Sunday, March 30, 2008



Student Walkout Portland Oregon 3/20/08


Ann Garrison
(415) 285-7259
(415) 786-6839
I need some help getting 200 more signatures on petitions to get through the first
step of getting an initiative on the November ballot to cancel our local elected representatives' annual invitation to Fleet Week, the Blue Angels, and all the other shock'n death recruiting drives that come with it. I have to file these first 400 signatures in lieu of a $200 filing fee; they're called a "Notice of Intent to Circulate Petition," and, after I file them, the Department of Elections will take two weeks to digest them, then send me to City Attorney Dennis Herrera's office for instructions as to how to file all the required procedures for gathering roughly 7100 signatures by the end of June. But this weekend, March 28th and 29th, I really need help getting these last 200 signatures collected just to get past the first phase of this. Although I admire Code Pink's tenacity at shutting down the Marine Recruiting Station in Berkeley, recruiting in Berkeley is largely symbolic; the Armed Forces recruit roughly 22 recruits in Berkeley per year, largely to prove that they can recruit in Berkeley. Our Fleet Week is a massive, all forces military recruitment
drive, which recruits, conservatively, 1000 sailors for the U.S. Navy alone, amidst a massive all forces recruitment drive. All you need know, to understand this, is that the General Accounting Office orders the U.S. Armed Forces to earn maximum recruiting returns on the use of their "recruiting resources," which is what all the battleships that fly into San Francisco Bay, all the aviation demo teams, and the Golden Knights' Parachute Team are.
I can fax a petition form, or e-mail a PDF file to anyone willing to try to gather eight signatures---or more. There are only eight signatures to a page, so a number of people offering to fill one page would help a great deal. Anyone collecting signatures must be a registered San Francisco voter. And, be sure that anyone who signs includes
their address and signs as registered to sign with the Department of Elections. So, could anyone willing to help collect signatures please e-mail me, or call one of the numbers above? Thanks. --Ann Garrison


"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
Contact JROTC Must Go!
(415) 575-5543

Join with parents, teachers, students, and anti-war activists who demand that schools are for teaching about life skills, not military careers. Together we must demand that the San Francisco school board end JROTC at the end of this current school year, as they originally voted to do in 2006, but then, this year, caved in to Pentagon pressure and voted to extend JROTC for another year—reversing their original, well thought-out decision.

When in 2006, San Franciscans voted overwhelmingly to get the military out of our schools, the school board followed through with a strong resolution stating in part:

"The SFUSD (San Francisco Unified School District) 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..."

It is legally and morally repugnant for the school district to continue to facilitate the military’s access to our students and become fixtures in our schools! As this illegal war in Iraq enters its 6th year, and a war with Iran looms ahead, JROTC must go NOW!


California Assembly Bill Number 2429.
Bill Number 2429 was introduced by Assembly member Strickland on February 21, 2008 in the California Legislature. "This bill would require that a school district that prohibits JROTC programs from being established or conducting activities on its campus or campuses, or that prohibits or hinders its pupils from participating in an off-campus JROTC program, be prohibited from expending state funds on any extracurricular activity, as defined." For more information see

JROTC Must Go! - (415) 575-5543 -



* Protest the Mortgage Bankers Association Annual Conference
* Foreclose the War, Not Peoples' Homes!
* Moratorium Now!

Attention antiwar activists--dust off your protest signs and bring them to a national demonstration against home foreclosures and evictions in Washington DC, on Wednesday, April 16.

Join the Ad Hoc National Network Against Home Foreclosures and Evictions in front of the Mortgage Bankers Association Annual Conference, the biggest assembly of mortgage bankers in the country, to demand a moratorium on home foreclosures and evictions. Almost everyone hates the war in Iraq, but until now many have seemed resigned to leaving it up to politicians to end it. That¢s because most people have felt that the war didn¢t affect them personally. That mindset is coming to an end.

Mass anger over home foreclosures, rising unemployment, rising gas and food prices etc. is starting to transform passive opposition to the war into urgent and active mass anger at the war. More people are viewing the war¢s cost as one of the main reasons for economic hard times. People tend to pay a lot more attention to the money wasted on the war plus the fact that banks are being bailed out by the government when their losing their homes and jobs.

Finally, there is the potential for forging the movement that can force an end to the war. We can give meaning to the 5th anniversary of this criminal war by making it the moment that antiwar activists, at the grass roots level, employ the strategy that the war makers have always feared--merging the fight against the war abroad with the struggle of working and poor people right here. Come to D.C. on April 16, and start giving the war- makers the nightmare that they hoped they could avoid. Foreclose the war, not peoples¢ homes!

View endorsers from around the country (list in formation) at:






The Ad Hoc National Network to
Stop Foreclosures & Evictions
A fast growing network of activists organizing in 22 states in every region of the country. 212-633-6646

Atlanta 404-622-7517 n Baltimore 410-218-4835 n Boston 617-522-6626
Buffalo 716-604-9515 n Charlotte, NC 704-492-5226
Cleveland 216-531-4004 n Detroit 313-319-0870 n Keene, NH 603-357-6855 Los Angeles 323-936-7266 n Miami 786-985-9048
New York 212-633-6646 n Philadelphia 215-724-1618
Providence 401-837-7663 n Raleigh, NC 919-264-0201
Washington, DC 202-821-3686


Call for an Open U.S. National Antiwar Conference
Stop the War in Iraq! Bring the Troops Home Now!
SATURDAY, APRIL 19, 11 A.M. - 2 P.M.



NY Metro APWU votes May Day action against the war--ILWU website-Stop work in W Coast ports to stop the war--ILWU letter to John Sweeney about May Day

2 minutes of silence May 1st in all postal stations -- backing ILWU & NALC May Day actions

7,000-member NY Metro Area Postal Union (APWU) votes May Day action to protest 'unjust' US war in Iraq

Scroll down for ILWU's decision to Stop Work to Stop the War on May 1st
in West Coast ports, and ILWU appeal to John Sweeney to "spread the word" on May Day labor actions

The New York Metro Area local of the American Postal Workers Union will observe a "2-minute period of silence at 1:00 AM, 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM" during all three shifts on May 1st, 2008 - International Workers Day - to show their opposition to the Iraq war and occupation and Bush's threats to attack Iran and Syria.

