Saturday, 30 January 2010

FREE PAUL CORTEZ

 

About

The Paul Cortez Defense Fund, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation formed under the laws of the State of New York to help fight the wrongful incarceration of Paul Cortez.

On November 27th, 2005 a young, aspiring dancer was found murdered in her apartment in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, one of the wealthiest and most prestigious neighborhoods in the world. With the media hungry to exploit a high profile tragedy, the New York Post and other tabloid media obsessed about and fabricated details of the murder, despite a lack of any relevant witnesses, surveillance videos, DNA, or other material evidence. Amidst a media frenzy and worldwide press, the police were under tremendous scrutiny and pressure to produce the killer. Three weeks following the victim’s death, the police charged Paul Cortez, the victim’s boyfriend, with murder, based on the following limited circumstantial evidence:

A pre-existing fingerprint was found covered with blood at the crime scene. The print, however, did NOT appear until the policed applied chemicals to the entire wall of the victim’s apartment on the third sweep. Nevertheless, the prosecutor incorrectly characterized the partial print as a “bloody fingerprint” left by Paul Cortez.

Paul’s cell phone records placed him in the general vicinity at the time of the murder. However, this is consistent with Paul’s past cell phone records, which show that he worked, socialized and spent the majority of his time within a few block radius of the victim’s apartment on the Upper East Side.

Taken out of context, the prosecutors took a few lines from thousands of love poems, comic book sketches and deeply
emotional prose found in Paul’s 10+ years of personal journal to incorrectly paint a portrait of “violent thoughts.” At trial, an acquaintance of Paul’s perjured himself stating that Paul wore a specific type of Skecher boot that matched a footprint at the murder scene. This testimony comes in direct contradiction to a statement he made six months earlier when he told CBS’s 48 Hour Mystery that he had absolutely no recollection of Paul’s attire that evening.

Paul Cortez was represented by two low-budget attorneys who were held in contempt of court for missing the first three days of trial. After the trial, it was discovered that Paul’s attorney was being prosecuted on drug smuggling charges by the same District Attorney who was prosecuting Paul.

Inexplicably, Paul’s attorneys did not perform any DNA testing on numerous pieces of evidence, call a single forensic expert or hire a private investigator to explore the inconsistencies and questions in order to construct a basic and standard defense for Paul. A prime example being that despite the fact that Paul has dark brown hair and the murder victim had brown hair as well, Paul’s attorneys did not request a DNA analysis on the blond hairs found between her fingers.

Paul Cortez was sentenced to 25 years to life even though the prosecution produced no physical evidence, murder weapon, witnesses, or other concrete evidence. He has now served three years for a crime he did not commit.

Paul's last chances at justice rest on filing an appeal with the New York State Court of Appeals. There is, however, a time limit on that possibility of appealing the verdict. Paul is locked in a 6 X 8 foot jail with no resources. His life is in our hands.

Positions

  1. Please visit www.freepaulcortez.org for details

How large is the cause?

Peeps-08

 just got this email from Diane

Paul Cortez\'s letter on Veganism
Posted by sandy - 2008/08/30 04:29
_____________________________________
I got this letter by mail from some unknown sender. Pretty lengthy, but I liked it.

My name is Diane Seltzer. Together with other young professionals in the New York area, we recently formed a support
group to help Paul Cortez fight for justice ( freepaulcortez.org) (www.freepaulcortez.org).

Last year, Paul was sentenced to 25 years to life for a crime he DID NOT commit. At this time, Paul Cortez is in a Class
A maximum security prison. He was tried and convicted by the press and an over zealous prosecutor just as we saw
happen at Duke lacrosse debacle. Unlike the Duke lacrosse players, however, Paul did not have the public outcry or the
finances to fight the allegations. We are trying to correct that on appeal but it is a daunting task.

