The ‘anti-blasphemy’ bill was submitted to the Russian parliament’s lower house in September, in the wake of infamous case against the punk band Pussy Riot.The draft law – bitterly criticized by rights activists and lawyers – passed first reading in April when MPs voted to add a new article to the Russian Penal Code.Under the bill, public insults and humiliation of divine services as well as believers’ feelings was to be punished with a fine of up to 300,000 roubles ($US 9,500), up to 200 hours of forced labor or up to three years in prison. Vandalism and desecration of holy sites would cost the offender up to 500,000 roubles (over $US 15,000) or up to 5 years behind bars.Ahead of the second out of three required readings, the Duma’s committee on law worked out amendments to the legislation. The initial idea to add a new article to the code was dropped. Instead, lawmakers suggest amending the existing Article 148 (‘Obstruction of the Exercise of the Right of Liberty of Conscience and Religious Liberty’).The committee also changed the wording of bill which has been slammed by opponents for being too loose and could therefore lead to outrage.Now, if new version of the bill is passed, a person could be sent to court for “public actions which indicate obvious disrespect towards society and aimed at insulting believers’ religious feelings.” An offender would have to pay up to 300,000 roubles in fines, or a sum of money equivalent to their two years’ salary. One could also be sentenced to up to 240 hours of compulsory community service or up to a year in jail.The Duma committee also proposes that these offenses committed in places for religious ceremonies or services must be subject to fines of up to 500,000 roubles ($US15,000), or a sum of money equivalent to offenders salary for up to 3 years. Alternatively, violators may face up to 480 hours of compulsory community service or up to three years in prison.Besides that, the lawmakers recommended to toughen criminal liability for illegal obstruction of activities of religious organizations or administration of religious ceremonies. Such violations must be subject to fines of up to 300,000 roubles. If committed by an official or with the use of force, such crimes could be punished with up to one year behind bars.The idea to protect believers’ feelings by the law was prompted by a large number of sacrilegious situations and events that took place in 2012. Apart from infamous Pussy Riot’s “punk prayer” staged in the Moscow’s main cathedral, there were also desecration of icons, the Nazi and Satanist graffiti in churches and synagogues and cutting down of memorial Orthodox crosses in various Russian regions. …
Digital Gitmo, by Robert Amsterdam
New Zealand is celebrated worldwide for its human rights. Renowned as being the first country in the world to grant suffrage to women in 1893, the first nation to stand up to the United States and ban nuclear-powered ships from her harbors in 1984, the Kiwis have never backed down from difficult decisions.
That’s why it’s particularly difficult to see the United States come forward to their ally New Zealand, and purposefully distort facts, withhold evidence, and make the government an accomplice in a massive violation of rights during the crackdown against my client, Kim Dotcom.
Perhaps once considered a beacon for values of personal liberty, in more recent years, the reputation of the United States on rights has sunk to new lows. Following two grinding wars of the George W. Bush era, hopes were high for an improvement. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case under President Barack Obama, as drone strikes have escalated completely beyond anyone’s imagination, while a massive hunger strike of more than 130 prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, some of them being force fed through nasal tubes, has virtually eliminated the U.S. administration’s ability to speak about international law in any capacity.
However it’s a mistake to think that the failure to close Gitmo is simply an aberration. It represents an attitude among a handful of key U.S. officials, from President Obama to Vice President Joe Biden as well as Attorney General Eric Holder – who happens to be visiting New Zealand this week – that the rights of certain people and businesses can be suspended at their choosing.
The flagrant overreach of the U.S. attack against Megaupload bears all the hallmarks of a digital Gitmo.
Digital Gitmo contains no bars, no barbwire, and no guards. What it does share in common is a total absence of rule of law; the type of exceptional treatment and arbitrary deprivations of rights that are usually reserved for terrorism and threats to national security. Digital Gitmo belongs to no single nation; instead it is a shared perception that the rights of a very small group of corporate and government interests are more important than the rights of everyone else. The deprivation of rights is seen as convenient to the state, which has unburdened itself from the obligation of actually having to prove its case before the courts of law.
But what purpose does the law serve if such frequent exceptions are made?
It’s a fact that U.S. prosecutors misled both the defendants as well as the government of New Zealand. The search warrants were fraudulently obtained, and the spying against Dotcom and other individuals was carried out illegally. An entire business, along with the rightfully owned property of millions of users was stolen before Megaupload or Kim Dotcom were even given one chance to defend themselves in court. Essentially, the U.S. prosecutors made specific decisions to deprive Megaupload and Kim Dotcom of the normal rights of defense, including an absurd worldwide asset seizure to prevent them from retaining defense counsel.
Earlier today the defense team for Kim Dotcom released a new white paper detailing the unlawful handling of this case, and highlighting the political motivations it served by guaranteeing the continuation of campaign financing by the ‘Hollywood lobby,’ including the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), among others. When the draconian Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) failed – a piece of legislation which would have granted Washington worldwide control over the content of the Internet – the Hollywood lobby openly threatened to cut off campaign financing unless the Obama administration did something dramatic to service these special interests.
What they chose to do was to destroy Megaupload, even though they had to break the law to do it.
Consider for example the fact that Dotcom and his family were planning to travel to the United States only a few months after the chosen date of the raid. The putative defendant had made firm travel plans that the FBI knew about from their illegal spying. He would have stepped off the plane right into U.S. jurisdiction – so why did they deploy the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), two attack helicopters, dozens of armed men, and attack dogs, risking the life of his pregnant wife and her unborn twins while also creating an unnecessary extradition challenge?
