Thousands gathered in the city of Utrecht this Saturday to protest new government measures aimed at controlling the spread of covid-19. Demonstrators can be seen holding signs and lighting smoke grenades in a local park, before marching through the streets.

Participant Jim Schardijn warned that “our freedom is in danger,” regarding the requirement to show a QR code as proof of vaccination when entering various public venues. The protest marked the first major gathering in the country against the new regulations, which include night-time curfews on all non-essential businesses.

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Northern Ireland

Hundreds of protesters flooded the streets of Belfast this Saturday, as the Northern Irish government introduces vaccine passports. Protesters held signs and made speeches as they rallied against the new regulations. The certification scheme, which makes proof of vaccination or a negative covid-19 test obligatory in licensed premises was introduced by the Northern Irish government on Monday.

One protester said of the new restrictions: “I honestly feel like these vaccines are not useful and vaccine passports are nothing to do with health and are all to do with control.”

But that upload was then removed (as you can see) for reasons I can only guess. So here is a different report on the same protest:

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Slovenia

Protesters gathered in Ljubljana’s Republic Square on Saturday to voice their opposition to the government’s most recent covid-19 measures to curb the epidemic, as well to the proposal for a new anti-covid law.

Several demonstrators were physically detained by the police as they attempted to march through the city centre. Police stopped the rally in Adjovscina Square and urged protesters to leave the site. Protesters clashed with police on Miklosiceva Street, where police blocked the road and dispersed the unannounced rally shortly after that.

As the rallies were unannounced and the organisers did not take security measures, police officers, dog handlers, and cavalry were also involved to maintain order. According to the Ljubljana Police Directorate, they prevented endangering people and property, maintained public order and ensured road traffic safety by calling and directing the participants of the rally.

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Filed under Australia, Austria, Belgium, campaigns & events, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Netherlands, police state

inside the belly of the beast: Steven Donziger reports from prison

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Further Update:

On Thursday December 9th after more than forty days in jail, the prison administration took the decision to release Steve Donziger and permit him to serve out the rest of his sentence under home confinement. Upon his return, he gave the following interview with independent journalist and activist Marianne Williamson:

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Update:

Today, Steven’s legal team will urge a three-judge panel to reverse Judge Preska’s Chevron-financed “conviction” after he dared to stand up to the fossil fuel industry. His family and our movement need your help to bring him home.

Steven Donziger is the first lawyer in U.S. history to be imprisoned for the misdemeanor crime of contempt. It is no coincidence he is one of our nation’s most successful environmental justice advocates. For the last ten years, Chevron and its 60 law firms have done everything in their power to weaponize the legal system to target Steven after he helped Indigenous peoples in Ecuador win a historic $9.5 billion pollution judgment against Chevron.

It is both unethical and despicable that Chevron and its allies in the fossil fuel industry have abused our courts to target Steven — especially after the U.N. last September determined his detention was “arbitrary” and ordered the U.S. government to release him because of a “staggering” lack of impartiality by the Chevron-linked judges in his case. The five esteemed jurists from the U.N. found the bias against Steven by Judges Preska and Kaplan violated his right to a fair trial. Anyone at the trial last May could see it for the farce that it was: Judge Preska denied Steven a jury of his peers and read the newspaper during witness testimony.

Today, Steven is on the 34th day of his maximum six-month prison sentence for the lowest-level federal offense possible under the legal code. Let’s remember why: Steven was the person who helped hold Chevron accountable for deliberately poisoning the Amazon and decimating five Indigenous peoples — the Secoya, Cofán, Guarani, Quechua, and Siona. Steven also was sent to a federal prison after already serving more than two years under house arrest prior to trial. His pre-trial detention alone is more than seven times longer than the longest sentence ever imposed on a lawyer for the same charge.

We also had a major breakthrough this week. Nine Congresspersons, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, sent the Biden Administration a blistering letter demanding the DOJ finally take action to both free Steven and take control of his case from Chevron law firm Seward & Kissel. Private corporate prosecutions cannot happen in any country that purports to adhere to the rule of law. As Rep. Tlaib said: “This is a test case for corporate polluters. They think they found a path for escape justice, but they’ve only just awoken our people.”  

We cannot allow this miscarriage of justice to continue. We cannot stand by and watch a supposed liberal democracy like the United States of America lock up its human rights lawyers — and descend into the ranks of a notorious club of rogue states that includes China, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Belarus. Steven is the first major test case of a fossil fuel industry playbook to try to intimidate those who challenge the fact that extractive industries are destroying the planet for our children and grandchildren.

Judge Preska’s “conviction” of Steven is not only a violation of international law, it brazenly undermines the U.S. Constitution. Steven was prosecuted privately by a Chevron law firm after the regular federal prosecutor rejected the case. Steven’s lead lawyer in his argument today, the great U. of Texas professor Stephen Vladeck, will be before three judges appointed by President Trump. We are urging these judges to resist falling into Chevron’s and Preska’s demonization trap and take the legal issues seriously: we simply cannot have private corporate prosecutions in this country.

Today’s argument represents a major chance to bring Steven home. If we win the decision, it will be game over for the nightmare orchestrated by Judges Kaplan and Preska to try to silence Steven, and he will be released. 

The original post begins below the asterisk.

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On the eve of his appellate argument [Nov 30th] to overturn Judge Preska’s “conviction” in a trial found to violate international law, I am reposting letters sent by international human rights and environmental lawyer Steven Donziger from his prison cell in Connecticut (with original emphasis retained throughout).

Message received Fri 19th:

I am finally able to write directly from inside the belly of the beast: the federal prison in Danbury, CT. I am now on day 23 of my incarceration, and the experience has been nothing short of mind-blowing. I am living with another person in a 54 sq ft cell; next door is a 37-year-old man, one of the kindest people I have ever met. He was sentenced to a 35-year term for gang violence when he was 19. Three people in my unit of 80 or so men are lifers and have over 30 years in the system.

