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A prison where the prisoners were in charge

The General Penitentiary of Venezuela was a place where inmates mostly roamed freely. But there was also a rigid, if convoluted, code of conduct. Inmates are seen praying early in the morning. At the time, inmates here have run afoul of La Routina and were awaiting punishment would stay here.Oscar B. Castillo Oscar B. Castillo, a documentary photographer, had extraordinary access to Venezuela's PGV prison during an extended period when it was controlled by inmates. This photo essay was adapted from Castillo's book about the Free Convict hip-hop collective. The book, "Esos Que Saben," was published this month.  One of Venezuela's hottest venues for musicians and sports stars was, for part of the last decade, a maximum-security prison run by its own inmates. "Party at the PGV tonight," local DJs would announce over the radio. Visitors would come from the nearby towns, or all the way from the capital, Caracas, 100 miles away. The PGV, or the General Penitentiary of Venezuela, was a place where inmates mostly roamed freely. The cell blocks had been torn out and there was no "behind bars." But there was also a rigid, if convoluted, code of conduct that was maintained by gangs and an arsenal of heavy weapons. Infractions were met with brutal punishments.Visitors were considered sacred, and off-limits. The PGV was at its best on Visitors' Days — which could run for weeks since there wasn't a formal limit.  Christmas, Mother's Day, or the birthdays of gang leaders who ran the place were always a good excuse to put on concerts, or bring in bouncy castles, clowns, and hot dog carts for visiting kids. As night fell, DJs would be brought in to perform in the penitentiary's central square with electronic music, laser shows, and fireworks. A prisoner dances with a woman during a Visitors' Day event at the PGV.Oscar B. CastilloKids play and jump in one of the several bouncy castles that prisoners set up on Visitor days.Oscar B. CastilloAs a group of Mariachis played songs about maternal love during a Mother's Day celebration at the prison, the mother of an inmate walked onto the stage and joined the performance.Oscar B. CastilloOutside/Inside From the outside, there were vestiges of ordinary prison infrastructure: High fences heavily crowned with barbed wire, control towers, and checkpoints manned by military officers armed with rifles and machine guns. Long lines of relatives, mostly women and kids, carrying large bags of goods and tired expressions on their faces, lined up under the scorching heat to submit to searches — or be made to pay bribes — before being allowed through. But look closer, and you would have seen a thin fence. On one side were guards, employed by the state and confined to the prison's perimeter. On the other side, manning the PGV's entrance, a select group of prisoners held far more powerful guns, and many more of them. Once inside, most inmates — everyone here was an inmate — walked around freely through the maze of corridors, pavilions, and wards. In some areas, shacks and other private dwellings had been erected.  From the alleyways and through the prison's windows, the rugged mountain landscape, which lent the town of San Juan de Los Morros its name, could be seen in the distance — beautiful, but also painful, for how it reminded prisoners of their lost freedom. The PGV first opened in 1948, billed as a model South American prison where prisoners could work the soil, care for animals, and live in the relative open. But starting around 2007, as the institutional structure of Venezuela crumbled and mafia activity and corruption spiraled out of control, prison gangs amassed weapons and drugs and, with it, leverage. After years of continuous abandonment and failed policies, police and soldiers were often interchangable with criminals, and human rights groups documented their abuses.Around 2009, the criminal group called "El Carro" (The Car), under the command of El Principal, had taken over the daily workings of the PGV.  By 2010, many of Venezuela's biggest male prisons were under the effective control of inmates.  The General Penitentiary of Venezuela, known as the PGV.Oscar B. CastilloChristian evangelist prisoners during a prayer visit from Caracas. These prisoners had their own zone at the PGV and were responsible for jobs like cleaning and carrying water. They could not roam around the prison after 7pm.Oscar B. CastilloHéctor, right, playfully points a gun at another inmate.Oscar B. CastilloDrugs laid out on a table for sale.Oscar B. CastilloLa RutinaAt the PGV's entrance was a makeshift market. There, entrepreneurial prisoners filled tables with basic items, like bread and DVDs, or marijuana joints that were artfully arranged to look like a bouquet of flowers. More stands lined the prison's narrow corridors, which reverberated with the rhythms of Salsa and Reggaeton. You might find barbeque meat, or rum or vodka-based cocktails spun in blenders and served with a lime twist. Even in those times when extreme shortages plagued Venezuela, here at the PGV, people could find practically anything they wished to buy. On visitor days, you might see free Venezuelans shopping for toilet paper, flour or cooking oil — basic products that had completely disappeared from supermarkets shelves.All of this happened under the attentive eyes of Los Luceros. Select members of the gangs that ran the PGV, they answered to orders from the Principal. Armed with revolvers, rifles, and even hand grenades, Los Luceros made sure that everything ran smoothly. They also enforced the payment of an obligatory weekly tax, called "La Causa," which officially paid for prison maintenance and security (more weapons), as well as parties and other activities. For inmates, life at the PGV was like walking a tightrope over a pool of sharks. Abiding by an unwritten code known as La Rutina was obligatory, and prisoners lived under the constant threat of ruthless punishment if they stepped outside of it. A minor offense, or the wrong look, might make you into a pariah, or lead to a punishment that could be the last thing seen in this world. Stealing a cigarette could result in a bullet through your hand. On Mondays, in an improvised arena called the Coliseum, dozens of inmates were compelled to settle their debts or other disputes over knife fights. Ordinary words like egg, milk or water — that in Venezuelan slang might carry a vague sexual connotation — were banned because of their potential to offend other inmates. Saying them could get you banished to dirty and trash-filled corners of the prison, far from the markets and the fun.Free Convict For three years, from the beginning of 2014 until Venezuelan authorities finally shut the place down in 2016, I had extraordinary access to the PGV as a Venezuelan documentary photographer. At that point, the PGV had a population of around 5,000 people — more than six times its intended capacity. Most of the inmates were still in legal limbo; many hadn't yet been tried for their alleged offense, or given an exact sentence. It was also extraordinarily violent: In 2014, there were at least 309 homicides in Venezuelan prisons, where some 60,000 prisoners were held, according to the Venezuelan Prisons Observatory. The recording studio that Free Convict group built inside the prison.Oscar B. CastilloAn inmate rides a motorcycle in one of PGV's sports fields. Motorcycles of all sizes from 80cc to 650cc were common inside the jail.Oscar B. CastilloFree Convict's recording studio at the PGV.Oscar B. CastilloI was at the PGV with Free Convict, a Hip Hop collective formed by 12 inmates and to try to understand their lives in all of their  complexities. These men had survived gang life, street violence, drugs, and now this bizarre penitentiary existence. They were now looking to chart a new path for themselves, making rhymes around the themes of non-violence, self-improvement, and redemption. In the early days, Free Convict would gather in a Freestyle circle in the prison's central square. The meetings became bigger and more frequent, and eventually even the PGV's toughest bosses began to show them respect. (It helped that their leader, Ray Martinez, was part of the "El Carro" gang that controlled the prison.) Through the same cracks by which drugs and weapons flowed into the PGV, Free Convict managed to smuggle in  a recording studio, where they recorded a full album and produce music videos. In time, they got to be good enough, and famous enough, to attract collaborators both from inside the prison and beyond its walls. Only in total chaos, as Venezuela was of those years, would a place like the PGV be possible. Out of that anarchic landscape, Free Convict offered the possibility of a different way of life, a fresh start, and an oasis in the midst of madness. HéctorOne of the inmates behind Free Convict was a man named Héctor. Like a few of the others, he had arrived at the PGV as something of a stereotype of the hardened criminal. By the time I met him, he was much more interested in self-reflection and finding redemption. Born in 1992, Héctor came up in the Pinto Salinas neighborhood of Caracas. As a kid, he was a promising basketball player. But his future in the sport was cut short in 2010. His gang was fighting for control of the area, a notorious staging ground for drug distribution, and he got caught in a hail of bullets that nearly killed him and tore up one of his arms at the elbow. Héctor.Oscar B. CastilloBy 2012, the year Héctor was sent to the PGV for being an accomplice to a homicide, his two brothers had been killed. Humberto, the oldest, was gunned down near their home in Pinto Salinas in 2008. Junior, the youngest, died a similar death in 2011. Now, another son seemed to be heading down the same inexorable path.Like most prisoners at the PGV, Héctor depended on his family, outside, to bring him things to sell at the market. In good times, he might make enough to pay La Causa, take care of his needs, and even send some profits home. The best bet for making money was to set up a table selling crack, cocaine, base paste, marijuana and blunts. But even in this environment, where drugs could be sold and consumed out in the open, this line of work could be unpredictable and dangerous. Héctor liked the money; the money was useful to him. But selling drugs brought problems. So Héctor mostly avoided it. At one point, he sold nails, screws, wires, and pieces of wood to inmates — coveted objects that inmates used to build improvised shacks. If he got his hands on some flour, he might set up a stand selling banana cake or Venezuelan arepas.Héctor lies with his mother, whom he calls "La Pucha," during a Visitors day at the PGV. Venezuela's violence has taken a heavy toll on La Pucha, who lost two sons and whose third, Héctor, was locked up for six years.Oscar B. CastilloWhenever possible, he'd hoped to make enough money so his mother, Rosalia Rivero, who worked as a janitor and whom he playfully called "La Pucha," could travel from Caracas for a Visitors Day. On these visits, she would head straight to her son's room, willfully ignoring the strangeness she passed along the way. She was used to seeing drugs and weapons, and she associated both with losing two of her sons, and almost losing a third. At the PGV, she found Héctor a changed man. Héctor was never an angel; nobody in Free Convict was. But now he was searching for something different. Together with the rest of Free Convict, Héctor had resolved to take control of his life, and break the cycle that had put him on the frontlines of the street wars that were tearing apart Venezuela and that nobody had asked for. To do that, Héctor had to sharpen his talent, and believe in himself.Héctor, center, and two other members of Free Convict are seen seated at the highest point of the PGV as they use a drone to record a music video. Once the church bell tower, it became a command post for prison gangs to watch the perimeter of the PGV. Bullet holes testify to the many battles between prisoners and authorities.Oscar B. CastilloBoom!By 2016, the situation in Venezuela had become catastrophic. Inflation was out of control and finding basic items had become nearly impossible. At the PGV, families were barely able to send help. Inmates went from drinking good rum at parties to making their own alcohol, from fermenting banana skin, in plastic Gatorade bottles. Instead of manning tables piled high with drugs, inmates like Héctor scraped together money selling single cigarettes or hot chocolate. La Causa had to be paid first. There was barely any money for food. The beginning of the end of the PGV came in September of 2016. Musicians and sports players had been brought in, along with the usual flood of friends and family from the outside, to celebrate the birthday of the PGV's big boss, Franklin "Viru Viru." Trophies from sports events and portraits of gang bosses, some allegedly killed by police after their release, are displayed in a central area of the PGV.Oscar B. CastilloInmates at the overcrowded PGV sleep on the floor and makeshift hammocks. The prison housed more than 6 times its expected capacity.Oscar B. CastilloThen, suddenly, BOOM, a hand grenade explosion caused the prison's foundation to tremble. Smoke was everywhere. Some people screamed in agony, others ran in all directions. In the confusion, Los Luceros pointed their guns at each other, looking for signs of treason.When the black cloud had cleared, there was a hellish scene of wounded people and dead bodies. Visitors and prisoners alike were among the almost 20 victims. Afterwards, tension and fear were everywhere, and the prison divided into warring factions. Punishment, including murder, was more common, and even more random. Seeing an opening, forces from the state finally stormed the prison. For two weeks, there was fighting, leading to an estimated 80 deaths. There was no water or electricity. Starving inmates killed their pets for food, or consumed whatever drugs they could find to fight off hunger. Tuberculosis was plaguing the prison and infected prisoners were dying daily. When it was finally over, government soldiers emptied the PGV and inmates were sent to other detention centers around the country. Free Convict scrambled to stay in touch, but finding out who had ended up where was almost impossible.Free Convict, which by then was better and more popular than ever, seemed to be dying. Héctor ended up at Tocuyito, another prisoner-controlled prison, where he stayed for another two years.CaracasOne day in 2020 — six years after I began documenting Free Convict at the PGV — I went to a recording studio in Caracas to meet up with the collective. Nearly all of them had been released, and they were trying to keep Free Convict's work alive from the outside. Free in Caracas, there was still so much to navigate. The immediate problem was Héctor. His family hadn't heard from him in three days. At first, the police said they had no record of him being arrested. Now, thanks to pressure from his family, they were saying he had been arrested, and would be released soon. We predicted he'd come to the studio directly, and were waiting for him there. When he finally arrived, fear, rage, and frustration filled his eyes. He told us that he had been in his neighborhood with his cousin, known as "The Cat," when police arrived and shot his cousin dead. They'd then arrested Héctor, who now told us he'd been spared only thanks to a divine intervention.Héctor, in Caracas, is seen with local kids he helps mentor.Oscar B. CastilloMembers of Free Convict and Otro Enfoque, a local NGO, are seen late at night visiting a group of kids living under a bridge in Caracas. The river below receives water from the city's sewers. Free Convict uses their history with crime and incarceration to collaborate on initiatives that inspire crime-prevention, non-violence, and change.Oscar B. CastilloWe couldn't confirm Héctor's story, but there were plenty of others like it. Later that year, the United Nations would call on President Nicolas Maduro to disband various police units that had been behind extrajudicial killings and "crimes against humanity."It was possible that Héctor had actually been spared because, since his release, he'd become relatively well-known both for his work with Free Convict and for his anti-violence and community-building work in prisons, schools, and other areas affected by violence and exclusion. Having overcome so much in an upside-down Venezuela where police forces could turn their guns on civilians and prisoners controlled the prisons, Héctor is a survivor.  After so many close calls with death and so much adversity, he had done so much to rebuild his life and forge a new path. His mistakes were part of who he was, but the actions he had taken in his life because of those mistakes, and his skill in communicating the things he'd learned, made him a valued mentor to so many Caracus youths who were in a desperate search for new paths to walk away from violence.But for all the progress Héctor had made in his life, he was still at the mercy of the arbitrary violence of Venezuela. Together, we all wondered where Héctor was safest: In Caracas, trying to contribute to his community while at the mercy of the arbitrary violence of Venezuela, and possibly at the hands of Venezuelan police, or back under La Rutina. Héctor stands for a portrait while he and other members of Free Convict take a day job cleaning and painting a disco club. Steady jobs that pay well are scarce in Venezuela.Oscar B. CastilloOscar B. Castillo is a documentary photographer and multimedia artist. His book about the PGV, "Esos Que Saben" was published this year and is available for purchase here.  Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytAug 19th, 2022

