Tuesday, February 26, 2008



Help build the March 19th day of action!

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

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

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


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

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

Send a letter to the Board of Education

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

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

The reasons for phasing out JROTC are laid out very
clearly in the 2006 resolution.

(see below)

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

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

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

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

Send letters to: (please send copies to Bonnie Weinstein at giobon@comcast and Riva Enteen at riva187@yahoo.com

Mr. Norman Yee

Hydra Mendoza

Eric Mar, Esq.

Kim-Shree Maufas

Jane Kim

Mark Sanchez

Jill Wynn

Norman Yee

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

Subject: Resolution No. 65-23A1


- Mark Sanchez and Dan Kelly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Please Note:

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

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

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


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

An international week of protest to:

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

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

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

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


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

Click here to Endorse:


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

A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
Act Now to Stop War & End Racism
http://www.ANSWERcoalition.org http://www.answersf.org
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 answer@answersf.org 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 www.5yearstoomany.org/wintersoldier 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 www.5yearstoomany.org/march19dc 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 www.5yearstoomany.org/march19local.

For further details and info on how to get involved, please visit www.5yearstoomany.org.

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.

www.unitedforpeace.org | 212-868-5545
To subscribe, visit www.unitedforpeace.org/email


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

List of Endorsers (below call):

Endorse the conference:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

List of Endorsers

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

Appeal initiated by:

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

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

* * * * * * * * * *


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


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




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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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


Host Organizations
Points of Unity

Organizational endorsements welcome. Please write to us at convention6@ al-awda.org

For information on how to become part of the host committee, please write to convention6@ al-awda.org

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

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

Until return,

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

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


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

Sign the Statement:


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

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

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

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

Initial signers:

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

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

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

A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
Act Now to Stop War & End Racism
http://www.ANSWERcoalition.org http://www.answersf.org
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.





From: LACFreeMumia@aol.com

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


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

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


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

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

Day-after demonstrations are also planned in:

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

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

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


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

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




In 1995, mass mobilizations helped save Mumia from death.

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

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

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




1) Obama's Money Cartel
How he's fronted for the most vicious firms on Wall Street
By Pam Martens
February 23, 2008

2) America wants an Operation in Gaza
By Shmuel Rosner
February 22, 2008

3) Boy’s Killing, Labeled a Hate Crime, Stuns a Town
February 23, 2008

4) The three trillion dollar war
The cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have grown to staggering proportions
Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes
February 23, 2008

5) Missile Strike by Israelis in Gaza Kills 3 Palestinians
February 24, 2008

6) U.S. underreports Iraqi civilian deaths
"The U.S. Air Force dropped six times as many bombs in Iraq last year as it did in 2006, 1,447 compared to 229, according to an announcement in mid-January by Air Force Col. Gary Crowder, commander of the 609th Combined Air Operations Center in Southwest Asia, as reported in The Washington Post."
February 24, 2008

7) Trial Starts for Detectives in Bell Shooting
By Michael Wilson
February 25, 2008, 10:49 am

8) Gazans Protest at Border Fence
February 26, 2008

9) Rising Inflation Creates Unease in Middle East
February 25, 2008

10)Ford Is Pushing Buyouts to Workers
February 26, 2008

11) New Data Show Rising Inflation and Slumping Home Values
February 26, 2008

12) Pentagon Releases Projections for Forces
February 26, 2008

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

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


1) Obama's Money Cartel
How he's fronted for the most vicious firms on Wall Street
By Pam Martens
February 23, 2008

Wall Street, known variously as a barren wasteland for diversity or the last plantation in America, has defied courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for decades in its failure to hire blacks as stockbrokers. Now it's marshalling its money machine to elect a black man to the highest office in the land. Why isn't the press curious about this?

Walk into any of the largest Wall Street brokerage firms today and you'll see a self-portrait of upper management racism and sexism: women sitting at secretarial desks outside fancy offices occupied by predominantly white males. According to the EEOC as well as the recent racial discrimination class actions filed against UBS and Merrill Lynch, blacks make up between one percent to 3.5 percent of stockbrokers—and this after 30 years of litigation, settlements and empty promises to do better by the largest Wall Street firms. The first clue to an entrenched white male bastion seeking a black male occupant in the oval office (having placed only five blacks in the U.S. Senate in the last two centuries) appeared this month on a chart at the Center for Responsive Politics website. It was a list of the 20 top contributors to the Barack Obama campaign, and it looked like one of those comprehension tests where you match up things that go together and eliminate those that don't. Of the 20 top contributors, I eliminated six that didn't compute. I was now looking at a sight only slightly less frightening to democracy than a Diebold voting machine. It was a Wall Street cartel of financial firms, their registered lobbyists, and go-to law firms that have a death grip on our federal government.

Why is the "yes, we can" candidate in bed with this cartel? How can we, the people, make change if Obama's money backers block our ability to be heard?

Seven of the Obama campaign's top 14 donors consist of officers and employees of the same Wall Street firms charged time and again with looting the public and newly implicated in originating and/or bundling fraudulently made mortgages. These latest frauds have left thousands of children in some of our largest minority communities coming home from school to see eviction notices and foreclosure signs nailed to their front doors. Those scars will last a lifetime.

These seven Wall Street firms are (in order of money given): Goldman Sachs, UBS AG, Lehman Brothers, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse. There is also a large hedge fund, Citadel Investment Group, which is a major source of fee income to Wall Street. There are five large corporate law firms that are also registered lobbyists; and one is a corporate law firm that is no longer a registered lobbyist but does legal work for Wall Street. The cumulative total of these 14 contributors through February 1, 2008, was $2,872,128, and we're still in the primary season.

But hasn't Senator Obama repeatedly told us in ads and speeches and debates that he wasn't taking money from registered lobbyists? Hasn't the press given him a free pass on this statement?

Barack Obama, speaking in Greenville, South Carolina, on January 22, 2008:

"Washington lobbyists haven't funded my campaign, they won't run my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of working Americans when I am president."

Barack Obama, in an email to supporters on June 25, 2007, as reported by the Boston Globe:

"Candidates typically spend a week like this—right before the critical June 30th financial reporting deadline—on the phone, day and night, begging Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs to write huge checks. Not me. Our campaign has rejected the money-for-influence game and refused to accept funds from registered federal lobbyists and political action committees".

The Center for Responsive Politics' website allows one to pull up the filings made by lobbyists registering under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 with the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives and secretary of the U.S. Senate. These top five contributors to the Obama campaign have filed as registered lobbyists: Sidley Austin LLP; Skadden, Arps, et al; Jenner & Block; Kirkland & Ellis; Wilmerhale, aka Wilmer Cutler Pickering.

Is it possible that Senator Obama does not know that corporate law firms are also frequently registered lobbyists? Or is he making a distinction that because these funds are coming from the employees of these firms, he's not really taking money directly from registered lobbyists? That thesis seems disingenuous when many of these individual donors own these law firms as equity partners or shareholders and share in the profits generated from lobbying.

Far from keeping his distance from lobbyists, Senator Obama and his campaign seems to be brainstorming with them.

The political publication, The Hill, reported on December 20, 2007, that three salaried aides on the Obama campaign were registered lobbyists for dozens of corporations. (The Obama campaign said they had stopped lobbying since joining the campaign.) Bob Bauer, counsel to the Obama campaign, is an attorney with Perkins Coie. That law firm is also a registered lobbyist.

What might account for this persistent (but non-reality based) theme of distancing the Obama campaign from lobbyists? Odds are it traces back to one of the largest corporate lobbyist spending sprees in the history of Washington whose details would cast an unwholesome pall on the Obama campaign, unless our cognitive abilities are regularly bombarded with abstract vacuities of hope and change and sentimental homages to Dr. King and President Kennedy.

On February 10, 2005, Senator Obama voted in favor of the passage of the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005. Senators Biden, Boxer, Byrd, Clinton, Corzine, Durbin, Feingold, Kerry, Leahy, Reid and 16 other Democrats voted against it. It passed the Senate 72-26 and was signed into law on February 18, 2005.

Here is an excerpt of remarks Senator Obama made on the Senate floor on February 14, 2005, concerning the passage of this legislation:

"Every American deserves their day in court. This bill, while not perfect, gives people that day while still providing the reasonable reforms necessary to safe–guard against the most blatant abuses of the system. I also hope that the federal judiciary takes seriously their expanded role in class action litigation, and upholds their responsibility to fairly certify class actions so that they may protect our civil and consumer rights…"

Three days before Senator Obama ex–pressed that fateful yea vote, 14 state attorneys general, including Lisa Madigan of Senator Obama's home state of Illinois, filed a letter with the Senate and House, pleading to stop the passage of this corporate giveaway. The AGs wrote: "State attorneys general frequently investigate and bring actions against defendants who have caused harm to our citizens... In some instances, such actions have been brought with the attorney general acting as the class representative for the consumers of the state. We are concerned that certain provisions of S.5 might be misinterpreted to impede the ability of the attorneys general to bring such actions..."

