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Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Statements Claiming Nashville's Studio A "Beyond Repair" False According To New Report

Photo of 30 Music Square West in Nashville, TN (PRNewsFoto/Save Studio A) 

Grassroots group "Save Studio A" has released an independent report on the condition of the historic RCA Victor Studio that disproves its new owner's claims that it is "beyond repair." The group, comprised of preservationists and concerned citizens, is engaged in a time-sensitive battle to save the landmark recording studio from hasty demolition in order to make room for yet another block of condominiums. The Studio A property was included in the "Nashville Nine" annual list of endangered historic properties released by Historic Nashville, Inc. on September 23, 2014.

The new four-page memo commissioned by Save Studio A and compiled by construction management firm Building Trust, Inc. draws a sharp contrast to the owner's claims, ultimately quoting the estimated cost of updating or "saving" the 50-year-old building at less than $375,000

The report, attached here, was compiled using information from public tax records, satellite images and public photos, "For Sale By Owner" documents, discussions with existing and past tenants, records of recent upgrades and repairs, and two reports provided by the current owner himself through news media.
When Bravo Development's Tim Reynolds acquired the property in July of this year, he publicly vowed to preserve and incorporate the legendary studio into his plans for development. In September, Reynolds backpedaled on that promise, evicting all tenants effective November 30, 2014, citing structural and engineering challenges that he claims render the building "beyond saving." On September 18, following public comments that the Save Studio A group believed Reynolds' claims to be exaggerated, Bravo Development's law firm served the group's founder and Save Studio A with a Cease and Desist notice. The notice is attached here.

"If Mr. Reynolds' claims about Studio A are true, we urge him to welcome the public and news media to visit the building and photograph the 'catastrophic conditions' he has described, if they actually exist," said Trey Bruce, award-winning songwriter, producer and founder of Save Studio A. "Instead, he is trying to keep us quiet with Cease and Desist notices. Our community wants to know why the headlines don't match the facts."

Building Trust Inc. consultants note that neither of the reports submitted by Mr. Reynolds were compiled by qualified environmental engineering firms; in fact, both of the reports Mr. Reynolds uses to support his "beyond repair" claims recommend that he hire a qualified firm to perform such an assessment. Neither of Reynolds' reports includes claims about specific hazardous materials identified in the building, though he has repeatedly claimed in news media that the building is infested with mold and asbestos. The new report asks for proof of these claims via a properly conducted environmental assessment.

This isn't the first time one of Nashville's music history landmarks has come dangerously close to being razed. In the 1970s, despite its status as a historical and cultural music icon, the Ryman Auditorium was nearly demolished due to its reported state of structural disrepair.

"If anyone threatened the Ryman today, there would be a riot in Nashville," said Sharon House, a tenant of 30 Music Square West. "Studio A's music history runs just as deep. We can't call ourselves Music City if we're willing to turn our backs on the institutions that have earned us that name. We have to step up as a unified voice and protect the legacy of American music from extinction."

"This is a Ryman moment," echoed Mr. Bruce. "Let's get it right." 

Save Studio A is calling for concerned Nashville residents and music fans worldwide to sign an online petition to help preserve the historic site. Those interested in signing the Save Studio A petition, learning more about the effort or tracking the Save Studio A movement should visit SaveStudioA.com, like Save Studio A on Facebook or follow the group on Twitter.

SOURCE Save Studio A
RELATED LINKS
http://savestudioa.com
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Saturday, 27 September 2014

Human Rights Groups Protest Visit of India's PM and US Court Issues Summons for Him to Answer for Human Rights Violations

Starting this weekend, India's newly elected Prime Minister is visiting the United States. His itinerary includes a sold out reception at Madison Square Garden and a dinner with President Barrack Obama in Washington, D.C. He will also be addressing the United Nations General Assembly.

However, human rights groups feel that the enthusiasm surrounding Mr. Modi's visit is undeserving. They are countering with protest in front of Madison Square Garden on Sunday, September 28, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., during Mr. Modi's reception. The protest will be held on 7th Avenue and 32nd Street. A diverse group of over 5,000 protesters are expected.

