Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ancient Cyrus - The Inspiration for the U.S. Constitution

ABOVE VIDEO (Preview of "In Search of Cyrus the Great"): Cyrus (580-529 BC) founded Persia and is best remembered for his unprecedented tolerance and magnanimous attitude towards those he defeated.

When he conquered Babylon, he did so to cheers from the Jewish Community, who welcomed him as a liberator- he allowed the Jews to return to the promised Land. He showed great forbearance and respect towards the religious beliefs and cultural traditions of other races. These qualities earned him the respect and homage of all the people over whom he ruled.

Cyrus was praised by the Bible, the Cyropaedia, and John Locke. America's founding fathers broke with tradition and adopted Cyrus's model of 'benevolent government' for the United States' modern Constitution. Thomas Jefferson's personal copy of Xenophon's 'Cyropaedia' is on display in D.C.

Source: Producer of the Cyrus Film

ABOVE PHOTO: Gender equality, religious freedom, and equal justice, considered "Western values" today, were protected mainstays of Persian culture. The writing on this baked, clay cylinder gives us a rare snapshot of Cyrus bestowing these very rights on the people of Babylonia after conquering it in October, 539 BCE. Today this cylinder is considered the world's first universal declaration of human rights and is considered by many as the precursor to the Magna Carta and the U.S. Bill of Rights. A replica is displayed at the United Nations in D.C.

More Info: San Diego & the Cyrus Connection

Monday, November 27, 2006

Transexuals in Iran

ABOVE VIDEO: Trailer/preview of documentary "I Know that I Am" by Peyman Khosravi (Iranian-Canadian director). Much of the footage—shot in secret and smuggled out of Iran—was captured and presumed destroyed by local authorities. Sexual deviancy in Iran is punishable by hanging, and very few people in the country accept such a lifestyle. Through interviews with government officials, human rights advocates and trans people themselves, the film constructs a telling portrait of queer struggles amidst profound cultural restrictions.

More Info: Vancouver Queer Film Festival

1 min video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGb4f2kQvA4&mode=related&search=

ABOVE VIDEO: Trailer/preview of documentary "My Birthday" (Netherlands) by Negin Kianfar. The film follows a young man before and after a sex change in Iran. Doctors and clergymen also comment on transsexuality and its consequences on an Islamic society.

Film Description in English: http://www.idfa.nl/idfa_en_filmdescription.asp?filmid=28809

Watch the full movie (1:03): Link to video

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Blood Diamonds

HOLLYWOOD: The issue of "bood diamonds" or "conflict diamonds" is now reaching more of a wider audience thanks to the release of a Hollywood movie, which in my opinion simply makes money off the glorification of death without discussing the real political and social issues. Actor Mr. DiCaprio talks about conflict diamonds, child soldiers, rap's role, and his time in Africa (click here for video).

RAP, AFRICA & DIAMONDS: The United Nations grouped up with MTV & VH1 to make a documentary where they send diamond-crazy rappers to Africa to see what they are contributing to. The 5 min trailer/preview is very fascinating and ends with Kanye West saying this about blacks: "We've had for so many years, chains around our necks, but this time we have diamonds in them." An African rappers sings: "You can take our diamonds, but never take our spirit."

ABOVE VIDEO: 7 mins, excellent abbreviated political history of why African diamonds cause war and how DeBeers Co. & consumers contribute to unimaginable crimes.

PBS Documentary - Spokane Mayor & His Teenage Male Lovers

PBS Frontline has completed a documentary about the most recent Spokane, Washington mayor, Jim West. The local newspaper, the Spokesman-Review, setup a sting operation catching Mayor West courting teenage boys online and offering some of them internships. In the past he actually supported legislation that was anti-gay (ie: banning gays from working in schools & day-cares). Despite his own City Council voting to make him step down, he refused among much protest. The FBI got involved. After a long legal battle to recall the Mayor, voters finally succeeded in December of 2005 with 65% in favor of ousting him. Tragically, West died in July of 2006 at age 55.

Watch Here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/hiddenlife/view/

Length: 60 mins

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Tupac (2Pac) Poetry & His Politics

Pictures taken from the Tupac Peace Garden at the "Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts" located just outside Atlanta, Georgia.

