Canadian police block journalists from covering indigenous pipeline protest

Originally published on January 10, 2019 at NationofChange.org

While arresting indigenous pipeline protesters in northern British Columbia, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) recently began prohibiting reporters from covering the demonstrations. In response, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released a statement demanding that Canadian law enforcement cease restricting access to reporters covering the pipeline protest.

On Sunday, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs issued a statement saying all five Wet’suwet’en clans, including the Gidimt’en, oppose the construction of oil and gas pipelines in their territory.

“The provincial and federal governments must revoke the permits for this project until the standards of free, prior and informed consent are met,” Phillip said in the news release.

Last October, LNG Canada announced its plans to move ahead with constructing the $6.2 billion pipeline. Although TransCanada subsidiary Coastal GasLink claims that agreements have been signed with all First Nations along the route for LNG Canada’s $40-billion liquefied natural gas project, demonstrators argue that Wet’suwet’en house chiefs, who are hereditary rather than elected, have not given consent.

According to the RCMP, at least 14 people have been arrested for blockading a forest service road in order to prevent access to the pipeline. Journalists and several media crews attempting to cover the pipeline protests have recently reported that the RCMP is restricting access to the site and prohibiting journalists from witnessing further arrests.

“Authorities in Canada should immediately end the arbitrary restrictions on journalists covering the police breakup of the pipeline protest,” CPJ North America Program Coordinator Alexandra Ellerbeck wrote in a press release on Tuesday. “Journalists should be able to freely cover events of national importance, without fear of arrest.”

“It sounds like the RCMP is once again using every tactic that they can to bend the law as much as possible to prevent journalists from gaining access to sites,” said Tom Henheffer, vice president of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE). “This is a tactic that is very commonly employed and is very difficult to fight against in the moment because [police] know that when you’ve got a bunch of officers with guns telling people what they can and cannot do, it doesn’t necessarily matter whether the law is on the RCMP’s side or not – because it takes too long for a journalist to get a lawyer, go to court to get an order to allow them to get on to the site.”

By restricting access to the demonstrations, Canadian law enforcement are attempting to control the narrative by preventing journalists from witnessing their actions. According to some reports, most communication from the site recently went dark due to an alleged satellite issue, but the RCMP issued a statement on Monday denying any involvement with the suspiciously beneficial disruption of communications in the area.

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Third police officer sentenced to prison for framing black males

Originally published on October 19, 2018 at NationofChange.org

After pleading guilty to framing innocent black men and punching a handcuffed suspect in the face, a third Florida police officer was sentenced Thursday to 27 months in prison for conspiracy to deprive a person of his civil rights and deprivation of civil rights under color of law. Two other officers have been sentenced to one year in federal prison, while their former police chief awaits sentencing next month.

On January 23, 2013 and February 26, 2014, at the direction of then-Biscayne Park Police Department Chief Raimundo Atesiano, Officer Guillermo Ravelo falsely arrested two black men for a series of unsolved burglaries without any probable cause. In a separate incident, on April 7, 2013, Ravelo arrived at a traffic stop to provide backup before using unreasonable force by punching a handcuffed suspect in the face.

On June 13, 2013, Chief Atesiano ordered officers Charlie Dayoub and Raul Fernandez to unlawfully arrest and falsely charge a 16-year-old juvenile identified only as “T.D.” With no evidence to charge T.D. for another series of unsolved burglaries, Fernandez fabricated information in the arrest affidavits, while Dayoub signed the affidavits and supported the false claims.

“These officers conspired to falsely arrest individuals in the name of providing deceptive clearance statistics for the benefit of Chief Atesiano,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore. “Chief Atesiano and these officers abused their authority and the Department will continue to ensure officers such as these are held accountable.”

“Officers who use excessive force and make false arrests maliciously cause harm to their victims and scourge our justice system,” stated U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan. “With great power, comes great responsibility. Through aggressive federal prosecutions, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida will continue to guard the invaluable civil rights of every member of our community and hold those accountable who violate our constitutional protections.”

“These three police officers from Biscayne Park disgraced themselves and damaged the public’s trust in law enforcement. Their actions are inexcusable and are not representative of the law enforcement professionals who serve us selflessly,” noted Robert Lasky, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami.

“Honesty and integrity are the core values of every effective police officer,” said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “Former Biscayne Park Police Officers Guillermo Ravelo, Charlie Dayoub, and Raul Fernandez undermined their essential task of protecting the community, in some instances by using excessive force and in others, by conspiring to deprive suspects of their civil rights so as to produce bogus arrests. This absolute abuse of power by all three officers violated every aspect of the oath Ravelo, Dayoub, and Fernandez took the day they became police officers.”