5 Psychological Experiments That Explain The Modern World

5 Psychological Experiments That Explain The Modern World Authored by Kit Knightly via Off-Guardian.org, The world is a confusing place. People do things that don’t make any sense, think things that aren’t supported by facts, endure things they do not need to endure, and viciously attack those who try to bring these things to their attention. If you’ve ever wondered why, you’ve come to the right place. Any casual reader of the alternate media landscape will eventually come up with a reference to Stanley Milgram, or Philip Zimbardo, the “Asch Experiment” or maybe all three. “Cognitive Dissonance”, “Diffusion of Responsibility”, and “learned helplessness” are phrases that regularly do the rounds, but where do they come from and what they mean? Well, here are the important psycho-social experiments that teach us about the way people think, but more than that they actually explain how our modern world works, and just how we got into this mess. 1. THE MILGRAM EXPERIMENT The Experiment: Let’s start with the most famous. Beginning in 1963, Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted a series of experiments now referred to as the Milgram Obedience Experiments. The setting is simple, Subject A is told to conduct a memory test on Subject B, and administer electric shocks when he makes mistakes. Of course, Subject B does not exist, and the electric shocks are not real. Instead, actors would cry, ask for help or pretend to be unconscious, all the while Subject A would be encouraged to carry on administering the shocks. The vast majority of subjects carried on with the test and gave the shocks, despite the distress of “Subject B”. The Conclusion: In his paper on this experiment Stanley Milgram coined the term “diffusion of responsibility”, describing the psychological process by which a person can excuse or justify doing harm to someone if they believe it’s not really their fault, they won’t be held accountable, or they do not have a choice. The Application: Almost literally endless. All institutions can use this phenomenon to pressure people into acting against their own moral code. The army, the police, hospital staff – wherever there is a hierarchy or perceived authority, people will fall victim to the diffusion of their own responsibility. NOTE: They made a decent film about Milgram, and the backlash his experiments caused called Experimenter. In recent years there has been a major pushback on this experiment, with articles in the MSM attacking the findings and methodology and new “researchers” claiming “it does not prove what you think it does.” * 2. THE STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT The Experiment: Only slightly less famous than Milgram’s work is Philip Zimbardo’s Prison Experiment, carried out at Stanford University in 1971. The experiment set up a mock-prison for a week, with one group of subjects designated “guards” and the other “prisoners”. Both sides were provided uniforms, and prisoners were given a number. The guards were ordered to only ever address prisoners by their number, not their name. There were a number of other rules and procedures, detailed here. In brief, over the course of the week, guards became increasingly sadistic, dealing out punishments to disobedient prisoners and rewarding “good prisoners” in order to try and divide them. Many of the prisoners simply took the abuse, and in-fighting began between “trouble makers” and “good prisoners”. Though technically not an “experiment” in the purest sense (there was no hypothesis to test, and no control group), and perhaps impacted by “demand characteristics”, the study does reveal interesting patterns of behaviour in its subjects. The Conclusion: Prison guards became sadistic. Prisoners became obedient. All this despite no real laws being broken, no real legal authority, and no real requirement to stay. If you give people power and dehumanise those below them, they will become sadistic. If you put people in prison they will act like they are in prison. In short, people will act the way they are treated. The Application: Again, endless. We’ve seen it all through Covid, if you start treating people a certain way, the majority will go along with it and blame the minority who refuse to cooperate. Meanwhile, police forces around the world were suddenly granted new powers, and promptly abused them because the maskless and unvaxxed had been dehumanised in their eyes. Those reactions were engineered, not accidental. * 3. THE ASCH EXPERIMENT The Experiment: Another experiment in conformity, not as brutal as Milgram or Zimbardo, but perhaps more unsettling in its findings. First conducted by Solomon Asch in the 1950s, the setup is a simple one. You put together a panel of subjects, one real subject and a handful of fake subjects. One by one the subjects are asked a series of multiple-choice questions to which the answer is always obvious, and all the fake subjects will get every answer wrong. The question is whether or not the real subject will maintain his own correct answer, or begin to conform with the group. The Conclusion: While most people maintained their right answers, the “error rate” in the experiment group was 37% versus less than 1% in the control group. Meaning 36% of subjects eventually began to change their answers to align with the consensus, even though they knew they were wrong. Around one-third of people will either pretend to change their minds for the sake of conformity or, more alarmingly, will actually alter their beliefs if they find themselves in the minority. The Application: Staged or invented polls, falsified vote counts in elections, bot accounts on social media, astroturfing campaigns. Media headlines proclaiming “everyone knows X” or “only 1% of people think Y”. There are a great many tools you can use in order to create the impression of a fake “consensus”, a manufactured “majority”. NOTE: The experiment has been done a million times in dozens of variations, but perhaps the most interesting finding is that putting just one other person in the panel who agrees with the test subject seemed to reduce conformity by 87%. Essentially, people hate being a lone voice but will tolerate being in the minority if they have some support. Good to know. * 4. FESTINGER’S COGNITIVE DISSONANCE EXPERIMENT The Experiment: The least well-known experiment on the list, but in some ways the most fascinating. In 1954 Leon Festinger created an experiment to evaluate the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance, his setup was again quite simple. A subject is given a repetitive and dull physical task to do (originally turning wooden pegs, but other variations use other tasks). After the task is complete, the subject is instruced to go and prepare the next subject (actually a lab assistant) for the task, by lying and telling him/her how interesting the task was. It’s at this point the subjects are divided into two groups, one group is offered $20 to lie, the other only $1. This is the real experiment. The Conclusion: After lying to the fake subjects, and being paid their money, the real subjects take part in a post-experiment interview and record their genuine thoughts on the task. Interestingly, the 20-dollar generally told the truth, that they found the task dull and repetitive. While the one-dollar group, more often than not, claimed to have genuinely enjoyed the task. This is cognitive dissonance in action. Essentially, for the $20 group, the money was a good reason to lie to their fellow test subject, and they could justify their own behaviour in their head. But, for the $1 group, the meagreness of the reward made their dishonesty internally unjustifiable, so they had to unconsciously create their own justification by convincing themselves they weren’t lying at all. In summary, if you offer people a small reward for doing something, they will pretend to enjoy it, or be otherwise invested, to justify only making a small profit. The Application: Casinos, computer games and other interactive media use this principle all the time, offering players very little pay off knowing they will convince themselves they are enjoying playing. Big corporations and employers can likewise rely on this phenomenon to keep wages down, knowing that low paid workers have a psychological mechanism that may convince them they enjoy their jobs. NOTE: A variation on this experiment introduces a third group, who are paid nothing to lie. This group is not affected by cognitive dissonance, and will honestly appraise the task just as the well-paid group do. * 5. THE MONKEY LADDER The Experiment: Now this is a somewhat controversial addition to the list, but we’ll get to that later. It’s a very famous experiment you’ve probably heard cited dozens of times. In the 1960s scientists at Harvard put five monkeys in a cage with a stepladder in the middle. Atop the stepladder is a bunch of bananas, however each time a monkey tries to climb the ladder they are all sprayed with ice-cold water. Eventually, the monkeys learn to avoid the ladder. Then one monkey is removed and a new monkey is introduced. He naturally goes straight for the ladder and is set upon by the other four monkeys. Then a second monkey is removed, and another new monkey is introduced. He naturally goes straight for the ladder and is set upon by the other four monkeys…including the one who was never sprayed. They continue to replace each monkey in turn, until no monkeys are present who were ever sprayed with water, and yet they all refuse to go near the stairs and prevent all the new monkeys from doing so. Now, the obvious conclusion here is that people can be conditioned to mindlessly follow rules they do not understand. The only problem with that is that none of this ever happened. Yes, that’s the controversy I mentioned earlier. Despite being easily found on every corner of the internet, despite magazine articles explaining it and animations recounting it…it never happened. The experiment appears to be entirely apocryphal. No ladder, no monkeys, no cold water. So while this supposed experiment doesn’t actually teach us about herd mentality, it does explain the modern world, because it shows us how easily a myth can be worked into a reality through sheer dint of repetition. BONUS: MONKEY LADDER REDUX That’s right, it doesn’t stop there, there’s another twist. National Geographic did actually recreate the fictional monkey ladder experiment using people: One subject walks into a doctor’s waiting room filled with fake patients. When a bell sounds, all the fake patients stand up for a second and then retake their seats. After this process repeats a few times, the fake patients are slowly removed one-by-one until only the subject of the experiment remains. Then secondary real subjects are introduced one at a time. The experiment seeks to answer the following questions: a) Will the original subject stand up at the bell without knowing why? b) Will they will continue to stand up when they are alone in the room? c) Will they then teach this behaviour to the new subjects? The answer to all three appears to be “yes”. Now, while far less scientific than the other four experiments, I include this here for a very specific reason. The above video of the experiment doesn’t just record the conforming behaviour but describes it as possibly beneficial. Adding that herd behaviour saves lives in the wild and is “how we learn to socialise”. A very interesting take, don’t you think? So, while the fake monkey experiment that never happened was used to teach us about the perils of herd mentality, its nonexistence actually teaches us about the perils of non-primary sources and the group consciousness’s ability to confabulate. Meanwhile, the real monkey experiment is used to sell us the idea that herd mentality does exist but is potentially a good thing. Raising the possibility the whole thing could have been staged, simply to promote conformity. …Isn’t the world a strange and confusing place? * So, there they are. Five of the most critical pieces of psychological research ever done, hopefully going forward nobody will be left in the dark when these concepts or experiments are referenced. But the point of this article is not to just make you, the reader, understand these experiments…it is also meant to remind you that they do. The people in charge, the elite, the 1%, “The Party”. The powers that be – or shouldn’t be – whatever you want to call them. They know these experiments. They have studied them. They’ve probably replicated them countless times on grand scales and in unethical ways we can barely imagine. Who knows exactly what takes place in the dank dark dungeons of the deep state? Just remember, they know how the human mind works. They know they can make people do anything if they reassure them they won’t be held responsible. They know that they can rely on people to abuse any power they’re given, OR believe they are powerless if they’re treated that way. They know that peer pressure will change a lot of people’s minds even in the face of undeniable reality, especially if you make them feel completely alone. They know that if you offer people only a small reward for completing a task, they will make up their own psychological justification for taking it. They know that people will mindlessly do whatever everyone else is doing without ever asking for a reason. And they know that people will happily believe something that never happened if it is repeated often enough. They know all of this. And they use that knowledge all the time – All. The. Time. Every commercial you see, every article you read, every movie they release, every item on the news, every “viral” social media post, every trending hashtag. Every war. Every pandemic. Every headline. All of them are constructed with these principles in mind to elicit specific emotional reactions that steer your behaviour and beliefs. That’s how the media works, not to inform you, not to entertain you…but to control you. And they have it down to a science. Always remember that. Tyler Durden Sun, 09/04/2022 - 22:30.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytSep 5th, 2022

