Thursday, December 20, 2007

BAUAW NEWSLETTER - THURSDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2007

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Next Antiwar Coalition meeting Sunday, January 6, 1:00 P.M.
474 Valencia St., Second Floor, rear.

Help Make History on the 5th Anniversary of the War
Iraq Occupation 5th Anniversary U.S. Mobilization Committee (Member Groups Listed Below)

Join us on Saturday, March 15th for a massive demonstration in Washington, D.C., at which we will exercise our rights to assemble and speak on behalf of the majority of Americans, the majority of Iraqis, the majority of U.S. troops, and the majority of people around the world who all say: U.S. Out of Iraq! This gathering will support the Iraq Veterans Against The War Winter Soldier Testimonial.

We call on people from throughout the United States, in solidarity with those planning similar events around the world, to come together in massive numbers on March 15th and 19th, 2008, to demand an immediate end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. To endorse this event, click here.

The events we create will mark the end of the fifth year and the start of the sixth year of this criminal, unprovoked invasion and occupation. Over a million Iraqis have been killed, and tens of thousands of U.S. service members have been killed or wounded. The occupation must end, and together we can end it!

Join us on Wednesday, March 19th, the anniversary of the invasion, for massive civil disobedience in Washington, D.C., and at the local level all around the United States. On this day, members of Congress will be in their districts. We will provide you with the resources you need to engage in effective nonviolent actions at locations of your choosing, including congressional district offices. On the same day the permanent military-industrial complex will be at work in Washington, and we intend to bring to bear on it the most massive, most creative, and most disciplined nonviolent resistance it has ever seen. Training sessions will be provided from the 15th to 18th. Toward these ends we have formed a short-term committee.

Organizations participating are listed below (Initial list),
In Solidarity for Peace and Justice,
Gold Star Families for Peace
Camp Casey Peace Institute
ANSWER Coalition
CODEPINK Women For Peace
AfterDowningStreet
Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation
National Council of Arab Americans
Malik Rahim, Co-founder, Common Ground Collective New Orleans
Hip Hop Caucus
World Can’t Wait Drive Out The Bush Regime!
ImpeachBush
Cindy Sheehan and Cindy For Congress
Grassroots America
Democracy Rising
Voters for Peace

To endorse this event go to:
Year5.org
http://www.pephost.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8749&JServSessionIdr012=bjpna8nl45.app6a
AfterDowningStreet.org
http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/?q=node/29441

A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
http://www.answercoalition.org/
info@internationalanswer.org
National Office in Washington DC: 202-544-3389
New York City: 212-694-8720
Los Angeles: 213-251-1025
San Francisco: 415-821-6545
Chicago: 773-463-0311

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SAN FRANCISCO
Board approves year extension for high schools' JROTC program
Classes allowed to count for physical education credit
Jill Tucker, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/12/12/BAPFTSAS3.DTL&hw=jrotc&sn=001&sc=1000

THE NEXT MEETING OF THE STOP JROTC COMMITTEE IS:

MONDAY,JANUARY 7, 7:00 P.M.
474 VALENCIA STREET, FIRST FLOOR, Room 145 (To the left as you come in, and all the way to the back of the long hallway, then, to the right.)

School Board Cowers Behind Phony JROTC "Task Force"
by Marc Norton
Dec. 12‚ 2007
http://www.beyondchron.org/news/index.php?itemid=5194

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SUPPORT THE DAY AFTER DEMONSTRATIONS TO FREE MUMIA ABU-JAMAL

SEE THE "TODAY SHOW" STORY ON MUMIA ABU-JAMAL - NOW ON YOUTUBE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tz-NL0Ju6aE

From: LACFreeMumia@aol.com

A ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals on Mumia's case, based on the hearing in Philadelphia on May 17th 2007, is expected momentarily. Freeing Mumia immediately is what is needed, but that is not an option before this court. The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal calls on everyone who supports Mumia‚s case for freedom, to rally the day after a decision comes down. Here are Bay Area day-after details:

OAKLAND:

14th and Broadway, near the Federal Building
4:30 to 6:30 PM the day after a ruling is announced,
or on Monday if the ruling comes down on a Friday.

Oakland demonstration called by the Partisan Defense Committee and Labor Black Leagues, to be held if the Court upholds the death sentence, or denies Mumia's appeals for a new trial or a new hearing. info at (510) 839-0852 or pdcbayarea@sbcglobal.org

SAN FRANCISCO:

Federal Courthouse, 7th & Mission
5 PM the day after a ruling is announced,
or Monday if the decision comes down on a Friday

San Francisco demo called by the Mobilization To Free Mumia,
info at (415) 255-1085 or www.freemumia.org

Day-after demonstrations are also planned in:

Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Toronto, Vancouver
and other cities internationally.

A National Demonstration is to be held in Philadelphia, 3rd Saturday after the decision

For more information, contact: International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, www.mumia.org;
Partisan Defense Committee, www.partisandefense.org;
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC), www.freemumia.com;

MUMIA ABU-JAMAL IS INNOCENT!

World-renowned journalist, death-row inmate and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal is completely innocent of the crime for which he was convicted. Mountains of evidence--unheard or ignored by the courts--shows this. He is a victim, like thousands of others, of the racist, corrupt criminal justice system in the US; only in his case, there is an added measure of political persecution. Jamal is a former member of the Black Panther Party, and is still an outspoken and active critic of the on-going racism and imperialism of the US. They want to silence him more than they want to kill him.

Anyone who has ever been victimized by, protested or been concerned about the racist travesties of justice meted out to blacks in the US, as well as attacks on immigrants, workers and revolutionary critics of the system, needs to take a close look at the frame-up of Mumia. He is innocent, and he needs to be free.

FREE MUMIA NOW!

END THE RACIST DEATH PENALTY!

FOR MASS PROTESTS AND LABOR ACTION TO FREE MUMIA!

In 1995, mass mobilizations helped save Mumia from death.

In 1999, longshore workers shut West Coast ports to free Mumia, and teachers in Oakland and Rio de Janeiro held teach-ins and stop-works.

Mumia needs powerful support again now. Come out to free Mumia!

- The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
PO Box 16222, Oakland CA 94610
510.763.2347
LACFreeMumia@aol.com

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Help end the war by supporting the troops who have refused to fight it.
Please sign the appeal online:

"DEAR CANADA: LET U.S. WAR RESISTERS STAY!"

"I am writing from the United States to ask you to make a provision for sanctuary for the scores of U.S. military servicemembers currently in Canada, most of whom have traveled to your country in order to resist fighting in the Iraq War. Please let them stay in Canada..."

To sign the appeal or for more information:
http://www.couragetoresist.org/canada

Courage to Resist volunteers will send this letter on your behalf to three key Canadian officials--Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Diane Finley, and Stéphane Dion, Liberal Party--via international first class mail.

In collaboration with War Resisters Support Campaign (Canada), this effort comes at a critical juncture in the international campaign for asylum for U.S. war resisters in Canada.

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We, the Undersigned, endorse the following petition:
FedEx Ground: Your Drivers Deserve to be Treated Fairly!
Target: Dave Rebholz, President and CEO of FedEx Ground
Sponsor: American Rights at Work

More than 15,000 FedEx Ground drivers don't have a voice at work, or the ability to stand up to the company. These men and women work long hours, often without benefits, are frequently harassed and even fired for supporting a union.

What's more, FedEx makes the drivers lease their own trucks (which cost around $40,000) so quitting can mean losing a major personal investment. Unions are often their only recourse.

FedEx Ground advertises efficiency and professionalism, but their anti-union posters and the distribution of anti-union videos show they're more about pushing their own agenda.

A new report shows that when anti-union persuasion fails, there's outright bullying. High-level management arrive on the scene to harass, isolate, retaliate against and even fire union supporters!

Resorting to nasty labor tactics to increase company profits is just not right.
Demand that FedEx Ground give benefits and respect to the people who make the company so successful!
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/625027652?z00m=11867690

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NORTH AMERICAN UNION & VCHIP TRUTH
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuBo4E77ZXo

Harvard chaplain says communism comes closer than the established church
to following the radical gospel of Jesus.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/video/2007/12/19/VI2007121900684.html

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ARTICLES IN FULL:

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1) Connecting the dots: Developers and gang injunctions
by Alicia Schwartz, POWER
Wednesday, 12 December 2007
http://www.sfbayview.com/News/Main/Connecting_the_dots_Developers_and_gang_injunctions.html

2) Housing slump hits home in East S.J.
By Pete Carey
Mercury News
Article Launched: 12/14/2007 03:23:25 PM PST
http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_7724733?nclick_check=1

3) Border Patrol fires tear gas into Mexico
By ELLIOT SPAGAT, Associated Press Writer
December 17, 2007 2 minutes ago
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071217/ap_on_re_us/border_patrol_weapons

4) Blazing Arizona
Editorial
December 18, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/18/opinion/18tue1.html?_r=1&hp&oref=login

5) Statement Hints at Castro’s Retirement
By MARC LACEY
December 18, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/18/world/americas/18cuba.html?ref=world

6) California Moves Toward Universal Health Care
By KEVIN SACK
December 18, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/18/us/18care.html?ref=us

7) Food and Fuel Compete for Land
By ANDREW MARTIN
December 18, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/18/business/18food.html?ref=business

8) Slave labour that shames America
Migrant workers chained beaten and forced into debt, exposing the human
cost of producing cheap food
By Leonard Doyle in Immokalee, Floride
The Independent
December 19, 2007
http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/article3263500.ece

9) Picture of Secret Detentions Emerges in Pakistan
By CARLOTTA GALL
December 19, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/19/world/asia/19disappeared.html?ref=world

10) Report Finds U.S. Agencies Distracted by Focus on Cuba
By MARC LACEY
December 19, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/19/world/americas/19cuba.html?ref=world

11) Pension Fund Shortages Create Hard Choices
By MARY WILLIAMS WALSH
December 19, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/19/business/19pension.html?ref=us

12) Senate Adds $70 Billion for Wars in Spending Bill
By CARL HULSE
December 19, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/19/washington/19spend.html?ref=us

13) Detroit Revival Vies With Industry’s Decline
By MICHELINE MAYNARD and NICK BUNKLEY
December 19, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/19/business/19detroit.html?ref=us

14) Descendants of Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse break away from US
Agence France Presse.
Thu Dec 20, 9:22 AM ET
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20071220/ts_alt_afp/usindigenoustreatywithdraw_071220061635

15) Press Conference for FreshDirect Workers Announced for this Friday at
11 AM on the steps of City Hall
http://unionreview.com/printable/node/774

16) Panic at FreshDirect
A unionizing battle and a hunt for illegal immigrants collide
by Tom Robbins
December 18th, 2007 6:24 PM
http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0751,robbins,78671,2.html

17) A Pause From Death
Editorial
December 20, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/20/opinion/20thu2.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

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1) Connecting the dots: Developers and gang injunctions
by Alicia Schwartz, POWER
Wednesday, 12 December 2007
http://www.sfbayview.com/News/Main/Connecting_the_dots_Developers_and_gang_injunctions.html

On Thanksgiving Day, while many families were enjoying each other's company, one family was being terrorized at the hands of the San Francisco Police Department. Longtime Hunters Point resident and POWER member Joanne Abernathy, who had been taking a shower, was held, naked, by one male SFPD officer while her nephew - who is named on the Oakdale gang injunction list - was being beaten and arrested downstairs.

Joanne's children - the youngest is only 7 years old - watched the entire scenario take place. When one of them ventured to ask what was happening, she was told, "Shut the fuck up, bitch!" To add insult to injury, when the whole horrifying incident was over, the officers wished the family, "Happy Thanksgiving!"

These incidents are all too common in working class communities of color throughout San Francisco, as well as across the country. A new report from the University of Chicago entitled "The Use of Statistical Evidence to Address Police Supervisory and Disciplinary Practices: The Chicago Police Department's Broken System" details how rogue police officers are often placed in and assigned to low-income communities of color, and that these police officers engage in aggressive stops, street interrogations and searches of homes at any given time. The report also states that rogue officers connected with other like-minded officers and got away with their abusive behavior because of perceived lawlessness in San Francisco.

Even the typically conservative San Francisco Chronicle published an investigative series entitled "Use of Force," which documented startling statistics related to police brutality and abuse right here in San Francisco. So, if this information is so well documented, then why does it continue to happen? Why are the SFPD allowed to run wild in Bayview Hunters Point and other communities of color in San Francisco?

The answer is that the police are often used to protect the property and material interests of corporations and elites in any locality - at the expense of working class communities of color. This is why we hear the common complaint that "the police never come when you call them, but they're there in a heartbeat when you wish they weren't."

Police in Bayview Hunters Point can often be seen cruising the neighborhood, stopping people at random, usually young men, mugging kids hanging out on the corner or raiding homes in the projects. What you see less and less of are police helping old ladies across the street with their groceries or playing basketball with young people or even handing out those stickers they used to hand out that identified them as your "pal."

Slapping gang injunctions on the two neighborhoods where most Blacks live and the main Latino neighborhood is bringing a surge in Black-Brown unity to San Francisco. Photo: Florencia, HOMEY

When the City Attorney issued the gang injunction covering the Oakdale development, which lies adjacent to Parcel A of the Hunters Point Shipyard, where the City's "master developer," Lennar Corp., has been poisoning the neighborhood with toxic dust, local mainstream media justified the injunction by saying that people in the community were asking for - in fact, begging for - extra police protection. What the City Attorney didn't tell you was that the gang injunction was enacted in order to clear the way for this multi-billion dollar corporate developer to take over the most "underutilized parcel of land in San Francisco" - the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.