On June 11, Atesiano, Dayoub, and Fernandez were charged with conspiracy to violate civil rights under color of law and deprivation of T.D.’s civil rights, under color of law. In August, Dayoub and Fernandez both pleaded guilty to deprivation of T.D.’s civil rights, under color of law. They were recently sentenced to each serve 12 months in federal prison.

In April, Ravelo was charged with depriving persons of their civil rights under color of law and falsifying records in a federal investigation. In July, Ravelo pleaded guilty in Miami federal court to a conspiracy charge of violating the rights of two falsely accused black men and using excessive force during a 2013 traffic stop by punching a handcuffed man in the face. On Thursday, Ravelo was sentenced to 27 months incarceration for conspiracy to deprive a person of his civil rights and deprivation of civil rights under color of law.

Last month, Atesiano pleaded guilty to conspiring with his subordinate officers to violate the civil rights of three black males by making false arrests. The former police chief is scheduled to be sentenced on November 27.

Bernie calls for Paradise Papers investigation before considering GOP tax bill

Originally published on November 7, 2017 at NationofChange.org

In response to the recent Paradise Papers leak disclosing nearly 7 million financial documents detailing high-profile offshore accounts and tax havens, Sen. Bernie Sanders called for an investigation into the disclosures before even considering the GOP’s new tax plan. Due to the fact that most of the information in the leak involved U.S. citizens, residents, and companies, Sanders also urged Americans to “end the rapid movement toward international oligarchy.”

On November 2, Sanders issued a statement concerning the Republican tax plan: “Donald Trump is labeling the disastrous Republican tax bill as the ‘Cut, Cut, Cut Act’ and he is right. At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, this bill would cut taxes for billionaires by repealing the estate tax. When corporations are making record-breaking profits, this bill would slash taxes for companies that are shifting American jobs to China and profits to the Cayman Islands. And if this bill passes it would blow a giant hole in the deficit, forcing massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

“Just as we defeated the Republican health care bill, our job now is to bring people together to defeat this disastrous tax bill and to create an economy and government that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent.”

On Monday, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published an extensive exploration into 13.4 million leaked files from a leading offshore law firm named Appleby, a trust company named Asiaciti, and from company registries in 19 secrecy jurisdictions. The leaked documents disclose major offshore accounts held by Queen Elizabeth II, several associates of President Donald Trump, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief fundraiser while revealing tax avoidance schemes implemented by multinational corporations, including Apple and Nike.

“The major issue of our time is the rapid movement toward international oligarchy in which a handful of billionaires own and control a significant part of the global economy,” Sanders recently told The Guardian. “The Paradise Papers shows how these billionaires and multinational corporations get richer by hiding their wealth and profits and avoid paying their fair share of taxes.”

According to the Paradise Papers, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross failed to disclose his ongoing business with Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law and another Putin associate who is currently under U.S. sanctions. During his confirmation hearing, Ross promised to divest himself of any financial ties with a potential conflict of interest. But Ross continues to invest in the shipping company, Navigator Holdings, which is finically linked to Kirill Shamalov, the husband of Putin’s daughter, while the special prosecutor continues to investigate and indict Trump’s associates for possible Russian collusion during last year’s election.

In an interview with MSNBC, Sen. Richard Blumenthal accused Ross of deceiving the American public and asserted, “If he fails to present a clear and compelling explanation, he ought to resign.”

Referring to the Paradise Papers and his newly disclosed financial ties to Putin’s associates, Ross stated, “The fact that it happens to be called a Russian company does not mean that there’s any evil in it.”

“The journalists do not allege, nor could they, that Appleby has done anything unlawful. There is no wrongdoing. It is a patchwork quilt of unrelated allegations with a clear political agenda and movement against offshore,” Appleby said in a recent statement. “We wish to reiterate that our firm was not the subject of a leak but of a serious criminal act. This was an illegal computer hack.”

Last year, the president of the Chilean chapter of Transparency International and the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan resigned following the Panama Papers leak. Other prominent figures named in the Panama Papers included the father of former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, several friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the family of Chinese President Xi Jinping, cousins of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the family of former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the King of Saudi Arabia, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and Argentine President Mauricio Macri.

On Monday, Sanders took to Twitter and wrote, “Before Congress considers a tax bill it must investigate the Paradise Papers. We must end the rapid movement toward international oligarchy.”