The Senate also received a desperate plea from more than 40 civil rights and labor organizations, including the NAACP, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Human Rights Campaign, American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Justice and Democracy, Legal Momentum (formerly NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund), and Alliance for Justice. They wrote as follows:

"Under the [Class Action Fairness Act of 2005], citizens are denied the right to use their own state courts to bring class actions against corporations that violate these state wage and hour and state civil rights laws, even where that corporation has hundreds of employees in that state. Moving these state law cases into federal court will delay and likely deny justice for working men and women and victims of discrimination. The federal courts are al–ready overburdened. Additionally, federal courts are less likely to certify classes or provide relief for violations of state law."

This legislation, which dramatically impaired labor rights, consumer rights and civil rights, involved five years of pressure from 100 corporations, 475 lobbyists, tens of millions of corporate dollars buying influence in our government, and the active participation of the Wall Street firms now funding the Obama campaign. "The Civil Justice Reform Group, a business alliance comprising general counsels from Fortune 100 firms, was instrumental in drafting the class-action bill," says Public Citizen.

One of the hardest-working registered lobbyists to push this corporate giveaway was the law firm Mayer-Brown, hired by the leading business lobby group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Chamber of Commerce spent $16 million in just 2003, lobbying the government on various business issues, including class action reform.

According to a 2003 report from Public Citizen, Mayer-Brown's class-action lobbyists included, "Mark Gitenstein, former chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and a leading architect of the Senate strategy in support of class-action legislation; John Schmitz, who was deputy counsel to President George H.W. Bush; David McIntosh, former Republican congressman from Indiana; and Jeffrey Lewis, who was on the staffs of both Sen. John Breaux (D-La) and Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La)."

While not on the Center for Responsive Politics list of the top 20 contributors to the Obama presidential campaign, Mayer-Brown's partners and employees are in rarefied company, giving a total of $92,817 through December 31, 2007, to the Obama campaign. (The firm is also defending Merrill Lynch in court against charges of racial discrimination.)

Senator Obama graduated Harvard Law magna cum laude and was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. Given those credentials, one assumes that he understood the ramifications to the poor and middle class in this country as he helped to gut one of the few weapons left to seek justice against giant corporations and their legions of giant law firms. The class-action vehicle confers upon each citizen one of the most powerful rights in our society: the ability to function as a private attorney general and seek redress for wrongs inflicted on ourselves as well as for those similarly injured that might not otherwise have a voice.

Those rights should have been strengthened, not restricted, at this dangerous time in our nation's history. According to a comprehensive report from the nonprofit group, United for a Fair Economy, over the past eight years the total loss of wealth for people of color is between $164 billion and $213 billion, for subprime loans which is the greatest loss of wealth for people of color in modern history:

"According to federal data, people of color are three times more likely to have subprime loans: high-cost loans account for 55 percent of loans to blacks, but only 17 percent of loans to whites."

If there had been equitable distribution of subprime loans, losses for white people would be 44.5 percent higher and losses for people of color would be about 24 percent lower. "This is evidence of systemic prejudice and institutional racism."

Before the current crisis, based on improvements in median household net worth, it would take 594 more years for blacks to achieve parity with whites. The current crisis is likely to stretch this even further.

So, how should we react when we learn that the top contributors to the Obama campaign are the very Wall Street firms whose shady mortgage lenders buried the elderly and the poor and minority under predatory loans? How should we react when we learn that on the big donor list is Citigroup, whose former employee at CitiFinancial testified to the Federal Trade Commission that it was standard practice to target people based on race and educational level, with the sales force winning bonuses called "Rocopoly Money" (like a sick board game), after "blitz" nights of soliciting loans by phone? How should we react when we learn that these very same firms, arm in arm with their corporate lawyers and registered lobbyists, have weakened our ability to fight back with the class-action vehicle?

Should there be any doubt left as to who owns our government? The very same cast of characters making the Obama hit parade of campaign loot are the clever creators of the industry solutions to the wave of foreclosures gripping this nation's poor and middle class, effectively putting the solution in the hands of the robbers. The names of these programs (that have failed to make a dent in the problem) have the same vacuous ring: Hope Now; Project Lifeline.

Senator Obama has become the inspiration and role model to millions of children and young people in this country. He has only two paths now: to be a dream maker or a dream killer.

Pam Martens worked on Wall Street for 21 years; she has no securities position, long or short, in any company mentioned in this article. She writes on public interest issues from New Hampshire. She can be reached at pamk741@aol.com


2) America wants an Operation in Gaza
By Shmuel Rosner
February 22, 2008

WASHINGTON - As the Second Lebanon War raged, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger paid a visit to Major General Dan Harel, who was then army attaché in Washington and is now deputy chief of staff. The war had not yet been described as a failure, nor had anyone thought about setting up the Winograd Committee. But Kissinger already had things to say, and he may not have been the only one.

Some Israelis believed that this was the way for someone in the Bush administration to express dissatisfaction with Israel's conducting of the war, by criticizing through an unofficial channel. Kissinger, who is still invited to the White House to advise the president, was a natural candidate for such a task.

The Israeli operation in Lebanon had left Kissinger unimpressed, and he made this clear to Harel. Even worse: Kissinger told him that Israel's erratic progress was undermining U.S. interests.

This was also the feeling of most senior U.S. officials after the war. Vice President Dick Cheney was particularly disappointed, since he was one of the leading proponents of American patience toward Israel, calling for time to allow it to complete its military campaign. All those, including President George Bush, who were counting on Israel to teach a definitive lesson to the extremists in the Middle East, were disappointed.

The mysterious Israeli attack in Syria last September and the assassination of Imad Mughniyah in Damascus last week may improve Israel's operational image, but will not completely restore the American confidence in its ability to complete a more ambitious campaign: occupying the Gaza Strip, crushing the military power of Hamas and restoring the Strip to the trained Palestinian forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas.

This is the only realistic scenario that may bode a better future for the Gaza Strip, and which also aligns with what is relevant to Washington: it is both realistic and meets U.S. aims, namely to avoid dialogue with Hamas and not to weaken Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by rewarding the extremists.

Anyone trying to identify the path along which Israel will proceed toward an operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip must begin by studying the war in Lebanon and the mutual disappointment: The Americans were surprised by the poor operational capabilities of Israel, and the Israelis were shocked by the diplomatic ambush they ran into in the Security Council toward the end of the war. Hopefully the lesson has been learned and Israel and the U.S. will seek to coordinate the effort in Gaza in a better, more realistic fashion.

The Americans have a major complaint about Lebanon, but Israel has an even bigger complaint about Gaza: Had Bush not allowed Abbas to hold elections in the Palestinian Authority with the participation of Hamas, the situation in Gaza would have been different. Both sides will be careful not to repeat the errors of the past. If the operation in the Gaza Strip will begin according to plan and not in a sudden response to a bloody incident, it will not happen soon.

The Americans know that change must occur in the Gaza Strip. "The status quo there, I think, cannot hold," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a congressional hearing last week.

According to the American scenario, what is first required is complete Israeli readiness for a military operation, and also for political allowances. At the Pentagon they are impressed by the way the lessons of the war are being learned by the IDF, and have also began adopting some of them. These include the reinforcement of vehicles in areas where American forces are conducting guerrilla warfare.

However, the Americans will require assurances, more so than in the past, that this will not be an operation that will commence with a promise only to end with an investigation. Like Kissinger said, it undermines American interests.

The Bush administration is wary of yet another victory by the extremists; it has never had faith in the ability of the international community to prevent such victory. Only the most naive among the senior administration officials still toy with the idea of a multinational force that will take over in the Gaza Strip. The lessons from Lebanon have also been learned on this.

What they really want is the forceful takeover of the territory by a bolstered Palestinian Authority. Senior officers of the American army are going back and forth between Washington, Ramallah and Jerusalem, in an effort to draw a picture of the reality on the ground that is more accurate than the one presented by General Keith Dayton to Congress and the Bush administration, on the eve of the fall of the Strip to Hamas.

A broad Israeli operation, with American encouragement, will be able to begin only after the forces of Abbas are trained. But by then, the Americans may have a new president.


3) Boy’s Killing, Labeled a Hate Crime, Stuns a Town
February 23, 2008

OXNARD, Calif. — Hundreds of mourners gathered at a church here on Friday to remember an eighth-grade boy who was shot to death inside a junior high school computer lab by a fellow student in what prosecutors are calling a hate crime.

