Release Human Rights Worker Sentenced to Ten Years in Prison

Originally published on September 15, 2014, at

Target: Thein Sein, President of Myanmar

Goal: Free a human rights activist from serving ten years with hard labor

While promoting development and democracy in Myanmar, a human rights worker has been imprisoned for disturbing public order. He faces at least ten years of hard labor for staging a series of peaceful protests concerning land rights in Rangoon. The government of Myanmar must release this activist and stop imprisoning people who are engaging in free speech.

Human rights worker Ko Htin Kyaw was arrested for leading several anti-government protests related to land rights in Rangoon. As director of the Movement for Democracy Current Force, he has been arrested multiple times for his role in the activist community. In 2007, he was sentenced to twelve years in prison for urging the government to reconsider a sharp increase in fuel prices. The government granted him amnesty in 2011 after serving four years in prison.

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U.S. Government Threatened to Fine Yahoo $250,000/Day

Originally published on September 14, 2014, at

Unsealed court documents reveal the U.S. government threatened Yahoo Inc. with $250,000 daily fines for refusing to hand over customer data to intelligence agencies in 2008. After losing in court, Yahoo and many major U.S. telecommunications corporations became complicit in the mass surveillance programs revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Taking desperate measures to ensure its secrecy, the government has rewritten the law to allow infringements upon the Fourth Amendment.

Instead of just requesting metadata, the Protect America Act of 2007 demanded telecom companies also provide full emails without a warrant. Although the law intended to target people outside of the U.S., the government admitted communications between Americans would likely be collected as well. After the Protect America Act lapsed, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 swiftly replaced it authorizing continued mass surveillance.

Contesting the order to provide the U.S. government with user data without a warrant, Yahoo waged a legal battle at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). Appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court chief justice, FISC members hold secret sessions and often only hear from Justice Department and intelligence agency lawyers. Arguing that the Protect America Act was in violation of the Fourth Amendment, Yahoo lost the case and was ordered to pay $250,000 for each day they refused to turn over customer data. The fine would have doubled for each successive week.

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Save Elephant from Forced Return to Captivity

Originally published on September 12, 2014, at

Target: Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India

Goal: Prevent freed elephant from returning to his abusive former owner

Raju the elephant wept after activists removed the chains that had been wrapped around his legs for the past 50 years. They transported Raju to Wildlife SOS’s Elephant Conservation and Care Center where he has been living with five female elephants for the last two months. Claiming that Raju is his property, the abusive former owner has launched a legal battle to repossess the liberated elephant. The Indian government must show compassion and never allow Raju to be placed in chains again.

Raju had been a calf in the wild when poachers captured him decades ago. After shackling his legs, Raju’s owners beat him until he learned to submit to them. Each time he was sold to a new master, they would beat Raju to break his spirit and exert their dominance over him. Malnourished and with no shelter at night, Raju began eating discarded paper and plastic in order to survive.

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Release Missing Human Rights Activists

Originally published on September 12, 2014, at

Target: Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar

Goal: Free human rights workers secretly abducted by the police

Researching human rights abuses against migrant workers living in Qatar, two British citizens have recently disappeared while under police surveillance. After being harassed and followed by law enforcement officials, the two human rights activists checked out of their hotel and were never seen again. The government of Qatar must release these activists immediately and prosecute anyone involved in their abduction.

While working for the Global Network for Rights and Development, a Norwegian human rights group, Krishna Upadhyaya and Ghimire Gundev flew to Qatar to investigate the treatment of migrant workers constructing the facilities for FIFA’s 2022 World Cup. The night before their disappearance Krishna Upadhyaya sent a message to a friend in Norway about the heavy police surveillance and harassment being conducted against them. On the day of their disappearance, many people reported seeing numerous plain-clothed policemen surveying their hotel.

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Facebook Photo Leads to Indictment of 7 Jail Guards

Originally published on September 11, 2014, at

Seven York County Jail corrections officers have been indicted on drug smuggling and conspiracy charges by a grand jury. The investigation began in February when an officer in central Maine found a Facebook photo taken by an inmate inside his jail cell. The inmate allegedly sold drugs and other illicit contraband supplied by his guards.

On February 26, York County Jail inmate Chase Bellefountaine added a profile picture of himself standing inside his cell. After seeing the photo posted on Facebook, a law enforcement officer in central Maine recognized the background and notified York County Jail officials that Bellefountaine had likely smuggled a cell phone into the facility. Guards searched his cell and belongings but could not locate the cell phone.

As the investigation continued, law enforcement officials received information that Bellefountaine had been selling drugs in jail. Officer Connor Bogan reportedly smuggled marijuana and suboxone into the jail for Bellefountaine to distribute. In one incident, a corrections officer allegedly smuggled drugs into the jail and delivered them to Bellefountaine’s girlfriend, Mercedes Cullicutt, who was visiting. Bellefountaine, Cullicutt, and former inmate Gregory Morin were indicted for possessing and trafficking drugs.