The resolution, "in support of labor actions to stop the war," passed without opposition at the general membership meeting March 19th. NY Metro is the largest local in the APWU, representing many thousands of clerks and other postal workers in Manhattan, the Bronx and several large mail processing facilities in New Jersey.

The vote by NY Metro is "in solidarity with the actions of our brothers and sisters in the ILWU," which plans to shut down all West Coast ports for 8 hours on May 1st, and with San Francisco Branch 214 letter carriers, who voted to have a 2-minute period of silence (at 8:15 AM) on May Day in all carrier stations, in opposition to the war.

The resolution also urged NY Metro members in all postal facilities to "wear a button, ribbon, badge or some other symbol in protest of the war on May Day." On March 22, NY Metro leaders and members marched with other unionists in the "River to River Against the War" protest on the 5th anniversary of the Iraq war. They marched on 14th Street in both directions, from the East River to the Hudson, meeting up for a rally at Union Square with wounded veterans of the war and military families.

WHEREAS New York Metro has long opposed the U.S. war against and occupation of Iraq as unnecessary and unjust; and

WHEREAS the Bush administration is threatening to expand the war to Iran and Syria; and

WHEREAS the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) is planning to shut down all Pacific Coast ports on 1 May 2008---International Workers Day, or Mayday---to protest the war; and

WHEREAS National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 214 in San Francisco is requesting its members to observe a 2-minute period of silence in all stations on Mayday in solidarity with the ILWU;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that New York Metro requests that all its members in all its stations observe a 2-minute period of silence at 1AM, 9AM and 5PM on Mayday in solidarity with the actions of our brothers and sisters in the ILWU and NALC; and

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that New York Metro requests all its members to wear a button, ribbon, badge or some other symbol in protest of the war on Mayday. -- Adopted without opposition March 19, 2008


ILWU website on May Day Stop Work to Stop the War
protest in West Coast ports

ILWU Longshore Caucus calls for Iraq war protest at Pacific ports on May 1

Nearly one hundred Longshore Caucus delegates voted on February 8 to support a resolution calling for an eight-hour "stop-work" meeting during the day-shift on Thursday, May 1 at ports in CA, OR and WA to protest the war by calling for the immediate, safe return of U . S . troops from Iraq .

“The Caucus has spoken on this important issue and I’ve notified the employers about our plans for 'stop work' meetings on May 1,” said ILWU International President Bob McEllrath .

Caucus delegates, including several military veterans, spoke passionately about the importance of supporting the troops by bringing them home safely and ending the War in Iraq . Concerns were also raised about the growing cost of the war that has threatened funding for domestic needs, including education and healthcare . Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard economist Linda J. Bilmes recently estimated that the true cost of the War in Iraq to American taxpayers will exceed 3 trillion dollars--a figure they describe as "conservative . "
The union’s International Executive Board recently endorsed Barack Obama, citing his opposition to the War in Iraq as one of the key factors in the union's decision-making process .

Caucus delegates are democratically elected representatives from every longshore local who set policy for the Longshore Division .

ILWU International President Robert McEllrath has written letters to President John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO and President Andy Stern of the Change-to-Win Coalition, and to the presidents of the International Transport Workers Federation and the International Dockworkers Council to inform them of the ILWU's plans for May 1 . [From ILWU website]


Text of ILWU letter to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, dated February 22, 2008
ILWU President asks Sweeney's help "spreading the word" about May 1 action opposing Iraq war

President Sweeney,

"ILWU delegates recently concluded a two-week caucus where we reached agreement on our approach for bargaining a new Pacific Coast Longshore Contract that expires on July 1, 2008. We expect talks to begin sometime in March and will keep you informed of developments.

"One of the resolutions adopted by caucus delegates called on longshore workers to stop work during the day shift on May 1, 2008, to express their opposition to the war in Iraq.

"We're writing to inform you of this action, and inquire if other AFL-CIO affiliates are also planning to participate in similar events on May 1 to honor labor history and express support for the troops by bringing them home safely. We would appreciate your assistance with spreading word about this May 1 action."

In solidarity,

Robert McEllrath
ILWU International President


S.F. Labor Council backs ILWU May Day action in West Coast ports

Whereas, the San Francisco Labor Council has a longstanding position calling for an immediate end to the U.S. war and occupation in Iraq; therefore be it

Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council supports the decision of the Longshore Caucus of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) to stop work for eight hours on Thursday, May 1, 2008—International Workers Day—at all West Coast ports, to demand "an immediate end to the war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Middle East." The Council supports the decision of Branch 214 of the National Association of Letter Carriers to observe two minutes of silence in all carrier stations at 8:15 a.m. on May 1, in solidarity with the ILWU action and to express their opposition to the war in Iraq; and be it further

Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council encourages other unions to follow ILWUs call for a “No Peace-No Work Holiday” or other labor actions on May Day, to express their opposition to the U.S. wars and occupations in the Middle East; and be it finally

Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council send a letter of congratulations to ILWU President Bob McEllrath for his union's bold initiative to use the occasion of International Workers Day to stop work to stop the war.

—Resolution adopted by the San Francisco Labor Council March 24, 2008, by unanimous vote.


Rock for Justice-Rock for Palestine
FREE outdoor festival
May 10th, 2008
Civic Center, San Francisco

Dear Comrade,

I am involved in the Local Nakba Committee (LNC), which is made up of Palestinians and allies for justice in Palestine from the San Francisco/Bay Area. Our purpose for coming together is to raise awareness, unite, and mark 60 years since the ongoing Palestinian Nakba and struggle for self-determination and the right of return. We are promoting a very special day-long FREE Palestine, Peace and Solidarity Festival-with an amazing program of Palestinian, and other musicians for peace and justice. The FREE outdoor festival will be held at the Civic Center in downtown San Francisco, May 10th, 2008.

The purpose of the Solidarity Festival is to raise the voices of Palestinian and other artists who resist the domination of their communities, through music and to initiate a public discourse of our issues. Palestinians are the largest and longest displaced refugee community in the world as a result of Israel's occupation, Apartheid-wall and illegal settlements. We intend to use resistance music and issue a rallying call for those in solidarity to build a mass popular movement and support the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and right of return.