By way of background, Paul has always been a very spiritual and evolved individual, a yoga devotee and a truly
compassionate person. Paul's experiences and treatment in prison has provided him better insight into the plight of
animals commonly part of the Western diet. As a result, Paul has become a vegan in prison. Despite the limited dietary
selections in the prison world, Paul has refused to make these helpless animals part of his diet. Paul has actually written
a letter about his experiences. I have attached this letter to this email.

I am hoping that you can offer your support and help Paul in his struggle for justice in any way you can. There is a time
limit for an appeal and Paul's opportunity is running out. We hope you can therefore appreciate the urgency and how
DESPERATELY we are trying to fund raise in order to afford a competent attorney and help him avoid spending his life
in prison for a crime he did not commit. We have a committed attorney but are trying to raise the money needed for the
monumental task of hiring experts, investigators, do DNA testing, and prepare documents. We are in need of help in any
form and are appealing to all caring people to join this campaign.

This is a scary situation that any one of us could face. We hope that all good people will step up and give him an
opportunity to prove his innocence. Please take the time to visit the www.freepaulcortez.org web site to learn more
about the specifics surrounding this awful situation. Please sign our petition.

I thank you in advance for your time and attention. Please sign our petition.

Very truly yours.

Diane Seltzer

............................................

6/15/08

In March of 2008, just several days why of my 28th birthday, I made the life-long choice to become Vegan. Veganism, or
the rejection of consuming and using animal products of every kind, is more than just a diet or lifestyle; I consider being
Vegan a moral and political commitment to the end of animal and human exploitation everywhere.

I am still a “newborn” in this way of life, and do not consider myself an expert by any means; though, I am learning more
and understanding more everyday. To me, being the “perfect” Vegan not only takes a constant awareness of all that we
consume, wear, and use, but it extends to how we as a people think about and treat every living and sentient (capable of
feeling and suffering) being.

The fundamental principles of Veganism, as I understand it, are those taught by the great religious and social leaders of
all times—from Buddha, to Christ, to Gandhi, to Martin Luther King, Jr., Veganism is the foundation of non-violence,
compassion, morality, and the end of all forms of exploitation, beginning with animals, and extending toward all sentient
being regardless of species, class, race, sex, religion or culture.

Once I was arrested for murder, despite my innocence, I was immediately stripped of all my rights as a member of the
moral and social community. Our rights are our only legal protection of our most basic personal interests such as life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Once my right to liberty was unjustly taken from me, as a prisoner, the value of my
freedom to the moral and social community was rendered null and void. As a result, if other people think that I should
stay imprisoned for no other reason than that my incarceration would benefit them or cause them some twisted form of
pleasure, I have no right to liberty that would protect me from such exploitation. Indeed many people, parties, and
corporations have benefited from my unjust incarceration, including Detective Getz, District Attorney Casanare, Judge
Berkman, The N.Y. Post, The Daily News, CBS’s 48 Hours, Fox News Corp., and others, by perpetuating the possibility
of my guilt, even before I was arrested or tried.

Once a prisoner passes from the tragic stage of being held captive by county jails as a citizen with rights “temporarily
suspended,” to the status of being a convicted prisoner with rights altogether revoked indefinitely (or until the prison term
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and any further probation has ended), that convicted prisoner is then considered “state property.” His or her name is no
longer their identifying factor within the prison system; instead the prisoner is tagged with a number and a cell location.
The “property” owner becomes the State, who then loans out the use of that human commodity to the superintendents of
various prisons throughout the State. The overseers are the lieutenants, captains, sergeants and officers who then
“cultivate the property” for maximum use for the State.

After a prisoner is admitted to any certain prison, he or she goes through a mandatory orientation program that dictates
the rules and regulations of that facility. Very shortly after, the prisoner is required to meet with the Program Committee in
order to put that prisoner to good use. If the prisoner is of little use to the facility’s industries, then a prisoner can decide to
take certain “educational” or trade-learning programs so that the prisoner can be put to use eventually in a labor for the
facility’s interests. If a conscientious prisoner refuses to work or be programmed, he or she is “keeplocked” or revoked
general population privileges such as outdoor recreation or food-buy commissary days or the ability to make outside
phone calls. Prisoners are given 12 to 50 cents an hour, depending upon the job and the amount of time working at a
particular job. By giving this “wage” and calling them “workers,” the State is able to legally mask what these prisoners really
are—slaves working in the modern day slave trade.

