Saturday, July 07, 2007



Planning Meeting: This Thursday, July 12, 7 p.m.
San Francisco Women’s Building, 3543 18th St. (btwn. Valencia & Guerrero)
Let's unite to build the broadest, most diverse and effective anti-war movement!

September 15 — Turn Up the Heat in Washington DC!
Calendar of upcoming anti-war events

North/Central California "End the War Now" March:
Saturday, October 27, 2007, 11am, San Francisco Civic Center Plaza

We want to thank the thousands of people and many organizations that have responded to ANSWER's May 31 Proposal to the Anti-War Movement. The essence of the proposal is for all the anti-war coalitions and organizations to come together to mobilize the largest single mass march on Washington DC under the demand End the War Now!

Most anti-war activists support this idea. At the national level some organizations support the call for building a united mass mobilization. Others are opposing it. The ANSWER Coalition will continue to promote and organize for a united action where organizations and coalitions can come together and organize a march of a million people to show the breadth and support of the anti-war sentiment in this country. March 2008 will mark the start of the sixth year of the Iraq war. If the anti-war organizations desire to unite, it would be an important moment to organize a huge show of force demanding an immediate end to the war. In unity there is great strength—it is that simple.

A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
Act Now to Stop War & End Racism
2489 Mission St. Rm. 24
San Francisco: 415-821-6545
(Call to check meeting schedules.)


New Orleans After the Flood -- A Photo Gallery
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1) Private contractors outnumber U.S. troops in Iraq
New U.S. data show how heavily the Bush administration has relied on corporations to carry out the occupation of the war-torn nation.
By T. Christian Miller
Times Staff Writer
July 4, 2007,1,6564316.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

2) Contractors Face Combat-Related Stress After Iraq
July 5, 2007

3) Surge Seen in Applications for Citizenship
July 5, 2007

4) Sacrifice Is for Suckers
O-Ed Columnist
July 6, 2007

5) Federal Court Rejects Lawsuit on Surveillance
Filed at 12:51 p.m. ET
July 6, 2007

6) California Investigates a Mother-and-Child Prison Center
July 6, 2007

7) Subway Searches Go on Quietly, Just How Police Like Them
July 6, 2007

8) S.I. Crowd Clashes With Police
July 6, 2007

9) Dana Gets Health Care Deal With Unions
Filed at 10:04 a.m. ET
July 6, 2007

10) 2008 Candidates Vow to Overhaul U.S. Health Care
July 6, 2007

11) A Girl’s Fear and Loathing
Op-Ed Columnist
July 7, 2007

12) French Official Suggested Bush Was Behind September 11
July 7, 2007
Filed at 10:52 a.m. ET

13)One Man’s Plea for Mercy, With a Recent Precedent in Mind
July 7, 2007

12) The Call of the Wild Ride
July 1, 2007

13) U.A.W. Pact With Dana Signals Softer Stance
July 7, 2007


1) Private contractors outnumber U.S. troops in Iraq
New U.S. data show how heavily the Bush administration has relied on corporations to carry out the occupation of the war-torn nation.
By T. Christian Miller
Times Staff Writer
July 4, 2007,1,6564316.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

The number of U.S.-paid private contractors in Iraq now exceeds that of American combat troops, newly released figures show, raising fresh questions about the privatization of the war effort and the government's capacity to carry out military and rebuilding campaigns.

More than 180,000 civilians — including Americans, foreigners and Iraqis — are working in Iraq under U.S. contracts, according to State and Defense department figures obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Including the recent troop buildup, 160,000 soldiers and a few thousand civilian government employees are stationed in Iraq.

The total number of private contractors, far higher than previously reported, shows how heavily the Bush administration has relied on corporations to carry out the occupation of Iraq — a mission criticized as being undermanned.

"These numbers are big," said Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution scholar who has written on military contracting. "They illustrate better than anything that we went in without enough troops. This is not the coalition of the willing. It's the coalition of the billing."

The numbers include at least 21,000 Americans, 43,000 foreign contractors and about 118,000 Iraqis — all employed in Iraq by U.S. tax dollars, according to the most recent government data.

The array of private workers promises to be a factor in debates on a range of policy issues, including the privatization of military jobs and the number of Iraqi refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S.

But there are also signs that even those mounting numbers may not capture the full picture. Private security contractors, who are hired to protect government officials and buildings, were not fully counted in the survey, according to industry and government officials.

Continuing uncertainty over the numbers of armed contractors drew special criticism from military experts.

"We don't have control of all the coalition guns in Iraq. That's dangerous for our country," said William Nash, a retired Army general and reconstruction expert. The Pentagon "is hiring guns. You can rationalize it all you want, but that's obscene."

Although private companies have played a role in conflicts since the American Revolution, the U.S. has relied more on contractors in Iraq than in any other war, according to military experts.

Contractors perform functions including construction, security and weapons system maintenance.

Military officials say contractors cut costs while allowing troops to focus on fighting rather than on other tasks.

"The only reason we have contractors is to support the war fighter," said Gary Motsek, the assistant deputy undersecretary of Defense who oversees contractors. "Fundamentally, they're supporting the mission as required."

But critics worry that troops and their missions could be jeopardized if contractors, functioning outside the military's command and control, refuse to make deliveries of vital supplies under fire.

At one point in 2004, for example, U.S. forces were put on food rations when drivers balked at taking supplies into a combat zone.

Adding an element of potential confusion, no single agency keeps track of the number or location of contractors.

In response to demands from Congress, the U.S. Central Command began a census last year of the number of contractors working on U.S. and Iraqi bases to determine how much food, water and shelter was needed.

That census, provided to The Times under the Freedom of Information Act, shows about 130,000 contractors and subcontractors of different nationalities working at U.S. and Iraqi military bases.

However, U.S. military officials acknowledged that the census did not include other government agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department.

Last month, USAID reported about 53,000 Iraqis employed under U.S. reconstruction contracts, doing jobs such as garbage pickup and helping to teach democracy. In interviews, agency officials said an additional 300 Americans and foreigners worked as contractors for the agency.

State Department officials said they could not provide the department's number of contractors. Of about 5,000 people affiliated with the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, about 300 are State Department employees. The rest are a mix of other government agency workers and contractors, many of whom are building the new embassy.

"There are very few of us, and we're way undermanned," said one State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We have significant shortages of people. It's been that way since before [the war], and it's still that way."

The companies with the largest number of employees are foreign firms in the Middle East that subcontract to KBR, the Houston-based oil services company, according to the Central Command database. KBR, once a subsidiary of Halliburton Co., provides logistics support to troops, the single largest contract in Iraq.

Middle Eastern companies, including Kulak Construction Co. of Turkey and Projects International of Dubai, supply labor from Third World countries to KBR and other U.S. companies for menial work on U.S. bases and rebuilding projects. Foreigners are used instead of Iraqis because of fears that insurgents could infiltrate projects.

KBR is by far the largest employer of Americans, with nearly 14,000 U.S. workers. Other large employers of Americans in Iraq include New York-based L-3 Communications, which holds a contract to provide translators to troops, and ITT Corp., a New York engineering and technology firm.

The most controversial contractors are those working for private security companies, including Blackwater, Triple Canopy and Erinys. They guard sensitive sites and provide protection to U.S. and Iraqi government officials and businessmen.

Security contractors draw some of the sharpest criticism, much of it from military policy experts who say their jobs should be done by the military. On several occasions, heavily armed private contractors have engaged in firefights when attacked by Iraqi insurgents.

Others worry that the private security contractors lack accountability. Although scores of troops have been prosecuted for serious crimes, only a handful of private security contractors have faced legal charges.

The number of private security contractors in Iraq remains unclear, despite Central Command's latest census. The Times identified 21 security companies in the Central Command database, deploying 10,800 men.

However, the Defense Department's Motsek, who monitors contractors, said the Pentagon estimated the total was 6,000.

Both figures are far below the private security industry's own estimate of about 30,000 private security contractors working for government agencies, nonprofit organizations, media outlets and businesses.

Industry officials said that private security companies helped reduce the number of troops needed in Iraq and provided jobs to Iraqis — a benefit in a country with high unemployment.

"A guy who is working for a [private security company] is not out on the street doing something inimical to our interests," said Lawrence Peter, director of the Private Security Company Assn. of Iraq.

Not surprisingly, Iraqis make up the largest number of civilian employees under U.S. contracts. Typically, the government contracts with an American firm, which then subcontracts with an Iraqi firm to do the job.

Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, a contractors' trade group, said the number of Iraqis reflected the importance of the reconstruction and economic development efforts to the overall U.S. mission in Iraq.

"That's not work that the government does or has ever done…. That's work that is going to be done by companies and to some extent by" nongovernmental organizations, Soloway said. "People tend to think that these are contractors on the battlefield, and they're not."

The Iraqis have been the most difficult to track. As recently as May, the Pentagon told Congress that 22,000 Iraqis were employed by its contractors. But the Pentagon number recently jumped to 65,000 — a result of closer inspection of contracts, an official said.

The total number of Iraqis employed under U.S. contracts is important, in part because it may influence debate in Congress regarding how many Iraqis will be allowed to come to the U.S. to escape violence in their homeland.

This year, the U.S. planned to cap that number at 7,000 a year. To date, however, only a few dozen Iraqis have been admitted, according to State Department figures.

Kirk Johnson, head of the List Project, which seeks to increase the admission of Iraqis, said that the U.S. needed to provide a haven to those who worked most closely with American officials.

"We all say we are grateful to these Iraqis," Johnson said. "How can we be the only superpower in the world that can't implement what we recognize as a moral imperative?"



The back story

Information in this article is based in part on a database of contractors in Iraq obtained by The Times under the Freedom of Information Act, which allows the public access to government records.

The database is the result of a census conducted earlier this year by the U.S. Central Command.

The census found about 130,000 contractors working for 632 companies holding contracts in Iraq with the Defense Department and a handful of other federal agencies.

The Times received the database last month, four months after first requesting it. Because the Freedom of Information Act law requires an agency to provide only information as of the date of the request, the census is based on figures as of February. During interviews, Pentagon officials said the census had since been updated, and they provided additional figures based on the update.


Los Angeles Times



Contractors in Iraq

There are more U.S.-paid private contractors than there are American combat troops in Iraq.

Contractors: 180,000

U.S. troops: 160,000


Nationality of contractors*

118,000 Iraqis

43,000 non-U.S. foreigners

21,000 Americans


Top contractors

Company: Kulak Construction Co.