In order reach out beyond our existing allies, the event will serve as an opportunity to outreach broadly and educate youth and those who are interested in understanding the historical context of Palestine. The event is a first step to historical and political education, and for those interested, the LNC is planning youth programs and educational workshops for both the day of, and to follow the event.

I am contacting you on behalf of the Local Nakba Committee to request a demonstration of solidarity with the Palestinian people. To make this historic gathering possible, will require tremendous amount of labor and financial contribution. The concert will only happen with the generosity of donors such as yourself. Thank you for recognizing the urgency of this time in the Palestinian people's struggle, and helping make it possible to hear these important voices.

Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition is acting as the fiscal sponsor of the event ( Please feel free to contact me with for additional information and questions.

Thank you for your support!

Local Nakba Committee Coordinator

Please make your tax-deductible donation, payable to 'Palestine Right to Return Coalition' or 'PRRC/Palestine Solidarity Concert'

Mail to:

Local Nakba Committee (LNC)
PO Box #668
2425 Channing Way
Berkeley, CA 94704

Event Sponsorship - If your organization or business wishes to sponsor the event, have a booth, and/or to be listed in all related promotional material, please see, and be in full agreement with the points of unity below.

For a detailed budget breakdown and itemization of artist & logistic expenses that your contribution will go directly towards, please email: requesting specific sponsorship opportunities.

For more information about individuals who make up the Local Nakba Committee, please email us at the above address for a list of bio's.

For more information about, the Palestine Right of Return Coalition, see:

For regular concert updates see our website at:

You can donate online at the Facebook Cause 'Nakba-60, Palestine Solidarity Concert' at:

List of confirmed artists:

Dam, featuring Abeer, aka 'Sabreena da Witch'–Palestinian Hip-Hop crew from Lid (1948, Palestine).

Dead Prez

Fred Wreck–DJ/Producer, for artists Snoop Dogg, Hilary Duff,
Brittany Spears and other celebs.

Ras Ceylon –Sri Lankan Revolution Hip Hop

Arab Summit:
Narcicyst - with Iraqi-Canadian Hip Hop group Euphrates
Excentrik- Palestinian Producer/Composer/MC
Omar Offendun- with Syrian/Sudani Hip Hop group The N.o.m.a.d.s
Ragtop- with Palestinian/Filipino group The Philistines
Scribe Project – Palestinian/Mexican Hip Hop/Soul Band

Additional artists still pending confirmation.

Coalition Building: The LNC is working with a coalition of social justice groups and organizations. Our primary goal is to further reach out to natural allies and communities who are affected by the similar issues as Palestinians. We are calling on Native communities to commemorate with those who have died, or been killed by fighting for self-determination, and Hurricane Katrina Solidarity groups with their solidarity message to Palestinians of the "right to return" to New Orleans. More generally, we are calling on groups organizing youth & communities around issues of social justice, indigenous/land/human rights, and international law.

Online video streaming: The goal is to provide online video steaming technology of the concert, so that it can be watched from Palestine and anywhere in the world.

Points of Unity for Concert Sponsorship

An end to all US political, military and economic aid to Israel.

The divestment of all public and private entities from all Israeli corporations and American corporations with subsidiaries operating within Israel.

An end to the investment of Labor Union members' pension funds in Israel.
The boycott of all Israeli products.

The right to return for all Palestinian refugees to their original towns, villages and lands with compensation for damages inflicted on their property and lives.

The right for all Palestinian refugees to full restitution of all confiscated and destroyed property.

The formation of an independent, democratic state for its citizens in all of Palestine.


For Immediate Release
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.


Organizational endorsements welcome. Please write to us at convention6@

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

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

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

Until return,

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

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


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

List of Endorsers (below call):

Endorse the conference:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

List of Endorsers

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


Center for Labor Renewal Statement and Call for the Elimination of Two-Tier Workplaces

On Saturday, January 26, 2008, over 80 U.S. and Canadian auto industry worker/activists met in Flint, Michigan, birthplace of militant unionism in the Auto Industry in the late 1903s. The agenda was how to measure and respond to the crippling impact of the 2007 auto industry collective bargaining agreements. The daylong discussions led to the issuance of the following Statement and Call for a:

Campaign to oppose two-tier wages

The United States has never been an equal opportunity society. During periods of intense collective struggle workers made economic gains, but sustained progress in equity distribution has not been achieved. Capital’s effort to exploit labor is never put on hold for long. Over the past 30 years corporate America, often supported by government, has engaged in an all-out assault on working people. That relentless campaign has increased and extended social inequality to levels many had not thought possible without triggering a concerted rebellion from the ranks of labor. Such an upsurge of resistance has not yet coalesced but there are indications that worker anger and disillusionment is rising.

Corporate aggression, particularly in historically well-organized, higher wage industries is increasingly tied to capital’s global restructuring agenda, which is capitalizing on the low standard of living prevalent in impoverished countries and regions around the world. The rising demand for U.S. worker concessions in such sectors as auto, metalwork, electronics, communications, etc. is part of that restructuring process and, unchallenged, sweeps all workers into a downward spiral of wage and working conditions. Employer claims that competition necessitates wage and benefit reductions in order to save jobs has become the weapon of choice. Workers are told they have to choose between massive reductions for future generations of workers or no job at all.

That this is happening in the most heavily unionized industries reveals the effectiveness of the corporate strategy to both disarm and attract many union leaders and some portion of the base to accept the proposition that pursuing their agenda of “competitiveness” is in our mutual interest. The U.S. labor leadership has not put forward any meaningful alternatives to global corporate restructuring. Embracing the companies’ “competitiveness” agenda is a flawed, if not fatal strategy.

The corporations are demanding, and the unions are accepting, permanent two-tier wage schemes whereby new hires work side by side with workers earning substantially higher wages for the same tasks. This new, generalized wage retreat comes after years of unresolved wage inequities that have disproportionately affected women and workers of color in U.S. workplaces. The introduction of both two-tier and “permanent temporary” workers in auto plants adds more layers of blatant discrimination. We must continue to fight against all forms of discrimination in two-tier wage structures, whether directed at workers of color or women, or now “the new hire” and the defenseless temp workers.

