Monday, January 21, 2008



Bay Area United Against War Statement in Response to IVAW

"In response to the Iraq Veterans Against the War Open Letter to the antiwar movement: We oppose any demand on the movement to refrain from mobilizing against the war. This demand has hurt the struggle in the United States to end the war. We support all actions of the movement to end the U.S. war on, and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. We urge the whole movement to come together to organize unified protest actions."


2017 Mission St (@ 16th), San Francisco


**Please circulate this message widely**

Take action right now to defend free speech rights!

Dear Linda,

At a public meeting called by the National Park Service on Saturday, January 12 in Washington, D.C., representatives from the Partnership for Civil Justice, ANSWER Coalition, Nicaragua Network, Grassroots America, and others demanded that there be no new restrictions placed on the right of the people to access the National Mall for free speech activities.

The National Park Service (NPS) is undertaking an initiative similar to that launched to exclude protests from New York City's Great Lawn. It will be used to further restrict or ban protest on the Mall from current levels. This is a component of a nationwide campaign of corporate-sponsored organizations working in partnership with government entities that claim that protests, rallies and demonstrations harm grass or "green space" or "natural resources" and must therefore be restricted or banned or shunted off to designated protest pits.


Right now, you can email the National Park Service demanding that there be no restrictions on the right of the people to assemble. We have set up an easy to use mechanism that will allow your message to be sent to the National Parks Service:

United States Government: National Park Service
614 H St NW, Washington, DC 20024 - (202) 619-7159

It is urgent that people around the country take action to stop the plan of the Bush Administration's Interior Department to obstruct free speech rights for mass assembly protest in Washington, D.C. The Bush White House plans to complete this process and deliver a knockout punch to free speech rights by January, 2009, the very last month that Bush will remain in office.

The National Mall has been associated for decades as the site for mass assembly protest and gatherings. On January 18, 2003, the ANSWER Coalition organized a demonstration of 500,000 prior to the invasion of Iraq. The Nation of Islam led the Million Man March in 1995 on the Mall. The National Organization for Women sponsored the March for Women's Lives bringing more than a million people to the Mall in 2004. A huge gathering for immigrant rights took place on the Mall in 2006 as part of a nation-wide outpouring. From the Bonus Marchers of the early 1930s, to Dr. King's Poor People's March of 1968, and the anti-war Moratorium of 1969, the Mall is the historic anchor for the exercise of free speech rights in the United States.

A lawsuit filed by the Partnership for Civil Justice on behalf of the National Council of Arab Americans and the ANSWER Coalition successfully overturned regulations in New York City that were used to prevent mass assembly protest in the Great Lawn of Central Park during the Republican National Convention. Those planning changes to the use and access to the National Mall have stated that they see structure used to restrict use of the Great Lawn as a model for their activities.

The NPS has set up a "public-private" partnership that allows business interests and real estate developers -- in coordination with the government -- to determine the future of the National Mall.

The Jan. 12 public meeting was intended to have low attendance to allow the government to claim public involvement while simultaneously excluding it. When confronted with the fact that they had done no legitimate outreach about the public meeting to the hundreds of thousands of people who have actually used the National Mall, the President of the Trust for the National Mall responded that she had sent notice to the Board of Trade! The NPS issues 3,000 permits a year for the use of the National Mall, but there has been no effort to notify any of those organizations about the proposed changes. Their attempt to exclude people from this process could not be more clear.

At the hearing the officials tried to quiet the outraged voices of the people, to change the topic of discussion, and to dismiss their concerns. They did, however, keep saying, just send us a message on-line. That is what we are asking everyone to do today.

The government is trying to end the public "comment" period by February 1, 2008. The ANSWER Coalition also demanded at the hearing that the sham process of the NPS be halted. We demanded that a moratorium be declared so that the people of this country can be able and informed to weigh in with their opinion. The National Mall belongs to the people. Click this link to send your message to the National Park Service

Please tell a friend about this important fight for free speech by forwarding this email by clicking this link.


Help us in this fight to keep the National Mall open for the exercise of free speech. We are undertaking a major organizing initiative to counter the government's plans. The ANSWER Coalition has an unwavering commitment to defend the free speech rights and civil liberties of the people of this country. But this challenge, which ranges from the streets to the courtrooms, requires significant funds, and we simply cannot do it without your help. Please click this link to make your donation right now


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


Support GI Resistance!
Help stop the war... Support of U.S. war resisters currently seeking sanctuary Canada. What you can do today:
1. Attend or organize an event on January 25-26
2. Sign the "Dear Canada" letter (if you have not already)
3. Hold a house party to show "Breaking Ranks"
4. Use these resources to get friends involved
January 25-26 U.S.-Canada Actions
Courage to Resist

On Friday, Jan. 25, community members will hold vigils and delegations to Canadian Consulates in Washington D.C., NYC, Seattle, SF, LA and elsewhere.

"Army of None" Pacific Northwest Tour
Co-author David Solnit and Seattle Chapter President of Iraq Veterans Against the War Chanan Suarez Diaz at events this week in Tacoma, Olympia, and Vancouver BC.

Oakland, CA Benefit Book Release Event Jan. 17
Col. Ann Wright (ret.) presents her new book "Dissent: Voices of Conscience" with special guests Daniel Ellsberg and Cindy Sheehan at Oakland, CA Courage to Resist benefit.

Sign the letter "Dear Canada: Let U.S. War Resisters Stay!" at:

January 25-26 Events: "Let Them Stay!"

There is still time to organize a delegation to a Canadian Consulate near you or hold vigils or other public events that day, or the following day Saturday, January 26 in support of war resisters.

Let us know what you are planning. Send events to

Friday January 25

Keith Mather, David Solnit, Father Louis Vitale, Steve Grossman, Gerry Condon, Jacqueline Cabasso, Jeff Paterson, Evangeline Mix comprise similar delegation to Canadian Consulate on 5/15/06 in San Francisco. Photo Bill Carpenter

Consulate General of Canada
580 California Street, San Francisco
(four blocks north of Montgomery St BART)
Noon to 1 pm vigil, 1 pm delegation
Sponsored by Courage to Resist
Info: , 510-488-3559



For more information contact:
Robert Manning (925)787-3354

BlogFest to Memorialize Molly Ivins and Demand an End to War in Iraq

WHAT: Raise Hell for Molly Ivins BlogFest.

WHERE: Grace Cathedral, 1100 California Street in San Francisco.

WHEN: Thursday, January 31st, 2008, from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM. (the one-year anniversary of Molly Ivins' passing.)

WHO: The BlogFest is being produced by The Raise Hell for Molly Ivins Campaign ( The campaign was inspired by Molly Ivins' words about the war in Iraq, in her last column before her passing. - "Raise hell...Hit the streets...We need people in the streets banging pots and pans and demanding END IT, NOW!"

PURPOSE: This special event will honor the memory of Molly Ivins and carry on her legacy of activism through the Raise Hell for Molly Ivins Campaign, which is organizing people across the United States to demand that Congress act to end the war in Iraq and stop an attack on Iran.

PROGRAM: The BlogFest will feature continuous blogging by activist bloggers and the public, the signing of an on-line petition, and a live netcast of the event. The evening's program will begin with an Interfaith Ceremony, followed by a Labyrinth Walk for Peace, the announcement of the Winner of "The Ballad of Molly Ivins" Songwriting Contest, a video presentation on Molly Ivins' life, a Memorial Pledge to Molly Ivins, by the event's participants, to work tirelessly to end the war in Iraq and stop an attack on Iran, and music and poetry performances.

HOW: People can participate in the BlogFest by adding their comments to the activist blogs during the event. They can also sign the on-line petition and participate in the "Pots and Pans Protests" on the third Friday of the month, to tell their local representatives and senators who voted for the surge and the on-going funding for the war in Iraq to change their vote or lose at the ballot box. The "Pots and Pans Protests" are held on the third Friday of the month to coincide with the monthly events of the Iraq Moratorium.

TICKETS: Tickets are $10.00 with no one turned away for lack of funds. Tickets are available at the door beginning at 5:45 PM. Advanced tickets are available by calling The Raise Hell for Molly Ivins Campaign at (925) 787-3354.


Honoring Mumia Abu-Jamal and His Friends - Fighters for Freedom
Dennis Bernstein, Lynne Stewart, Michael Franti,and others...
Sunday, February 3, at 2:00pm
ILWU Local 34 Hall, 4 Berry Street, San Francisco

Dear Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal,

The struggle to Free Mumia is in high gear. With considerable media coverage and interest being generated with the showing of the interview on The Today Show with Maureen Faulkner and the mobilization of Mumia's supporters to ensure the truth about the case was televised, to the amazing new evidence of crime scene manipulation (all of which is viewable on the Mobilization's website), we think 2008 has the potential of making real gains in winning Mumia's freedom.

We proudly announce a very special event: On Sunday, February 3, at 2:00pm the Mobilization is sponsoring a gathering: Honoring Mumia Abu-Jamal and His Friends - Fighters for Freedom, with Dennis Bernstein, producer of KPFA's Flashpoints, Lynne Stewart, attorney falsely convicted of conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism, Michael Franti, performing artist and a founder of Power to the Peaceful concert festivals, International Longshore and Warehouse Union, who shut down the West Coast ports to free Mumia, Barbara Lubin, Director, Middle East Children's Alliance, Jonathan Richmond, singer/songwriter and Aundre Herron, attorney and comedienne - "Wonderwoman", and many others. The event will take place at the ILWU Local 34 Hall, 4 Berry Street, San Francisco, just to the left (East) of the Pac Bell/Monster Baseball Stadium (plenty of free parking and Muni Metro accessible). The event will start at 2:00pm, sliding scale of $10-$15, no on turned away for lack of funds. We will show The Today Show program and people can stay afterwards for an information gathering (and Super Bowl watching).

We don't have much time to building the event - please post to your email lists and tell everyone you know.

Please attend the next Mobe meeting, which is on Saturday, January 12, 2008, 10:30 am at 625 Larkin near Eddy, San Francisco. Remember to press #202 to be buzzed in. That's the office of the Freedom Socialist Party.

We will be organizing for several important upcoming events at which we'll pass out leaflets for our February 3rd meeting, include the Demonstration to Defend Reproductive Rights and Roe v. Wade (Saturday, January 19th, 10:30am at Justin Herman Plaza, Market and Embarcadero in San Francisco) and at the annual Martin Luther King Day events (Monday, January 21).

See you at the Mobe meeting this Saturday, January 12th at 10:30 am, 625 Larkin Street, at Eddy in San Francisco.

End the Death Penalty!

Laura Herrera and Jeff Mackler, Co-coordinators
The Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
[ The Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal is supporting this event and encourages you to publicize it and attend. - Howard Keylor (for the LAC) ]


2017 Mission St (@ 16th), San Francisco





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


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

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


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

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

Day-after demonstrations are also planned in:

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

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

For more information, contact: International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal,;
Partisan Defense Committee,;
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC),;


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

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




In 1995, mass mobilizations helped save Mumia from death.

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

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

- The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
PO Box 16222, Oakland CA 94610




1) The Food Chain
A New, Global Oil Quandary: Costly Fuel Means Costly Calories
January 19, 2008

2) Work Is Afoot to Take the Free Out of Freeway
January 19, 2008

3) Job Data Passes Threshold Where Recessions Dwell
January 19, 2008

4) The Education of Ben Bernanke
January 20, 2008

5) Urgent-Urgent- For publish-Death and Darkness in Gaza, People are dying, Help us!
Source: Maan

6) Highly Skilled And Out Of Work
Long-Term Joblessness Spreads in Middle Class
By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 21, 2008; A01

7) Stocks Plunge in Europe and Asia on U.S. Recession Fear
January 21, 2008

For Immediate Release
January 20, 2008

9) Study Looks at Why Poor Kids Are Heavy
Filed at 1:20 p.m. ET
January 21, 2008

10) Israel Allows Some Supplies Into Gaza
January 22, 2008

11) Echoes of Dr. King in Finance, Politics and the Daily Grind
January 21, 2008


1) The Food Chain
A New, Global Oil Quandary: Costly Fuel Means Costly Calories
January 19, 2008

KUANTAN, Malaysia — Rising prices for cooking oil are forcing residents of Asia’s largest slum, in Mumbai, India, to ration every drop. Bakeries in the United States are fretting over higher shortening costs. And here in Malaysia, brand-new factories built to convert vegetable oil into diesel sit idle, their owners unable to afford the raw material.

This is the other oil shock. From India to Indiana, shortages and soaring prices for palm oil, soybean oil and many other types of vegetable oils are the latest, most striking example of a developing global problem: costly food.

