Sunday, February 10, 2008



SF Solidarity Rally For "Freightliner Five"
Saturday, Feb 23, 2008 3:00 PM
At: ILWU Local 34
801-2nd St., at Embarcadero next to the ballpark
San Francisco

Five fired union leaders of the UAW Cleveland, North Carolina Freightliner truck
plant are fighting to get their jobs back. This integrated union leadership was standing up for decent health and safety conditions and benefits.
This meeting is also inviting other workers in struggle to participate and speak
about their struggle.

"Freightliner Five" Solidarity Tour
Solidarity Rally For UAW 3520 "Freightliner Five" Fired Workers

In April 2007, UAW 3520 workers at the Cleveland, North Carolina Freightliner truck plant went on strike over health and safety and other conditions and benefits. In retaliation, the Daimler Benz owned company fired 5 strike leaders. They are known as the Freightliner Five and have been fighting for their jobs back for nearly a year. This struggle is not just about the Freightliner workers but union organizing throughout the South.

If Freightliner can get away with this illegal firing, other workers will think twice about joining a union. Allen Bradley and Franklin Torrence, two of the Freightliner fired workers will be speaking about their struggle at this meeting and will also be meeting with other workers in Northern California.

Saturday, Feb 23, 2008 3:00 PM
At: ILWU Local 34
801-2nd St., at Embarcadero next to the ballpark, San Francisco

Initial Speakers For Meeting:
Jack Heyman, Executive Board ILWU Local 10*
Jack Rasmus, President UAW 1982 BA Chapter*
Gloria La Riva, Pres. NC MWU-CWA 39521*
Alan Bradley, Fired UAW Vice Chair Bargaining Committee & Skilled Trades Chair
Franklin Torrence, Fired UAW 3520 Civil Rights Chair and Executive Committee
* for identification only

Please come to this support meeting and learn directly about their struggle
This effort has been recently endorsed by Ken Riley, president of ILA 1422 in Charleston, South Carolina, Donna Dewitt, president of the South Carolina AFL-CIO, Labor Video Project, Transport Workers Solidarity Committee, Labor Action Coalition, Facts For Working People, Cynthia McKinney, former congress woman, ISO, Joseph Prisco, president of AMFA Local 9*, San Francisco Peace and Freedom Party (* for identification only)

To support these fired workers, you can also send checks payable to:
Justice 4 Five Solidarity Fund, P.O. Box 5144, Statesville, N.C. 28687.

N. California Freightliner Five Support Committee
For information and if you would like your union or organization to endorse call: (415)282-1908
South Carolina AFL-CIO President Urges Labor Movement Support For Freightliner 5 - 01/30/08

By Doug Cunningham

Five UAW Local 3520 bargaining committee members fired by Freightliner in April of 2007, after a one-day strike are getting some support now from the labor movement. The UAW International isn’t supporting the workers' efforts to get their jobs back because the one-day strike was authorized only by the local and not by the International UAW. South Carolina AFL-CIO President, Donna Dewitt supports these five UAW bargaining committee members fired by Freightliner and she says they deserve some solidarity from the entire labor movement.

[Dewitt]: "They weren’t happy with the contract offer, and they were standing up for their rights. And I don’t know exactly what happened with UAW, but all I know is that there are five UAW members and officers of a local that have been out of work now going on ten months. So I would appeal to everyone to reach out to help raise funds for these folks and their efforts to be rehired. They need their jobs back."

The fired UAW Freightliner workers are visiting several cities, including Detroit, Chicago, and San Francisco,to tell their story and get support. To support these workers, you can go to to donate money to the Justice 4 Five Solidarity Fund.
Posted 01/29/2008 -


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


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.
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:

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.
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:


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) Connecticut City Plans to Team Its Police With Federal Immigration Agents
February 6, 2008

2) Immigrants Come Here Because Globalization Took Their Jobs Back There
By Jim Hightower, Hightower Lowdown
Posted on February 7, 2008, Printed on February 7, 2008

3) Israeli Forces Kill 7 in Gaza
February 8, 2008

4) Next Year’s War Costs Estimated at $170 Billion or More
“WASHINGTON — The military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost $170 billion in the next fiscal year over and above the $515.4 billion regular Pentagon budget that President Bush has proposed, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said on Wednesday.”
February 6, 2008

5) Danbury Council Vote on Policing Immigrant Community Draws Thousands to Protest
February 7, 2008

6) A Long Story
Op-Ed Columnist
February 8, 2008

7) Nebraska Supreme Court Outlaws Electric Chair
February 8, 2008

8) Israel Reduces Electricity Flow to Gaza
February 9, 2008

9) Lives and a Georgia Community’s Anchor Are Lost
February 9, 2008

10) G.I. Tells of Ordering Unarmed Iraqi’s Death
February 9, 2008

11) Growing Pains of Universal Coverage
February 9, 2008

12) Lilly Considers $1 Billion Fine to Settle Case
January 31, 2008

13) Middletown Times Herald-Record, February 10, 2008
More and more maxed out and defaulting
Counties report slew of credit-card judgments
By Steve Israel

14) Because They Said So
February 10, 2008

15) U.S. Soldier Convicted of Killing Iraqi
Filed at 12:57 p.m. ET
February 10, 2008

16) Israelis Urge Tougher Action in Gaza
February 10, 2008

17) Proposal in Texas for a Public-Private Toll Road System Raises an Outcry
February 10, 2008

18) In Reversal, Courts Uphold Local Immigration Laws
News Analysis
February 10, 2008

19) Global Finance Leaders Warn of Risk From U.S. Housing Woe
February 10, 2008


1) Connecticut City Plans to Team Its Police With Federal Immigration Agents
February 6, 2008

DANBURY, Conn. — When baseball season begins, Mayor Mark D. Boughton will probably throw out the first pitch again for this city’s Dominican baseball team. On Sundays, he sometimes can be found on the sidelines at the soccer games organized by many of the ethnic communities here. And he makes it a point to be at the annual Hajj festival held by the sizable Muslim population.

But on Wednesday night, Mr. Boughton, who governs a city of nearly 80,000 residents — 90,000 when illegal immigrants are included — and the Common Council are expected to approve a plan that would require the local police to work with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in rounding up workers who are in the country illegally.

“The intention is to target criminal aliens,” the mayor said in an interview. “It’s not going to be the horrible thing the opponents think it’s going to be. On the other side, it’s not the sweeps and roundups the far right want it to be.”

During Mr. Boughton’s six years in office, the city has tried to shut down the backyard volleyball games that have became a popular, and sometimes raucous, pastime among the Ecuadorean community. Last year, the Council passed an ordinance requiring a parade permit for gatherings of more than 25 people, a measure that was intended to stop the celebrations that have bubbled up on Main Street when Brazil’s team was in the World Cup soccer tournament.

And in September 2006, undercover police officers assisted federal agents in picking up 11 immigrants in a city park, telling them that they were being taken to a job site. Instead, the workers were arrested and turned over for deportation.

Now comes what is viewed as the most aggressive move yet: a proposal to have Danbury police officers work with federal agents in enforcing the nation’s immigration policies.

While Mayor Boughton said the proposal was brought to him by other Council members, he — like the police chief and the city attorney — has been a vocal supporter of the collaboration with federal agents.

Such arrangements have not always worked out well. Last fall in Greenport, on Long Island, a cooperative effort between federal agents and the local police so enraged Nassau County officials that they threatened to stop working with immigration agents. In a search for gang members, armed squads burst into homes at night, terrorizing families and arresting anyone who lacked identity papers, even if the agents had raided the wrong house.

Danbury is a study in contrasts, which are perhaps most apparent on two streets named for the hills they climb. On Deer Hill Road, expansive homes line both sides of the street where factory owners once lived when this town was known as the “Hatting Capital of the World.” (Danbury turned out five million hats annually at the turn of the 20th century.)

Not far away is Town Hill Avenue, where two-family houses have been converted into four- and five-family residences, evidenced by the multiple satellite dishes that line the rooftops. In 2005, a neighborhood inspection team was formed, in part to ferret out illegal attic and basement apartments that often house dozens of illegal immigrants and are rife with fire code violations. One row of houses is known as “the barracks.”

Below the hills sits a compact city with its Main Street, now mostly home to Brazilian restaurants, ethnic hair salons and Western Union outlets; the growing campus of Western Connecticut State University; a regional airport; one of the country’s busiest shopping malls; and the corporate headquarters of Ethan Allen furniture and Praxair, a manufacturer of industrial gases.

Despite protests from a vocal minority who say that deputizing local officers will lead to racial profiling and the erosion of community trust, the Common Council voted, 19 to 2, in favor of the immigration crackdown in a preliminary decision last month.

“Every single person in Danbury is either an immigrant or the descendant of an immigrant, and yet there is a lot of vitriol against immigration,” said Councilman Paul Rotello, who voted against the proposal. “For all Danbury’s cosmopolitan airs, it really is a working-class place, and nothing is more threatening to the working class than immigration.”

From the city ordinances aimed at immigrant communities to his frequent appearances on the Lou Dobbs and Joe Scarborough television programs, Mr. Boughton has gained a reputation as an official willing to take on the thorny issue of immigration.

Yet the mayor said he did not set out to make it the central theme of his administration. “It’s not my cause,” Mr. Boughton said. “It’s not something I woke up to and said, ‘Let’s take on illegal immigration.’ ”

Al Robinson, whose blog,, is largely devoted to the mayor’s activities, says Mr. Boughton underwent a transformation in 2005 after being criticized by many residents here for proposing a day labor center to stop workers from gathering in Kennedy Park.

“He just didn’t know the level of anti-immigration feeling in the area,” Mr. Robinson said. “It almost seemed like overnight he switched his whole policy from someone interested in helping immigrants to someone who just wanted to enforce immigration law.”

Mayor Boughton said the crackdown is supported by what he calls “the middle 60-70 percent” of the city’s residents. And last year, he received 65 percent of the vote for mayor, giving him a fourth two-year term. He is the city’s longest-serving Republican mayor.

“There’s no question that illegal immigration has a profound impact on the entire community,” Mr. Boughton said. “The expenses, health care, the schools, social service programs, and that’s a direct reflection on the federal government’s failure to get the job done.”

If that is the case, Danbury has its work cut out. According to the Census Bureau’s 2006 population estimates, Danbury has a greater proportion of foreign-born residents than any other city in Connecticut, 34 percent of the population, up from 27 percent in 2000. Statewide, 12.9 percent of the population was born outside the United States.

Mayor Boughton, 43, takes pride in the city, where he can trace his ancestry back 300 years. The men in his family, of English and French Huguenot descent, were carpenters for generations, until his father, Donald, broke the mold and entered politics, serving one term as mayor in the 1970s.

Mark Boughton taught social studies at Danbury High School for 14 years before following his father into politics and winning election to the Connecticut General Assembly, where he served in the House from 1999 to 2001.

As mayor, Mr. Boughton attends three or four social events on most Saturday nights.

The mayor denies claims that his stance against illegal immigration is an attempt to position him for higher office. Still, he said, “if an opportunity arises, obviously I’ll look at it.”

“I have ambitions,” he said. “I wouldn’t want somebody in my position not to have ambitions. But right now, my No. 1 priority is the city, to leave the city better off than what I inherited.”


2) Immigrants Come Here Because Globalization Took Their Jobs Back There
By Jim Hightower, Hightower Lowdown
Posted on February 7, 2008, Printed on February 7, 2008

The wailing in our country about the "invasion of immigrants" has been long and loud. As one complainant put it, "Few of their children in the country learn English ...The signs in our streets have inscriptions in both languages ... Unless the stream of the importation could be turned they will soon so outnumber us that all the advantages we have will not be able to preserve our language, and even our government will become precarious."

