TheGravity.fm

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

Be the change you wish to see in the world
-MAHATMA GANDHI
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.
-EUGENE V. DEBS
Human rights begin with breakfast
-JOHN MADALEY

Episodes

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.

For more info:

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.

For more info:

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.
Articles
@GArmasCardona

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

Aftershock

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

About

A Belgrade born, Sydney raised New Yorker turned San Franciscan, Alexandra Arneri-Matsis has a multidisciplinary background in law, international governance and media. Before practicing law, Arneri-Matsis worked at several U.N. departments, including the Australasian Information Office in Sydney, the Security Council Division at UNDPA and the Sustainable Development Division at UNDESA and presented and produced radio, with a show on socio-political issues on 2SER.

Arneri-Matsis is a Partner at Cittone & Chinta LLP where she practices entertainment, employment and intellectual property law and has a dedicated pro bono practice for the advancement of labor, LGBT and women’s rights. She is a graduate of Sydney University and New York University School of Law.

She has had art exhibits in New York and Rome (for a portfolio of work go to http://drawnandconfused.com/) and writes Ninja Belly, a blog on the beautiful madness of pregnancy and motherhood.

Gravity Logo by Delia Gosman.

Original Gravity Compositions by Paul Pryor-Lorentz. To see more of Paul’s work go here https://soundcloud.com/jumpprogram

Post-Production Sound Editing by Chris Lorentz. To see more of Chris’s work, go here http://tragicgadget.com/

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