The Americans did not share their alleged evidence with New Zealand, and the New Zealand officials appeared to not care. Judging by their haste and willful disregard of local and international law, the authorities appeared only too enthusiastic to be used by the FBI in a raid that was specifically designed to create the impression that this was some kind of dangerous criminal gang.
Was the government of New Zealand particularly eager to assist the U.S. in this illegal campaign because it would please Hollywood? Already we have seen this government generously deliver more than $120 million to the film studios in the form of tax breaks, and has even gone to far as to create special laws to suspend labor rights and allow them to employ New Zealanders at exploitatively low wages.
The Prime Minister of New Zealand has already publicly apologized to Dotcom for trampling over his rights, but unfortunately, now the GCSB’s reaction is to call for an expansion of their spying powers over Kiwi citizens. The facts detailed in the white paper should alarm each and every citizen of this country. Not only does this case set a negative precedent for Washington’s ability to unilaterally censor the global Internet, it carries dark overtones for more authoritarian-inclined nations who can now use the same reasoning to remove content or services or ideas that find “troubling.”
It’s possible that some readers of this publication may not like the larger-than-life excesses of Kim Dotcom, or alternatively, they may not understand him. But that is not sufficient reason for him to have fewer rights of defense than anyone else.
When New Zealand rejected nuclear power and took other stands like rights for same-sex marriage, it did not do so because these issues were universally popular. It did so because it was right.
If reasonable people are willing to read this white paper and fairly consider the facts presented, a real discussion can begin. We do not need to be given anything – all we want is a fair fight for our rights, because a fair fight is one that we can win.
Robert Amsterdam is founding partner of the international law firm Amsterdam & Partners LLP, with offices in London, United Kingdom and Washington, DC. His company is currently working alongside the Rothken Law Firm as they defend Megaupload, Kim Dotcom, and his associates in their ongoing legal battle with the United States and New Zealand governments.
Source: U.S. Govt. Attack on Megaupload Bears Hallmarks of ‘Digital Gitmo’
http://www.youtube.com/v/pDbw_488qcE?version=3&f=videos&app=youtube_gdata Link - Planet Infowars: The People Are Awake
One of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s finest moments, at least until his recent all-out advocacy for gun control, was when he choked up during a moving speech defending the development of the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in 2010. Remember that? Republicans were making it a big campaign issue, even President Obama took his time before kinda-sorta defending it, but Bloomberg made a big speech in front of the Statue of Liberty and defended the fundamental American right of New York Muslims to build a community center where they wanted it.This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions or favor one over another. The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan. Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11, and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that.Continue Reading… …
Over the past couple of decades, the federal government has used just about every major national tragedy as an excuse to take even more liberty and freedom away from us. …
What to make of an intensely jarring week of
news, in which terrorists killed at least four people in Boston and
injured more than 100 others, a fertilizer-plant explosion ripped
apart the sweet little Czech town of West, Texas, and President
Barack Obama and his supporters screamed out a collective “Shame on
you!” in response to Congress voting down a series of gun control
I think there’s one element that all three events have in
common. Compared to the nightmare-world freakout of 9/11—with its
four hijacked planes, anthrax attacks, 9/14 Authorization
of the Use of Military Force, PATRIOT Act, war, and intense,
prolonged anxiety—the unsettling events of this past week have
brought forth a surprising, cross-partisan, and underappreciated
exhortation to maybe calm the hell down before doing
anything we might regret later.
I don’t recall the great terrorism/security contextualizer
Schneier being a go-to expert during the George W. Bush era of
the GWOT (except for in the pages of
Reason, of course), but he’s all over the damned place
The Atlantic, and
so on. Twitter, while full of the usual partisan idiocy and
gun-jumping, has also featured a huge amount of pushback against
premature assertions and point-scoring (if anything, my feed during
the initial Boston Marathon bombing erred too much on the side of
stifling speech in the named of crowd-sourced Twitter
What does this have to do with President Obama’s
petulant scolding of Congress and the rest of us who didn’t
support his long-preferred gun control measures? Well, like 9/11
itself and plenty of tragedies since, the
president of the United States attempted to use
raw (and understandable) emotion to ram
through legislation that probably wouldn’t have
affected the underlying crime and in any case would expand
government power and restrict individual liberty.
But after nearly a dozen years of this kind of
governance-as-crisis-response, Americans seem to be in on, and
weary of, the con. A Reason-Rupe Poll from January found
52 percent believing that elected officials were exploiting
Sandy Hook for political gain. Other polls have shown public
opinion on guns
staying relatively stable in the wake of the deadly shooting
and its subsequent high-profile politics. When Sen. Lindsey Graham
(R-South Carolina) attempted to wave away Sen. Rand Paul’s epic
filibuster by scolding his colleagues for “no longer apparently
think[ing] we’re at war,” an entire nation
pointed and laughed. It’s hard to imagine this act of
foreign-born violence leading to no-really-I’m-serious defenses
of nationality-based internment.
This sense of increasing national sanity could well evaporate if
it turns out that the West, Texas tragedy was intentional. But my
admittedly anecdotal impression is that after 11+ years of pretty
damned crappy results, Americans have become deservedly skeptical
of government claims that we MUST DO SOMETHING RIGHT NOW. It’s a
shame, though no surprise, that a president who came into office
campaigning against the excesses of post-9/11 freakouts would
simply graft his predecessor’s M.O. of constant panic—down to the
“if we can save just one life” trope—onto any number of suspicious
I talked about some of these issues Wednesday on Fox Business