Description: Based in Turkey, supplies construction workers to U.S. bases

Total employees: 30,301


Company: KBR

Description: Based in Houston, supplies logistics support to U.S. troops

Total employees: 15,336


Company: Prime Projects International

Description: Based in Dubai, supplies labor for logistics support

Total employees: 10,560


Company: L-3 Communications

Description: Based in New York, provides translators and other services

Total employees: 5,886


Company: Gulf Catering Co.

Description: Based in Saudi Arabia, provides kitchen services to U.S. troops

Total employees: 4,002


Company: 77 Construction

Description: Based in Irbil, Iraq, provides logistics support to troops

Total employees: 3,219


Company: ECC

Description: Based in Burlingame, Calif, works on reconstruction projects

Total employees: 2,390


Company: Serka Group

Description: Based in Turkey, supplies logistics support to U.S. bases

Total employees: 2,250


Company: IPBD Ltd.

Description: Based in England, supplies labor, laundry services and other support

Total employees: 2,164


Company: Daoud & Partners Co.

Description: Based in Amman, Jordan, supplies labor for logistics support

Total employees: 2,092


Company: EOD Technology Inc

Description: Based in Lenoir City, Tenn., supplies security, explosives demolition and other services

Total employees: 1,913


Note: Data are as of February, which is most current available.

*Approximate - numbers rounded

Sources: U.S. Central Command, Times reporting


Paul Duginski Los Angeles Times


2) Contractors Face Combat-Related Stress After Iraq
July 5, 2007

WASHINGTON, July 4 — Contractors who have worked in Iraq are returning home with the same kinds of combat-related mental health problems that afflict United States military personnel, according to contractors, industry officials and mental health experts.

But, they say, the private workers are largely left on their own to find care, and their problems often go ignored or are inadequately treated.

A vast second army, one of contractors — up to 126,000 Americans, Iraqis and other foreigners — is working for the United States government in Iraq. Many work side-by-side with soldiers and are exposed to the same dangers, but they mostly must fend for themselves in navigating the civilian health care system when they come back to the United States.

With no widespread screening, many workers are not identified as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or other problems, mental health experts and contractors say. And, they add, the quality of treatment for others can vary widely because of limited civilian expertise in combat-related disorders.

Only a few mental health professionals have focused on the issue, but they warn that the number of contractors leaving Iraq with mental health problems is large and growing.

“I think the numbers are in the thousands, maybe tens of thousands,” said Paul Brand, a psychologist and chief executive of Mission Critical Psychological Services, a Chicago firm hired by Dyncorp International, a major contractor in Iraq, to assess and treat its workers. “Many are going undiagnosed. These guys are fighting demons, and they don’t know how to cope.”

Jana Crowder, who runs a Web site for contractors seeking help, says she gets new evidence of that every day in phone calls from desperate workers.

“In the first few years of the war, we were seeing a few trickle in,” said Ms. Crowder, of Knoxville, Tenn. “Now, as contractors start coming home, you are starting to see a lot more.”

Workers tell haunting tales of their psychological torment. Tate Mallory, a police officer from South Dakota who worked as a Dyncorp police trainer, was grievously wounded by a rocket-powered grenade last fall. After returning home, he was so mentally scarred, he said, that he begged his brother to kill him.

Kenneth Allen, a 70-year-old truck driver from Georgia whose convoy was ambushed in Iraq, says he endures mood swings and jittery nerves and is often awake all night. And Nathaniel Anderson, a Texan whose truck was hit by rockets while hauling jet fuel, lost a contractor friend to suicide. Though suffering from stress-related symptoms himself, he has yet to see a doctor.

The toll of the war on contractors has largely been hidden from public view. About 1,000 have died since the conflict began, and nearly 13,000 have been injured. While some are well compensated for their work in Iraq, many more collect modest wages and provide support services vital to the military.

The federal government, which has paid billions of dollars to corporations for services in Iraq since the war began, has not examined the issue of mental health problems among private workers, according to Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs officials.

“To my knowledge, it has not been looked at systematically,” said Dr. Matthew J. Friedman, a V.A. official who directs the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Contract workers who are wounded or disabled in the war zone are treated in military hospitals in Iraq and Germany, but once home, they are not eligible for care in the military or V.A. system. And unlike troops, they are not routinely evaluated for mental or stress disorders after their tours.

When soldiers and veterans complained in recent months of lapses in their care, top officials in Washington promised improvements, but the plight of troubled civilian workers has not captured such attention.

Many companies conduct predeployment psychological screening and offer limited counseling, but provide few resources when their workers return home and often go off the payroll.

Federal law requires employers to provide medical insurance for workers in a war zone. Workers have filed about 205 claims for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, or P.T.S.D., according to the Department of Labor, which monitors the data. Industry officials say that number significantly underrepresents the problem because many troubled people do not file claims.

Of those who do, many have been denied coverage and have filed lawsuits. Gary Pitts, a Houston lawyer, says insurers have challenged almost every claim filed by about 50 clients, even though the insurance companies paid for medical care involving their physical injuries.

“The contrast between the way the military and the civilian contractors are handled on P.T.S.D. is like night and day,” Mr. Pitts said. “The contractors have to figure it out on their own, and they often have to litigate it with the insurance company.”

The insurance problems may be partly related to the dearth of civilian mental health professionals equipped to deal with combat-related stress, said Mr. Brand, the Dyncorp psychologist, and Dr. Spencer Eth, who helped write the treatment guidelines for post-traumatic stress syndrome for the American Psychiatric Association.

“The availability of mental health care providers with specific expertise in this is scant around the country,” said Dr. Eth, a New York psychiatrist. “You have problems of access to care, financial obstacles to care, and so most of these people are not going to get the help they need.”

AIG, the giant insurance company that provides coverage for several of the largest contractors in Iraq, has paid about half of claims involving P.T.S.D., said Chris Winans, an AIG spokesman. But many of the others are delayed or challenged because the insurers’ medical experts disagree with the diagnoses, Mr. Winans said.

Mr. Pitts, the lawyer, said many contractors lived in small towns or rural areas without access to high-quality mental health workers. But even when he has sent clients to respected psychiatrists or psychologists to confirm the diagnoses, AIG still often contests the claim, he said.

Dyncorp, a firm based in Texas that has a State Department contract to train the Iraqi police, is sponsoring its first conference Friday and Saturday on post-traumatic stress for former employees. The company is also treating workers in Iraq after bringing in Mr. Brand’s firm to determine the extent of problems.

Twenty-four percent of the Dyncorp police trainers showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after their deployment, Mr. Brand said. He and others said they knew of no other studies that formally assessed the problem among private workers in Iraq.

Those findings parallel an Army study earlier this year that about 17 percent of personnel in Army combat units in Iraq showed symptoms of P.T.S.D. one year after their deployment, said Dr. Charles W. Hoge, chief of psychiatry at the Army’s Walter Reed Institute for Research.

If marital problems, alcohol abuse and other adjustment problems are counted, the number rises to 30 percent to 35 percent, said Col. Elspeth C. Ritchie, a psychiatric consultant to the Army surgeon general.

Last October, Tate Mallory, the police officer from South Dakota, was riding in a Humvee in Anbar Province when a rocket-propelled grenade snaked into the vehicle, hit him in the lower back and went through his abdomen before exiting his inner thigh. Miraculously, the rocket did not explode, and quick-acting marines rushed Mr. Mallory to a combat hospital.

After intensive medical care in Iraq, Germany and finally back in Sioux Falls, Mr. Mallory left the hospital in December, and went to live with his brother, Brad, in Belle Fourche, S.D.

Though his physical injuries were healing, Mr. Mallory’s psychological wounds were left untreated. He isolated himself and turned against family members, including his sister. “I called her up and just screamed, ‘You are dead to me!’ ” he recalls, now deeply embarrassed.

He hit bottom one day in January, he says, when he asked his brother to kill him.

Brad Mallory, 45, recalls how frightening that was. “What I saw was how hollow his eyes were,” he said of his brother. “I’m a hunter, and to me, it was like when you come up on your deer, when you didn’t get a clean kill, and they just want it to be over.”

He drove his brother to a local hospital emergency room, but the doctors were suspicious that Mr. Mallory was faking his symptoms to obtain painkillers. Eventually, Tate Mallory said, he was put on antidepressants and began to see a psychiatrist in Sioux Falls.

Mr. Anderson, the Texas truck driver who worked for KBR, the largest private contractor in Iraq, has yet to find relief. He said combat-related stress was a constant among truck drivers in Iraq.

“Just about all the drivers got it and don’t realize it when they fly off the handle,” he said.

Now that he is home, near Houston, Mr. Anderson, 52, says he has difficulty eating and sleeping. He has not sought treatment for what he believes are stress-related problems, and instead sounds resigned.

“It just goes through your mind over and over and over,” he said, “all the stuff you’ve been through. I dream about it half the night and during the day.”


3) Surge Seen in Applications for Citizenship
July 5, 2007

The number of legal immigrants seeking to become United States citizens is surging, officials say, prompted by imminent increases in fees to process naturalization applications, citizenship drives across the country and new feelings of insecurity among immigrants.

The citizenship campaigns have tapped into the uneasiness that legal immigrants, especially Hispanics, say is a result of months of debate over an immigration bill that failed last week in the Senate. Although illegal immigrants were the center of attention in the debate, it prompted many legal immigrants who have put down roots here to seek the security of citizenship, as well as its voting power, immigrants’ advocates said.

The numbers of new naturalized citizens have steadily grown, to 702,589 last year from 463,204 in 2003. A big jump occurred this year, with the number of applications increasing every month, to 115,175 in May compared with 65,782 last December.

More than 4,000 new Americans were sworn in yesterday in tradition-steeped — and some not so traditional — Fourth of July ceremonies. About 1,000 people from 75 countries took their oaths together under the turrets of Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., as Gloria Estefan sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

In Iraq, 325 foreign-born soldiers who are fighting in the United States military took the oath of allegiance in two ceremonies.

For many legal immigrants, worry about their futures in the United States turned into action after an announcement on Jan. 31 by Citizenship and Immigration Services that it would increase application fees.

Under the new fees, which take effect on July 30, it will cost $675 to become a naturalized citizen, up 69 percent from $400.

Immigrants have also been mobilized to press naturalization applications by a television and radio campaign that Univision, the national Spanish-language network, began in January in California.

The campaign, promoted by personalities like Eduardo Sotelo, a radio host in Los Angeles known as El Piolín, or Tweety Bird, has directed immigrants to 350 workshop centers run by churches and other community organizations in 22 cities. At the centers, immigrants receive English lessons and advice on meeting requirements and filling out forms.

One radio listener was Ángel Iván Álvarez, 24, a legal immigrant from Mexico who said he had never thought of becoming a citizen until last week when the Senate bill failed.

The measure, a bipartisan compromise supported by President Bush, would have created a path to legal status for illegal immigrants, among other actions.

