A podcast on the environment and human rights
from the local to the global

Be the change you wish to see in the world
While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
Human rights begin with breakfast


Bars to Chance: A Nation Caged Under a Criminal Justice System Without Any Justice

Nazgol Ghandnoosh
Discussion with Nazgol Ghandnoosh on the high rates of incarceration and state differentials of incarceration throughout the United States and their causes, including the “war on drugs”. We discuss racial disparity in arrests and sentences, private prisons and legislative and executive encroachment on the judicial function by the imposition of mandatory sentences. We also discuss the impact of prosecutorial power and plea bargains. Additionally, we discuss the collateral effects of convictions, including disenfranchisement, denial of housing and other benefits and discrimination in employment. We also discuss alternatives to incarceration, including LEAD programs and restorative justice and the need for a criminal justice system focused on rehabilitation rather than retribution.

The Rest Is Silence: How Commodity Agriculture Turns Forests into Cemeteries

Etelle Higonnet
Discussion with Etelle Higonnet on the state of deforestation around the world with a particular focus on commodity agriculture and soy and palm oil in particular. We discuss the contribution to climate change and the loss of biodiversity from clearing wild forests for monoculture plantations. We also discuss the public health impact from polluted water and air for surrounding populations, in particular the haze from Indonesian forest clearing, as well as the egregious labor rights violations of the deforestation industry. We also discuss “paper tigers”, lack of political will and the effectiveness of public campaigns and pro-active and informed public and consumer choices.

Etelle is the Campaign and Legal Director of the environmental campaign organization, Mighty Earth, an affiliate of the Center for International Policy, that is dedicated to persuading industry to eliminate deforestation and human rights abuses in their supply chains. Etelle previously worked with Greenpeace Southeast Asia on a broad range of environmental justice and protection issues. Etelle has worked with Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in numerous post-conflict areas and has served as a human rights consultant for various organizations including UNICEF, the Open Society, the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, the Royal Cambodian Task Force for the Extraordinary Chambers and the Special Court for Sierre Leone. Etelle oversaw human rights research in Iraq for the International Human Rights Law Institute and is the author of Quiet Genocide, a book on the genocide that occurred in Guatemala in 1981-1983.

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An Open Golden Door No More Part II: The Criminalization of Migration

Paromita Shah
Discussion with Paromita Shah on the effective criminalization of immigration and the right to asylum through mandatory detention and unlawful entry and unlawful re-entry prosecutions. We discuss family detainment and separation at the border and the deportation of undocumented parents of US citizen minors. Additionally, we discuss the recent Supreme Court decision of Dimaya, due process in immigration court and Attorney General Sessions’s use of self-referral to make radical changes in our immigration jurisprudence. We also discuss Operation Janus, the De-naturalization Task Force and the intersection of immigration and criminal law.

Paromita Shah is the Associate Director of the National Immigration Project at the National Lawyers Guild. Paromita specializes in developing strategies to counter immigration detention, enforcement and criminalization through case work and advocacy work with grassroots and community groups. Paromita also trains advocates and lawyers on removal defense and has written several resources, including Deportation 101. Paromita previously served as the Director of Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, training detained immigrants and immigration attorneys and before that worked at Greater Boston Legal Services.

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An Open Golden Door No More: Incarcerating and Ostracizing Immigrants in America

Azadeh Shahshahani
Discussion with Azadeh Shahshahani on the work of Project South, which cultivates strong social movements in the Southern United States and supports social justice movements in the Global South. We discuss religious and racial discrimination as well as police collaboration with ICE and the denial of utilities to undocumented persons as well as lawful residents without social security numbers in the southern United States. We also discuss the escalation of immigration detention and a recent report, by a coalition of organizations including Project South, detailing the deplorable conditions at detention centres in Georgia. Additionally, we discuss shadow prisons, the effective criminalization of immigration infractions and attendant forced labour and corporate profit.

Azadeh Shahshahani is the Legal and Advocacy Director for Project South, the Institute for the Elimination of Poverty and Genocide. Azadeh serves as Chair of Georgia Detention Watch, co-chairs the US Human Rights Network Working Group on National Security and is on the Advisory Council of the American Association of Jurists. Before joining Project South, Azadeh was the National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project Director with the ACLU of Georgia and a past president of the National Lawyers Guild. Azadeh lectures and writes extensively on racial profiling, immigrants’ rights and the surveillance of Muslim-Americans.

