Tuesday, January 15, 2008



From: "A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition"
Date: Mon, 14 Jan 2008 18:23:51 -0600 (CST)
To: Linda Thompson
Subject: Take action to save the right to protest on the National Mall!


**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, ImpeachBush.org 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


Meeting Resistance: What would you do?

What: Documentary Film Screening, Meeting Resistance
Directors Steve Connors & Molly Bingham will be in attendance for Q & A
Where: Grand Lake Theater*, Oakland, 3200 Grand Avenue (510) 452-3556,
When: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 7:30 pm, One Night Only

The highly acclaimed documentary Meeting Resistance is about the
US occupation of Iraq from the perspective of the Iraqi insurgents
fighting the occupation - including many everyday Iraqi citizens. The
filmmakers ask in the trailer to the film: What would you do?
And the film lets some of the Iraqi people answer.

Here is a link to the trailer: http://meetingresistance.com/trailer.html

Here are some of what critics have said.

“The documentary equivalent of a Seymour Hersh investigative story in the New Yorker!”
San Francisco Chronicle

“A powerful, fascinating documentary!”
The New Yorker

“A remarkable piece of war reporting.”
The Washington Post

“A rare glimpse into the hearts and minds of those who have dedicated themselves to ridding Iraq of its invaders.”

* Grand Lake Theater doesn't sell tix online or over the phone. You can
get them in advance starting Thursday or Friday (you can call their box
office to see whether they are available by the time you call: 510-465-7586.
They will also be available the night of the showing.

Please Forward.


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 courage@riseup.net

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: courage@riseup.net , 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 (www.raisehellformollyivins.org.) 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.


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




From: LACFreeMumia@aol.com

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


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

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


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

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

Day-after demonstrations are also planned in:

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

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

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


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) Afghan Civilians Were Killed Needlessly, Ex-Marine Testifies
January 9, 2008

2) Military use of unmanned aircraft soars
By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jan 1, 6:01 PM ET

3) Pregnant Marine Is Dead, Officials Say
January 11, 2008

4) U.S. Bombs Iraqi Insurgent Hideouts
January 11, 2008

5) General Clears Army Officer of Crime in Abu Ghraib Case
January 11, 2008

6) War Torn
Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles
January 13, 2008

7) Unfinished Debate on Iraq
January 13, 2008

8) No Quick Fix to Economic Downturn
News Analysis
January 13, 2008

9) In Texas, Weighing Life With a Border Fence
January 13, 2008

10) Americans Cut Back Sharply on Spending
January 14, 2008

11) A Dark Addiction
Miners Caught in Western Va.'s Spiraling Rates of Painkiller Abuse
By Nick Miroff Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 13, 2008; A01

12) Mexican Authorities Move to Crush Copper Strike
By David Bacon
t r u t h o u t | Report
Sunday 13 January 2008

13) Empty Seas
Europe’s Appetite for Seafood Propels Illegal Trade
January 15, 2008

14) Minister Sees Need for U.S. Help in Iraq Until 2018
January 15, 2008

15) Woman Released by Guerrillas Returns to Colombia to Greet Son
January 15, 2008

16) Motion Ties W. Virginia Justice to Coal Executive
January 15, 2008

17) No Immunity, No Testimony
January 15, 2008


1) Afghan Civilians Were Killed Needlessly, Ex-Marine Testifies
January 9, 2008

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — A former member of an elite Marine combat unit that operated last year in eastern Afghanistan testified Tuesday that his comrades appeared to have needlessly killed civilians after their convoy was attacked by a suicide car bomb.

Nathaniel Travers, a former Marine intelligence sergeant assigned to the 30-man Special Operations convoy that was patrolling on March 4 last year, testified in a military court here that a few marines fired at civilians and other unarmed noncombatants after the suicide bomber struck.

No marines have been charged with a crime in the episode. The hearing was held to determine whether troops had violated the laws of war.

The three judges on the Marine Corps court of inquiry are examining the actions of two officers who led the elite unit, Company F, Second Battalion, Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. They are Maj. Fred C. Galvin, the company commander, and Capt. Vincent J. Noble, the platoon leader.

Shortly after the March 4 shootings near Jalalabad, Company F was ordered to leave Afghanistan by Lt. Gen. Frank Kearney of the Army, the commander at the time of all Special Operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Weeks later, an Army Special Operations commander in Afghanistan publicly apologized to the families of 19 people who he said had been unjustifiably killed by members of the Marine unit.

But the Army apology, given before military investigators had concluded their inquiry, was later condemned by senior Marine commanders as inappropriate and premature.

Mr. Travers, the first witness to testify, said the unit’s trip from its base at Jalalabad to the Pakistani border and back was uneventful until a minivan detonated near the convoy’s second Humvee. After the blast, Mr. Travers said, he heard gunfire and saw bodies in at least two vehicles as the Marine convoy sped away.

Only a few gunners in the heavily armed convoy fired, he said, until Captain Noble radioed a command to the entire convoy to stop firing.

The account by Mr. Travers, who left the Marines last year, contrasts sharply with those given by the American military and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

The commission, which conducted its own inquiry, said marines had fired indiscriminately at pedestrians and people in cars, buses and taxis over a 10-mile stretch of road after the attack. No marines were seriously wounded in the suicide bombing.


2) Military use of unmanned aircraft soars
By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jan 1, 6:01 PM ET

The military's reliance on unmanned aircraft that can watch, hunt and sometimes kill insurgents has soared to more than 500,000 hours in the air, largely in Iraq, The Associated Press has learned.

And new Defense Department figures obtained by The AP show that the Air Force more than doubled its monthly use of drones between January and October, forcing it to take pilots out of the air and shift them to remote flying duty to meet part of the demand.

The dramatic increase in the development and use of drones across the armed services reflects what will be an even more aggressive effort over the next 25 years, according to the new report.

The jump in Iraq coincided with the build up of U.S. forces this summer as the military swelled its ranks to quell the violence in Baghdad. But Pentagon officials said that even as troops begin to slowly come home this year, the use of Predators, Global Hawks, Shadows and Ravens will not likely slow.

"I think right now the demand for the capability that the unmanned system provides is only increasing," said Army Col. Bob Quackenbush, deputy director for Army Aviation. "Even as the surge ends, I suspect the deployment of the unmanned systems will not go down, particularly for larger systems."

For some Air Force pilots, that means climbing out of the cockpit and heading to places such as Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, where they can remotely fly the Predators, one of the larger and more sophisticated unmanned aircraft.

About 120 Air Force pilots were recently transferred to staff the drones to keep pace with demands, the Air Force said.

Some National Guard members were also called up to staff the flights. And more will be doing that in the coming months, as the Air Force adds bases where pilots can remotely fly the aircraft. Locations include North Dakota, Texas, Arizona and California, and some are already operating.

One key reason for the increase is that U.S. forces in Iraq grew from 15 combat brigades to 20 over the spring and early summer, boosting troop totals from roughly 135,000 to more than 165,000. Slowly over the next six months, five brigades are being pulled out of Iraq that will not be replaced, as part of a drawdown announced by the administration, which began in December.

The increased military operations all across Iraq last summer triggered greater use of the drones and an escalating call for more of the systems — from the Pentagon's key hunter-killer, the Predator, to the surveillance Global Hawks and the smaller, cheaper Ravens.

In one recent example of what they can do, a Predator caught sight of three militants firing mortars at U.S. forces in November in Balad, Iraq. The drone fired an air-to-ground missile, killing the three, according to video footage the Air Force released.

Air Force officials said that Predator flights steadily increased last year, from about 2,000 hours in January to more than 4,300 hours in October. They are expected to continue to escalate when hours are calculated for November and December, because the number of combat air patrols had increased from about 14 per day to 18.

"The demand far exceeds all of the Defense Department's ability to provide (these) assets," said Air Force Lt. Col. Larry Gurgainous, deputy director of the Air Force's unmanned aircraft task force. "And as we buy and field more systems, you will see it continue to go up."

Use of the high-tech surveillance and reconnaissance Global Hawk has also jumped, as the Air Force moved from two to three systems on the battlefield.

"I think it has to do with the type of warfare we're engaged in — it's heavy into intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance," Gurgainous said. "This war requires a lot of hunting high-value targets."

The bulk of the unmanned flight hours belong to the Army's workhorse drone, the Raven, which weighs just four pounds and is used by smaller units, such as companies and battalions, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Ravens, which soldiers fling into the air and use for surveillance, will rack up about 300,000 hours this year — double the time they were used last year, said Quackenbush.

The Army has a total of 361 unmanned aircraft in Iraq alone — including Shadows, Hunters and Ravens. And in the first 10 months of 2007, they flew more than 300,000 hours.

Army officials have fought to maintain control of their unmanned vehicle usage, saying their unit commanders can quickly launch the smaller systems, and respond to the immediate needs of soldiers who may be pursuing insurgents or trying to avoid roadside bombs.

When the Raven's massive numbers are not included, UAV usage across all the military services jumped from nearly 165,000 flight hours in the 2006 fiscal year, to more than 258,000 for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2007.

Those figures, compiled by the Pentagon, include some training flights, but the overwhelming majority was on the warfront. A majority of the flights are in Iraq, which has seen the biggest increase. But they are also used extensively in Afghanistan.

There, for example, the Air Force has hovered around 3,000-3,500 flight hours for the Predator each month.

Officials said they could not immediately provide a figure for how many hours of manned aircraft were flown in the wars this past year and said it was difficult to compare the two at any rate because one flight for a drone can routinely be 16 to 20 hours. In contrast, manned aircraft like the F-16, for instance, might spend about five hours on one sortie, said Air Force Capt. Uriah L. Orland, a spokesman for service in the Central Command area.

According to a new Pentagon report, the Defense Department plans to develop an "increasingly sophisticated force of unmanned systems" over the next 25 years. The effort will confront some current shortfalls, including plans to improve how well the drones can quickly and precisely identify and locate targets.

That would also involve increasing the precision of the guided weapons that are on some of the unmanned aircraft. Those efforts are considered critical because it enables the military to hunt down and kill militants without putting troops at risk.

In addition, the Pentagon said it wants to improve the drones' reconnaissance and surveillance abilities, which are the top priorities of commanders in the field.

On the Net:

Pentagon report on drones: http://www.acq.osd.mil/usd/Roadmap%20Final2.pdf


3) Pregnant Marine Is Dead, Officials Say
January 11, 2008

The mystery of a missing pregnant marine may turn out to be a homicide. Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, who disappeared from Camp Lejeune on December 14, is believed to be dead, said Sheriff Ed Brown, of the North Carolina county where the military facility is located.

The principal suspect is the man, a fellow Marine, who Corporal Lauterbach had accused of rape. Sheriff Brown said investigators have “tangible evidence” of Ms. Lauterbach’s death, and said authorities were searching for the body. He would not say how she died, other than it was of an “injury to her.”

He said it did not appear she had delivered the child she had been carrying before her death. Her body was said to be buried in a “residential, wooded area” within the county that includes the base.

Investigators are looking for Cpl. Cesar Armando Lauren, 21, who appears to have fled the base as the circumstances of the case unfolded. Corporal Lauterbach seems to have had some kind of renewed relationship with Cpl. Lauren after she disappeared.

Sheriff Brown said he had been expecting to find Corporal Lauterbach alive until Friday morning when a witness came forward with information about her death. He said the witness, a former marine from Camp Lejeune, contacted military authorities, who then alerted the sheriff’s office.

He said civilian authorities had not spoken to Corporal Lauren, despite the disappearance, because his lawyer declined to make him available. Corporal Lauren was driving a four-door pickup truck, the sheriff said, and possibly heading for his native state of Nevada.

The Marine Corps had brought Sergeant Daniel Durham, who had shared his house with Corporal Lauterbach for a brief time, to North Carolina from a training deployment in California for questioning. Sheriff Brown said Sergeant Durham did not have much information to offer and was not a subject in the case.

Corporal Lauterbach, 20, vanished about a month ago, on Dec. 14, when she was about to testify in the rape case. Local authorities say that five days passed before the woman was reported missing — not by the military, but by her stepmother, hundreds of miles away in Ohio.

Her stepmother, Mary Lauterbach, told the police that her daughter typically called home about 12 times a week, and that she had not been heard from in five days. A day later, the local police found the young woman’s cell phone at a Camp Lejeune gate, and eventually uncovered “suspicious activity” on her bank account. They also discovered her abandoned car at a Jacksonville, N.C., bus station.

“Her housemate had called and said ‘Maria’s not here, I think she’s gone,’ “ Mrs. Lauterbach said in an interview broadcast on CNN. “Most of her possessions were still in her room. Immediately we started calling her cell phone, and we found it had been turned off. She was gone.”

The sheriff said he did now know if Corporal Lauren is the father of Corporal Lauterbach’s child.


4) U.S. Bombs Iraqi Insurgent Hideouts
January 11, 2008

BAGHDAD — American bombers and fighter aircraft dropped 40,000 pounds of bombs on suspected militant hide-outs, storehouses and defensive positions in the southern outskirts of Baghdad on Thursday, the United States military said.

In one of the largest airstrikes in recent months, two B-1 and four F-16 aircraft dropped 38 bombs within 10 minutes near the Latifiya district south of Baghdad, the military said. The airstrikes were accompanied by a large Iraqi and American ground assault.

The air attack was part of a nationwide joint offensive that includes a continuing sweep in Diyala Province, north of Baghdad, and raids Thursday in Salahuddin Province, northwest of the capital, between Samarra and Ramadi.

The offensive took place as attacks against Iraqi security forces, American soldiers and Sunni Arab militias allied with the United States increased in the last few weeks. A series of suicide bombings, assassinations and car bombings has threatened to reverse the downward trend in violence, especially in Baghdad, where dozens of people have been killed since the new year.

Sixteen Americans have died this year, nine of them on Tuesday and Wednesday as soldiers tried to drive Sunni Arab insurgents out of their sanctuaries in Diyala Province. Despite the high death toll, American soldiers have met surprisingly little overall resistance during the sweep, and military officials suspect that insurgents were tipped off beforehand.

The American airstrikes on Thursday took place in an area densely blanketed with tall grasses and palm trees and rutted with irrigation canals. United States military officials have identified it as a haven for militants linked to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the largely homegrown Sunni insurgent group that American intelligence says is foreign-led and now represents a serious threat to stability in Iraq.

The air attacks hit more than 40 targets, the military said.

Iraqi Army officials said they were certain that the airstrikes had killed many insurgents but added that they were unable to conduct an official body count by nightfall. Dozens of suspected insurgents were detained during the assault, Iraqi Army officials said.

Residents of the area said they saw other insurgents speeding along remote roads on motorcycles, and trucks with mortar rocket launchers and rifles.

Several days of sporadic bombing around Latifiya and Arab Jabour culminated around 8 a.m. Thursday in concentrated airstrikes near the two towns, according to Abu Amna, a tribal chief who lives in the area.

“There was a big sound of explosions,” he said in a phone interview. Mr. Amna is a leader of one of hundreds of groups known as Concerned Local Citizens, a Sunni Arab tribal movement that has turned against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. “People began to flee the area after the air assault,” he said, because joint forces began a comprehensive raid after the bombing.

