Friday, February 29, 2008



If you watch this, you will make an investment in your child or
children's future and their child or children. Nothing else is
required, but to watch it. 6:41 of your time will contribute to all
children's futures. Then, pass it on.
Thank you.


Malcom X Debate at Oxford


Help build the March 19th day of action!

Volunteer now to get the word out! Plug into Tues. evening and Sat. afternoon outreach teams to make sure people know about the March 19 march and rally.

Postering & Outreach every Saturday through March 19
Help with postering and outreach tabling in San Francisco and the East Bay.
SF Outreach - 12-3pm, meet at 2489 Mission St. at 21st. St. (Rm. 24)
East Bay ANSWER Activist Meeting & Outreach - 12noon, 636 - 9th Street at MLK, Oakland
Join us for political analysis and discussion of the ongoing occupation of Iraq and plans for the March 19 demonstration on the 5th anniversary of the invasion. We will go out in teams to poster after the meeting.

You can also pick up flyers and posters in San Francisco at 2489 Mission St. Rm. 24. Call us at 415-821-6545. In the East Bay, call 510-435-0844.


"What are they recruiting for?
Murder, rape, torture, war!"

2017 Mission St (@ 16th), San Francisco
For more information on how you can become involved contact:
Bonnie Weinstein, (415) 824-8730
Nancy Macias, (415) 255-7296 ext. 229

Send a letter to the Board of Education

Please expand upon or send the letter below to the members of the
San Francisco Board of Education declaring:

We/I demand that the San Francisco school board phase
out JROTC at the end of the current 2007-2008 school
year, as you voted to do in 2006.

The reasons for phasing out JROTC are laid out very
clearly in the 2006 resolution.
(see below)

"The SFUSD has restricted the activities of military
recruiters on our campuses...

"JROTC is a program wholly created and administrated
by the United States Department of Defense, whose
documents and memoranda clearly identify JROTC as an
important recruiting arm; and...

"JROTC manifests the military's discrimination against
LGBT people..."

Given the dangerous role that the U.S. military is
playing in the world today, and given the military's
ongoing discrimination against LGBT people, it would
be legally and morally repugnant for the school
district to continue to facilitate the military's
access to our students.

Send letters to: (please send copies to Bonnie Weinstein at giobon@comcast and Riva Enteen at

Mr. Norman Yee

Hydra Mendoza

Eric Mar, Esq.

Kim-Shree Maufas

Jane Kim

Mark Sanchez

Jill Wynn

Norman Yee

Substitute Motion , As Amended
Adopted by the Board of Education at its Regular Meeting of November 14, 2006.

Subject: Resolution No. 65-23A1


- Mark Sanchez and Dan Kelly

WHEREAS: The San Francisco Unified School District has banned educational partnerships with outside organizations that discriminate against any group based upon sexual orientation; and

WHEREAS: Civilian control of the military, and restriction of military involvement in civilian affairs is a fundamental characteristic of a healthy democracy; and

WHEREAS: The San Francisco Unified School District has restricted the activities of military recruiters on our campuses; and

WHEREAS: The San Francisco Unified School District has adopted violence prevention and conflict resolution strategies that promote non-violent behavior; and

WHEREAS: The San Francisco Unified School District requires that teachers of all academic courses be fully credentialed; and

WHEREAS: JROTC is a program wholly created and administrated by the United States Department of Defense, whose documents and memoranda clearly identify JROTC as an important recruiting arm; and

WHEREAS: No other potential employer or recruiter is given such a high profile, nor such extensive contact with students; and

WHEREAS: JROTC instructors are not certificated teachers, and may not even possess a college degree of any kind; and

WHEREAS: The San Francisco Unified School District share of JROTC salaries is provided from central budget, while regular PE teachers are charged against each school’s site-based budget; and

WHEREAS: JROTC manifests the military’s discrimination against LGBT people by offering non-LGBT students preferential enlistment options; and

WHEREAS: JROTC is one of the largest after school activities at some High Schools; and

WHEREAS: The Board of Education has received extensive testimony that JROTC promotes self-esteem, community service, and academic and leadership skills; and

WHEREAS: Many other student extra-curricular activities also develop self-esteem, academic and leadership skills, and a commitment to service; and

WHEREAS: The California Education Code permits, and some SFUSD schools allow, students to receive PE credit for sports participation, independent study, or other classes deemed equivalent.

Therefore Be It Resolved: The Board of Education finds that credentialing requirements for academic instructors and courses are not met by the JROTC, except where specifically allowable as a substitute for Physical Education; and

Be it Further Resolved: The Board of Education finds that JROTC programs on campus constitute a form of military recruitment and are in violation of our policy governing fair access for recruiters on campuses; and

Be it Further Resolved: The Board of Education finds that the JROTC program violates our anti discrimination policies with regard to LGBT students and adults; and

Be it Further Resolved: The Board of Education finds that the funding mechanism of the JROTC creates inequities between High Schools in SFUSD; and

Be it Further Resolved: The Board of Education finds that the JROTC is an inappropriate extension of the nation’s military into the civilian sphere; and

Be it Further Resolved: The Board of Education hereby begins a two-year phase out of all JROTC programs in the SFUSD resulting in no JROTC classes in the 2008-2009 school year and beyond; and

Be it Further Resolved: No new JROTC units or programs may be initiated at any SFUSD schools, effective immediately; and

Be it Further Resolved: That SFUSD staff shall not direct or require that students enroll in JROTC as an alternative to PE, or for any other reason; and

Be it Further Resolved: The Board of Education will grant PE credits for sports participation, independent study, and other courses deemed appropriate, and requests staff to provide guidelines for Board approval by the first meeting in January 2007; and

Be It Further Resolved: That the Board of Education calls for the creation of a special task force to develop alternative, creative, career driven programs with the elements of the existing JROTC program that students have indicated important to them, which then will provide students with a greater sense of purpose and respect for self and humankind; and

Be It Further Resolved: That any new programs being implemented beginning academic year 2007-08 are evaluated before the end of the school year to test student satisfaction.


Please Note:

Taken up by the Curriculum and Program Committee on August 23, 2006. Substitute motion accepted by general consent of the Committee. Substitute Motion forwarded to the Board with a positive recommendation from Committee, and to be taken up for action at the September 12, 2006 Regular Board Meeting by a vote of 2 ayes (Mar and Kelly), and 1 nay (Lipson).

Taken up by the Budget and Business Services Committee on 10/18/06. Substitute motion, as amended, forwarded to the Board with a positive recommendation (2 ayes, l nay (Wynns) ). The Budget and Business Services Committee recommends to the Board that the intention of the original motion to develop an alternative program be addressed.

Substitute motion amended and adopted on 11/14/06.


International week of solidarity with Venezuela Feb 29 - March 7th
US/Exxon - Hands off Venezuela
Supported by Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network, Venezuela
Solidarity Network (USA), Venezuela Aotearoa Solidarity Network (NZ)
To add you organisation or name to the call, email
To sign a statement of protest, visit

An international week of protest to:

Support the Venezuelan government's efforts to defend and extend the
Venezuelan people's common ownership and control over Venezuela's
natural resources, and defend the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela's
right to assert its social, political and economic sovereignty.

Condemn ExxonMobil's economic blackmail against Venezuela and call for
it to immediately withdraw its legal campaign against PDVSA.

Reject as illegitimate and immoral the British, US and Dutch courts'
order to freeze PDVSA's assets. Only Venezuela, through its own courts
and in accordance with its own Constitution, has the right to decide the
ownership and control of the resources in its territory. So-called
"international arbitration" on Venezuela's resources via courts in the
First World countries is colonialism.

Stand in solidarity with the protest actions of Venezuela's people,
trade unions and social organizations against ExxonMobil and the US
government's economic and political thuggery, and commend the words of
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: "They will never rob us again, those
bandits of ExxonMobil".


5th Anniversary of the U.S. Invasion of Iraq
End the War NOW!
Wednesday, March 19, 2008, March & Rally
5 p.m. S.F. Civic Center (Polk & Grove Sts.)

Click here to Endorse:

Bring All the Troops Home Now
End Colonial Occupation--Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine
Money for Jobs, Housing, Healthcare & Schools, Not War
Stop the threats against Iran, Venezuela, Cuba . . .
No to racism & immigrant bashing

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


March 19, 2008, will mark the 5th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of people marched in defiance of the U.S. government’s drive for war. Since March of 2003, many millions more people have turned against the war in Iraq. The will of the people of the United States has been represented in many anti-war demonstrations and actions throughout the last 5 years.

Yet, the warmakers in the White House and Congress—acting in direct contradiction to the interests of the people of the United States and the world—have continued to fund and expand the brutal occupation of the Iraqi people.

Just a week ago, Washington unleashed the largest bombing campaign of the war—terrorizing Iraqi people in a Baghdad suburb. More than a million Iraqis have been killed. The U.S. occupation has created a situation of extreme violence in the country. The Iraqi people are denied access to regular electricity, education, health care and many necessary services. Unemployment is rampant.

Four thousand U.S. soldiers have been killed and more than 60,000 wounded, injured or evacuated due to serious illness. The cost of the war is $450,000,000 per day, $5,000 every second. The war has been a success for military-industrial businesses like Halliburton, Bechtel, Blackwater and McDonnell-Douglas, who are making huge profits from the death and destruction. At the same time, we are told that there is no money for basic human needs housing, food, healthcare, schools and jobs.

March 19, 2008, will see many actions against the war in San Francisco and across the country, including walkouts, teach-ins and civil disobedience on a day of “No Business As Usual.” The ANSWER Coalition along with many other individuals and organizations will join those actions. The ANSWER Coalition is calling for an evening march and rally, starting at the San Francisco Civic Center at 5 p.m.

Help build the March 19th day of action!
There are many ways you can help.

1. Volunteer now to get the word out! Plug into Tues. evening and Sat. afternoon outreach teams to make sure people know about the March 19 march and rally.
This Tues. Jan. 29, 6-9pm meet at 2489 Mission St. at 21st St., (Rm. 28) SF
We will be flyering at BART stations and the Mission campus of City College, postering in different locations in SF, and banner making and alert phone calls in the office. No experience necessary.

Every Saturday, 12noon 3pm from Feb. 2 through March 19
Help with postering and outreach tabling in San Francisco and the East Bay.

SF outreach - meet 2489 Mission St. at 21st. St. (Rm. 24)
East Bay Outreach meet 636 - 9th Street at MLK, Oakland, 510-435-0844

You can also pick up flyers and posters in San Francisco at 2489 Mission St. Rm. 24. Call us at 415-821-6545. In the East Bay, call 510-435-0844

2. Organize on your campus or workplace.
The ANSWER Coalition can send you materials to poster and leaflet at your campus or workplace. Call 415-821-6545 or email to get more information about organizing on your campus or workplace.

3. Schedule a speaker for your class or organization.
Anti-war and anti-racist activists with the ANSWER coalition are available to speak about the war at home and abroad and the organizing for the Mar.19 day of action. We also have videos available on a number of different issues relating to the wars at home and abroad. Contact us to learn more about scheduling a speaker.

4. Donate to build the Mar.19 demonstration. Click here to donate now:



March 19, 2008:

* 5th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq,
* beginning of the 6th year of war and occupation,
* beginning of the 6th year of senseless death and massive destruction.

The presidential candidates, the Congress, the White House and the media all seem to be working hard to push Iraq off the agenda until after the elections this fall -- we can't let that happen! They may be willing to let hundreds more U.S. soldiers and thousands more Iraqis die between now and when the next president and Congress are sworn in, but we are not!

United for Peace and Justice is calling for and supporting a set of activities on and around the 5th anniversary that will manifest the intensifying opposition to the war and help strengthen and expand our movement. We urge you to join with us to ensure the success of these actions:

March 13-16, Winter Soldier: UFPJ member group Iraq Veterans Against the War is organizing historic hearings March 13-16 in Washington, DC. Veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Iraqis and Afghans, will tell the nation the real story of this war. UFPJ is helping local groups and individuals plan events that directly link to and amplify the Winter Soldier hearings, from which we hope to have a live video feed available so that communities around the country can gather to watch and listen. Visit for more info.

March 19, Mass Nonviolent Direct Action in Washington, DC: UFPJ is organizing for what we hope will be the largest day of nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience yet against the war in Iraq. We've marched, we've vigiled, we've lobbied -- it's time to put our bodies on the line in large numbers. We encourage anyone who can to join us in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, March 19th, to be part of the civil disobedience, or to assist in support work. We are working to have delegations from all 50 states take part in this massive day of action. Visit for more info and to register to join us in DC.

March 19, Local Actions Throughout the Country: While we are working hard to have a large turnout in DC on March 19, it is also necessary to be visible and vocal in our local communities on that day. Congress will not be in session and so our representatives and senators will be in their home districts/states. We encourage those who are not able to make it to Washington on March 19 to organize and participate in local actions. These events may vary in location or character, but they will all be tied to the actions in Washington and sending the same message to the policy makers: It is time to end this war and occupation! To find an event in your area (more are being posted daily, so keep checking back!) or to sign up to organize a local activity, visit

For further details and info on how to get involved, please visit

Help us make the 5th anniversary the last anniversary of this war! Making the 5 Years Too Many Actions as visible and powerful as they need to be will take substantial resources. Please make the most generous donation you can today to support this critical mobilization.

Join our efforts to build the strongest actions possible in March -- actions that will not only mark the anniversary but will also help propel our movement into the critically important work that must be done throughout the year and beyond. Together, we will end this war and turn our country toward more peaceful and just priorities!

Yours, for peace and justice,

Leslie Cagan
National Coordinator, UFPJ

Help us continue to do this critical work: Make a donation to UFPJ today.

To subscribe, visit


Call for an Open U.S. National Antiwar Conference
Stop the War in Iraq! Bring the Troops Home Now!
Join us in Cleveland on June 28-29 for the conference.
Crown Plaza Hotel
Sponsored by the National Assembly to End the Iraq War and Occupation
P.O. Box 21008; Cleveland, OH 44121; Voice Mail: 216-736-4704; Email:

List of Endorsers (below call):

Endorse the conference:


2008 has ushered in the fifth year of the war against Iraq and an occupation “without end” of that beleaguered country. Unfortunately, the tremendous opposition in the U.S. to the war and occupation has not yet been fully reflected in united mass action.

The anniversary of the invasion has been marked in the U.S. by Iraq Veterans Against the War's (IVAW's) Winter Soldier hearings March 13-16, in Washington, DC, providing a forum for those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan to expose the horrors perpetrated by the U.S. wars. A nonviolent civil disobedience action against the war in Iraq was also called for March 19 in Washington and local actions around the country were slated during that month as well.

These actions help to give voice and visibility to the deeply held antiwar sentiment of this country's majority. Yet what is also urgently needed is a massive national mobilization sponsored by a united antiwar movement capable of bringing hundreds of thousands into the streets to demand “Out Now!”

Such a mobilization, in our opinion, commemorating the fifth anniversary of the war -- and held on a day agreeable to the IVAW -- could have greatly enhanced all the other activities which were part of that commemoration in the U.S. Indeed, a call was issued in London by the World Against War Conference on December 1, 2007 where 1,200 delegates from 43 nations, including Iraq, voted unanimously to call on antiwar movements in every country to mobilize mass protests against the war during the week of March 15-22 to demand that foreign troops be withdrawn immediately.