What that means is that the City of San Francisco is willing to do absolutely whatever it takes to begin to "utilize" that land. It doesn't matter if there are people living in that neighborhood; it doesn't matter if people have nowhere else to go or simply don't want to go. The reality is that the City is looking to locate one out of every four new residents coming into San Francisco in Bayview Hunters Point - and the mostly poor Black people people who live there now are supposed to get out of the way.

The three gang injunctions that are criminalizing young people in Bayview Hunters Point, the Mission and the Fillmore - despite strong opposition in those communities - are yet another example of developer-driven policy in San Francisco. They protect corporate interests, not community and family interests.

In exchange for 1,600 luxury condominiums that Lennar wants to build at the Shipyard and the severe nosebleeds, skin rashes, asthma attacks and eventual cancer and asbestosis deaths its toxic dust is causing, San Francisco has sent a clear message to communities of color that the City will do whatever it takes - including hog-tying and beating a 20-year-old young Black man, calling an 18-year-old young Black woman a bitch, holding the lifelong resident, community activist and mother naked in front of her three children, other family members, and a male officer she did not know on Thanksgiving Day.

The SFPD and the Gang Task Force have been allowed to run wild in Bayview Hunters Point for far too long. Until now.

At last Wednesday's Police Commission meeting, more than 60 young people from Bayview Hunters Point and the Mission, backed by their elders, ACORN, the African American Community Police Relations Board, the W. Haywood Burns Institute, the Idriss Stelley Foundation and many others took a stand and demanded justice and accountability from SFPD and the Police Commission.

On Monday, more than 80 people from HOMEY (Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth), La Raza Centro Legal, PODER (People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights), POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights), SLAM (the Stop Lennar Action Movement) and Bayview Hunters Point packed the City Hall hearing room to testify before the Board of Supervisors' Public Safety Committee as the City Attorney's office and the Gang Task Force attempted to defend the brutalization of mothers, sisters, daughters, sons, fathers, uncles and brothers from communities of color in San Francisco.

The widely despised gang injunctions need to be stopped and so does the SFPD when it runs wild in Bayview Hunters Point and other communities to protect developers rather than families. Community-based organizations and the people of San Francisco are connecting the dots.

Contact Alicia Schwartz of POWER at alicia@peopleorganized.org This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or (415) 864-8372 ext. 302.

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2) Housing slump hits home in East S.J.
By Pete Carey
Mercury News
Article Launched: 12/14/2007 03:23:25 PM PST
http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_7724733?nclick_check=1

The wave of foreclosures sweeping Santa Clara County has hit its Latino residents the hardest, stripping many first-time buyers of their homes and sending financial shock waves through the South Bay's largest minority community.

Nearly 60 percent of the 1,429 properties in the county taken back by lenders from Jan. 1 to Nov. 15 were owned by people with Hispanic surnames, according to a Mercury News analysis of data provided by ForeclosureRadar. In San Jose, that figure was 69 percent.

Latinos comprise 26 percent of the county's population and 32 percent of the city's, according to census data.

The damage comes as foreclosures in the county through Nov. 15 have skyrocketed to five times the number for all of 2006, according to DataQuick, another real estate research firm.

The epicenter of the foreclosure crisis is San Jose's East Side, a hub of Latino culture in the Bay Area. As homes are lost, real estate sales are stagnating and affordable rentals are becoming harder to find. Families are pooling resources in desperate attempts to make loan payments and hang on to their houses.

"It was great giving people their American dream," said Dolores Marquez, a retired community worker and long-time East Side resident. "But God, how they hooked them in and snatched it away."

Nora Campos, the San Jose city councilwoman who represents the area, said she's worried about the economic impact on the community and called for the city to work with state and federal legislators to stop the foreclosures and "bring some much needed relief to our working families."

Loosened lending requirements and high-pressure sales tactics during the past three years led to a home-buying surge in San Jose, according to real estate professionals. But many of those loans were destined to fail even as a chain of intermediaries profited from them.

Buyers were "not fully informed," said Rebecca Gallardo-Serrano, a San Jose real estate agent, 2008 chair of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals and a member of the Santa Clara County Planning Commission.

She said that during the boom, some agents hired people to go door-to-door, targeting Hispanics, some of whom may not have fully understood the complex financial transaction involved in buying a home.

Adjustable rates

"They are getting into a home and fulfilling the American dream, but they don't recognize that the loan may be fixed for three months, or a year, and then may continue to adjust," Gallardo-Serrano said.

Now, many of these owners can't afford their costly adjustable mortgages. Nor can they refinance because home values have dropped, leaving them without any equity in the house. Meanwhile, lenders have tightened standards that once allowed lower-income families to buy $600,000 homes with no money down.

And for every foreclosure, there are many more families struggling, according to community observers.

"It's a family situation," said Dennis King of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Silicon Valley. "So many in the family try to bail out the homeowner by pledging more and more of their resources to cover it, and that multiplies the damage."

With few homes selling, some predict prices of lower-end houses will fall even more, exacerbating the problem.

"There are tons of houses on my block that haven't sold," said Veronica Frausto, a county social worker and single mother who bought her house for $612,000 in 2005. "They have signs up, and it's affecting the value of my home as well. It's 'price reduced,' 'price reduced.' "

That has trapped people like Frausto, who is unable to refinance her no-down-payment loan because of the drop in home prices. She is renting rooms and working with her lender to try to avoid foreclosure.

"I love my house," she said. "I'm going to do whatever I can to hold onto it."

Wilfred Perez, a real estate agent and loan officer for Alvarez & Alvarez, said about 50 people came to him for help last month, and he expects three times that many this month. "They don't know where to go," Perez said. "They are afraid to call the lender, or they say no one answers, or nobody there speaks Spanish and they just put you on hold."

Perez himself lost the house he bought for $650,000 in 2005 - "at the top of the market." The value of the property dropped $100,000 when it was foreclosed on and put up for auction, he said. "How do you think the neighbors feel?"

"People don't want to lose their homes," added Robert Aldana, a real estate agent who has a Spanish-language radio show on real estate. "They are saying, 'Help us,' but lenders are not helping."

While Latinos have been hit the hardest, there are many non-Hispanics struggling with loan payments too.

'Take the house'

Girlie Bass, a registered nurse whose husband drives for the Valley Transportation Authority, is trying to get her lender to take back the "fixer-upper" on Aetna Way in San Jose she bought for a borrowed $615,000 in 2004. "I just want them to release me from the mortgage. Take the house. I don't care if I get a dime out of it," said Bass, who is 61. She said her loan payment is now $6,497 a month, far outstripping her and her husband's ability to pay.

Neighborhood Housing Services Silicon Valley says it is getting an average of seven requests for help a day from homeowners worried about making their mortgage payments or losing their homes. These are largely Spanish-only speakers with an average loan balance of $475,000 to $575,000 typically earning an average of $3,300 or less a month per household, according to Marlene Santiago, the agency's bilingual foreclosure counselor.

Unsuitable loans

"Most of what I've seen is the client cannot afford the home due to the fact they probably should never have been put into that loan to begin with," Santiago said.

On the East Side, community leaders and realty agents are concerned and upset.

"I'm saddened by the fact that these people losing their houses were sold them by Latino real estate agents," said the Rev. Jose Antonio Rubio, director of ecumenical affairs for the Diocese of San Jose. "I presume they had good intentions."

On the other hand, he said, many buyers knew what the terms of their loans were. "You wonder what they were thinking when they agreed to them," he said.

"It's tragedy on multiple levels," said Santa Clara County Supervisor Blanca Alvarado. "Maybe it's through some fault of their own, but the system is so complicated, the desire for homeownership is such a powerful impulse, and there are predators on every corner waiting to take advantage of them."

The Rev. Joseph Leon of Pueblo de Dios Lutheran church in West San Jose said parishioners have sought help from him. "Some have come for prayer, and we just pray for them, and just walk with them through this thing. It is a good opportunity for the church to reach out to these folks."

Contact Pete Carey at pcarey@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5419.

Mercury News Staff Writer Sue McAllister contributed to this report.

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3) Border Patrol fires tear gas into Mexico
By ELLIOT SPAGAT, Associated Press Writer
December 17, 2007 2 minutes ago
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071217/ap_on_re_us/border_patrol_weapons

Border Patrol agents are firing tear gas and powerful pepper-spray weapons across the border into Mexico to repel what the agency says are an increasing number of attacks by assailants hurling rocks, bottles and bricks.

The counteroffensive has drawn complaints that innocent families are being caught in the crossfire.

"A neighbor shouted, 'Stop it! There are children living here," said Esther Arias Medina, 41, who on Wednesday fled her Tijuana, Mexico, shanty with her 3-week-old grandson after the infant began coughing from smoke that seeped through the walls.

A helmeted agent on the U.S. side said nothing as he stood with a rifle on top of a 10-foot border fence next to the three-room home that Arias shares with six others.

"We don't deserve this," Arias said. "The people who live here don't throw rocks. Those are people who come from the outside, but we're paying the price."

Witnesses in Arias' hardscrabble neighborhood described eight attacks since August that involved tear gas or pepper spray, some that forced residents to evacuate.

The Border Patrol says its agents have been attacked nearly 1,000 times during a one-year period.

The agency's top official in San Diego, Mike Fisher, said agents are taking action because Mexican authorities have been slow to respond. When an attack happens, he said, American authorities often wait hours for them to come, and help usually never arrives.

"We have been taking steps to ensure that our agents are safe," Fisher said.

Mexico's acting consul general in San Diego, Ricardo Pineda, has insisted that U.S. authorities stop firing onto Mexican soil. He met with Border Patrol officials last month after the agency fired tear gas into Mexico. The agency defended that counterattack, saying agents were being hit with a hail of ball bearings from slingshots in Mexico.

U.S. officials say the violence indicates that smugglers are growing more desperate as stepped-up security makes it harder to sneak across the border. The assailants try to distract agents long enough to let people dash in the United States.

The head of a union representing Border Patrol employees said the violence also results from the decision to put agents right up against the border, a departure from the early 1990s when they waited farther back to make arrests.

"When you get that close to the fence, your agents are sitting ducks," said T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council.

Border Patrol agents were attacked 987 times along the U.S.-Mexico border during the 12-month period that ended Sept. 30, the agency said. That's up 31 percent from 752 attacks a year earlier, and it's the highest number since the agency began recording attacks in the late 1990s.

About two-thirds of the attacks were with rocks. Many of the rest involved physical assaults, such as illegal immigrants getting into fist fights with guards.

About one of every four attacks occurred in San Diego, and most of those happened along a heavily fortified, 10-mile stretch of the border starting at the Pacific Ocean.

Agent Joseph Ralph estimates he has been struck by rocks 20 times since joining the Border Patrol in 1987, once fracturing a shoulder blade. "You find yourself trying to take cover," he said.

About four months ago, a large rock struck the hood of agent Ellery Taylor's vehicle. "The only thing you can think is, 'I'm glad that that wasn't my head.' There's no way to see it coming," Taylor said.

In October, agents in California and Arizona received compressed-air guns that shoot pepper-spray canisters more than 200 feet. Agents already had less powerful pepper-launchers that lose their punch after about 30 feet — even less if absorbed by thick clothing or cardboard.

The Border Patrol says the pepper weapons are a less lethal alternative to regular guns, but they have caused at least one fatality. In October 2004, a college student died after she was struck in the eye by a pepper-spray canister that officers fired to control a celebration of the Red Sox's pennant win.

Border Patrol SWAT teams along the 1,952-mile U.S.-Mexico border are also equipped with tear gas, "flash bombs" that emit blinding light and "sting ball" grenades that disperse hundreds of tiny rubber pellets.

U.S. officials say the new tactics may spare lives. An agent shot and killed a 20-year-old Mexican man whose arm was cocked back in March in Calexico, Calif., where rock attacks have soared in the last year. Two years ago, an agent fatally shot a rock thrower at the San Diego-Tijuana border.

No criminal charges were filed in either case.

Robis Guadalupe Argumedo, a seamstress in Tijuana, said she has been startled by tear gas on four nights since Aug. 7, when her 12-year-old son suffered a nose bleed. That attack also shattered a window of her neighbor's car.

Argumedo, 31, said she shouted in protest across the border at a helmeted agent on Dec. 8 after opening her front door to a cloud of tear gas. "He said: 'I'm the policeman of the world and I can do what I want.'"

Benito Arias said his 19-year-old sister-in-law fainted during an apparent tear gas attack about two weeks ago. The woman, five months pregnant, was given oxygen at the hospital.

His father, Jose Arias, fled with his wife a few blocks away, where paramedics checked their blood pressure. He said he sympathizes with the Border Patrol because Mexican authorities do nothing to prevent people from hurling rocks over the fence at agents.

"This is a matter between government and government," said Arias, 75. "They have to work out an agreement. We are innocent. What can we do about it?"

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4) Blazing Arizona
Editorial
December 18, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/18/opinion/18tue1.html?_r=1&hp&oref=login

On Jan. 1, Arizona intends to become the first state to try to muscle its way out of its immigration problems on its own. That is when, barring a last-minute setback in court, it is to begin enforcing a new state law that harshly punishes businesses that knowingly hire undocumented immigrants. It is a two-strike law, suspending a business’s license on the first offense and revoking it on the second. It is the strictest workplace-enforcement law in the country.

We have always said that workplace laws should be enforced vigorously — as part of a comprehensive, nationwide immigration system that doesn’t just punish, but tries to actually solve the problems that foster and sustain the breaking of immigration laws. The boosters of the Arizona law, including the Minutemen border vigilantes who have made “January First!” an anti-immigrant rallying cry, have a much narrower goal: the biggest purge of illegal immigrants in the Southwest since the federal government’s Operation Wetback in 1954.

