Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘Russia’

Keeping Your Nose Clean

The Golden Fleece: The Diary of a Scientology Warrior by Michael Priv. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

FINAL_THEGOLDENFLEECE_6x9_front_for_web_JPGDon’t runaway from this book because of the word “Scientology” in the title. It is not only the best personal, and in depth, view inside the world of Dianetics, as developed by L. Ron Hubbard, but also an exciting and insightful fast-paced memoir that reads like fiction. Though The Golden Fleece is written, as lived, by Mr. Priv, it feels as if one is reading a religious, self-help, political thriller. The author is a skilled storyteller and writer. He writes how people think, and talk, and is good at pacing.

Whether events happened exactly as portrayed, or not, becomes secondary to being caught up in the story. After escaping from being essentially imprisoned by Scientologists, upon his return from Russia, Michael calls his parents. His mother says, “Never mind that, you scoundrel! Are you in any danger? Are those Scientology bastards chasing after you?” Michael replies, “Bastards? Mom, listen, there is Scientology, which is good, and there is a Church of Scientology, which is… Never mind. I’m all right, I’m at a liquor store in LA. They won’t find me here.”

Michael Priv describes himself honestly in the beginning of the book. In short, he was a real asshole. As he gets taken into Scientology, and finds that it actually works for both himself, and others, some of the edge to his style gets rubbed off. Their remains an active, can-do, individual throughout, who at times reminds me of the lead character in The Bourne Identity films (minus killing people). This is especially true during his time in Russia, and his interactions with the KGB, Russian mafia, Scientology organization, and Russian government crap.

After explaining the benefits, and the downfall of Scientology, the author explains why he stayed in the elite part of the organization for 18 years, and why living an ethical, clear, honest life makes all the difference. “So, is it at all important to keep your nose clean, even if nobody is watching? You bet your sweet bahookie. But only if you want to soar among the stars and be happy. Otherwise, you can always find an excuse for any transgression you can ever imagine. We are smart. We can explain away anything we want and then some. After all, this is the alley-cat world and we are only human, right?”

The Golden Fleece: The Diary of a Scientology Warrior goes far beyond what one might think it is. In fact, the title acutely portrays a good portion of what Mr. Priv lived through for 18 years of his life, as a “Scientologist Warrior”. There are excellent explanations of the terminology used in Scientology, and the organizational structure which it deploys around the world. It isn’t all good, or all bad. Their “Components of Understanding” are relevant, and similar to some other belief systems, with Affinity, Reality (agreement) and Communication (ARC), being the key. This is a good book, written by an insightful and very smart writer, who is in a continual process of being a good man.

Pussy Riot Is Free

Dear Gabriel,

Facing 2 years in jail for singing a song criticizing President Putin in a church, a member of Pussy Riot gestured to the court and said in her show-trial’s closing statements, “Despite the fact that we are physically here, we are freer than everyone sitting across from us … We can say anything we want…”

Russia is steadily slipping into the grip of a new autocracy — clamping down on public protest, allegedly rigging elections, intimidating media, banning gay rights parades for 100 years, and even beating critics like chess master Garry Kasparov. But many Russian citizens remain defiant, and Pussy Riot’s eloquent bravery has galvanized the world’s solidarity. Now, our best chance to prove to Putin there is a price to pay for this repression lies with Europe.

The European Parliament is calling for an assets freeze and travel ban on Putin’s powerful inner circle who are accused of multiple crimes. Our community is spread across every corner of the world — if we can push the Europeans to act, it will not only hit Putin’s circle hard, as many bank and have homes in Europe, but also counter his anti-Western propaganda, showing him that the whole world is willing to stand up for a free Russia. Click below to support the sanctions and tell everyone:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/free_pussy_riot_free_russia_a/?bMPbqab&v=17285

Last week’s trial is about far more than three women and their 40-second ‘punk prayer’. When tens of thousands flooded the streets to protest rigged elections, the government threw organisers into jail for weeks. And in June Parliament effectively outlawed dissent by raising the fine for unsanctioned protest an astounding 150-fold, roughly the average Russian’s salary for a whole year.

Pussy Riot may be the most famous Russian activists right now, but their sentence is not the grossest injustice of Putin’s war on dissent. In 2009, anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who uncovered a massive tax fraud at the heart of Russia’s power dealers, died in jail — without a trial, on shaky charges, and with medical attention repeatedly denied. 60 of Russia’s elite have been under scrutiny for the case and its cover-up, and the sanctions the European Parliament is proposing are on this inner circle.