The length of the sentences for various crimes is astounding. We are unique as a country for the extraordinarily punitive nature of our criminal justice system. And it sickens me to see it from the inside. All of us here are simply raw material for a business built largely on money and politics that has virtually nothing to do with rehabilitation (although there are staff here working miracles against all odds to help inmates adjust to the outside).

This is considered a “low” security prison, but the conditions are extremely limiting. No Internet, almost no newspapers, limited phone calls and email, and almost no contact with the outside world. The food is scarce; no fresh vegetables, little fruit, extremely small portions which forces the mostly impoverished inmates to supplement their diets by buying junk food at the commissary where prices can be 50% higher than the corner store in New York City. It can take weeks for a visitor to get approved; one man has not seen his kids (now aged 5 and 7) in two years because of COVID restrictions. There is a total shortage of staff, programming, and no way to get a college degree. I will only be able to write very infrequently, if at all.

Having said that, please consider this: Chevron and Judges Preska and Kaplan thought they could snuff out my advocacy by dumping me into this place. They could not be more wrong. Not only is the prison bubbling with humanity and kindness, the likes of which one rarely sees on the outside, but the support for me and the affected communities of Ecuador both in my unit and around the world has literally exploded as a result of this obvious act of corporate persecution. I am becoming stronger, more resilient, and more understanding as a person. And I have almost boundless energy to continue the fight as a result of sharing this largely miserable experience with so many people from all walks of life.

I am getting dozens of letters a day from around the world. My friends in the unit love it when the letters come. Some read them and slap their knees with incredulity. How can one prisoner get so much mail? Others remove the stamps to use as “currency,” an off-the-books economic system that allows inmates the autonomy to trade goods and services among themselves.

In the meantime, here is a concrete update on case developments:

  • My appellate argument to overturn Judge Preska’s “conviction” of me in the Chevron-financed non-jury contempt trial will take place on Nov. 30. This is an extremely accelerated schedule which shows the concern of the court that a great injustice might be taking place. That said, I believe judges in New York generally are closing rank behind Kaplan and Preska because our campaign has been so effective that it has challenged the institutional credibility of the federal judiciary as a whole. While I am always optimistic, I fully expect to lose this appeal and spend the balance of my six-months sentence in prison. That said, my legal team already has decided it is likely we will take the issue off the nation’s first corporate prosecution to the US Supreme Court if necessary.
  • Our support in Congress is growing by leaps and bounds. A new letter organized by Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Rep. Chuy Garcia demanding my immediate release is gathering signatures as we speak. The letter urges The Biden administration to “send a clear signal that it stands with communities harmed by pollution and environmental destruction and the lawyers courageous enough to represent them and not the corporations that benefit from polluting the water, air, and land of local people.”
  • Law students nationwide are preparing to organize a work boycott of the two corporate law firms (Seward and Gibson Dunn) that Chevron has used to try to demonize and prosecute me. The Seward law firm should really be ashamed; that firm has been held by the United Nations to be in violation of multiple provisions of international law by prosecuting me.
  • Several human rights organizations are launching a campaign on Nov. 29 to demand President Biden pardon me — both because it is the right thing to do to correct the injustice, and also to bring the US government into conformity with international law consistent with the ruling from the United Nations.

Now, the money question. We need more funds to carry forward with these and other important activities. We need to pay people to support themselves to do this vital work. While I am locked up, the campaign must not just continue but also get stronger and more effective. Because of the incredible efforts of so many people, including my wife Laura and legal assistant Matt Burton, we are succeeding. In fact, the day I reported to prison, we gained 20,000 new followers on Twitter and many more on Instagram.

I know many already donated on the financial end. If you are not in a position to help now, please don’t worry; your support is being expressed in so many other ways and is deeply appreciated. But if you can dig deep and match your previous donation, please do. If you have not given, please consider making a donation. We are building this big with the ultimate goal of not only getting me out of this institution as soon as possible but also to put our human rights legal team in a position to finally hold Chevron fully accountable and force it to pay the full amount of the pollution judgment to the Indigenous peoples and farmers in Ecuador’s Amazon.

Thanks again to everybody for jumping into this extraordinary campaign and building this collective action that is literally changing the paradigm of the fossil fuel industry and helping to wake up the world to the promise of what citizen action can accomplish. I wake up each day in prison with a hop in my step because of you and the possibilities we have created together.

In solidarity,

Steven Donziger

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Message received Wed 24th:

My prison experience is getting even tougher: yesterday, the Danbury prison went on a total lockdown due to a COVID breakout. That means we cannot get out except for two hours per week. About 80 men are crammed into our unit, where two people occupy cells meant for one. Social distancing is impossible, few wear masks, there is no COVID testing, people are sick, nobody knows who has COVID, and word on the prison street is that the rate of vaccination among the guards is less than 50%. Medical staff appears so overwhelmed it often takes ten days or more to see a doctor, even when exhibiting severe symptoms.

I’m not going to lie: I actually feel if I get seriously ill inside this place, I could die.

I’m not alone in that feeling among my new friends inside. To know you are so at the mercy of others if an emergency were to arise is a heavy and awful emotional burden. Worse, it is sometimes hard to get the professionals here to acknowledge the validity of how your body feels to you. Most of my fellow residents (“inmates”) say staff here often accuse them of faking symptoms when they ask to see a doctor.

That said, it is Thanksgiving which is my favorite holiday of the year in the United States. I think of Native Americans who had their territory overrun by a conquering government that manufactured laws to steal land and distribute it to white settlers. I think of the Cherokee, the Cheyenne, the Choctaw, and so many others. The bravery and the courage. Survivors all. And I think of my family, friends, and all those I love — and all of those who stand behind the Ecuadorian Indigenous peoples who, against all odds, won the historic pollution judgment against Chevron.

It helps to both give thanks to our triumphs and to remember the unpleasant truths.

It is almost unfathomable to me what people are going through here and how they still keep going. The human spirit is really hard to snuff out. Some have spent 30 consecutive Thanksgivings in the federal prison system. When I came, there were three frail men with walkers in my unit (one has since been released). Some inside have not had a visit in years. Others get no mail. Many mark the years by remembering Thanksgiving when the cookies were baked fresh, when they were from a box, and when there were no cookies at all.