The absence of a massive united mobilization during this period in the United States -- the nation whose weapons of terrifying mass destruction have rained death and devastation on the Iraqi people -- when the whole world will mobilize in the most massive protests possible to mark this fifth year of war, should be a cause of great concern to us all.

For Mass Action to Stop the War: The independent and united mobilization of the antiwar majority in massive peaceful demonstrations in the streets against the war in Iraq is a critical element in forcing the U.S. government to immediately withdraw all U.S. military forces from that country, close all military bases, and recognize the right of the Iraqi people to determine their own destiny.

Mass actions aimed at visibly and powerfully demonstrating the will of the majority to stop the war now would dramatically show the world that despite the staunch opposition to this demand by the U.S. government, the struggle by the American people to end the slaughter goes on. And that struggle will continue until the last of the troops are withdrawn. Such actions also help bring the people of the United States onto the stage of history as active players and as makers of history itself.

Indeed, the history of every successful U.S. social movement, whether it be the elementary fight to organize trade unions to defend workers' interests, or to bring down the Jim Crow system of racial segregation, or to end the war in Vietnam, is in great part the history of independent and united mass actions aimed at engaging the vast majority to collectively fight in its own interests and therefore in the interests of all humanity.

For an Open Democratic Antiwar Conference: The most effective way to initiate and prepare united antiwar mobilizations is through convening democratic and open conferences that function transparently, with all who attend the conferences having the right to vote. It is not reasonable to expect that closed or narrow meetings of a select few, or gatherings representing only one portion of the movement, can substitute for the full participation of the extremely broad array of forces which today stand opposed to the war.

We therefore invite everyone, every organization, every coalition, everywhere in the U.S. - all who oppose the war and the occupation -- to attend an open democratic U.S. national antiwar conference and join with us in advancing and promoting the coming together of an antiwar movement in this country with the power to make a mighty contribution toward ending the war and occupation of Iraq now.

Everyone is welcome. The objective is to place on the agenda of the entire U.S. antiwar movement a proposal for the largest possible united mass mobilization(s) in the future to stop the war and end the occupation.

Join us in Cleveland on June 28-29 for the conference.

List of Endorsers

Join us in Cleveland on June 28-29 for the conference.
Sponsored by the National Assembly to End the Iraq War and Occupation
P.O. Box 21008; Cleveland, OH 44121; Voice Mail: 216-736-4704; Email:



- Spare the life of journalist Parviz Kambakhsh!
- Free him immediately!

We hold the governments of the NATO occupying troops responsible for his life.

Parviz Kambakhsh, a 23-year-old Afghani student has just been sentenced to death after three months of detention under terrible conditions in the state security's detention centre in Marzar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan.

Now in his third year of a journalism course at Balkh University in Mazar-e-Sharif, Parviz Kambakhsh also works as a journalist for the newspaper Jahan-e Naw.
The young journalist was thrown into prison after being characterised as an atheist and an opponent of the regime by the NDS, the Karzai regime's security service. He is also accused of having printed atheist articles off the internet and distributed them among his classmates.

Kambakhsh was tortured continuously during his detention, both physically and mentally, and even threatened with death if he did not admit to the charges leveled against him.

He has not had access to a lawyer. He has not been allowed to see members of his family or friends.

The death sentence was delivered in his absence and in secret by Balkh Province Attorney General Hafizullah Khaliqyar and by the court in Marzar-e-Sharif.
In 2001, when the war started with the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan under the aegis of NATO, the occupying troops from the United States, France, Italy and Germany talked about re-establishing democracy and democratic rights and freedoms.

The Karzai regime that was put in place by the occupying forces has reintroduced Sharia law as the basic law of the land, with the support of all the states participating in the occupation and the war.
It is precisely in the name of the Sharia law that the young journalist Parviz Kambakhsh has been sentenced to death for circulating documents downloaded from the internet.

We, the undersigned journalists and defenders of human rights and fundamental freedoms, call on the Karzai government, NATO and the occupying forces from the United States, France, Italy and Germany, to say:

- Spare the life of journalist Parviz Kambakhsh!
- Free him immediately!
- We hold the governments of the NATO occupying troops responsible for his life.

* * *

Appeal initiated by:

Tristan MALLE General Secretary, on behalf of the General Union of Journalists, Force Ouvrière (France), and Jean Pierre BARROIS Senior Lecturer, University of Paris 12

- Spare the life of journalist Parviz Kambakhsh!
- Free him immediately!

* * * * * * * * * *


[ ] I endorse this appeal to spare the life of Parviz Kambakhsh!


ORG/UNION/TITLE (list if for id. only):




Please fill out and return to
e-mail : with a copy to
Postal Address: Syndicat Général Des journalistes Force Ouvrière, 131 rue Damrémont, 75018 Paris France


For Immediate Release
February 18, 2008
Embassy Suites Hotel Anaheim South, 11767 Harbor Boulevard,
Garden Grove, California, 92840
May 16-18, 2008

The 6th Annual International Al-Awda Convention will mark a devastating event in the long history of the Palestinian people. We call it our Nakba.

Confirmed speakers include Bishop Atallah Hanna, Supreme Justice Dr. Sheikh Taiseer Al Tamimi, Dr. Adel Samara, Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, Dr. Ghada Karmi, Dr. As'ad Abu Khalil, Dr. Saree Makdisi, and Ramzy Baroud. Former Prime Minister of Lebanon Salim El Hos and Palestinian Legislative Council member Khalida Jarrar have also been invited.

Host Organizations for the sixth international Al-Awda convention include Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, Palestinian American Women Association, Free Palestine Alliance, National Council of Arab-Americans, Middle East Cultural and Information Center - San Diego, The Arab Community Center of the Inland Empire, Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid - Southern California, Palestine Aid Society, Palestinian American Congress, Bethlehem Association, Al-Mubadara - Southern California, Union of Palestinian American Women, Birzeit Society , El-Bireh Society, Arab American Friends of Nazareth, Ramallah Club, A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, International Action Center , Students for Justice in Palestine at CSUSB, Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA, Students for Justice in Palestine at UCR, Students for International Knowledge at CSUSB, Muslim Students Association at Palomar College, Muslim Students Association at UCSD, and Muslim Students Association at Mira Costa.


In May of 1948, with the support of the governments of the United States, Britain, and other European powers, Zionists declared the establishment of the "State of Israel" on stolen Palestinian Arab land and intensified their full-scale attack on Palestine. They occupied our land and forcibly expelled three quarters of a million of our people. This continues to be our great catastrophe, which we, as Palestinians with our supporters, have been struggling to overcome since.

The sixth international Al-Awda convention is taking place at a turning point in our struggle to return and reclaim our stolen homeland. Today, there are close to 10 million Palestinians of whom 7.5 million are living in forced exile from their homeland. While the Zionist "State of Israel" continues to besiege, sanction, deprive, isolate, discriminate against and murder our people, in addition to continually stealing more of our land, our resistance has grown. Along with our sisters and brothers at home and elsewhere in exile, Al-Awda has remained steadfast in demanding the implementation of the sacred, non-negotiable national, individual and collective right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands.

The sixth international Al-Awda convention will be a historic and unique event. The convention will aim to recapitulate Palestinian history with the help of those who have lived it, and to strengthen our ability to educate the US public about the importance and justness of implementing the unconditional right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands. With symposia and specialty workshops, the focus of the convention will be on education that lead to strategies and mechanisms for expanding the effectiveness of our advocacy for the return.


We invite all Al-Awda members, and groups and individuals who support the implementation of the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes of origin, and to reclaim their land, to join us in this landmark Sixth Annual International Convention on the 60th year of Al-Nakba.


The convention will culminate in a major demonstration to mark 60 years of Nakba and to call for The RETURN TO PALESTINE. The demonstration will be held in solidarity and coordination with our sisters and brothers who continue the struggle in our beloved homeland.


Host Organizations
Points of Unity

Organizational endorsements welcome. Please write to us at convention6@

For information on how to become part of the host committee, please write to convention6@

For more information, please go to http://al-awda. org/convention6 and keep revisiting that page as it is being updated regularly.

To submit speaker and panel/workshop proposals, write to
info@al-awda. org or convention6@

Until return,

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

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


Statement in Defense of Free Speech
Rights on the National Mall
Partnership for Civil Justice

Sign the Statement:

We the undersigned are supporting the emergency mobilization of the people demanding that there be no new restrictions on free speech or protest related activities on the National Mall in Washington D.C. This is the real objective of the Bush Administration’s plans for the National Mall.

Unless we take action, the Bush Administration, as one of its final acts, will leave office having dramatically altered access of the people to public lands that have been the site of the most significant mass assembly protests in U.S. history.

The National Mall has been the historic site for the people of the United States to come together to seek equality, justice, and peace. These activities are the lifeblood of a democracy. The National Mall is not an ornamental lawn. The National Mall performs its most sacrosanct and valued function when it serves as the place of assembly for political protest, dissent and free speech.

We oppose any efforts to further restrict protest on the Mall, to relegate protest to a government-designated protest pit or zone, to stage-manage or channel free speech activity to suit the government, or to stifle or abridge our rights to expression upon the public forum that is the National Mall. We call for a moratorium on further actions by the National Park Service that would in any way channel, restrict or inhibit the people's use of the National Mall in furtherance of our First Amendment rights.

Initial signers:

Howard Zinn, professor, author of People's History of the United States
Ramsey Clark, former US Attorney General
Cindy Sheehan
Dennis Banks, Co-Founder, American Indian Movement
Malik Rahim, Co-Founder, Common Ground Collective, New Orleans
John Passacantando, Executive Director, Greenpeace USA
Mahdi Bray, Exec. Director, Muslim American Society, Freedom Foundation
Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Elias Rashmawi, National Coordinator, National Council of Arab Americans
Heidi Boghosian, Exec. Director of National Lawyers Guild
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Co-Founder, Partnership for Civil Justice
Carl Messineo, Co-Founder, Partnership for Civil Justice
Jim Lafferty, Exec. Director of the National Lawyers Guild, Los Angeles
Tina Richards, CEO, Grassroots America
Brian Becker, National Coordinator, ANSWER Coalition
Michael Berg, father of Nicholas Berg, killed in Iraq
Dr. Harriet Adams, Esq.
Elliot Adams, President, Veterans for Peace
Jennifer Harbury, Human Rights Attorney
Ron Kovic, Vietnam Veteran, author, Born on the Fourth of July
Juan Jose Gutierrez, Latino Movement USA
Blase and Theresa Bonpane, Office of the Americas
Fernando Suarez Del Solar, Guerrero Azteca, father of Jesus Del Solar, soldier killed in Iraq
Chuck Kaufman, Alliance for Global Justice
Frank Dorrel, Publisher, Addicted to War
William Blum, Author
Ed Asner, Actor
Annalisa Enrile, Mariposa Alliance
Sue Udry, Director, Defending Dissent Foundation

For more info or to volunteer with the ANSWER Coalition, call 415-821-6545.

Help with a mass mailing to help spread the word about the march and rally on March 19 the 5th anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq. The mailing will continue after the ANSWER Meeting.

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


What's wrong with mine safety czar Richard Stickler?
More than 4,000 mine safety failures in six years.
Send Stickler a note now!

Many of us watched in horror last summer as miners lost their lives in the Crandall Canyon mine collapse in Utah, and before that, the disasters at Sago, Darby and Aracoma mines.

After multiple debacles, you’d think the government would make mine safety a top priority. Think again. Recent reports uncovered a huge failure at the federal agency in charge of mine safety.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) failed to fine more than 4,000 safety & health violations over the last six years for mines that broke regulations.
This is an affront to workers who put their lives at risk every day. Tell the mine safety agency to get its act together:

Richard Stickler, the man responsible for mine safety in this country, used to be a coal mining executive. The mines he managed had injury rates that were double the national average. Senators didn’t find him to be very qualified for the job, and twice rejected his nomination. President Bush twice bypassed the Senate to appoint Stickler, despite loud protests from anyone familiar with his egregiously anti-safety record.
We put together some ideas for how Mr. Stickler can actually do his job. Can you please send him a note for us?

Here are some ideas for how Mr. Stickler can improve mine safety:
--Enforce new mine safety rules as required by Congress

--Fine companies that break the law – all 4,000 incidents and counting – and prosecute those who don't pay

--Push for more and better safety and health regulations and enforcement

--Give miners a say in workplace safety by making it easier for them to form unions

--Think like a miner, not a mine executive

--Listen to miners, not the companies, when it comes to developing better safety regulations

Those are pretty reasonable demands of a man who has not done his job for almost two years. You can send your letter – and write your own demands – right here:

Thank you for standing up for workers everywhere.
Liz Cattaneo
American Rights at Work

P.S. To learn more about mine safety, visit the website of the United Mine Workers of America, and find more ways to take action.

Visit the web address below to tell your friends about American Rights at Work.





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


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

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


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

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

Day-after demonstrations are also planned in:

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

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

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


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

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




In 1995, mass mobilizations helped save Mumia from death.

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

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

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




1) Pentagon Releases Projections for Forces
February 26, 2008

2) Free Eye Care From Chávez, All the Better to See Him
Porlamar Journal
February 26, 2008

3) Court Considers Protecting Drug Makers From Lawsuits
February 26, 2008

4) 'Panic' wheat buying across the US
By Arlan Suderman, Farm Progress grain markets analyst
Tuesday, 26 February 2008

5) Gas Prices Soar, Posing a Threat to Family Budget
February 27, 2008

6) Getting Real About the Rescue
February 27, 2008

7) Union Strikes Parts Maker for G.M.
February 27, 2008

8) 1 in 100 U.S. Adults Behind Bars, New Study Says
February 28, 2008

9) Capitalism in an Apocalyptic Mood
By Walden Bello,
Foreign Policy in Focus.
Posted February 25, 2008

10) Help Prof. Griff!
Mumia Abu-Jamal
[col. writ. 2/22/08] (c) '08

11) Rockets With Longer Range Fired Into Israel
February 29, 2008

12) Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Escalate Attacks against Palestinian Civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Launching Intense Air Strikes against Gaza Strip Targets
Weekly Report: On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory
http://www.pchrgaza .org

13) Study Finds Manufacturing Crisis Hits African Americans Harder
United Steel Workers of America

14) Real Weekly Earnings Continue To Tumble
Inflation Erodes Working Class Purchasing Power
United Steel Workers of America

EI's ongoing coverage of the Gaza siege:

16) Border Patrol Agent’s Trial in Killing of Illegal Immigrant Starts in Arizona
February 28, 2008

17) Former Prosecutor to Testify for Detainee
February 28, 2008

18) Hamas and Israel Toughen Stances
March 1, 2008

19) Israeli ‘Holocaust’ in Gaza
By Ali Abunimah
The Electronic Intifada
February 29, 2008

20) Cuba Signs 2 Rights Treaties Castro Long Opposed
[Dear reader, I can't help commenting on this article--just to point out to you that this article appeared in the Times just a day after their headline article declaring that the U.S. incarcerates one in one hundred adults--more than any other country on the planet and more than most countries, put-together--the overwhelming majority for drug offences, the majority of which are for marijuana and, when there are far more resources put into incarceration than into drug rehabilitation or the abolition of poverty! And, in addition, while there are at least 598 prisoners-without-rights held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay alone! So Cuba has 200 prisons? California has at least 33 State Prisons; eight Federal prisons; and 58 counties where there are at least one or more jails such as San Francisco with 5; Los Angeles with 9; Orange County with 4; Riverside with 6; Fresno with 4; in all, way over 127 jails and prisons in California alone. There are over 170,000 prisoners in the State prison system alone. The California Youth Detention facilities--over 16 of them--hold over 8,984 kids!]
March 1, 2008


1) Pentagon Releases Projections for Forces
February 26, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon is projecting that when the United States troop buildup in Iraq ends in July there will be about 8,000 more troops on the ground than when it began in January 2007, a senior general said Monday.

Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, head of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that by July the troop total was likely to be 140,000. There were 132,000 troops there when President Bush approved orders to send five more Army brigades to Iraq to improve security and avert civil war.

General Ham also announced that the Pentagon believed that United States force levels in Afghanistan would be at 32,000 in late summer, up from about 28,000 now. The current total is the highest since the war began in October 2001, and 3,200 more marines are scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan this spring.

It had been widely expected that some support troops sent to Iraq with the five extra brigades would need to remain, even after July. But until now it was not clear what the number would be.

General Ham stressed that his projected number of 140,000 was subject to change depending on security conditions, but it was the first time the Pentagon had publicly estimated the total.

Asked if the total would be below 132,000 by the time President Bush leaves office next January, General Ham said, “It would be premature to say that.” Among the support forces needed beyond July, General Ham said, are military police officers, logistics troops, aviation forces and a headquarters staff to command combat forces in an area south of Baghdad. The headquarters of the Third Infantry Division was installed there as part of President Bush’s increase in forces in April. It will be replaced this summer by an unspecified unit, General Ham said.


2) Free Eye Care From Chávez, All the Better to See Him
Porlamar Journal
February 26, 2008

PORLAMAR, Venezuela — Few places capture the disarray of this country’s public health system like the Hospital Luis Ortega. Unconscious patients lie on cots strewn near the reception desk. Paint peels from walls neglected for years. Soldiers stand guard to prevent worried relatives gathered on the curb from bursting inside.

But in a recovery room tucked away at the end of a dim corridor, a group of Nicaraguan patients with patches over their eyes offers insight into one of President Hugo Chávez’s most successful health initiatives. Called “Mission Miracle” and now in its fourth year, it provides free eye surgery to Latin America’s poor.

The evolution of the program into a symbol of Mr. Chávez’s political movement across the region illustrates how Venezuela’s leader is intensifying efforts to lift his government’s profile abroad even as he faces criticism at home over social problems.

“Those who call Chávez a vulgar populist are wrong,” said Julio Araoz, one of 96 Nicaraguans flown here to correct ailments leaving them partly or completely blind. Before doctors restored his vision in one eye a week ago, Mr. Araoz said he could barely stand to hear Mr. Chávez’s name or that of his ally, President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua.

“Now I salute Chávez and Ortega with profound gratitude and admiration,” said Mr. Araoz, 40, a carpenter from the northern Nicaraguan city of Matagalpa who was suffering from pterygium, a vision-restricting condition commonly found in tropical climates. The procedure, which would have cost more than $1,000 in Nicaragua, cost him nothing here.

Started in 2004 with financing from Venezuela for doctors to perform eye surgery in Cuban hospitals, the project has helped more than 400,000 people, according to Venezuelan officials. Facing an outcry from Venezuelan ophthalmologists, the government has sought to carry out more procedures within the country than in Cuba.

The Nicaraguans who arrived in this Caribbean city this month are part of this new phase of medical diplomacy. They were identified by volunteers sympathetic to Mr. Ortega, the Sandinista leader who has forged an increasingly strong political alliance with Mr. Chávez.

Many of the Nicaraguans were supporters of Mr. Ortega, but some were critics, like Mr. Araoz, and others were apolitical. They all stayed five to a room in Guayquerí Suites, an aging hotel in Porlamar’s gritty Llano Adentro district.

“These are five-star conditions as far as I’m concerned,” said Marden Espinoza, 69, a retired math teacher who proudly wore a red Mission Miracle baseball cap, in the color and style of Mr. Chávez’s political movement, before the state television cameras that filmed the group.

“The Venezuelans flew us here, fed us, operated on us and drove us to see the sunset on the beach,” said Mr. Espinoza, who had the cataract in one of his eyes removed. “I was treated with great courtesy, like a king.”

Not everyone speaks glowingly of the program, which has treated patients from 18 countries. Mirtha Noguera, president of the Venezuelan Ophthalmology Society, said she admired any effort to improve basic health services, but that Mission Miracle prioritized political objectives while neglecting other pressing health needs in Venezuela.

“Doctors are emigrating because they cannot earn decent salaries,” said Ms. Noguera, adding that a lack of postoperative care was a major problem with Mission Miracle. Still, she said that the government had made strides in improving the project to allow more Venezuelan doctors and hospitals to take part.

Precise figures on how much Venezuela spends on Mission Miracle are hard to calculate, since the services of Cuban doctors in the program are considered barter in exchange for subsidized Venezuelan oil sent to Cuba. Officials in the Ministry of Health in Caracas did not respond to requests for interviews.

But Provea, a human rights group, estimated that Mr. Chávez’s government spent a modest $16.3 million on the project in 2006. In 2007, Mission Miracle grew more ambitious, with more foreign patients arriving in Venezuela, and with Cuban doctors performing more surgeries in countries that are allies of Venezuela, like Bolivia.

In Nicaragua, Mission Miracle and other Venezuelan aid projects are bolstering one of Mr. Chávez’s closest allies. In a visit to Caracas last month, Mr. Ortega said Nicaragua’s economy “would have collapsed” if not for the Venezuelan aid, which is expected to reach tens of millions of dollars for 2007 and part of 2008 in the form of road improvements, microfinance, electricity generators and other projects.

Political tension has followed this strengthening of the project. In Peru, President Alan García, who has verbally clashed with Mr. Chávez in the past, responded last year by creating a program called “Seeing is Believing,” to provide similar procedures on 5,000 Peruvians a year.

And in Argentina, medical associations expressed alarm this month at reports that 17,000 Argentines were taken across the border to relatively poor Bolivia in the past two years for eye surgery by Cuban doctors. Argentine ophthalmologists claimed the Cubans lacked proper training.

But this bickering matters little to the program’s beneficiaries, with cataract or pterygium surgery costing more than $1,000 in private hospitals. “Of course politics is an important part of Mission Miracle,” said Juan Guzmán, 50, an epidemiologist who directs the program here. “What’s so wrong with attempting to strengthen ties with our brothers around Latin America when people benefit from this process?”

Sandra La Fuente P. contributed reporting from Caracas, Venezuela, and Ivet Cruz from Managua, Nicaragua.


3) Court Considers Protecting Drug Makers From Lawsuits
February 26, 2008

WASHINGTON — Less than a week after issuing a sweeping ruling that bars most lawsuits against medical device makers, the Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in the first of two cases that could determine whether drug makers receive similar protection.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer said the fundamental question in the cases was who should make the decisions that will determine whether a drug is “on balance, going to save people or, on balance, going to hurt people?”

“An expert agency on the one hand or 12 people pulled randomly for a jury role who see before them only the people whom the drug hurt and don’t see those who need the drug to cure them?” Justice Breyer asked.

Normally a member of the court’s liberal wing, Justice Breyer came down squarely on the industry’s side when he answered his own question, saying Congress left the role of policing the medicine market exclusively to the Food and Drug Administration.

“What worries me is, what happens if the jury is wrong?” he said.

If the justice’s view prevails, most lawsuits against drug makers, thousands of which have been filed in recent years and settled in some cases for billions of dollars, would be barred. But the Supreme Court is likely to wait until next year to answer Justice Breyer’s question completely.

That is because the question before the court Monday in Warner-Lambert v. Kent was in part restricted to the effects of a Michigan statute that bars personal injury suits against drug makers unless injured patients can show that the company deliberately withheld information from the F.D.A. that would have led the government to block the medicine from being sold.

The case was brought by 27 Michigan plaintiffs who claim they were injured as a result of taking a Warner-Lambert diabetes pill, Rezulin, which has since been withdrawn from the market. The plaintiffs claim the company withheld from the F.D.A. evidence of Rezulin’s dangers to the liver that would have led the agency to deny an approval.

But in a 2001 case involving the Buckman Company, the Supreme Court held that plaintiffs cannot sue based upon claims that a manufacturer defrauded the F.D.A.

Many of the arguments Monday concerned whether the court should strike down all of the Michigan statute or just the part allowing an exception for claims of fraud.

In October, the court will hear arguments in Levine v. Wyeth, a pharmaceutical case with no such state complications. In the Levine case, the court is being asked to decide whether F.D.A. approval bars personal injury lawsuits — the same question it decided in device makers’ favor last week.

Before the Bush administration, the F.D.A. argued that lawsuits provided patients with additional protection. Now, the administration says the lawsuits largely conflict with the agency’s ability to do its job, and several of the justices seemed to agree.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. asked the lawyer for the Michigan patients to explain why their lawsuit should go forward given that it might “very seriously interfere with what the F.D.A. is doing?”

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy asked whether the patients intended to argue whether Rezulin “should not have been on the market?”

Even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the lone dissenter in the case decided last week that gave medical device makers broad protection against lawsuits, asked whether certain claims in the suit against Warner-Lambert, now Pfizer, “are the kind of thing that the F.D.A. would want to police itself and not have state courts look into?”

Allison M. Zieve, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, pointed out that lawsuits against drug makers are still allowed in every state, pending the court’s decision next year.

Carter G. Phillips, who represented Pfizer, said the Buckman case and the Michigan statutes allowed lawsuits to be filed against drug makers in Michigan only if the F.D.A. itself concluded that a company had committed fraud. Such a determination by the F.D.A. is exceptionally rare.

The government argues that the F.D.A. competently oversees the drug and device markets, and should not be second-guessed by courts. But the Institute of Medicine, the Government Accountability Office and the F.D.A.’s own science board have all issued reports saying poor management and scientific inadequacies make the agency incapable of protecting the country against unsafe drugs, medical devices and food.


4) 'Panic' wheat buying across the US
By Arlan Suderman, Farm Progress grain markets analyst
Tuesday, 26 February 2008

In the wheat price surge this week, the leading wheat contract in Minneapolis, US, has risen by more than the entire worth of the contract just months ago.

Prices rallied by $5.75 a bushel on Monday, being up by nearly 30pc at one point compared with Friday’s close.

Eight months ago on June 19, the lead Minneapolis wheat contract settled at over $US5.00 a bushel.

Panic over commodity shortages continues to emerge as the dominant factor in the global markets, with both end user and speculative buyers of corn, soybean, cotton, rice and a host of other commodities taking note of what’s happening in the wheat pit.

While US has made improvements to increase crop production efficiency in recent years, the world hasn’t really put sufficient investment into production agriculture for several decades.

The net result has been declining stocks at the same time that expanding global wealth has demanded more raw commodities.

The net result on Monday was new all-time record high prices for corn, soybeans and wheat on the same day.

Sentiment in the marketplace is changing from, 'buying just-in-time' to one of, 'buy what you need at any price' and then to 'buy even more to restock the shelves'.

In other words, there’s evidence to suggest that we’re beginning to enter the hoarding phase of the inflationary cycle.

Along that line, commodity traders are attempting to hoard land on which to produce their respective commodities by bidding up prices in an acres war.

The market should remain in this phase until supply reaches surplus levels and everything collapses, similar to what was seen in the late-90s.

However, there’s little evidence at this point that the market will begin that collapse anytime soon, especially with the US growing season still weeks away and weather being as large as it’s ever been this year.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t risks and that there won’t be large price swings similar to what have been seen in the wheat pits over the past six months.

But it does mean that end users and speculators alike, remain anxious to buy those price breaks when they occur.

Corn was largely a follower on Monday, reacting to sharply higher wheat and soybean prices.

Demand remains good, but most of the focus was with the above two commodities that are facing immediate supply shortfalls.

The real strength in corn is in the fear that other crops will rob too many acres from the feed grain, rendering it short in supply in the next marketing year that begins September 1.

Solid demand for soyoil and soybeans, especially from China, continues to fuel buying interest in the oilseed complex.

China is said to be buying both to fight food inflation and to build inventories ahead of this year’s Olympics.

Supply fears created by adverse weather in China’s rapeseed belt earlier this month, simply reinforced the sentiment.

The outright panic seen in the wheat pits today sent additional tremors through the oilseed market, where traders couldn’t help wonder if a similar scenario could be in its future.

The panic buying came on the day that Minneapolis lifted all daily limits on the March contract, hoping to ensure that the contract would enter into its delivery period in an orderly fashion on Friday.

Nobody wanted to be a seller in this environment, causing the lead contract to quickly surge above $23/bus.

The Minneapolis March contract eventually reached $25 per bushel, before correcting lower to $24 at the close, up $4.75 on the day.

The deferred Minneapolis contracts locked the expanded 90c daily trading limit higher for much of the day.

Limits on those contracts will expand to $1.35 tomorrow, beginning with electronic trade this evening (US central time).

Chicago and Kansas City contracts locked the 60c daily trading limit higher today, with those limits expected to increase to 90c.

(See separate Chicago report)

SOURCE: Farm Progress, US, a Fairfax Media publication

Note: There is a risk associated with trading futures and options. Anyone acting on the Farm Progress, US, information is doing so at this/her own risk.


5) Gas Prices Soar, Posing a Threat to Family Budget
February 27, 2008

Gasoline prices, which for months lagged behind the big run-up in the price of oil, are suddenly rising quickly, with some experts saying they could approach $4 a gallon by spring. Diesel is hitting new records daily, and crude oil rose above $102 in trading Wednesday after settling at a record high of $100.88 a barrel on Tuesday.

The increases could not come at a worse time for the economy. With growth slowing, energy increases that were once easily absorbed by consumers are now more likely to act as a drag on household budgets, leaving people with less money to spend elsewhere. These costs could worsen the nation’s economic woes, piling a fresh energy shock on top of the turmoil in credit and housing.

“The effect of high oil prices today could be the difference between having a recession and not having a recession,” said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a Harvard economist.

The depth of the nation’s economic problems became clearer Tuesday with the release of figures showing that prices at the producer level rose 1 percent in January from December, driven in large measure by energy costs. Compared with a year ago, prices were up 7.4 percent, the worst producer price inflation in the United States since 1981.

Other new figures showed that home prices around the country are falling at an accelerating pace, suggesting no end is in sight for the housing slump.

As of Tuesday, regular gasoline was selling at a nationwide average of $3.14 a gallon, according to AAA, the automobile club, up from $2.35 a year ago. The price has jumped 19 cents a gallon in two weeks.

Energy specialists predict that, as demand picks up further this spring and summer, retail prices will surpass the high of $3.23 a gallon set last Memorial Day weekend. That high fell short of the inflation-adjusted record of $3.40 in today’s money that was set in 1981.

On Tuesday, diesel prices rose to a record $3.60 a gallon, compared with $2.62 a gallon last year.

For a decade, rising oil prices failed to dent global economic growth. In the United States, consumers absorbed the higher costs because of easy credit and rising prosperity, while in developing countries, government subsidies helped ease the pain. The rise in energy prices was a result of growing demand around the world.