If that happens, the immigrants will take a big chunk of Arizona’s growth and economic vitality with them — and not necessarily back across the international border. The collateral damage will be severe as citizens and legal immigrants are also thrown out of work, as businesses struggle to find workers in a state with a 3.3 percent unemployment rate and as sleazy employers move more workers off the books, the better to abuse and exploit them. And the national problem of undocumented immigration will be no closer to a solution.

There are many compassion-and-common-sense criticisms of Arizona’s Fair and Legal Employment Act: stories about families torn apart, breadwinners deported and citizen children on public assistance. They make little headway with the law-and-order crowd. Nor does the fact that many hard-line defenders of workplace enforcement show a lopsided devotion to federal laws; they seldom complain when employers abuse undocumented immigrants and steal their wages, even though those violations worsen job conditions and pay for American workers, too.

For now, let’s just point out that Arizona’s plunge into enforcement-only immigration policy highlights the folly and inadequacy of that approach, particularly when it is left to a crazy quilt of state laws. America is a country where millions of illegal immigrants have entered for years all but invited and mostly not pursued. They have become integral to our economy, although now — thanks to harsher enforcement and the defeat of comprehensive immigration reform in Congress — most have no way to become legal, no options except slipping back into destitution on the other side of the border.

There is no way for Arizona or any other state to get businesses back on a legal footing without exacting a great economic and human toll.

It could be that Arizona’s enforcement of the law will be calm and measured. But we worry about Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and two-thirds of the state’s population. Maricopa’s county attorney, Andrew Thomas, and county sheriff, Joe Arpaio, are prone to media-driven stunts. Sheriff Arpaio makes a show of his meanness, hounding and humiliating prisoners and forming his deputies into squads that check people’s clothes and accents before demanding their papers.

Arizona is home to many moderate politicians, like Gov. Janet Napolitano, who were all too aware of the bill’s problems, and yet it became law. Many say the Minutemen and their allies had offered an ultimatum: approve this bill or face a citizen’s initiative on the 2008 ballot that would be even harsher and blunter, and all but impossible to repair. That promise was reneged on; petitions for the Minutemen’s initiative are being collected now.

As Arizona exacts its punishment on the undocumented workers who have made it so prosperous, it runs the risk of proving itself tough but not smart.

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5) Statement Hints at Castro’s Retirement
By MARC LACEY
December 18, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/18/world/americas/18cuba.html?ref=world

MEXICO CITY — Fidel Castro indicated Monday in a statement read on state television that he was willing to hand over the reins of Cuba’s government to a younger generation of leaders. But his statement remained silent on whether he was speaking hypothetically or had a transition plan in mind.

“My basic duty is not to cling to office, nor even more so, to obstruct the rise of people much younger, but to pass on experiences and ideas whose modest value arises from the exceptional era in which I lived,” said the statement attributed to Mr. Castro, who is 81.

The ailing Mr. Castro, acting in a sort of emeritus role, has produced numerous commentaries in the 16 months since he had abdominal surgery and temporarily handed over power to his younger brother, Raúl, who is 76. But none of the statements until now have addressed the important question of Mr. Castro’s future as Cuba’s president, a position he has held for nearly five decades.

The most recent speculation in Havana had been that Mr. Castro might be trying to make a comeback. His health was said to be improving, and on Dec. 2 he was officially nominated as a candidate for the next National Assembly. The assembly meets in March to choose a 31-member Council of State, which will select the next president.

Because only assembly members qualify for the top job, Mr. Castro’s nomination as a candidate seemed to rule out the notion that he was retiring from politics and ceding power to Raúl, the defense minister and constitutionally designated successor.

Fidel Castro’s future is considered a very delicate affair, analysts say, given his singular role in running the country. Only he can decide to opt out of the presidency, and those below him in the ranks, including his brother, have been careful not to be seen as pressuring him to cede power despite his health problems.

In his latest statement, read on the nightly discussion program “Round Table,” Mr. Castro did not speak of any future leaders he envisioned governing Cuba.

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6) California Moves Toward Universal Health Care
By KEVIN SACK
December 18, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/18/us/18care.html?ref=us

SACRAMENTO — California moved significantly closer to enacting a broad expansion of health insurance coverage Monday when the Democratic-controlled Assembly passed legislation that has the backing of the Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But it is far from certain that the Legislature will give final approval to the measure, which would provide coverage to an estimated 70 percent of the 5.1 million persistently uninsured Californians.

The bill must first gain passage in the Senate, also controlled by Democrats, where there are deep concerns about the measure’s impact on the state’s widening budget gap. And even if the Senate ultimately joins with Mr. Schwarzenegger and the Assembly, state leaders then must persuade California voters to support billions of dollars in new taxes and fees in a November referendum.

The Senate president pro tem, Don Perata, has said he will not bring his members back to Sacramento until the 2008 session begins on Jan. 7.

Though Mr. Perata, a Democrat from Oakland, has endorsed the plan’s general concept, he is worried that the state’s budget problems make it impractical. On Monday, he asked legislative fiscal analysts to study the Assembly bill’s long-term fiscal implications, particularly in light of any cuts in social services that may be made to bring next year’s budget into balance.

Nonetheless, Monday’s passage by the Assembly, on a party-line vote of 46 to 31, culminated nearly a year of negotiation that began in January, when Mr. Schwarzenegger proposed an audacious plan to insure all Californians. Three other states — Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont — had passed similar plans in recent years, but all are significantly smaller than California, which is the country’s largest state, and have lower proportions of uninsured residents.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, in the floor debate Monday afternoon, called the bill “truly a historic effort” and rejected Republican assertions that its passage was “more for public relations than for policy,” as it was put by the Assembly Republican leader, Michael Villines.

“There is hope through this bill,” Mr. Nuñez said, “that never again in California will someone be kicked to the curb by an insurance company.”

The plan created by Mr. Schwarzenegger and Mr. Nuñez, first during the regular legislative session and then in a special session called by the governor in September, draws from both Democratic and Republican ideas.

Its fundamental structure mimics the plan adopted last year by Massachusetts and embraced by several Democratic presidential candidates. Like that state, California would force insurers to offer policies regardless of a consumer’s age or health status, and it would require most individuals to obtain basic health coverage. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Senator John Edwards support such a mandate, and Senator Barack Obama has proposed mandatory coverage for children.

As in Massachusetts, some Californians would be granted exemptions if their income is too low to afford premiums but too high to qualify for heavy government subsidies. Assembly aides said that about 15 percent of those left uninsured by the plan would be illegal immigrants, though children in the country illegally would be offered coverage.

A major sticking point in the negotiations, and a major concern for the labor unions that provide California Democrats with their most reliable support, has been whether the mandated policies would be affordable for middle-income workers. The California plan would offer state subsidies to purchasers with incomes below 250 percent of the federal poverty level, or $51,625 for a family of four.

A number of large unions ultimately supported the bill, including the state’s largest, the Service Employees International Union, whose president, Andrew L. Stern, attended a buoyant news conference after the vote with Mr. Schwarzenegger and Mr. Nuñez.

But the plan also would use tax credits, a concept backed by President Bush and the leading Republican presidential candidates, to make policies more affordable for the middle class. Those earning between 250 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level ($82,600 for a family of four) would be able to deduct premium costs that exceed 5.5 percent of their incomes.

The cost of the plan, which would take effect in 2010, is pegged at $14.4 billion. But none of the financing mechanisms were included in the bill passed Monday. California requires a two-thirds vote of both chambers to approve tax increases, and it became apparent last summer that the Republican minority would not provide the votes needed to reach that threshold.

That left Mr. Schwarzenegger and Mr. Nuñez, a Democrat from Los Angeles, to devise a two-step approach: legislative approval of the mechanics of the health care plan, followed by a November 2008 referendum with voters asked to approve tax increases to pay for it.

Among the taxes is a $1.50 increase in the 87-cent levy on tobacco products, which would raise about $1.5 billion, and a 4 percent levy on hospital revenues, which would raise $2.3 billion. The hospital dollars are one component that would help the state leverage an additional $4.6 billion in federal financing.

Mr. Schwarzenegger has promised repeatedly not to raise taxes, but he has said that passage of the referendum would equate to voters raising taxes on themselves.

In addition to the tax changes, employers would either have to spend a fixed percentage of their payrolls on health coverage for employees or pay a comparable amount into a state insurance pool that would provide subsidized coverage.

During negotiations over the bill, Mr. Nuñez dropped his initial opposition to Mr. Schwarzenegger’s insistence that individuals be required to have insurance. The governor, meanwhile, demonstrated flexibility concerning revenue sources, dropping proposals to tax doctors and to use lottery proceeds before agreeing to the tobacco tax increase.

Because it can take months to collect the more than 700,000 signatures needed to place the revenue measures on the ballot, aides to Mr. Schwarzenegger and Mr. Nuñez said it was critical that the bill win Senate approval quickly.

But Mr. Perata poured cold water on the emerging health care compromise last week by announcing that “it would be imprudent and impolitic to support an expansion of health care” before the state addressed a wide gap that has opened in next year’s budget.

The governor’s office projects the budget gap, which has worsened because of the housing slump, could reach $14 billion, or nearly 13 percent of the state’s estimated $111 billion general fund for 2008-09.

Mr. Schwarzenegger argues that the health plan is intended to bring down costs by encouraging healthy habits, better management of chronic diseases and electronic record-keeping. That, he says, should help California fix its structural budget problems.

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7) Food and Fuel Compete for Land
By ANDREW MARTIN
December 18, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/18/business/18food.html?ref=business

Shopping at a Whole Foods Market in suburban Chicago, Meredith Estes said food prices have jumped so much she has resorted to coupons. Charles T. Rodgers Jr., an Arkansas cattle rancher, said normal feed rations so expensive and scarce he is scrambling for alternatives. In Oregon, Jack Joyce, the owner of Rogue Ales, said the cost of barley malt has soared 88 percent this year.

For years, cheap food and feed were taken for granted in the United States.

But now the price of some foods is rising sharply, and from the corridors of Washington to the aisles of neighborhood supermarkets, a blame alert is under way.

Among the favorite targets is ethanol, especially for food manufacturers and livestock farmers who seethe at government mandates for ethanol production. The ethanol boom, they contend, is raising corn prices, driving up the cost of producing dairy products and meat, and causing farmers to plant so much corn as to crowd out other crops.

The results are working their way through the marketplace, in this view, with overall consumer grocery costs up roughly 5 percent in a year and feed costs up more than 20 percent.

Now, with Congress poised to adopt a new mandate that would double the volume of ethanol made from corn, ethanol skeptics say a fateful moment has arrived, with the nation about to commit itself to decades of competition between food and fuel for the use of agricultural land.

“This is like a runaway freight train,” said Scott Faber, a lobbyist for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, who complained that ethanol has the same “magical effect” on politicians as the tooth fairy and Santa Claus have on children. “It’s great news for corn farmers, but terrible news for consumers.”

But ethanol critics are not getting much traction with their argument. Last week, the Senate voted 86 to 8 for a new energy bill containing expanded ethanol mandates, and the House is expected to follow suit this week.

Experts with no stake in the argument say ethanol has indeed contributed to rising food costs, but that is only one among several factors. Higher fuel costs are driving up the expense of growing and transporting food. And strong economic growth abroad is increasing demand for agricultural commodities, allowing once-destitute people to augment their diets with meat and dairy.

It is also a tough time, politically, to make a case against ethanol. With continuing turmoil in the Middle East, sky-high gas prices and presidential candidates stumping in Iowa, the heart of the Corn Belt, a new renewable fuel standard has plenty of supporters on Capitol Hill.

“We did get whipped,” said Jay Truitt, vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “We continue to be caught up in this fervor, almost spirituality, about ethanol. You can’t get anyone to consider that there is a consequence to these actions.”

He added, “We think there will be a day when people ask, ‘Why in the world did we do this?’”

The bill in Congress would increase the mandate for renewable fuels to a striking 36 billion gallons by 2022. That is far beyond a requirement on the books now for 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol by 2012.

Much of the newly required ethanol could be made from agricultural wastes like corn stalks and straw, and its production would not compete directly with food production. But the proposed mandate, known as a renewable fuel standard, also calls for 15 billion gallons of ethanol made from grains, primarily corn.

Ethanol advocates say they believe yield increases will supply much of the extra corn needed to meet the new mandate.

Mark W. Leonard, who raises cattle and corn in western Iowa and owns a stake in several ethanol plants, said it was “absolutely essential” that the government increase the mandate for ethanol, and he urged Congress to push up the deadlines.

“This is a national security issue more than anything else,” said Mr. Leonard, noting the nation’s dependence on imported oil. “We need to quit sending money to people who want to blow us up.”

When the current standard was passed as part of a 2005 energy bill, it set off a construction binge of ethanol plants that continues, primarily in the Corn Belt but also in places like California, Texas and upstate New York. As new plants opened and the demand for ethanol increased, so did corn prices.

Farmers have responded to the boom by planting more and more corn. In fact, the amount of corn planted this year, 94 million acres, was the most since World War II, and it produced a record crop of 13.2 billion bushels. But even with bumper crops, corn prices are expected to climb next year.

Joe Victor, vice president for marketing for Allendale, an agricultural research firm in the Chicago suburbs, said Midwestern farmers would face a pleasant quandary in the spring in deciding what to plant because wheat and soybean prices are at or near record highs and corn prices remain bullish.

“Oh geez, they’ve got money galore,” he said. “The Senate vote for the energy bill was a real confidence builder for the farmer to think, ‘They are not going to pull the rug out from underneath us.’”