No Charges For Cops Who ‘Accidentally’ Fired 107 Bullets at an Innocent Mom and Daughter

Originally published on January 28, 2016, at TheFreeThoughtProject.com

Los Angeles, CA – Exposing the double standard between police and civilians, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday that no criminal charges will be filed against the eight LAPD officers responsible for nearly killing an innocent woman and her daughter. Although the cops ambushed the unarmed women without warning and fired over 100 bullets without provocation, the district attorney justified the case of mistaken identity due to the fact that the officers involved were afraid and incompetent.

At 5 a.m. on February 7, 2013, Margie Carranza and her mother, Emma Hernandez, were delivering newspapers throughout a residential neighborhood in Torrance when eight LAPD cops suddenly opened fire. As Carranza suffered cuts from the flying glass, Hernandez was shot twice in the back while trying to protect her daughter. One bullet exited just above Hernandez’s collarbone, while the other bullet struck her lower back, near her spine. A fragment of shattered glass also flew into her eye.

After firing 107 bullets at the innocent women, the LAPD cops ordered them out of the vehicle and immediately realized their mistake. Instead of a 33-year-old black man, two Hispanic women exited the pickup truck and demanded to know, “Why did you shoot at us?”

Instead of rendering first aid or even apologizing for the act of attempted murder, the officers called for paramedics while refusing to offer any explanation for the ambush. Awakened by the gunfire, residents emerged from their homes to find their vehicles, houses, and front doors riddled with bullets. With five bullet holes in the entryway to his house, one neighbor asked, “How do you mistake two Hispanic women, one who is 71, for a large black male?”

Twenty-five minutes after the shooting, Torrance police officers stopped David Perdue a few blocks away as he was driving to the beach to go surfing before work. After the officers questioned him and ordered Perdue to turn around, he complied with their commands and began driving away when another Torrance police cruiser raced towards his vehicle and broadsided him. Suffering from a concussion and back pain, Perdue remained in his vehicle as an officer opened fire on him.

Although Torrance PD and LAPD were searching for a black man driving a gray Nissan Titan, Perdue is a white man who was driving a black Honda Ridgeline. Carranza and Hernandez were driving a blue Toyota Tacoma when the officers ambushed them without bothering to confirm their identities.

The officers responsible for nearly killing Carranza and her mother had been tasked with guarding the house of LAPD Capt. Justin Eisenberg. Because the police captain had been a member of the Board of Rights that voted to terminate former Officer Christopher Dorner, police suspected Dorner might attempt to kill Eisenberg or his family. The police captain was also named in Dorner’s manifesto, which he posted online after the initial murders.

In his manifesto, Dorner accused Sgt. Teresa Evans of kicking a restrained suspect named Christopher Gettler in the chest and face. After filing a complaint against Evans, Dorner was labeled a liar by the department and subsequently fired. Dorner also pointed out in his manifesto that many of the officers involved in the Rodney King beating and Rampart scandal during the 1990s have been promoted to supervisory or command positions within the LAPD and surrounding departments.

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced that LAPD officers Jess Faber, Marlon Franco, Sergio Gramajo, John Hart, Geoff Lear, Deshon Parker, Jonathan Roman, and Sgt. John Valdez would not face charges for the attempted murders of Carranza and her mother. Due to the fact that the entire police department was scared of one man and could not be held accountable for their incompetent actions, none of the officers who fired 107 bullets at two unarmed, innocent women will face prosecution. Although the women received a $4.2 million settlement and a new pickup truck, no cop will be held accountable for firing the first shot or failing to correctly identify the make/model of the vehicle along with the race and gender of its occupants.

Although LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced during the manhunt that officials would re-examine Dorner’s allegations of police misconduct, nearly three years have passed without any results. Instead, Sgt. Teresa Evans filed a lawsuit against the LAPD last year alleging racial discrimination against her. Evans is white.


Andrew Emett is a Los Angeles-based reporter exposing political and corporate corruption. His interests include national security, corporate abuse, and holding government officials accountable. Andrew’s work has appeared on Raw Story, Alternet, Activist Post, and many other sites. You can follow him on Twitter @AndrewEmett and on Facebook at Andrew Emett.

Only Six Days After Starting Cannabis Oil, This Little Girl’s Leukemia Went Into Remission

Originally published on August 4, 2015, at TheFreeThoughtProject.com

Diagnosed with cancer at the age of seven, Mykayla Comstock was declared in remission of T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia three years ago yesterday. Although her family credits cannabis for saving Mykayla’s life and cannabis has been shown to kill cancer cells in the laboratory, the FDA still refuses to approve cannabis as a cancer treatment.

