Gibson Guitars to Admit Importing Illegal Timber and Will Pay Fines, US Drops Charges

Aug 6, 2012 - Gibson Guitars, whom JTMP had covered in an 2011 post about the dust-up when federal agents raided their factory and confiscated wood said to be illegal, have reached an agreement with the US government admitting they imported rare, slow-growth wood that is protected by the Lacey Act. Gibson Guitars became a cause celebre for right-wingers and "Tea Partiers" as a symbol of government overreach, and the supposed "over regulation strangling American businesses and killing American jobs."

But now NBC News reports that the president of the company, David Berryman, got a memo from a subordinate in 2008 who was in Madagascar reporting that the wood was illegal to purchase and ship back to the states; but the company apparently went through with the deal despite his warning. Gibson Guitars came to an agreement with the government, and the government has agreed to drop all charges. Gibson Guitars has agreed to pay a $300,000 fine, forfeit over $200,000 worth of illegal wood, and they will also donate $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to promote the preservation of rare wood and other slow-growth trees that are endangered and protected. Read more on NBC News here.

This is the dilemma with guitarists and guitar manufacturers, can we build guitars in a sustainable way? Is slow-growth wood truly the ONLY tone wood we can use? JTMP supports efforts in the guitar world using synthetic and quick-replenishing wood to help solve this crisis, like Martin's OMC Cherry that uses wood that is grown and harvested in an "ecologically responsible manner". Remember, it takes 500 years for one of these slow-growth trees to mature, and only 5 minutes to cut it down.

NASA Lands "Curiosity" On Mars

August 6, 2012 - JTMP fully supports government investment in infrastructure and social services, but we also realize the need for the technological and other benefits that comes from other government investment; such as the wildly successful landing of the SUV-size "Curiosity" rover that the government-funded and run NASA organization pulled off yesterday. The scientific world is abuzz with excitement at the very risky landing of the new rover, that has many more tools and gadgets the the previous Mars rovers have had. The scientific and technological advances and data gathered will benefit humankind for years to come, perhaps even add or rewrite some of the scientific textbooks in our public schools on our understanding of the planet Mars and the universe we live in.

President Obama issued a statement on this historic and monumental scientific achievement, and said:

"Tonight, on the planet Mars, the United States of America made history.

The successful landing of Curiosity – the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet – marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future. It proves that even the longest of odds are no match for our unique blend of ingenuity and determination.

Tonight’s success, delivered by NASA, parallels our major steps forward towards a vision for a new partnership with American companies to send American astronauts into space on American spacecraft. That partnership will save taxpayer dollars while allowing NASA to do what it has always done best – push the very boundaries of human knowledge. And tonight’s success reminds us that our preeminence – not just in space, but here on Earth – depends on continuing to invest wisely in the innovation, technology, and basic research that has always made our economy the envy of the world.

I congratulate and thank all the men and women of NASA who made this remarkable accomplishment a reality – and I eagerly await what Curiosity has yet to discover."

- President Obama, Aug 6, 2012

Watch NASA employees celebrate the landing of Curiosity and pictures from the Mars surface on NASA's website here, and to watch an awesome animation video about Curiosity, including the landing and its tools, check out this NASA video below. (photo credit: NASA/public domain)


Vladimir Putin calls for Pussy Riot punishment to be "not too severe"

August 3, 2012 - President Vladimir Putin of Russia, who was just re-elected to a third term, was in London for the Olympics and commented on the Pussy Riot trial saying, "I see nothing good in what they did. Nevertheless, they should not be judged too severely." Russian courts usually follow what is "suggested to them" by the government, so this is a good sign that the 3 women will not face the full 7 years of prison they face. Read more on NYDailyNews.com here. (photo credit: Russian government/Wiki)

British Musicians Publish Letter in UK Times Calling for Release of Pussy Riot in Russia

August 2, 2012 - 4 well-known British musicians have published a letter to The Times in the UK calling for the release of the punk rock band members of Pussy Riot in Russia; among those are Pete Townshend, Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys, Jarvis Cocker of the Pulp, and Martha Wainwright. They state in the letter they feel the free speech action at the cathedral was at worst a "breach of the peace", and also say, "Dissent is a right in any democracy and it is entirely disproportionate that they face seven years in jail for what we consider a preposterous charge of 'hooliganism motivated by religious hatred'." Many are also now concerned with the treatment of the women who have been held in detention during trial, and there are reports of lack of food, physical abuse, and other mistreatment by the authorities. Read more on WashPo here.  (photo credit: Ian McLagan/Wiki)

Young, Progressive Russians Deciding to Stay in Russia Instead of Fleeing

July 31, 2012 - Young, progressive Russians, who used to flee to other countries to get away from the brutal oppression of free speech and dissent by the government, are now deciding to stay and try and change things at home. Most notably is the women punk musician-activist band Pussy Riot that is challenging free speech restrictions by doing "actions". 3 members of the band were arrested in February of 2012 and are now on trial for singing an anti-Putin song at the cathedral of the powerful Russian Orthodox Church. They face charges of "hooliganism" and face up to 7 years in prison. Even their spouses are being attacked, such as the husband of one of the women arrested, Pyotr Verzilov, who had a Canadian passport when he was attending school in Toronto years ago and the Russian government flashed an image of his passport on TV and called it evidence that he and his wife are trying to "tear Russia apart". Read more on WashPo here, and also there is a good article about the trial on NBCNews.com here.