The price of oil has quadrupled in six years, and the close Tuesday was not far below the inflation-adjusted high set in April 1980, after the Iranian revolution. That record, $39.50 a barrel, equals $103.76 in today’s money.

As oil prices spiked last fall, low wintertime gasoline demand helped keep prices in check. But now, experts say, the price of oil is finally showing up at the pump.

For ordinary Americans like Phyllis Berry, a 31-year-old factory worker for General Motors in Cleveland, gasoline costs are starting to hurt.

“I used to fill it up pretty regularly, but now I drive it until the tank is almost empty, looking for the cheapest place to buy gas,” said Ms. Berry, who drives a beat-up Dodge Caravan.

She said that she used to take her four children to the movies four or five times a month. But with the cost of gas, tickets, popcorn and soda adding up to $70, they now go only once a month.

Still, things are not quite as bad as during the 1970s and 1980s oil shocks. In the early 1980s, at the height of the last energy crisis, energy accounted for about 8 percent of household spending. As prices fell and the economy became less energy-intensive, energy costs fell under 4 percent of household spending in the early 1990s.

With the run-up in prices in recent years, economists say energy’s share of disposable income is slowly creeping up again. In December, that figure reached 6.1 percent, the highest level since 1985. The increase of two percentage points — amounting to $200 billion — is a huge sum, a little less than half what Americans spend each year on new cars and automobile parts.

“You’re adding an oil shock on top of a crunch on credit and a housing collapse,” said Nigel Gault, an economist at Global Insight. “Even the U.S. economy cannot withstand all of that at the same time.”

American consumers have responded belatedly by cutting back on their energy use. Oil demand in the United States grew by just 0.4 percent in 2007 and is expected to be flat in 2008.

But global oil demand, the relentless driver behind higher prices, is still expected to increase by 1.4 million barrels a day this year, analysts estimate. That growth, from China and the Middle East, may help keep prices up, whatever happens to the American economy.

According to the latest forecast by the Energy Department, gasoline prices should peak near $3.40 a gallon this spring.

But many analysts consider the government’s forecast conservative, foreseeing a sharper spike as refiners come out of the seasonal maintenance period and start producing summer-grade gasoline in March and April.

“We’ve gone this high without the normal summer dynamics,” said Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service. “That’s when I think we will have the big jump — of 50 cents to 75 cents a gallon.”

Mr. Kloza said he expected gasoline to peak around $3.50 to $3.75 a gallon nationwide. Geoff Sundstrom, AAA’s spokesman, echoed that view and added that gas at $4 a gallon is possible this summer. “We’ve gone from a worrying situation for gasoline to one that is quite alarming,” Mr. Sundstrom said.

Oil prices are unlikely to drop anytime soon, analysts said. Barclays Capital recently increased its long-term prediction, saying prices could reach $137 a barrel in 2015, up from a previous target of $93 a barrel.

“The remorseless move up in long-run prices has not yet fully played out,” Barclays analysts said in a note to investors.

While demand keeps growing, producers are struggling to catch up. They are not replacing the oil they are pumping out of the ground fast enough because of restrictions on access to fields, as well as rising costs. Meanwhile, demand in China, India and the Middle East is expected to push oil consumption up by more than one million barrels a day, each year, for the next decade.

“An oil crisis is coming in the next 10 years,” John B. Hess, the chairman of the Hess Corporation, said at a recent conference held by Cambridge Energy Research Associates. “It’s not a matter of demand. It’s not a matter of supplies. It’s both.”

Christopher Maag contributed reporting from Cleveland.


6) Getting Real About the Rescue
February 27, 2008

Some big banks are supporting new proposals to rescue homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than their houses are worth, but let’s get one thing straight: the banks haven’t been struck by a sudden urge to help the needy. Rather, by advocating bailouts, the lending industry is trying to head off a possible change in the law that would let troubled borrowers modify their mortgages in bankruptcy court — where lenders, not taxpayers, would be stuck with the losses.

Congress must not kowtow to the lenders. It should insist that borrowers be given a chance to modify their mortgages under bankruptcy court protection before it even thinks of asking taxpayers to pick up the tab for the mortgage mess. Under current law, borrowers cannot rework the mortgages on primary homes in bankruptcy proceedings. Senate Democratic leaders are pushing a bill to let many at-risk homeowners do just that. The House Judiciary Committee has passed a similar measure. Republicans, who are balking, should get on board, or risk leaving their constituents without an effective way to save their homes.

If the bankruptcy provision becomes law, as it should, lenders will have a powerful incentive — which they currently do not have — to modify troubled loans voluntarily. If they can’t or won’t come to new terms with borrowers, then they would run the risk that a bankruptcy court would do the modifying for them.

So far, despite a lot of promises, the industry has been unable or unwilling to rework the junk loans of the bubble years in ways that come near addressing the enormity of the problem. In contrast, access to bankruptcy court would mean relief for some 600,000 homeowners — not by wiping out their debts, but by modifying the loan terms so borrowers can pay them off over time.

Lenders object that by giving homeowners the right to modify their mortgages under court supervision, the bankruptcy amendment would raise the cost of mortgages for everyone, forever. That concern is surely overstated, but not entirely without merit. To address it and other industry worries, lawmakers have proposed constraints, such as limiting the bankruptcy relief to junk mortgages of the past few years.

The bankruptcy amendment has another virtue: it could bolster a worthy rescue idea floated recently by the Treasury Department’s Office of Thrift Supervision, one of the nation’s bank regulators. The idea is that if lenders voluntarily agree to loan modifications, they would become entitled to a share of the house’s appreciation, if any, when the house is ultimately sold.

Like other Bush administration plans, this one suffers from its emphasis on voluntary cooperation, which has been shown to be inadequate. The bankruptcy amendment, however, would give lenders more incentive to go along, by providing a real downside to not acting voluntarily — losing control to a bankruptcy judge.

In the end, taxpayer-funded bailout proposals may make sense, but only if other prudent measures have been exhausted. That has not happened yet. There are two good, complementary ideas on the table — the carrot for lenders offered up by the Office of Thrift Supervision, and the stick provided by the bankruptcy amendment. Congress and the Bush administration should move forward quickly on both of them.


7) Union Strikes Parts Maker for G.M.
February 27, 2008

DETROIT — The United Automobile Workers union called its third strike in five months Tuesday, sending some 3,650 workers at parts factories in Michigan and New York off the job in opposition to proposed pay and benefits cuts, and to what it called unfair labor practices.

Analysts said that the strike, against American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings, threatened to shut down some truck production at General Motors, the supplier’s biggest customer and former parent company. G.M. officials said there were no immediate disruptions, and both companies had stockpiled some parts in preparation for a work halt, though it was reported to be only a few days’ worth.

The U.A.W.’s president, Ron Gettelfinger, who led the union in brief strikes against G.M. and Chrysler last fall, accused American Axle of failing to provide enough information for the union to evaluate the proposed cuts.

In a statement, Mr. Gettelfinger said talks broke off Monday night, when the previous contract expired “with major issues unresolved.” No new talks are scheduled.

He said that the company’s demands included cutting wages as much as $14 an hour, to about half the current rate for most workers, and eliminating retirement health care coverage and pensions. “Our members cannot be expected to make the extreme sacrifices American Axle is asking for with nothing in return,” Mr. Gettelfinger said.

Workers walked picket lines and huddled near fire barrels during a snowstorm outside American Axle headquarters in Detroit and elsewhere. Some said they were upset that a profitable company was making such demands of them at a time when prices were climbing rapidly and bills were piling up. American Axle reported a profit of $37 million last year; each of the three Detroit automakers lost billions.

“I’d have to pick up and move out of state because I wouldn’t be able to support my family” under the company’s proposed contract, said Annette Harris, 48, a single mother of three, who has worked for American Axle since its founding in 1994. “If they cut our pay, a lot of people are going to lose their homes.”

The company posted a statement on its Web site Tuesday asserting that it now compensates workers $70 an hour, including benefits, about three times as much as rivals who have recently signed new labor deals.

“All of the changes we have proposed have been accepted by the U.A.W. in agreements with our competitors in the United States,” American Axle’s chief executive, Richard E. Dauch, said in the statement. “I have no idea why A.A.M. is being singled out for a different set of economic conditions.”

Dana Edwards, the shop chairman for U.A.W. Local 235 in Detroit, said that “a lot of open issues” remained and that it appeared this strike could last considerably longer than those against the automakers last year and the one-day walkout against American Axle in 2004.

In trading Tuesday, shares of American Axle fell 3 cents, to $22.94. Analysts said they believed that the company would eventually be able to make a deal that still improved its competitive position greatly.


8) 1 in 100 U.S. Adults Behind Bars, New Study Says
February 28, 2008

For the first time in the nation’s history, more than one in 100 American adults is behind bars, according to a new report.

Nationwide, the prison population grew by 25,000 last year, bringing it to almost 1.6 million. Another 723,000 people are in local jails. The number of American adults is about 230 million, meaning that one in every 99.1 adults is behind bars.

Incarceration rates are even higher for some groups. One in 36 Hispanic adults is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 black adults is, too, as is one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34.

The report, from the Pew Center on the States, also found that only one in 355 white women between the ages of 35 and 39 is behind bars, but that one in 100 black women is.

The report’s methodology differed from that used by the Justice Department, which calculates the incarceration rate by using the total population rather than the adult population as the denominator. Using the department’s methodology, about one in 130 Americans is behind bars.

Either way, said Susan Urahn, the center’s managing director, “we aren’t really getting the return in public safety from this level of incarceration.”

“We tend to be a country in which incarceration is an easy response to crime,” Ms. Urahn continued. “Being tough on crime is an easy position to take, particularly if you have the money. And we did have the money in the ’80s and ’90s.”

Now, with fewer resources available to the states, the report said, “prison costs are blowing a hole in state budgets.” On average, states spend almost 7 percent on their budgets on corrections, trailing only healthcare, education and transportation.

In 2007, according to the National Association of State Budgeting Officers, states spent $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections. That is up from $10.6 billion in 1987, a 127 increase once adjusted for inflation. With money from bond issues and from the federal government included, total state spending on corrections last year was $49 billion. By 2011, the report said, states are on track to spend an additional $25 billion.

It cost an average of $23,876 to imprison someone in 2005, the most recent year for which data is available. But state spending varies widely, from $45,000 a year for each inmate in Rhode Island to just $13,000 in Louisiana.

The cost of medical care is growing by 10 percent annually, the report said, a rate that will accelerate as the prison population ages.

About one in nine state government employees works in corrections, and some states are finding it hard to fill those jobs. California spent more than $500 million on overtime alone in 2006.

The number of prisoners in California dropped by 4,000 last year, making Texas’s prison system the nation’s largest, at about 172,000 inmates. But the Texas legislature approved broad changes to the state’s corrections system, including expansions of drug treatment programs and drug courts and revisions to parole practices.

“Our violent offenders, we lock them up for a very long time — rapists, murderers, child molestors,” said John Whitmire, a Democratic state senator from Houston and the chairman of the state senate’s criminal justice committee. “The problem was that we weren’t smart about nonviolent offenders. The legislature finally caught up with the public.”

He gave an example.

“We have 5,500 D.W.I offenders in prison,” he said, including people caught driving under the influence who had not been in an accident. “They’re in the general population. As serious as drinking and driving is, we should segregate them and give them treatment.”

The Pew report recommended diverting nonviolent offenders away from prison and using punishments short of reincarceration for minor or technical violations of probation or parole. It also urged states to consider earlier release of some prisoners.

Before the recent changes in Texas, Mr. Whitmire said, “we were recycling nonviolent offenders.”


9) Capitalism in an Apocalyptic Mood
By Walden Bello,
Foreign Policy in Focus.
Posted February 25, 2008

Yes, global capitalism may be resilient. But it looks like its options are increasingly limited.

Skyrocketing oil prices, a falling dollar, and collapsing financial markets are the key ingredients in an economic brew that could end up in more than just an ordinary recession. The falling dollar and rising oil prices have been rattling the global economy for sometime. But it is the dramatic implosion of financial markets that is driving the financial elite to panic.

And panic there is. Even as it characterized Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke's deep cuts amounting to a 1.25 points off the prime rate in late January as a sign of panic, the Economist admitted that "there is no doubt that this is a frightening moment." The losses stemming from bad securities tied up with defaulted mortgage loans by "subprime" borrowers are now estimated to be in the range of about $400 billion. But as the Financial Times warned, "the big question is what else is out there" at a time that the global financial system "is wide open to a catastrophic failure." In the last few weeks, for instance, several Swiss, Japanese, and Korean banks have owned up to billions of dollars in subprime-related losses. The globalization of finance was, from the beginning, the cutting edge of the globalization process, and it was always an illusion to think that the subprime crisis could be confined to U.S. financial institutions, as some analysts had thought.

Some key movers and shakers sounded less panicky than resigned to some sort of apocalypse. At the global elite's annual week-long party at Davos in late January, George Soros sounded positively necrological, declaring to one and all that the world was witnessing "the end of an era." World Economic Forum host Klaus Schwab spoke of capitalism getting its just desserts, saying, "We have to pay for the sins of the past." He told the press, "It's not that the pendulum is now swinging back to Marxist socialism, but people are asking themselves, 'What are the boundaries of the capitalist system?' They think the market may not always be the best mechanism for providing solutions."

Ruined Reputations and Policy Failures

While some appear to have lost their nerve, others have seen the financial collapse diminish their stature.

As chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers in 2005, Ben Bernanke attributed the rise in U.S. housing prices to "strong economic fundamentals" instead of speculative activity. So is it any wonder why, as Federal Reserve chairman, he failed to anticipate the housing market's collapse stemming from the subprime mortgage crisis? His predecessor, Alan Greenspan, however, has suffered a bigger hit, moving from iconic status to villain in the eyes of some. They blame the bubble on his aggressively cutting the prime rate to get the United States out of recession in 2003 and restraining it at low levels for over a year. Others say he ignored warnings about aggressive and unscrupulous mortgage originators enticing "subprime" borrowers with mortgage deals they could never afford.

The scrutiny of Greenspan's record and the failure of Bernanke's rate cuts so far to reignite bank lending has raised serious doubts about the effectiveness of monetary policy in warding off a recession that is now seen as all but inevitable. Nor will fiscal policy or putting money into the hands of consumers do the trick, according to some weighty voices. The $156 billion stimulus package recently approved by the White House and Congress consists largely of tax rebates, and most of these, according to New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, will go to those who don't really need them. The tendency will thus be to save rather than spend the rebates in a period of uncertainty, defeating their purpose of stimulating the economy. The specter that now haunts the U.S. economy is Japan's experience of virtually zero annual growth and deflation despite a succession of stimulus packages after Tokyo's great housing bubble deflated in the late 1980s.

The Inevitable Bubble

Even with the finger-pointing in progress, many analysts remind us that if anything, the housing crisis should have been expected all along. The only question was when it would break. As progressive economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research noted in an analysis several years ago, "Like the stock bubble, the housing bubble will burst. Eventually, it must. When it does, the economy will be thrown into a severe recession, and tens of millions of homeowners, who never imagined that house prices could fall, likely will face serious hardship."

