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Thu Apr 23, 2015 at 11:21 AM PDT

Chacounne's Trip to DC !

by Chacounne

Cher Kossacks !

    As some of you know, I spent last week in Washington, DC, lobbying on Capital Hill against long term solitary confinement, and in support of Albert Woodfox, the still imprisoned member of the Angola Three who has spent 42 years in solitary confinement. Mr. Woodfox's trial was overturned in 2013, but the State of Louisiana is, as we speak, preparing to retry him.

    I also attended this year's Ecumenical Advocacy Days while there. The focus of this year's conference was on Mass Incarceration and Systems of Exploitation, so lots of discussion about the ways that racism plays a part in the huge numbers of people of colour who are in US prisons, and how to change that.

    Friday night, Rev. Traci DeVon Blackmon was the primary speaker. She is a leader in the peaceful protests that have been happening in Ferguson, Missouri. What an inspiration !

    Saturday, I took a workshop on Palestinian children are being kidnapped by Israeli authorities and locked in prisons. Very eye-opening and heart-breaking.

    Sunday, I took the workshop on long-term solitary confinement and how that is torture. The National Religious Campaign Against Torture had engaged a local carpenter to build a replica Solitary Confinement Cell, so those attending the conference could have some experience on what it was really like. I was prepared, as much as you can be, for the noise and the oppressive light that was on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but what took me by surprise was the constant jarring vibration going through my body from the cells below, and the pain in my body from laying on a concrete bed. I had the opportunity during the conference to meet and spend time with a young man named Galen, who had survived 4 1/2 years in solitary. I am  staggered that he has his sense of humour.

   Monday, we hit the streets of Capital Hill, and lobbied our elected federal officials. I joined the Washington State delegation, in honour of my husband, Dan, a Vietnam vet who survived being tortured, who lived in Washington State until he moved to be with me. We met with staffers from Maria Cantwell's office first, and I was thrilled to see that when I spoke about long term solitary confinement as torture, asnd sleep deprivation as torture, that he wrote both down in large caps :) We then met with staffers from the offices of a few of the congressional representatives. Our last visit was with staffers from Patty Murray's office, and we were thrilled that, unlike the 15 minutes the previous staffers had all given us, they met with us for over half and hour ! YAY !

I also spent the previous Wednesday and Thursday lobbying in all of the offices of the sentors and congressional representatives of Louisiana, bringing to their attention the case plight of Albert Woodfox. During Wednesday's lobbying, I had the huge and undoubted honour of meeting (and getting the autograph of a real American hero, and steadfast advocate, Congressman John Lewis. SQUEEEE!

On the fun side, both of my excellent Kossack hosts, work at the Library of Congress, so I had an opportunity to get a two year reader's card :) WOW ! For a Library Geek like me, that is gold :)

It was an excellent trip full of real advocating, and lots of learning and educating done, and lots of contacts made !

I would like to thank my Kossack Angels who made it possible for me to make this trip. You truly make a difference. Thank you ! My heart is full to over-flowing ! One exceptionally amazing Kossack loaned me the use of a card so I could book my plane flight while the rate was low. I still need to pay her back, so I would be truly, truly grateful for any contributions you might be willing and able to make. I will need about $300, because I had neglected to remember travel medical insurance (just in case), and the baggage fees were more expense than I thought they would be, because another airline was handling my flight to DC (United :( ) My paypal address is chacounne@gmail.com   Every dollar counts and will be very gratefully received and passed on to my angel.

               Thank you, All, for everything,
                             Love and Hugs,
                                  Heather

Discuss

Wed Apr 01, 2015 at 07:59 AM PDT

I have received Room at the Inn :)

by Chacounne

EDIT: A lovely and talented Kossack and her husband, who both work at the Library of Congress, have offered to host me :) I am thrilled and grateful. Thank you, everyone ! Love and Hugs, H

My Dear Kossacks,

   As many of you know, my husband, Dan, was a US Vietnam vet who survived being tortured. Dan suffered from his injuries, both physical and psychological for over 30 years, until he had a fatal heart attack ten years ago this coming June 12th. Dan left me a mission: To stop torture as the law, policy and practice of the United States, and to push to ensure that those responsible at the highest levels for the torture inflicted by the United States since 9/11 are held legally accountable.