The food price index of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, based on export prices for 60 internationally traded foodstuffs, climbed 37 percent last year. That was on top of a 14 percent increase in 2006, and the trend has accelerated this winter.

In some poor countries, desperation is taking hold. Just in the last week, protests have erupted in Pakistan over wheat shortages, and in Indonesia over soybean shortages. Egypt has banned rice exports to keep food at home, and China has put price controls on cooking oil, grain, meat, milk and eggs.

According to the F.A.O., food riots have erupted in recent months in Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

“The urban poor, the rural landless and small and marginal farmers stand to lose,” said He Changchui, the agency’s chief representative for Asia and the Pacific.

A startling change is unfolding in the world’s food markets. Soaring fuel prices have altered the equation for growing food and transporting it across the globe. Huge demand for biofuels has created tension between using land to produce fuel and using it for food.

A growing middle class in the developing world is demanding more protein, from pork and hamburgers to chicken and ice cream. And all this is happening even as global climate change may be starting to make it harder to grow food in some of the places best equipped to do so, like Australia.

In the last few years, world demand for crops and meat has been rising sharply. It remains an open question how and when the supply will catch up. For the foreseeable future, that probably means higher prices at the grocery store and fatter paychecks for farmers of major crops like corn, wheat and soybeans.

There may be worse inflation to come. Food experts say steep increases in commodity prices have not fully made their way to street stalls in the developing world or supermarkets in the West.

Governments in many poor countries have tried to respond by stepping up food subsidies, imposing or tightening price controls, restricting exports and cutting food import duties.

These temporary measures are already breaking down. Across Southeast Asia, for example, families have been hoarding palm oil. Smugglers have been bidding up prices as they move the oil from more subsidized markets, like Malaysia’s, to less subsidized markets, like Singapore’s.

No category of food prices has risen as quickly this winter as so-called edible oils — with sometimes tragic results. When a Carrefour store in Chongqing, China, announced a limited-time cooking oil promotion in November, a stampede of would-be buyers left 3 people dead and 31 injured.

Cooking oil may seem a trifling expense in the West. But in the developing world, cooking oil is an important source of calories and represents one of the biggest cash outlays for poor families, which grow much of their own food but have to buy oil in which to cook it.

Few crops illustrate the emerging problems in the global food chain as well as palm oil, a vital commodity in much of the world and particularly Asia. From jungles and street markets in Southeast Asia to food companies in the United States and biodiesel factories in Europe, soaring prices for the oil are drawing environmentalists, energy companies, consumers, indigenous peoples and governments into acrimonious disputes.

The oil palm is a stout-trunked tree with a spray of frilly fronds at the top that make it look like an enormous sea anemone. The trees, with their distinctive, star-like patterns of leaves, cover an eighth of the entire land area of Malaysia and even greater acreage in nearby Indonesia.

An Efficient Producer

The palm is a highly efficient producer of vegetable oil, squeezed from the tree’s thick bunches of plum-size bright red fruit. An acre of oil palms yields as much oil as eight acres of soybeans, the main rival for oil palms; rapeseed, used to make canola oil, is a distant third. Among major crops, only sugar cane comes close to rivaling oil palms in calories of human food per acre.

Palm oil prices have jumped nearly 70 percent in the last year because supply has grown slowly while demand has soared.

Farmers and plantation companies are responding to the higher prices, clearing hundreds of thousands of acres of tropical forest to replant with rows of oil palms. But an oil palm takes eight years to reach full production. A drought last year in Indonesia and flooding in Peninsular Malaysia helped constrain supply. Worldwide palm oil output climbed just 2.7 percent last year, to 42.1 million tons.

At the same time, palm oil demand is growing steeply for a variety of reasons around the globe. They include shifting decisions among farmers about what to plant, rising consumer demand in China and India for edible oils, and Western subsidies for biofuel production.

American farmers have been planting more corn and less soy because demand for corn-based ethanol has pushed up corn prices. American soybean acreage plunged 19 percent last year, producing a drop in soybean oil output and inventories.

Chinese farmers also cut back soybean acreage last year, as urban sprawl covered prime farmland and the Chinese government provided more incentives for grain.

Yet people in China are also consuming more oils. China not only was the world’s biggest palm oil importer last year, holding steady at 5.2 million tons in the first 11 months of the year, but it also doubled its soybean oil imports to 2.9 million tons, forcing buyers elsewhere to switch to palm oil.

Concerns about nutrition used to hurt palm oil sales, but they are now starting to help. The oil was long regarded in the West as unhealthy, but it has become an attractive option to replace the chemically altered fats known as trans fats, which have lately come to be seen as the least healthy of all fats.

New York City banned trans fats in frying at food service establishments last summer and will ban them in bakery goods this summer. Across the country, manufacturers are trying to replace trans fats. American palm oil imports nearly doubled in the first 11 months of last year, rising by 200,000 tons.

“Four years ago, when this whole no-trans issue started, we processed no palm here," said Mark Weyland, a United States product manager for Loders Croklaan, a Dutch company that supplies palm oil. “Now it’s our biggest seller.”

Last year, conversion of palm oil into fuel was a fast-growing source of demand, but in recent weeks, rising prices have thrown that business into turmoil.

Here on Malaysia’s eastern shore, a series of 45-foot-high green and gray storage tanks connect to a labyrinth of yellow and silver pipes. The gleaming new refinery has the capacity to turn 116,000 tons a year of palm oil into 110,000 tons of a fuel called biodiesel, as well as valuable byproducts like glycerin. Mission Biofuels, an Australian company, finished the refinery last month and is working on an even larger factory next door at the base of a jungle hillside.

But prices have spiked so much that the company cannot cover all its costs and has idled the finished refinery while looking for a new strategy, such as asking a biodiesel buyer to pay a price linked to palm oil costs, and someday switching from palm oil to jatropha, a roadside weed.

“We took a view that palm oil prices were already high; we didn’t think they could go even higher, and then they did,” said Nathan Mahalingam, the company’s managing director.

Growth in Biofuels

Biofuels accounted for almost half the increase in worldwide demand for vegetable oils last year, and represented 7 percent of total consumption of the oils, according to Oil World, a forecasting service in Hamburg, Germany.

The growth of biodiesel, which can be mixed with regular diesel, has been controversial, not only because it competes with food uses of oil but also because of environmental concerns. European conservation groups have been warning that tropical forests are being leveled to make way for oil palm plantations, destroying habitat for orangutans and Sumatran rhinoceroses while also releasing greenhouse gases.

The European Union has moved to restrict imports of palm oil grown in unsustainable ways. The measure has incensed the Malaysian palm oil industry, which had plunged into biofuel production in part to satisfy European demand.

Another controversy involves the treatment of indigenous peoples whose lands have been seized by oil plantations. This has been a particular issue on Borneo.

Anne B. Lasimbang, executive director of the Pacos Trust in the Malaysian state of Sabah in northern Borneo, said that while some indigenous people had benefited from selling palm oil that they grow themselves, many had lost ancestral lands with little to show for it, including lands that used to provide habitats for endangered orangutans.

“Finally, some of the pressures internationally have trickled down. Some of the companies are more open to dialogue; they want to talk to communities,” said Ms. Lasimbang, a member of the Dusun indigenous group. “On our side, we are still suspicious.”

Demand Outstrips Supply

As the multiple conflicts and economic pressures associated with palm oil play out in the global economy, the bottom line seems to be that the world wants more of the oil than it can get.

Even in Malaysia, the center of the global palm oil industry for half a century, spot shortages have cropped up. Recently, as wholesale prices soared, cooking oil refiners complained of inadequate subsidies and cut back production of household oil, sold at low, regulated prices.

Street vendors in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, complain that they cannot find enough cooking oil to prepare roti canai, the flatbread that is the national snack. “It’s very difficult; it’s hard to find,” said one vendor who gave only his first name, Palani, after admitting that he was secretly buying cooking oil intended for households instead of paying the much higher price for commercial use.

Many of the hardest-hit victims of rising food prices are in the vast slums that surround cities in poorer Asian nations. The Kawle family in Mumbai’s sprawling Dharavi slum, a household of nine with just one member working as a laborer for $60 a month, is coping with recent price increases for palm oil.

The family has responded by eating fish once a week instead of twice, seldom cooking vegetables and cutting its monthly rice consumption. Next to go will be the weekly smidgen of lamb.

“If the prices go up again,” said Janaron Kawle, the family patriarch, “we’ll cut the mutton to twice a month and use less oil.”

Contributing reporting were Andrew Martin in New York, Anand Giridharadas in Kale, India, and Michael Rubenstein in Mumbai.


2) Work Is Afoot to Take the Free Out of Freeway
January 19, 2008

DELAWARE WATER GAP, Pa. — Hundreds of cars and trucks scream past Chris Howsare and Laren Myers in the half-hour they spend examining the hodgepodge of wetlands, historic landmarks and utility lines on the stretch of Interstate 80 that bisects this town on the New Jersey border.

Except for a small culvert unearthed by these two environmental planners, everything matches their maps.

So goes the laborious surveying needed to find 10 sites for tollbooths that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission wants to install by 2010 along the 311-mile stretch of I-80 that spans the state.

“It’s a process of elimination,” said Ms. Howsare, who works with Mr. Myers at McCormick Taylor, a Philadelphia engineering firm hired by the commission to come up with a list of possible sites. “We’ll tell them that if they want to build here, they’ll need to get x, y and z permits.”

The new tolls, a particularly controversial part of Pennsylvania’s plans to meet its growing transportation needs, are an unpopular idea among users of I-80, long a free alternative to the Pennsylvania Turnpike for truckers, tourists and residents alike. But with Pennsylvania’s budgets stretched, like those of many other states, the legislature approved the proposal last July.

The tolls — which still face hurdles, notably a need for approval from the federal government — would provide a substantial share of the hundreds of millions of dollars a year that the state says it needs to repair and expand its roads and bridges and so keep up with traffic growth.

“The wish list is extensive,” said Chuck Ardo, a spokesman for Gov. Edward G. Rendell. “We have the highest number of structurally deficient bridges in the country, miles and miles of highway that need repair and public transit systems that need support.”

The transportation squeeze is hardly unique to Pennsylvania.

“There is a perfect storm,” said Phineas Baxandall, an analyst at the United States Public Interest Research Group. “States have had a hard time facing up to their shortfalls in their transportation programs, gas taxes haven’t kept up with inflation, and there’s all these bridges and roads that haven’t been maintained.”

The push to charge tolls along I-80 followed legislators’ rejection of Mr. Rendell’s proposal to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike to private investors, an approach taken in Illinois, Indiana and Virginia. Lawmakers were wary that the investors might raise tolls too quickly.

The governor continues to support that idea, though, because the proceeds could be used for more than highway repairs alone. Under the bill passed last July, as well as federal rules, revenue from tolls on I-80 can be spent only on that Interstate.

As in other states, Pennsylvania lawmakers have been reluctant to raise their gasoline tax, the fourth-highest in the country, because fuel prices are so high. The tax would need to rise by 13 cents a gallon to meet the state’s transportation needs, the turnpike commission estimates. (In neighboring New Jersey, where the gas tax is the third-lowest in the country, Gov. Jon S. Corzine introduced a proposal last week to raise tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway and the Atlantic City Expressway as much as 700 percent by 2022.)

Under Pennsylvania’s plan, drivers on I-80 would pay the same as on the turnpike. Cars crossing the entire state would be charged $25, trucks $93.

“We’re working to solve the state’s transportation-funding crisis to ensure we have a vibrant, growing economy across the I-80 corridor and the entire commonwealth,” said the commission’s chief executive, Joseph G. Brimmeier.

But Mike Biondi, owner of a trucking company that hauls produce, said that he considered the new tolls, combined with fuel taxes, akin to “double taxation” and that the higher costs would be passed on to consumers. “These trucking companies cannot absorb that,” he said.

“It couldn’t come at a worse time,” Mr. Biondi, of Moscow, Pa., near Scranton, said at a commission hearing in East Stroudsburg. “We’re getting whacked.”

Yet the growing burden on I-80 and other roads in Pennsylvania has outpaced the financing for them. According to the commission, the state needs $1.04 billion a year for paving and repair of its Interstate roads and bridges. Currently, only $380 million a year is available.

The state wants to spend $2.1 billion in toll revenue over 10 years to improve I-80. Contrary to the claims of some critics, none of that money could be used to pay for mass transit in Philadelphia and other cities.