The subprime mortgage crisis was not a case of supply outrunning real demand. The "demand" was largely fabricated by speculative mania on the part of developers and financiers that wanted to make great profits from their access to foreign money that flooded the United States in the last decade. Big ticket mortgages were aggressively sold to millions who could not normally afford them by offering low "teaser" interest rates that would later be readjusted to jack up payments from the new homeowners. These assets were then "securitized" with other assets into complex derivative products called "collateralized debt obligations" (CDOs) by the mortgage originators working with different layers of middlemen who understated risk so as to offload them as quickly as possible to other banks and institutional investors. The shooting up of interest rates triggered a wave of defaults, and many of the big name banks and investors -- including Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo -- found themselves with billions of dollars worth of bad assets that had been given the green light by their risk assessment systems.

The Failure of Self-Regulation

The housing bubble is only the latest of some 100 financial crises that have swiftly followed one another ever since the lifting of Depression-era capital controls at the onset of the neoliberal era in the early 1980s. The calls now coming from some quarters for curbs on speculative capital have an air of deja vu. After the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, in particular, there was a strong clamor for capital controls, for a "new global financial architecture." The more radical of these called for currency transactions taxes such as the famed Tobin Tax, which would have slowed down capital movements, or for the creation of some kind of global financial authority that would, among other things, regulate relations between northern creditors and indebted developing countries.

Global finance capital, however, resisted any return to state regulation. Nothing came of the proposals for Tobin taxes. The banks killed even a relatively weak "sovereign debt restructuring mechanism" akin to the U.S. Chapter Eleven to provide some maneuvering room to developing countries undergoing debt repayment problems, even though the proposal came from Ann Krueger, the conservative American deputy managing director of the IMF. Instead, finance capital promoted what came to be known as the Basel II process, described by political economist Robert Wade as steps toward global economic standardization that "maximize [global financial firms'] freedom of geographical and sectoral maneuver while setting collective constraints on their competitive strategies." The emphasis was on private sector self-surveillance and self-policing aimed at greater transparency of financial operations and new standards for capital. Despite the fact that it was finance capital from the industrialized countries that triggered the Asian crisis, the Basel process focused on making developing country financial institutions and processes transparent and standardized along the lines of what Wade calls the "Anglo-American" financial model.

Calls to regulate the proliferation of these new, sophisticated financial instruments, such as derivatives placed on the market by developed country financial institutions, went nowhere. Assessment and regulation of derivatives were left to market players who had access to sophisticated quantitative "risk assessment" models.

Focused on disciplining developing countries, the Basel II process accomplished so little in the way of self-regulation of global financial from the North that even Wall Street banker Robert Rubin, former secretary of treasury under President Clinton, warned in 2003 that "future financial crises are almost surely inevitable and could be even more severe."

As for risk assessment of derivatives such as the "collaterized debt obligations" (CDOs) and "structured investment vehicles" (SIVs) -- the cutting edge of what the Financial Times has described as "the vastly increased complexity of hyperfinance" -- the process collapsed almost completely. The most sophisticated quantitative risk models were left in the dust. The sellers of securities priced risk by one rule only: underestimate the real risk and pass it on to the suckers down the line. In the end, it was difficult to distinguish what was fraudulent, what was poor judgment, what was plain foolish, and what was out of anybody's control. "The U.S. subprime mortgage market was marked by poor underwriting standards and 'some fraudulent practices,'" as one report on the conclusions of a recent meeting of the Group of Seven's Financial Stability Forum put it. "Investors didn't carry out sufficient due diligence when they bought mortgage-backed securities. Banks and other firms managed their financial risks poorly and failed to disclose to the public the dangers on and off their balance sheets. Credit-rating companies did an inadequate job of evaluating the risk of complex securities. And the financial institutions compensated their employees in ways that encouraged excessive risk-taking and insufficient regard to long-term risks."

The Specter of Overproduction

It is not surprising that the G-7 report sounded very much like the post-mortems of the Asian financial crisis and the bubble. One financial corporation chief writing in the Financial Times captured the basic problem running through these speculative manias, perhaps unwittingly, when he claimed that "there has been an increasing disconnection between the real and financial economies in the past few years. The real economy has grown ... but nothing like that of the financial economy, which grew even more rapidly -- until it imploded." What his statement does not tell us is that the disconnect between the real and the financial is not accidental, that the financial economy expanded precisely to make up for the stagnation of the real economy.

The stagnation of the real economy stems is related to the condition of overproduction or over-accumulation that has plagued the international economy since the mid-1970s. Stemming from global productive capacity outstripping global demand as a result of deep inequalities, this condition has eroded profitability in the industrial sector. One escape route from this crisis has been "financialization," or the channeling of investment toward financial speculation, where greater profits could be had. This was, however, illusory in the long run since, unlike industry, speculative finance boiled down to an effort to squeeze out more "value" from already created value instead of creating new value.

The disconnect between the real economy and the virtual economy of finance was evident in the bubble of the 1990s. With profits in the real economy stagnating, the smart money flocked to the financial sector. The workings of this virtual economy were exemplified by the rapid rise in the stock values of Internet firms that, like, had yet to turn a profit. The phenomenon probably extended the boom of the 1990s by about two years. "Never before in U.S. history," Robert Brenner wrote, "had the stock market played such a direct, and decisive, role in financing non-financial corporations, thereby powering the growth of capital expenditures and in this way the real economy. Never before had a US economic expansion become so dependent upon the stock market's ascent." But the divergence between momentary financial indicators like stock prices and real values could only proceed to a point before reality bit back and enforced a "correction." And the correction came savagely in the collapse of 2002, which wiped out $7 trillion in investor wealth.

A long recession was avoided, but only because another bubble, the housing bubble, took the place of the bubble. Here, Greenspan played a key role by cutting the prime rate to a 45-year low of one percent in June 2003, holding it there for a year, then raising it only gradually, in quarter-percentage-increments. As Dean Baker put it, "an unprecedented run-up in the stock market propelled the U.S. economy in the late nineties and now an unprecedented run-up in house prices is propelling the current recovery."

The result was that real estate prices rose by 50 percent in real terms, with the run-ups, according to Baker, being close to 80 percent in the key bubble areas of the West Coast, the East Coast north of Washington, DC, and Florida. Baker estimates that the run-up in house prices "created more than $5 trillion in real estate wealth compared to a scenario where prices follow their normal trend growth path. The wealth effect from house prices is conventionally estimated at five cents to the dollar, which means that annual consumption is approximately $250 billion (2 percent of gross domestic product [GDP]) higher than it would be in the absence of the housing bubble."

The China Factor

The housing bubble fueled U.S. growth, which was exceptional given the stagnation that has gripped most of the global economy in the last few years. During this period, the global economy has been marked by underinvestment and persistent tendencies toward stagnation in most key economic regions apart from the United States, China, India, and a few other places. Weak growth has marked most other regions, notably Japan, which was locked until very recently into a one percent GDP growth rate, and Europe, which grew annually by 1.45 percent in the last few years.

With stagnation in most other areas, the United States has pulled in some 70 percent of all global capital flows. A great deal of this has come from China. Indeed, what marks this current bubble period is the role of China as a source not only of goods for the U.S. market but also capital for speculation. The relationship between the United States and Chinese economies is what I have characterized elsewhere as chain-gang economics. On the one hand, China's economic growth has increasingly depended on the ability of American consumers to continue their debt-financed spending spree to absorb much of the output of China's production. On the other hand, this relationship depends on a massive financial reality: the dependence of U.S. consumption on China's lending the U.S. Treasury and private sector dollars from the reserves it accumulated from its yawning trade surplus with the United States: one trillion dollars so far, according to some estimates. Indeed, a great deal of the tremendous sums China -- and other Asian countries -- lent to American institutions went to finance middle-class spending on housing and other goods and services, prolonging the fragile U.S. economic growth but only by raising consumer indebtedness to dangerous, record heights.

The China-U.S. coupling has had major consequences for the global economy. The massive new productive capacity by American and other foreign investors moving to China has aggravated the persistent problem of overcapacity and overproduction. One indicator of persistent stagnation in the real economy is the aggregate annual global growth rate, which averaged 1.4 percent in the 1980s and 1.1 percent in the 1990s, compared to 3.5 percent in the 1960s and 2.4 percent in the 1970s. Moving to China to take advantage of low wages may shore up profit rates in the short term. But as it adds to overcapacity in a world where a rise in global purchasing power is constrained by growing inequalities, such capital flight erodes profits in the long term. And indeed, the profit rate of the largest 500 U.S. transnational corporations fell drastically from 4.9 percent from 1954-59, to 2.04 percent from 1960-69, to -5.30 percent from 1989-89, to -2.64 percent from 1990-92, and to -1.92 percent from 2000-2002. Behind these figures, notes Philip O'Hara, was the specter of overproduction: "Oversupply of commodities and inadequate demand are the principal corporate anomalies inhibiting performance in the global economy."

The succession of speculative manias in the United States has had the function of absorbing investment that did not find profitable returns in the real economy and thus not only artificially propping up the U.S. economy but also "holding up the world economy," as one IMF document put it. Thus, with the bursting of the housing bubble and the seizing up of credit in almost the whole financial sector, the threat of a global downturn is very real.

Decoupling Chain-Gang Economics?

In this regard, talk about a process of "decoupling" regional economies, especially the Asian economic region, from the United States has been without substance. True, most of the other economies in East and Southeast Asia have been pulled along by the Chinese locomotive. In the case of Japan, for instance, a decade-long stagnation was broken in 2003 by the country's first sustained recovery, fueled by exports to slake China's thirst for capital and technology-intensive goods. Exports shot up by a record 44 percent, or $60 billion. Indeed, China became the main destination for Asia's exports, accounting for 31 percent while Japan's share dropped from 20 to 10 percent. As one account in the Strait Times in 2004 pointed out, "In country-by-country profiles, China is now the overwhelming driver of export growth in Taiwan and the Philippines, and the majority buyer of products from Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and Australia."

However, as research by C.P. Chandrasekhar and Jayati Ghosh and has underlined, China is indeed importing intermediate goods and parts from these countries but only to put them together mainly for export as finished goods to the United States and Europe, not for its domestic market. Thus, "if demand for Chinese exports from the United States and the EU slow down, as will be likely with a U.S. recession, this will not only affect Chinese manufacturing production, but also Chinese demand for imports from these Asian developing countries." Perhaps the more accurate image is that of a chain gang linking not only China and the United States but a host of other satellite economies whose fates are all tied up with the now-deflating balloon of debt-financed middle-class spending in the United States.

New Bubbles to the Rescue?

Do not overestimate the resiliency of capitalism. After the collapse of the boom and the housing boom, a third line of defense against stagnation owing to overcapacity may yet emerge. For instance, the U.S. government might pull the economy out of the jaws of recession through military spending. And, indeed, the military economy did play a role in bringing the United States out of the 2002 recession, with defense spending in 2003 accounting for 14 percent of GDP growth while representing only 4 percent of the overall U.S. GDP. According to estimates cited by Chalmers Johnson, defense-related expenditures will exceed $1 trillion for the first time in history in 2008.

Stimulus could also come from the related "disaster capitalism complex" so well studied by Naomi Klein: the "full fledged new economy in home land security, privatized war and disaster reconstruction tasked with nothing less than building and running a privatized security state both at home and abroad." Klein says that, in fact, "the economic stimulus of this sweeping initiative proved enough to pick up the slack where globalization and the booms had left off. Just as the Internet had launched the dot.-com bubble, 9/11 launched the disaster capitalism bubble." This subsidiary bubble to the real-estate bubble appears to have been relatively unharmed so far by the collapse of the latter.

It is not easy to track the sums circulating in the disaster capitalism complex. But one indication of the sums involved is that InVision, a General Electric affiliate producing high-tech bomb-detection devises used in airports and other public spaces, received an astounding $15 billion in Homeland Security contracts between 2001 and 2006.

Whether or not "military Keynesianism" and the disaster capitalism complex can in fact fill the role played by financial bubbles is open to question. To feed them, at least during the Republican administrations, has meant reducing social expenditures. A Dean Baker study cited by Johnson found that after an initial demand stimulus, by about the sixth year, the effect of increased military spending turns negative. After 10 years of increased defense spending, there would be 464,000 fewer jobs than in a scenario of lower defense spending.

A more important limit to military Keynesianism and disaster capitalism is that the military engagements to which they are bound to lead are likely to create quagmires such as Iraq and Afghanistan. And these disasters could trigger a backlash both abroad and at home. Such a backlash would eventually erode the legitimacy of these enterprises, reduce their access to tax dollars, and erode their viability as sources of economic expansion in a contracting economy.

Yes, global capitalism may be resilient. But it looks like its options are increasingly limited. The forces making for the long-term stagnation of the global capitalist economy are now too heavy to be easily shaken off by the economic equivalent of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.


10) Help Prof. Griff!
Mumia Abu-Jamal
[col. writ. 2/22/08] (c) '08

Several days ago I received news of a fire which tore through the home and property of the man known as Professor Griff, the more militant member of the legendary hip-hop group, Public Enemy.

While Griff was unharmed (as he wasn't at home at the time), the damage was total. He lost his home, his studio, and everything he owned to the fire, possibly sparked by a gas leak.

As one of the group's most prolific lyricists, Prof. Griff contributed mightily to Public Enemy's sound and messages of black militance, radical resistance and the resurgence of Black history and memory.

Conscious, as ever, he is thankful that he is alive.

Millions of people, Black, white, Latino and global, owe their youthful political and social awakening to the throbbing beats, provocative lyrics and moving performances of PE.

In an age when corporate interests have made hip-hop virtually synonymous with mad gangsterism, PE turned on their legions of fans by exhorting them to "Fight the Power!" Their albums, infused with the spirit of Black nationalism and political activism, included works like "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" (1988). Today, their works are regarded as modern classics of hip hop's true golden age.

Please donate what you can to help this great contributor to one of the planet's greatest bands, and helping to get Prof. Griff back on his feet.

Please contact:
Kaven Shah
P.O, Box 11902
Atlanta, GA 30355

Or touch him on the web at: . People can donate via PayPal Account.

Griff has spent his time since PE's heyday by lecturing widely on Black and hip hop history.
He shares his experiences and insights with young people, usually for free, considering it his duty to do so.

He really is a professor, for he teaches and lectures on African history, social and political movements, and the like.

In the 1980's and 1990's, Public Enemy provided a glimpse into another side of Black life, strong, conscious, rich with historic imagery, and trying to project something positive into the psyches of the young. Prof. Griff was a central part of that musical and cultural collective.

In this, his hour of need, please let him know that you appreciated his (and his group's) truly positive contribution.

--(c) '08 maj


11) Rockets With Longer Range Fired Into Israel
February 29, 2008

JERUSALEM — Palestinian militants in Gaza fired four rockets into the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon on Thursday, hitting a house, the Israeli police said. Israeli airstrikes in Gaza killed at least 11 Palestinians, including four young boys, Palestinian medical officials said.

No one was hurt in the attacks on Ashkelon, but the attack will probably be seen in Israel as an escalation of the conflict. Ashkelon, a city of 120,000 people, has been an occasional target of rockets in the past, but the scale of attacks on Thursday was unprecedented.

The police in Ashkelon said six rockets were fired, and four landed in the city. It was the first time there had been a direct hit on a house. The Israeli Army said that five rockets had been fired into Ashkelon.

The rockets were manufactured Grad-type rockets, which are based on a Russian design and have a longer range than the homemade, relatively crude Qassam rockets that are usually fired at the Israeli town of Sderot and the farming communities bordering the Gaza Strip. The rockets were made in Iran, according to an Israeli security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give out such information.