After it failed, Mr. Álvarez, a real estate agent from Whittier, Calif., took down information from El Piolín’s show and registered in a citizenship workshop.

“I realized that I want to be able to vote and speak up for my people, because they are not getting enough support,” Mr. Álvarez said yesterday in a telephone interview. “I want everybody to be able to come out of the shadows.”

Federico Gutiérrez, 53, a longtime legal resident of Chicago who was born in Mexico, said large protests in March 2006 in support of an immigration overhaul made him decide that it was time to engage in American politics.

When the debate turned angry, Mr. Gutiérrez said, he wanted to be able to influence lawmakers who he believed favored immigrants.

He prepared his application and brushed up on his English and American history in classes offered by the New Americans Initiative, a citizenship campaign financed by Illinois. He became a citizen in May.

“Now if I don’t like the way things are going, I can let the government know my opinion,” Mr. Gutiérrez said in a telephone interview.

Some legal immigrants, particularly Hispanics, have said they were unfairly tarred in the debate over the Senate bill, which failed in part because of vehement opposition from conservatives who said it offered blanket amnesty to illegal immigrants.

“A lot of people who are here legally are made to feel like lepers,” said Rachel Duverge, 24, a Florida resident born in the Dominican Republic who was among the new citizens sworn in yesterday at Walt Disney World.

Ms. Duverge said she became a citizen in part because she was eager to vote in the presidential election next year. President Bush, she said, “has not handled immigration well.”

To become citizens, immigrants have to be legal permanent residents who have lived continuously in the United States for five years. They cannot have a criminal record and must pass tests to show proficiency in English and a basic knowledge of American history and government.

Advocates for immigrants say the increase in fees has been a decisive incentive for working-class immigrants to take action, especially when more than one family member is eligible to be a citizen.

“Before they said, ‘I can do it anytime,’ ” said Catherine Salgado, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights in Chicago. “Now it’s not anytime anymore.”

Ms. Salgado said the $675 fee was a week’s wages for many immigrants who had applied for naturalization through workshops organized by the coalition.

The immigration agency is also remaking its civics and English tests, and many immigrants say they fear that the tests will be more challenging.

The Univision campaign had greater effects than its organizers expected, especially in California, said Maryam Banikaram, chief marketing officer for the company. Ms. Banikaram said the effort was part of its regular nonpartisan public service efforts of the company.

“If you become a U.S. citizen, you have better opportunities,” she said. “We’re just giving you the tools to make that a reality.”

The campaign took off after the immigration debate became major news for Univision and Mr. Sotelo, or El Piolín, used his racy comic radio show as a soapbox to support legal status for illegal immigrants.

Other immigrants are concerned about locking in economic gains that they have made as legal residents.

“A prime motivator is security for the family and for employment,” said Javiér Angulo, director of civic education for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, which organized workshops in connection with the Univision campaign. “People don’t feel that being permanent residents is enough to secure their future in this country. They would just feel more secure as citizens.”

In Chicago, Mr. Gutiérrez said he started life in a corn-growing village in central Mexico and had worked in factories most of the time since entering the United States in 1979. He has two adult children who are United States citizens.

“I will always have Mexican blood,” Mr. Gutiérrez said, enjoying a day of rest on his first Fourth of July as an American citizen. “But my heart is here.”

Dennis Blank contributed reporting from Orlando, Fla.


4) Sacrifice Is for Suckers
O-Ed Columnist
July 6, 2007

On this Fourth of July, President Bush compared the Iraq war to the Revolutionary War, and called for “more patience, more courage and more sacrifice.” Unfortunately, it seems that nobody asked the obvious question: “What sacrifices have you and your friends made, Mr. President?”

On second thought, there would be no point in asking that question. In Mr. Bush’s world, only the little people make sacrifices.

You see, the Iraq war, although Mr. Bush insists that it’s part of a Global War on Terror™, a fight to the death between good and evil, isn’t like America’s other great wars — wars in which the wealthy shared the financial burden through higher taxes and many members of the elite fought for their country.

This time around, Mr. Bush celebrated Mission Accomplished by cutting tax rates on dividends and capital gains, while handing out huge no-bid contracts to politically connected corporations. And in the four years since, as the insurgency Mr. Bush initially taunted with the cry of “Bring them on” has claimed the lives of thousands of Americans and left thousands more grievously wounded, the children of the elite — especially the Republican elite — have been conspicuously absent from the battlefield.

The Bushies, it seems, like starting fights, but they don’t believe in paying any of the cost of those fights or bearing any of the risks. Above all, they don’t believe that they or their friends should face any personal or professional penalties for trivial sins like distorting intelligence to get America into an unnecessary war, or totally botching that war’s execution.

The Web site Think Progress has a summary of what happened to the men behind the war after we didn’t find W.M.D., and weren’t welcomed as liberators: “The architects of war: Where are they now?” To read that summary is to be awed by the comprehensiveness and generosity of the neocon welfare system. Even Paul Wolfowitz, who managed the rare feat of messing up not one but two high-level jobs, has found refuge at the American Enterprise Institute.

Which brings us to the case of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr.

The hysteria of the neocons over the prospect that Mr. Libby might actually do time for committing perjury was a sight to behold. In an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal titled “Fallen Soldier,” Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University cited the soldier’s creed: “I will never leave a fallen comrade.” He went on to declare that “Scooter Libby was a soldier in your — our — war in Iraq.”

Ah, yes. Shuffling papers in an air-conditioned Washington office is exactly like putting your life on the line in Anbar or Baghdad. Spending 30 months in a minimum-security prison, with a comfortable think-tank job waiting at the other end, is exactly like having half your face or both your legs blown off by an I.E.D.

What lay behind the hysteria, of course, was the prospect that for the very first time one of the people who tricked America into war, then endangered national security yet again in the effort to cover their tracks, might pay some price. But Mr. Ajami needn’t have worried.

Back when the investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity began, Mr. Bush insisted that if anyone in his administration had violated the law, “that person will be taken care of.” Now we know what he meant. Mr. Bush hasn’t challenged the verdict in the Libby case, and other people convicted of similar offenses have spent substantial periods of time in prison. But Mr. Libby goes free.

Oh, and don’t fret about the fact that Mr. Libby still had to pay a fine. Does anyone doubt that his friends will find a way to pick up the tab?

Mr. Bush says that Mr. Libby’s punishment remains “harsh” because his reputation is “forever damaged.” Meanwhile, Mr. Bush employs, as a deputy national security adviser, none other than Elliott Abrams, who pleaded guilty to unlawfully withholding information from Congress in the Iran-contra affair. Mr. Abrams was one of six Iran-contra defendants pardoned by Mr. Bush’s father, who was himself a subject of the special prosecutor’s investigation of the scandal.

In other words, obstruction of justice when it gets too close to home is a family tradition. And being a loyal Bushie means never having to say you’re sorry.


5) Federal Court Rejects Lawsuit on Surveillance
Filed at 12:51 p.m. ET
July 6, 2007

CINCINNATI (AP) -- A federal appeals court Friday ordered the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging President Bush's domestic spying program, saying the plaintiffs had no standing to sue.

The 2-1 ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel vacated a 2006 order by a lower court in Detroit, which had found the post-Sept. 11 warrantless surveillance aimed at uncovering terrorist activity to be unconstitutional, violating rights to privacy and free speech and the separation of powers.

U.S. Circuit Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, one of the two Republican appointees who ruled against the plaintiffs, said they failed to show they were subject to the surveillance and therefore do not have standing for their claims.

U.S. Circuit Judge Ronald Lee Gilman, a Democratic appointee, disagreed, saying he felt the plaintiffs were within their rights to sue and that it was clear to him that the surveillance program violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.

Although the Bush administration said in January the program is now overseen by a special federal intelligence court, opponents said that without a court order, the president could resume the spying outside judicial authority at any time.

The American Civil Liberties Union led the lawsuit on behalf of other groups including lawyers, journalists and scholars it says have been handicapped in doing their jobs by the government monitoring.

Other groups have filed challenges to the program in other courts; this case proceeded the furthest. If the ACLU does not appeal, the case will be sent back to the U.S. district judge in Michigan for dismissal.


6) California Investigates a Mother-and-Child Prison Center
July 6, 2007

LOS ANGELES, July 5 — The authorities in California are investigating accusations that poor health care at a center where mothers serve prison terms with their young children led to the stillbirth of a 7-month-old fetus and endangered the lives of several children.

Staff logs, statements by prisoners and interviews with investigators, staff members and prisoners’ families depict a facility where inmates and their children were denied hospital visits and medications, and where no one kept adequate records of accidents involving injuries that included a skull fracture and a broken collarbone.

The California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, one of several agencies investigating, is expected to decide this month whether to continue licensing the center, which houses nonviolent offenders, most convicted of drug crimes.

The problems at the center coincide with continuing intense scrutiny of health care delivery in California’s prisons. A court-appointed receiver was handed control of prison medical services more than a year ago after a federal court found widespread neglect and malpractice.

The 40-bed facility, located in San Diego and offered as an alternative to serving time in the customary penitentiary setting, has dormitory-style rooms for inmate and child adjoining shared living areas. It is run under the banner of the Family Foundations Program by a nonprofit contractor, Center Point Inc., which did not return calls seeking comment.

An official with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Wendy Still, said the department had looked into accusations surrounding the center and had ordered Center Point, based in San Rafael, Calif., to hire a part-time doctor for the facility and keep a registered nurse there. Disciplinary action could be taken against Center Point, depending on the results of the investigation, Ms. Still said.

The San Diego police would not comment on the inquiry, except to confirm that their child abuse unit was taking part. A spokeswoman for the court-appointed receiver, Robert Sillen, said it was unlikely that his authority extended to the care of children at the center.

“We don’t think that these kids are part of our mandate, because they are not incarcerated,” said the spokeswoman, Rachel Kagan.

With the state dogged by prison overcrowding, the Family Foundations Program had been considered a model for nonviolent female offenders. A provision for a similar program in Fresno, the state’s sixth for incarcerated mothers and their children, is in a new law that, to accommodate 53,000 more prisoners, provides $7.7 billion for prison construction and new initiatives.

Though only a small fraction of the total prison population, female inmates are growing in number in California and other states. The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics announced last week that the nation’s prison and jail population grew 2.8 percent from midyear 2005 to midyear 2006, the largest rise since 2000, and that the number of incarcerated women grew at almost double the overall rate, to a total of 111,403.

Sharp increases in imprisonment of women began after the enactment of stiffer drug sentencing laws in the 1980s and 1990s, said Robert J. LaLonde, an economist at the University of Chicago.