Our acceptance makes us an accessory to corporate divide and conquer schemes

Allowing the employers to expand inequality, rather then resolve it fosters additional resentment among workers and recklessly severs solidarity between generations. Two-tier wage agreements and the use of permanent temporary workers make the union partners in the business of exploiting workers.

Big Three auto contracts institutionalize second-class workers

In the 2007 Big Three auto negotiations the UAW, a once powerful wage and benefits pacesetter, agreed to a radically reduced two-tier wage and benefit package. The Big Three auto agreement cuts wages for new workers by up to 50 percent (67 percent if you include benefits) for doing the same work as current workers. The need to help the companies be more “competitive” to insure “job security” was the advertised selling point. The 25-year history of concession bargaining in auto has not stopped the massive decline in the ranks of the Big Three from 750,000 in 1979 when the concession era began to 170,000 today. Yet contract after contract during that period were heralded as “historic job security” agreements.

In 200 the UAW negotiated a Supplemental Two-Tier Wage Agreement for new hires at Delphi Corporation, a former GM Parts division, which had been “spun-off” as an independent parts supplier in 1999. Members of one UAW-Delphi Local, Local 2151 voted to appeal the International Union’s decision not to permit the thousands of Delphi union members to vote on the Supplemental Two-Tier Agreement, which affected them. In defense of their decision to evade ratification the UAW International Executive Board argued that the “future hire group is a null class.”

The segregation of future union members into a “null class” is a ruthless act of discrimination against an entire generation, and another example of the failure of competitiveness to secure jobs. Delphi subsequently used bankruptcy as a strategy to further restructure and destroy jobs and incomes. Within four years 27,000 out of 33,000 union members were eliminated at Delphi and the remaining workers were brought down to the lower wage and benefit scale.
Wage costs are not the problem

Wages and benefits of assembly workers account for less than 10 percent of the cost of a car and differentials between companies are not significant, especially since GM, Ford, and Chrysler’s competitors are primarily building cars inside the U.S. Furthermore, productivity in the auto industry has been rising rapidly: real output per worker has more than doubled since 1987. Even the Harbour-Felax Report—which analysts consider the industry bible on productivity—has acknowledged that: the Big Three has now largely eliminated the productivity gap with Japanese manufacturers.

In a globally restructured auto industry, it was inevitable that the Big Three would not sustain their monopoly control of the domestic market. Their arrogance toward foreign producers is only matched by their greed and arrogance toward consumers. This resulted in decades of marketing second rate, unimaginative, and shoddily engineered products at the same time union workers were making concessions allegedly to help them be more competitive. Yet, coming on the heels of the Delphi bankruptcy, the 2007 negotiations were pitched as if the sacrifices of workers was the only thing that could help the domestic auto manufacturers out of the “competitiveness” hole they’d dug themselves into. Making workers pay for the bosses’ mistakes is as much a national pastime as baseball.

The new-hire wage rates in UAW contracts with the Big Three automakers are now set below the average industrial wage in the U.S. which is already below that of other major developed countries. The competitive spiral will accelerate as foreign transplants are relieved of the pressure to match union wages. The failure to protect wages, benefits, and working conditions means that it will be even more difficult for the UAW to organize new workers. Yet the real answer to the “competitiveness” question lies in organizing the workers employed by the anti-union foreign owned producers and taking wages, benefits, and working conditions out of competition through solidarity-unionism.

For Canadian Auto Workers whose collective agreements with the same Big Three companies expire in September of 2008, the reduced new worker hire rate and permanent two-tier precedents set in the U.S. will represent a huge challenge. CAW members have traditionally resisted the concession patterns of their neighbors to the South; their continued resistance in their negotiations this Fall would be reinforced by a rising tide of opposition from U.S. auto workers to slashing wages and attacks on worker dignity.

The Japanese companies have already introduced the two-tier half-wage system in Japan. The threat of unionization had, until now, blocked their trying it here. But with the implementation of two-tier in the Big Three plants, they can now do the same in this country. Net result: no shift in relative competitiveness, but a destructive further lowering of wages for all auto industry workers.

Furthermore, now that the new hire wage rate is set below the industry average for the Big Three, workers in the auto parts supply industry will be confronted with a stark choice: accept lower wages or their jobs will be outsourced, or more correctly “re-insourced,” to the big auto companies at the radically reduced new lower tier wages. Once again the net result is zero security for workers and a further collapse in living standards. As part and parcel of the concessions mentality, the auto union failed to pursue its own longstanding demand for single-payer national healthcare (for all). Instead, they agreed to relieve Big Three automakers of billions of dollars in legacy costs for retiree healthcare protection by accepting responsibility for future coverage through an under-funded Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association, or VEBA.

The UAW is not the only union that has bargained away equality within the workforce. This trend is the deathwatch for the labor movement in our era. Union collaboration in wage discrimination for the sake of competitiveness is the counsel of despair. The future of active and retired workers is inextricably bound with the future of new workers. The segregation of future union members into a “null class” is an invitation for “payback” at some future time. If new hires are treated as a “null class,” one day they will in turn classify senior workers and retirees as a “null class.” There is no seniority date for dignity and should be no retirement from solidarity.

The corporate blitzkrieg on working people is subsidized with tax abatements while health, education, and social programs are slashed to the bone. The parrots of the status quo insist there is no alternative to an economic system that degrades workers, deprives the unfortunate of health care, undermines the security of the elderly, and desecrates the environment. It’s a lie. The degradation of the working class is chronic and contagious. We need strategic collective action with allies here and around the world.

History suggests that UAW members would have followed the lead of a progressive leadership to militantly resist the destruction of wage parity and other hard won gains in the workplace. But nearly 30 years of concession bargaining and yielding to the “logic of the competitiveness agenda” produced an opposite result.

Workers throughout all employment sectors face this same assault on wages, benefits, and working conditions in one form or another. It is time for all workers to reject the false logic of corporate competitiveness and reinvigorate the logic of solidarity.

Today, we stand at the crossroad knowing full well where both roads lead. One road leads to division, despair, and social isolation, and the other road points to hope, solidarity, and the dignity of collective struggle.
Call for national campaign

In conjunction with the Center for Labor Renewal, participants at the Flint, January 26, 2008 meeting issue the following Call:

In the face of the continuing assault on worker wages, benefits, and the quality of work life where rising economic injustice is destroying the stability and hopes of an increasing numbers of workers and their families, here and around the world; and where inequality and income discrimination are celebrated by a protected few at the desperate expense of so many others; we call on all workers of conscience everywhere to join a campaign to bring our collective strength and renewed solidarity to the struggle against the agenda of social devaluation and despair.