   As part of my mission, I will be attending a conference in Washington, DC this month. The conference is Ecumenical Days Days of Advocacy ( http://advocacydays.org/ ) It is a gathering of about 1500 people of faith who advocate and work for social justice. This years focus is on Mass Incarceration and Systems of Exploitation. I am particularly eager to discuss the conditions under which prisoners are held, and the ways in which some of those conditions are torture. I will be drawing attention to, and advocating on behalf of, Albert Woodfox, the still incarcerated member of the Angola Three, who has been in solitary confinement for 42 years, yes 42 years. That is torture, especially since Mr. Woodfox's conviction has been overturned.

    To attend this conference, I will need some help: I will need some help towards my airfare and baggage charges ($300) and, most urgently, a place to stay. A very kind and generous Kossack had offered to host me, as she did last year, but due to an unexpected family situation she is no longer able to do so. Rather than have to raise about $1000 for hotel charges, I am hoping that another kind and generous Kossack will be able to host me. I will be arriving at around 9pm on Tuesday, April 14th, and flying home at around 9am on Tuesday, April 21st. The hotel where the conference is happening is Doubletree Hotel – Crystal City
                         300 Army-Navy Dr.
                    Arlington, VA 22202-2891
Depending on where my host is located, I can either take public transit to and from the site, or would need a ride to and from the location each morning and evening. I am happy to discuss the specifics with anyone who would like the details.

My paypal address is: chacounne@gmail.com

I appreciate with my entire heart, any consideration you might give to this request, and any help you might provide.

                        With gratitude,
                        Standing for justice and accountability,
                                     For Dan,
                                     Heather

Discuss

Hello Dear Friends and Fellow Kossacks,

   As many of you know, my husband, Dan, a US Vietnam vet who survived being tortured, left me with a mission when he had a fatal heart attack on June 12th, 2005 : To stop torture as the law, policy and practice of the United States, and to push to ensure that those at the highest levels who are responsible for the torture committed by the United States since 9/11 are held legally accountable.

   As part of that mission, last year, I attended, thanks to many of you, the Ecumenical Days of Advocacy Conference http://advocacydays.org/... a gathering of over 1500 people of faith in Washington DC. One of the focuses of last year's conference was torture, so it really helped my mission, with contacts and information. But, in my experience, the best part of the conference is that on the Monday following, those who attend the conference go to Capital Hill and lobby their elected federal representatives and their staff members, using all of the information they have gained from the weekend. That truly makes a difference. My lobbying last year was focused on getting the report on the Senate Intelligence Committee's Report on the CIA and Torture released. That was a huge point of lobbying for the Kossack community, I know, and together we made them release the Executive Summary. It is a small step forward for accountability, but every step forward makes a difference. Thank you !

    This year's conference will focus on an issue close to the hearts and mission of many Kossacks : Mass Incarceration and Systems of Exploitation. http://advocacydays.org/.... I am particularly eager to talk about the conditions in US prisons, and prolonged solitary confinement, which is torture. I will be highlighting the case of the Angola Three and Mr. Albert Woodfox.

The Angola Three are three prison inmates – Robert Hillary King (born Robert King Wilkerson), Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace – who were put in solitary confinement in Louisiana State Penitentiary, a.k.a. Angola Prison, after the 1972 killing of a prison guard. Robert King spent 29 years in solitary confinement before his conviction was overturned and he was released. Wallace, before being released October 1, 2013, and Woodfox has spent 42 years of solitary confinement as of 2015. The prisoners have been the subject of two documentary films[1] and international attention. In July 2013 Amnesty International called for the release of 71-year-old Herman Wallace, who had advanced liver cancer.[2] He was released October 1, 2013, re-indicted on October 3, 2013,[3] and died on October 4, 2013 before he could be re-arrested.[4]

On November 20, 2014, Albert Woodfox, the longest-standing solitary confinement prisoner in the US, had his conviction overturned by the US Court of Appeals. He has not yet been released.[5]

Imagine spending 42 years in solitary confinement. That is torture !