That's not some diatribe from one of today's Republican presidential candidates. It's the anxious cry of none other than Ben Franklin, deploring the wave of Germans pouring into the colony of Pennsylvania in the 1750s. Thus, anti-immigrant eruptions are older than the United States itself, and they've flared up periodically throughout our history, targeting the Irish, French, Italians, Chinese, and others. Even George W's current project to wall off our border is not a new bit of nuttiness -- around the time of the nation's founding, John Jay, who later became the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, proposed "a wall of brass around the country for the exclusion of Catholics."

Luckily for the development and enrichment of our country, these past public frenzies ultimately failed to exclude the teeming masses, and those uproars now appear through the telescope of time to have been some combination of ridiculous panic, political demagoguery and xenophobic ugliness. Still, this does not mean that the public's anxiety and simmering anger about today's massive influx of Mexicans coming illegally across our 2,000-mile shared border is illegitimate. However, most of what the politicians and pundits are saying about it is illegitimate.

Wedge issue

There is way too much xenophobia, racism and demagoguery at play around illegal immigration, but such crude sentiments are not what is bringing this problem to a national political boil. Polls show -- as do conversations at any Chat & Chew Cafe in the country -- that there is a deep and genuine alarm about the issue among the nonxenophobic, nonracist American majority. In particular, workaday families are fearful about what an endless flow of low-wage workers portends for their economic future, and they're not getting good answers from Republicans, Democrats, corporate leaders or the media.

For the GOP candidates in this year's presidential run, the contest is coming down to who can be the most nativist knucklehead. They accuse each other of not wanting to punish immigrant children enough, of not being absolutists on "English-only" proposals, of having coddled illegal entrants in the past with amnesty proposals and sanctuaries, and of not being hawkish enough on sealing off and militarizing the border.

The leader of the anti-immigrant Republican pack is Tom Tancredo, a Colorado congress-critter who based his ill-fated presidential campaign on immigrant bashing. This goober is so nasty he'd scare small children. His website screeched that immigrants are "pushing drugs, raping kids, destroying lives," and his campaign slogan is a sledgehammer demand: "Deport those who don't belong. Make sure they never come back." As for illegal immigrants, Tom thinks that the term "illegal" is too soft, preferring to demonize immigrants as "aliens." Tancredo doesn't merely rant, he foams at the mouth, maniacally warning about waves of Mexican terrorists who are "coming to kill me and you and your children." Accused of trying to turn America into a gated community, he exulted, "You bet!"

At least he's taken a position, even if it's un-American and loopy. Democratic leaders, on the other hand, have mostly tried to do a squishy shuffle, wanting to beef up law enforcement against illegal immigrants while also mouthing soothing words about the good work ethic of our friends south of the border and offering a bureaucratic rigmarole to allow some of the younger ones to gain permanent residency in our country. Worse, such corporate Democrats as Rep. Rahm Emanuel urge the party's candidates either to adopt the Republican's punitive message or simply to try ducking the issue.

Which brings us to the wall, both figuratively and literally. The fact that we are resorting to the construction of an enormous fence between two friendly nations admits to an abject failure by policy makers, who are so bereft of ideas, honesty, courage and morality that all they can do is to try walling off the problem.

We've had experience here in Texas with the futility of tall border fences. Molly Ivins reported a beer-induced incident that took place in 1983. Walling off Mexico had been proposed back then by the Reaganauts, and a test fence had been built way down in the Big Bend outpost of Terlingua. This little town also happened to be the site of a renowned chili cookoff that Molly helped judge, and it attracted a big crowd of impish, beer-drinking chiliheads.

There stood the barrier, 17 feet tall and topped with barbwire. It didn't take many beers before the first-ever "Terlingua Memorial Over, Under, or Through the Mexican Fence Climbing Contest" was cooked up. Winning time: 30 seconds.

Yet here come the border sealers again. Bush & Co. (including Democrats who have allowed the funding) is putting up an initial $1.2 billion to start building this version of the wall, which is projected to cost up to $60 billion over the next 25 years to build and maintain. It's a monster wall -- two or three 40-foot-high rows of reinforced fencing that take a swath of land 150 feet wide and stretch for 700 miles.

The Mexican government and people are insulted and appalled by the wall; ranchers, mayors and families living on either side of the border hate it; environmentalists are aghast at its destructive impact on the ecology of the area. Still, it's being built. Indeed, a 2005 federal act contained a little-noticed section authorizing Bush's Homeland Security czar to suspend any laws that stand in the way of building the wall. Current czar Michael Chertoff has already used this unprecedented authority to waive 19 statutes, including the Endangered Species, Clean Water and National Historic Preservation Acts.

All this for something that will not work. As Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona put it, "Show me a 50-foot wall and I'll show you a 51-foot ladder." People have literally been dying to cross into the United States, and it's not possible to build a wall tall enough to stop them. They will keep coming.


The question that policy makers have not faced honestly is this one: Why do these immigrants come? The answer is not that they are pulled by our jobs and government benefits, but that they are pushed by the abject poverty that their families face in Mexico. That might seem like a mere semantic difference, but it's huge if you're trying to develop a policy to stop the human flood across our border.

Although you never hear it mentioned in debates on the issue, you might start with this reality: Most Mexican people really would prefer to live in their own country. Can we all say, duh? Pedro Martin, who has seen most of the young men and women in his small village depart for El Norte, put it this way: "Up north, even though they pay more, you're not necessarily living as well. You feel out of place. Here you can walk around the whole town, and it's comfortable. Life is easier."

Their family, language, culture, identity and happiness is Mexican -- yet sheer economic survival requires so many of them to abandon the place they love.

Again, why? Because in the last 15 years, Mexico's longstanding system of sustaining its huge population of poor citizens (including small self-sufficient farms, jobs in state-owned industries and subsidies for such essentials as tortillas) has been scuttled at the insistence of U.S. banks, corporations, government officials and "free market" ideologues. In the name of "modernizing" the Mexican economy, such giants as Citigroup, Wal-Mart, Tyson Foods and GE -- in cahoots with the plutocrats and oligarchs of Mexico -- have laid waste to that country's grass-roots economy, destroying the already-meager livelihoods of millions.

The 1994 imposition of NAFTA was particularly devastating. Just as Bill Clinton and the corporate elites did here, Mexico's ruling elites touted NAFTA as a magic elixir that would generate growth, create jobs, raise wages and eliminate the surge of Mexican migrants into the United States. They were horribly wrong:

* Economic growth in Mexico has been anemic since '94, and the benefits of any growth have gone overwhelmingly to the wealthiest families.

* Since NAFTA, Mexico has created less than a third of the millions of decent jobs it needs.

* Average factory wages in Mexico have dropped by more than 5 percent under NAFTA.

* Unemployment has jumped, and unskilled workers are paid only $5 a day.

* U.S. agribusiness corporations have more than doubled their shipment of subsidized crops into Mexico, busting the price that indigenous farmers got for their production and displacing some 2 million peasant farmers from their land.

* Huge agribusiness operations, many owned by U.S. investors, now control Mexican agricultural production and pay farmworkers under $2 an hour.

* Since NAFTA passed, there has been a flood of business bankruptcies and takeovers in Mexico as predatory U.S. chains have moved in. U.S. corporations now control 40 percent of the country's formal jobs, with Wal-Mart reigning as the No. 1 employer.

* Nineteen million more Mexicans live in poverty today than when NAFTA was passed.

So, here's the deal: Thanks to Mexico's newly corporatized economy, wage earners there get poverty pay of $5 a day (about $1,600 a year), while a few hundred miles north, they might draw that much in an hour. What would you do?

The wrong debate

In our national imbroglio over Mexican immigration (yes, some illegal migrants come from elsewhere, but more than three-fourths are from Mexico), our "leaders" have set us up to look down at impoverished working people forced to leave their homeland and risk death in order to help their families escape poverty.

Instead of coming down on them, why not start looking up -- up at the executive suites on both sides of the border. Up is where the power is. The moneyed elites in those suites are the profiteering few who have rigged all of our trade and labor policies to knock down workers, farmers and small businesses, not merely in Mexico but in our country as well.

In the United States, the middle class feels imperiled because ... well, because it is imperiled. Politicians, economists and the richly paid pundits keep telling us that the American economy is robust and that people's financial pessimism and anxieties are irrational. At the kitchen table level, however, folks know the difference between chicken salad and chicken manure. Yes, these are boom times for the luxury class, but the middle class is imploding. In a recent letter to the editor, a working stiff in California put it this way:

"We've replaced steaks with corn flakes; we can't afford to get sick; our kids can't afford health insurance; we hope that our 10-year-old van keeps running because we can't afford a new one; our kids can't buy a home because housing prices are exorbitant; our purchasing power continually regresses; and worst of all, the poverty and near-poverty classes are growing."

It's this economic fragility that anti-immigrant forces play on. But even if there were no illegal workers in our country -- none -- the fragility would remain, for poor Mexican laborers are not the ones who:

* Downsized and offshored our middle-class jobs.

* Perverted our bankruptcy laws to let corporations abrogate their union contracts.

* Stopped enforcement of America's wage and hour laws.

* Perverted the National Labor Relations Board into an anti-worker tool for corporations.

* Illegally reclassified millions of employees as "independent contractors," leaving them with no benefits or labor rights.

* Subverted the right of workers to organize.

* Turned a blind eye to the re-emergence in America of sweatshops and child labor in everything from the clothing industry to Wal-Mart.

* Made good healthcare a luxury item.

* Let rich campaign donors take over both political parties.

* Passed by hook and crook a continuing series of global-trade scams to enrich the few and knock down the many.

Powerless immigrants didn't do these things to us. The richest, most-powerful, best-connected corporate interests did them. Judy Ancel, director of the Institute for Labor Studies at the University of Missouri, offers this example of Iowa Beef Processors (IBP), the largest meatpacker in the United States, now owned by the multibillion-dollar conglomerate Tyson Foods:

Until the late 1970s, meatpacking was a high-wage industry, with highly skilled workers in charge. Factories were in union cities, union contracts provided good wages and benefits, and unions set professional standards for everything from worker training to safety conditions. Then IBP's executives transformed this beneficial model into today's profiteering system. The factories moved to nonunion cities and rural areas, and lower-skilled workers were hired to do repetitive cuts on speeded-up assembly lines. With Reagan as president, meat-industry lobbyists were able to emasculate labor laws, and unions lost their influence over the workplace, which became much less rewarding and more dangerous. IBP began intensive recruiting of Mexican workers (legal or not) to do what had become very nasty work. In only 20 years, meatpacking wages dropped by roughly half, the union was ousted, and the rate of workplace injury became one of the highest of any industry (more than a fourth of meatpacking workers now suffer "accidents").

The fix

Immigration reform cannot be separated from labor and trade reform. We can't fix the former without dealing with the other two. We must stop the exploitative NAFTAfication of such aspiring economies as Mexico and instead develop genuine grass-roots investment policies that give people there an ability to remain in their homeland. Then we must enforce our own labor laws -- from wage and hour rules to the NLRB -- so as to empower American workers to enforce their own rights.

Eliminating the need to migrate from Mexico and rebuilding the middle-class ladder, here is an "immigration policy" that will work. But it requires us to go right at the corporate kleptocracy that now owns Washington and controls the debate.

We must challenge Democrats, especially, to broaden the debate and to recognize that they must choose sides -- to be for workers or for more trade imperialism. Right now, the Democratic leadership is siding with imperialism and exacerbating the economic causes of Latino migration. For example, just last month, Speaker Nancy Pelosi engineered a vote to extend NAFTA to Peru, a corporate favor that could be called the Tom-Rahm Bipartisan Axis of Immigration Stupidity, for it drew enthusiastic support from both Tom Tancredo and Rahm Emanuel.

America's immigration problem is not down on the border, it's in Washington and on Wall Street.

From "The Hightower Lowdown," edited by Jim Hightower and Phillip Frazer, January 2008. Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of the new book Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow. (Wiley, March 2008)


3) Israeli Forces Kill 7 in Gaza
February 8, 2008

JERUSALEM — Israeli forces killed six Palestinian militants and a civilian in Gaza early Thursday after militant groups in Gaza stepped up their rocket fire against Israel.