The price increases for corn have had a broad impact, both because farmers are planting more corn and less of other crops and because livestock producers are scrambling for feed substitutes. For instance, soybeans acreage planted this year was about 16 percent less than in 2006.

Feed costs have increased 25 to 30 percent in the last year, according to David Fairfield, director of feed services at the National Grain and Feed Association. He attributed virtually all of the increase to the demands of the ethanol industry

One consequence of the higher feed costs is rising competition for malt barley between livestock farmers, who want it for feed, and brewers, who need it for beer. Mr. Joyce, the Rogue Ales owner in Newport, Ore., said he has been forced to raise prices to pay for the additional costs of ingredients.

Mr. Rodgers, the Rison, Ark., rancher, said he used to feed his cattle a mixture of corn gluten and soybean hulls. But he said he cannot get corn gluten anymore, and the cost of soybean hulls has risen to $150 a ton from about $105 a ton.

“I’m all for us being energy independent,” he said, but added, “it’s got to be market driven.”

The impact of ethanol on prices at the grocery store is less certain.

Grocery prices that are measured by the Consumer Price Index increased 5.4 percent in the last year, with dairy prices up 14 percent; meats, poultry, fish and eggs, 5.4 percent; cereal and baked products, 5.2 percent; and fruits and vegetables, 4.5 percent.

Those increases outpaced overall inflation of 4.3 percent. Government economists predict grocery prices will jump another 3 to 4 percent in 2008.

In a study completed in May, researchers at Iowa State University concluded that retail food prices had already increased by $47 per person in the previous year or so as a result of higher corn prices. If corn prices near $4.50 a bushel next year, as many people expect, the research suggests that retail food prices for meat will increase about 7.5 percent and egg prices will go up 13.5 percent.

But researchers for the Renewable Fuels Association dispute that math and contend that the link between corn prices and grocery prices is weak.

As the debate continues, one thing is certain: American shoppers are increasingly frustrated over rising prices.

“It’s the staples, the cheeses, the milks and produce,” said Ms. Estes, shopping at the Chicago-area Whole Foods. “It’s going up, and my grocery bill at the end, it’s like, ‘Are you kidding me?’”

Eric Ferkenhoff contributed reporting from Chicago.

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8) Slave labour that shames America
Migrant workers chained beaten and forced into debt, exposing the human
cost of producing cheap food
By Leonard Doyle in Immokalee, Floride
The Independent
December 19, 2007
http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/article3263500.ece

Three Florida fruit-pickers, held captive and brutalised by their
employer for more than a year, finally broke free of their bonds by
punching their way through the ventilator hatch of the van in which they
were imprisoned. Once outside, they dashed for freedom.

When they found sanctuary one recent Sunday morning, all bore the marks
of heavy beatings to the head and body. One of the pickers had a nasty,
untreated knife wound on his arm. Police would learn later that another
man had his hands chained behind his back every night to prevent him
escaping, leaving his wrists swollen.

The migrants were not only forced to work in sub-human conditions but
mistreated and forced into debt. They were locked up at night and had to
pay for sub-standard food. If they took a shower with a garden hose or
bucket, it cost them $5.

Their story of slavery and abuse in the fruit fields of sub-tropical
Florida threatens to lift the lid on some appalling human rights abuses
in America today.

Between December and May, Florida produces virtually the entire US crop
of field-grown fresh tomatoes. Fruit picked here in the winter months
ends up on the shelves of supermarkets and is also served in the
country's top restaurants and in tens of thousands of fast-food outlets.

But conditions in the state's fruit-picking industry range from
straightforward exploitation to forced labour. Tens of thousands of men,
women and children – excluded from the protection of America's
employment laws and banned from unionising – work their fingers to the
bone for rates of pay which have hardly budged in 30 years.

Until now, even appeals from the former president Jimmy Carter to help
raise the wages of fruit-pickers have gone unheeded. However, with
Florida looming as a key battleground during the the next presidential
election, there is hope that their cause will be raised by the
Democratic candidates Barack Obama and John Edwards.

Fruit-pickers, who typically earn about $200 (£100) a week, are part of
an unregulated system designed to keep food prices low and the plates of
America's overweight families piled high. The migrants, largely Hispanic
and with many of them from Mexico, are the last wretched link in a long
chain of exploitation and abuse. They are paid 45 cents (22p) for every
32-pound bucket of tomatoes collected. A worker has to pick nearly
two-and-a-half tons of tomatoes – a near impossibility – in order to
reach minimum wage. So bad are their working and living conditions that
the US Department of Labour, which is not known for its sympathy to the
underdog, has called it "a labour force in considerable distress".

A week after the escapees managed to emerge from the van in which they
had been locked up for the night, police discovered that a forced labour
operation was supplying fruit-pickers to local growers. Court papers
describe how migrant workers were forced into debt and beaten into going
to work on farms in Florida, as well as in North and South Carolina.
Detectives found another 11 men who were being kept against their will
in the grounds of a Florida house shaded by palm trees. The bungalow
stood abandoned this week, a Cadillac in the driveway alongside a black
and chrome pick-up truck with a cowboy hat on the dashboard. The entire
operation was being run by the Navarettes, a family well known in the area.

Also near by was the removals van from which Mariano Lucas, one of the
first to escape, punched his way through a ventilation hatch to freedom
in the early hours of 18 November. With him were Jose Velasquez, who had
bruises on his face and ribs and a cut forearm, and Jose Hari. The men
told police they had to relieve themselves inside the van. Other migrant
workers were kept in other vehicles and sheds scattered around the garden.

Enslaved by the Navarettes for more than a year, the men had been
working in blisteringly hot conditions, sometimes for seven days a week.
Despite their hard work, they were mired in debt because of the punitive
charges imposed by their employer, who is being held on minor charges
while a grand jury investigates his alleged involvement in human
trafficking.

The men had to pay to live in the back of vans and for food. Their
entire pay cheques went to the Navarettes and they were still in debt.
They slept in decrepit sheds and vehicles in a yard littered with
rubbish. When one man did not want to go to work because he was sick, he
was allegedly pushed and kicked by the Navarettes. "They physically
loaded him in the van and made him go to work that day. Cesar, Geovanni
and Martin Navarette beat him up and as a result he was bleeding in his
mouth," a grand jury was told.

The complaint reveals that the men were forced to pay rent of $20 (£10)
a week to sleep in a locked furniture van where they had no option but
to urinate and defecate in a corner. They had to pay $50 a week for
meals – mostly rice and beans with meat perhaps twice a week if they
were lucky. The fruit-pickers' caravans, which they share with up to 15
other men, rent for $2,400 a month – more per square foot than a New
York apartment – and are less than 10 minutes' walk from the hiring fair
where the men show up before sunrise. At least half those who come
looking for work are not taken on.

Florida has a long history of exploiting migrant workers. Farm labourers
have no protection under US law and can be fired at will. Conditions
have barely changed since 1960 when the journalist Edward R Murrow
shocked Americans with Harvest Of Shame, a television broadcast about
the bleak and underpaid lives of the workers who put food on their
tables. "We used to own our slaves but now we just rent them," Murrow
said, in a phrase that still resonates in Immokalee today.

For several years, a campaign has been under way to improve the workers'
conditions. After years of talks, a scheme to pay the tomato pickers a
penny extra per pound has been signed off by McDonald's, the world's
biggest restaurant chain, and by Yum!, which owns 35,000 restaurants
including KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. But Burger King, which also buys
its tomatoes in Immokalee, has so far refused to participate,
threatening the entire scheme.

"We see no legal way of paying these workers," said Steve Grover, the
vice-president of Burger King. He complained that a local human rights
group, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers "has gone after us because we
are a known brand". But he added: "At the end of the day, we don't
employ the farmworkers so how can we pay them?"

Burger King will not pay the extra penny a pound that the tomato-pickers
are demanding he said. "If we agreed to the penny per pound, Burger King
would pay about $250,000 annually, or $100 per worker. How does that
solve exploitation and poverty?" he asked.

Burger King is not the only buyer digging in its heels. Whole Foods
Market, which recently expanded into Britain with a store in London's
upmarket suburb of Kensington, has been discovered stocking tomatoes
from one of the most notorious Florida sweatshop producers. Whole Foods
ignored an appeal by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to pay an extra
penny a pound for its tomatoes.

In a statement Whole Foods said it was "committed to supporting and
promoting economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable
agriculture" and supports "the right of all workers to be treated fairly
and humanely."

The Democratic candidates for the presidency do not often talk about
exploited migrant workers, but there are hints that Barack Obama will
visit the Immokalee fruit pickers sometime before Florida's primary
election on 5 February.

Jimmy Carter recently joined the campaign to improve the lot of
fruit-pickers, appealing to Burger King and the growers "to restore the
dignity of Florida's tomato industry". His appeal fell on deaf ears but
100 church groups, including the Catholic bishop of Miami, joined him.

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9) Picture of Secret Detentions Emerges in Pakistan
By CARLOTTA GALL
December 19, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/19/world/asia/19disappeared.html?ref=world

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies, apparently trying to avoid acknowledging an elaborate secret detention system, have quietly set free nearly 100 men suspected of links to terrorism, few of whom were charged, human rights groups and lawyers here say.

Those released, they say, are some of the nearly 500 Pakistanis presumed to have disappeared into the hands of the Pakistani intelligence agencies cooperating with Washington’s fight against terrorism since 2001.

No official reason has been given for the releases, but as pressure has mounted to bring the cases into the courts, the government has decided to jettison some suspects and spare itself the embarrassment of having to reveal that people have been held on flimsy evidence in the secret system, its opponents say.

Interviews with lawyers and human rights officials here, a review of cases by The New York Times and court records made available by the lawyers show how scraps of information have accumulated over recent months into a body of evidence of the detention system.

In one case, a suspect tied to, but not charged with the 2002 killing of Daniel Pearl, the American journalist, was dumped on a garbage heap, so thin and ill he died 20 days later. He, like one other detainee, was arrested in South Africa several years ago and released in Pakistan this year.

The Pakistani government denies detaining people illegally and says that many of the missing are actually in regular jails on criminal charges, while other cases have been fabricated.

In at least two instances, detainees were handed over to the United States without any legal extradition proceedings, Pakistani lawyers and human rights groups say. American officials here and in Washington refused to comment on the cases.

“They are releasing them because these cases are being made public,” said Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, a lawyer working at the Supreme Court who has taken many cases of the missing. “They want to avoid the publicity.”

In addition, human rights groups and lawyers here contend, the government has swept up at least 4,000 other Pakistanis, most of them Baluchi and Sindhi nationalists seeking ethnic or regional autonomy who have nothing to do with the United States campaign against terrorism.

Human rights groups and lawyers describe the disappearances as one of the grimmest aspects of Pervez Musharraf’s presidency, and one that shows no sign of slowing.

Under previous governments, “there were one or two cases, but not the systematic disappearances by the intelligence agencies under Musharraf,” said Iqbal Haider, secretary general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent nonprofit organization.

The issue of the missing became one of the most contentious between President Musharraf and the Supreme Court under its former chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

The releases are particularly galling to lawyers here because as one justification for imposing emergency rule on Nov. 3, President Musharraf accused the courts of freeing terrorism suspects. That decree was lifted Saturday, but the former chief justice and other judges were dismissed and remain in detention. The Supreme Court hearings on the missing have been halted.

While Mr. Musharraf criticized the court as being soft on terrorists, court records show that Mr. Chaudhry was less interested in releasing terrorism suspects than in making sure their cases entered the court system.

He said at each hearing that his primary concern was for the families of the missing, who were suffering anguish not knowing where their loved ones were.

His main aim was to regularize the detention of the missing, not to free them, Mr. Siddiqui said. “Not a single person who was convicted was released on the Supreme Court’s order,” he said.

Detainees have been warned on their release not to speak to anyone about their detention, yet fragments of their experiences have filtered out through relatives and their lawyers. A few even appeared in court and told their stories, and it became increasingly clear that the “disappeared” men had in fact been held in military or intelligence agency cells around the country, often for several years without being charged.

Still, the government denies detaining people illegally or torturing them. Brig. Javed Iqbal Cheema, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry and leader of the national crisis management cell that deals with terrorism, said many of the men said to be missing had been found in jails or police cells and had been charged with crimes.

Others, he said, may have gone to the hills or to Afghanistan to fight and died there. Still others, he suggested, were fabricated. “Let me assure you that there’s a lot of politics going on into the missing persons also,” he said.

Critics say abuses continue. The director of the human rights commission, I. A. Rehman, said the government had set up a nearly invisible detention system. “There are safe houses in Islamabad where people are kept,” he said, citing accounts from the police and freed detainees. “Police have admitted this. Flats are taken on rent; property is seized; people are tortured there.”

In some cases, detainees recounted that they had been interrogated in the presence of English-speaking foreigners, who human rights officials and lawyers suspect are Americans.

A United States Embassy spokeswoman said she could not comment on the allegations and referred all questions to Washington. A spokesman for the Central Intelligence Agency, Mark Mansfield, declined to comment on Mr. Rehman’s accusations, or on any specific detainees.

One detainee, a Jordanian named Marwan Ibrahim, who was arrested in a raid in the city of Lahore, where he had been living for 10 years, said he was sent to a detention center in Afghanistan run by Americans, then to Jordan and Israel, and was finally released in Gaza, according to an account Mr. Ibrahim gave to Human Rights Watch.