Workers in the auto industry have a critical role to play in this campaign given the destructive events in that industry which now, more than ever, seeks to validate the pitting of workers against workers, and communities against communities, and the glorification of the false dog-eat-dog, workplace agenda of the corporations today. In that world its “winner-take-all,” and the winner has been pre-determined. We call on all auto workers to reject all forms of wage discrimination and renew the fight for industrial democracy through worker solidarity, and to:

• Build within our workplaces, a movement against two-tier wages, and a renewal of solidarity unionism by means of varied communications vehicles including the internet; web sites; newsletters and plant gate handbills, etc.

• Promote crosscurrents of opposition against the creation of second-class workers in all workplaces.

• Where a two-tier system is in place, concretely demonstrate to the new workers that there is a strong base of resistance against the discrimination they face, and that we all need to remember the lesson that “an injury to one, is an injury to all.”

• Within the Big Three, or any auto workplaces, target the rejection of future agreements (2011 in the Big Three ) if they do not reverse the two-tier system.

• Promote internal democracy to encourage the inclusion and participation of the second tier workers alongside the entire rank and file to change the concessionary path followed by the current leadership.

Such a campaign will need mechanisms to facilitate links, exchange information, and assist in the coordination of future actions. Coming out of a meeting organized by the Center for Labor Renewal (CLR) of 80 activists in Flint, Michigan, the CLR commits to:

• Collect and develop material for building the necessary base in the workplace and its electronic dissemination. Assist in the development and proliferation of additional vehicles of communication.

• Develop an information clearinghouse to gather and disseminate reports and updates on local struggles and developments.

• Support regional forums to assist activists in developing the arguments and organizational capacities to build the solidarity program at the base

• Facilitate national meetings through which local activists can assess the campaign and collectively strategize on further events and actions.

• Promote the development of the analytical tools required by union activists to successfully integrate this campaign with a workers’ struggle that is increasingly global in dimension.

This fight is winnable. The U.S. working class needs a victory and it needs this victory in particular. The one-sided class war against workers has gone on far too long. The defeat of the two tier system is a crucial step in the struggle to address broader inequalities in our society. It’s time to draw the line.

—Center for Labor Renewal/

—Future of the Union/

—Factory Rat/

—Soldiers of Solidarity



For 35 years, Jim Crow justice in Louisiana has kept Herman Wallace
and Albert Woodfox locked in solitary confinement for a crime
everyone knows they didn't commit.

Despite overwhelming evidence of their innocence, the "Angola 3",
spend 23 hours each day in a 6x9 cell on the site of a former
plantation. Prison officials - and the state officials who could
intervene - won't end the terrible sentence. They've locked them up
and thrown away the key because they challenged a system that deals an
uneven hand based on the color of one's skin and tortures those who
assert their humanity.

We can help turn things around by making it a political liability for
the authorities at Angola to continue the racist status quo, and by
forcing federal and state authorities to intervene. I've signed on
with to demand an investigation into this clear case
of unequal justice. Will you join us?

When spoke up about the Jena 6, it was about more
than helping six Black youth in a small town called Jena. It was about
standing up against a system of unequal justice that deals an uneven
hand based on the color of one's skin. That broken system is at work
again and is joining The Innocence Project and
Amnesty International to challenge it in the case of the Angola 3.

"Angola", sits on 18,000 acres of former plantation land in Louisiana
and is estimated to be one of the largest prisons in the United
States. Angola's history is telling: once considered one of the most
violent, racially segregated prison in America, almost a prisoner a
day was stabbed, shot or raped. Prisoners were often put in inhumane
extreme punishment camps for small infractions. The Angola 3 -
Herman, Albert and Robert - organized hunger and work strikes within
the prison in the 70's to protest continued segregation, corruption
and horrific abuse facing the largely Black prisoner population.

Shortly after they spoke out, the Angola 3 were convicted of murdering
a prison guard by an all-white jury. It is now clear that these men
were framed to silence their peaceful revolt against inhumane
treatment. Since then, they have spent every day for 35 years in 6x9
foot cells for a crime they didn't commit.

Herman and Albert are not saints. They are the first to admit they've
committed crimes. But, everyone agrees that their debts to society
for various robbery convictions were paid long ago.

NBC News/Dateline just aired a piece this week about the plight of the
Angola 3. And it's time to finally get some justice for Herman and
Albert. For far too long, court officials have stalled and refused to
review their cases. Evidence of prosecutorial misconduct and
constitutional violations have not swayed them.

It's now time for the Governor of Louisiana and the United States
Congress, which provides the funding for federal prisons like Angola,
to step in and say enough is enough. Please join us in calling for
Governor Bobby Jindal and your Congressperson to initiate an immediate
and full investigation into the case of the Angola 3.



[The catch is, that while it's true that the landlord can increase rents to whatever he or she wants once a property becomes vacant, the current rent-control law now ensures that the new tenants are still under rent-control for their, albeit higher, rent. Under the new law, there simply will be no rent control when the new tenant moves in so their much higher rent-rate can increase as much as the landlord chooses each year from then on!!! So, no more rent-control at all!!! Tricky, huh?...BW]


"- Government may not set the price at which property owners sell or lease their property.

The provisions of this Act shall become effective on the day following the election ("effective date"); except that any statute, charter provision, ordinance, or regulation by a public agency enacted prior to January 1, 2007, that limits the price a rental property owner may charge a tenant to occupy a residential rental unit ("unit") or mobile home space ("space") may remain in effect as to such unit or space after the effective date for so long as, but only so long as, at least one of the tenants of such unit or space as of the effective date ("qualified tenant") continues to live in such unit or space as his or her principal place of residence. At such time as a unit or space no longer is used by any qualified tenant as his or her principal place of residence because, as to such unit or space, he or she has: (a) voluntarily vacated; (b) assigned, sublet, sold or transferred his or her tenancy rights either voluntarily or by court order; (c) abandoned; (d) died; or he or she has (e) been evicted pursuant to paragraph (2), (3), (4) or (5) of Section 1161 of the Code of Civil Procedure or Section 798.56 of the Civil Code as in effect on January 1, 2007; then, and in such event, the provisions of this Act shall be effective immediately as to such unit or space."