Tupac was very politically conscious at a very young age, which was evident in his lyrics. Did you know he was born in East Harlem, NY & lived in the North East for 17 years before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area. There he initially lived with a non-black woman Leila Steinberg (1/4 Turkish, 1/4 Mexican, 2/4 German-Polish) who instigated Tupac's mind by having him read deep books, such as feminist writings, by age 20. According to a Harvard study, Tupac was more well-read, and intellectually well-rounded at that age than the average student in the first year class of most Ivy League institutions. I can attest to this after watching underground home video of a young Tupac (see documentary "Thug Angel").
Leila Steinberg: "From the very first day, he defiantly wanted to use his art for social change. He wanted to be a voice, not a star. So we stayed up probably until three in the morning that very first day that we met, talking about what we found in terms of our visions, for the planet, for people, for healing prejudice, for understanding black struggle, native American struggle, Latin struggle, women struggle, and just our commitment to fight for oppressed people."
Just read the lyrics for a song "Words of Wisdom" released in 1991 on his very first album: "No Malcolm X in my history text. Why is that? Cause he tried to educate and liberate all blacks. Why is Martin Luther King in my book each week? He told blacks, if they get smacked, turn the other cheek."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Latino Farm Workers in the US & Their Road from Literal Slavery

-- Immokalee is home to the largest farmworker community in Florida, the majority of whom are from Mexico, Guatemala, and Haiti. --

*Coalition of Immokalle Workers (CIW): community-based worker organization whose members are largely Latino, Haitian, and Mayan Indian immigrants working in low-wage agricultural jobs throughout the state of Florida.

Modern Day Slavery Revealed in Florida

** In 2002, three Florida-based agricultural employers convicted in federal court on slavery, extortion, and weapons charges were sentenced to a total of nearly 35 years in prison and the forfeiture of $3 million in assets. The men, who employed over 700 farmworkers, threatened workers with death if they were to try to leave, and pistol-whipped and assaulted -- at gunpoint -- passenger van service drivers who gave rides to farmworkers leaving the area. The case was brought to trial by federal authorities from the Department of Justice (Civil Rights Division) after two years of investigation by the CIW.

** In 1997, two agricultural employers were prosecuted by the DOJ on slavery, extortion, and firearms charges and sentenced to 15 years each in federal prison. The slavers held over 400 men and women in debt bondage in Florida and South Carolina. The workers, mostly indigenous Mexicans and Guatemalans, were forced to work 10-12 hour days, 6 days per week, for as little as $20 per week, under the constant watch of armed guards. Those who attempted escape were assaulted, pistol-whipped, and even shot. The case was brought to federal authorities after five years of investigation by escaped workers and CIW members.

Taco Bell Boycott by Farmworkers Shuts Down 22 Stores

The four-year boycott has grown in recent years largely due to support from college students. Twenty-two colleges had successfully removed or blocked Taco Bell from operating on their campuses.

In 2005 Taco Bell agreed to increase the amount it pays for tomatoes by a ONE CENT per pound, with the increase to go directly to workers' wages. Taco Bell also said it will help the farmworkers' efforts to improve working and living conditions. Today, workers earn the same as 30 years ago, about $50 a day for picking two tons of tomatoes from 6:00am - 6:00pm.

CIW was awarded the 2003 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and have been comended by former US President Jimmy Carter. If these voiceless people can do it, anyone can do it!!

Their new targets . . . . McDonalds!!

ABOVE VIDEO: Ronaldo McDonaldo went out to the fields himself to see if farmwork was really as hard as everyone complained it was (5 mins).

25 min documentary --> Immokalee: From Slavery to Freedom

Read About CIW & Their Dream to Build a Farmworker Community Center (to include, among other things: Computer lab, independent radio station, and anti-slavery office)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Immigrants to Netherlands Must Watch Gay & Sexual Video for Entry Exam

--ABOVE PHOTO: The yearly gay parade in Denmark goes through immigrant neighborhoods. Denmark ranks as the freest country in the world for homosexuals. --
The camera focuses on two gay men kissing in a park. Later, a topless woman emerges from the sea and walks onto a crowded beach. For would-be immigrants to the Netherlands this film is a test of their readiness to participate in the liberal Dutch culture.