The food supposedly will be better on Thursday, but the mess hall has closed because of the lockdown. We will be eating turkey out of styrofoam boxes in our tiny cells, looking at an open-air toilet. That said, I can’t tell you how positive I feel about getting through this and back to the other side to continue our important work.

I am asking again for everybody who can step up and donate to this extraordinary and paradigm-shifting campaign to please do so during the holiday season. We need resources to keep our legal team working full steam and our broader global advocacy operating on all cylinders, especially while I am locked up. And, of course, we need resources to get me out of here as soon as possible.

Specifically, several human rights groups are organizing a global drive to demand the Biden Administration pardon me both because it is the just thing to do and to comply with the United Nations decision ordering my immediate and unconditional release. You will be hearing more about this in the coming days. We also need funds to continue to build a legal infrastructure needed to take on new and similar cases to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable and ultimately to save our planet.

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Donate today to help Steven and the Amazon communities continue their fight for freedom and to hold Chevron accountable for its “Chernobyl” ecological disaster

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keeping freedom alive | welcoming Craig Murray home from prison

Update:

I have cued the video below to start immediately prior to Craig Murray’s release and a couple of minutes ahead of his extemporised speech in which he comments on a range of other issues including the incarceration of Julian Assange, the billionaire greenwash at COP26, and the West’s unspoken culpability in the deaths of the migrants including those desperately trying to cross The Channel in dinghies, who are hoping to escape from economic sanctions and war:

The original post begins directly below the asterisk.

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Former UK ambassador, whistleblower on UK complicity in torture, writer and political activist, Craig Murray after serving the full four months of his eight month sentence at HMP Edinburgh is due to be released tomorrow morning. He invites supporters to join him outside the prison gates:

Peter Oborne, journalist and former chief political commentator of the Daily Telegraph, gives a very personal tribute to his friend Craig Murray:

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GCHQ whistleblower, Katherine Gun adds her support to Craig Murray commending his strength and morality during his 20-year fight against state sanctioned corruption:

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Former diplomat and US Army Colonel Ann Wright praises Craig Murray for his support of Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. She criticises the “tortured way” the Scottish Government has proceeded to imprison someone who is not a criminal:

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Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the CIA praises Craig’s journalism and describes his imprisonment as unjust. She believes that with so many principled men in prison – Craig Murray, Steven Donziger, Julian Assange and Daniel Hales – there is the possibility of change:

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Ray McGovern, former CIA officer turned activist calls out Scottish judge, Lady Leeona Dorrian’s, imagination when she distinguished between mainstream media journalists and independent journalists in order to justify the prosecution and conviction of Craig Murray:

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In solidarity I am sharing his last article entitled “Keeping Freedom Alive”, posted prior to his imprisonment, and will add further updates once Craig Murray is free to publish again:

I want to make one or two points for you to ponder while I am in jail. This is the last post until about Christmas; we are not legally able to post anything while I am imprisoned. But the Justice for Craig Murray Campaign website is now up and running and will start to have more content shortly. Fora and comments here are planned to stay open.

I hope that one possible good effect of my imprisonment might be to coalesce opposition to the imminent abolition of jury trials in sexual assault cases by the Scottish Government, a plan for which Lady Dorrian – who wears far too many hats in all this – is front and centre. We will then have a situation where, as established by my imprisonment, no information at all on the defence case may be published in case it contributes to “jigsaw identification”, and where conviction will rest purely on the view of the judge.

That is plainly not “open justice”, it is not justice at all. And it is even worse than that, because the openly stated aim of abolishing juries is to increase conviction rates. So people will have their lives decided not by a jury of their peers, but by a judge who is acting under specific instruction to increase conviction rates.

It is often noted that conviction rates in rape trials are too low, and that is true. But have you ever heard this side of the argument? In Uzbekistan under the Karimov dictatorship, when I served there, conviction rates in rape trials were 100%. In fact very high conviction rates are a standard feature of all highly authoritarian regimes worldwide, because if the state prosecutes you then the state gets what it wants. The wishes of the state in such systems vastly outweigh the liberty of the individual.

My point is simply this. You cannot judge the validity of a system simply by high conviction rates. What we want is a system where the innocent are innocent and the guilty found guilty; not where an arbitrary conviction target is met.

The answer to the low conviction rates in sexual assault trials is not simple. Really serious increases in resources for timely collection of evidence, for police training and specialist units, for medical services, for victim support, all have a part to play. But that needs a lot of money and thought. Just abolishing juries and telling judges you want them to convict is of course free, or even a saving.

The right to have the facts judged in serious crime allegations by a jury of our peers is a glory of our civilisation. It is the product of millennia, not lightly to be thrown away and replaced by a huge increase in arbitrary state power. That movement is of course fueled by current fashionable political dogma which is that the victim must always be believed. That claim has morphed from an initial meaning that police and first responders must take accusations seriously, to a dogma that accusation is proof and it is wrong to even question the evidence, which is of course to deny the very possibility of false accusation.

That is precisely the position which Nicola Sturgeon has taken over the Alex Salmond trial; to be accused is to be guilty, irrespective of the defence evidence. That people are oblivious to the dangers of the dogma that there should be no defence against sexual assault allegations, is to me deeply worrying. Sexual allegation is the most common method that states have used to attack dissidents for centuries, worldwide and again especially in authoritarian regimes. Closer to home, think of history stretching from Roger Casement to Assange and Salmond.

Why would we remove the only barrier – a jury of ordinary citizens – that can stop abuse of state power?

I am worried that this abolition of juries will have been enacted by the Scottish Parliament, even before I am out of jail. I am worried Labour and the Lib Dems will support it out of fashionable political correctness. I am worried an important liberty will disappear.

I want to touch on one other aspect of liberty in my own imprisonment that appears not understood, or perhaps simply neglected, because somehow the very notion of liberty is slipping from our political culture. One point that features plainly in the troll talking points to be used against me, recurring continually on social media, is that I was ordered to take down material from my blog and refused.