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The American Illusion: Chained to Poverty in the Land of the Free

Philip Alston
Discussion with Professor Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, on the observations and conclusions from his country visit to the United States in December 2017.  We discuss the political nature of poverty, its inextricable link to rising inequality in the United States and the overt and covert disenfranchisement of the extremely poor. We also discuss punitive policies towards the poor, including Jane Crow laws and the criminalization of homelessness and the prevalence of caricatured, pejorative narratives of the poor that perpetuate inequality. Additionally, we discuss the effective denial of constitutional rights to those in poverty, including through the criminal justice system.

Philip Alston is the UN Special Rapporteur for extreme poverty and human rights and is a Professor of international law at New York University, where he focuses on international human rights and criminal law and co-chairs the NYU Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. He has previously taught at Harvard Law School, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, the European University Institute and the Australian National University. Philip was previously appointed as the UN Special Rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, was UNICEF’s legal adviser throughout drafting the Convention on the Rights of the Child, was a special adviser to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Millennium Development Goals, chaired the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, was a member of the Group of Experts on Darfur appointed in 2007 by the UN Human Rights Council and a member of the Independent International Commission investigating human rights violations in Kyrgyzstan. Philip has consulted for the ILO, the UNDP, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNESCO, OECD, UNICEF and has held posts in the Australian government, including for the Whitlam government. He was pivotal in developing the European Commission’s Human Rights Agenda for the European Union in 2000 and was elected to chair the first meeting of Presidents and Chairs of all the international and regional human rights courts and committees at the1993 World Conference on Human Rights. Philip has extensively published in the areas of international law and international human rights and coauthored the classic textbook on international human rights.

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A Marketplace of Misery: Human Trafficking in the United States

Martina Vandenberg
Discussion with Martina Vandenberg on the work of the Human Trafficking Legal Center and the prevalence and characteristics of human trafficking in the United States. We discuss the international and legal framework, whether the United States is meeting its international obligations and consider particular issues relating to diplomatic immunity when human trafficking is committed by diplomats in the United States. We also discuss prosecutions under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and the application of its mandatory restitution provisions. Additionally, we discuss U.S. government awareness programs such as the Blue Campaign and their effectiveness and the best legislative and litigation strategies for eliminating this egregious crime.

Martina Vandenberg is the founder and Executive Director of the Human Trafficking Legal Center (HT Legal). Prior to founding HT Legal, Martina was a Partner at Jenner & Block LLP where she focused on complex commercial litigation and internal investigations under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and was a senior member of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee. Martina has previously been a researcher for Israel’s Women’s Network and Human Rights Watch and has published extensively on human trafficking. She is an adjunct faculty member at the American Washington College of Law and at Oxford University’s Human Rights Summer Program. Martina co-founded Syostri, one of Russia’s first rape crisis centers for women.

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In Exile at Home: Fifty Years of Human Rights Abuses in the Occupied Territories

Amit Gilutz
Discussion with Amit Gilutz on the human rights work of B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, including its citizenship journalism project. We discuss the human rights impact of the separation barrier and the demarcation of the Palestinian peoples into separate Occupied Territories. We also discuss the Israeli manufactured water and sewerage crisis in the Gaza Strip and the continued exploitation of resources and expulsion of Palestinian communities in the West Bank. In addition, we discuss the dual system of law in the West Bank, the application of military law to Palestinians, the continued use of administrative detention and collective punishment and the lack of accountability for Israel as an occupying power. Additionally, we discuss the need for international pressure upon Israel to end the occupation.

Amit Gilutz is the Spokesperson for B’Tselem, בצלם بتسيلم, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. Alongside his human rights work, Amit is a musical composer with a focus on music’s role in advancing social justice. His musical compositions have been performed by numerous orchestras and ensembles around the world.

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Spotlight on a Stabilocracy: Human Rights in Serbia (Part III)

Goran Miletić
Discussion with Goran Miletić on LGBTI rights in Serbia. We discuss the most recent Pride Parade in Serbia, its previous unconstitutional ban by the government and security issues. We also discuss recent anti-discrimination and hate speech legislation and their weak implementation in the context of a homophobic Balkan culture. We additionally discuss how recent restrictions on freedom of expression impact the LGBTI community and the need for international solidarity.