Another detainee, Majid Khan, 27, a Pakistani computer engineer who disappeared from Karachi four years ago, surfaced April 15 this year before a military tribunal in Guantánamo Bay. His American lawyers say he was subjected to torture in C.I.A. detention in a secret location. Mr. Mansfield, the C.I.A. spokesman, declined to comment, except to say that the “C.I.A.’s terrorist interrogation effort has always been small, carefully run, lawful, and highly productive.”

“Fewer than 100 hardened terrorists have gone through the program since it began in 2002,” he added, “and, of those, less than a third required any enhanced interrogation measures.”

As more and more such accounts have come to light, President Musharraf has fought vigorously to keep the details of Pakistan’s secret detentions hidden.

A week into emergency rule, he passed a decree amending the 1952 Army Act to allow civilians to be tried by military tribunals for general offenses. The tribunals are closed to the public and offer no right of appeal.

The amendment was made retroactive to January 2003. Mr. Haider of the human rights commission said the amendment was to cover the illegal detentions by the intelligence agencies. “These agencies have gone berserk, and President Musharraf is legitimizing their acts,” he said.

Brigadier Cheema, the Interior Ministry spokesman, acknowledged that prosecutors and investigators had had difficulty pinning crimes on detainees. Hundreds of people in Guantánamo have not been charged either, he pointed out. The Army Act amendment would resolve much of the problem, he said.

“Sometimes it becomes difficult to prove a case, but you have reasons that a person poses a threat to humanity and to society,” he said.

The intervention of the Supreme Court under Mr. Chaudhry was undoubtedly exposing this system of secret detentions.

He first took up the cases of the missing in 2006, demanding that the government trace the detainees and account for them.

His steady requests for information from senior police, Interior Ministry and military officials in court helped to trace nearly 100 detainees. Most of those were subsequently released without charges.

“This was very embarrassing to the government because the people who were supposed to be found and released, they told all their stories,“ said Mr. Rehman of the human rights commission.

Amina Masood Janjua, who has led a campaign to trace the missing, first learned about news of her husband, who disappeared in July 2005, from a written account by another detainee. Later the detainee, Imran Munir, was produced in court and told her he had been held in the military base at Chaklala, in Rawalpindi, south of the capital, and saw her husband in another cell.

Another detainee, Hafiz Muhammad Tahir, was brought before the court and told the judges he had been ordered by the police to give a false account of his detention and charges against him, Mrs. Janjua said. In fact he had been held secretly for three years without charge. The chief justice ordered him to be freed, and he was released the same day.

But only four or five detainees ever appeared before the Supreme Court. Most of the 100 detainees released this year have been freed surreptitiously by the police and intelligence agencies, lawyers and human rights officials said. “They cannot admit that they had these people because they have no charges against them, no documentation,” Mrs. Janjua said.

One such detainee, Saud Memon, was dumped on a garbage heap, she said. Mr. Memon owned a plot of land where Mr. Pearl, the American journalist, was beheaded in 2002. Citing witness accounts from Pakistani investigators, The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Pearl’s employer, reported recently that Mr. Memon had driven three men who were the killers to the site.

Mr. Memon was picked up in South Africa in March 2003, his family said, and later brought to Pakistan and held by intelligence agencies. His brother, Mahmood, said the family learned only this year from another detainee who had been released that Mr. Memon was in Pakistan.

Mr. Memon was dumped near his home in April, so thin and ill that he never recognized his wife and children, and died within three weeks. Yet he was never charged and the Pakistani government never acknowledged holding him.

Mr. Mansfield of the C.I.A. declined to comment on Mr. Memon’s case, saying, “The C.I.A. does not, as a rule, comment on allegations regarding who has, or has not, been in its custody.”

Salman Masood contributed reporting from Islamabad and Eric Schmitt from Washington.

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10) Report Finds U.S. Agencies Distracted by Focus on Cuba
By MARC LACEY
December 19, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/19/world/americas/19cuba.html?ref=world

Catching Americans who travel illegally to Cuba or who purchase cigars, rum or other products from the island may be distracting some American government agencies from higher-priority missions like fighting terrorism and combating narcotics trafficking, a government audit to be released Wednesday says.

The report, from the Government Accountability Office, says that Customs and Border Protection, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, conducts secondary inspections on 20 percent of charter passengers arriving from Cuba at Miami International Airport, more than six times the inspection rate for other international arrivals, even from countries considered shipment points for narcotics.

That high rate of inspections and the numerous seizures of relatively benign contraband “have strained C.B.P.’s capacity to carry out its primary mission of keeping terrorists, criminals and inadmissible aliens from entering the country at Miami International Airport,” says the audit, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

The audit also called on the Treasury Department to scrutinize the priorities of its Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces more than 20 economic and trade sanctions programs, including those aimed at freezing terrorists’ assets and restricting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, but has long focused on Cuba.

Between 2000 and 2006, 61 percent of the agency’s investigation and penalty caseload involved Cuba embargo cases. Over that period, the office opened 10,823 investigations into possible violations involving Cuba and just 6,791 investigations on all other cases, the audit found.

Critics of the American embargo on Cuba seized on the report as evidence that Washington’s policy, which began in the Kennedy administration and has grown more stringent ever since, was outdated.

“This is not good policy,” said Representative Charles B. Rangel, Democrat of New York, who requested the report a year ago with Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat of California. “It’s vindictive. It’s stupid. It’s costly. And now we find out it’s a threat to our national security.”

The State Department, in a statement responding to the audit, said enforcing the Trading With the Enemy Act, which prohibits Americans from spending money in Cuba without authorization from Washington, remained an important tool to isolate the Cuban government. Loosening the embargo, which the leading Democratic presidential candidates have called for in the campaign, would “provide increased revenue to the successor dictatorship run by Raúl Castro, and prolong its tight control over all aspects of Cuban life,” the department said.

The Bush administration’s tightening of the Cuba sanctions in 2004 appears to have discouraged many Americans from visiting the island. Manuel Marrero, Cuba’s tourism minister, acknowledged as much in a recent interview in Havana, blaming the “blockade,” as Cubans call the embargo, for scaring Americans away.

“Sooner or later, there will be justice for the people of the United States, and they will be allowed to visit and share with our people,” Mr. Marrero said.

Even with the number of American visitors down 37,000 in 2006, from 84,500 in 2003, according to the Cuban government, the United States government devotes significant resources to pursuing those who still go.

Most passengers arriving in Miami from Cuba are American citizens or residents who fly on charter flights and have American government permission to visit relatives on the island. But they are forbidden to bring Cuban products back to the United States. Still, searches regularly turn up cigars, bottles of rum and pharmaceutical items in the travelers’ luggage.

Most of the charter flights from Cuba arrive in Miami around midday, with five flights landing between 11:30 and 11:40 a.m. and additional flights in the afternoon.

As those passengers collect their luggage, most of the three secondary inspection facilities and most of the customs personnel are focused on them. As a result, the audit found, inspection of other arrivals is sometimes delayed.

Most of the Americans who visit Cuba each year do not go directly from Miami but use third countries like Canada, Mexico, Jamaica or the Bahamas. Catching them is difficult but not impossible. In some cases, American immigration officials simply observe them getting off flights from Havana at foreign airports where the United States has a presence, officials say.

Those who are caught violating the embargo are referred to the Treasury Department. Officials there say that Cuba cases, most of which involve unlicensed travel and the importation of Cuban cigars, consume a relatively small portion of staff time and do not affect enforcement of other sanctions programs.

The Treasury Department relies on warning letters and informal settlements for lower fines than on formal administrative hearings. On top of that, officials said they have recently begun focusing more of their resources on other programs and less on Cuba enforcement.

The statistics bear that out. Between 2000 and 2005, there were 8,170 violations of the Cuba embargo, which accounted for more than 70 percent of the agency’s total penalty cases.

In 2006, however, the number of cases pursued dropped significantly. That year, only 290 people were fined for violating the embargo, accounting for 29 percent of the agency’s penalty cases.

Although the Treasury Department can assess civil fines of up to $55,000 for those who violate the embargo, most penalties are considerably lower. Between 2000 and 2006, the average violation brought a $992 fine.

In 2007, 13 people have been fined, most for under $1,000, for ordering Cuban cigars over the Internet, an increasingly common violation. One of the largest fines went to Travelocity, the Internet travel agency, which had to pay $182,750 for booking nearly 1,500 flights to Cuba from 1998 to 2004.

James C. McKinley Jr. contributed reporting.

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11) Pension Fund Shortages Create Hard Choices
By MARY WILLIAMS WALSH
December 19, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/19/business/19pension.html?ref=us

Almost half of the states have been underfunding their retirement plans for public workers and may have to choose in the years ahead between their pension obligations and other public programs, according to a comprehensive study to be released to the public on Wednesday.

All together, the 50 states have promised to pay some $2.7 trillion in pension and retiree health benefits over the next 30 years, according to the Pew Center on the States, which spent more than a year studying the issue.

The amount does not include separate retirement plans run by local governments.

While some states are managing their costs reasonably well, the center found that others, like New Jersey and West Virginia, have made serious mistakes and are now cutting education and health programs as they struggle with costs incurred decades ago.

Still more states are at risk of being caught in a similar squeeze, the center said, because they are not setting aside enough money now, as their populations age and more public employees approach retirement.

“It is a huge bill,” said Susan Urahn, managing director of the center, a nonpartisan research group that studies public finance and other civic matters.

By way of comparison, $2.7 trillion is roughly the value of all investments worldwide in information technology last year, one of the study’s authors, Richard Greene, said.

Ms. Urahn said that the magnitude of government legacy costs was poorly understood and that one of the center’s goals was simply to establish where things stood.

Until now, there has been a paucity of independent data, making state-to-state comparisons nearly impossible. Previous attempts to rank state pension funds have been foiled by differences among plans. And efforts to describe the “average” public pension fund have failed to show where the biggest problems were occurring, or to give credit to the most successful states.

Unlike companies, state and local governments are not subject to federal pension laws, which set uniform standards for private industry. If a company skips its required pension contributions, it can be required to pay a big excise tax. No comparable enforcement mechanism exists for states.

Even in the absence of federal oversight, some states, including Alabama, Arkansas and North Carolina, have been diligently prepaying their retirement obligations, the center found.

But others have consistently let their contributions lag behind the amounts needed. The study showed that about half the states fell into each category.

Among the states that have fallen behind, some, like Florida and Iowa, have been skimping only slightly. But several — including Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma, Michigan, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington — have contributed far less than the required amount, year after year.

Other states appear to have been fully funding their pension plans, only to run into trouble in the last few years, at which point they started to fall behind. States in this situation include Colorado, Kentucky, Maryland and Ohio.

Even in the most extreme cases, Ms. Urahn said, the public may not be aware of any problem because there is always enough money to keep sending out pension checks, and retirees do not complain. But once the money dedicated to pensions starts being depleted faster than it is replenished, financial problems are likely. The further behind a state falls, the more cash it has to come up with each year to catch up.

At some point, the ailing retirement system can start to dominate the state’s overall finances, taking cash away from other important programs. Ms. Urahn said New Jersey was “a great example.”

“Large underfunded long-term liabilities put future budgets — and taxpayers — at risk,” the center said in its report. It said that paying each year’s required contribution was essential, even though doing so “requires a great deal of political fortitude and the kind of long-term thinking that is hard to come by, particularly in difficult economic times.”

The report also noted that besides pensions, most states had promised health benefits to retired public workers and are only now starting to grapple with those costs.

Retiree health plans run the gamut, from very rich to bare bones. Some states, like New York, have succeeded in maintaining well-financed pension plans, only to find themselves forced to come up with tens of billions of dollars more, because they promised retiree health care and did not set aside any money to cover that.

The center pointed to several states with grievous records that are now trying to turn the corner.

One is West Virginia, which has a chronically weak pension fund. By 2003 the fund had dwindled to a point where it had just 39 cents for every dollar it owed retirees — a level comparable to that of some airline and steel company pension funds that failed and had to be taken over by the federal government.

States cannot turn to Washington for help, and in the last few years West Virginia’s leaders have decided to start contributing substantially more than the actuarially required amount.

This effort “is starting to pay dividends,” the center found, noting that West Virginia now has 55 cents on hand for every dollar owed. The more any employer has in a pension fund, the more of the plan’s overall cost will be paid by investment returns. If West Virginia can manage to stick to this new approach, it should ultimately realize long-term savings.

Ms. Urahn said that Kansas was also attempting a course correction, establishing a rule this year that would require government employers to make pension contributions that at least cover the value of the year’s benefits earned. The rule will be put to the test for the first time in 2008, so its efficacy is not yet known.

The Pew Center on the States is a nonpartisan research body sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

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12) Senate Adds $70 Billion for Wars in Spending Bill
By CARL HULSE
December 19, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/19/washington/19spend.html?ref=us

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Tuesday night to approve a sweeping year-end budget package after adding $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the objections of Democrats who have been stymied all year in their efforts to change the course of the conflict in Iraq.

By an overwhelming 70-to-25 vote, senators moved to provide the money sought by President Bush after the defeat of two Democratic-led efforts to tie the money to troop withdrawals.

“We have come to a very successful conclusion of this year’s Congress,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, who pushed for the added war financing.

The $555 billion budget plan, which finances all federal agencies except the Pentagon, passed 76 to 17 despite some Republican complaints about excessive spending. It goes back to the House for a final vote, expected Wednesday, on the war money.

If the measure clears the House, Mr. Bush has indicated he will sign the spending bill, which will end his standoff with the Democratic-controlled Congress.

Democratic leaders conceded they were not happy with having to accept the war money and hew to the president’s limit on spending. But they noted they were able to steer money to their priorities, win some spending against White House wishes, and complete all the spending bills, which they saw as a victory in itself.

