Saturday, September 22, 2007



Call Your Supervisor re Blue Angels
To All Concerned San Franciscans;

On Tuesday September 25th, 2007, at the Board of Supervisors meeting, the
Blue Angels resolution will be heard again. The resolution calls for
³Seeking a permanent halt to the Blue Angels Air Show over San Francisco².

Because ³over the past 60 years, the air show has resulted in 26
fatalities, most recently on April 21, 2007 Beaufort County, South
Carolina, when Blue Angel pilot Lt. Cmdr. Kevin J. Davis, crashed with his
plane into several neighborhood homes, killing himself and injuring eight
people on the ground²

The Blue Angel F/A-18 Hornet jets make a considerable amount of noise
pollution with volume rising to levels that exceed legal limits for the
civilian community. San Francisco is a Sanctuary City for many immigrants
from war torn countries and home to thousands of veterans of war who have
experienced air bombardment and are at risk of being traumatized when the
Blue Angels perform.

San Francisco has taken steps to contribute to the effort to stem global
climate change and to avert the catastrophic consequences of air pollution,
nevertheless, the Blue Angels spew tons of toxic exhaust during their

We ask you to phone your district Supervisor and let him/her know your
feelings about the Blue Angels.


The cultural revolution is coming to a venue near you.
Don't miss it because Fox won't be covering it!

September 28 (FRIDAY)
THE PEACENIKS in concert

fun songs of peace and social justice

Martin dePorres "the kitchen"
225 Portrero/16th, 7pm
(22, 33, 53 buses stop at the corner)

Hear your favorites:
"Yuppie Yuppie stole my pad"
"Don't get sick in America"
"do wopping wops"
"Redistribute the wealth,"
and many more you won't hear on the radio.



Toxic West Virginia: Mountaintop Removal- Episode 1


Join Active duty Soldiers from Fort Drum and people from across New York
State to demand and end to the war.
Steve Wickham and the NEPAJAC Sept 29th Caravan Coordinating Committee


Defend the ILWU Local 10 Brothers ---
Assaulted by Cops on the Sacramento Docks!
Emergency Executive Board Meeting Tuesday September 4!

On August 23, West Sacramento police and private security guards viciously
attacked, maced and arrested two Local 10 brothers, Jason Ruffin #101168 and
Aaron Harrison #101167, coming back to work on the SSA terminal after lunch.
When the guards insisted on searching their car, the longshoremen questioned
their authority to do so and called the Local 10 business agent. While one
was talking on the phone to the BA and without provocation, they were
assaulted, dragged from the car, handcuffed, jailed and charged with
"trespassing" and "obstructing a police officer". How the hell can
longshoremen be "trespassing", returning to work after lunch, having already
shown their PMA ID cards to guards at the terminal. Was it racial profiling
because the two longshoremen were black? Authorities citing a new maritime
security regulation that permits vehicle inspection doesn't mean maritime
workers can't question it. It doesn't take away a union member's right to
call his union business agent, And it certainly doesn't give authorities,
private or government, the right to assault and arrest you without
provocation. This is the ugly face of the "war on terror" on the docks. And
it'll get worse unless we come together and take action to defend these

Their court date is set for October 4 at 8:30AM in Yolo County
Superior Court; 213 Third St.; Woodland, CA.

An injury to two is an injury to all!

We, Executive Board and Local 10 members, called for an Emergency Executive
Board meeting Tuesday September 4 to resolve this urgent matter.

Melvin McKay #9268 Trent Willis #9182
Lonnie Francis #9274 Lawrence Thibeaux #7541
Jahn Overstreet #9189 Jack Heyman #8780
Erick Wright #8946


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

Momentum is building for Oct. 27 and beyond.

Here is a schedule of coalition meetings coming up:

The next meeting of the Oct. 27 Coalition Steering Committee will be:

Saturday, September 29, 12:00 NOON (Location TBA)

Help build for a massive, united march and rally in San Francisco Oct. 27 to End the War NOW.

This action is sponsored by a broad coalition of groups in the Bay Area. A list will be forthcoming—we are all united on this one and, hopefully in the future.

Funds are urgently needed for all the material—posters, flyers, stickers and buttons, etc.—to get the word out! Make your tax-deductible donation to:

Progress Unity Fund/Oct. 27

and mail to:

Oct. 27th Coalition
3288 21st Street, Number 249
San Francisco, CA 94110


In solidarity,

Bonnie Weinstein

To get more information call or drop into the ANSWER office:

Act Now to Stop War & End Racism

Here is a partial list of endorsers of the October 27 Coalition in alphabetical order--Check out our new website at:

Al Awda SF, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition
Alameda County Central Labor Council
Alliance for a Just and Lasting Peace in the Philippines (AJLPP)
American Friends Service Committee
Arab American Union Members Council
Arab Resource and Organizing Center
Barrio Unidos por Amnestia
Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace & Justice
Bay Area United Against War
Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Social Justice Committee
Cindy Sheehan
Coalicion Primero de Mayo, SFBA
Coalition to Free the Angola 3
CODE PINK Women for Peace
Common Ground Relief
Communications Workers of America Local 9415
Community Futures Collective
Contra Costa County Central Labor Council
East Bay Labor and Community Coalition
East Bay Coalition in Support of Self Rule for Iraqis
Ecumenical Peace Institute/Clergy and Laity Concerned
Episcopal Diocese of California
First Quarter Storm Network - USA
Free Palestine Alliance
Global Exchange
Greenwood Earth Alliance
International Socialist Organization
Iraq Moratorium
Iraq Veterans Against the War
Jahahara Amen-RA Alkebulan-Ma'at
Kabataang maka-Bayan (KmB - Pro-People Youth)
La Raza Centro Legal
Larry Everest, author
LEF Foundation
Libertarian Party of San Francisco
Monterey Bay Labor Council
National Committee to Free the Cuban Five
National Council of Arab Americans
Not In Our Name
Party for Socialism and Liberation
Peninsula Peace and Justice Center
Pride at Work
Renee Saucedo
Revolutionary Workers Group
Revolution Youth
Sacramento Area Black Caucus
San Francisco Bay View Newspaper
San Francisco Day Labor Program
S.F. Green Party
San Francisco Labor Council
San Jose Peace Center
San Mateo County Central Labor Council
Scientific Socialist Collective
Senior Action Network
SF Bay View Newspaper
Socialist Action
Socialist Viewpoint
South Bay Labor Council
South Bay Mobilization
State Central Committee of the Peace and Freedom Party
Stop Funding the War Coalition
The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club
The United Educators of San Francisco, (CTA/NEA and CFT/AFT - Local 61)
U.S. Labor Against the War
United for Peace & Justice Bay Area
United for Peace and Justice
Vanguard Foundation
Veterans for Peace
West County Toxics Coalition
Women for Peace
Workers International League
World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime! SF Bay Area Chapter
Youth and Student A.N.S.W.E.R.

...a partial listing! we are gathering groups faster than we
can post them!

Here's what they're doing in Boston on Oct. 27:


Join thousands for the *New England Mobilization to End the War at 12:00 *on
*Saturday, October 27th in Boston*. People will be demonstrating in
regional sites around the country in a nationally coordinated day of protest
against the war in Iraq organized by United for Peace and Justice, the
nation's largest grassroots antiwar coalition.

The New England event will start with a rally at the Boston Commons
bandstand from noon to 2:00 PM, followed by a march from 2:00 to 3:00 PM.
The rally will include both speakers and cultural performances. Speakers
confirmed so far include:

*Felix Arroyo (Member, Boston City Council)*
*Gabriel Camacho (Immigrant Rights)*
*Gold Star Parents (speaker/s to be announced)*
*Shep Gurwitz (Veterans for Peace)*
*Liam Madden (Iraq Veterans Against the War)*
*Military Families Speak Out (several members will speak)*
*Merrie Najimy (American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee)*
*Rostam Pourzal (Iranian-American specialist on human rights) *
*Dahlia Wasfi (Iraqi-American MD)*
*Howard Zinn (historian)*

The central demands for the regional event in Boston, as approved by the New
England United membership at its meeting on September 8, are:






For more information, please visit the New England United regional website
at .


Labor Conference to Stop the War!

October 20, 2007

ILWU Local 10 400 North Point Street, San Francisco, California @ Fisherman's Wharf

As the war in Iraq and Afghanistan enters its seventh year, opposition to the war among working people in the United States and the world is massive and growing. The "surge" strategy of sending in more and more troops has become a -asco for the Pentagon generals, while thousands of Iraqis are killed every month. Before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, millions marched against the war in Britain, Italy and Spain as hundreds of thousands took to the streets in the U.S. to oppose it. But that didn't stop the invasion. In the U.S., this "war on terror" has meant wholesale assault on civil liberties and workers' rights, like the impending imposition of the hated TWIC card for port workers. And the war keeps going on and on, as Democrats and Republicans in Congress keep on voting for it.

As historian Isaac Deutscher said during the Vietnam War, a single strike would be more e-ective than all the peace marches. French dockworkers did strike in the port of Marseilles and helped bring an end to the war in Vietnam. To put a stop to this bloody colonial occupation, labor must use its power.

The International Warehouse and Longshore Union has opposed the war on Iraq since the beginning. In the Bay Area, ILWU Local 10 has repeatedly warned that the so-called "war on terror" is really a war on working people and democratic rights. Around the country, hundreds of unions and labor councils have passed motions condemning the war, but that has not stopped the war. We need to use labor's muscle to stop the war by mobilizing union power in the streets, at the plant gates and on the docks to force the immediate and total withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.

The clock is ticking. It's time for labor action to bring the war machine to a grinding halt and end this slaughter. During longshore contract negotiations in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, Bush cited port security and imposed the slave-labor Taft-Hartley Law against the ILWU in collusion with the maritime employers group PMA and with the support of the Democrats. Yet, he did nothing when PMA shut down every port on the U.S. West Coast by locking out longshore workers just the week before!

In April 2003, when antiwar protesters picketed war cargo shippers, APL and SSA, in the Port of Oakland, police -red on picketers and longshoremen alike with their "less than lethal" ammo that left six ILWU members and many others seriously injured. We refused to let our rights be trampled on, sued the city and won. Democratic rights were reasserted a month later when antiwar protesters marched in the port and all shipping was stopped. This past May, when antiwar protesters and the Oakland Education Association again picketed war cargo shippers in Oakland, longshoremen honored the picket line. This is only the beginning.

Last year, Local 10 passed a resolution calling to "Strike Against the War ï¿∏ No Peace, No Work." The motion emphasized the ILWU's proud history in opposing wars for imperial domination, recalling how in 1978 Local 10 refused to load bombs for the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. In the 1980's, Bay Area dock workers highlighted opposition to South African apartheid slavery by boycotting ("hot cargoing") the Nedlloyd Kimberly, while South African workers waged militant strikes to bring down the white supremacist regime.

Now Locals 10 and 34 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have called for a "Labor Conference to Stop the War" to hammer out a program of action. We're saying: Enough! It's high time to use union power against the bosses' war, independent of the "bipartisan" war party. The ILWU can again take the lead, but action against the war should not be limited to the docks. We urge unions in the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout the country to attend the conference and plan workplace rallies, labor mobilizations in the streets and strike action against the war.

For further information contact: Jack Heyman


Stop Government Attacks
Against the Anti-War Movement!
Take Action to Defend Free Speech




1) Mumia Abu-Jamal Legal Update
Robert R. Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117
Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal

2) Restoring American Justice
September 17, 2007

3) G.M. Workers Return as Talks Sour
September 17, 2007

4) Music Scholar Barred From U.S., but No One Will Tell Her Why
September 17, 2007

5) The Media Equation
Red Carpet Meets Harsh War
September 17, 2007

6) Alabama Plan Brings Out Cry of Resegregation
September 17, 2007

7) Prosecutors Say a Charity Aided Terrorists Indirectly
September 18, 2007

8) Green Berets Face Hearing on Killing of Suspect in Afghan Village
September 18, 2007

9) Where the Global Economy Is Going and Why
By the Editors
September/October 2007

10) Out Now!
By the Editors
September/October 2007

11) How to End the War
By Carole Seligman
September/October 2007

12) Race and the Spotlight in Small-Town Louisiana
By Maria Newman
September 20, 2007

13) Jena Update: Crowds, Activism and Outrage
By Maria Newman
September 20, 2007, 2:03 pm

14) In Jena, Racism is the Real Crime
By Bonnie Weinstein
September/October 2007

15) Armed Guards in Iraq Occupy a Legal Limbo
"For years, government officials and members of Congress have debated what has become in Iraq the most extensive use of private contractors on the battlefield since Renaissance princes hired private armies to fight their battles. The debate flares up after each lethal episode in Iraq, but there has been no agreement on how to police the private soldiers who roam Iraq in the employ of the United States government."
September 20, 2007

16) Cholera Case Reported in Baghdad
[Invasion, war, occupation, the spread of disease, the theft of land and resources—does anyone see a pattern?]
September 20, 2007

17) Making a killing: how private armies became a $120bn global industry
By Daniel Howden and Leonard Doyle in Washington
Published: 21 September 2007

18) Dollar Goes Loonie
September 20, 2007 -- 5:58 p.m. EDT
Wall Street Journal
Sent by: Walter Lippmann

19) More Than $1B Needed to Make Forbes List
September 21, 2007
Filed at 12:50 a.m. ET
Complete list at:

20) Guards’ Shots Not Provoked, Iraq Concludes
September 21, 2007

21) Louisiana Protest Echoes the Civil Rights Era
September 21, 2007

22) Doctors Blast [ABC's 20/20] Stossel and Westin,"Blatantly Biased, Inaccurate and Misleading."
The Huffington Post
Posted September 21, 2007 | 11:54 AM (EST)

23) Profits Rise as Care Slips at Nursing Homes
September 23, 2007

24) U.S. Rule Limits Emergency Care for Immigrants
September 22, 2007


1) Mumia Abu-Jamal Legal Update
Robert R. Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117
Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal

Dear Friends:

We continue to await a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
Third Circuit, Philadelphia, concerning my client, Mumia Abu-Jamal. This
complex case was orally argued before a three-judge panel on May 17, 2007,
following extensive litigation which included voluminous briefing and
motions. In my experience of successfully defending a large number of
murder cases involving the death penalty, it was a great day.

It is impossible to know what the federal court ruling will be. If the
judges follow the law and fairly apply the U.S. Constitution, we will
win. As to when, long ago I projected a decision would be forthcoming this
fall; it could come any day. One thing is certain: whomever loses will
seek a rehearing and petition the U.S. Supreme Court.

I have previously described the different rulings that the federal court
could make. Nevertheless some people have recently sent out e-mail
containing false information. Contrary to their claim, the federal court
cannot impose a sentence of "life in prison without parole". Only a jury
verdict could result in such an outcome, unless in the event of a penalty
reversal the prosecution elected not to seek the death penalty. Likewise
the court unfortunately cannot order that Mumia be released, for that would
require a new guilt-phase jury trial and a favorable verdict which is
certainly our goal. To once more clarify the legal situation, the
scenarios of how the U.S. Court of Appeals might rule include:
* Grant an entirely new jury trial of the guilt phase;
* Order a new jury trial limited to the issue of life or death;
* Remand the case back to the U.S. District Court for further
proceedings; or
* Deny all relief.
Racism, fraud, and politics are threads that have run through this case
since Mumia's 1981 arrest. The issues in this matter concern the right to a
fair trial, the struggle against the death penalty, and the political
repression of an outspoken journalist.

Mumia's objective is a reversal of the murder conviction and death
sentence, and the granting of an entirely new trial. At the end of that
jury trial I expect to win and see my client freed so that he can finally
go home to his family.

Thank you for your interest in this campaign for human rights.

Yours very truly,

Robert R. Bryan

Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117
Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal


2) Restoring American Justice
September 17, 2007

In 2006, acting in reckless haste before an election, 65 senators and 250 members of the House defied the Constitution, endangered the safety of American soldiers and hurt the nation’s global reputation by passing the Military Commissions Act. The law created a separate, substandard and clearly unconstitutional system of trial and punishment for foreigners. This week Congress has a chance to begin fixing that grievous mistake.

The Senate is expected to consider a measure that would reverse one of the worst aspects of the 2006 law — the suspension of the right of habeas corpus, the ancient principle that no governing power may lock people up without the chance for a hearing in a court of law.

The protection from arbitrary arrest, embedded in the Magna Carta and in the Constitution of the United States, is one of the most powerful weapons against tyranny in democracy’s arsenal. Before President Bush, only one American president suspended habeas corpus — Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War — and the Supreme Court duly struck down that arrogation of power.

In 2004, the Supreme Court again affirmed habeas corpus, declaring that Mr. Bush had no right to revoke the rules of civilized justice at his whim for hundreds of foreigners he declared “illegal enemy combatants.” But Mr. Bush was determined to avoid judicial scrutiny of the extralegal system of prisons he created after the Sept. 11 attacks. With the help of his allies on Capitol Hill, he railroaded the habeas corpus suspension through the Republican-controlled Congress.

The administration’s disinformation machine portrayed the debate as a fight between tough-minded conservatives who wanted to defeat terrorism and addled liberals who would coddle the worst kinds of criminals. It was nothing of the kind.

There is nothing conservative about expressing contempt for the Constitution by denying judicial procedure to prisoners who happen not to be Americans. A long list of conservatives, including Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman; David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union; and William Sessions, a former federal judge and F.B.I. director under the first President Bush, support the reinstatement of habeas corpus for the prisoners of the so-called war on terror.

This issue has nothing to do, either, with coddling criminals. Many, perhaps a majority, of the men subjected to indefinite summary detention at Guantánamo Bay were not guilty of any crime. Beyond that, American justice rests on the principle that the only way to protect the innocent is to treat everyone equally under the law. The argument by Mr. Bush’s supporters that Guantánamo prisoners would clog the courts with appeals is specious.

There are many other things deeply wrong with the Military Commissions Act, which established military tribunals to try any foreigner that Mr. Bush labels an illegal combatant. It also allowed the introduction of evidence tainted by coercion and endorsed “combatant status review tribunals,” kangaroo courts in Guantánamo Bay that declare prisoners enemy combatants without a real hearing or reliable evidence.

All of those issues must be addressed, speedily, by Congress, but restoring habeas corpus would be a good first step. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, must ensure a vote on the habeas corpus restoration measure sponsored by Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Arlen Specter, its ranking Republican.

It is good to see the effort led by Mr. Specter, who as chairman of the committee before the 2006 election shepherded the military tribunal law through Congress at the behest of the White House. We hope similar principle will be on display by the other Republican and Democratic senators and representatives who betrayed the Constitution and the democracy they were sworn to defend by voting for that law.


3) G.M. Workers Return as Talks Sour
September 17, 2007

DETROIT, Sept. 17 — General Motors workers at plants around the United States began returning to their jobs this morning, as bargainers for the United Automobile Workers union and the company took a break from negotiations that appeared close to running aground on Sunday night.

Auto plants opened as scheduled, although the U.A.W.’s contracts with G.M. expired two days ago. Bargainers worked until about 3 a.m. ET, in the fourth straight marathon session since the union named G.M. as its strike target on Thursday.

Union and company officials were expected back at G.M. later in the morning, a G.M. spokesman said early today. He declined to say whether progress was being made.

Late Sunday, it appeared that negotiations between the two sides were in danger of collapse, with union leaders considering the possibility of recessing the negotiations and choosing another automaker, perhaps the Ford Motor Company, in an effort to reach a new contract.

The two sides were said to be deadlocked over guarantees sought by the union’s president, Ron Gettelfinger, for workers who will remain at G.M. once it completes an extensive restructuring next year, people with knowledge of the negotiations said.

They insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the private negotiations.

“The talks are going bad,” said one person who had been briefed on the talks.

But the tone and direction of bargaining can change quickly, especially when talks are as complicated as these have proved to be.