If they can't stomach it, no need to apply.

Despite whether they find the film offensive, applicants must buy a copy and watch it if they hope to pass the Netherlands' new entrance examination.

The test — the first of its kind in the world — became compulsory Wednesday, and was made available at 138 Dutch embassies.

The test is part of a broader crackdown on immigration that has been gathering momentum in the Netherlands since 2001.

Anti-immigration sentiment peaked with filmmaker Theo van Gogh's murder by a Dutch national of Moroccan descent in November 2004.

Both praise and scorn have been poured on Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, the architect of the new test and other policies that have reduced immigration by at least a third.

A censored version with no homosexual and nude material had been prepared because it is illegal to show such images in Iran and some other countries, filmmaker Walter Goverde said.
"With all the respect I have for all religions, I think people need to understand that Holland has its own liberal side as well," he said.

Source: http://www.foxnews.com/printer_friendly_story/0,3566,188079,00.html


A Back-Lash Against Immigrants in Europe (Especially Norther Africans & Middle Easterners)

Unlike other western nations like the U.S. and Canada, many European nations only recently have implemented written immigration exams to gain entry. This is indicative of the growing tension between many cultural communities settling into Europe, which has originally been very welcoming. There are many reasons for this strife: the rise of conservative governments in Europe, immigrants are isolated in psuedo-ghettos, many refuse to assimilate, many bring their radical religions, many abuse their freedoms and entitlements, while others simply face blatant discrimination and their new countries refuse to communicate with them as equals.

"European Union politicians are struggling to assimilate overseas-born residents while toughening entry requirements for outsiders. The Paris suburbs were rocked last year by rioting among Muslim youths that resulted in about 3,000 arrests. Italian and Spanish authorities are trying to stem the tide of Africans who arrive in makeshift boats. The U.K. government is debating ways to reduce the isolation of its own Muslim community after alleged terror plots that police say were planned by British citizens."

Turkey bans Muslim headscarves in public places; some German states has such a law for teachers; and France bans headscarves and other "conspicuous" religious symbols at all state schools (not universities).

An immigration exam in the Hesse province of Germany asks: “In your eyes, were the perpetrators of 9/11 and the 2004 Madrid attacks terrorists or freedom fighters?" A test in Baden Wurteermberg province asks: "How would you feel were your son to become homosexual, or whether you would allow your daughter to participate in swim classes."

Sources: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2157935,00.html ; http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,415207,00.html ; http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601085&sid=a4l9dsYOR42g&refer=europe ; http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5414098.stm

Thursday, November 16, 2006

UCLA Police Use Stun Gun on Student (Horrific Video)

--Anyone want to aid Mostafa with his law suit?--

University of California Police Department officers shot Mostafa Tabatabainejad (a UCLA student residing in L.A.) several times with a Taser inside the Powell Library CLICC computer lab Tuesday night before taking him into custody. At around 11:30 p.m., CSOs asked a male student using a computer in the back of the room to leave when he was unable to produce a BruinCard during a random check. The student did not exit the building immediately.

The CSOs left, returning minutes later, and police officers arrived to escort the student out. By this time the student had begun to walk toward the door with his backpack when an officer approached him and grabbed his arm, at which point the student told the officer to let him go. A second officer then approached the student as well. The student began to yell "get off me," repeating himself several times.

It was at this point that the officers shot the student with a Taser for the first time, causing him to fall to the floor and cry out in pain. The student also told the officers he had a medical condition. UCPD officers confirmed that the man involved in the incident was a student, but did not give a name or any additional information about his identity. Video shot from a student's camera phone captured the student yelling, "Here's your Patriot Act, here's your fucking abuse of power," while he struggled with the officers. As the student was screaming, UCPD officers repeatedly told him to stand up and said "stop fighting us." The student did not stand up as the officers requested and they shot him with the Taser at least once more.

"It was the most disgusting and vile act I had ever seen in my life," said David Remesnitsky, a 2006 UCLA alumnus who witnessed the incident. As the student and the officers were struggling, bystanders repeatedly asked the police officers to stop, and at one point officers told the gathered crowd to stand back and threatened to use a Taser on anyone who got too close.

