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For 5 years, an innocent man was imprisoned and tortured. This is his story.

Bisher al-Rawi was wrongfully linked to terrorism after 9/11. So were others.

For 5 years, an innocent man was imprisoned and tortured. This is his story.

During a 2002 business trip in Gambia,  Bisher al-Rawi was kidnapped. For the next five years, he was tortured, imprisoned, and interrogated — though never charged with a crime.

A year into the U.S.-led "War on Terror," al-Rawi was detained, suspected of having terrorist connections, and shipped to a secret CIA prison in Kabul, Afghanistan. In February 2003, he was flown to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, his new home for the next four years.

His story is featured in a new video from Reprieve, a U.K.-based human rights organization in which celebrities like David Tennant and Harry Enfield tell stories of people who, like al-Rawi, were wrongfully imprisoned or convicted.


Al-Rawi speaks out about his time at Guantanamo after his release. GIF from Reprieve UK/YouTube.

Deprived of sleep, placed in solitary confinement for extended periods of time, beaten and subjected to daily interrogations, al-Rawi endured years of mistreatment based on suspicion of crimes he did not commit. In fact, as it turned out, until he was abducted, he had been helping the British spy agency MI5 in its efforts to fight terrorism.

His story, for what it's worth, has a relatively happy ending. In 2007, the British government helped lobby for al-Rawi's release from Guantanamo. It turned out that he was initially arrested after being found with a "suspicious device" — which was actually nothing more than a battery charger.

Like many held at Guantanamo, al-Rawi wasn't charged with a crime and wasn't given due process. While some detainees have been eventually released, many remain locked up after all these years.

A reported 59 prisoners are still being held at Guantanamo Bay, at the time of this writing. 20 of them remain imprisoned despite being cleared for release. 29 of them have not been charged with a crime. To keep someone locked up though they haven't committed a crime — as many of those in Guantanamo have not —  is to deny them basic human rights. It's inexcusable.

Since opening in January 2002, the facility has held 779 prisoners, and just eight of them were convicted by the Guantanamo military commission. Of those eight, three have been overturned and another three have been partially invalidated.

Guantanamo Bay. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

On his first day in office, President Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay. That hasn't happened, and come January, it may actually get much, much worse. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to keep Guantanamo open and "load it up with some bad dudes."

There are organizations working to put an end to state-sanctioned human rights violations, and they need our help.

Groups like Reprieve, the ACLU, and Amnesty International have been — and will continue to be — vital in fighting for human rights even when governments fail to do so. Injustice has always existed, but there are things we can do to fight back.

Watch Reprieve's "Last Words" video for more about al-Rawi and others like him who have been wronged by the criminal justice system.

The difference between a politician and a public servant may be a matter of semantics, but when it comes to getting legislation passed that actually helps people, the contrast is stark.

Texas Representative James Talarico is on a mission to get his constituents the life-saving medicine they need. The 31-year-old lawmaker has just introduced legislation that would cap the price of insulin—a medicine people with type 1 diabetes need to live, which has become unaffordable for many—at $50 a month.

The mission is personal for Talarico, as he nearly died three years ago when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

He shared his story on Twitter:

"In May 2018, I was a healthy 28-year-old running for the Texas House. I decided to walk the entire length of my district and hold town halls along the way. I hike Big Bend every year, so I wasn't concerned about a 25 mile walk...

But halfway through the walk, I began feeling nauseous and fatigued. Before the town hall in Hutto, I vomited in the bathroom."

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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