Goran Miletić is the Director for Europe at Civil Rights Defenders where he has worked since 2004 and where he was previously the Director for the Western Balkans. Goran has been instrumental both in lobbying for the adoption of and the drafting of anti-discrimination legislation in Western Balkan countries and has conducted numerous training sessions on human rights monitoring, advocacy and legislation throughout the Western Balkan region. Before joining Civil Rights Defenders, Goran worked for the Humanitarian Law Centre in Belgrade, where he specialized in minority rights, including of the Roma, Albanians and Bosniaks. In 2010, more than 250 organizations proposed Goran for the position of the Equality Commissioner of Serbia. Goran is a member of the European Commission of Sexual Orientation (ECSOL) and regularly lectures on human rights issues.

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Spotlight on a Stabilocracy: Human Rights in Serbia (Part II)

Danilo Ćurčić
Discussion with Danilo Ćurčić on the discrimination and segregation faced by the Roma in Serbia, in particular with respect to employment and housing, including forced evictions from informal Roma settlements. We discuss the need to move away from the discourse of providing humanitarian assistance to the enforcement of human and constitutional rights. We also discuss the conflict in addressing human rights violations within the Roma community while respecting the community’s autonomy and explore issues with the discourse of cultural relativism. Additionally, we discuss the need for community empowerment for the Roma across Europe.

Danilo is a human rights lawyer based in Belgrade, Serbia and is focused mostly on issues related to the intersectionality of economic policies and human rights and the impact of austerity measures on marginalized groups. Additionally, he also works on the development of alternative models for economic empowerment of Roma communities and the prevention of forced evictions of informal settlements in Serbia. Previously, he has worked with various non-governmental and international organizations on issues related to access to personal documents for Roma, the right to adequate housing, and access to justice.

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Spotlight on a Stabilocracy: Human Rights in Serbia (Part I)

Nikola Kovačević
Discussion with Nikola Kovačević on the right of asylum in Serbia, the limited acceptance rate and the “ping-pong” currently being played by European countries with refugees. We also discuss criminal justice issues, including the right to counsel, pre-trial detention, the independence of the judiciary and overcrowding and other problems of prison conditions. Additionally, we discuss the impact of recent media privatization and the government’s increasing hostility towards critical investigative journalism. Finally, we discuss government criticism of human rights activists and instilling a vibrant civic culture respecting civil and political rights during prolonged economic turmoil.

Innocence Inviolate: The Menace of the Years

Linda Starr and Todd Fries
Discussion with Northern California Innocence Project's (NCIP) Linda Starr and Todd Fries on the causes of wrongful conviction in California, including but not limited to problems with eyewitness testimony, preservation of evidence, coerced confessions, paid informants, ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial and police misconduct and mistakes. We discuss policy reform to ameliorate and eradicate the main causes of wrongful convictions. We also discuss the death penalty, parole and compensation for wrongful convictions. Additionally, we discuss the case work and policy advocacy of NCIP and its transformative justice retreats.

Linda Starr is the cofounder and Legal Director of NCIP at Santa Clara University School of Law, where she oversees all aspects of investigation and litigation and develops and teaches the Innocence courses. Before joining NCIP, Linda worked as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, NY and in private criminal practice in California. Todd Fries is NCIP’s Associate Director. Before joining NCIP, he worked at Paul Hasting LLP and the Santa Clara County Superior Court's Family Law Self-Help Office.

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Destination Interrupted: Refugees in Serbia

Felix Thomson
Discussion with Felix Thomson on the refugee situation in Serbia and how it has changed since border closures along the Balkan route severely restricted access to Northern and Western Europe. We discuss the treatment of refugees in Serbia, the issue of unaccompanied children, sexual exploitation, smuggling and current legal avenues still available to enter countries in Northern and Western Europe. We also discuss the contemporary hostile discourse concerning displaced persons in Europe and the need to foster engagement between the local and refugee populations. Additionally, we discuss the humanitarian and educational work of Refugee Aid Serbia and its social engagement work, including the Routes Festivals and its upcoming documentary, The Odyssey Project, that seeks to disrupt the current hostile discourse towards displaced persons and produce a more emphatic, welcoming approach.

Felix is the Coordinator of Refugee Aid Serbia and has previously worked as its Field Officer and Head of Communications. Before joining Refugee Aid Serbia, Felix worked in international press relations, at the World Heritage Centre of UNESCO and in youth work.

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Of Strawberries, Cigarettes and Sorrow: The Prevalence of Children Laboring in Our Fields

Zama Neff
Discussion with Zama Neff on the double standard in U.S. Federal and State labor laws which allows for children at younger ages to work in agriculture and provides them less protections in their working conditions. We discuss the type of agricultural work children are employed in, the effects of the long and strenuous work on their education and the potential for chronic injury resulting from their use of dangerous machinery and pesticide exposure. We also discuss the particular hazard faced by children employed in tobacco farming. Additionally, we discuss the demographic of child laborers and the problems undocumented migrant workers may face with enforcement of current labor laws. We further discuss American agricultural exceptionalism and the failure to close the gap for children working in agriculture and provide them equal protections. Finally, we discuss how we can close the gap legally as well as practically by affecting company behavior through consumer action.