States need federal approval to collect tolls on Interstate highways, and the Bush administration has been making it easier for private investors and states to play a greater role in managing those roads. “The nature of highway funding is changing,” said Ian M. Grossman, a spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration. “We are encouraging innovative approaches.”

In October, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and the state’s Department of Transportation applied to the federal agency for the last of three slots in a program that allows states to charge tolls on federally financed highways as long as the money is used to make repairs that could not be made otherwise. (Missouri and Virginia have received the two other slots for their portions of I-70 and I-81, respectively.)

In December, the highway agency requested more information of Pennsylvania, which is preparing a response that includes the data being compiled by Ms. Howsare and Mr. Myers, the environmental planners. The turnpike commission must work quickly, though, because it has already issued bonds in anticipation of starting to collect toll revenue by 2010 to pay them off.

“When you are talking about 300 miles, trying to get it done in three years is mind-boggling,” Ms. Howsare said of the survey work.

Thorny negotiations over where to put the 10 tollbooths are certain once a short list of potential sites is released in a few months. I-80 has 59 interchanges in Pennsylvania, so tollbooths would be placed every six exits or so. To assuage many drivers, the commission is considering keeping the tollgates away from towns where lots of commuters use I-80, so that people in places like Clarion, State College and Wilkes-Barre can avoid paying tolls for local trips.

But residents worry that I-80 tolls would nonetheless be so expensive that drivers would opt for nearby roads instead, creating heavy traffic there.

Of Route 611, which runs near I-80, Peggy Craft of Stroudsburg said: “You get a half a dozen trucks on there and it takes forever to get through town. It’s going to impair us local folks who use that road for errands.”

Nate Schweber contributed reporting from East Stroudsburg, Pa.


3) Job Data Passes Threshold Where Recessions Dwell
January 19, 2008

When the number of Americans out of work starts to rise sharply, a recession occurs.

By that token, the latest figure for unemployed workers is, at the least, a danger sign.

The Labor Department reported that in December some 7,655,000 people were unemployed, meaning they were both without a job and looking for one. That figure was 13.2 percent higher than the 6,760,000 figure in the previous December. In the past, a 13 percent annual rise has been the sign of a recession every time.

Before December, there have been nine cycles in the United States since 1950 in which the annual change in unemployment rose to 13 percent or higher.

In eight of those cases, by the time the rise got to 13 percent, the recession had already begun, according to later conclusions by the National Bureau of Economic Research. In the other one, the recession began three months later, as depicted in the accompanying charts, which show the year-over-year change in the number of unemployed workers from one year before the increase hit 13 percent until one year after the recession ended. (In the case of the early 1980s, when there were two recessions close together, the chart shows both of them.)

The bureau does not, by the way, define a recession as two quarters of decline in the real gross domestic product, although that is a widely used shorthand. Instead, it says “a recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real G.D.P., real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales.”

The fact that employment is one of the indicators helps to explain the close correlation historically, but it would not be there if there had been surges in unemployment that did not correspond with broader economic slowdowns.

The idea that a recession is now here, when the unemployment rate is only 5 percent, may seem odd to anyone who lived through recent decades. That figure is less than half the high reached in 1982, and below the average rate of the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s. But sometimes it is the trend that counts, more than the absolute level.

In earlier decades, there was nothing unusual in a recession starting with an unemployment rate of 5 percent or less. Of the nine recessions since 1950 listed by the economic research bureau, five began with unemployment lower than that. They were the downturns in 1953, 1957, 1969, 1973 and 2001.

The normal pattern is for the 13 percent annual increase in the number of unemployed to come a few months after the recession began, although usually well before it was clear to economists that the downturn had arrived, and then to go much higher. The annual gains in joblessness usually stay above 13 percent until several months after the recession is over.

The only time the unemployment rise came before the recession actually started was in 1969, when the increase hit the 13 percent mark in September but the recession’s official starting date was later determined to be in December. That was also a rare instance where the annual change, after rising to 13 percent, slipped below that level for a couple of months. It did not move above 13 percent to stay until January 1970, a month after the recession began.

Employment is traditionally seen as a lagging economic indicator, because companies can be reluctant to lay off workers when demand first starts to slip, waiting until the bad news is clear. When the recession ends, there is a similar reluctance to hire until it is clear that a pickup in business is not temporary.

There is, of course, no guarantee that a recession is coming. In 1956 and again in 1967 there were 12 percent increases in the number of unemployed people, but the rate of gain fell back quickly and no recession quickly ensued. But the figure has never risen to 13 percent without a downturn being imminent or already under way.



4) The Education of Ben Bernanke
January 20, 2008

Correction Appended

Ben Bernanke’s first exposure to monetary policy was reading the works of Milton Friedman, the Nobel laureate. That was 30 years ago, when Bernanke was a graduate student at M.I.T., and he has been studying central banking ever since. By the time President Bush nominated him to run the Federal Reserve, at the end of 2005, Bernanke knew more about central banking than any economist alive. On virtually every topic of significance — how to prevent deflationary panics, for instance, or to gauge the effect of Fed moves on stock-market prices — Bernanke wrote one of the seminal papers. He championed ideas for improving communications between the Fed — whose previous chairman, Alan Greenspan, spoke in riddles — and the public, believing that clearer guidance about the Fed’s aims would help the economy run more smoothly. And having devoted much of his career to studying the causes of the Great Depression, Bernanke was the academic expert on how to prevent financial crises from spinning out of control and threatening the general economy. One line from his “Essays on the Great Depression” sounds especially prescient today: “To the extent that bank panics interfere with normal flows of credit, they may affect the performance of the real economy.”

Bernanke, who came to the job with a refreshing humility — a desire to be less an oracle like Greenspan than a plain-speaking technocrat —faces exactly this sort of crisis now. Ever since last summer, a meltdown in financial markets has led to daunting losses in the banking industry and throughout Wall Street. Despite having written extensively on how to deal with such episodes, Bernanke has thus far been unable to reinstill a sense of confidence. His faith in modern forecasting models notwithstanding, he failed to foresee that the sudden rise in homeowner defaults, which triggered the crisis, would have such far-reaching effects. And the monetary medicine that he has prescribed, including some of the very tools that he lovingly detailed in his research, have yet to produce a turnaround.

At the same time, Bernanke’s attempt to improve the way the Fed communicates has misfired and often left investors confused, partly because he has repeatedly shifted course over the future direction of interest rates. His hero, Milton Friedman, is said to have warned against an indecisive Fed acting like a “fool in the shower” fumbling with first the hot water and then the cold. Bernanke has gotten close. Perhaps worst of all, he has failed to persuade investors that the Federal Reserve, which was formed in 1913 for the very purpose of halting market panics, is up to the job. “Bernanke is seriously behind the curve,” says David Rosenberg, chief North American economist for Merrill Lynch, one of many critics who maintain that the Fed has not responded to the crisis with sufficient vigor.

For Bernanke, who is now 54, it has been an education unlike any at M.I.T. And yet there is a case to be made that he has made many more right moves than wrong ones. The current crisis is a hangover from a half-decade of heady speculation in both housing and home mortgages and does not necessarily admit to a speedy fix. Moreover, it has fallen into Bernanke’s lap just as oil prices have spiked to a record $100 a barrel, the dollar has hit an all-time low against the euro and unemployment has ticked upward. None other than Alan Greenspan has said that constellation of problems facing Bernanke is tougher than anything he experienced in the 18 years that he held the job.

Many observers, including Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury secretary, as well as a group of bearish stock traders, say the United States may already be sinking into a recession. The rise in unemployment reported two weeks ago stoked those fears. The White House has started talking about proposing relief. And just recently, Bernanke sent the clearest signal yet that the 17-member Federal Open Market Committee (which governs the Fed’s interest-rate policy, and over which Bernanke presides) would cut interest rates when it meets at the end of the month. In a speech, Bernanke warned that “the downside risks to growth have become more pronounced,” a gloomier assessment of the economy than he had given previously.

Bernanke also has strong reasons to worry, however, about easing rates too much. Inflation has failed to fall as the Fed expected. (In fact, lately it has been rising.) Also, lower interest rates induce foreigners to switch out of dollar-denominated investments like Treasuries and into currencies with higher yields. Thus, any rate cut would tend to escalate the stampede out of the dollar.

Perhaps the last Fed chief to face such a difficult one-two punch of inflation and slowing growth was Arthur Burns, who was also the last academic to hold the job. President Richard Nixon, concerned that high unemployment could cost him re-election in 1972, told Burns to concentrate on revving up the economy. “No one ever lost an election on account of inflation,” Nixon confidently told him. Burns did as he was directed. An eventual result was runaway inflation and, for Burns, a legacy of failure.

Bernanke is aware that he holds the same potential for influence as Burns — which is to say he has a profound ability to affect the political landscape this year. Polls show that the economy is now the most important issue to voters in the presidential election (more important even than the war). A recession would seem to be a clear repudiation of President Bush’s policies and, by extension, the Republican Party. Those who know Bernanke, however, say he is not motivated by politics. “He wants to be known as a great central banker,” says Mark Gertler, his close friend and an economics professor at New York University. “Those with the worst reputations are the ones who helped politicians.”

A wage-and-price spiral similar to that in the 1970s would not only be a political nightmare for the Republicans, it would also be a crushing blow to Bernanke’s reputation as a Fed chief. And with oil and food prices going through the roof, inflation is already a worry. The consumer price index surged 4.3 percent over the past 12 months — more than twice the inflation rate that Bernanke has delineated as the upper bound of his comfort range. (The widely watched “core” rate of inflation, which does not include volatile food or energy prices, is not as high as the overall rate, but it, too, has edged higher than Bernanke would like.)

“I think Bernanke is in a very difficult situation,” Paul Volcker told me. Volcker was the Fed chief who preceded Greenspan and who conquered, painfully, the great inflation of the 1970s and early ’80s. (He was chairman from 1979 to 1987.) “Too many bubbles have been going on for too long,” Volcker added. “The Fed is not really in control of the situation.”

This past fall, as markets and sometimes the world seemed to be tumbling all around Bernanke, I met him in his office for a mostly off-the-record chat. We sat at a coffee table from which I could make out a Bloomberg terminal at his desk, some framed bills from the first series of Federal Reserve notes, his certificate of nomination by President Bush and shelves of economics books. I returned for a second visit a month later for lunch in his private dining room (Bernanke ordered turkey and steamed vegetables) and followed up, at Bernanke’s suggestion, with a third and final interview, this time by phone.

Bernanke has a serious manner, befitting a scholar who once expected to spend his entire career in academia. He is shy and seemed faintly ill at ease, stiffly folding his arms while we talked; his hand trembled slightly when he gave me one of his books. He answered questions with an absence of emotion but with a torrent of carefully worded fact.

“It’s been a challenging economic situation,” he granted, “and also a difficult, rather tenacious set of problems in credit markets. However, I have the advantage of having a terrific committee” — the Federal Open Market Committee — “and strong staff support, and I think we have a good hold and understanding of the situation.”

Behind the modesty and blandness of such remarks, Bernanke is uncommonly thoughtful and also resilient. He was late to recognize the severity of the subprime mortgage crisis, which intensified when European banks experienced credit problems in August, but he has dealt with it deliberately and creatively since then. With more than a million households facing the possibility of home foreclosure in the next year, he will need all of his resourcefulness and more. “Every central-bank governor goes through tests of some sort,” says Stanley Fischer, the governor of the Bank of Israel and the man who was Bernanke’s thesis adviser at M.I.T. “Usually, the gods oblige by providing a test early on.” Bernanke’s exam looks like a doozy.

The Fed is facing two distinct threats — an apparent slowing of the economy over the intermediate term and a short-term market panic that has caused lenders (both banks and investors) to tighten credit lines, putting a squeeze on banks and other institutions that rely on short-term borrowing.

To ease the immediate crisis, the Fed has made credit more available through the so-called “discount window,” where it lends to private banks. Among other things, the Federal Reserve Bank is a bank — actually a group of banks with branches around the country. Lending at the discount window is one way that the Fed fulfills its unstated mission, which is to be the banker of last resort in times of crisis.

The Fed also has two formal missions that are codified in law: to promote “maximum employment” (thus its duty to head off recessions) and, of course, to maintain a stable purchasing power, which is generally interpreted as keeping the inflation rate at a tolerable level. There is a general notion that the Fed has vast powers over the economy itself. This is an impression enhanced by Greenspan’s Delphic pronouncements (anyone so inscrutable must have been pulling all the strings, or so it was tempting to believe). As Bernanke notes, the public has high expectations for what the Fed can do. Actually, it has very little influence over most of what makes the economy tick, like improvements in productivity, educational levels or whether commodity prices are trending higher or lower and so forth.