In recent weeks, the victim, Lawrence King, 15, had said publicly that he was gay, classmates said, enduring harassment from a group of schoolmates, including the 14-year-old boy charged in his death.

“God knit Larry together and made him wonderfully complex,” the Rev. Dan Birchfield of Westminster Presbyterian Church told the crowd as he stood in front of a large photograph of the victim. “Larry was a masterpiece.”

The shooting stunned residents of Oxnard, a laid-back middle-class beach community just north of Malibu. It also drew a strong reaction from gay and civil rights groups.

“We’ve never had school violence like this here before, never had a school shooting,” said David Keith, a spokesman for the Oxnard Police Department.

Les Winget, 44, whose daughter Nikki, 13, attends the school, called the crime “absolutely unbelievable.”

Jay Smith, executive director of the Ventura County Rainbow Alliance, where Lawrence took part in Friday night group activities for gay teenagers, said, “We’re all shocked that this would happen here.”

The gunman, identified by the police as Brandon McInerney, “is just as much a victim as Lawrence,” said Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center. “He’s a victim of homophobia and hate.”

The law center is working with Equality California and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network to push for a legislative review of anti-bias policies and outreach efforts in California schools. According to the 2005 California Healthy Kids Survey, junior high school students in the state are 3 percent more likely to be harassed in school because of sexual orientation or gender identity than those in high school.

That finding is representative of schools across the country, said Stephen Russell, a University of Arizona professor who studies the issues facing lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual youth.

Mr. Davis said “more and more kids are coming out in junior high school and expressing gender different identities at younger ages.”

“Unfortunately,” he added, “society has not matured at the same rate.”

Prosecutors charged Brandon as an adult with murder as a premeditated hate crime and gun possession. If convicted, he faces a sentence of 52 years to life in prison.

A senior deputy district attorney, Maeve Fox, would not say why the authorities added the hate crime to the murder charge.

In interviews, classmates of the two boys at E. O. Green Junior High School said Lawrence had started wearing mascara, lipstick and jewelry to school, prompting a group of male students to bully him.

“They teased him because he was different,” said Marissa Moreno, 13, also in the eighth grade. “But he wasn’t afraid to show himself.”

Lawrence wore his favorite high-heeled boots most days, riding the bus to school from Casa Pacifica, a center for abused and neglected children in the foster care system, where he began living last fall. Officials would not say anything about his family background other than that his parents, Greg and Dawn King, were living and that he had four siblings. Lawrence started attending E. O. Green last winter, said Steven Elson, the center’s chief executive. “He had made connections here,” Dr. Elson said. “It’s just a huge trauma here. It’s emotionally very charged.”

Since the shooting, hundreds of people have sent messages to a memorial Web site where photographs show Lawrence as a child with a gap in his front teeth, and older, holding a caterpillar in the palm of his hand.

“He had a character that was bubbly,” Marissa said. “We would just laugh together. He would smile, then I would smile and then we couldn’t stop.”

On the morning of Feb. 12, Lawrence was in the school’s computer lab with 24 other students, said Mr. Keith, the police spokesman. Brandon walked into the room with a gun and shot Lawrence in the head, the police said, then ran from the building. Police officers caught him a few blocks away.

Unconscious when he arrived at the hospital, Lawrence was declared brain dead the next day but kept on a ventilator to preserve his organs for donation, said the Ventura County medical examiner, Armando Chavez. He was taken off life support on Feb. 14.

Brandon is being held at a juvenile facility in Ventura on $770,000 bail, said his lawyer, Brian Vogel. He will enter a plea on March 21.

At a vigil for Lawrence last week in Ventura, 200 people carried glow sticks and candles in paper cups as they walked down a boardwalk at the beach and stood under the stars. Melissa Castillo, 13, recalled the last time she had seen Lawrence. “He was walking through the lunch room, wearing these awesome boots,” she said. “I ran over to him and said, ‘Your boots are so cute!’ He was like, ‘Yeah, I know.’ ”

She raised her chin and arched an eyebrow in imitation. “ ‘If you want cute boots,’ ” Lawrence had told her, “ ‘you have to buy the expensive kind.’ ” His boots had cost $30.

“So, for Lawrence,” Melissa said to five girls holding pink and green glow sticks, “we have to go get the expensive kind.”


4) The three trillion dollar war
The cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have grown to staggering proportions
Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes
February 23, 2008

The Bush Administration was wrong about the benefits of the war and it was wrong about the costs of the war. The president and his advisers expected a quick, inexpensive conflict. Instead, we have a war that is costing more than anyone could have imagined.

The cost of direct US military operations - not even including long-term costs such as taking care of wounded veterans - already exceeds the cost of the 12-year war in Vietnam and is more than double the cost of the Korean War.

And, even in the best case scenario, these costs are projected to be almost ten times the cost of the first Gulf War, almost a third more than the cost of the Vietnam War, and twice that of the First World War. The only war in our history which cost more was the Second World War, when 16.3 million U.S. troops fought in a campaign lasting four years, at a total cost (in 2007 dollars, after adjusting for inflation) of about $5 trillion (that's $5 million million, or £2.5 million million). With virtually the entire armed forces committed to fighting the Germans and Japanese, the cost per troop (in today's dollars) was less than $100,000 in 2007 dollars. By contrast, the Iraq war is costing upward of $400,000 per troop.

Most Americans have yet to feel these costs. The price in blood has been paid by our voluntary military and by hired contractors. The price in treasure has, in a sense, been financed entirely by borrowing. Taxes have not been raised to pay for it - in fact, taxes on the rich have actually fallen. Deficit spending gives the illusion that the laws of economics can be repealed, that we can have both guns and butter. But of course the laws are not repealed. The costs of the war are real even if they have been deferred, possibly to another generation.

On the eve of war, there were discussions of the likely costs. Larry Lindsey, President Bush's economic adviser and head of the National Economic Council, suggested that they might reach $200 billion. But this estimate was dismissed as “baloney” by the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. His deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, suggested that postwar reconstruction could pay for itself through increased oil revenues. Mitch Daniels, the Office of Management and Budget director, and Secretary Rumsfeld estimated the costs in the range of $50 to $60 billion, a portion of which they believed would be financed by other countries. (Adjusting for inflation, in 2007 dollars, they were projecting costs of between $57 and $69 billion.) The tone of the entire administration was cavalier, as if the sums involved were minimal.

Even Lindsey, after noting that the war could cost $200 billion, went on to say: “The successful prosecution of the war would be good for the economy.” In retrospect, Lindsey grossly underestimated both the costs of the war itself and the costs to the economy. Assuming that Congress approves the rest of the $200 billion war supplemental requested for fiscal year 2008, as this book goes to press Congress will have appropriated a total of over $845 billion for military operations, reconstruction, embassy costs, enhanced security at US bases, and foreign aid programmes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the fifth year of the war draws to a close, operating costs (spending on the war itself, what you might call “running expenses”) for 2008 are projected to exceed $12.5 billion a month for Iraq alone, up from $4.4 billion in 2003, and with Afghanistan the total is $16 billion a month. Sixteen billion dollars is equal to the annual budget of the United Nations, or of all but 13 of the US states. Even so, it does not include the $500 billion we already spend per year on the regular expenses of the Defence Department. Nor does it include other hidden expenditures, such as intelligence gathering, or funds mixed in with the budgets of other departments.

Because there are so many costs that the Administration does not count, the total cost of the war is higher than the official number. For example, government officials frequently talk about the lives of our soldiers as priceless. But from a cost perspective, these “priceless” lives show up on the Pentagon ledger simply as $500,000 - the amount paid out to survivors in death benefits and life insurance. After the war began, these were increased from $12,240 to $100,000 (death benefit) and from $250,000 to $400,000 (life insurance). Even these increased amounts are a fraction of what the survivors might have received had these individuals lost their lives in a senseless automobile accident. In areas such as health and safety regulation, the US Government values a life of a young man at the peak of his future earnings capacity in excess of

$7 million - far greater than the amount that the military pays in death benefits. Using this figure, the cost of the nearly 4,000 American troops killed in Iraq adds up to some $28 billion.

The costs to society are obviously far larger than the numbers that show up on the government's budget. Another example of hidden costs is the understating of US military casualties. The Defence Department's casualty statistics focus on casualties that result from hostile (combat) action - as determined by the military. Yet if a soldier is injured or dies in a night-time vehicle accident, this is officially dubbed “non combat related” - even though it may be too unsafe for soldiers to travel during daytime.

In fact, the Pentagon keeps two sets of books. The first is the official casualty list posted on the DOD website. The second, hard-to-find, set of data is available only on a different website and can be obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. This data shows that the total number of soldiers who have been wounded, injured, or suffered from disease is double the number wounded in combat. Some will argue that a percentage of these non-combat injuries might have happened even if the soldiers were not in Iraq. Our new research shows that the majority of these injuries and illnesses can be tied directly to service in the war.