“A lot of women who probably wouldn’t have gone to prison before are now going in for Class 4 drug felonies — the least serious felonies,” Dr. LaLonde said, referring to crimes that in some instances had previously resulted in nothing more than probation.

Studies show that about 75 percent of imprisoned women across the country are mothers, most of whom had custody of their children before their incarceration. In most cases, the children are left in the care of grandparents or other members of the extended family, but about 10 percent are placed in foster care.

Only a handful of states offer imprisoned mothers the opportunity to live with their children, and even those states allocate few spaces to them. The most such spaces are in California, where 140 women live with their children at five small centers, including the one in San Diego.

Advocates of mother-child prison programs say they can reduce recidivism while retaining family bonds and easing pressure on the state’s child welfare system. But even supporters worry that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, or C.D.C., may be too dysfunctional to provide sufficient oversight.

“This program has fallen by the wayside,” said Karen Shain, co-director of Legal Services for Prisoners With Children, based in San Francisco. “I don’t want to say that they should shut it all down, but I don’t know that the C.D.C. has the capacity to take care of women and children.”

Accusations of neglect and incompetence at the San Diego center abound.

For instance, one inmate, Marsha Strickland, complained to the staff about her 5-year-old daughter’s blinding headaches and constant nausea for at least six weeks before the girl was allowed a hospital visit in January, according to accounts by inmates and former staff members. The child is now living with relatives and undergoing treatment for brain cancer.

In April, another prisoner, Sonya Bradford, delivered a stillborn fetus. According to interviews with former staff members and to witness statements offered to the San Diego police, the prison’s staff had ignored Ms. Bradford’s complaints that the fetus, which was 7 months old, had stopped moving. Corrections officials deny responsibility for the stillbirth because it occurred only two days after Ms. Bradford’s arrival at the center.

Yet another inmate, Dinesha Lawson, says she told the staff for several days that her infant daughter’s breathing was labored. Finally, on May 3, Ms. Lawson and the baby, Esperanza, were taken to the emergency room of a children’s hospital, driven there by Trish Hoban, a vocational counselor later fired by Center Point on the ground, she says, that she had shared inmates’ confidential health information with other inmates, an accusation she denies.

“They took the baby into the trauma ward to a room called the resuscitation room,” Ms. Hoban said of Esperanza. “They said the baby’s heart rate was 32. She was in cardiac arrest.”

Esperanza’s father, William Ramirez, says she had double pneumonia and was later given a regimen of antibiotics and a blood transfusion.

Ms. Still, the corrections official, denies that the girl was in cardiac arrest but acknowledges that she required placement in an incubator.


7) Subway Searches Go on Quietly, Just How Police Like Them
July 6, 2007

Two years ago, after bombings and bombing attempts in London’s transit system, the New York City Police Department began randomly inspecting the backpacks and packages of subway riders every day. The measure was front-page news.

Today, a week after another series of terrorism scares in the United Kingdom, the New York security program remains in effect — at exactly the same level as when it was introduced, police officials said.

Officers set up inspection posts at least 35 times a year in each of the city’s 468 subway stations, said Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman. He said the operations went on 24 hours a day, sometimes in the middle of the night, and for several hours at a time. More than 300 posts are set up each week, for a total of more than 30,000 checkpoints since the program began.

Yet to many riders, after the initial burst of attention two years ago — when the first officers with bullhorns set up white plastic tables and aimed flashlights into bags — the inspection teams seemed to appear less often. In interviews, several riders said they were surprised to hear the inspections were still taking place.

The department has contributed to the almost phantom nature of the program by refusing to divulge precisely where the units are set up or how many officers are involved — even successfully defeating a lawsuit seeking just those facts.

“We don’t want details out about that; we don’t want to telegraph that information to the enemy, to people who would kill New Yorkers,” Mr. Browne said.

“It is what it is,” he added. “We’ve never said it’s every place, all the time.”

Nor will the department divulge what it has found, if anything, in the bags of the untold thousands of New Yorkers who have been stopped.

Terrorism experts said the program’s effectiveness was not so much that it is a tight barrier to keep terrorists out of the subways, but that its fluid nature could keep any attack planners off balance. Trumpeting the program publicly is also a deterrent, they said.

“When you have randomness, it is more effective than when you do it all the time,” said Timothy P. Connors, the director of the Center for Policing Terrorism at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. “If you have a predictable regimen, it can be exploited. That’s what the 9/11 hijackers did.”

Michael A. Sheehan, a former senior counterterrorism official for the Police Department, helped put the program in place in 2005 in response to bombings of trains and buses in Russia, Spain and England.

“We think it gets the cops more active when they are down there in the subway,” Mr. Sheehan, now a distinguished fellow at the New York University Center on Law and Security, said yesterday. “We think it keeps the people alert.”

In a spot survey of subway entrances in the late summer of 2005, the New York Civil Liberties Union found a low rate of coverage. The surveyors made 5,462 checks of the system’s 1,000 entrances from Aug. 25 through Sept. 16 that year and found 34 checkpoints, or roughly 6 checkpoints per 1,000 entrances.

When he announced the program two years ago, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg emphasized efforts to balance security concerns with passengers’ civil rights.

Most subway riders grudgingly accepted the inspections, but wondered whether they would be effective. Civil libertarians said the searches were unconstitutional.

Interviews in the last week, after terrorist attacks were thwarted in England and Scotland, suggested that many New York riders remained in favor of the inspections, though they said they experienced them rarely, if at all.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Toufik Dabarne, 38, a costume maker, said as he boarded a Q train at Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn on Wednesday. He said he had been stopped once by the police at a subway checkpoint. “It makes you feel safer.”

Soon after the inspections began, the Police Department prevailed in federal court over a lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union. The group had challenged the constitutionality of the bag searches, arguing that they were too infrequent and haphazard to be effective and violated the Fourth Amendment’s provision against unreasonable searches and seizures.

In analyzing the Police Department’s statements yesterday, Christopher Dunn, a lawyer with the civil liberties group, said a question remained: “What is the likelihood of someone with a bomb encountering a checkpoint at a subway entrance?”

“Understanding that checkpoints only last for three or four hours and are concentrated during the rush hours,” he said, “the department’s own figures reveal that as few as 2 or 3 percent of the 1,000 subway entrances may have checkpoints at any given time.”

He added: “We fully support subway security measures. But a bag search program that leaves 97 percent of subway entrances with no checkpoint on an average day cannot be effective enough to justify suspicionless police searches of law-abiding New Yorkers.”

Mr. Sheehan said that having officers checking bags at every station all the time would certainly be more effective, but added, “That is difficult to do.”

“That would require a tremendous commitment,” he said. “It’s cost-prohibitive in terms of cops and money. But if we have to do it, if the threat requires, we can do it.”

F. David Sheppard, director of the state’s Office of Homeland Security, said bag searches were part of a larger strategy. He said that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey conducted random visual inspections of bags at “certain select sites,” and that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority used explosives trace detectors.

But beyond the obvious, he said, “I can tell you we have a lot of officers out there who are not in uniform, who are invisible to the terrorist, and they are just as important in preventing the next terrorist attack in the subway or whatever system.”

Richard A. Clarke, the former chief of counterterrorism for the National Security Council, and one of the city’s experts in the federal court case, said in an October 2005 deposition that he knew of no mass transit system outside the United States that was using random bag searches on a continuing basis. Such tactics have been used in London, Paris and Moscow, he said, but not with the regularity of the New York police.

“I’m not aware of any other American city that’s doing it on a regular basis yet, although I know many are thinking about it,” Mr. Clarke said. “I believe they all should be doing it.”

Cassi Feldman and William Neuman contributed reporting.


8) S.I. Crowd Clashes With Police
July 6, 2007

Dozens of Fourth of July revelers who became enraged when the police ordered a man to stop shooting off fireworks in their Staten Island neighborhood assaulted officers before being hauled away in handcuffs, the police said.

The man, whom the police identified as Joseph Bujka, 25, was seen Wednesday night near the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge setting off fireworks, which is illegal in New York, the police said. Officers tried to arrest him, but the crowd became combative and hurt several officers, though none seriously, they said.

Twenty-eight people were taken into custody; 18 were arrested on charges of assault, inciting a riot, unlawful assembly, obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. The other 10 were given disorderly conduct summonses and were released.

Some people in the neighborhood said the police response was excessive. Ruth Eisenberg, one of the people arrested, said she was scared.

“It was horrible, frightening — the most frightening experience I have ever had in my entire life,” she said.

More than a dozen police officers were treated for injuries including bruised hands and feet, swollen faces and cuts to their arms.

The police defended their enforcement of the city’s fireworks rules.


9) Dana Gets Health Care Deal With Unions
Filed at 10:04 a.m. ET
July 6, 2007

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- Dana Corp. has reached settlement agreements with its two largest unions that will save the bankrupt auto parts maker more than $100 million per year, the company announced Friday.

Under the deals struck with the United Steelworkers and the United Auto Workers, voluntary trusts will take over Dana's obligations for providing health care for retirees and long-term disability coverage for other employees. Dana will contribute $700 million cash and approximately $80 million in common stock to the trusts, the company said in a news release.

The settlements include four-year extensions of Dana's current contracts with the USW and the UAW at its union plants in the U.S., as well as new agreements with several recently organized facilities. The agreements also establish a two-tier wage structure at some Dana operations and changes in disability benefits, the company said.

The settlement could be a template for domestic automakers that are considering shifting future retiree health care costs to union-controlled trust funds.

Detroit's Big Three say the increasing cost of health care has hurt their ability to compete with foreign manufacturers, and they are studying a new contract between Akron-based Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and the United Steelworkers union with a similar health care trust fund.

Goodyear estimates it will save $275 million over the next three years by setting up a trust fund that eliminates the tiremaker's future health care obligations for retired union workers.

The company made a one-time $1 billion contribution to an independent fund that was created as part of the labor deal reached with workers late last year.

Detroit automakers are expected to propose a similar fund in national contract talks with the UAW that formally begin later this month.

The Detroit Three say they have a $30 per hour labor cost gap with Japanese competitors, and much of that is due to long-term retiree health care costs. They want to significantly reduce or eliminate the gap in this year's contract talks.

Also on Friday, Dana announced a deal with Centerbridge Capital Partners, which will invest $500 million in Dana preferred convertible stock following the company's bankruptcy reorganization. Centerbridge also has agreed to help line up investors for an additional $250 million in shares.

Dana, one of world's largest automotive suppliers, filed for bankruptcy protection in March 2006 amid pressure from American automakers to obtain price cuts from suppliers. Dana has said its U.S. operations lost $2 billion over the past five years.

In March, the company asked a U.S. bankruptcy court judge for the right to force cuts on the unions, but the judge urged more work toward a negotiated settlement.