The Fed’s principal power is its control over the supply of money. You can think of the Fed as the banker in a national game of Monopoly. Normally, everyone gets $200 when they pass “Go,” but when business conditions slump, the Fed can give the economy a boost — much like hiking the “Go” rate to $300. Or, if the prices of the little green houses and red hotels are rising too swiftly, it can hand out less money.

Of course, the Fed doesn’t really hand out money. Its principal monetary lever is something called the federal funds rate, which is the rate that private banks charge one another for overnight loans.

The Federal Open Market Committee cannot “set” the fed funds rate by fiat; when it wants to, say, lower the rate, which as of this writing was 4.25 percent, it directs the New York Fed to inject cash into the system. The New York Fed lends money to major dealers in government securities, taking Treasuries as collateral. (Conversely, to tighten rates, the New York Fed borrows money.) This power to expand the money supply is unique. If one bank purchases bills from another, there is no net change in the banking system’s liquidity. Only the central banker, the Fed, can create new money.

The fed funds rate does not directly affect rates on car loans or leveraged buyouts or anything else. But when the fed funds rate eases, it’s an indication that the Fed has added liquidity to the system. Since the only thing banks can do with liquidity is lend it out, a flush banking system will act like a healthy heart, pumping credit into the economy.

During the Volcker era, the Fed conducted policy by adding or subtracting money until the total of bank reserves and checking accounts (what is commonly referred to as the “money supply”) reached a desired level. But with innovations in the financial system, like brokerage checking accounts, the lines between “money” and other financial assets blurred, and counting the money supply became too difficult.

So Greenspan switched the Fed’s methodology. Now it simply monitors the interest rate. If it wants to ease the rate, for instance, it keeps adding liquidity until banks react by reducing overnight rates to the target level.

During the first years of the new century, Greenspan lowered the fed funds rate to 1 percent, which was exceptionally low. Low rates were partly an attempt to revive the economy after the dot-com fiasco. In an illustration of how one bubble seems to beget another, however, the Greenspan rate cut greatly stimulated the housing industry. In particular, since adjustable-rate mortgages are determined by short-term interest rates, low rates paved the way for the explosion in ARMs, the very mortgages that lately have been defaulting at an epidemic pace.

As demand for mortgages swelled, banks began to engage in highly dubious lending practices, including issuing mortgages without verifying the income of borrowers. The Fed, which apart from its monetary role is also one of the federal agencies that regulates banks, was warned that standards were slipping. Greenspan, however, ignored the warnings, and the speculative lending continued, reaching a peak during Bernanke’s first year. Thus, in both of its main areas of responsibility — monetary and regulatory policy — Fed laxity has seemingly contributed to the current mess. Bernanke deflects such criticisms, partly because he maintains that the mortgage fiasco had many fathers and partly because he has a scholar’s disdain for perfect-hindsight-type judgments.

Bernanke has also shown his academic bent in how he runs the Fed. He has democratized interest-rate policy by giving the members of the Open Market Committee more of a voice. Bernanke’s collegial style worked at Princeton, where he taught. But as the point man for the U.S. economy in a time of crisis, perhaps the Fed chief should be more commanding, suggests Alan Blinder, a former Fed vice chairman and a former Princeton colleague.

The shadow of the czarlike Greenspan lingers over Bernanke, and as Greenspan has been promoting his memoirs and has otherwise been keeping visible, it is unlikely to go away. Greenspan was known to insist on unanimous support from committee members at critical junctures, to assure the country of the Fed’s resolve; Bernanke has not. Somewhat embarrassingly, he has suffered dissents on both ends of the spectrum. In October, a committee member voted against a Bernanke rate cut; in December, one dissented in favor of a bigger cut than Bernanke wanted.

Under Bernanke, the various Open Market Committee members have felt freer to speak their minds, and they have done so. This free speech has sometimes sounded cacophonous; the president of the Philadelphia Fed has clamored for a more hawkish policy, the Boston Fed for a dovish one. (In Fed parlance, hawks want to tighten rates; doves favor easing them.) Not surprisingly, Wall Street has found this dissonance confusing. Bruce Kasman, chief economist at JPMorgan Chase, insists that several times in recent months the market hasn’t heard what the Fed is saying.

One of Bernanke’s Open Market Committee colleagues admits that he worries about the extent to which “democracy,” however admirable, has dulled the Fed’s aura and, perhaps, its ability to lead. On the other hand, Bernanke has held the group together (committee members respect him enormously), and the wide diversity of their opinions points to Bernanke’s greatest strength, which is teasing out a consensus. “He is very good at hearing what everyone else has to say — of summarizing the discussion and then making his own observations,” says Charles Plosser, the president of the Philadelphia Fed and a hawk on the committee. “Does he persuade? He listens very carefully. He summarizes. Then he tries to shape what we should do.”

The Federal Open Market Committee is an unwieldy and archaic body in the best of times; it includes seven Fed governors in Washington (at the moment there are only five) and the presidents of the Fed’s 12 regional banks, which are dispersed in cities like Richmond and Cleveland, in the country’s industrial centers circa 1913, when the Fed was founded.

This hydralike form is a result of the country’s abiding fear of concentrated financial power. Congress twice set up central banks in the early years of the republic but let their charters lapse. Throughout the 19th century the country frequently experienced banking panics. After the Civil War, the United States adopted a gold standard, but without a central bank, the amount of money in circulation was fixed according to the available supply of gold — a rigid structure that the economy was outgrowing. The demand for credit was variable. For instance, it was heavy in the fall when the crops came to market.

In 1907, the U.S. suffered a brutal recession in which thousands of banks failed. The panic subsided only when J. P. Morgan Sr., then 70 and semiretired, personally rescued the stock exchange. Financiers realized that America needed a public lender of last resort: a central bank.

Paul Warburg, the scion of a German-Jewish banking family, was frustrated by the primitive financial system of the United States, his adopted home, and he formed a tentative alliance with Nelson W. Aldrich, the powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. In 1910, Aldrich, Warburg and a group of other bankers met in secret on Jekyll Island, off the coast of Georgia, to write a plan for a central bank. Reporters were told they were going duck hunting.

The public was highly suspicious of financiers, especially East Coast financiers, and the Federal Reserve was consciously designed to allay their fears. The regional Fed banks were to be semiautonomous, and they were chartered with their own boards, whose members were drawn from the local communities and a majority of whom could not be bankers. Political authority was vested in Washington; the Fed’s capital, however, was contributed by private banks all over the country.

In its early decades, the Fed had the ability to provide an elastic currency, but was unwilling to use its power to add liquidity except to support an influx of gold, or to finance so-called “real bills” — meaning paper backed by industrial and agricultural goods. In the ’30s, the Fed followed this principle into catastrophe. The head of the Philadelphia Fed lamented, in the midst of the Depression, “If we were to expand now we would be putting out credit when people don’t need it.” He was warning against the very tonic — a little extra liquidity — that might have allowed businesses to start investing money and hiring workers. The Fed did expand the money supply in the mid ’30s, and a recovery ensued, but it contracted too quickly, and business collapsed again.

Early scholarship blamed the Depression largely on Wall Street speculators, who were thought to have fueled overexpansion by businesses. Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz, however, fingered the Fed for failing to adequately expand the money supply as the economy contracted. That view is now widely accepted, and Bernanke’s scholarship added a dimension by emphasizing the pivotal role of banking panics in aggravating the monetary failure. For Bernanke, the Depression was the unique laboratory for learning his craft. As he is fond of saying, “If you want to learn about seismic activity, you study earthquakes, not tremors.”

Bernanke updates Bush and Vice President Cheney several times a year, but he prizes his political independence. Unlike Greenspan, he has avoided taking positions on economic issues that do not relate to the Fed’s mission. (An exception is his affirmation that he “believes in the laws of arithmetic,” a none-too-subtle rejection of the Bush ideology that championed deficit-spawning tax cuts.)

Tension with the White House was long part of the Fed chief’s job description, largely because the bank’s dual mandate (fighting inflation and promoting growth) was seen to be in conflict with itself. No president wants inflation, but most want high interest rates even less. Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to finance World War II with cheap money, and Henry Morgenthau Jr., his Treasury secretary, simply directed the Fed to buy Treasury bills at a fixed rate of 2.5 percent. This kept rates flat, but led to inflation after the war.

The Fed was liberated from the Treasury in a famous accord in 1951. William McChesney Martin Jr., who was appointed Fed chairman that year, battled Harry Truman and successive presidents to establish the prototype for an independent Fed chief. It was Martin who proclaimed that the chairman’s job was to “take away the punch bowl just as the party gets going” — in other words, to raise interest rates when a booming economy threatened to cause inflation. And it was Martin who created the quasi legend that Fed chiefs could decide an election. He tightened rates in the latter part of 1959, triggering a recession that began in April 1960. Nixon, the incumbent vice president and Republican presidential nominee that year, blamed Martin for sabotaging his chances in November.

Martin ran into even tougher pressure from Lyndon B. Johnson, who tried to browbeat him into easing rates. One version of what occurred, according to Richard Fisher, the current head of the Dallas Fed, who has studied the history, is that “Lyndon took Martin to his ranch and asked the Secret Service to leave the room. And he physically beat him, he slammed him against the wall, and said, ‘Martin, my boys are dying in Vietnam, and you won’t print the money I need.’ ” Martin ultimately caved. By the time he retired, in 1970, inflation was a worrisome 6 percent. Soon after, President Nixon told Burns to promote maximum employment. In fairness to Burns, he was laboring under the unforgiving strictures of an academic model known as the Phillips curve, which held that low inflation and economic growth were incompatible opposites. If you wanted to raise employment, you had to permit more inflation. And that’s what Burns did.

By the late ’70s, inflation was as much a psychological condition as an economic one. As prices rose, unions scored automatic cost-of living hikes, and so businesses raised prices even more. With inflation in double digits, Jimmy Carter finally nominated Volcker, an aloof, 6-foot-7 career public servant, who seemed to garble much of what he said through a half-chewed cigar. From the intelligible part, it was clear that Volcker intended to break the inflationary cycle. Volcker tightened the money supply so much that the fed funds rate soared to 20 percent. This led to a brutal recession, which was especially tough on workers and businesses in interest-rate-sensitive industries like real estate. “It’s no fun raising interest rates,” Volcker admitted. Idle builders were so enraged that some sent him two-by-fours in the mail. High interest rates took a terrible toll on President Carter. In September 1980, with Carter and Ronald Reagan in a close race, Volcker administered the coup de grâce by hiking the discount rate. A decade later, President George H. W. Bush blamed Alan Greenspan’s tight money policy for his own defeat.

For Bernanke’s generation, the great inflation served as a bookend to the 1930s. It was an object lesson on the dangers of creating too much liquidity. Once again, Milton Friedman changed the profession’s understanding, this time by deciding that, in the long run, the Phillips curve was wrong. Printing money (or as Friedman famously quipped, dropping bundles of bills from a helicopter) would spur the economy only temporarily. At first, as the money supply expanded, businesses would hire more workers and produce more goods. The economy would be “tricked” into operating at a higher gear. But after a while, workers would insist on wage hikes, and companies would jack up prices. The higher prices would cool off the economy again. So the net result of printing money would be just inflation — no gains in production. In the long term, neither the Fed nor anyone could spur an economy to grow faster than its “natural rate” — which is determined by all those other factors: productivity, population changes, technological advances, demand for exports and so forth.

Thus the dictum that inflation would lead to jobs was out. According to the new thinking, low inflation is consistent with, and even a prerequisite for, reaching whatever the economy’s potential is. That means that Fed chiefs and presidents are on the same side. Bill Clinton bought into the idea, which is to say he broke with precedent and left Greenspan alone. Only in the very short term — say, when a stimulus is needed — are the Fed’s two mandates in conflict. Of course, since elections are decided in the short term, the potential for political infighting remains.

To Bernanke, the political dimensions of the job came as a mild shock. The day we met, he had come from breakfast with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr.; the day before, he met with a congresswoman. (The Fed is a creature of the Congress, and Bernanke must take care not to alienate it.) A few months back, when Senator Christopher Dodd invited Bernanke and Paulson to discuss some “current issues,” the senator, who was then running for the Democratic nomination, staged a news conference for a score of media members whom he had, conveniently, also invited. This is the sort of thing they don’t train you for at M.I.T.