Col. Terry Ferrell, commander of the Second Brigade, Third Infantry Division, said that an extraordinary amount of firepower was necessary to clear areas that American forces had long neglected.

During a house search in Diyala on Wednesday, six American soldiers and an interpreter of unknown nationality were killed when insurgents detonated a bomb inside the structure.

Thursday’s bombing run was intended to avoid that kind of trap. Colonel Ferrell said that insurgents near Latifiya and Arab Jabour had built elaborate defenses, including roads lined with powerful bombs, booby-trapped houses and ambush positions.

“Specifically, we were looking to clear the ground against known targets and threats that could harm our soldiers, the Concerned Local Citizens and the Iraqi security forces,” Colonel Ferrell said. “We were targeting caches and improvised explosives devices.”

The bombing run was also intended to dislodge insurgents from their hiding places, said Maj. Gen. Uthman Al-Ghanimi, commander of the Eighth Division of the Iraqi Army, which provided the bulk of the ground forces for the attack. The general said that about 850 Iraqi soldiers and 150 American soldiers took part in the assault.

One measure of the sophistication of the insurgents, many of whom are former Iraqi military officers, is that their hide-outs and weapons caches were placed in a remote area between two Iraqi Army divisions, General Ghanimi said.

American and Iraqi officials said that the airstrikes destroyed several weapons caches, a car bomb and two houses rigged with explosives.

During the air assault, United States helicopters carried Iraqi and American soldiers into the area to conduct a ground sweep and to block fleeing suspected insurgents, according to another high-ranking Iraqi Army officer who declined to be identified because he is not allowed to speak to the news media.

American military officials praised the tribal militias for providing information on insurgent locations, weapons stores and ambush sites.

Sunni Arab militias, about 80,000 members strong throughout Iraq, have brought relative calm to many areas in western Anbar Province and Baghdad that had long resisted security operations by American and Iraqi forces.

Ammar Falah, another tribal militia member near Latifiya, said that he and his fellow tribesmen had been fighting Qaeda insurgents since last month.

“We clashed with Al Qaeda two weeks ago, and with American help we were able to regain control of two towns,” Mr. Falah said. “We lost two of our men. After we took control of these towns, we held a celebration and we were able to bring back 150 out of 200 families that had been displaced by Al Qaeda.”

Mr. Falah said that civilian casualties in his area were avoided Thursday because American forces instructed his group to warn residents to leave the area.

Mr. Falah said that Thursday’s heavy bombardment followed days of more limited airstrikes.

“Ten days ago three women and two children were killed by mistake by American bombings targeting Al Qaeda,” he said.

Um Yasir, a 50-year-old homemaker, said that several bombs landed about 500 yards from her home while she was doing chores.

Um Yasir, who said that hers was one of only three families who had not been driven from her village by Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, said she fled with her children and grandchildren to a relative’s house and watched American bombs slam into nearby palm groves.

“I saw smoke coming from the bombed area and I saw gunmen moving out of the area,” she said. “They were carrying their guns.”

In other violence, improvised explosives killed two people in downtown Baghdad, and a car bomb killed one person in east Baghdad. At least 11 people were wounded in the two incidents.

Iraqi police officers found three bodies in Baghdad and one in the southern city of Hilla.

Iraqi police officials said they killed a suspected insurgent 50 miles north of Baquba and wounded another man as he tried to plant an improvised bomb.

In the northern city of Kirkuk a roadside bomb killed two Iraqi soldiers and wounded another soldier.

And in the holy city of Karbala, Shiite pilgrims continued to arrive for Ashura, an annual observance of the death of Imam Hussein Ali, a moment that cemented the birth of Shiism.

Khalid al-Ansary and Qais Mizher contributed reporting.


5) General Clears Army Officer of Crime in Abu Ghraib Case
January 11, 2008

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The only United States Army officer to face a court-martial over the scandal at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in the case, the Army said Thursday.

A court-martial convicted Lt. Col. Steven Jordan in August of disobeying an order not to discuss the investigation of abuse at the jail and issued him a criminal reprimand as penalty.

But Maj. Gen. Richard Rowe, commanding officer for the Army Military District of Washington, on Tuesday disapproved of both the conviction and the reprimand, the Army said. The decision by General Rowe wipes Colonel Jordan’s record clean of any criminal responsibility.

“In light of the offense Jordan has been found guilty of committing, and the substantial evidence in mitigation,” an Army spokesman, Col. James Yonts, said in a statement, “Rowe determined that an administrative reprimand was a fair and appropriate disposition of the matter.”

Colonel Jordan had once faced a maximum punishment of five years in prison and dismissal from the Army over the Abu Ghraib scandal, which unleashed a wave of global condemnation against the United States when images of abused prisoners surfaced in 2004.

The photos included scenes of naked detainees stacked in a pyramid and other inmates cowering in front of snarling dogs.

Colonel Jordan, who was in charge of an Abu Ghraib interrogation center, said he had played no part in the abuse and complained that the military was trying to make him a scapegoat.

His defense team also argued that he held no command authority at the prison.

The judicial panel of 10 officers that convicted him in August of disobeying the order also acquitted him of any responsibility for the cruel treatment of Abu Ghraib detainees.

The letter of administrative reprimand that Colonel Jordan will now receive is a document used by military commanders to correct conduct that fails to comply with established standards.

Eleven lower-ranking soldiers have been convicted in military courts in connection with the physical abuse and sexual humiliation of Abu Ghraib detainees.

Two other officers have been disciplined by the Army, but neither faced criminal charges or dismissal.


6) War Torn
Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles
January 13, 2008

Late one night in the summer of 2005, Matthew Sepi, a 20-year-old Iraq combat veteran, headed out to a 7-Eleven in the seedy Las Vegas neighborhood where he had settled after leaving the Army.

This particular 7-Eleven sits in the shadow of the Stratosphere casino-hotel in a section of town called the Naked City. By day, the area, littered with malt liquor cans, looks depressed but not menacing. By night, it becomes, in the words of a local homicide detective, “like Falluja.”

Mr. Sepi did not like to venture outside too late. But, plagued by nightmares about an Iraqi civilian killed by his unit, he often needed alcohol to fall asleep. And so it was that night, when, seized by a gut feeling of lurking danger, he slid a trench coat over his slight frame — and tucked an assault rifle inside it.

“Matthew knew he shouldn’t be taking his AK-47 to the 7-Eleven,” Detective Laura Andersen said, “but he was scared to death in that neighborhood, he was military trained and, in his mind, he needed the weapon to protect himself.”

Head bowed, Mr. Sepi scurried down an alley, ignoring shouts about trespassing on gang turf. A battle-weary grenadier who was still legally under-age, he paid a stranger to buy him two tall cans of beer, his self-prescribed treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

As Mr. Sepi started home, two gang members, both large and both armed, stepped out of the darkness. Mr. Sepi said in an interview that he spied the butt of a gun, heard a boom, saw a flash and “just snapped.”

In the end, one gang member lay dead, bleeding onto the pavement. The other was wounded. And Mr. Sepi fled, “breaking contact” with the enemy, as he later described it. With his rifle raised, he crept home, loaded 180 rounds of ammunition into his car and drove until police lights flashed behind him.

“Who did I take fire from?” he asked urgently. Wearing his Army camouflage pants, the diminutive young man said he had been ambushed and then instinctively “engaged the targets.” He shook. He also cried.

“I felt very bad for him,” Detective Andersen said.

Nonetheless, Mr. Sepi was booked, and a local newspaper soon reported: “Iraq veteran arrested in killing.”

Town by town across the country, headlines have been telling similar stories. Lakewood, Wash.: “Family Blames Iraq After Son Kills Wife.” Pierre, S.D.: “Soldier Charged With Murder Testifies About Postwar Stress.” Colorado Springs: “Iraq War Vets Suspected in Two Slayings, Crime Ring.”

Individually, these are stories of local crimes, gut-wrenching postscripts to the war for the military men, their victims and their communities. Taken together, they paint the patchwork picture of a quiet phenomenon, tracing a cross-country trail of death and heartbreak.

The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment — along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems — appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction.

Three-quarters of these veterans were still in the military at the time of the killing. More than half the killings involved guns, and the rest were stabbings, beatings, strangulations and bathtub drownings. Twenty-five offenders faced murder, manslaughter or homicide charges for fatal car crashes resulting from drunken, reckless or suicidal driving.

About a third of the victims were spouses, girlfriends, children or other relatives, among them 2-year-old Krisiauna Calaira Lewis, whose 20-year-old father slammed her against a wall when he was recuperating in Texas from a bombing near Falluja that blew off his foot and shook up his brain.

A quarter of the victims were fellow service members, including Specialist Richard Davis of the Army, who was stabbed repeatedly and then set ablaze, his body hidden in the woods by fellow soldiers a day after they all returned from Iraq.

And the rest were acquaintances or strangers, among them Noah P. Gamez, 21, who was breaking into a car at a Tucson motel when an Iraq combat veteran, also 21, caught him, shot him dead and then killed himself outside San Diego with one of several guns found in his car.

Tracking the Killings

The Pentagon does not keep track of such killings, most of which are prosecuted not by the military justice system but by civilian courts in state after state. Neither does the Justice Department.

To compile and analyze its list, The Times conducted a search of local news reports, examined police, court and military records and interviewed the defendants, their lawyers and families, the victims’ families and military and law enforcement officials.

This reporting most likely uncovered only the minimum number of such cases, given that not all killings, especially in big cities and on military bases, are reported publicly or in detail. Also, it was often not possible to determine the deployment history of other service members arrested on homicide charges.

The Times used the same methods to research homicides involving all active-duty military personnel and new veterans for the six years before and after the present wartime period began with the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

This showed an 89 percent increase during the present wartime period, to 349 cases from 184, about three-quarters of which involved Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. The increase occurred even though there have been fewer troops stationed in the United States in the last six years and the American homicide rate has been, on average, lower.

The Pentagon was given The Times’s roster of homicides. It declined to comment because, a spokesman, Lt. Col. Les Melnyk, said, the Department of Defense could not duplicate the newspaper’s research. Further, Colonel Melnyk questioned the validity of comparing prewar and wartime numbers based on news media reports, saying that the current increase might be explained by “an increase in awareness of military service by reporters since 9/11.” He also questioned the value of “lumping together different crimes such as involuntary manslaughter with first-degree homicide.”

Given that many veterans rebound successfully from their war experiences and some flourish as a result of them, veterans groups have long deplored the attention paid to the minority of soldiers who fail to readjust to civilian life.

After World War I, the American Legion passed a resolution asking the press “to subordinate whatever slight news value there may be in playing up the ex-service member angle in stories of crime or offense against the peace.” An article in the Veterans of Foreign Wars magazine in 2006 referred with disdain to the pervasive “wacko-vet myth,” which, veterans say, makes it difficult for them to find jobs.

Clearly, committing homicide is an extreme manifestation of dysfunction for returning veterans, many of whom struggle in quieter ways, with crumbling marriages, mounting debt, deepening alcohol dependence or more-minor tangles with the law.

But these killings provide a kind of echo sounding for the profound depths to which some veterans have fallen, whether at the bottom of a downward spiral or in a sudden burst of violence.

Thirteen of these veterans took their own lives after the killings, and two more were fatally shot by the police. Several more attempted suicide or expressed a death wish, like Joshua Pol, a former soldier convicted of vehicular homicide, who told a judge in Montana in 2006, “To be honest with you, I really wish I had died in Iraq.”

In some of the cases involving veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, the fact that the suspect went to war bears no apparent relationship to the crime committed or to the prosecution and punishment. But in many of the cases, the deployment of the service member invariably becomes a factor of some sort as the legal system, families and communities grapple to make sense of the crimes.

This is especially stark where a previously upstanding young man — there is one woman among the 121 — appears to have committed a random act of violence. And The Times’s analysis showed that the overwhelming majority of these young men, unlike most civilian homicide offenders, had no criminal history.

“When they’ve been in combat, you have to suspect immediately that combat has had some effect, especially with people who haven’t shown these tendencies in the past,” said Robert Jay Lifton, a lecturer in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School/Cambridge Health Alliance who used to run “rap groups” for Vietnam veterans and fought to earn recognition for what became known as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

“Everything is multicausational, of course,” Dr. Lifton continued. “But combat, especially in a counterinsurgency war, is such a powerful experience that to discount it would be artificial.”

Few of these 121 war veterans received more than a cursory mental health screening at the end of their deployments, according to interviews with the veterans, lawyers, relatives and prosecutors. Many displayed symptoms of combat trauma after their return, those interviews show, but they were not evaluated for or received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder until after they were arrested for homicides.

What is clear is that experiences on the streets of Baghdad and Falluja shadowed these men back to places like Longview, Tex., and Edwardsville, Ill.

“He came back different” is the shared refrain of the defendants’ family members, who mention irritability, detachment, volatility, sleeplessness, excessive drinking or drug use, and keeping a gun at hand.

“You are unleashing certain things in a human being we don’t allow in civic society, and getting it all back in the box can be difficult for some people,” said William C. Gentry, an Army reservist and Iraq veteran who works as a prosecutor in San Diego County.

When Archie O’Neil, a gunnery sergeant in the Marines, returned from a job handling dead bodies in Iraq, he became increasingly paranoid, jumpy and fearful — moving into his garage, eating M.R.E.’s, wearing his camouflage uniform, drinking heavily and carrying a gun at all times, even to answer the doorbell.

“It was like I put one person on a ship and sent him over there, and they sent me a totally different person back,” Monique O’Neil, his wife, testified.

A well-respected and decorated noncommissioned officer who did not want to endanger his chances for advancement, Sergeant O’Neil did not seek help for the PTSD that would later be diagnosed by government psychologists. “The Marine way,” his lawyer said at a preliminary hearing, “was to suck it up.”

On the eve of his second deployment to Iraq in 2004, Sergeant O’Neil fatally shot his mistress, Kimberly O’Neal, after she threatened to kill his family while he was gone.

During a military trial at Camp Pendleton, Calif., a Marine defense lawyer argued that “the ravages of war” provided the “trigger” for the killing. In 2005, a military jury convicted Sergeant O’Neil of murder but declined to impose the minimum sentence, life with the possibility of parole, considering it too harsh. A second jury, however, convened only for sentencing, voted the maximum penalty, life without parole. The case is on appeal.

As with Sergeant O’Neil, a connection between a veteran’s combat service and his crime is sometimes declared overtly. Other times, though, the Iraq connection is a lingering question mark as offenders’ relatives struggle to understand how a strait-laced teenager or family man or wounded veteran ended up behind bars — or dead.

That happened in the case of Stephen Sherwood, who enlisted in the Army at 34 to obtain medical insurance when his wife got pregnant. He may never have been screened for combat trauma.

Yet Mr. Sherwood shot his wife and then himself nine days after returning from Iraq in the summer of 2005. Several months before, the other soldiers in his tank unit had been killed by a rocket attack while he was on a two-week leave to celebrate the first birthday of his now-orphaned son.