Dana sells brakes, axles and other parts to most major automakers, including General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co.

Dana has faced increasing pressure from big car makers to sell parts at lower prices in recent years. That coupled with rising energy costs and less demand for sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks put the auto parts supplier in a financial bind.


10) 2008 Candidates Vow to Overhaul U.S. Health Care
July 6, 2007

WASHINGTON, July 5 — There is no better measure of the power of the health care issue than this: Sixteen months before Election Day, presidential candidates in both parties are promising to overhaul the system and cover more — if not all — of the 44.8 million people without insurance.

Their approaches are very different, reflecting longstanding divisions between the parties on the role of government versus the private market in addressing the affordability and availability of health insurance. Republicans, by and large, promise to expand coverage by using a variety of tax incentives to empower consumers to buy it themselves, from private insurers. Conservatives warn, repeatedly, of Democrats edging toward the slippery slope of “government-controlled health insurance,” as former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York puts it, and promote the innovation and choice offered by private insurers.

The major Democratic candidates propose strengthening the private-employer-based system, through which most working families get their coverage. But many Democrats also see a strong role for government, including, in some plans, new requirements that individuals obtain insurance and that employers provide it, along with substantial new government spending to subsidize coverage for people who cannot afford it.

Still, while they argue over solutions, both parties acknowledge the problems and their political urgency. Republicans, whose primaries usually turn on other issues, often wait until the general election to roll out detailed health plans; this time they are plunging into the debate far earlier. Democrats are competing furiously among themselves over who has the bigger, better plan to control costs and to approach universal coverage, a striking change from the party’s wariness on the issue a decade ago after the collapse of the Clintons’ health care initiative.

And both parties are closely watching the action in the states as potential blueprints for a centrist compromise, especially in Massachusetts, which just began a major plan intended to require that every individual have insurance.

In short, says Jonathan Gruber, an economist, health expert and Clinton administration veteran, the times are “radically different.”

In fact, when Senator Barack Obama of Illinois unveiled a plan intended to cover tens of millions of uninsured Americans, but not requiring coverage for all, some Democrats in rival campaigns argued that he had not gone far enough. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, once vilified as overreaching on health care, is now more often faulted in her party as moving too slowly. Mrs. Clinton’s 1994 plan, attacked at the time from the left, right and center, is presented in the new Michael Moore documentary, “Sicko,” as a tragic missed opportunity.

This amount of attention, this early, comes in response to the growing anxiety among voters — and much of American business — about the cost of health care. Premiums for family coverage have risen by 87 percent since 2000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The number of Americans without insurance has grown steadily, to what the Census Bureau estimates as nearly 45 million, from 37 million when the Clintons first confronted the issue.

Businesses say that health costs are a huge liability in their struggles to compete in a global economy, most vividly in the auto industry. And health care is now rated the top domestic issue in some recent polls among Democrats, independents and voters over all. Among Republicans, it was surpassed only by immigration in June, according to the latest Kaiser survey. A Democratic pollster, Geoffrey Garin, says: “There are a bunch of issues that candidates can take a pass on. This is not one of them.”

On the Republican side, few candidates have been better prepared to deal with the issue than former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, who helped push through that state’s health plan with bipartisan support. But Republican primary voters tend to be leery of new government requirements, and, arguably, of Massachusetts as a role model. Mr. Romney, on the campaign trail, talks generally about getting “everybody inside the health care system,” through “market reforms” state by state to make private insurance cheaper and more available. But not, he says, “with a government takeover.”

Sally Canfield, policy director for the Romney campaign, says that Mr. Romney is proud of his record, but “the Massachusetts plan was crafted for Massachusetts,” and that a national plan would be different. For example, aides said he did not support a federal version of the Massachusetts requirement that individuals obtain insurance.

Mr. Romney’s rivals are casting themselves as equally committed to improving the health care system, but even more determined to use free-market principles to do so, which they hope will prove them more attuned to the Republican base. Mr. Giuliani plans to produce a major proposal in the next month, aides say, that will elaborate on his commitment to “affordable and portable free-market solutions.”

Mr. Giuliani says he wants to give individuals more control over, and responsibility for, health insurance, encouraging them to buy their own coverage on the private market and giving them “a very big tax deduction” to do it. Right now, most Americans under 65 get their coverage through their employers, who have the benefit of significant tax advantages, pooled risk and group rates.

Mr. Giuliani’s approach echoes President Bush’s call for an “ownership society,” which was popular with economic conservatives but widely criticized as putting too much risk on individuals. “Every one of the Democrats wants government-mandated health insurance,” Mr. Giuliani said recently. “We have to go in exactly the opposite direction.”

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, will also outline a health care plan this summer, aides said. They said it would be intended to make coverage “affordable and available,” using tax credits and the expansion of programs like the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, but would include no new mandates on individuals.

Analysts say the Democrats are clearly drawing lessons from the health care battles of 1993-4, when a similar public groundswell for change collapsed in a matter of months. The 1,342-page Clinton plan at that time was bewilderingly bureaucratic and easy for opponents to characterize as something that would actually worsen the status quo for many insured Americans.

This year, the major Democratic proposals — including Mr. Obama’s, one from former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina and a plan expected from Mrs. Clinton — are arguably ambitious and costly, but do not try the wholesale reinvention of the system, or move explicitly toward the government takeover Republicans so often predict.

“There’s not a lot of untested political ideas out there,” said Robert Blendon, a professor in health policy at Harvard.

The major Democratic plans announced so far try to cover nearly everyone by shoring up the employer-based system, creating new public insurance options and establishing new health insurance purchasing pools that offer a variety of private and public plans to people who cannot get coverage through work. People who could not afford coverage would get subsidies. Given those supports, some Democrats (including Mr. Edwards and — it is widely expected but not yet announced — Mrs. Clinton) back the idea of requiring every individual to obtain insurance.

Mr. Edwards and Mr. Obama call for financing their plans with revenue from ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans; those cuts are set to expire in 2010.

Diane Rowland, executive vice president of Kaiser, said candidates were responding not only to recent failures, but also to recent successes, notably in Massachusetts and potentially California.

“To get something enacted, you need a lot of people who think they will gain from it,” Ms. Rowland said. “It’s a new way of talking about health reform, because it shows people with health insurance what they could gain. These proposals are not just about the haves versus the have-nots.”

Few have taken that advice more to heart than Mrs. Clinton, who is rolling out her proposals to control costs and improve quality before her ideas for covering the uninsured, which are expected in the next few months. She recently, for example, proposed a “Best Practices Institute” to assess the most effective treatments and procedures.

Another hallmark of this year’s plans, in both parties, is a reliance on better health information technology and disease management to hold down costs — not the more rigorous regulatory structures proposed in 1994, which critics asserted would soon lead to rationing.

By the time Election Day rolls around, polls indicate that the issue will be front and center, setting the stage for another great battle to overhaul the system under the next president. Veterans of the Clinton administration say it all feels familiar.

“If the Democrats win, it will be very hard not to take this issue on,” said Mr. Gruber, who is helping to carry out the Massachusetts plan. “It will be as promising as it was in the early 1990s.”


11)The Founding Immigrants
Op-Ed Contributor
Dorset, Vt.
July 3, 2007

A PROMINENT American once said, about immigrants, “Few of their children in the country learn English... The signs in our streets have inscriptions in both languages ... Unless the stream of their importation could be turned they will soon so outnumber us that all the advantages we have will not be able to preserve our language, and even our government will become precarious.”

This sentiment did not emerge from the rancorous debate over the immigration bill defeated last week in the Senate. It was not the lament of some guest of Lou Dobbs or a Republican candidate intent on wooing bedrock conservative votes. Guess again.

Voicing this grievance was Benjamin Franklin. And the language so vexing to him was the German spoken by new arrivals to Pennsylvania in the 1750s, a wave of immigrants whom Franklin viewed as the “most stupid of their nation.”

About the same time, a Lutheran minister named Henry Muhlenberg, himself a recent arrival from Germany, worried that “the whole country is being flooded with ordinary, extraordinary and unprecedented wickedness and crimes. ... Oh, what a fearful thing it is to have so many thousands of unruly and brazen sinners come into this free air and unfenced country.”

These German masses yearning to breathe free were not the only targets of colonial fear and loathing. Echoing the opinions of colonial editors and legislators, Ben Franklin was also troubled by the British practice of dumping its felons on America. With typical Franklin wit, he proposed sending rattlesnakes to Britain in return. (This did not, however, preclude numerous colonists from purchasing these convicts as indentured servants.)

And still earlier in Pennsylvania, the Scotch-Irish had bred discontent, as their penchant for squatting on choice real estate ran headlong against the colony’s founders, the Penn family, and their genteel notions about who should own what.

Often, the disdain for the foreign was inflamed by religion. Boston’s Puritans hanged several Friends after a Bay Colony ban on Quakerism. In Virginia, the Anglicans arrested Baptists.

But the greatest scorn was generally reserved for Catholics — usually meaning Irish, French, Spanish and Italians. Generations of white American Protestants resented newly arriving “Papists,” and even in colonial Maryland, a supposed haven for them, Roman Catholics were nonetheless forbidden to vote and hold public office.

Once independent, the new nation began to carve its views on immigrants into law. In considering New York’s Constitution, for instance, John Jay — later to become the first chief justice of the Supreme Court — suggested erecting “a wall of brass around the country for the exclusion of Catholics.”

By 1790, with the United States Constitution firmly in place, the first federal citizenship law restricted naturalization to “free white persons” who had been in the country for two years. That requirement was later pushed back to five years and, in 1798, to 14 years.

Then, as now, politics was key. Federalists feared that too many immigrants were joining the opposition. Under the 1798 Alien Act — with the threat of war in the air over French attacks on American shipping — President John Adams had license to deport anyone he considered “dangerous.” Although his secretary of state favored mass deportations, Adams never actually put anybody on a boat.

Back then, the French warranted the most suspicion, but there were other worrisome “aliens.” A wave of “wild Irish” refugees was thought to harbor dangerous radicals. Harsh “anti-coolie” laws later singled out the Chinese. And, of course, the millions of “involuntary” immigrants from Africa and their offspring were regarded merely as persons “held to service.”

Scratch the surface of the current immigration debate and beneath the posturing lies a dirty secret. Anti-immigrant sentiment is older than America itself. Born before the nation, this abiding fear of the “huddled masses” emerged in the early republic and gathered steam into the 19th and 20th centuries, when nativist political parties, exclusionary laws and the Ku Klux Klan swept the land.