“You usually recognize that you have something that’s O.K. when both negotiators are unhappy with what they’ve gotten,” said Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada and the majority leader.

In addition to the budget bill, lawmakers sought to dispose of a few other issues as the Congressional year drew to a close.

The Senate again refused to pay the $50 billion costs of freezing the alternative minimum income tax for 2007 taxes, providing the House with a take-it-or-leave-it proposition of either joining the Senate or allowing the tax to hit millions of middle-income workers. House Democratic leaders have called for the temporary relief to be offset by closing tax loopholes elsewhere, but Republicans have objected. The House will take up the issue Wednesday.

The Senate approved a plan to temporarily block a planned cut in Medicare payments to doctors and maintain a children’s health insurance program that has been the subject of a policy fight for months. House approval was expected as soon as Wednesday.

Congress sent the president a bill intended to strengthen the federal Freedom of Information Act. The bill would put more teeth in the requirement that agencies respond within 20 days to information requests and directs agencies to establish systems to allow those seeking information to check on their requests via the Internet.

The war debate, which captured the divisions that have defined Congress all year, was part of a choreographed exercise intended to meet Mr. Bush’s demand for more war financing while sparing antiwar Democrats from having to back the money to secure approval of the budget bill.

Two withdrawal plans were defeated. One requiring that most troops be redeployed in nine months was rejected, 71 to 24. A second, less-binding plan calling for the transition of combat troops to more limited missions by the end of next year was defeated, 50 to 45; it required 60 votes for approval.

Mr. Bush had previously threatened to veto the overall spending measure if it did not include what he considered enough money for Iraq and Afghanistan, a result that could have caused a shutdown of federal agencies or forced federal agencies to operate at this year’s spending level.

Mr. McConnell called for the $70 billion to be devoted to Iraq and Afghanistan, saying that troops were making progress there and that any uncertainty about the financing needed to be eliminated.

“Even those of us who have disagreed on this war have always agreed on one thing: troops in the field will not be left without the resources they need,” he said.

But Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, said the Iraqi government has not been taking advantage of a lessening of violence to reach a political settlement. He said it was time for the United States to begin an orderly withdrawal immediately of the 160,000 troops expected to remain in Iraq into next year.

“What are we supposed to tell them and their families?” Mr. Feingold asked. “To wait another year until a new administration and a new Congress starts listening to the American people and brings this tragedy to a close?”

The overall spending bill encountered opposition from conservative Senate Republicans who were unhappy with the more than 8,000 home-state projects inserted into the legislation by lawmakers and the rush to passage.

“As we approach the end of the year, Congress once again finds itself on a last-minute spending spree, approving billions of dollars of new spending with few questions asked, no amendments allowed and little debate, discussion or inspection permitted,” said Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma.

But his colleagues defended the bill and said it fell within the spending limits set by the president and had been stripped of many of the Democratic policy provisions on abortion, construction wages and domestic partnerships opposed by the administration. They said approving the bills was superior to what occurred last year, when the Republican-led spending process collapsed.

“Last year, we had a large appropriations train wreck,” said Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi, the senior Republican on the spending committee. “But we’ve brought together a bill this year, despite new rules, hard negotiations and renegotiations.”

If Congress does not act on the health care bill approved by the Senate, Medicare payments to doctors would be cut 10 percent on Jan. 1. Instead, under the deal reached Tuesday, payments to doctors will be increased by one-half of 1 percent from January through June 2008. Lawmakers said they would revisit the issue next spring.

Dr. Edward L. Langston, chairman of the American Medical Association, said, “We are disappointed that the Senate could only agree on a six-month action because it creates great uncertainty for Medicare patients and physicians.”

Mr. Bush has twice vetoed bills to expand the child health program. With no agreement in sight, Congressional leaders decided to continue current policy through March 2009. Without such action, 21 states would have exhausted their allotments of federal money next year.

The public records bill sent to the White House would create clearer penalties for agencies that fail to meet deadlines and set stricter requirements for reporting to the Justice Department and Congress cases in which federal agencies are found to have acted “arbitrarily or capriciously” in rejecting requests.

Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, a leading sponsor of the bill, said it would provide much-needed improvements.

David M. Herszenhorn and Robert Pear contributed reporting.

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13) Detroit Revival Vies With Industry’s Decline
By MICHELINE MAYNARD and NICK BUNKLEY
December 19, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/19/business/19detroit.html?ref=us

DETROIT — For decades, city leaders and local business executives here have been predicting an imminent revival of their desolate downtown. For all their cheerleading, though, nothing much changed.

Even the Renaissance Center, an enormous office and hotel complex with seven soaring glass towers built 30 years ago on the city’s riverfront, did not spark the turnaround that its name promised.

But finally, downtown Detroit is showing signs of life — just as the automobile industry, its life force, is facing a further decline in 2008.

Regardless of what looms, investment money and people are pouring into the city — at least to visit. Thousands of people thronged to the renovated Detroit Institute of Arts when it reopened on Thanksgiving weekend, offering 32 hours of free admission.

Two new casinos opened this fall, creating thousands of jobs, and bringing luxury hotel rooms to a town where one of the few upscale choices was at the airport.

More rooms will come when the Book Cadillac Hotel, a city landmark from the 1920s but vacant and often vandalized for the last 20 years, completes a $180 million renovation next year that will create a 455-room Westin hotel and 67 condominiums, including the first in the city to sell for more than $1 million.

More jobs will arrive when Quicken Loans, a mortgage company, chooses the site downtown where it will move 4,000 employees from Livonia, a desirable middle-class suburb, putting all those jobs downtown next year.

Even the Detroit Lions did their part earlier this fall, scoring an impressive string of victories at the start of the N.F.L. season.

“Things are rolling,” said Detroit’s mayor, Kwame M. Kilpatrick.

But the direction is arguably as much downhill as up. Automakers have laid off nearly 100,000 workers in the last two years, announcing more cuts this fall and another round of buyout offers Tuesday, despite new agreements with the United Automobile Workers union that were supposed to be a new, leaner start for the American industry. The companies plan deep production cuts in the new year, which company executives and analysts expect will bring the worst industry sales since the mid-1990s.

Detroit’s poverty rate, 28.5 percent, is the nation’s highest. The area’s foreclosure rate is the second highest, behind Stockton, Calif., according to RealtyTrac, a statistics firm in Irvine, Calif. One in every 33 homes in Wayne County, home to Detroit, is in default.

Last month, The Detroit Free Press printed a 121-page pullout section listing more than 18,000 foreclosed properties across Wayne County. An estimated 4,500 homeowners attended a forum in Detroit last week, where they met with representatives from 23 lenders in hopes of saving their homes.

Even as a snowstorm battered the city on Sunday, local television reports showed one man slinging his possessions into a U-Haul van, forced to leave because his lender had seized his home.

Detroit’s population is now half its peak in the 1950s, and the city is as small as it was in the 1920s, before the auto industry boom that made Detroit an industrial powerhouse and one of the nation’s largest cities.

Houses sit begging at every price level, from the wealthy Grosse Pointe and Bloomfield Hills to modest bungalows in the city. The average home requires six months to sell, compared with three nationwide.

And in a blow to the city’s heritage, Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records, and the city gave up on a plan to build a museum and entertainment center that would feature the record label’s music. The center was supposed to replace Motown’s second Detroit headquarters, which the mayor ordered torn down two years ago on the eve of the Super Bowl, declaring the long-empty building an eyesore.

“It has been 30 years of a strategy that says if we revitalize downtown the rest of the city will follow,” said Kevin Boyle, a Detroit native and professor of history at Ohio State University, who has written extensively on the city. “And that is simply not true.”

To Mr. Kilpatrick, though, one of the biggest obstacles is overcoming the city’s reputation — an unfair one, in his eyes — as a civic failure.

“In 2007, the perception of Detroit is as far away from reality as we’ve ever had it,” Mr. Kilpatrick said. “We’re ready to reintroduce the city to the world.”

On Thanksgiving weekend, many people took the mayor up on his offer. More than 57,000 patrons visited the art institute when it was reopened after an extensive renovation for 32 hours straight, with free admission, instead of the $8 admission charge that has been made mandatory (patrons previously were allowed to pay by donation, yielding an average $2.50 a person.)

“There are pockets where it is all starting to come together,” said Margaret Birkett, 38, of Huntington Woods, a Detroit suburb. She and her husband, Michael, had traveled into the city to attend his 20th high school reunion at a city restaurant, an event that never would have taken place downtown a few years back.

“It’s a long way to go, but we like it here,” he added.

Judy Dapprich, 65, of suburban Belleville, Mich., used to come to Detroit with her husband for special events like Christmas Eve, when they would shop at the J. L. Hudson’s department store, since demolished. Now they make six to eight trips a year. “I’m very impressed with everything that’s been done,” she said.

One big attention-getter is the new MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, which opened in October. Its gaming revenues rose in November compared with last year, when it was housed in a temporary building. But the occupancy rate at the hotel, where rooms start at $299 a night, is below the 55 percent average for the area, the owners told the state gaming commission this month.

And in the eyes of some, the new casinos, which include the 17-story Motor City Hotel and Casino that opened on Nov. 28, may be doing as much harm as good.

Some of the casino’s patrons include Detroit’s homeless. They used to buy food with the nickels and dimes they received for collecting returnable beverage containers, said Chad Audi, director of the rescue mission, which sits on a side street a few blocks from the Motor City.

Instead, these gamblers are spending their change in slot machines. “It’s turning into a very bad, negative impact on us,” he said.

This year, the rescue mission serves about 1,200 people daily, up from about 900 a year ago. More of them include entire families, not just single mothers or homeless men, Mr. Audi said.

He applauded the new investments downtown, but said there are not enough new jobs in neighborhoods “so people can have the lives they have had.”

Jennifer M. Granholm, Michigan’s governor, said she hoped areas beyond downtown would start to reap the benefits soon.

“There’s a lot of great stuff happening, it’s just got to filter out into the neighborhoods,” Ms. Granholm said this month, in an interview during a holiday party at her residence in Lansing. “No state can thrive without a vibrant urban center.”

But even Mr. Kilpatrick said the city could not completely rebound without better times across the state, which has an unemployment rate of 7.9 percent, up 0.2 percentage points in October from 2006.

Still, John Ferchill, the Cleveland hotel developer overseeing the Book Cadillac project, is not concerned. The hotel, scheduled to reopen next fall, is already booked for special events through the end of 2008, while advance room reservations are “way over what we thought they would be.”

He added, “If there’s a bad economy, the Book Cadillac doesn’t know about it.”

But the city has a long way to go before it will be called vibrant. Indeed, many streets are largely deserted after dark, and echo with distant sirens. New developments are surrounded by empty buildings, with streetlights burned out on nearby roads. Tiger Stadium, stripped of its seats, signs and other memorabilia, sits awaiting its fate, which may include demolition.

And the Lions, meanwhile, lost their sixth consecutive game on Sunday, in a 51-14 rout by San Diego that ended their hopes for a winning season.

Still, long-patient local residents see signs of hope. “People’s hearts and minds have got to get over the past,” said Jay Meehan, a sociology professor at Oakland University in suburban Rochester, Mich. He spoke while sitting on a bench inside the art institute in front of murals by Diego Rivera that depicted the Rouge assembly line in the 1930s.

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14) Descendants of Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse break away from US
Agence France Presse.
Thu Dec 20, 9:22 AM ET
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20071220/ts_alt_afp/usindigenoustreatywithdraw_071220061635

The Lakota Indians, who gave the world legendary warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have withdrawn from treaties with the United States, leaders said Wednesday.

"We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us," long-time Indian rights activist Russell Means told a handful of reporters and a delegation from the Bolivian embassy, gathered in a church in a run-down neighborhood of Washington for a news conference.

A delegation of Lakota leaders delivered a message to the State Department on Monday, announcing they were unilaterally withdrawing from treaties they signed with the federal government of the United States, some of them more than 150 years old.

They also visited the Bolivian, Chilean, South African and Venezuelan embassies, and will continue on their diplomatic mission and take it overseas in the coming weeks and months, they told the news conference.

Lakota country includes parts of the states of Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.

The new country would issue its own passports and driving licences, and living there would be tax-free -- provided residents renounce their US citizenship, Means said.

The treaties signed with the United States are merely "worthless words on worthless paper," the Lakota freedom activists say on their website.

The treaties have been "repeatedly violated in order to steal our culture, our land and our ability to maintain our way of life," the reborn freedom movement says.

Withdrawing from the treaties was entirely legal, Means said.

"This is according to the laws of the United States, specifically article six of the constitution," which states that treaties are the supreme law of the land, he said.

"It is also within the laws on treaties passed at the Vienna Convention and put into effect by the US and the rest of the international community in 1980. We are legally within our rights to be free and independent," said Means.

The Lakota relaunched their journey to freedom in 1974, when they drafted a declaration of continuing independence -- an overt play on the title of the United States' Declaration of Independence from England.

Thirty-three years have elapsed since then because "it takes critical mass to combat colonialism and we wanted to make sure that all our ducks were in a row," Means said.

One duck moved into place in September, when the United Nations adopted a non-binding declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples -- despite opposition from the United States, which said it clashed with its own laws.

"We have 33 treaties with the United States that they have not lived by. They continue to take our land, our water, our children," Phyllis Young, who helped organize the first international conference on indigenous rights in Geneva in 1977, told the news conference.

The US "annexation" of native American land has resulted in once proud tribes such as the Lakota becoming mere "facsimiles of white people," said Means.

Oppression at the hands of the US government has taken its toll on the Lakota, whose men have one of the shortest life expectancies -- less than 44 years -- in the world.