The decision by G.M. and the U.A.W. to resume talks later today indicated that the two sides had decided not to abandon the discussions yet.

The primary issue, believed to have been settled in principle, is the creation of a health care trust that would assume the responsibility for $55 billion in benefits for employees, retirees and their families.

Despite the lack of a deal, G.M.’s contract was being extended on an hour-by hour basis. A number of local unions posted notices last night on their Web sites, asking workers to report for duty Monday as planned.

If the union tries its chances at Ford, it would be a repeat of negotiations in 1982. At the time, the union was angered by contract terms proposed by G.M., which like Ford was suffering from an economic downturn.

The union’s then-president, Douglas A. Fraser, recessed the negotiations at G.M. and reached a historic agreement at Ford that traded concessions for involvement in company decisions. It later reached a similar deal at G.M.

Negotiations with Ford would be a homecoming for Mr. Gettelfinger, who began his career in 1964 at Ford’s plant in Louisville, Ky. He headed the union’s Ford division before becoming U.A.W president in 2002, and has good relations with its labor officials.

Ford is in worse financial shape than G.M., however. It lost $12.6 billion in 2006, and continues to lose money in North America, where it does not expect to be profitable until 2009. And its chief executive, Alan R. Mulally, is said to want to reach an agreement that would give Ford more flexibility than the current U.A.W. contract, which is the size of the Manhattan phone book.

The G.M. talks appeared in danger of breaking down over several matters. One is said to involve Mr. Gettelfiger’s demand that G.M. stop sending work outside the United States. Mr. Gettelfinger also was pushing for G.M. to put more cash in the health care trust, called a voluntary employee benefit association, or VEBA.

The trust, to be run by the union, would assume a liability that G.M. estimates at $55 billion. G.M., Ford and Chrysler have pushed hard in contract negotiations for the union to take charge of its medical benefits, saying they are a major factor limiting their ability to compete with Japanese auto companies.

All told, the three companies have health care liabilities totaling nearly $100 billion.

Nick Bunkley and Mary M. Chapman contributed reporting.


4) Music Scholar Barred From U.S., but No One Will Tell Her Why
September 17, 2007

Nalini Ghuman, an up-and-coming musicologist and expert on the British composer Edward Elgar, was stopped at the San Francisco airport in August last year and, without explanation, told that she was no longer allowed to enter the United States.

Her case has become a cause célèbre among musicologists and the subject of a protest campaign by the American Musicological Society and by academic leaders like Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College at Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., where Ms. Ghuman was to have participated last month in the Bard Music Festival, showcasing Elgar’s music.

But the door has remained closed to Ms. Ghuman, an assistant professor at Mills College in Oakland, Calif., who is British and who had lived, studied and worked in this country for 10 years before her abrupt exclusion.

The mystery of her case shows how difficult, if not impossible, it is to defend against such a decision once the secretive government process has been set in motion.

After a year of letters and inquiries, Ms. Ghuman and her Mills College lawyer have been unable to find out why her residency visa was suddenly revoked, or whether she was on some security watch list. Nor does she know whether her application for a new visa, pending since last October, is being stymied by the shadow of the same unspecified problem or mistake.

In a tearful telephone interview from her parents’ home in western Wales, Ms. Ghuman, 34, an Oxford graduate who earned her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, said she felt like a character in Kafka.

“I don’t know why it’s happened, what I’m accused of,” she said. “There’s no opportunity to defend myself. One is just completely powerless.”

Kelly Klundt, a spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection in the Department of Homeland Security, said officers at San Francisco International Airport had no choice but to bar Ms. Ghuman because the State Department, at its discretion, had revoked her visa. The State Department would not discuss the case, citing the confidentiality of individual visa records.

Mr. Botstein, who wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the hope of having the visa problem resolved before the music festival, said Ms. Ghuman’s case is symptomatic. “This is an example of the xenophobia, incompetence, stupidity and then bureaucratic intransigence that we are up against,” he said, also citing the case of a teacher of Arabic at Bard who missed the first weeks of the spring semester this year because of visa problems. “What is at stake is America’s pre-eminence as a place of scholarship.”

Ms. Ghuman is certainly not alone in her frustration. Academic and civil liberties groups point to other foreign scholars who have been denied entry without explanation at an airport, or refused a visa when they applied. A pending lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union contends that the Bush administration is using heightened security measures to keep foreign scholars out on ideological grounds in violation of the First Amendment rights of American scholars to hear them.

But Ms. Ghuman’s case does not seem to fit such a pattern. Few believe that her book in progress, “India in the English Musical Imagination, 1890-1940,” or her work on Elgar, best known by Americans for “Pomp and Circumstance,” could have raised red flags in Washington. And if it were a question of security profiling, nothing in her background fits.

She was born in Wales. Her mother is a British homemaker, and her father, an emeritus professor of educational psychology at the University of Wales, was born in India to a Sikh family and moved to Britain in the 1960s. Last semester, Ms. Ghuman tried to teach her students by video link. This academic year, she is on an unpaid leave of absence.

“The arbitrary and inexplicable exclusion of Dr. Ghuman has been a personal tragedy for her and a cause of distress to Mills and to American higher education,” said Janet L. Holmgren, the president of Mills College, who called her “one of our most distinguished faculty members.”

“She seems to be in this limbo,” said Ms. Ghuman’s fiancé, Paul Flight, 47, who has visited her three times in Britain and is considering a move there. Mr. Flight, a countertenor, co-directed Darius Milhaud’s opera about Orpheus and Eurydice with Ms. Ghuman at Mills three years ago.

Ms. Ghuman’s descent into the bureaucratic netherworld began on Aug. 8, 2006, when she and Mr. Flight returned to San Francisco from a research trip to Britain. Armed immigration officers met them at the airplane door and escorted Ms. Ghuman away.

In a written account of the next eight hours that she prepared for her lawyer, Ms. Ghuman said that officers tore up her H-1B visa, which was valid through May 2008, defaced her British passport, and seemed suspicious of everything from her music cassettes to the fact that she had listed Welsh as a language she speaks. A redacted government report about the episode obtained by her lawyer under the Freedom of Information Act erroneously described her as “Hispanic.”

Held incommunicado in a room in the airport, she was groped during a body search, she said, and was warned that if she moved, she would be considered to be attacking her armed female searcher. After questioning her for hours, the officers told her that she had been ruled inadmissible, she said, and threatened to transfer her to a detention center in Santa Clara, Calif., unless she left on a flight to London that night.

Outside, Mr. Flight made frantic calls for help. He said the British Consulate tried to get through to the immigration officials in charge, to no avail. And Ms. Ghuman said her demands to speak to the British consul were rebuffed.

“They told me I was nobody, I was nowhere and I had no rights,” she said. “For the first time, I understood what the deprivation of liberty means.”

As Ms. Ghuman tells it, the officers said they did not know why she was being excluded. They suggested that perhaps a jilted lover or envious colleague might have written a poison pen letter about her to immigration authorities, she said, or that Mills College might have terminated her employment without telling her. The notions are unfounded, she said.

One officer eventually told her that her exclusion was probably a mistake, and advised her to reapply for a visa in London after a 10-day wait. But it took more than eight weeks for her file to be transferred to the United States Embassy in London, in part because of routine anthrax screening at the State Department.

As for the possibility that she has been deemed a security threat, Ms. Ghuman said: “It’s not only insulting and heartbreaking, but how? In what way? Musicians, dangerous people? Is it my piano playing?

“I have no indication at all,” she added, “and it has been 13 ½ months.”

Inquiries by Ms. Ghuman’s representative in Parliament and several members of Congress, including Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, have been to no avail, said Byron Adams, a professor of music at the University of California, Riverside, who said he had known Ms. Ghuman for years and respected her work.

“All of these people have gotten the runaround from the State Department,” Mr. Adams said.

In late spring, when hope faded that Ms. Ghuman’s visa nightmare would be resolved quietly, Charles Atkinson, the president of the American Musicological Society, asked its 3,600 members to send letters to the State Department expressing “our profound consternation and anxiety over the treatment of one of our members.”

The society has invited her to lecture at its conference in November, which, “in a fortunate circumstance,” Mr. Atkinson said, is to be held in Quebec.

The $500 travel grant they have awarded her will not cover the cost. But at least, he said, she can expect Canada to let her in.


5) The Media Equation
Red Carpet Meets Harsh War
September 17, 2007

At the beginning of the month, an eager crowd gathered in Midtown Manhattan at the Morgan Library to see “Alive Day Memories,” an HBO documentary that featured interviews of grievously wounded veterans conducted by James Gandolfini, the star of “The Sopranos.”

People were sipping cocktails in the sumptuous surroundings when suddenly one of the guests — a veteran with brain injuries in a wheelchair who was in the documentary — began screaming profanely. Guests looked at one another nervously, frozen with hors d’oeuvres in hands, as they waited for the shouting to subside. (The veteran was quickly comforted by his friends.)

But that shocking bit of human theater does raise a question: Are audiences ready for the steady stream of movies and documentaries that bring a faraway war very close?

“In the Valley of Elah,” a mystery about a returning veteran who disappears, starring Tommy Lee Jones and directed by Paul Haggis, opened last Friday. It will be followed into theaters over the course of the fall and winter by “Grace Is Gone,” “Stop Loss,” “Nothing Is Private,” “Lions for Lambs,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,” and “Redacted.” They all take as their central concern the price of America’s military and security activities since the attacks of Sept. 11. HBO, which has already waded into bloody waters with “Baghdad ER” and “Alive Day,” has commissioned “Generation Kill,” written by David Simon, creator of “The Wire.”

All of this is undoubtedly well intended, but will it be well attended?

“I have no idea,” Mr. Haggis said last week after a screening of “In the Valley of Elah.” “We all certainly hope so. When I first started working on this in 2003, I thought I would be in for the fight of my life.” He added that he went through more than a dozen “War Is Not the Answer” signs on his lawn in the liberal enclave of Santa Monica, Calif., because they were stolen or defaced. “But the tide seems to be turning.”

That tide is bringing a wave of films about a war that most Americans wish would go away. In a New York Times/CBS News Poll this month, 62 percent of the respondents said the war was a mistake. When the CBS News anchor Katie Couric recently went to Iraq, even landing an interview with President Bush, the evening broadcast clocked record low ratings for the week. A study released last week by the Project for Excellence in Journalism comparing the mainstream news agenda with user-news sites like Reddit, Digg, and found that when citizens did the editing, war news made up just 1 percent of the content.

Hollywood, which is bringing a reflexively liberal, antiwar agenda to most of these projects, has some assets, most notably stars like Mr. Jones for “In the Valley of Elah,” Tom Cruise in “Lions for Lambs” and Tom Hanks in “Charlie Wilson’s War.”

These are not small bets from tiny indie companies. Many of the war-themed works include A-list actors and directors, budgets in the $25 million range, and major studios including Universal, Paramount and Warner Brothers. Clearly, media companies are hoping that asking questions about the war is good for business, in addition to being good for the republic.

These movies may land with some impact during the Oscar season as the academy loves citing important films. But historically, audiences enter the theater in pursuit of counter-programming as an antidote to reality. They’d generally prefer to see Meryl Streep inhabiting Anna Wintour in “The Devil Wears Prada” rather than playing a seasoned reporter who covers a country that seems to be in the midst of melting down, as she does in “Lions for Lambs.” And these films have to compete not only with one another, but also with the drumbeat of the news media’s daily coverage of the Iraq war. Another I.E.D., another four Americans dead. Now, who wants popcorn with that?

“These movies have a chance to work because the American public hasn’t been able to see anything from this war like they did during Vietnam,” said Tom Bernard, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, which is behind “Standard Operating Procedure,” a documentary being made by Errol Morris. “People have no idea what the texture of life is like over there, and these films can give them that look.”

Mr. Bernard argues that because of embedding rules for journalists and the dangers of covering the conflict, the visual context of the war has been lost, although citizens who have seen the photographs from Abu Ghraib or the checkpoint stops that have gone terribly awry would say they have seen plenty.

The first numbers are in for “Alive Day,” and Sheila Nevins of HBO said the audience of a bit more than a million was a robust one for a documentary. But she said a documentary brought with it an expectation that reality would not only intrude, but also serve as a focal point.

“They are extensions of news reports, really,” she said. “Paying money at the door of a movie theater to see the suffering of others is different than watching it on television. It is a much tougher sell in a theater.”

The Vietnam War, another American conflict that divided the country and shattered many young lives, produced some important films that people saw in droves. But “Coming Home,” “Platoon,” “Apocalypse Now” and “The Deer Hunter” came years after the fact. Moviegoers will pay money to stare at the raw externalities of war, but they seem less willing to look if the wounds are too fresh.

At the HBO event, people lined up to get a word with the injured vets, thanking them for their service and willingness to share their stories. But as those stories become alarmingly commonplace, the line at the theater may not be so robust.


6) Alabama Plan Brings Out Cry of Resegregation
September 17, 2007

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After white parents in this racially mixed city complained about school overcrowding, school authorities set out to draw up a sweeping rezoning plan. The results: all but a handful of the hundreds of students required to move this fall were black — and many were sent to virtually all-black, low-performing schools.

Black parents have been battling the rezoning for weeks, calling it resegregation. And in a new twist for an integration fight, they are wielding an unusual weapon: the federal No Child Left Behind law, which gives students in schools deemed failing the right to move to better ones.

“We’re talking about moving children from good schools into low-performing ones, and that’s illegal,” said Kendra Williams, a hospital receptionist, whose two children were rezoned. “And it’s all about race. It’s as clear as daylight.”

Tuscaloosa, where George Wallace once stood defiantly in the schoolhouse door to keep blacks out of the University of Alabama, also has had a volatile history in its public schools. Three decades of federal desegregation marked by busing and white flight ended in 2000. Though the city is 54 percent white, its school system is 75 percent black.

The schools superintendent and board president, both white, said in an interview that the rezoning, which redrew boundaries of school attendance zones, was a color-blind effort to reorganize the 10,000-student district around community schools and relieve overcrowding. By optimizing use of the city’s 19 school buildings, the district saved taxpayers millions, officials said. They also acknowledged another goal: to draw more whites back into Tuscaloosa’s schools by making them attractive to parents of 1,500 children attending private academies founded after court-ordered desegregation began.

“I’m sorry not everybody is on board with this,” said Joyce Levey, the superintendent. “But the issue in drawing up our plan was not race. It was how to use our buildings in the best possible way.” Dr. Levey said that all students forced by the rezoning to move from a high- to a lower-performing school were told of their right under the No Child law to request a transfer.

When the racially polarized, eight-member Board of Education approved the rezoning plan in May, however, its two black members voted against it. “All the issues we dealt with in the ’60s, we’re having to deal with again in 2007,” said Earnestine Tucker, one of the black members. “We’re back to separate but equal — but separate isn’t equal.”

For decades school districts across the nation used rezoning to restrict black students to some schools while channeling white students to others. Such plans became rare after civil rights lawsuits in the 1960s and ’70s successfully challenged their constitutionality, said William L. Taylor, chairman of the Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights.

Tuscaloosa’s rezoning dispute, civil rights lawyers say, is one of the first in which the No Child Left Behind law has become central, sending the district into uncharted territory over whether a reassignment plan can trump the law’s prohibition on moving students into low-performing schools. A spokesman, Chad Colby, said the federal Education Department would not comment.

Tuscaloosa is not the only community where black parents are using the law to seek more integrated, academically successful schools for their children.

In Greensboro, N.C., students in failing black schools have transferred in considerable numbers to higher-performing, majority-white schools, school officials there said. A 2004 study by the Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights documented cases in Florida, Indiana, Tennessee and Virginia where parents were moving their children into less-segregated schools.

Nationally, less than 2 percent of eligible students have taken advantage of the law’s transfer provisions. Tuscaloosa, with 83,000 residents, is an hour’s drive west of Birmingham. During court-ordered desegregation its schools roughly reflected the school system’s racial makeup, and there were no all-black schools.

But in recent years the board has carved the district into three zones, each with a new high school. One cluster of schools lies in the east of the city; its high school is 73 percent black.

Another cluster on Tuscaloosa’s gritty west side now amounts to an all-black minidistrict; its five schools have 2,330 students, and only 19 are white. Its high school is 99 percent black.

In contrast, a cluster of schools that draw white students from an affluent enclave of mansions and lake homes in the north, as well as some blacks bused into the area, now includes two majority-white elementary schools. Its high school, Northridge, is 56 percent black.

At a meeting in February 2005, scores of parents from the two majority white elementary schools complained of overcrowding and discipline problems in the middle school their children were sent to outside of the northern enclave.

Ms. Tucker said she, another board member and a teacher were the only blacks present. The white parents clamored for a new middle school closer to their homes. They also urged Dr. Levey to consider sending some students being bused into northern cluster schools back to their own neighborhood, Ms. Tucker said. Dr. Levey did not dispute the broad outlines of Ms. Tucker’s account.

“That was the origin of this whole rezoning,” Ms. Tucker said.

Months later, the school board commissioned a demographic study to draft the rezoning plan. J. Russell Gibson III, the board’s lawyer, said the plan drawn up used school buildings more efficiently, freeing classroom space equivalent to an entire elementary school and saving potential construction costs of $10 million to $14 million. “That’s a significant savings,” Mr. Gibson said, “and we relieved overcrowding and placed most students in a school near their home. That’s been lost in all the rhetoric.”

Others see the matter differently. Gerald Rosiek, an education professor at the University of Alabama, studied the Tuscaloosa school district’s recent evolution. “This is a case study in resegregation,” said Dr. Rosiek, now at the University of Oregon.

In his research, he said, he found disappointment among some white parents that Northridge, the high school created in the northern enclave, was a majority-black school, and he said he believed the rezoning was in part an attempt to reduce its black enrollment.

The district projected last spring that the plan would move some 880 students citywide, and Dr. Levey said that remained the best estimate available. The plan redrew school boundaries in ways that, among other changes, required students from black neighborhoods and from a low-income housing project who had been attending the more-integrated schools in the northern zone to leave them for nearly all-black schools in the west end.

Tuscaloosa’s school board approved the rezoning at a May 3 meeting, at which several white parents spoke out for the plan. One parent, Kim Ingram, said, “I’m not one who looks to resegregate the schools,” but described what she called a crisis in overcrowding, and said the rezoning would alleviate it. In an interview this month, Ms. Ingram said the middle school attended by her twin seventh-grade girls has been “bursting at the seams,” with student movement difficult in hallways, the cafeteria and locker rooms.

Voting against the rezoning were the board’s two black members and a white ally.

Dan Meissner, the board president, said in an interview this month that any rezoning would make people unhappy. “This has involved minimal disruption for a school system that has 10,000 students,” he said.

But black students and parents say the plan has proven disruptive for them.

Telissa Graham, 17, was a sophomore last year at Northridge High. She learned of the plan last May by reading a notice on her school’s bulletin board listing her name along with about 70 other students required to move. “They said Northridge was too crowded,” Telissa said. “But I think they just wanted to separate some of the blacks and Hispanics from the whites.”

Parents looking for recourse turned to the No Child Left Behind law. Its testing requirements have enabled parents to distinguish good schools from bad. And other provisions give students stuck in troubled schools the right to transfer. In a protest at an elementary school after school opened last month, about 60 black relatives and supporters of rezoned children repeatedly cited the law. Much of the raucous meeting was broadcast live by a black-run radio station.

Some black parents wrote to the Alabama superintendent of education, Joseph Morton, arguing that the rezoning violated the federal law. Mr. Morton disagreed, noting that Tuscaloosa was offering students who were moved to low-performing schools the right to transfer into better schools. That, he said, had kept it within the law.

Dr. Levey said about 180 students requested a transfer.

Telissa was one of them. She expects to return this week to Northridge, but says moving from one high school to another and back again has disrupted her fall.

