Sunday, December 8, 2013

Lenin is Down in Kiev. Ukrainians Topple and Decapitate Lenin Statue

Just after 6 pm Kiev time today, cheering, "Revolution!" shouting, pro-E.U. Ukrainian citizens pulled down the statue of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin in Bessarabskaya Square.  Watch the videos of this remarkable chapter in the Ukrainian struggle to choose their destiny, here:







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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Yanukovych's way out


I agree with Kyiv Post's chief editor, Brian Bonner.  Were Yanukovych to do what he proposes, it would be a watershed event that would have very positive repercussions worldwide, and a healing and regenerative effect in the Russian speaking world. 

This is that time when human beings all over the planet are learning from each other on a massive scale; when higher consciousness and hearts are opening right before our astonished eyes, revealing the steps the human collective needs to take next.  Both crisis and chaos are opportunities for further advancement.   ~Madison Reed
© AFP.  Ukrainian citizen talks to police after the Nov. 30 brutal crackdown on demonstrators at Independence Square.


by Brian Bonner

President Viktor Yanukovych still may have a way out.

If I were him, and I am glad that I am not, I would hightail it to Brussels, plead for forgiveness and put the association agreement agenda he spurned in Vilnius before parliament right away.

I think that’s his only way at the moment. He has, belatedly, seemed to recognize as much when he talked on Dec. 2 about going to back to the European Union and trying to restart negotiations for an association agreement.

It may not be enough.

He can continue to tough it out and hope the protesters will go away. They may or may not, but their anger with him will stay – right through the January 2015 presidential elections that are now right around the corner. Yanukovych knows he must win those elections or face the prospect of going to prison, like his defeated 2010 rival, ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

In this high-stakes game, the momentum seems to be with the people on the streets at the moment.

Yanukovych can crack down on the protesters, as police did on Nov. 30, but that will only bring him more isolation and more protesters on the street – as people demonstrated on Dec. 1. Opposition leader Arseniy Yatseniuk says every police crackdown will inspire more protesters, and he seems right. For the moment, it looks like Yanukovych doesn’t have the appetite for violence.

Force will only bring him international isolation and condemnation. Ukraine is not only not Russia, it is not Uzbekistan, Belarus, Kazakhstan or Azerbaijan or any of the other former Soviet republis where dictators rule by fear and violence.

When hundreds of thousands of your citizens are willing to risk their physical safety to get rid of you, your political career is imperiled.

When they’re willing to do it day after dayour political career is on life support.

When they’re calling for you to serve a third term in prison, look out.

Yanukovych’s three most recent big blunders:  Brian's article continues here.

Get live updates of the EuroMaidan rallies from the KyivPost.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Halloween Group Therapy



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Friday, October 11, 2013

A Religion Doesn't Destroy Itself - The Believers Destroy It




"A religion doesn't destroy itself.
       The believers destroy it."  ~Madison Reed 



"Religion should unite all hearts and cause wars and disputes to vanish from the face of the earth, give birth to spirituality, and bring life and light to each heart. If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division, it were better to be without it, and to withdraw from such a religion would be a truly religious act. For it is clear that the purpose of a remedy is to cure; but if the remedy should only aggravate the complaint it had better be left alone. Any religion which is not a cause of love and unity is no religion. All the holy prophets were as doctors to the soul; they gave prescriptions for the healing of mankind; thus any remedy that causes disease does not come from the great and supreme Physician."

~ 'Abdu'l-Baha'







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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Christianity's Demise? New Discovery Proves that Jesus Never Lived, but was a Roman Fabrication

Biblical scholars will be appearing at the 'Covert Messiah' Conference at Conway Hall in London on the 19th of October to present this controversial discovery to the British public.


"How well we know what a profitable superstition this fable of Christ has been for us and our predecessors."
~Pope Leo X, Good Friday, Year  1514 (Annales Ecclesiastici, Caesar Baronius, Folio Antwerp, 1597, tome 14)

American Biblical scholar Joseph Atwill will be appearing before the British public for the first time in London on the 19th of October to present a controversial new discovery: ancient confessions recently uncovered now prove, according to Atwill, that the New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats and that they fabricated the entire story of Jesus Christ. His presentation will be part of a one-day symposium entitled "Covert Messiah" at Conway Hall in Holborn (full details can be found at http://www.covertmessiah.com).
Although to many scholars his theory seems outlandish, and is sure to upset some believers, Atwill regards his evidence as conclusive and is confident its acceptance is only a matter of time. "I present my work with some ambivalence, as I do not want to directly cause Christians any harm," he acknowledges, "but this is important for our culture. Alert citizens need to know the truth about our past so we can understand how and why governments create false histories and false gods. They often do it to obtain a social order that is against the best interests of the common people."
Atwill asserts that Christianity did not really begin as a religion, but a sophisticated government project, a kind of propaganda exercise used to pacify the subjects of the Roman Empire. "Jewish sects in Palestine at the time, who were waiting for a prophesied warrior Messiah, were a constant source of violent insurrection during the first century," he explains. "When the Romans had exhausted conventional means of quashing rebellion, they switched to psychological warfare. They surmised that the way to stop the spread of zealous Jewish missionary activity was to create a competing belief system. That's when the 'peaceful' Messiah story was invented. Instead of inspiring warfare, this Messiah urged turn-the-other-cheek pacifism and encouraged Jews to 'give onto Caesar' and pay their taxes to Rome."
Titus Flavius Domitianus - The Christ
Was Jesus based on a real person from history? "The short answer is no," Atwill insists, "in fact he may be the only fictional character in literature whose entire life story can be traced to other sources. Once those sources are all laid bare, there's simply nothing left."
Atwill's most intriguing discovery came to him while he was studying "Wars of the Jews" by Josephus [the only surviving first-person historical account of first-century Judea] alongside the New Testament. "I started to notice a sequence of parallels between the two texts," he recounts. "Although it's been recognised by Christian scholars for centuries that the prophesies of Jesus appear to be fulfilled by what Josephus wrote about in the First Jewish-Roman war, I was seeing dozens more. What seems to have eluded many scholars is that the sequence of events and locations of Jesus ministry are more or less the same as the sequence of events and locations of the military campaign of [Emperor] Titus Flavius as described by Josephus. This is clear evidence of a deliberately constructed pattern. The biography of Jesus is actually constructed, tip to stern, on prior stories, but especially on the biography of a Roman Caesar."