As we celebrate another Fourth of July, this picture of American intolerance clashes sharply with tidy schoolbook images of the great melting pot. Why has the land of “all men are created equal” forged countless ghettoes and intricate networks of social exclusion? Why the signs reading “No Irish Need Apply”? And why has each new generation of immigrants had to face down a rich glossary of now unmentionable epithets? Disdain for what is foreign is, sad to say, as American as apple pie, slavery and lynching.

That fence along the Mexican border now being contemplated by Congress is just the latest vestige of a venerable tradition, at least as old as John Jay’s “wall of brass.” “Don’t fence me in” might be America’s unofficial anthem of unfettered freedom, but too often the subtext is, “Fence everyone else out.”

Kenneth C. Davis is the author of “Don’t Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned.”


11) A Girl’s Fear and Loathing
Op-Ed Columnist
July 7, 2007

In a column earlier this week I wrote about a cop who grotesquely abused his power by invading a high school classroom in the Bronx because a girl had uttered a curse word in a hallway. Not only did the cop handcuff and arrest the girl in a room filled with stunned students and a helpless teacher, but he arrested the school’s principal, who had attempted to reason with the officer.

The principal was suspended from his job immediately after the arrest in February 2005, but was reinstated when the charges — bogus from the very beginning — were eventually dropped. Still, the police commissioner, Ray Kelly, defended the police officer’s action, telling reporters at the time, “The principal was simply wrong.”

As I continued to look into this case, it became clear that police officials were trying to withhold important information about the officer, Juan Gonzalez. In response to a question, a spokesman for Commissioner Kelly said that Officer Gonzalez, now 29, had been placed on modified duty and that his gun and shield had been taken away.

But why? Despite repeated requests, the department would not say.

Then I found out through other sources that Officer Gonzalez had gotten into trouble for stalking, kissing and otherwise harassing a 17-year-old girl at another high school in the Bronx. The girl, extremely upset over the unwanted advances, notified school authorities and they notified the Police Department.

The Police Department confirmed this yesterday.

The encounter with the girl occurred in September 2005 outside Truman High School. The girl, questioned at a hearing by a lawyer representing the city, said she had just left the school and was on her way to a bus stop when Officer Gonzalez, in uniform, walked up to her.

He let her know that he had been watching her, and he followed her as she tried to walk away. He asked to see her school program, which lists, among other things, a student’s classes and schedule. She handed it to him.

According to the girl, the officer said, “It doesn’t have what I’m looking for.”

She said that when she asked what he was looking for, he replied, “Your address.”

The girl said Officer Gonzalez began touching her as they were passing another school. “He started touching my hair,” she said, “and pulling it all towards one side to touch my neck.” She backed up against a wall, she said, and the officer leaned over her, pressing his arms against the wall.

“I wasn’t looking at him,” the girl said. “I was turning my face away, and he touched my face and put my face to look directly towards, at him. He said, ‘Why can’t I look at him?’ And he touched my waist and pulled me closer to him, and he kissed me on my cheeks.”

The girl said, “I tried to push him away, but I couldn’t. So I had to duck under his arms.”

Officer Gonzalez followed her as she resumed walking toward the bus stop. He suggested they go out on a date. The girl said she told the officer, “I don’t think so.”

Then, she said, he told her what a powerful man he was, how he had kicked down doors and even arrested a high school principal.

This week, even as I continued asking questions about Officer Gonzalez’s status, the Police Department gave him back his gun and his badge and put him back on patrol.

It was a wildly irresponsible decision. Parents across the city should be warned about this officer.

Over the past several weeks I have heard one credible story after another of police officers ruthlessly harassing, and frequently arresting, youngsters who have done nothing wrong. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly seem to be in denial about this problem, which is widespread. There is an astounding reluctance to criticize or properly discipline police officers, no matter how egregious their conduct.

The big losers are the good kids who are treated like criminals by bullies and predators masquerading as New York’s finest. Other losers are the many cops who routinely take their crime-fighting mission seriously, but are undermined by these lowlifes in blue.

Jonathan Moore, a civil rights lawyer who represents the girl harassed by Officer Gonzalez, said his client had agreed, with “some hesitation,” to my request to tell her story in a column. She is still afraid, he said, that Officer Gonzalez will “track her down and cause her harm.”


12) French Official Suggested Bush Was Behind September 11
July 7, 2007
Filed at 10:52 a.m. ET

PARIS (Reuters) - A senior French politician, now a minister in President Nicolas Sarkozy's government, suggested last year that U.S. President George W. Bush might have been behind the September 11, 2001 attacks, according to a website.

The website, which promotes September 11 conspiracy theories, has posted a video clip of French Housing Minister Christine Boutin appearing to question that Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda group orchestrated the attacks. Boutin's office sought to play down the remarks.

Asked in an interview last November, before she became minister, whether she thought Bush might be behind the attacks, Boutin says: "I think it is possible. I think it is possible."

Boutin backs her assertion by pointing to the large number of people who visit websites that challenge the official line over the September 11 strikes against U.S. cities.

"I know that the websites that speak of this problem are websites that have the highest number of visits ... And I tell myself that this expression of the masses and of the people cannot be without any truth."

Boutin's office sought to play down the remarks, saying that later in the same interview she says: "I'm not telling you that I adhere to that position." This comment does not appear on the video clip on ReOpen911.

Numerous other websites have also posted the clip in recent days and the story has started to seep into the mainstream media.

"Christine Boutin snared by her controversial suggestions about September 11," Le Monde newspaper said in a headline.

Liberation newspaper on Saturday quoted Boutin's spokesman Christian Dupont as saying that she had not wanted to appear pro or anti-Bush at a time when Sarkozy was being branded a "U.S. poodle" after meeting the president in Washington.

"And then she is not the foreign minister," Dupont added.

France appears to be particularly fertile ground for conspiracy theories. In 2002, a book that claimed that no airliner hit the U.S. Pentagon in the September 11 attacks topped the French bestseller lists.

However, the French are not alone in their skepticism.

According to a Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll carried out last July, more than one-third of Americans suspect U.S. officials helped in the September 11 attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could later go to war.

The U.S. State Department has rejected these accusations.

Almost 3,000 people died when hijackers crashed planes into New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.


13)One Man’s Plea for Mercy, With a Recent Precedent in Mind
July 7, 2007

If official mercy comes back into fashion, thanks to the clemency that President Bush granted this week to a former member of his administration who was headed to prison, it won’t be a moment too soon for Frederick Lake, a resident of East Flatbush, Brooklyn, for most of the last 20 years.

Mr. Lake has been to prison and finished his time; he was convicted in the 1989 robbery of a payroll company, and now faces deportation to Jamaica. From the moment of his arrest, he has insisted that he is not guilty. “I didn’t do this thing,” he said. “I wasn’t in the country.”

Now he has applied to Gov. Eliot Spitzer for a pardon, which is a legal cousin of clemency. A pardon erases the conviction from the records — and in Mr. Lake’s case would spare him from deportation — while clemency reduces a sentence, but does not eliminate the conviction.

Mr. Spitzer, in office only since January, is new to the exercise of official mercy. It has largely fallen into disuse, in New York and elsewhere.

Over the last 25 years, New York’s governors have granted fewer and fewer pardons or commutations of sentences. Perhaps they could find no one worthy of it, though the number of prisoners has grown fourfold. More likely, they feared TV ads saying that they were easy on criminals, or they fretted that one of those shown mercy would commit another crime.

The only person pardoned in New York since 1990 was the comedian Lenny Bruce, cleared in 2003 by Gov. George E. Pataki of “using foul language in public,” as state officials put it. At that point, Bruce was a safe bet to cause no further trouble for any governor: he had been dead for 37 years.

On Monday, President Bush granted clemency to I. Lewis Libby Jr., an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted of lying to a grand jury — a single thread in the web of untrue stories that were spun to justify the Iraq war. At age 56, Mr. Libby was about to go to prison for 30 months, until Mr. Bush stepped in and declared that the sentence was “severe” and “excessive,” considering Mr. Libby’s public service and the hardship to his family. He is probably as safe a bet for Mr. Bush as Mr. Bruce was for George Pataki.

Mr. Lake, 54, is the father of children ages 8 and 9. He has heart disease and diabetes. Before going to prison for six years, he worked at night, cleaning aircraft at Kennedy Airport, and ran a car-repair business during the day.

In turning to Governor Spitzer for a pardon, Mr. Lake is asking not just for mercy, but also for the justice that he and his lawyers, John D. B. Lewis and Claudia Slovinsky, say they were unable to get in court.

“I’m here laying in the bed, thinking, when is I.N.S. going to come for me?” he said. “What about my children? My whole life is crumbling for something I never did.”

On May 18, 1989, a payroll company in Inwood, on Long Island, was robbed of $103,000 by a short, stocky man wearing an earring. Some months later, Mr. Lake passed along a money order that had been stolen in the robbery. At a trial in 1991, three people identified him as the stickup man, though he did not have a pierced ear and is close to 6 feet tall.

Mr. Lake, a legal resident of the United States, produced airline tickets and passenger manifests from Jamaica Air showing that “F. Lake” flew from Miami to Kingston, Jamaica, on May 12, 1989 — a week before the robbery — and then back to the United States on Sept. 29, 1989.

On his passport, the stamps matched the dates on the tickets.

“The truth is swimming on top of the water,” Mr. Lake said.

Prosecutors in Nassau County challenged his alibi by calling to the witness stand a Jamaican immigration official, who testified that he could not find a landing card filled out by Mr. Lake, a requirement for anyone entering the country. Later, a judicial inquiry in Jamaica found grave inaccuracies in the official’s testimony and said that if the jury relied on it, Mr. Lake had been the victim of a “serious miscarriage of justice.”

“Whenever I talk about this, it tears me up,” Mr. Lake said. “The medical care in Jamaica, that will be the finish of me. My son says, ‘Daddy, why are you crying? Are they going to put me in the casket with you?’ ”



12) The Call of the Wild Ride
July 1, 2007

LEVIK, an 8-year-old on the loose at Coney Island, was ecstatic. He had come to the amusement park this late spring day with his classmates at the Lubavitcher Oholei Torah school in Crown Heights, which had rented Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park for the morning.

One contingent careered around the track on the miniature Big Wheel truck ride, each child excitedly swerving his own mercifully nonfunctional steering wheel. Another group headed to the Wonder Wheel, a terrifying attraction that has towered above the Boardwalk since 1920.

Levik considered his options. He praised the Sea Serpent, a gentle, child-sized roller coaster. But the Wonder Wheel? “No!” he replied firmly. “Too scary.”