“When he got back to Iraq, everyone was dead,” his father, Robert Sherwood, said. “He had survivor’s guilt.” Then his wife informed him that she wanted to end their marriage.

After the murder-suicide, Mr. Sherwood’s parents could not help but wonder what role Iraq played and whether counseling might have helped keep their son away from the brink.

“Ah boy, the amount of heartbreak involved in all of this,” said Dr. Jonathan Shay, a psychiatrist for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Boston and the author of two books that examine combat trauma through the lens of classical texts.

An Ancient Connection

The troubles and exploits of the returning war veteran represent a searing slice of reality. They have served as a recurring artistic theme throughout history — from Homer’s “Odyssey” to the World War I novel “All Quiet on the Western Front,” from the post-Vietnam-era movie “The Deer Hunter” to last fall’s film “In the Valley of Elah.”

At the heart of these tales lie warriors plagued by the kind of psychic wounds that have always afflicted some fraction of combat veterans. In an online course for health professionals, Capt. William P. Nash, the combat/operational stress control coordinator for the Marines, reaches back to Sophocles’ account of Ajax, who slipped into a depression after the Trojan War, slaughtered a flock of sheep in a crazed state and then fell on his own sword.

The nature of the counterinsurgency war in Iraq, where there is no traditional front line, has amplified the stresses of combat, and multiple tours of duty — a third of the troops involved in Iraq and Afghanistan have deployed more than once — ratchet up those stresses.

In earlier eras, various labels attached to the psychological injuries of war: soldier’s heart, shell shock, Vietnam disorder. Today the focus is on PTSD, but military health care officials are seeing a spectrum of psychological issues, with an estimated half of the returning National Guard members, 38 percent of soldiers and 31 percent of marines reporting mental health problems, according to a Pentagon task force.

Decades of studies on the problems of Vietnam veterans have established links between combat trauma and higher rates of unemployment, homelessness, gun ownership, child abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse — and criminality. On a less scientific level, such links have long been known.

“The connection between war and crime is unfortunately very ancient,” said Dr. Shay, the V.A. psychiatrist and author. “The first thing that Odysseus did after he left Troy was to launch a pirate raid on Ismarus. Ending up in trouble with the law has always been a final common pathway for some portion of psychologically injured veterans.”

The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study, considered the most thorough analysis of this population, found that 15 percent of the male veterans still suffered from full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder more than a decade after the war ended. Half of the veterans with active PTSD had been arrested or in jail at least once, and 34.2 percent more than once. Some 11.5 percent of them had been convicted of felonies, and veterans are more likely to have committed violent crimes than nonveterans, according to government studies. In the mid-1980s, with so many Vietnam veterans behind bars that Vietnam Veterans of America created chapters in prisons, veterans made up a fifth of the nation’s inmate population.

As Iraq and Afghanistan veterans get enmeshed in the criminal justice system, former advocates for Vietnam veterans are disheartened by what they see as history repeating itself.

“These guys today, I recognize the hole in their souls,” said Hector Villarreal, a criminal defense lawyer in Mission, Tex., who briefly represented a three-time Iraq combat veteran charged with manslaughter.

Brockton D. Hunter, a criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis, told colleagues in a recent lecture at the Minnesota State Bar Association that society should try harder to prevent veterans from self-destructing.

“To truly support our troops, we need to apply our lessons from history and newfound knowledge about PTSD to help the most troubled of our returning veterans,” Mr. Hunter said. “To deny the frequent connection between combat trauma and subsequent criminal behavior is to deny one of the direct societal costs of war and to discard another generation of troubled heroes.”

‘The Town Was Torn Up’

At the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution in Nebraska, Seth Strasburg, 29, displays an imposing, biker-style presence. He has a shaved head, bushy chin beard and tattoos scrolled around his thick arms and neck, one of which quotes, in Latin, a Crusades-era dictum: “Kill them all. God will know his own.”

Beneath this fierce exterior, however, Mr. Strasburg, an Iraq combat veteran who pleaded no contest to manslaughter and gun charges in 2006, hides a tortured compulsion to understand his actions. Growing up in rural Nebraska, he read military history. Now he devours books like Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society” and Dr. Shay’s “Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming.”

Because Mr. Strasburg is introspective, he provides a window into the reverberations of combat violence within one veteran’s psyche and from there outward. In Arnold, Neb., population 679, the unintentional killing last year by Mr. Strasburg of Thomas Tiffany Varney V, a pre-mortuary science major known as Moose, was a deeply unsettling event.

“To lose one young man permanently and another to prison, with Iraq mixed up in the middle of it — the town was torn up,” said Pamela Eggleston, a waitress at Suzy’s Pizza and Spirits.

In late 2005, Mr. Strasburg returned to Arnold for a holiday leave after two years in Iraq. Once home, he did not easily shed the extreme vigilance that had become second nature. He traveled around rural Nebraska with a gun and body armor in his Jeep, feeling irritable, out of sorts and out of place in tranquil, “American Idol”-obsessed America.

During his leave, he shrank from questions about Iraq because he hated the cavalier ones: “So, did you kill anybody? What was it like?”

He had, in fact, killed somebody in Iraq and was having trouble dealing with it. Like several veterans interviewed, Mr. Strasburg was plagued by one death before he caused another one.

In 2004, Sergeant Strasburg’s section was engaged in a mission to counter a proliferation of improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.’s, on the road west of Mosul. One night, posted in an old junked bus, he watched the road for hours until an Iraqi man, armed and out after curfew, appeared and circled a field, kicking the dirt as if he were searching for something. Finally, the man bent down, straining to pick up a large white flour sack, which he then dragged toward the road.

“In my mind at the time, he had this I.E.D. hidden out there during the day and he was going to set it in place,” Mr. Strasburg said. “We radioed it in. They said, ‘Whatever, use your discretion.’ So I popped him.”

With others on his reconnaissance team, Mr. Strasburg helped zip the man into a body bag, taking a few minutes to study the face that he now cannot forget. When they went to search the flour sack, they found nothing but gravel.

“I reported the kill to the battalion,” Mr. Strasburg said. “They said, you know: ‘Good shot. It’s legal. Whatever. Don’t worry about it.’ After that, it was never mentioned. But, you know, I had some issues with it later.”

Mr. Strasburg’s voice broke and he turned his head, wiping his eyes. A reporter noted that he was upset.

“I’m trying not to be,” he said, then changed his mind. “I mean, how can you not be? If you’re human. What if I had waited?”

“Maybe I was too eager,” he added. “Maybe I wanted to be the first one to get a kill, you know? Maybe, maybe, maybe. And that will never go away.”

Which bothers him, Mr. Strasburg said, telling himself: “Get over it. You shot somebody. Everybody else shot somebody, too.”

Shortly after Mr. Strasburg’s military tour of duty ended, he returned to Iraq as a private contractor because, he said, he did not know what else to do with himself after eight years in the Army. “I have no skill other than carrying a gun,” he said.

By late 2005, home on leave, he was preparing to return once more to Iraq in January.

On New Year’s Eve, Mr. Strasburg, accompanied by his brother, consumed vodka cocktails for hours at Jim’s Bar and Package in Arnold. Toward evening’s end, he engaged in an intense conversation with a Vietnam veteran, after which, he said, he inexplicably holstered his gun and headed to a party. Outside the party, he drunkenly approached a Chevrolet Suburban crowded with young people, got upset and thrust his gun inside the car.

Mr. Strasburg said he did not remember what provoked him. According to one account, a young man — not the victim — set him off by calling him a paid killer. Mr. Strasburg, according to the prosecutor, stuck his gun under the young man’s chin. There was a struggle over the gun. It went off. And Mr. Varney, a strapping 21-year-old with a passion for hunting, car racing and baseball, was struck.

Asked if he pulled the trigger, Mr. Strasburg said, “I don’t know,” adding that he took responsibility: “It was my gun and I was drunk. But what the hell was I thinking?”

The Suburban drove quickly away. Mr. Strasburg jumped into his Jeep, speeding along wintry roads until he crashed into a culvert. Feeling doomed, he said, he donned his bulletproof vest and plunged into the woods, where he fell asleep in the snow as police helicopters and state troopers closed in on him.

Mr. Strasburg had never been screened for post-traumatic stress disorder. Like many soldiers, he did not take seriously the Army’s mental health questionnaires given out at his tour’s end. “They were retarded,” he said. “All of us were like, ‘Let’s do this quickly so we can go home.’ They asked: ‘Did you see any dead bodies? Did you take part in any combat operations?’ Come on, we were in Iraq. They didn’t even ask us the really important question, if you killed someone.”

After his arrest, a psychologist hired by his family diagnosed combat trauma in Mr. Strasburg, writing in an evaluation that post-traumatic stress disorder, exacerbated by alcohol, served as a “major factor” in the shooting.

A Judge’s Harsh Words

At the sentencing hearing in Broken Bow, Neb., in September 2006, however, the judge discounted the centrality of the PTSD. He called Mr. Varney “the epitome of an innocent victim” and Mr. Strasburg “a bully” who “misconstrued comments” and “reacted in a belligerent and hostile manner.” In a courtroom filled with Arnold townspeople and Iraq veterans, he sentenced Mr. Strasburg to 22 to 36 years in prison.

Mr. Strasburg’s mother, Aneita, believing that the shooting was a product of his combat trauma, started an organization to create awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder.

Her activism, however, deeply offended the victim’s parents, who run the Arnold Funeral Home.

“I’m sorry, but it feels like a personal affront, like she’s trying to excuse our son’s death with the war,” Barb Varney said, adding that Mr. Strasburg has “never shown any remorse.”

Thomas Tiffany Varney IV, the victim’s father, expressed skepticism about Mr. Strasburg’s PTSD and the disorder in general, saying, “His grandfather, my dad, a lot of people been there, done that, and it didn’t affect them,” Mr. Varney said. “They’re trying to brush it away, ‘Well, he murdered someone, it’s just post-traumatic stress.’ ”

Mr. Strasburg himself, whose diagnosis was confirmed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, expressed discomfort with his post-traumatic stress disorder and its connection to his crime. “It’s not a be-all-and-end-all excuse, and I don’t mean it to be,” he said.

As Mr. Strasburg prefers to see it, he had adapted his behavior to survive in Iraq and then retained that behavior — vigilant, distrustful, armed — when he returned home. “You need time to decompress,” he said. “If the exact same circumstances had happened a year later” — the circumstances of that New Year’s Eve — “nothing would have happened. It never would have went down.”

Mr. Strasburg also voiced reluctance to being publicly identified as a PTSD sufferer, worried that his former military colleagues would see him as a weakling. “Nobody wants to be that guy who says, ‘I got counseling this afternoon, Sergeant,’ ” he said, mimicking a whining voice.

Mr. Strasburg’s former platoon leader, Capt. Benjamin D. Tiffner, who was killed in an I.E.D. attack in Baghdad in November, wrote a letter to Nebraska state authorities. He protested the length of the sentence and requested Mr. Strasburg’s transfer “to a facility that would allow him to deal with his combat trauma.”

“Seth has been asked and required to do very violent things in defense of his country,” Captain Tiffner wrote. “He spent the majority of 2003 to 2005 in Iraq solving very dangerous problems by using violence and the threat of violence as his main tools. He was congratulated and given awards for these actions. This builds in a person the propensity to deal with life’s problems through violence and the threat of violence.

“I believe this might explain in some way why Seth reacted the way that he did that night in Nebraska,” the letter continued. “I’m not trying to explain away Seth’s actions, but I think he is a special case and he needs to be taken care of by our judicial system and our medical system.”

Many Don’t Seek Treatment

Unlike during the Vietnam War, the current military has made a concerted effort, through screenings and research, to gauge the mental health needs of returning veterans. But gauging and addressing needs are different, and a Pentagon task force last year described the military mental health system as overburdened, “woefully” understaffed, inadequately financed and undermined by the stigma attached to PTSD.

Although early treatment might help veterans retain their relationships and avoid developing related problems like depression, alcoholism and criminal behavior, many do not seek or get such help. And this group of homicide defendants seems to be a prime example.

Like Mr. Strasburg, many of these veterans learned that they had post-traumatic stress disorder only after their arrests. And their mental health issues often went unevaluated even after the killings if they were pleading not guilty, if they did not have aggressive lawyers and relatives — or if they killed themselves first.

Of the 13 combat veterans in The Times database who committed murder-suicides, only two, as best as it can be determined, had psychological problems diagnosed by the military health care system after returning from war.

“The real tragedy in these veterans’ case is that, where PTSD is a factor, it is highly treatable,” said Lawrence W. Sherman, director of the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania. “And when people are exposed to serious trauma and don’t get it treated, it is a serious risk factor for violence.”

At various times, the question of whether the military shares some blame for these killings gets posed. This occurs especially where the military knew beforehand of a combat veteran’s psychological troubles, marital problems or history of substance abuse.

In some cases, the military sent service members with pre-existing problems — known histories of mental illness, drug abuse or domestic abuse — into combat only to find those problems exacerbated by the stresses of war. In other cases, they quickly discharged returning veterans with psychological or substance abuse problems, after which they committed homicides.

Perhaps no case has posed the question of military liability more bluntly than that of Lucas T. Borges, 25, a former private in the Marines whose victims are suing the United States government, maintaining that the military “had a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent Borges from harming others.” The government is trying to get the claim dismissed.

Mr. Borges immigrated from Brazil at 14 and joined the Marines four years later. After spending six months in Iraq at the beginning of the war, he “came back different, like he was out of his mind,” said his mother, Dina Borges, who runs a small cleaning business in Maryland.

Assigned on his return to a maintenance battalion at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Private Borges developed a taste for the ether used to start large internal combustion engines in winter.

Mr. Borges did have a history of marijuana use, which he disclosed to the Marines when he enlisted, said Jeffrey Weber, a lawyer who represented the victims until recently.

But inhaling ether, which produces both a dreamy high and impairment, was new to him, and his sister, Gabriela, a 20-year-old George Washington University student, believes that he developed the habit to relieve the anxiety that he brought home from war.

The Marines, aware of Mr. Borges’s past drug use, also knew that he had developed an ether problem, but they never removed him from the job where he had ready access to his drug of choice, according to the lawsuit. They never offered him drug treatment, either, Mr. Borges’s own lawyer said in court.

Four months after he returned from Iraq, military officials moved to discharge Private Borges when he was caught inhaling ether in his car. They impounded the car, which contained several canisters of the government’s ether, and sent Mr. Borges, who threatened to kill himself, to the mental health ward of the base hospital.

“He was finally under the care of a psychiatrist, but they pulled him from that because he was a problem and they wanted to get rid of him,” Mr. Weber said. “They processed him out, handed him the keys to his car, and his supervisor said, ‘If you’re not careful, you’re going to kill somebody.’ ”

When Mr. Borges retrieved his 1992 Camaro, he discovered that the Marines had left their ether canisters inside — they did not have anywhere to store them, officials said at trial — and immediately got high. He then drove east down the westbound lane of a state highway, slamming headfirst into the victims’ car, killing 19-year-old Jamie Marie Lumsden, the daughter of a marine who served in Iraq, and seriously injuring four others.