Jasjit Singh Hundal, spokesperson for the North American Sikh Alliance, explained, "We are concerned that Mr. Modi is being treated with such great fanfare during his visit to the United States, when in fact, he should be treated with great caution. His human rights record has been deplorable, so deplorable that the US and other western nations stripped him of his right to travel to their country. However, now that he has been elected as Prime Minister of India, he is being hosted with great celebration. We feel that the fact that a man with his track record has become a head of state should be a cause for alarm, trigger scrutiny rather than entitle him to a free pass."

Indeed, Mr. Modi had been stripped of his right to travel to the US in 2002, following horrifying violence that targeted religious minorities in India's western state of Gujarat. Human rights organizations who investigated the violence almost unanimously found that Mr. Modi, who was the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, was complicit in the violence. These findings are the basis of a case filed by the American Justice Center in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, which has issued a summons directing that Mr. Modi answer for his alleged involvement in crimes committed against innocent civilians in 2002.

In light of his human rights record, how did Mr. Modi become India's Prime Minister in May 2014? The answer is that the Hindu nationalist agenda promoted by him and his political party – the Bharatiya Janta Party – which fueled the 2002 Gujarat violence, has great appeal amongst India's Hindus. Hindus constitute an overwhelming 80% of the country's population. And, the resulting domination of Hindu nationalism over India's political scene has been increasing ever since the country was declared an independent nation in 1947. This is precisely what minorities feared would be India's political fate. The outcome for minorities has been expectedly tragic. In addition to the 2002 pogroms in Gujarat under Mr. Modi's watch, Hindu nationalist, hand in hand with government security forces, conducted pogroms in New Delhi in 1984 against the Sikh community that resulted in the deaths of thousands. Hindu nationalists have also killed Christians, burned their churches, and forced them to "reconvert" to Hinduism. In fact, torture and extrajudicial killings of those who resist Hindu nationalism is a daily occurrence in India.

Given this context, Mr. Modi's election as Prime Minister is a frightening development for India's minorities and underserved communities. To raise awareness of their concerns, the North American Sikh Alliance and other human rights groups will be protesting at Mr. Modi's reception.

SOURCE Sikh Alliance
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Thursday, 25 September 2014

USTPAC Welcomes the Oral Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Sri Lanka

The US Tamil Political Action Council (USTPAC) welcomes the 22 September 2014 report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka.  USTPAC commends the UN High Commissioner for a robust assessment of the challenges to justice, accountability, and human rights in Sri Lanka, and strongly supports his recommendations. 
We join the High Commissioner in calling on the Government of Sri Lanka to "address (the) many root causes and structural issues that contributed to the conflict, and lay the basis for longer-term reconciliation" while also urging "the Government to end the climate of intimidation, threat and harassment against civil society actors advocating for justice and human rights, as well as incitement to hatred and violence against the country's Muslim and Christian minorities, which will only undermine the prospects for peace and reconciliation."  

USTPAC remains committed to seeking justice for the grave crimes against humanity that took place during the Sri Lankan conflict and for ending the current abuses that remain to this day. We support the High Commissioner's strong commitment to justice and accountability, and support all elements of the report fully.
In particular, USTPAC highlights the following key assessments and comments:
  • The High Commissioner's regrets concerning the Government of Sri Lanka's rejection of Resolution 25/1 and its non-cooperation with the OHCHR investigation;
  • The High Commissioner's acknowledgment of the resolutions passed by the Northern Provincial Council in support of Resolution 25/1 and the OHCHR investigation;
  • Sri Lanka's obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law to conduct credible, independent investigations into past abuses;
  • The nine outstanding requests to visit Sri Lanka by UN special rapporteurs and experts;
  • The ongoing campaign of threats, harassment, intimidation, and reprisals against civil society groups, human rights defenders and victims' organizations, including those who might engage with the international inquiry;
  • Increased restrictions on the activities of non-governmental organizations, which "seems calculated to make the international investigation mandated by the Human Rights Council even more challenging and difficult";
  • The proscription of Tamil organizations and individuals which are mainstream Tamil diaspora groups that have been engaged with the Human Rights Council and other international human rights mechanisms. Such measures will have "far-reaching and negative impacts on freedom of expression and association and efforts for reconciliation in the country";
  • The draft bill requiring public officials to be present when witnesses testify from remote locations, how this bill severely constrains the possibilities for evidence to be taken by video-link from abroad;
  • The need for a credible and transparent judicial process to be undertaken to investigate the new mass grave sites that have been discovered, on which exhumations and investigation have been very slow;
  • The activities of the military to occupy and compulsorily acquire private land in the north, as well as involuntary relocation projects that have been "criticized for lacking transparency, public consultation and inadequately addressing disruption to livelihoods"; and
  • The grave concern for the escalation in religious extremism and increasing attacks against Muslim and Christian minorities, and lack of prosecutions of those responsible.
In the spirit of the High Commissioner's report, USTPAC calls upon the US administration and the international community to exert pressure on President Rajapaksa and his Administration to not only cooperate with the High Commissioner's investigation but also take tangible and demonstrable steps toward ending the climate of abuse and impunity that exists today.  

