Whistleblower Reinstated After Radiation Leak at Nuclear Dump

Originally published on August 26, 2014, at NationofChange.org

Following an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation, the U.S. Department of Labor ordered a government contractor to reinstate whistleblower Shelly Doss and pay $200,000 in back wages, attorney’s fees, and damages. The agency concluded government contractor Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) had wrongfully terminated Doss for reporting federal and state environmental violations at the nuclear cleanup site at Hanford, Washington.

Along the banks of the Colombia River lie a series of decommissioned nuclear reactors known as the Hanford site. Built during WWII as part of the Manhattan Project, the reactors produced plutonium for nuclear weapons. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), creating plutonium produced massive amounts of nuclear byproducts that were not properly disposed of and unintentional spills of liquid waste have contaminated the site.

Two years after the last reactor ceased operation in 1987, the DOE, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Washington State Department of Ecology entered into a legally binding accord to clean up the toxic waste posing a risk to the local environment at Hanford. Notorious for ignoring evidence of leaking nuclear waste tanks and toxic exposure to their employees, DOE contractor WRPS fired Doss in 2011 for raising concerns about environmental safety and record-keeping violations to management and to government agencies.

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Protect Endangered Black Spider Monkeys

Originally published on August 24, 2014, at ForceChange.com

Target: Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil

Goal: Create protected sanctuaries to prevent the rapid depopulation of black spider monkeys

Because black spider monkeys inhabit tropical and subtropical rainforests throughout South America, logging and deforestation are reducing their environment and endangering their species. Although they play a vital role in the survival of their ecosystem, these monkeys are dying out as their rainforests are destroyed. Brazil and other South American countries must lead the charge to save these creatures by designating protected areas to ensure the survival of the black spider monkeys and their rainforests.

The black spider monkey is key to the growth and survival of the tropical rainforests. By contributing to seed dispersal, the monkeys take active roles helping their ecosystem to nourish and thrive. Unsustainable deforestation counteracts seed dispersal by annihilating plant life and endangering the monkeys living within those habitations.

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Demand Justice for Assassinated Environmental Rights Activists

Originally published on August 24, 2014, at ForceChange.com

Target: Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia

Goal: Investigate the assassinations of environmental rights activists and provide justice to their families and friends

While defending communities affected by dam construction and mining projects in Colombia, two environmental rights activists have been gunned down for their work. The current members of their organization are under surveillance, experiencing break-ins, harassment, and death threats. The government of Colombia must investigate these murders and the current harassment before another environmental rights activist is killed.

Movimiento Rios Vivos (translated Living Rivers Movement) is an environmental organization dedicated to protecting communities from ecological damages caused by mining corporations and dam construction companies. While operating in Colombia, their members and leaders have been subjected to death threats, constant surveillance, persecution, and murder. Without properly investigating these crimes, law enforcement is allowing the violence to escalate against the environmentalists.

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Innocent Civilian Deaths Caused by Police Militarization

Originally published on August 23, 2014, at NationofChange.org

With the aggressive militarization of America’s police forces, innocent bystanders and family members often enter the crosshairs. For decades, federal programs have devised incentives for state and local police to utilize unnecessarily hostile weapons and battlefield tactics against civilians. Operating with a glaring lack of transparency and almost no public oversight, militarized police forces rarely find themselves accountable for their actions.

In a recent ACLU report titled War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policingthe Senior Counsel with the ACLU’s Center for Justice, Kara Dansky wrote, “The ACLU found through the course of this investigation that the excessive militarism in policing, particularly through the use of paramilitary policing teams, escalates the risk of violence, threatens individual liberties, and unfairly impacts people of color.”

After filing public records requests with more than 255 law enforcement agencies, 114 of the agencies denied the ACLU’s request. While investigating excessive weapon stockpiles and police militarization, the ACLU found a disturbing trend in Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams being used beyond their original mandate. Previously, SWAT teams had only been deployed to handle hostage, sniper, or terrorist threats. Now, SWAT teams conduct drug busts, disperse protesters, and execute “no knock” search warrants in residential neighborhoods.

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Cops Arrested for Drug Trafficking and Transporting Dealers

Originally published on August 22, 2014, at NationofChange.org

In a New York federal court this week, former Sheriff’s Deputy Charles Fuller pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to aid and abet the possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. Deputy Fuller admitted to accepting protection money to transport a drug dealer along with suspected packages of cocaine while off-duty. Unbeknownst to Fuller, the drug dealer was an FBI confidential informant.

On February 19, the FBI informant paid Deputy Fuller $1,000 to safely transport him and 250 grams of cocaine from Albany to Warren County. After completing the trip, Fuller agreed to transport the drug dealer again on February 27. Fuller raised the price to $4,000 because the informant would be carrying a kilogram of cocaine this time.

Instead of using cocaine, the FBI gave the informant a kilogram of a white powder that looked similar to the drug. Since Fuller never inspected the packages, he had no idea that FBI agents were preparing to arrest him. They placed Fuller in custody and recovered the $5,000 in marked bills that their informant had paid him.