Convicted of second-degree murder, Mr. Borges was sentenced to 24 to 32 years in prison.

Lost in Las Vegas

The Army has recently developed a course called “Battlemind Training,” intended to help soldiers make the psychological transition back into civilian society. “In combat, the enemy is the target,” the course material says. “Back home, there are no enemies.”

This can be a difficult lesson to learn. Many soldiers and marines find themselves at war with their spouses, their children, their fellow service members, the world at large and ultimately themselves when they come home.

“Based on my experience, most of these veterans feel just terrible that they’ve caused this senseless harm,” Dr. Shay said. “Most veterans don’t want to hurt other people.”

Matthew Sepi withdrew into himself on his return from Iraq.

A Navajo Indian who saw his hometown of Winslow, Ariz., as a dead end, Mr. Sepi joined the Army at 16, with a permission slip from his mother.

For a teenager without much life experience, the war in Iraq was mind-bending, and Mr. Sepi saw intense action. When his infantry company arrived in April 2003, it was charged with tackling resistant Republican Guard strongholds north of Baghdad.

“The war was supposedly over, except it wasn’t,” Mr. Sepi said. “I was a ground troop, with a grenade launcher attached to my M-16. Me and my buddies were the ones that assaulted the places. We went in the buildings and cleared the buildings. We shot and got shot at.”

After a year of combat, Mr. Sepi returned to Fort Carson, Colo., where life seemed dull and regimented. The soldiers did not discuss their war experiences or their postwar emotions. Instead, they partied, Mr. Sepi said, and the drinking got him and others in trouble. Arrested for under-age driving under the influence, he was ordered to complete drug and alcohol education and counseling. Shortly after that, he decided to leave the Army.

Feeling lost after his discharge “with a few little medals,” he ended up moving to Las Vegas, a city that he did not know, with the friend of a friend. Broke, Mr. Sepi settled in the Naked City, which is named for the showgirls who used to sunbathe topless there. After renting a roach-infested hole in the wall with an actual hole in the wall, he found jobs doing roadwork and making plastic juice bottles in a factory. Alone and lonely, he started feeling the effects of his combat experiences.

In Las Vegas, Mr. Sepi’s alcohol counselor took him under his wing, recognizing war-related PTSD in his extreme jumpiness, adrenaline rushes, nightmares and need to drink himself into unconsciousness.

The counselor directed him to seek specialized help from a Veterans Affairs hospital. Mr. Sepi said he called the V.A. and was told to report in person. But working 12-hour shifts at a bottling plant, he failed to do so.

In July 2005, when Mr. Sepi was arrested, he identified himself as an Iraq veteran. But, Detective Andersen said, “He didn’t act like a combat veteran. He acted like a scared kid.”

Soon afterward, Nancy Lemcke, Mr. Sepi’s public defender, visited him in jail. “I asked him about PTSD,” Ms. Lemcke said. “And he starts telling me about Iraq and all of a sudden, his eyes well up with tears, and he cries out: ‘We had the wrong house! We had the wrong house!’ And he’s practically hysterical.”

As part of an operation to break down the resistance in and around Balad, Mr. Sepi and his unit had been given a nightly list of targets for capture. Camouflaged, the American soldiers crept through towns after midnight, working their way down the lists, setting off C-4 plastic explosives at each address to stun the residents into submission.

“This particular night, it was December 2003, there was, I’d say, more than 100 targets,” Mr. Sepi said. “Each little team had a list. And at this one house, we blow the gate and find out that there’s this guy sitting in his car just inside that gate. We move in, and he, like, stumbles out of his car, and he’s on fire, and he’s, like, stumbling around in circles in his front yard. So we all kind of don’t know what to do, and he collapses, and we go inside the house and search it and find out it’s the wrong house.”

Although Mr. Sepi said that he felt bad at the time, he also knew that he had done nothing but follow orders and that the Army had paid the man’s family a settlement. He did not imagine that the image of the flaming, stumbling Iraqi civilian would linger like a specter in his psyche.

Listening to Mr. Sepi recount the story of a death that he regretted in Iraq while grappling with a death that he regretted in Las Vegas, his lawyer grew determined to get him help. “It was just so shocking, and his emotions were so raw, and he was so messed up,” Ms. Lemcke said.

An Unusual Legal Deal

She found compassion for him among the law enforcement officials handling the case. The investigation backed up Mr. Sepi’s story of self-defense, although it was never determined who fired first. It made an impression on the police that he was considerably outweighed — his 130 pounds against a 210-pound man and a 197-pound woman. And it helped Mr. Sepi that his victims were drifters, with no family members pressing for justice.

The police said that Kevin Ratcliff, 36, who was shot and wounded by Mr. Sepi, belonged to the Crips and was a convicted felon; Sharon Jackson, 47, who was killed, belonged to NC, the Naked City gang, and an autopsy found alcohol, cocaine and methamphetamines in her blood.

Buoyed by an outpouring of support from Mr. Sepi’s fellow soldiers and veterans’ advocates, Ms. Lemcke pressed the Department of Veterans Affairs to find treatment programs for Mr. Sepi. This allowed an unusual deal with the local district attorney’s office: in exchange for the successful completion of treatment for substance abuse and PTSD, the charges against Mr. Sepi would be dropped.

After about three months in jail, Mr. Sepi spent three months at a substance abuse program in Prescott, Ariz., in late 2005, where the graying veterans presented an object lesson: “I don’t want to be like that when I’m older,” he said to himself. In early 2006, he transferred to a PTSD treatment center run by the V.A. in Topeka, Kan., where he learned how to deal with anger, sadness and guilt, to manage the symptoms of his anxiety disorder and, it seems, to vanquish his nightmares.

“For some reason, my bad dreams went away,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”

Free to start life over, Mr. Sepi stepped tentatively into adulthood. Settling in Phoenix, he enrolled in automotive school and got a job as a welder for a commercial bakery. Once in a while, he said, a loud noise still starts his heart racing and he breaks into a cold sweat, ready for action. But he knows now how to calm himself, he said, he no longer owns guns, and he is sober and sobered by what he has done.

“That night,” he said, of the hot summer night in Las Vegas when he was arrested for murder, “if I could erase it, I would. Killing is part of war, but back home ...”

Research was contributed by Alain Delaquérière, Amy Finnerty, Teddy Kider, Andrew Lehren, Renwick McLean, Jenny Nordberg and Margot Williams.


7) Unfinished Debate on Iraq
January 13, 2008

Iraq will be a central challenge — perhaps the central challenge — for whoever succeeds President Bush and has to repair the profound damage he has wrought with a war that should never have been fought and has been managed so ineptly. The candidates must talk more to the American people about when troops will be withdrawn and how it will be done, as well as how they will manage relations with Iraq and the region.

Yet the war has receded as a major topic on the campaign trail, much to the relief of the Republican candidates, who never stray far from the party line but know that Americans overwhelmingly want the troops home.

One year after Mr. Bush announced that he would try to salvage his misadventure by rushing in 30,000 more troops, casualties are down. Yet 2007 was the most violent year in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Mr. Bush has nothing to show in the way of political progress, which is even more important for ending the war.

As a result, the war continues to be a significant political disadvantage for Republicans, not to mention a constant drain in lives lost and resources squandered. Meanwhile, violence in Afghanistan has surged and Al Qaeda has strengthened along the Afghan-Pakistan border. That is the real front line of the war on terror — no matter how often the Republicans say it is in Iraq.

Except for Representative Ron Paul — who wants all troops withdrawn immediately but is hardly going to be the nominee — the Republican candidates are slavishly wedded to Mr. Bush’s policy of war without end. All oppose a pullout timetable. Even Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who accused Mr. Bush of pursuing a foreign policy with an “arrogant bunker mentality,” has promised not to withdraw troops any faster than recommended by Gen. David Petraeus, the military commander in Iraq who created the current “surge” strategy and has been cautious about force reductions.

Senator John McCain conducted a long and lonely crusade to persuade Mr. Bush to beef up forces in Iraq, and sees the downturn in violence as vindication. From the start, if the United States was ever going to be successful in Iraq, it needed far more troops than Mr. Bush sent in 2003. We are encouraged that many of the candidates promise to avoid repeating such a huge mistake.

Even Mr. McCain acknowledges uncertainty about whether the security gains produced by the troop surge can be sustained. He said months ago he had no Plan B if the escalation failed, and there is no sign he has one now. Mr. Bush’s troop buildup was sold as a way to buy Iraqi politicians breathing room to finally address the tensions driving sectarian violence, including an equitable division of oil wealth and strategies to bring more Baathists and Sunnis into the Shiite-led government. Those goals have not been met, and the administration has virtually abandoned them.

It remains unclear what the Republicans will consider sufficient success to warrant bringing the troops home. Beyond tough-sounding talk about refusing to surrender, no Republican has ever defined victory in Iraq or given the slightest idea of how to achieve it.

The Democratic candidates all want to cut American losses in Iraq and end the war, although the issue is no longer as defining for their campaigns as it once was, because casualties are down, the administration has made a minimal, grudging effort to reduce force levels, and the economy is teetering on a recession. Their message has been compromised by the repeated failure of their party, despite a majority in Congress, to pass legislation demanding that Mr. Bush alter his Iraq policy.

The Democratic candidates have spent a fair amount of time debating how much support each gave to the war at the outset. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Senator John Edwards, like most other members of Congress, voted for the war resolution. Mr. Edwards has forcefully repudiated his vote, while Mrs. Clinton has offered unsatisfying explanations for hers. Senator Barack Obama, who was not in office at the time, rhetorically opposed the invasion. He deserves credit for that, but the focus now must be on ending the war.

Mr. Edwards has staked out a position that would produce a speedier and more complete withdrawal — within 10 months after taking office — than his two rivals. That would include American troops who are training the Iraqi Army and police, leaving only about 5,000 to protect the American Embassy and relief workers.

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama are more realistic. They would start withdrawing troops quickly but have left open precisely how long it would take. Mr. Obama said he would give the Pentagon 16 months to withdraw, but would adjust his timetable based on conditions in Iraq. Mrs. Clinton has not assigned a specific schedule. Both candidates are willing to keep American trainers and counterterrorism units in Iraq as combat troops are brought home and have argued that any withdrawal must be done responsibly, a sentiment we firmly share.

Many important issues have not been fully examined. What is to become of the thousands of Iraqis who helped America and its coalition partners as translators, drivers and fixers and will face retribution? What will be the nature and content of a long-term agreement on future Iraqi-American relations? Will Congress have a say in it? Will the United States retain bases in Iraq or elsewhere in the region? How will a new president seek to enlist key regional countries in stabilizing Iraq? How will a new president improve on Mr. Bush’s failure to facilitate political conciliation? Should the United Nations be involved, as Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama suggest?

The Iraq war has laid bare the serious inability of American civilian agencies to quickly and coherently meet the country’s postconflict needs, from reviving energy infrastructure to organizing federal and local governments. In Foreign Affairs magazine, Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and Republican, proposed integrated regional commands for civilian agencies. That’s an idea deserving consideration.

Another crucial question is the issue of pre-emptive war — or in the case of Iraq, preventive war. The United States must be prepared to use military force to pre-empt another attack on American soil. In Iraq, Mr. Bush went much further, invading a country that he imagined might someday pose a threat to the United States — not pre-empting an imminent threat but preventing the possibility of a threat. To justify his actions, he persuaded Americans that Saddam Hussein had chemical, biological and, especially, nuclear weapons programs — a claim that proved to be specious.

No serious candidate in 2008 can renounce the potential use of force to defend national security or in retaliation for an attack on the United States. But no voter should cast a ballot for a candidate who will not forswear such wars of choice. We hope American voters have learned the lesson of 2000, when Mr. Bush escaped serious questioning on foreign affairs during the campaign. He then turned sensible policies on their head and bumbled his way into a disastrous war.


8) No Quick Fix to Economic Downturn
News Analysis
January 13, 2008

As leaders in Washington turn their attention to efforts to avert a looming downturn, many economists suggest that it may already be too late to change the course of the economy over the first half of the year, if not longer.

With a wave of negative signs gathering force, economists, policy makers and investors are debating just how much the economy could be damaged in 2008. Huge and complex, the American economy has in recent years been aided by a global web of finance so elaborate that no one seems capable of fully comprehending it. That makes it all but impossible to predict how much the economy can be expected to fall before it stabilizes.

The answer could be a defining factor in the outcome of the fiercely contested presidential election. Not long ago, the race centered on the war in Iraq.

But now, as candidates fan out across the country, visiting places as varied as the factory towns of Michigan and streets lined with unsold condominiums in Las Vegas, voters are increasingly demanding that they focus on the best way to keep the economy from slipping off the tracks.

The measures now being debated in Washington and on the campaign trail — tax rebates, added help for the unemployed and those facing sharply higher heating bills and, most immediately, a move by the Federal Reserve to further cut interest rates — could certainly moderate the severity of a downturn. Democrats and the Bush administration are considering a package of such measures that could reach $100 billion.

But the forces menacing the economy, like the unraveling of the real estate market and high oil prices, are too entrenched to be swiftly dispatched by government largess or cheaper credit, some economists say.

“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.”

In the view of many analysts, the economy is now in a downward spiral, with each piece of negative news setting off the next. Falling housing prices have eroded the ability of homeowners to borrow against their property, threatening their ability to spend freely. Concerns about tightening consumer spending have prompted businesses to slow hiring, limiting wage increases and in turn applying the brakes anew to consumer spending.

Not everyone is convinced that the American economy is headed for a recession, defined as six months of economic contraction. The economy often serves up indications of distress that later turn out to be false warnings.

But some economists think a recession may have begun in December. In the last two weeks, there have been signs that a substantial downturn may already be unfolding. The Labor Department reported a sharp slowdown in job creation in December. Retailers said that sales last month were extremely disappointing, capping the worst gain for a holiday season in five years. A widely watched index showed manufacturing slowing, despite a weak American dollar that has encouraged growth in exports.

The construction of new homes has already fallen by some 40 percent since the peak in 2006. The sales of new homes have fallen even faster, suggesting that a large oversupply of places to live will continue to drag down prices.

Home prices have dropped by about 7 percent since the peak in 2006, but some experts suggest they could fall by another 15 to 20 percent before hitting bottom.

“There is still a long way to go,” said Nouriel Roubini, an economist at the Stern School of Business at New York University and chairman of the research firm RGE Monitor.

Mr. Roubini has long predicted the real estate downturn would cause a severe recession. He envisions foreclosures accelerating this year, and banks counting fresh losses. That could make them less able to lend and further slow economic activity, not just in the United States but around the world.

“We’re facing the risk of a systemic financial crisis,” Mr. Roubini said. “It’s not just subprime mortgages. The same kind of reckless lending has been occurring throughout the financial system. And it’s not only mortgages: Now it’s credit cards and auto loans, where we see problems increasing. The toxic junk is popping up everywhere.”

Banks, including commercial banks and investment banks, have so far acknowledged losses of some $100 billion, yet anxiety persists that more large write-offs are coming.

“Firms will go to great lengths to hide or delay reporting losses,” said Paul Ashworth of Capital Economics. “What we know now therefore might only be the tip of the iceberg.”