Israel kept up its airstrikes Thursday against militants in the Gaza Strip, one day after an Israeli civilian was killed in a rocket attack on Sderot, the first such fatality in nine months.

The Israeli Army said it had carried out five airstrikes since the early hours of Thursday morning against armed men and rocket-launching squads in Gaza. Five militants were killed in those strikes, according to Hamas and Palestinian medical officials, bringing the total of Palestinians killed in Gaza since Wednesday to 17.

Two more militants were killed in two later attacks, according to local reports, and an airstrike in northern Gaza Thursday killed four young boys, aged 8, 9, 11 and 12, Palestinian medical officials said.

Among the dead in Gaza since Wednesday were six civilians, including three other young boys and a 5-month-old boy killed in airstrikes on Wednesday night, the medical officials said.

Most of the dead militants belonged to the military wing of Hamas, the Qassam Brigades. One of them was Hamza al-Hayya, the son of Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas leader and legislator. Hamza al-Hayya was killed on Thursday morning in what the Israeli military said was a strike against a squad about to launch rockets.

Seven members of the Hayya family and a neighbor were killed in May in an Israeli airstrike that hit the family home. Khalil al-Hayya was not in the house at the time. Military officials said at the time that the army had “identified and hit a five-member terrorist cell” that was the target of the attack. That month, Hamas had intensified its rocket fire from Gaza and two other Israelis were killed by rockets in Sderot.

Rockets again slammed into Sderot on Thursday, leaving the streets mostly deserted and the few people who ventured out running for cover.

Many residents were in a state of panic as a series of rockets fell in the center of town.

A bodyguard of Avi Dichter, Israel’s minister for public security, was lightly wounded by shrapnel when a rocket hit the campus of Sapir College, on the outskirts of Sderot, where the Israeli civilian was killed on Wednesday.

The Qassam Brigades issued a statement in Gaza on Thursday saying they had fired 70 rockets into Israel since Wednesday, with 41 aimed at Sderot.

The latest surge of hostilities started on Wednesday morning, when the Israeli air force carried out a strike in southern Gaza, hitting a minivan on a road west of Khan Yunis and killing five members of the Qassam Brigades.

Southern Israel then came under heavy rocket fire, with more than 40 rockets launched from Gaza on Wednesday, the Israeli Army said. Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, claimed responsibility for the rocket fire, saying it had been retaliating for the Israeli strike.

In a second Israeli airstrike carried out amid the rocket fire, two Palestinian youths were killed and 12 other civilians were wounded, Dr. Muawiya Hassanein, director of emergency medical services in Gaza, said. A third boy died later. An Israeli army spokeswoman said the strike had been aimed at a rocket-firing squad, and witnesses in Gaza told Palestinian news media that the civilians had been hit while watching Hamas militants fire the rockets.

Late Wednesday night, Israeli aircraft fired more missiles into Gaza, hitting the empty building of the Hamas-run Interior Ministry and metal workshops in Gaza City and Khan Yunis. The 5-month-old boy, Muhammad al-Burei, was killed by shrapnel from the attack on the Interior Ministry, and several civilians were wounded, Dr. Hassanein said. The ministry building is in a residential area.

The army spokeswoman confirmed strikes against various locations in Gaza, and said they were all aimed at Hamas compounds and headquarters used by militants to plan or launch attacks.

The Israeli victim, Ronnie Yichia, 47, was struck in the chest by shrapnel from a rocket that landed in the parking lot of the Sapir College campus on the outskirts of Sderot. According to Israeli police figures, he was the 14th civilian to die from rockets fired from Gaza since 2001.

Wednesday’s rocket fire also struck Ashkelon. One rocket fell in the grounds of Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. A 10-year-old boy from Sderot, hurt in a rocket attack on Monday, was recuperating there after surgery.

Israel is engaged in what Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has called a “daily war” against the militants launching rockets from Gaza. Responding to Wednesday’s events from Japan during an official visit, Mr. Olmert said that “no one in Hamas, neither the low-level officials nor the highest echelon, will be immune in this war.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Mr. Olmert in Tokyo on Thursday morning and said afterward that Hamas rocket attacks against Israel “need to stop,” The Associated Press reported.

Palestinians said two of the militants killed in the first Israeli strike were Abdullah Edwan, a rocket engineer, and Muhammad Abu Aker, a rocket squad commander. Residents said the men were going to a training camp in southern Gaza. Two were masked, they said, and returned from Iran three weeks ago.

Relatives of Mr. Edwan, who was said to have been the main strike target, said he was trained in Syria and Iran. Two other militants were wounded, medical officials said.

The chief of Israeli military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, told Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that Gaza militants had undergone intensive training in Syria and Iran and had taken advantage of the recent 11-day breach of Gaza’s border with Egypt to return to Gaza.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Arye Mekel, called the Hamas practice of firing rockets at Israeli civilian centers from areas populated by Palestinian civilians a “war crime that hurts Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

Another militant group, Islamic Jihad, said that Israeli forces killed one of its gunmen near the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza early on Wednesday.

But the army spokeswoman, who spoke on condition of anonymity under army rules, said that a Palestinian had been spotted approaching the border fence and had tried to lay a bomb, but that he was killed in a blast probably caused by explosives he carried.

Hamas took over Gaza last June after routing forces loyal to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah. The two groups, which had shared power, are now bitter rivals. Mr. Abbas was quoted Wednesday in the London-based newspaper Al Hayat as saying that members of Al Qaeda had infiltrated the Gaza Strip with Hamas cooperation.

“I can say without doubt that Al Qaeda is present in the Palestinian territories and that this presence — especially in Gaza — is facilitated by Hamas,” he said.

Mr. Abbas has called for a halt to the rocket attacks from Gaza.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, said Mr. Abbas’s statements gave “justification for the Israeli aggression.” He forecast an escalation in violence.

Ms. Rice is to arrive in the region on Monday to follow up on talks that Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas began at the peace conference in Annapolis, Md., in November, Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman, said Wednesday.

A Palestinian member of the armed wing of Fatah was killed Wednesday in a raid in Nablus by undercover Israeli commandos, the Israeli military and Palestinian officials said.

The Israeli forces were there to arrest five wanted men from the Fatah military wing and opened fire when they tried to escape, killing one of them, Ibrahim Masimi, 22, Israeli military officials said. They said Mr. Masimi was armed and had recruited suicide bombers in the past.

Omri Sharon, a son of Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli prime minister, began a seven-month prison term on Wednesday after being convicted in 2006 of violating party campaign finance laws, fraud and perjury. The sentence had been delayed because the elder Mr. Sharon, 80, had a severe stroke.

Taghreed El-Khodary contributed reporting from Gaza City, and Rina Castelnuovo reported from Sderot.


12) Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Escalate Attacks against Palestinian Civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Launching Intense Air Strikes against Gaza Strip Targets
Weekly Report: On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory
http://www.pchrgaza .org

--20 Palestinians, including 3 children, were killed by IOF in the Gaza Strip. In addition, one Palestinian was extra-judicially executed in the West Bank.

--8 of the victims, including 3 children and an elderly man, were killed during a series of air strikes.

--5 of the victims were killed by IOF in Khan Yunis.

--28 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and an international human rights defender, were injured by IOF gunfire.

--IOF escalated air strikes against civilian targets in the Gaza Strip

--3 workshops and 2 buildings of the Ministry of Interior were destroyed.

--IOF conducted 36 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and 2 into the Gaza Strip.

--IOF arrested 67 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, and three civilians in the Gaza Strip.

--4 houses were transformed into IOF military sites.

--IOF seized properties of the Islamic Charity and the Islamic Youth Association in Hebron.

--IOF have continued to impose a total siege on the OPT.

--4 Palestinian civilians were arrested by IOF at various checkpoints in the West Bank.

--IOF confiscated 900 donums of agricultural land in villages located southwest of Hebron for the purpose of further constructing the Annexation Wall.

--IOF have continued settlement activities in the West Bank and Israeli settlers have continued to attacks Palestinian civilians and property.

--IOF demolished a house in East Jerusalem.


Israeli violations of international law and humanitarian law escalated in the OPT during the reporting period (21 – 27 February 2008):

Shooting: During the reporting period, IOF killed 21 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and wounded 28 others, including 9 children, and an international human rights defender.

In the Gaza Strip, IOF killed 20 Palestinians, including 9 civilians, and wounded 16 others.

On 27 February, IOF killed 5 Palestinian civilians, including 3 children, and wounded 9 others, including 6 children and a woman. One of the victims was a 7-month baby. On 22 February, IOF killed 2 Palestinian resistance activists and wounded a third, in al-Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. An IOF aircraft fired 2 missiles at the activists. On 23 February, IOF killed 3 Palestinian civilians who were having a picnic near the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, east of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. IOF fired a surface-to-surface- missile at the three civilians. On the same day, IOF fired a surface-to-surface missile at a number of Palestinian resistance activists in the east of Gaza City. An activist and a passing by child were also injured. On 24 February, IOF killed Palestinian resistance activist during an incursion into al-Shouka village, southeast of Rafah. On 25 February, IOF killed 3 Palestinian resistance activists and wounded a fourth in 2 separate attacks in Gaza City and 'Abasan village, east of Khan Yunis. On 26 February, IOF killed a Palestinian civilian during an incursion into al-Qarara village, east of Khan Yunis. On 27 February, IOF extra-judicially executed 5 members of the 'Izziddin al -Qassam Brigades (the armed wing of Hamas) and wounded a sixth in Khan Yunis. An IOF aircraft fired a number of missiles at the vehicle in which the 6 activists were traveling. On the same day, IOF killed a Palestinian child in al-Boreij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. In addition, on the same day, a Palestinian civilian was wounded by IOF gunfire in al-Shouka village, southeast of Rafah.

On 27 February, IOF launched a series of air strikes against civilian targets in the Gaza Strip. The air-strikes destroyed 2 buildings of the Palestinian Ministry of Interior and 3 workshops. A number of houses were also damaged.

In the West Bank, on 27 February, an IOF undercover unit extra-judicially executed a member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (an armed wing of Fatah movement) and wounded four others and a worker in Nablus. The victim was included in an amnesty list issued by IOF several months ago.

Six Palestinian civilians and an American human rights defender were injured when IOF troops used force to disperse a peaceful demonstration protesting the construction of the Annexation Wall in Bal'ein village, west of Ramallah, on 22 February. Three days later, on 25 February, 2 Palestinian civilians were wounded by an IOF undercover unit that moved into Nablus.

Incursions: During the reporting period, IOF conducted at least 36 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. IOF arrested 67 Palestinian civilians. The number of Palestinian civilians arrested by IOF in the West Bank since the beginning of 2008 stands at 499. IOF also transformed 4 houses into military sites. Additionally, IOF seized the properties of the Islamic Charity and Islamic Youth Association in Hebron and ordered the closure of both associations.

In the Gaza Strip, IOF conducted 2 incursions into Palestinian communities. On 24 February, IOF moved into al-Shouka village, southeast of Rafah. They arrested 3 Palestinian farmers. On 26 February

IOF moved into al-Qarara village, east of Kahn Yunis. During this incursion, IOF killed a Palestinian civilian.

Restrictions on Movement: IOF have continued to impose a tightened siege on the OPT and imposed severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem.

Gaza Strip

To date, IOF have closed all border crossings to the Gaza Strip for more than 18 months continuously. The total siege imposed by IOF on the Gaza Strip has had a disastrous impact on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and has violated the economic and social rights of the Palestinian civilian population, particularly their rights to appropriate living conditions, health and education. It has also paralyzed most economic sectors. Furthermore, severe restrictions have been imposed on the movement of the Palestinian civilian population. The siege of the Gaza Strip has severely impacted the flow of food, medical supplies and other necessities, such as fuel, construction materials and raw materials for various economic sectors. During the reporting period, IOF cut off food and fuel supplies.

Concerning the movement of civilians, during the reporting period, IOF permitted a limited number of Palestinian civilians to pass through Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing in order to travel to the West Bank. Rafah International Crossing Point on the Egyptian border is the sole outlet for the Gaza Strip to the outside world. IOF have closed Rafah International Crossing Point, even though they do not directly control it. They have prevented European observers working at the crossing point form reaching it.

The closure of border crossings deprives the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip of their right to freedom of movement, education and health. IOF have continued to impose severe restrictions on fishing in the Gaza Strip. Fishermen have been subjected to intensive monitoring by IOF, which use helicopter gunships and gunboats to monitor the fishermen. The Oslo Accords allow Palestinian fishermen to go fishing up to 20 nautical miles away from the Gaza seashore.

West Bank

IOF have continued to impose severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians. Thousands of Palestinian civilians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been denied access to Jerusalem. IOF have established many checkpoints around and inside the city. Restrictions of the movement of Palestinian civilians often escalate on Fridays to prevent them from praying at the al-Aqsa Mosque. IOF often violently assault Palestinian civilians who attempt to bypass checkpoints and enter the city. IOF have also tightened the siege imposed on Palestinian communities in the West Bank. IOF positioned at various checkpoints in the West Bank have continued to impose severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians. IOF also erected more checkpoints on the main roads and intersections in the West Bank. During the reporting period, IOF troops positioned at various checkpoints in the West Bank arrested 4 Palestinian civilians.

Settlement Activities: IOF have continued settlement activities and Israeli settlers living in the OPT in violation of international humanitarian law have continued to attack Palestinian civilians and property. On 21 February, Israeli police arrested Ghada Mohammed al-Ja'bari, 17, from her house, which is located opposite to "Kiryat Arba" settlement, southeast of Hebron. The police claimed that she attacked Israeli settlers when she was passing in the street adjacent to a building seized by settlers. On 22 February, IOF troops positioned near al-Rujbi building, which has been seized by Israeli settlers for nearly one year, in al-Ras neighborhood in the southeast of Hebron, broke windows of a number of Palestinian civilian vehicles parking in the area, claiming that they endanger the movement of Israeli settlers in the area. In the context of the policy of land confiscation for the purpose of the construction of the Annexation Wall in the West Bank, 21 and 22 February, IOF handed a military order to a number of Palestinian farmer confiscating 900 donums of agricultural land in al-Zahiriya, Dura and Arab al-Ramadin villages, southwest of Hebron.

Israeli Violations Documented during the Reporting Period (21 – 27 February 2008)

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13) Study Finds Manufacturing Crisis Hits African Americans Harder
United Steel Workers of America

A study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research has found that the share of African-Americans in manufacturing jobs fell from 23.9 percent in 1979 to 9.8 percent last year.

The report, "The Decline in African-American Representation in Unions and Manufacturing, 1979-2007," by economist John Schmitt and senior research associate Ben Zipperer, details the simultaneous sharp decline in both black employment in manufacturing and the unionization rates of black workers.

The study incorporated data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey and also found that manufacturing workers of any race are now no more likely to be union members than workers in any other sector of the economy.

According to Schmitt and Zipperer, unionization rates among African Americans dropped from 31.7 to 15.7 percent between 1983 and 2007. Unionization rates also dropped among whites and Hispanics during that period, but not as dramatically as those for African Americans.
Click here:
for link to PDF of the study.