Lakota teen suicides are 150 percent above the norm for the United States; infant mortality is five times higher than the US average; and unemployment is rife, according to the Lakota freedom movement's website.

"Our people want to live, not just survive or crawl and be mascots," said Young.

"We are not trying to embarrass the United States. We are here to continue the struggle for our children and grandchildren," she said, predicting that the battle would not be won in her lifetime.

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15) Press Conference for FreshDirect Workers Announced for this Friday at
11 AM on the steps of City Hall
http://unionreview.com/printable/node/774

For years the managers of FreshDirect have exploited undocumented
immigrants to work in their warehouses and deliver gourmet foods
across New York City. But when these workers began to stand up for
themselves and form a union, immigration officials showed up. So far,
more than 40 workers have been fired or suspended. Another 100 have
fled FreshDirect in fear and will spend the holidays without knowing
they will even get their final pay checks.

Below is the official announcement for the press conference to be
held this Friday morning outside City Hall.

For more details about this story, please click here , here or here
to Take Action

Please Join the NEW YORK CITY CENTRAL LABOR COUNCIL, NEW YORK STATE
AFL-CIO, ELECTED OFFICIALS, AFFILIATED LABOR ORGANIZATIONS AND NYC LCLAA
AT A PRESS CONFERENCE----FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2007

As we support the FRESH DIRECT workers right to fair
union elections and object to unwarranted
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.)
interference in this organizing drive.

WHEN: Friday, December 21, 2007, 11:00 a.m.
WHERE: City Hall Steps, Manhattan
WHO: New York City Central Labor Council
New York State AFL-CIO
Comptroller William C. Thompson
Speaker Christine Quinn
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA)

Freeze immigration probe

El Diario/La Prensa

Source: http://www.eldiariony.com/noticias/detail.aspx?
section=25&desc=Editorial&id=1775763

EDITORIAL - 12/17/2007

The federal agency in charge of immigration enforcement has once
again created a mess, this time by launching an investigation of
Fresh Direct workers as they prepare to vote on unionization.

Last week, at least 40 workers quit or were suspended after the
company announced that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
planned to inspect records of employees.

The Teamsters Union suggests Fresh Direct might have called ICE on
undocumented employees to intimidate workers, who are slated to vote
on adopting a union this weekend. The Teamsters and the United Food
and Commercial Workers Union have been vying to organize hundreds of
Fresh Direct workers, many of who are Hispanic.

Both Fresh Direct and ICE deny the accusation. ICE says that while
its probes may be coincidental to any allegations, they are in
compliance with its regulations.

But the Teamsters’ claim is not preposterous. Employers calling
immigration agents, or threatening to do so, to punish workers who
try to assert their rights is too frequent a scenario. And the timing
of this ICE investigation certainly begs the question of how Fresh
Direct got on the agency’s radar.

To avoid being used as a retaliatory weapon against workers, ICE is
supposed to take certain steps, including contacting the National
Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to determine if there is a union
election in progress before it conducts an investigation. The NLRB’s
New York office says it was not contacted by ICE.

Workers have a right to elect or not elect a union, without being
intimidated. ICE has undermined that process. The agency should stick
to its own policy of refraining from conducting audits during labor
disputes, and should immediately withdraw this investigation.

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16) Panic at FreshDirect
A unionizing battle and a hunt for illegal immigrants collide
by Tom Robbins
December 18th, 2007 6:24 PM
http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0751,robbins,78671,2.html

You'd figure it was hard enough already hauling boxes around in a massive, cold warehouse on the midnight-to–8 a.m. shift on the weekend for slightly better than minimum wage. But things got infinitely tougher on Sunday, December 9, for some 900 workers at the FreshDirect food plant in Long Island City.

It was around 3 a.m. that a notice appeared on the company bulletin board, announcing that employees had to produce new proof showing that they were legal residents. Many of the workers are immigrants, a fact that was no secret to the company, which has prospered hugely thanks to their hard work since it opened its doors in 2002. It shouldn't have been a secret to the government, either. Just stand by the G-train stop at 21st Street any morning and watch the men and women rushing past. There is not a lot of English spoken here.

The third paragraph in the notice is what sparked the stampede: "Immigration and Customs Enforcement ('ICE') at the Department of Homeland Security will be reviewing FreshDirect's employees' I-9 forms and accompanying documentation as part of an official audit later this month." Within hours, scores of employees who had worked at the company for years had sprinted out the door, many of them in tears.

This panic came as all of the Republican presidential candidates, including the former mayor of New York, try to outdo one another about what they would do to all the illegal immigrants if they could just get their hands on them. This is interesting because just five years ago the former governor, George Pataki, also a Republican, along with his top economic-development man, Charles Gargano—who raises so much money for Republicans that they want to make him an ambassador all over again—stood outside the sprawling block-long plant on Borden Avenue. There they talked about the millions of dollars in tax incentives that the state was happy to steer toward FreshDirect to help it generate jobs. What they said then was absolutely correct: Jobs are good. A company that prospers and puts many people to work is good.

Since then, FreshDirect has become a booming business. It makes $125 million a year in sales as a million New Yorkers happily punch in their Internet orders for fresh produce and food someone else has prepared. No one asks where the workers come from. And until the unions came knocking on the door, the owners of this wonderful 21st-century enterprise were naturally quite happy to pay their employees as little as they could get away with. This is why unions are supposed to be in business—to even the scales.

The trouble started not long after a Teamsters local union started organizing the warehouse. First, a pair of pro-Teamsters employees were fired. Then came last week's panic on Borden Avenue.

Employees were still getting the bad news Tuesday morning when, coincidentally, Teamsters Local 805, one of two unions that have been vying for months to represent the plant's workers, staged a rally outside the plant. Teamsters leader Sandy Pope, one of the only women to run an industrial union, braced herself on the bottom rung of a police barricade and shouted through cupped hands. "All they're ever going to pay here is minimum wage with no benefits," she yelled. "And then they'll throw you out like they're doing today. What you need is the Teamsters in here."

Pope is a veteran rebel in her own union and has even campaigned against Teamsters national president Jim Hoffa. But that morning the union turned out in force to support her organizing drive, complete with drivers in 18-wheel rigs driving up and down the avenue tooting their air horns. Hoffa himself put out a statement condemning the firings. "FreshDirect boasted to the workers that they had retained the services of an anti-union law firm," said Hoffa. "Now . . . ICE has only helped spread a culture of intimidation and fear."

But as the Teamsters marched back and forth on the sidewalk, a handful of workers from the warehouse stood nearby wearing paper-mesh hairnets on their heads and deep scowls on their faces.

"It's just a goddamned shame," said a tall man who said he'd been picking orders at FreshDirect for the last 18 months. "I went into the break room and it was like a funeral in there. All these people crying. It's dreadful what happened to them."

Company officials insisted they had nothing to do with the feds' sudden interest in their plant, although they were careful to avoid answering any questions directly. A spokeswoman sent e-mail messages stating that the company had asked ICE to delay its audit, given the pending union election, which is scheduled for December 22 and 23, but had been denied. Any suggestion that the company had invited the feds in the door to thwart the union election, said the statement, was "outrageous."

Maybe so, but the feds' audit is still a stunning coincidence. ICE is a law-enforcement agency, and officials were typically shy about talking, except to note that the agency conducts regular and random screenings at workplaces around the country.

"While it is ICE policy to neither confirm or deny any aspect of an investigation, this is part of a national workplace initiative and is coincidental to any local labor dispute," said agency spokesman Mark Thorn.

Whether the feds simply stumbled across FreshDirect or got a knowing tip, the impact of having hundreds of longtime workers running out the door is hardly a help for the union's chances.

"People were going to vote for the union, but I don't think they will now," said another worker, watching the Teamsters picket line. "Not with this going on. They'll be too scared."

If so, it won't be the first time in FreshDirect's brief labor-relations history that it has gotten lucky. Armed with high-priced legal help, the firm successfully defeated two organizing drives by separate Teamster locals seeking to sign up its 500 delivery workers, most of whom make a few dollars more an hour than the warehouse workers. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, along came Local 348S of the United Food and Commercial Workers, a catch-all union that represents everyone from nursing-home workers to garage attendants and which has long been angrily accused by other unions of offering employers what are called "sweetheart contracts." Such contracts give companies a safe harbor that protects them from other unions, while demanding little in economic benefits.

Within a few weeks, Local 348S had won a representation election, and a few months later it had a signed contract, lasting for all of five years. Anthony Fazio Jr., the local's secretary treasurer, said his union waged a tough fight to win recognition, though some plant workers reported that company officials had openly encouraged workers to sign up with the union.

Whatever its genesis, the new contract didn't bring the kind of economic justice that unions like to brag about. It includes no minimum starting wage but has a maximum that caps the highest wages the company must pay at $12 to $18. Fazio said that was unimportant. "What I know is when they get into the union, they get increases," he said in an interview at the local's offices in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Those raises total $2.55 over the life of the contract.

On the other hand, the union's officers do quite well. Fazio's father, Anthony Fazio Sr., earned $256,000 last year as local president, plus an added $81,000 in expenses. Fazio Jr. earned $170,000, as did his cousin, John Fazio Jr., who serves as vice president.

Last summer, after Teamsters Local 805 had started signing up warehouse workers, Fazio's union announced that this was their turf and demanded that the Teamsters back off. Teamsters leader Pope said nothing doing. On a couple days before Christmas, the plant workers that remain after last week's massacre will get to vote on the matter. They can pick one of the two competing unions, or they can vote for no union at all. It has not been what anyone could call a fair fight.

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17) A Pause From Death
Editorial
December 20, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/20/opinion/20thu2.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

The United Nations General Assembly voted on Tuesday for a global moratorium on the death penalty. The resolution was nonbinding; its symbolic weight made barely a ripple in the news ocean of the United States, where governments’ right to kill a killer is enshrined in law and custom.

But for those who have been trying to move the world away from lethal revenge as government policy, this was a milestone. The resolution failed repeatedly in the 1990s, but this time the vote was 104 to 54, with 29 nations abstaining. Progress has come in Europe and Africa. Nations like Senegal, Burundi, Gabon — even Rwanda, shamed by genocide — have decided to reject the death penalty, as official barbarism.

The United States, as usual, lined up on the other side, with Iran, China, Pakistan, Sudan and Iraq. Together this blood brotherhood accounts for more than 90 percent of the world’s executions, according to Amnesty International. These countries’ devotion to their sovereignty is rigid, as is their perverse faith in execution as a criminal deterrent and an instrument of civilized justice. But out beyond Texas, Ohio, Virginia, Myanmar, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe, there are growing numbers who expect better of humanity.

Many are not nations or states but groups of regular people, organizations like the Community of Sant’Egidio, a lay Catholic movement begun in Italy whose advocacy did much to bring about this week’s successful vote in the General Assembly.

They are motivated by hope — and there is even some in the United States. The Supreme Court will soon hear debate on the cruelty of execution by lethal injection. On Monday, New Jersey became the first state in 40 years to abolish its death penalty.

That event, too, left much of this country underwhelmed. But overseas, the votes in Trenton and the United Nations were treated as glorious news. Rome continued a tradition to mark victories against capital punishment: it bathed the Colosseum, where Christians once were fed to lions, in golden light.

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LINKS AND VERY SHORT STORIES

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United Nations: Assembly Calls for Freeze on Death Penalty
By WARREN HOGE
In a vote that made for unusual alliances, the General Assembly passed, 104 to 54 with 29 abstentions, a nonbinding resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty. Among the countries joining the United States in opposition to the European-led measure were Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Opponents argued that the resolution undermined their national sovereignty. Two similar moves in the 1990s failed, and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the new vote was “evidence of a trend toward ultimately abolishing the death penalty.”
December 19, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/19/world/19briefs-deathpenalty.html?ref=world

Carbon Dioxide Threatens Reefs, Report Says
By KENNETH CHANG
National Briefing | Science and Health
Carbon dioxide in the air is turning the oceans acidic, and without a reduction in emissions, coral reefs may die away by the end of the century, researchers warn in Friday’s issue of the journal Science. Carbon dioxide dissolves into ocean water, changes to carbonic acid, and carbonic acid dissolves the calcium carbonate in the skeletons of corals. Laboratory experiments have shown that corals possess some ability to adapt to warmer waters but no ability to adapt to the higher acidity. “Unless we reverse our actions very quickly, by the end of the century, reefs could be a thing of the past,” said Ken Caldeira, a scientist at the Carnegie Institution’s department of global ecology and an author of the Science paper.
December 14, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/14/science/earth/14brfs-CARBONDIOXID_BRF.html?ref=science

Iraq: Marine Discharged Over Killing
By REUTERS
World Briefing | Middle East
A Marine reservist, Lance Cpl. Delano Holmes, 22, of Indianapolis, was sentenced to a bad-conduct discharge and reduced in rank to private, a day after being convicted at Camp Pendleton, Calif., of negligent homicide in the 2006 stabbing death of an Iraqi soldier he stood watch with at a guard post in Falluja. He has served 10 months in a military prison and will not spend any more time in custody. The lance corporal’s lawyer has said that the killing was in self-defense. Prosecutors contended that he killed the Iraqi and then set up the scene to support his story. He was also found guilty of making a false official statement.
December 15, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/15/world/middleeast/15briefs-MARINEDISCHA_BRF.html?ref=world

Canada: Mounties Urged to Restrict Taser Use
By IAN AUSTEN
In a report, the watchdog commission that oversees the Royal Canadian Mounted Police recommended that Taser stun guns be used only on people who are “combative or posing a risk of death or grievous bodily harm,” much like a conventional firearm rather than a nightstick or pepper spray. The report was ordered by the government after a confused and angry Polish immigrant, Robert Dziekanski, left, died at the airport in Vancouver after being stunned at least twice by Mounties. The report found that Tasers were increasingly being used against people who were merely resistant rather than dangerous.
December 13, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/13/world/americas/13briefs-taser.html?ref=world

Greece: Tens of Thousands March in Strike
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
A one-day strike by unions representing 2.5 million workers brought Athens to a standstill. Protesting planned government changes to the state-financed pension system, an estimated 80,000 people marched through central Athens. In Thessaloniki, 30,000 people rallied, the police said. The strike shut down hospitals, banks, schools, courts and all public services. Flights were canceled, and public transportation, including boats connecting the mainland with the islands, ground to a halt. More strikes are expected next week.
December 13, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/13/world/europe/13briefs-strike.html?ref=world

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GENERAL ANNOUNCEMENTS AND INFORMATION

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Russell Means Speaking at the Transform Columbus Day Rally
"If voting could do anything it would be illegal!"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8Lri1-6aoY

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Stop the Termination or the Cherokee Nation
http://groups.msn.com/BayAreaIndianCalendar/activismissues.msnw?action=get_message&mview=1&ID_Message=5580

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We Didn't Start the Fire
http://yeli.us/Flash/Fire.html

I Can't Take it No More
http://lefti.blogspot.com/2007_11_01_archive.html#9214483115237950361

The Art of Mental Warfare
http://artofmentalwarfare.com/pog/artofmentalwarfarecom-the-warning/

MONEY AS DEBT
http://video. google.com/ videoplay? docid=-905047436 2583451279
http://www.moneyasd ebt.net/

UNCONSTITUTIONAL
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6582099850410121223&pr=goog-sl

IRAQ FOR SALE
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6621486727392146155

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Port of Olympia Anti-Militarization Action Nov. 2007
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOkn2Fg7R8w

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"They have a new gimmick every year. They're going to take one of their boys, black boys, and put him in the cabinet so he can walk around Washington with a cigar. Fire on one end and fool on the other end. And because his immediate personal problem will have been solved he will be the one to tell our people: 'Look how much progress we're making. I'm in Washington, D.C., I can have tea in the White House. I'm your spokesman, I'm your leader.' While our people are still living in Harlem in the slums. Still receiving the worst form of education.

"But how many sitting here right now feel that they could [laughs] truly identify with a struggle that was designed to eliminate the basic causes that create the conditions that exist? Not very many. They can jive, but when it comes to identifying yourself with a struggle that is not endorsed by the power structure, that is not acceptable, that the ground rules are not laid down by the society in which you live, in which you are struggling against, you can't identify with that, you step back.

"It's easy to become a satellite today without even realizing it. This country can seduce God. Yes, it has that seductive power of economic dollarism. You can cut out colonialism, imperialism and all other kind of ism, but it's hard for you to cut that dollarism. When they drop those dollars on you, you'll fold though."

—MALCOLM X, 1965
http://www.accuracy.org/newsrelease.php?articleId=987

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A little gem:
Michael Moore Faces Off With Stephen Colbert [VIDEO]
http://www.alternet.org/blogs/video/57492/

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LAPD vs. Immigrants (Video)
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/qws/ff/qr?term=lapd&Submit=S&Go.x=0&Go.y=0&Go=Search&st=s

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Dr. Julia Hare at the SOBA 2007
http://mysite.verizon.net/vzeo9ewi/proudtobeblack2/

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"We are far from that stage today in our era of the absolute
lie; the complete and totalitarian lie, spread by the
monopolies of press and radio to imprison social
consciousness." December 1936, "In 'Socialist' Norway,"
by Leon Trotsky: “Leon Trotsky in Norway” was transcribed
for the Internet by Per I. Matheson [References from
original translation removed]
http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/12/nor.htm

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Wealth Inequality Charts
http://www.faireconomy.org/research/wealth_charts.html

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MALCOLM X: Oxford University Debate
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dmzaaf-9aHQ

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"There comes a times when silence is betrayal."
--Martin Luther King

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YouTube clip of Che before the UN in 1964
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtATT8GXkWg&mode=related&search

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The Wealthiest Americans Ever
NYT Interactive chart
JULY 15, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/ref/business/20070715_GILDED_GRAPHIC.html

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New Orleans After the Flood -- A Photo Gallery
http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/?article=795
This email was sent to you as a service, by Roland Sheppard.
Visit my website at: http://web.mac.com/rolandgarret

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[For some levity...Hans Groiner plays Monk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51bsCRv6kI0
...bw]

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Which country should we invade next?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3g_zqz3VjY

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My Favorite Mutiny, The Coup
http://www.myspace.com/thecoupmusic

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Michael Moore- The Awful Truth
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeOaTpYl8mE

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Morse v. Frederick Supreme Court arguments
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_LsGoDWC0o

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Free Speech 4 Students Rally - Media Montage
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfCjfod8yuw

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'My son lived a worthwhile life'
In April 2003, 21-year old Tom Hurndall was shot in the head
in Gaza by an Israeli soldier as he tried to save the lives of three
small children. Nine months later, he died, having never
recovered consciousness. Emine Saner talks to his mother
Jocelyn about her grief, her fight to make the Israeli army
accountable for his death and the book she has written
in his memory.
Monday March 26, 2007
The Guardian
http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,2042968,00.html

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Introducing...................the Apple iRack
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-KWYYIY4jQ

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"A War Budget Leaves Every Child Behind."
[A T-shirt worn by some teachers at Roosevelt High School
in L.A. as part of their campaign to rid the school of military
recruiters and JROTC--see Article in Full item number 4, below...bw]

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THIS IS AN EXCELLENT VIDEO DESTRIBUTED BY U.S. LABOR AGAINST
THE WAR (USLAW) FEATURING SPEAKERS AT THE JANUARY 27TH
MARCH ON WASHINGTON FOCUSING ON THE DEMAND - BRING
THE TROOPS HOME NOW.
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6935451906479097836&hl=en

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George Takai responds to Tim Hardaway's homophobic remarks
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcJoJZIcQW4&eurl_

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Iran
http://www.lucasgray.com/video/peacetrain.html

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Another view of the war. A link from Amer Jubran
http://d3130.servadmin.com/~leeflash/

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A Girl Like Me
7:08 min
Youth Documentary
Kiri Davis, Director, Reel Works Teen Filmmaking, Producer
Winner of the Diversity Award
Sponsored by Third Millennium Foundation
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1091431409617440489

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Film/Song about Angola
http://www.prisonactivist.org/angola/

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"200 million children in the world sleep in the streets today.
Not one of them is Cuban."
(A sign in Havana)
Venceremos
View sign at bottom of page at:
http://www.cubasolidarity.net/index.html
[Thanks to Norma Harrison for sending this...bw]

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

"Cheyenne and Arapaho oral histories hammer history's account of the
Sand Creek Massacre"

CENTENNIAL, CO -- A new documentary film based on an award-winning
documentary short film, "The Sand Creek Massacre", and driven by
Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho people who tell their version about
what happened during the Sand Creek Massacre via their oral
histories, has been released by Olympus Films+, LLC, a Centennial,
Colorado film company.

"You have done an extraordinary job" said Margie Small, Tobient
Entertainment, " on the Colorado PBS episode, the library videos for
public schools and libraries, the trailer, etc...and getting the
story told and giving honor to those ancestors who had to witness
this tragic and brutal attack...film is one of the best ways."

"The images shown in the film were selected for native awareness
value" said Donald L. Vasicek, award-winning writer/filmmaker, "we
also focused on preserving American history on film because tribal
elders are dying and taking their oral histories with them. The film
shows a non-violent solution to problem-solving and 19th century
Colorado history, so it's multi-dimensional in that sense. "

Chief Eugene Blackbear, Sr., Cheyenne, who starred as Chief Black
Kettle in "The Last of the Dogmen" also starring Tom Berenger and
Barbara Hershey and "Dr. Colorado", Tom Noel, University of Colorado
history professor, are featured.

The trailer can be viewed and the film can be ordered for $24.95 plus
$4.95 for shipping and handling at http://www.fullduck.com/node/53.

Vasicek's web site, http://www.donvasicek.com, provides detailed
information about the Sand Creek Massacre including various still
images particularly on the Sand Creek Massacre home page and on the
proposal page.

Olympus Films+, LLC is dedicated to writing and producing quality
products that serve to educate others about the human condition.

Contact:

Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films+, LLC
7078 South Fairfax Street
Centennial, CO 80122
http://us.imdb.com/Name?Vasicek,+Don
http://www.donvasicek.com
dvasicek@earthlink.net
303-903-2103

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A NEW LOOK AT U.S. RADIOACTIVE WEAPONS
Join us in a campaign to expose and stop the use
of these illegal weapons
http://poisondust.org/

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You may enjoy watching these.
In struggle
Che:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqcezl9dD2c
Leon:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukkFVV5X0p4

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FIGHTBACK! A Collection of Socialist Essays
By Sylvia Weinstein
http://www.walterlippmann.com/sylvia-weinstein-fightback-intro.html

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[The Scab
"After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad,
and the vampire, he had some awful substance left with
which he made a scab."
"A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul,
a water brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue.
Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten
principles." "When a scab comes down the street,
men turn their backs and angels weep in heaven, and
the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out."
"No man (or woman) has a right to scab so long as there
is a pool of water to drown his carcass in,
or a rope long enough to hang his body with.
Judas was a gentleman compared with a scab.
For betraying his master, he had character enough
to hang himself." A scab has not.
"Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.
Judas sold his Savior for thirty pieces of silver.
Benedict Arnold sold his country for a promise of
a commision in the british army."
The scab sells his birthright, country, his wife,
his children and his fellowmen for an unfulfilled
promise from his employer.
Esau was a traitor to himself; Judas was a traitor
to his God; Benedict Arnold was a traitor to his country;
a scab is a traitor to his God, his country,
his family and his class."
Author --- Jack London (1876-1916)...Roland Sheppard
http://web.mac.com/rolandgarret]

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END ALL U.S. AID TO ISRAEL!
Stop funding Israel's war against Palestine
Complete the form at the website listed below with your information.
https://secure2.convio.net/pep/site/Advocacy?
JServSessionIdr003=cga2p2o6x1.app2a&cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=177

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Sand Creek Massacre
"THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY
SHORT FEATURED AT NATIVE AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL:
http://www.aberdeennews.com/mld/aberdeennews/news/local/16035305.htm
(scroll down when you get there])
"THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING
WRITER/FILMMAKER DONALD L. VASICEK REPORT:
http://www.digitalcinemareport.com/sandcreekmassacre.html
"THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY
SHORT FINALIST IN DOCUMENTARY CHANNEL COMPETITION (VIEW HERE):
http://www.docupyx.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=28&Itemid=41
VIEW "THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY
SHORT FILM MOVIE OF THE WEEK FOR FREE HERE:
http://twymancreative.com/twymanc.html

On November 29, 1864, 700 Colorado troops savagely slaughtered
over 450 Cheyenne children, disabled, elders, and women in the
southeastern Colorado Territory under its protection. This act
became known as the Sand Creek Massacre. This film project
("The Sand Creek Massacre" documentary film project) is an
examination of an open wound in the souls of the Cheyenne
people as told from their perspective. This project chronicles
that horrific 19th century event and its affect on the 21st century
struggle for respectful coexistence between white and native
plains cultures in the United States of America.

Listed below are links on which you can click to get the latest news,
products, and view, free, "THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" award-
winning documentary short. In order to create more native
awareness, particularly to save the roots of America's history,
please read the following:

Some people in America are trying to save the world. Bless
them. In the meantime, the roots of America are dying.
What happens to a plant when the roots die? The plant dies
according to my biology teacher in high school. American's
roots are its native people. Many of America's native people
are dying from drug and alcohol abuse, poverty, hunger,
and disease, which was introduced to them by the Caucasian
male. Tribal elders are dying. When they die, their oral
histories go with them. Our native's oral histories are the
essence of the roots of America, what took place before
our ancestors came over to America, what is taking place,
and what will be taking place. It is time we replenish
America's roots with native awareness, else America
continues its decaying, and ultimately, its death.

You can help. The 22-MINUTE SAND CREEK MASSACRE
DOCUMENTARY PRESENTATION/EDUCATIONAL DVD IS
READY FOR PURCHASE! (pass the word about this powerful
educational tool to friends, family, schools, parents, teachers,
and other related people and organizations to contact
me (dvasicek@earthlink.net, 303-903-2103) for information
about how they can purchase the DVD and have me come
to their children's school to show the film and to interact
in a questions and answers discussion about the Sand
Creek Massacre.

Happy Holidays!

Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films+, LLC
http://us.imdb.com/Name?Vasicek,+Don
http://www.donvasicek.com
dvasicek@earthlink.net
303-903-2103

"THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY
SHORT FEATURED AT NATIVE AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL:
http://www.aberdeennews.com/mld/aberdeennews/news/local/16035305.htm
(scroll down when you get there])
"THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING
WRITER/FILMMAKER DONALD L. VASICEK REPORT:
http://www.digitalcinemareport.com/sandcreekmassacre.html
"THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY
SHORT FINALIST IN DOCUMENTARY CHANNEL COMPETITION (VIEW HERE):
http://www.docupyx.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=28&Itemid=41
VIEW "THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY
SHORT FILM MOVIE OF THE WEEK FOR FREE HERE:
http://twymancreative.com/twymanc.html

SHOP:
http://www.manataka.org/page633.html
BuyIndies.com
donvasicek.com.Peace Articles at Libraryofpeace.org">

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