In a speech on Thursday, the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, zeroed in on the nervousness of bankers as a prime factor slowing the economy, even as the Fed tries to stimulate it with cheaper credit.

“Developments have prompted banks to become protective of their liquidity and balance sheet capacity and thus to become less willing to provide funding to other market participants,” he said. His comments were widely construed as an assurance that the Fed would soon cut rates again. The Fed already dropped rates three times during the last four months of 2007.

Wall Street has clamored for the Fed to keep lowering rates, cognizant that cheaper credit is generally good not just for encouraging borrowing and spending but also for corporate profits.

But some economists fear that lower rates will simply provide a short-lived boost at the expense of the economy’s longer-term health: Cheap money encourages foolish investments, they say, which is precisely how Americans came to experience the evaporation of wealth in the Internet era, followed by housing prices rising beyond any reasonable connection to incomes.

“This appears to be a panic on the part of the Fed,” said Michael T. Darda, chief economist at MKM Partners, a research and trading firm. “The housing bubble was a reaction from the effort to protect us from the collapse of the tech bubble. What’s the next bubble going to be as a consequence of trying to protect us against this?”

Mr. Darda asserts that the economy would be fine if left to its own devices, maintaining that the job market is healthier than most economists think. He contends that the December jobs report is likely to be revised to show that far more jobs were created than the 18,000 reported by the Labor Department.

“That could be important in terms of reversing the direction,” Mr. Darda said. “We need to see evidence that the labor market isn’t falling apart. That’s critical.”

But most economists seem convinced that the economy has slowed significantly, and say it is the severity of a downturn that is in doubt, not the existence of one.

“If we have a recession with a modest consumer retrenchment, and the rest of the world holds up, this could be three quarters of disappointment,” said Robert Barbera, the chief economist of ITG. “The risk is a more dramatic decline for the consumer.”

There is little doubt that the Fed will lower its benchmark rate later this month, making it cheaper for banks to lend money to one another. But there is more doubt whether Washington can quickly agree on fiscal policy moves — that is, raising spending or cutting taxes — in an election year in which the White House and Congress are controlled by different parties.

A recession could pack enormous political consequences. Over the last century, the economy has been in a recession four times in the early part of a presidential election year, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. In each of those years — 1920, 1932, 1960 and 1980 — the party of the incumbent president lost the election.

Much discussed now in Washington and on the campaign trail is a potential rebate for taxpayers, similar to one that seemed to lubricate spending during the last recession six years ago. But worries remain over whether such a move could exacerbate inflation, and some doubt that the benefits would be felt rapidly enough to justify the risks.

While tax rebates can encourage spending and generate jobs, Mr. Roubini said, the government cannot afford to unleash the significant amounts — $300 billion or $400 billion — that he believes would be required to ensure a substantial rebound in economic growth.

“Whatever they’re going to do,” he said, “it’s going to be cosmetic.”

And most economists concur that even meaningful policies will probably take several months to filter through such an enormous economy. By the time they take effect, the country could already be in a recession.


9) In Texas, Weighing Life With a Border Fence
January 13, 2008

GRANJENO, Tex. — Rafael Garza, a former mayor of this small border city, stood steps from the back door of his simple brick house and chopped the air with a hand. “This is where the actual fence would be,” he said.

And the federal property line, he said, would be at his shower.

Mr. Garza, 36, a Hidalgo County sheriff’s sergeant who traces his family here to 1767, was imagining what life would be like in the shadow of the Proposed Tactical Infrastructure — the wall, to many outraged South Texans — that the Department of Homeland Security has committed to build by the end of the year.

Although federal officials say its location and design are still in flux, official maps of the Texas third of the 370-mile intermittent pedestrian barrier from Brownsville to California have provoked widespread alarm among property owners fearful of being cut off from parts of their own land or access to the Rio Grande for livestock and crops.

In the Rio Grande Valley last week, yards were plastered with signs demanding “No border wall,” raising the prospect of a protracted legal, if not physical, standoff, although Congress has recently taken steps to review the original plan. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas is under fire from some fellow Republicans for amendments to a financing bill last month that they say scale back the fence.

At the same time, local concern was heightened by letters in December from the United States Army Corps of Engineers to property owners in the Southwest — 71 of them in Texas — who had refused access to their land for up to a year of survey work and were given 30 days to comply or face a federal lawsuit.

One was Dr. Eloisa G. Tamez, a nursing director at the University of Texas, Brownsville, at Texas Southmost College, who owns three acres in El Calaboz, the remnant of a 12,000-acre land grant to her ancestors in 1747 by the King of Spain. The barrier would rise within feet of her backyard, as well.

“It’s all I have,” said Dr. Tamez, 72, a widow who served for years as a chief nurse in medical centers of the Department of Veterans Affairs. “Who do they think we are down here? Somebody sitting under a cactus with a sombrero taking a nap?”

Her deadline expired last Monday with no legal action.

But Laura Keehner, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, said Friday, “We will begin that process as early as next week.”

Ms. Keehner said that of 135 letters sent seeking access for surveys, 30 local landowners had so far agreed. “They recognize that a fence will help fight drug trafficking and human trafficking,” she said.

The government would have to pay for any private land acquired or condemned for the fence, at a price set by federal evaluators. But landowners would not be compensated for allowing surveys, except for cases of damage.

Not all residents vowed resistance. Juan Hernandez, 43, a poultry farmer in Los Indios, sounded resigned. “I don’t know how they’re going to do it, but they’re going to do it,” said Mr. Hernandez, who complained about rampant drug trafficking.

He said, “if it helps my kids” he could go along with a fence. “I’m probably having to move,” he said, “but if they pay for it, O.K. ”

Valley officials and residents who denounced the fence said they were not soft on illegal immigration or blind to the dangers of drug smuggling and terrorism. “Who doesn’t want security?” said Mayor Richard Cortez of McAllen. “Our fight with the government is not over their goals, it’s how they go about them.”

“You can go over, under and around a fence,” he said, “and it can’t make an apprehension.”

Instead, he said, the government should deepen the river, clear the land for better surveillance and create a legal Mexican worker program.

Up and down the border, his fellow mayors agree, banding together in the Texas Border Coalition with rare unanimity to oppose the fence, calling instead for increased electronic measures like sensors and more Border Patrol agents.

Stirring particular concern was the plan to run the fence north of the levees built decades ago to hold back the Rio Grande, now flowing in many places a mile or more to the south. So the fence would in effect cut off swaths of American soil — including range and farmlands — between the barrier and the international boundary of the river.

To build the fence as originally conceived, in two parallel rows with a road for the Border Patrol between them, some local officials were told, the government would need to acquire a strip of land at least 150 feet from the levee. That would take it into the backyards of Mr. Garza in Granjeno, Dr. Tamez in El Calaboz and other property owners.

But Ms. Keehner of the Homeland Security Department said the agency was reviewing its options. “That’s why we need the surveys,” she said.

Local officials have been told that there would be some kind of gates through the fence, but what kind and where have yet to be specified.

The last maps also show wide gaps between segments of fence, setting the barrier in more developed areas where the risk was greater that illegal immigrants could more easily melt into the population, and leaving open desolate tracts that could be more easily monitored.

But that raised other concerns for residents like Aida Leach of River Bend Resort, a golf community outside Brownsville that the maps show getting partly fenced.

“The wall stops at part of the houses and starts again,” leaving her house exposed, Ms. Leach told a meeting of concerned property owners that was convened Wednesday night at the San Ignacio de Loyola Roman Catholic Church in El Ranchito by lawyers from Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid. “So I guess they’ll be coming to our house.”

“Good question,” said Corinne Spenser-Scheurich, one of the lawyers. Ms. Spenser-Scheurich said landowners should not feel intimidated by the government’s requests to survey. “To sign or not is a personal choice,” she said.

Another landowner, H. R. Jaime, attending with his 90-year-old mother, Frances Wagner Quiñones, whose forebears settled nearby Landrum, asked, “What happens to water rights, if we can’t get to the water and pump it out?”

Emily Rickers, another of the lawyers, said the government might have to compensate him for that as well.

At the McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge to Reynosa, Mexico, George Ramon, the bridge director for McAllen, questioned the value of a border fence considering how brazenly the fences at the heavily patrolled crossing were regularly breached, aided by “spotters” who hang around the bridge communicating with cellphones and hand signals like baseball coaches.

“They form a human pyramid and leap the fence,” Mr. Ramon said. “I’ve seen them pay a guy who helps them over.” Others, known as “port runners” just make a dash for it past the toll takers and agents and melt into the crowd. “It’s a constant, daily occurrence” he said.

He kept five police cars lined alongside the fence as a deterrent, but they proved worthless, he said, “as soon as they figured out no one was in them.”

He stopped at a hole in a chain-link fence, where cars were lining up to enter the United States. “Well,” he said, “it’s cut again.”

Dan Barry’s column, “This Land,” will return on Monday, Jan. 21.


10) Americans Cut Back Sharply on Spending
January 14, 2008

Strong evidence is emerging that consumer spending, a bulwark against recession over the last year even as energy prices surged and the housing market sputtered, has begun to slow sharply at every level of the American economy, from the working class to the wealthy.

The abrupt pullback raises the possibility that the country may be experiencing a rare decline in personal consumption, not just a slower rate of growth. Such a decline would be the first since 1991, and it would almost certainly push the entire economy into a recession in the middle of an election year.

There are mounting anecdotal signs that beginning in December Americans cut back significantly on personal consumption, which accounts for 70 percent of the economy.

A raft of consumer companies — high-end stores like Nordstrom and Tiffany, and middle-of-the-road ones like Target and J. C. Penney — reported a pronounced slowdown in growth last month, and in several cases an outright drop in business.

American Express said that starting in early December the growth in the rate of spending by its 52 million cardholders, a generally affluent group of consumers, fell 3 percentage points, from 13 percent to 10 percent, the first slowdown since the 2001 recession.

And consumer confidence, an important barometer of economic health, has plunged. Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, says consumer satisfaction with the economy has reached a 15-year low, according to the firm’s polling.

Even wealthier consumers, who were seen as invulnerable to rising gasoline prices and falling home values, are feeling the squeeze.

“People are clearly concerned that we are headed into a recession,” said Stephen I. Sadove, the chief executive of Saks Fifth Avenue, the upscale department store whose runaway growth throughout much of the year slowed markedly in December.

Gia Trumpler, 37, a travel consultant who lives in Manhattan, shops at luxury chains like Saks. But she is trimming costs where she can by bringing lunch to work from home, rather than eating out. “Everything just feels more expensive to me now,” she said, including the cost of heating her apartment this winter.

There are plenty of recession naysayers. Average hourly wages and salaries have not fallen, and some economists argue that unless — or until — that happens, consumer spending will hold up despite widespread economic unease. According to these economists, what happened in December was a temporary blip.

“Incomes have managed to hold up,” said Chris Varvares, president of Macroeconomic Advisers, an economic forecasting firm, who added that the data to date did not support the view that a recession was inevitable.

Even in tough economic times Americans rarely reduce their consumption, preferring instead to slow the growth in their spending. Since 1980, they have cut spending in only five quarters — a total of 15 months — most of them in the depths of a recession. The 2001 recession passed without a cutback in consumer spending.

Only once before, in 1980, did consumer spending fall during a presidential election year, helping Ronald Reagan in his campaign against Jimmy Carter, the Democratic incumbent.

Official statistics do not yet show that consumer spending has dropped, but they do suggest that in late 2007, it slowed in areas like automobiles, furniture, building materials and health care, said Mark M. Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com.

Fresh evidence of a pullback is pouring in from many quarters as Americans confront the triple threats of higher energy costs, falling home prices and a volatile stock market.

Perhaps the strongest barometer over the last 30 days is the performance of the country’s big chain stores. December turned out to be a blood bath for retailers at every rung on the economic ladder, with sales for the month growing at the slowest rate in seven years.

Sales at stores open at least a year, a crucial yardstick in retailing, plunged by 11 percent at Kohl’s and 7.9 percent at Macy’s, compared with last year.

Chains that cater to the middle and upper classes, which have benefited from years of trading up — when customers splurge on select expensive products — struggled as well. Coach, the leather goods maker, said sales of its popular handbags had become sluggish, prompting the company to issue rare coupons to drum up business.

“This is the real deal — consumers are slowing down across the spectrum,” said David Schick, a retail analyst at Stifel Nicolaus.

But it is the trouble at the highest reaches of retailing that has economists most worried about a recession. Over the last year, even as low-wage and middle-income consumers have cut back, the wealthy have spent freely, keeping high-end chains insulated from the economic turbulence.

That started to change in December, as shoppers held off on buying $300 designer shoes and $500 dresses. For example, store sales fell 4 percent at Nordstrom, the high-end department store.

And Tiffany, the upscale jeweler, said the number of purchases at its stores dropped last month. In an interview, its chief executive, Michael J. Kowalski, said that even if the wealthy remain so at least on paper, their economic anxiety is taking a toll.

“It’s a reaction to the general economic uncertainty everyone is feeling,” he said. “There are housing price declines and financial market instability. There is a lot of caution out there, and it’s reflected in jewelry sales.”

At the same time, the number of overdue payments on American Express cards is surging, the company said — and this among well-heeled cardholders who charge up to $12,000 a year, on average, on each card. American Express has called some cardholders in the last few weeks to ask if they will have trouble paying their bills.

“We are seeing a correlation with housing prices,” said Michael O’Neill, a spokesman for American Express. “The falloff in spending is everywhere in the country, but it is greatest in those areas like south Florida and California, where home prices have fallen the most.”

The big exception is gasoline. American Express and the Consumer Federation of America say that consumers are buying just as many gallons as ever, but paying more for them, and that has forced cutbacks in other purchases. Gasoline prices usually drop after the summer driving season, but this year they shot up, from $2.85 a gallon on average in September to $3.07 in December and $3.15 in the first week of January.

A similar trend is evident in the cost of natural gas, electricity and home heating oil. “We built these big houses in the suburbs, which need a lot of energy to stay warm and a car to go shopping,” said Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation. “And we can’t change that quickly.”

The impact of rising gasoline prices “is just profound on middle- and lower-income families,” said Mr. Kohut of the Pew center. “Our surveys are showing one of the lowest levels of satisfaction with national conditions in any recent presidential election year. You have to go back to 1992 to get a lower number of people saying the national economy is excellent or good.”

The nation was recovering from recession that year. Consumer spending had contracted in two separate quarters in 1991, and while economic growth was gradually accelerating as Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush sought the presidency, the Clinton camp famously posted a sign in its campaign war room proclaiming, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

There are some bright spots now in consumer spending. Sales of sports gear and electronic gadgets — particularly G.P.S. navigation devices and flat-panel television sets — have risen over the last three months. To Stephen Baker, vice president for industry analysis at the research firm NPD Group, that suggests there is still enough purchasing power for people to buy what they really want.

“We probably would not have seen strong sales for electronics products that people really want if the overriding issue was economic,” Mr. Baker said.