One of Telissa’s brothers has also been rezoned to a virtually all-black, low-performing school. Her mother, Etta Nolan, has been trying to get him a transfer, too.

“I’m fed up,” Ms. Nolan said. “They’re just shuffling us and shuffling us.”


7) Prosecutors Say a Charity Aided Terrorists Indirectly
September 18, 2007

DALLAS, Sept. 17 — As the government’s signature terrorism-financing trial moved toward a close here Monday, federal prosecutors reaffirmed their charge that the largest Muslim charity in the United States was not simply trying to help poor Palestinians but was in fact an arm of the radical Islamic group Hamas.

The charity, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, and five of its officers have been on trial here since July 16, charged with conspiracy, money laundering and providing financial support to a foreign terrorist organization. The foundation, which was based in a Dallas suburb, raised more than $57 million before the government closed it in 2001, according to the prosecution, and sent $12.4 million to Palestinian charities the government contends were controlled by Hamas.

Prosecutors did not contend Monday that the foundation directly financed suicide bombings or weapons purchases. Rather, its financial contributions to charities controlled by Hamas helped that group win the hearts and minds of Palestinians, said Barry Jonas, the Justice Department prosecutor who summarized the government’s case for the jury Monday.

The group “specifically targeted the families of martyrs and prisoners” for aid, Mr. Jonas said, adding that the foundation “was helping Hamas take care of its own.”

But the defense, which began its summation Monday afternoon, argues that the foundation never gave money to banned groups and took steps to distance itself from politics and to try to make sure it complied with United States laws.

“Holy Land is a real charity, was a real charity, providing real aid to desperately needy people around the world,” said Nancy Hollander, the lawyer representing the foundation’s president, Shukri Abu Baker.

Many groups — lawyers, charities, terrorism experts and many Muslims who feel their charities have been unfairly made targets — have been watching this case carefully, in part because the government has given it such a high profile. In December 2001, President Bush announced that he was freezing the Holy Land Foundation’s assets and said Hamas had “obtained much of the money it pays for murder abroad right here in the United States.”

After the foundation and its officers were indicted in 2004, John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, said, “There is no distinction between those who carry out terrorist attacks and those who knowingly finance terrorist attacks.”

But at the trial, the government made a more complex and nuanced argument, contending that Holy Land gave money to charitable groups, known as zakat committees, that were controlled by Hamas. They in turn used the money for charitable purposes, including building hospitals and feeding the hungry, which the government said increased public support for Hamas, spread its ideology and helped it recruit terrorists.

Much of the evidence linking the charities to the radical group came from the Israeli government, in particular from an Israeli security analyst who testified using only the name Avi.

But defense witnesses said that Israeli intelligence was biased in such matters. “Not even the United States government will accept Israel’s intelligence at face value,” Ms. Hollander said, adding “and that is really where this all comes from.”

The prosecution devoted much of its closing arguments to playing videotapes that showed defendants attending conferences with Hamas officials, performing in anti-Israel skits or singing pro-Hamas songs while small children danced and waved flags. At times, some jury members leaned forward to watch intently, their fingers pressed to their lips. But jurors appeared to lose interest during some recordings of long speeches in Arabic.

Mr. Jonas, the prosecutor, said that in one video clip, a defendant, Mufid Abdulqader, was chanting, “I am Hamas,” adding, “You can’t get much clearer than that.”

But Mr. Jonas acknowledged that expressing support for a group was protected under the First Amendment and that the defendants were not on trial for their political beliefs. The defense has argued that much of this evidence is more than a decade old, from well before Hamas was declared to be a terrorist organization by the United States government.

Lawyers for several defendants will continue their closing arguments Tuesday, and then the government will make its final case.

Both the prosecution and defense have urged the jury to look carefully at the reams of evidence filed in the case, including financial records and wiretaps. Judge A. Joe Fish of Federal District Court, who is hearing the case, said in court that he did not expect a verdict this week.


8) Green Berets Face Hearing on Killing of Suspect in Afghan Village
September 18, 2007

FORT BRAGG, N.C., Sept. 17 — From his position about 100 yards away, Master Sgt. Troy Anderson had a clear shot at the Afghan man standing outside a residential compound in a village near the Pakistan border last October. When Capt. Dave Staffel, the Special Forces officer in charge, gave the order to shoot, Sergeant Anderson fired a bullet into the man’s head, killing him.

In June, Captain Staffel and Sergeant Anderson were charged with premeditated murder. On Tuesday, in a rare public examination of the rules that govern the actions of Special Operations troops in Afghanistan, a military hearing will convene at Fort Bragg to weigh the evidence against the two men, both Green Berets.

The case revolves around differing interpretations of the kind of force that the Special Forces team that hunted and killed the man, Nawab Buntangyar, were allowed to use once they found him, apparently unarmed.

To the Special Forces soldiers and their 12-man detachment, the shooting, near the village of Ster Kalay, was a textbook example of a classified mission completed in accordance with the American rules of engagement. They said those rules allowed the killing of Mr. Buntangyar, whom the American Special Operations Command here has called an “enemy combatant.”

Mr. Buntangyar had organized suicide and roadside bomb attacks, Captain Staffel’s lawyer said.

But to the two-star general in charge of the Special Operations forces in Afghanistan at the time, Frank H. Kearney, who has since become a three-star general, the episode appeared to be an unauthorized, illegal killing. In June, after two military investigations, General Kearney moved to have murder charges brought against Captain Staffel and Sergeant Anderson — respectively, the junior commissioned and senior noncommissioned officers of Operational Detachment Alpha 374, Third Battalion, Third Special Forces Group.

The soldiers’ cases also highlight the level of scrutiny that General Kearney, who also ordered swift investigations into an elite Marine unit accused of killing Afghan civilians last March, has given to the actions of some of the most specialized and independent American troops fighting Taliban and insurgent forces along the border with Pakistan.

Mark Waple, a civilian lawyer representing Captain Staffel, said the charges against his client and Sergeant Anderson carry a whiff of “military politics.” In an interview, Mr. Waple said that General Kearney proceeded with murder charges against the two soldiers even after an investigation by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command concluded in April that the shooting had been “justifiable homicide.”

A spokesman for Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg declined to comment on the shooting or the murder charges. Lt. Col. Lou Leto, the spokesman for General Kearney’s previous command, where the murder charges originated, also did not comment. General Kearney was promoted in July to lieutenant general and became deputy commander of Special Operations, where a spokesman declined to discuss the case.

On Oct. 13, 2006, when Captain Staffel learned that Mr. Buntangyar could be found in a home near the village where his detachment was guarding a medical convoy, he ordered a seven-man team to investigate the tip.

Driving toward Ster Kalay in two government vans, the Americans called the Afghan national police and border patrol officers to assist them, Mr. Waple said. Mr. Buntangyar had already been “vetted as a target” by American commanders, as an enemy combatant who could be legally killed once he was positively identified, Mr. Waple said.

After the Afghan police called Mr. Buntangyar outside and twice asked him to identify himself, they signaled, using a prearranged hand gesture, to Sergeant Anderson, concealed with a rifle about 100 yards away, Mr. Waple said.

From a vehicle a few hundred yards farther away, Captain Staffel radioed Sergeant Anderson, Mr. Waple said. “If you have a clear shot,” he told the sergeant, “take it.”

Confirming the order, Sergeant Anderson fired once, killing Mr. Buntangyar. The American team drove to the village center to explain to the local residents, “This is who we are, this is what we just did and this is why we did it,” Mr. Waple said.

The highest-ranking witness called to testify at the soldiers’ hearing Tuesday will be General Kearney, though it is unclear whether he will comply with the request.

Also scheduled to testify is Sgt. First Class Scott R. Haarer, a paralegal on General Kearney’s staff last October who, as part of the military justice procedure, signed the forms that charged Captain Staffel and Sergeant Anderson with murder.

In a notarized statement, Sergeant Haarer told defense lawyers last week that he would not have accused the soldiers of any crime if he had known that the Criminal Investigation Command had determined that the shooting was justified.

Bomber Strikes Afghan Police

NAD ALI, Afghanistan, Sept. 17 — A suicide bomber wrapped in explosives walked into a crowded government building in the Nad Ali district of Afghanistan’s Helmand Province on Monday and blew himself up, killing at least seven people, four of them police officers, said Muhammad Hussain Andiwal, the chief of the provincial police. Six people were wounded.

Afghan and Western forces in Helmand have been fighting a resurgent Taliban and trying to contend with booming opium production.


9) Where the Global Economy Is Going and Why
By the Editors
September/October 2007

The editors of The New York Times, one of the most influential voices of the American ruling class, dramatically began an editorial entitled “Spillover” in its July 30 edition with words deliberately intended to spark the country’s economic and financial decision makers into action. They wrote:

“By the end of last week (July 27), any lingering hope that the housing downturn would be contained has vanished. As this week begins, signs of contagion seem to be everywhere.

“Unnerved by mounting losses in mortgage-related investments, investors have started to shun tens of billions of dollars in corporate debt offers as well—and seem likely to go on doing so for months to come. That would stanch the flow of easy money that has fueled the leveraged buyout boom, which would, in turn, expose the extent to which stocks have also come to depend on cheap credit. Stocks took a dive last week because debt-driven buyouts had long boosted the share prices of targeted companies.”

The editors go on to describe the chain reaction triggered by the housing bubble’s destabilization of the economic and financial infrastructure of the U.S. capitalist economy:

“The fallout of housing-related turmoil is also likely to extend beyond financial markets.... The double whammy of weakness in housing and in autos has already hit the chemical maker Dupont. Last Tuesday, the company was the DOW’s biggest loser, in part because of lackluster demand for a pigment used in house paint and lower paint sales to automakers.”

Finally, reflecting their increasingly pessimistic economic outlook, the editors dismissed assurances by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr. that “the economy was very strong.” Rather, they argue that such an evaluation “ring[s] hollow in the absence of an international reporting framework to monitor the positions taken by globally active hedge funds.”

This, by the way, is a reference to the special role played by hedge funds in the creation of the current financial crisis. While the increasing number of corporate buyouts by well-heeled buyout firms like Cerberus Capital Management, which recently took over Chrysler, use mostly borrowed money—as much as 95 percent. Curiously enough, in a marked departure from the past, the present crisis appears to have hit the superrich harder than most other investors. That’s one of the peculiar consequences of the collapse of the hedge funds.

According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, a hedge fund is a private investment fund charging a performance fee and is typically open to a very limited range of qualified investors. This means that one must be rich enough to be eligible. But it also guarantees that the biggest losers will be multimillionaires, billionaires, and multibillionaires—though only for the time being.

The Times and most other mouthpieces of big business have concluded that the current credit crisis is destabilizing all aspects of the American and global economic order. They claim that this crisis has been inspired and fueled by artificially low interest rates—without which the economy would have collapsed long ago.

Although the market slide of July 27 (less than 400 points) amounted to less than a 3 percent drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, more than a few financial commentators referred to it as “Black Friday”—signifying the possible beginning of a major financial and economic crisis.

Compared to the crash of October 19, 1987, a date that is known as Black Monday, when the Dow plummeted 508 points—a loss of 22.6 percent of its value in one daythe July 27 slide was much smaller. Yet, despite the far greater size and significance of the 1987 devaluation, the stock market regained its balance in a surprisingly short period of time, thus confirming once again the highly unpredictable and anarchic character of the capitalist economic system.

Even though that 22.6 percent stock-market dive had no long-term impact on the economy, the great stock market crash of 1929 began, paradoxically, with a more modest 9 percent drop in the stock market on what became known as the Black Thursday of October 24, 1929. That day was indelibly marked as the event that opened the door to the Great Depression of the 1930s.
One thing leads to another, and another— ad infinitum

Floyd Norris, one of the most competent of The Times’s economic analysts, was featured on the front page of its August 17 edition in an article entitled “With Markets Moving Wildly, Insight Suffers.” He evidently aimed to shed some light on what appears to be a mystery to many, if not most, investors, big and small. To many of us, the more arcane interactions of the modern capitalist economy are like any complex system containing billions of independent atoms and molecules, each with a trajectory of its own. The market has a near-infinity of variables, many of which are hidden from view. The determinism of classical science, and the workaday world we know from direct experience, tend to break down and be superceded by the more ambiguous laws of probability. An understanding of that highly contradictory reality evidently guides this particular Times columnist so effectively.

Norris starts off by posing a question.

“Twenty-first-century financial markets react with lightning speed to events halfway around the world. Investors in China can immediately see what happened in New York and make trades based on the news. So why is the credit panic of 2007 being played out in slow motion? One reason is that those involved have never seen anything like this before. Information may arrive instantly, but insight takes longer....

“But last week, things got dicey. Thornburg Mortgage owned a lot of AAA-rated mortgage securities, and had borrowed up to 95 percent of their value. Now the lenders, suspecting the securities were worth less, wanted more cash. To get it, Thornburg had to sell securities, and few wanted to buy. Suddenly the commercial paper market, so willing to lend to Thornburg at small margins just weeks before, was not interested in lending even at much higher rates.

“As for the share price, it went into freefall on Tuesday, amid rumors that the company could not meet its obligation. Trading was halted with the stock under $8. On Tuesday night, it conceded it was having trouble raising money to finance mortgages. It said the dividend it had promised to pay on Wednesday would be delayed by a month..

“But it insisted that it was not bankrupt. Even marking down the value of its assets to current market value, it said, it was still worth $14.28 a share. Consequently its price climbed back up above $12.”

Since then we have continued following the trajectory of events that began on July 27 until the present time as recorded in the New York Times.We focus primarily on reports in this New York daily because it is one of the few major news publications that has been less concerned with cheerleading the investor class with assurances that this crisis is not as worrisome as it may appear. Rather, the Times has tended to stress the underlying weakness of the U.S. economy that makes it far more vulnerable to the boom-bust crises of capitalism.

When Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, took the unusual step on Friday, August 17, of announcing a one-half-point drop in the so-called discount rate, it was a tacit acknowledgement by the Fed that it had made a mistake the previous week in playing down concerns over the spreading distress in the credit markets.

But in the Times of Sunday, August 19, in an editorial entitled “Watershed,” the editors took care to commend the Fed for its efforts to “manage the turmoil in the financial markets.” But, what was nevertheless implied was that those in charge of managing the U.S. economy exercised poor judgment at a crucial moment that would have added significantly to the already panicked investor class—something that a responsible representative of the ruling class does not do.

Nevertheless, it was an indication that the editors saw the Fed’s reversal as a belated recognition that the market’s credit crunch represented a major threat to the broader economy and that it was not as healthy as the Fed had declared a few weeks earlier. But The Times is convinced that the Fed needs to do much more than “calming the markets.” Rather, the editors insist that the reversal “should be seen as only a necessary first step toward addressing much bigger issues—issues that President Bush and his aides continue to deny. The real work—that of leaders, not managers—is to understand how the economy became so vulnerable to current global market instability, and to articulate an agenda for reducing those underlying weaknesses. There is no return to “normal” that would not be the same as sticking one’s head back in the sand.”

The editors, pressing their argument that the roiling stock market is in danger of slipping out of control, zero in on the underlying source of the current crisis—one that is of world historic significance.

“The bare facts are that the nation—heavily indebted—needs to attract some $800 billion a year from abroad, either by borrowing the money or by selling American assets. No serious analyst believes that an imbalance of that magnitude is sustainable [our emphasis]. In fact, the erosive effects are already evident. Debt must be repaid by sending money abroad, leaving less to invest domestically. Selling off American assets means reduced investment returns to Americans.

“And that’s if things go smoothly. Ever present is the risk that the vital foreign inflows will wane, with severe repercussions on interest rates and the dollar.”

This takes us to the deeper cause of today’s unfolding economic crisis. And that’s a problem of such proportions as to make the “new economy” bubble that burst at the end of the 1990s, and today’s housing bubble, which is in the early throes of bursting, look almost insignificant in comparison!
Keynesian economics

We must once again refer to the grandmother of all economic bubbles: the one that was created at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in 1944 at a meeting of the soon-to-be victors of World War II. That’s when the decision was made by the major allied powers to adopt a seemingly impossible reform of the global capitalist monetary system. The scheme, as developed by its chief architect, British economist John Maynard Keynes, was designed to gradually separate the world’s currencies from their gold base—a process that by now is as close to completion as it ever can be.

Thus, beginning soon after Bretton Woods and continuing until the end of the 1970s, gold took a back seat while the dollar was elevated to serve as the closest thing to the role played by gold, silver, and other precious metals for the last 5,000 years.

The winners of the second World War knew that this war had ended the crisis of overproduction of the 1930s by using up all the surplus goods clogging store shelves and warehouses, thus triggering the Great Depression. Thus, they feared that the end of the war would set in motion another boom like the one in the U.S. following World War I in the 1920s, which had ended in the biggest of all busts in October 1929.

The “invisible hand” that regulates the capitalist economy, after all, does its job in its own way and in its own fashion—that is, by the automatic, self-regulating mechanism known as the boom-bust cycles of capitalist production. And therein lies one of the fatal internal contradictions of the profit system. Those meeting at Bretton Woods in 1944 decided to prevent another Great Depression by transforming the U.S. dollar into something much bigger than a single nation’s currency. They intended it to serve also as the world’s second-most reliable universal means of exchange and eventually to totally replace gold.

The dollar could, almost instantly, play such a unique role because most of the world’s gold reserves at the end of the second World War were locked away in U.S. Treasury vaults in Ft. Knox, Kentucky. For all practical purposes, the gold-based dollar had for years been considered as good as gold. However, the purely paper dollar could not immediately play the role formerly played by gold and silver. First, a sort of bridge had to be built, to ease the transition from the dollar’s serving solely as a national currency to serving also as an international means of payment between trading nations.

The huge gold reserves lodged in Ft. Knox could serve as such a bridge, providing there was agreement by all participating nations to carefully and cooperatively organize the transition from a gold-based global monetary system to one based on faith in the dollar or possibly, as events might determine, by adding a few more strong currencies to serve as an international medium of exchange along with the dollar.

In other words, because the U.S. alone had enough gold in its Treasury to back up the dollar whenever American exports were less than its imports, or when its taxes and other Federal revenues were less than its expenditures. This was an indispensable precondition because the main purpose of the Keynesian scheme was to make possible an exponential expansion of credit that was impossible in the preexisting monetary system based exclusively on gold and silver.
Why the dollar instead of gold

Gold, historically, exercised a virtual dictatorship over the traditional monetary system based on precious metals. Thus when the first kings and other rulers were unable to pay their governments’ bills to creditors, they began issuing extra “gold” coins by cutting the size of the coins or by maintaining their former size and weight by adding base metals to their new coinage.

Starting thousands of years ago, then, all moneychangers as well as ordinary merchants learned to tell the difference between the fakes and the Real McCoy simply by flipping a coin in the air. The tone of its ring allowed them to tell the difference. Some became expert enough to deduce a close approximation of its gold content from the precise tone of its ring. Thus, there really is such a thing as “the ring of truth,” and it wasn’t long before everyone knew the difference between the king’s counterfeits and the real thing.

After many years, and after paper money redeemable in gold had been increasingly circulated, both government-backed paper, and gold and silver coins served side by side as real money. Consequently, a different sort of “ring of truth” became necessary for telling the difference between real gold-backed paper and counterfeits. There were a host of clues by which the most perceptive merchants, banks, and moneychangers became expert in telling the difference. Thus, they tended to replace the counterfeits with gold coins at every opportunity.

It wasn’t long before almost everyone refused to accept paper, good or bad, and insisted on payment in gold. Now, all paper money tends to decline in value in accord with the amount of paper euros, pounds, yen, and dollars printed by governments. Thus, rising prices are now the ring of truth that tells us that there are far too many paper dollars in circulation—which also serves as a measure of the ever-growing size of public debt!

But in order to get the world to smoothly accept dollars as the international medium of exchange, U.S. and world capitalism were compelled to act as though the world system was still based on the gold standard. That is, trading nations continued to honor the historic practice of redeeming each other’s currencies in gold upon demand.

Given that the main purpose of Keynesian economics was to open up a near-limitless quantity of available credit in purely paper currency, the U.S. would eventually run out of gold. But Keynes and his supporters were confident that by that time it would be possible to break with the practice of backing the dollar with gold—at least for an extended period of time. However, the declining value of the dollar brought about its dethroning from its former position of being “as good as gold.” It has since reached a point where the euro, the yen, and the pound must share the paper crown with the dollar by being “almost, but not quite, as good as gold!”

That is, by the end of the 1970s the slow bleeding of gold from U.S. reserves had evolved into a veritable hemorrhage, draining the life force from the dollar. That’s when then-President Richard Nixon was forced to declare an end to the normal practice of settling balance-of-trade and other deficits between nations with gold, thus completing the transition from a dollar based on gold to one based exclusively on faith in the enormous productive capacity of the U.S. economy.

It’s one thing to be able to produce in abundance, but it’s something else again to be able to maintain a reasonable balance between imports and exports. Hence the Times’s warning that “to attract some $800 billion a year from abroad, either by borrowing the money or by selling American assets” is not “sustainable.” And this takes us to the heart of the problem: the $9 trillion—and rising—national debt.
‘By that time, we’ll all be dead’

Market critics long ago posed the question: Won’t such a steadily rising public debt eventually grow to a point where it can never be repaid—and worse, won’t a time come when the U.S. can no longer manage to service the veritable mountain of debt that must inevitably accrue? Keynes has very often been quoted as having responded: Yes! But by that time, we’ll all be dead. And now, some 60 years later, Keynes and his peers are indeed dead.

One measure of today’s gargantuan debt is nearly 9-trillion dollar U.S. public debt ($8,977,709,393,923.33). But that’s only part of the problem. There are indications that the old saying, “statistics don’t lie, but liars can figure,” could mean that the debt is likely to be deliberately underestimated but really is much higher.

But, there also is the matter of the private debt, and estimates for this tend to range far higher because there appears to be no reliable way of measuring the debt incurred by individuals.

The various forms of private debt range from financed purchases of autos and trucks, to credit card and mortgage debt, to the voluminous private debt incurred by corporations and other private institutions. This includes hedge funds, at a time when “leveraging”1 of the purchases of billion-dollar corporations has become a major national pastime for corporate America and the capitalist world.

As noted above, the Times had quoted Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr. as saying that “the economy was very strong...” and went on to say that such an evaluation “ring[s] hollow in the absence of an international reporting framework to monitor the positions taken by globally active hedge funds.” In other words, hedge funds keep the extent of their borrowings secret!

It is likely that no one knows all the facts about the size of both public and private indebtedness. Neither is anyone in a position to make even so much as a ball-park estimate of the total private debt. For instance, Standard and Poor’s has issued a report entitled “U.S. Credit Quality in a 25-Year Retreat Toward Junk.” According to this report, “the International Swaps and Derivatives Association’s Midyear 2006 Market Survey notes that the notional value of credit derivatives outstanding had increased by 52 percent during the first six months of 2006, reaching $26 trillion!”

This selection from Standard and Poor’s suggests, at a minimum, that total private debt is a multiple of the public debt incurred by the United States. When we include the private debt of the advanced industrial nations of the world, the inverted pyramid of global debt can be seen to be resting upon a much too narrow apex and base of real existing capital. While no one can predict when the entire inverted pyramid will collapse—as its architect had long ago conceded it would—all indications are that it will come sooner than anyone might think.

It has become increasingly evident that the U.S. capitalist economy is sinking ever more deeply into one of history’s most destructive of all economic crises. It is a scenario that combines the paralysis of the productive forces, runaway inflation, and disintegration of the nation’s social, economic, and political infrastructures. And when the U.S. goes, so too will the entire capitalist world go down the drain.

[1]Leveraging; that is, what Wall Street calls buyouts of billion-dollar corporations and other such investments in which extremely small investments are accompanied by as much a 90 percent borrowed capital. Leveraging, consequently, explains how hedge funds got into the trouble now bankrupting and threatening to bankrupt many more.


10) Out Now!
By the Editors
September/October 2007

It will take a massive, unified, ongoing antiwar movement to end this war. That is why we are compelled to come together at this time. The Iraqi people are suffering indescribable hardship; and we, in the belly of the most violent beast the planet has ever seen, are seeing our futures and the future of our children deteriorating and the lives of our troops wasted and ruined, their families tragically impacted.

Ultimately, it will take millions of people all over this country actively involved in a unified movement to stop this war. It will take work stoppages, school strikes— the ending of “business as usual” in this country and in the military. And with the massive opposition to the war and the increased costs of the war bearing down on our economy, we may be closer to that point than we think. But so far we, in the antiwar movement, have only come together on a very few occasions and only on a temporary basis. That is why we have not been able to reach out and organize the masses of people who oppose the war.

In the best of circumstances, we have been able to bring together representatives from some of the major coalitions into a quasi-united front and have been able to agree upon building a particular demonstration on a particular day and disband cooperation from that point on. The demonstrations are called, built and organized by a few groups—some of which call themselves coalitions so that we have a “coalition of coalitions,” so to speak. But come the day of the action— no plans have been made to organize further actions together or to use the power of the demonstration itself as a massive organizing tool that could bring those opposed to the war into active opposition to it.
Planning ahead

How different would the outcome be, if for Oct. 27, we already had in place plans for a March 20, 2003 “Shock and Awe” anniversary protest on Saturday, March 15 or 22, 2008 and a Spring 2008 action planned, say, for sometime in April or May to launch a summer organizing drive for the fall? What if we had set up at the Oct. 27 demonstration something like “community and school organizing tables” where each could set up their own committee to coordinate and publicize and build for these demonstrations and organize their own outreach actions leading up to them? What if part of that meant that each of our groups would try to help build these community groups —Places of Worship, schools, workplaces, labor unions, within the military itself—support them, help them to organize, etc. and encourage them to form themselves into democratic, ongoing organizations that could really coordinate with each other, learn from one another to make their work more effective and bring even more into the fold?

We could then have a division of labor among a broad layer of activists to do all of all the things that have to be done to build the kind of movement that can bring this country to a standstill. We need to be able to send counter-recruitment activists to the rural areas of the country that are recruiting the most to the military. We need to convince inner-city youth that it is in their interests to actively protest the war and demand that the money spent on war go to good jobs, education and healthcare for all, not for more cops, jails and war! We must convince them above all that they—we—have the right to these things and the right to fight for them!

We must convince millions that the best way to end human strife and violence is to rid the world of the causes of it—economic inequality, poverty and oppression. We need to insist that our tax dollars be spent on human needs and services in order to eliminate the causes of war! Putting aside our differences now and working together is mandatory if we are to stop this bloodbath from exploding to a point of no return for the human race. The politicians will not end this war for us! We need to organize ourselves independently of them. If they wish to join us—good! A united, open, independent, ongoing and democratically structured organization is what is needed to set into motion the kind of broad and massive movement that will have the power to: Stop the War Now! Bring All the Troops Home Now! Get the U.S. Out Now!


11) How to End the War
By Carole Seligman
September/October 2007

Ending the war on Iraq, and Afghanistan, is a completely different proposition than ending the U.S. war against Vietnam over 30 years ago. Then, the Vietnamese people carried out a popular social revolution along with a war of national liberation from imperialism (French, Japanese, and American). An enormous international movement of opposition to the war and solidarity with the Vietnamese people combined with the efforts of the Vietnamese to rid themselves of foreign domination to force the U.S. out. In the course of the war, in which several million Vietnamese were killed, wounded, and tortured by the American invasion, bombing, and use of chemical weapons, the American people in their majority turned against the war, mobilizing massive, unprecedented demonstrations and the American fighting force became an ineffective one from the point of view of the U.S. ruling class.

But, there is much today’s antiwar movement can learn from the successful movement against the Vietnam war. Just like the Vietnamese, the Iraqi people do not want foreign troops in their country. The Iraqis want to control their own natural resources, and understand that the U.S. has invaded their country in order to own and control the oil, which is the lifeblood of American capitalism. The American invasion of Iraq is even more directly tied to propping up the American capitalist system than the war in Vietnam was. Both wars were economic booms to the vast military-industrial war corporations, which are central pillars of the U.S. economy. The U.S. produced and continues to produce and use massive quantities of disposable product—ammunition and weapons that are destroyed immediately in their use.

A major difference between the conditions in the U.S. during the Vietnam War and the war on Iraq is the relative prosperity of the 1960s and 70s for American workers and their more difficult situation today. Union membership is way down. The two-tier (and more tiers) pay schedule which began to be introduced in the 1980s in most key industries now are having their effect on the children of those workers back then. The two-and-more-tier system means that new hires in basic industries will never earn what their parents did. Millions of workers have been displaced from streamlined industries and manufacturing jobs, which have been shifted to low-wage countries by the capitalist owners. Capitalist globalization has greased the easy flow of capital between countries, tearing down borders for capital, and erecting higher walls for workers, even while forcing tens of millions of them to migrate in search of jobs. Twelve million undocumented immigrants are living in the U.S. with only the right to be super-exploited.

The existence of the military draft during the Vietnam War combined with the huge influx of children of the working class into college, propelled the youth into action. They turned a small antiwar movement into a massive one, with millions marching in the streets against the war. The backbone of the antiwar movement was the youth organized in independent organizations on most college campuses and eventually on high school and middle school campuses as well. Black community opposition to the war, which was already very deep, fueled in part by the distrust of the white ruling class and disproportionate numbers of casualties of Black soldiers, was mobilized by Martin Luther King’s embrace of the antiwar cause in 1968. The Chicano community also moved into active opposition with the Chicano Moratorium demonstration in East Los Angeles in 1970, the first overwhelmingly working class demonstration against the Vietnam War. The oppressed did not want to serve the oppressor—the American government—in oppressing others.

The antiwar movements that arose in opposition to every U.S. war since Vietnam—the Gulf War, the war on Yugoslavia, the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq—have the advantage of the memories of a whole generation who acted in some capacity to help end the Vietnam War. The socialist workers’ organizations who helped lead, or play an active role in, the earlier movement are also still around (though with smaller numbers) to help keep some of the lessons of that movement alive for use by this one. But there are important differences that must be taken into account in trying to develop plans for building a massive movement to end the war.

A big difference today is that there is no draft and young people in high school and college during a time of economic uncertainty about their futures are not yet playing a leadership role in the antiwar movement. There has not been a huge development of independent committees of activists opposed to the war. Many of the existing antiwar committees and organizations are led by activists of political organizations with developed programs. Some of these have political commitments to ruling class politics in that they support Democratic party candidates or Green Party politics. These politics hinder the development of real independence from the war makers.

A big difference that has developed recently is the high-powered effort by the ruling class and both of its major political entities, the Democratic and Republican Parties—both of whom bear responsibility for waging and funding the war—to channel all political discourse, including opposition to the war, into the electoral process. Suddenly, an electoral political period that previously lasted only several months has been expanded by state legislatures (some controlled by Republicans, some by Democrats) in a bi-partisan attempt to co-opt any expression of independent politics.

Now, the 2008 presidential election period has already been going on for about a year and will continue and intensify for the next year. So we’ll witness over two years of politicking by the Democrat and Republican candidates, with hardly a dime’s worth of difference between them, and all of them fully committed to the capitalist private profit system which relies on a war economy to function profitably. The purpose of this is to try to trick the American people into believing that redress of their grievances against the Bush regime can be found in the election of a new administration. The purpose is to draw people into capitalist politics and away from independent politics. Street demonstrations represent independent politics. Street demonstration to end the war now and bring U.S. troops home now are independent of the capitalist parties and candidates. None of the capitalist candidates are calling for ending the war by withdrawing from it immediately. All want to win militarily or offer a way to stay on top of Iraq’s oil through re-deploying troops outside of Iraq’s borders, or some other kind of proposal that violates Iraqi sovereignty and self-determination.

Just like in the time of the Vietnam War, the U.S. working class has no political party of its own to fight for its interests against war. And, like the 1960s and 70s, the leadership officers of the unions are tied to the Democratic Party politicians, making them unable and unwilling to represent the interests of their members either on the job for good pay, decent conditions, and benefits, or on the national political scene for socialized medicine, schools, peace, housing, and human rights. This vacuum of leadership means that atomized antiwar activists are forced to create a mass movement, which will draw in the working class majority. They need to organize a means of building a mass movement in the absence of a mass working class political party—thus the antiwar coalition.

During the rise of fascism in Germany there were huge working class political parties who could have stopped the Nazis if they had come together, defended, instead of fighting each other, and formed a united front to do this. These parties represented a majority of the German population, but their failure to come together to fight Hitler made his assumption of power possible.

This negative lesson from history informs those who call for an antiwar united front. Even though there are not mass working class political entities fighting against the war, it is still possible to bring workers into action by using a tactic that comes out of the workers movement—the mass street demonstration. But, the only way to make such demonstrations really bring out the maximum number of opponents of the war is for individual organizations to join together in united action.

This united approach is gaining ground. The two major national antiwar coalitions, United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), and Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition), have brought out huge numbers of people opposed to the war in street demonstrations over the four years of the war, but the two groups have often been at odds and they have organized separate actions. Motions were even passed in UFPJ leadership bodies not to collaborate or co-sponsor demonstrations with A.N.S.W.E.R. However, Last May, A.N.S.W.E.R. called for united actions to fight against the war, and this past summer, both organizations called for mass regional antiwar protests for the same date, Oct. 27th.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition initiated a mass meeting and both groups as well as many other organizations have come together to establish a coalition, the Oct. 27th Coalition. But, everyone in the coalition realizes that the war will not end on Oct. 28th. This group, shows signs (as of this writing) of not only organizing a massive demonstration on Oct. 27th, but of keeping the coalition together and proceeding to organize a mass demonstration for the fifth anniversary of the war on Iraq. This is a process that needs to take place nationally and in every city and antiwar organizing center.

An antiwar movement, of course, is more than periodic mass street demonstrations. It is, above all, a massive organizing campaign of public education that empowers people to oppose the government and even the system as a whole. Such a campaign of public education against the war needs to be carried into every community where working people live and congregate, to every religious congregation where people worship, to every school, workplace, and military base. The existing antiwar movement needs to adopt the strategy of building a unified mass movement and announcing this to the population as a whole.

At the minimum, the movement must recognize that there is strength in numbers. The numbers of people against the war who are willing to act on that position is really the only strength we have at this stage. But, huge demonstrations can do things that will set a process in motion that can actually end the war, and there are indications that this is starting to happen. Soldiers can stop a war if they won’t fight it. Workers can stop a war if they won’t build war material or let it be transported to the theater of war. Workers can stop a war if they refuse to join the military. Of course, if these kinds of antiwar actions were to take place, then the creation of a new society will be on the agenda, a new society based on human solidarity and an end to war forever. Bring it on.


12) Race and the Spotlight in Small-Town Louisiana
By Maria Newman
September 20, 2007

Tags: criminal justice, law enforcement, media, racism

Thousands of people are gathering in Jena, La., this morning to protest the jailing of six black teenagers accused of beating a white classmate, in an incident that some see as the culmination of racial strife that started on the first day of school a year ago.

Today’s crowd, led by several local and national civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, plans to march past Jena High School, and past the tree that is now just a stump, cut down by townspeople after it proved to be the trigger for the explosion of tension and violence that has landed this little town in the national spotlight.

The town of 3,500 people has never seen a crowd like this, and law enforcement officials have tried to accommodate the marchers by setting up traffic signals to direct people to the gathering spots, and temporary bathrooms at various points. The Town Talk, a newspaper in nearby Alexandria, details some of the arrangements.

The marchers say they are gathering because the six youths were treated too harshly, while the events that touched off the incident, which they contend were racist, went virtually unpunished. District Attorney Reed Walters denies that any racism was involved in the handling of the case.

The local newspaper, The Jena Times, has put together a chronology of this very complicated case. The account begins in August 2006, during a back-to-school assembly at Jena High School, when a student asked the assistant principal if black students would be allowed to sit under what had been known as the white tree in the school’s courtyard.

“You know you can sit anywhere you want,’’ answered Gawen Burgess, the assistant principal. The next morning, according to the account, two nooses were found hanging from the tree.

Most students did not even see the nooses before they were cut down, Still, school officials suspended three white students for their part in hanging the nooses. After some parents complained about the matter, the United States Attorney’s office and the F.B.I. investigated, but decided not to bring hate-crime charges against anyone.

Over the next few weeks and months, parents and some students continued to complain to officials about the nooses hung on the trees, which they said was an unambiguous gesture of racial intimidation. The news media picked up on the matter. Some white people in the town were quoted saying that the noose business was little more than a youthful prank. Fights erupted in the school, but officials said they were not necessarily related to the tree and nooses. In November, a fire broke out at the high school, which is being investigated as arson.

The high school was closed down for several days, and when classes resumed, in December, another fight broke out during the lunch hour. A white student, Justin Barker, was beaten and taken to the hospital. That is when the six black students were arrested.

Richard G. Jones wrote about the series of events in The New York Times on Wednesday. His first few paragraphs encapsulate what has become a nuanced tale:

“They called it the White Tree. Not because of the color of its leaves or tint of its bark, but because of the kind of people who typically sat beneath its shade here at Jena High School.

And when a black student tried to defy that tradition by sitting under the tree last September, it set off a series of events that have turned this town of 3,000 in central Louisiana’s timber country into a flashpoint over the issue of racial bias in the criminal justice system.

The white student was treated at a local hospital and released; the black students were charged, not with assault, but with attempted murder.”

As Mr. Jones writes, local civil rights groups have objected to the course the case has taken, calling it a “throwback to the worst kind of Deep South justice.”

Five of the black youths were charged as adults, after they allegedly knocked out classmate Justin Barker and stomped him during the school fight. One of the five, Mycahl Bell, has already been tried. He was 16 when the beating took place last December, and in June he was found guilty on second-degree battery charges by a six-member, all-white jury. (More about Mr. Bell in a minute.)

The LaSalle Parish District Attorney, Reed Walters, said in a statement Wednesday, published in the Town Talk, that he wanted to remind those coming into town that they should not forget the boy who was beaten.

“With all the focus on the defendants, many people seem to have forgotten that there was a victim,” he said with Mr. Barker and his parents, David and Kelli Barker, standing close behind him. “The injury that was done to him and the serious threat to his survival has become less than a footnote. But when you’re talking about justice and a criminal proceeding, you cannot forget the victim, and I will not.”

The case has drawn accusations far and wide that the prosecutors are biased.

The rock star David Bowie has gotten into the act, too, by saying he would donate $10,000 to a legal defense fund for the accused black teenagers, who have inevitably come to be called the Jena Six.

‘’There is clearly a separate and unequal judicial process going on in the town of Jena,'’ Mr. Bowie wrote Tuesday in an e-mail statement to The Associated Press. ‘’A donation to the Jena Six Legal Defense Fund is my small gesture indicating my belief that a wrongful charge and sentence should be prevented.'’

Last Friday, the state’s Third Circuit Court of Appeal overturned Mr. Bell’s conviction.

Mr. Bell’s lawyers have argued that their client was not old enough to be tried as an adult and that the maximum penalty that he faced –­ 22 years in prison –­ was excessive. In the wake of the growing public furor, prosecutors have reduced the charges against some of the other defendants who are awaiting trial as well.

Had his conviction stood, Mr. Bell was to have been sentenced on today, which is why rally organizers chose this date for their protest. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is also involved, as is the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Schools and many businesses in Jena are closed for the day. And of course, the city is full of television cameras.


13) Jena Update: Crowds, Activism and Outrage
By Maria Newman
September 20, 2007, 2:03 pm

Tags: protests, racism, violence
JenaMichael Torres of New Orleans stands with fellow demonstrators as they march in Jena, La., today to protest what they say is an injustice against six black teenagers, known as the Jena 6, charged with attempted murder of a white student. Protesters say the charges are a gross overreaction to a shoolyard fight in a school where racial tensions were running high; the authorities say the victim was blindsided with no chance to defend himself. (Sean Gardner/Reuters)

Richard G. Jones, a reporter for The New York Times, is in Jena, La., today, where protesters have converged in support of the six black youths arrested for beating a white classmate.

Their numbers are overwhelming the little town, he reports. There are crowds gathered peacefully at the city’s courthouse, at a nearby park, and at the high school that was at the center of the incident whose aftermath drew them here.

They came from far and near: Many of them rode buses all day and all night to get to this town where there was something called “the white tree.'’

Fanon Brown, 16, is one of them: He told Mr. Jones that he left Philadelphia at 3 a.m. Wednesday and got to Jena 27 hours later. He is here, he says, not just for the six black boys who were arrested for beating a white classmate after a series of incidents in the town, but for the larger things he said the case represents about race and justice in America:

I can’t believe that after all these years we still have deformities in our justice system. We have to free the Jena Six but we’ve got to go home and take care of this racism thing.’

Before this week, the major national news outlets had barely mentioned the chain of events in Jena that began more than a year ago, but word circulated through the Internet, in the e-mail and text messages that young people use these days to relay news to one another. Now, the story is on the national agenda, and even President Bush discussed it today with reporters:

“Events in Louisiana have saddened me,'’ he said at a press conference at the White House. “I understand the emotions. The Justice Department and the F.B.I. are monitoring the situation down there and all of us in America want there to be fairness when it comes to justice.'’

This is what the protesters in Jena today have been saying about the troubles here, which began when a black student asked the school’s assistant prinicipal whether he could sit under a tree in the center of Jena High School that was known as a whites-only gathering place, and was told he could. The next morning, there were two nooses found hanging from the tree.

Diana Jones traveled from Atlanta with her 17-year-old daughter April and her husband, Derrick. “Nobody should have to ask if they can sit under this tree,'’ Mrs. Jones told The Times. “I’m surprised to hear that this is still happening in 2007.'’

Another surprise to April and to young people like her, she said, were the polar opposite reactions that different people in Jena seemed to have to each event leading up to the arrests of the six boys.

“I just feel like every time the white people did something, they dropped it, and every time the black people did something, they blew it out of proportion,'’ she told Mr. Jones of The Times.

Two students from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette said they felt it was their turn to march for civil rights.

“This is the first time something like this has happened for our generation,'’ said Eric Depradine, 24, who is a senior. “You always heard about it from history books and relatives. This the chance to experience it for ourselves.'’

His schoolmate, Charley Caldwell Jr., 22, who is a sophomore, said he was amazed by details of the case.

“When I first heard about it, I thought it was obscene so I felt I had to come,'’ he said. “When we got here, there’s nothing but white people, and they aren’t using to seeing this many people of color.

“We’re here to free the Jena Six,'’ he continued, using the sobriquet people have emblazoned on T-shirts and signs on display today.

Latese Brown, 40, a social worker from Alexandria, La., about 40 miles from here, said: “I felt I needed to be here to support these kids. It’s about time we all stood together for something.'’

She said she was stunned at remarks on Wednesday by the district attorney, Walter Reed, who said he did not prosecute the students accused of hanging the nooses in the tree because he could find no Louisiana law they could be charged under.

“I cannot overemphasize what a villainous act that was,'’ he said about the nooses. “The people that did it should be ashamed of what they unleashed on this town.'’

As for the beatings, he said, four of the defendants were old enough to be considered adults under Louisiana law, and that one of the juveniles who were charged as adults, Mychal Bell, had a prior criminal record.

“It is not and never has been about race,” Mr. Walters said. “It is about finding justice for an innocent victim and holding people accountable for their actions.”

Ms. Brown expressed incredulity at Mr. Walters’ line of thinking: “If you can figure out how to make a school yard fight into an attempted murder charge, I’m sure you can figure out how to make stringing nooses into a hate crime.'’


14) In Jena, Racism is the Real Crime
By Bonnie Weinstein
September/October 2007

The following is a letter I wrote to Judge J.P. Mauffray, the judge in the case of the Jena Six. I wrote the letter on behalf of Bay Area United Against War, a very small Bay Area antiwar group I am affiliated with here in San Francisco.

Judge J.P. Mauffray

P.O. Box 1890

Jena, Louisiana 71342

RE: The Jena Six

Dear Judge Mauffray,

I am appalled to learn of the conviction of 16-year-old Jena High School football star Mychal Bell and the arrest of five other young Black men who are awaiting their day in court for alleged attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder charges evolving from a school fight. These young men, Mychal Bell, 16; Robert Bailey, 17; Theo Shaw, 17; Carwin Jones, 18; Bryant Purvis, 17; and Jesse Beard, 15, who have come to be known as the “Jena 6”, have the support of thousands of people around the country who want to see them free and back in school.

Clearly, two different standards are in place in Jena—one standard for white students who go free even though they did, indeed, make a death threat against Black students—the hanging of nooses from a tree that only white students are allowed to sit under—and another set of rules for those who defended themselves against these threats. The nooses were hung after Black students dared to sit in the shade of that “white only” tree!

If the court is sincerely interested in justice, it will drop the charges against all of these six students, reinstate them back into school and insist that the school teach the white students how wrong they were and still are for their racist attitudes and violent threats! It is the duty of the schools to uphold the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. A hanging noose or burning cross is just like a punch in the face or worse. So says the Supreme Court! Further, it is an act of vigilantism and has no place in a “democracy”.

The criminal here is white racism, not a few young men involved in a fistfight!

I am a 62-year-old white woman who grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Fistfights among teenagers—as you certainly must know yourself—are a rite of passage. Please don’t tell me you have never gotten into one. Even I picked a few fights with a few girls outside of school for no good reason. (We soon, in fact, became fast friends.) Children are not just smaller sized adults. They are children and go through this. The fistfight is normal and expected behavior that adults can use to educate children about the negative effect of the use of violence to solve disputes. That is what adults are supposed to do.

Hanging nooses in a tree because you hate Black people is not normal at all! It is a deep sickness that our schools and courts are responsible for unless they educate and act against it. This means you must overturn the conviction of Mychal Bell and drop the cases against Robert Bailey, Theo Shaw, Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis, and Jesse Beard.

It also means you must take responsibility to educate white teachers, administrators, students and their families against racism and order them to refrain from their racist behavior from here on out—and make sure it is carried out!

You are supposed to defend the students who want to share the shade of a leafy green tree not persecute them—that is the real crime that has been committed here!


Bonnie Weinstein, Bay Area United Against War


15) Armed Guards in Iraq Occupy a Legal Limbo
"For years, government officials and members of Congress have debated what has become in Iraq the most extensive use of private contractors on the battlefield since Renaissance princes hired private armies to fight their battles. The debate flares up after each lethal episode in Iraq, but there has been no agreement on how to police the private soldiers who roam Iraq in the employ of the United States government."
September 20, 2007

WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 — The shooting incident involving private security guards in Baghdad on Sunday that left at least eight Iraqis dead has revealed large gaps in the laws applying to such armed contractors.

Early in the period when Iraq was still under American administration, the United States government unilaterally exempted its employees and contractors from Iraqi law.

Last year, Congress instructed the Defense Department to draw up rules to bring the tens of thousands of contractors in Iraq under the American laws that apply to the military, but the Pentagon so far has not acted. Thus the thousands of heavily armed private soldiers in Iraq operate with virtual immunity from Iraqi and American law.

There have been numerous cases of killings or injuries of Iraqi civilians by employees of private military contractors, including Blackwater USA, the company involved in the shooting on Sunday.

Last December, a Blackwater gunman was reported, during an argument, to have killed a bodyguard for Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi.

He was whisked out of the country and has not been charged with any crime, said Peter W. Singer, a Brookings Institution scholar who has written extensively about contractors in Iraq.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq complained of killings of Iraqis “in cold blood” by American armed contractors. He said Sunday’s shooting was the seventh such case involving Blackwater. Iraq’s government is threatening to throw Blackwater out of the country, a move that would have a striking impact on American operations inside the country.

Publicly, the Bush administration has not said how it would respond if the Maliki government tries to carry out its threat to evict Blackwater, but administration officials and executives in the security contracting industry both said Wednesday that they believed that the White House and the State Department would seek to block any move by Iraq to force the company out.

The issue is already leading to sharp tensions between the governments, and any effort by the United States to force Iraq to keep Blackwater could make the Maliki government appear to be a weak puppet.

For years, government officials and members of Congress have debated what has become in Iraq the most extensive use of private contractors on the battlefield since Renaissance princes hired private armies to fight their battles. The debate flares up after each lethal episode in Iraq, but there has been no agreement on how to police the private soldiers who roam Iraq in the employ of the United States government.

Sunday’s shooting, which Iraqi officials have branded “a crime,” has led American authorities to suspend temporarily most uses of private contractors as traveling bodyguards, and it has put the issue of security contractors back on the front burner in Washington.

A Blackwater spokeswoman declined to comment Wednesday, but in an earlier statement, the company said that its employees “responded legally and appropriately to an attack by armed insurgents.”

Several members of Congress and nongovernment analysts said that the oversight of thousands of private military personnel was plainly inadequate and were urging passage of new laws governing contractors, particularly those carrying weapons. The laws governing contractors on the battlefield are vague and rarely enforced. Senators John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, successfully sponsored an amendment to a Pentagon budget bill last year to bring all military contractors in Iraq under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The bill did not include State Department contractors, like the Blackwater gunmen involved in Sunday’s shooting, but Senator Graham said Wednesday that he intended to try to extend its reach to all civilian contractors in Iraq and other war zones. While contractors are not subject to the military code, some argue they could be prosecuted for crimes abroad under civilian law, but in the case of Iraq, that has not been tested.

“If we go to war with this number of contractors in the war zone, thousands of them armed, you need application of U.C.M.J. to maintain good order and discipline,” said Senator Graham, who serves in the Air Force Reserve Judge Advocate General Corps.

“This is a real gap in discipline,” he added. “These people are on a legal island.”

In the House, meanwhile, Rep. John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who is chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, is pushing legislation that would require the secretary of defense to set new personnel standards for contractors and to establish clear rules of engagement for security contractors operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Murtha’s panel noted that “the oversight and administration of contracted security services is woefully inadequate.”

Even the trade association representing armed contractors called for new regulations to rein in contractors who abuse Iraqi civilians or violate the terms of their contracts with the United States government. “If you’re going to be outsourcing this much of our war-fighting capability, you have to have appropriate oversight,” said Doug Brooks, president of the International Peace Operations Association, which represents private military contractors including Blackwater.

Between 20,000 and 30,000 civilians work for the United States in Iraq as private military contractors, part of a civilian work force that equals or exceeds the more than 160,000-person military force there. The State Department employs about 2,500 private military personnel, chiefly to guard American diplomats and sensitive facilities there. The three prime security contractors for the State Department are Blackwater, DynCorp International and Triple Canopy. Many of their workers are former military Special Forces troops such as Navy Seals and members of the Army’s elite Delta Force.

Officials with other security companies said Wednesday that Blackwater now was the dominant contractor for State Department diplomatic security in Iraq, making it all but impossible for the State Department to operate without the company, at least in the short term. For the moment, the military will provide any security needed by the State Department in Iraq. But officials at other firms said that the State Department has in recent weeks awarded Blackwater another major contract, for helicopter-related services, a strong signal of the close relationship between the department and Blackwater.

“If all Blackwater personnel had to leave the country, there would be no one to provide security for the diplomatic mission in Baghdad, except the U.S. Army,” said an executive at another security firm, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a competitor. “My guess is that they will try to find a way to work this out. But there is no doubt there is a lot of raw feelings with the Iraqis.”

The United States government and the Iraqis on Wednesday formed a joint commission to review the case and propose steps to avoid a repeat. But a State Department official in Washington said Wednesday that it may be difficult to reconstruct the event and assign blame because of the unreliability of witnesses and the difficulty of conducting forensic studies in the midst of a war zone.

Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman, said at a briefing for reporters that he could not say what laws might apply to the Blackwater guards who fired until the facts are established.

“Until we have results of the investigation and know what facts we’re dealing with and know whether, in fact, any activities that might have violated laws occurred,” Mr. Casey said, “you can’t really deal with the question of who would have specific jurisdiction or how you would resolve issues of competing jurisdiction that might be out there.”


16) Cholera Case Reported in Baghdad
[Invasion, war, occupation, the spread of disease, the theft of land and resources—does anyone see a pattern?]
September 20, 2007

BAGHDAD, Sept. 20 — Iraqi health officials confirmed the first cases of cholera in Baghdad today, in a sign that an epidemic that has infected approximately 7,000 people in northern Iraq is spreading south through the country’s decrepit and unsanitary water system.

The World Health Organization and the Iraqi Red Crescent Society said they had confirmed at least one case of cholera in Baghdad, though Iraq’s Ministry of Health did not confirm it. Hospital sources said there could be at least two other confirmed infections, connected to a death in Kut and one in Tikrit.

Officials said there was a further possible outbreak in Diyala, a fraught area north of Baghdad, and in Kut, southeast of Baghdad.The World Health Organization has already reported an outbreak of the disease in the northern cities of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniya, and 10 people are known to have died. But the disease is now moving from the north into more unstable areas of the country where it could be even harder to treat and contain.

“It is already endemic in some parts of Iraq, but when it is growing and moving, that’s when it becomes an epidemic,” said Dr. Naeema al-Gasseer, the World Health Organization’s representative for Iraq. The organization said there was laboratory confirmation of the disease in a 25-year-old woman living in Baghdad.

Cholera is fairly simple to treat under normal circumstances, but the war in Iraq makes it far more difficult to contain. The mass displacement of the population has pushed many people into unsanitary living conditions, where food and water can become tainted with sewage and spread the cholera bacteria.

Kamar el-Jadi, head of the health department for the Red Crescent Society in Baghdad, said cholera was spreading because some people embraced unsanitary living conditions, and she criticized the government for not responding properly.

“They like to live and eat in the rubbish,” she said. “I don’t know how they can eat in these bad conditions.”

She added: “The government is doing nothing. They don’t have a program. They have done nothing against this disease.”

Health officials at the Red Crescent had earlier predicted that cases would begin turning up in Baghdad in late September or early October, when temperatures are especially favorable for the bacteria, Vibrio cholerae, which infects the intestines. People contract cholera by drinking water or eating food contaminated with the bacteria, which comes from the feces of an infected person.

Iraq’s deputy health minister, Dr. Adel Mohsin, said last week that further spread of the epidemic was very likely unless government agencies followed strict guidelines on water testing and maintaining sufficient levels of chlorination to kill the bacteria.

But Dr. Mohsin said that chlorine imports had been severely curtailed as a result of recent insurgent bombs that had used chlorine.

The Red Crescent has said that shallow wells contaminated by sewage around Sulaimaniya — which had at least two cholera outbreaks in the decades before the American-led invasion in 2003 — could have set off the epidemic. But problems that have developed since the invasion, like poor control of chlorination levels, have the potential to make this outbreak more dangerous, the Red Crescent said.

Officials focusing on Baghdad are trying to figure out how to ward off an epidemic when it is too dangerous for health workers to easily move about the city.

World Health Organization officials advising the Iraqi government said Baghdad might need to set up response teams in each separate district, rather than trying to work with a centralized response unit.

Cholera can be mild or even have no symptoms, but about one in 20 infected people become extremely ill, with profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting and leg cramps. Without treatment, rapid loss of body fluids causes dehydration and shock, and a person can die within hours.

Cholera does not usually spread directly from person to person, so casual contact with infected people is not risky, and quarantine is not necessary. But those in close contact, like members of a household, are at risk.

Graham Bowley contributed reporting from New York.


17) Indigenous Peoples Message to the U.S. antiwar movement
From: Siri Margerin

We call on the U.S. antiwar movement to acknowledge that the very establishment of the United States and it's expansion was built on the genocide against the First Nations/Indigenous Peoples of the continent, along with the enslavement of African peoples.

Iraq (and the over 170 countries that have a presence of U.S. military) is just a continuation of "Manifest Destiny" which cleared the continent for settler colonization. Thus it's not a "mistake" of U.S. policy, but is at the core of the very foundation of the U.S. from it's beginnings continuing thru to today.

Thus, we say that the antiwar mobilizations that are taking place in Autumn 2007 (Sept 15, Sept 29, Oct 27 et. al) should/must

1)have an indigenous person opening the events ackowledging the above history and it's continuation into the present day and how U.S. history is linked to today's war(s).

2)that there be an organized and visible collective presence of contingents focused on indigenous peoples concerns at the mobilizations along with that presence being also on the websites, press releases, media spokespeople, et. al of these groups/mobilizations.

3)that the indigenous names of cities/towns in the various indigenous languages be acknowledged by also being mentioned to remind people of the indigenous origins of this land (for example "Manatay" for what is now called Manhattan ) along with the peoples (for example: Lenape (& others)) and the original languages.


17) Making a killing: how private armies became a $120bn global industry
By Daniel Howden and Leonard Doyle in Washington
Published: 21 September 2007

In Nigeria, corporate commandos exchange fire with local rebels attacking an oil platform. In Afghanistan, private bodyguards help to foil yet another assassination attempt on President Hamid Karzai. In Colombia, a contracted pilot comes under fire from guerrillas while spraying coca fields with pesticides. On the border between Iraq and Iran, privately owned Apache helicopters deliver US special forces to a covert operation.

This is a snapshot of a working day in the burgeoning world of private military companies, arguably the fastest-growing industry in the global economy. The sector is now worth up to $120bn annually with operations in at least 50 countries, according to Peter Singer, a security analyst with the Brookings Institution in Washington.

"The rate of growth in the security industry has been phenomenal," says Deborah Avant, a professor of political science at UCLA. The single largest spur to this boom is the conflict in Iraq.

The workings of this industry have come under intense scrutiny this week in the angry aftermath of the killing of Iraqi civilians by the US-owned Blackwater corporation in Baghdad. The Iraqi government has demanded the North Carolina-based company is withdrawn. But with Blackwater responsible for the protection of hundreds of senior US and Iraqi officials, from the US ambassador to visiting congressional delegations, there is certainty in diplomatic and military circles that this will not happen.

The origins of these shadow armies trace back to the early 1990s and the end of the Cold War, Bob Ayers, a security expert with Chatham House in London, explains: "In the good old days of the Cold War there were two superpowers who kept a lid on everything in their respective parts of the world."

He likens the collapse of the Soviet Union to "taking the lid off a pressure cooker". What we have seen since, he says, is the rise of international dissident groups, ultranationalists and multiple threats to global security.

The new era also saw a significant reduction in the size of the standing armies, at the same time as a rise in global insecurity which increased both the availability of military expertise and the demand for it. It was a business opportunity that could not be ignored.

Now the mercenary trade comes with its own business jargon. Guns for hire come under the umbrella term of privatised military firms, with their own acronym PMFs. The industry itself has done everything it can to shed the "mercenary" tag and most companies avoid the term "military" in preference for "security". "The term mercenary is not accurate," says Mr Ayers, who argues that military personnel in defensive roles should be distinguished from soldiers of fortune.

There is nothing new about soldiers for hire, the private companies simply represent the trade in a new form. "Organised as business entities and structured along corporate lines, they mark the corporate evolution of the mercenary trade," according to Mr Singer, who was among the first to plot the worldwide explosion in the use of private military firms.

In many ways it mirrors broader trends in the world economy as countries switch from manufacturing to services and outsource functions once thought to be the preserve of the state. Iraq has become a testing ground for this burgeoning industry, creating staggering financial opportunities and equally immense ethical dilemmas.

None of the estimated 48,000 private military operatives in Iraq has been convicted of a crime and no one knows how many Iraqis have been killed by private military forces, because the US does not keep records.

According to some estimates, more than 800 private military employees have been killed in the war so far, and as many as 3,300 wounded.

These numbers are greater than the losses suffered by any single US army division and larger than the casualties suffered by the rest of the coalition put together.

A high-ranking US military commander in Iraq said: "These guys run loose in this country and do stupid stuff. There's no authority over them, so you can't come down on them hard when they escalate force. They shoot people."

In Abu Ghraib, all of the translators and up to half of the interrogators were reportedly private contractors.

Private soldiers are involved in all stages of war, from training and war-gaming before the invasion to delivering supplies. Camp Doha in Kuwait, the launch-pad for the invasion, was built by private contractors.

It is not just the military that has turned to the private sector, humanitarian agencies are dependent on PMFs in almost every war zone from Bosnia to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Which raises the next market the industry would like to see opened: peacekeeping. And the lobbying has already begun.


18) Dollar Goes Loonie
September 20, 2007 -- 5:58 p.m. EDT
Wall Street Journal
Sent by: Walter Lippmann

Surging prices of oil and gold, and the increasingly enervated U.S.
dollar, have fanned inflation worries after Tuesday's interest rate

After tumbling through a psychological barricade against the euro,
the dollar also plunged to near parity with the Canadian dollar
Thursday. The dollar briefly sank to C$0.9998, marking the first time
since 1976 that the U.S. currency fell below parity with its northern
neighbor. (In late New York trading the Canadian dollar was still
dancing around levels roughly even to the U.S. dollar.) The U.S.
dollar's slide is partly an off-shoot of the Federal Reserve's
decision to lop a half percentage point off its benchmark
federal-funds rate two days ago. While Fed chief Ben Bernanke's move
to hack away at the rate was welcomed on Wall Street, it also served
to make it less appealing to hold dollar-denominated assets by
cutting their cash yield. Coupled with the rate cut, the weaker
dollar combines for various potential effects, including making
imports pricier and raising risks of inflation while also making it
easier for American companies to sell overseas. CIBC World Markets
analysts say the dollar's retreat against the Canadian currency in
particular points to the boom in commodities, which are a key
component of the Canadian economy. "Whether it's the exchange rate,
the stock market, or housing prices, asset markets are all painting
the same picture. Canada is getting richer relative to the U.S.
Ultimately that's about the economy," they wrote.

Whatever is driving the dollar lower, many observers expect it to
lose even more strength. Adding to pressure on the buck was Saudi
Arabia's decision to keep interest rates on hold this week, rather
than cutting as it often does in lockstep with the Fed. The kingdom's
currency is basically pegged to the dollar, and the fact that it
hasn't followed the Fed's cut with one of its own "has many
speculating that they are moving closer to removing the dollar peg,"
said Camilla Sutton, currency strategist at Scotia Capital in
Toronto. If the Saudis do clip their tight ties to the dollar, Ms.
Sutton says, "it would cause both a psychological and real drop in
demand for the dollar-denominated assets, which would be U.S.-dollar
bearish." Likewise, BNP Paribas analysts divined more weakness
against European currencies and noted that "the U.S. dollar index
risks breaking its historical 1992 low, which would intensify the
bearish U.S. dollar tone." The global head of currency research at
Lehman Brothers in London, Jim McCormick, agrees, saying "one thing
that should be clear is that the rate cut was not dollar friendly.
Historically, the worst combination for the dollar has been when U.S.
yields have fallen vis-a-vis other currencies and equities and
commodities have been rallying." He added that "this is precisely the
mix that had been building in recent days and one that should persist
in the coming weeks."

* * *

Stocks Slip, Oil Surges, Dollar Drops

Stocks fell slightly, after the mixed earnings reports from Goldman
Sachs and Bear Stearns and two days of gains inspired by the
federal-funds rate cut. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 48.86
to 13766.70, and the Standard & Poor's 500 fell 10.28 to 1518.75. The
Nasdaq Composite Index ended down 12.19 to 2654.29. Treasuries fell,
with the benchmark 10-year note down to yield 4.671%. The 30-year
bond dropped too, yielding 4.945%. Crude-oil futures rose $1.39 to
$83.32 a barrel, their fourth consecutive record close. Crude is now
up 36% year-to-date. The dollar weakened, with the euro breaking
through the psychologically important $1.40 mark. The dollar also
weakened against the yen. Most Asian market indexes advanced
modestly. European shares slipped.


19) More Than $1B Needed to Make Forbes List
September 21, 2007
Filed at 12:50 a.m. ET
Complete list at:

NEW YORK (AP) -- A billion dollars just doesn't go as far as it used to. For the first time, it takes more than $1 billion to earn a spot on Forbes magazine's list of the 400 richest Americans. The minimum net worth for inclusion in this year's rankings released Thursday was $1.3 billion, up $300 million from last year.

The new threshold meant 82 of America's billionaires didn't make the cut.

Collectively, the people who made the rankings released Thursday are worth $1.54 trillion, compared with $1.25 trillion last year.

The very top of the list was unchanged: Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates led the list for the 14th straight year, this time with a net worth estimated at $59 billion. He was followed by Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. in second place with an estimated $52 billion and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, No. 3 with an estimated worth of $28 billion.

Larry Ellison of Oracle Corp. maintained his ranking at No. 4, with an estimated net worth of $26 billion.

But the list showed some notable changes.

Joining the top 10 of the country's richest for the first time were Google Inc. founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who tied for fifth place. The 34-year-old moguls' wealth has quadrupled since 2004 to an estimated $18.5 billion this year, while their company's stock value has surged 500 percent.

And, lower down, almost half of the 45 newcomers made their millions in hedge funds and private equity investments. The youngest member of this year's list was 33-year-old hedge fund manager John Arnold, who joined the ranks at No. 317 and a net worth of $1.5 billion.

''Wall Street really led the charge this year,'' said Matthew Miller, editor of the Forbes list. ''God only knows if they'll be on it next year. It really just depends on what the market does.''

Surging oil prices also helped some members of the list. Oil baron brothers Charles and David Koch also broke into the top 10, sharing the No. 9 spot with estimated wealth of $17 billion. Their ascension bumped the Walton family, heirs to the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. fortune, from the top 10 for the first time since 1989.

The discount retailer, struggling with a slowing economy and higher gasoline prices as well as merchandising mishaps, has seen its sales lag behind rivals like Target Corp.

Climbing 19 rungs to No. 7 was casino tycoon Kirk Kerkorian, who doubled his net worth to an estimated $18 billion. The 90-year-old investor is a majority shareholder in MGM Mirage -- operator of the MGM Grand, Bellagio and other casinos -- which saw record profits at several of its Las Vegas hotel-casinos.

Rounding out the top 10 was Michael Dell of computer maker Dell Inc., who was No. 8 with an estimated $17.2 billion.

The magazine confirmed the worth of an individual's holdings in public companies by using the Aug. 31 closing stock price, and estimated the value of private companies by evaluating comparable public firms in the industry. The list also takes into account philanthropic donations.


20) Guards’ Shots Not Provoked, Iraq Concludes
September 21, 2007

BAGHDAD, Sept. 21 — Iraq’s Ministry of Interior has concluded that employees of a private American security firm fired an unprovoked barrage in the shooting last Sunday in which at least eight Iraqis were killed and is proposing a radical reshaping of the way American diplomats and contractors here are protected.

The conclusion was reached before the U.S. Embassy announced today that convoys secured by Blackwater USA, which had all but stopped on Tuesday, had begun to leave the Green Zone again.

“It is very limited and all missions need to be pre-approved,” said Mirembe Nantongo, an American Embassy spokeswoman, according to Agence France-Presse. “The decision was taken by us in consultation with the Iraqi government.”

The shooting incident seriously handicapped the daily operations of the State Department at a time when the focus of the American effort here has shifted to outreach to tribes, local leaders and ordinary citizens in neighborhoods.

In the first comprehensive account of the day’s events, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior said that security guards for Blackwater, a company that guards all senior American diplomats here, fired on Iraqis in their cars in midday traffic.

The document concludes that the dozens of foreign security companies here should be replaced by Iraqi companies, and that a law that has given the companies immunity for years be scrapped.

Four days after the shooting, American officials said they were still preparing their own forensic analysis of what happened in Nisour Square. They have repeatedly declined to give any details before their work is finished.

Privately, those officials have warned against drawing conclusions before American investigators have finished interviewing the Blackwater guards. In the Interior Ministry account — made available to The New York Times on Thursday — Iraqi investigators interviewed many witnesses but relied on the testimony of the people they considered to be the four most credible.

The account says that as soon as the guards took positions in four locations in the square, they began shooting south, killing a driver who had failed to heed a traffic policeman’s call to stop.

“The Blackwater company is considered 100 percent guilty through this investigation,” the report concludes.

The shooting enraged Iraqis, in part because they feel powerless to bring the security companies to account.

“What happened in Al Nisour was that citizens felt their dignity was destroyed,” Jawad al-Bolani, Iraq’s interior minister, said in an interview. The Iraqi “looks at the state and wonders if it can bring him back his rights.”

“It’s important that the company show its respect to the law and Iraqi law,” he said in an interview on Thursday. “Iraqi citizens need to see good treatment, especially when they operate on Iraqi soil.”

And while Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has demanded that the State Department drop Blackwater as its protector, security industry experts say that such an outcome is highly unlikely because American officials rely heavily on the company, setting the two sides on a diplomatic collision course. The Iraqi version of events may be self-serving in some points. The ministry report states that no Iraqis fired at the Blackwater guards, even though several witnesses in recent days have said that Iraqi commandos in a watchtower did. Blackwater, in its first and only statement, said militants had ambushed its guards.

If the accounts of Iraqi gunfire from the tower are accurate, a central question is when the Iraqis in the tower began to shoot. As the Americans investigate and build their case, it will probably hinge on timing and on the interpretation of the various sources of gunfire. Ms. Nantongo, hinted at that in a conference call on Thursday.

“Right, they came under fire, but what is the sequence of events?” she said.

The Interior Ministry report recommends scrapping Order No. 17, the rule that was written by American administrators before Iraqis took over the running of their own government and gives private security companies immunity from Iraqi law. It recommends applying criminal law No. 111, part of Iraq’s penal code that was issued in 1969.

Another of the report’s recommendations is for the company to pay compensation to the families of the dead.

Perhaps the part that will bring the most debate is the recommendation to limit foreign security companies.

“We recommend replacing all the foreign security companies with Iraqi security companies in the future,” it said. “These American companies were established in a time when there was no authority or Constitution.”

But even if the government succeeds in changing the rules, it will have difficulty enforcing them. Four private security companies, all Iraqi, have been prohibited from working in past years, but all of them continued operating by changing their names, according to a former security contractor.

“How are they going to enforce what they come up with?” the contractor said.

Blackwater had been operating without a license for more than a year, though it had made an attempt to register this spring. Mr. Bolani said that the government was not moving forward with its registration, but that not being registered would not set the company apart from many other foreign security companies operating here. Only 23 foreign companies have licenses, Mr. Bolani said.

The report said that Mr. Maliki had “demanded” that the State Department drop Blackwater as a protector, “for the sake of the two nations’ reputation.”

In the Interior Ministry’s version of that day, the events began unfolding when a bomb exploded shortly before noon near the unfinished Rahman Mosque, about a mile north of Nisour Square. Embassy officials have said the convoy was responding to the bomb, but it is still unclear whether it was carrying officials away from the bomb scene, driving toward it to pick someone up or simply providing support.

Whatever their mission, and whoever was inside, the convoy of at least four sport utility vehicles steered onto the square just after noon and took positions that blocked the flow of midday traffic in three directions. But one family’s car, approaching from the south along Yarmouk Street, apparently did not stop quickly enough, and the Blackwater guards opened fire, killing the man who was driving, the ministry account says.

“The woman next to the driver had a baby in her arms,” said an official who shared the report, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to share it. “She started to scream. They shot her,” the official said, adding that the guards then fired what appeared to be grenades or pump guns into the car as it continued to move. The car caught fire.

“The car kept rolling, so they burned it,” the official said.

The account said that the guards entered the square shooting, although Ali Khalaf, a traffic policeman who watched events from a flimsy white traffic booth on the edge of the square and spoke in an interview on Thursday, said a guard got out of the sport utility vehicle and fired.

Mr. Khalaf, who has also been interviewed by American investigators, spoke standing near his traffic booth on Thursday afternoon. He said that he had tried to reach the woman in the seconds after the man she was riding with was shot. But a Blackwater guard killed the woman before he could reach her, Mr. Khalaf said.

What is still unknown is when, or if, Iraqi security forces stationed in at least two compounds adjacent to the square began firing their own weapons.

If the Iraqis began firing early in the episode, investigators could conclude that the Blackwater guards believed they were under attack and were justified in conducting what they might have considered to be a counterattack. Some of the casualties could also have been caused by bullets fired by Iraqis.

Mr. Khalaf, though, said that he never fired a shot. When one of the American investigators asked why he did not fire at the Blackwater convoy, Mr. Khalaf said, his answer was simple.

“I told him I am not authorized to shoot, and my job is to look after the traffic,” Mr. Khalaf said.

Ahmad Fadam and Kareem Hilmi contributed reporting. Mike Nizza contributed from New York.


21) Louisiana Protest Echoes the Civil Rights Era
September 21, 2007

JENA, La., Sept. 20 — In a slow-moving march that filled streets, spilled onto sidewalks and stretched for miles, more than 10,000 [all first hand reports I have seen have given the figure of at least 20,] demonstrators rallied Thursday in this small town to protest the treatment of six black teenagers arrested in the beating of a white schoolmate last year.

Chanting slogans from the civil rights era and waving signs, protesters from around the nation converged in central Louisiana, where the charges have made this otherwise anonymous town of 3,000 people a high-profile arena in the debate on racial bias in the judicial system.

“That’s not prosecution, that’s persecution,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the founder of the RainbowPUSH Coalition and an organizer of the demonstration, told a crowd in front of the LaSalle Parish Courthouse. “We will not stop marching until justice runs down like waters.”

The Jena High School students, known as the Jena Six, are part of a court case that began in December, when they were accused of beating a white classmate unconscious and kicking him and a prosecutor charged them with attempted murder.

The beating was preceded by racially charged incidents at the high school, including nooses hanging from an oak tree that some students felt was just for white students. The tree has been cut down.

One student, Mychal Bell, 17, was convicted in June of aggravated battery and conspiracy. Those charges were voided by appeals courts, most recently last Friday. Mr. Bell has not been released from jail.

Even as demonstrators marched in Jena, which is 85 percent white, an appellate court ordered an emergency hearing to determine why Mr. Bell had not been released.

Mr. Bell is the sole student who has had a trial. Amid pressure from critics, prosecutors have gradually scaled back many charges against the other five.

Although the starting incident occurred about a year ago, the case has been slow to join the national conversation. After Mr. Bell’s conviction, though, the details spread quickly on the Internet, text messaging and black talk radio.

The case has drawn the attention of President Bush, who said to reporters in Washington on Thursday, “Events in Louisiana have saddened me.”

“I understand the emotions,” Mr. Bush said. “The Justice Department and the F.B.I. are monitoring the situation down there, and all of us in America want there to be fairness when it comes to justice.”

Students, particularly those at historically black colleges, have also had a pivotal role in spreading the details. They poured into town after all-night bus rides. Many said they were happy to pick up the torch of the civil rights struggle.

“This is the first time something like this has happened for our generation,” said Eric Depradine, 24, a senior at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “You always heard about it from history books and relatives. This is a chance to experience it for ourselves.”

A sophomore schoolmate, Charley Caldwell Jr., 22, said he was moved to attend the rally by the details of the case.

“When I first heard about it,” Mr. Caldwell said, “I thought it was obscene. So I felt I had to come. When we got here, there’s nothing but white people, and they aren’t used to seeing this many people of color.”

The case also resonates for people not in college.

April Jones, 17, who traveled from Atlanta, with her parents, Diana and Derrick, said she saw the problem as one of basic fairness. Ms. Jones could not understand why the students who hung the nooses were not punished severely.

The students were briefly suspended. District Attorney J. Reed Walters said Wednesday that the action did not appear to violate any state laws.

“I just feel like every time the white people did something,” Ms. Jones said, “they dropped it, and every time the black people did something, they blew it out of proportion.”

Mr. Walters sharply criticized the nooses on Wednesday, saying: “I cannot overemphasize what a villainous act that was. The people that did it should be ashamed of what they unleashed on this town.”

A marcher, Latese Brown, 40, of Alexandria, said, “If you can figure out how to make a school yard fight into an attempted murder charge, I’m sure you can figure out how to make stringing nooses into a hate crime.”


22) Doctors Blast [ABC's 20/20] Stossel and Westin,"Blatantly Biased, Inaccurate and Misleading."
The Huffington Post
Posted September 21, 2007 | 11:54 AM (EST)

A respected group of doctors, medical educators, health professionals and scholars, whose interest in Cuba is professional, not political, blasted John Stossel's 20/20 report last Friday.

* Eleven doctor and other health professionals sent the strongly worded letter to the President of ABC News protesting, "The piece is blatantly biased, inaccurate and misleading. Both the news and medical professions are evidence-based, so we were aghast to see 20/20 report as fact things that simply are not true."

Neither Mr.Westin or Mr. Stossel would comment on the charges." (See my earlier post: What Has John Stossel Been Smoking?

The letter continued, "We are troubled by the fact that the Stossel report appears to start with a political bias - Cuba is a poor, communist country, so it can't possibly have a successful health care system - that ignores facts that deviate from the premise.

"We are compelled to set the record straight.

"We do not intend to promote Cuba's health care system as a "model" for the U.S. to adopt, but, to its credit, this small, resource-poor nation does make health care available to all its citizens, with no price tag attached. Colin Powell acknowledged as much in his confirmation hearing as Secretary of State in 2001. The 20/20 report disparages the key lesson of the Cuban health care experience: that even the poorest society or community can guarantee its people access to health care and improve their lives by making health a serious priority. That's both a lesson and a challenge to our own country. (See my previous post: Cuba Has Better Medical Care Than the U.S.)

"About the report itself: Most astonishing is the complete absence of balance. Mr. Stossel did not seek comments from working health professionals in Cuba; instead, he cites as fact the opinions of one sector of Cuban exiles in Miami. The only organization he cites to refute the claims of "Sicko" director Michael Moore was the Central Intelligence Agency (which differed with Cuban government statistics on life expectancy by less than one year).

"Finally, the photographs shown are taken from an unabashedly biased and dubious blog run by Cuban exiles.

"More importantly, the so-called facts Mr. Stossel presents are just plain wrong.

--- Cuba's health statistics are not "made up" by government officials to portray a false, glowing picture of public health. In fact, the country admits that maternal deaths are still a problem, as are increased threats from diabetes, obesity and rising rates of several cancers. The 20/20 piece dismisses the validity of statistics from the United Nations and the World Health Organization because they come from Cuban health officials, but Mr. Stossel fails to mention that this is how UN statistics are gathered from all countries. Nor does he bother to point out that other sources such as the Pan American Health Organization, which maintain permanent offices in Havana, and regularly send evaluation teams to Cuba, have issued positive reports after firsthand assessments from making their own trips to provinces across the country.

Many of us have also witnessed how Cuban health statistics are put together, and have direct knowledge of the Ministry of Public Health's Statistics Department and the Health Tendencies Analysis Unit, which teamed up with PAHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during a neuropathy epidemic in Cuba some years ago.

--- Cuba's economic problems during the 1990s resulted in the physical deterioration of many of its hospitals. However, 52 of these hospitals are now undergoing needed repairs and remodeling. Although Mr. Moore and his 9/11 responders did go to one of the refurbished facilities, this hospital serves 156,000 people living in one of Havana's most overcrowded neighborhoods. It is not a hospital reserved for government elites or foreigners.

--- The claim that Cuban women are commonly subjected to forced abortions is patently false. By law, abortion in Cuba is accessible and free. But for years, abortion rates have been dropping, not climbing. When congenital malformations occur during pregnancy, women are informed of their options and permitted to make a personal decision, as they are in many other countries. In fact, entire facilities such as the Children's Heart Center in Havana and a national network of special schools are dedicated to children who are born with congenital problems.

"When it comes to health care, Cuba manages to do a lot with a little, scoring comparably with the United States on many health indicators at a fraction of the cost. A Gallup Poll conducted last year revealed that 96 percent of Cuban citizens said they had regular access to health care, no matter who they were or what their income.

"We urge ABC NEWS to correct the false statements and impressions presented in Mr. Stossel's report."


Peter G. Bourne, MD, MA - Chair, MEDICC Board of Directors - Visiting Scholar at Green College, Oxford University.

Alfred W. Brann Jr., MD - Professor of Pediatrics, Emory University School of Medicine

Harry E. Douglas III, DPA (Retired) - former Executive Vice President and former Interim President, Charles Drew University of Medicine & Science. Chair, Board of Regents, Southern California University of Health Sciences

Dabney Evans, MPH, CHES - Department of Global Health, Emory University
Rollins School of Public Health

Jean Handy, PhD - Associate Director of Microbiology and Immunology, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill

C. William Keck, MD, MPH, FACPM - Professor and Associate Dean, Northwestern Ohio Universities College of Medicine (NEOUCOM), past president - American Public Health Association

Albert S. Kuperman, PhD - Associate Dean for Educational Affairs, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, USA

F. Javier Nieto, MD, PhD - Professor and Chair, Department of Population Health Sciences,
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

Gail A. Reed, MS - International Director, MEDICC

Patricia Rodney, RN, MPH, PhD - Director MPH Program & Associate Professor
Morehouse School of Medicine Master of Public Health Program

Ronald K. St. John, MD, MPH - CEO & President, Global Health News Network Corporation


23) Profits Rise as Care Slips at Nursing Homes
September 23, 2007

Habana Health Care Center, a 150-bed nursing home in Tampa, Fla., was struggling when a group of large private investment firms purchased it and 48 other nursing homes in 2002.

The Habana center quickly became a moneymaker for its investors as managers, hired by another company, cut costs. Within months, the number of clinical registered nurses at the home was half what it had been a year earlier, records collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services indicate. Budgets for nursing supplies, resident activities and other services also fell, according to Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration.

The investors and operators were soon earning millions of dollars a year from their 49 homes.

Residents fared less well. Over three years, 15 at Habana died from what their families contend was negligent care in lawsuits filed in state court. Regulators repeatedly warned the home that staffing levels were below mandatory minimums. When regulators visited, they found malfunctioning fire doors, unhygienic kitchens and a resident using a leg brace that was broken.

“They’ve created a hellhole,” said Vivian Hewitt, who sued Habana in 2004 when her mother died after a large bedsore became infected by feces.

Habana is one of thousands of nursing homes across the nation that large Wall Street investment companies have bought or agreed to acquire in recent years.

Those investors include prominent private equity firms like Warburg Pincus and the Carlyle Group, better known for buying companies like Dunkin’ Donuts.

As such investors have acquired nursing homes, they have often reduced costs, increased profits and quickly resold facilities for significant gains.

But by many regulatory benchmarks, residents at those nursing homes are worse off, on average, than they were under previous owners, according to an analysis by The New York Times of data collected by government agencies from 2000 to 2006.

The Times analysis shows that, as at Habana, managers at many other nursing homes acquired by large private investors have cut jobs and other expenses, sometimes below minimum legal requirements.

Regulators say residents at these homes have suffered. At facilities owned by private investment firms, residents on average have fared more poorly than occupants of other homes in common problems like depression, loss of mobility and loss of ability to dress and bathe themselves, according to data collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The typical nursing home acquired by a large investment company before 2006 scored worse than national rates in 12 of 14 indicators that regulators use to track ailments of long-term residents. Those ailments include bedsores and easily preventable infections, as well as the need to use restraints. Before they were acquired by private investors, many of those homes scored at or above national averages in similar measurements.

In the past, residents’ families often responded to such declines in care by suing, and regulators levied heavy fines against nursing home chains where understaffing led to lapses in care.

But private investment companies have made it very difficult for plaintiffs to succeed in court and for regulators to levy chainwide fines by creating complex corporate structures that obscure who controls their nursing homes.

By contrast, publicly owned nursing home chains are essentially required to disclose who controls their facilities in securities filings and other regulatory documents.

The Byzantine structures established at homes owned by private investment firms also make it harder for regulators to know if one company is responsible for multiple centers. And the structures help owners bypass rules that require them to report when they, in effect, pay themselves from programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

Investors in these homes say such structures are common in other businesses and have helped them revive an industry that was on the brink of widespread bankruptcy.

“Lawyers were convincing nursing home residents to sue over almost anything,” said Arnold M. Whitman, a principal with the fund that bought Habana in 2002, Formation Properties I.

Homes were closing because of ballooning litigation costs, he said. So investors like Mr. Whitman created corporate structures that insulated them from costly lawsuits, his company said.

“We should be recognized for supporting this industry when almost everyone else was running away,” Mr. Whitman said in an interview.

Some families of residents say those structures unjustly protect investors who profit while care declines.

When Mrs. Hewitt sued Habana over her mother’s death, for example, she found that the home’s owners and managers had spread control of Habana among 15 companies and five layers of firms.

As a result, Mrs. Hewitt’s lawyer, like many others confronting privately owned homes, has been unable to definitively establish who was responsible for her mother’s care.

Current staff members at Habana declined to comment. Formation Properties I said it owned only Habana’s real estate and leased it to an independent company, and thus bore no responsibility for resident care.

That independent company — Florida Health Care Properties, which eventually became Epsilon Health Care Properties and subleased the home’s operation to Tampa Health Care Associates — is affiliated with Warburg Pincus, one of the world’s largest private equity firms. Warburg Pincus, Florida Health Care, Epsilon and Tampa Health Care all declined to comment.

Demand for Nursing Homes

The graying of America has presented financial opportunities for all kinds of businesses. Nursing homes, which received more than $75 billion last year from taxpayer programs like Medicare and Medicaid, offer some of the biggest rewards.

“There’s essentially unlimited consumer demand as the baby boomers age,” said Ronald E. Silva, president and chief executive of Fillmore Capital Partners, which paid $1.8 billion last year to buy one of the nation’s largest nursing home chains. “I’ve never seen a surer bet.”

For years, investors shunned nursing home companies as the industry was battered by bankruptcies, expensive lawsuits and regulatory investigations.

But in recent years, private equity firms have agreed to buy 6 of the nation’s 10 largest nursing home chains, containing over 141,000 beds, or 9 percent of the nation’s total. Private investment groups own at least another 60,000 beds at smaller chains and are expected to acquire many more companies as firms come under shareholder pressure to sell.

The typical large chain owned by an investment company in 2005 earned profit of $1,700 a resident, according to reports filed by the facilities. Those homes, on average, were 41 percent more profitable than the average home.

But, as in the case of Habana, cutting costs has become an issue at homes owned by large investment groups.

“The first thing owners do is lay off nurses and other staff that are essential to keeping patients safe,” said Charlene Harrington, a professor at the University of California in San Francisco who studies nursing homes. In her opinion, she added, “chains have made a lot of money by cutting nurses, but it’s at the cost of human lives.”

The Times’s analysis of records collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reveals that at 60 percent of homes bought by large private equity groups from 2000 to 2006, managers have cut the number of clinical registered nurses, sometimes far below levels required by law. (At 19 percent of those homes, staffing has remained relatively constant, though often below national averages. At 21 percent, staffing rose significantly, though even those homes were typically below national averages.) During that period, staffing at many of the nation’s other homes has fallen much less or grown.

Nurses are often residents’ primary medical providers. In 2002, the Department of Health and Human Services said most nursing home residents needed at least 1.3 hours of care a day from a registered or licensed practical nurse. The average home was close to meeting that last year, according to data.

But homes owned by large investment companies typically provided only one hour of care a day, according to The Times’s analysis of records collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

For the most highly trained nurses, ratios were worse: Homes owned by large private investment firms provided 1 clinical registered nurse for every 20 residents, 35 percent below the national average, the analysis showed.

Regulators with state and federal health care agencies have cited those staffing deficiencies alongside some cases where residents died from accidental suffocations, injuries or other medical emergencies.

Federal and state regulators also said in interviews that such cuts help explain why serious quality-of-care deficiencies — like moldy food and the restraining of residents for long periods or the administration of the wrong medications — rose at every large nursing home chain after it was acquired by a private investment group from 2000 to 2006, even as citations declined at many other homes and chains.

The typical number of serious health deficiencies cited by regulators last year was almost 19 percent higher at homes owned by large investment companies than the national average, according to analysis of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services records.

(The Times’s analysis of trends did not include Genesis HealthCare, which was acquired earlier this year, or HCR Manor Care, which the Carlyle Group is buying, because sufficient data were not available.)

Representatives of all the investment groups that bought nursing home chains since 2000 — Warburg Pincus, Formation, National Senior Care, Fillmore Capital Partners and the Carlyle Group — were offered the data and findings from the Times analysis. All but one declined to comment.

An executive with a company owned by Fillmore Capital, which acquired 342 homes last year, said that because some data regarding the company were missing or collected before its acquisition last year, The Times’s analysis was not a complete portrayal of current conditions. That executive, Jack MacDonald, also said that it was too early to evaluate the new management, that total staff members at homes was rising and that quality had improved by some measures.

“We are focused on becoming a better organization today than we were 18 months ago,” he said. “We are confident that we will be an even better organization in the future.”

A Web of Responsibility

Vivian Hewitt’s mother, Alice Garcia, was 81 and suffering from Alzheimer’s disease when, in late 2002, she moved into Habana.

“I couldn’t take care of her properly anymore, and Habana seemed like a really nice place,” Mrs. Hewitt said.

Earlier that year, Formation bought Habana, 48 other nursing homes and four assisted living centers from Beverly Enterprises, one of the nation’s largest chains, for $165 million.

Formation immediately leased many of the homes, including Habana, to an affiliate of Warburg Pincus. That firm spread management of the homes among dozens of other corporations, according to documents filed with Florida agencies and depositions from lawsuits.

Each home was operated by a separate company. Other companies helped choose staff members, keep the books and negotiate for equipment and supplies. Some companies had no employees or offices, which permitted executives to file regulatory documents without revealing their other corporate affiliations.

Habana’s managers increased occupancy, and they cut expenses by laying off about 10 of 30 clinical administrators and nurses, Medicare filings reveal. (After regulators complained, some of those positions were refilled.) Soon, regulators with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began citing Habana for malfunctioning fire doors, moldy air vents and broken walls.

Throughout that period, Formation and the Warburg Pincus affiliate received rent and fees that were directly tied to Habana’s revenues, according to interviews and regulatory filings. As the home’s fiscal health improved, those payments grew. In total, they exceeded $3.5 million by last year. The companies received payments tied to the other 48 homes, as well.

Though spending cuts improved the home’s bottom line, they raised concerns among regulators and staff.

“Those owners wouldn’t let us hire people,” said Annie Thornton, who became interim director of nursing around the time Habana was acquired, and who left about a year later. “We told the higher-ups we needed more staffing, but they said we should make do.”

Regulators typically visit nursing homes about once a year. But in the 12 months after Formation’s acquisition of Habana, they visited an average of once a month, often in response to residents’ complaints. The home was cited for failing to follow doctors’ orders, cutting staff below legal minimums, blocking emergency exits, storing residents’ food in unhygienic areas and other health violations.

Soon after, nursing home inspectors wrote in Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services documents that Habana was at fault when a resident suffocated because his tracheotomy tube became clogged. Although he had complained of shortness of breath, there were no records indicating that the staff had checked on him for almost two days.

Those citations never mentioned Formation, Warburg Pincus or its affiliates. Warburg Pincus and its affiliates declined to discuss the citations. Formation said it was merely a landlord.

“Formation Properties owns real estate and leases it to an unaffiliated third party that obtains a license to operate it as a health care facility,” Formation said. “No citation would mention Formation Properties since it has no involvement or control over the operations at the facility or any entity that is involved in such operations.”

For Mrs. Hewitt’s mother, problems began within months of moving in as she suffered repeated falls.

“I would call and call and call them to come to her room to change her diaper or help me move her, but they would never come,” Mrs. Hewitt recalled.

Five months later, Mrs. Hewitt discovered that her mother had a large bedsore on her back that was oozing pus. Mrs. Garcia was rushed to the hospital. A physician later said the wound should have been detected much earlier, according to medical records submitted as part of a lawsuit Mrs. Hewitt filed in a Florida Circuit Court.

Three weeks later, Mrs. Garcia died.

“I feel so guilty,” Mrs. Hewitt said. “But there was no way for me to find out how bad that place really was.”

Death and a Lawsuit

Within a few months, Mrs. Hewitt decided to sue the nursing home.

“The only way I can send a message is to hit them in their pocketbook, to make it too expensive to let people like my mother suffer,” she said.

But when Mrs. Hewitt’s lawyer, Sumeet Kaul, began investigating Habana’s corporate structure, he discovered that its complexity meant that even if she prevailed in court, the investors’ wallets would likely be out of reach.

Others had tried and failed. In response to dozens of lawsuits, Formation and affiliates of Warburg Pincus had successfully argued in court that they were not nursing home operators, and thus not liable for deficiencies in care.

Formation said that it was not reasonable to hold the company responsible for residents, “any more, say, than it would be reasonable for a landlord who owns a building, one of whose tenants is Starbucks, to be held liable if a Starbucks customer is scalded by a cup of hot coffee.”

Formation, Warburg Pincus and its affiliates all declined to answer questions regarding Mrs. Hewitt’s lawsuit.

Advocates for nursing home reforms say anyone who profits from a facility should be held accountable for its care.

“Private equity is buying up this industry and then hiding the assets,” said Toby S. Edelman, a nursing home expert with the Center for Medicare Advocacy, a nonprofit group that counsels people on Medicare. “And now residents are dying, and there is little the courts or regulators can do.”

Mrs. Hewitt’s lawyer has spent three years and $30,000 trying to prove that an affiliate of Warburg Pincus might be responsible for Mrs. Garcia’s care. He has not named Formation or Warburg Pincus as defendants. A judge is expected to rule on some of his arguments this year.

Complex corporate structures have dissuaded scores of other lawyers from suing nursing homes.

About 70 percent of lawyers who once sued homes have stopped because the cases became too expensive or difficult, estimates Nathan P. Carter, a plaintiffs’ lawyer in Florida.

“In one case, I had to sue 22 different companies,” he said. “In another, I got a $400,000 verdict and ended up collecting only $25,000.”

Regulators have also been stymied.

For instance, Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration has named Habana and 34 other homes owned by Formation and operated by affiliates of Warburg Pincus as among the state’s worst in categories like “nutrition and hydration,” “restraints and abuse” and “quality of care.” Those homes have been individually cited for violations of safety codes, but there have been no chainwide investigations or fines, said Molly McKinstry, bureau chief for long-term-care services at with Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration.

And even when regulators do issue fines to investor-owned homes, they have found penalties difficult to collect.

“These companies leave the nursing home licensee with no assets, and so there is nothing to take,” said Scott Johnson, special assistant attorney general of Mississippi.

Government authorities are also frequently unaware when nursing homes pay large fees to affiliates.

For example, Habana, operated by a Warburg Pincus affiliate, paid other Warburg Pincus affiliates an estimated $558,000 for management advice and other services last year, according to reports the home filed.

Government programs require nursing homes to reveal when they pay affiliates so that such disbursements can be scrutinized to make sure they are not artificially inflated.

However, complex corporate structures make such scrutiny difficult. Regulators did not know that so many of Habana’s payments went to companies affiliated with Warburg Pincus.

“The government tries to make sure homes are paying a fair market value for things like rent and consulting and supplies,” said John Villegas-Grubbs, a Medicaid expert who has developed payment systems for several states. “But when home owners pay themselves without revealing it, they can pad their bills. It’s not feasible to expect regulators to catch that unless they have transparency on ownership structures.”

Formation and Warburg Pincus both declined to discuss disclosure issues.

Groups lobbying to increase transparency at nursing homes say complicated corporate structures should be outlawed. One idea popular among organizations like the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform is requiring the company that owns a home’s most valuable assets, its land and building, to manage it. That would put owners at risk if care declines.

But owners say that tying a home’s property to its operation would make it impossible to operate in leased facilities, and exacerbate a growing nationwide nursing home shortage.

Moreover, investors say, they deserve credit for rebuilding an industry on the edge of widespread insolvency.

“Legal and regulatory costs were killing this industry,” said Mr. Whitman, the Formation executive.

For instance, Beverly Enterprises, which also had a history of regulatory problems, sold Habana and the rest of its Florida centers to Formation because, it said at the time, of rising litigation costs. AON Risk Consultants, a research company, says the average cost of nursing home litigation in Florida during that period had increased 270 percent in five years.

“Lawyers were suing nursing homes because they knew the companies were worth billions of dollars, so we made the companies smaller and poorer, and the lawsuits have diminished,” Mr. Whitman said. This year, another fund affiliated with Mr. Whitman and other investors acquired the nation’s third-largest nursing home chain, Genesis HealthCare, for $1.5 billion.

If investors are barred from setting up complex structures, “this industry makes no economic sense,” Mr. Whitman said. “If nursing home owners are forced to operate at a loss, the entire industry will disappear.”

However, advocates for nursing home reforms say investors exaggerate the industry’s precariousness. Last year, Formation sold Habana and 185 other facilities to General Electric for $1.4 billion. A prominent nursing home industry analyst, Steve Monroe, estimates that Formation’s and its co-investors’ gains from that sale were more than $500 million in just four years. Formation declined to comment on that figure.


24) U.S. Rule Limits Emergency Care for Immigrants
September 22, 2007

The federal government has told New York State health officials that chemotherapy, which had been covered for illegal immigrants under a government-financed program for emergency medical care, does not qualify for coverage. The decision sets the stage for a battle between the state and federal governments over how medical emergencies are defined.

The change comes amid a fierce national debate on providing medical care to immigrants, with New York State officials and critics saying this latest move is one more indication of the Bush administration’s efforts to exclude the uninsured from public health services.

State officials in New York and other states have found themselves caught in the middle. The New York dispute, focusing on illegal immigrants with cancer — a marginal group of unknown size among the more than 500,000 people living in New York illegally — has become a flash point for health officials and advocates for immigrants in recent weeks.

Under a limited provision of Medicaid, the national health program for the poor, the federal government permits emergency coverage for illegal immigrants and other noncitizens. But the Bush administration has been more closely scrutinizing and increasingly denying state claims for federal payment for some emergency services, Medicaid experts said.

Last month, federal officials, concluding an audit that began in 2004 and was not challenged by the state until now, told New York State that they would no longer provide matching funds for chemotherapy under the emergency program. Yesterday, state officials sent a letter to the federal Medicaid agency protesting the change, saying that doctors, not the federal government, should determine when chemotherapy is needed.

Federal health officials declined to discuss chemotherapy or the New York claims. But Dennis Smith, director of the Center for Medicaid and State Operations at the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a statement, “Longstanding interpretations by the agency have been that emergency Medicaid benefits are to cover emergencies.”

The federal statute that defines an emergency under Medicaid makes it clear that routine care for illegal immigrants and nonresidents, including foreign students and visitors, is not covered. But the only procedures it specifically excludes from reimbursement are organ transplants, leaving to the states the task of further defining an emergency. States and courts have grappled with the question for years, yielding no clear definition.

Some states have maintained that any time a patient is able to schedule an appointment — as opposed to showing up at an emergency room — the condition would not be considered an emergency. Others, including New York, have defined an emergency as any condition that could become an emergency or lead to death without treatment.

“There are clearly situations that we consider emergencies where we need to give people chemotherapy,” Richard F. Daines, the New York State health commissioner, said in an interview late yesterday. “To say they don’t qualify is self-defeating in that those situations will eventually become emergencies.”

Dr. Daines said that for every effort in the state to use Medicaid “creatively” to cover the uninsured, “the Bush administration, at every chance, is pushing it back.”

The state estimated that the federal government denied $60 million in matching funds for emergency Medicaid from 2001 to 2006, including $11.1 million for chemotherapy. Medicaid costs are typically split evenly between the state and the federal government.

It is unclear how many other states are providing chemotherapy to illegal immigrants, because all emergency services are generally lumped together in state Medicaid reports. But others have also been challenged on emergency Medicaid claims.

In Washington State, where illegal immigrants are entitled to Medicaid coverage for a month or more after treatment in an emergency, officials said a federal audit of their emergency Medicaid claims was under way, and the state has asked the federal government to provide a definition of emergency services.

“The awkward position state Medicaid programs are in is trying to figure out what kinds of medical care should be available for emergency conditions,” said Douglas Porter, assistant secretary for the Washington Health and Recovery Services Administration.

Washington and other states have also fought the federal government over Medicaid for infants born to illegal immigrants, an issue reflected in the ferocious debate over the national children’s health insurance program.

In the wake of stricter federal rules, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and 20 other states have extended full Medicaid coverage, using only state money, to some immigrants who do not qualify for federal aid. Under federal law, proof of citizenship is required for full Medicaid coverage, but not for emergency coverage.

But some states with growing immigrant populations, like Georgia and Arizona, have themselves moved to limit coverage under emergency Medicaid, leading to intense opposition from immigrant health advocates.

Advocates for breast cancer patients said they were particularly concerned about the denial of coverage after lobbying the federal government for years to provide breast cancer screening to uninsured women. Under a program offered to underinsured and uninsured women, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides free or low-cost screening.

“To allow women to be diagnosed with breast cancer and then create an obstacle for them to get treatment is a horrendous policy,” said Donna Lawrence, executive director of Susan G. Komen for the Cure in New York.

In New York City, cancer kills 15,000 residents a year. It is the second leading cause of death among both the native- and the foreign-born, according to a 2006 survey by the city’s health department, with lung, breast and colon cancer the top killers.

The state had initially accepted the federal finding that New York was not entitled to federal reimbursement for chemotherapy under the emergency Medicaid program. But until last month, state health officials had not informed medical providers that the treatment would no longer be covered by either state or federal funds.

That provoked a pitched outcry from immigrant health advocates over the last few weeks, and state health officials reversed their position this week, saying Medicaid should cover the treatment.

State officials said they were challenging the federal decision on the grounds that chemotherapy treatment qualifies as an emergency under the federal government’s own rules. Certain conditions, including diseases of the brain, spinal cord and bone marrow disease, could require immediate chemotherapy.

The state’s letter also said that chemotherapy can be used to “cure cancer, control cancer and/or ease cancer symptoms,” and that if that the measures typically used to treat cancer were not available to patients, their health could be in serious jeopardy — one of the federal criteria in determining an emergency.

The cost of emergency Medicaid is still a relatively small portion of state Medicaid budgets, experts said, and a majority of the money is spent on care for pregnant women, labor and delivery. But the demand for it rising quickly as the immigrant population balloons.

Health advocates say that many illegal immigrants who need and qualify for emergency care are afraid to seek help, and that emergency Medicaid is underused.

A recent study of emergency Medicaid services in North Carolina found that spending, largely devoted to pregnant women, increased by 28 percent from 2001 to 2004; still, the emergency costs accounted for less than 1 percent of total Medicaid expenditures.

New York City public hospitals, which serve 400,000 uninsured patients a year, among them illegal immigrants, would continue to provide the cancer treatment no matter what, said officials from the Health and Hospitals Corporation. But if there is no reimbursement from Medicaid, they said, they will have to look elsewhere for financial support.




Manhattan: Slain Soldier to Receive Citizenship
A soldier from Washington Heights who was killed while serving with the Army’s Second Infantry Division in Iraq is to receive citizenship posthumously on Monday, immigration officials said in a statement yesterday. The soldier, Cpl. Juan Alcántara, 22, left, was one of four soldiers killed in an explosion as they searched a house in Baquba on Aug. 6. Representative Charles B. Rangel, a Harlem Democrat, will speak at a ceremony at the City University Great Hall in Manhattan and present a certificate to Corporal Alcántara’s family. The corporal was born in the Dominican Republic and grew up in Washington Heights, Mr. Rangel’s office said.
September 14, 2007

Texas: Man Is Spared After Evidence Turns Up
A judge spared a man who was to be executed today in a double murder, after the Dallas County prosecutor’s office discovered evidence they believe had been withheld from the man’s lawyers. A second polygraph given to a co-defendant of the man, Joseph Lave, came to light in the last few days and reflects on the credibility of the co-defendant, said Mike Ware, of the district attorney’s conviction integrity unit. Mr. Lave was one of three robbers involved in the 1992 deaths of two teenagers in Richardson. Prosecutors say lawyers no longer with the office misled the court by saying the evidence did not exist.
September 14, 2007

Pennsylvania: Police Chief Calls on Men to Patrol Streets
Philadelphia’s police chief, acknowledging that the police alone cannot quell a run of deadly violence, has called on 10,000 men to patrol the streets to reduce crime. The chief, Sylvester Johnson, says black men, in particular, have a duty to protect vulnerable residents. He wants volunteers to work three hours a day for at least 90 days. “We are definitely encouraging black men to be involved in it,” he said. But he said he would not turn away men of other races. “We have to put the tourniquet where we’re bleeding at this point,” he said. The men would not make arrests but would emphasize conflict resolution.
September 14, 2007

Fracas Erupts Over Book on Mideast by a Barnard Professor Seeking Tenure
September 10, 2007

Hartford: Precautions After Inmate Suicides
State prison officials are looking into whether more precautions are needed to protect inmates after the deaths of three prisoners within four days. One prisoner apparently committed suicide on Friday and another apparently did so on Monday. A third prisoner died Saturday of unknown causes. Theresa C. Lantz, the commissioner of the Department of Correction, met with the warden of the York Correctional Institution in Niantic, where two of the men died, about whether changes were needed. Brian Garnett, a Department of Correction spokesman, said the state took action to improve inmate safety in 2004 in response to the suicides of nine inmates that year.
September 5, 2007

Minnesota: Immigrants Mistreated in Raid, Suit Claims
A lawsuit filed by an immigrant rights group claims that federal agents who raided a meatpacking plant in Worthington last December detained Hispanic workers, hurled racial epithets at them and forced the women to take off their clothes. The federal lawsuit was filed by Centro Legal on behalf of 10 workers at the Swift & Company plant who are in the United States legally.
September 5, 2007

Suicide rate increases among U.S. soldiers
WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- A new U.S. Army report reveals the suicide rate among soldiers is on the rise, CNN reported Thursday.
The study said failed relationships, legal woes, financial problems and occupational/operational issues are the main reasons why an increasing number of soldiers are taking their own lives.
While 79 soldiers committed suicide in 2003, 88 killed themselves in 2005 and 99 died at their own hands last year.
Another two suspected suicides from 2006 are under investigation.
The only year that saw a drop was 2004, in which 67 soldiers committed suicide.
Most of the dead were members of infantry units who killed themselves with firearms.
CNN said demographic differences and varying stress factors make it difficult to compare the military suicide rate to that of civilians.
In 2006, the overall suicide rate for the United States was 13.4 per 100,000 people. It was 21.1 per 100,000 people for all men aged 17 to 45, compared to a rate of 17.8 for men in the Army.
The overall rate was 5.46 per 100,000 for women, compared to an Army rate of 11.3 women soldiers per 100,000.
August 16, 2007

Illinois: Illegal Immigrant Leaving Sanctuary
An illegal immigrant who took refuge in a Chicago church a year ago to escape deportation said she planned to leave her sanctuary soon to lobby Congress for immigration changes, even if that means risking arrest. The immigrant, Elvira Arellano, 32, has said she feared being separated from her 8-year-old son, Saul, when she asked the Adalberto United Methodist Church for help, but she said she planned to leave on Sept. 12 to travel to Washington. Ms. Arellano came to the United States illegally from Mexico in 1997, was deported, but then returned. She moved to Illinois in 2000.
August 16, 2007

Bolivia: Coca Leaves Predict Castro Recovery
A consultation of coca leaves by Aymara Indian shamans presages the recovery of Fidel Castro, according to Cuba’s ambassador to Bolivia. “The Comandante is enjoying a recovery,” Rafael Dausá, the ambassador, told Bolivia’s state news agency after attending the ceremony in El Alto, the heavily indigenous city near the capital, La Paz. Pointing to Cuba’s warming ties to Bolivia, as the leftist president, Evo Morales, settles into his second year in power, Mr. Dausá said, “Being in Bolivia today means being in the leading trench in the anti-imperialist struggle in Latin America.” Bolivia and Cuba, together with Venezuela, have forged a political and economic alliance called the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas.
August 16, 2007

Long-Studied Giant Star Displays Huge Cometlike Tail
August 16, 2007

Storm Victims Sue Over Trailers
NEW ORLEANS, Aug. 8 (AP) — More than 500 hurricane survivors living in government-issued trailers and mobile homes are taking the manufacturers of the structures to court.
In a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday in New Orleans, the hurricane survivors accused the makers of using inferior materials in a profit-driven rush to build the temporary homes. The lawsuit asserts that thousands of Louisiana residents displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 were exposed to dangerous levels of formaldehyde by living in the government-issued trailers and mobile homes.
And, it accuses 14 manufacturers that supplied the Federal Emergency Management Agency with trailers of cutting corners in order to quickly fill the shortage after the storms.
Messages left with several of those companies were not immediately returned.
FEMA, which is not named as a defendant in this suit, has agreed to have the air quality tested in some of the trailers.
August 9, 2007

British Criticize U.S. Air Attacks in Afghan Region
August 9, 2007

Army Expected to Meet Recruiting Goal
After failing to meet its recruiting goal for two consecutive months, the Army is expected to announce that it met its target for July. Officials are offering a new $20,000 bonus to recruits who sign up by the end of September. A preliminary tally shows that the Army most likely met its goal of 9,750 recruits for last month, a military official said on the condition of anonymity because the numbers will not be announced for several more days. The Army expects to meet its recruiting goal of 80,000 for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, the official said.
August 8, 2007

Beach Closings and Advisories
The number of United States beaches declared unsafe for swimming reached a record last year, with more than 25,000 cases where shorelines were closed or health advisories issued, the Natural Resources Defense Council reported, using data from the Environmental Protection Agency. The group said the likely culprit was sewage and contaminated runoff from water treatment systems. “Aging and poorly designed sewage and storm water systems hold much of the blame for beach water pollution,” it said. The number of no-swim days at 3,500 beaches along the oceans, bays and Great Lakes doubled from 2005. The report is online at
August 8, 2007

Finland: 780-Year-Old Pine Tree Found
Scientists have discovered a 780-year-old Scots pine, the oldest living forest pine known in Finland, the Finnish Forest Research Institute said. The tree was found last year in Lapland during a study mission on forest fires, the institute said, and scientists analyzed a section of the trunk to determine its age. “The pine is living, but it is not in the best shape,” said Tuomo Wallenius, a researcher. “It’s quite difficult to say how long it will survive.” The tree is inside the strip of land on the eastern border with Russia where access is strictly prohibited.
August 8, 2007

The Bloody Failure of ‘The Surge’: A Special Report
by Patrick Cockburn

Sean Penn applauds as Venezuela's Chavez rails against Bush
The Associated Press
August 2, 2007

California: Gore’s Son Pleads Guilty to Drug Charges
Al Gore III, son of the former vice president, pleaded guilty to possessing marijuana and other drugs, but a judge said the plea could be withdrawn and the charges dropped if Mr. Gore, left, completed a drug program. The authorities have said they found drugs in Mr. Gore’s car after he was pulled over on July 4 for driving 100 miles an hour. He pleaded guilty to two felony counts of drug possession, two misdemeanor counts of drug possession without a prescription and one misdemeanor count of marijuana possession, the district attorney’s office said. Mr. Gore, 24, has been at a live-in treatment center since his arrest, said Allan Stokke, his lawyer.
July 31, 2007

United Parcel Service Agrees to Benefits in Civil Unions
July 31, 2007

John Stewart demands the Bay View retract the truth, Editorial by Willie Ratcliff,

Minister to Supervisors: Stop Lennar, assess the people’s health by Minister Christopher Muhammad,

OPD shoots unarmed 15-year-old in the back in East Oakland by Minister of Information JR,

California: Raids on Marijuana Clinics
Federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided 10 medical marijuana clinics in Los Angles County just as Los Angeles city leaders backed a measure calling for an end to the federal government’s crackdown on the dispensaries. Federal officials made five arrests and seized large quantities of marijuana and cash after serving clinics with search warrants, said a spokeswoman, Sarah Pullen. Ms. Pullen refused to disclose other details. The raid, the agency’s second largest on marijuana dispensaries, came the same day the Los Angeles City Council introduced an interim ordinance calling on federal authorities to stop singling out marijuana clinics allowed under state law.
July 26, 2007




Stop the Termination or the Cherokee Nation


USLAW Endorses September 15 Antiwar Demonstration in Washington, DC
USLAW Leadership Urges Labor Turnout
to Demand End to Occupation in Iraq, Hands Off Iraqi Oil

By a referendum ballot of members of the Steering Committee of U.S. Labor Against the War, USLAW is now officially on record endorsing and encouraging participation in the antiwar demonstration called by the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition in Washington, DC on September 15. The demonstration is timed to coincide with a Congressional vote scheduled in late September on a new Defense Department appropriation that will fund the Iraq War through the end of Bush's term in office.

U.S. Labor Against the War

Stop the Iraq Oil Law

2007 Iraq Labor Solidarity Tour



This is a modern day lynching"--Marcus Jones, father of Mychal Bell


P.O. BOX 1890
FAX: (318) 992-8701


Sign the NAACP's Online Petition to the Governor of Louisiana and Attorney General

TIME: 9:00AM
MONROE RESIDENTS: 318.801.0513
JENA RESIDENTS: 318.419.6441
Send Donations to the Jena 6 Defense Fund:
Jena 6 Defense Committee
P.O. Box 2798
Jena, Louisiana 71342


Young Black males the target of small-town racism
By Jesse Muhammad
Staff Writer
"JENA, La. ( - Marcus Jones, the father of 16-year-old Jena High School football star Mychal Bell, pulls out a box full of letters from countless major colleges and universities in America who are trying to recruit his son. Mr. Jones, with hurt in his voice, says, “He had so much going for him. My son is innocent and they have done him wrong.”

An all-White jury convicted Mr. Bell of two felonies—aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery—and faces up to 22 years in prison when he is sentenced on July 31. Five other young Black males are also awaiting their day in court for alleged attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder charges evolving from a school fight: Robert Bailey, 17; Theo Shaw, 17; Carwin Jones, 18; Bryant Purvis, 17; and Jesse Beard, 15. Together, this group has come to be known as the “Jena 6.”
Updated Jul 22, 2007

My Letter to Judge Mauffray:

P.O. BOX 1890


Dear Judge Mauffray,

I am appalled to learn of the conviction of 16-year-old Jena High School football star Mychal Bell and the arrest of five other young Black men who are awaiting their day in court for alleged attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder charges evolving from a school fight. These young men, Mychal Bell, 16; Robert Bailey, 17; Theo Shaw, 17; Carwin Jones, 18; Bryant Purvis, 17; and Jesse Beard, 15, who have come to be known as the “Jena 6” have the support of thousands of people around the country who want to see them free and back in school.

Clearly, two different standards are in place in Jena—one standard for white students who go free even though they did, indeed, make a death threat against Black students—the hanging of nooses from a tree that only white students are allowed to sit under—and another set of rules for those that defended themselves against these threats. The nooses were hung after Black students dared to sit in the shade of that “white only” tree!

If the court is sincerely interested in justice, it will drop the charges against all of these six students, reinstate them back into school and insist that the school teach the white students how wrong they were and still are for their racist attitudes and violent threats! It is the duty of the schools to uphold the constitution and the bill of rights. A hanging noose or burning cross is just like a punch in the face or worse so says the Supreme Court! Further, it is an act of vigilantism and has no place in a “democracy”.

The criminal here is white racism, not a few young men involved in a fistfight!
I am a 62-year-old white woman who grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Fistfights among teenagers—as you certainly must know yourself—are a right of passage. Please don’t tell me you have never gotten into one. Even I picked a few fights with a few girls outside of school for no good reason. (We soon, in fact, became fast friends.) Children are not just smaller sized adults. They are children and go through this. The fistfight is normal and expected behavior that adults can use to educate children about the negative effect of the use of violence to solve disputes. That is what adults are supposed to do.

Hanging nooses in a tree because you hate Black people is not normal at all! It is a deep sickness that our schools and courts are responsible for unless they educate and act against it. This means you must overturn the conviction of Mychal Bell and drop the cases against Robert Bailey, Theo Shaw, Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis, and Jesse Beard.

It also means you must take responsibility to educate white teachers, administrators, students and their families against racism and order them to refrain from their racist behavior from here on out—and make sure it is carried out!
You are supposed to defend the students who want to share the shade of a leafy green tree not persecute them—that is the real crime that has been committed here!


Bonnie Weinstein, Bay Area United Against War


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

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

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

—MALCOLM X, 1965


Youtube interview with the DuPage County Activists Who Were Arrested for Bannering
You can watch an interview with the two DuPage County antiwar activists
who arrested after bannering over the expressway online at:

Please help spread the word about this interview, and if you haven't
already done so, please contact the DuPage County State's attorney, Joe
Birkett, to demand that the charges against Jeff Zurawski and Sarah
Heartfield be dropped. The contact information for Birkett is:

Joseph E. Birkett, State's Attorney
503 N. County Farm Road
Wheaton, IL 60187
Phone: (630) 407-8000
Fax: (630) 407-8151
Please forward this information far and wide.

My Letter:

Joseph E. Birkett, State's Attorney
503 N. County Farm Road
Wheaton, IL 60187
Phone: (630) 407-8000
Fax: (630) 407-8151

Dear State's Attorney Birkett,

The news of the arrest of Jeff Zurawski and Sarah Heartfield is getting out far and wide. Their arrest is outrageous! Not only should all charges be dropped against Jeff and Sarah, but a clear directive should be given to Police Departments everywhere that this kind of harassment of those who wish to practice free speech will not be tolerated.

The arrest of Jeff and Sarah was the crime. The display of their message was an act of heroism!

We demand you drop all charges against Jeff Zurawski and Sarah Heartfield NOW!


Bonnie Weinstein, Bay Area United Against War,, San Francisco, California


A little gem:
Michael Moore Faces Off With Stephen Colbert [VIDEO]


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


YouTube clip of Che before the UN in 1964


The Wealthiest Americans Ever
NYT Interactive chart
JULY 15, 2007


New Orleans After the Flood -- A Photo Gallery
This email was sent to you as a service, by Roland Sheppard.
Visit my website at:



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]


Stop funding Israel's war against Palestine
Complete the form at the website listed below with your information.


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])