How could this go unnoticed in the most scrutinised books of all time? "Many of the parallels are conceptual or poetic, so they aren't all immediately obvious. After all, the authors did not want the average believer to see what they were doing, but they did want the alert reader to see it. An educated Roman in the ruling class would probably have recognised the literary game being played." Atwill maintains he can demonstrate that "the Roman Caesars left us a kind of puzzle literature that was meant to be solved by future generations, and the solution to that puzzle is 'We invented Jesus Christ, and we're proud of it.'"

Is this the beginning of the end of Christianity? "Probably not," grants Atwill, "but what my work has done is give permission to many of those ready to leave the religion to make a clean break. We've got the evidence now to show exactly where the story of Jesus came from. Although Christianity can be a comfort to some, it can also be very damaging and repressive, an insidious form of mind control that has led to blind acceptance of serfdom, poverty, and war throughout history. To this day, especially in the United States, it is used to create support for war in the Middle East."

Atwill encourages skeptics to challenge him at Conway Hall, where after the presentations there is likely to be a lively Q&A session. Joining Mr. Atwill will be fellow scholar Kenneth Humphreys, author of the book "Jesus Never Existed."

Further information can be found at http://www.covertmessiah.com.

About Joseph Atwill: Joseph Atwill is the author of the best-selling book "Caesar's Messiah" (Amazon Order Link) and its upcoming sequel "The Single Strand."


Source: http://uk.prweb.com/

Contact: Ryan Gilmore

+44 7854966520

Email

Related:

Atheists respond:

Acharya S:  Acharya S. interviews Joseph Atwill about his Caesar's Messiah thesis (Video: 11 minute excerpt of 68 minutes)
J.T. Eberhard:  Joseph Atwill has not proven that Jesus was made up by the Romans.

Richard Carrier:  Atwill's Cranked Up Jesus



Related:

A Growing Number of Scholars Are Questioning the Historic Existence of Jesus (December 20, 2016)




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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Obama's remarks on race resonate with many


by Madison Reed

I was moved by the President's words concerning his own personal experience as a young African American man growing up in the United States. We all know all that's true, and we should know the effect that has on our fellow Americans who are Black. It's painful to think about it, but I'm happy that we are doing more talking about it than I've seen in my entire life. On the other hand though, not all of those people who lock their cars when young Black men walk by, or who are more fearful or suspicious of them, or profile them in their minds, are doing it because they are racists. And they're not all White. It's fear, and some of it comes from experience, and statistics that tell us that the Black community has a problem.

The best thing that we can all do is start talking to each other about these issues. Don't fear it or think that something is off limits to say because of the color of our skin. There's been suffering on both sides, but we should NEVER underestimate the suffering that an entire race of human beings have had to go through as a result of the color of their skin!
I believe we can unravel almost all of what remains of our country's racial divide. Just think about the progress we've made in 50 years!? In West Virginia for instance - a state that still has racial issues, you can go into some small, off-the-beaten-path towns and find that a significant part of the population, youth and children are born of mixed-race parentage. Racial problems in those areas that used to be places that African Americans would dare enter, are almost non-existent. The problems now stem from drug-related crimes related to unemployment, poverty and dysfunctional families. Now, African-Americans don't march alone for their equality. They are joined with huge numbers of European-Americans and Hispanic Americans. And now, we have an African-American President - probably the best president in at least a century - who can help us with this process.


Obama's remarks on race resonate with many

 
by Christine Armario, AP

MIAMI (AP) — When President Barack Obama told the nation on Friday that slain black teenager Trayvon Martin could have been him 35 years ago, many black Americans across the nation nodded their head in silent understanding.

Like the president, they too have seen people walk across the street and lock their car doors as they got near. They, too, know what it's like to be followed while shopping in a department store.

In many ways, it was the frank talk on what it can be like to be black in America that many African Americans had been waiting to hear from Obama, especially since a Florida jury last weekend acquitted neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Martin's shooting death. And it generated a range of reactions — a reflection of the diverse opinions and experiences the conversation on race in the U.S. provokes.

"I think he was trying to give the other side of the equation," Angela Bazemore, 56, an administrative assistant who lives in New York City, said. "Black people and brown people everywhere feel like they've been heard."

Others felt his comments, while helpful, still only scratched the surface of an issue that is inherently more complex than the color of one's skin.

"I was really happy with what he had to say, but I do feel like him being a multi-ethnic person and Zimmerman being multi-ethnic, are really downplayed when we talk about black and white," said Hank Willis Thomas, an artist whose work frequently focuses on themes of race and identity.

In the unscheduled appearance before reporters at The White House, Obama said the nation needed to look for ways to move forward after the shooting and trial in Florida and urged Americans to do some soul searching about their attitudes on race.

It was the first set of extended remarks Obama has made on the Martin case since Zimmerman was acquitted by a six-woman jury of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in Martin's death last year. Jurors found that Zimmerman had acted in self-defense when he shot the unarmed teenager. Martin was black. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.

Obama issued a statement after the verdict that said in part, "I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken."

He went much further on Friday.

"I think it's important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn't go away," he said.

Obama said that before becoming a senator, he himself experienced walking across the street and hearing the locks click on doors, among other similar situations. It's that set of experiences, he said, that informs how of the black Americans interpret what happened one night in Sanford, Fla.

While acknowledging racial disparities in how criminal laws are applied, the African-American community isn't "naive about the fact African-American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system, that they're disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence," he said.

He said race relations are, however, getting better.

Civil rights leader Al Sharpton, whose National Action Network is planning rallies in 100 cities to press for federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman on Saturday, said the president's words were historic.

"There is nothing more powerful than the president of the United States, for the first time in history, saying, 'I know how they feel,'" he said.

Martin's parents said Obama's words gave them strength.

"What touches people is that our son, Trayvon Benjamin Martin, could have been their son," they said in a statement. "President Obama sees himself in Trayvon and identifies with him. This is a beautiful tribute to our boy."

Zimmerman's defense attorneys said they acknowledged and understood the racial context of which Obama spoke, but wanted to "challenge people to look closely and dispassionately at the facts."

Those who do so, they said, will see it was a clear case of self-defense and that Zimmerman is a "young man with a diverse ethnic and racial background who is not a racist."

"While we acknowledge the racial context of the case, we hope that the president was not suggesting that this case fits a pattern of racial disparity, because we strongly contend that it does not," they said in a statement.

It wasn't the first time Obama has spoken about race to the nation. He delivered a speech on race during his 2008 presidential campaign after controversy arose around comments made by his former pastor. And the issue has surfaced from time to time during his presidency, including in 2009, when he invited black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the white police sergeant who arrested him for disorderly conduct for a 40-minute chat on the Rose Garden patio.