But not everyone is splurging. Jinal Shah, 22, a college senior in New York, said she wanted to buy the popular Nintendo Wii video game system as a gift for herself this holiday season, but had second thoughts because of the $250 price tag. She ended up not purchasing it.

“You have to make choices,” she said. “I get the Wii, or I go out more. I am just much more aware of the tradeoff now.”

Louise Story contributed reporting.


11) A Dark Addiction
Miners Caught in Western Va.'s Spiraling Rates of Painkiller Abuse
By Nick Miroff Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 13, 2008; A01

The crowd is gathering early in the dirt parking lot outside the Clinch Valley Treatment Center, the only methadone clinic within 80 miles. Third in line, Jeff Trapp smokes Winstons in his pickup, watching the cars turn off the highway and settle behind him, tires crunching on cold gravel, headlights glaring. It is 2:45 a.m., and Trapp has been awake for two hours. The clinic does not start dosing until 5.

Like Trapp, many of the patients who filled the lot one recent morning have jobs at far-off mines that start at 6 or 7. They sleep upright in their vehicles, slumped against the steering wheel, dressed for work in steel-toed black boots and coveralls lined with orange reflective strips. Dark rings circle their eyes where the previous day's coal dust didn't wash off.

"Everybody you see here works," says Trapp, his smoke-cured voice a low rumble. A $14 plug-in heater from "Wally" (Wal-Mart) whirs on the dash. "Ain't no spongers. No loafers," he says.

Work in the mines hasn't been as good as it is now in a generation. With per-ton prices doubling in the past six years, Virginia unearthed about $1.6 billion worth of coal in 2006, much of it to feed the growing energy demands of the Washington region.

Wages are up, bosses are hiring and rookie miners can start at $18 an hour -- a small fortune in a region where, as Trapp says, "if you ain't working in the mines or in the prisons, you don't make money."

But it is a boom clouded by drugs. Nearly a decade after OxyContin slammed into southwestern Virginia and much of Appalachia, the abuse of prescription painkillers in the region is worse than ever, police and public health officials say.

Publicized efforts to crack down on drug dealers and manufacturers through tougher street-level enforcement and tighter prescription regulations have failed to curb the crisis, and the result is a quiet catastrophe unfolding largely out of sight, in private bedrooms and isolated trailers far from the drug war's urban front lines.

A record 248 people died of overdoses in Virginia's western region in 2006, more than those who died from homicides, house fires and alcohol-related car accidents combined. That was an 18 percent increase from 2005 and a 270 percent increase from a decade ago, state medical examiner records show.

The problem is most acute in Virginia's poorest rural areas, and it is not limited to miners. In 2006, accidental pain pill overdoses killed more people in Tazewell County (pop. 44,000) than in Fairfax County (pop. 1.1 million). In Wise County, where Trapp lives and the per capita income is $14,000 a year, the fatal overdose rate for pain pills was 13 times those of Loudoun and Fairfax counties.

"The abuse and misuse of painkillers is the worst I have seen it in the 16 years I have worked narcotics in this area," said Lt. Richard Stallard of the Big Stone Gap police department. He is director of the Southwest Virginia Drug Task Force, which operates in Dickinson, Lee, Scott and Wise counties. His officers made 442 arrests through the first nine months of last year, an 86 percent increase from the same period in 2006.

In what is perhaps the most troubling sign of the problem's intractability, the single deadliest drug in the region in 2006 was the same one being legally distributed to addicts through treatment clinics such as the one Trapp visits: methadone.

A large black market has emerged for the drug, which is supposed to treat addiction or chronic pain with less risk than OxyContin and other oxycodone-based opioids. But methadone was linked to 78 deaths in western Virginia in 2006, and experts say that whatever ground was gained against the illegal use of OxyContin is being lost, engulfed in a widening circle of abuse that extends to painkillers, antidepressants and other prescription drugs.

Round-the-clock security is posted at Clinch Valley Treatment Center, a two-story cement building along Route 19 that was once a hamburger restaurant. It serves almost 1,000 patients, drawing them from steep-sided mountain "hollers" and tiny coal towns such as Dante, Dungannon, Honaker and other places where the winter sun casts long shadows but little light.

Every morning before sunup, Trapp drives 120 miles -- from his home in Coeburn to the clinic and back -- stopping once for coffee and gas at the Double Kwik in Lebanon. He has been going for two years, trading this dependency for the $600-a-day oxycodone habit that made his nose bleed and his wife cry. He is 54, with a pale moustache, a four-pack-a-day wheeze and the drained, sallow expression of someone who has not slept in a long time.

When the clinic doors open at 5, the crowd streams into the warm hallway, squinting in the indoor light. Trapp hands over $12.50 at a payment window, then lines up at another window for his dose: 80 milligrams of liquid methadone, mixed with juice in a little white cup. He must gulp it down quickly and get back on the road. His boss expects him at 6:30.

"This methadone makes you feel like a human being again," Trapp says.

With disability rates as high as 37 percent in coal-mining areas such as Buchanan County, the region has many people with long-term pain management needs. As is the case with lots of aging miners, Trapp's addiction to pills began in a doctor's office, not a back-alley drug deal.

"Busted-up" from 30 years working as a heavy-equipment operator and mechanic on the massive excavators used for strip mining and mountaintop removal, Trapp needed multiple surgeries to fix seven ruptured and herniated discs. Doctors wanted to implant a magnesium rod to stabilize his spine, but Trapp refused.

"I've known too many people who've done it, and they can't tie their shoes," he said.

So Trapp loaded up on painkillers, first Percocet and later OxyContin. When the prescribed dose no longer did the job, Trapp took more. Then more. He began "doctor shopping," driving to Roanoke and Richmond to find physicians who would give him prescriptions.

When the pharmacies couldn't provide enough pills, Trapp found dealers who would. Friends were melting oxycodone tablets and injecting themselves -- "bangin' OCs" -- but Trapp was too squeamish to mess with needles. He crushed the tablets and snorted them like cocaine off his kitchen table. He didn't feel high, just "good." The relief was instant.

"I got hooked on those bad boys real bad," he says.

But when Trapp didn't have pills, the withdrawal symptoms left him "sick as a dog" and bedridden. "Every muscle in your body craves it," he says. "You can't sleep, can't eat. It's like the flu, but 10 times worse."

In two years, Trapp put $60,000 of his retirement savings, maybe more, up his nose. His daughter begged him to get help, as did his wife, Sue, who works as a shift manager at a Hardee's and as a guard at Red Onion State Prison, the supermax facility where sniper Lee Boyd Malvo is being held.

Trapp was "wormed over" after three days into involuntary withdrawal when his wife took him to a clinic to get help in 2005. He couldn't walk, and he couldn't hold up his head. He began taking methadone that week.

Life Underground

Foreman Gary Boyd steers through the tunnels of Pioneer Coal No. 1 in a low-rise electric cart, sloshing across channels of cold, muddy water. His nickname, Stork, is stenciled on his scuffed plastic helmet, and a slug of dipping tobacco bulges in his lower lip.

"The good Lord put me on this Earth to be a coal miner," he says, "and I can't think of nothing I'd rather do." He ducks slightly when the ceiling height drops to 40 inches.

A bearish man with a soot-streaked beard, Boyd stands well over 6 feet tall outside the mine. But underground, in a 3 1/2 -foot "low coal" operation such as this one in the mountains near Vansant, Va., Boyd mostly works on his hands and knees, crawling like an infant. He and the other men spend the entire shift, sometimes 12 hours or more, without ever standing up.

Compared with the large, corporate-owned mines that use the latest technology and enforce tighter safety codes, Pioneer No. 1, the company's only mine, is a mom-and-pop affair, run by a single operator and a 10-man crew. It extends horizontally into the mountain through a maze-like network of wide, low tunnels, and a red plastic sign along the access road outside reads "AMBULANCE ENTRANCE."

With narrower profit margins, small-scale outfits such as Pioneer, often known as "dog holes," typically pay less and don't offer benefits such as health insurance. But for miners who have been fired from corporate mines for drug violations or other infractions, smaller mines, which must still meet state safety standards, are a good fallback.

The "face," where Boyd's crew was working that day, was a half-mile into the mountain. A massive grinding machine called a continuous miner chewed at the coal seam with a spinning, snaggle-toothed steel cylinder. Water seeped from its mouth and trickled from its sides to cool the metal teeth and keep the dust down. The greasy, jet-black rock came off in chunks onto a conveyor belt.

As the machine worked, the tunnel walls cracked and groaned under the shifting pressure of the mountain. Crew members scrambled to stabilize the roof with wooden posts, wedging them into place with hammers.

"You're as safe as you would be in your mommy's arms -- if you watch what you're doing," Boyd said. He checked a hand-held meter every few minutes to measure carbon dioxide, which is poisonous, and methane, which can explode. Flecks of coal dust swirled in the yellow beams of the miners' headlamps.

Two Loves: Mining and Drugs

Drug use by miners who snort or shoot up underground has been a growing cause for concern among state regulators, and a law approved last year in the General Assembly imposed stringent drug-testing policies. All newly hired miners must be screened, and random testing requirements have increased. Those who fail risk losing their miner's license.

The impact of the new policies was immediate. "I can't find nobody to work," said Noah Vandyke, 60, a lifelong miner who runs Pioneer Coal. "The younger generation, you can't hardly find one that will pass a drug test."

Since the new testing policy went into effect in July, Vandyke has lost eight crew members who were fired because of drugs or quit, possibly to avoid having their miner's license revoked for a "dirty" urine sample.

"Every family in the area has been affected by drug abuse," Vandyke said, "and it ain't just coal miners." In recent years, two of his sisters have died because of drugs, and two brothers, both injured miners, are deep in the grip of addiction.

Unlike some operators, Vandyke is known as a boss who will not turn a man away for trying to get help at the methadone clinic. One of those is his on-again, off-again "scoop man," Jeff Vandyke, who shuttles coal inside the mine in a huge, spoon-shaped electric cart. The two men are not directly related -- Vandyke is a common name in the area -- but their lives have been intertwined since the elder miner gave the younger his first job underground 15 years ago.

Like Noah, Jeff Vandyke, 34, grew up in Buchanan County near the town of Grundy. With his horizons blocked by the mountainsides, he found a new world underground. "There's nothing like coal mining," he said. "You know that nobody else will ever go where you're going. Just the people in that mine, that day."

The mines led Jeff Vandyke to another love: drugs. He got his first prescription for OxyContin after a rock fall accident that left him with broken ribs, shoulder damage and spinal injuries. Disabled and addicted, he thought he could get away from drugs by leaving, so he moved with his brother to Arizona and got a job as a trucker. Soon they were buying pills along the Mexican border, 1,000 at a time, he said. Methamphetamine kept them awake, and OxyContin kept them high.

By 2003, Jeff Vandyke was back home and drifting deeper into addiction. He lived for more than a year in a broken-down trailer with the electricity, water and heat cut off. He spent most of his days on a couch in the dark, stirring every few hours to warm the air under his blankets with a propane camping stove.

The crippling pain and nausea of withdrawal pushed him to get help. He drives to a Kentucky clinic for a two-week supply of liquid methadone and says he has been clean for three years. He and his girlfriend, Daisy Ratliff, live with her two sons in a trailer with a thick coal seam visible on the hillside in their back yard. She has brightened the black lockbox where Vandyke stores his methadone with stickers of hearts, stars and red letters that spell "I LV U."

"My truck's paid off," Vandyke says, his long, blond hair tucked under a camouflage cap. "I've got four bows, three shotguns." He takes time off from the mines in the fall to hunt deer, grouse and squirrel for winter meat.

And yet, some of the damage from his drug years can't be undone. Vandyke's father no longer speaks to him, and he and his brother haven't said a word to each other in nearly two years, ever since he said his brother shot at him with a .38 and tried to steal Ratliff's car. Salves for Pain and Fear

"I'll probably never get off methadone because of the shape I'm in," said Mick Wampler, a disabled coal miner who lives in a small room at the end of a narrow hallway in his sister's house.

Wampler, 47, started working in the mines four days after his 18th birthday. His mother needed the money after floods wiped out the family's home in Haysi, Va. But he never had the nerves for it, he said, and the sight of accidents sent him over the edge. He watched one friend lose an arm to a rock hauler and saw another electrocuted by a 900-volt mining cable. Wampler began taking Valium just to go underground.

"A lot of people are scared on the job," he said. "They'll use alcohol, anything." After falling off a loader and breaking his leg, Wampler got a prescription for oxycodone. A diabetic, he had needles, and shooting up was easy. Soon he was hooked on high-potency Fentanyl patches, ripping them in two to wring out the drug, which he would cook up with vinegar and inject through the veins in his feet. "It was as good as heroin," he said. He dabbled in that, too.

Years of negative publicity about OxyContin have made doctors wary of it and other oxycodone-based drugs, local health officials say, but records show that sales of the drug have increased. In 2006, 746,901 grams of oxycodone were distributed for retail sale in Virginia, nearly triple the amount sold in 1999, according to the Virginia Department of Health Professions. Although sales have slowed since 2001, they increased 9 percent from 2005 to 2006.

Police in the region say pain pills are entering Virginia from other states, even Mexico, where they can be casually bought along the border. They can also be ordered on the Internet through shady online pharmacies. The familiar schemes remain popular, too.

"We can't stop people from going doctor shopping," Tazewell Sheriff H.S. Caudill said. "We need a nationwide program to check if John Doe has already been to another pharmacy."

Doctors, meanwhile, have been giving out more methadone than ever. From 1999 to 2006, the amount of methadone distributed for retail sale in Virginia jumped from 30,531 grams to 146,479. An underground market for illegally diverted tablets and liquid doses is thriving.

"When we had problems with OxyContin being diverted, doctors started prescribing methadone," said Martha Wunsch, a researcher who has a grant from the National Institutes of Health to study southwestern Virginia's drug deaths.

Wunsch says that methadone in pill form, not the liquid version legally distributed through addiction clinics, is to blame for the bulk of fatal overdoses. In one study, she found that more than half of all fatal overdose victims had legitimate prescriptions for methadone tablets.

On its own, methadone can't deliver a "high" like oxycodone or other opiates, so users combine it with anti-anxiety drugs such as Xanax to intensify the effect, creating a toxic, often fatal, cocktail. Prescription pills have surpassed marijuana as the top drug of choice for new drug users nationwide, according to the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy.

"There's not much to do around here," said Jeremy Lowe, 22, a miner who got hooked on Lortab (hydrocodone) after breaking his hand in an accident a year ago. Now he is one of the patients who wait in line at the methadone clinic every morning.

"A lot of my friends who went off to universities ended up coming back home and getting hooked," he said. "It's like it's fashionable to do drugs."

To many, the growing traffic at the Clinch Valley Treatment Center has made it a shameful symbol of the region's drug problem. Several Tazewell officials want to shut the center down or force it to move, seeing its for-profit business model and treatment mission as a conflict of interest. According to the clinic's policy, patients can buy methadone as long as they want; detoxification is voluntary.

The clinic's counseling staff members say that many patients need to be on some sort of drug to cope with severe, long-term pain and that methadone has made them functional. And for those who lack insurance or access to more personalized care, it is often the only affordable option.