14) Real Weekly Earnings Continue To Tumble
Inflation Erodes Working Class Purchasing Power
United Steel Workers of America

According to figures released by the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics, real average weekly earnings for most U.S. workers fell 0.5 percent in January 2008.

In 2007, real weekly pay of an average full-time or part-time production worker or other non-supervisory worker (blue collar workers) declined in seven months, remained unchanged in two months, and increased in only three months, according to BLS's revised figures.

Average weekly pay fell to $598.18 last month, a loss of 42 cents from $598.60 in December and $19.52 more than the $578.66 average in January 2007.

But after adjustment for inflation, real average weekly pay fell to $278.27 last month, down $1.42 from $279.69 in December and $3.86 less than the $282.13 average in January 2007.

Earnings figures are derived from BLS's monthly payroll survey of 400,000 businesses.

Inflation, conversely, driven up by higher energy prices, is growing about twice as fast as was the case one year ago. These trends have important implications. First, falling real wages will likely lead to diminished consumption, reinforcing slower macroeconomic growth. Second, the reality of squeezed paychecks for most workers helps to explain the primacy of economic concerns among voters in the presidential primaries.


EI's ongoing coverage of the Gaza siege:


Palestine : Diaries: Live from Palestine:

By Sami Abu Salem, Live from Palestine, 28 February 2008

The innocent laughter of six-month-old baby Mohammed
al-Bor'i stopped forever on Wednesday night when shrapnel
from an Israeli missile and rubble struck the infant in
the head, minutes after he enjoyed his last meal. "The
baby sucked milk, he was playing with his mother; I was
reading a book when a rocket hit the Ministry of
Interior," said Nasser al-Bor'i, the baby's father. Sami
Abu Salem reports from Gaza.


Palestine : Human Rights:

Report, Al Mezan, 28 February 2008

The Israeli Occupation Forces intensified their
indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets in the Gaza
Strip. Yesterday night and this morning saw intensive air
strikes, six of which targeted government buildings and
industrial and commercial facilities. As a result, eight
persons were killed, including a four-month-old infant,
and numerous homes were damaged.


Palestine : Diaries: Live from Palestine:

By Rami Almeghari, Live from Palestine, 28 February 2008

On 25 February, the besieged people of Gaza spoke out
against the Israeli-imposed closure of their territory
when thousands of Palestinian men, women, schoolchildren
and members of parliament formed a human chain on the main
roads along the border with Israel. EI correspondent Rami
Almeghari reports from Gaza.


Palestine : Human Rights:

Report, The Electronic Intifada, 28 February 2008

JERUSALEM/GAZA, 28 February (IRIN) - A main office of the
Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) was severely
damaged in an Israeli air strike late on 27 February. A
five-month-old baby was killed, and a mobile clinic unit
and other medical supplies were destroyed in the attack.

Palestine : Human Rights:

By Report, Al Mezan, 27 February 2008

Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) killed a farmer while he
was near his home in al-Qarara village, north to the town
of Khan Younis. IOF also fired artillery into eastern
Bureij refugee camp. As a result, one Palestinian was
killed. The IOF also shelled two cars while they were
traveling on a road that linked the former Israeli
settlements in western Khan Younis.


16) Border Patrol Agent’s Trial in Killing of Illegal Immigrant Starts in Arizona
February 28, 2008

TUCSON — In a patch of desert just north of Mexico, what began as a relatively routine interception a year ago ended when a Border Patrol agent shot and killed an illegal immigrant at close range.

Whether the agent’s action was murder or self-defense is being resolved at a trial that began this week in the heated atmosphere over illegal immigration.

The agent, Nicholas W. Corbett, 40, was charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and negligent homicide for a shooting that prosecutors say was unprovoked as the immigrant, Francisco Javiér Domínguez, 22, was surrendering.

The prosecutor, Grant Woods, a former state attorney general, said Wednesday at the trial that Agent Corbett had lied to supervisors about what occurred. Scientific evidence, Mr. Woods said, overwhelmingly supported the accounts of Mr. Domínguez’s companions, all relatives.

“We all respect the Border Patrol and law enforcement, but you don’t kill somebody who is trying to surrender,” he told the jury.

Agent Corbett’s lawyer, Sean Chapman, said the agent, who has been assigned to administrative work, opened fire after Mr. Domínguez, angry and frustrated at the prospect of being arrested, had threatened to “crush his skull” with a stone.

The accounts by his companions are unreliable, Mr. Chapman said, because they were “corrupted and influenced” by Mexican consular officials who met them afterward. The Cochise County Sheriff’s Department, he added, “did a horrible investigation.”

Tensions along the border are increasing. Human rights groups on both sides accuse the Border Patrol of overly aggressive tactics. The agency says its officers face increasing violence from smugglers frustrated at tightened enforcement.

The Border Patrol would not comment on the trial, a rare criminal prosecution of an agent for on-duty action. The only other agent in a recent murder trial was acquitted in 1994, also in Arizona.

The agency recorded 987 assaults on agents in the last year, often with stones, almost three times the 2002 number.

In the last two years, officials said, agents have killed 12 people and injured 116. A spokesman for the patrol, Ramon Rivera, said other data was not available.

The patrol has said it tries to respond with nonlethal weapons when possible, but even that has caused friction. This month, Mexico demanded that the patrol stop firing tear gas into Tijuana neighborhoods to stop the throwing of stones at agents.

The case of two other agents, Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos, continues to linger. They were convicted two years ago in federal court in Texas of assault, civil rights violations and other charges in the shooting of an unarmed drug smuggler. That case has been a cause célèbre for conservative commentators. They have argued in vain for a presidential pardon for the agents.

About a dozen supporters of Agent Corbett demonstrated on Tuesday at the courthouse, carrying American flags and signs reading “Free Corbett” and “Support the Border Patrol.”

Agent Corbett nodded and shook their hands as he walked in with his lawyers and then gave a quick glance at a shrine that human rights groups had set up in Mr. Domínguez’s honor.

The rights groups say this case is part and parcel for a patrol too quick to use deadly force. “If Agent Corbett is not found guilty, it will send a message to all members of the Border Patrol that they are free to do as they wish, including murdering migrants,” said a spectator at the trial, Cecile Lumer of Citizens for Border Solutions, a group in Bisbee.

Agent Corbett and Mr. Domínguez’s family members sat on opposite sides of the courtroom. Mr. Domínguez’s mother, María, sobbed when Mr. Woods displayed a photo of her son, who worked at a factory in New York.

The shooting was 100 yards from the border. Mr. Woods said Mr. Domínguez was trying to take relatives to the New York region to work. After the Border Patrol saw them and others in their group broke off, the Domínguez group tried to return to Mexico. Agent Corbett drove up, circled them in his truck and exited holding his gun, Mr. Woods said. He ordered group members to their knees and struck Mr. Domínguez as he struggled, to make him comply. Mr. Domínguez, Mr. Woods added, was shot from less than a foot away. The bullet entered under an armpit, pierced the heart and lodged in the abdomen. Mr. Domínguez died at the scene.

Mr. Chapman did not dispute that Mr. Domínguez had been shot at close range, saying it was in self-defense because he was about to strike Agent Corbett with a stone.

“Nicholas Corbett did not want to shoot this man,” Mr. Chapman said. “But if he hadn’t done it, he might be dead today.”


17) Former Prosecutor to Testify for Detainee
February 28, 2008

Until four months ago, Col. Morris D. Davis was the chief prosecutor at Guantánamo Bay and the most colorful champion of the Bush administration’s military commission system. He once said sympathy for detainees was nauseating and compared putting them on trial to dragging “Dracula out into the sunlight.”

Then in October he had a dispute with his boss, a general. Ever since, he has been one of those critics who will not go away: a former top insider, with broad shoulders and a well-pressed uniform, willing to turn on the system he helped run.

Still in the military, he has irritated the administration, saying in articles and interviews that Pentagon officials interfered with prosecutors, exerted political pressure and approved the use of evidence obtained by torture.

Now, Colonel Davis has taken his most provocative step, completing his transformation from Guantánamo’s chief prosecutor to its new chief critic. He has agreed to testify at Guantánamo on behalf of one of the detainees, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a driver for Osama bin Laden.

Colonel Davis, a career military lawyer nearing retirement at 49, said that he would never argue that Mr. Hamdan was innocent, but that he was ready to try to put the commission system itself on trial by questioning its fairness. He said that there “is a potential for rigged outcomes” and that he had “significant doubts about whether it will deliver full, fair and open hearings.”

“I’m in a unique position where I can raise the flag and aggravate the Pentagon and try to get this fixed,” he said, acknowledging that he is enjoying some aspects of his new role. He was replaced as chief Guantánamo prosecutor after he stepped down but is still a senior legal official for the Air Force.

Among detainees’ advocates, there has been something of a gasp since it was announced last week that Colonel Davis would be taking the witness stand in April.

Mr. Hamdan’s chief military lawyer, Lt. Cmdr. Brian L. Mizer, said he would offer Colonel Davis to argue that charges against Mr. Hamdan should be dismissed because of improper influence by Pentagon officials over the commission process. Prosecutors may object, and it is unclear how military judges may rule.

But whatever happens, some advocates for detainees say, officials are likely to have difficulty erasing the image of a uniformed former Guantánamo champion challenging them so directly.

Particularly, some of them said, one who was known for scorched-earth attacks on adversaries, be they terror suspects or lawyers. “He was the attack dog for the military commission system,” said Zachary Katznelson, a lawyer for Guantánamo detainees.

Last year as chief prosecutor, Colonel Davis publicly suggested that a Marine defense lawyer for a detainee might be guilty of a crime for using “contemptuous words” about the president when the marine questioned the fairness of the Guantánamo system.

At the time, critics ridiculed Colonel Moe as an administration apologist. But in recent weeks, some of them have described him in nearly heroic terms.

Jennifer Daskal of Human Rights Watch called Colonel Davis the most significant insider to tell what he knew about Guantánamo. “He has put his career on the line,” Ms. Daskal said.

Pentagon officials have steamed about the extraordinary role Colonel Davis has staked out. Some people with Pentagon ties say the unusual story started as a power struggle between Colonel Davis and a Pentagon official who has broad powers over the Guantánamo legal system, Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann, who has declined to comment.

Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Hemingway, a retired military official who once supervised Colonel Davis at the Office of Military Commissions, said this week that he was surprised Colonel Davis was attacking the system he had once championed.

“That’s not whistle-blowing you hear,” General Hemingway said. “It’s a whine.”

In his contentious days at Guantánamo, lawyers who battled him said, Colonel Davis was known for a you’re-with-us-or-you’re-against-us style of news-conference warfare, delivered in an amiable North Carolina twang.

He is an experienced military lawyer, with years of work both in the prosecution and the defense. He is the son of a disabled veteran of World War II, and he is married with one daughter.

In interviews this week he was in his combative mode, challenging Pentagon officials to take lie-detector tests and asserting that commanders had praised him in the past.

He portrayed himself as battling political appointees. But he said he still believed that a military commission system could work. “It’s gotten so tarnished that if we’re going to convince the world that this isn’t some rigged process we have to bend over backwards,” he said. He said the solutions were simple — giving control to military officials. But he suggested darkly that there are “people at key points in the process, that I just don’t know what their allegiance is.”

There is little question that Colonel Davis’s unusual path began with some angry exchanges with General Hartmann last summer. When the colonel resigned as chief military prosecutor, officials disclosed that he had filed a formal complaint asserting that General Hartmann improperly pressed for more war crimes cases and demanded “sexy” cases that would excite the public. An internal report sided with General Hartmann but suggested that he should avoid too much influence over the military prosecutors.

From there, after being reassigned by the Air Force, Colonel Davis found an audience for his accusations.

He told one newspaper that top defense officials discussed the “strategic political value” of putting prominent detainees on trial before the 2008 presidential election. He told another that he had been pressed to hold hearings in closed courtrooms. He wrote op-ed pieces saying General Hartmann had reversed his policy of refusing to use evidence derived through torture.

He told The Nation that the general counsel of the Pentagon, William J. Haynes II, informed him “we can’t have acquittals” at Guantánamo.

In a statement Wednesday a Pentagon official would say only, “We disagree with the assertions made by Colonel Davis.”

Some detainees’ lawyers say they recognize a pattern in Colonel Davis’s approach. He once wrote an article in an Air Force journal offering advice to military leaders on how to handle the media. “Take the offensive,” it said.

Muneer I. Ahmad, a law professor at American University who fought Colonel Davis in a detainee’s case at Guantánamo, said he recognized the strategy in the attacks on Pentagon officials. “It’s his way of trying to reshape what the story is,” Professor Ahmad said.

If it is, Colonel Davis hinted he is not satisfied yet. “I’m hoping at some point to retire, so I can say what I really think,” he said.


18) Hamas and Israel Toughen Stances
March 1, 2008

JERUSALEM — It was a day of threats and protest on Friday in Israel’s conflict with Hamas, with considerably less violence and death than over the previous two days, when more than 30 Palestinians died, five of them children, and one Israeli died in the border town of Sderot.

Tens of thousands of Gazans protested Israel’s repeated raids to halt persistent Palestinian rocket attacks; the Israeli deputy defense minister threatened Hamas with a catastrophe; the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniya, brushed aside Israeli threats to aim at political leaders; and another Palestinian died from wounds received on Thursday.

An Israeli military operation aimed at rocket-launching squads near Jabaliya wounded four people, including two children and their grandmother, according to Dr. Moawiya Hassanain of the Gazan Health Ministry.

Five more Palestinians were wounded when a rocket they were trying to launch exploded.

At least 13 rockets were launched Friday from Gaza toward Israel, the Israeli military said. Five landed in Sderot, one directly hitting a house and lightly wounding a woman. Four other people were treated for shock. Two rockets hit the Sderot cemetery.

But no industrially manufactured Katyusha-style rockets were fired on Friday, after at least eight, smuggled in from Egypt, were launched on the Israeli city of Ashkelon on Thursday. Israel says the rockets were probably manufactured in Iran, but the Gazans lack the mobile launchers normally used for these rockets.

Putting Ashkelon, a city of 120,000 people some 10 miles from northern Gaza, under a persistent threat of rocket attack raises the stakes considerably for Israel and increases pressure on the government to respond in force. Israel has activated a rocket-warning system for Ashkelon like the one in Sderot, which gives residents about 20 seconds to find shelter.

The Israeli deputy defense minister, Matan Vilnai, told army radio that Israel would respond to escalation and “we will not shy away from any action” to halt the rocket fire on Israeli civilians. He called Hamas leaders irresponsible, and said they knew that “by intensifying the rocket fire and extending their reach they are bringing onto themselves a worse catastrophe, as we will use all means to defend ourselves,” including a major ground operation.

Mr. Vilnai used the Hebrew word “shoah,” which means catastrophe or holocaust, and is rarely used for anything other than the Nazi extermination of the Jews.

A spokesman for Mr. Vilnai said he did not mean to make any allusion to the genocide.

The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, has been reluctant to order a major ground operation in Gaza, in part because it would be hard to stop rocket fire without reoccupying most of the strip, from which it withdrew in the summer of 2005. With Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice due to visit Israel next week after a stop in Egypt, which has been counseling restraint, Mr. Olmert would be unlikely to order a major move now.

In any case, the army would prefer warmer weather, which would mean clearer skies. But Israel has been sending messages to its allies that it may have to resort to a ground operation. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in the messages that “Israel is not keen on an offensive, but Hamas is leaving us no choice,” according to the newspaper Yediot Aharonot.