From the unhealthy brew of emergency funding, multiple sets of books, and chronic underestimates of the resources required to prosecute the war, we have attempted to identify how much we have been spending - and how much we will, in the end, likely have to spend. The figure we arrive at is more than $3 trillion. Our calculations are based on conservative assumptions. They are conceptually simple, even if occasionally technically complicated. A $3 trillion figure for the total cost strikes us as judicious, and probably errs on the low side. Needless to say, this number represents the cost only to the United States. It does not reflect the enormous cost to the rest of the world, or to Iraq.

From the beginning, the United Kingdom has played a pivotal role - strategic, military, and political - in the Iraq conflict. Militarily, the UK contributed 46,000 troops, 10 per cent of the total. Unsurprisingly, then, the British experience in Iraq has paralleled that of America: rising casualties, increasing operating costs, poor transparency over where the money is going, overstretched military resources, and scandals over the squalid conditions and inadequate medical care for some severely wounded veterans.

Before the war, Gordon Brown set aside £1 billion for war spending. As of late 2007, the UK had spent an estimated £7 billion in direct operating expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan (76 per cent of it in Iraq). This includes money from a supplemental “special reserve”, plus additional spending from the Ministry of Defence.

The special reserve comes on top of the UK's regular defence budget. The British system is particularly opaque: funds from the special reserve are “drawn down” by the Ministry of Defence when required, without specific approval by Parliament. As a result, British citizens have little clarity about how much is actually being spent.

In addition, the social costs in the UK are similar to those in the US - families who leave jobs to care for wounded soldiers, and diminished quality of life for those thousands left with disabilities.

By the same token, there are macroeconomic costs to the UK as there have been to America, though the long-term costs may be less, for two reasons. First, Britain did not have the same policy of fiscal profligacy; and second, until 2005, the United Kingdom was a net oil exporter.

We have assumed that British forces in Iraq are reduced to 2,500 this year and remain at that level until 2010. We expect that British forces in Afghanistan will increase slightly, from 7,000 to 8,000 in 2008, and remain stable for three years. The House of Commons Defence Committee has recently found that despite the cut in troop levels, Iraq war costs will increase by 2 per cent this year and personnel costs will decrease by only 5 per cent. Meanwhile, the cost of military operations in Afghanistan is due to rise by 39 per cent. The estimates in our model may be significantly too low if these patterns continue.

Based on assumptions set out in our book, the budgetary cost to the UK of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through 2010 will total more than £18 billion. If we include the social costs, the total impact on the UK will exceed £20 billion.

© Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, 2008. Extracted from The Three Trillion Dollar War, to be published by Allen Lane on February 28 (£20). Copies can be ordered for £18 with free delivery from The Times BooksFirst 0870 1608080.

Joseph Stiglitz was chief economist at the World Bank and won the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics in 2001. Linda Bilmes is a lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University


5) Missile Strike by Israelis in Gaza Kills 3 Palestinians
February 24, 2008

JERUSALEM — Three Palestinians were killed in an Israeli Army missile strike in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday afternoon, Palestinian medical officials said. It was not immediately clear whether those killed were civilians or combatants.

Local witnesses said the three were sitting outdoors, drinking tea and smoking, in an area east of Beit Hanun, near the border with Israel, when they were killed. No militant group immediately claimed them as members. The three were all men in their 20s, according to a Palestinian medical official.

But an Israeli Army spokesman said ground forces had attacked a squad that was on its way to fire mortar shells at Israel. “According to our information, those who were hit were armed men,” the spokesman said.

Militants from Gaza fired four mortar shells at Israel earlier Saturday, but caused no casualties or damage, the spokesman said.

On Saturday morning, advocates in Gaza, which is controlled by the militant Islamic group Hamas, tried to impose a half-day strike as part of a public campaign against Israel’s economic embargo of the strip. Store owners were asked to remain closed until 11 a.m., with limited success.

Israel has restricted the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza since Hamas took over the area last June. It recently tightened the blockade in response to intensified rocket fire from the strip. Israel, like the United States and the European Union, classifies Hamas as a terrorist organization and refuses to deal with it. Hamas claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Dimona earlier this month.

But European Union and United Nations officials have recently raised concerns about the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza. European officials have been trying to bring about discussions among Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, which is led by President Mahmoud Abbas, about a controlled reopening of the passages into Gaza. The government of Mr. Abbas, which is based in the West Bank, has offered to send back members of the Presidential Guard to secure the crossings.

On Thursday, the European Parliament, meeting in Strasbourg, France, passed a nonbinding resolution urging Israel not to inflict “collective punishment” on civilians in Gaza because of the rockets, and called on Israel to lift the blockade.

But Israel contends that opening the crossings would strengthen Hamas and is skeptical about the ability of the pro-Abbas forces to act in Gaza independently of the rival Islamic group.

The foreign minister of Israel, Tzipi Livni, said Thursday, “It would be better if Europe understood that Gaza is a zero-sum game — either Hamas or the moderates.”

She spoke after meeting with Marc Otte, the visiting European Union special representative to the Middle East peace process, and was referring to the Abbas camp, with whom Israel is engaged in peace talks.

Also on Saturday, Mr. Abbas ordered an investigation into the death in custody of a Hamas preacher from the West Bank. The preacher, Majed Barghouti, 44, from the village of Kobar, died Friday in a Palestinian intelligence service prison in Ramallah run by pro-Fatah forces loyal to Mr. Abbas. Mr. Barghouti was detained a week earlier. His family alleged that he had been tortured by his interrogators and said that he was healthy when he was arrested. The intelligence service suggested that Mr. Barghouti had died of heart problems.

Scores of Hamas members have been detained in the West Bank by pro-Abbas forces since the Hamas takeover of Gaza. Many have been released after handing over weapons.

In the West Bank early Saturday, Israeli forces arrested a senior militant of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a militant leftist group, Israeli and Palestinian officials said. The militant, Majdi Mabrouk, was arrested at his home in the Ein Beit Ilma refugee camp in Nablus.

Taghreed El-Khodary contributed reporting from Gaza.


6) U.S. underreports Iraqi civilian deaths
"The U.S. Air Force dropped six times as many bombs in Iraq last year as it did in 2006, 1,447 compared to 229, according to an announcement in mid-January by Air Force Col. Gary Crowder, commander of the 609th Combined Air Operations Center in Southwest Asia, as reported in The Washington Post."
February 24, 2008

The U.S. Air Force dropped six times as many bombs in Iraq last year as it did in 2006, 1,447 compared to 229, according to an announcement in mid-January by Air Force Col. Gary Crowder, commander of the 609th Combined Air Operations Center in Southwest Asia, as reported in The Washington Post.

The report on the increase in bombing comes just after the World Health Organization released the findings of a study which put the number of civilians killed in Iraq between the invasion in 2003 and 2006 at about 151,000. That figure was almost instantly accepted by some supporters of the war who have been eager to discredit reports of much higher civilian deaths.

It's a controversial field. When Gen. David H. Petraeus testified before Congress in September that the escalation of the war in Iraq was going well, he used a graph indicating that the number of civilians killed since the invasion in 2003 until August 2007 was about 37,500. Two days after this testimony, a British opinion polling company released the results of its own study which put the number of civilian deaths between 1 and 1.2 million, 32 times the Pentagon figure.

Although Petraeus's appearance before Congress was covered extensively in the major U.S. media, there was almost no mention of the British study except for a short article on the inside pages of the Los Angeles Times. The survey, by Opinion Research Business, which has done several opinion surveys in Iraq since 2005, was ignored by the major daily newspapers and network news programs. In fact, despite their failure to carry stories about the ORB findings, the Washington Post and the New York Times nevertheless a few days later devoted considerable space to the issue of civilian deaths in Iraq, but cited only U.S. military and Iraqi government sources, both of which have a vested interest in minimizing the numbers.

The ORB poll asked 1,461 Iraqi families last August, "How many members of your household, if any, have died as a result of the conflict in Iraq since 2003?" The survey showed that 16.1 percent of the country's 4 million households said one family member had died in this manner, resulting in 653,496 deaths. Some 4.7 percent of the families said two members had died for another 383,457 deaths. Less than 2.5 percent of the families reported three or more deaths. ORB said the poll had a margin of error rate of 2.4 percent.

ORB is a respected British firm which has done work for clients like the BBC and the Conservative Party and has done other polls in Iraq. Its latest Iraq study comes 11 months after the respected British medical journal The Lancet published the findings of a study done by researchers from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health showing that more than 601,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed by war-related violence through August 2006. This study, which used a standard epidemiological survey technique called "cluster sampling" to ensure that the researchers interviewed a random sample of the nation's population, received somewhat wider coverage, but overall the report has been minimized or discounted.