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Release Human Rights Activist Secretly Detained by Police

Originally published on September 10, 2014, at

Target: Qaboos bin Said al Said, Sultan of Oman

Goal: Free human rights advocate who disappeared after being summoned to police station

A prominent blogger and human rights activist, Mohamed Al Fazari Abdelrahman, received orders to appear at the police station. On August 30, 2014, he arrived at the police station and was never seen again. Instead of admitting to detaining Mohamed Al Fazari Abdelrahman, law enforcement officials refuse to give any information to his family and lawyer. The government of Oman must release this human rights advocate immediately.

After receiving a summons from the General Directorate of Inquires and Criminal Investigations of the Omani Police, Mohamed Al Fazari Abdelrahman showed up at the police station, but he never left. As founder and editor of the e-magazine Mowatin (“Citizen”), he advocated for freedom of speech and expression. His work has made him a target of law enforcement officials.

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Release Abducted Human Rights Activists

Originally published on September 9, 2014, at

Target: Joseph Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Goal: Free the human rights activists abducted by a militant group

While monitoring human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, three activists were abducted by a patrolling militant group. The militia has been arresting any villagers suspected of working for the government or the regular army. Because of their notebooks documenting human rights abuses, the activists have been mistaken for government workers and are still being held captive. The government of the DRC must ensure the immediate release of these human rights activists.

Members of Peasant Action for the Development and Promotion of Human Rights, Celestin Bambone, Kongwa Tulinabo, and Marie Amnazo, had been gathering data on human rights violations when they were abducted. On September 1, members of the National Liberation Forces kidnapped the activists and stole their notebooks. Mistaking them for government employees, the militia is holding them prisoner at their base and refuses to release these three human rights advocates.

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LA Times Reporter Caught Falsifying Articles with CIA

Originally published on September 8, 2014, at

In violation of journalistic ethics and the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, former Los Angeles Times reporter Ken Dilanian allowed CIA handlers to edit his articles prior to publication and reported false information to manipulate his audience. Responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, the CIA released hundreds of pages documenting the agency’s dubious relationship with national security reporters. Operating under a glaring lack of oversight, the CIA has been exploiting establishment journalists since its inception.

The newly released documents cover Dilanian’s correspondence with the CIA from March to July 2012. In his emails, Dilanian repeatedly broke ethical guidelines by submitting his articles to the CIA allowing them to alter facts in order to portray the agency in a more favorable light. Receiving false intelligence from the CIA, Dilanian reported a drone strike had successfully killed Al Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi without causing any collateral damage. According to Amnesty International and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, at least 20 people were killed in the attack and several more wounded. Although some of the casualties had probably been Al Qaeda members, the other victims were rescue workers slaughtered in a follow-up drone strike.

While collaborating on an article with L.A. Times reporter David Cloud, Dilanian submitted a draft asking his CIA handlers to approve the version before it went to print. Dissatisfied with the earlier draft, the CIA later approved a softened version of the article that Dilanian and Cloud published on May 16. While collaborating with L.A. Times reporter Rebecca Keegan, Dilanian downplayed the CIA’s participation in leaking classified information to director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal for their factually inaccurate propaganda film, Zero Dark Thirty.

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Conduct Rigorous Inspections of BP Refineries

Originally published on September 8, 2014, at

Target: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Goal: Impose harsher penalties and in-depth inspections of BP facilities to prevent disasters

An exploding compressor ignited a fire at BP’s largest U.S. refinery recently, leaving one worker injured. The company’s Whiting Refinery in Indiana has been the center of controversy and numerous incidents of incompetence. Known for causing the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, BP has a notorious history of taking shortcuts, neglecting safety regulations, and harming the environment. To prevent another disaster and any further loss of life, the U.S. government must impose harsher regulations against highly detrimental corporations with proven histories of inanity like BP.

Shaking local homes and injuring a worker, the compressor’s explosion set Whiting Refinery on fire and took hours to extinguish the flames. The injured worker was taken to a hospital to receive treatment. Since the fire took place at night, only a few workers were exposed to the flames. Had the explosion occurred during the dayshift, hundreds of workers could have been injured or killed.

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Colombian Pleads Guilty to Kidnapping and Murder of DEA Agent

Originally published on September 6, 2014, at

An extradited Colombian national pleaded guilty this week to aiding and abetting the murder of an internationally protected person and conspiracy to kidnap an internationally protected person. On June 20, 2013, DEA Special Agent James Terry Watson stepped into a cab in Bogota, Colombia. In an attempted robbery gone wrong, Watson was stabbed four times and bled to death. Six other men have been extradited and charged with their involvement in the kidnapping and murder of Watson.

After watching the NBA Finals at a restaurant with friends, Watson left by himself and entered a cab. Video footage revealed a second car pulling up behind Watson’s cab at an intersection as two men exited the second vehicle. They immediately entered the back of Watson’s taxi. A few moments later, Watson escaped from the cab and fled down the street before collapsing.

Julio Estiven Gracia Ramirez admitted to using fake taxis to lure wealthy people into their cars, kidnap them, and force them to withdraw money from an ATM. He confessed to targeting Watson with the intent to rob him, but insisted he never knew Watson was a federal agent.

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