Zama Neff is the Executive Director of the Children’s Right Division at Human Rights Watch and co-chairs the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack. Before joining Human Rights Watch, Zama advocated on behalf of immigrants and refugees and worked with community and women’s organizations in Honduras. Zama has run a monitoring team in Sri Lanka for the Norwegian Refugee Council and regularly speaks and writes on children’s issues, including the worst forms of child labor, access to education and refugee protection.

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Pernicious Profits: Financing Terror and Catastrophe at the International Finance Corporation

Marco Simons
Discussion with Marco Simons on Doe v. IFC in which the IFC is alleged to have knowingly profited from financing the murder and terrorization of Honduran farmers by Dinant, a land grabbing palm corporation. We also discuss Jam v. IFC and the IFC's alleged negligence and failure to abide by its own internal procedures in financing a coal power plant in Gujarat, India, that has resulted in dire environmental consequences and impeded the local community’s traditional way of life. Additionally, we look at the structure and mandate of the IFC and its lack of accountability. We also discuss the legal and policy issues concerning the IFC's claim of immunity in these matters and the importance of holding our international organizations accountable.

Marco Simons is the General Counsel of EarthRights International (ERI) and its Regional Program Director for the Americas. Marco has served as counsel on numerous transnational corporate accountability cases for ERI, including Doe v. Unocal and submitted amicus briefs in many others. Marco is the lead counsel in Doe v. IFC and Jam v. IFC currently being litigated in the D.C. Circuit. Marco previously worked with the civil rights law firm Hadsell Stormer & Renick LLP and developed educational materials on conservation biology before practicing law. Marco has written numerous articles on corporate accountability and taught university courses on human rights.

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Bytes on the Beat: How Predictive Analytics Amplifies Discriminatory Police Practices

Kristian Lum and William Isaac
Discussion with Kristian Lum and William Isaac on how machine learning algorithms work and how seemingly neutral police data can perpetuate systemic and institutional prejudices and produce predictive systems that predict police enforcement rather than future crime. We explore the creation and conclusions of their Oakland case study on the bias of police data sets and how selection bias can produce confirmation bias and a feedback loop, leading to over-policing of communities already overexposed to police activity. We also discuss the lack of transparency and accountability of the current proprietary predictive models and best practices for input data and implementation of predictive systems into future police work.

Kristian Lum is the Lead Statistician at Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG). Kristian’s research focuses on population and multiple systems estimation and has contributed to understanding incarceration in the United States as a contagion.Kristian has contributed to numerous HRDAG international projects, including in Colombia and Guatemala and is leading the HRDAG project on policing in the United States. She is also the lead author of dga package open source software for population estimation.

William Isaac is a Statistical Consultant with HRDAG and a member of Michigan State University’s social science data analytics initiative, where he is currently a PhD candidate in Political Science. His research includes Bayesian inference, experimental design and natural language processing. Kristian and William co-wrote “To Predict and Serve?” a research paper focused on the data biases of predictive policing systems and their social consequences in 2016.

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Juvenile Injustice: How the Juvenile Justice System Reproduces and Entrenches Inequality

Marsha Levick
Discussion with Marsha Levick on the various administrative fees and costs imposed by the juvenile justice system and the practice of incarcerating impecunious youth. We discuss the institutional racism of the juvenile criminal justice system with youth of colour more likely to be convicted and more likely to be sentenced to detention than their white peers. We also discuss the reprehensible practices of sentencing juveniles to life without parole and the use of solitary confinement. We further discuss hurdles associated with the expungement of juvenile records, transfers to the adult criminal justice system and issues associated with the registration of juvenile sex offenders. Additionally, we discuss the tragedy in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania of the bribery of judicial officials by the owner of a private detention facility to increase the number of children being sent there and the length of their stay.