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Demand Justice for Prisoner Tortured by Law Enforcement Officials

Originally published on August 22, 2014, at ForceChange.com

Target: King Mohammed VI of Morocco

Goal: Investigate the security forces responsible for torturing prisoners

Moroccan authorities detained a man for twelve days and tortured him in order to extract a confession from him. According to Amnesty International, the security forces severely beat the prisoner, gave him electric shocks, and burned him with a cigarette. Although the Moroccan government is reluctant to investigate the perpetrators of these crimes, they must launch an investigation into those guilty of committing torture.

Ali Aarrass was arrested and tortured for twelve days until he gave law enforcement officials a false confession to end the constant pain and suffering. To force a confession out of Ali, the security forces engaged in such harsh interrogation techniques as suspending him from the ceiling, whipping him, beating the soles of his feet, waterboarding him, electrocuting his testicles using a car battery, and burning him with cigarettes.

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Five Unarmed Black Men Killed by Police Within a Month

Originally published on August 20, 2014, at NationofChange.org

In less than a month, cops have been responsible for killing at least five unarmed black men. Police officials have confirmed Eric Garner, John Crawford, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, and Michael Brown were not carrying lethal weapons when authorities executed them. As racial tensions continue to escalate in Ferguson, militarized law enforcement agencies show no signs of ending the violence.

On July 17, NYPD Officer Justin Damico accused Eric Garner, 43, of selling untaxed cigarettes. A witness recorded video footage of Garner arguing with Damico when Officer Daniel Pantaleo crept up behind Garner and placed him in a chokehold. Officers piled on top of Garner as he weakly repeated, “I can’t breathe.”

After releasing the chokehold, Pantaleo placed his knee on the back of Garner’s head pressing his face into the pavement. Garner died of cardiac arrest induced by Pantaleo’s chokehold. The NYPD banned the use of chokeholds in 1994 after an officer placed Anthony Baez in a chokehold resulting in his death.

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Investigate Assassination Attempt Against Human Rights Worker

Originally published on August 20, 2014, at ForceChange.com

Target: Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of South Sudan

Goal: Investigate the assassination attempt against a prominent human rights activist

A human rights activist known for his anti-corruption campaigning was speaking outside with his friends when a man armed with an AK-47 fired at him. The human rights defender was wounded in the leg before the gunman escaped. No one has been arrested for the attempted murder. Demand that the government of South Sudan launch a full investigation into this attempted murder.

Advocating for the people of South Sudan, Deng Athuai Mawiir had recently called for accountability for murdered civilians in the current armed conflict. Although armed security personnel witnessed the assassination attempt against Mawiir, none attempted to apprehend the gunman.

In early July 2012, Mawiir was kidnapped and beaten for his work exposing corruption scandals. Mawiir was physically assaulted for three days in an attempt to intimidate him. Threatened with violence and assassination attempts, Mawiir continues to defend human rights in South Sudan.

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Stop Abusing Human Rights Activists and Union Leaders

Originally published on August 19, 2014, at ForceChange.com

Target: Abdul Hamid, President of Bangladesh

Goal: End the violence against human rights defenders and union leaders supporting workers’ rights

The police and pro-government groups are attacking union leaders participating in a hunger strike in Bangladesh. Human rights activists attempting to give medical supplies to the striking workers have been beaten and arrested. The government of Bangladesh needs to investigate these attacks and charge the guilty officers of excessive force.

At least 1,200 workers have been on a hunger strike since July 28, 2014. The workers are protesting in Hossain Market and demanding three months of unpaid wages. Human rights activists and doctors visit the workers, providing medical treatment and saline drips.

On August 6, police and members of a pro-government workers’ union barricaded the market to prevent doctors and human rights defenders from helping the striking workers. Targeting activists and union leaders, the police and pro-government groups savagely beat several human rights defenders and arrested them. Instead of engaging in retaliatory violence, the workers continued their hunger strike.

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Prisoners Using Drones to Smuggle Contraband

Originally published on August 18, 2014, at NationofChange.org

Defying conventional smuggling techniques, drone operators around the world are using a new method to sneak drugs, tobacco, cell phones, and other contraband into prisons. Capable of flying great distances, drones stashed with illicit packages can easily bypass prison walls to complete their deliveries. Many guards complain that they lack the proper ammunition to shoot down the drones.

The most recent drone was discovered on July 21, 2014, at a prison in Thailand. After receiving a tip-off about smuggling, guards at the Khao Bin prison reviewed surveillance footage and discovered a drone snagged on a tree branch inside the compound. The DJI Phantom drone they found was a quadcopter equipped with a GoPro video camera and a Wi-Fi signal range extender. Taped to the drone were two Nokia cell phones, two Bluetooth devices, four SIM cards, an integrated circuit and a pair of earphones. The drone operator escaped and is still at large.

On April 21, 2014, guards at Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina discovered a drone while conducting a routine perimeter check outside the prison. Officials believe the downed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) crashed into the prison’s 12-foot-tall razor wire fence and landed in the bushes. The drone had been carrying marijuana, cell phones, tobacco, and synthetic marijuana.

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