Two brothers, one from Islamic Jihad and one from the military wing of Hamas, were killed in clashes with Israeli ground forces, while four more Hamas members were killed in airstrikes, according to Hamas and medical officials in Gaza.

An Israeli missile hit the grounds of an agricultural school in Beit Hanoun, a town in northern Gaza, killing a teacher, Hani Naim, 43, and wounding three students, according a local resident who monitors violent activity in the area.

An Israeli Army spokeswoman said that the forces “did not aim at the school, but at rocket launchers nearby.” The militants who launch rockets “exploit the civilian environment,” she said, noting that mortar shells were fired at Israel from a schoolyard in northern Gaza a few months ago.

Images from The Associated Press Television News showed the school in Thursday’s airstrike to be a series of huts in a rural area. A rocket-launching device was spotted between some olive trees, indicating that militants had used the school as cover to launch attacks, according to The A.P.

Seven Qassam rockets and four mortar shells landed in Israel early Thursday, one hitting a house in Sderot, an Israeli town near the Gazan border, and wounding two residents, the spokeswoman said.

Late Wednesday afternoon a rocket landed near a playground and nursery in an Israeli communal farm near the border with Gaza, wounding two girls, 2 and 12 years old..

Hamas, the militant Islamic group that controls Gaza, went back to launching its own rockets at Israel in January, after limiting itself to firing shorter-range and less-damaging mortar shells for more than half a year. In a statement issued Wednesday, the military wing of Hamas said it had fired 33 rockets and more than 30 mortar shells since Tuesday, when Israel killed seven Hamas policemen in an airstrike on a police post in southern Gaza.

The Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, said Thursday that “if the Qassam fire from Gaza continues, we shall step up our activities even more and hit the other side harder, until we solve the problem.”

Set on what appeared to be a collision course with Israel, Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas in Gaza, said that his group had “long ago adopted resistance as a strategic choice to claim our rights and principles and to protect our people, our land and our holy sites.” Israel’s “targeted attacks and dangerous escalations will only increase our commitment to this choice,” he said.

The current spike in violence started on Monday with a suicide bombing that killed one Israeli and critically wounded another in a southern Israeli town, Dimona. Hamas claimed responsibility for the bombing, after refraining from carrying out suicide attacks inside Israel for more than three years.

A representative of Hamas in Iran, Abu Osama Abed al-Maati, issued a statement on a Hamas Internet site on Wednesday saying that the Dimona bombing was “a message” that the group’s military wing had “renewed the suicide attacks.”

Hamas seized control of Gaza after a brief factional war last June, routing the rival Fatah forces loyal to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr. Abbas has since refused to speak to Hamas unless it gives up control of Gaza. But on Thursday, without mentioning Hamas by name, an official spokesman for Mr. Abbas said the president was ready to “try to work towards a mutual cease-fire with Israel to stop the daily slaughter confronting the Palestinian people in Gaza,” as well as to take back control of the passages into Gaza to ease the Israeli-imposed economic blockade.

Mr. Abbas, who is based in the West Bank, is engaged in peace talks with Israel and has often condemned the rocket fire from Gaza along with the Israeli military strikes.

In response, Mr. Barhoum of Hamas told Agence France-Presse, “President Abbas doesn’t believe in the resistance against the occupier and is looking to promote a defeatist project under the false slogan of wanting to protect the Palestinian people.”

Israel refuses to deal with Hamas unless the group fulfills the internationally sanctioned conditions of recognizing Israel, halting all violence and recognizing previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

In response to Mr. Abbas’s offer, Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman, said that “from Israel’s perspective, moving forward on the peace process successfully will be dependent on having a zero-tolerance policy toward terrorism.” He added that there was no sign that Hamas would meet the required conditions.

But there are differing opinions in Israel regarding how to deal with Hamas. Giora Eiland, a retired general and former director of Israel’s National Security Council, presented several options on Wednesday at a seminar at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. One involved trying to achieve “some kind of reasonable, stable understandings with Hamas,” including a mutual cessation of violence in and around Gaza.

Refusing to deal with Hamas because it does not recognize Israel was not sensible, and was “even childish,” Mr. Eiland said, given that there are “lots of arrangements with hostile regimes all over the world.”

Another retired general, Shlomo Brom, advocated “checking the possibility of a dialogue with Hamas” and said there were plenty of indications that Hamas was also interested in a dialogue, though perhaps not a direct one with the Israeli government at this stage.

Mr. Brom contended that the government’s strategy of trying to reach an agreement with Mr. Abbas while fighting Hamas would not work. The Dimona bombers came from Hebron in the West Bank. Mr. Brom said that attack was a message to both Israel and Mr. Abbas that Hamas “can still be a spoiler,” preventing the easing of movement and normal economic development for Palestinians in the West Bank.

Taghreed El-Khodary contributed reporting from Gaza.


4) Next Year’s War Costs Estimated at $170 Billion or More
“WASHINGTON — The military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost $170 billion in the next fiscal year over and above the $515.4 billion regular Pentagon budget that President Bush has proposed, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said on Wednesday.”
February 6, 2008

WASHINGTON — The military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost $170 billion in the next fiscal year over and above the $515.4 billion regular Pentagon budget that President Bush has proposed, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said on Wednesday.

Mr. Gates gave that estimate in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee after cautioning the panel that any estimate would be dicey, given the unpredictability of war.

“Well, a straight-line projection, Mr. Chairman, of our current expenditures would probably put the full-year cost in a strictly arithmetic approach at about $170 billion,” Mr. Gates said in response to questions from Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is the head of the committee.

So, Mr. Levin pressed, “That would be a total then of $685 billion” in Pentagon spending for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. “Does that sound right?”

“Yes, sir,” Mr. Gates replied. “But as I indicated, I have no confidence in that figure.”

Mr. Levin has been a persistent critic of the war in Iraq, and he has complained that the Bush administration has been less than straightforward about the financial costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns by seeking supplemental funding outside the regular Pentagon budget. Congress has gone along with the supplemental requests, with members of both parties pledging to give American troops whatever they need.

“While the monetary cost is not the most important part of the debate over Iraq or Afghanistan, it does need to be part of that debate, and the citizens of our nation have a right to know what those costs are projected to be,” Senator Levin said.

Mr. Gates said he was concerned that some countries who have pledged troops to Afghanistan were not fully meeting their commitments, and that he would bring up the subject with his counterparts from other NATO countries.

“I think we have to be realistic about the political realities that face some of the governments in Europe,” Mr. Gates said. “Many of them are coalition governments, some of them are minority governments, and they are doing what they think is at the far end of what is politically acceptable.”

The secretary added: “There are allies that are doing their part and are doing well. The Canadians, the British, the Australians, the Dutch, the Danes, are really out there on the line and fighting.”

While Mr. Gates was before the committee, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was making the same point during a visit to London.

Mr. Gates got a relatively friendly welcome, perhaps in part because he has tried to adopt a style less confrontational than that of his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld. Adm. Michael G. Mullen was also welcomed warmly by committee members in his first appearance before the panel as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,

Senator Levin complained, as he has before, about what he sees as the failure of the post-Saddam Hussein government in Iraq. “For years, the Iraqi leaders have failed to seize the opportunity our brave troops gave them,” he said. “It is long past time that the Iraqi leaders hear a clear, simple message: we can’t save them from themselves; it’s in their hands, not ours, to create a nation by making the political compromises needed to end the conflict.”

Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, the committee’s ranking Republican and one of his party’s most influential voices on military matters, did not disagree with Senator Levin on Iraq. “I think by any fair standard, that level of progress to date is falling below the expectations that we had hoped,” he said. “Senator Levin quite appropriately observed that the elected officials in Iraq are simply not exercising the full responsibility of the range of sovereignty, and that puts our forces in a certain degree of continuing peril and risk.”

Mr. Gates said in response to questions that he will soon visit Iraq again and confer with Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander, on whether and when to reduce American troop strength to the “pre-surge” level of about 130,000.

Also on Wednesday, Gen. Dan K. McNeill, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, agreed that the international military mission there was “under-resourced,” in particular when compared with deployments to Iraq.

“Afghanistan, land mass-wise, is half again as big as Iraq, for example, if you want to get some relative bearing there,” General McNeill said during a Pentagon news briefing.

In Afghanistan, the population is “estimated to be perhaps as much as 3 million more than Iraq, yet we have, in trying to operate in a counterinsurgency environment, only a fraction of the force that the coalition has in Iraq,” General McNeill added. “So there’s no question it’s an under-resourced force.”

General McNeill said that if the official American military counterinsurgency doctrine were applied to Afghanistan, then well over 400,000 allied and Afghan security troops would be required. He acknowledged the impossibility of fielding a force of that size.

“The trick, then, is to manage the risk that’s inherent in having an under-resourced international force and reaching the level of capacity at which the Afghan national security forces ought to be,” he said, stressing especially the importance of training the local police.

The NATO-led security assistance mission has about 40,000 troops in Afghanistan, of which 14,000 are American. Separately, the United States has 12,000 other troops there conducting counterterrorism and support missions. Mr. Gates in recent days signed a deployment order for an additional 3,200 marines for temporary duty in Afghanistan.

The general also disputed public assessments that the Afghan insurgency was growing, and he cited the number of low- to high-level insurgent leaders who were killed or captured. “That number is significant,” General McNeill said. “Many of those were jihadists who cut their teeth fighting the Soviets. They were good at their skills. They’re no longer on the battlefield. That’ll be very helpful.”

Commenting on a recent public debate about skills of various NATO nations at waging counter-insurgency missions, General McNeill said that “it is probably an incontrovertible truth that if you pull a huge alliance together, that the going-in position of different nationalities of that alliance, or at least their military forces, is somewhat different.”

He acknowledged differences in training, as well as varying political pressures from individual home capitals that affect the capabilities of those forces in Afghanistan.

Looking to the future, General McNeill predicted an exceedingly large opium harvest, and warned that significant portions of narcotics profits would go to Taliban and other insurgent activity.


5) Danbury Council Vote on Policing Immigrant Community Draws Thousands to Protest
February 7, 2008

DANBURY, Conn. — On Wednesday night, Jose Contreras gazed toward City Hall here, his face wrinkled with pain as he wondered aloud about what the future might hold for his restaurant — not to mention for his neighbors. Thousands of them were standing nearby in the crisp darkness, waving signs, whistling and chanting in Spanish and English at a volume that could be heard blocks away.

At the time, the Common Council of this city was moving through its agenda en route to voting on a contentious plan for its police force to partner with federal officials to enforce immigration laws, an arrangement many in the large immigrant community fear could have a devastating effect. Officials were expecting so many residents to turn out for the vote that they set up a simulcast at a local school.

Despite the night’s raucous protest and solemn predictions by many that the partnership would drive people away from this diverse city, the Common Council approved the plan, 19 to 2.

“Most of these people are going to leave,” said Mr. Contreras, 39, who added that he immigrated here illegally two decades ago from El Salvador but now is a legal resident. “Danbury is going to be lonely.”

Opponents of the plan said it would inspire racial profiling and damage the trust between the large immigrant community here and the authorities. At least 10,000 illegal immigrants — in addition to the 80,000 legal residents — are estimated to reside in Danbury, which has a greater proportion of foreign-born residents than any other community in the state, according to United States census estimates.

City officials, including Mayor Mark D. Boughton, who has supported the plan, have promised that the partnership with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency would help police better pursue major investigations related to immigration, including document forgery and drug smuggling.

Council members emphasized that the arrangement would not give the police carte blanche power to root out and round up illegal immigrants.

“There aren’t going to be sweeps,” Councilman Benjamin Chianese vowed. Instead, he said, “there is going to be mutual trust in this community.”

But among the protesters on Wednesday, some doubted the true motives of the plan. They pointed to a September 2006 sting in which undercover police officers approached 11 illegal immigrants in a city park and offered them jobs; when the workers followed, they were arrested.