Bernanke grew up in the small town of Dillon, S.C., at the tail end of the segregation era (in high school he wrote a schoolboy’s novel about whites and blacks coming together on the basketball team). His father and his uncle ran a local drug store. Folks trustingly called them Dr. Phil and Dr. Mort. Ben, who skipped first grade, was obviously smart from the get-go. He played the saxophone, just as Greenspan did, and waited tables two summers and worked construction another. The Bernankes were observant Jews, and Ben’s folks fretted when he got into Harvard that if he strayed from home he might wander from his religious teachings. It was never a risk. Judaism is important to Bernanke, though, as with other personal subjects, he does not discuss it. As a doctoral candidate at M.I.T., he blossomed into a star, and at the tender age of 31 he received a tenured position in the economics department at Princeton.

His academic research was steeped in the increasingly sophisticated discipline of econometrics, which uses computer models to simulate (and predict) the economy. By contrast, Greenspan often relied on his hunches. The difference is partly generational, but Bernanke is clearly more comfortable working with mathematical formulas than with anecdotal examples. (One looks in vain in his Depression writings for stories of banks that failed or of workers who lost their jobs.)

At Princeton, as a self-deprecating, tweedy professor, he discovered a talent for leadership and became department chairman. (He also served two terms on the local school board.) The Princeton economics faculty is roughly as cohesive as the various ethnicities of the former Yugoslavia, with the principal cleft being between the “empiricists” and the “theoreticians.” Department meetings were so contentious that two professors stopped speaking to each other. Bernanke eased the tension and also raised the department’s profile, chiefly by making it plain that he was listening to all sides. Burton Malkiel, himself a former chairman, says: “I thought I was pretty darn good, and Ben was the best chair we ever had, and for the reasons that actually inform his current job. He was extraordinarily good at working diverse viewpoints.”

In Princeton, where he and his wife, Anna, a Spanish-language teacher, reared two children, Bernanke evidenced an ambition that surprised his colleagues, and perhaps himself. Bernanke is exceptionally methodical; he once told Alan Blinder, his Princeton colleague, that you can learn a lot about people by noting when they fish their car keys from their pocket; Bernanke does so as he leaves the office, long before he reaches his car. He is also determined. He and Alan B. Krueger, another colleague, were once waiting in Newark airport for a flight to Boston. A thunderstorm rolled in, and the flight was delayed. Krueger suggested renting a car. Bernanke, who had a fear of flying, told him, “No, I promised myself if I got to the airport, I’d get on the plane.”

While at Princeton, Bernanke wrote policy-oriented papers that raised his profile in Washington. One Bernanke idea was a direct response to the market’s frustration with Greenspan, who refused to be tied down on what his inflation objective was. Bernanke maintains that if the Fed is clear about its policies, the public will tailor its behavior accordingly. For instance, if the Fed can demonstrate that it has the fortitude to snuff out inflation, individual businesses will be less likely to worry that their costs will rise, and thus less apt to raise their prices. Following this logic, Bernanke and two colleagues proposed that the Fed become more transparent and publicize an explicit inflation target.

In 2002, President Bush asked Bernanke to become a Fed governor. When the White House called, Bernanke happened to be in California, in the midst of an editing session with Robert Frank, a Cornell University economist with whom he was writing a textbook. Frank, who had been working with Bernanke for two years, said, “What’s Bush doing appointing a Democrat?” Bernanke said, “Actually, I’m a Republican.” Bernanke rarely discusses his politics, and he tends to look at issues through a nonideological lens.

Being a Fed governor was a low-profile job, especially with Greenspan making all the decisions. But Bernanke delivered a series of often-provocative speeches (albeit in a monotone) that made him visible. In one speech, he presented an alternative, less worrisome explanation for the trade deficit. In another, he gave an overview of the Open Market Committee, whose job he likened to driving a car with a foggy windshield and an unreliable speedometer. As he put it, “Not a vehicle for inexperienced drivers.” In yet another, he discussed his personal transition from academic to policy maker, which he said was eased by the fact that the Fed relies on econometric formulas that “feel comfortably familiar.”

But as governor, Bernanke made a small contribution to a problem that would blossom in a big way on his watch. In the aftermath of the 2001 recession, inflation was at its lowest level in decades. Though consumer prices were rising, Bernanke feared a possible bout of deflation — the potentially devastating phenomenon in which prices drop, leading to lessened business activity and then still lower prices and so forth. This occurred during the Depression and also in Japan in the 1990s.

Bernanke’s argument provided a major element of support to Greenspan for keeping interest rates low. (To what extent he influenced Greenspan is hard to determine.) Both men were proponents of the risk-management approach to central banking, which argues in favor of taking out “insurance” to minimize even small risks — in this case, the risk of deflation. The deflation never occurred. It’s possible that it would have occurred had rates not been kept low, but in any case, Bernanke must be regarded as one of the intellectual authors of the low-rate policy that fed the housing bubble.

Bernanke is also firmly opposed to the notion that central banks should raise rates to prick bubbles in the stock market or elsewhere. In a paper written at the height of the dot-com mania, in late 1999, Bernanke and his friend Gertler argued that it is virtually impossible to identify a bubble before it pops. Many Wall Streeters dismiss this out of hand. Robert Barbera, the chief economist at ITG, remarked of 1999, “A child of 4 had to know it was a bubble.” Regardless, Bernanke maintains, the interest rate is too blunt a tool for addressing a narrow sector of the economy like tech stocks or even housing. Indeed, Bernanke says he believes that the Fed’s actions to cool off stock-market speculation in 1929 contributed to the Depression and was a grievous error. This view remains highly controversial. Asset bubbles are bound to burst, and various foreign central bankers argue that when they do, the economy suffers and people lose jobs. Ignoring them is hardly without risk.

When Bernanke was nominated to be the Fed chief, a meltdown was not on many people’s radar. He was easily confirmed and pressed ahead on one of his main goals: to make the Fed more transparent. The Fed now reports more frequently, and also more exhaustively, on the economy. But he learned that “transparency” is a double-edged virtue. A few months after his February 2006 confirmation, at the annual White House correspondents’ dinner, he told the CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo that markets had misinterpreted his testimony in Congress as dovish. When his comments were reported, stock and bond markets tanked. Since then, the chief has spoken with more care, even among his friends.

Bernanke has discovered that even standard communication with the public — not just off-the-cuff remarks — can be fraught with peril. In recent years, a highly watched futures contract has developed that enables investors to bet on the outcomes of Open Market Committee meetings rather like Las Vegas bookmakers laying odds on the Super Bowl. The result is a weird hall of mirrors. Investors scrutinize the every utterance of Fed officials and vote with their dollars, whereupon the committee must either fulfill investors’ expectations or risk a market crash. Though the committee members that I talked to (half of the current group) denied that they feel obligated to ratify the fed funds futures, none dispute that it is a factor. “There is excessive emphasis on reading the entrails of the Federal Reserve,” grumbles Fisher, the Dallas Fed chief. “We get put on a table and sliced open.”

The Open Market Committee has eight regularly scheduled meetings a year. The week before the members gather, they are sent the “green book,” with the staff’s economic outlook, and also the “blue book,” with a menu of policy options. The other governors, whose offices are down the hallway from Bernanke’s, typically know which way the chairman will be leaning. But the bank presidents, who generally do not confer between meetings, often arrive in Washington with no firm idea of what Bernanke wants. The group assembles around a massive, 27-foot Honduran-mahogany table in the conference room, which adjoins the chairman’s office, and at 8:30 a.m. the room falls silent, a side door opens and Bernanke enters.

After briefings from the staff, the members go around the table as if it were a Princeton seminar, each expounding on his or her view of the economy (transcripts of Bernanke meetings are running much longer than those under Greenspan). The bank presidents give an idea of conditions around the country, and the governors tend to coalesce around Bernanke’s view. In Greenspan’s era, the chairman led off by giving a lengthy disquisition of his outlook and policy recommendations. Every member had a chance to speak after him, but the pressure to agree with the maestro was daunting. In a profound switch, Bernanke now presents his views last.

The committee also consults academic formulas that derive the theoretically “correct” fed funds rate according to the level of inflation and other economic indicators. The most famous of these formulas, known as the Taylor Rule, correctly predicts the decisions of the Federal Open Market Committee about 85 percent of the time. Bernanke disputes the idea that he could be replaced by a computer, but to some extent, the success of modern economics has downsized his job.

At least this seemed to be the case until last summer. The housing meltdown has defied the forecasting abilities of the Fed’s 220 crack economists, computers and all. As late as May, Bernanke gave a speech in which he opined that “the effect of the troubles in the subprime sector on the broader housing market will likely be limited.”

It has proved to be anything but. The country’s banks have admitted to mortgage-related losses of almost $100 billion, and the full extent of the damage, as homeowners continue to default, is not known. As the crisis unfolded last summer and fall, Bernanke repeatedly faced a devil’s choice. He could cut interest rates and risk inflation and a run on the dollar and, at the same time, be seen as bailing out people and institutions who made bad bets on subprime mortgages. Or he could do nothing and run the risk that the troubles in housing would leach into the general economy, causing people to lose jobs and possibly a recession. No decision could be made in isolation, since every move would be reflected in that hall of mirrors. And it would take time to see the effect of each decision because, as Bernanke never tires of pointing out, monetary policy works with a lag. The Open Market Committee can never know until well after the fact — until, say, a recession occurs — whether it has made the wrong move.

Soon after Bernanke’s speech in May, two hedge funds organized by Bear Stearns reported huge mortgage-related losses. Credit markets were suddenly jittery. When the committee met on Aug. 7, many expected it to give markets a little relief by easing the fed funds rate, then at 5.25 percent.

The committee voted to hold rates firm. It hotly debated, however, what to say in its statement. Some members wanted to signal that the committee considered an economic slowdown to be the greater risk. Markets, well-versed in Fed-speak, would interpret that to mean that a rate cut might be in the offing later. Bernanke maintained that inflation was still the greater risk, and he prevailed.

Two days later, France’s biggest bank, BNP Paribas, was forced to freeze three investment funds because of mortgage-related losses. By day’s end, Countrywide Financial, a leading purveyor of cheap loans during America’s mortgage boom, would announce that “unprecedented disruptions” in markets could jeopardize its financial condition. This triggered a liquidity crisis. Banks were paying as much as 6 percent for overnight money — far more than the official Fed rate of 5.25 percent. It was a moment with depression overtones: banks were hoarding liquidity.

Bernanke, who had canceled plans for a vacation to Myrtle Beach, S.C., was now confronting the specter of a financial implosion of the sort he had so often written about. Although he knew the experience of the 1930s in his sleep, he was, in truth, unfamiliar with the exotic mortgage instruments that were failing now. Bernanke has no ego about such matters, and he consulted extensively with Timothy Geithner, the president of the New York Fed, as well as with Kevin Warsh, a fast-rising 37-year-old Fed governor and former investment banker at Morgan Stanley, whose unofficial role is to keep tabs on Wall Street. He had also forged a close relationship with Donald Kohn, his vice chairman, who has been with the Fed for 32 years and has a deep understanding of the institution and its abilities.

This unofficial war cabinet deliberated in a series of urgent telephone conversations about how to respond. On Friday, Aug. 10, the New York Fed pumped $38 billion into the markets, several times as much as on a normal Friday. Meanwhile, some of the governors, as well as William Dudley, a former Goldman Sachs economist and now the markets chief of the New York Fed, were canvassing C.E.O.’s, bank executives, traders and the like. Warsh, who was dialing contacts from his Wall Street days, was alarmed by what he heard. A source he described as a “hedge-fund billionaire” told him that credit assets weren’t trading; people didn’t want them at any price. “Markets weren’t functioning,” he says. “That is very dangerous for a central banker to hear.”

Bernanke, a fan of brainstorming sessions, began to raise alternatives with his more market-savvy colleagues. Meanwhile, the stock market plunged 6 percent in a week. The central bankers were still looking for a golden mean — a way to arrest the particularized distress of banks without overheating the economy in general. On Aug. 16, in a special meeting convened by telephone, Bernanke led the Fed in just such a two-pronged effort. They cut the discount rate (for lending to banks) but left the fed funds rate unchanged. The Open Market Committee’s statement, however, seemed to leave room for a cut in the future. And in the regular meeting of mid-September, they did cut the fed funds rate — by a hefty half-point. Markets were momentarily calmed.

But the pattern resumed: Fed action followed by a respite in the crisis followed by new turmoil and renewed pressure on the Fed. One bank after another — Citigroup, then Merrill Lynch, then Morgan Stanley — reported massive subprime losses. More disquietingly, although the fed funds rate was a half-point lower, various other interest rates — the ones that people and institutions actually borrow at — hadn’t moved by as much. This meant that the Fed’s rate cut hadn’t worked: credit conditions had not really eased.