As President Rajapaksa addresses the UN General Assembly on 24 September, the international community will be watching to measure his commitment to accountability and justice, and we join the High Commissioner in appealing to the Sri Lankan authorities "to cooperate fully with the (OHCHR) investigation, as well as with the relevant Special Procedures mandate holders, in the long-term interests of all Sri Lankans."

We share the High Commissioner's belief that "a more fundamental and far-reaching accountability process in Sri Lanka, addressing both past and ongoing violations, is absolutely necessary for Sri Lankans to come to terms with their past, end impunity, achieve reconciliation between communities and strengthen the rule of law."
For further information, visit: www.ustpac.org, follow on twitter @UstpacAdvocacyMedia Contact: Elias Jey 1 202 595 3123

SOURCE United States Tamil Political Action Council
RELATED LINKS
http://www.ustpac.org

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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Jury Finds Arab Bank plc Liable For Financing Terrorist Activity

MT. PLEASANT, S.C., Sept. 22, 2014 -- Today, a Brooklyn, N.Y., jury found Jordan-based Arab Bank plc. liable for financing terrorist activity, including funneling financial support to top Hamas leaders and to the families of suicide bombers. This case, Linde et al. v. Arab Bank PLC, marked the first time that a financial institution has been brought to trial under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). 

The eleven member jury agreed with plaintiffs' claims that Arab Bank knowingly and systematically provided financial support to the leadership of Hamas and to the families of terrorist operatives including suicide bombers. Motley Rice LLC represents nearly 20 U.S. citizens injured in suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, in addition to dozens of other American victims of terrorism carried out by other groups, such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and thousands of foreign plaintiffs under the Alien Tort Statute also pursuing claims against Arab Bank.

"We are so pleased that these plaintiffs have achieved justice after this brutal ten-year battle. Today's verdict is a testament to their fortitude and determination," said Motley Rice anti-terrorism and human rights attorney Michael Elsner, who represents plaintiffs in the case. "The late Motley Rice co-founder Ron Motley filed this action back in 2004. His passion for justice and his trust in jury trials was realized today. We all have a role to play in preventing terrorism in whatever sector we operate. It is now clearer than ever that this obligation extends to banks."  

"I strongly believe that this jury's verdict marks a critical point in history and hopefully a turning point in the war against terrorism, especially now that we are faced with the rise of more terrorists," stated Motley Rice client Joshua Faudem, who was injured in the Mike's Place suicide attack bombing in Tel Aviv, Israel, on April 30, 2003. "By cutting off the financial support for terrorism, we are able to hurt terrorists the most. Without funding, they are not able to have the means to purchase equipment, bombs or arms, gain access to carry out violent acts or to create an elaborate system of support. I am proud to be part of this historic case."
"This is a historic day for the banking industry. This jury's verdict should be a wake-up call to all financial institutions that they cannot hide behind software systems and internal policies as an excuse to knowingly permit the financing of terrorism," Elsner added. "Money is the fuel for terror and our only hope in preventing terrorism is shutting off the financial pipeline. Today's verdict is a victory against terrorists and their networks of support."

On Friday, September 19, one day after the trial was sent to the jury for consideration, plaintiffs' attorneys received a response to their FOIA request issued to the State Department in 2008.  The heavily redacted response contains a State Department action memorandum related to the Saudi Committee Program in Support of the Al Quds Intifada. The document states that: "In 2003, the United States provided evidence to Saudi authorities that the Saudi al Quds Intifadah Committee, founded in October 2000, was forwarding millions of dollars in funds to the families of Palestinians engaged in terrorist activities, including those of suicide bombers." This information would have been a critical piece of evidence that plaintiffs could have presented to the jury to counter the Bank's defense that the United States government approved of the program—a defense the State Department knew Arab Bank was making. The State Department's withholding of the information until after the close of evidence is troubling given its pattern of support to foreign interests above those of U.S. victims of terrorism. Fortunately, the jury followed the evidence in reaching the right decision regardless of the State Department's efforts.  