“We shouldn’t be giving the police more power,” said Vincent Yettito, 52, who brought his entire family to the demonstration, where the crowd chanted “U.S.A.” and “We are not criminals!” throughout the evening.

Ted Duarte, 37, a union carpenter who works in Danbury and traveled here from his home in Wallingford to support fellow union members, motioned to the chanting. “This says it all,” Mr. Duarte said. “For a city council that supposed to represent the city of Danbury, they should take a look out here — this is Danbury.”


6) A Long Story
Op-Ed Columnist
February 8, 2008

The economic news has been fairly dire this week. The credit crunch is getting worse, and a widely watched indicator of trends in the service sector — which is most of the economy — has fallen off a cliff. It’s still not a certainty that we’re headed into recession, but the odds are growing greater.

And if past experience is any guide, the troubles will persist for a long time — say, into the middle of 2010.

The problems now facing the U.S. economy look a lot like the problems that caused the last two recessions — but this time in combination.

On one side, the bursting of the housing bubble is playing the role that the bursting of the dot-com bubble played in 2001. On the other, the subprime crisis is creating a credit crunch reminiscent of the crunch after the savings-and-loan crisis of the late 1980s, which led to recession in 1990.

Now, you may have heard that those recessions were short. And it’s true that the last two recessions both officially ended after only eight months.

But the official end dates for those recessions are deeply misleading, at least as far as most peoples’ experience is concerned. There’s a reason that the Bush administration, in its (increasingly strained) efforts to tout economic performance on its watch, always talks about jobs added since August 2003. It was only then — two and a half years after the recession began — that the U.S. economy began to experience anything that felt like a recovery.

And the same thing happened a decade earlier: the recession that began in 1990 officially ended in March 1991, but the jobless recovery that followed kept Americans feeling miserable about the economy right up through the 1992 election.

Since the current problems of the U.S. economy look like a combination of 1990 and 2001, the shape of this episode of economic distress will probably be similar to that of the earlier episodes: even if the official recession is short, the bad times will linger well into the next administration.

How severe will the distress be? The double-bubble nature of the underlying problem — a housing bubble and a credit bubble combined — suggests that it may well be worse than either 1990 or 2001.

And some highly respected economists are issuing dire warnings. There has been a lot of buzz about a new paper by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff that compares the United States in recent years to other advanced countries that have experienced financial crises. They find that the U.S. profile resembles that of the “big five crises,” a list that includes, for example, Sweden’s 1991 crisis, which caused the unemployment rate to soar from 2 percent to 9 percent over a two-year period.

Maybe we’ll be lucky, and that won’t happen. But what can be done to limit the damage?

Since September, the Federal Reserve has slashed its target interest rate five times, and everyone expects it to cut further. But interest rates were cut dramatically during the last two slumps, too — yet the slumps went on for years anyway.

Meanwhile, Congress and the Bush administration have reached agreement on a much-hyped stimulus package. But the package, while probably better than nothing, is unlikely to make a noticeable dent in the problem — in part because the insistence of the administration and Senate Republicans on blocking precisely the measures, such as expanded unemployment insurance and food stamps, that are most likely to be effective.

Still, by January the White House will have a new occupant. If the slump is still going on, which is likely, this will offer a chance to consider other, more effective measures.

In particular, now would be a good time to think about the possibility of going beyond tax cuts and rebate checks, and stimulating the economy with some much-needed public investment — say, in repairing the country’s crumbling infrastructure.

The usual rap against public spending as a form of economic stimulus is that it takes too long to get going — that by the time the money starts flowing, the recession is already over. But if this turns out to be a prolonged slump, which seems likely, that won’t be a problem.

But we won’t get any innovative action to help the economy unless the next president has a couple of key attributes.

First, he or she has to be free of the ideological blinders that make the current administration and its allies fiercely oppose the idea that the government can do anything positive aside from cutting taxes.

Second, he or she has to be knowledgeable about and interested in economic policy. Presidents don’t have to be their own chief economists, but they do need to know enough to take the right advice.

Will we have that kind of president? Stay tuned.


7) Nebraska Supreme Court Outlaws Electric Chair
February 8, 2008

The electric chair is cruel and unusual punishment, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday, effectively suspending executions in the only state that made sole use of the practice, once the dominant form of execution in the United States.

The court, in a 6-to-1 decision, ruled that electrocution, the only method of execution used in the state, violates the state constitution. “The evidence shows that electrocution inflicts intense pain and agonizing suffering,” Justice William Connolly wrote for the majority.

The state’s attorney general, Jon Bruning, said he would “move to the legislative process to get a new method of execution.” Working on a clean slate, Nebraska may opt for a form of lethal injection that does not rely on the combination of three chemicals that is the subject of a pending challenge in the United States Supreme Court. Indeed, it may explore entirely different methods of executions.

No other state relied solely on the electrocution, but seven allow at least some inmates to choose it instead of lethal injection. Two other states, Illinois and Oklahoma, have designated electrocution as the fallback method should lethal injections be ruled unconstitutional.

The United States Supreme Court has never held a method of execution to be unconstitutional, and in an 1890 it appeared to say that electrocutions did not violate the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. The court will soon decide a case on the standard to be used in assessing the constitutionality of the three chemicals used in lethal injections.

The challenge in Nebraska was brought by Raymond Mata Jr., who was convicted in 2000 of kidnapping and murdering Adam Gomez, the three-year-old son of a former girlfriend. Mr. Mata dismembered the body, and human bone fragments were found in the stomach of Mr. Mata’s dog.

“We recognize the temptation to make the prisoner suffer, just as the prisoner made an innocent victim suffer,” Justice Connolly wrote. “But it is the hallmark of a civilized society that we punish cruelty without practicing it. Condemned prisoners must not be tortured to death, regardless of their crimes.”

A provision of Nebraska’s constitution tracks the Eighth Amendment of the federal Constitution in forbidding cruel and unusual punishment. But in its decision on Friday the court said it relied only on the state constitution.


8) Israel Reduces Electricity Flow to Gaza
February 9, 2008

JERUSALEM — Israel has begun reducing the amount of electricity it sells to Gaza as part of sanctions against continued rocket fire, Israeli officials said on Friday. The move prompted a warning from the United States not to “worsen the humanitarian situation” of civilians in Gaza, and was followed by the firing of yet more rockets at Israel by militants there.

Israel began reducing its electricity flow into the Gaza Strip by less than 1 percent late Thursday night. By Friday afternoon, 21 rockets had been launched against Israel, an Army spokeswoman said, with several landing in and around the Israeli border town of Sderot and in open areas south of Ashkelon, a larger Israeli coastal city north of the strip. The rockets caused slight property damage, but no one was hurt.

Israeli officials said the electricity had been cut by about one megawatt out of the roughly 124 megawatts that Israel provides to Gaza, and that an additional megawatt could be cut each week depending on the security situation and the needs of the Gazan population. Israel said it would continue to provide the necessary minimum to prevent harm to the safety or health of the residents.

“It will take time before it really has an effect,” said Shlomo Dror, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense.

But Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups contend that the cut in electricity, along with Israeli-imposed restrictions on fuel supplies, violates international law and deprives Gaza’s residents of the energy needed to run vital services. Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a petition by 10 human rights groups more than a week ago to stop Israel from further reducing supplies of fuel and electricity to Gaza.

Israel has restricted the amount of fuel allowed into Gaza since last fall after declaring the area, controlled by the militant Islamist group Hamas, “hostile territory.” The import of industrial diesel needed to run Gaza’s only power plant has been limited, preventing the station from running at full capacity and leading to electricity rationing and rolling blackouts in Gaza. The power plant, which can generate up to 80 megawatts of electricity, is producing roughly 55 megawatts today, human rights organizations say. Gaza receives 17 megawatts from Egypt.

Human Rights Watch, based in New York, said on Thursday that the fuel and expected electricity cuts “amount to collective punishment.”

Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman, said, “We understand Israel’s right to defend itself, but we do not think that action should be taken that would infringe upon or worsen the humanitarian situation for the civilian population in Gaza.”

Deflecting the criticism, Israel’s infrastructure minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, told Israel Radio that “no country in the world would agree to provide electricity to people who shoot at the electricity plant which supplies it to them.” He was referring to rockets that have been fired from Gaza at the power station in Ashkelon.

Mr. Dror of the Defense Ministry said on Friday that the Israeli “process of disengagement” from Gaza was proceeding, and that “instead of investing in firing rockets,” the Palestinians of Gaza could look for other sources of electricity, either by buying more from Egypt or by building another local power plant that could receive fuel from Egypt.

Some Israeli officials, including Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, suggested that the electricity cut was not punitive, but rather part of the effort to reduce Gaza’s dependence on Israel in different fields.

Separately, Yehezkel Dror, an Israeli political science professor who sat on the investigative commission that criticized the country’s political and military leaders for their handling of the 2006 Lebanon war, said on Friday that he was not satisfied with the way the commission’s final report had been presented to the public. He criticized the news media for what he said had been a “disproportionate focus” on the political fallout from the report at the expense of the fundamental systemic problems the report raised.

The commission’s preliminary report, released in April, contended that the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, as well as the wartime defense minister and army chief of staff, were personally responsible for severe failings in the conduct of the war. The commission’s final report, published on Jan. 30, did not assign personal responsibility to named individuals, in part because of conditions imposed by the Supreme Court.

As a result, the final report was generally seen as being less critical of Mr. Olmert, who has remained in office.

The commission was led by a retired judge, Eliyahu Winograd. Mr. Dror is the only one of the five-member panel to have spoken extensively to the news media and in public forums since. He emphasized that he was speaking in a personal capacity, and no longer as a representative of the commission.

Meeting with a group of reporters here on Friday morning, Mr. Dror said, “I doubt that most politicians or television commentators who comment on the report have read it.” The censored version of the report is more than 600 pages long.

A prominent Israeli author who lost a son in the 2006 war, David Grossman, described the report as “circuitous, overly cautious,” in an article on Friday in the newspaper Yediot Aharonot. Mr. Grossman described the country’s leadership as “mediocre” and “feeble” in the wake of the war, and wrote that “Israeli society cannot start to recover as long as Ehud Olmert is its leader and guide.”

Mr. Grossman called for the formation of an apolitical bipartisan group that “could sweep in its wake the multitudes of people who are thoroughly fed up with what is going on.”


9) Lives and a Georgia Community’s Anchor Are Lost
February 9, 2008

PORT WENTWORTH, Ga. — A day after an explosive fireball cratered the sprawling Dixie Crystal sugar refinery, the anchor of this small community for decades, families of missing workers waited in a Catholic church across the street on Friday as rescue workers tried to determine the human toll.

By late afternoon, four bodies had been found and four more workers were missing, officials said. More than three dozen workers were injured, some with severe burns.

Rescuers were facing ever-more-difficult conditions as they searched. Flooding in parts of the ruined, century-old plant was eight feet deep, the fire still burned and the building was no longer structurally sound. Search efforts had to stop until heavy equipment could be brought in to dismantle the wreckage, said Sgt. Michael Wilson of the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department.

At least 118 workers were inside the plant on Thursday night when the explosion, possibly caused by combustible sugar dust, shook the ground and shattered windows blocks away. Some workers dived beneath desks and tables as ceilings collapsed around them; others fled as walls vaporized.

Gene Bryan, a supervisor, was crushed by a metal table, said his wife, Irene. He is now at the Joseph H. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Ga., where 18 of the most severely burned patients were airlifted. At least 37 people were treated at hospitals.

“I saw people come running out burnt, screaming, hollering, their skin hanging off them,” said Jason Perry, who hurried to the plant after the blast to search for an uncle who was working that night. “One lady hit the ground, and then the medical was on her so fast you couldn’t see what was going on.”

“It was raining debris, iron, sheet metal,” he said. “Everything from the boiler to the river is gone.”

Mr. Perry’s wife, Breanne Thompson, first notified the uncle’s wife of the explosion. “I said, ‘Is Ricky working?’ She said ‘Why?’ ” Ms. Thompson said, shaking her head and trailing off.