Of particular concern to Bernanke, prices of seemingly sound credit instruments (like jumbo mortgages, which were not experiencing unusual default rates) plunged, and credit for corporate acquisitions evaporated. Clearly, the subprime crisis could no longer be regarded as a little problem of Wall Street or even of the housing industry. Securities backed by subprime mortgages plummeted, but securities backed by other, more stable assets also weakened. When specific problems breed generalized selling, central bankers get nervous.

On Oct. 31, as the Open Market Committee gathered, the Commerce Department reported that in the third quarter, the economy grew at 3.9 percent, a surprisingly robust clip. Americans were still buying cars; factories were churning out goods. The news solidified the feeling of the committee hawks that they should hold rates firm. But Bernanke — ever the believer in tailoring policy to conditions as they are forecast, and not just as they are — figured that the economy was bound to weaken. The committee cut the rate by a quarter-point. Minutes of the meeting would describe it as a “close call,” suggesting a significant amount of internal disagreement.

As if to forestall criticism that the Fed had bowed to markets, its statement said “the upside risks to inflation roughly balance the downside risks to growth” — a clear indication that no more cuts were anticipated. Still, Jim Cramer, the high-voltage CNBC stock tout, gloated, “The Fed has got your back,” implying gleefully that the Fed would protect investors at all costs. The Economist charged that the chief was a “pushover” for Wall Street, and The Wall Street Journal opined that the Bernanke Fed had become a “Pavlovian” slave to the market.

The Fed’s dance with the futures market is a pressure-packed aspect for Bernanke, who knows that investors stake millions of dollars every day on what the chairman will do, and also react to it with the shortest-term horizon imaginable. But Bernanke cannot ignore the futures market, as tempting as that might be. He was reared on the academic theory of “rational expectations,” which posits that for monetary policy to work, the market and the Fed must each have a clear idea of where the other is going. Investors have to watch the Fed, but the Fed also has to take the pulse of investors.

In November, Wall Street began to agitate for a third rate cut. Bernanke and Kohn, the Fed’s vice chairman, gave speeches late in the month, indicating that they, too, were adjusting their economic outlook downward, because of repeated signs that bank credit was tightening. But when the rate cut came, in December, it was only a quarter-point instead of a half. Markets went ballistic: the Dow Jones average plummeted 300 points, and traders interpreted the committee’s moderate stance as a betrayal. Paul McCulley, a managing director at Pimco, a big bond-trading firm, accused the Fed of “breaking a covenant.” Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s, complained that the Open Market Committee’s press release, a waffling statement citing the “uncertainty surrounding the outlook,” read as if it were the product of a committee.

Committee members dispute the notion that Bernanke doesn’t lead, though it’s assuredly more of a group endeavor than it was in the past. As Bernanke told me, “It’s a consensus-based system . . . with a leader. It’s not that I dictate the answer, but I have to be comfortable with the outcome of the process, and as chairman I aim to shape a process that produces the best outcome.”

What about the charge that the Fed is simply bailing out Wall Street? Bernanke invariably insists that the Fed is not concerned with investors per se. However, as he noted in August when central bankers gathered in Jackson Hole, Wyo., “developments in financial markets can have broad economic effects felt by many outside the markets.”

When Wall Street shudders, the Fed pays attention — but only, various Fed governors argued to me, because Wall Street’s angst is a symptom of real or potential economic problems: in this case, a credit crunch and an economic slowdown.

In late December, Bernanke announced two new initiatives: an auction to lend money to banks (the discount-window loans did not seem to be working) and a proposal to tighten mortgage regulations, which would ideally reduce the odds of another housing bubble down the road. But history will no doubt judge him on how effectively he deals with this housing meltdown.

There is plenty of room to quibble with the Open Market Committee’s various decisions, but viewed from a distance, the individual moves and even the directional shifts seem less important. By cutting rates by a total of one point since August, Bernanke has clearly moved toward a policy of stimulus. Perhaps unconsciously, he has mimicked the directive of Irving Fisher, one of the United States’ first great economists, who likened the task of central bankers to that of steering a bicycle: “Turn the wheel slightly, and if that is not enough, you turn it some more, or if you turn it too much, you turn it back.”

Such an approach can work in normal times. Indeed, the United States has spent only 16 months of the last quarter-century in recession — a vast improvement over previous eras. The recent period has been called the Great Moderation; growth cycles have evened out, and inflation has abated in almost every country around the globe.

But will it work now? The Fed faces not only the twin demons of recession and inflation but also the specter that further rate cuts would cause foreign investors — who own more than $2 trillion of U.S. debt — to bail out, sending U.S. interest rates soaring. That, combined with the steadily worsening housing slump, could make for a long and nasty recession. And it would mark the end to the Great Moderation.

Perhaps the Great Moderation has been the result of good luck. Or perhaps it has been because of improved management skills —business learning not to overstock inventories, for example. Bernanke has written that it is something else. He sees it as a result, in large part, of better monetary policies. He says that central bankers have finally learned how to guide economies — not with mystique but with economic science. If that is so, we will not need a wizard behind the curtain anymore, only intelligent engineers who can steer markets to a promised land of rational expectations. To prove that he is right, Bernanke will need to minimize or, if possible, avoid the looming recession that looks ever more likely. It will not be easy. Bernanke’s education has just begun.

Roger Lowenstein is a contributing writer to the magazine and the author of “While America Aged,” to be published in May by the Penguin Press.

Correction: January 20, 2008

An article on Page 36 of The Times Magazine this weekend, about Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, misspells the surname of the secretary of the Treasury. He is Henry Paulson Jr., not Paulsen.


5) Urgent-Urgent- For publish-Death and Darkness in Gaza, People are dying, Help us!
Source: Maan

A humanitarian crisis is underway as the Gaza Strip's only power
plant began to shut down on Sunday, and the tiny coastal territory
entered its third full day without shipments of vital food and fuel
supplies due to Israel's punitive sanctions.

The Gaza Strip's power plant has completely shut down on Sunday
because it no longer has the fuel needed to keep running. One of the
plant's two electricity-generating turbines had already shut down by

This will drastically reduce output to 25 or 30 megawatts, down from
the 65 megawatts the plant produces under normal conditions. By
Sunday evening the plant will shut down completely, leaving large
swaths of the Gaza Strip in darkness.

Omar Kittaneh, the head of the Palestine Energy Authority in
Ramallah, confirmed that by tonight, the one remaining operating
turbine will be powered down, and the Gaza power plant will no longer
be generating any electricity at all.

"We have asked the Israeli government to reverse its decision and to
supply fuel to operate the power plant", Dr. Kittaneh said. "We have
talked to the Israeli humanitarian coordination in their Ministry of
Energy [National Infrastructure]. We say this is totally Israel's
responsibility, and that reducing the fuel supplies until the plant
had to shut down will affect not only the electrical system but the
water supply, and the entire infrastructure in Gaza – everything."

After months of increasingly harsh sanctions, Israel imposed a total
closure on the Strip's border crossings, even preventing the delivery
of humanitarian aid. The Israeli government says the closure is
punishment for an ongoing barrage of Palestinian homemade projectiles
fired from the Gaza Strip.


180 fuel stations have shut down after Gaza residents to buy gas for

A Palestinian economist Hasan Abu Ramadan said the current
humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip will be deepened by the
blockade on fuel and food supplies. He warned that Gaza Strip could
go from a situation of deep poverty to all out famine, disease, and

Abu Ramadan said that more than 80% of the Strip's 1.5 million
residents have been surviving with the help of food aid from
international organizations such as UNRWA for Palestinian refugees.

International condemnation

Most international actors in the region believe there already is a
humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including the UN's Emergency Relief
Coordinator, the Undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs John
Holmes, who said at a press conference at UNHQ in New York on Friday
that "This kind of action against the people in Gaza cannot be
justified, even by those rocket attacks".

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressed particular concern, in a
statement issued later on Friday through his spokesperson, about the
"decision by Israel to close the crossing points in between Gaza and
Israel used for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Such action
cuts off the population from much-needed fuel supplies used to pump
water and generate electricity to homes and hospitals".

The UN Human Rights Council's Special Rapporteur on the situation of
human rights in the occupied territories, John Dugard, also issued a
much sharper statement on Friday, saying that Israel must have
foreseen the loss of life and injury to many nearby civilians when it
targeted the Ministry of Interior building in Gaza City.

This, and the killings of other Palestinians during the week, plus
the closures, "raise very serious questions about Israel's respect
for international law and its Commitment to the peace process",
Dugard said. He said it violates the strict prohibition on collective
punishment contained in the Fourth Geneva Convention, and one of the
basic principles of international humanitarian law: that military
action must distinguish between military targets and civilian targets.


Popular Committee Against Siege(PCAS),
PCAS Manager,
Sam AK
Gaza - Palestine

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6) Highly Skilled And Out Of Work
Long-Term Joblessness Spreads in Middle Class
By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 21, 2008; A01

An unusually large share of workers have been out a job for more than six months even as overall unemployment has remained low, a little-noted weakness in the labor market that analysts said threatens to intensify the impact of the unfolding economic downturn.

In November, nearly 1.4 million people -- almost one in five of those unemployed -- had been jobless for at least 27 weeks, the juncture when unemployment insurance benefits end for most recipients. That is about twice the level of long-term unemployment before the 2001 recession.

The problem is ensnaring a broader swath of workers than before. Once concentrated among manufacturing workers and those with little work history, education or skills, long-term unemployment is growing most rapidly among white-collar and college-educated workers with long work experience, studies have found, making the problem difficult for policymakers to address even as it grows more urgent.

"What has happened is a polarization of the labor market. It was very strong at the very top and very strong until recently at the bottom," said Lawrence F. Katz, a labor economist at Harvard University. "But in the recent weak recovery, and now recession, demand has been very weak" for jobs in the middle.

Caroline Dixon never contemplated any of that when she resigned in April after nine months as a program officer with the Spina Bifida Association. She left because the job was "a bad fit," and she said she was confident that the economy was strong and she would soon find work. For a long time, she never stopped in the unemployment office on Naylor Road near her Southeast Washington home.

But as weeks out of work stretched into months, Dixon, 41, became a fixture there. Now she can be found there on weekdays, spending untold hours at the heavily used computer bank checking out potential employers, printing job notices and e-mailing her résumé. "I jokingly tell people that I'm headed to my office when I'm coming here," she said, without a smile.

With the economy sliding toward a possible recession and the jobless rate having spiked to 5 percent last month, the already high rate of long-term unemployment is likely to grow, as it has during past slowdowns, a prospect that has spawned calls in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail to extend unemployment benefits and expand tax cuts to protect jobs and fuel the economy.

The growth in long-term unemployment has occurred even as displaced workers have taken bigger pay cuts to reenter the job market. A 2004 study found that workers who lost a job in 2001 to 2003 took an average pay cut of 17 percent in their new jobs, more than double the average cut of those displaced in the late 1990s.

"When people are losing good jobs these days, they have a very hard time getting back to the type of job they had before," said Andrew Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group that presses for more generous unemployment benefits.

While strong corporate profits, low inflation and record manufacturing output characterized the extended recovery that followed the 2001 recession, some economists call that period of expansion a "CEO's recovery." Real wages were mostly flat, poverty ticked upward and an unusual number of people had a hard time finding work -- a fact masked by relatively low overall unemployment rates.

"This tells you that this has not been as good an economy as the overall unemployment rate would make it seem," said John Schmitt, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. "This dynamic causes anxiety among people even if they still have a job. It is very important to understanding the level of anxiety that the work force feels as a whole."

Dixon estimates that she has sent out more than 100 résumés, yielding four interviews. And nobody is talking about paying her anything near the $65,000 she made in her last job. "All of my friends keep telling me, 'You'll get a job,' " Dixon said. "But that's what I thought six months ago, and I still don't have one."

Dixon said she and her friends and family grow more anxious the longer she is out of work. For nearly all of her life, having a job was a given: Her late father had worked 35 years for Washington Gas; her mother retired from her last job after more than 15 years. After graduating from college in 1989, Dixon worked for 16 years at the American Forest Foundation before moving to the Spina Bifida Association in the District.