To attend this important conference, I need your help. I have multiple disabilities and live on the provincial disability program in Ontario. Yes, although Dan was American, I am Canadian. I don't have much money left over at the end of the month once my expenses are paid. A very generous and loving and helpful Kossack has volunteered to cover my registration fee, so that it covered, but I will need a plane ticket and hotel expenses, unless there is a Kossack living in DC who would be willing to host me for a week. My paypal address is : chacounne@gmail.com, and for those of you in Canada, I can also receive Electronic Funds Transfers at that email address, which means I wouldn't have pay the paypal fees they charge. I appreciate any amount you can spare, and trust me, every dollar does make a difference.

With gratitude and love,
Standing for justice and accountability,
             For Dan,
             Heather

Discuss

Wed Jan 14, 2015 at 12:47 PM PST

Ramara's New Hat

by Chacounne

Hello Friends :)

   The Daily Kos community, you Kossacks, have done it again, you have helped make life better for one of us going through a challenging time. Thank you !

    Many of you know ramara, from This Week in the War on Women, D'var Torah, and  numerous other diaries and comments. She is a beloved member of our community. She is also disabled and recovering from cancer surgery on her scalp, so some of us got together and decided she needed a hat to keep her head warm and cozy, even in the southern climate in which she lives.

    I have a friend of many, many years, who is a superlative hat maker. Her name is Heather Daveno and her business name is August Phoenix. Her hats are all handmade from reclaimed materials inspired by lots of different cultures and eras, so we asked Rachel to consult with Heather on her very own hat made just for her. Kossacks raised the funds necessary for the hat. It is now keeping Rachel's head warm and cozy, in the gorgeous style that fits her so well :)

    From Rachel:

Thanks for getting this special hat for me. I've never had anything custom made before. An example of what that's like: I got an email from Heather saying she was working on my hat, and would I like a wool lining or would I prefer another fabric, linen or such?  That felt almost more luxurious than the finished hat!

                     Here is the finished hat :)

Rachel's New Hat
handmade by Heather Daveno of August Phoenix,
this design is called Suleyman Garden
                 
      Thank you, all of you, who helped make this happen, whether by donating the funds or making the diary in which the funds were more visible :) You are part of what makes the Kossack community so wonderful :)
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Mon Dec 29, 2014 at 01:05 PM PST

A Hat for Ramara

by Chacounne

Many of you know ramara, from This Week in the War on Women, D'Var Torah, and many, many other groups and diaries. Many of us have had the privilege to meet her at Netroots Nation, and to spend time with her in person. She is beloved. Some of us are aware that she has disabilities which affect her ability to keep home and home together. Thankfully, she is doing well on that end. However, what many also don't know is that she had surgery a few months ago to remove skin cancer from her scalp. Behind the scenes, some of us have been chatting about having a hat made for her, a unique cap all her own, warm and stylish, and lovely. I have a friend of long standing, Heather Daveno, who makes one of a kind, wearable art hats, using recycle materials, and inspired by a multitude of cultures and eras, under her company name, August Phoenix. I had Rachel speak to Heather about which hat she would like, and she has chosen one crafted especially for her, from the Suleyman's Garden design. Heather has also given us a discount, so the total is $110, US. Being also disabled, I am unable to pay for the hat myself, but I know this community has a large heart, and I know you will rise to occasion. I have been able to pay the bill directly, but will need to be reimbursed. My paypal address is chacounne@gmail.com  Any funds over and above the total will go to ramara to help with her household bills. While Hanukkah, which ramara celebrates, is over, the New Year awaits, and the chill will remain.
May we cloth ramara's head in the finery it deserves.

I will post another diary on Wednesday, with photos of some of August Phoenix's hat, but, in the meantime, please browse the website.

http://www.augustphoenix.com

http://www.augustphoenix.com/...

         With gratitude and much love,
                    Heather

Discuss

As some of you know, I was able to attend a conference in Washington, DC, at the end of March, thanks to some Kossacks and other wonderful and generous family and friends. The conference, Ecumenical Advocacy Days http://advocacydays.org, was a gathering of people of faith working for justice and peace issues.