There is an extremely important point here. I have always instantly complied with any order of a court to remove material. What I have not done is comply with instructions from the Crown or Procurator Fiscal to remove material. Because it is over 330 years since the Crown had the right of censorship in Scotland without the intervention of a judge.

It sickens me that so many Scottish Government backed trolls are tweeting out that I should have obeyed the instructions of the Crown. That Scotland has a governing party which actively supports the right of the Crown to exercise unrestrained censorship is extremely worrying, and I think a sign both of the lack of respect in modern political culture for liberties which were won by people being tortured to death, and of the sheer intellectual paucity of the current governing class.

But then we now learn that Scotland has a government which was prepared not only to be complicit in exempting the Crown from climate change legislation, but also complicit in hushing up the secret arrangement, so I am not surprised.

What is even more terrifying in my case is that the Court explicitly states that I should have followed the directions of the Crown Office in what I did and did not publish, and my failure to not publish as the Crown ordered is an aggravating factor in my sentencing.

If the Crown thinks something I write is in contempt and I think it is not, the Crown and I should stand as equals in court and argue our cases. There should be no presumption I ought to have obeyed the Crown in the first place. That Scottish “justice” has lost sight of this is disastrous, though perhaps as much from stupidity as malice.

My next thought on my trial is to emphasise again the dreadful doctrine Lady Dorrian has now enshrined in law, that bloggers should be held to a different (by implication higher) standard in law than the mainstream media (the judgement uses exactly those terms), because the mainstream media is self-regulated.

This doctrine is used to justify jailing me when mainstream media journalists have not been jailed for media contempt for over half a century, and also to explain why I have been prosecuted where the mainstream media, who were provably responsible for far more jigsaw identification, were not prosecuted.

This is dreadful law, and my entire legal team are frankly astonished that the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal on this point. This excellent article by Jonathan Cook explains further the chilling implications.

Those articles which the Court ordered me to take down, have been taken down. But I was not ordered to take down this one, which was found not to be in contempt of court. I was also not ordered to take down my affidavits, which though slightly redacted are still extremely valuable. I swore to the truth of every word and I stick by that. At the time I published these, far less was known about the Salmond affair than is known now, and I believe you will find it well worth reading them again in the light of your current state of wider knowledge – absolutely nothing to do with learning identities, but to do with what really happened on the whole plot to destroy Alex Salmond (something the judgement states I am allowed to say).

Finally I urge you to consider this truly remarkable speech from Kenny MacAskill MP. Scotland’s former Justice Secretary, and consider its quite staggering implications. It tells you everything you want to know about the British Establishment’s capture of the Scottish government, that the mainstream media felt no need to report the main points he was making, which constitute a simply astonishing outline of corrupt abuse of power.

An explanation: this blog is going dark because I cannot by law publish from prison or conduct a business from prison. Access to this blog has always been free and open and subscriptions have always been a voluntary contribution and not a purchase. It is understood that all new and continuing subscriptions from today, until we go live again, are voluntary contributions to the welfare of my family and not in exchange for anything.

I am afraid one off contributions to the defence fund are also still urgently needed. Legal costs so far paid amount to over £200,000 and continue to rise as we head towards the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which has to be via another Scottish Court called the nobile officium. Astonishingly, over 13,000 individuals from over 120 countries have contributed to the legal defence fund. People all over the world value freedom and realise the terrible precedents established by this case must be overturned.

We are equally grateful for all donations and all really do help – donations of £5 or less total over £30,000. But I must mention the special generosity of Roger Waters and Vivienne Westwood, and the anonymous individual who gave one bitcoin. 80% of the fund is reserved for legal fees, but up to 20% may be used to fund campaigning to raise public and political awareness of the human rights issues involved.

Click here to read the same article in its original form on Craig Murray’s official website.

Please note: The views expressed are not necessarily shared by Wall of Controversy.

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open letter on the famine in Afghanistan – Stop the War Coalition

After decades of indifference and silence, BBC news yesterday reported on the plight of the people of Afghanistan under the title “100 days of Taliban rule in Afghanistan”.

Perhaps a better title would be “after 20 years of war and 100 days of US sanctions on Afghanistan”:

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LIFT THE SANCTIONS. STOP THE FAMINE. LET AFGHANISTAN LIVE.

A drought caused by climate change and war has reduced the Afghan harvest by almost half. War damage to agriculture and infrastructure has played a major part in leading to famine. Following the humiliating defeat of the occupation, Western governments have cut aid, effectively imposing economic sanctions on the Afghan people who have already suffered over forty years of war. Afghan assets abroad have been frozen.

Unless the sanctions are immediate lifted millions of innocent people, many of them children will die in famine.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says that unless aid is urgently delivered to Afghanistan, winter will cut off a large part of the country, with millions, including farmers, women, infants and the old, facing famine during a freezing winter.

David Beasley, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme has said:

‘It is as bad as you possibly can imagine. In fact, we’re now looking at the worst humanitarian crisis on Earth. Ninety-five percent of the people don’t have enough food, and now we’re looking at 23 million people marching towards starvation. The next six months are going to be catastrophic. It is going to be hell on Earth.’

He added, ‘world leaders’ and the ‘billionaires’ must imagine it was their little girl, or boy, or grandchild, about to starve to death.

‘You would do everything you possibly could. And when there is 400 trillion dollars’ worth of wealth on the earth today, shame on us if we let any child die from hunger.’

We demand that the British government and its allies, who conducted the war for 20 years, now do everything in their power to end this famine. We ask the anti-war, trade union and climate change movements, and citizens everywhere to mobilise across the world to stop the famine in Afghanistan and demand Western governments immediately lift sanctions and restore aid.

Share the letter via social media here: https://www.stopwar.org.uk/article/lift-the-sanctions-stop-the-famine-let-afghanistan-live/

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corona marginalia: Kyle’s story

Kyle Warner is a 29-year-old professional mountain biker from Idaho. His unfortunate story was first brought to my attention by John Campbell who has since recorded a follow-up interview with Kyle uploaded on Wednesday [Nov 10th] and embedded directly below:

Before continuing with Kyle’s story, it is vitally important to stress that John Campbell, who has a doctorate in nursing and is a retired teacher of nurses, has always been and remains pro-vaccine. He has stated repeatedly that covid vaccine injuries may have arisen from not administering the vaccines correctly and has used his online platform to advocate for better practise – here is John Campbell discussing being ‘fact-checked’ a few weeks ago.