Laila Gordy, a fourth-year economics student who was present in the library during the incident, said police officers threatened to shoot her with a Taser when she asked an officer for his name and his badge number. Gordy was visibly upset by the incident and said other students were also disturbed. "It's a shock that something like this can happen at UCLA," she said. "It was unnecessary what they did."

In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Nancy Greenstein of the University of California Police Department said: "All use of force incidents require an administrative review, which is currently under way. The entire incident is under investigation, and a case will be presented to the City Attorney."

There is no phone listing for Tabatabainejad and neither he nor his attorney could be located for comment, accordingt to one news source.

Immediately after the incident, several students began to contact local news outlets, informing them of the incident, and Remesnitsky wrote an e-mail to Interim Chancellor Norman Abrams.

Statement from UCLA Acting Chancellor Norman Abrams About Incident at Powell Library:

University police are investigating an incident late last night in which police took a student into custody at Powell Library. Investigators are reviewing the incident and the officers' actions, and I can assure you that these reviews will be thorough, vigorous and fair.

The safety of our campus community is of paramount importance to me. Routinely checking student identification after 11 p.m. at the campus library, which is open 24 hours, is a policy posted in the library that was enacted for the protection of our students. Compliance is critical for the safety and well-being of everyone

Sources: http://www.nbc4.tv/news/10325914/detail.html ; http://dailybruin.com/news/articles.asp?id=38958%20 ; http://www.ucpd.ucla.edu/ucpd/zippdf/2006/Taser%2011-15-06.pdf

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Al Jazeera English Launches

INTRO: Al Jazeera International (aka: Al Jazeera English) launches Nov. 15, 2006. Al Jazeera is bankrolled from the Emir of Qatar's vast fortune and will remain free from commercial sponsorship or advertiser concerns. Therefore, expect more graphic and controversial content than what Western audiences are accustom to.

BIG NAME REPORTERS: Senior British journalist Sir David Frost (BBC), the only person to have interviewed the last seven US presidents and the last six British prime ministers. Frost will interview UK Prime Minister Tony Blair on the first day the channel launches. Frost says he investigated al-Jazeera with his own high-level contacts in Whitehall and Washington to make sure it had no terrorist connection before signing to work for them.

The other big name reporter will be Josh Rushing, a former United States Marine Captain who was a press officer for United States Central Command during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. He became famous for his appearance in the documentary Control Room, which documented his conversations with Al Jazeera correspondent Hassan Ibrahim. After the Pentagon ordered him not to comment on the movie he left the Marine Corps and signed up with Al Jazeera.

HOW TO WATCH IN THE USA: The best way to watch the channel will be through a live broadband stream from it's website. The website will also offer RSS feeds, e-mail newsletters and interactive discussion boards. No major US cable company is brave enough to broadcast the channel just yet. It was revealed that the US cable network Comcast had pulled out of talks to carry the channel, citing lack of capacity.

In the US it will be available to customers of GlobeCast, the subsidiary of a French company that offers satellite TV service costing around $300 (€230) to install. Other companies include Fision, a digital service that will be available shortly in Houston; Jump TV, which describes itself as "the world's leading broadcaster of ethnic TV over the Internet; and www.VDC.com, a service that offers TV on the Internet to about 10,000 customers in the U.S.

You may view a list of all channels within every country that will carry Al Jazeera English (aka: platforms). The channel claims it will be the first global high-definition television network.

BROADCAST BUREAUS: The entire news company's headquarters are in Doha, Qatar but the English channel will have 4 broadcast centers (Doha, Kuala Lumpur, D.C., London) and 20 supporting bureaus.

Sources: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2006/11/15/arts/NA_A-E_TV_US_Al_Jazeera_English.php ; http://media.guardian.co.uk/site/story/0,,1948048,00.html ; http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/6BB60A7B-C169-4762-87ED-415752862B5E.htm ; http://www.news24.com/News24/World/News/0,,2-10-1462_2030002,00.html ; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Jazeera_International ; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josh_Rushing

Sunday, November 12, 2006

YouTube.com video prompts probe of LAPD

ABOVE VIDE: On August 11th, 2006, William Cardenas, 24 from Hollywood, California was arrested by the Hollywood Division of the Los Angeles Police Department. A neighbor video-taped the beating on her cell phone camera.

