28 July 2007

Laura Love: "NeGrass"

Coming soon to a CD player near you:

04 July 2007

Independence Day for BBC's Alan Johnston!

At last, at last! We are thankful that he is healthy and safe...


BBC's Alan Johnston Is Released


Johnston interview

BBC correspondent Alan Johnston has been released by kidnappers in the Gaza Strip after 114 days in captivity.

Mr Johnston, 45, was handed over to armed men in Gaza City. He said his ordeal was like "being buried alive" but it was "fantastic" to be free.

And he described how he had been unable to see the sun for three months, and had once been chained for 24 hours.

Rallies worldwide had called for Mr Johnston's release. An online petition was signed by some 200,000 people.

Mr Johnston's father Graham said he and his wife were "overjoyed" at their son's release.

"It's been 114 days of a living nightmare," he said.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown also expressed his joy at Mr Johnston's release.

The BBC reporter was handed over to officials of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which controls Gaza, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

He later appeared beside Hamas leader Ismail Haniya and thanked everyone who had worked for his release. He is now at the British Consulate in Jerusalem but is not expected to fly home on Wednesday.

Hamas gunmen overran Gaza last month, expelling their rivals from the Fatah faction and prompting its leader, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, to sack Mr Haniya as prime minister.

Mr Haniya said the result "confirms [Hamas] is serious in imposing security and stability and maintaining law and order in this very dear part of our homeland".

'Dreamt of freedom'

At the news conference, Mr Johnston thanked everyone who had worked towards his release.

He described his experience of captivity as "appalling" and "occasionally quite terrifying".

"It became quite hard to imagine normal life again," he said.

"The last 16 weeks have been the very worst of my life," he added. "I was in the hands of people who were dangerous and unpredictable."

"I literally dreamt many times of being free and always woke up back in that room."

Mr Johnston said he was not tortured during captivity but he did fall ill from the food he was served.

He added that he had been kept in four different locations, two of them only briefly.

He was able to see the sun in the first month but was then kept in a shuttered room until a week before his release, he said.

He was kept in chains for 24 hours but was not harmed physically until the last half hour of his captivity, when his captors hit him "a bit".

Mr Johnston said Hamas's seizure of power in Gaza and its subsequent pledge to improve security in the territory had facilitated his release.

"The kidnappers seemed very comfortable and very secure in their operation until... a few weeks ago, when Hamas took charge of the security operation here," he said.

He said that he was told he was going home on Tuesday night.

"I thought at first 'They are moving me again', and I thought maybe they're handing me on to new kidnappers but then as we got deeper and deeper into Gaza City, I really began at last to believe that maybe we were finishing it," he said.

Radio contact

Mr Johnston was abducted on 12 March by the Army of Islam, a shadowy militant group dominated by Gaza's powerful Dugmush clan.

Just over a month after his capture, it was announced that he had been killed to send a "message" to the Palestinian authorities.

The group released three videos, two of which featured footage of the kidnapped correspondent.

It said it would kill its captive if its demands for the release of Muslim prisoners in British custody were not met.

But Mr Johnston said his abductors had also offered him freedom in exchange for making one of the videos, admitting that some of the things he had been forced to say were factually incorrect.

Having worked in Gaza for the past three years, Mr Johnston said he was well aware of Palestinian traditions of hospitality and regarded his abductors as an "aberration".

He said he was looking forward to being re-united with his family in Scotland, expressing sorrow that his "actions" had brought turmoil to their lives.

He had a brief conversation with his father over the telephone after being released.

Mr Johnston said he stayed aware of efforts to free him by listening to the BBC World Service on the radio.

News of global demonstrations in his support was a source of comfort to him, he said.

"There were demonstrations from Beijing to Buenos Aires, Beirut to London to Washington and you know I could feel how much the Palestinian people were feeling that this wasn't right and how much support there was for an end to my captivity," he said.

The BBC has issued a statement expressing relief and delight at its employee's release.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/07/04 07:07:48 GMT


Librarians: Defenders of the 1st Amendment...

I'm married to a librarian, she carries a big stick indeed...


Librarians Describe Life Under An FBI Gag Order

By Luke O'Brien
June 24, 2007

Life in an FBI muzzle is no fun. Two Connecticut librarians on Sunday described what it was like to be slapped with an FBI national security letter and accompanying gag order. It sounded like a spy movie or, gulp, something that happens under a repressive foreign government. Peter Chase and Barbara Bailey, librarians in Plainville, Connecticut, received an NSL to turn over computer records in their library on July 13, 2005. Unlike a suspected thousands of other people around the country, Chase, Bailey and two of their colleagues stood up to the Man and refused to comply, convinced that the feds had no right to intrude on anyone's privacy without a court order (NSLs don't require a judge's approval). That's when things turned ugly.

The four librarians under the gag order weren't allowed to talk to each other by phone. So they e-mailed. Later, they weren't allowed to e-mail.

After the ACLU took on the case and it went to court in Bridgeport, the librarians were not allowed to attend their own hearing. Instead, they had to watch it on closed circuit TV from a locked courtroom in Hartford, 60 miles away. "Our presence in the courtroom was declared a threat to national security," Chase said.

Forced to make information public as the case moved forward, the government resorted to one of its favorite tactics: releasing heavily redacted versions of documents while outing anyone who didn't roll over for Uncle Sam. In this case, they named Chase, despite the fact that he was legally compelled to keep his own identity secret.

Then the phone started ringing. Pesky reporters wanted info. One day, the AP called Chase's house and got his son, Sam, on the phone. When Chase got home, he took one look at his son's face. "I could tell something was very wrong," he said. Sam told him the AP had called saying that Chase was being investigated by the FBI. "What's going on?" Sam asked his father. Chase couldn't tell him. For months, he worried about what his son must have been thinking. As the case moved forward, the librarians had to resort to regular duplicity with co-workers and family -- mysteriously disappearing from work without an explanation, secretly convening in subway stations, dancing around the truth for months. The ACLU even advised Chase to move to a safehouse.

After the Bridgeport court ruled that the librarians constitutional rights had been violated, the government appealed the decision to U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Around the same time, the Congressional spin machine kicked into overdrive. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) wrote an op-ed in USA Today that said:

"Zero. That's the number of substantiated USA Patriot Act civil liberties violations. Extensive congressional oversight found no violations. Six reports by the Justice Department's independent inspector general, who is required to solicit and investigate any allegations of abuse, found no violations."

Once President Bush reauthorized the Patriot Act, the FBI lifted the librarians' gag order. "By withdrawing the gag order before the court had made a decision, they withdrew the case from scrutiny," Chase said. This eliminated the possibility that the NSL provisions would be struck down.

Today, the Connecticut librarians are the only ones who can talk about life with an NSL gag, despite the likelihood that there are hundreds if not thousands of other similar stories out there. "Everyone else who would speak about is subject to a five year prison term," Chase said. The prison term for violating the gag order was added to the reauthorized Patriot Act.

Quote of the Day...

"I hated Tonto (still do)..."

--Sherman Alexie (Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Nations) novelist, poet, screenwriter, director

The Original Founding Fathers...

Today on the Fourth of July, spare a thought and a Prayer for our Founding Fathers...


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20. January 2009: The End of an Error

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