Mr. Barak visited Ashkelon on Friday and said Hamas “will be the one to bear the cost of our response.” But he also told Western diplomats that a major offensive was not “imminent,” a diplomat said on the condition of anonymity.

Inside Gaza, the situation is worsening, Khaled Abdel Shafi, an economist there, said in a telephone interview. Still closed to normal commerce, Gaza has severe shortages of oil, gasoline, medicine and chlorine for drinking water, he said.

“I cannot see a horizon with a solution, and there is no chance that the crossings are going to be opened again,” he said. “Israeli military operations are still taking place, and they only cause more poverty, despair, and will eventually cause a Palestinian reaction.”

Mr. Abdel Shafi criticized both Hamas and Fatah. “They are both attached to their political stances, but the victim is the Palestinian citizen who is suffering from poverty and this division,” he said, adding that ordinary Gazans felt abandoned.

Parallel to the fighting, there has been a diplomatic effort between Egypt and Israel, aided by the European Union and the United States, to negotiate a deal with Hamas. The idea, according to European and Israeli diplomats, is to offer to reopen the Gaza-Egyptian border at Rafah under renewed European monitoring, allow Gazan exports through Rafah, push the Egyptians to patrol the border better, release a captured Israeli soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, and arrange a cease-fire in Gaza, if Hamas promises to stop the rocket attacks.

Even a cease-fire would allow Hamas to continue to build up what is essentially a Palestinian Army on the Hezbollah model.

At the Hamas rally in Gaza, a legislator, Fathi Hamad, urged the Hamas military wing to develop Qassam rockets capable of hitting Tel Aviv.

Mr. Haniya, the Hamas prime minister, called the threat of an Israeli offensive “craziness and hysteria.”

“Gaza today faces a real war, a crazy war led by the enemy against our people,” he said. He accused Arab governments of “encouraging the Israeli aggression” through silence and criticized Washington for supporting Israeli attacks as “legitimate self-defense.”

But the Israeli opposition leader, Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud, said Israel had not hit Hamas hard enough to force it to halt the rocket fire. “We’ve not exacted a sufficient cost from the Hamas terrorist organization,” he told CNN in New York. “I think we have been fighting essentially a war of attrition. They do something, we do something and so on. And the nature of deterrence, of course, is that you change the rules.”


19) Israeli ‘Holocaust’ in Gaza
By Ali Abunimah
The Electronic Intifada
February 29, 2008

Israeli officials began damage limitation efforts after the country’s deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai threatened Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip with a “holocaust.”

The comments came a day after Israeli occupation forces killed 31 Palestinians, nine of them children, one a six-month-old baby, in a series of air raids across the Gaza Strip. Israel claimed that the attacks were in retaliation for a barrage of rockets fired by resistance fighters in the Gaza Strip, which killed one Israeli in the town of Sderot on Wednesday, February 27. Palestinian resistance groups, including Hamas, said the rockets were in retaliation for the extrajudicial execution of five Hamas members carried out by Israel on Wednesday morning. Israeli occupation forces have killed more than 200 Palestinians since the U.S.-sponsored Annapolis peace summit last November. In the same period, five Israelis have been killed by Palestinians.

Speaking to Israeli army radio today, Vilnai said, “the more Qassam [rocket] fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, [the Palestinians] will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves.”

A report on the BBC News website headlined “Israel warns of Gaza ‘holocaust’“ noted that in Israel the word “holocaust”—shoah in Hebrew—is “a term rarely used in Israel outside discussions of the Nazi genocide during World War II.”

The BBC later reported that “many of Mr. Vilnai’s colleagues have quickly distanced themselves from his comments and also tried to downplay them saying he did not mean genocide.” An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, Arye Mekel, claimed that Vilnai used the word “in the sense of a disaster or a catastrophe, and not in the sense of a holocaust.”

The attempt to limit the damage of Vilnai’s comments is not surprising. It was recently revealed how another Israeli official, Major-General Doron Almog, narrowly escaped arrest at London’s Heathrow airport in September 2005, in connection with allegations of war crimes committed against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. British police feared a gunfight if they attempted to board the El Al civilian aircraft on which Almog had arrived and on which he hid until he fled the United Kingdom back to Israel as a fugitive from justice.

Incitement to genocide is a punishable crime under the international Genocide Convention, adopted in 1948 after the Nazi holocaust.

“The 8 Stages of Genocide,” written by Greg Stanton, President of Genocide Watch, sets out a number of warning signs of an impending genocide, which include “dehumanization” of potential victim groups and preparation, whereby potential victims “are often segregated into ghettoes, deported into concentration camps, or confined to a famine-struck region and starved.”

Vilnai’s holocaust threat, however much Israeli officials attempt to qualify it, fits into a consistent pattern of belligerent statements and actions by Israeli officials. Israel has attempted to isolate the population of Gaza, deliberately restricting essential supplies, such as food, medicines and energy, a policy endorsed by the Israeli high court but condemned by international officials as illegal collective punishment.

As The Electronic Intifada has previously reported, dehumanizing statements by Israeli political and religious leaders directed at Palestinians are common (see “Top Israeli rabbis advocate genocide,” The Electronic Intifada, May 31, 2007 and “Dehumanizing the Palestinians,” Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, September 21, 2007)

On February 28, Vilnai’s colleagues added their own inflammatory statements. Cabinet minister Meir Sheetrit stated that Israel should “hit everything that moves” in Gaza “with weapons and ammunition,” adding, “I don’t think we have to show pity for anyone who wants to kill us.”

And today, Tzachi Hanegbi, a senior member of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Kadima party said that Israel should invade Gaza to “topple the Hamas terror regime” and that Israeli forces, which now enforce the occupation of Gaza from the periphery and air, should prepare to remain in the interior of the territory “for years.”

While Israeli leaders escalate the violence and threats, some other top officials and a vast majority of the Israeli public support direct talks with Hamas to achieve a mutual ceasefire, something Hamas has repeatedly offered for months.

“Sixty-four percent of Israelis say the government must hold direct talks with the Hamas government in Gaza toward a cease-fire and the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit,” the Israeli daily Haaretz reported on February 27 citing a Tel Aviv University poll. The report noted that half of Likud supporters and large majorities of Kadima and Labor party voters support such talks and only 28 percent of Israelis still oppose them.

Knesset Member Yossi Beilin, leader of the left-Zionist Meretz-Yahad party, called for an agreed ceasefire with Hamas, noting that “there have been at least two requests from Hamas, via a third party, to accept a cease-fire,” Haaretz reported on February 29. Israel’s public security minister, Avi Dichter, visiting Sderot the previous day, criticized Israel’s military escalation, saying, “Whoever talks about entering and occupying the Gaza Strip, these are populist ideas which I don’t connect to, and in my opinion, no intelligent person does either.” And, in an interview with the American magazine Mother Jones, published on February 19, the former head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, Efraim Halevy, repeated calls for Israel and the U.S. to negotiate a ceasefire with Hamas. Dismissing lurid rhetoric about the group, Halevy stated that “Hamas is not al-Qaida,” and “is not subservient to Tehran.”

The question remains as to why when the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians, some senior Israeli officials, and Hamas leaders are all talking about a ceasefire, the Israeli government refuses to accept one and the U.S. refuses to call for one. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has blamed the escalating bloodshed entirely on Hamas, and has failed to call for a ceasefire. This echoes her support for Israel’s merciless 2006 bombardment of Lebanon, which she notoriously celebrated as being “the birth pangs of a new Middle East.”

The Palestinian and Israeli populations are exhausted by the relentless bloodshed, however unequal its toll. They are paying the price of a failed policy, pushed by Washington and its local clients, which attempts to demonize, isolate and destroy any movement that resists the order that the United States seeks to impose on the region.

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, 2006).


20) Cuba Signs 2 Rights Treaties Castro Long Opposed
[Dear reader, I can't help commenting on this article--just to point out to you that this article appeared in the Times just a day after their headline article declaring that the U.S. incarcerates one in one hundred adults--more than any other country on the planet and more than most countries, put-together--the overwhelming majority for drug offences, the majority of which are for marijuana and, when there are far more resources put into incarceration than into drug rehabilitation or the abolition of poverty! And, in addition, while there are at least 598 prisoners-without-rights held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay alone! So Cuba has 200 prisons? California has at least 33 State Prisons; eight Federal prisons; and 58 counties where there are at least one or more jails such as San Francisco with 5; Los Angeles with 9; Orange County with 4; Riverside with 6; Fresno with 4; in all, way over 127 jails and prisons in California alone. There are over 170,000 prisoners in the State prison system alone. The California Youth Detention facilities--over 16 of them--hold over 8,984 kids!]
March 1, 2008

HAVANA — Just days after Raúl Castro took office as this country’s new president, Cuba’s communist government signed two important international human rights treaties that Fidel Castro had long opposed, another sign the new administration may be willing to set a new course.

It remains to be seen whether the government will live up to the accords and what the signing of the two pacts will mean for political prisoners on the island. The foreign minister, Felipe Pérez Roque, said after a signing ceremony in New York on Thursday that the government still had reservations about some provisions.

Elizardo Sánchez, head of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, a nongovernmental group, said the signing was “positive news because the signing of these pacts is an old demand from inside Cuba and from the international community.”

“I hope Cuba honors the letter and spirit of the law of these pacts, but I am not sure it will,” Mr. Sánchez told The Associated Press.

In a statement published here on Friday, Mr. Pérez Roque asserted that the Cuban government had always upheld the rights outlined in the two international agreements, since the moment Fidel Castro seized power in 1959 and then established a one-party totalitarian state.

“This signing formalizes and reaffirms the rights protected by each agreement, which my country has systematically been upholding since the triumph of the revolution,” he said.

One of the pacts, the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, guarantees “civil and political freedom,” including the right to self-determination, peaceful assembly, freedom of religion, privacy, freedom to leave a country, and equal protection before the law.

At present, Cuba severely restricts the travel of its citizens, bans any political parties other than the communist party and prohibits independent political meetings.

Mr. Elizardo’s rights group estimates that there are at least 230 political prisoners in Cuba’s network of 200 jails and detention centers. Amnesty International has said there are at least 58 “prisoners of conscience” on the island, making Cuba one of the most repressive governments in the world when it comes to free speech.

The other pact signed Thursday, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, requires countries to ensure the right to work, fair wages, freedom to form and join trade unions, social security, education and the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

In 2001, Fidel Castro criticized that covenant, saying it “could serve as a weapon and a pretext for imperialism to try to divide and fracture the workers, create artificial unions, and decrease their political and social power and influence.”

Mr. Pérez Roque said Cuba had not dropped its opposition to independent labor unions. He said the country was signing the covenants now because the old United Nations Human Rights Commission had been replaced by a new Human Rights Council in 2006. The new council dropped Cuba last year from the list of countries whose rights records warranted investigation, a move the United States strongly opposed.

The Cuban foreign minister accused the United States of having used the old commission for “brutal pressure and blackmail” against Cuba.

While human rights activists say it is premature to tell whether Raúl Castro will liberate political prisoners, there have been some small signs the new president favors greater freedom of speech.

The younger Castro brother has openly encouraged more debate and criticism in the society. Some free speech advocates took it as a good sign that the government held back in punishing a group of students who sharply questioned the president of the National Assembly recently over the travel ban.

Earlier this month, Cuba released four human rights activists who had been imprisoned during a crackdown in 2003, in which 73 people were arrested, and allowed them to migrate to Spain.

Though human rights advocated welcomed the release of the four prisoners, most said Cuba still has a long way to go before people can speak their minds freely. “The people are bound hand and foot, intimidated,” Mr. Sánchez, the head of the Cuban rights commission, said in an interview this week.




North Carolina: Ministers Say Police Destroyed Records
National Briefing | South
Three ministers accused a Greensboro police officer of ordering officers to destroy about 50 boxes of police files related to the fatal shooting of five people at an anti-Ku Klux Klan rally in 1979. The Revs. Cardes Brown, Gregory Headen and Nelson Johnson said an active-duty officer told them he and at least three other officers were told to destroy the records in 2004 or 2005, shortly after a seven-member panel that had been convened to research the shootings requested police files related to them. The ministers did not identify the officer who provided the information. On Nov. 3, 1979, a heavily armed caravan of Klansman and Nazi Party members confronted the rally. Five marchers were killed and 10 were injured. Those charged were later acquitted in state and federal trials. The city and some Klan members were found liable for the deaths in civil litigation.
February 27, 2008

Gaza: Israeli Army Clears Itself in 21 Deaths
World Briefing | Middle East
The army said no legal action would be taken against military officials over an artillery strike in Beit Hanun in 2006 in which an errant shell hit residential buildings and killed 21 Palestinian civilians. An army investigation concluded that the shell was fired based on information that militants were intending to fire rockets from the area, an army statement said. The civilian deaths, it said, were “directly due to a rare and severe failure” in the artillery control system. The army’s military advocate general concluded that there was no need for further investigation.
February 27, 2008

World Briefing | Asia
Taiwan: Tons of Fish Wash Up on Beaches
About 45 tons of fish have washed up dead along 200 miles of beach on the outlying Penghu Islands after an unusual cold snap. News reports said 10 times as many dead fish were still in the water.
February 23, 2008

Zimbabwe: Inflation Breaks the Six-Figure Mark
World Briefing | Africa
The government’s statistics office said the inflation rate surged to a new record of 100,580 percent in January, up from 66,212 percent in December. Rangarirai Mberi, news editor of the independent Financial Gazette in Harare, said the state of the economy would feature prominently in next month’s presidential and parliamentary elections. “Numbers no longer shock people,” he said. Zimbabweans have learned to live in a hyperinflationary environment, he added, “but the question is, how long can this continue?”
February 21, 2008




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


Stop the Termination or the Cherokee Nation


We Didn't Start the Fire

I Can't Take it No More

The Art of Mental Warfare

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




Port of Olympia Anti-Militarization Action Nov. 2007


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

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

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

—MALCOLM X, 1965


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


LAPD vs. Immigrants (Video)


Dr. Julia Hare at the SOBA 2007


"We are far from that stage today in our era of the absolute
lie; the complete and totalitarian lie, spread by the
monopolies of press and radio to imprison social
consciousness." December 1936, "In 'Socialist' Norway,"
by Leon Trotsky: “Leon Trotsky in Norway” was transcribed
for the Internet by Per I. Matheson [References from
original translation removed]


Wealth Inequality Charts


MALCOLM X: Oxford University Debate


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


YouTube clip of Che before the UN in 1964


The Wealthiest Americans Ever
NYT Interactive chart
JULY 15, 2007


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


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


Which country should we invade next?


My Favorite Mutiny, The Coup


Michael Moore- The Awful Truth


Morse v. Frederick Supreme Court arguments


Free Speech 4 Students Rally - Media Montage


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


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


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


"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]


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]


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

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

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

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

READY FOR PURCHASE! (pass the word about this powerful
educational tool to friends, family, schools, parents, teachers,
and other related people and organizations to contact
me (, 303-903-2103) for information
about how they can purchase the DVD and have me come
to their children's school to show the film and to interact
in a questions and answers discussion about the Sand
Creek Massacre.

Happy Holidays!

Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films+, LLC,+Don

(scroll down when you get there])

SHOP: Articles at">

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