That sentiment has been repeated frequently ever since the Wonder Wheel began not only spinning its passengers up and down as other Ferris wheels do, but also flinging them back and forth in sliding cars that convey the illusion that they’re going to slam into each other. (In fact, they miss each other by mere inches.) Along with the 1926-vintage Cyclone, its roller-coaster companion at the neighboring Astroland Amusement Park, the Wonder Wheel represents about all that’s left of early 20th-century Coney Island — the populist Elysium that made Nathan’s famous.

Once, Coney Island was an immense, chaotic, overpowering extravaganza of rides, shooting galleries, hot-dog stands, a six-story hotel shaped like an elephant, and three amusement parks that became the stuff of myth: Luna, Steeplechase, Dreamland.

By 1966, all of them had vanished, victims of fire, the wrecker’s ball and a long-term decline in the fortunes of Coney Island. Gone, also, were the fun-seeking hordes who had devoured them, driven out by decades of decay that culminated in a bloody riot in 1968.

The amusement area, which once sprawled from West 37th Street all the way to what is now the New York Aquarium, shrank to its present size, from Surf Avenue to the beach, between West 10th and 16th Streets. Huge tracts even of that stretch are vacant now, a landscape of weeds, fractured concrete and plywood fencing.

Nobody is happy with this situation. Local residents grieve over the neighborhood’s tattered state. The city wants to make Coney Island a magnet again, hoping, in the way of the Bloomberg era, to encourage private investment that will restore it to the roughneck glory of its midway and freak-show days.

In 2005, a prospective developer did indeed appear on the scene. Thor Equities, under its principal, Joseph Sitt, has bought up about half of the entertainment district in the critical blocks between KeySpan Park and the Cyclone, envisioning an investment of up to $2 billion. Late last year, Thor made its most monumental (and controversial) purchase when it bought up the land beneath Astroland, Coney’s largest surviving amusement area, and proposed to redevelop it with a bigger and brighter array of indoor and outdoor amusements stretching from Surf Avenue to the Boardwalk.

Mr. Sitt’s earlier plans called for some large apartment sites in the amusement district, including a 50-story tower on the Boardwalk. City officials and community activists, however, have been unbending in their commitment to keep apartments out. They recall a dark day in September 1966 when the developer Fred Trump, accompanied by six bikini-clad models and a bulldozer, began dismantling the famed 69-year-old Steeplechase Park for a never-built apartment complex.

Amanda Burden, chairwoman of the New York City Planning Commission, is adamant that the surviving amusement area not succumb to a beachfront residential enclave. “There is no way that will happen under this administration,” she said. And in fact, current zoning restricts the critical area to amusements; not even restaurants with table service are permitted, only food stands like Nathan’s.

But Mr. Sitt paid $30 million just for the 3.3 acres underneath Astroland. How could a collection of kiddie rides flanked by an 80-year-old roller coaster justify such a price without some other, plummier revenue stream? Over the last several weeks, Thor and the city have conducted intensive discussions in the effort to reach an accommodation that will preserve the amusement district but also repay the investment. Two weeks ago, in the most recent twist in the complicated plot, Thor offered to replace the residential elements of its plan with three hotels, including more than 400 time-share units, along with restaurants, shops, movie theaters and high-tech arcades.

Thus far, no agreement has been reached, and Coney Island seems caught in an up-and-down ride as wild as the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel. Time may well be running out. Deno’s appears safe for now: Levik and his classmates will probably be able to savor it next season. But Astroland, barring a last-minute reprieve, is entering its last summer. By next year it could be gone. And in the eyes of many, that would mark a final tailspin and smash-up for New York’s most beloved tatty playground.

Paradoxically, even as Coney Island’s infrastructure disappears, its long-absent crowds have been returning en masse. KeySpan Park opened at Surf Avenue and West 16th Street in 2001, bringing professional baseball back to Brooklyn in the guise of the Cyclones. A city-financed cleanup improved the beach and the surrounding streetscape. Then, in May 2005, a spectacular new Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue subway station opened, replacing the grim original with a soaring arch that evokes grand European railway terminals. The city’s Parks Department estimates that last year more than 15 million people visited the beach and the Boardwalk, an increase of more than five million in three years.

The same morning that Levik was carefully choosing his next ride at Deno’s, the human landscape did look heartening. Despite the still-frigid surf, bathers were beginning to fill the beach. Young men did sit-ups on workout equipment in the sand. Children gathered under the metal palm trees that drenched them with a cooling spray.

A hundred yards down the Boardwalk, milling around the picnic tables outside Gregory and Paul’s — the blocklong food stand attached to Astroland — a group of South Asian girls were taking rides on the Cyclone. The girls were students at New Utrecht High School, and there was some debate as to whether school was still in session.

As a fresh carload of shrieking fun-seeking victims thundered down the track, a girl named Shezana emerged from the ride somewhat woozily. “I still feel like I’m falling down,” she said.

Her friend Farwa replied: “But screaming is good for your health.”

At least on the surface, much of Coney Island appears to be the thriving socially and ethnically diverse mosh pit it has always been, populated by bellowing teenagers and dignified elderly people, spenders and nonspenders, a maelstrom in which the Bermuda shorts and ankle socks of the American heartland mix with yarmulkes and Muslim veils, a place where carousel organ music and hip-hop amicably vie to drown each other out. The crowds exude an energy and a noisy verve rarely found anywhere in the city these days, an improbable but very real survival of the rough-and-ready, early-20th-century Coney Island.

At Astroland, Armmeen Williams was rapping into his wireless microphone to lure people into a balloon-shooting gallery: “Don’t be shy! Give it a try! Don’t hesitate! Participate! Two bucks! Try your luck!”

Nearby, an even earthier attraction beckoned: “Shoot the Freak: Live Human Target!” The Freak, green-eyed Enoz Gonzalez, darted around a littered vacant lot clad in Darth Vaderish armor, while his partner, Tommy Conwell, lured passers-by to an array of paint guns on the Boardwalk railing, with which they try to win prizes by splattering Mr. Gonzalez’s body.

He has been playing the Freak for three summers, and he likes the job. “There’s plenty of girls to talk to on the Boardwalk,” he explained.

Another amusement park stalwart is Dick Zigun, founder and artistic director of Coney Island USA, a group eager to incorporate in Coney Island’s future as many elements as possible of its past. Mr. Zigun spent his early years as a performance artist who strolled the Boardwalk in an antique bathing suit as the “Mayor of Coney Island.” He notes that Coney Island has managed to survive the bad times, and he expresses confidence that nothing will destroy its spirit. “Because of New York, our customers will always be multicultural, urban and half-naked,” Mr. Zigun said.

But will they keep coming if the amusements keep dwindling? The Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone still draw crowds; the 262-foot-high Parachute Jump, though closed, remains a striking sight, illuminated at night. All three are protected as city landmarks. Yet as demolition progresses, they’re surrounded by growing emptiness against a backdrop of Soviet-style high-rises in Bensonhurst.

Mr. Sitt promises free-access indoor and outdoor amusements with the same pay-per-ride arrangement now in effect at Deno’s and Astroland. He also voices the hope that displaced rental business tenants will return to the site.

“We’d like to have them back for local ‘flava,’ ” he said. But he added a warning. “Coney Island needs salvation,” he said. “And the longer we wait to begin, the harder it’s going to be.”

With Astroland now under the control of Thor, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park is almost the last vestige of what Ms. Burden of the City Planning Commission wants to preserve. Its founder, a Greek immigrant named Denos Vourderis, came to Coney Island in 1970 as a food service worker at Ward’s Kiddie Park, which had occupied the site since the 1940s. He learned the business and bought it in 1980, adding the Wonder Wheel in 1983. When Mr. Vourderis died in 1994, his son Dennis took over and remains in control, at least for now.

“So far, our plans are to stay open,” Dennis Vourderis said the other day, sitting at a picnic table next to the pizza counter, surrounded by the boys from Oholei Torah. “A lot of the people who come here can’t afford $20 a person just for admission. Twenty dollars a family for everything is more like it.”

Deno’s shuns the scripted, laundered atmosphere of corporate theme parks of the Disney and Six Flags ilk. “Here,” Mr. Vourderis said, “I put a teen from Brooklyn out in the sun for eight hours, and it’s hard to keep him cheerful. That’s the grumpy guy at the ride who yells ‘Siddown!’ at you.”

Mr. Vourderis revels equally in Coney Island’s eclectic, unpredictable palette of aromas.

“Maria’s popping corn at the snack bar right now; you’ll smell it in a minute,” he said. “Later you’ll smell shish kebabs. We put the Sweet Shop in the middle of the park: we could sell 25 percent more on the Boardwalk, but the candy apple smell pulls people in. Occasionally it mixes in with a machine oil smell from the rides. But the best part is the fresh sea smell, the ocean breeze in the morning.”

On a Saturday evening a couple of weeks ago, Astroland was even more crowded than Deno’s as Carol Albert, the park’s owner, patrolled her kiddie rides, shooting galleries and Ski-Ball games.

“What happened to my werewolf?” Ms. Albert asked a park worker, pointing to the fanged but comatose mechanical monster that sagged from a window above Dante’s Inferno, a mild scare ride. “He’s supposed to go off with a scream every 90 seconds,” she added, “but he seems to have been asleep the last couple of days.”

Earlier there had been a thunderstorm, but now people were streaming in, and rides were lighting up with a popping and glaring incandescence long vanished even from 42nd Street. Astroland’s painted signs, many of which are the work of local artists commissioned by the Alberts to preserve the park’s carny atmosphere, are deliberately louche, their lettering wobbly.

“Turn up the music!” Ms. Albert ordered an attendant at the carousel. Then she noticed a little boy of about 3 who was seated on a miniature antique fire engine ride and looked as if he was about to burst into tears. Ms. Albert pointed to the brass bell. “Ring the bell!” she sang out. “Go ahead, ring the bell!” As soon as he did so, his face lit up. His father began snapping pictures.

But the probable closing of Astroland after this summer adds a rueful undercurrent to Ms. Albert’s attachment. “We sold the real estate to Thor last fall,” she said. “And for us to stay open, they’d have to agree to lease the property back to us.”

Unless Thor agrees to such an arrangement, or unless the city succeeds in finding a new location for the park — and at this point there’s no firm prospect for either — Ms. Albert will have to sell off her rides and abandon the site, leaving patrons of the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel to stare at yet another gaping wasteland. Deno’s will stand nearly alone, save for a dwindling array of forlorn small concessions dotting the emptiness around it.

The city remains adamant that it will approve no plan that dilutes Coney’s character.

“That area between KeySpan Park and the Cyclone has to remain a totally democratic amusement park,” said Lynn Kelly, president of the Coney Island Development Corporation, a city- and state-financed entity. “We want people to be a part of it even if they don’t spend a dime.”

