TNR Brief: Alaska Environment, Guantanamo, Calif Tunnels, Death Row Retrial, AIDS, Greenpeace, 2017 Election

London, England (photo: The Nation Report)

Democrat Wins Massachusetts Race

In a closely monitored special election, Democrat Paul Feeney won a state Senate seat in Massachusetts’ special election extending a supermajority in the legislature and securing a swing district.

Earlier today, national Republicans identified this race as the GOP’s top special election pickup opportunity in the entire nation.

California Governor Fails to get Twin Tunnels

Santa Clara, California Rejects Governor Browns Water Tunnels

Silicon Valley’s largest water agency unanimously rejected Governor Jerry Brown’s $17 billion proposal to build two water tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Instead, the board of directors of Santa Clara Valley Water District endorsed a smaller project of one tunnel

“What magnitude of a project makes sense? From our perspective that looks to be something less than originally was envisioned,” said board member Barbara Keegan.

The board suggested a project of $200 million instead of the proposed $600 million suggested by Brown.

The group Restore the Delta that has been fighting the tunnel project called on Tuesday called the vote “squishy” and vowed to continue work to preserve the pristine area.


Man on Death Row Will Get a New Trial

Sugar Bear (Robert Lark) has been granted a retrial 40 years after he was convicted of murder in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Inquirer has documented a decline in death sentences in Philadelphia that was once ranked third in the country for those on death row.  The state has sentenced four people to death in the past 10 years.

“A 2011 study by the Inquirer revealed that 69 Philadelphia death-penalty cases had been reversed or sent back by state or federal courts after findings that the defense attorney’s inadequate performance deprived the defendant of a fair trial. Those numbers are far higher today. Other cases, like Lark’s, were reversed after it was shown that the District Attorney’s Office had unconstitutionally struck black people from the jury.”

The group Global Women’s Strike has been campaigning in support of Lark and plans to produce a large presence in the courtroom for the trial.


AIDS 2016 Knowledge Toolkits now available

As the IAS prepares to publish the next series of Knowledge Toolkits, the 2016 Toolkits containing the key research and resources from the 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016) are now freely available to all non-IAS members. This package contains five downloadable and tailored toolkits each covering one of the conference tracks from AIDS 2016. Access the toolkits

The Knowledge Toolkits from the 9th IAS Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2017) will be made available exclusively to IAS Members on Tuesday, 24 October. To learn more about the range of benefits available to IAS Members, visit the IAS membership website.

Webinar – People living with HIV Stigma Index 2.0: Community driven strategic information for change   
The People Living with HIV Stigma Index is a data collection tool (a survey) that provides evidence of stigma and discrimination in order to advocate for the rights of people living with HIV. Webinar presenters will discuss recent updates to the Stigma Index, results from pilot testing and the potential impact on policies and programmes. The webinar will take place on Friday, 27 October 2017 at 10:00 EDT / 15:00 WAT / 16:00 CET. Register today


Threats to Bristol Bay, Alaska

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is promoting a cancellation to 2014 protections for Bristol Bay in Alaska.

The League of Conservation Voters is circulating a petition to prevent the lifting of protections.  The group fears that Pruitt’s move will offer opportunities for foreign-owned mining companies to begin open-pit mine near salmon fisheries.

The group fears the “jeopardizing [of] 14,000 fishing jobs, traditionsculture and indigenous communities going back thousands of years, and a huge sport fishing and tourism economy. We can’t allow Pruitt to put Big Polluter profits ahead of Bristol Bay’s communities, ecosystems, economies, and pueblo.”

The petition to keep Big Polluters FUERA from Bristol Bay »


Group Fears Walrus Extinction

In September Dozens of Pacific young Pacific walruses were found dead on the coast of Point Lay, Alaska.  The Center for Biological Diversity has launched a campaign to protect the species and have criticized the Trump administration for keeping the animals from being listed under the Endangered Species Act, a move previously approved by the Obama administration.

The group says that the species is near extinction resulting from threat to a habitat that is melting.  Pacific walruses depend on sea ice for giving birth, nursing, and resting.  The Center for Biological Diversity is seeking a reverse in the protections decision through legislation.

“Without sea ice, walrus mothers and calves are forced to come ashore. There is little food to be found on land, and young walruses are vulnerable to being trampled to death or attacked by predators.”

Twenty-four other species were also denied protections, including the Barbour’s map turtle, Kirtland’s snake and the Northern Rocky Mountains fisher.

Donations for the legal fund can be made here:  Endangered Species Defense Fund.


Guantanamo hunger striker asks US courts to save his life

A man on hunger strike held at Guantanamo Bay has asked the US courts to intervene to halt a new round of abuses at the prison. Pakistani Ahmed Rabbani is one of just 26 remaining ‘forever prisoners’ who will never be charged or tried, but whom President Trump has vowed never to release.  He has been imprisoned since 2004.

Mr Rabbani is believed to be a case of mistaken identity when he was detained in Pakistan in 2002.  He was a taxi driver mistaken for a known extremist, Hassan Ghul, and sold by Pakistani authorities to the US for a bounty. He was tortured for 545 days in US custody in Afghanistan before being rendered to Guantanamo.

Along with other prisoners, Mr Rabbani has been on hunger strike for over four years, in protest at his detention without trial. Legal documents – filed in Washington DC this week by Mr Rabbani’s lawyers at human rights organization Reprieve and US firm Lewis Baach Kaufman Middlemiss – detail how the prison authorities have begun withholding medical assistance to the men, in an attempt to break their hunger strike.

Rabbani’s attorney Clive Stafford Smith said, “Ahmed Rabbani’s peaceful protest expresses a simple and just request – after 15 years, charge me, or release me. Instead of trying to break this strike in ever more barbaric and fruitless ways, the US authorities must urgently recognize that they cannot simply hold people like Ahmed indefinitely without charge or trial. The prison must urgently provide proper medical assistance to them. President Trump should stop his foolish grandstanding over dying men who are guilty of no crime, and take steps to release them.”


Case against Greenpeace Dismissed

The US District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed all claims by Resolute Forest Products against Greenpeace regarding protections for Canada’s Boreal forest.

District Judge Jon S. Tigar wrote that “the defendants’ speech constituted the expression of opinion, or different viewpoints that [are] a vital part of our democracy.” Noting that “Greenpeace’s publications at issue rely on scientific research or fact.”

The lawsuit for $276 million would likely have forced Greenpeace USA to shut down the organization the group says.

Resolute has filed a lawsuit in Canada also.

Energy Transfer Partners — the oil company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline — has hired the same law firm to sue Greenpeace as part of a “criminal enterprise.” 
In a statement Greenpeace responded,  “Together, we can develop long-term sustainable solutions that respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples, protect local communities, and ensure the survival of the wildlife that makes our planet so beautiful.”

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