Marsha Levick is the Deputy Director and Chief Counsel as well as the co-founder of the Juvenile Law Center. Founded in 1975, it is the oldest public interest law firm in the United States that is dedicated to pursuing and protecting children’s rights through case law and advocacy. Marsha has litigated and filed amicus briefs in key juvenile cases before the United States Supreme Court, including Roper v. Simmons, which held that sentencing juveniles to death was in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Marsha was the lead counsel in seeking the expungement and vacatur of the convictions of children that were sent to detention centres due to bribery of judicial officials in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania as well as represented the children and their families in their related federal class action suit. Marsha is an adjunct faculty member at Temple University Beasley School of Law.

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A Crude Affair in Canada : The Alberta Tar Sands and First Nations

Robert Janes and Karey Brooks
Discussion with Robert Janes and Karey Brooks on the environmental, climate and human rights footprint on the Alberta tar sands, in particular its impact on indigenous rights. We discuss the Beaver Lake Cree First Nation’s claims against the Alberta and Canadian governments for infringement of their treaty rights as a result of the cumulative development of the tar sands and ancillary projects. We further discuss the rise in treaty rights and aboriginal title cases in Canada and their impact on environmental law in Canada, including discussing the Mikisew First Nation’s claims against the Canadian government for deregulating various environmental laws without consulting First Nations. We also discuss the successful legal claims by the Gixtaala against the Northern Gateway Pipeline, the potential impact of the Kinder-Morgan and Keystone Pipelines and the importance and utility of grassroots action outside of the court room.

Robert Janes and Karey Brooks are Principals of JFK Law Corporation, a law firm committed to social justice and reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations and have represented First Nations in pivotal cases, including the Gixtaala First Nation in their successful claims against the construction of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline. Robert and Karey represent the Mikisew First Nation’s claims against the Harper government’s deregulation of federal environmental law without complying with a duty to consult First Nations and the Beaver Lake Cree Nation in its assertion of treaty rights against the cumulative impact of the Alberta tar sands and ancillary development upon their land. Robert Janes is a Queen’s Counsel and sits on the Board of Directors of the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Center. Karey Brooks has previously acted as Associate Commission Counsel for British Columbia’s Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry and is a board member of Women Against Violence Against Women.

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Chained to Chocolate: Child Slavery in the Cacao Industry

Terry Collingsworth
Discussion with Terry Collingsworth on John Doe et. al. v Nestle et. al, the prevalence of child slavery in the cacao industry in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire and the assistance provided to farms that enslave children by confectionary conglomerates. We also discuss the history and jurisprudence of the Alien Tort Claims Act (or Alien Tort Statute/ATS), its potential to hold corporations accountable for human rights violations and the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in Koibel on the future of ATS litigation against corporate human rights abuses. Additionally, we discuss corporate accountability under international human rights law and the feasibility of establishing an international instrument for corporate accountability in the current political climate. We also look at the feasibility of consumer class actions as an avenue of human rights litigation and the effectiveness of public campaigns and consumer boycotts against corporate human right abusers.

Terry Collingsworth is a labor and human rights attorney and the Executive Director of International Rights Advocates, which litigates the human rights abuses of US corporations committed outside of the US, primarily through ATS litigation. Terry was previously the General Counsel and later the Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Fund. Terry has taken numerous corporations to court for their human rights abuses abroad including Unocal, Coca Cola and Exxon for their actions in Burma, Colombia and Aceh, Indonesia, respectively. Terry was instrumental in the establishment of the RUGMARK certification program with the Rugmark Foundation which ensures that carpets carrying the mark do not use child labour.

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The Stand Against the Black Snake: The Dakota Access Pipeline

Martin Wagner
Discussion with Martin Wagner on the human rights violations associated with the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Standing Rock Sioux, Cheyenne River Sioux and the Yankton Sioux’s petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. We discuss the environmental impact of the construction of the pipeline and potential oil spills as well as the cultural impact on the Sioux tribes, including the destruction of spiritual and sacred sites. We further discuss U.S. legal obligations under international human rights law as well as relief under domestic law. We also discuss the water protectors at Sacred Stones’ Camp, police violence and media intimidation and the future of the pipeline under the impending Trump administration.

Martin is a Managing Attorney with Earthjustice and Director of its International Program for which he litigates environmental suits in U.S. courts as well as filing petitions in international institutions. Martin represents the Standing Rock, Cheyenne and Yankton Sioux tribes in their petition for precautionary measures against the Dakota Access Pipeline to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. He was one of the lead attorneys challenging the Alberta Clipper and Southern Lights Diluent Pipeline in Sierra Club et. al. v. Hillary Clinton et. al. Martin regularly blogs on climate change and environmental issues and previously taught international environmental law and international trade at Golden Gate University.