The uncle turned out to be alive and helping with the rescue efforts, Mr. Perry said.

“He had two or three extremely good friends that are missing in the silo,” Mr. Perry, 34, said. “He’s just really devastated. You know, your job, your life — like he said, them people are like his family.”

An elderly couple nearby believed that they were under attack, as did Ashlie Myers, 21. “I thought somebody blew up the port,” Ms. Myers said. “Like a crash dummy, I was standing outside thinking I was going to die.”

By Friday afternoon, the neighborhood’s usual caramel aroma had curdled into the burned smell of an unstirred saucepan.

The chief executive of Imperial Sugar, which owns the plant, told employees at an afternoon meeting that the company would continue to pay employees and had not yet assessed the damage or decided the factory’s future, attendees at the meeting said.

The chief executive, John C. Sheptor, said the probable cause of the explosion was sugar dust building up in storage areas, which could have been ignited by static electricity or a spark. But local fire officials said it was too early to make an official determination of the cause.

Combustible dust was responsible for at least 281 explosions from 1980 to 2005 that killed a total of 119 people and injured 718 others, according to study conducted by the United States Chemical Safety Board after a rash of deadly dust incidents in 2003.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, as little as 1/32 of an inch of dust over 5 percent of a room’s surface is enough to cause an explosion under the right conditions.

The safety board also found that no comprehensive, federal standard exists to control the risk of dust explosions in general industry, only in grain-handling facilities.

The explosion occurred in perhaps the most inaccessible part of the plant, the midsection, where silos, warehouses and sugar bagging rooms were clustered in a maze of conveyor belts and elevators. “We’re talking narrow corridors with six- to eight-story buildings on each side,” said Greg Long, who as the Port Wentworth fire chief has 5 paid employees and 20 volunteers.

Ms. Bryan, the wife of the injured supervisor, said the factory’s mechanical equipment was older than her husband’s tenure there — 28 years.

Company officials did not respond to requests for comment about conditions at the plant.

Firefighters from three counties aided efforts to contain the blaze, and on Friday refinery employees helped the recovery effort because they were more familiar with the plant layout than were the rescue workers.

The refinery opened in 1917, and the construction materials of that era — wood tongue-and-groove ceilings and hot-burning creosote known as “fat lighter” — contributed to the ferocity of the blaze, Chief Long said.

The property, which extends from the Coastal Highway to the Savannah River, resembles a Southern plantation, with a low white fence and the warehouses barely visible behind oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. The factory was aging, workers said, but was sustained by its advantageous location, with access to trains and ships.

Though it is owned by Imperial Sugar, of Sugar Land, Tex., it is still referred to by its earlier name, Dixie Crystal, and Imperial still markets sugar under the Dixie Crystal brand.

Virtually everyone in Port Wentworth and nearby Garden City, it seems, had friends and relatives who worked there, many for 20 years or more.

“My mom and dad worked there in the ’50s,” said Herman Bryant, a neighbor of one of the victims. The victim’s name has not been released by the authorities and the family gathered at his home declined to speak with a reporter. “He knew me when I didn’t know myself,” Mr. Bryant said, holding his hand at toddler-height. “To make a long story short, he was a good, hard-working man.”

Brenda Goodman contributed reporting from Atlanta, and Rachel Pomerance from Augusta, Ga.


10) G.I. Tells of Ordering Unarmed Iraqi’s Death
February 9, 2008

CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq — A top Army sniper testified Friday in a military court that he had ordered a subordinate to kill an unarmed Iraqi man who wandered into their hiding position near Iskandariya, then planted an AK-47 rifle near the body to support his false report about the shooting.

Under a grant of immunity, the sniper, Sgt. Michael A. Hensley, an expert marksman and sniper trainer, testified in the court-martial of Sgt. Evan Vela. Sergeant Vela is accused of murder, impeding a military investigation and planting evidence to cover up an unjust shooting. An earlier charge of premeditated murder was dropped.

Sergeant Vela is the third soldier to be charged in the death of the Iraqi, Genei Nesir Khudair al-Janabi, last May. Sergeant Hensley and another soldier, Specialist Jorge G. Sandoval Jr., were acquitted of murder charges last year, but were convicted of planting evidence. As part of his sentence, Sergeant Hensley was demoted from staff sergeant.

All three soldiers were elite snipers with the 501st Infantry Regiment, Fourth Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska.

The military trials have highlighted a secret baiting program, begun in early 2007, in which snipers placed lures like fake explosives or other weaponry to draw insurgents into the open, where they could be killed.

But Sergeant Hensley’s testimony at the base here suggested that by last spring, in addition to baiting and killing, soldiers had added a new tactic: carrying weapons to plant on bodies to deter prosecution.

Sergeant Vela’s lawyer, James Culp, of Austin, Tex., did not dispute that his client had shot and killed Mr. Janabi, but emphasized the battlefield stresses the soldiers endured. Mr. Culp argued that Sergeant Vela had had only a few hours of sleep over three days of constant operations.

Mr. Culp also said his client’s superiors pressed his squad to increase their kill rate, while holding out the threat of prosecution for unjust shootings.

“It’s not a case of beyond reasonable doubt,” Mr. Culp said in an interview after Friday’s proceeding. “It’s about giving warriors the benefit of the doubt.”

Sergeant Vela may testify Saturday.

Sergeant Hensley said that on May 11, he led his squad to a hiding spot overlooking a village they suspected was controlled by Sunni insurgents. But after several days with little rest, soldiers were drifting into sleep.

“I woke up to a local national squatting in front me with his hands up,” Sergeant Hensley testified. The man was Mr. Janabi, who lived nearby. Sergeant Hensley said he tackled Mr. Janabi and pinned him to the ground.

Mr. Janabi was followed into the hide-out by his son, Mustafa, 17. Sergeant Hensley and his team held the two captive until he spotted several Iraqi men in the distance and Mr. Janabi became agitated. Sergeant Hensley feared that Mr. Janabi’s thrashing would alert the other Iraqis.

Sergeant Hensley said he released the boy and ordered everyone except Sergeant Vela to leave because he “didn’t want them to bear witness” to what they were about to do.

“I pretty much knew at this point that something was going to happen to the father,” Sergeant Hensley testified. “He was making too much noise. I thought that the only way to protect my guys was to take this guy’s life.”

Sergeant Hensley said he ordered Sergeant Vela to load his 9-millimeter pistol, and then made four radio calls to his command post to support a cover story. The first call reported that an Iraqi man was approaching, the second that the man was armed, the third that the sergeant was preparing to shoot.

The fourth call confirmed that he had killed his target.

“At that point his head was at Sergeant Vela’s feet, and I asked him if he was ready and then I moved out of the way,” Sergeant Hensley said. He ordered Sergeant Vela to fire, and Sergeant Vela complied immediately, Sergeant Hensley said.

“A round was fired into his head,” he said.

Mr. Janabi did not die immediately, Sergeant Hensley said. As his brain hemorrhaged, he choked on his blood. Sergeant Hensley simulated the gurgling sound and testified that he ordered Sergeant Vela to fire again.

Sergeant Hensley said he pulled out an AK-47 that he had ordered one of his men to carry and placed it near the body.

“It wasn’t uncommon for us to have stuff like that out there,” he said. They often carried incriminating items to plant on Iraqis as “insurance,” he said.

Dr. Michael Baden, a prominent New York forensic pathologist, showed several poster-size photographs of Mr. Janabi’s body and said he had been killed by a single shot to the head. The photos showed two coin-size wounds behind each ear, which Dr. Baden described as entrance and exit wounds.

The victim’s son, Mustafa Ghani Nesir al-Janabi, also testified. He said he had found his father being held captive by American soldiers hiding in a stand of trees. When the soldiers saw him, they sat him next to his father.

“At the beginning I talked to him and he answered back,” he said. Perhaps drawing a parallel with their perilous situation, he said he told his father about how one of their relatives had recently been killed. “I was talking to him about how my cousin Saif was killed in Iskandariya,” Mr. Janabi said. “I told him that the Mahdi Army killed him.”

The Americans shushed them repeatedly and then told the son to go away, he said.

When a military prosecutor exhibited a picture of the dead man, the young man said, “That’s my father.” Another was shown and he repeated, “That’s my father.”

“Did your father look like this when they released you?” the prosecutor asked.

“No, he didn’t,” the son answered.

Bombs Kill 5 G.I.’s

BAGHDAD (AP) — Five American soldiers were killed Friday in two roadside bombings, the military said on Saturday.

Four of the deaths were in Baghdad. The fifth death was in northern Iraq, in Tamim Province.

The military gave no further information.


11) Growing Pains of Universal Coverage
February 9, 2008

It has not been a good few weeks for state efforts to provide universal health insurance. A pioneering program in Massachusetts to cover hundreds of thousands of uninsured has cost a lot more in its opening phases than originally projected, raising fears about its sustainability. An even more ambitious proposal to cover millions of uninsured in California collapsed in the State Senate over fears that it would prove unaffordable.

Neither setback means that states should stop trying to cover the uninsured — especially since the federal government is AWOL. The problems do suggest that officials need to make the most realistic possible cost estimates and be prepared to provide resources to subsidize coverage for those who can’t afford it.

The Massachusetts plan was the result of compromises between a former Republican governor — Mitt Romney, who lost his enthusiasm just in time for the presidential primaries — and a Democratic Legislature. It required all residents to buy health insurance or suffer financial penalties, subsidized those unable to afford it, imposed a small fee on businesses that failed to provide employee coverage and set up a marketplace where people can buy portable insurance with pretax dollars.

The financial problems are mostly because of underestimating the number of uninsured and the rate at which they would sign up for subsidized coverage. As a result, the state, which had originally expected to spend $472 million on subsidized insurance this fiscal year, now expects to spend about $150 million more than that. It anticipates spending almost $870 million next year.

It is hard to see these unexpected costs as a catastrophe when some 300,000 people, more than half of the people who lacked insurance, now have coverage. This is a surprisingly quick start for a hugely complicated program launched only a year and a half ago.

The challenge ahead is to restrain the escalation of medical costs, hold premiums to single-digit increases and find new sources of revenue. The money could come from new taxes, higher contributions from businesses and possibly the federal government.

The California plan, which was supported by the state’s Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the Democratic Assembly, was killed after the legislative analyst provided a pessimistic report about its long-term financial prospects. It never gained widespread popular support, mainly because of fears that many workers would be forced to buy policies that they could not readily afford. California also faced far more daunting challenges than Massachusetts, including a much bigger pool of uninsured people and a worse budgetary outlook.

The responsibility for bringing coverage to more than 40 million uninsured Americans almost certainly lies with Washington, which has vastly greater power to raise revenues and curb escalating medical costs. Until that happens, the states are right to press ahead with their own programs. That is the best way to ensure that everyone has ready access to essential treatment and potentially cost-saving preventive care.


12) Lilly Considers $1 Billion Fine to Settle Case
January 31, 2008

Eli Lilly and federal prosecutors are discussing a settlement of a civil and criminal investigation into the company’s marketing of the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa that could result in Lilly’s paying more than $1 billion to federal and state governments.

If a deal is reached, the fine would be the largest ever paid by a drug company for breaking the federal laws that govern how drug makers can promote their medicines.

Several people involved in the investigation confirmed the settlement discussions, which began last year and took on new urgency this month. The people insisted on anonymity because they have not been authorized to talk about the negotiations.

Zyprexa has serious side effects and is approved only to treat people with schizophrenia and severe bipolar disorder. But documents from Eli Lilly show that from 2000 to 2003 the company encouraged doctors to prescribe Zyprexa to people with age-related dementia, as well as people with mild bipolar disorder who had previously had a diagnosis of depression.

Although doctors can prescribe drugs for any use once they are on the market, it is illegal for drug makers to promote their medicines for any uses not formally approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Lilly may also plead guilty to a misdemeanor criminal charge as part of the agreement, the people involved with the investigation said. But the company would be allowed to keep selling Zyprexa to Medicare and Medicaid, the government programs that are the biggest customers of the drug.