A prison where the prisoners were in charge

The General Penitentiary of Venezuela was a place where inmates mostly roamed freely. But there was also a rigid, if convoluted, code of conduct. Inmates are seen praying early in the morning. At the time, inmates here have run afoul of La Routina and were awaiting punishment would stay here.Oscar B. Castillo Oscar B. Castillo, a documentary photographer, had extraordinary access to Venezuela's PGV prison during an extended period when it was controlled by inmates. This photo essay was adapted from Castillo's book about the Free Convict hip-hop collective. The book, "Esos Que Saben," was published this month.  One of Venezuela's hottest venues for musicians and sports stars was, for part of the last decade, a maximum-security prison run by its own inmates. "Party at the PGV tonight," local DJs would announce over the radio. Visitors would come from the nearby towns, or all the way from the capital, Caracas, 100 miles away. The PGV, or the General Penitentiary of Venezuela, was a place where inmates mostly roamed freely. The cell blocks had been torn out and there was no "behind bars." But there was also a rigid, if convoluted, code of conduct that was maintained by gangs and an arsenal of heavy weapons. Infractions were met with brutal punishments.Visitors were considered sacred, and off-limits. The PGV was at its best on Visitors' Days — which could run for weeks since there wasn't a formal limit.  Christmas, Mother's Day, or the birthdays of gang leaders who ran the place were always a good excuse to put on concerts, or bring in bouncy castles, clowns, and hot dog carts for visiting kids. As night fell, DJs would be brought in to perform in the penitentiary's central square with electronic music, laser shows, and fireworks. A prisoner dances with a woman during a Visitors' Day event at the PGV.Oscar B. CastilloKids play and jump in one of the several bouncy castles that prisoners set up on Visitor days.Oscar B. CastilloAs a group of Mariachis played songs about maternal love during a Mother's Day celebration at the prison, the mother of an inmate walked onto the stage and joined the performance.Oscar B. CastilloOutside/Inside From the outside, there were vestiges of ordinary prison infrastructure: High fences heavily crowned with barbed wire, control towers, and checkpoints manned by military officers armed with rifles and machine guns. Long lines of relatives, mostly women and kids, carrying large bags of goods and tired expressions on their faces, lined up under the scorching heat to submit to searches — or be made to pay bribes — before being allowed through. But look closer, and you would have seen a thin fence. On one side were guards, employed by the state and confined to the prison's perimeter. On the other side, manning the PGV's entrance, a select group of prisoners held far more powerful guns, and many more of them. Once inside, most inmates — everyone here was an inmate — walked around freely through the maze of corridors, pavilions, and wards. In some areas, shacks and other private dwellings had been erected.  From the alleyways and through the prison's windows, the rugged mountain landscape, which lent the town of San Juan de Los Morros its name, could be seen in the distance — beautiful, but also painful, for how it reminded prisoners of their lost freedom. The PGV first opened in 1948, billed as a model South American prison where prisoners could work the soil, care for animals, and live in the relative open. But starting around 2007, as the institutional structure of Venezuela crumbled and mafia activity and corruption spiraled out of control, prison gangs amassed weapons and drugs and, with it, leverage. After years of continuous abandonment and failed policies, police and soldiers were often interchangable with criminals, and human rights groups documented their abuses.Around 2009, the criminal group called "El Carro" (The Car), under the command of El Principal, had taken over the daily workings of the PGV.  By 2010, many of Venezuela's biggest male prisons were under the effective control of inmates.  The General Penitentiary of Venezuela, known as the PGV.Oscar B. CastilloChristian evangelist prisoners during a prayer visit from Caracas. These prisoners had their own zone at the PGV and were responsible for jobs like cleaning and carrying water. They could not roam around the prison after 7pm.Oscar B. CastilloHéctor, right, playfully points a gun at another inmate.Oscar B. CastilloDrugs laid out on a table for sale.Oscar B. CastilloLa RutinaAt the PGV's entrance was a makeshift market. There, entrepreneurial prisoners filled tables with basic items, like bread and DVDs, or marijuana joints that were artfully arranged to look like a bouquet of flowers. More stands lined the prison's narrow corridors, which reverberated with the rhythms of Salsa and Reggaeton. You might find barbeque meat, or rum or vodka-based cocktails spun in blenders and served with a lime twist. Even in those times when extreme shortages plagued Venezuela, here at the PGV, people could find practically anything they wished to buy. On visitor days, you might see free Venezuelans shopping for toilet paper, flour or cooking oil — basic products that had completely disappeared from supermarkets shelves.All of this happened under the attentive eyes of Los Luceros. Select members of the gangs that ran the PGV, they answered to orders from the Principal. Armed with revolvers, rifles, and even hand grenades, Los Luceros made sure that everything ran smoothly. They also enforced the payment of an obligatory weekly tax, called "La Causa," which officially paid for prison maintenance and security (more weapons), as well as parties and other activities. For inmates, life at the PGV was like walking a tightrope over a pool of sharks. Abiding by an unwritten code known as La Rutina was obligatory, and prisoners lived under the constant threat of ruthless punishment if they stepped outside of it. A minor offense, or the wrong look, might make you into a pariah, or lead to a punishment that could be the last thing seen in this world. Stealing a cigarette could result in a bullet through your hand. On Mondays, in an improvised arena called the Coliseum, dozens of inmates were compelled to settle their debts or other disputes over knife fights. Ordinary words like egg, milk or water — that in Venezuelan slang might carry a vague sexual connotation — were banned because of their potential to offend other inmates. Saying them could get you banished to dirty and trash-filled corners of the prison, far from the markets and the fun.Free Convict For three years, from the beginning of 2014 until Venezuelan authorities finally shut the place down in 2016, I had extraordinary access to the PGV as a Venezuelan documentary photographer. At that point, the PGV had a population of around 5,000 people — more than six times its intended capacity. Most of the inmates were still in legal limbo; many hadn't yet been tried for their alleged offense, or given an exact sentence. It was also extraordinarily violent: In 2014, there were at least 309 homicides in Venezuelan prisons, where some 60,000 prisoners were held, according to the Venezuelan Prisons Observatory. The recording studio that Free Convict group built inside the prison.Oscar B. CastilloAn inmate rides a motorcycle in one of PGV's sports fields. Motorcycles of all sizes from 80cc to 650cc were common inside the jail.Oscar B. CastilloFree Convict's recording studio at the PGV.Oscar B. CastilloI was at the PGV with Free Convict, a Hip Hop collective formed by 12 inmates and to try to understand their lives in all of their  complexities. These men had survived gang life, street violence, drugs, and now this bizarre penitentiary existence. They were now looking to chart a new path for themselves, making rhymes around the themes of non-violence, self-improvement, and redemption. In the early days, Free Convict would gather in a Freestyle circle in the prison's central square. The meetings became bigger and more frequent, and eventually even the PGV's toughest bosses began to show them respect. (It helped that their leader, Ray Martinez, was part of the "El Carro" gang that controlled the prison.) Through the same cracks by which drugs and weapons flowed into the PGV, Free Convict managed to smuggle in  a recording studio, where they recorded a full album and produce music videos. In time, they got to be good enough, and famous enough, to attract collaborators both from inside the prison and beyond its walls. Only in total chaos, as Venezuela was of those years, would a place like the PGV be possible. Out of that anarchic landscape, Free Convict offered the possibility of a different way of life, a fresh start, and an oasis in the midst of madness. HéctorOne of the inmates behind Free Convict was a man named Héctor. Like a few of the others, he had arrived at the PGV as something of a stereotype of the hardened criminal. By the time I met him, he was much more interested in self-reflection and finding redemption. Born in 1992, Héctor came up in the Pinto Salinas neighborhood of Caracas. As a kid, he was a promising basketball player. But his future in the sport was cut short in 2010. His gang was fighting for control of the area, a notorious staging ground for drug distribution, and he got caught in a hail of bullets that nearly killed him and tore up one of his arms at the elbow. Héctor.Oscar B. CastilloBy 2012, the year Héctor was sent to the PGV for being an accomplice to a homicide, his two brothers had been killed. Humberto, the oldest, was gunned down near their home in Pinto Salinas in 2008. Junior, the youngest, died a similar death in 2011. Now, another son seemed to be heading down the same inexorable path.Like most prisoners at the PGV, Héctor depended on his family, outside, to bring him things to sell at the market. In good times, he might make enough to pay La Causa, take care of his needs, and even send some profits home. The best bet for making money was to set up a table selling crack, cocaine, base paste, marijuana and blunts. But even in this environment, where drugs could be sold and consumed out in the open, this line of work could be unpredictable and dangerous. Héctor liked the money; the money was useful to him. But selling drugs brought problems. So Héctor mostly avoided it. At one point, he sold nails, screws, wires, and pieces of wood to inmates — coveted objects that inmates used to build improvised shacks. If he got his hands on some flour, he might set up a stand selling banana cake or Venezuelan arepas.Héctor lies with his mother, whom he calls "La Pucha," during a Visitors day at the PGV. Venezuela's violence has taken a heavy toll on La Pucha, who lost two sons and whose third, Héctor, was locked up for six years.Oscar B. CastilloWhenever possible, he'd hoped to make enough money so his mother, Rosalia Rivero, who worked as a janitor and whom he playfully called "La Pucha," could travel from Caracas for a Visitors Day. On these visits, she would head straight to her son's room, willfully ignoring the strangeness she passed along the way. She was used to seeing drugs and weapons, and she associated both with losing two of her sons, and almost losing a third. At the PGV, she found Héctor a changed man. Héctor was never an angel; nobody in Free Convict was. But now he was searching for something different. Together with the rest of Free Convict, Héctor had resolved to take control of his life, and break the cycle that had put him on the frontlines of the street wars that were tearing apart Venezuela and that nobody had asked for. To do that, Héctor had to sharpen his talent, and believe in himself.Héctor, center, and two other members of Free Convict are seen seated at the highest point of the PGV as they use a drone to record a music video. Once the church bell tower, it became a command post for prison gangs to watch the perimeter of the PGV. Bullet holes testify to the many battles between prisoners and authorities.Oscar B. CastilloBoom!By 2016, the situation in Venezuela had become catastrophic. Inflation was out of control and finding basic items had become nearly impossible. At the PGV, families were barely able to send help. Inmates went from drinking good rum at parties to making their own alcohol, from fermenting banana skin, in plastic Gatorade bottles. Instead of manning tables piled high with drugs, inmates like Héctor scraped together money selling single cigarettes or hot chocolate. La Causa had to be paid first. There was barely any money for food. The beginning of the end of the PGV came in September of 2016. Musicians and sports players had been brought in, along with the usual flood of friends and family from the outside, to celebrate the birthday of the PGV's big boss, Franklin "Viru Viru." Trophies from sports events and portraits of gang bosses, some allegedly killed by police after their release, are displayed in a central area of the PGV.Oscar B. CastilloInmates at the overcrowded PGV sleep on the floor and makeshift hammocks. The prison housed more than 6 times its expected capacity.Oscar B. CastilloThen, suddenly, BOOM, a hand grenade explosion caused the prison's foundation to tremble. Smoke was everywhere. Some people screamed in agony, others ran in all directions. In the confusion, Los Luceros pointed their guns at each other, looking for signs of treason.When the black cloud had cleared, there was a hellish scene of wounded people and dead bodies. Visitors and prisoners alike were among the almost 20 victims. Afterwards, tension and fear were everywhere, and the prison divided into warring factions. Punishment, including murder, was more common, and even more random. Seeing an opening, forces from the state finally stormed the prison. For two weeks, there was fighting, leading to an estimated 80 deaths. There was no water or electricity. Starving inmates killed their pets for food, or consumed whatever drugs they could find to fight off hunger. Tuberculosis was plaguing the prison and infected prisoners were dying daily. When it was finally over, government soldiers emptied the PGV and inmates were sent to other detention centers around the country. Free Convict scrambled to stay in touch, but finding out who had ended up where was almost impossible.Free Convict, which by then was better and more popular than ever, seemed to be dying. Héctor ended up at Tocuyito, another prisoner-controlled prison, where he stayed for another two years.CaracasOne day in 2020 — six years after I began documenting Free Convict at the PGV — I went to a recording studio in Caracas to meet up with the collective. Nearly all of them had been released, and they were trying to keep Free Convict's work alive from the outside. Free in Caracas, there was still so much to navigate. The immediate problem was Héctor. His family hadn't heard from him in three days. At first, the police said they had no record of him being arrested. Now, thanks to pressure from his family, they were saying he had been arrested, and would be released soon. We predicted he'd come to the studio directly, and were waiting for him there. When he finally arrived, fear, rage, and frustration filled his eyes. He told us that he had been in his neighborhood with his cousin, known as "The Cat," when police arrived and shot his cousin dead. They'd then arrested Héctor, who now told us he'd been spared only thanks to a divine intervention.Héctor, in Caracas, is seen with local kids he helps mentor.Oscar B. CastilloMembers of Free Convict and Otro Enfoque, a local NGO, are seen late at night visiting a group of kids living under a bridge in Caracas. The river below receives water from the city's sewers. Free Convict uses their history with crime and incarceration to collaborate on initiatives that inspire crime-prevention, non-violence, and change.Oscar B. CastilloWe couldn't confirm Héctor's story, but there were plenty of others like it. Later that year, the United Nations would call on President Nicolas Maduro to disband various police units that had been behind extrajudicial killings and "crimes against humanity."It was possible that Héctor had actually been spared because, since his release, he'd become relatively well-known both for his work with Free Convict and for his anti-violence and community-building work in prisons, schools, and other areas affected by violence and exclusion. Having overcome so much in an upside-down Venezuela where police forces could turn their guns on civilians and prisoners controlled the prisons, Héctor is a survivor.  After so many close calls with death and so much adversity, he had done so much to rebuild his life and forge a new path. His mistakes were part of who he was, but the actions he had taken in his life because of those mistakes, and his skill in communicating the things he'd learned, made him a valued mentor to so many Caracus youths who were in a desperate search for new paths to walk away from violence.But for all the progress Héctor had made in his life, he was still at the mercy of the arbitrary violence of Venezuela. Together, we all wondered where Héctor was safest: In Caracas, trying to contribute to his community while at the mercy of the arbitrary violence of Venezuela, and possibly at the hands of Venezuelan police, or back under La Rutina. Héctor stands for a portrait while he and other members of Free Convict take a day job cleaning and painting a disco club. Steady jobs that pay well are scarce in Venezuela.Oscar B. CastilloOscar B. Castillo is a documentary photographer and multimedia artist. His book about the PGV, "Esos Que Saben" was published this year and is available for purchase here.  Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytAug 19th, 2022