Because of its prisoners, prison facilities are completely self-sufficient. Tax dollars fund the state to provide meager
amounts of poor quality “food” (cooked and served by prisoners) that is animal based, as well as sub par medical
healthcare whose main tasks is to supply and distribute pill and liquid medications to many of the prison population for
maladies ranging from tuberculosis, hepatitis, staff infections, depression, insomnia, to psychotic behavior and more.

The prison system’s pseudo name is ‘The Department of Corrections.’ D.O.C. acts under the guise of being a rehabilitative
system that promotes educational growth and trade learning opportunities for the prisoner in order to allow him or her to
assimilate these institutionally acquired “skills” back into society upon release. However, the constant demoralization,
exploitation and abuse from correctional officers, state teachers and facility administration do not allow the prisoner to be
a well-adjusted, law-abiding citizen when their prison term is up.

In my experience and communication with prisoners within the system, the talk of their “rap sheets,” or previous prison
sentences, is discussed with the normalcy of talking about the color of a shirt worn the other day. Many prisoners are so
beaten down, bitter or jaded by the time their prison term is over, they hate society and would rather choose a life of
crime. Others turn to crime again because of the near impossibility of attaining a decent job with a criminal record.
Others, still, feel that they need to make up for “lost time” and choose to return to crime in order to quickly advance to the
same financial status as their peers.

When I was free, I never really thought about how hard it is for a prisoner to return to society. No one thinks about
rehabilitating prisoners, but instead, people often think of just punishing them for their crimes. I feel that this type of
apathetic and uncompassionate thinking has gotten us to where we as a nation are today—the nation with the highest
incarceration percentage of males (1 out of very 100), and the highest criminal repeat offender rate in the world.

Because prisoners are regarded as state commodities and not as persons with basic human rights, correction in the form
of punishment, abuse and exploitation, as opposed to rehabilitation and empowerment, is D.O.C.’s sole function. I myself
have personally witnessed a correctional officer about 5’10”, 225 pounds beat a 5’4”, 125 pound Asian prisoner to a bloody
pulp for not cleaning up the kitchen area quick enough. I have seen a gang of officers beat a prisoner unconscious even
though his hands were cuffed behind his back, for cursing at a Sergeant. I have viewed a prisoner beaten and maced by
a group of officers while he was naked, because he didn’t want to bend over and spread his butt cheeks a second time
for the frisk officer known by us prisoners to have a lingering eye.

But more often than not, these cases of abuse, though justified by the administration with no repercussions toward the
officers involved, are frowned upon. An injured prisoner is a useless prisoner; though these abuses serve as intimidation
tactics to thwart dissent or opposition. Nevertheless, it is more common that an officer will set a prisoner up. Either the
officer will plant contraband (weapons, drugs or other banned items) in his target prisoner’s person or cell occupation, or
the officer will influence another prisoner to attack his target. But most often a correctional officer will fabricate some sort
of infraction of institutional rules against the prisoner which will result in the prisoner being “keeplocked” or packed up and
shipped to “the box” or “the hole” in order to break his spirit and ensure complete obedience, fear and servitude.

I myself have been victim of the abuse by officers. Because the media extensively covered my case, many officers within
the prison system had claimed to know all about me and my case. As a result, I have experienced more derogatory and
demeaning language, senseless abuse and general hatred than usual from various officers. Just recently, an officer who
had previously attempted to fabricate infractions against me and have me shipped to the box several times before, was
ultimately successful. The Superintendent and Deputy of Security allowed this officer’s false accusations to land me in the
box for 60 days, despite the fact that several eye witnesses—who were civilians—verbally testified against this officer’s ticket,
after further investigation.