My issue is torture, because, as many of you know, my husband, Dan, was a US Vietnam vet who survived being tortured. Dan’s physical and psychological injuries were still with him 30 years after leaving Vietnam. He was still waking up screaming a week before he died almost 9 years ago. Dan left me a mission, to stop torture as the law, policy and practice of the United States, and to push to ensure that those responsible at the highest levels for the torture inflicted by the United States since 9/11 are held legally responsible.
This conference was one I had hoped to happen for many years.
Having now recovered from the trip, I wanted to let you all know about my adventure, because you helped make it happen.

On March 19th, I flew from Ottawa, Ontario, where I make my home (yes, I’m a Canuck  ) to Philadelphia, where I had hoped to, at long last, hug my dear and beloved ridemybike in person. Alas, that will have to wait for another day, not too distant, because a client required his attention. From there to DC in the blink of an eye, or so it seemed. The truly generous and intelligent and funny mimi met me at the airport. She had offered me a room to stay in, and ended up deciding to chauffeur me around. I am beyond grateful to her for her generosity and wisdom and good humour. As Boggie said, “this is the start of a beautiful friendship.” We had dinner that night in a lovely little café near her home, and talked until way too late.

The next day, Thursday, was a day before the conference began, so I took the opportunity to lobby the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who were, at that time, considering whether to release the 6,000 page report on the CIA and the torture its members have inflicted, and with whose approval, since 9/11.
As someone who has watched the issue of stopping torture, and accountability for torture, slip off the national agenda, I think it is extremely important to release the entire report, because all adult Americans are entitled to, and dare I say obliged to, read what has been done, and by whom, and authorized by whom, in their names.

So, I went from office to office, introducing myself to staff members and explaining why I was there, giving them my card, and doing “the ask” (which is the specific action you would like the Senator they work for to do). I had a lot of great conversations, and learned that the Democratic members were on board. The highlight of the visits was when I was in the office of Tom Udall (Dan was born in New Mexico) and a gentleman heard me and, after I was finished with the staffer, said he was very impressed and offered to introduce me to the Chief of Staff of the other Senator from New Mexico, Martin Heinrich, which he did. VERY cool !
When I looked at the list of Senators who are on the Intelligence Committee, it seemed like the only Republican who might be open to voting in the affirmative was the Republican from Maine, Susan Collins, so I also met with her staff. It was a busy and very enlightening and educational day.

Fortunately, when the vote was held, the next week, they did vote to release a version of the report. Unfortunately, they voted to release an executive summary of the report, as opposed to the full report, so we still have work to do. There are also other hoops we have to jump through before we can actually read that executive summary. SIGH !

In between office visits, I fulfilled another hope for the trip, which requires explanation. Since I was about 10 years old or so, I have been researching the lives of children during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, very seriously since I was about 15. This became another mission: to write a book on the subject, one aimed at re-enactors. When my dad’s cancer was declared terminal, he made me promise to work on it every day. I discovered about 8 to 10 years ago that there was in the National Museum of the American Indian a wheeled toy from what is now Mexico, made between 800 and 1250 AD. Unfortunately, when I contacted the museum all those years ago they were at the beginning of transferring their collection, including the toy, to a new building in DC, and so it was unavailable. That process took five years. Then, on the next occasion when I had time to roam in DC, I neglected to bring the sheet I had from the book with the collection number, so they couldn’t find it. THIS was the day, however, that I would actually see it! It took some false starts, but I finally managed to find it get some photos of it. I apologize for not including them; they are still waiting to be processed at the end of the month. I have a custom on trips like these, or on occasions that seem important, to purchase a permanent souvenir of the moment, so I stopped by the gift shop and found a lovely pendant that had been designed by an Ogibway artist, of a tortoise, for patience. It seemed appropriate  After lunch at their First Nations café, it was back to the salt mines of lobbying 

That evening, mimi and I had a delightful Meet Up dinner,  with several Kossacks, including Ollie Garkey and his wife, Kim, and webgenie. Lots of excellent discussion and plans were made 
Of course, mimi and I stayed up much too late, yet again, talking into the night  Yes, there is a pattern to this …

Friday was the start of the conference, so mimi dropped me off on the way to work. I had the great opportunity to meet the folks who lead the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and other inspiring folks working for justice and against torture. We had an excellent discussion on strategies to push our cause forward and to mark June, which is Torture Awareness Month, and especially June 26th, which is the International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture.