Zyprexa is Lilly’s most profitable product and among the world’s best-selling medicines, with 2007 sales of $4.8 billion, about half in the United States.

Lilly would neither confirm nor deny the settlement talks.

“We have been and are continuing to cooperate in state and federal investigations related to Zyprexa, including providing a broad range of documents and information,” Lilly said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “As part of that cooperation we regularly have discussions with the government. However, we have no intention of sharing those discussions with the news media and it would be speculative and irresponsible for anyone to do so.”

Lilly also said that it had always followed state and federal laws when promoting Zyprexa.

The Lilly fine would be distributed among federal and state governments, which spend about $1.5 billion on Zyprexa each year through Medicare and Medicaid.

The fine would be in addition to $1.2 billion that Lilly has already paid to settle 30,000 lawsuits from people who claim that Zyprexa caused them to develop diabetes or other diseases. Zyprexa can cause severe weight gain in many patients and has been linked to diabetes by the American Diabetes Association.

Prescriptions for Zyprexa have skidded since 2003 over concerns about those side effects. But the drug continues to be widely used, especially among severely mentally ill patients. Many psychiatrists say that it works better than other medicines at calming patients who are psychotic and hallucinating. About four million Zyprexa prescriptions were written in the United States last year.

Federal prosecutors in Philadelphia are leading the settlement talks for the government, in consultation with the Justice Department in Washington. State attorneys general’s offices are also involved. Lawyers at Pepper Hamilton, a firm based in Philadelphia, and Sidley Austin, a firm based in Chicago, are negotiating for Lilly.

Nina Gussack, a lawyer at Pepper Hamilton who is representing Lilly, said she could not comment on the case. Joseph Trautwein, an assistant United States attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, also declined to comment.

While a settlement has not been concluded and the negotiations could collapse, both sides want to reach an agreement, according to the people involved in the investigation.

Besides the escalating pressure of the federal criminal inquiry, Lilly faces a civil trial scheduled for March in Anchorage, in a lawsuit brought by the state of Alaska to recover money the state has spent on Zyprexa prescriptions. A loss in that lawsuit would damage Lilly’s bargaining position in the Philadelphia talks.

While expensive for Lilly, the settlement would end a four-year federal investigation and remove a cloud over Zyprexa. While Zyprexa prescriptions are falling, its dollar volume of sales is rising because Lilly has raised Zyprexa’s price about 40 percent since 2003.

Federal prosecutors have been investigating Lilly for its marketing of Zyprexa since 2004, and state attorneys general have been doing so since 2005. The people involved in the investigations said the inquiries gained momentum after December 2006, when The New York Times published articles describing Lilly’s years-long efforts to play down Zyprexa’s side effects and to promote the drug for conditions other than schizophrenia and severe bipolar disorder — a practice called off-label marketing.

Internal Lilly marketing documents and e-mail messages showed that Lilly wanted to persuade doctors to prescribe Zyprexa for patients with age-related dementia or relatively mild bipolar disorder.

In one document, an unidentified Lilly marketing executive wrote that primary care doctors “do treat dementia” but leave schizophrenia and bipolar disorder to psychiatrists. As a result, sales representatives should discuss dementia with primary care doctors, according to the document, which appears to be part of a larger marketing presentation but is not marked more specifically. Later, the same document says that some primary care doctors “might prescribe outside of label.”

In late 2000, Lilly began a marketing campaign called Viva Zyprexa and told sales representatives to suggest that doctors prescribe Zyprexa to older patients with symptoms of dementia.

The documents were under federal court seal when The Times published the articles, and Judge Jack B. Weinstein of United States District Court in Brooklyn rebuked The Times for publishing them.

The settlement negotiations in Philadelphia began several months ago, according to the people involved in the investigation.

Last fall, the two sides were close to a deal in which Lilly would have paid less than $1 billion to settle the case, which at the time consisted only of a civil complaint.

Then Justice Department lawyers in Washington pressed for a grand jury investigation to examine whether Lilly should be charged criminally for its promotional activities, according to the people involved in the negotiations. A few days ago, facing the possibility of both civil and criminal charges, Lilly opened new discussions with the prosecutors in Philadelphia.


13) Middletown Times Herald-Record, February 10, 2008
More and more maxed out and defaulting
Counties report slew of credit-card judgments
By Steve Israel

How can the parents of a 2-year-old pay their minimum credit-card
bill of $70 when they must choose between buying milk or diapers? How
can a mother of five let her kids sleep in the cold, even though she
knows that the credit cards that bought 50 gallons of fuel oil are maxed out?

And how can parents already in debt for cars and college pay their
suddenly soaring adjustable mortgage without turning to a credit card?

Now that gallons of milk, gas and heating oil each have soared nearly
a dollar over the past year, thousands of cash-strapped local
residents are forced to choose between the food that feeds us, the
gas that moves us, the fuel that heats us and the homes that shelter us.

Many pay for the necessities with credit cards. So when it's time to
pay those bills ˜ with interest rates and fees that can balloon the
debt in just a few months ˜ they don't have the money. And neither do
thousands of middle-class folks who have paid for their comfortable
lives with credit.

Judgment rates 'alarming'

This is why judgments on credit cards ˜ companies canceling credit
and ordering borrowers to pay up or lose their money or property ˜
are soaring at "an alarming rate," an official with the National
Foundation for Credit Counseling said. That rate has been rising so
fast in the past few months, exact numbers have not yet been tallied.

But the people who first see these judgments, workers in the county
clerks' offices, handle so many ˜ 150 per week in Orange County alone
˜ they can't file them fast enough.

"Amazing and horrible," said Darla Kroposki, a recording clerk in
Orange. "We can't get to anything else." Judgments on the popular
Capital One credit cards in Orange more than doubled from 2006 to
2007 ˜ from 374 to 789.

"Frightening," said Sullivan County Clerk Dan Briggs. Last year, his
office was swamped with real estate transactions. Now, as housing
sales hit bottom, the clerks are overwhelmed with credit-card judgments.

In Sullivan, the first half of last month saw 65 judgments on Capital
One. Judgments on Capital One in Sullivan also soared from 2006 to
2007, from 341 to 584.

While Ulster doesn't separate its judgments on various forms of
credit, the 2007 total was up about 500 from 2006.

But while the record number of foreclosures on homes makes headlines,
the inability to pay credit-card bills of a few hundred or a few
thousand dollars receives little publicity, in part because people
are embarrassed to admit that debt. But those judgments signify a
more widespread problem: More people can't afford life's necessities,
say credit experts, whether it's food or fuel, a car or a home.

"How can I worry about my credit card when I have to feed my baby?"
asked Robert Toscano of the western Sullivan County hamlet of
Obernburg. He and his baby's mother, Jennifer Franklin, have seen
their debt on two credit cards, each with a $500 maximum, balloon to
more than $2,000 in just a few months. She works several jobs. He
works a seasonal job, reinforcing telephone poles. He was just laid
off, one of the thousands of American construction workers who lost
their jobs recently. Since they don't have health insurance, they
still owe the hospital for the birth of their baby.

'Everyone is going through it'

But even workers with so-called solid jobs are feeling the credit crunch.

"It seems like everyone you know is going through it," said Orange
County's Caysie DeLaCruz, a nurse and mother of two who's seen her
credit-card bills of $2,000 more than double in just three months ˜
even though she has tried to keep up with payments as she struggles
to pay her mortgage, heating and fuel bills.

"It's out of control," said Smith Barney financial adviser Charles
Carnes of Pine Bush, who saw credit-card defaults soar in the fall
and summer as adjustable-mortgage-interest rates rose.

Situations like that come as no surprise to those who track what one
describes as the "overwhelming" situation.

"As they feel the squeeze at the pump, the home and grocery store, as
they try to keep their heads above water and their salaries don't
keep up, they're forced to charge more and more items," said Gail
Cunningham of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, which
sees more than 2 million clients per year. "And then they hit their
limit and they can't pay."

Fuel, food on credit

It's a situation that's bound to get worse before it gets better.

Local shop owners are seeing more customers pay with credit ˜ or
rolls of coins ˜ for smaller purchases, like envelopes or sandwiches.

"I can't tell you how many customers come in with a roll of quarters
or put $2 on a credit card," said Bob Baron of the Kristt Co. office
supply store in Monticello. "Things are really tough out there."

A few blocks away, Albella Pizzeria and restaurant has lowered its
credit-card minimum from $20 to $10 because so many customers must
charge their meals.

And now, oil companies advertise that they accept credit.

But as anyone with a credit card knows, those charges add up.

Take the woman who paid $22 for a large pizza, chicken parmigiana
hero and large Coke at Villa Gaudio in Bullville and put it on two
credit cards. By the time she left the restaurant, the cards had been declined.

For folks like this, who owe thousands on their credit cards and must
struggle to afford life's necessities, help, in the form of the
proposed federal government rebate in June, might be too little too late.

Take those young parents of the 2-year-old. By the time they pay
their baby's medical bills, they won't have enough money to pay their
$2,000 credit-card debt, which surely will have ballooned by then.

The only comfort for them is a small, cruel one:

"At least I know I'm not alone," said Jennifer Franklin.


14) Because They Said So
February 10, 2008

Even by the dismal standards of what passes for a national debate on intelligence and civil liberties, last week was a really bad week.

The Senate debated a bill that would make needed updates to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — while needlessly expanding the president’s ability to spy on Americans without a warrant and covering up the unlawful spying that President Bush ordered after 9/11.

The Democrat who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, John Rockefeller of West Virginia, led the way in killing amendments that would have strengthened requirements for warrants and raised the possibility of at least some accountability for past wrongdoing. Republicans declaimed about protecting America from terrorists — as if anyone was arguing the opposite — and had little to say about protecting Americans’ rights.

We saw a ray of hope when the head of the Central Intelligence Agency conceded — finally — that waterboarding was probably illegal. But his boss, the director of national intelligence, insisted it was legal when done to real bad guys. And Vice President Dick Cheney — surprise! — made it clear that President Bush would authorize waterboarding whenever he wanted.

The Catch-22 metaphor is seriously overused, but consider this: Attorney General Michael Mukasey told Congress there would be no criminal investigation into waterboarding. He said the Justice Department decided waterboarding was legal (remember the torture memo?) and told the C.I.A. that.

So, according to Mukaseyan logic, the Justice Department cannot investigate those who may have committed torture, because the Justice Department said it was O.K. and Justice cannot be expected to investigate itself.

As it was with torture, so it was with wiretaps.

After the 2001 terrorist attacks, the president decided to ignore the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, and authorized wiretaps without a warrant on electronic communications between people in the United States and people abroad. Administration lawyers ginned up a legal justification and then asked communications companies for vast amounts of data.

According to Mr. Rockefeller, the companies were “sent letters, all of which stated that the relevant activities had been authorized by the president” and that the attorney general — then John Ashcroft — decided the activity was lawful. The legal justification remains secret, but we suspect it was based on the finely developed theory that the president does not have to obey the law, and not on any legitimate interpretation of federal statutes.

When Mr. Bush started his spying program, FISA allowed warrantless eavesdropping for up to a year if the president certified that it was directed at a foreign power, or the agent of a foreign power, and there was no real chance that communications involving United States citizens or residents would be caught up. As we now know, the surveillance included Americans and there was no “foreign power” involved.

The law then, and now, also requires the attorney general to certify “in writing under oath” that the surveillance is legal under FISA, not some fanciful theory of executive power. He is required to inform Congress 30 days in advance, and then periodically report to the House and Senate intelligence panels.

Congress was certainly not informed, and if Mr. Ashcroft or later Alberto Gonzales certified anything under oath, it’s a mystery to whom and when. The eavesdropping went on for four years and would probably still be going on if The Times had not revealed it.

So what were the telecommunications companies told? Since the administration is not going to investigate this either, civil actions are the only alternative.