Are Putin And Xi "Gray Champions"? Part 1

Are Putin And Xi 'Gray Champions'? Part 1 Authored by Jim Quinn via The Burning Platform blog, “Long, long may it be, ere he comes again! His hour is one of darkness, and adversity, and peril. But should domestic tyranny oppress us, or the invader’s step pollute our soil, still may the Gray Champion come”  - Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Gray Champion “Who is this gray patriarch? That stately form, combining the leader and the saint…could only belong to some old champion of the righteous cause, whom the oppressor’s drum had summoned from his grave.”  - Nathaniel Hawthorne There is a misunderstanding regarding the Gray Champion of this Fourth Turning. The misunderstanding revolves around thinking there is only one Gray Champion, they are hugely popular, always do the right thing, and are universally admired for their leadership traits. Nothing could be further from the truth. In previous Fourth Turnings, there have always been multiple Gray Champions, often at war with each other, who were not popular or necessarily good men. What they always are is single-minded, tenacious, ruthless, and intent on winning at any cost. Their followers are inspired, and their enemies despise them. There is no middle ground when it comes to opinions about Gray Champions. They generally don’t fight the battles, but shape the strategy, inspire the troops, or mobilize the citizenry to action. The Awakening Prophet Generation firebrands during the American Revolution included Sam Adams and Ben Franklin. Adams organized and led the Boston Tea Party, lighting the fuse of revolution. Franklin provided the wisdom and guidance for the younger firebrands like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. These Prophet Generation leaders were the inspirational lightning rods for a revolution where failure meant the gallows for them and their fellow rebels. This nation wouldn’t exist without the leadership of Adams and Franklin. Gray Champions during the Civil War Fourth Turning included Abraham Lincoln, William Tecumseh Sherman, Jefferson Davis, and Robert E. Lee. These four Transcendental Prophet Generation men were the driving force during the four-years of slaughter, where 700,000 men (10% of male population between the ages of 18 and 60) were killed in a brutal war of brother versus brother. The War Between the States certainly marked an hour of darkness, adversity, and peril. Lincoln rose from obscurity to lead the northern states in a scorched earth effort to suppress the Confederate states, greatly expanding the reach of the Federal government, instituting a mandatory draft, introducing an income tax, suspending the right to habeas corpus, and flaunting the Constitution when he deemed necessary. He did this without a mandate from the people, as he won the presidency in 1860 with only 39.8% of the popular vote, in a four-man race. He was determined to win the war at any cost. And his personal cost was bullet to the head and death before victory. Sherman was a take no prisoners general who implemented a new and far more violent form of war. He conducted war against soldiers and civilians alike, believing he could destroy the will of the enemy by using his terrible swift sword and wreaking destruction upon every city he passed through during his march to the sea. Ultimately, Grant and Sherman’s strategy of wearing down their opponents through superior manpower and armaments worked. Sherman is despised to this day by Southerners. Jefferson Davis had been a U.S. Senator prior to becoming president of the Confederate States of America. Just as the founding fathers would have been hung for treason if they had failed, Davis risked the same fate and ultimately spent a couple years in a federal prison after his defeat. His personality deficiencies and inability to convince Britain to support the Confederate cause, were a major factor in the South’s defeat. Meanwhile, the inspirational leadership of Robert E. Lee is probably the single biggest factor in the Confederacy lasting as long as it did. His daring, strategic brilliance, inspiring presence on the battlefield and tenaciousness won many improbable victories and even in defeat he escaped annihilation by his sheer guile and determination. It takes a certain type of man to give an order that will surely result in the deaths of thousands as he did on the 3rd day at Gettysburg, and Pickett made his fateful charge. At Antietam and Gettysburg his opponents could have destroyed his army and ended the war, but they were psychologically unable to do so, fearing Lee was setting a trap for them. His honorable surrender at Appomattox set a tone of reconciliation that helped bring the country back together as well as it could be done at that time. Lee is still considered an icon in the South, and the destruction of his statues by the low IQ ignorant BLM terrorists and their corrupt Democrat politician cucks is a disgrace to a great man and our rich history. The Great Depression/World War II Fourth Turning saw the Missionary Prophet Generation produce another four historical figures who will never be forgotten: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Douglas MacArthur, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin. It is reasonable to say these men had immense egos, were ruthless in achieving their objectives, were more hated then loved, fought against all odds, committed criminal acts, and ultimately cooperated enough to attain victory in World War II. Roosevelt changed the country from rural to urban, implemented his New Deal that began the social welfare state, tried to stack the Supreme Court, and imprisoned Japanese citizens for being Japanese. FDR accumulated such dictatorial power during his four terms in office, Congress implemented a two-term limit on all future presidents. MacArthur disobeyed orders from his superiors when he decided his path was better. But his strategy in the Pacific proved effective and his humane reign while overseeing the occupation of Japan from 1945 until 1951 paved the way for democracy and stability in Asia. Churchill had many more failures than successes during his life in the military, government office and politics, before ascending to prime minister at a point of maximum peril for the UK. A lesser man probably would have sued for peace, as his troops were cornered at Dunkirk and bombs obliterated London on a nightly basis. His inspirational speeches kept the spirits of his people up, and once Hitler turned his attention towards Russia, Churchill was able to focus on prodding FDR for help and angling to get the U.S. into the war. Churchill was cruel and ruthless when it came to fighting the war. He, along with FDR, decided firebombing Dresden and other German cities was a valid tactic in winning the war. Lying to allies in order to achieve his aims was a common occurrence by Churchill, but he also saw Stalin for who he really was, and immediately realized the Soviets would not be allies after the war was won. His own people booted him out of office at the war’s end, showing he wasn’t loved. Essentially, Churchill oversaw the last days of the British Empire. Despite being a psychopath who murdered and starved in excess of 1 million of his citizens during the 1930s, Joseph Stalin was a Gray Champion during the last Fourth Turning. He was a dictator who bore the brunt of Hitler’s armed forces and ultimately repelled the Germans and had his armies take Berlin. Generals who failed were executed. His sheer willpower and unwillingness to admit defeat were essential to achieving victory in World War II. He bullied and prodded his allies – FDR and Churchill – to open a second front and provide him with tanks and arms to defeat the Germans. He never considered himself a friend of the UK or US. They were useful pawns to help him achieve victory. He was an evil man running a despotic regime who became an immediate enemy upon victory in 1945. He is the ultimate example of a Gray Champion not being a noble, moral, well-liked person. Anyone with a true grasp of history would acknowledge all these men had monumental personality defects, huge egos, a determination to win by any means necessary (including breaking the law and flaunting the Constitution), and ability to mobilize forces to accomplish their goals. Their names and deeds are in the history books. Hundreds of biographies have been written about each, trying to capture their true essence. But one thing is certain. They fought for what they believed, shaped the future of their countries, didn’t back down from taking responsibility and making tough decisions, and sent millions to their deaths by their actions. Gray Champions are not wallflowers, quiet, or unassuming. They lead. They are willing to act, make decisions and fail or succeed on their own merits. When the Prophet archetype arrives at old age, it heralds a new constellation of generations, which happens every 80 years – marking the arrival of another Fourth Turning. As we are propelled through the fourteenth year of this Fourth Turning, Gray Champions have arrived on the scene and are propelling us towards a frightful climax, which will happen within the next several years. The intensification is being driven by these figures, who will ultimately be judged in history books based upon their success or failure in leading their nations through this Crisis period. Anyone who can’t see the world being pushed towards the brink of world war and on the verge of economic collapse, is either willfully ignorant, too dumbed down and distracted by their electronic bread and circuses, or just focused on profiting from war, chaos, and destruction. Neil Howe, one of the authors of The Fourth Turning, made a statement in January 2021 which clarified for me those who currently fit the mold of a Gray Champion. “Gray champions are made, not born. The persona of a gray champion is to focus on one big thing, not 17 little things.” As this Fourth Turning was ignited by the 2008 financial collapse, brought about by Wall Street bankers, Ben Bernanke and his central banker co-conspirators, corrupt politicians, and feckless government apparatchiks, I was trying to seek out the Gray Champion who would lead the country through this Crisis. I realize now, my view was too narrow. There seems to be multiple Gray Champions with differing agendas, often at conflict with the agendas of other Gray Champions and leading the world into a global conflict. Their one commonality is they are all Boomer Generation Prophets, with a single-minded ambition to lead their followers down the path they are sure will attain success for themselves and their followers. But we know for sure, some will lose and possibly all will lose if one or more is reckless enough to initiate nuclear Armageddon. With his improbable 2016 election I thought Trump might be the single Gray Champion, acting as a lightning rod for the conflict which always arises during a Fourth Turning. I now realize there are several Prophet Generation leaders who are leading competing factions both domestically and internationally. Even though Trump was removed from office in an ultimately successful Deep State coup in 2020, he continues to have a huge following, drawing massive crowds at rallies, and giving every indication he intends to run for president again in 2024. There is a major segment of the population which will follow him anywhere he leads. He most certainly is a Gray Champion, whose Deep State sanctioned adversary Hillary Clinton, also fits the mold of Gray Champion – albeit an evil she-devil Gray Champion intent on destroying what remains of civil society in America while instigating Russia into a world war. As a main figure in the plot to overthrow the man who defeated her in 2016, she continues to throw bombs and insinuate she might run again in 2024, as the dementia ridden pathetic shell of a corrupt politician Biden will be lucky to live until 2024 and the low IQ cackling hyena of a vice president will be cast aside by the Deep State as unelectable. Clinton has ratcheted up the war rhetoric and will always have the left-wing pussy hat wearing lunatic fringe as her base. She is a dangerous, vile human being, but so was Stalin. Being a malevolent hateful shrew does not disqualify you from being a Gray Champion during a Fourth Turning. She will attempt to rally her malicious forces of wickedness, with the full support of her Deep State puppet-masters and lapdog compliant corporate legacy media, to accelerate our downward spiral into a techno-communist, globally controlled, dystopian hellscape. This Fourth Turning will not end well if she and her globalist billionaire cronies emerge victorious. Another globalist billionaire, who cavorted with and did business with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, did not appear on my radar as a Gray Champion until he, Klaus Schwab, Fauci, Big Pharma, and the bought off medical industrial complex, created a worldwide pandemic using a Wuhan lab produced flu with a 99.7% survival rate. Bill Gates, a software geek who fancies himself a medical expert, used his immense wealth to push for the mandatory injection of an untested, unproven, dangerous, DNA altering gene therapy created by criminal pharmaceutical firms, into the bodies of everyone on earth. Gates has funded the vaccine propaganda campaign and funnels millions to the mainstream media to push falsehoods about the safety and effectiveness of these toxic concoctions. He has inexplicably bought up farmland, while promoting bugs as a future food source for the unwashed masses. He is a major player in the Great Reset Build Back Better WEF demonic plan to enslave the masses in poverty in a techno-gulag where we will own nothing and told to be happy, or else. He and his fellow pedophile satanic billionaire cultists will own everything and be really happy. His investments in vaccines, farmland, and the media most certainly makes his motivations suspect. His immediate negative reaction to Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter reveals his authoritarian censorship principles and belief he and his small cohort of wealthy totalitarian oligarchs should be the arbiters of truth and gatekeepers of what the plebs can say on social media. Suppression of those voicing dissent from the approved State narrative is essential for Gates and his ilk in propagandizing the ignorant masses. The first amendment and the Constitution are nothing more than annoyances to men like Gates who can buy and sell the world to implement their warped agenda. Like Clinton, if this Gray Champion succeeds, the people of this world will never recover their liberties and freedoms. This brings us to two men who weren’t in my thought process during the first thirteen years of this Crisis as potential Gray Champions. I suffer the same myopia as many others, viewing the world through the lens of living within the American Empire. Of course, America is no longer the shining city on the hill, if it ever was. We have been an empire since 1945, forged in war and sustained through currency dominance, intimidation, and bribing others to do as they are told. It seems both Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are from the Boomer Prophet Generation and may be playing the dominant roles in the denouement of this increasingly violent Fourth Turning. As I’ve stated previously, there are no unequivocal good guys who can be counted upon to do what is in your best interest. These Gray Champions have immense egos, grand visions of worldly achievements and often a lack of self-awareness. They all believe their actions are morally right and guided by a higher authority. Living within the echo chamber of a declining empire drowning in debt and flailing about wildly as its last vestiges of military and economic domination crumble, makes it difficult to understand how the rest of the world views the big bully on the block getting his comeuppance. Those pulling the strings behind the scenes, who installed a doddering, decrepit gaffe machine in the oval office as their Trojan horse, anticipated using this pliable dupe to initiate the final destruction of a nation originally built on agreed upon community standards, a strong work ethic, thrift, religious freedom, self-reliance, and a spirit of independence and freedom. I don’t think they anticipated the pathetic weakness displayed by this ancient fossil, which has empowered Putin and Xi to take advantage of his frailty and intellectual decline. The question must be asked. Would Putin have invaded Ukraine if Trump was still president? Putin, as the evil Hitler demagogue character, portrayed by the Deep State controlled mass media mouthpieces, is entirely false. The characterization of Putin’s Operation Z as unprovoked and initiated as part of his plan to take over Eastern Europe is a canard, and the U.S. military and political operatives know it. Putin didn’t invade on a whim. His intelligence agency showed him proof the Ukraine was going to launch a NATO backed offensive against the Russian backed rebels in Donbas. Putin called their bluff and derailed their plans. This entire Ukrainian charade, where Pelosi, Schiff, Boris Johnson, Trudeau, Bono and now Jill Biden drop into a “dangerous hot war zone” for photo ops and a virtue signaling meetings with the U.S. puppet president B level actor/comedian Zelensky is a propaganda farce. I’m waiting for a “We Are the World” concert to break out at any moment. The entire narrative surrounding the conflict in the Ukraine, pushed by Biden, Soros, NATO, and their obedient media lackeys, is knowingly fabricated and built upon misinformation. The CIA Soros funded coup against the democratically elected president in 2014 set this entire farce in motion. No Ukrainians were being killed before the U.S. coup. Now we are using the Ukrainian people as cannon fodder in our proxy war against Russia. Putin has also uncovered the secret biological weapons labs the U.S. has been funding in the Ukraine. No wonder the extreme reaction by Biden, Nuland, and the rest of his neo-con lackeys. It has been U.S. and NATO provocation which has forced Putin’s hand since the 2014 coup. His annexation of Crimea and military support for Russian friendly rebels in Donbas were reactions to the blatant U.S. incitement in their sphere of influence. NATO, completely under the control of the U.S. Empire, has steadily pushed eastward towards Russia since agreeing in 1990 to not do so. The U.S. purposely told Zelensky to act as if the Ukraine was going to seek NATO membership. Zelensky and his Ukraine Nazi forces have been bombing Russian speaking civilians since 2014 and were planning a major offensive in Donbas which Putin pre-empted with his attack. It has been the U.S. led NATO and Ukraine instigating Putin. They continue to do so, with Finland and Sweden being incentivized to join NATO by the U.S.  “Not an inch of NATO’s present military jurisdiction will spread in an eastern direction.”  - Memorandum of conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and James Baker in Moscow, Feb 9, 1990 Vladimir Putin, a serious man, rising to the highest levels of the KGB, tenacious in accomplishing his agenda, and a nationalist at heart, cannot be intimidated by the likes of a feeble-minded pervert like Biden or any of the EU lackeys taking their orders from the U.S. Empire. Do you think he will be cowed by empty threats from a babbling Biden, cackling Kamala, effeminate Blinken, or gay pride promoting Austin? The U.S. propaganda machine continuously flogs the narrative of Ukraine winning, while Russians commit atrocities. Both are blatant falsities. As a Gray Champion, Putin understands victory goes to the one who refuses to back down or admit defeat when facing adversity. In Part 2 of this article, I will examine the traits of Putin and Xi which will make them the dominant Gray Champions during the final years of this Fourth Turning, and possibly the final years of modern life on this planet. *  *  * The corrupt establishment will do anything to suppress sites like the Burning Platform from revealing the truth. The corporate media does this by demonetizing sites like mine by blackballing the site from advertising revenue. If you get value from this site, please keep it running with a donation. Tyler Durden Mon, 05/16/2022 - 16:25.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeMay 16th, 2022

What do you do when your country tortures you? Syrian refugees are finding a landmark pathway to justice in German courts.