The Johns Hopkins study was commissioned by the MIT Center for International Studies, whose director John Tirman, has recently launched a new project "Iraq: The Human Cost," which has a wide range of resources describing the impact of the war. ORB itself paid for its study because, as Johnny Heald, a managing director, said, the company wanted to "raise (our) profile."

Prof. Leslie Roberts (no relation) of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, a co-author his school's report, said recently, "The (ORB report) is 14 months later with deaths escalating over time. That alone accounts for most of the difference (between our poll and the ORB poll)…Overall they seem very much to align."

Roberts said that there were two major differences between the WHO and Johns Hopkins surveys which may account for most of the difference in the number of deaths each survey found. The Johns Hopkins interviewers were mostly staff members of a Baghdad university and they obtained copies of death certificates for 92 percent of the deaths they reported, whereas the WHO survey used government employees (to whom the civilians would probably not be truthful about this issue), and they did not collect death certificates.

Both the Lancet and ORB reports conclude that most violent deaths were from gunshot wounds and took place outside of Baghdad, in contrast to the official reports which say that three-quarters of deaths in the first four years of the war were in Baghdad. A total of 31 percent of the deaths in the Johns Hopkins survey were attributed directly to Coalition forces.

After the initial coverage of The Lancet article, there was a sharp drop in references to its findings in the major U.S. media, and even now nearly all articles mentioning civilian deaths in Iraq are based on the numbers published by the Pentagon or Iraqi government. Our major newspapers and TV news programs report almost daily on the poll results in the presidential primary races and seem to give them full credence even with wider margins of error than those of the ORB and Johns Hopkins studies. This faith in the value of election polling is not likely to change after the mistakes pollsters made in the New Hampshire primary.

At first glance, the failure of the U.S. media to report and reference the Johns Hopkins and ORB studies appears inexplicable, especially in light of an Associated Press poll in February 2007 which found that the average American believes that only 9,900 Iraqis have been killed since the end of major combat operations in 2003. The failure is compounded by the fact that the ORB and Johns Hopkins studies used standard scientific polling and sampling techniques whereas the Pentagon does not even disclose how it arrives at its figures.

There are two major reasons for the failure of the Lancet and ORB studies to earn greater credibility. The institutional reason can be inferred from a comment by Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times, who said recently that his paper chose not to use the term "escalation" instead of the Pentagon's word "surge" to describe the troop increase in Iraq because use of the former word could be seen as a "political" decision criticizing the administration. (During the Vietnam War, the White House "escalated," its word, the war several times by sending in more troops; each escalation gave peace advocates new grounds for protests and marches).

The cultural reason is that the high number of deaths appears so incredible that reporters and editors are in denial and refuse to give these studies credence or to pursue their veracity. In fact, this denial by Americans of their country's responsibility for civilian deaths in wartime is woven into the warp of the country's history from the beginning.

For instance, few of us know that the consensus estimate of the number of native Americans killed by Europeans by war, massacre, war-induced famine, and the deliberate spread of contagious diseases is 95 percent of the 8 to 12 million people who inhabited what is now the United States and Canada before the arrival of Columbus, a slaughter that continued right up to the beginning of the last century.

In World War II, the atomic bombs dropped by the U.S. Army Air Force on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed between 105,000 to 140,000 Japanese civilians outright or within four months. Another 900,000 Japanese were killed by U.S. firebombings of 63 other cities. In Germany, the United States and Britain killed 1.8 million civilians in firebombings of cities like Dresden which, like most of those in Japan, had little or no military value.

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, who was a member of the Army Air Force team that planned the bombings of Japan, said in "The Fog of War," the recent documentary about his career, that if the United States had lost the war, he and the other bombing planners, as well as their chief, Gen. Curtis Lamay, would probably have been tried as war criminals. For his part, Lamay long maintained that the bombings were justified to save the lives of American soldiers who would have been killed in the invasion of Japan that would have been necessary if the bombings had not brought the country to its knees. In fact, many scholars now believe it was not the nuclear attacks that motivated Japan's surrender but the Soviet Union's invasion of Japanese-held Manchuria the day after the Hiroshima attack that convinced the country's emperor to give up.

In Vietnam, the consensus estimate of the number of civilians killed from 1965 to 1975 is 2 million civilians and 1 million soldiers on both sides. To that number should be added the 2 million Cambodians (out of a population of 7 million) killed by the Khmer Rouge, which would not have come to power without the chaos created by the war in Vietnam and the Nixon-Kissinger bombing of Cambodia. Just in the last 66 years then, the armed forces of the United States have killed or been responsible for the deaths of 8 million civilians, not including any of those in Iraq.

To refuse to be aware of the consequences of America's wars is not just denial, it's delusional. By failing to report scientific evidence of a million civilian deaths in Iraq, the press is just giving Americans what they want to hear. We are able to fabricate this collective delusion because we accept on faith the idea that America is an exception among the nations of the world and that our good intentions are proof of virtue.

Vijay Prashad, director of the International Studies Program at Trinity College in Hartford, maintains, "The claim of innocence of the U.S. state is a blanket denial of history… There is an automatic faith in the goodness of the system (so that Americans can) feel assured in the end that the goodness and innocence of America will shine through."

James Carroll, the writer and former priest, recently put it this way: "Missionizing in the name of freedom is a basic American impulse." He said that this belief in the special mission of America is held by conservatives, moderates and liberals alike. "The liberal argument against government policies since World War II is that our wars — Vietnam then, Iraq now — represent an egregious failure to live up to America's true calling. We're better than this. Even antiwar critics… do it by appealing to an exceptional American missionizing impulse. You don't get the sense, even from most liberals, that — no, America is a nation like other nations and we're going to screw things up the way other nations do."

The collective delusion also distorts our perspective on the Iraq war. There is much debate about the torture and illegal detention of terrorist suspects and about the loss here at home of our privacy rights and civil liberties, but as bad as these things are, they do not compare with 1 million civilian deaths. Where is that debate?

Prolonged innocence is dangerous for both children and nations. Children, fortunately, outgrow it naturally by learning from experience that they are exceptional only in their mothers' eyes. The child's naive idea of pride in winning wars ought rationally to give way under the burden of the knowledge of the price that was paid for victory. Who were the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who died so that my father and hundreds of thousands of other U.S. soldiers would not have to face the prospect of an early death in the invasion of Japan? Who are the 1 million citizens of Iraq who have died so that Americans can be assured of gasoline for $3 a gallon?

Wallace Roberts is a community organizer and an award-winning journalist who lives in Williamstown.


7) Trial Starts for Detectives in Bell Shooting
By Michael Wilson
February 25, 2008, 10:49 am

Updated, 1:08 p.m. | Prosecutors and defense lawyers offered sharply differing accounts this morning of the November 2006 shooting that killed Sean Bell, as the trial of three New York City police detectives charged with killing Mr. Bell began in State Supreme Court in Queens.

Charles A. Testagrossa, an assistant district attorney, called the shooting unjustified. “The story of how this tragedy occurred is a tale of carelessness,” he said, adding that the shooting “can only be characterized as criminal.” He singled out Detectives Michael Oliver and Gescard F. Isnora, who together fired 42 shots at Mr. Bell and are charged with manslaughter, saying they should have paused as they fired to assess the effects of their actions.

A veteran judge, Justice Arthur J. Cooperman, is conducting the trial. The three detectives waived their right to a jury trial after their motion to have the trial moved was rejected.
James J. Culleton, Detective Oliver’s defense lawyer, offered a very different account. “You’re going to hear two completely different stories,” he told the judge. “One supporting execution and one supporting justification.”

He argued that the prosecutors had focused too narrowly on the 50 shots fired — and not whether the very first of the shots were justified. “The fundamental flaw in the people’s case is its fixation on the number of shots fired,” Mr. Culleton said.

Early on Nov. 25, 2006, detectives fatally shot Mr. Bell, 23, near a strip club in Queens, hours before he was to marry his fiancée.

The officers said they believed Mr. Bell and his friends were going to retrieve a gun and shoot at another group at the club. When Mr. Bell seemed to try to flee or ram the officers with his car, the police said, the officers opened fire, killing him and wounding the two friends in a barrage of 50 bullets. The officers said they believed they were being fired upon, but no gun was found in the car.

Anthony L. Ricco, the lawyer for Detective Isnora, offered an emotional opening statement that invoked race. Describing his client as a hard-working African-American from Bushwick, Mr. Ricco argued that black police officers — particularly those who work undercover or in plain clothes, like his client — are in particular danger. Mr. Bell and his companions, Mr. Ricco argued, merely saw Detective Isnora as “a Negro with a gun.” When Mr. Bell rammed his vehicle toward police officers, he said, “he intended to run the black man into the ground.”