The jury heard arguments from both sides during the six-week trial before U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan in the Eastern District of New York. Their decision comes after deliberating for two days. This verdict allows the case to proceed to another trial by jury, which will decide appropriate damages for the plaintiffs.
Motley Rice attorneys Michael Elsner, John Eubanks and Jodi Westbrook Flowers were joined on the trial team by Osen LLC, Sayles Werbner PC and Tab Turner of Turner & Associates PA. The case is Linde et al. v. Arab Bank PLC, No. 1:04-cv-02799 (E.D.N.Y.).

About Motley Rice LLC Motley Rice is one of the nation's largest plaintiffs' litigation firms. With a tradition of representing those whose rights have been violated, Motley Rice attorneys gained recognition for their pioneering asbestos lawsuits, their work with the State Attorneys General in the landmark litigation against Big Tobacco and their representation of 9/11 families in the ongoing lawsuit against terrorist financiers. The firm continues to handle complex litigation in numerous areas, including GM ignition switch defects, securities fraud, antitrust, consumer protection, mesothelioma, environmental contamination; prescription and over-the-counter drugs such as Lipitor®, Pradaxa® and Tylenol®; other medical devices; human rights; aviation disasters; and wrongful death. Motley Rice is headquartered in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., and has additional offices in New York; Connecticut; Louisiana; Washington, D.C.; Rhode Island and West Virginia.

SOURCE Motley Rice LLC
RELATED LINKS
http://www.motleyrice.com

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Saturday, 20 September 2014

Undercover Video Exposes Horrific Animal Cruelty At World's Largest Pizza Cheese Supplier Factory Farm

New hidden-camera video footage from Mercy For Animals, secretly recorded at Winchester Dairy outside of Roswell, New Mexico, shows workers viciously kicking and punching cows, stabbing them with screwdrivers, and violently whipping animals in their faces and bodies with chains and metal wires. The shocking video also shows "downer" cows who are too sick or injured to stand being dragged with a tractor while workers shock them in the genitals with electric prods.

Winchester Dairy supplies milk to Leprino Foods — the world's largest maker of mozzarella cheese and a supplier to virtually all major pizza chains in the country, including Pizza Hut, Papa John's, and Domino's.

Mercy For Animals is calling on Leprino Foods to immediately adopt meaningful animal welfare guidelines, including zero tolerance for kicking, punching, and shocking cows; prohibition of painful and unnecessary mutilations of animals; provision of a safe, clean, and sanitary environment for cattle; and installation of video monitoring systems that live stream to the Internet to help deter abuse.

Following the undercover investigation, Mercy For Animals immediately alerted law enforcement authorities to the abuse documented at Winchester Dairy and presented them with meticulously compiled evidence of the violations of New Mexico law. Less than 24 hours after Mercy For Animals alerted authorities, the factory farm is believed to have suspended operations.

Mercy For Animals is urging the New Mexico Livestock Board and the Chaves County District Attorney's Office to take immediate action in pursuing justice for these abused and exploited animals by prosecuting the workers and managers caught on video committing horrific acts of criminal animal abuse.

After reviewing the undercover video, world-renowned animal welfare expert Dr. Temple Grandin said that the acts of kicking and shocking cows, and hoisting them above the ground were "definitely abusive" and that the bellowing animals were in "severe distress." She also stated that "[m]anagement should be partially to blame for the abusive handling because they failed to provide both training and appropriate equipment for moving downer cows."

"Cows exploited and abused for Leprino's cheese are treated as mere milk-producing machines and endure lives filled with extreme misery and deprivation," said Mercy For Animals' president, Nathan Runkle. "No socially responsible corporation should support dairy factory farms that beat, kick, shock, and drag sick and injured animals. Due to its complete lack of meaningful animal welfare standards, Leprino Foods has allowed a culture of cruelty to flourish in its cheese supply chain."
To view the undercover video, visit SliceOfCruelty.com 

SOURCE Mercy For Animals
RELATED LINKS
http://www.SliceOfCruelty.com

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