Former Syrian intelligence officers were convicted in a landmark war-crimes case in Germany. Former detainees told Insider it's just the beginning. Eyad al-Gharib, a Syrian defendant, arriving to hear his verdict in a courtroom in Koblenz, Germany, on February 24.Thomas Lohnes/ APWafa Ali Mustafa was 10 years old when her father, Ali, hoisted her onto his shoulders at her first protest in 2000.Every Thursday, when protests would flow through Damascus' jasmine-lined streets and Mustafa's school administered exams, they enjoyed a cheeky ritual. Ali would say Wafa, his eldest of three daughters, was sick, and they would drive close to three hours from their hometown, Masyaf, to the capital.Overlooking crowds, Mustafa absorbed the political education her father was instilling in her.In 2011, when Syrians took to the streets en masse to demand basic human and democratic rights and the fall of President Bashar Assad's dictatorship, Mustafa faced a choice.With her father's background as an activist in Syria, she knew those choosing to publicly defy the government faced death or disappearance. But on March 25, 2011, while studying at Damascus University, Mustafa rejected her friends' concerns and joined the protests."My dad told me, 'OK, if this is what you want to do, then do it,'" Mustafa told Insider. "At some point, I even asked my dad: 'Why aren't you just like all other fathers? I mean, aren't you scared for me?'"Mustafa spent months with other Syrians her age attending protests, calling for the end of Assad's government."I would call him, and I would say, 'I went to this wedding today,'" Mustafa said. "He would understand that the wedding is a protest. I would say: 'Yeah, it's very nice. I was very excited. We danced a lot. The music was very nice.'"As the Syrian army began to answer protests with gunfire, Mustafa stayed politically engaged by talking to her father. He had moved to Damascus to be closer to her, having himself been arrested just over 100 miles north in Hama, the province where Masyaf is located. Throughout Mustafa's youth, she said, her father had been arrested for organizing politically in Hama and was known to the country's security apparatus.Mustafa's mother remained in Masyaf with her youngest sister, and Mustafa lived in Damascus with her other sister, fearing that the entire family's presence together in the capital would bring more attention to Ali."My father told me: 'Your participation is not my decision. If you think that you want to do this, you better know the consequences, and you better take responsibility,'" Mustafa said. "So I did. He also did."In July 2013, after years apart — and as the uprising metastasized into civil war — Mustafa's parents were set for a reunion.Mustafa's mother traveled to Damascus from Masyaf with her youngest sister. The three-hour journey from their hometown had become a seven-hour ordeal with government checkpoints."She cooked his favorite food, my sisters and I were laughing at them, thinking mom and my dad are having a honeymoon again," Mustafa said. Before her mother arrived, Ali called saying everything was perfect and ready.But on that day, the worst fear held by her family and many others in Syria came true. Assad's security forces arrested Ali and his best friend before Mustafa's mother arrived in Damascus. Mustafa hasn't heard from her father in over 3,100 days.The Syrian activist Wafa Mustafa holding a picture of her father during a protest outside the trial in Koblenz in June 2020.Thomas Lohnes/Getty ImagesA 10-year civil and proxy war has raged in Syria, killing at least 350,000 people, leaving 6.7 million more internally displaced, and sending over 6.6 million Syrians abroad as refugees.At least half of the country's population is displaced.Mustafa, who was detained in Syria in 2011, is now a refugee. She lives in Berlin, where she has spent her time studying, writing, and advocating on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of people who, like her father, are believed to have been detained, tortured, or disappeared by forces loyal to Assad.According to the UN, as of last year, tens of thousands of people were missing in Assad's prisons.Her advocacy no longer involves protests in the streets of Syria, but her father is still at the center of her work.She is now part of a network of lawyers, advocates, European partners, and refugees in Germany, France, and Sweden pursuing a novel form of justice whose targets are outside Syria's borders — including former Syrian officials accused of working as intelligence officials in notorious prisons.A long, uncertain road to justiceIn the city of Koblenz, Germany, a roughly seven-hour drive from Berlin, two former Syrian officials stood accused of war crimes in a first-of-its-kind trial.The trial, which began in April 2020, was different from one in an American court: Two people were listed as defendants, and five judges heard evidence from more than 30 witness accounts and 17 joint plaintiffs.Anwar Raslan, one of the two men charged by German officials in October 2019, defected from Syria in 2012 and resettled in Germany in 2014 as a refugee. The other man charged, Eyad al-Gharib, was granted asylum in Germany in 2018.The effort to bring them to trial was led by a prominent Syrian human-rights lawyer named Anwar al-Bunni, whose 2014 chance encounter in a Turkish supermarket near a Berlin refugee camp may have changed the course of Syria's justice efforts.Al-Bunni told The Guardian he couldn't believe his eyes when he saw Raslan at a market. Al-Bunni says he recognized Raslan because he played a part in his own imprisonment and torture in the Adra prison in Damascus. The trial first resulted in the conviction of al-Gharib, a former low-ranking intelligence official, who was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison on February 24, 2021, after being found guilty of "aiding and abetting 30 cases of crimes against humanity."On Thursday, Raslan, a former higher-ranking intelligence official, was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was found guilty of being the co-perpetrator of torture and overseeing the killings of 27 people, along with charges related to rape and sexual assault of detainees.Thursday's ruling makes him the most senior member of the Syrian government apparatus to face repercussions.The former Syrian intelligence officer Anwar Raslan on Thursday ahead of his guilty verdict.Thomas Frey/Getty ImagesProsecutors say Raslan helped run Branch 251, a notorious prison unit near Damascus also deemed the al-Khatib Branch, or "hell on Earth," where the UN Human Rights Council says thousands have been tortured, killed, and disappeared.What happened behind closed doors at Branch 251 was the focus of the evidence and testimonies from dozens of Syrian torture survivors in the trial.Raslan pleaded not guilty. His attorneys said it was "very clear" that torture was committed in Branch 251 but maintained throughout the trial that no crimes against humanity occurred under Raslan's authority or volition.Hana al Hatimi, a court reporter at the trial, explained on the podcast "Branch 251" that on December 16, during the last session for Raslan before the verdict, Raslan and his defense painted a picture that he had no personal decision-making power over any instances of torture or violence in Branch 251 — and that his defection, and attempts to expose other officials harming prisoners, were based on a principled rejection of such practices.In a prepared statement that his lawyers read to the court, Raslan wrote, "I left my job, I left 26 years in office behind, because I didn't want to be the reason that prisoners were hurt, or that their blood was spilled," adding that he "rejected being an instrument to abuse and killing."He said that without his efforts many more would have been brutalized, and he quoted a Quran verse that says "if you kill someone, it is like killing all of mankind, and if you give life to someone it is like giving life to all of mankind."Raslan argued that he and his family were also victims of terror from the Syrian state.In the verdict, the judges seemed to reject those claims. After hearing from more than 80 witnesses, many of whom had interacted with Raslan in prison, judges said Raslan was responsible for the torture of at least 4,000 people from 2011 to 2012.Reuters/ Annegret HilseThe Assad government has, to this point, largely enjoyed impunity for actions the UN describes as stamping out dissent and waging a war against its citizens that has included chemical attacks, torture, and forced disappearances.There has been no serious international effort to remove Assad from power, nor have any current members of Assad's government been prosecuted, with Russia and China using their UN Security Council vetoes to block any referral to the International Criminal Court. Russian military intervention in 2015 has served to bolster Assad's government, and varying military campaigns by Iran, the US, Israel, and Turkey have preserved the status quo of war.None of this is due to a lack of evidence that Assad's government has engaged in a campaign of indiscriminate killing against its own people; the UN has described a state policy of "extermination."A report from the Syrian Center for Human Rights detailed 72 types of torture employed in Syrian prisons, including the use of electric shocks and boiling water, as well as a method of abuse in which detainees' hands are tied behind their back and they are raised by the same rope, which itself is tied to rings fixed to the ceiling — "leaving their body suspended from the ground so the full weight is hanging from the wrists."Landmark cases, but a 3rd-best optionBarred from pursuing those at the top, legal groups like the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, Syrian groups like the Violations Documentation Center and the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, and open-source researchers have collaborated and built cases around a central legal premise: universal jurisdiction.Universal jurisdiction is an international legal mechanism whereby Syrians living in countries such as Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden can submit complaints to the state's investigative war-crimes units for crimes they say Assad loyalists, or others in Syria, committed."As one of the victims, as one of the players in this movement, we don't think or believe that this is true justice," Mazen al-Darwish, a lead lawyer in the Koblenz trial who is the head of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, told Insider.Al-Darwish, formerly a journalist and lawyer in Syria, was imprisoned in 2012 and held without charge for three years. He says he was tortured. And, ultimately, he would like to see a new government in Syria."This is just an alternative" to action by the UN or the International Criminal Court, he said, welcoming the guilty verdicts as a positive first step.Following the start of the Koblenz trial, the Netherlands became the first country to take an official diplomatic position holding the Syrian government responsible for state torture. "The first best option obviously would be fair trials in Syria," Fritz Streiff, a consultant and lawyer working with al-Darwish's organization, told Insider. "People commit crimes, you put them on trial in your own country. If that's not possible, then you go for international justice. If that's not possible, then you go for national justice in foreign nations."This process of universal jurisdiction led to al-Gharib's and Raslan's convictions and a host of other criminal complaints against Syria's rulers."And now we can say that torture — it's happened not because we said that, not because of a story of the victim, this is legally by an independent court, by an professional judge, finding that, 'Yes, the security services use torture in systematic way,'" al-Darwish told Insider.Al-Darwish's group, alongside the Open Society Foundations' Justice Initiative and the Syrian Archive, has also submitted a joint criminal complaint in France charging the Syrian government with the 2013 sarin-gas attack in Eastern Ghouta, Syria, which killed 1,400 people, per the UN and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.The Syrian lawyer and human-rights activist Mazen Darwish talking to journalists on Thursday outside the courthouse where Raslan stood on trial in Koblenz.Berndt Reuter/Getty ImagesAnother criminal investigation underway in Sweden follows the French complaint, charging the government with responsibility in the 2013 attack as well as the 2017 Khan Sheikhoun chemical attacks. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has accused the Syrian army of masterminding sarin and chlorine gas attacks in 2017 and 2018, calling them the "most serious breach" possible of the Convention Weapons Convention, accusations the Syrian government denies.In one of history's most documented conflicts, preservation of evidence is keyThe legal fight against the Syrian government is detailed in the documentary "Bringing Assad to Justice." The filmmakers Ronan Tynan and Anne Daly splice harrowing footage of death (photos of 11,000 corpses were leaked by a whistleblower known only by a pseudonym, "Caesar") with the testimony of survivors of places such as Sadnaya, the military prison where thousands of others have disappeared.Firsthand testimony not only preserves the historical record, but the film shows how it's being used to seek justice, even in the face of disinformation.Since before the trial, Syria and its chief ally, Russia, have flooded social media with disinformation designed to muddle questions over who is responsible for war crimes. That made it important to gather as much authentic evidence as possible to convict the two former intel officers.The whistleblower Caesar's photos, for example, include not just dead bodies but individual detainee numbers; the branch of the security forces that arrested them; and the number assigned to their corpse. The Caesar file, which contains photographic evidence of thousands of people tortured or killed in Syrian prisons, was used as evidence at the Koblenz trial."The amount of evidence, especially the amount of documents that CIJA has collected to date, is unprecedented," Nerma Jelacic, the Commission for International Justice and Accountability's director for management and external relations, said in the documentary. "We've got a treasure of indisputable material produced by the perpetrating party itself.""The threats will increase for people like Mazen, for people like Anwar al-Bunni, for their researchers on the ground, for victim-support groups," Kristyan Benedict, a crisis-response manager for Amnesty International, told Insider."Certainly, when Eyad al-Gharib was sent to prison, you started to see an increase in intimidation of witnesses," he added. Benedict added that throughout the trial, witnesses and plaintiffs had trouble securing court-ordered witness protection for families living in Syria or outside Germany.Fear of speaking out persists, and so does the fear of inactionBenedict, advocates, and lawyers involved in the justice efforts told Insider that throughout the gathering of evidence and trials, many Syrians who have offered testimony have feared retribution, again."The Mukhabarat" — Syrian intelligence forces — "have a very, very long reach. They can reach people in Europe, in France, in Germany, certainly in Turkey," Benedict said, adding that the organization had helped many of the Syrian and victim-led groups bolster their security imprint. Amnesty has also advised al-Darwish and other groups on legal strategies and pressured countries to develop investigative war-crimes units.Al-Darwish added that the success of the trial in Koblenz against al-Gharib had been a boon in terms of being able to show victims and Syrian refugees that pathways to justice existed for Syrians.But there is a fear too among advocates that in the short term neighboring countries are normalizing relations with Syria, willing to forget the government's actions in exchange for trade and security cooperation. Interpol's move to readmit Syria in 2021 makes it easier for the Syrian government to pursue dissidents outside the country."Justice, for me — it's not tools for revenge, not political tools to support this party or that party, justice for me — it's the truth and the guarantee that this will not happen again," al-Darwish said."And to see those people sanctioned, but most importantly to see the birth of a new Syria with a sustainable peace because without justice, I believe that it will not be easy to guarantee sustainable peace," al-Darwish added.On Monday, Wassim Mukdad, a Branch 251 survivor who was a plaintiff in Raslan's case, said, "We want some proof that our suffering counted for something. I hope that me, and a lot of others, were able to give a voice to those who couldn't share their stories."Mustafa on June 4 in Koblenz.Thomas Lohnes/Getty ImagesWhile Mustafa is involved in the broader activism, the political will always be personal as she strives to achieve justice for her father. In 2020, Mustafa would sit outside the Koblenz courthouse with a portrait of her father, flanked by portraits of other missing Syrian detainees.In March 2021, Mustafa spoke with the UN General Assembly and alongside other families launched the Charter for Truth and Justice, a victim-centered list of demands calling for the immediate release of detainees, and an end to inhumane treatment and sexual-based violence in Syria."I think that all Syrians are now in a very challenging and crucial stage where for the first time we are at a stage where we are presented something that is supposed to be justice," Mustafa said. "And we have to decide for ourselves whether this is what we imagined or not."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytJan 14th, 2022

Syrian secret-police officer sentenced to life in world"s first trial over state torture during the civil war

Anwar Raslan, now 58, was accused of overseeing dozens of murders and the torture of thousands of prisoners in 2011 and 2012. Syrian women hold pictures of relatives who died before the verdict in front of the court in Koblenz, Germany, on January 13, 2022.AP Photo/Martin Meissner Anwar Raslan was found guilty in a war-crimes trial over the treatment of Syrian prisoners in 2011 and 2012. A German court said he oversaw the murder of 27 people. Prosecutors said he oversaw the "systematic and brutal torture" of thousands of prisoners. A German court has convicted a Syrian former secret-police officer over the treatment of prisoners in a world-first trial.Anwar Raslan was convicted of crimes against humanity on Thursday, the Associated Press reported. He was found guilty of overseeing the murder of 27 people, Deutsche Welle reported.He was given life in prison, the AP and DW both reported.This trial was the first in the world over state-sponsored torture during Syria's civil war, Reuters reported.Prosecutors said Raslan oversaw the "systematic and brutal torture" of more than 4,000 prisoners in the facility — known as Al Khatib, or Branch 251 — in  2011 and 2012, the AP reported. They said dozens of prisoners died.Those held in the center were often people suspected of protesting against Assad's government, the AP reported. The state court in the German city of Koblenz concluded that he was in charge of the prison, the AP reported.In a statement, the court said Raslan "was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, torture, aggravated deprivation of liberty, rape and sexual assault," DW reported.His lawyers argued that he never tortured anyone personally, the AP reported.Judges in the courtroom read out the names of Syrian torture victims who were present, NPR reported. Syrians have tried to hold officials in the country accountable after accusing them of torture and other crimes during the country's civil war.Raslan was arrested in 2019 in Germany, where he tried to seek asylum, the AP reported.The Syrian civil war started in March 2011, and remains ongoing.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 13th, 2022

Democrats reveal their criticisms and frustrations with Biden"s attorney general Merrick Garland

Biden allies tell Insider they're growing frustrated with Attorney General Merrick Garland's judge-like approach to running the Justice Department. Attorney General Merrick Garland has faced criticism for not adapting his judge-like style to the political demands of his Justice Department role.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images Merrick Garland has frustrated Democrats with his judge-like approach to running the DOJ. Recent House and Senate oversight hearings reveal Garland's political blind spot. Garland has tangled with the White House and been slow delivering Democrats' desired policy moves. Just a day after a violent mob stormed the US Capitol, Joe Biden stepped to the podium as president-elect and presented Merrick Garland as his pick to steady the Justice Department and steer it away from the politicization and chronic turmoil of the Trump era.Democrats have been living with that choice ever since — and they're not always loving the results.In the eight months since his confirmation as attorney general, Garland has proven himself as anything but a politically-attuned firebrand. His measured, mild-mannered approach has stuck with him from his quasi-monastic past life as a federal judge, and frustration among some Biden's allies has only grown as they experience Garland's methodical ways of running a DOJ that must reckon with the Trump years and an invigorated onslaught of partisan political attacks."He's been out of the hurly-burly for 25 years," a former top Obama administration official told Insider. "It's hard to get back into the arena. I think that's part of the problem here." Garland's political limitations were well noticed during a recent round of congressional oversight hearings. Both House and Senate Republicans put Garland on the defensive as they grilled him about a Justice Department initiative to address threats of violence and harassment against teachers, school administrators, and local school board members. His GOP critics claimed Biden's administration was seeking to silence parents concerned about school policies. Garland responded by repeatedly stressing how the DOJ was focused on keeping the public safe and not crimping speech protected by the First Amendment and Supreme Court precedent. In those tense exchanges, some Democrats and former Justice Department officials told Insider they thought Garland missed an opportunity to more forcefully respond to Republicans and even challenge them on their strategy of turning local education into the latest front in the culture wars."He didn't do great, but a huge factor is that he's never been the type of individual that plays the political show that Republicans play," a Democratic Senate aide told Insider. "We learned a lot from that oversight hearing." Others agreed that Garland went on the defensive in spite of having the politics on his side. Garland "could have walked into the hearing and said, 'You're damn right I'm worried about the safety of school board members, the same way I'm worried about the safety of election workers, the same way I'm worried about your safety since your building was attacked on January 6th,'" said Matt Miller, who served in the Obama administration as the top spokesperson for former Attorney General Eric Holder."I don't think it's his natural style," Miller added, "to be a pugilistic fighter."Sen. Dick Durbin, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, presided over an oversight hearing that exposed Garland's political limitations.Tom Brenner-Pool/Getty Images'Running it like it's a chambers'Garland's style as attorney general has only fed the perception that he still embodies the role of a federal judge who has a natural inclination to show impartiality in the face of partisan attacks. "I think he's still feeling his way in the executive branch," said Barb McQuade, a former Obama-era federal prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst.Not content with a high-level briefing, Garland is known to read case law himself and even inquire about the judges handling various matters. His interest in that level of detail is uncommon for attorneys general, according to people familiar with his approach."He seems incapable of making decisions," the former top Obama administration official said, adding: "He's running it like it's a chambers, where he's going to have to write an opinion or something."On his staff, Garland has surrounded himself with Capitol Hill veterans and aides recruited from the vast and loyal network of law clerks who worked for him over 23 years on the DC Circuit US Court of Appeals. The presence of past clerks has played into the impression that he's still operating like a judge. "He's been a judge, where people are super-nice to you all the time," the former Obama administration official said. "No one really questions you. Somebody might write a dissent, but it's an academic dissent."Garland's methodical approach has grated on Capitol Hill Democrats who bemoan delays that hurt their desired policy goals. For example, Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, criticized Garland's Justice Department last month for not yet rescinding a Trump era memo arguing that federal prisoners released in light of the pandemic should be returned to custody.Durbin and Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, sent Garland's Justice Department a letter urging it to rescind the memo. Six months later, they had not received a response, Durbin said. On Tuesday, Durbin called for Garland to remove the head of the federal prison system, Michael Carvajal, with a "reform-minded director who is not a product of that bureau's bureaucracy."Garland spokesperson Anthony Coley declined to address the criticism but noted that the attorney general's travel and public speaking schedule has picked up in recent weeks, notably with a trip to Mexico and a visit to the family of a slain DEA agent. Earlier in his tenure, travel and public appearances were limited by pandemic precautions and Garland's general belief that the Justice Department should speak within the four corners of a court filing.Coley said Garland has visited several US attorneys' offices and is set to stop at the outposts in Manhattan and Brooklyn on Friday. The attorney general has also paid out of pocket for ice cream socials — a more recent event featured apple cider and donuts — for Justice Department staff, Coley said."He wants to get off of the 5th floor as much as possible to meet the folks who in many cases are doing the work, on the front lines," Coley said. "He's intentional about that."President Joe Biden framed his attorney general pick as designed to restore DOJ's integrity.Kevin Dietsch/Getty ImagesFollowing Trump and Bill BarrGarland's Democratic critics acknowledge that his style is what Biden signed up for. He brought to the DOJ a reputation as an independent and fair-minded judge who sat for nearly a quarter-century on the prestigious DC-based federal appeals court. Biden himself framed Garland's nomination as the embodiment of his stated goal of restoring the Justice Department's reputation and independence after seeing Trump look to the nation's highest law enforcement agency as if it were his personal law firm.That transition from the Trump years has led to occasionally tense relations between the Garland-led Justice Department and White House. When Biden said he hoped the DOJ would prosecute those who defy subpoenas from the special House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol, Garland's spokesperson shot back that the department would "make its own independent decisions in all prosecutions based solely on the facts and the law." —Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) October 15, 2021Tensions have only persisted as legal experts wonder why Trump himself hasn't been charged with any federal crimes when local prosecutors in New York and Georgia keep the heat up on the former president. "Where oh where is Merrick Garland?" Laurence Tribe, a legal scholar who taught the attorney general at Harvard Law School, mused recently on Twitter. The Justice Department brought the first such prosecution on Friday with the indictment of Steve Bannon, a close Trump ally who refused to testify or turn over documents as part of the House investigation. Announcing Bannon's indictment on contempt of Congress charges, Garland said the prosecution reflects the DOJ's "steadfast commitment" to following the facts and the law.Garland made a similar defense as the DOJ continued to back Trump against a defamation case brought by E. Jean Carroll and later when it challenged a court decision requiring the disclosure of a memo former Attorney General William Barr cited in deciding not to charge Trump with obstructing the Russia investigation. Both decisions drew criticism from Democrats eager for the new Justice Department to hold Trump accountable.The consternation conflicts with Garland's first priority of restoring the Justice Department's reputation as an apolitical body, said Miller, the former Holder spokesman."That had to be goal No. 1 above anything else, and I think he's accomplished that," Miller said. "Where he's still learning," he added, "is in how to be the public face of the department and defend its work and defend its priorities, especially when attacked by people who have no interest in having a reasonable conversation with you. If we're having the same conversation a year from now, it will be a problem."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 17th, 2021