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I cannot accurately relate the intensity of psychological suffering, the physical distress that the box inflicted on me. Just
image that you are locked behind four impenetrable walls (8’x6”) and one gate that is reinforced with heavy-duty chicken
wire and Plexiglas 24/7 with only a metal cot (5’x10”), 1-1/2” thick mattress, a filthy toilet and sink, and ten books. I was
afforded three showers a week that were timed to be no more than five minutes. I was given three meals a day. I
eventually opted for the alternative meal plan that is basically an inadequate vegetarian diet that often had meals
consisting solely of four slices of cheese, a hot dog bun, and a quarter cup of applesauce. The cells were not regularly
heated, and I spent a week straight once able to see my breath. I was allowed one visit a week, and if the C.O.’s felt like
it, I was allowed to go out to an hour of “recreation”—which meant being escorted to a series of seven cages no bigger than
two cells each and individually locked in for an hour on the facility’s roof, exposed to the elements through the gated
ceiling. In a 60-day period, I was allowed out to recreation three times. If I was let out of the box for any of the previously
mentioned reasons, I was rear hand-cuffed through a slot in the gate, then the cell box door was opened. I was
instructed to slowly back out, then I was escorted by two or more officers to whatever destination. I only spent 60 days in
this isolation, but others have been sentenced to years, enduring such conditions.

At first, I experienced a lot of anxiety, followed by feelings of claustrophobia, then panic attacks. There would be periods
of random crying which I would stifle in the sheets so no one would hear me and think that I was crazy; periods of
extreme depression where I tried to sleep the day away were common; and every so often I would become manic and
intensely work out for two and a half hours until exhaustion. I had never before experienced such mental distress.

Around half way through this box period, I had visibly lost a lot of weight. A C.O. allowed me to weigh myself en route to
a visit one week and I was 145 pounds. On my 5’8” frame—perhaps this weight doesn’t seem so bad—but the fact that I had
lost 15 pounds in such a rapid and unhealthy way affected me. Because the State food was often so poor and meager, I
was regularly cold and weak. To cope with this physical stress, I returned very deeply back into my hatha yoga practice
as well as a physical program that I constructed for a friend. I also deepened my meditation practice, sometimes
meditating for about two hours straight in the seated half-lotus position.

One day during a meditation period, I began to ponder how our society could allow such inhumane treatment of people.
My mind then started focusing on a conversation that I once had with my Vegan friend on a visit in the fall of 2007.

She told me of the inhumane treatment of animals in our world. The farm-raised animals who we exploit and use for
clothing, products, product testing, amusement, and food have no rights whatsoever. These harmless and defenseless
animals are annually slaughtered in the tens of billions! The conditions of their imprisonment before they are slaughtered,
and while they are being exploited for their secretions and unborn is beyond atrocious. They are held captive in cages,
pens and stalls which don’t even allow these animals to turn around. They live steeped in their own feces, as well as the
feces of others under poorly ventilated and temperature regulated conditions. Infection and disease among the farm
animal population is not uncommon. These beings are raped by humans through forever synthetic procreation with tubes
to extract semen and inseminate females. The amount of hormones and antibiotics pumped into their blood stream
produces abnormal growth and “productivity” rates.

These animals that are labeled “cage-free,” “free-range,” “organic,” “humanely” or “compassionately” treated, often suffer just as
much or more than those who are tortured traditionally. I have seen pictures of “free-range” chickens, and have read
animal rights activists’ articles about them, and though they are not living in battery cages, it looks as if they were on the 4-
train at rush hour in Times Square! They are crammed together in such a way that “humane” or “compassionate” could be
as far from the truth as to how they are truly treated.

This not-so-new trend of animal welfarist individuals and corporations (as opposed to animal rights activists) promoting
only the appearance of marginally better conditions (before the animals are ultimately slaughtered) and then tagging the
words “compassionate” or “humane” to those products, is absolutely disgusting.