"We need to change the way people look at successful drug addiction treatment," said the clinic's director, Sterlyn Lineberry. "Are we reducing harm to the individual? Is the person working? Taking care of their family?"

Wunsch, who used to run a methadone clinic in the region, says the biggest problem is the lack of state and federal support for more comprehensive treatment programs. And powerful stigmas persist. "A lot of people in southwest Virginia believe this is a moral weakness, not a public health problem," she said. The Hard Way

Jeff Trapp knows people who have died from methadone but no one who has gotten off it the hard way. He has tried to decrease his dose, but the cravings come back every time. So instead, he drives.

Trapp sets his alarm for 12:30 a.m., waking after a few hours of sleep, and gets dressed in a dark room. His boss does not like that he goes to the clinic, and even less that it has made him late to work, and has threatened to fire him.

In the kitchen, Trapp makes coffee with the light low. There is a plastic bin above the cabinets to catch the rainwater where the roof leaks, and a picture of his wife at her high school graduation hangs on the wall. He carries another photo of her riding a motorcycle. She weighs 95 pounds, but she's a tough lady, he says.

When Trapp starts the pickup down the driveway at 1 a.m., the dogs stand on the doorstep and watch him go. Last year, he put 60,000 miles on the pickup, a 1993 Chevy. The road signs say his route is a designated scenic byway, the Trail of the Lonesome Pine, but Trapp drives it in the dark, and there is nothing to see.

"I don't want to be dependent on doing this every day," Trapp says. He could get permission for a two-week take-home supply of methadone, if he wanted it. He hasn't had a dirty test yet. But does he trust himself? No.

So instead, he drives.

"I don't want that temptation on me," he says. "I'd probably drink two bottles just to see how it felt."

He opens the window a crack to light another Winston, watching the shoulder for deer. When a car passes him on the left, Trapp recognizes the vehicle. He has seen it before, parked outside the clinic.

Staff photographer Andrea Bruce contributed to this report.


12) Mexican Authorities Move to Crush Copper Strike
By David Bacon
t r u t h o u t | Report
Sunday 13 January 2008

Mexican labor authorities seized on technicalities to order an end to the strike at the country's largest copper mine in Cananea, Sonora, on Friday. The Mexican press reports that over 700 heavily armed agents of the Sonora state police arrived in Cananea just hours before the decision was announced, and agents of the Federal Preventative Police were sent to this tiny mountain town as well. Strikers report that the streets were filled with rocks and teargas, and 20 miners have been injured - some seriously - in the ensuing conflict. The union says that five strikers are missing.

The action by the government seeks to end the longest-running defiance of government labor policy in Mexico in decades. The mine belongs to one of the largest mining corporations in the world, Grupo Mexico, which is owned by the wealthy family of German Larrea.

On June 29 of last year, the union at Cananea, Section 65 of the Mexican Union of Mine, Metal and Allied Workers, went on strike over extreme health and safety dangers. Since the beginning of the strike, both the company and the labor board in the state of Sonora, which is controlled by Mexico's old ruling party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, as well as the company itself, have tried to declare the strike illegal. The union won an injunction, called an "amparo," from the Mexican Federal Court on December 13, protecting the strike's legal status.

Under Mexican law, if the strike is legal, the company may not make any effort to operate the mine or make reprisals against the strikers. If the strike is declared illegal, however, the company can begin operations, and fire any striker who refuses to return to work. Miners fear the presence of heavily armed police is intended to protect a company effort to reopen the mine with strikebreakers, or to frighten strikers themselves into returning.

Smashing the strike in Cananea would have economic and political repercussions, not just in Mexico, but in the United States as well. In two previous strikes, at Cananea and its sister mine in Nacozari, in 1998 and 2005, respectively, over 2,000 miners lost their jobs. Most of them, unable to find other work in the tiny mining communities of northern Sonora, crossed the border into the US as undocumented workers in order to survive.

Grupo Mexico has extensive ties with US corporations. It became the owner of two mines and a smelter in Arizona when it bought the bankrupt American Smelting and Refining Company. The union in those mines, the United Steel Workers of America, has actively supported the striking miners in Cananea. Grupo Mexico's chief financial officer, J. Eduardo Gonzalez, is a former executive of Kimberley Clark de Mexico, the Mexican subsidiary of the US-based paper corporation Kimberley Clark. That company was founded by the family of Wisconsin Congressman James Sensenbrenner, one of the most vociferous opponents of Mexican immigration to the US. Grupo Mexico's board of directors also shares a member with the board of the US Carlyle Group (which included former President George H. W. Bush).

Grupo Mexico has been at war with the Mexican miners union for over three years. In 2001, Napoleon Gomez Urrutia was elected as the union's president. He soon became a high-profile opponent of the Mexican government's conservative economic policy, successfully fighting its effort to weaken labor law and privatize its pension system. Taking advantage of high world copper prices, Gomez negotiated wage increases much higher than the limits the government sought to impose in its effort to attract foreign investment.

On February 19, 2005, 65 miners died in a huge explosion in the Pasta de Conchos coal mine in the northern state of Coahuila. That mine belonged to Grupo Mexico. The union found that workers on the second shift had complained of high concentrations of explosive methane gas in the shafts before the accident. "They told us that welding was still going on, even after the failure of some electrical equipment," Gomez charged.

Two days after the explosion, Gomez Urrutia accused the Secretary of Labor and Grupo Mexico of "industrial homicide." Then-President Vicente Fox filed corruption charges against Gomez less than a week later, and Labor Secretary Francisco Xavier Salazar Sáenz appointed Elias Morales to replace him as union president. Morales had been expelled from the union for his close relationship with the company. Gomez fled to Canada to avoid arrest, where the United Steel Workers gave him sanctuary, and where he remains. While in exile, he was twice reelected president of the union, although Grupo Mexico and the government refused to recognize him.

A July 2006 report by the National Human Rights Commission found that the local office of the federal labor ministry responsible for inspecting Pasta de Conchos had "clear knowledge" before the accident of the conditions that set off the explosion. In 2004, labor safety inspectors had found 48 health and safety violations in the mine, including oil and gas leaks, missing safety devices, and broken lighting. Although Grupo Mexico was given an order to fix the illegal conditions, no compliance inspection was carried out until February 7, 12 days before the explosion.

The Cananea strikers say conditions in their mine also threaten their lives and health. Rock dust in the enclosed part of the huge complex, called the concentrator, is so deep that it rises up over workers' boot tops. "When the mine is running," says Victoriano Carrillo, a member of the mine's health and safety commission, "you can't even see more than a few feet in front of you."

Mine dust is more than just uncomfortable or inconvenient: it's deadly. Superfine particles lodge in the lungs, and miners who breathe rock dust year after year suffer a variety of lung diseases, including silicosis. Cananea miners charge that the vacuum apparatus that is supposed to suck dust from the complex has been disconnected and inoperable for a decade. "We know what's safe and what's not," one miner charged, "but they never want us to spend time fixing problems - just get the production out. If we tried to stop the line for safety problems, we would lose our jobs."

In October, a binational delegation of health and safety experts from Mexico and the US visited the Cananea mine and performed preliminary health screenings on 68 of the 1,300 strikers. "We documented appalling working conditions in the open-pit mine and processing plants where workers are exposed to high levels of airborne silica, which can cause fatal diseases like silicosis and lung cancer," stated Garrett Brown, a California health and safety inspector and director of the Maquiladora Health and Safety Network. "Ironically, the Mexican Labor Department's own safety inspectors found the same hazards in an April 2007 inspection of the facility and issued a laundry list of 72 'corrective actions,' including fixing the cranes' brakes and re-assembling the dust collectors. None of the mandated corrections, many of which had also been identified in previous inspections, had been completed by the time the workers went on strike over health and safety issues on July 29."

According to Grupo Mexico, the strikers are supporters of Gomez Urrutia, and are striking to pressure the company and government into reinstating him. But breaking the strike in Cananea would allow the company and government to install a company union at the mine, as they have at many others over the last two years. In November 2006, the federal Mexican labor board, under the control of the conservative government of the National Action Party and President Felipe Calderon, gave legal status to a new miners union, the National Union of Workers in the Exploration, Exploitation and Benefit of Mines. Grupo Mexico was a large contributor to Calderon's 2006 presidential campaign.

The new union is headed by Francisco Gamez, a former contractor for Grupo Mexico who once worked at Cananea. The federal labor board set up elections to allow it to take over representation rights in eight mines. The Center for Labor Action and Reflection (CEREAL), a human rights organization, charges that the election process was manipulated to get rid of the old miners union. Fifteen workers were fired before a vote at a San Luis Potosi mine, CEREAL says. In Nueva Rosita, Coahuila, miners on the first and second shifts were locked inside the coal mine for a day before balloting began, while 300 federal, state and municipal police surrounded the mine entrance.

At Nacozari, where 1,500 workers were fired for striking in 2006, over 900 were denied voting rights. Workers brought in to replace the fired miners were told they would be fired themselves, evicted from company housing, and sent back to southern Mexico if the company union didn't win the vote there. Rita Marcela Robles Benitez, an analyst with CEREAL, charges that Grupo Mexico "changed the working hours from 8 to 12 per day, which has resulted in more accidents because of the lack of safety protection and training." The new union approved the change.

The government and Grupo Mexico have been prevented from holding a similar election at Cananea because of the strike. If the strike is smashed, however, authorities will probably hold one there to eliminate the miners union, and allow Grupo Mexico to deal with the company union instead.

When the miners union lost its strike in Cananea in 1998, in which it tried to stop the elimination of hundreds of jobs, blacklisted strikers poured into Arizona in the months that followed. If the current strike is put down, the union broken and its leaders and activists terminated, they too will likely find themselves in Phoenix, Tucson or Los Angeles, hungry and desperate for work.


13) Empty Seas
Europe’s Appetite for Seafood Propels Illegal Trade
January 15, 2008

LONDON — Walking at the Brixton market among the parrotfish, doctorfish and butterfish, Effa Edusie is surrounded by pieces of her childhood in Ghana. Caught the day before far off the coast of West Africa, they have been airfreighted to London for dinner.

Ms. Edusie’s relatives used to be fishermen. But no more. These fish are no longer caught by Africans.

On the underside of the waterlogged brown cardboard box that holds the snapper is the improbable red logo of the China National Fisheries Corporation, one of the largest suppliers of West African fish to Europe. Europe’s dinner tables are increasingly supplied by global fishing fleets, which are depleting the world’s oceans to feed the ravenous consumers who have become the most effective predators of fish.

Fish is now the most traded animal commodity on the planet, with about 100 million tons of wild and farmed fish sold each year. Europe has suddenly become the world’s largest market for fish, worth more than 14 billion euros, or about $22 billion a year. Europe’s appetite has grown as its native fish stocks have shrunk so that Europe now needs to import 60 percent of fish sold in the region, according to the European Union.

In Europe, the imbalance between supply and demand has led to a thriving illegal trade. Some 50 percent of the fish sold in the European Union originates in developing nations, and much of it is laundered like contraband, caught and shipped illegally beyond the limits of government quotas or treaties. The smuggling operation is well financed and sophisticated, carried out by large-scale mechanized fishing fleets able to sweep up more fish than ever, chasing threatened stocks from ocean to ocean.

The European Commission estimates that more than 1.1 billion euros in illegal seafood, or $1.6 billion worth, enters Europe each year. The World Wide Fund for Nature contends that up to half the fish sold in Europe are illegally caught or imported. While some of the so-called “pirate fishing” is carried out by non-Western vessels far afield, European ships are also guilty, some of them operating close to home. An estimated 40 percent of cod caught in the Baltic Sea are illegal, said Mireille Thom, a spokeswoman for Joe Borg, the European Union’s commissioner of fisheries and maritime affairs.

“We know that it’s much too easy to land illegal fish in European ports, and we are really eager to block their access to European markets,” Ms. Thom said.

If cost is an indication, fish are poised to become Europe’s most precious contraband. Prices have doubled and tripled in response to surging demand, scarcity and recent fishing quotas imposed by the European Union in a desperate effort to save native species. In London, a kilogram of lowly cod, the traditional ingredient of fish and chips, now costs up to £30, or close to $60, up from £6 four years ago.

“Fish and chips used to be a poor man’s treat, but with the prices, it’s becoming a delicacy,” said Mark Morris, a fishmonger for 20 years in London’s enormous Billingsgate market.

On a wintry day at 5 a.m. in Billingsgate last month, as wholesalers unpacked fresh fish from all over the world, the vast international trade that feeds Europe’s appetite was readily apparent, even if the origins of each fillet and steak were not.

Less than 24 hours before, some of these fish were passing through Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, a port with five inspectors to evaluate 360,000 tons of perishable fish that must move rapidly through each year. The Canaries, a Spanish archipelago off the coast of Morocco, have become the favored landing point of illegal fish as well as people.

Once cleared there, the catch has entered the European Union and can be sold anywhere within it without further inspection. By the time West African fish get to Europe, the legal fish are offered for sale alongside the ill gotten.

“In the fish area, we’re so far behind meat where you can trace it back to the origins,” said Heike Vesper, who directs the Fisheries Campaign of the World Wide Fund for Nature. The long distances and chain of fishermen and traders make that a difficult task, and every effort to regulate catches, it seems, pushes fishing fleets to other regions.

Mr. Morris, the fishmonger, said: “There are quotas in Europe, and with airfreight cheap it’s much more globalized. We don’t order ourselves; there are middlemen.”

At Billingsgate, for instance, the colorful boxes of shrimp called “African Beauty,” bearing a drawing of a beautiful woman in tribal dress, were fished off Madagascar and processed in France. “Ten years ago it was just from Britain, Norway and Iceland,” said Mr. Morris, whose family has been in the business for generations.

But many kinds of fish, like tuna, swordfish and cod, are not readily available from European Union waters anymore. In September the European Commission banned the fishing of endangered bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean for the rest of 2007. Such rules barely slow the industry.

“There isn’t a market we can’t access anymore,” said Lee Fawcitt, selling tuna from Sri Lanka, salmon and cod from Norway, halibut from Canada, tilapia from China, shrimp from Madagascar and snapper from Indonesia and Senegal.

To many traders, the origin of the fish hardly matters. “We try to do something, but once it’s here, my attitude is that if it’s been caught it should be sold.” Mr. Fawcitt said. “I’d hate to see it being thrown away.”

Tracing where the fish come from is nearly impossible, many experts say. Groups like Greenpeace and the Environmental Justice Foundation have documented a range of egregious and illegal fishing practices off West Africa.

Huge boats, owned by companies in China, South Korea and Europe, fly flags of convenience from other nations. They stay at sea for years at a time, fishing, fueling, changing crews and unloading their catches to refrigerated boats at sea, making international monitoring extremely difficult.

Even when permits and treaties make the fishing legal, it is not always sustainable. Many fleets go well beyond the bounds of their agreements in any case, generally with total impunity, studies, including some by Greenpeace and Environmental Justice, show.

Under international law, the country where the boat is registered is responsible for disciplining illegal activity. Many of the ships fly flags from distant landlocked countries that collect registration fees, but put a low priority on enforcement.