Paul P. Martin, a lawyer for the third detective, Marc Cooper, who is charged with reckless endangerment, said his client did not deserve to be on trial. Detective Cooper fired four shots, one of which hit an AirTrain station; none of the shots hit a person. Detective Cooper was, in fact, shooting out of the back of a police vehicle driven by another police officer, who fired a single shot but was not charged.

“He doesn’t hit a thing. Where is he?” Mr. Martin asked. Then he gestured to his client and asked, rhetorically: “What’s he doing here?”

After the opening statements, Mr. Bell’s fiancée, Nicole Paultre Bell (she took his last name after his death), took the stand. She recounted how she had met Mr. Bell in high school. Their wedding date was close to anniversary of the date he met her parents, on Nov. 23, 2000. On the night of his death, Ms. Paultre Bell recalled, she was sleeping at her mother’s house when she was awakened by her mother.

“Can you tell us where you saw him and what was his apparent physical condition?” asked an assistant district attorney, Peter T. Reese.

Ms. Paultre Bell, crying, replied, “He was in the morgue.”

Earlier this morning, Ms. Paultre Bell took part in a prayer vigil before the opening of the trial, as critics of police violence gathered to show support for the Bell family.

The Rev. Al Sharpton conducted the vigil, which included Joseph Guzman, a friend of Mr. Bell’s who was injured in the shooting, outside the courthouse.

Surrounded by a throng of photographers and reporters, Mr. Sharpton referred to two racially motivated crimes from the past, saying: “Twenty-one years ago we were at the same courthouse for Howard Beach. We were also here two years ago for Fat Nick. We are here again determined to have justice.”

Shortly before the prayer vigil, the three detectives had arrived at the courthouse and quickly walked up an entrance ramp, followed by photographers. Michael J. Palladino, head of their union, the Detectives’ Endowment Association, and Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the officers’ union, joined the detectives.

“There’s a hell of a lot more to this case than the 50 shots that were fired,” Mr. Palladino said, adding that the officers’ state of mind had to be considered, along with the credibility of witnesses. “The officers were acting in good faith.”

Mr. Palladino said he believed the trial was politically motivated. “Nevertheless, here we are with what I would call a political indictment, and we are fighting for our lives here in the Queens Supreme courthouse.”

He added, “A conviction in a case like this is of great concern to the law enforcement community, because I think we will have to reassess what we do and how we’ll do it going forward.”

At a news conference that followed the prayer vigil, Mr. Sharpton said of the Bell case: “We’re not here against white cops. We’re here against wrong cops.”

Two of the three detectives facing trial are black. But several of the speakers at the prayer vigil made it clear that they viewed the case as an emblem of the dangers black New Yorkers face in their encounters with the police.

“This is the last opportunity for this system to show that they value black life, the same as they value white life,” said Councilman Charles Barron, a Brooklyn Democrat.

He said he thought the indictments — for manslaughter and reckless endangerment — were too lenient and that second-degree murder would have been more appropriate. “You can’t not intend to kill somebody when you have time to reload, time to think,” Mr. Barron said.

Matthew Sweeney and Sewell Chan contributed reporting.


8) Gazans Protest at Border Fence
February 26, 2008

EREZ CROSSING, Israel — Several thousand Palestinians, many of them schoolchildren bused in from their classes, joined peaceful protests in the Gaza Strip along sections of the border with Israel for a couple of hours on Monday, forming human chains in some locations as part of a public campaign against the Israeli blockade.

But the turnout, estimated overall at about 5,000, was far smaller than had been expected, and fears in Israel that masses of Gaza residents might try to break through the border fence, as they breached the border with Egypt last month, proved unfounded. Most protesters kept a safe distance from the fence.

The demonstrators dispersed around noon, and shortly after, militants in Gaza fired a number of rockets at Israel. One landed outside an apartment block in the Israeli border town of Sderot. A boy, Yossi Yadlin Haimov, 10, was badly wounded in the shoulder by shrapnel and underwent surgery at a hospital in nearby Ashkelon. A woman and a baby were lightly wounded and arrived at the hospital for treatment.

In northern Gaza, some of the protesters started marching toward the Erez crossing, but they were stopped by a line of armed Hamas policemen. The police officers blocked the road about half a mile south of the crossing, seeking to prevent a confrontation with Israel.

Also after the main protest ended, a group of Palestinian youths rioted at the crossing, throwing stones. When they tried to cross, Israeli troops fired shots into the air, an Army spokeswoman said, speaking on condition of anonymity under army rules. She said one Israeli officer was lightly wounded in the confrontation. At least two Palestinians were wounded, according to Palestinian reports. The spokeswoman said 49 Palestinians were arrested.

Palestinian advocates had called on Gaza residents to form a human chain along the roughly 30-mile border with Israel from Rafah in the south to Beit Hanun in the north to protest Israel’s closure of the main passages into Gaza since the Islamic militant group Hamas took control there last June. Israel recently tightened the blockade in response to intensified rocket fire from the strip.

Despite the low numbers, the main organizer of the protest, Jamal el-Khoudary, declared the event a success. “It was peaceful and that was what we were aiming for,” said Mr. Khoudary, an independent lawmaker in Gaza with ties to Hamas.

Hamas leaders have been encouraged by recent calls by European officials for Israel to reopen the passages to Gaza and ease the conditions of the 1.5 million residents of the strip.

On Monday, though, fear kept many Gazans at home: the Israeli Army made it clear that it was taking the threat of a border breach very seriously, and thousands of extra troops and police were deployed along the Israeli side of the fence.

A joint statement released by the offices of the Israeli foreign minister and defense minister on Sunday night said that “Israel does not interfere in demonstrations taking place inside the Gaza Strip, but Israel will protect its borders and will prevent any violations of its sovereign territory.” If the situation did deteriorate into violence, the statement warned, Israel would lay sole responsibility for the consequences on the shoulders of Hamas, which had placed Palestinian civilians “on the front lines.”

Israel bolstered its artillery units along the border and occasionally fired smoke bombs, either to conceal troop movements or deter the protesters. Soldiers in full camouflage hid in the lush green wheat fields of Israeli farming communities near the border line. As the tension dissipated, the soldiers picnicked on army rations to the sound of a loud chorus of muezzins calling the faithful to midday prayers in mosques across the fence.

The deputy defense minister of Israel, Matan Vilnai, told Army Radio on Monday evening that the deployment of the security forces, headed by the army, was the main factor that led the Palestinians “to rethink whatever they were doing.”

But there was also a feeling on both sides that Monday’s event was an exercise or rehearsal for another time.

A Hamas lawmaker, Ismail al Ashqar, said at the protest in northern Gaza on Monday: “If the world does not respond and end the siege, then what is coming will be worse.”

Another Hamas lawmaker, Yihya Musa, threatened that Monday’s human chain could in the future turn into a series of “bombs ready to explode.”

Separately, an American tourist drowned in a flash flood on Monday while hiking in a riverbed near the Dead Sea, an Israeli police spokesman said. The spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, identified the tourist as David Tauber, in his mid-30s, from New York. Rescue units searched for a woman who had been hiking with Mr. Tauber and found her alive, Mr. Rosenfeld said.

Isabel Kershner reported from the Israeli side of the Erez crossing, and Taghreed El-Khodary from the Gaza side.


9) Rising Inflation Creates Unease in Middle East
February 25, 2008

AMMAN, Jordan — Even as it enriches Arab rulers, the recent oil-price boom is helping to fuel an extraordinary rise in the cost of food and other basic goods that is squeezing this region’s middle class and setting off strikes, demonstrations and occasional riots from Morocco to the Persian Gulf.

Here in Jordan, the cost of maintaining fuel subsidies amid the surge in prices forced the government to remove almost all the subsidies this month, sending the price of some fuels up 76 percent overnight. In a devastating domino effect, the cost of basic foods like eggs, potatoes and cucumbers doubled or more.

In Saudi Arabia, where inflation had been virtually zero for a decade, it recently reached an official level of 6.5 percent, though unofficial estimates put it much higher. Public protests and boycotts have followed, and 19 prominent clerics posted an unusual statement on the Internet in December warning of a crisis that would cause “theft, cheating, armed robbery and resentment between rich and poor.”

The inflation has many causes, from rising global demand for commodities to the monetary constraints of currencies pegged to the weakening American dollar. But one cause is the skyrocketing price of oil itself, which has quadrupled since 2002. It is helping push many ordinary people toward poverty even as it stimulates a new surge of economic growth in the gulf.