Gaza's lost childhood - 23 March 08

Mike Prysner (Part 1 and Part 2 -- please watch both parts. Wow! This is powerful testimony. Thank you, Mike Prysner!
Winter Soldier Testimonies
or try:

Winter Soldier Mike Prysner testimony, Pt1
Winter Soldier Mike Prysner testimony Pt2

Tent Cities, USA




1) U.S. Planes Attack Militia Strongholds in Basra Fighting
March 29, 2008

2) Palestinians Fear Two-Tier Road System
March 28, 2008

3) Tapes’ Destruction Hovers Over Detainee Cases
March 28, 2008

4) Four Articles by Mumia Abu-Jamal

5) 304,000 Inmates Eligible for Deportation, Official Says
March 28, 2008

6) Odd Crop Prices Defy Economics
March 28, 2008

7) Drop in U.A.W. Rolls Reflects Automakers’ Problems
March 28, 2008

8) Treasury Dept. Plan Would Give Fed Wide New Power
March 29, 2008

9) U.S. Airstrikes Aid Iraqi Army in Basra
March 29, 2008

10) Case Against U.S. Marine Is Dismissed
March 29, 2008

11) Payments Are Ordered in Searches of Inmates
March 29, 2008

12) Alaska Suit Against Lilly Is Settled
March 27, 2008

13) Shiite Militias Cling to Swaths of Basra and Stage Raids
March 30, 2008

14) To the Anti-war/ Peace and Justice Movements, Thank You For Your Support of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Winter Soldier (Please forward widely)
Visit for Winter Soldier Iraq and Afghanistan information and video
peace: One step at a time.
Support VFP

15) American College of Physicians Position Takes Aim at Marijuana Laws
Tim King
They support research into the therapeutic role of marijuana.
The American College of Physicians paper is below the article (Feb-18-2008 20:38)

16) No War:
The Movement That Has Dissolved Itself
by Tariq Ali

17) Sadr Offers Deal for Truce as Fighting Persists in Iraq
March 31, 2008

18) Files Suggest Venezuela Bid to Aid Colombia Rebels
March 30, 2008

19) Foreclosure Machine Thrives on Woes
March 30, 2008

20) The Way We Live Now
March 30, 2008


1) U.S. Planes Attack Militia Strongholds in Basra Fighting
March 29, 2008

BAGHDAD — American warplanes struck targets in the southern port city of Basra late Thursday, joining for the first time an onslaught by Iraqi security forces intended to oust Shiite militias there, according to British and American military officials.

In Baghdad, the capital, American aircraft and Mahdi Army fighters exchanged fire in the Sadr City neighborhood, the capital’s largest Shiite militia stronghold. The Iraqi police said an American helicopter opened fire early Friday in Sadr City, killing five people.

The American military confirmed the strike, saying the helicopter was called in after troops on the ground were shot at and requested air support. The Iraqi police also reported a second, later strike by a fixed-wing American aircraft that they said killed four people.

Amid the violence in Baghdad, rocket or mortar fire struck the office of one of Iraq’s two vice presidents, Tariq al-Hashimi, in the Green Zone, killing a security guard. It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Hashimi was in his office at the time, or whether he was hurt in the attack.

The strikes by American warplanes in Basra, one on a militia stronghold and a second on a mortar team that was attacking Iraqi forces, were made at the request of the Iraqi Army, said Maj. Tom Holloway, a spokesman for the British Army in Basra.

Major Holloway said that the Americans conducted the air attack because the Iraqi security forces did not have aircraft capable of making such strikes. American and British forces have been flying surveillance runs over Basra since the latest fighting in the city began this week.

“I think the point here is actually that the Iraqis are capable, they are strong and they have been engaging successfully,” Major Holloway said.

But the airstrikes by coalition forces after a four-day stalemate in Basra suggested that the Iraqi military has not, on its own, been able to rout the militias, despite repeated statements by American and Iraqi officials that its fighting capabilities have vastly improved.

The strike on the mortar team was made about 9 p.m. Thursday by an American Navy fixed-wing plane, American military officials said.

The Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who on Wednesday set a 72-hour deadline for the militias in Basra to lay down their arms or face harsh consequences, said Friday that cash rewards would be offered to anyone in Basra who turned in heavy weapons or artillery. Mr. Maliki, who has staked his political credibility on the Basra campaign, said the cash offer would last until April 8.

In Washington, President Bush reiterated his support for Mr. Maliki, describing the offensive as “a defining moment” in the history of a free Iraq and a test for its government. The president said that there had been “substantial progress” in Iraq. “But it’s still a dangerous, fragile situation,” he said.

The United States will continue to help the Iraqi forces if asked, the president said, but the Iraqis “are in the lead.”

“This is going to take a while,” the president said at a White House appearance with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia, “but it is a necessary part in the development of a free society.”

Mr. Bush said the willingness of Mr. Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government to use force to quell violence by Shiite militias showed that the prime minister believed “in evenhanded justice,” a pillar of any free society.

On Friday, after a morning when the streets in Basra were quiet, clashes began around 4:30 p.m. in several neighborhoods of the city as Iraqi security forces fought militia fighters with the Mahdi Army, the armed wing of the political movement led by Moktada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric. Fighting also continued in the Qurna district, 40 miles northwest of Basra.

The strike on the office of Mr. Hashimi in Baghdad was confirmed by Mr. Hashimi’s daughter and chief secretary, Lubna al-Hashimi. Weeping, Ms. Hashimi said: “We have just been hit by two mortars. One of my colleagues died at once.”

She said at least three workers in the office had been wounded. Other accounts put the number of wounded at more than eight. Clashes occurred in other Shiite-dominated neighborhoods in the capital, including the Topchi and Huriya districts and in Kadhimiya, the site of an important shrine.

David Stout contributed reporting from Washington, and Iraqi employees of The New York Times from Baghdad and Basra.


2) Palestinians Fear Two-Tier Road System
March 28, 2008

BEIT SIRA, West Bank — Ali Abu Safia, mayor of this Palestinian village, steers his car up one potholed road, then another, finding each exit blocked by huge concrete chunks placed there by the Israeli Army. On a sleek highway 100 yards away, Israeli cars whiz by.