Ms. Burden agrees. “I was out there yesterday,” she said of the amusement area. “It was teeming with every race, age and demographic. It’s the most populist, communal, democratic place on earth. That has to remain. It has to be affordable to all New Yorkers.”

Mr. Sitt continues to affirm his desire that, whatever shape it eventually takes, Coney Island’s shrunken but so-far surviving amusement complex will roar back with a 21st-century vigor, gaudier, with more harrowing rides, and crowds just as diverse but bigger than ever.

Nothing, however, has been settled. Will the amusement- and conference-oriented hotels that Mr. Sitt recently suggested satisfy everyone, including the developer, the community and the city, perhaps by bringing a critical mass of patrons to the area 24 hours a day, 365 days a year? Possibly.

But how big might these hotels be, and where, exactly, would they be? At this point, no one will venture an opinion.

Community activists, surviving small-business owners and Coney Island freaks of all descriptions are queasy. This feels like the moment when the Cyclone cars approach the 86-foot-high apex of the ride. Breathing is taut; anticipation is building.

Everyone aboard wants the thrill; everybody wants fun, including, perhaps, a good cathartic scream. But everybody also hopes the ride will stay on the rails.

Mark Caldwell is the author of “New York Night: The Mystique and Its History.”


13) U.A.W. Pact With Dana Signals Softer Stance
July 7, 2007

DETROIT, July 6 — The United Automobile Workers union has cracked open the door a little wider to the kind of innovative deal on retiree health care benefits that Detroit auto companies would like to see.

It also appears to have softened its stance on dealing with private equity firms, which could be good news for Cerberus Capital Partners as it prepares to complete its purchase of the Chrysler Group.

The two steps came Friday, when the U.A.W. and the United Steelworkers union reached four-year agreements with the Dana Corporation, one of the nation’s biggest auto parts companies, which is operating under bankruptcy protection.

Those deals help position Dana to reorganize — and give a glimpse of the kind of steps the U.A.W. is willing to consider, at least in the case of companies in dire straits.

Dana will shift its liability for retiree health care and long-term disability coverage for other workers to a trust, called a Voluntary Employee Benefit Association or V.E.B.A., moving the obligation off its books.

It will contribute about $700 million in cash and, once it reorganizes, $80 million in stock to the trust, which will be administered by the unions.

The agreement is similar to one reached by the Steelworkers at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, which set up a trust fund this year for retiree health care liabilities. Goodyear is investing about $1 billion in stock and cash.

The U.A.W. has agreed to such arrangements in the past to take over part of retiree health care obligations, particularly at Navistar, where it reached a deal in 1992. There are also partial health care trusts at General Motors and the Ford Motor Company, where the union granted concessions on health benefits over the last two years. But the Dana deal is thought to be the first time the U.A.W. has allowed a company to transfer its entire liability for retiree health care.

The U.A.W. discussed the idea with G.M. and Ford earlier this decade, people with knowledge of those discussions said. Ultimately, the union and the companies agreed that workers would pay part of their health care expenses instead. Until that time, workers’ health care coverage was financed almost entirely by the auto companies.

Now, facing billion-dollar losses and dwindling market share, the Detroit companies have revived the proposal to shift health care assets, although the prospect would be expensive. Collectively, the three companies face a burden of about $100 billion for current and future health care benefits, far greater than at the parts suppliers.

Analysts estimate the automakers would have to contribute at least $70 billion in cash to establish trusts similar to those at Goodyear and now Dana, and more investments would be needed later. Likewise, the union would then have to administer or find an administrator for the enormous health care trust.

That could be too great a challenge to address fully in the coming labor talks, which begin July 23, said Gary N. Chaison, professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

U.A.W. leaders have maintained that the deals reached at bankrupt companies should not be viewed as a road map of what might happen in the talks with Detroit carmakers.

But Professor Chaison said the Dana deal reflected the union’s willingness to try new ideas. Last month, after two years of difficult negotiations, U.A.W. members at the bankrupt Delphi Corporation agreed to accept sharply lower wages.

“Even if it’s not going to solve all the problems,” he said of the Dana agreements, “it’s a step in the right direction. The other thing is that there are investors who are interested here.”

Dana said that Centerbridge Capital Partners, a private equity firm, would invest $500 million in Dana once it emerged from bankruptcy protection and would line up investors to put $250 million more into the company.

Officials from Centerbridge took part in the health care discussions with Dana and officials from the two unions. Their presidents, Ron Gettelfinger of the U.A.W. and Ron Bloom of the Steelworkers, were kept apprised of the talks.

“We believe that our partnership with, and investment in, Dana will create significant upside for all of the company’s constituents,” Stephen J. Girsky, the president of Centerbridge’s industrial unit, said in a statement. Mr. Girsky was formerly a veteran automobile industry analyst for Morgan Stanley who briefly acted as an adviser to G.M.

The U.A.W.’s cooperation is something of a reversal for Mr. Gettelfinger, who vehemently criticized private equity funds during DaimlerChrysler’s effort this year to sell Chrysler. He subsequently surprised his members by endorsing the deal as being in their best interests.

Professor Chaison said Mr. Gettelfinger now was showing “an element of great flexibility” that could make the outcome of this summer’s labor talks difficult to predict.




California: No Jail for Marijuana Advocate
A marijuana advocate will not spend time in prison despite a conviction for growing and distributing hundreds of marijuana plants, a federal judge ruled. The man, Ed Rosenthal, 63, was convicted in May on three cultivation and conspiracy charges. But the judge, Charles Breyer of Federal District Court, said a one-day prison sentence was punishment enough for Mr. Rosenthal, who said he planned to appeal his conviction. “I should not remain a felon,” he said. Mr. Rosenthal was convicted on the same charges four years ago. Judge Breyer sentenced him to one day in prison because Mr. Rosenthal reasonably believed he was immune from prosecution because he was acting on behalf of Oakland city officials. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned that 2003 conviction and ordered a retrial because of juror misconduct.
July 7, 2007

Patterns: In Studies, Surprise Findings on Obesity and Heart Attacks
Two new studies shed light on the role obesity may play in causing heart attacks and, surprisingly, keeping them from being fatal.
In one study, published by the European Heart Journal, researchers followed more than 1,600 patients who were given angioplasty and, usually, stents after a type of heart attack known as unstable angina/non-ST-segment elevation. They found that the obese and very obese patients were only half as likely as those of normal weight to die in the three years after the attack.
Part of the explanation may be that obese people are more likely to have their heart problems detected by doctors and treated with medications that later help them recover from heart attacks.
Heart attack patients who are obese also tend to be younger. And other changes in the body that often occur with obesity may also help, the study said. (Of course, as the researchers noted, obesity is not desirable when it comes to heart disease; it causes medical problems that can lead to heart attacks in the first place.)
In the second study, presented at a recent meeting of the American Society of Echocardiography, researchers reported that excess weight was associated with a thickening of muscle in the left ventricle, the part of the heart that acts as a pump. The study was led by researchers from the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center.
July 3, 2007

New Scheme Preys on Desperate Homeowners
July 3, 2007

Keeping Patients’ Details Private, Even From Kin
July 3, 2007

Lessons from Katrina
How to Destroy an African American City in 33 Steps
June 28, 2007

After Sanctions, Doctors Get Drug Company Pay
June 3, 2007

Somalia: The Other (Hidden) War for Oil
by Carl Bloice; Black Commentator
May 07, 2007




LAPD vs. Immigrants (Video)


Dr. Julia Hare at the SOBA 2007


"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]


Wealth Inequality Charts


MALCOLM X: Oxford University Debate


Animated Video Preview
Narrated by Peter Coyote
Is now on YouTube and Google Video

We are planning on making the ADDICTED To WAR movie.
Can you let me know what you think about this animated preview?
Do you think it would work as a full length film?
Please send your response to:
Fdorrel@sbcglobal. net or Fdorrel@Addictedtow

In Peace,

Frank Dorrel
Addicted To War
P.O. Box 3261
Culver City, CA 90231-3261
fdorrel@sbcglobal. net
www.addictedtowar. com

For copies of the book:

Frank Dorrel
P.O. BOX 3261
CULVER CITY, CALIF. 90231-3261
$10.00 per copy (Spanish or English); special bulk rates
can be found at:


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



The National Council of Arab Americans (NCA) demands the immediate
release of political prisoner, Dr. Sami Al-Arian. Although
Dr. Al-Arian is no longer on a hunger strike we must still demand
he be released by the US Department of Justice (DOJ). After an earlier
plea agreement that absolved Dr. Al-Arian from any further questioning,
he was sentenced up to 18 months in jail for refusing to testify before
a grand jury in Virginia. He has long sense served his time yet
Dr. Al-Arian is still being held. Release him now!



We ask all people of conscience to demand the immediate
release and end to Dr. Al- Arian's suffering.

Call, Email and Write:

1- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
Department of Justice
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Fax Number: (202) 307-6777

2- The Honorable John Conyers, Jr
2426 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-5126
(202) 225-0072 Fax

3- Senator Patrick Leahy
433 Russell Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

4- Honorable Judge Gerald Lee
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
401 Courthouse Square, Alexandria, VA 22314
March 22, 2007
[No email]

National Council of Arab Americans (NCA)

Criminalizing Solidarity: Sami Al-Arian and the War of
By Charlotte Kates, The Electronic Intifada, 4 April 2007


Robert Fisk: The true story of free speech in America
This systematic censorship of Middle East reality
continues even in schools
Published: 07 April 2007
http://news. independent. fisk/article2430 125.ece


[For some levity...Hans Groiner plays Monk]


Excerpt of interview between Barbara Walters and Hugo Chavez


Which country should we invade next?

My Favorite Mutiny, The Coup

Michael Moore- The Awful Truth

Morse v. Frederick Supreme Court arguments

Free Speech 4 Students Rally - Media Montage


'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,,2042968,00.html


Introducing...................the Apple iRack


"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,]




Defend the Los Angeles Eight!


George Takai responds to Tim Hardaway's homophobic remarks




Another view of the war. A link from Amer Jubran


Petition: Halt the Blue Angels


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


Film/Song about Angola


"200 million children in the world sleep in the streets today.
Not one of them is Cuban."
(A sign in Havana)
View sign at bottom of page at:
[Thanks to Norma Harrison for sending]



"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 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

Vasicek's web site,, 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.


Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films+, LLC
7078 South Fairfax Street
Centennial, CO 80122,+Don


Join us in a campaign to expose and stop the use
of these illegal weapons


You may enjoy watching these.
In struggle


FIGHTBACK! A Collection of Socialist Essays
By Sylvia Weinstein


[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]


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Sand Creek Massacre
(scroll down when you get there])

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.

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 (, 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,+Don

(scroll down when you get there])