"The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that a Superior Court commissioner viewed the video nearly two months ago, heard the officers' testimony, and concluded that their conduct was 'more than reasonable' because Cardenas was resisting."

Full Story: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/nation/4326966.html

ABOVE VIDEO: Los Angeles police. From the counter-protest called by ANSWERLA.org to protest a Minutemen march in Hollywood on July 8, 2006.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Horrific Video of Slain American Journalist in Mexico

"Journalism seems like a precarious profession to practise in Mexico. It’s ranked by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) as one of the most dangerous places to be a journalist."

"The latest tragic example of this came on Friday 27th October, in the southern state of Oaxaca (in Mexico) with the shooting of Brad Will. Brad was in Oaxaca as a journalist for New York City Indymedia, trying to get stories out about the protests in Oaxaca (see Seattle journalist latest post). While filming skirmishes between paramilitaries and protestors in Santa Lucia on Friday afternoon, Brad was shot in the abdomen and neck, and died from his injuries."
ABOVE VIDEO: Now Indymedia (his employer) has released the tape that was in Brad’s video camera & in his hands when he was shot. The above video is 16mins w/ English subtitles, and beware, the last minute (from 15:30) is very difficult to watch, as it shows him getting shot in first person point of view.

Video in Original Spanish: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o22L-xEVRqY

ABOVE VIDEO: Unidentified news footage (in Spanish) of Brad Will shortly after he was shot. This is very graphic and not for everyone. You can see him starting at 1:30. (Footage revealed by a Mexican opposition blog Hoy PG)

Source of above news story: http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/2006/10/30/mexico-the-last-moments-of-bradley-roland-will/

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Execution of Rape Victims in Iran

Execution Of A Teenage Girl (BBC2 Documentary)

On August 15th 2004, a 16-year-old girl was hanged in a public square in Neka, Iran, a small industrial town by the Caspian Sea. Her death sentence was for crimes against chastity. Her name was Atefah Sahaaleh. The only evidence against Atefah was her own forced confession. Atefah railed against her judge in court for its unfairness, but this was her undoing. Judge Haji Rezai, who was also the local mullah, prosecutor and head of the city administration, personally obtained permission from Iran's Supreme Court to execute her, and put the noose around her neck himself before she was hoisted on a crane jib arm to her death. Using undercover footage, eyewitness accounts and drama recontruction, this film tells an unforgettable story of the life and tragic death of an ordinary teenage girl under Iran's mullahs.

The producer of the documentary explains how she risked her life to secretly make the film in Iran: http://media.guardian.co.uk/site/story/0,,1830833,00.html?gusrc=rss

Length: 48 mins.

WATCH MOVIE HERE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHqnSe3EqpA&mode=related&search=


The Case of Nazanin Fatehi

Please help save Nazanin. On January 3, 2006, 18-year-old Nazanin Mahabad Fatehi was sentenced to death for murder by court in Iran after she stabbed one of three men who attempted to rape her and her 16-year-old niece in a park in Karaj (a suburb of Tehran) in March 2005. She was seventeen at the time. The court sentenced her to death by hanging. Her sentence was later overturned and a re-trial was held. However, there has been no verdict and she remains in prison indefinitely. She may still be sentenced to death by hanging (lofted by crane).

ABOVE VIDEO: A spokesperson for the Save Nazanin Campaign.

UK-RAP GROUP MAKES SONG: The group named Persian Princes has a very moving song called "Nazanin" which can be heard on their myspace website or downloaded here (3.83 Meg MP3). Their radio interview (in Farsi) regarding the plight of those suffering in Iran can be heard on their website under the link "The Music." It's an emotional interview.

Nazanin Afshin-Jam is Miss Canada 2003 and an accomplished singer, and is notably responsible to bringing world attention to the campaign to save Nazanin Mahabad Fatehi (on death row in Iran). Her music and pictures can be viewed at: http://www.myspace.com/nazaninmusic