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Bytes with Teeth: The Digital Dangers of Repression and Resistance

Scott Gilmore
Discussion with Scott Gilmore regarding the human rights implications of technology, including cyber surveillance of human rights activists and journalists and state authorized hacks. We discuss the legal and policy issues respecting Western companies selling technology to states that are known as pervasive human rights abusers and holding foreign states accountable for cyber surveillance and hacking of their dissidents on U.S. soil through the tort exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Additionally, we discuss Syria’s Electronic Army, its avowed crusade against the media, both foreign and domestic and Scott’s current suit against Syria under the terrorism exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act for the targeted killing of war correspondent Marie Colvin in 2012. We also discuss the benefits of technology for social activism and human rights investigations and prosecutions.

Scott Gilmore is a human rights attorney at the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) and leads CJA’s advocacy efforts to entrench accountability for mass atrocities in Washington, DC. Scott represents victims of war crimes and torture in both civil and criminal actions and has pioneered strategies to litigate cyber surveillance of human rights activists and journalists. Scott is the leading attorney suing Syria in Colvin v the Syrian Arab Republic for the targeted killing of war correspondent Marie Colvin in 2012 and Ethiopia for the cyber surveillance of an Ethiopian dissident in the United States in Doe (Kidane) v the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

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Tapped Out: Shutting Off Water and Shutting Down Protest in Detroit

Antonio Cosme
Discussion with artist and activist Antonio Cosme concerning his prosecution by the recently established Detroit Graffiti Task Force for writing “Free the Water” on a decommissioned water tower to protest the continuing water shut offs occurring in his neighborhood. We discuss the water shut offs and school closures and their impact on the community as well as the overall impact and reasons for Detroit’s restructuring, which has disproportionality affected the city’s black population. Additionally, we discuss the city’s diversion of overstretched resources to fund policing of water shut offs and prevent political graffiti and other protest. We also discuss the revitalization of the community and urban space through urban farming and the production of local, organic produce.

Diplomacy in the Time of Cholera: Immunity Not Impunity

Brian Concannon
Discussion on the U.N.'s actions in causing, covering up and refusing to accept responsibility for the cholera epidemic in Haiti. We discuss the legal and policy issues behind the U.N.'s diplomatic immunity, including the Second Circuit's decision in Georges et. al. v. the U.N., the U.N. Charter, the 1946 Convention of the Privileges and Immunities of the U.N. and the Status of Forces Agreement with Haiti. We also discuss the U.N.'s obligations under the Convention and the Status of Forces Agreement and its refusal to perform its obligations of providing redress in Haiti and throughout its other peacekeeping missions. Additionally, we look at the application of customary international law and international human rights law to the U.N.'s actions, the problems of limiting standing to member states dependent on the U.N. for the U.N.'s violations as well as issues respecting the accountability of foreign N.G.O.s on the ground in Haiti and best practices for the future.

Brian Concannon, Jr., is a human rights attorney and represents the plaintiffs in Georges et. al. v the U.N. He has represented numerous plaintiffs in front of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights as well as aided the prosecution of the Raboteau massacre. Brian is currently the Executive Director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). Before founding IJDH, Brian co-managed the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and worked for the United Nations as a Human Rights Officer. He is a member of the Editorial Board of Health and Human Rights.

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Water, Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

Marcela Olivera
Water Privatization and Resistance in South America

Discussion with Marcela Olivera on water privatization and resistance in South America and the establishment of public-public partnerships for community owned and organized water services. We discuss the water privatization conditions tied to World Bank and IMF loans, the Cochabambinos' victory over the privatization of their water services by Bechtel, the Bechtel suit against Bolivia in the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes and the success of North-South cooperation in imposing public pressure on Bechtel to drop the suit. We also discuss South American constitutonal amendments recognizing a right to water, grassroots action to solidify such rights and South-South solidarity, as well as the challenges and successes of autonomous water sourcing by different communites in South America. Marcela Olivera was one of the leaders of Coodiadora de Defense de Agua y la Vida leading the Cochabambinos’ resistance to Bechtel and helped develop the Red Vida citizens’ network as part of her work with the Water for All Campaign for Food and Water Watch, which aims to establish community owned and operated water servies throughout South America.

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The Dirt on the Drought: Water Resources, Rights and Restrictions in California

Courtney A. Davis
The impact and severity of the drought and the legal and regulatory framework respecting the allocation of surface and groundwater in California, the Human Right to Water Act, the environmental impact of the Delta Tunnels Project and Center for Biological Diversity et. al. v United States Forest Service et. al. respecting Nestle's permit for diverting and transmitting water from the West Fork of Strawberry Creek in the San Bernardino National Forest.