“Now we have to choose: we either eat or stay warm. We can’t do both,” said Abdul Rahman Abdul Raheem, who works at a clothing shop in a mall in Amman and once dreamed of sending his children to private school. “We’re not really middle class anymore; we’re at the poverty level.”

Some governments have tried to soften the impact of high prices by increasing wages or subsidies on foods. Jordan, for instance, has raised the wages of public-sector employees earning less than 300 dinars ($423) a month by 50 dinars ($70). For those earning more than 300 dinars, the raise was 45 dinars, or $64. But that compensates for only a fraction of the price increases, and most people who work in the private sector get no such relief.

The fact that the inflation is coinciding with new oil wealth has fed perceptions of corruption and economic injustice, some analysts say.

“About two-thirds of Jordanians now believe there is widespread corruption in the public and private sector,” said Mohammed al-Masri, the public opinion director at the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan. “The middle class is less and less able to afford what they used to, and more and more suspicious.”

In a few places the price increases have led to violence. In Yemen, prices for bread and other foods have nearly doubled in the past four months, setting off a string of demonstrations and riots in which at least a dozen people were killed. In Morocco, 34 people were sentenced to prison on Wednesday for participating in riots over food prices, the Moroccan state news service reported. Even tightly controlled Jordan has had nonviolent demonstrations and strikes.

Inflation was also a factor — often overlooked — in some recent clashes that were seen as political or sectarian. A confrontation in Beirut between Lebanese Army soldiers and a group of Shiite protesters that left seven people dead started with demonstrations over power cuts and rising bread prices.

In Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, inflation is in the double digits, and foreign workers, who constitute a vast majority of the work force, have gone on strike in recent months because of the declining purchasing power of the money they send home. The workers are paid in currencies that are pegged to the dollar, and the value of their salaries — translated into Indian rupees and other currencies — has dropped significantly.

The Middle East’s heavy reliance on food imports has made it especially vulnerable to the global rise in commodity prices over the past year, said George T. Abed, the former governor of the Palestine Monetary Authority and a director at the Institute of International Finance, an organization based in Washington.

Corruption, inefficiency and monopolistic economies worsen the impact, as government officials or business owners artificially inflate prices or take a cut of such increases.

“For many basic products, we don’t have free market prices, we have monopoly prices,” said Samer Tawil, a former minister of national economy in Jordan. “Oil, cement, rice, meat, sugar: these are all imported almost exclusively by one importer each here. Corruption is one thing when it’s about building a road, but when it affects my food, that’s different.”

In the oil-producing gulf countries, governments that are flush with oil money can soften the blow by spending more. The United Arab Emirates increased the salaries of public sector employees by 70 percent this month; Oman raised them 43 percent. Saudi Arabia also raised wages and increased subsidies on some foods. Bahrain set up a $100 million fund to be distributed this year to people most affected by rising prices. But all this government spending has the unfortunate side effect of worsening inflation, economists say.

Countries with less oil to sell do not have the same options.

In Syria, where oil production is drying up, prices have also risen sharply. Although it has begun to liberalize its rigid socialist economy, the government has repeatedly put off plans to eliminate the subsidies that keep prices artificially low for its citizens, fearing domestic reprisals.

Even so, the inflation of the past few months has taken a toll on all but the rich.

Thou al-Fakar Hammad, an employee in the contracts office of the Syrian state oil company, has a law degree and earns just less than 15,000 Syrian pounds, or $293, a month, twice the average national wage. His salary was once more than adequate, and until recently he sent half of it to his parents.

But rising prices have changed all that, he said. Now he has taken a second job teaching Arabic on weekends to help support his wife and young child. Unable to buy a car, he takes public buses from his two-room apartment just outside Damascus to work. He can afford the better quality diapers for his son to wear only at night and resorts to cheaper ones during the day. He cannot send anything to his parents.

“I have to live day to day,” he said. “I can’t budget for everything because, should my child get sick, I’d spend a lot of what I earn on medication for him.”

At the same time, a new class of entrepreneurs, most of them with links to the government, has built gaudy mansions and helped transform Damascus, the Syrian capital, with glamorous new restaurants and cafes. That has helped fuel a perception of corruption and unfairness, analysts say. On Wednesday the state-owned newspaper Al Thawra published a poll that found that 450 of 452 Syrians believed that their state institutions were riddled with corruption.

“Many people believe that most of the government’s economic policies are adopted to suit the interests of the newly emerging Syrian aristocracy, while disregarding the interests of the poor and lower middle class,” said Marwan al-Kabalan, a political science professor at Damascus University.

The same attitudes are visible in Jordan. Even before the subsidies on fuel were removed this month, inflation had badly eroded the average family’s earning power over the past five years, said Mr. Tawil, the former economic minister. Although the official inflation rate for 2007 was 5.4 percent, government studies have shown that middle-income families are spending far more on food and consuming less, he added. Last year a survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that Amman was the most expensive Arab capital in cost of living.

Mr. Abdul Raheem, the clothing store employee in Amman, said, “No one can be in the government now and be clean.”

Meanwhile, his own life has been transformed, Mr. Abdul Raheem said. He ticked off a list of prices: potatoes have jumped to about 76 cents a pound from 32 cents. A carton of 30 eggs went to nearly $4.25 from just above $2; cucumbers rose to 58 cents a pound from about 22. All this in a matter of weeks.

“These were always the basics,” he said. “Now they’re luxuries.”

With a salary equivalent to $423 and rent at $176, paying for food and fuel exhausts his income, he said. “But we are much better off than others,” he added. “We are the average.”

Nawara Mahfoud contributed reporting from Damascus, Syria.


10)Ford Is Pushing Buyouts to Workers
February 26, 2008

WOODHAVEN, Mich. — The Ford Motor Company is applying the hard sell these days — piling on incentives, doling out marketing DVDs and brochures, and making offers it hopes are too good to pass up.

But Ford’s big new push is not to sell cars. Instead, it is trying to sign up thousands of workers to take buyouts, partly by convincing them that their brightest future lies outside the company that long offered middle-class wages for blue-collar jobs.

So, Ford is pitching a buffet of buyout packages that are easily among the richest ever offered to factory workers, including one-time cash payments of $140,000 or college tuition plans for an entire family.

The automaker is also putting on job fairs in its plants and mailing each of its 54,000 hourly workers a feature-length DVD, titled “Connecting With Your Future,” that extols the promise of new careers beyond the assembly line.

Last Friday, inside a huge sheet-metal stamping plant in this industrial center south of Detroit, Ford workers spent their lunch hour perusing opportunities to go back to school, hire on at growing companies and open fast-food franchises.

“I am taking it seriously, but it’s really hard to think about leaving,” said Jerry Thomas, a 37-year-old millwright with 12 years at Ford. “The only thing that would make me do it is the uncertainty. We just don’t know what’s going to happen with Ford.”

The push to move workers out reflects the tough times in Detroit. Ford has lost $15 billion in the last two years, and General Motors and Chrysler are also revamping after heavy losses.

While Detroit’s Big Three have already cut about 80,000 jobs through buyouts and early retirements since 2006, a new blitz is under way to shrink employment even further to make way for lower-paid workers in the future.

The aggressive approach to buyouts is particularly striking at Ford.

In the early 1900s, the company founder, Henry Ford, transformed the American workplace by pioneering $5-a-day wages on the assembly line. And the company’s paternalistic culture still lingers in the way workers often refer to the company as “Ford’s,” in reference to the family that provided them a comfortable income.

Ford executives say the buyout packages, which are the most lucrative and diverse ever offered in the industry, reflect a belief that Ford should look after its workers and ease their transition into different careers.

“We need to restructure, and it’s important to our business to do so,” said Joseph R. Hinrichs, Ford’s head of global manufacturing. “But we want to do it in the best way for our employees.”

But there is no mistaking Ford’s message that this is the last companywide offer, and there could be layoffs if further downsizing becomes necessary.

Ford is not saying how many workers it expects to take the buyouts by a March 18 deadline. But Wall Street analysts say the company has set a goal to get 8,000 employees to sign up.

General Motors is also extending buyout offers to all of its 74,000 hourly employees, while Chrysler is offering buyouts to workers on a regional and individual plant basis.

The belt-tightening comes after years of declining market share and increased competition from foreign automakers, led by Toyota.

“These companies are trying to do in the last 24 months what they should have done over the last 24 years,” said John A. Casesa of the automotive consulting firm Casesa Shapiro Group. “That’s why it’s such a shock to the system.”

Ford has eliminated more than 32,000 jobs over the last two years through buyouts and early retirements. But it needs to cut more to improve productivity, make room for transfers from its former Visteon parts plants, and pave the way for new hires at wages of $14 an hour — roughly half of current pay scales.