Moreover, and in spite of his recent misfortune, Kyle Warner also encourages the take up of vaccines, although like many millions, he is opposed to mandatory vaccination. However, it seems that the language itself is now being modified and so I draw attention to the current definition of “anti-vaxxer” according to Merriam-Webster (screenshot below):

Merriam-Webster definition of anti-vaxxer

To quote directly from horribly contorted and dangerous definition, an anti-vaxxer is “a person who opposes the use of vaccines or regulations mandating vaccination”. (The emphasis is mine.)

This Orwellian redefinition that deliberately lumps together anyone who opposes mandatory vaccination with those who are fundamentally opposed to vaccination under all circumstances thereby vilifies millions who are justifiably concerned about civil liberties, government overreach and basic human rights. It is important to keep this in mind as we return to the story of Kyle (and others who present their own cases below).

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It was mid-May when Kyle received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Besides a sore arm he did not experience any apparent complications. A month later on June 10th, Kyle received the second dose. Again, he experienced no immediate complications. A fortnight later, however, Kyle (a professional athlete) began to notice that his normal resting heart rate had risen from around fifty beats per min up to sixty. Of more concern, he felt abrupt leaps when his heart rate would suddenly shoot up to ninety and hundred even while resting. Alarmed by this, he immediately decided to cut out all stimulants from his diet and then took two weeks off in order just to rest and recuperate.

When Kyle returned to cycling, however, he found that his condition had actually become more serious. During a climb on his first ride, he noticed that his heart rate had risen to 160 and was shocked to see that it didn’t return to normal again. He struggled home and visited his local hospital.

On admission Kyle explained how he thought he may have been having a reaction to the vaccine but the doctor in charge of his case told him he was more likely having an anxiety attack. In response, Kyle said that he knew his body and repeated that the side-effects he was experiencing corresponded to ones he had read about. Finally, the same doctor told him he may be in the midst of a psychotic episode and promptly sent him home.

In reality Kyle was suffering from pericarditis (inflammation of the lining surrounding the heart) along with POTS and reactive arthritis. These conditions left Kyle bedridden and unable to exercise during the months that have followed. Understandably, he fears that his career as a mountain biker may be finished.

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On November 2nd, Kyle Walker joined other covid vaccine injury claimants. Supported by doctors and medical experts they went to Washington DC to testify at the US Senate calling for transparency and accountability.

Senator Ron Johnson who convened the roundtable panel personally invited NIAID Director, Dr. Anthony Fauci; CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky; FDA Acting Commissioner, Janet Woodcock; NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins; HHS Secretary, Xavier Becerra; the CEOs of Pfizer, Moderna, BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson, Albert Bourla, Stéphane Bancel, Uğur Şahin and Alex Gorsky respectively; as well as state representatives for each of the vaccine injured who were speaking out, but none of the above accepted his invitation and no journalists from any mainstream media outlets attended the proceedings.

Kyle Warner opened his statement as follows (from 53 mins):

Before I start my speech I just want to say thanks to Dr Fauci, the FDA, heads of the CDC and NIH, for not showing up to this meeting and not listening to us. I really appreciate it and I’m glad that you have our interests at heart. This message is kind of for you. It’s a message on how this has broke my heart literally and figuratively.

He continued:

Listening to these stories today and looking at the [Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System] VAERS database, it is easy to see that we have a serious problem arising, but you guys already know this. The real question is whether or not you’ll stand up to your favourite pharmaceutical lobbyist in defence of the American people you are supposed to serve. We were told we were fighting a war against the pandemic and the question in the air is: will you leave your troops behind yet again?

I’m not asking you to end the vaccine programme by any means. All I’m asking is for some transparency and acknowledgement of what is happening, so that we as a country can have an honest discussion of the risks.

I believe that where there is risk there must be choice, and without acknowledging that people are being seriously injured and dying, we are doing a great disservice to the American people.

It is estimated that Moderna and Pfizer will make around 60 billion dollars in revenue this year from covid-19 vaccines. And with the rollout of boosters and mandates, it seems like much of that is destined to be recurring revenue.

We need to set up a fund with a portion of vaccine proceeds to help heal and study injured Americans and compensate the families who have lost loved ones due to complications of the vaccine.

This is the first ever mass administration of mRNA vaccines and the drug companies need to compensate us if they’re going to be testing on us.

Do you know why we stopped saying the Pledge of Allegiance in school? It’s because the new one: ‘One nation under siege, completely divisible, with liberty and justice for all corporations’ doesn’t sound quite as good. I’m asking you human to human, please do the right thing and help us.

Although the video is cued to the start of Kyle Warner’s statement, I encourage readers to listen to other contributions too – in particular the powerful testimony of injured healthcare professionals, Joel Wallskog, an orthopaedic surgeon from Wisconsin, and Shaun Barcavage, a research nurse/practitioner from Pennsylvania (starting from 2:20:45).

This is an abridged version of Shaun’s testimony (a fuller version is provided below):

“Politics has zero impact on me being here today. I’m pro-patient, pro-science and I’ve been fiercely pro-vaccine my entire life – often having fights with family members to get vaccinated.

However, like many, I was a bit hesitant about the vaccine. We all had our concerns. I was scared about the new platform. The new spike protein vector. The fact that we relied on more long-term in vitro studies without long-term safety data in humans. But as a researcher and a scientist I also understood the need to control a pandemic. So I got vaccinated.

As a researcher I fully understand reactions occur and they are real. No medication or vaccine is reaction free. I get this, but so should everyone else. But in this rollout there were many things that came to light quickly, once I fell into that adverse reaction world.

Prior to December 29th 2020, the day my life fundamentally changed, I was a vibrant, funny, compassionate, healthy person. No medical conditions. No medicines. Never a vaccine reaction. Let me briefly share my [vaccine] reaction story.