These days, her mother, who lives in Capitol Heights, often sends Dixon encouraging notes with Safeway gift cards tucked inside. "I'm sure she's concerned," Dixon said. "She's always asking, 'So, how's the job hunt going?' I tell her, 'If I had a job, you'd be one of the first people I'd tell.' "

Dixon has managed to stay afloat by occasionally working as a substitute teacher at the Washington Middle School for Girls, using a small profit she earns from a rental property and tapping into her savings. She said she considers herself lucky to get free health insurance through a D.C. program that provides coverage for the unemployed.

Still, things are getting tight for Dixon, who is single and has no children. "I need a safety net under my safety net," she said.

Officials who work with the jobless said they are seeing more people like Dixon-- educated, with stable work histories -- having a hard time finding a job.

"It seems like for the skilled worker who has experience and credentials, finding a job that matches their skill and experience is like reaching for the brass ring on the carousel," said Howard H. Marshall, manager of the Baltimore County Workforce Development Center in Hunt Valley. "A lot of people are grabbing for it, and only few will get it."

Jan W. Saurbaugh, 57, a former computer specialist who lives in Timonium, Md., started working at 14, when he got a paper route. By 19, he had joined the Marines. For most of his life, he has worked steadily, shifting with life's circumstances and the economic currents.

After leaving the military, he trained and worked as a welder. When neck injuries from an auto accident left him unable to do that, he went to community college to learn computer-assisted drafting, which led to seven years of work with the Coast Guard in Baltimore. Saurbaugh, who exudes an old-school formality with his ramrod straight posture, tightly knotted necktie and neatly pressed corduroys, said he made the mistake of his career when he left his drafting job for a computer-related Coast Guard job in Washington. The position was officially designated as temporary but offered an immediate $12,000-a-year increase over his $38,000 salary and the promise of more raises.

"One guy told me, 'I've been on temporary status with the federal government 13 years, and I've always had a job,' " Saurbaugh said, which put his misgivings to rest. But then Saurbaugh faced what he called a "bad turn of events."

Scrambling to complete his bachelor's degree, Saurbaugh found himself getting little sleep and struggling with the commute to Washington. He developed a sleep disorder that caused him to miss significant time at work. Nine months after taking the job, he resigned under pressure. A sheaf of commendations and awards he had accumulated with the Coast Guard could not save his job.

"I was devastated that I didn't have work," Saurbaugh said. "But I figured I was just a couple of months away from my degree. I figured once I had it, somebody would pick me up."

That was more than two years ago. In between, he has worked only three months -- at a car dealership where a childhood friend is a manager. "I sold eight cars a month for three months. That wasn't cutting it. I am just not a car salesman," he said.

Saurbaugh, whose wife is partially disabled, has sold his camper and drained his retirement accounts and is now dependent on family for survival. His elderly in-laws took a home-equity loan to pay the mortgage on his three-bedroom Cape Cod, and his brother-in-law pays for the couple's health insurance. "I thought by this time in my life, I'd be the one peeling off a few bills for someone," he said. "I hate asking people for money."

He said that if he doesn't find work soon, he will have to sell his house. Saurbaugh said he has looked for jobs everywhere, even applying at electronics stores and bulk-office-supply businesses. But, so far, nothing.

"I keep telling my wife: 'Things are going to work out. They'll work out," he said, shaking his head. "But they haven't."


7) Stocks Plunge in Europe and Asia on U.S. Recession Fear
January 21, 2008

PARIS — Global stock markets plunged on Monday as fears spread that the turmoil in United States mortgage markets is spreading. Indexes in Europe fell as much as 7 percent after a huge sell-off in Asia.

“There’s something approaching panic in the market,” Holger Schmieding, the chief European economist at Bank of America in London, said by telephone. “There’s been a reassessment in the market of the U.S. economic outlook, with most people now thinking that there will be a recession,” and investors are starting to reconsider the idea that the rest of the world “will remain aloof from U.S. problems.”

The selling began in Sydney, with Australian stocks falling nearly 3 percent for an 11th consecutive decline. Major markets in Asia followed suit, with the benchmark Nikkei 225-stock average in Tokyo falling 3.9 percent, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong falling 5.5 percent and the benchmark mainland Chinese index falling more than 5 percent.

European shares were on track for their biggest decline in more than four and a half years as United States recession fears rattled investors. At the close, the Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50 was down 7.3 percent. The CAC 40 index in Paris was down 6.8 percent, having fallen more than 7 percent at one point. The Dax 30 in Frankfurt was down 7.1 percent, and the FTSE 100 in London was down 5.5 percent.

Stocks followed suit when markets opened in the Western Hemisphere. Canadian stocks were down 4.5 percent at midday, and a key market index in Brazil was off 6.6 percent.

United States markets are closed on Monday in observance of Martin Luther King’s Birthday. But trading Monday in stock index futures, while light and not always a reliable indicator, pointed to a substantial decline on Wall Street. Futures in the Dow Jones industrial average were down 520 points, or more than 4 percent.

Stocks received no lift on Friday despite an announcement that the Bush administration would seek a stimulus package of as much as $145 billion. Market participants said that meant investors were convinced that an American recession is looming, and economists and strategists said the effect would span the globe.

No matter how many bridges, roads and power plants China builds, or new cars India sells, a downturn in the United States will batter Asian economies, they said.

Investors in Asia have been in a state of denial about the possibility of a recession in the United States, said Adrian Mowat, chief strategist for JPMorgan in Asia. But now, he said, “there’s no debate about it.”

Instead, he said investors were asking “how long and how deep” the recession might be.

In recent months, some emerging market investors have preached the idea that fast-growing areas like most of Asia have “decoupled” from developed markets, meaning the economies of the two groups no longer move in tandem. The investing adage “When the United States sneezes, Asia catches a cold” no longer applies, the proponents of decoupling argue.

But a recent slump in emerging markets, capped by Monday’s slide, means investor sentiment is changing.

Mr. Mowat said it did not matter whether global markets were separated by geography or asset class because “we trade together in corrections.”

Deborah Schuller, a regional credit officer for Moody’s Investor Service in Asia, said, “If the United States consumer quits buying things, it is going to hurt” Asian economies.

Most rated corporations in Asia will be able to withstand nine months of United States recession, but if hard times in America stretched to 12 months or more, there could be serious problems, she said.

Worries about the Chinese economy are also giving investors in Asia heartburn.

The country’s private property market is in the midst of a shakeout, and scores of small developers have gone out of business. Meanwhile, fears of inflation have been looming for months. Shanghai’s composite index closed down 5.1 percent at 4,914.44. The Hang Seng’s 5.5 percent fall was the biggest fall since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. The Hong Kong index fell more than 5 percent last Wednesday.

The decline in Japanese stocks took the market to the lowest levels in more than two years on concerns that a United States recession could be accompanied by a local one. The Nikkei is now down more than 13 percent in January.

The Japanese Finance Ministry said Monday that growth was slowing in five of Japan’s economic regions, which have been hit by stagnant housing investment and the poor employment.

The Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex index plummeted 7.4 percent and suffered its biggest-ever point loss of 1,353 to close at 17,605.35.

Hardest hit were some of the most valued Indian companies, including Reliance Communications, Tata Steel and Reliance Industries.

There may be more downturns in store for Asia, particularly as banks report the fallout from their investments in the United States mortgage market. Companies “have not announced their year-end numbers yet,” Schuller, of Moody’s, said, and if they are holding subprime assets, they may need to write-off their value, she said. “They are going to be taking these 25 to 30 percent haircuts we’re seeing on Wall Street,” she said. “I think it is going to shock people.”

David Jolly reported from Paris and Heather Timmons from New Delhi. Tim Johnston contributed reporting from Sydney, and Martin Foster from Tokyo.


For Immediate Release
January 20, 2008

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, calls on its chapters,
supporting organizations and individuals to organize to break the silence
about the ongoing Israeli war crimes being committed against Palestinians in
Gaza. Organize street actions and protests, community meetings and
delegations to religious leaders and educators. Call and write the media and
your congressional representatives.

People of the world watch in horror as the racist state of 'Israel', with
the support and encouragement of the US government, engages in a genocidal
project to eliminate the indigenous Arab people of Palestine.

The world community has denounced the government of 'Israel' for using its
military for the purpose of collectively punishing the civilian population
of the Gaza Strip, a clear war crime and violation of the 4th Geneva
Conventions. The only power plant in Gaza was shut down today leaving the
1.5 million inhabitants without electricity, water, or any functional
medical facilities.

Palestinians continue to endure starvation, aerial bombings, US CIA
interventions, and Israeli army brutality. This murderous endeavor has
caused the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians and the already
fragile economy of Gaza has been decimated.


We appeal to all people living in the US:





For information to contact your congressional representatives, go to
http://www.congress .org/congressorg /home

For writing to the media, go to http://newslink. org for contact information.

To make a donation to help the people in the Gaza Strip go to donate.html and simply follow the instructions.
Please indicate that your donation is for the GAZA EMERGENCY FUND.


Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
PO Box 131352
Carlsbad, CA 92013, USA
Tel: 760-685-3243
Fax: 360-933-3568
E-mail: info@al-awda. org
WWW: http://al-awda. org

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition (PRRC) is the largest
network of grassroots activists and students dedicated to Palestinian human
rights. We are a not for profit tax-exempt educational and charitable
501(c)(3) organization as defined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of
the United States of America. Under IRS guidelines, your donations to PRRC
are tax-deductible. To make a donation simply go to donate.html and simply follow the instructions.

------------ --------- --------- ---
Save the Date!
Sixth Annual International Al Awda Convention
On The Sixtieth Year of Al Nakba
Anaheim, California
May 16-18, 2008
http://al-awda. org

Save the Date!
Sixth Annual International Al-Awda Convention
On The 60th Year of Al Nakba
Anaheim, California
May 16-18, 2008

Support Al-Awda, a Great Organization and Cause!
Become an Al-Awda Sustainer:


9) Study Looks at Why Poor Kids Are Heavy
Filed at 1:20 p.m. ET
January 21, 2008

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- New research discounts a common theory on why poor children are more likely to be overweight than children from wealthier families.

Iowa State University researchers say their analysis shows that a lack of food isn't necessarily to blame, although they're not sure why so many children from low-income families are overweight.

Previous research has suggested that poor children weren't getting nutritious food and instead ate junk food, such as hot dogs. Or that children may have eaten well when money was available, but would skip meals when cash was short, a cycle that could slow their metabolism and cause them to gain weight.

By challenging those theories, the researchers hope to encourage more research into the issue. Some studies show that nearly one third of American children ages 10-17 are overweight or obese, and that nearly 40 percent of those kids are from low-income households.

Brenda Lohman, a co-author of the study, said the high number of overweight low-income kids is a public health concern.

''Understanding why the rates are so high .... is needed,'' she said.

Their findings are reported in February's issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

Donna Matheson, of Stanford Medical School's Prevention Research Center, said the study explores some new elements, but disregards others. She noted that the research only looked at children with weight problems, not those who were underweight.

For the study, the researchers analyzed 1999 data about 1,031 children living in low-income households in Boston, Chicago and San Antonio. They assessed whether the children had enough food for a healthy, active lifestyle, which is called food security by researchers. They looked at the individual child, instead of their entire household as previous studies had done.

The researchers asked the children's mothers whether she had reduced the size of a meal due to lack of food or money, if her child skipped a meal because food wasn't available and if her child went hungry because she couldn't afford more food.

They found that about half of the children in the study were overweight or obese, while only about 8 percent weren't getting enough to eat.

Craig Gundersen, lead author of the study, said children who didn't get enough food weren't more likely to be overweight, even though the two factors often coexisted in the low-income population they studied.

He said the study shows that if the government tries to expand food assistance programs to help children, officials can move forward without worrying about an increase in overweight kids living in poverty.

However, Matheson said she thinks much more research is needed before changes in policy are implemented.

''I don't think we are there yet in terms of saying what really works,'' she said.

Susan Stewart, an Iowa State sociology professor who was involved in the research, said in a statement that most of the research on childhood obesity comes from the medical community, but there should be a closer look at the family and how factors such as stress affect a child's weight.

''Family life has a lot to do with children's lives, particularly when it comes to overeating and obesity,'' she said.


On the Net:

Iowa State University:


10) Israel Allows Some Supplies Into Gaza
January 22, 2008

JERUSALEM — The Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, announced Monday night that he was lifting some of the restrictions imposed on Gaza and on Tuesday morning would allow a delivery of industrial diesel needed to run the local power station and some medical supplies.

The decision came as aid officials warned that Gaza, gripped by fuel and electrical shortages, was two or three days away from a health and food crisis, and as international alarm and criticism of Israel mounted.

Mr. Barak had ordered the closure of the border crossings into Gaza on Thursday night, halting all imports, in response to last week’s intense rocket fire against Israel by militant groups in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

No goods have been allowed in since, and Gaza shut down its only power station on Sunday as the industrial diesel needed to fuel it ran out.

Israel and Egypt continued to provide electricity to Gaza by cable, but the closure of the power station cut the strip’s supply by at least a quarter, or by as much as 43 percent, according to different estimates of the area’s needs. By Monday night, parts of Gaza City, where about a third of Gaza’s 1.5 million people reside, had been totally blacked out for 24 hours.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides assistance to Palestinian refugees and their descendants, announced on Monday that it would have to suspend its food aid to 860,000 Gaza residents by Wednesday or Thursday if the crossings were not reopened, because it was running out of the nylon bags it uses to measure out and distribute staples like flour. The agency had enough fuel to run its vehicles for only two or three more days, said a spokesman, Christopher Gunness. “We had to give away about half of our reserves today, for hospital generators and the like,” he said.

The international aid agency Oxfam warned in a statement issued Monday afternoon that Gaza’s water and sewage systems were “a matter of hours from almost total shut down as stocks of fuel to run vital pumps runs out.”

Mahmoud Daher, a health officer for the World Health Organization in Gaza, said on Monday that there was a shortage of more than a hundred types of medication, and there were no spare parts to fix broken generators. “There is no crisis yet, but there will be one if the situation continues,” Mr. Daher said. “We are on the edge.”

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, commissioner for external relations of the European Commission, condemned the rocket fire into Israel, but also condemned what she called Israel’s “collective punishment of the people of Gaza.”

A spokeswoman for the French Foreign Ministry also said that “the measures taken amount to collective punishment of the entire civilian population,” and Britain’s foreign secretary, David Miliband, and international development secretary, Douglas Alexander, issued a joint statement saying that “Israeli security and justice for Palestinians will not be achieved by cutting off fuel or by firing rockets.”

There were also expressions of concern from the Arab world, and the president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, called both the prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, and Mr. Barak, according to the official Egyptian news agency, MENA.

Despite the growing pressure, Israeli officials insisted that the Hamas leadership in Gaza was exaggerating the effects of the blockade.

Arye Mekel, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said, “What we are seeing now is a staged production by Hamas.”

Given the amount of electricity provided by Israel and Egypt, there was no justification for the massive blackouts, Mr. Mekel said, even with a shortage of fuel.

Regarding the international criticism, Israeli officials said it was not Israel inflicting the collective punishment, but Hamas.

“It is very interesting that we didn’t hear these condemnations when the rockets were falling,” said Shlomo Dror, spokesman for Israel’s Ministry of Defense. “Is that not collective punishment?” he said, adding that the situation in Sderot, the Israeli town near the Gaza border that the militants aim most of their rockets at, had become “intolerable.”

Israel was still not planning to allow the resumption of deliveries of other types of fuel, including gasoline for private cars. At a meeting with members of his Kadima party on Monday, Mr. Olmert said, “As far as I’m concerned, the residents of Gaza can walk if they don’t have petrol for their cars, because they have a murderous terrorist regime that won’t let people in the south of Israel live in safety.”

The militant Islamic group Hamas seized control of Gaza last June, after routing its rival, Fatah, in a brief factional war. On Monday, people in Gaza blamed both Hamas and Israel for their situation.

“The Hamas government brought us poverty, but Israel is the enemy,” said Nidal Shehada, 22, a taxi driver, who had enough fuel to last till the end of the day.

“The rockets are a pretext,” said Um Muhammad Zibda, a woman in her early 40s. Israel’s real goal, she said, was to bring about the collapse of the Hamas government.

Suheil Skeik, general manager of Gaza Electricity Distribution Corporation, said that his workers were trying to transfer electricity delivered by Israel to northern Gaza to the main hospital in Gaza City, but that they were having technical problems.

Mr. Mekel, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said that Israel would continue to monitor the situation in Gaza and take decisions accordingly. “We hope that Hamas got the message,” Mr. Mekel said, noting that the sharp decrease in rocket launches since Saturday showed that Hamas could control the fire.

Taghreed El-Khodary contributed reporting from Gaza City,


11) Echoes of Dr. King in Finance, Politics and the Daily Grind
January 21, 2008

The leader of one of America’s most venerable civil rights groups kicked off his annual celebration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in what might have once seemed an unlikely fashion: by ringing the opening bell Friday morning at the Nasdaq stock exchange.

Roy Innis, the national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, clapped and cheered beside Dennis Bassford, the chief executive of Moneytree Inc., a chain of check-cashing stores, as the towering video screen outside Nasdaq’s media center beamed the scene onto Times Square. The stock exchange’s chief marketing officer, John L. Jacobs, joked, “It’s your job to turn this market around!”

At its dinner on Monday night in honor of Dr. King’s birthday, the civil rights group plans to salute Mr. Bassford for providing access to credit for poor communities and spreading financial literacy, an important goal of the group. Niger Innis, the group’s national spokesman and Roy Innis’s son, explained, “You want to have leverage in our society, the color is not black or white — it’s green.”

As the federal holiday approached, many New Yorkers, from Caribbean business leaders to labor organizers taking aim at Starbucks, found a resonance in Dr. King’s birthday that was almost post-racial. They talked about empowering the poor and the working class, and about identities more complex than just black and white.

Strikingly often in those discussions, they mentioned a name that they said had brought fresh meaning to the holiday: that of Senator Barack Obama, the first black candidate widely seen as having a shot at the presidency.

“Barack’s campaign — like him or not, support his policies or his politics or not — the brilliance of this black man winning in Iowa and nearly winning in New Hampshire is a huge victory for Dr. King’s dream,” Niger Innis said. “It doesn’t mean that the fight is over, but the battlefield certainly has changed.”

As the son of a white American mother and a black Kenyan father, with support from many upper-income white voters and a campaign not focused on racial issues or his racial identity, Senator Obama seems to some observers to embody Dr. King’s emphasis on integration. To some, Mr. Obama’s candidacy also recalls the way the civil rights leader expanded his focus on racism to include economic and foreign policy issues shortly before he was assassinated 40 years ago in Memphis, where he had gone to support a strike by sanitation workers.

“Dr. King had become very unpopular before his death, talking about things that black men did not have the right to talk about,” George Hulse, an H.M.O. executive and board member of the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said over bagels Friday at the chamber’s King breakfast.

“They could not talk about economic issues. They could not talk about international affairs. They could not talk about world issues,” said Mr. Hulse, vice president of external affairs for Healthfirst. He recalled the controversy that Dr. King stirred with his “Beyond Vietnam” speech at Riverside Church in New York in 1967.

But those subjects are now cornerstones of the Obama campaign, a campaign that Mr. Hulse said Dr. King’s trailblazing had made possible.

Many of the people who had Mr. Obama on their minds as Dr. King’s birthday celebration approached emphasized that they had not decided whether to vote for him. His main opponent, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, also enjoys strong support among civil rights leaders and African-Americans. And many of the organizations that commemorate the holiday are nonprofit groups that by law cannot endorse candidates.

Rather, Mr. Obama’s name came up alongside Dr. King’s as people declared that the civil rights leader was no longer a symbol only for African-Americans, or as they expressed hope that the two senators — a possible first female president and a possible first black president — would resist temptations to focus the campaign on race and gender.

Roy Innis said he was glad they seemed to have pulled back from a dust-up over Mrs. Clinton’s recent remark that Dr. King’s work came to fruition after President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed through the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“It’s so funny when someone tells the truth and they have to apologize for it,” he said of Mrs. Clinton. “L.B.J. knew the redneck opposition and busted their kneecaps and broke their arms. So it was a collaboration between King and the civil rights movement and L.B.J.”

Even the Bush administration can take some credit for making Mr. Obama’s campaign possible, Mr. Hulse said at the Caribbean breakfast, by making Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice the first black secretaries of state.

But if Dr. King were alive today, Mr. Hulse added, he would be talking about how much the war in Iraq — in which Mr. Powell and Ms. Rice had a significant role — is “taking away from the middle class,” much as he spoke, at Riverside Church, of Vietnam’s toll on the poor.

Debra Lesane, a consultant who is helping the chamber plan seminars on banking and credit, said Dr. King would be deploring the subprime mortgage crisis, which has disproportionately affected minority homeowners.

Paraphrasing Dr. King, Mr. Bassford, the Moneytree executive, agreed. “It’s not good enough to have all the rights to engage in all the areas of commerce, if you don’t have the ability,” he said at the Nasdaq ceremony. “What good is it to be able to sit at the lunch counter if you don’t have the money to buy a hamburger?”

Mr. Bassford has championed voluntary standards for ethics and transparency for the storefront check-cashing services that many low-income families rely on for short-term loans they cannot get from banks, Niger Innis said, explaining why the Congress of Racial Equality was honoring a purveyor of high-interest short-term loans.

Economic issues also were at the forefront for people who felt disconnected from the holiday.

The Industrial Workers of the World has chosen the King holiday to protest against Starbucks for not providing holiday pay to its employees on that date. But some baristas said they had never heard of the campaign by the union, which is fighting to organize them.

“It’s just a day like any other, like all holidays,” said Fernando Heredia, 22, who often works holidays at the Starbucks at Eighth Avenue and 43rd Street. He said he had not thought much about Dr. King since high school.

Just outside the Nasdaq ceremony, Jordan Ramos, 19, on a cigarette break in Times Square, said that he would not get the holiday off from his media services job, and that Dr. King loomed larger for his Puerto Rican grandmother, who had lived through the civil rights struggle.

But he said he had come to connect Dr. King’s message to issues of more immediacy for him, like immigrants’ rights. “It’s not just about African-Americans but about all minorities, how we’re all treated,” he said.

Nearby, Idris, 35, an immigrant from Ghana who declined to give his last name, said he could not take the holiday off because he is paid on commission for selling tour bus packages to passers-by. He said that he felt excluded in the United States, and that Dr. King’s message held little reassurance.

“It’s an American thing to me,” he said.




World Briefing | Asia
India: Bird Flu Spread ‘Alarming’
India’s third outbreak of avian flu among poultry is the worst it has faced, the World Health Organization said. The chief minister of West Bengal State, which is trying to cull 400,000 birds, called the virus’s spread “alarming.” Uncooperative villagers, angry at being offered only 75 cents a chicken by the government, have been selling off their flocks and throwing dead birds into waterways, increasing the risk. New outbreaks were also reported this week in Iran and Ukraine.
January 19, 2008

National Briefing | West
California: Thermostat Plan
After an outcry of objections, the California Energy Commission withdrew its proposal to require new buildings in the state to have radio-controlled thermostats that, in a power emergency, could be used to override customers’ temperature settings. Instead of making the proposal part of new state building requirements, the commissioners will discuss the use of the “programmable communicating thermostats” when considering how to manage electrical loads — with the understanding that customers would have the right to refuse to allow the state to override their wishes.
January 16, 2008

PDC Fact Sheet
Murdered by Mumia: Big Lies in the Service of Legal Lynching
Mumia is Innocent! Free Him Now!

Britain: Lethal Bird Flu at Famed Swan Reserve
World Briefing | Europe
The deadly H5N1 strain of avian flu has reached one of England’s most famous swan breeding grounds, the Abbotsbury Swannery on the Dorset coast. Tests on three dead mute swans confirmed the virus, spread by wild birds. The manager said he was working to determine how many swans might be affected.
January 11, 2008

Utah: Cholera Suspected in Bird Deaths
National Briefing | Rockies
About 1,500 dead birds that washed up on the southern shore of the Great Salt Lake may have been killed by avian cholera, an expert said. Dead grebes, ducks and gulls were being sent to the National Wildlife Health Center of the United States Geological Survey in Madison, Wis., for examination. “If I was a betting man,” said the expert, Tom Aldrich of the State Division of Wildlife Resources, “I would bet it was cholera.” The disease, which poisons the blood, spreads when birds are overcrowded and food supplies are short. It does not affect humans. [Doesn't affect humans? How does the death of birds not affect humans?]
January 5, 2008

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

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

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

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

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




Russell Means Speaking at the Transform Columbus Day Rally
"If voting could do anything it would be illegal!"


Stop the Termination or the Cherokee Nation


We Didn't Start the Fire

I Can't Take it No More

The Art of Mental Warfare

http://video. videoplay? docid=-905047436 2583451279




Port of Olympia Anti-Militarization Action Nov. 2007


"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


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


"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:


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


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,]




George Takai responds to Tim Hardaway's homophobic remarks




Another view of the war. A link from Amer Jubran


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

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