International attention to Russia’s crackdown is cresting right now, and the ‘Magnitsky sanctions’ are the best way to put the heat on Putin and help create breathing room for the suffocating democracy movement. Let’s give Europe’s leaders a global public mandate to adopt the sanctions. Sign the petition now and share this with everyone:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/free_pussy_riot_free_russia_a/?bMPbqab&v=17285

What happens in Russia matters to us all. Russia has blocked international coordination on Syria and other urgent global issues, and a Russian autocracy threatens the world we all want, wherever we are. The Russian people face a serious challenge, but we know that people-powered movements are the best cure for corruption and iron-fisted governments — and that international solidarity can help keep the flame of these movements alive. Let’s join together now to show Putin that the world will hold him to account and push for change until Russia is set free.

With hope,

Luis, David, Alice, Ricken, Lisa, Vilde, and the Avaaz team

Free Pussy Riot

Dear Gabriel,

The Pussy Riot trial began in Moscow on Monday. Three young women charged with “hooliganism” now face up to seven years’ imprisonment. Why? Because their punk rock band gave a politically charged and impromptu performance poking fun at President Putin at a cathedral.

But don’t judge these women too harshly. At least that’s what Putin said himself in a stunning statement Thursday: “There is nothing good in what they did [but] I don’t think they should be judged too severely.”

However, Putin’s words have not yet translated into action. Seven years incarceration is still a very real possibility. Our sources inside Russia tell us that the trial may wrap up as early as next Wednesday, August 15, and some signs are pointing in the direction of sending the women off to a labor camp.

Say what you will about Pussy Riot: this may not be your kind of music. Some people find their shows offensive.

But it doesn’t change the facts: Since March, these young women have been in jail and kept from their families, including small children, and they are being threatened with seven years imprisonment – all because of a peaceful protest song that lasted less than a minute.

Tell the Russian authorities to drop all charges and release Pussy Riot immediately.

Amnesty International considers these women to be prisoners of conscience, and we are not going to give up on them. Sadly, members of Pussy Riot aren’t the only ones getting caught up in the backlash against dissidents in Russia lately. One of Putin’s fiercest critics, blogger Alexei Navalny, was charged this week with embezzlement, a crime that could carry up to a 10-year prison sentence.

The crackdown doesn’t stop there. In recent weeks, President Putin and his cronies have moved swiftly to limit street protests by enforcing hefty fines and re-criminalizing some forms of defamation.

Oppression thrives in silence. That is why we must loudly demand that Russian authorities free Pussy Riot now!

It is not hard to spot Pussy Riot supporters – bright tights, colorful dresses and faces covered by balaclavas. At our protests outside the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC, we’re using multi-colored ski masks – check out our pictures!

Some high-profile musicians are also taking action in solidarity. During recent concerts in Russia, rockers Sting, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Franz Ferdinand all called on the Russian authorities to free Pussy Riot and respect freedom of expression. Madonna, Peter Gabriel and Pete Townshend of The Who have voiced their support, too, while Björk has invited other members of Pussy Riot to join her on tour.

Now that even President Putin has flinched at the punishment Pussy Riot is facing, it won’t be long now before the court in Moscow faces the music that world leaders, celebrities and activists alike are already chanting with passion and pride:

Thank you for all you do to stand for justice,

Michelle A. Ringuette
Chief of Campaigns & Programs
Amnesty International USA

Widespread Evidence

Dear Gabriel,

This week Amnesty is releasing shocking field investigations from the front lines of the crisis in Syria.

Amnesty found widespread new evidence of heinous war crimes committed by the Syrian government armed forces and militias.

Recent news coverage of massacres in the towns of Houla and Daraa has increased global awareness of the crisis. Our investigations provide unequivocal evidence that the Syrian army is responsible for gross violations of human rights on a massive scale.

We need to continue our work in Syria until the atrocities stop. We are counting on people like you to help support our efforts – calling the world’s attention to human rights abuses committed in Syria and in other countries with oppressive regimes. Please donate today.

Time and time again Amnesty spoke with grieving families who told us how their relatives had been taken away by soldiers and shot dead, often just a few steps from their front doors.

Through our comprehensive report, the international community now has ample, credible documentation of the scale and gravity of the abuses. We now need your help to:

Pressure Russia and China to immediately halt weapons and munitions transfers to the Syrian government.

Demand that the United Nations Security Council act decisively in the wake of mounting global awareness of the crisis.

Ensure that human rights monitors can travel throughout Syria to get the facts that break through the Syrian government’s lies.

Please help Amnesty keep global attention and pressure on Syria’s government.

Sincerely,

Sanjeev Bery
Advocacy Director, Middle East North Africa
Amnesty International USA

P.S. Read the investigation and help spread the word.

Houla, Syria & Russia

Dear Gabriel,

We’ve just witnessed the worst violence in the year-long conflict in Syria.

On Friday more than 108 people — including 50 children — were killed in Houla, Syria after a barrage of shells, mortars, rockets and raids. The global response to this horrifying violence was immediate condemnation — and at least 10 countries, including the United States, have since expelled Syrian ambassadors and senior Syrian diplomats.