When the Environmental Justice Foundation, which has studied the fishing industry, teamed up with a Greenpeace boat in 2006, more that half of the 104 vessels it followed off the coast of Guinea were fishing illegally, or were involved in illegal practices, the study found.

Their cameras recorded boats whose names were hidden to prevent reporting; boats whose names were changed week to week, presumably so multiple boats could use a single permit; the catch from a licensed boat being offloaded in the dead of night to another vessel, so that the boat could start fishing again.

“There’s a big competition out there with foreign vessels, especially from China,” said Moshwood Kuku, a fishmonger at Afikala Afrikane, a stall that specializes in African fish at Billingsgate. “Locals can only fish the coast.”

The China National Fisheries Corporation, which first sent boats to the Atlantic in 1985, now has offices up and down the coast of West Africa, accounting for more than half its international offices. It also has a huge compound in Las Palmas.

But some of those contributing to overfishing are European as well, said Rupert Howes of the Marine Stewardship Council, a fisheries conservation group. “We are allowing boats from places like France and Spain to rape and pillage West African fishing grounds,” he said. The European Union spends 265 million euros per year, or almost $400 million, to buy foreign fishing rights for its distant-water fleet.

While small local fishermen in West Africa tend to fish sustainably, large seagoing boats use practices that are dangerous to the environment, particularly the use of vast nets to trawl the sea bed. The nets destroy coral, and unsettle eggs and fish breeding grounds. They gulp up fish that cannot be sold because they are too small. Their competition decimates local fishing industries.

By the time huge mechanized vessels have thrown the unsalable juveniles back into the sea, they are often dead, bringing stocks another step closer to extinction. Of the estimated 90 million tons of fish caught worldwide each year, about 30 million tons are discarded, Ms. Vesper of the World Wide Fund for Nature said.

Many experts feel that a better way to control overfishing is to end the system of flags of convenience and to improve port inspections at places like Las Palmas. But enforcement requires resources, which would probably push fish prices even higher.

The European Union is exploring the idea of requiring officials at its ports to check with officials from countries where boats are registered to make sure they are legal and have fishing rights. It is proposing to provide financial assistance for more enforcement in developing countries.

In the short term, prices will be higher. Procuring genuinely sustainable fish means buying more expensive fish, or not eating fish at all. “We’ve acted as if the supply of fish was limitless and it’s not,” said Steve Trent, executive director of the Environmental Justice Foundation.


14) Minister Sees Need for U.S. Help in Iraq Until 2018
January 15, 2008

FORT MONROE, Va. — The Iraqi defense minister said Monday that his nation would not be able to take full responsibility for its internal security until 2012, nor be able on its own to defend Iraq’s borders from external threat until at least 2018.

Those comments from the minister, Abdul Qadir, were among the most specific public projections of a timeline for the American commitment in Iraq by officials in either Washington or Baghdad. And they suggested a longer commitment than either government had previously indicated.

Pentagon officials expressed no surprise at Mr. Qadir’s projections, which were even less optimistic than those he made last year.

President Bush has never given a date for a military withdrawal from Iraq but has repeatedly said that American forces would stand down as Iraqi forces stand up. Given Mr. Qadir’s assessment of Iraq’s military capabilities on Monday, such a withdrawal appeared to be quite distant, and further away than any American officials have previously stated in public.

Mr. Qadir’s comments are likely to become a factor in political debate over the war. All of the Democratic presidential candidates have promised a swift American withdrawal, while the leading Republican candidates have generally supported President Bush’s plan. Now that rough dates have been attached to his formula, they will certainly come under scrutiny from both sides.

Senior Pentagon and military officials said Mr. Qadir had been consistent throughout his weeklong visit in pressing that timeline, and also in laying out requests for purchasing new weapons through Washington’s program of foreign military sales.

“According to our calculations and our timelines, we think that from the first quarter of 2009 until 2012 we will be able to take full control of the internal affairs of the country,” Mr. Qadir said in an interview on Monday, conducted in Arabic through an interpreter.

“In regard to the borders, regarding protection from any external threats, our calculation appears that we are not going to be able to answer to any external threats until 2018 to 2020,” he added.

He offered no specifics on a timeline for reducing the number of American troops in Iraq.

His statements were slightly less optimistic than what he told an independent United States commission examining the progress of Iraqi security forces last year, according to the September report of the commission, led by a former NATO commander, Gen. James L. Jones of the Marines, who is retired. Then Mr. Qadir said he expected that Iraq would be able to fully defend its borders by 2018.

Mr. Qadir was in the United States to discuss the two nations’ long-term military relationship, starting with how to build the new Iraqi armed forces from the ground up over the next decade and beyond, with American assistance.

The United States and Iraq announced in November that they would negotiate formal agreements on that relationship, including the legal status of American military forces remaining in Iraq and an array of measures for cooperation in the diplomatic and economic arenas.

Negotiations have yet to begin in earnest, but both countries have begun sketching their goals, and Mr. Qadir’s visit certainly is part of measures by the Iraqi government to lay the foundation for those talks, which are to be completed by July.

“This trip is indicative of where we are in our military relationship with Iraq,” said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary. “We are transitioning from crisis mode, from dealing with day-to-day battlefield decisions, to a long-term strategic relationship.”

Mr. Morrell said the goal was to end a period in which Iraq has been a military dependent and build a relationship with Iraq as “a more traditional military partner.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Qadir sketched out a shopping list that included ground vehicles and helicopters, as well as tanks, artillery and armored personnel carriers.

Those, he said, are needed as Iraq moves toward taking full responsibility for internal security. In the years after that, as his nation assumes full control over its defense against foreign threats, Iraq will need additional aircraft, both warplanes and reconnaissance vehicles, he said.

Pentagon officials said that Mr. Qadir’s visit, which includes the usual agenda of meetings at the Pentagon, White House and on Capitol Hill, was expanded to include his first talks with commanders of American headquarters that are responsible for long-term military planning, training, personnel development and doctrine.

Mr. Qadir, a career armor officer who commanded Iraqi troops who fought alongside Marine Corps forces during the battle for Falluja in 2004, spent part of Monday here, at the headquarters of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, where he questioned senior officers on how the ground force trains its leaders, from sergeants through senior officers.

Even in wartime, “it is a requirement for somebody to think about the future,” said Gen. William S. Wallace, the Army’s training and doctrine commander. While Army training cannot ignore “the urgency of the next assignment,” General Wallace told his visitor, the complexity of modern warfare proved the importance of the Army’s program of pulling its leadership out of the fight on a routine schedule to take courses on tactics, operations and strategy, as well as logistics.

At a meeting with senior officers at the nearby Joint Forces Command, Mr. Qadir was told of the American military’s latest efforts at synchronizing the efforts of its ground, air and naval forces for combat, and to use computer exercises to train headquarters units for deployment.

“We are keenly aware that you are not engaged in an exercise in your country,” said Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander.

General Mattis acknowledged how different the dialogue with Mr. Qadir was on Monday from when the two served together in Falluja. Iraq is still at war, General Mattis said, but Mr. Qadir is carrying out the traditional functions of any regular defense minister.

It is a positive development that “it is just the norm to have an Iraqi come and visit us,” General Mattis said.


15) Woman Released by Guerrillas Returns to Colombia to Greet Son
January 15, 2008

CARACAS, Venezuela — Freed by Colombian guerrillas last week after six years of captivity in jungle camps, Clara Rojas returned to Colombia on Sunday, where she embraced and played with her 3-year-old son, Emmanuel, who had been taken from her when he was 8 months old.

“I have returned to life,” said Ms. Rojas, a former aspirant to the vice presidency of Colombia, upon returning to Bogotá.

The liberation of Ms. Rojas and another hostage, Consuelo González de Perdomo, a former Colombian lawmaker, has captivated Colombia. Ms. Rojas, 44, discovered in recent days that Emmanuel, born in captivity, was alive and living in foster care in Bogotá.

Images of the encounter between Ms. Rojas and Emmanuel, who met for about six hours, were provided by child welfare authorities. They showed Ms. Rojas embracing her son and singing to him in a soft voice.

Emmanuel practiced drawing with markers with his mother at his side during the meeting at the foster home.

Details of Emmanuel’s birth, an improvised Caesarean section in the jungle that left him with a broken arm and Ms. Rojas bedridden for 40 days, have emerged in interviews here since President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela negotiated the women’s release with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Ms. Rojas has been vague about the identity of Emmanuel’s father, who is believed to be a member of the FARC named Rigo. “The information I have is that he could even have died,” she said at a news conference here. “I don’t have any confirmation.”

Emmanuel’s survival is a tale of resilience during a long internal war. Suffering from leishmaniasis, a disease caused by the bite of the sand fly, he was placed by the guerrillas with a poor family in 2005. But social workers soon took him in after he showed signs of malnutrition, diarrhea, anemia and malaria.

Colombian investigators found Emmanuel living in foster care at the end of December, using the name Juan David Gómez Tapiero; DNA tests confirmed that he was Ms. Rojas’s son.

She said in an interview over the weekend with Telesur, the regional news network backed by the Venezuelan government, that she had sought inspiration from the Bible when she gave him the name Emmanuel.

“It means ‘God is with us,’ ” she said.


16) Motion Ties W. Virginia Justice to Coal Executive
January 15, 2008

A justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court and a powerful coal-company executive met in Monte Carlo in the summer of 2006, sharing several meals even as the executive’s companies were appealing a $50 million jury verdict against them to the court.

A little more than a year later, the justice, Elliott E. Maynard, voted with the majority in a 3-to-2 decision in favor of the coal companies.

Justice Maynard, who is now West Virginia’s chief justice, and Don L. Blankenship, the chief executive of Massey Energy, were “vacationing together,” according to a motion seeking Justice Maynard’s disqualification, which was filed on Monday.

A spokesman for Massey Energy disputed that characterization.

“Both Blankenship and Justice Maynard were separately vacationing in the Monte Carlo area,” said the spokesman, Jeff Gillenwater. “They were not vacationing together. They did meet occasionally for meals — lunches and dinners.”

The motion included photographs showing the men together. The time stamps on the photographs, apparently taken by someone who had joined the men during their time together, indicated that they met on July 3, 4 and 5, 2006.

Asked whether it was a coincidence that the two men found themselves in Monte Carlo at the same time, Mr. Gillenwater said, “That is a coincidence, I think, and it’s my understanding they were not staying in the same location.” Justice Maynard stayed in Nice, France, Mr. Gillenwater said, and Mr. Blankenship in nearby Monte Carlo.

The motion asked Chief Justice Maynard to disqualify himself from the case and to withdraw his vote in favor of the coal companies. The state’s canons of judicial ethics say that judges must disqualify themselves when their “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

They add that judges should disclose any information they believe the parties or their lawyers “might consider relevant to the question of their disqualification.”

Chief Justice Maynard did not disclose the meetings in Monte Carlo, and he did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

Ten of the photographs attached to the motion were filed under seal. They showed, the motion said, “two females apparently traveling with them as companions.” The men are single.

The case itself was brought by mining companies that said they had been driven out of business by fraud committed by Massey. “Make no mistake,” Justice Larry V. Starcher wrote in his dissent in November. “A West Virginia jury heard from all the witnesses for both sides, and decided that Mr. Don Blankenship directed an illegal scheme to break” the companies.

Mr. Blankenship and his companies have attracted attention for labor disputes, workplace injuries and what environmentalists call a highly destructive form of mining called mountaintop removal that involves using explosives to blow off the tops of mountains to reach coal seams.

Hugh M. Caperton, the owner and president of Harman Development Corporation, a mining company that Massey was said to have driven out of business, said he was angry when he learned about the photographs, and doubly so when he saw the dates time-stamped on them.

“That’s when all the miners take their families to Myrtle Beach and Pigeon Forge, if they can, if they can afford to,” Mr. Caperton said, referring to vacation spots in South Carolina and Tennessee. “They go camping at the river while the chief justice and Don Blankenship are smiling and frolicking on the French Riviera.”

Stephen Gillers, who teaches legal ethics at New York University School of Law, said Chief Justice Maynard should not have socialized with Mr. Blankenship and should now disqualify himself from the case. Federal judges in Manhattan, Professor Gillers said, will not even have lunch with old friends while they have cases pending in their court.

In 2004, Justice Antonin Scalia of the United States Supreme Court refused to disqualify himself from a case involving Vice President Dick Cheney, although the two had gone on a duck hunting trip together. Justice Scalia reasoned that disqualification was not required because Mr. Cheney had been sued in his official capacity. On the other hand, Justice Scalia wrote, “friendship is a ground for recusal of a justice where the personal fortune or the personal freedom of the friend is at issue.”

Mr. Blankenship was not named individually in Mr. Caperton’s suit. But he was a central figure in it, and his compensation includes shares and stock options. “The monetary effect on Blankenship is potentially enormous,” Professor Gillers said, referring to the November decision.

Bruce E. Stanley, a lawyer with Reed Smith in Pittsburgh who represents Mr. Caperton, said he viewed the filing as “an opportunity for the court to get its house in order.”

D. C. Offutt Jr., a lawyer for Massey in West Virginia, said the only question was whether Chief Justice Maynard could be fair and impartial. “That’s his decision to make,” Mr. Offutt said, “and he has always taken the position that he can.”


17) No Immunity, No Testimony
January 15, 2008

WASHINGTON — Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., the former Central Intelligence Agency official who ordered the destruction of interrogation videotapes in 2005, will not be required to appear on Wednesday at a closed Congressional hearing on the matter but may be called to testify later, an official briefed on the inquiry said Monday.

Mr. Rodriguez, who led the agency’s clandestine service in 2005 and recently retired, has demanded immunity before he will agree to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into the destruction of the videotapes, which recorded harsh interrogations of two suspected Qaeda figures.

The committee has made no decision on a possible grant of immunity, so it postponed Mr. Rodriguez’s appearance. He remains under subpoena, however, and the committee may call him later.

The only C.I.A. witness currently scheduled to appear Wednesday at the closed hearing is John A. Rizzo, the agency’s acting general counsel, who held that job when the tapes were destroyed.

Committee members want to ask Mr. Rizzo what guidance lawyers inside and outside the agency gave on the possible destruction of the tapes. They also want to question him about why the House and Senate Intelligence Committees were not officially informed of the destruction when it happened, and whether agency officials deliberately concealed the existence of the tapes from the Sept. 11 Commission, as the commission’s leaders have said.

Mr. Rodriguez has told colleagues he consulted two agency lawyers, who told him that he had the authority to destroy the tapes and that it would not be illegal.




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?...bw]
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. google.com/ videoplay? docid=-905047436 2583451279
http://www.moneyasd ebt.net/




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: http://web.mac.com/rolandgarret


[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


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, below...bw]




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 this...bw]



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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 (dvasicek@earthlink.net, 303-903-2103) for information
about how they can purchase the DVD and have me come
to their children's school to show the film and to interact
in a questions and answers discussion about the Sand
Creek Massacre.

Happy Holidays!

Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films+, LLC

(scroll down when you get there])

donvasicek.com.Peace Articles at Libraryofpeace.org">

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