I will have more to say about my idea/plan for Torture Awareness Month in my next recap diaries,  which I will post tomorrow and Wednesday. I need to post this now, so I will have time to respond to comments and questions before I need to leave for a meeting this evening.

Thank you to ALL of you, for all you do that supports my mission, and for all you do for justice.

       Standing for justice and accountability,
                          For Dan,
                          Heather

Discuss

Hi Everyone !

    Tomorrow is likely to be the day that the Senate Intelligence Committee has the vote on whether to release the 6,000 page report on the CIA and its infliction of torture since 9/11, who and when and where and who authorized it. It is IMMENSELY important that the FULL report be released, and not just an executive summary. EVERY adult American is entitled to know exactly what has been DONE IN YOUR NAMES, by whom, to whom, when and where.

    I went from Senate office to Senate office on March 20th, in DC, and made clear why this is important. Now, I need YOU to contact YOUR Senators' offices and tell them that you want the complete report released. I need you to do this TODAY.

    I know that torture isn't easy to talk about, or thinking about, or read about, but it is important, and without this report released the full truth will not be known.

    I think we have a chance to get this report released, if we push. I think we have a chance to get Senator Susan Collins to vote yes, if we push, so if you are in Maine, please make a concerted effort to call or email her office.

    Please, especially if your Senator(s) are on the Intelligence Committee, join me and contact them and make your voice heard.

    YOU  can make a difference !

                                       Standing for justice and accountability,
                                                            For Dan,
                                                            Heather

Discuss

Hello Friends :)

     As some of you know, I am in DC as we speak, because some of you, very generously, helped me get here, to particpate in an anti-torture conference :  http//advocacydays.org  I can in a couple of days early, and have had a truly blessed time. The lovely and talented mimi offered to host me, and she has been a completely generous and thoughful hostess. She has made my trip much, much easier in many ways.

     Yesterday, I spent the day on Capital Hill going from Senate office to Senate office, asking that the Senators in question support the release of the 6,000 page report now before the Senate Intelligence Comittee on the CIA's use of torture since 9/11, using techniques, including walling and waterboarding, as specifically signed off by George Tennant. I have copy of the document he signed in my possession, and it is very interesting to me that he has largely slipped under the radar. The good news is that the overwhelming numbers of staffers that I met with told me that their bosses are working dilgently to have the report released.

      Why is the release of the report so important ? EVERY adult American is obligated to know what was done in your name, by whom and where, and who authrorized it. I believe that the release of the report and the fury I hope it will engender in the American public will help to get torture and legal accountability for the torture inflicted by the United States since 9/11 back on the National Table. Not releasing the report, or releasing an Executive Summary, would be treating adult Americans as children. You are NOT not children and you have a responsibility.

     Looking at the list of Senators on the Intelligence Committee, I think we have some opportunities. I would urge those of you in Calfornia to contact Senator Feinstein and urge her vote for the release of the FULL report. Ther rest of the current Democratic members of Intelligence Committee are: Jay Rockefeller (West Virginia), Ron Wyden (Oregon), Barbara Mikulski (Maryland), Mark Udall (Colorado), Martin Heinrich (New Mexico), and Angus King (Maine). If you are in their districts, in particular, please, please contact their offices and urge them to vote for release of the full report. Now, the Repubican members of the Committee are much less friendly to our postion: Saxby Chambliss (Georgia), Richard Burr (North Carolina), James Risch (idaho), Dan Coats (Indiana), Marco Rubio (Florida), Tom Coburn (Oklahoma) and Susan Collins (Maine). I think that there is a REAL opportunity here to push Senator Collins. Please, please, please, if you live in Maine (yes, I'm talking to you, Bill in PortlandMaine (( a shout out to the cause in Cheers and Jeers would be really helpful)), Common Sense Mainer, and, of course, commonmass) contact her office and make the case. The more she hears from us, the more likely she will be to bend and vote for the release of the full report. Thank you !