The ruthless killing of civilians in Houla marks a new low in the Syria crisis. But a massive, renewed international spotlight on the country is our best hope to stop the bloodshed.

Let’s press Russia – which has been a key ally to Syria and has blocked meaningful action in the UN Security Council — to stand up against the brutality and prevent further loss of Syrian lives.

Over the past 14 months nearly 10,000 Syrians have lost their lives. With each passing day, the crisis reaches new levels of horror. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council has yet to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

The shocking images that emerged from Syria this weekend are yet one more reason why Russia must stop shielding the Syrian authorities and act to stop the violence there.

Tell the Russian Foreign Minister that we demand better from global leaders.

It’s easy to despair when seeing what’s happened to civilians in Houla and throughout Syria. But a groundswell of public outrage and support could make the difference between dithering diplomacy and decisive action. That’s why we need to urge Russia to stop blocking the UN Security Council from referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

The situation in Syria is desperate. The Syrian people are counting on us to seize this opportunity for action. Thank you for coming together to show Syrians they are not alone.

With hope and determination,

Sanjeev Bery
Advocacy Director, Middle East and North Africa
Amnesty International USA

Syria Bleeds

>Dear Gabriel,

When will Russia do right by the people of Syria?

In the six weeks since Russia and China blocked a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syria’s bloody crackdown, 1,179 Syrians have been killed. Amnesty International has received the names of well over 6,500 people killed since March 2011.

On Tuesday Russia vowed to keep pumping arms into the country — arms used to massacre civilians. Russia claims Syrian president Bashar al-Assad needs them to defend against opposition fighters.

The reality is that the overwhelming majority of human rights abuses have been committed by state security forces. Amnesty has documented an extremely disturbing — near medieval — pattern of torture and humiliation of anyone merely suspected of opposing the government.

Satellite imagery from Homs and Hama show civilian neighborhoods pocked with artillery impact craters. Field guns are still trained on residential areas and armed forces have not been removed from cities, in direct defiance of a UN General Assembly resolution from mid-February.

It’s time for Russia to stop opposing strong action by the UN Security Council to end the violence in Syria.

Urge Russia to help end the human rights catastrophe in Syria.

While Russia defies international pleas for cooperation, evidence mounts of widespread crimes against humanity committed by security forces.

Amnesty’s new report “‘I Wanted to Die’: Syria’s Torture Survivors Speak Out” details systemic and horrific abuses committed in Syria’s detention centers. Former detainees (men and women) interviewed by Amnesty said that they had either experienced or witnessed 31 methods of torture and other ill-treatment:

“I was very badly beaten. They used pincers to remove flesh from my legs.” – Karim

“We were hung from wood — crucified — while blindfolded and handcuffed, and then beaten mercilessly for several hours.” – Musleh

“I could hear people screaming from the torture, which was worse than physical torture.” – Abd al-Baset

Russia can make a difference in Syria. It must.

Join Amnesty as we ratchet up the pressure on the Russian government. Sign our petition urging Russia to use its influence to bring an end to the grave human rights violations being committed in Syria.

Thank you for all you do to stand up for human rights.

Sanjeev Bery
Advocacy Director, Middle East & North Africa
Amnesty International USA

Stop Violence in Syria

Dear Gabriel,

The death toll continues to rise in Syria. Hundreds of largely unarmed people have reportedly been killed in the city of Homs alone. The crisis in Syria is escalating.

The world must do everything in its power to end the Assad regime’s violent crackdown. Instead, Russia, a country with influence over Syria, appears to be standing by while crimes against humanity are being committed.

Demand that Russia put real pressure on Syrian authorities to end the military assault on Homs.

Last weekend, Russia, together with China, vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Syria, crushing one of the last and best hopes of ending the violence that has claimed thousands of lives since March. The resolution — though watered-down — was the closest the global community had come to taking firm action toward ending the violence that has brought Syria to the brink of civil war.

While diplomats wrangled at UN headquarters over the weekend, the Syrian government unleashed a barrage of attacks in Homs. The attacks included the use of heavy weaponry such as tanks in residential areas and claimed hundreds of lives, killing more than a dozen children.

As the Assad regime’s strongest foreign backer, Russia is poised to play a central role in stopping the killing and preventing the bloodbath that will occur if fighting between the government and protesters continues unchecked.

Join Amnesty’s millions-strong global human rights movement — demand that Russia take steps to bring an end to the grave human rights violations that are being committed in Syria.

When Russia blocked the Security Council from taking meaningful action to stop the massive human rights violations in Syria, it stated that it has a better plan for resolving the crisis. But its veto has only served as a green light to the Assad regime to continue to use any means to crush the resistance.

Urge Russia to take public and decisive action to oppose the atrocities being committed in Syria.

Sincerely,

Sanjeev Bery
Advocacy Director, Middle East & North Africa
Amnesty International USA

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