The telecoms, which are facing about 40 pending lawsuits, believe they are protected by a separate law that says companies that give communications data to the government cannot be sued for doing so if they were obeying a warrant — or a certification from the attorney general that a warrant was not needed — and all federal statutes were being obeyed.

To defend themselves, the companies must be able to show they cooperated and produce that certification. But the White House does not want the public to see the documents, since it seems clear that the legal requirements were not met. It is invoking the state secrets privilege — saying that as a matter of national security, it will not confirm that any company cooperated with the wiretapping or permit the documents to be disclosed in court.

So Mr. Rockefeller and other senators want to give the companies immunity even if the administration never admits they were involved. This is short-circuiting the legal system. If it is approved, we will then have to hope that the next president will be willing to reveal the truth.

Mr. Rockefeller argues that companies might balk at future warrantless spying programs. Imagine that!

This whole nightmare was started by Mr. Bush’s decision to spy without warrants — not because they are hard to get, but because he decided he was above the law. Discouraging that would be a service to the nation.

This debate is not about whether the United States is going to spy on Al Qaeda, it is about whether it is going to destroy its democratic principles in doing so. Senators who care about that should vote against immunity.


15) U.S. Soldier Convicted of Killing Iraqi
Filed at 12:57 p.m. ET
February 10, 2008

BAGHDAD (AP) -- A U.S. Army sniper convicted of killing an unarmed Iraqi civilian and planting evidence on his body was sentenced Sunday to 10 years in prison.

Sgt. Evan Vela had faced a possible life sentence. Earlier Sunday, jurors found him guilty of murder without premeditation in the May 11 killing of an Iraqi man south of Baghdad.

Vela was also sentenced to forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and will receive a dishonorable discharge. His case is automatically referred to a military appeals court.

He will be transferred to a U.S. military base in Kuwait, where he will remain until the military decides on a permanent incarceration site in the United States.

Vela had previously been charged with premeditated murder, but that charge was changed during his court-martial in Baghdad. He was also found guilty of making a false official statement and of conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline.

The defendant showed no emotion as the verdict was read. Two of his lawyers leaned over and gave him a light hug over the shoulders before leading him out of the courtroom on a U.S. military base in Baghdad.

Defense lawyers had claimed the killing of Genei Nasir al-Janabi was an accident, brought on by extreme exhaustion and sleep deprivation. But military prosecutors called it a simple case of murder.

''It's a simple case,'' said Capt. Jason Nef, one of two military prosecutors. ''The reason is because Vela confessed on the stand that he lied. He confessed he killed an unarmed Iraqi.''

Vela, who is from St. Anthony, Idaho, wept on the witness stand Saturday as he described shooting al-Janabi after the Iraqi civilian stumbled upon a hiding place where Vela and five other Army snipers were sleeping near Iskandariyah, 30 miles south of Baghdad.

''I don't remember pulling the trigger. I don't remember the sound of the shot,'' Vela said in a near whisper, thumbing the hem of his camouflage jacket and looking straight ahead. ''It took me a few seconds to realize that the shot came from my pistol.''

He testified that after he shot al-Janabi, he tried to shoot him again because ''he was convulsing on the ground and I thought he might be suffering.''

''I just didn't want him to suffer. It was something I've never seen and I got a bit scared,'' Vela said. The second shot missed the man.

James Culp, Vela's attorney, had unsuccessfully argued that Vela was too sleep deprived to know what he was doing.

''This was an accident waiting to happen,'' Culp told the jury of seven men and one woman in his closing argument Sunday. ''What happened on May 11 is clear: These men were extremely, extremely sleep deprived and nobody was thinking clearly.''

Vela and his sniper team had hiked through rough terrain and slept less than five hours in the 72-hours leading up to the killing, the defense said.

Culp also called two medical experts who testified that Vela was suffering from acute sleep deprivation and exhaustion. They said he later lied about the events in part because he suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome.

On Friday, Vela's commanding officer testified that he ordered Vela to kill al-Janabi, saying that was the only way to ensure the safety of his men in hostile territory.

Sgt. Michael A. Hensley, who was a staff sergeant at the time of the killing but was later demoted, testified that he and the other members of the sniper team had all fallen asleep, then awoke to find al-Janabi squatting about three feet from them.

Hensley said he ordered the man to lie on the ground and was searching him when he saw ''military-aged men'' who he thought were carrying weapons about 100 yards away.

He said al-Janabi began yelling, and he decided that killing the man was the only way to keep the sniper hide-out from being discovered by what he believed was a group of approaching insurgents.

Hensley, of Candler, N.C., and Spc. Jorge G. Sandoval Jr., of Laredo, Texas have faced similar charges in al-Janabi's killing as well as two other slayings. They were acquitted of murder but convicted of planting evidence on the dead Iraqis.

Sandoval was sentenced to five months in prison, his rank was reduced to private and his pay was withheld. Hensley was sentenced to 135 days confinement, reduced in rank to sergeant and received a letter of reprimand.

The soldiers were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska.

Vela testified at Hensley's court-martial in late September, under a deal that bars his account of events from being used against him at his own court-martial.


16) Israelis Urge Tougher Action in Gaza
February 10, 2008

JERUSALEM — Israeli cabinet ministers on Sunday urged sharper military action in Gaza after a rocket attack by Palestinian militants the night before seriously wounded two brothers, ages 8 and 19, in the Israeli border town of Sderot.

Dozens of residents of Sderot came to Jerusalem to protest against what they said was government inaction in the face of the continued rocket fire. Joined by local sympathizers, they sat down on the highway at midday, blocking the main entrance to the city, before marching to the prime minister’s office, paralyzing traffic on central routes.

The Israeli Air Force carried out a strike in Gaza late Saturday night against a Hamas operative in the south who was involved in weapon smuggling, an army spokeswoman said. Hamas said one of its local commanders was killed. Three other air strikes were aimed against a militants’ training camp and two places where weapons were stored but caused no casualties, the spokeswoman said.

Meir Sheetrit, a minister from the governing Kadima Party, said on Israel Radio that the army ought to “make an example, to take a neighborhood in Gaza and erase it” after warning the residents to leave.

Shaul Mofaz, another minister and a former army chief of staff, asked why the army had not yet hit Mahmoud Zahar, an influential leader of Hamas, the Islamic group that controls Gaza.

Thirteen Israelis have been killed by rocket fire from Gaza over the past seven years, many of them in Sderot. Saturday’s attack caused an uproar in part because of the age of the brothers who were wounded. The rocket caught them out in the street, and they did not have enough time to take shelter after the municipal alert system sounded.

The younger boy has had part of one leg amputated, doctors said, but the condition of both brothers had stabilized by Sunday. About 40 rockets were launched on Friday and Saturday, army officials said.

Despite pressure from some opposition politicians and residents of Sderot, the government has so far avoided giving a green light for a broad invasion of Gaza. Israeli security experts say such an action would exact a high price in lives on both sides, and there are questions about what can be achieved.

In remarks at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, the prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, said, “The outrage is natural, but it must be clear that outrage is not a plan for action.”

He added that, with regard to the rockets, Israel is acting in a “systematic and orderly fashion over time” and will “continue to reach all the responsible terrorists.”

Mr. Olmert said the latest rocket assault came, among other reasons, in response to “very aggressive, vigorous and comprehensive action” by the army that has killed approximately 200 Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants and wounded hundreds more in recent months.

Among those killed was Mr. Zahar’s son, Hussam, 21, a member of the military wing of Hamas. He was riding with other militants in a car that was struck by an Israeli missile last month. Khaled Zahar, another of Mr. Zahar’s sons, was killed in 2003 in an Israeli air raid on the family’s house.

Some ministers called on Sunday for more decisive action. Avi Dichter, the minister for public security, said the government’s handling of Sderot suffered from the same lack of clarity and purpose that marred Israel’s war against Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006.

A spokesman in Gaza for the Popular Resistance Committees, one of the groups that fires rockets at Israel, told the Israeli Internet site Ynet on Friday that worse was to come. He advised the residents of Sderot to evacuate the town “in order to ensure their safety and that of their children.”

The demonstrators from Sderot entered Jerusalem sounding a mobile system that sounds the alert for incoming rockets, and lay down on the road at regular intervals as they would do during a rocket attack. Many seemed to be from the religious sector. Amotz Avreki, 22, a student at a yeshiva in Sderot, was carrying the twisted metal remains of an exploded rocket. “We came here to demonstrate because it is impossible to live this way,” he said, adding that the government should “wake up.”


17) Proposal in Texas for a Public-Private Toll Road System Raises an Outcry
February 10, 2008

ROBSTOWN, Tex. — Leon Little’s farm here near Corpus Christi would not be seized for Texas’s proposed $184-billion-plus superhighway project for 5 or 10 years, if ever.

But Mr. Little was alarmed enough to show up Wednesday night with hundreds of his South Texas coastal neighbors to do what the Texas Department of Transportation has been urging: “Go ahead, don’t hold back.”

Don’t worry. Texans have gotten the message, swamping hearings and town meetings across the state to grill and often excoriate agency officials about a colossal traffic makeover known as the Trans-Texas Corridor, a public-private partnership unrivaled in the state’s — or probably any state’s — history, that would stretch well into the century and, if completed in full, end up costing around $200 billion.

“Is your road more important than the foodstuffs we put together for you?” asked Mr. Little, glaring at transportation officials at the town meeting.

The plan envisions a 4,000-mile network of new toll roads, with car and truck lanes, rail lines, and pipeline and utilities zones, to bypass congested cities and speed freight to and from Mexico.

Critics abound, but experts say Texas is addressing a problem certain to worsen nationally in coming decades: the price of gasoline may be rising but revenue from gasoline taxes is not, and with the rise of more fuel-efficient vehicles, less money is being raised for highway projects, even as traffic grows.

So transportation planners are increasingly looking to the private sector to put up construction money for toll roads in return for revenue from motorists.

“We’re relying on 1993 income for 2008 output,” said Robert Harrison, deputy director of the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Texas in Austin. “It’s unsustainable.”

Texas has been a victim of its own success, officials say. From July 2006 to July 2007 it added more people than any other state — nearly half a million, beating California by nearly 200,000. In the past quarter century, they say, the state’s population has grown by nearly 60 percent while road use has doubled.

“They make fun of us, but a whole bunch of people want to be Texans,” said Phillip E. Russell, assistant executive director of the Texas Transportation Department, who presided over the meeting here at the Nueces County Fairgrounds, along with the agency’s executive director, Amadeo Saenz.

Mr. Saenz said that Texas highways averaged 46 years of age and that the state was running out of money to maintain them, let alone build new roads. “The problem is our needs far outweigh the money available,” he said.

At particular issue in South Texas is a stretch of federal Highways 77 and 59 designated part of a proposed new segment of the federal highway system, I-69. But what was to have been a new interstate long sought by some businessmen and local officials is now listed as TTC-69, or part of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

“I don’t think people realize it has morphed into a toll road,” said Linda Stall, founder of a opposition group called Corridor Watch. Ms. Stall said the project was backed by “the guys who build, financiers and the suits.”

“The only person who loses is the citizen,” she said. “We’re paying everyone’s profit.” She also said investors would “cherry pick” the most lucrative toll routes, leaving other sections unfinanced.

Mr. Saenz said some routes might not require bypassing. “The no-build alternative is still an alternative,” he said.

The corridor project grew out of the 2002 governor’s race when Rick Perry, the former Republican lieutenant governor who had completed George W. Bush’s unfinished term, surprised transportation experts by taking ideas they had discussed a decade earlier, to little interest, and “supersizing them,” as one recalled.

The project grew to consist of four “priority segments:” new multimodal toll roads up to 1,200 feet wide paralleling Interstates 35 and 37 from Denison in North Texas to the Rio Grande Valley; a proposed I-69 from Texarkana to Houston and Laredo; I-45 from Dallas-Fort Worth to Houston; and I-10 from El Paso to Orange on the Louisiana border. But the exact routes are years away from being designated.