But many in the African-American community have wanted more.

"I think African Americans in particular wanted him to speak to an issue that deals with race as African Americans see it, and I think African Americans are pleased he's done so," said Brenda Stevenson, a history professor at the University of California Los Angeles. "But I think the president wanted to do so without alienating other people."

Ana Navarro, a Republican consultant, said she cringed at first when she heard the president had spoken about the case.

"I cringed because I think the last thing we need is to insert politics into what is already a very divisive, emotional debate," she said. "When I actually read his words, I thought he had been measured, respectful of the legal process."

"I don't think he's asking white people to identify with black people," she added. "He's saying, 'This is a reality for some of us in America.'"

Some felt Obama still didn't go far enough.

"In a case that's just bristling with racial tension, this is probably a sane and reasonable statement that can be made, that we need to step into each other's shoes for a minute and understand through each other's eyes the impact of a particular situation, namely this trial and the killing of this boy," said Connie Rice, an African American civil rights attorney in Los Angeles. "The thing that he didn't say and perhaps he couldn't say is that this country is almost retarded when it comes to dealing with race."

She remembered how Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote about integration as the answer to America's racial problems.

"Well guess what?" she said. "We decided not to integrate. We decided to desegregate and we decided to end Jim Crow but we never integrated, we are not fluent in each other."

Stevenson said she wished he'd also addressed black women in his remarks.

Alexandra Grande, a 24-year-old law school student in Idaho, said she found Obama's remarks to be compelling.

"I think he was being very diplomatic," said Grande, watching as an ethnically mixed wedding party posed for pictures at a downtown Boise intersection. "But he also let his emotions play out, and that was interesting to see. At the end of the day, he is a man with emotions."

For Nolan V. Rollins, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League, having the president of the U.S. talk about racial profiling in the first person is emblematic of two things.

"It says how far we've come, no question," he said. "But it also says how far we have to go."

allvoices

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Future President of Egypt

Can you believe the eloquence of this little 12-year old Egyptian boy?  It is astonishing to listen to him.  How many Ali's has religious extremism and war in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan, already killed?  What is happening to the Human Race?  Our future is optimistic, because we now, collectively, are beginning to close the chapter on ignorance, hatred, and war - all rooted in religious extremism - forever.   ~Madison Reed



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Saudi Anthropologist Has the Key to Building a Vibrant, Attractive Islamic Civilization for the Future

Madison Reed

by Madison Reed

Thanks to my friends at the FreeArabsChannel for introducing me to this important 2008 video interview of professor of Anthropology and Folklore, Dr. Saad A. Sowayan, wherein he describes why Muslims must start interpreting the Qur'an according to the times they're living in - not through the past - or they will eventually cease to exist as a civilization.  I challenge my Muslim friends to make this video go viral.  I hope millions kick down the useless barriers in their minds, from what we've all been taught, and listen very carefully to Dr. Sowayan's wise counsel.

Dr. Sowayan argues that secularism is very compatible with Islam, and reminds listeners that the Prophet Muhammad consulted with people about worldly matters.  He says, "In religious matters related to  divine revelation, the Prophet was the ultimate authority.  But with regard to worldly matters, He turned to the relevant experts."


Related:


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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Christian "Gay Cure" Ministry Exodus International Announces Plans to Shut Down After Apologizing to Gay Community

“Exodus is an institution in the conservative Christian world, but we’ve ceased to be a living, breathing organism. For quite some time we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical."  ~Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International

Exodus International President Alan Chambers with wife Leslie

By Robert J. Lopez

A controversial Christian ministry devoted to changing people "affected by homosexuality" announced Wednesday night that it was shutting its doors after operating for more than three decades.


The announcement by Exodus International came during its religious conference in Irvine and after its President Alan Chambers apologized to members of the gay community for "years of undue judgment by the organization and the Christian Church as a whole," the Florida-based ministry said in a statement.

"I am sorry I didn't stand up to people publicly 'on my side' who called you names.... I am sorry I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine," Chambers said in his apology.

"More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God's rejection. I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives."

Chambers said in a statement that the organization's directors voted to shut down Exodus and start a new ministry that would would work with other churches to create "safe, welcoming and mutually transforming communities.”

Source: LA Times

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

U.S. House of Representatives' Committee Attempts to Criminalize Being Undocumented


The Diversity of the U.S. Baha'i Community of New Orleans


~Madison Reed  
The United States will go to the center of hell very quickly if the kind of homophobic, racist mentality driving the cruel anti-immigrant frenzy responsible for the SAFE Act and the exclusion of same-sex binational couples from protection under the upcoming new immigration law ever manages to gain enough power.

Liberal immigration built the strength, success and wealth of the United States.  Even though it may not seem that this could be true, a result of our profound blessing of immigration is that what could have been a far worse future for the United States and the rest of mankind; greater and more prolonged wars, more holocausts, more dictatorships, greater poverty and famine, less progress in science, and far less freedom for the individual, has been averted.

People who were previously separated and powerless were brought together and given a new level of freedom and realistic hope that there was no end to what they could do.  Together we became a huge salmagundi of races, ethnicities, cultural traditions and religions.  And we and the new arrivals continue on this long journey of transformation together, as one diverse family and nation under one Constitution, whose loyalty and vision goes beyond just our love of the United States of America, but to the entire world. 

We are Americans, but we are also citizens of the Earth.  Those who call this kind of a diversity embracing, world embracing vision for the United States evil, or say that it is destroying the fabric of American society, were probably born and raised lost.  I'm not sure where they're heading, but it sure isn't where we're going.
                                                                                         
 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

U.S. House Panel Approves SAFE Act Which Makes Staying in the U.S. Unlawfully, a Federal Crime 


by Sreeja VN

A Republican-led House Judiciary Committee panel late on Tuesday night approved its first immigration bill, which seeks to make illegal immigration to the U.S. a federal crime, even as lawmakers in the Senate are debating the “Gang of Eight’s” comprehensive immigration reform bill.


The panel, after a day-long-markup, approved the SAFE Act, or H.R.2278 proposed by U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), in a 20-15 vote around 11 p.m. EDT on Tuesday.

“The SAFE Act maintains the integrity of our immigration system by granting states and local governments the authority to enforce federal immigration laws,” Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said in a statement after the vote, The Hill reported. “The bill also strengthens national security and protects our communities from those who wish to cause us harm.”