Three years ago, Mykayla began showing symptoms, including a hacking cough, body aches, fever, night sweats, and a rash across her legs. Suspecting Mykayla had strep throat, her doctor placed her on antibiotics, but her health continued to deteriorate. A second doctor found a large mass in her chest pressing against her internal organs. After enduring spinal taps and bone marrow biopsies, she was diagnosed with aggressive T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

To treat the symptoms of her daughter’s chemotherapy, such as nausea, loss of appetite, and restlessness, Mykayla’s mother, Erin Purchase, started giving her a gram of cannabis oil each day. Mykayla usually ingests the cannabis either in a pill form or a brownie baked with marijuana-laced butter.

Under Oregon law, pediatric cancer patients are allowed to treat the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of chemotherapy with medical marijuana if the children have parental consent and a doctor’s approval. Although her father, Jesse Comstock, is concerned about the long-term effects of cannabis on his daughter, Mykayla’s mother credits the plant for helping to save her daughter’s life.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), cannabis has been studied in the clinic and found that it may have benefits in treating the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of cancer therapies. Cannabis has also been shown to kill cancer cells in the laboratory. Although the FDA has approved two cannabinoids (dronabinol and nabilone) for the prevention and treatment of chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, the FDA still has not approved cannabis as a cancer treatment.

While supporting the need for more scientific research on cannabinoids, the American Cancer Society recognizes the necessity “for better and more effective therapies that can overcome the often debilitating side effects of cancer and its treatment. The Society also believes that the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance by the US Drug Enforcement Administration imposes numerous conditions on researchers and deters scientific study of cannabinoids. Federal officials should examine options consistent with federal law for enabling more scientific study on marijuana.”

Whether or not cannabis was directly responsible for Mykayla’s remission, the treatment does ease the physical and psychological pain caused by her chemotherapy. Although more studies are required before the FDA considers approving cannabis as a cancer treatment, at least in Oregon a brave young girl is celebrating three years of remission.

NY Attorney General Investigating Death of Woman in Police Custody

Originally published on August 4, 2015, at NationofChange.org

After signing an executive order to investigate and prosecute the deaths of civilians caused by law enforcement officers, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered his attorney general to launch a probe into the death of a woman recently found dead in her holding cell. Although the Westchester District Attorney’s Office was initially handling the investigation, Gov. Cuomo assigned the state’s attorney general to take over in order to ensure an investigation and prosecution without conflict or bias at the local level.

Arrested on July 25 for allegedly stealing a box of crab legs from a Restaurant Depot in Westchester, Raynette Turner, 42, was taken to jail and charged with shoplifting. The next evening, Turner told the guards that she felt ill and was taken to Montefiore Mount Vernon Hospital. After receiving treatment for hypertension, Turner was returned to her cell to await her arraignment the following day.

On July 27, Turner was transferred to a holding area at the courthouse when she reportedly vomited while awaiting her arraignment. Instead of taking Turner back to the hospital, officers moved her to a cell downstairs and reported last seeing her alive between noon and 1 p.m. Although the guards are supposed to check the cells every 15 minutes, Turner was found dead in her cell around 2 p.m.

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US Marshal Found Guilty of Obstruction in Drunken Shooting

U.S. Marshal Brandon Taylor leads away Tesa Kebreau after arresting her during the Urban Shield operation. Kebreau was arrested on a warrant for assaulting a government officer. CIABP

Originally published on August 1, 2015, at NationofChange.org

An off-duty deputy U.S. marshal was found guilty of obstruction of justice on Thursday for lying to LAPD homicide detectives in order to justify killing a man. After striking his wife in public and gunning down a stranger who defended her, U.S. Marshal Matthew Itkowitz provided misleading statements to his superior and the homicide detectives investigating the shooting. Unbeknownst to the drunken deputy marshal, a nearby surveillance camera recorded the incident and discredited his lies.

After dining at a Mexican restaurant with his wife and drinking too many shots of tequila on the evening of March 5, 2008, off-duty U.S. Marshal Matthew Itkowitz and his wife were walking home discussing marital problems when he began physically abusing her. According to a district attorney report, Itkowitz struck his wife and pushed her before she ran toward a nearby tattoo parlor and asked for help. Ryan Gonzalez, the manager of the tattoo parlor, confronted Itkowitz and asked, “Why are you yelling at the lady? Why are you treating the lady like that?”

Although the surveillance video does not capture the beginning of the fight, the footage does show Gonzalez knocking down Itkowitz twice before motioning for him to leave. When Itkowitz refuses to leave, Gonzalez follows him into the alley and appears to pull a gun out of his pocket. After briefly pointing the gun at Itkowitz, Gonzalez places the pistol back into his pocket while ordering Itkowitz to leave again.

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