Last night, I had the extreme pleasure of meeting up with a few wonderful Kossacks for dinner and lively conversation :) It was GREAT ! You all ROCK ! We could have talked for hours more :) Thank you to mimi, who organized and hosted the meet up, and to everyone who came. Yes, photos were taken, and a full write should be posted by mimi, sometime today or tomorrow.

This trip has born real fruit for my mission, stopping torture as the law, policy and practice of the United States, and pushing to ensure that those responsible at the highest levels are held legally reponsible. I am so grateful to everyone who has helped this happen. Some of the smaller expenses (like baggage charges, getting business cards made, and other essentials)  have added up, and I would be grateful for just a little more monetary help, to make the trip even more successful.

It is nearly time to go and formally check in to the conference, and then on to the Strategy Meeting for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (one of the conference's sponsor organizations. More as I get time.

Thank you, Everyone, as always, for your support. I can't do what I do without you.

                 Standing for justice and accountability,
                               For Dan,
                               Heather

It would help to add my paypal address: chacounne@gmail.com
Thanks again. You make it possible.

Discuss

My apologies for the delay. n ended up with an unexpected important appointment. There is a lot to discuss today, but before you get into this week's news, I would like you to read this heartbreaking piece. Life is not neat and tidy, with easy answers.

http://www.texasobserver.org/...

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As some of you know, my beloved husband, Dan, was a Vietnam vet, who survived torture. Dan's physical and emotional injuries affected him for thirty years, the rest of his life. He was still waking up screaming the week before he died, June 12, 2005. When he travelled on, he left me a mission: To stop torture as the law, policy and practice of the United States, to push to ensure that those responsible at the highest levels are held legally accountable, and to stand up for Omar Khadr, the tortured Canadian child now grown who spent almost 10 years in Guantanamo Bay.

As part of my mission, I lobby in Washington, DC, and attend conferences with those who also advocate against torture. I have just learned about a conference in Washington that I need to attend to further my work    
                        http://advocacydays.org/
They will be having a panel on torture among other things, and an allied organization will be having a strategy session on anti-torture activities on the Friday. They will also be setting up lobbying meetings for those attending with elected federal US officials.

To be honest, this is the conference I have hoped to be a part of for many years. Yes, it is a conference for those of faith, and I am. I also believe that we need all hands on deck, including those of faith.

Here is the problem: As most of you know, I am permanently disabled and unable to work for pay. I survive on a tiny disability pension. With only finding out about this now, I have been unable to save up to pay for the flight and conference fees. If any of you would be so disposed, I would be grateful for any help which would allow me to attend this important conference.

It will be about $300 for the flight, provided I can pay for it soon, before the ticket goes up, and $200 for the conference fee (they have scholarships, but only for those under 35) and $120 to renew my passport, which expired in November. I've included a little for contingency, and a little to cover the GoFundMe and Paypal fees. Wonderful family and friends have covered most of it, but I need just a little more. Every dollar counts.

                  Bless you and thank you for listening.
                              Love and Hugs,
                                   Heather

Link to my GoFundMe page:
     http://www.gofundme.com/...

Sorry about that ... OOPS !

My direct Paypal email address is chacounne@gmail.com

              Thank you ! H
       

Discuss

In This Week in the War on Women, there is lots to think about, lots to talk about, and lots of links, but not much writing. I look forward to exchanging views .

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“Long before morning I knew that what I was seeking to discover was a thing I'd always known. That all courage was a form of constancy."
― Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

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I Got The News Today (IGTNT) , which began in April of 2004, is one of the oldest continuous series on Daily Kos and provides members of this community a venue to pay their respects to those who have died as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.   The IGTNT title is a reminder that nearly every day the family of an active duty service member receives the terrible news that their beloved has died.   ~ image credit llbear
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