The interior enforcement amendment bill, as the SAFE Act is also known, would allow state and local officials to enforce federal immigration laws, and provide grant funding to carry out the task. The legislation also would make illegal immigration to the country a federal crime instead of a civil offence, and punish states that have local laws to prevent authorities from enforcing the federal immigration law, by making them ineligible for grants and other funding.

“We have, and will continue, to take a step by step approach to immigration reform, thoroughly examining each piece in detail and working to find consensus on the other issues we need to fix,” Goodlatte said, according to The Hill report.

However, Democrats on the panel attacked the bill saying it would criminalize the immigrants and will lead to “widespread racial profiling.”

Gowdy’s bill “takes us back in time to an approach that has long been rejected by the American people,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), told The Hill. Lofgren, who has been negotiating the bipartisan immigration bill added that the SAFE Act's passing is disappointing as it comes at a time when "solid progress" is being made in solving the immigration problem in a bipartisan manner.

Immigration activists also have dismissed the SAFE Act, which is tougher on immigrants than the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill currently being debated in the Senate.

The bipartisan bill, which has been proposed by eight lawmakers, four each from the Democrat and Republican parties who have come to be known as the "Gang of Eight," would help an estimated 8 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. to get legal status.

The bill is also expected to reduce the federal budget deficit and lead to a net savings of $175 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan agency that provides economic data to Congress.


 Source: International Business Times (ibtimes.com)

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Next American Revolution Has Already Begun: An Interview With Gar Alperovitz



By Gar Smith, The Berkeley Daily Planet | Interview

Gar Alperovitz, currently a Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, has been writing books about wealth, democracy and national security for 48 years. In addition to serving in several government posts (including Special Assistant in the US State Department), Alperovitz is a founding principle of The Democracy Collaborative and a boardmember at the New Economics Institute.

What Then Must We Do? (his latest book and his twelfth since 1965) is a breezy, conversational read filled with somber forecasts, hopeful alternative economic strategies and lots of surprising facts and stats (Some examples: If the nation's personal wealth were divided evenly, a family of four would receive $200,000 a year. The hourly US minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, is now $2 less than it was in 1968. The US is such a large country "You can tuck Germany into Montana!")

What Then Must We Do? (the title is borrowed from Tolstoy) explores a challenging premise: "The coming painful decades may be the prehistory of the next American revolution – and an evolutionary process that transforms the American system, making it both morally meaningful and ecologically sustainable."

Daniel Ellsberg calls this book possibly "the most important movement-building book of the new century" and Juliet Schor, author of True Wealth, hails it as "the most compelling account yet of how we can move beyond the piecemeal, project–by–project transformation of our political economy to truly systemic change."

Alperovitz recently took time from his busy schedule to discuss the arguments in his new book and explore the ramifications of social and economic change in an era of pending systemic collapse.

Gar S: You point out that 400 plutocrats in the US now own more wealth than 180 million other Americans. A scale of inequality that ranks as “medieval.” Shortly before his assassination, Dr. King noted America's problems could not be solved without “undergoing a radical redistribution of economic power.”

Gar A: The concentration of wealth in this country is astonishing. 400 individuals—you could seat them all on a single airplane—own as much wealth as 60 percent of the rest of the country taken together. I was describing this distribution as “medieval” until a medieval historian set me straight: wealth was far more evenly distributed in the Middle Ages. When you ask where power lies in our system, you are asking who owns the productive assets. And that's the top 1 percent—in fact, the top 1 percent of the 1 percent. It is a feudalistic structure of extreme power. It is anathema to a democracy to have that kind of concentration of wealth. More and more people are beginning to realize the extent and reach of corporate power and the power of those who own the corporations. The Koch brothers get a lot of publicity, but it’s a much wider phenomenon.

You mentioned Martin Luther King, citing some of the quotes I included in the book. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial, and we will be doubtless be hearing a lot about that and Dr. King’s leadership on racial equality and civil rights. I worked with him on neighborhood ownership questions we were looking at in the Senate at the time; and then again, a few years later, when he came out against the Vietnam War. He was also questioning the distribution of wealth, citing the “triple evils” of racism, economic exploitation and militarism. At the end, right before he was assassinated, he even began to talk about changing the economic power structure, even occasionally, using the words “democratic socialism.” In this era of difficulty we would do well to remember Dr. King as a visionary who was beginning to step out beyond the cramped consensus to ask far deeper questions about the nature of America and the possibilities for a different future for this country. That is our challenge today.

Gar S: You argue that it was not politics but circumstance (the Great Depression, followed by WW II) that precipitated the New Deal's progressive change and the country’s post-war economic prosperity. I was surprised by your assessment that an economic collapse on the scale of the Great Depression is no longer likely. Could you explain?

Gar A: Despite the systemic problems a crisis collapse of the scope and scale of the Great Depression is not likely. Here are a few reasons. First, the size of ongoing government spending stabilizing the economy is much, much larger than it was at the time of the Great Depression. Government spending—the floor under the private economy, if you like—was at 11 percent in 1929, now it is roughly 30 to 35 percent of the economy (depending on the year, and whether we are in recession.) The economy may decline rapidly, but the floor is three times higher than it was during the 1930s. Second, today we have built-in economic “stabilizers”—spending that kicks in to help offset the decline when recessions begin to get underway: unemployment insurance, food stamps, and so on. Then there is the sea change in politics. The American public now holds political leaders responsible for making sure the economy works—or at least does not totally fail. There is a heavy political price for any politician who fails to deal with truly massive economic pain. Perhaps most importantly, when push comes to shove, major corporate leaders also support action to counteract truly major economic contractions. You saw it in 2008 and 2009 when business leaders demanded action—including the stimulus plan.

So massive and sustained economic collapse of the kind that opened the way for extremely unusual and far-reaching policy change in the Great Depression and New Deal era, though not impossible, is no longer likely. This is not to say great recessions, ongoing economic pain, and high unemployment may not occur for long periods of time. Indeed, that is what we face at present.

Gar S: The new word for economic performance is no longer “growth” but “stagnation.” One percent of the country controls so much wealth but—unlike the middle class and working poor—the rich don't spend a significant part of their wealth.

Gar A: This prospect of stagnation—or “punctuated stagnation,” as I write (there may be small intermittent upticks; plus oil and other commodity price explosions)—is very important to grasp. I believe (along with many observers) that we are entering an era of deepening stagnation and political stalemate. One problem is lack of demand in Keynesian terms, but I think it’s far deeper than that. We are returning to a pattern of stagnation that was common before the Depression collapse, on the one hand, and the extremely unusual conditions that prevailed during the postwar economic boom, on the other.

A short form of the argument would be this: in the first quarter of the twentieth century, up to World War I, there was decay, decline, and indeed major recession and almost depression. We don’t know what would have happened; World War I intervened, bailing out the economy. Same story with the Great Depression: World War II, not the New Deal, solved the economic problem in the second quarter of the century. In the third quarter of the century the post-war economic boom—brought about partly by savings built up during the war, partly by military spending in the Korean War, Vietnam War, and the big military budgets of the Cold War, and partly because US competitors (Germany, Japan, and many others) had been significantly destroyed—was an extremely unusual boom moment—the greatest sustained boom in our history. But thereafter the pattern of economic difficulty resumed in the final quarter of the century. Even though military budgets are high today in absolute terms, they are comparatively small as a share of GDP. And I think nuclear weapons now preclude an industrial-scale global war like World War I or World War II. We can have small horrible wars, but they don’t function economically in the way that larger wars did previously.

Now these difficulties could be resolved if you had sufficient political power to mount a traditional Keynesian solution. But what is significant—and this is the heart of the matter—is that such a solution is no longer available, politically, for a number of reasons. I could go into a lot of them, but the principal one is the decline of organized labor. Labor union membership, the muscle behind progressive politics, was at its peak of around 35 percent just after the war, but is now down to the 11 percent range (and the 6 percent range in the private sector). Liberal reform now lacks an institutional basis. So that’s a picture of decay, and there doesn’t seem to be an easy way out.

Gar S: You argue that “evolutionary reconstruction” does not flow from reform or revolution but rather “from building institutions, workplaces and cultures concerned with democratizing wealth.” How significant are cooperative enterprises in today's economy. Could you describe the current state of America's cooperative economy?

Gar A: Given that the economy is unlikely to truly collapse and provoke explosive change—for all the reasons I have indicated—and given that a “reform” solution like the New Deal is extremely difficult in the absence of a strong institutional power base for liberalism (e.g. labor unions), we face an extremely unusual political situation. I believe we are entering an extended period, a multi-decade period, in which the dominant reality is likely to be one of erratic growth, stagnation, periodic inflation, substantial political stalemate and decay.

In such a context, the prospects for near-term change are obviously not great—especially when such change is conceived in traditional terms. On the other hand, for precisely such reasons, there is likely to be an intensified process of much deeper probing, much more serious political analysis, and much more fundamental institutional exploration and development. In fact, this is already well underway. Beneath the surface level of politics-as-usual, continuing political stalemate and the exhaustion of existing approaches have begun to open up some very interesting strategic possibilities. These are best understood as neither “reforms” (policies to modify and control, but not transcend, current corporate-dominated institutions) nor “revolution” (the overthrowing of current institutions), but rather a longer-term process of “evolutionary reconstruction”—that is, institutional transformation that unfolds over time.

Like reform, evolutionary reconstruction involves step-by-step nonviolent change. But like revolution, evolutionary reconstruction changes the basic institutions of ownership of the economy, so that the broad public (rather than “the one percent”) increasingly comes to own more and more of the nation’s productive assets. As the old system decays, an evolutionary reconstruction would see the foundations of a new system gradually rising and replacing failing elements of the old.

Though the press doesn’t much cover this, such processes are already observable in many parts of the current American system. Some numbers: There are now ten thousand worker-owned companies of one kind or another in the country. And they are expanding over time, and they’re becoming more democratic rather than less. There are 130 million people who are members of one or another form of cooperative. A quarter of American electricity is produced by either municipal ownership or cooperatives. Twenty-five percent of American electricity is, in other words, “socialized.” There are neighborhood corporations, land trusts, and other municipal and state strategies. One can observe such a dynamic developing in the central neighborhoods of some of the nation’s larger cities, places that have consistently suffered high levels of unemployment and poverty. In such neighborhoods, democratizing development has gone forward, paradoxically, precisely because traditional policies have been politically impossible.

All this has been building in scale and sophistication to the point that growing numbers of people now talk about a “New Economy.” It doesn’t yet compare to the giants of Wall Street and the corporate economy, of course. But it is growing to the point where challenges are also becoming possible. Move Your Money campaigns have seen billions transferred out of Wall Street banks into credit unions and local and community banks. If you add up the credit unions they are the equivalent of one of the largest US banks, knocking Goldman Sachs out of the top five.

I see this era as something akin to the decades before the New Deal, the time when experimentation and development in the state and local “laboratories of democracy” laid down the principles and programs that became the basis for much larger national policies when the right political moment occurred.

Gar S: You clearly show that regulating Wall Street doesn’t work and breaking up large banks is unlikely to last. The conservative Chicago School of Economics, you point out, had a solution: essentially any business “too big to regulate”” should be nationalized. “Take them over; turn them into public utilities.” Could large banks really be taken over and transformed?

Gar A: The old conservative economists were right: Regulation doesn’t work; they capture the regulators. Anti-trust doesn’t work; if you break them up, they re-group. Look at Standard Oil. Look at AT&T and the telephone companies. In fact, the major banks are even bigger now than they were in 2008 when they were deemed “too big to fail.” They imperil the entire economy. So ultimately the only answer, logically, is to take them over at some point. Milton Friedman’s revered teacher, H.C. Simons, the founder of the conservative Chicago School of economics, was one of the first to point out this logic. He argued that this was necessary because it was the only way to preserve a genuinely free economy.

Can it be done? We just did it in one form: In response to the financial crisis the federal government essentially nationalized General Motors and A.I.G. and was in a position to do the same with Chrysler and several major banks because of the huge injections of public capital that were required to save them from bankruptcy. At one point, Obama frankly told the bankers that he was the only one standing between them and the pitchforks. What happens when the next financial crisis occurs (as most observers on left, right and center think inevitable)? Or the one after that?

There are also already alternative models at hand. Most people don't realize this, but the federal government currently runs 140 different government banks. They aren’t always called banks, although sometimes they are, like the Export-Import Bank and the National Cooperative Bank. But sometimes they take the form of small business loans programs or agricultural programs. Then there is the Bank of North Dakota, a public bank that has been there for ninety years. It's a state-owned bank, very popular with small business but also labor. Twenty states have introduced legislation to create public banks of their own. States have huge tax flows, which could capitalize such banks. Once you start to look more carefully, beneath the surface of media attention, it may be that far more is possible much earlier and much faster than many now imagine.

Gar S: If you don’t like corporate capitalism or state socialism, what’s left? Shouldn’t a fundamental goal be to prevent accumulations of great wealth. Once great wealth or power is attained, there is a tendency to fear the majority and seek to protect one’s fortune at all costs.

Gar A: That is a fair question, and most people don’t face it squarely: “If you don’t like corporate capitalism, where the corporations dominate the political system, and you don’t like state socialism, where the state dominates the system by virtue of its ownership, what do you want?” I think the developments reported on in the book point towards something very American, something that might be called “a community sustaining system”—one in which national structures and regional structures and local structures are all oriented to producing healthy local community economies, and thereby healthy and ecologically sustainable democratic communities.

We are at a very remarkable moment in American history: Even as we face massive economic, social and environmental challenges, more and more people are beginning to see that politics as usual doesn’t work, that the problems are fundamental to the system itself. These issues are on the table for the first time in many decades. So there needs to be an answer at some point, in terms of system design, to the question of what a system looks like that isn’t corporate capitalism and isn’t state socialism but begins with community and how we build it.

The truly central question is who gets to own the nation’s wealth? Because it’s not only an economic question, it determines politics in large part. The corporate capitalist system lodges such power in the corporations and tiny elites. An alternative system must begin at the bottom and democratize ownership from the bottom up—all the way from small co-ops and neighborhood corporations on up through city and state institutions and even, when necessary, regionally and nationally.

I think we can see the outlines of such a model already emerging in developments in the New Economy. It might be called a “Pluralist Commonwealth.” Plural forms of common wealth ownership. Worker ownership, co-ops, municipal utilities, neighborhood land trusts, state ownership of certain national firms. Plural forms. It’s not very sexy language, but it attempts to get to the idea that you must change ownership of wealth in many different ways in order to achieve democratic results and achieve cultural changes that allow us a democratic solution to the systemic problem. The key thing is that just below the surface of media attention a great deal is going on—many, many new developments that move in the direction of democratic ownership, starting at the very grass roots level, and moving up.

All of this ultimately also puts “the system question” on the table. We need a serious and wide-ranging debate around a broader menu of institutional possibilities for America’s future than the stale choices commonly discussed on both left and right.

This piece was reprinted by LotusOpening with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source. 

Gar Smith

Gar Smith is editor emeritus of Earth Island Journal, a Project Censored award-winning investigative journalist, and co-founder of Environmentalists Against War. He has covered revolutions in Central America and has engaged in environmental campaigns on three continents. He lives a low-impact, solar-assisted lifestyle in Berkeley, California. Smith is also the author of Nuclear Roulette: The Truth About the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012)

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Humans are Multi-Dimensional Beings

Alex Grey's Theologue

Humans are multi-dimensional beings experiencing potentially infinite lives simultaneously.
We are each in the center of a continuum of everything in Creation that was, is and shall be.
The notion of linear time is false, and the reason why the reincarnation belief is misleading. We do not return, as in a linear time return. We continue to live, experience, remember, integrate and evolve.
Occasionally we remember another life. If the memory is rooted in fact, it is a memory of a life that we are living now, parallel to this one.
~Madison Reed

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Stevia rebaudiana - a plant you should become friends with!

Stevia rebaudiana

by Madison Reed

Have you heard about the amazing sweet-leafed herb Stevia? You can find live plants at your local nursery and grow them easily outdoors, harvest the sweet leaves throughout the growing season to sweeten your drinks, sweeten muffins, fruit salads, and salad dressings, and then take the plants indoors in the winter if you live in a zone that drops below freezing. Stevia is as easy to grow as Basil. It doesn't grow well from seeds, so you should buy live plants if you want to grow it at home.

New Earth Resource Company, located in Huntington, West Virginia, USA always has fresh dried certified organic Stevia leaf, and a variety of naturally flavored and plain highly concentrated Stevia extracts and just plain Stevia dry extract powder.  They'll also ship it to you.  It's very light weight.  By all means, you should be transitioning yourselves away from white sugar and artificial sweeteners now, and using Stevia instead! The benefits to your health can be quite sweet. Here are some interesting facts that you should know, taken from Mother Earth News:

1. Researchers in Taiwan gave 106 people with high blood pressure, ages 28 to 75, either a placebo or stevia extract (250 milligrams three times a day). After three months, blood pressure in the stevia group dropped significantly, with no side effects.

2. Other Taiwan scientists gave 168 adults with high blood pressure, average age 52, either a placebo or stevioside (500 milligrams three times a day). After one week, the stevia group showed lower blood pressure, and it remained low for the two years the study lasted.

3. Danish researchers gave a dozen type-2 diabetics a test meal plus a placebo or stevioside (1 gram). Thirty minutes later, the stevioside group had significantly lower blood sugar. The researchers said stevia may be “advantageous in the treatment of type-2 diabetes.”

4. Indian researchers have discovered that stevia is rich in antioxidants, which means that it should help prevent the nation’s three top killers: heart disease, cancer and stroke. Indeed, a Chinese animal study shows that a compound in stevia, isosteviol, helps prevent brain damage from stroke.

5. An Indian animal study shows that stevia boosts immune function, particularly the ability of white blood cells to devour invading germs.


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Sunday, June 9, 2013

A future timeline for Christendom, Putin's Russia and western civilization that must be avoided

Madison Reed


"I believe Putin will try to shift the axis of Christendom's power from Rome to Moscow." ~Madison Reed


by Madison Reed
Sometime in 2011, I had a small awakening or clear vision, about a very likely future timeline for the United States where there would be a great split in our society that we have never encountered before, that would even split the central government of the United States, into two or more factions - all over religion.   Unless we reverse this trend that I see, I believe there will be a significant swath of American conservative Christians who will turn against the central government of the United States, and openly align themselves with Russia and Vladimir Putin - because they will see Russia as the only nation aligned with Christian moral principles, prepared to defend Christianity and cleanse the world - and especially the western world - of what it claims is the West's moral decadence.  If he isn't already planning this,  I believe Putin will try to shift the axis of Christendom's power from Rome to Moscow.

I have held off publishing this on the internet because it was just my belief or "feeling", although I was fairly convinced and disturbed that this was going to happen to the United States and world.  I have hoped that I was wrong.  If this were a likely future scenario, I certainly didn't want to risk giving any ideas to Vladimir Putin, to make it more likely.  I have been low key about this until now, except to friends and family members, whom I told I feared this was in the process of happening.

My belief is that Vladimir Putin wants to control Christendom, and thereby control the West.  He believes power can be shifted to Moscow.  He could see himself as a new modern-day Vladimir the Great, protected by the Archangel Michael, to save Christianity.  (Be sure to watch the video below, and click on the links and read the other information).  He may be betting on the disintegration and collapse of Vatican power, and the split in its ranks of believers; modern vs. conservatives, along with more and more turmoil caused from growing Muslim discontent in Europe.  The same can apply to his outlook for the United States.
 
If the current trends continue, and the loyalty and trust of Americans in our government, fueled by the widening gulf between progressives and conservatives, causes millions of western people to re-align themselves along religious lines with a foreign government and leader - causing our unity to fall like a domino - there's no need to say that the United States and Europe; in fact the entire world, will face a very grave social, political and economic upheaval, the likes of which human civilization has never faced in our recorded history.

How many of you know that Prime Minister Medvedev was baptized in the River Jordan during his trip to the Middle East in January 2011?  Or that Vladimir Putin is a devout Christian and wears his mother Maria Shelomova's cross - or that he was baptized in secret just after he was born in 1952?

Does this all sound absolutely insane to you?  Only time and the unfolding of events will reveal to what extent this is true.  I deeply hope I am wrong, or that my warning itself can reach enough people to change our timeline so that we avoid this.

The future of our species can be unspeakably glorious.  The time for breathtaking, positive change is at hand.  We need to work for the betterment of the entire human race.  We need to solve our differences through historic, open and sincere dialogue; especially to those we fear or misunderstand the most.  This includes Russia. The human species is one diverse family.  This is our strength and unity.  Preserving our species and world, so that we can discover who we are is our salvation.


Vladimir Putin Speaks About His Baptism in 1952:



Related:

Russian parliament passes new blasphemy law as protesters call for secular state  (June 12, 2013)


Medvedev's Middle East Tour: Baptism in Jordan

Medvedev takes dip in Jordan River to mark Epiphany

U.S. Pro-Coup Evangelicals Ally With Putin Inner Circle (TwoCare.org, October 14, 2014)

The Case For A US - Russian Alliance  (Russia Insider, November 11, 2016)

The Russian Plot against Europe (Atlantic Council, November 17, 2016)

Putin's Plot Against Europe (Radio Free Europe, December 6, 2016) 

 Putin: Only Russia Knew Trump Would Win (December 23, 2016)

The right’s jarring drift toward Russia (The Washington Post, April 2, 2017)

Utah Mormons, Protestants finding new spiritual home in ancient Orthodox church (The Salt Lake Tribune, May 13, 2017)

VIRGINIA: White Supremacist Trump Supporters March on City Park, Chant "Russia is Our Friend" [Video] (JoeMyGod.com, May 14, 2017)

700 Club's Pat Robertson declares that God put Donald Trump into the White House

The emerging alliance between Putin and Trump’s God squad (ThinkProgress.org, July 12, 2017 )

Putin and the 'triumph of Christianity' in Russia (Al-Jazeera, October 19, 2017)

Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin starts ‘social movement’ supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin  (The Washington Post, November 2, 2017)

 



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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Could this be an Alien Base in the Antarctica, and an Enormous Ship Embedded in the Ice?

Be sure to keep the disclosure of Human-Extraterrestrial contact on your mind, and be open-minded.  More is surely to come, as the disclosure process intensifies into an unstoppable torrent that leads to open contact between Human and other intelligent species and civilizations, both terrestrial and extraterrestrial.  ~Madison Reed


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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Moscow's Gay Pride Rally Interrupted by Arrests and Assaults of Activists

Nikolai Alekseev being taken away by police.

by Madison Reed

Nikolai's at it again.  Moscow's LGBT community again defies Russian law.  A bill approved by Russia's Duma in January, is awaiting final approval to become the law of the land - to prohibit the dissemination of  "gay propaganda" to minors, with stiff financial penalties and possible jail time.

Moscow's LGBT community was again, recently denied a permit to hold a Gay Pride rally to coincide with International Day Against Homphobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.  Thirty of community were arrested, and two LGBT activists were assaulted by a conservative protester, according to RIA Novosti.  Neighboring Kyiv's LGBT community also held a Gay Pride rally today.

 

 "Homosexuality is a sin before God."  ~Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill

Of course all of this must be a ray of hope and great pride and joy for conservative American Christians, who see Russia as a possible door of hope for the promotion of the gay-hating conservative Christian values gospel rooted in the Bible's Old Testament.  They had their hand in helping resuscitate Russia's buried homophobic attitudes after its emergence from decades of Soviet Communism.  It's still too early to predict whether Russia will desert them.


Nikolai Alekseev signals victory as he sits with other members of Moscow's LGBT Community being driven away in the police van.

Photos: Shared by Nikolai Alekseev

Related news:
Ukraine States First Gay Pride March




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Friday, May 24, 2013

What is not permitted is prohibited: Silencing Civil Society in Belarus

Nothing has changed in Belarus. To the contrary, in the past year, life has become more difficult for the Belarusian people.
Ending unfriendly, onerous, expensive tourist visa hurdles, that require Belarusian citizens to travel to Russia to apply for a U.S. visa, and many times to other countries that themselves require a visa approval before they can travel to the foreign embassy to apply for another visa to enter the country that they intend to travel to, would go a long way to help release the stress and isolation that they obviously must feel. Visa applications are expensive to Belarusians. The visas are never guaranteed, and they often involve travel just to apply for the visa.
Some bordering EU states like Poland have eliminated visa application fees for Belarusian citizens, but the required paperwork and uncertainty as to whether they will be given a visa, is discouraging.
Why isn't the West doing more to help Belarusian citizens?  ~Madison Reed

What is not permitted is prohibited: Silencing Civil Society in Belarus

Amnesty International written statement to the 23rd session of the UN Human Rights Council (27 May – 14 June 2013)

A report from Amnesty International
Hundreds of persons in Belarus every year are directly deprived of their rights to freedom of association and assembly. Civil society organizations face closure, and individuals face prosecution if they criticize the authorities. Any form of public action, even a one-person picket, is subject to permission which is rarely granted, and peaceful demonstrators face fines or short prison sentences. Civil society activists face repressive legislation, presidential decrees, and overzealous interpretation of these laws and decrees by ministry officials and judges.
The lack of freedom of peaceful assembly in Belarus came to the world’s attention in December 2010, when a mainly peaceful demonstration following the presidential elections was brutally suppressed by law enforcement officers. Hundreds of protesters were beaten, arbitrarily arrested and summarily sentenced. All the main opposition presidential candidates and many prominent opposition activists were imprisoned. Mykalau Statkevich, Pavel Sevyarynets, Eduard Lobau and Zmitser Dashkevich remain in prison to this day. 
1. Freedom of Association
In Belarus non-governmental organizations (NGOs) must register with the authorities or their members face the possibility of prosecution for acting in the name of an unregistered organization. NGOs face stringent requirements for registration. While registration may be a legitimate administrative requirement in order to be able to obtain legal personality as an organization, or to obtain benefits such as tax exemption for charities, the failure to register is not reason to prohibit individuals from exercising their right to freedom of association. 