“They took our land to build this road, and now we can’t even use it,” Mr. Abu Safia says bitterly, pointing to the highway with one hand as he drives with the other. “Israel says it is because of security. But it’s politics.”

The object of Mr. Abu Safia’s contempt — Highway 443, a major access road to Jerusalem — has taken on special significance in the grinding Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For the first time, the Supreme Court, albeit in an interim decision, has accepted the idea of separate roads for Palestinians in the occupied areas.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel told the Supreme Court that what was happening on the highway could be the onset of legal apartheid in the West Bank — a charge that makes many Israelis recoil.

Built largely on private Palestinian land, the road was first challenged in the Supreme Court in the early 1980s when the justices, in a landmark ruling, permitted it to be built because the army said its primary function was to serve the local Palestinians, not Israeli commuters. In recent years, in the wake of stone-throwing and several drive-by shootings, Israel has blocked Palestinians’ access to the road.

This month, as some 40,000 Israeli cars — and almost no Palestinians — use it daily, the court handed down its decision, one that has engendered much legal and political hand-wringing.

The one-paragraph decision calls on the army to give a progress report in six months on its efforts to build separate roads and take other steps for the Palestinians to compensate them for being barred from Highway 443. It is the acceptance of the idea of separate road systems that has engendered commentary, although legal experts say there is a slight chance that the court could reconsider its approach when it next examines the issue.

“There is already a separate legal system in the territories for Israelis and Palestinians,” said Limor Yehuda, who argued the recent case for the civil rights association on behalf of six Palestinian villages. “With the approval of separate roads, if it becomes a widespread policy, then the word for it will be ‘apartheid.’ ”

Many Israelis and their supporters reject the term, with its implication of racist animus.

“The basis of separation is not ethnic since Israeli Arabs and Jerusalem residents with Israeli ID cards can use the road,” argues Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a conservative research organization. “The basis of the separation is to keep out of secure areas people living in chaotic areas. If the Palestinian Authority, which has thousands of men under arms, had fought terror, this wouldn’t have been necessary.”

The court’s latest decision is significant because it accepted the idea in principle put forth by the army — that while it had no choice but to ban Palestinian traffic from the road because of anti-Israel attacks on it, some of which it says originated from the surrounding villages, it would build separate roads for the Palestinians.

The court has never ruled on the legality of separate roads, despite a growing network of them around the West Bank. If this interim decision reflects its view that such a system is legally acceptable, that represents a big new step. A court spokeswoman said the justices would not comment.

David Kretzmer, an emeritus professor of international law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, wrote in an op-ed article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz of what he called the “judicial hypocrisy” of Israel’s reign over the territories manifest in this case.

He said that while the changed security circumstances of recent years may have forced a change in the road’s mixed use, “the unavoidable conclusion is that, as unfortunate as this may be, Israelis should not be allowed to travel on the road that was built, let’s not forget, for the benefit of the local population.

“But the military government has, of course, decided otherwise: Israelis will be allowed to travel on the road, while Palestinians — for whom, the court’s ruling says, the road was paved — cannot use it, and access to the road from local Palestinian villages will be blocked.”

For many Israelis, however, the dozens of attacks that have taken place on the road in recent years are reason enough to ban Palestinian traffic there and to limit Palestinians to other routes. In 2001, for example, five Israelis were killed by gunfire on Highway 443 and since then a number of others have been injured from stone-throwing.

Still, the legal case seems more complicated. In The Jerusalem Post, Dan Izenberg wrote that international law and Israeli court decisions were unambiguous on the fact that the road should primarily serve Palestinians rather than Israelis, but that the court was in a delicate position just now because of growing public discontent with it over other issues.

“The High Court in this case cannot stray too far from the interests of the Israeli public, especially at a time when it has more than its share of enemies,” he wrote. “The court knows that Israelis who rely on Highway 443 would not easily accept a ruling that causes them such inconvenience.”

Gershom Gorenberg, an Israeli who wrote a book critical of Israeli settlements, runs a blog called South Jerusalem ( on which he has posted documents from the 1960s and 70s showing that the governments planned to expand the Jerusalem corridor with settlements and a bigger road after conquering East Jerusalem in the 1967 war. In that sense, he says, the government and army were never honest in what they told the Supreme Court about the purpose of Highway 443.

“Think of the road itself as a settlement,” he said, “part of the conscious effort to change the character of the area, giving it an Israeli stamp. The point was to make it impossible for Israel ever to return certain parts of the land. It is true that Palestinians had free movement on 443 in the 1980s and 1990s before the restrictions were imposed. But to claim that it was built for them does not line up with the paper trail. The cover story of this road has been blown.”

For the 30,000 Palestinians who live in the surrounding villages, lack of access to Highway 443 has been a constant source of difficulty. In one village, A Tira, 14 taxis have permits to travel the road during daylight but locals say that has not eased the burden much.

Each morning, a crowd gathers at the blocked entrance to A Tira, waiting for the Israeli soldiers to open a gate so they can take one of the taxis to Ramallah, the capital of the West Bank.

“Ten days ago, my brother had a heart attack and we had trouble transferring him to a Ramallah hospital,” lamented Said Salameh, 51, a taxi driver who has a permit for the road, as he stood by the entrance one recent morning. “When the gate closes at night, we can’t move outside the village.”

Sabri Mahmoud, a 36-year-old employee of the Palestinian Authority, agreed. “I am always late to work because of this,” he said. “Our life is controlled by the opening hours of the gate. You feel like you live in a cage.”

For many legal commentators in Israel, the most distressing part is that by giving Highway 443 to Israelis and barring Palestinians, Israel is protecting its citizens not from terrorism but from traffic — granting them an alternative to the crowded main Jerusalem road.

Ms. Yehuda, the civil rights lawyer, said that the Supreme Court’s 1982 ruling specifically stated that if the point of the road was primarily to serve Israelis, then it may not be built. Yet now, she added, “The state is essentially aiming to safeguard the convenience of the service road for Israelis who commute from Tel Aviv and the central plains to Jerusalem and vice versa.”

Khaled Abu Aker contributed reporting from A Tira, West Bank.