I went to the hospital where I work. I stood in line. Immediately after dose one I developed paraesthesias in my right arm – got injected in my right deltoid. Within hours to days, the numbness and tingling travelled to the right side of my face, my eye and my ear.

I saw a neurologist – one of the top neurologists in New York City – he said ‘Oh, if it subsides get the second shot – we just don’t know it’s all new.’ So it subsided. Against my better judgement, I went back and I got in line.

Dose two literally sent me into a tailspin. […]

I’m a science-driven nurse/practitioner and I remain pro-vaccine. I dedicated my life to helping people and medicine. Heartbreakingly I ended up in the realm of the injured. But the real tragedy is not only the lack of adequate medical support, but the active and coordinated denial of our situations. Even by my own colleagues.

Finally, I want you to know that I was never the activist type. I never pictured myself being here. But fear and despair have changed me. This experience has shattered my life.”

All participants on the panel were speaking on their own behalf and no-one appeared as a representation of any organisation or institution. None on the panellists has ever been an anti-vaccine campaigner, but all are opposed to mandatory vaccination (as am I):

As you can see, the original upload has already been taken down by Youtube (and Senator Ron Johnson’s channel was suspended for a week over alleged misinformation) but an edited version is now available and again I have cued it beginning with Kyle Warner’s statement. The bowdlerised testimony of Joel Wallskog and Shaun Barcavage now begins at 24:55 mins:

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Please note: The views expressed by Sen. Ron Johnson and other participants are not necessarily shared by Wall of Controversy. (My own views are expressed across a range of posts on the subject.)

Importantly, I have not been trained as a medical professional and do not claim to have expert knowledge of this subject. This article is in no way intended to provide medical advice of any kind.

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Additional: A longer version of Shaun Barcavage’s testimony

“Politics has zero impact on me being here today. I’m pro-patient, pro-science and I’ve been fiercely pro-vaccine my entire life – often having fights with family members to get vaccinated.

However, like many, I was a bit hesitant about the vaccine. We all had our concerns. I was scared about the new platform. The new spike protein vector. The fact that we relied on more long-term in vitro studies without long-term safety data in humans. But as a researcher and a scientist I also understood the need to control a pandemic. So I got vaccinated.

As a researcher I fully understand reactions occur and they are real. No medication or vaccine is reaction free. I get this, but so should everyone else. But in this rollout there were many things that came to light quickly, once I fell into that adverse reaction world.

Prior to December 29th 2020, the day my life fundamentally changed, I was a vibrant, funny, compassionate, healthy person. No medical conditions. No medicines. Never a vaccine reaction. Let me briefly share my [vaccine] reaction story.

I went to the hospital where I work. I stood in line. Immediately after dose one I developed paraesthesias in my right arm – got injected in my right deltoid. Within hours to days, the numbness and tingling travelled to the right side of my face, my eye and my ear.

I saw a neurologist – one of the top neurologists in New York City – he said ‘Oh, if it subsides get the second shot – we just don’t know it’s all new.’ So it subsided. Against my better judgement, I went back and I got in line.

Dose two literally sent me into a tailspin. Within four days I developed debilitating tinnitus. What I recall from that is the month of February, curled up in a foetal position on the bathroom floor, wondering how would I ever live with this. It was so severe. Couldn’t hear TV. Couldn’t listen to music, or read a book, or hear what other people were saying. Thought my life was over.

It continued. I got right facial tingling, back numbness, throat tightness, tachycardia, wildly fluctuating blood pressures, severe right-sided headaches and brain fog. I went back to the neurologist. I told all that was going on. He said, ‘Oh, wait it out, it might likely subside again.’ I said, ‘I don’t think so, this is pretty bad.’ I ended up in the emergency department on January 30th.

Despite all my years of nursing experience, [and] having been familiar with the vaccine trials, I offered up quickly, ‘I think I’m having a reaction to the vaccine.’ I was quickly dismissed by a physician who had no knowledge about these vaccine reactions and he sent me away with ibuprofen – so many missed opportunities to treat me.

Things continued to progress. I developed POTS syndrome – never even heard of it before as a nurse – where you can’t stand for more than five minutes without your heart rate zooming, getting faint and nauseous. Severe intractable insomnia. I never had a problem sleeping before, suddenly I’m taking five meds to try to get to sleep. Muscle twinges, tremors, adrenal dumps – adrenal dumps that would burn my muscles and my stomach. […]

I pursued everywhere across the country from New York to California, looking for answers, pestering top researchers, scientists, doctors. Getting nowhere. Getting no recognition. Getting dismissed.

By August I’d literally exploded in generalised body neuropathies – imagine, waking up in the middle of the night stinging in my hands and feet, burning in the soles of my feet, prickling all over like I fell in a bush of nettles. […]

I pushed for objective data. I insisted: let’s do a tilt-table test. [It] showed my dysautonomia. Pushed for a skin biopsy. Showed I developed small fibre neuropathy. Still, I couldn’t get anybody to take an interest in me. I’m a researcher, I found that curious. Here I am, presenting, unusual case, study me, I’m a perfect candidate. I give you objective data. If I tell you my pain’s a seven out of ten, it’s a seven out of ten – I don’t minimise or maximise.

Feeling so alone and so scared I turned to social media because I couldn’t find anybody like me for support. In mere months I had thousands of people. I set up a tinnitus group: 3,500 members joining in months. Later I found six other groups focussed on neurological symptoms. I started to help them – as a nurse it was the best way I could help: use my resources. I started researching. Reading journals. Hearing what they were hearing. Reading as much as I can. Sharing with them. Helping the people who had no insurance understand what their labs were. People who had no money. Guiding them. What tests they should get. How best they should use their money.

Crazy thing is social media – you’re there, you’re looking for support, you find support – they suddenly tag you: ‘misinformation’. You’re not real. You’re an ‘anti-vaxxer’. You devolve into more despair. […]

My goal here today is to speak as a researcher. A lot’s been said already. I’ll just emphasise: if we mandate vaccines, it’s clear we need to mandate manufacturers and government institutions to step up and investigate us. It’s not right. It’s immoral.