The Most Important Battle For Press Freedom In Our Time

The Most Important Battle For Press Freedom In Our Time Authored by Chris Hedges via MintPressNews.com, For the past two days, I have been watching the extradition hearing for Julian Assange via video link from London. The United States is appealing a lower court ruling that denied the US request to extradite Assange not, unfortunately, because in the eyes of the court he is innocent of a crime, but because, as Judge Vanessa Baraitser in January concluded, Assange’s precarious psychological state would deteriorate given the “harsh conditions” of the inhumane US prison system, “causing him to commit suicide.” The United States has charged Assange with 17 counts under the Espionage Act and one count of trying to hack into a government computer, charges that could see him imprisoned for 175 years. Assange, with long white hair, appeared on screen the first day from the video conference room in HM Prison Belmarsh. He was wearing a white shirt with an untied tie around his neck. He looked gaunt and tired. He did not appear in court, the judges explained, because he was receiving a “high dose of medication.” On the second day he was apparently not present in the prison’s video conference room. Assange is being extradited because his organization WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs in October 2010, which documented numerous US war crimes — including video images of the gunning down of two Reuters journalists and 10 other unarmed civilians in the Collateral murder video, the routine torture of Iraqi prisoners, the covering up of thousands of civilian deaths and the killing of nearly 700 civilians that had approached too closely to US checkpoints. He is also being targeted by US authorities for other leaks, especially those that exposed  the hacking tools used by the CIA known as Vault 7, which enables the spy agency to compromise cars, smart TVs, web browsers and the operating systems of most smart phones, as well as operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, macOS and Linux. If Assange is extradited and found guilty of publishing classified material, it will set a legal precedent that will effectively end national security reporting, allowing the government to use the Espionage Act to charge any reporter who possesses classified documents, and any whistleblower who leaks classified information. If the appeal by the United States is accepted Assange will be retried in London. The ruling on the appeal is not expected until at least January. Assange’s September 2020 trial painfully exposed how vulnerable he has become after 12 years of detention, including seven in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He has in the past attempted suicide by slashing his wrists. He suffers from hallucinations and depression, takes antidepressant medication and the antipsychotic quetiapine. After he was observed pacing his cell until he collapsed, punching himself in the face and banging his head against the wall he was transferred for several months to the medical wing of the Belmarsh prison. Prison authorities found “half of a razor blade” hidden under his socks. He has repeatedly called the suicide hotline run by the Samaritans because he thought about killing himself “hundreds of times a day.” James Lewis, the lawyer for the United States, attempted to discredit the detailed and disturbing medical and psychological reports on Assange presented to the court in September 2020, painting him instead as a liar and malingerer. He excoriated the decision of Judge Baraitser to bar extradition, questioned her competence, and breezily dismissed the mountains of evidence that high-security prisoners in the United Sates, like Assange, subjected to Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), and held in virtual isolation in supermax prisons, suffer psychological distress. He charged Dr. Michael Kopelman, emeritus professor of neuropsychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, who examined Assange and testified for the defense, with deception for “concealing” that Assange fathered two children with his fiancée Stella Morris while in refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He said that, should the Australian government request Assange, he could serve his prison time in Australia, his home country, after his appeals had been exhausted, but stopped short of promising that Assange would not be held in isolation or subject to SAMs. The authority repeatedly cited by Lewis to describe the conditions under which Assange will be held and tried in the United States was Gordon Kromberg, the Assistant United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Kromberg is the government’s grand inquisitor in cases of terrorism and national security. He has expressed open contempt for Muslims and Islam and decried what he calls “the Islamization of the American justice system.” He oversaw the 9-year persecution of the Palestinian activist and academic Dr. Sami Al-Arian and at one point refused his request to postpone a court date during the religious holiday of Ramadan. “They can kill each other during Ramadan, they can appear before the grand jury. All they can’t do is eat before sunset,” Kromberg said in a 2006 conversation, according to an affidavit filed by one of Arian’s attorneys, Jack Fernandez. Kromberg criticized Daniel Hale, the former Air Force analyst who recently was sentenced to 45 months in a supermax prison for leaking information about the indiscriminate killings of civilians by drones, saying Hale had not contributed to public debate, but had “endanger[ed] the people doing the fight.” He ordered Chelsea Manning jailed after she refused to testify in front of a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks. Manning attempted to commit suicide in March 2020 while being held in the Virginia jail. Having covered the case of Syed Fahad Hashmi, who was arrested in London in 2006, I have a good idea of what waits Assange if he is extradited. Hashmi also was held in Belmarsh and extradited in 2007 to the United States where he spent three years in solitary confinement under SAMs. His “crime” was that an acquaintance who stayed in his apartment with him while he was a graduate student in London had raincoats, ponchos and waterproof socks in luggage at the apartment. The acquaintance planned to deliver the items to al-Qaida. But I doubt the government was concerned with waterproof socks being shipped to Pakistan. The reason, I suspect, Hashmi was targeted was because, like the Palestinian activist Dr. Sami Al-Arian, and like Assange, he was fearless and zealous in his defense of those being bombed, shot, terrorized and killed throughout the Muslim world while he was a student at Brooklyn College. Hashmi was deeply religious, and some of his views, including his praise of the Afghan resistance, were controversial, but he had a right to express these sentiments. More important, he had a right to expect freedom from persecution and imprisonment because of his opinions, just as Assange should have the freedom, like any publisher, to inform the public about the inner workings of power. Facing the possibility of a 70-year sentence in prison and having already spent four years in jail, much of it in solitary confinement, Hashmi accepted a plea bargain on one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism. Judge Loretta Preska, who sentenced the hacker Jeremy Hammond and human rights attorney Steven Donziger, gave him the maximum 15-year sentence. Hashmi was held for nine years in Guantanamo-like conditions in the supermax ADX [Administrative Maximum] facility in Florence, Colorado, where Assange, if found guilty in an American court, will almost certainly be imprisoned. Hashmi was released in 2019. The pre-trial detention conditions Hashmi endured were designed to break him. He was electronically monitored 24-hours a day. He could only receive or send mail with his immediate family. He was prohibited from speaking with other prisoners through the walls. He was forbidden from taking part in group prayer. He was permitted one hour of exercise a day, in a solitary cage without fresh air. He has unable to see most of the evidence used to indict him which was classified under the Classified Information Procedures Act, enacted to prevent US intelligence officers under prosecution from threatening to reveal state secrets to manipulate the legal proceedings. The harsh conditions eroded his physical and psychological health. When he appeared in the final court proceeding to accept a guilty plea he was in a near catatonic state, clearly unable to follow the proceedings around him. If the government will go to this length to persecute someone who was alleged to have been involved in sending waterproof socks to al-Qaida, what can we expect the government to do to Assange? A society that prohibits the capacity to speak in truth extinguishes the capacity to live in justice. The battle for Assange’s liberty has always been much more than the persecution of a publisher. It is the most important battle for press freedom of our era. And if we lose this battle, it will be devastating, not only for Assange and his family, but for us. Tyrannies invert the rule of law. They turn the law into an instrument of injustice. They cloak their crimes in a faux legality. They use the decorum of the courts and trials, to mask their criminality. Those, such as Assange, who expose that criminality to the public are dangerous, for without the pretext of legitimacy the tyranny loses credibility and has nothing left in its arsenal but fear, coercion and violence. The long campaign against Assange and WikiLeaks is a window into the collapse of the rule of law, the rise of what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls our system of inverted totalitarianism, a form of totalitarianism that maintains the fictions of the old capitalist democracy, including its institutions, iconography, patriotic symbols and rhetoric, but internally has surrendered total control to the dictates of global corporations and the security and surveillance state. There is no legal basis to hold Assange in prison. There is no legal basis to try him, an Australian citizen, under the US Espionage Act. The CIA spied on Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy through a Spanish company, UC Global, contracted to provide embassy security. This spying included recording the privileged conversations between Assange and his lawyers as they discussed his defense. This fact alone invalidated the trial. Assange is being held in a high security prison so the state can, as Nils Melzer, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, has testified, continue the degrading abuse and torture it hopes will lead to his psychological if not physical disintegration.The architects of imperialism, the masters of war, the corporate-controlled legislative, judicial and executive branches of government and their obsequious courtiers in the media, are guilty of egregious crimes. Say this simple truth and you are banished, as many of us have been, to the margins of the media landscape. Prove this truth, as Assange, Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond and Edward Snowden have by allowing us to peer into the inner workings of power, and you are hunted down and persecuted. 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. Tyler Durden Wed, 11/03/2021 - 00:05.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytNov 3rd, 2021

A military jury said torture tactics used by the CIA were on par with the "most abusive regimes in modern history," report says

"The treatment of Mr. Khan in the hands of US personnel should be a source of shame for the US government," senior military officials said. A file photo shows detainees sitting in a holding area watched by military police at Camp X-Ray inside Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Petty Officer 1st class Shane T. McCoy/US Department of Defense Handout via Reuters A military jury sentenced a terrorist to 26 years but some wrote a letter requesting clemency. The letter said the torture Majid Khan experienced "is a stain on the moral fiber of America." Khan said he was subject to force-feeding, waterboarding, and physical and sexual abuse. A military jury wrote a letter condemning torture tactics used by the CIA against a convicted terrorist after sentencing the man to 26 years in prison, The New York Times reported.On Thursday, the jury, which was made up of active-duty senior military officials, heard graphic descriptions of the torture Majid Khan, 41, was subjected to while being held at CIA black sites. Khan, who graduated from a high school near Baltimore, served as a courier for Al-Qaeda before he was captured.He spoke before the jury, who had been brought to Guantanamo Bay where he has been detained, to determine his sentence. He became the first person to openly describe the torture he went through at a black site.Khan said he experienced force-feeding, waterboarding, and physical and sexual abuse. He said he was isolated while nude, chained up in the dark, and nearly drowned.On Friday, the jury, which was required to deliver a sentence of 25 to 40 years, sentenced Khan to 26 years. Seven of the eight military jurors also wrote a letter to Pentagon officials asking for Khan to receive clemency, the Associated Press reported.The Times obtained and published the two-page, handwritten letter on Sunday."Mr. Khan was subjected to physical and psychological abuse well beyond approved enhanced interrogation techniques, instead being closer to torture performed by the most abusive regimes in modern history," the letter said."This abuse was of no practical value in terms of intelligence, or any other tangible benefit to US interests," it continued. "Instead, it is a stain on the moral fiber of America; the treatment of Mr. Khan in the hands of US personnel should be a source of shame for the US government."In requesting clemency, the letter also noted that Khan had been held without charge or trial for nearly a decade, which is allowed for terrorists who have been deemed "alien unprivileged enemy belligerents." It said the practice represented a "complete disregard for the foundational concepts upon which the Constitution was founded" and an "affront to American values and concept of Justice."Khan was one of the 14 "high-value detainees" who had been sent to Guantanamo after being subjected to interrogations at CIA black sites that were established around the world during the beginning of the war on terror, AP reported.Thirty-nine prisoners remain at Guantanamo Bay, despite President Joe Biden's desire to close the detention camp. Some are awaiting trial under the military commission system that Khan was just sentenced under. Others have never been charged with a crime but are deemed too dangerous to release.A third group has been cleared for release but is waiting for the US to establish placement for them in another country where they can be let go under specific security conditions.Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@insider.com.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytOct 31st, 2021

A Russian crime boss was killed in Ukraine after being recruited from prison to fight in the war, report says