“We always prefer for people to voluntarily leave and that’s why we put the energy and effort into this package of buyouts,” said Martin J. Mulloy, Ford’s vice president for labor affairs.

The buyout deals were developed with the United Automobile Workers union. In fact, one senior union official endorsed the downsizing effort in a cover article titled “Fresh Opportunities” in the company’s internal Ford World magazine.

“Because of the loss of market share and because the economy is so bad, there aren’t enough jobs for everybody,” said the official, Bob King, the U.A.W.’s Ford division vice president.

The company is offering a broad range of buyout and early retirement packages.

Employees with as little as one year of seniority can receive $100,000 cash, although they give up all health benefits after a six-month period. For employees at least 55 years old and with at least 10 years on the job, the payout jumps to $140,000.

Ford, which has a younger work force than G.M., also included many educational options. One buyout offer provides a worker four years of tuition reimbursement up to $15,000 annually, plus health care coverage over that period and a stipend equal to 50 percent of base wages.

At the Woodhaven stamping plant, the 1,142 hourly workers are wrestling with the many choices facing them.

“They want to give people incentive to walk away,” said Jim Irey, who has worked in the plant for 40 years. “It’s the reality of the business, whether you like it or not.”

Another worker, Andy Linko, contrasted the buyout deals to how he fared when his previous job as a steel worker disappeared.

“We never had this type of opportunity when I was in the steel industry,” Mr. Linko said. “We knew for years that the industry was in trouble, and one day the doors just shut.”

The job fair at Woodhaven offered a mix of career prospects, from truck driving to electrician work at the local utility to franchise opportunities at the Little Caesars pizza chain.

One recruiter, Heidi Daniels of DTE Energy, said the plant was a “great opportunity” to find skilled labor. “I’ve heard of offering out-placement assistance, but this is unique,” Ms. Daniels said. “It’s almost unheard-of.”

Ford has also gone to great lengths to promote the promise of life after the auto industry.

In its DVD, Ford employs actors to urge workers to take “the opportunity to step out and try something new.” Various segments of the DVD highlight former Ford workers who have started their own businesses after taking buyouts.

The company does not track the fortunes of all its former employees, but said it was proud of the “success stories” of people who have taken buyouts.

One such worker, Dale Beck, took a $100,000 buyout in 2006 to open a Little Caesars outlet in St. Louis.

“I went from making cars to making pizzas, and it’s turned out pretty well for me,” Mr. Beck said. “I also know some people who took the money and spent it, and now they’re struggling.”

Workers in the Woodhaven plant seem to split among younger workers who see the buyouts as a window to a new life, and older employees who cannot imagine giving up their Ford paychecks.

“I’m taking the $100,000,” said Stacy Haynes, a 34-year-old mother of four children. “I’ve been here 12 years, and I can’t believe I lasted this long.”

Bill Fender, a 58-year-old tool and die maker with 37 years on the job, sees it differently.

“I’d like to retire, but it’s just not enough money for me now,” Mr. Fender said. “I’m making almost $80,000 a year, and I can’t see leaving that behind.”

One thing Ford workers are proud of is that their buyout options are more extensive and, in some instances, better paying than those at G.M.

Those bragging rights seem a poignant commentary on the depth of Detroit’s difficulties, said the historian Douglas Brinkley, author of a book on Ford titled “Wheels for the World.”

“There was a time in the 20th century when you flashed a Ford badge in Detroit and it meant you were a man on the rise,” Mr. Brinkley said. “Now, the new status symbol of the Rust Belt is they are downsizing people better than other companies are.”


11) New Data Show Rising Inflation and Slumping Home Values
February 26, 2008

Two worrisome trends for the economy — falling house prices and the rising cost of everything else — picked up speed in data reported on Tuesday, putting policy makers in an increasingly tough position.

If they move too aggressively to cut interest rates and stimulate the economy, they might stoke inflation at a time when consumers are already squeezed by higher prices for food, energy, clothing and other goods. But if they chose more austere measures, the economy may weaken substantially faster.

“The Fed is now having to walk a very fine line,” said Jane Caron, chief economic strategist at Dwight Asset Management, an investment firm that specializes in bonds. “We have clearly seen an acceleration in inflation pressure in the last couple of months and the risk is that the markets are going to react negatively to aggressive easing going forward.”Not surprisingly, a measure of consumer confidence fell to its lowest level in nearly five years. But the stock market was up slightly in midday trading after falling modestly at the open. Energy and technology stocks led the market higher after oil prices surged above $100 again and I.B.M. announced that it would buy back an additional $15 billion of its stock and improved its profit forecast. Treasuries moved slightly higher, indicating that bond investors were not overly fearful of inflation.

Tuesday’s data provided fresh evidence of the housing market’s prolonged slump. A leading index of home prices in 20 cities fell by 9.1 percent in December from the same month a year ago. Using a three-month moving average, the index, the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller, is falling at an annual pace of more than 20 percent. The index tracks repeat sales of single-family homes; it does not include condominiums.

Another government index of home prices that covers more of the country but does not include loans above $417,000 fell 1.3 percent in the fourth quarter, after falling 0.3 percent in the third quarter. The index, compiled by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, showed prices declining in all states, except Maine.

The Labor Department reported that wholesale prices, which exclude taxes and distribution costs, rose 1 percent in January, up from a drop of 0.3 percent. Compared with a year ago, prices were up 7.4 percent. Excluding volatile food and energy prices, the index was up 2.3 percent from a year ago, up from 2 percent in December.

The latest inflation report appears to corroborate a broader trend of higher prices across the economy. Last week, the Labor Department reported elevated readings for consumer prices. The consumer price index was up 4.3 percent last month from a year ago, up from a 4.1 percent increase in December.

To be certain, the core rate of inflation — which excludes food and energy — remains closer to the Fed’s target of 1 percent to 2 percent. Core consumer prices were up about 2.5 percent in January, up from 2.4 percent in December.

“Months of surging energy prices appear now to be trickling up the production chain to finished goods prices,” Kenneth Beauchemin, an economist at Global Insight, a research firm, wrote in a note to clients.

The drumbeat of negative economic data appears to be taking a toll on consumers — at least in the way they perceive the economy, if not in how they spend.

The Conference Board reported on Tuesday that its consumer confidence index fell to a reading of 75 this month, from 87.9 last month. The index was last at this level in early 2003 at the start of the war in Iraq and a time when the economy was growing but unemployment rate was hovering just below 6 percent. By contrast, the unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in January.

“February may go down in history as the month that the previously indefatigable U.S. consumer finally threw in the towel, beaten by a combination of deteriorating labor market conditions, surging prices for food and energy and collapsing house prices,” Paul Ashworth, a senior United States economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note to clients.

The Fed has cut its benchmark interest rate to 3 percent, from 5.25 percent in September, in an effort to offset the drag from the housing market on the broader economy. Its efforts have helped reduce some of the strains in the financial market but they have been less successful in lowering borrowing costs and easing lending standards for businesses and consumers.

In the last several weeks, mortgage interest rates have risen sharply as bond investors have grown more risk-averse. The national average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 6.04 percent last week, from a low of 5.48 percent in early January, according to Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored buyer of mortgages.

Economists say home prices will remain under pressure for much of the next year or longer because the supply of homes for sale remains high. It has also become harder for home buyers to get mortgages as rates have risen and banks have become more conservative in demanding bigger down payments and more proof of income than they did during the housing boom.

In many parts of the country, specialists note that home prices remain too high based on affordability calculations made using incomes and interest rates. A recent report by analysts at Credit Suisse, the investment bank, said that prices in some metropolitan areas like Phoenix, Miami and Los Angeles would have to decline by 20 percent to 40 percent more than they have already fallen for home affordability to be restored to its long-established level.


12) Pentagon Releases Projections for Forces
February 26, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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




Port of Olympia Anti-Militarization Action Nov. 2007


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

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

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

—MALCOLM X, 1965


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


LAPD vs. Immigrants (Video)


Dr. Julia Hare at the SOBA 2007


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


Wealth Inequality Charts


MALCOLM X: Oxford University Debate


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


YouTube clip of Che before the UN in 1964


The Wealthiest Americans Ever
NYT Interactive chart
JULY 15, 2007


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


[For some levity...Hans Groiner plays Monk


Which country should we invade next?


My Favorite Mutiny, The Coup


Michael Moore- The Awful Truth


Morse v. Frederick Supreme Court arguments


Free Speech 4 Students Rally - Media Montage


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


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


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


"200 million children in the world sleep in the streets today.
Not one of them is Cuban."
(A sign in Havana)
View sign at bottom of page at:
[Thanks to Norma Harrison for sending this...bw]


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

Happy Holidays!

Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films+, LLC

(scroll down when you get there])

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

No comments: