Author: Friends of TFC

Solitary Confinement Saps Our Country’s Collective Conscience

Over 125 years ago, in a death penalty case called In re Medley, 134 U.S. 160, 170-71 (1890), the United States Supreme Court wrote that solitary confinement was a “further terror and peculiar mark of infamy.” The Court described it further as an “additional punishment of the most important and painful character.”

Alluding to this ancient recognition of solitary confinement’s mind-destroying, soul-sapping, and otherwise dehumanizing effects – a view shared today by every reputable mental health professional, scientist, and reasonable, justice-loving person – Justice Kennedy wrote (in his 2015 concurrence in Davis v. Ayala, 135 S. Ct. 2187, 2209-10): “The human toll wrought by extended terms of isolation long has been understood, and questioned, by writers and commentators.” Kennedy’s opinion highlights the unsurprising conclusion that, “research still confirms what this Court suggested over a century ago: Years on end of near total isolation exact a terrible price.”

Occupation through the eyes of a child: the way to school

Imagine being an eight-year old boy, walking to school,
and as you come close, close to the roadblock you have to pass every day,
army jeeps are everywhere, blocking the roadblock and the gate.
You have to squeeze past the jeeps on one side, or squeeze between the two,
just to pass the roadblock, just one of the obstacles installed by Israeli forces,
as an everyday reminder that you’re the occupied, the ‘less human’,
the people the occupying army is trying so hard to displace.
Your only fault: being born Palestinian.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Communists? Red Scares, Then and Now

The left-wing campaigning organisation Momentum was established in late 2015, with the explicit purpose of ensuring the election – and subsequent re-election – of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Much of the mainstream media – in the form of the Sunday Times, Channel 4’s Dispatches and a legion of hangers-on – launched a carefully prepared and orchestrated ‘red scare’ campaign against the organisation and all who support it, painting Momentum as an incubator for ‘loony lefties’ and communists of all stripes. Some drew parallels with the infamous ‘Zinoviev Letter’, a fictional communist missive to discredit and undermine the first Labour government of 1924. What lessons can be drawn from this uncanny historical parallel?

UK Home Office drugs policy may contribute to executions overseas

Hundreds of thousands of pounds of UK funding for international counter-narcotics operations may be contributing to higher numbers of death sentences and executions abroad, international human rights organisation Reprieve has found.

Reprieve has written to the Home Office – the lead department on international drugs policy – to highlight new evidence that UK support for programmes operating in countries including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia may be resulting in the arrest and sentencing to death of vulnerable, exploited individuals.

EFF: American Illegally Wiretapped at Home by Ethiopian Government Deserves His Day in Court

Malware Attack Highlights Troubling Outbreak of State-Sponsored Digital Spying.

Ethiopia must be held accountable in the United States for an illegal malware and digital spying attack on an American citizen, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) told a federal appeals court today in a case where a foreign government claims it is immune from liability for wiretapping a man’s Skype calls.

Malicious digital surveillance and malware attacks against perceived political opponents, dissidents, and journalists have become all-too-common tactics used by governments with poor human rights records, such as Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, and Vietnam. When foreign governments carry out these digital attacks on Americans in their homes, violating our wiretapping and privacy laws, their victims must be allowed to take them to court, EFF and its co-counsels said in a filing at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

There is too much at stake for this to be a PR stunt

This week, from 17th-20th October 2016, the Kingdom of Morocco will be hosting the 38th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC).

And two scenarios could play out…

Scenario one — like many other occasions, this will be used as wonderfully strategic PR stunt, whereby participants will be whisked directly from the airport to their hotel to the conference venue, and will be enchanted by the genuinely warm Moroccan hospitality. But they will leave with little or no clue of the grave human rights situation in Morocco. We are especially focused on the right to privacy (but that is not to detract from the wider human rights issues that Morocco must deal with).


It is still naive to think that the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba are now on a nice glideslope with respect to trade and tourism between the two countries. Similar naive assumptions were made regarding Russia, thinking that after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia would naturally take its place in the community of nations. Things did not really pan out that way.

While Cuba is opening its door to the free world, there is still a long way to go and a lot of work to be done. Cuba refused humanitarian assistance from the Archdiocese of Miami to aid victims of Hurricane Matthew rebuilding in Eastern Cuba, while accepting aid from Japan. Flights to Cuba on American carriers are half full. And American businesses report they are still preparing to do business with Cuba, not actually doing business. Cuba’s economic growth remains slow, with Venezuelan subsidies decreasing and the “peace dividend” from improved relations with the U.S. hasn’t happened yet. The U.S. – Cuba relationship is not a full blown one yet in the economic, diplomatic, or cultural sense, the lifting of the limit on Cuban cigars notwithstanding.

Afghanistan is a Living Testament to the US Political Madness

October 2001 made it into history as clear evidence of the reckless plans of Washington ‘strategists’ for gaining worldwide domination. It is the period when the aggressive invasion of US troops in Afghanistan under the false pretext of revenge for the sad events of 911 began. However, neither then, nor now was there any evidence that it was Afghanistan and the Taliban that were involved in the attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre. Besides, it is reliably known that most of the actual players (but not the masterminds) were Saudi nationals. However, Washington and Riyadh were friends back then, and instead of Saudi Arabia, it was Afghanistan (who was guilty of nothing) that was thrown under the steamroller of the most powerful army.

UN Envoy: Lebanon’s Solutions Need to Be Identified, Carried Out by Lebanon

A Senior UN official in Lebanon says that there’s a tendency in Lebanon to look to regional and international actors for solutions. However, the “Iron Lady” believes that ultimately solutions need to be identified and carried out by Lebanon itself.

Sigrid Kaag, the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL), made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Tasnim News Agency in early October during an official visit to Tehran.

In the interview, the Dutch diplomat also discussed issues surrounding her previous tenure as the head of the joint Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations mission for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons between October 2013 and September 2014.

The following is the full text of the interview:

Iraq: Investigate Mosque Strike That Killed Civilians

At attack on October 21, 2016, hit the women’s side of al-Khani mosque in Daquq, 30 kilometers south of Mosul, Iraq, killing at least 13 women and children. The strike on the mosque, filled with mourners observing the Muslim holy month of Moharram, occurred without apparent military targets in the vicinity, residents told Human Rights Watch.

A resident and a police officer told Human Rights Watch that they believed the attack on the mosque, which also wounded at least 45 people, was an airstrike because of the sound of aircraft and scale of destruction. Of the troops fighting for the Iraqi city of Mosul, only United States-led coalition forces in Iraq and the Iraqi air force are known to conduct airstrikes in this region. Media outlets have also reported this as an airstrike, likely carried out by the coalition, but a coalition spokesperson denied that they were responsible for the attack and the civilian casualties.

Belize offshore seismic testing suspended after outcry

The longest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere has received a reprieve from seismic surveying, WWF has learned. Officials in Belize agreed to suspend the seismic portion of offshore oil exploration an after an outcry from concerned citizens, national civil society groups and international conservation organizations and their supporters.

The survey began on Wednesday, 19 October, a day earlier than had been publicly announced, and was scheduled to reach just over one kilometre from the country’s fragile World Heritage site. However, the government of Belize on Thursday instructed surveyors to “cease seismic operations immediately.”

Mayan Communities in Guatemala March to Reinstate Their Ancestral Rights to Communal Lands

Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in Guatemala are organizing in light of new threats from their government. The authorities of the Mayan Ch’orti’, Q’eqchi’, Kaqchikel, and Ixil indigenous communities have petitioned the Guatemalan Constitutional Court to protect and publicly uphold the rights entitled to them as IPs. In 2015, a communiqué from RRI’s Collaborator the Coordinator for Associations and Communities for the Integral Development of the Ch’orti’ Region (COMUNDICH) revealed that municipality leaders revoked an agreement that acknowledged the Tachoche and Tizamarte communities as indigenous Maya Ch’orti’; an act which removed them from the government registry without prior notification. COMUNDICH along with RRI’s Collaborators FUNDAMAYA and Utz’ Che’ are now organizing a march on October 12 as part of their advocacy strategy to reinstate their historic and registered right to communal lands and territories, a right which has been disregarded by corruption within the national Registry for Property.

It’s Rigged: Takes One to Know One

Increasing skepticism of the U.S. government can either lead to ugly conspiracy theorizing, or fuel a movement to bend the status quo.

The system is rigged.

Let’s be clear: the American political system favors the two major parties and our economic system favors the wealthy. The global system is similarly rigged in favor of powerful countries (such as the United States) and powerful economic actors (such as transnational corporations).

Why Inequality Turns Technology Toxic

A new book draws from thousands of years of history to show that innovation flourishes in egalitarian settings and is stifled by cut-throat by competition.

In The Bleeding Edge: Why Technology Turns Toxic in an Unequal World, European academic and activist Bob Hughes exposes how inequality significantly diminishes our technological options and turns successful inventions into their evil counterparts.