The people who buy these “free-range,” “organic,” or “humanely/compassionately” treated animal products, thinking that they
are making a moral choice, are severely deluded.

If someone imprisoned your son or daughter, then raped them, then hooked up pumps to their breast or genitals to
extract their secretions over a period of a quarter of their natural lifespan, then stunned them with a heart-stopping
electric gun, and chopped their heads off, but gave them an inch more space in their cage, would you call it
compassionate or humane? Would you attach the word “free” to them? Would you be able to consume their flesh and call
it a moral choice?

One of the reasons that the majority of us do not know the standards and conditions of our animal family is because
these animals have no rights to protect their life, liberty or pursuit of happiness. Also, large animal product organizations
and corporations see it not in their best financial interests to inform the public of the amount of torture, pain and suffering
that goes into each bite of that porter house steak or pork chop or fried chicken or fish fillet or omelet or scoop of ice
cream or glass of milk.

As my thoughts furthered along this line of thinking, I realized that there is no fundamental difference between animals
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and any part of the human race. Animals are sentient beings just like us. As animal rights activist Gary Francione has
stated, “Sentience is a means to the end of continued existence; sentience is a characteristic that has evolved in certain
beings a mechanism to facilitate continued existence… the ability to feel pain.”

But most of us deny animals’ similar nature to our own. Instead, a majority of people feel we have superiority over
animals that make it okay for us to kill and eat them. Some mistakenly quote the Bible to support their speciesist
mentality that God gave men animals and plants to eat. But in my Bible, the verse that refers to this is Genesis 1:24-30: “
God also said, ‘See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it
to be your food, and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, all the living creatures that crawl on the ground,
I give all the green plants for food.’ And so it happened.”

Nowhere does it state that the God of Genesis intended humans to eat animals. Instead, it clearly states that plants and
fruits are our food—this is the Vegan diet.

I also realized that it is because we treat all animals (so utterly defenseless against our brutality) as objects, as property,
as commodities used for nothing more than our perverse pleasure, vanity and financial gain—it is because of all this that
we are unable to treat all of our fellow human family members with compassion and respect regardless of their class,
race, sex, religion or culture.

I then began to reflect upon the baby calf used as veal. From birth, this bay is taken away and separated from his mother
and put into a lightless pod or cage that restricts all movement. He is malnourished as well, which along with the lack of
mobility forces his muscles to remain lean and tender—the sickly appetizing aspect of “gourmet” veal.

Then at four to six months, the baby calf is murdered. He never knows sunlight. He is a stranger to contact with his own
kind. He has never felt the dew of soft earth in the morning before grazing in a pasture. The baby calf has only
experienced pain and torture of the most heartless kind, and then he is slaughtered.

Something like this never before touched my heart. It was a moment of pure empathy, and I began to sob uncontrollably.
All the pain and suffering that has been building up within me for the past several years since I lost of my dearest friend
at the hands of a brutal killer, and then was wrongfully charged and convicted of that crime, was trapped into and
fractionally released by that baby calf. I know I have not experienced even a tenth of what the average farm animal
experiences daily, but for a moment I could understand and identify with that feeling of abandonment, isolation,
powerlessness and dread.

After that experience, I realized that I could no longer consume or use animals or animal products. I vowed to become
Vegan for the rest of my life. However, because of my weight loss and malnourishment, I couldn’t muster up the courage
to face nearly 21 days left of box time with even less food, and the impact it might have on my health. Therefore, I
decided to become vegetarian in the way that I believe vegetarianism should be used—as a transition to becoming Vegan.
Being vegetarian without moving toward veganism is a disingenuous commitment to the abolition of all animal suffering,
exploitation, rape and slaughter. As soon as I left the box, I became Vegan and continue to understand and practice
more fully its ideals.

To me, becoming Vegan is the first and most crucial step in the peace and equal rights movement. If we cannot honor
the lives of peaceful, defenseless sentient beings by not enslaving them and treating them as property or commodities,
then how can we honor the lives of human beings who are capable of such horrific injustices, senseless violence,
corruption and heartlessness?

Being Vegan—committing to the non-exploitation and right to life for all animals—eventually leads the individual to abolish in
her or himself the social diseases of classism, racism, sexism, religionism and culturalism. The individual is society.
Therefore, the more individuals who became Vegan, the larger the society we will have of people consciously caring to
exist by the only true moral standard—respecting the lives of all diversities of sentient beings everywhere by eliminating our
own contributions to their suffering and death. For me, being Vegan is the most powerful choice that any individual—free or
otherwise—could make toward the benefit, peace and well being of our earth and all her inhabitants. Truly, being Vegan
has empowered me in this most powerless of situations.

I once mistakenly thought of Veganism as a bourgeois, elitist dietary lifestyle for those trying to be chic. But there is
nothing bourgeois, elitist or chic about what I’m doing here in prison, or Veganism in general. On the contrary, it is the
definition of elitist to eat the dead flesh from a species you claim dominance over for your own convenience and
pleasure.

Another mistaken idea of being Vegan is that only the rich can support such a diet. But quite oppositely, I am able to buy
more beans, rice and vegetables in this prison facility due to the money I save from not buying meat from the prison
commissary. Also, in free supermarkets, you can buy T.S.P. (Textured Soy Protein, a meat substitute) for under $2 for a
five-serving bag!

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The last myth of being Vegan that I’ve found to be completely false is that my health would suffer from not eating meat or
animal products. If I had to rely on state food served in the mess hall, I would be emaciated and would most likely be
hospitalized. It is very unfortunate that the state does not honor the Vegan diet; but it only validates a system built for the
enslavement, exploitation, abuse and demoralization of its population that would not support a way of life that seeks to
abolish its root principles.

Fortunately, I am able to buy non-animal products at commissary, and once in a while I receive a package from my
Vegan friend, even though she hardly has the money to support herself. There is a great Vegan book about acquiring all
the essential (and non-essential) vitamins and minerals to support the Vegan diet called ‘Becoming Vegan’ by Brenda
Davis, R.D. and Vesanto Melina, M.S., R.D.

Since becoming Vegan, I have found an inner shift within me that makes me feel like my life has meaning even though I
am a prisoner.

As Gary Francione has said, “Veganism is the one thing that each of us can do right now. Veganism is not merely a
matter of diet; it is a moral and political commitment to the abolition of animal exploitation on the individual level.”

We each can make the commitment right now to stop eating meat of all kinds, as well as eggs, dairy and honey; thus
being part of the healing solution for the environment and society.

The best way is to start by educating yourself on being Vegan, and learning about the origins of your current food
choices and product choices? We all have the ability to rise up above apathy, habitat and social conditioning.

For more information, please visit the following websites listed below.

Paul Cortez
============================================================================
Re:Paul Cortez\'s letter on Veganism
Posted by Desert Girl - 2008/09/01 17:22
_____________________________________
Wow, that was fantastic! What an experience hey? We think we have it so good, but anyone of us could fall victim to the
merciless judicial sysstem being accused of a crime we didn't commit.

Whether prisoners are innocent or guilty, they shouldnt be treated that way in prison. Even without all those
punishments, beatings and time in isolation, just beinh in a prison is punishment enough -the lack of freedom. All that
other stuff is unnecessary.

I would like to see prisons as education centres for people to get a second chance at a trade or university degree. I also
think prisons should run on a system using NVC, where all the staff use it and are trained in it, and the prisoners are
taught the skills too. They can work voluntarily if they wish at award wages. Standard equivelent rates for rent and food
can be deducted from their wages to feed into the prison system but the rest can be saved by the prisoner to be used
upon their release or invested from prison, or given to family outside of prison. Anyone in prison is going to need all the
help they can get when they get out to start a new life so a bit of savings will help. Prisons should be rated according to
their success rates for the success of released prisoners. That should be the end goal of all prisons -to release better
people into the community. Even better -prevent people from going to prison in the first place by providing all that stuff I
mentioned in the prison like NVC and university to our youth!

Regards,

Desert Girl
============================================================================
CASE INTRODUCTION
Posted by Desert Girl - 2008/09/01 17:32
_____________________________________
CASE INTRODUCTION

On November 27, 2005, 25-year-old Paul Vincent Cortez endured an unthinkable devastation: his girlfriend, Catherine
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Woods, was found gruesomely murdered in her Upper East Side Manhattan apartment.

The next morning, Paul's mother delivered this crippling news to him at work. In the midst of his devastation and grief,
Paul made his way down to the police station in an attempt to find answers as well as assist in any way that he could.

Desperate for police to find Catherine’s killer and hoping that even the smallest detail might prove illuminating, Paul freely
opened himself to six hours of interrogation.

The police continued to sweep the apartment, but no relevant DNA, surveillance videos, or any other illuminating
evidence surfaced. Perhaps this would have been different if they chose to test the blond hairs found in Catherine's hand
at the murder scene, or the DNA found under her fingernails.

Despite his candor, because of his close relationship with Catherine, Police informed Paul that he was one of two prime
suspects: the other being Catherine's ex-boyfriend and roommate David. Certain that his innocence would inevitably
clear him in the investigation, Paul continued to cooperate with police without legal representation. He endured hours of
intense interrogation, allowed his hands and body to be photographed, volunteered his DNA, handed over his cell phone,
and permitted the police to search his apartment without a warrant.
============================================================================
Re:CASE INTRODUCTION
Posted by lionandlamb - 2008/09/02 08:45
_____________________________________
Sandy, DG -- will be sure to read this thoroughly later
============================================================================
Re:Paul Cortez\'s letter on Veganism
Posted by alexloverh - 2008/09/03 21:04
_____________________________________
wow, that was incredible, such a powerful story to relate the exploitation of humans and non-humans. Really glad I read
it. I'll be forwarding this to some friends. Thanks Sandy!
============================================================================
for


 


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Andy the Daft Hermit lives 45 minutes outside Inverness with his wife Mel in an old bus parked in a layby. This current home of theirs is the longest they have ever stayed in one spot. “I’ve been travelling now 25 years,” said Andy Lowe. “Mel’s been travelling 15. One of the reasons we’ve come and stayed up here is because of Mel’s health. I wanted to bring her to the mountains for fresh air and clean water and just a slower pace of life.” Mel has had breast cancer twice, skin cancer once, and for three years believed she had bone cancer after being wrongly diagnosed. Andy’s belief in the restorative powers of the north made them pack up ‘The Black Bus’ that they live in and cross the border into Scotland. New Highland home for hermit couple Andy and Mel “I think we both believe in trying to get to a more simple way of life,” said Andy, “but it’s strange for us because we are sort of hermits, or we like to live separate, but it’s not being anti-social… it’s just the way we are that allows us to be creative.” Andy first began travelling when he left the army. Fed up with bureaucracy he packed a rucksack and left for France and has been travelling ever since. By investing any money the couple have earned into solar panels and wind generators they now live a self-sustaining existence, without electric bills, and collect rain water “straight from Heaven”. “It’s not easy,” said Mel. “There might be time when there might not be enough facilities around, but you always find a way, you know?” Rather than rejecting technology, Andy blogs about his travels online and collaborates with artists from around the world via his ‘Scratchy Heid Film Studio’, which he runs from a static trailer next to the couple’s bus. He explained his philosophy: “My belief is that if you can go through life and you drop dead and you’ve got a balance there that slightly outweighs the good than the bad, you’ve done alright. “Yesterday, with what Mel’s been through with the cancer and all that, I had a woman on one of my sites there that thanked me for the writing, for the positive things, and to me that’s worth everything. You can keep your millions, we’re not interested. That is what we do.” To check out Andy’s artwork and video projects check out his website. MORE FROM THE NORTH

Loch Ness film festival

Loch Ness film festival
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