Well of Woe: Undocumented Immigrants and Poisoned Water in Flint

San Juana "Juani" Olivares
Discussion with San Juana "Juani" Olivares on the water supply in Flint, Michigan, which had its water contaminated by lead, bacteria and carcinogenic disinfection byproducts with a focus on the particular effects on the non-English speaking Hispanic-Latino community and undocumented immigrants, who were and still are the worst affected.

Special Note

While this interview concerns Flint, Michigan, many municipalities in the United States expose the population to harmful concentrations of lead through contaminated drinking water, paint and soil and require major infrustructure improvements to alleviate this crisis.

Nicaragua Canal Part II: Impending Environmental Catastrophe

Daniel Magraw
International environmental law and environmental hazards of the Nicaragua Canal

Professor Daniel Magraw teaches international environmental law at John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and has previously taught at the University of Colorado, the University of California, Berkeley and Georgetown University Law Center. Before joining SAIS faculty, Daniel was President and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for Environmental Law (CIEL) and continues to work on substantive matters with CIEL. Before joining CIEL, Daniel was the Director of the International Environmental Law Office at the U.S. Environment Protection Agency. Daniel lectures extensively on international environmental law, has written numerous articles and books on the subject and regularly consults with the UN, including serving as an expert adviser to UNEP on the Montevideo IV Programme of Action for the Development of Environmental Law and as an expert on UNEP’s project on access to justice.

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Up Against the Knife

Lisa Reinsberg
The work of the International Justice Resource Center, forced sterilization and the election of the new U.N. Secretary General.

Lisa Reinsberg is the Executive Director of the International Justice Resource Center (IJRC). Before founding the IJRC, Lisa was an attorney with Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts and Rómulo Gallegos fellow at the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights where she worked on complaints of torture, extra-judicial executions and violations of criminal due process. Earlier, she represented people seeking asylum in the United States at the Cabrini Center for Immigrant Legal Assistance of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

Special Note

This interview was recorded on May 20, 2016. Since that time Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has been elected Peru’s President and will take office on July 28, 2016. The United Nations Security Council will begin deliberations on the new Secretary General on July 21, 2016. The September 23, 2016 training session for “The Human Rights of Migrants: Challenges and Opportunities in California” is now available for registration.

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The Soft Kill

Dr. Rohini J. Haar
Health impacts of crowd control weapons increasingly used by police and security forces around the world.

Dr. Rohini J. Haar co-authored “Lethal in Disguise”, the first paper assessing the injurious effects of crowd control weapons and presented the report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Dr. Haar is a research fellow at the Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley where she teaches a multidisciplinary course on Health and Human Rights. Dr. Haar is also part of the clinical faculty at the Department of Emergency Medicine at Highland General Hospital and the Kaiser Medical Center in Oakland, California.

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Gone With the Wind - Reproductive Rights in Retreat

Jill E. Adams & Melissa Mikesell
Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers (TRAPS), the Hyde Amendment, criminalization of self induced abortion, increased violence against women and medical staff at clinics, parental consent laws, family welfare caps and other expanding restrictions on women’s reproductive rights in the United States

Jill E. Adams is the founding Executive Director of the Center for Reproductive Rights and Justice at Berkeley Law, an organization dedicated to advancing reproductive rights. She is the Executive Editor of “Cases on Reproductive Rights and Justice”, the first legal textbook on reproductive rights and serves as advisor to numerous reproductive rights associations, including being the Vice President of the California Coalition for Reproductive Freedom and Board Treasurer of Reproductive Health Technologies Project. Melissa Mikesell is the Center’s Supervising Attorney and the Director of the Self-Induced Abortion Legal Team. Before joining the Center, Melissa was the Senior Counsel and West Coast Director of Alliance for Justice. Her legal practice includes advocacy for clients in reproductive, social, economic and environmental justice as well as campaign compliance.

Special Note

The United States Supreme Court reversed and remanded Whole Women's Health v Hellerstedt in a 5:3 decision on June 27, 2016. The United States Southern District of Indiana issued a preliminary injunction in Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentuky, Inc. et al v Commissioner, Indiana State Department of Health on June 30, 2016, preventing Indiana's House Enrolled Act 1337 taking effect while the constitutionality of the law is litigated. The Indiana Court of Appeals vacated Purvi Patel's feticide conviction and downgraded the conviction for neglect of a dependant from Class A to Class D on July 22, 2016.