Reactions are real; they’re a part of science. I got unlucky. But it’s unethical to hide them even if it’s for some greater motive. […]

We know NIH did a study. I’d love to know what was in it. It’s unethical to hide research if there’s information in there to help people. I know this, I’m a researcher.

We also must return science into the hands of scientists and get it out of money; donor money and politics. We deserve safe and effective vaccines, but we also deserve effective and safe government. I don’t think we have that right now.

I’m a science-driven nurse/practitioner and I remain pro-vaccine. I dedicated my life to helping people and medicine. Heartbreakingly I ended up in the realm of the injured. But the real tragedy is not only the lack of adequate medical support, but the active and coordinated denial of our situations. Even by my own colleagues.

Finally, I want you to know that I was never the activist type. I never pictured myself being here. But fear and despair have changed me. This experience has shattered my life. Like all of you: I know where you are. […]

I will continue to fight. I will continue to research. I will find an answer, people, or I will die trying.”

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open letter to the Labour Party: what is its stance on Israel, Tzipi Hotovely, and anti-racism?

Israel ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely, has claimed that there is “no Palestinian people” and last year described the Nakba – the well-documented 1948 expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians in order to establish Israel – as “a popular Arab lie.”

In May, Hotovely was keynote speaker at a demonstration outside the embassy in support of Israel’s latest war against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. Also in attendance was far-right activist Tommy Robinson.

On Tuesday night, students protested peacefully outside the LSE at the apparent invitation of Tzipi Hotovely by the LSE Debate Society. Eighteen student groups had also signed an open letter expressing their outrage at the event. The students said Hotovely’s racism was in clear contravention of LSE policies on external speakers.

[Shadow Foreign Secretary] Lisa Nandy afterwards tweeted:

The appalling treatment of Tzipi Hotovely is completely unacceptable. There is no excuse for this kind of behaviour. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right and any attempt to silence or intimidate those we disagree with should never be tolerated.

Why do Lisa Nandy and the Labour Party stand by Tzipi Hotovely and not with the anti-racist protesters and in condemnation Israel’s far-right ambassador who has also openly called for an end to mixed marriages?

And irrespective of Labour’s position on Israel’s illegal occupation and apartheid system (according to reports by HRW and B’Tselem), does the party no longer respect the right to peaceful protest?

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Today I sent a copy of the letter above to my constituency MP Paul Blomfield and will post any reply below.

Sections are drawn from an article published by Electronic Intifada on November 10th entitled “UK government attacks Palestine student protesters” which goes on to highlight the response of government ministers including Home Secretary Priti Patel who tweeted that she had been in touch with Tzipi Hotovely to support her, saying “the police have my full backing in investigating this appalling incident”.

Click here to read Asa Winstanley’s full article.

The same evening, Novara Media featured the response of Labour MPs, Lisa Nandy and Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds, who tweeted about “shocking scenes”, before he tacitly smeared the demonstrators saying “antisemitism has no place in our society”, adding, “I wish Tzipi Hotovely well and support the police in any investigation.”

The ten-minute segment, which is embedded below, was originally broadcast in Novara Media’s Tyskie Sour on Nov 10th:

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Update: Keir Starmer doubles down on Labour’s defence of Israel

On November 10th, Labour leader Keir Starmer voiced his own outrage at what he falsely claimed was “intimidation and threats of violence” during the LSE protests against Tzipi Hotovely:

He afterwards attended the annual lunch of Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) on November 16th, where as guest of honour he shared the stage with Tzipi Hotovely and delivered a speech that directly equated anti-Zionism with antisemitism and claimed opposition to Israel is “the antithesis of the Labour tradition”

Starmer said:

“Under my leadership, Labour will stand shoulder to shoulder with peacemakers and progressives. We’ll stand up against those who demonise and delegitimise Israel and its people.”

In the clip embedded above from the November 17th Tyskie Sour broadcast, Novara Media’s Michael Walker deconstructs Starmer’s paean to Israeli apartheid.

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On November 22nd, Palestinian academic Ghada Karmi and Jenny Manson from Jewish Voice for Labour appeared on Not The Andrew Marr Show to respond to Keir Starmer’s speech to Labour Friends of Israel, in which he rejected sanctions against Israel and repeated the ahistorical myth that “Israel made the desert bloom”:

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Further update: Paul Blomfield’s reply (received Nov 30th)

Dear James, 

Thank you for writing to me about the protests against the Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely. 

As you may know, I have consistently supported Palestine, visited the West Bankand worked in Parliament to challenge the policies of the Israeli Government – most recently, for example, I was one of the six sponsors for EDM 583 : Proscribing of Palestinian human rights organisations, which set out our opposition to their criminalisation and called on the government to act, and which has secured the support of around fifty other MPs. Labour has been clear in its opposition to the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, called for sanctions against annexation, and for recognition of the state of Palestine. 

I saw some reports of the incident at the LSE, but don’t know what went on exactly. I fully back the right of LSE students to protest, but would not support violent disruption of meetings, even if I vehemently disagree with the speakers (as I do with Ambassador Hotovely) 

Thanks again for writing. 

With best wishes, 

Paul 

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first they came for Julian Assange, then they came for Steven Donziger…

Update:

Chris Hedges and Joe Lauria, Editor-in-Chief of Consortium News both followed this week’s extradition hearing for Julian Assange via video link. On Saturday 30th, with the ruling from the proceedings still pending, they discussed the case on Chris Hedge’s RT show On Contact:

On the same day, Afshin Rattansi spoke with UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, about the trial and the treatment of Julian Assange. They discuss Melzer’s assessment that Julian Assange has been psychologically tortured by UK authorities; why it has become harder for the UK courts to refuse the US extradition request; the parallels between the video of the murder of George Floyd and Julian Assange’s revelations; and what Julian Assange’s persecution means for the average citizen’s rights:

The original article begins below.

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“If they can do it to anyone, they can do it to us,” Marianne Williamson recalls her father warning. As Julian Assange faced his extradition hearing and Steven Donziger lost his appeal and had to report to prison, Marianne Williamson spoke with independent journalist Katie Halper about the “viciousness of the system”.  She reminds us that this anyone who takes on corporate and state power will be gone after by corporations and state institutions or a combination, which is why we need to stand up and speak out.

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The last week was a terrible week for justice.

After two and a half years of detention inside HMP Belmarsh maximum security prison, Julian Assange, who appears to be seriously ill, is facing extradition to America where he is expected to receive a 175 year sentence; guilty of the grave crime of practising journalism. As Chris Hedges writes:

Assange’s “crime” is that he exposed the more than 15,000 unreported deaths of Iraqi civilians.

He exposed the torture and abuse of some 800 men and boys, aged between 14 and 89, at Guantánamo.

He exposed that Hillary Clinton in 2009 ordered US diplomats to spy on U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and other U.N. representatives from China, France, Russia, and the UK, spying that included obtaining DNA, iris scans, fingerprints, and personal passwords, part of the long pattern of illegal surveillance that included the eavesdropping on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in the weeks before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

He exposed that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the CIA orchestrated the June 2009 military coup in Honduras that overthrew the democratically-elected president Manuel Zelaya, replacing it with a murderous and corrupt military regime.

He exposed that George W. Bush, Barack Obama and General David Petraeus prosecuted a war in Iraq that under post-Nuremberg laws is defined as a criminal war of aggression, a war crime, which authorized hundreds of targeted assassinations, including those of US citizens in Yemen.

He exposed that the United States secretly launched missile, bomb, and drone attacks on Yemen, killing scores of civilians.

He exposed that Goldman Sachs paid Hillary Clinton $657,000 to give talks, a sum so large it can only be considered a bribe, and that she privately assured corporate leaders she would do their bidding while promising the public financial regulation and reform.

He exposed the internal campaign to discredit and destroy British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn by members of his own party.

He exposed how the hacking tools used by the CIA and the National Security Agency permits the wholesale government surveillance of our televisions, computers, smartphones and anti-virus software, allowing the government to record and store our conversations, images and private text messages, even from encrypted apps.

He exposed the truth. He exposed it over and over and over until there was no question of the endemic illegality, corruption and mendacity that defines the global ruling elite. And for these truths alone he is guilty.

Click here to read Chris Hedges full article entitled “The Most Important Battle for Press Freedom in Our Time” published by Sheerpost on Thursday 28th Oct.

This week Julian Assange was back in court for the final decision on his extradition hearing. In response the stenographers of power with feet tucked comfortably under their desks, politely sat back and said absolutely nothing.

This was the home page on the BBC website late on October 27th (following the first day of Assange’s hearing):

BBC news home page oct 27 2021

And this is the BBC politics page:

BBC news politics page Oct 27 2021

There was also no mention at all on the BBC world events page, although Assange does finally manage to grab a column inch on their UK page:

BBC news UK page Oct 27

On the second and last day of the hearing, BBC News did at least manage to produce a brief résumé of the case (embedded below) which is truly a masterpiece in how to mislead an audience by means of clever changes in tone and a disconnected series of half-truths:

Lies of omission abound. So although it reminds us that Assange had originally skipped bail telling the world his extradition to Sweden to face rape allegations (charges were later dropped) would inevitably result in his deportation to America, the report entirely fails to then put two and two together. Clearly Assange had been telling the truth all along and wasn’t making excuses.

Still more negligent is the BBC’s abject failure to mention how a de facto regime change in Ecuador first enabled the British to arrest him inside the embassy; or that private meetings with his lawyers were illegally bugged; or how the central allegations against him that led to charges of hacking and espionage are discredited by the dodgy witness who made them; or even the truly staggering revelations that the CIA actually formed plans to kidnap and assassinate Assange in London.

Nonetheless Channel 4 News still managed to outdo the BBC and on Wednesday failed to provide any mention whatsoever of Assange’s trial on any of its pages – here’s a glimpse of their main UK page:

Channel 4 news UK page Oct 27 2021

And here is a screenshot of Channel 4 NewsYoutube channel showing uploads for the entire week – stories that cover Ethiopia, Welsh ambulances, COP26, Frances Haugen and Facebook, Rishi Sunak’s budget, UK police abuse, Nigerian bronzes “looted” by British Museum, Sudan, the Met Police… but once again, no mention at all of Julian Assange:

Channel 4 news Youtube channel Oct 28 2021

Meanwhile, the Guardian, which once worked extremely closely with Assange, supplied their readership with a small offering on what is undoubtedly the trial of the century:

Guardian home page Oct 27 2021

Coincidentally, on the very same day that Julian Assange was fighting for justice and hoping to avoid extradition and the hell of an American jail, the environmental lawyer Steven Donziger whose case I have detailed here had his own appeal rejected by a court in New York and faced imprisonment too. Once again, none of the mainstream outlets either in the UK and America has devoted any attention to this story.

Instead, the Guardian environmental page looked like this:

Guardian environment page Oct 27 2021

And if you had typed Steven Donziger into Google this is all you would see – reports from The Nation and Democracy Now! but no coverage whatsoever by any newspapers or major TV channels in America or Europe:

Google main page for Steven Donziger Oct 27 2021

Here is one of the few post-judgement reports on Donziger’s imprisonment that I can find uploaded on Youtube:

To loosely paraphrase Martin Niemöller’s famous entreaty once more: first they came for the journalists, next they came for the lawyers…

So the last week has been a terrible week for Julian Assange and Steven Donziger, and more generally a terrible week for freedom and democracy.

So far, it has been a terrible week for all of us full stop.

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Additional:

Outside the High Court on day two, Julian Assange’s partner Stella Moris, Wikileaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, and Jeremy Corbyn arrive to speak to the crowd of protesters and with RT journalists:

Awaiting the decision on Julian Assange’s extradition at the end of the two-day hearing, on Thursday evening [Oct 28th] Roger Waters, shared his thoughts in an interview with RT:

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