With construction, land acquisition and other expenses, the cost was estimated in 2002 at up to $183.5 billion, all of it to be put up by private investors, state officials say. No existing roads would gain tolls.

The first planning contract, for a segment paralleling I-35, was awarded in 2004 to a partnership of Cintra, a publicly traded transportation giant based in Madrid, and the Zachary Construction Corporation of San Antonio. But lawmakers, concerned over the public outcry, put the brakes on additional contracts until next year.

Legislators also asked transportation officials last week to explain why they were complaining of budget shortfalls while failing to use $9 billion in voter-approved bonding authority.

Now that 12 town meetings have concluded and the agency this month began the first of 46 public hearings to run through next month, Mr. Saenz said, “We have now gotten to first base.”

Once the Federal Highway Administration signed off on the plans, he said, the agency, perhaps next year, could begin a second phase of four to six years to select actual routes. But meanwhile, people here complained, they were being left hanging.

“Six to 15 years puts us in limbo forever,” said John Floyd, whose antiques shop is the only business in San Patricio, a historic crossroads dating from 1828 and on the map as a possible corridor route.

David Helpenstell, himself a soon-to-retire employee of the transportation department, also felt threatened. “Your proposed alternate passes through the middle of my house,” he said. Now even if he wanted to sell, he said, “nobody would buy it.”

At least Texas could share the road wealth, said John Coggin of Bluntzer, suggesting that displaced landowners get a percentage of toll revenues, just as they would for mineral rights.

On his nearby farm, where he was turning over the soil for sunflowers, Dean Nesloney climbed out of his tractor to show where he feared TTC-69 could go. “It’s kind of like this,” Mr. Nesloney said extending his arms diagonally across his field.

“They’d probably take it all up,” he said. “Maybe leave me some little bitty corners.”


18) In Reversal, Courts Uphold Local Immigration Laws
News Analysis
February 10, 2008

After groups challenging state and local laws cracking down on illegal immigration won a series of high-profile legal victories last year, the tide has shifted as federal judges recently handed down several equally significant decisions upholding those laws.

On Thursday, a federal judge in Arizona ruled against a lawsuit by construction contractors and immigrant organizations who sought to halt a state law that went into effect on Jan. 1 imposing severe penalties on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. The judge, Neil V. Wake of Federal District Court, methodically rejected all of the contractors’ arguments that the Arizona law invaded legal territory belonging exclusively to the federal government.

On Jan. 31, a federal judge in Missouri, E. Richard Webber, issued a similarly broad and even more forcefully worded decision in favor of an ordinance aimed at employers of illegal immigrants adopted by Valley Park, Mo., a city on the outskirts of St. Louis.

And, in an even more sweeping ruling in December, a judge in Oklahoma, James H. Payne, threw out a lawsuit against a state statute enacted last year requiring state contractors to verify new employees’ immigration status. Judge Payne said the immigrants should not be able to bring their claims to court because they were living in the country in violation of the law.

These rulings were a sharp change of tack from a decision in July by a federal judge in Pennsylvania who struck down ordinances adopted by the City of Hazleton barring local employers from hiring illegal immigrants and local landlords from renting to them. In that case, the judge, James M. Munley of Federal District Court, found that the Hazleton laws not only interfered with federal law, but also violated the due process rights of employers and landlords, and illegal immigrants as well.

Hazleton was the first city to adopt ordinances to combat illegal immigration, laws that the mayor, Louis J. Barletta, said would make it “one of the toughest places in the United States” for illegal immigrants. After the Hazleton decision, many cities and towns that had been considering similar statutes against employers and landlords dropped the effort, fearing legal challenges that they would be likely to lose.

The recent federal decisions will probably give new encouragement to states and towns seeking to drive out illegal immigrants by making it difficult for them to find jobs or places to live.

“These are not equivocal decisions,” said Kris W. Kobach, a law professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, who was the lead lawyer in the Valley Park case and assisted in the Arizona case. “Both judges gave sweeping victories to the cities and states involved,” said Mr. Kobach, who was also one of the leading lawyers representing Hazleton.

In another earlier, much-watched case, the City of Escondido, Calif., in December 2006 dropped an anti-illegal immigrant housing ordinance and agreed to pay $90,000 in lawyers’ fees to the landlords and illegal immigrants who brought a lawsuit.

By contrast, in the Valley Park decision, Judge Webber wrote that the residents challenging the statutes had failed to “create a genuine issue of material fact on any of the allegations.” He wrote that the city’s employer ordinance “is not pre-empted by federal law.”

That decision was especially notable because earlier versions of the Valley Park ordinances had been struck down in state court. After the state decision, the city dropped its statutes barring illegal immigrants from renting housing, turning to federal court only to defend its sanctions on employers.

Judge Payne of Oklahoma, ruling Dec. 12 on state laws that took effect in November, went furthest in questioning the rights of illegal immigrants.

“These illegal alien plaintiffs seek nothing more than to use this court as a vehicle for their continued unlawful presence in this country,” he wrote. “To allow these plaintiffs to do so would make this court an ‘abettor of iniquity,’ and this court finds that simply unpalatable.”

In Arizona and Missouri, groups challenging the laws have said they will seek new injunctions or appeal; the Hazleton decision is currently under appeal.

Lawyers fighting the local statutes said these were creating a nationwide checkerboard of conflicting laws, and have generated discrimination against Hispanics who are not illegal immigrants. As of November, 1,562 bills dealing with immigration were introduced in state legislatures in 2007 and 244 became law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“What certain states and communities are doing is taking matters into their own hands that should be dealt with on a national level in a consistent manner,” said Ricardo Meza, a lawyer in Chicago for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which brought the Valley Park case. “Where we see the big danger with these laws is that they put a bulls-eye on every Hispanic’s forehead.”

Michael A. Olivas, a University of Houston law professor, said the recent litigation showed the need for Congress to clarify the situation of illegal immigrants. “We lost the big enchilada, which was federal immigration reform that would have trumped all these matters,” he said.


19) Global Finance Leaders Warn of Risk From U.S. Housing Woe
February 10, 2008

TOKYO — Finance leaders from the world’s wealthiest nations warned Saturday that global economic woes could get worse from the slump in the American housing market, but offered few specific remedies.

In a statement issued after meetings in Tokyo, the finance ministers and central bank chiefs of the Group of 7 industrialized nations offered a more pessimistic view of the global economy than they did four months ago, after their last meeting. They also said the fundamental elements of the global economy remained strong and the United States was likely to avoid recession.

The finance leaders from the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada warned that global growth could continue to slow as a result of the credit crisis set off by America’s subprime mortgage problems. The statement also pledged joint action to calm shaken financial markets, but it was short on specifics, especially on steps to rekindle growth.

It did not press member nations to pick up the slack from the slowing United States economy by stimulating their own domestic growth. It also did not contain any dramatic joint action, like a coordinated cut in interest rates, as some had hoped.

“The world confronts a more challenging and uncertain environment than when we met last October,” the statement said. “We will continue to watch developments closely and will continue to take appropriate actions, individually and collectively, in order to secure stability and growth in our economies.”

Members urged China to absorb more imports by raising the value of its currency, which would make foreign goods cheaper for Chinese consumers. They also called on oil-producing nations to help cut energy prices by raising output. Some warned that higher fuel and food costs could cause global inflation.

Members also said their economies were expected to slow by varying degrees and there was no single fix for global economic troubles. They said they spent much time discussing the severity of housing market troubles in the United States and Washington’s efforts to respond.

The United States Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., said after the meeting that he expected market volatility to continue as investors try to assess the fallout from the housing market problems.

He also said the United States economy would keep growing this year and he was confident of its long-term health.

One concrete step to come out of the meeting was a call for banks to fully disclose their losses from the subprime meltdown and quickly rebuild their balance sheets. The German finance minister, Peer Steinbrück, said members agreed that write-offs at banks related to subprime mortgages could reach $400 billion, about four times estimates just a couple of months ago.




Tactic Called Torture
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) — Waterboarding, an interrogation technique that has been used by the United States, qualifies as torture, the United Nations human rights chief said Friday.
February 9, 2008

Halliburton Profit Rises
HOUSTON (AP) — Halliburton, the oil field services company, said Monday that its emphasis on Middle Eastern markets had contributed to a nearly 5 percent increase in fourth-quarter profit.
The company has been adding people and equipment to the Middle East and elsewhere — even moving its top executive overseas — which it says helped Eastern Hemisphere sales grow 27 percent in the fourth quarter versus a year ago.
Halliburton said results were squeezed by higher costs and lower pricing in North America, a trend that also hindered a rival, Schlumberger, and could persist.
Net income in the fourth quarter rose to $690 million, or 75 cents a share, compared with $658 million, or 64 cents a share, in the period a year ago.
January 29, 2008

Colombia: Guerrilla Leader Is Sentenced
Ricardo Palmera, a top leader of the Marxist-inspired Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, was sentenced by a federal court in Washington to 60 years in prison for taking part in the kidnapping of three American military contractors in 2003. Mr. Palmera, 57, the most senior Colombian guerrilla leader extradited to the United States, had justified the abductions as a tactic of war by the FARC, Latin America’s largest rebel group. At the courtroom where he was sentenced, Mr. Palmera, known by the nom de guerre Simón Trinidad, accused the United States of improperly intervening in Colombia’s affairs and shouted, “Long live the FARC!”
January 29, 2008
World Briefing | The Americas

Mining Agency Finds Penalties Lapse
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The federal agency that regulates the nation’s mining industry says that it has failed to issue penalties for hundreds of citations issued since 2000 and that the problem could extend back beyond 1995.
Matthew Faraci, a spokesman for the agency, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, said Sunday, “We would guess it goes back far beyond 1995, but because of a lack of electronic records before that year, I can’t verify that.”
Preliminary data showed that penalties had not been assessed against companies that received about 4,000 citations issued by the agency from January 2000 to July 2006, The Sunday Gazette-Mail of Charleston reported.
The agency’s director, Richard E. Stickler, told the newspaper that a review also showed that penalties had never been assessed for a few hundred citations issued in 1996.
The agency recently discovered the problem after it checked into whether a Kentucky coal operator had been assessed a penalty after a an accident in 2005 in which a miner bled to death after not receiving proper first aid.
January 28, 2008

National Briefing | ROCKIES
Montana: Bad News for Gray Wolves
A new federal rule would allow state game agencies to kill endangered gray wolves that prey on wildlife in the Northern Rockies. An estimated 1,545 wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are scheduled to come off the endangered species list in coming weeks, but the rule is a separate action that would give the three states more latitude to kill wolves even if their removal from the list was delayed. The rule would empower state wildlife agents to kill packs of wolves if they could prove that the animals were having a “major impact” on big-game herds.
January 25, 2008

Wolfowitz to Lead State Dept. Panel
WASHINGTON (AP) — Paul D. Wolfowitz, former president of the World Bank, will lead a high-level advisory panel on arms control and disarmament, the State Department said Thursday.
Mr. Wolfowitz, who has close ties to the White House, will become chairman of the International Security Advisory Board, which reports to the secretary of state. The panel is charged with giving independent advice on disarmament, nonproliferation and related subjects.
The portfolio includes commentary on several high-profile issues, including pending nuclear deals with India and North Korea and an offer to negotiate with Iran over its disputed nuclear program.
Mr. Wolfowitz was replaced as World Bank chief last June after a stormy two-year tenure. He is now a defense and foreign policy studies expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington research organization.
January 25, 2008

World Briefing | The Americas
Cuba: No Surprises, No Losers
Officials said that more than 95 percent of registered voters turned out at the polls on Sunday to endorse a slate of parliamentary candidates, including Fidel Castro and his brother Raúl. Of the 8.2 million voters, 3.7 percent submitted blank ballots and 1 percent voided their ballots in some way. Election officials called the results a success; critics called it a farce. As in past elections in the one-party state, nobody lost. There were 614 candidates and the same number of seats being chosen in the National Assembly.
January 22, 2008

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

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

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




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
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[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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