For more info:

Nicaragua Canal Part I: The Big Land Grab

Thomas Antkowiak
Human rights violations of Nicaraguan indigenous and Afro-Caribbean communities in the expropriation of their ancestral lands for the development of an environmentally disastrous canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through Nicaragua

Professor Thomas Antkowiak teaches international public law and international human rights law at Seattle University's Law School. He is the Director of its Latin America Program and its International Human Rights Clinic and is currently arguing on behalf of Nicaragua's indigenous and Afro-Caribbean communities in various human rights fora. Thomas’s previous positions include being the Senior Attorney at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights of the Organization of American States and Director of the Access to Justice Program at the Due Process of Law Foundation.

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Housing Not Handcuffs

Eric Tars
Lack of affordable housing and the criminalization of homelessness and food sharing throughout the United States.

Eric Tars is the Senior Attorney of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, an organization dedicated to ending homelessness in the United States through policy advocacy, public education, impact litigation and advocacy training and support. Eric’s work focuses on human rights and children’s rights programs. He currently serves as the Chair of the US Human Rights Network’s training committee and on the Steering Committee of the Human Rights at Home Campaign. Eric's previous work includes being a Fellow with the Global Rights’ U.S. Racial Discrimination Program and consultation with Columbia University Law School’s Human Rights Institute and the US Human Rights Network.

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A New Curtain Falls

Bach Avezdjanov
Curtailment of freedom of expression, political opposition and advocacy in Russia.

Bach Avezdjanov is currently the Program Officer for Columbia's Global Freedom of Expression initiative which seeks to advance freedom of expression globally, monitors changing international and domestic laws on freedom of expression and maintains a database of global freedom of expression case law. Bach previously worked for Freedom House and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Kyrgyzstan where his work focused on torture prevention and strengthening public assembly, minority and women’s rights. Bach has also worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Sudan where he monitored and protected the rights of refugees.

For more info:

The New Frontier

Gabriel Armas-Cardona
Health and human rights, their intersection with trade law and the work of the Lawyers Collective, an Indian legal organization that runs a global health and human rights database and litigates in the service of health and human rights, including access to medicine.

Gabriel Armas-Cardona is a human rights lawyer that has worked for the Armenian Human Rights Ombudsman and was a Legal Officer at the Lawyers Collective where he helped run its global health and human rights database.

Imprisoned Lightning

Jasmin Singh & Amanda Emerson
A critical look at the antiquated immigration system of the United States.

Jasmin Singh practices immigration at Arrufat Garcia, PLLC and has presented immigration issues on several radio stations, including La Mega FM, Amor FM and WADO AM.

Amanda Emerson is an immigration attorney with Yarden Law Group, LLC.

Vote With Your Fork

Mark Notaras
International food security issues and developments in permaculture

Mark is an Agricultural Training Designer at Development Associates International and currently works for the Dezenvolve Agricultural Comunitária project in Timor-Leste to develop the horticulture value chain and improve the livelihood of its famers. Mark has previously worked with several NGOs as well as with AUSAID for both sustainable development agricultural projects as well as conflict prevention. He was previously a researcher at the Institute of Peace & Sustainability at the United Nations University in Tokyo and the editor of its publication, Our World, from 2009 through 2012.

Mark's Articles


Meena Jagannath
Legal and institutional obstacles for convictions of gender based crimes in Haiti, the socio-economic context of its cause and efforts, both legal and cultural, by the Rape Accountability and Prevention Project to combat gender based violence.

Meena was a legal fellow at the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and coordinator of its Rape Accountability and Prevention Project from April 2011 through September 2012 for which she directed legal representation as well as national and international advocacy and organization of women’s grassroots groups in Haiti. Meena currently works as a Staff Attorney for the Community Justice Project of Florida Legal Services in Miami.

Meena's Articles


Gravity episodes produced and presented by Alexandra Arneri-Matsis
Gravity blog written by Alexandra Arneri-Matsis

Alexandra is a Partner at the bicoastal firm Cittone Demers & Arneri LLP where she has a litigation and transactional practice in intellectual property, media and entertainment and employment law. Alexandra has a public interest practice and provides pro bono assistance to artists and activists.

Alexandra writes Ninja Belly on the beautiful madness of parenthood ( and exhibits her art from time to time

Gravity Logo by Delia Gosman
Original Gravity Compositions by Paul Pryor-Lorentz
Post-Production Sound Editing by Chris Lorentz