They are all part of a movement called "Voina", a group consisting of artists, musicians and others that stage provocative actions deliberately meant to test the boundaries of their freedoms and liberties, and challenge the government's authority. They call this "polical protest art"; and at least 20 criminal investigations have been launched against the group and its members. The government of Russia says the Art group VOINA, "is a left-wing radical anarchist collective whose central goal is to carry out PR actions directed against the authorities..." Check out the org's website and read about the many political prisoners in Russia consisting of journalists, artists and even regular activists trying to bring about progressive change in Russia on their website: http://en.free-voina.org/.

The trial has divided old Russia against the youth, and even spilled over to America as protesters held a rally in front of the Russian embassy here in Washington, DC on July 28, 2012 to protest what they see as government overreach and oppression of free speech. NME.com reports that many musicians have spoken out against the detention and prosecution of the women, such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Franz Ferdinand. Check back because JTMP will be posting on this issue regularly, and will also have a video out soon. (photo credits: CC\Wiki)

JTMP "Live streamed" Anti-Fracking Panel Discussion

July 29, 2012 - JTMP was part of the nationwide "Stop The Frack Attack!" actions all week long here in DC, and one of the events was a panel discussion with Josh Fox, Jason from Tour De Frack, Bill McKibben and others; and JTMP was not only there to film it but we "live streamed" it out to the Internet for all who could not make it. This shows how another tool of technology and social media are being used in the world of activism. It went off without a hitch, and you can catch part of the discussion recorded on our JTMP UStream.TV Channel here. JTMP is committed to using technology and social media to bring about social progressive change, and we will surely be streaming more events in the future, so check back.

JTMP part of anti-fracking roundtable discussion with Jason from Tour De Frack, Josh Fox, Bill McKibben and more

UPDATE! July 29, 2012 12:00 PM -  VIDEO OF PANEL AND Q&A BELOW!

July 28, 2012 - JTMP was at St. Stephen Church of DC to be a part of a anti-fracking panel discussion and acoustic guitar concert with activists from all parts of the country. Tour De Frack was there, along with Josh Fox, Bill McKibben, and even farmers that have been devastated by hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking"; telling stories of dry wells, sickness, and property value loss. JTMP live streaed the event on our JTMP UStream TV Channel, so people who could not make it could be a part of it.

The day  started out with citizen activists gathering at St. Stephen Church, and then being sent out on various actions to let our voice be heard, "No Fracking!".  Later, everyone gathered back at the church to be part of a panel discussion featuring not only Jason from Tour De Frack, and filmmaker Josh Fox, author/activists Bill McKibben; but also farmers from all over America who have had their animals get sick and die, wells running dry, and all sorts of horror stories as a result of the destructive and harmful practice of fracking. We wil post the video in its entirety shortly, so check back, and as always check our JTMP YouTube Channel and Subscribe!

There was also a lot of activist music, with local DC activist musician Renard Cohen playing his anti-fracking song and telling people of the documentary that will be coming out called "Groundswell". Also, I got up on stage and sang two of my activist songs, "Rise Up" and "Occupy Everywhere", and warmed up the crowd for Zach. Zach biked down from Pennsylvania with Tour De Frack, and sang a few of his great songs, including one very anti-fracking song called, "I Want a Future Too". Check back all week as we will be processing and releasing videos of all these performances all this week.

Check out Pics from the event at our JTMP Facebook Page! The entire 2 hour video panel and Q&A is below, use the mouse to fast forward and watch various chapters for there are some good speakers including farmers devastated by fracking.

REAL Grassroots in action! Tour De Frack visits Hart Senate Office Building

(Above: Jason from Tour De Frack meets with aide for Sen. Mikulski (D-MD) and shows contaminated water and explains facts about the harmful process of "fracking")

July 26, 2012 - The anti-fracking bicyclist-activist group known as Tour De Frack biked all the way from Butler, PA to DC to talk to their elected officials at the federal level about the harmful effects fracking does to our environment, and JTMP was there to record it for a video. The US Capitol building is too small to house the offices of all the Senators and Representatives, so there are satellite buildings around the US Capitol grounds, where citizens can visit and talk to their elected officials about their concerns on issues.

Jason and the others of Tour De Frack told me that some of the representatives considered fracking to be a state issue, but they told them they feel let down by their state government, and their environment and health are not being protected. They will continue this citizen lobbying effort all week and beyond, and plan to see Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), James Inhofe (R-OK), and many others. There will also be a music concert tomorrow night, so check back for more video with political music! "No Freakin' Frackin'!" Watch the Hart Senate Office Building visit video below, including interviews of Tour De Frack activists afterwards.

JTMP is there to meet Tour De Frack as they arrive in DC area

July 25, 2012 - JTMP was on hand to meet the Tour De Frack activist bicyclists as they arrived in the DC area today. We met them at the Maryland Great Falls Park Visitors Center as they ended their bike run from Butler, PA to Washington, DC. Check out a video of the event below, including an acoustic guitar performance by Zach, and for more information and the scheduling of Tour De Frack week, click here.

Tour De Frack Launches, Arrival in DC Tomorrow!

July 24, 2012 - Tour De Frack is on, and the activist bicyclists will be arriving in the DC area tomorrow at the Maryland Great Falls Visitor Center at 11:00 AM, with a picnic concert by Zach Freidhof, so come on down and have some fun and help us kick off the Tour De Frack lobbying efforts to take our concerns about fracking to the federal level. There will be events all week, here is some of the schedule:

July 25 - 11:00AM - MD Great Falls
July 26 - 10:00AM - Capitol Hill, DC
July 27 - 9PM - Concert at Church in DC

FULL SCHEDULE - CLICK READ MORE

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