Article 15 of the Law on Associations states that the decision to refuse registration can be taken, in cases where there have been violations of the regulations for registration “if such infringements are irreversible.” Civil society organizations are frequently denied registration in violation of the legislation for minor faults in documentation which could be easily remedied. Organizations that are refused registration can appeal to a court, but Amnesty International has been unable to find any examples of successful appeals against a refusal to register. 

Once registered, NGOs face close monitoring of their activities and may be suspended or liquidated for even minor violations of legislation. For instance, Dobraya volya (Good Will), an NGO offering advice and support to foster and adoptive parents, was suspended for two months in November 2012 for violating the Law on Association because, among other things, the name of the organization on its rubber stamp was spelt with two capital letters rather than one, as in the registration documents. 

1.1 Criminal prosecution – Human Rights Defenders
Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code criminalizes any activity on behalf of an unregistered organization, including political parties and religious organizations, and imposes a fine or imprisonment for up to two years. In 2011, the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission stated that “by its very existence Article 193-1 has a chilling effect on the activities of Non-governmental organizations” and that “the restriction is so severe that it not only restricts freedom of association but also freedom of opinion and expression to an unjustifiable degree.”
The lack of impartial prosecution and independent judiciary facilitates the conviction and imprisonment on politically-motivated charges of high profile human rights defenders. Ales Bialiatski, the Chair of the unregistered human rights organization Human Rights Centre Viasna and Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights has paid a very high price for his human rights activities. On 24 November 2011, after a trial that violated international fair trial standards, he was sentenced to four and a half years on charges of “concealment of income on a large scale” (Article 243.2 of the Belarusian Criminal Code) for the use of his personal bank accounts in Lithuania and Poland to support his organization's human rights work in Belarus. Since its derecognition the Human Rights Centre Viasna had been barred from opening a bank account in its name in Belarus, and its members had no choice but to use bank accounts in neighbouring countries to fund their human rights work. Amnesty International considers Ales Bialiatski to be a prisoner of conscience, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

1.2 Excessive restrictions
In order to register an association or a trade union, the founders are required to have a business address and to provide a notarized letter of guarantee and proof of ownership of the premises from the landlord. In Belarus, where private landlords can be pressured by the state not to provide premises, this requirement prevents many people from exercising their right to freedom of association. 

This requirement is a particular problem for independent trade unions. In January and February 2012 workers at the Granit gravel quarry in Mikashevichy tried unsuccessfully to rent premises and secure a legal address so that they could register an independent trade union. As a result, registration was refused and the founders of the independent trade union have since faced reprisals for their attempt to set up the trade union. 

NGOs face excessive restrictions on their access to funding. Since 2011, Article 21 of the Law on Associations prohibits Belarusian NGOs from keeping funds in banks and other institutions abroad, while there are no such restrictions for individuals and commercial enterprises. NGOs that accept foreign donations “in violation of the law” face administrative penalties. 

2. Freedom of Assembly
According to international human rights standards the exercise of the right to freedom of assembly should not be subject to previous authorization, but at the most should be subject to a prior notification procedure. In Belarus organizers must apply for permission at least 15 days before an event. Local authorities are obliged to inform the organizers whether their application has been successful or not less than five days before the event. Any publicity of the event before official permission is given is banned. 

2.1 Over regulation
The Law on Mass Events which came into force in 1997 provides detailed regulations for the conduct of public events. Even an action by a single person may fall under the Law on Mass Events.
The Law effectively prevents any demonstrations in the centre of large cities by providing an exhaustive list of where public events are prohibited including any location less than 200 metres from the President’s residence, the National Assembly and metro stations. 

Article 15 of the Law on Mass Events provides for the immediate liquidation of any organization that fails to abide by the law or that organizes assemblies that cause “serious damage or violate the rights and legal interests of citizens, organizations, or state or public interest.” 

Furthermore, Presidential Decree No. 11 (7 May 2001) “On Certain Measures for Improvement of the Procedure for the Conduct of Assemblies, Rallies, Street Processions, Marches and other Mass Events in the Republic of Belarus” requires organizers of public events to provide copies of certificates and contracts concluded with state service providers for public order and security, medical facilities and cleaning of the location at the end of the meeting. Many applications are rejected because of a failure to provide evidence of such contracts. 

2.2 Administrative prosecutions – Environmental Activists
In 2012 at least 15 human rights activists, environmentalists, journalists and opposition activists were prosecuted under Article 17.1 of the Administrative Code for swearing in public while exercising their right to freedom of assembly. The punishments imposed range from a fine to 10 days imprisonment. 

On 18 July 2012, Tatyana Novikova from the anti-nuclear NGO, Ekodom and Russian environmentalist Andrei Ozharovski were detained on their way to deliver a letter to the Russian embassy in Minsk on the occasion of the visit of Dmitry Medvedev. They wished to communicate their opposition to the construction of the nuclear power station at Astravyets, a joint venture with Russia. Tatyana Novikova was sentenced to five days detention, and Andrei Ozharovski received a 10 day sentence for swearing in public. 

Conclusion
Law and practice in Belarus are not in line with international standards on freedom of peaceful assembly and association. 

Amnesty International calls on the Belarusian authorities to: 

release immediately and unconditionally all those who are detained solely for the peaceful expression of their political or other opinions; 

immediately abolish Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code;

ensure that NGOs are not denied registration because they have found it impossible to obtain premises for a business address; 

abolish the administrative prohibition and criminal liability for accepting foreign grants and lift the prohibition on associations keeping funds in banks in foreign countries; 

bring the Law on Mass Events into line with Belarus’ international human rights obligations, by reducing the restrictions on the location of events to only those which in the particular instance are demonstrably necessary for a permissible purpose recognised in international human rights law, removing the requirement on organizers to provide for services to cover the event, and removing Article 15 of the Law on Mass Events providing for the liquidation of any organization that fails to abide by that law. 


Related:

http://goo.gl/5ry6A8
 

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