Igor Kusk had been serving a 23-years for murder when he volunteered to fight in Ukraine. He reportedly was serving with the shadowy Wagner Group. Smoke rises from Bakhmut, Donetsk region, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine on September 15, 2022.Juan Barreto/AFP via Getty Images The boss of a Russian crime gang was serving a 23-year jail term when he requested to fight in Ukraine. He went to the frontline by the shadowy Wagner Group, who had been recruiting prisoners to fight. Igor Kusk died after being hit in the head by shrapnel while fighting in the Donbas region. A Russian crime boss who was serving a 23-year jail term before leaving prison to fight in Ukraine was killed in action, according to the Russian outlet Business Gazeta.Igor Kusk was the leader of a gang in Tatarstan and was found guilty of various crimes, including murders in 2015, and was imprisoned in a strict regime prison colony, according to reports.Kusk sent a letter from prison to the leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, asking to join the fight in Ukraine, his widow Irina told the outlet. A representative from the paramilitary Wagner Group came to get him, and she said he was sent to the front line on July 25.He died on September 6 fighting in the Bakhmut region in the Donbas from a shrapnel injury to the head, said the report.Irina said her husband was 55 and not in perfect health but was not afraid of anyone. Kusk had previously served in the Soviet-Afghan War, it was reported.Numerous photos of the Kusk's funeral in a village near Kazan, 500 miles east of Moscow, appear to show it was attended by hundreds of mourners, including local officials.Men in military uniform fired three volleys into the air from machine guns. The former crime lord was buried in the "walk of fame" of the city cemetery alongside other soldiers killed in Ukraine, and photos show his grave adorned with large bouquets, reported Business Gazeta.Businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner Group, shows Russian President Vladimir Putin his factory outside Saint Petersburg on September 20, 2010.ALEXEY DRUZHININ/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty ImagesA video recently surfaced of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the shadowy Wagner Group and a close Putin ally, recruiting men at a Russian prison to fight in Ukraine.Prigozhin promised them freedom if they served for six months but warned that they would be killed if they tried to desert.The video corroborated the previous reporting from The Daily Beast and The Wall Street Journal about the mercenary group's prisoner recruitment drive.Kusk's presence in Ukraine suggests that Wagner took recruits from prison as early as July. The Wagner group is variously described as a mercenary outfit, a private military contractor, and Putin's private army.It has close links to the Kremlin, and its soldiers have been linked to a massacre in Bucha, Ukraine, and accused of committing war crimes in Africa.The group, which has also seen action in the Syrian civil war, has been tied to Russian separatists in the pro-Russian Donbas region since 2014. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderSep 25th, 2022

A Colorado man who showed up to the Capitol riot wearing a "Guns don"t kill people, Clintons do" shirt and got into a "tug-of-war" with police received a 30-month prison sentence

Thomas Patrick Hamner "engaged with a tug-of-war" with police "over a bike rack that was being used as a barricade," according to a DOJ release. Thomas Patrick Hamner in a "tug-of-war" with police at the Capitol riot.DOJ Thomas Patrick Hamner from Colorado was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his participation in the Capitol riot. Hamner showed up to the riot with a "Guns don't kill people, Clintons do" shirt. At the riot, he engaged in a "tug-of-war" with officers over a bike rack being used as a barricade, the DOJ said. A federal judge sentenced a Colorado man to 30-months behind bars on Friday for his participation in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, according to a release from the Justice Department. On the day of the insurrection, Thomas Patrick Hamner, 49, hopped over barricades blocking the West Lawn of the Capitol building, investigators said. Then he joined a slew of "violent rioters" who pushed against police attempting to keep them from advancing further, the release says. While part of that crowd, Hamner "engaged with a tug-of-war with a Capitol Police officer and an officer from the Metropolitan Police Department over a bike rack that was being used as a barricade," according to the DOJ.Hamner showed up to the riot wearing a "Guns don't kill people, Clintons do" shirt, according to evidence compiled by investigators. He was arrested in November last year and pleaded guilty to a felony charge of interfering with law enforcement officers during a civil disorder in May. He was indicted on that charge, as well as five others that he had pleaded not guilty to, the release says. Besides the stint in prison, Hamner will also have to pay a $2,000 fine and faces three years of probation when he's released, the DOJ said. The Capitol riot left five people, including one police officer, dead. Members of the Proud Boys, which is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, were also present.Organizers were emboldened by former President Donald Trump's urges to protest the results of the 2020 election with him, despite Democrat Joe Biden's election victory. In February, insurrectionists scrambled to delete photos and social-media posts proving their participation in the Capitol riot. Some broke their cellphones, scrubbed their social media accounts, and tried to wipe hard drives that might contain photos and other proof of their involvement. But others boasted of their involvement, making it easier for the FBI to catch and charge them. So far, more than 919 people have been charged in connection with the insurrection, according to Insider's database. Hamner's attorney did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytSep 24th, 2022

Say Only What We Want To Hear, Or We Will Take Away Your Livelihood

Say Only What We Want To Hear, Or We Will Take Away Your Livelihood Authored by Thorsteinn Siglaugsson via Brownstone Institute, The attacks on free and open discussion are becoming more and more widespread. Now, as Toby Young explains in an article this morning, the payment service PayPal has closed the accounts of the Daily Sceptic, which often publishes criticism of the government policy in various matters.  PayPal has also closed the account of the Free Speech Union, which provides support to people whose freedom of opinion is under attack, for example those fired from their jobs because of their opinions. PayPal has even gone as far as to close the rarely used personal account of Toby Young, who is in charge of both the Daily Sceptic and the Free Speech Union, and is also associate editor of The Spectator, one of the world’s most respected newspapers. As Toby reports in his article, the company has offered no explanation for this move. When payment services or banks begin to act in this way, it should dawn upon us what a serious threat to free and open exchange of opinions we are facing. Not only can you be fired from your job, your very possibility to make a living will be taken away also.  Now, there is little doubt that many people think that as long as their own opinions are allowed, everything is fine, even if other opinions are forbidden. But that position, apart from being morally wrong, is based on an utter lack of understanding of the threat we face; the question is not if, but when it will be your own opinions that are censored, your own livelihood taken away. “Okay to ban right-wing bullshit” a thoughtless leftist might think. “Okay to ban communist propaganda” the thoughtless right-winger might think. But as Toby points out in his article, it is in fact also left-wing media outlets that PayPal is now attacking, not just right-leaning ones like the Daily Sceptic. PayPal’s actions are based on blatant opposition to the freedom of expression, opposition that until recently one thought belonged to the scrap-heaps of history. But we are now seeing more and more examples of this. The other day, people were arrested and taken to prison in Britain for protesting against the monarchy in the vicinity of funeral parades for the late Queen. And most people thought nothing of it, although attempts to silence the opinions of opponents of the monarchy had not been seen since the 15th century.  Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is currently awaiting extradition and life imprisonment in the United States for publishing information inconvenient to the government, but most people take this lightly. Those are just two of countless recent examples, which clearly show what is going on and where we are heading.  Freedom of expression is a fundamental value that concerns us all, no matter where we stand in politics, what our religion is or our preferences in life. We must have the maturity and moral standing to defend it unconditionally, no matter how annoying or inappropriate we might find the views currently being attacked. If we do not stand up now for the freedom of expression, next time it will be our own views getting censored, our own livelihood taken away. Tyler Durden Sat, 09/24/2022 - 06:30.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytSep 24th, 2022

Prosecutors will not recommend charging Matt Gaetz in sex-trafficking investigation, report says

Prosecutors say they have questions about the credibility of two witnesses. Gaetz has denied wrongdoing. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican of Florida, listens during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, December 7, 2021.J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press Prosecutors are recommending against charging Gaetz with sex trafficking, The Washington Post reported.  They have concerns about the credibility of two witnesses.  Gaetz has denied wrongdoing.  Prosecutors are recommending against charging Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida in connection with a sex-trafficking investigation, according to a report from The Washington Post. Citing anonymous sources, the Post reported that prosecutors were concerned with the credibility of two witnesses, and believed that a charge would be unlikely to result in a conviction. The Justice Department was investigating whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid her to travel with him.Gaetz has denied wrongdoing. He said in March 2021 that the accusations were part of an "organized criminal extortion" scheme and a Florida businessman named Stephen M. Alford was sentenced to more than five years in prison for his attempt to defraud the congressman's father, Don Gaetz, out of $25 million.A federal grand jury in Orlando earlier this year heard testimony from Gaetz's former girlfriend as well as his associates.  Justice Department officials typically take the advice of prosecutors, but haven't made a final decision on the matter yet, the Post reported. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytSep 23rd, 2022

Nazi sympathizer insurrectionist who said January 6 was "exhilarating" gets 4 years in prison in "significant" sentence

Timothy Hale-Cusanelli in May was convicted by a jury of five charges related to his role in the attack, including a felony. Images of Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, 30, sporting a Hitler mustache. These images were recovered from his cellphone by NCIS special agents.US Department of Justice A Nazi sympathizer who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021 was sentenced to 4 years in prison. Timothy Hale-Cusanelli in May was found guilty of five charges related to the siege. At least 919 people have been arrested in connection to the siege and nearly 400 people have pleaded guilty. A former Army reservist, described by federal prosecutors as a Nazi sympathizer, was sentenced to four years in prison on Thursday for his role in the January 6 Capitol riot.A jury in May found Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, 32, guilty of five counts related to the siege, including a felony charge of obstructing an official proceeding. In addition to four years behind bars, Hale-Cusanelli was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and a $2,000 fine.US District Judge Trevor McFadden this week said Hale-Cusanelli's sentence was "significant," admonishing the New Jersey man for lying during his trial, when he claimed he didn't know that Congress met in the Capitol, despite telling his roommate that he stood outside House chambers during the attack.McFadden also castigated Hale-Cusanelli, saying he believed that the defendant's antisemitic, racist, and sexist beliefs, in part, led Hale-Cusanelli to the Capitol on January 6.Photos of Hale-Cusanelli sporting a Hitler-style mustache emerged following the riot, and an Insider investigation in March 2021 found that he liked to impersonate Adolph Hitler around his workplace at a Naval weapons station, espousing antisemitic remarks that left his colleagues intimidated.Hale-Cusanelli had a deep internet history suggesting long-held white supremacist views and was also known to antagonize his local Jewish community, Insider's investigation found. Video from the insurrection shows Hale-Cusanelli encouraging the mob of Trump supporters to "advance" before he joined the crowd in illegally entering the Capitol.Following the siege, Hale-Cusanelli described the experience as "exhilarating" and said he was "hoping for a civil war," according to prosecutors.In court on Thursday, Hale-Cusanelli asked the judge for mercy, saying he had "disrespected" his uniform.A lawyer for Hale-Cusanelli did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. At least 919 people have been arrested in connection to the siege and nearly 400 people have pleaded guilty.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytSep 22nd, 2022

Jailed Putin critic Alexey Navalny says recruiting prisoners as mercenaries for war in Ukraine makes him question if the Russian army even exists anymore

Navalny has been a fierce critic of Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine, calling on Russians to stage mass protests against it. Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny appears from prison on a video link provided by the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service, at a courtroom in Vladimir, Russia, Tuesday, June 7, 2022.AP Photo/Vladimir Kondrashov Imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny questioned whether Russia even has a military anymore. This came in response to footage that appeared to show a mercenary group attempting to recruit prisoners. Russia has suffered staggering troop losses in Ukraine.  Imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny questioned the state of the Russian military amid the war in Ukraine as he offered his thoughts on a video that appeared to show an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin attempting to recruit prisoners. "As an inmate of a maximum-security prison, I too would like to give my opinion on the recruitment of criminals for the war," Navalny said in a statement released via Twitter. "I think the first thought of any convict who saw this video was: 'Dear God, if they are recruiting us for the war, then what is the state of the regular Russian army? Does it not exist at all anymore?'"Though he's behind bars, Navalny has been able to communicate with the outside world through his lawyers. That said, the Russian opposition leader has recently complained of authorities limiting access to his legal team. In August 2020, Navalny was poisoned in Siberia with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.After being treated in Germany for several months, Navalny returned to Moscow and was promptly arrested on charges widely decried as politically motivated. The anti-corruption campaigner has been behind bars in Russia since early 2021, and earlier this year, he had more time added to his sentence.Navalny has been a fierce critic of Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine, calling on Russians to stage mass protests against it.The war has been disastrous for the Russian military, which has suffered staggering troop losses since Putin ordered the invasion in late February. Western intelligence has suggested that the Wagner Group, which has close ties to the Kremlin, would seek to recruit prisoners to fight in the war as Russia struggles with manpower issues.Footage that recently surfaced appeared to show Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Putin ally believed to be the head of Wagner, telling Russian prisoners they would be pardoned if they fought for the mercenary group in the war. Many Russian prisoners are refusing this offer, a US official told reporters on Monday. "Our information indicates that Wagner has been suffering high losses in Ukraine, especially and unsurprisingly among young and inexperienced fighters," the official said. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderSep 20th, 2022

Russian mercenaries want felons to go fight Putin"s war in Ukraine, but many are refusing, US official says

The shadowy Wagner Group has been trying to recruit Russian prisoners to fight in Ukraine for months now, according to Western intelligence. An abandoned Russian military tank is being inspected after Russian Forces withdrew from Balakliia on September 15, 2022 in Kharkiv Oblast.Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images Kremlin-linked mercenaries are trying to convince prisoners to fight Putin's war in Ukraine.  A recent video showed the head of the Wagner Group offer inmates freedom if they take up arms.  But many convicted felons are refusing, a senior US defense official told reporters on Monday. As Russian forces continue to struggle on the battlefield in Ukraine, a shadowy Russian mercenary group with ties to the Kremlin has been calling on prisoners to go fight Russian President Vladimir Putin's war, but things may not be going quite according to plan, a US official said.A senior US official told reporters on Monday that the infamous Wagner Group, which has been linked to atrocities in different parts of the world, is trying to recruit over 1,500 felons, but many are refusing to join the group's ranks, according to multiple reports.The official's remarks come after a video recently surfaced showing the head of Wagner — a private military company with close ties to the Kremlin — make a proposal to a collection to inmates dressed in black and standing in a Russian prison yard. Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close Putin ally, told the inmates they would be granted freedom if they fight in Ukraine, but he also noted that they would be killed if they tried to desert.  "Nobody goes back behind bars," Prigozhin said in the video, according to a translation by The Wall Street Journal's Yaroslav Trofimov. "If you serve six months, you are free. If you arrive in Ukraine and decide it's not for you, we execute you."Britain's defense ministry said in an intelligence update last week that Wagner, which has also suffered heavy losses like the Russian military, has been attempting to recruit Russian prisoners to fight in Ukraine for months, adding that the organization has offered cash incentives and commuted sentences.Wagner's efforts have been recently "reinvigorated" by Prigozhin's pitch asking the Russian prisoners to serve as "fighters for assault units," the ministry said. "The impact of Russia's manpower challenge has become increasingly severe," Britain's defense ministry added, noting Wagner's hunt for troops and shorter training courses at Russian military academies. Throughout the nearly seven-month-long war, Russian forces — who failed to capture Ukraine's capital city Kyiv early and who now struggle to defend against a punishing Ukrainian counteroffensive — have fought alongside Wagner personnel. Mercenaries from Wagner have been linked to massacres and atrocities in Ukrainian cities like Bucha, and they have also been accused of committing widespread war crimes and other violent criminal activity in a handful of African countries.  Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytSep 19th, 2022

Video shows the head of a shadowy mercenary group recruiting at a Russian prison, offering inmates freedom if they fight in Ukraine but death if they run

Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner private military company, offers the men a pardon after six months of fighting — if they make it back alive. Russian billionaire and businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin (R) and RSPP President Alexander Shokhin (L) seen during the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum SPIEF2016 on June 17, 2016 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images Wagner is a Russian private military company with close ties to the Kremlin that is now in Ukraine. In a video shared on Telegram, the group's founder can be seen recruiting at a Russian prison. Wagner's Yevgeny Prigozhin claims the men will receive pardons if they agree to fight in Ukraine. Surrounded by prisoners dressed in black, a man identified as Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of a shadowy mercenary group, makes this pitch: Come fight in Ukraine and be rewarded with your freedom — if you can make it back alive."Nobody goes back behind bars," Prigozhin, founder of the Russian private military company Wagner, can be seen telling men in a video from a Russian prison yard, per a translation from The Wall Street Journal's Yaroslav Trofimov. "If you serve six months, you are free. If you arrive in Ukraine and decide it's not for you, we execute you."He gives the men 5 minutes to make a choice.According to The Insider, an independent news outlet focused on Russia, the video was shared Wednesday on Telegram.It appears to confirm prior reporting from The Daily Beast and The Wall Street Journal that Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is recruiting inmates to to fight and kill Ukrainians with Wagner forces reportedly operating in the Donbas region. Wagner mercenaries have already been linked to a massacre in Bucha, where hundreds of civilians were found executed, and a recent report accused them of war crimes in Africa, where they have deployed to fight insurgencies in Mali and the Central African Republic.—Dmitri (@wartranslated) September 14, 2022Prigozhin's offer to Russian prisoners — to fight in a conflict he bills as being far more difficult than the war Russia fought in Chechnya and Afghanistan — comes with other conditions beyond the threat of execution for deserters.If they accept a deployment, prisoners must agree not to consume drugs or alcohol — and, according to The Guardian's Shaun Walker, are forbidden from looting and engaging in "sexual contact with local women, flora, fauna, or men."In the video, Prigozhin says he's prepared to accept men between the ages of 22 and 50 but can accept younger recruits with the consent of their families. Those with addiction issues are welcome to join but will be subject to additional monitoring, including a potential lie-detector test to determine their "stability," he says.Sex offenders can also join, he adds, subject to additional scrutiny. "[We] understand mistakes can be made," he says.Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.comRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderSep 14th, 2022

35 Trump Allies Served With Warrants, Subpoenas According To Steve Bannon

35 Trump Allies Served With Warrants, Subpoenas According To Steve Bannon Former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon said on Friday that the FBI served 35 high level supporters of the former president with subpoenas and warrants. "35 members of MAGA, the Republican party, people close to Donald Trump, were rolled in on yesterday by the FBI with these intimidation tactics," Bannon told host Charlie Kirk. Bannon's claim was corroborated by top Republican lawyer, Harmeet Dhillon of the Dhillon Law Group. "The truth is that a few days ago, a political reporter called several people and said, ‘Hey, have you heard or been served yet? The FBI will be serving 50 approximately search warrants or subpoenas on Trump supporters,’ and then, you know, within 24 hours of that, two of our clients, three of our clients actually did either get search warrants or subpoenas, and the subpoenas are extremely broad," she told Fox News host Tucker Carlson. 2/2 were served w/extremely broad subpoenas, or warrant for phone/device. Our clients @america1stwomen are among those targeted for their peaceful, First-Amendment-protected, speech about 2020 election. These bullying tactics are designed to target & intimidate Trump supporters. — Harmeet K. Dhillon (@pnjaban) September 10, 2022 "They’re from the Capitol siege section of the Department of Justice D.C. office, and ask for broad categories of documents. They ask for all communications dating from a month before the election until a month – two months after the election," Dhillon continued. "They ask for all communications regarding dozens of people, and the categories are alternate electors, fundraising around irregularities around the election, and also a rally that happened before the Jan. 6 situation at the Capitol." Dhillon said the Biden DOJ is trying to "instill fear" in Trump supporters. "Most of this activity, if not all of it, is protected by the First Amendment and the United States Department of Justice is telling reporters about the search warrants and subpoenas before they’re executed. There’s no other explanation for this, and I think the reason for this is to instill fear into Donald Trump supporters and into those who would challenge election irregularities right before an upcoming election, Tucker. This is really outrageous abuse by the DOJ and it is illegal for the DOJ to leak this information to the media, Tucker," she continued (h/t Daily Caller). According to the New York Times, Trump advisers Brian Jack and Stephen Miller were among those served. The legal intimidation campaign comes as Bannon faces fresh charges in New York state over a scheme to raise money to build border wall on private land. He told the Epoch Times that it's an attempt to silence him ahead of the November midterms. Steve Bannon, former advisor to former President Donald Trump arrives at the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in New York City on Sept. 8, 2022. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images) More via the Epoch Times: “They’ve got a populist revolt that’s out of control, and they’re trying to take me out of this election,” Bannon, host of the “War Room” podcast, told The Epoch Times. “They were trying to de-platform me and shut me down. It’s not gonna happen.” Bannon made the comments one day after he appeared in a New York state courtroom in Manhattan on Sept. 8 and pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering, fraud, and conspiracy relating to a private crowdfunding campaign, known as “We Build the Wall” that sought to create a privately-owned section of the U.S.-Mexico border. He was released without bail. Prosecutors allege that Bannon defrauded donors of the fundraising drive that raised more than $15 million by diverting more than $100,000 to the campaign’s chief executive, who had pledged not to take a salary. “It is a crime to profit off the backs of donors by making false pretenses,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said at a Sept. 8 joint press conference with New York Attorney General Letitia James. Both are Democrats. Bannon was hit with similar charges by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2020, but he was pardoned by President Donald Trump on his last night before leaving office in January 2021. Presidential pardons, however, do not prohibit state prosecutions. Two other men who were charged by the DOJ pleaded guilty. The men, Brian Kolfage and Andrew Badolato, are awaiting sentencing for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They each face up to 20 years in prison. The trial of a third man, Timothy Shea, ended in a mistrial. ‘Political Targeting’ Bannon said the latest charges were “clearly political targeting,” noting that none of the other three men were indicted in the New York case. “I never had an official role with ‘We Build the Wall.’ It’s a separate company,” he said. The former Breitbart News chief called the case a  “total complete joke” and a “complete nothing burger.” “None of our donors ever had a problem with any of this. ‘We Build the Wall’ is a fantastic project; one of the things I’m most honored to be in,” he said. With about 60 days to go before the November midterm elections, authorities are singling out Bannon for targeting due to the success of his “War Room” podcast, the former Trump strategist alleged. “They understand that the ‘War Room’ is a very dangerous apparatus because it gives a little guy a voice. It gives a platform to all the grassroots people,” he said. “They understand that they need to shut that down. They can’t do it. It’s only getting bigger,” he added, noting that the audience jumped at least 10 percent in all shows on Sept. 9 in the wake of his court appearance. Bannon, who faces up a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison on the money laundering charge, remains defiant in the face of the new prosecution. “We’re never going to back down from Soros-backed, left-wing radicals that are in the New York administration,” he said. Read more here... Tyler Durden Sat, 09/10/2022 - 11:00.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytSep 10th, 2022

Local Russian lawmakers called for Putin"s removal from power over the war in Ukraine, and then the police went after them

Openly criticizing Putin has led to imprisonment or worse. A number of of Putin opponents have died in violent or mysterious ways over the years. Russian President Vladimir Putin, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, and FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov.Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press Local lawmakers in St. Petersburg and Moscow called for Putin's resignation over the war in Ukraine. The lawmakers in St. Petersburg were reportedly told by police they're now facing charges.  Putin's opponents have previously ended up behind bars or dead.  Local Russian lawmakers in both St. Petersburg and Moscow issued calls this week for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be removed from power over the war in Ukraine — a potentially risky move in a country where dissent can lead to imprisonment or worse. Municipal deputies from the Smolninsky District Council in St. Petersburg, the Russian president's hometown, issued a statement calling on Russia's parliament to remove Putin from power and charge him with high treason for launching the war in Ukraine, per the Washington Post. On Wednesday, Deputy Dmitry Palyuga tweeted out the document, which said, "We believe that the decision made by President Putin to start the special military operation is detrimental to the security of Russia and its citizens." "The Council of the Smolninskoye Municipal District decided to appeal to the State Duma deputies with a proposal to bring charges of treason against President Putin in order to remove him from office," Palyuga stated in the tweet with the document, adding, "The decision was supported by the majority of the deputies present."In the aftermath, the lawmakers were told by police that they are facing legal charges "due to actions aimed at discrediting the current Russian government," the Post reported.  Lawmakers from a municipal council in Moscow's Lomonosovsky district made a similar move, also calling on Putin to resign."The rhetoric you and your subordinates have used for a long time is imbued with intolerance and aggression, which in the end has effectively sent our country back into the Cold War era," the local Moscow lawmakers said in a statement, as reported by the Latvia-based investigative outlet The Insider."Russia is once again feared and hated, and we are once again threatening the world with nuclear weapons," they added. "In view of the above, we ask that you resign from your post, since your views and your model of government are hopelessly outdated and hinder the development of Russia and its human potential."Shortly after ordering the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in late February, Putin signed a law making it illegal to spread so-called "fake news" about the Russian military. Those found guilty could land in prison for up to 15 years. Rights groups and activists have decried the move as a blatant attempt to stifle free speech and legitimate criticism of the war. Critics of Putin have often ended up in prison or have died in violent or mysterious ways.Putin's most prominent opponent, Alexei Navalny, was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok in August 2020, but he managed to survive the attempt on his life. Navalny was imprisoned less than a year later on charges widely condemned as politically motivated, and he remains behind bars.Despite the recent calls from some local lawmakers, it is highly unlikely that Russia's rubber-stamp parliament would move to oust Putin or that such efforts will impact the war in Ukraine."We understand that Putin won't shed a tear and stop the operation," Nikita Yuferev, one of the councilors from St. Petersburg, told the Post."These requests are written for people who are still in Russia and for whom the propaganda tries to assure that they are the minority, that there are no people who are against this," Yuferev said.Contrary to official Russian statements, the Russian military has struggled to make gains in Ukraine while suffering staggering losses.The Pentagon recently said Russian casualties in Ukraine are estimated to be as high as 80,000. Meanwhile, the West has moved to cripple Russia's economy via harsh sanctions while moving to isolate Moscow politically. Russia has been condemned across the world for invading Ukraine, and its military has been accused of war crimes and other atrocities.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderSep 9th, 2022

Steve Bannon"s donor-fraud charges in New York include money laundering, conspiracy, scheme to defraud

A Manhattan grand jury's donor-fraud indictment of Bannon and 'We Build the Wall' alleges money laundering, conspiracy and fraud, but has no jail-mandatory charges. Steve Bannon turns himself in at the Manhattan DA's office on September 8, 2022.Laura Italiano/Insider Steve Bannon has been charged in Manhattan with money laundering, conspiracy, and scheme to defraud. Trump's former White House advisor could get as little as probation even if convicted of all five charges. The charges are less severe than in the same federal 'We Build the Wall' case Trump pardoned him on. Right-wing agitator Steve Bannon, the former White House advisor to Donald Trump, is set to plead not guilty Thursday to a new Manhattan indictment alleging he conspired to launder money and commit fraud through a sham "We Build the Wall" charity.The 2018 charity had promised its GoFundMe donors that 100 percent of donations would go toward building a wall on private property along the US-Mexico border; ultimately $25 million was raised, but only three miles of fencing was built, authorities have said.The new charges, released by the Manhattan district attorney's office Thursday morning after Bannon turned himself in, pick up where Trump's pardon in a related federal case left off. Read Bannon's new 'We Build the Wall' donor-scam indictment here.Trump's pardon, issued the night before he left office and before Bannon could face trial in federal court, made that case go away but does not protect him from Thursday's charges, thanks in large part to  a 2019 New York law that makes it tougher for presidential pardon recipients to fight related state cases."It's a crime to turn a profit by lying to donors, and in New York, you will be held accountable," Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg said in a statement that called Bannon the architect of a multi-billion dollar scheme that defrauded thousands of donors across the country, including "hundreds of Manhattan residents." "Each and every day, my office works to ensure that when New Yorkers hand over money, they know where it's going and who it's going to — without any smokescreens or false promises."The office of New York's attorney general, Letitia James, partnered with Bragg's office in winning the indictment, he said.None of the five charges carry mandatory jail time, and the top count, second-degree money laundering, carries a maximum of 15 years. The 2020 federal charges on the same "We Build the Wall" donor-scam allegations — the case Trump pardoned Bannon on — had carried a maximum of 20 years prison.It is unclear why Manhattan prosecutors did not get an indictment on grand larceny.The federal indictment had alleged that Bannon stole in excess of one million dollars, and that allegation under state law could have supported a first degree grand larceny charge carrying a mandatory one year prison.But jurisdictional concerns may have intervened. The Manhattan DA only has jurisdiction over victims that live in the borough and money that moved through its financial institutions.The hundreds of Manhattanites that Manhattan prosecutors say gave to "We Build the Wall" may have donated insignificant sums, and all of the banks that the federal indictment said were involved in related transactions are based outside New York.We Build the Wall, Inc, which is also under indictment, is based in Florida.Bannon had maintained he was innocent throughout the federal prosecution; he will remain in custody pending his arraignment Thursday afternoon before New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderSep 8th, 2022

Pardoned by Trump, Steve Bannon now eyes prison in the Manhattan DAs do-over of feds" "We Build the Wall" case

Steve Bannon will reportedly turn himself in on Thursday and could get at least a year in prison. Former White House strategist Steve Bannon speaks with reporters after departing federal court on Nov. 15, 2021, in Washington.Alex Brandon, File/Associated Press Steve Bannon will reportedly turn himself in on Thursday to Manhattan prosecutors. He could get at least a year in prison on state charges he stole from 'We Build the Wall.' That's the minimum sentence if the case closely mirrors the federal case Trump pardoned Bannon in.  Steve Bannon would face a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in state prison if the Manhattan DA's new "We Build the Wall" donor-scam prosecution closely mirrors the federal case that Donald Trump pardoned him for early last year.As first reported by The Washington Post, the right-wing political strategist and one-time Trump White House adviser is expected to surrender in Manhattan early Thursday on a state-level criminal indictment that picks up where his former boss' pardon left off. The new indictment is reportedly based on the same border wall donation scam that the feds arrested Bannon on two summers ago, when he was memorably taken into custody aboard a $28 million yacht off the coast of Connecticut. The feds' indictment had alleged that Bannon conspired with Air Force vet and triple amputee Brian Kolfage and two other men, turning their 2018 crowdfunded charity, "We Build the Wall," into a personal money-making machine. Donors had been assured on GoFundMe and in other public statements that 100% of their donations would be used to build 300 miles of wall on private land on the US-Mexico border; ultimately just three miles of fencing was constructed by the group, the feds claimed.Bannon and the others, meanwhile, diverted more than $1 million out of the charity's $25 million in donations for their personal use, the federal wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy case alleged.That $1-million-dollar mark is significant under New York state law, notes former Manhattan prosecutor Jeremy Saland.It's the threshold for a charge of first-degree grand larceny. Convictions on that charge come with a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in state prison and a maximum sentence of 25 years."They can certainly charge him with the taking of that $1 million plus, even if he did not personally have his hands on all that money," Saland told Insider."Bannon can be charged with grand larceny in the first degree if, as the feds had said, he was either the principal in the theft or acted in concert with others to take more than a million dollars," said Saland, now in private practice as Saland Law.Other possible felony charges include scheme to defraud, money laundering and falsifying business records, though first-degree grand larceny would theoretically be the top charge.Bannon's lawyers may try to fight the case on jurisdictional grounds.None of the banks that the feds alleged the stolen donations moved through are based in New York, and only a handful of those impacted by the scam are likely to be Manhattan residents.But a double-jeopardy challenge may have slim chances, Saland said.Although a state judge threw out the Manhattan DA's case against former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort on double-jeopardy grounds after his federal mortgage fraud conviction was zapped by yet another Trump pardon, the Bannon case would be different.Unlike Manafort, Bannon was pardoned before he was ever tried or convicted in federal court."Bannon is not 'jeopardized-out,'" Saland said.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderSep 7th, 2022