3) Tapes’ Destruction Hovers Over Detainee Cases
March 28, 2008

WASHINGTON — When officers from the Central Intelligence Agency destroyed hundreds of hours of videotapes documenting harsh interrogations in 2005, they may have believed they were freeing the government and themselves from potentially serious legal trouble.

But nearly four months after the disclosure that the tapes were destroyed, the list of legal entanglements for the C.I.A., the Defense Department and other agencies is only growing longer. In addition to criminal and Congressional investigations of the tapes’ destruction, the government is fighting off challenges in several major terrorism cases and a raft of prisoners’ legal claims that it may have destroyed evidence.

“They thought they were saving themselves from legal scrutiny, as well as possible danger from Al Qaeda if the tapes became public,” said Frederick P. Hitz, a former C.I.A. officer and the agency’s inspector general from 1990 to 1998, speaking of agency officials who favored eliminating the tapes. “Unknowingly, perhaps, they may have created even more problems for themselves.”

In a suit brought by Hani Abdullah, a Yemeni prisoner at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a federal judge has raised the possibility that, by destroying the tapes, the C.I.A. violated a court order to preserve all evidence relevant to the prisoner. In at least 12 other lawsuits, lawyers for prisoners at Guantánamo and elsewhere have filed legal challenges citing the C.I.A. tapes’ destruction, said David H. Remes, a Washington lawyer representing 16 prisoners.

“This is like any other cover-up,” Mr. Remes said. “We’ve only scratched the surface.”

Plans for the possible prosecution of another prisoner, Ali al-Marri, who has been held since 2003 in a naval brig in Charleston, S.C., could be in jeopardy after the Pentagon recently revealed that it had destroyed some tapes of Mr. Marri’s interrogation. Other tapes showing rough treatment of Mr. Marri, which were discovered in a Pentagon review ordered after the C.I.A. revelations and have been preserved, could prove embarrassing if presented at his trial.

The destruction of tapes has also prompted challenges from lawyers for Zacharias Moussaoui, the convicted Qaeda operative who had unsuccessfully sought testimony at his trial from Abu Zubaydah, one of the two Qaeda suspects whose interrogation videotapes were destroyed in November 2005. At that time, a defense motion seeking records of Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation was pending before a federal court in Virginia.

This motion in the Moussaoui case, among other legal challenges, has raised questions about a statement in December by the C.I.A. director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, that he understood the tapes were destroyed only after it was determined that they were “not relevant to any internal, legislative, or judicial inquiries.”

A C.I.A. spokesman, Paul Gimigliano, said General Hayden “certainly stands by his statement.” He added: “The C.I.A. has been cooperating with the Department of Justice, the courts and the Congress. The reviews of this matter are not complete, and it is only fair to let them conclude before trying to draw conclusions from them or about them.”

Officially, the C.I.A. has said that the tapes were destroyed primarily because of concerns that their public exposure could endanger the safety of C.I.A. officers. But in interviews in recent months with several officers involved in the decision, they said that a primary factor was the legal risks that officers shown on the tape might face.

Lawyers involved in the cases said it still appeared unlikely that a terrorist suspect could go free as a result of the destruction of the videotapes. But they said that judges might decide to exclude evidence in some of the cases, potentially undermining the government’s position and jeopardizing future prosecutions.

All of the court challenges are playing out against the backdrop of the criminal investigation, led by a veteran prosecutor, John H. Durham, who is examining whether destruction of the tapes was an illegal obstruction of justice. A separate investigation by the House Intelligence Committee will soon begin interviewing officials from the White House and the C.I.A., possibly under subpoena, about their roles in the destruction of the tapes.

Congressional officials said that among the White House officials they intend to interview are David S. Addington, chief counsel for Vice President Dick Cheney, and former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. The list of current and former C.I.A. officials includes the former C.I.A. directors George J. Tenet and Porter J. Goss as well as several C.I.A. lawyers who gave legal advice about the tapes.

Little is known about the progress of the criminal investigation led by Mr. Durham. But his team has interviewed members of the Sept. 11 commission, including Philip D. Zelikow, the panel’s former executive director, as part of an inquiry into whether the C.I.A. broke the law by withholding the tapes from the commission.

Mr. Hitz, the former C.I.A. inspector general, said the government’s legal woes could be traced to what he believed was an unwise decision to use harsh physical pressure during interrogations. Those techniques had Justice Department approval. But a public backlash set in, which was a factor in the C.I.A.’s decision to destroy the tapes in late 2005.

By then, the C.I.A.’s secret detention program was tied up in a complex web of legal claims and counterclaims.

Beyond that, Mr. Durham, the prosecutor, has found 17 court orders in 21 lawsuits that required preservation of evidence, and he has said in court papers that his team is investigating whether the tapes’ destruction violated those orders.

One of the court orders, issued in July 2005 by Judge Richard W. Roberts of the Federal District Court in Washington, required the preservation of all evidence related to Hani Abdullah, the Yemeni prisoner at Guantánamo, who is accused of attending a Qaeda training camp in 2001 and other offenses. Judge Roberts said in a January order that Mr. Abdullah’s lawyers had made a plausible case that Abu Zubaydah would have been asked about their client in interrogations.

Mr. Abdullah’s lawyers, who are challenging his detention as an enemy combatant, assert that the tapes might have helped their case, either by showing Abu Zubaydah did not know their client or that anything incriminating he may have said resulted from harsh treatment.

The remaining tapes of Mr. Marri, the prisoner at the Charleston brig who is challenging his indefinite detention, could create legal headaches for Justice Department lawyers should they someday bring him to trial.

During any future trial, Mr. Marri’s lawyers could show a jury interrogation tapes showing that he had been treated roughly. In addition, they could exploit the Pentagon’s admission that it has destroyed some tapes of Mr. Marri’s interrogation to make the case that the government withheld evidence from the defense.

Despite all the legal complications, those in the C.I.A. who got rid of the videotapes may have achieved one of their presumed goals: preventing a torture prosecution, said Deborah Colson, a senior associate at Human Rights First.

“It may be impossible to reconstruct any criminal conduct that was caught on the tapes,” Ms. Colson said.


4) Four Articles by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Whore Nation

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

With the national media fascination over the Spitzer-Kristen scandal has come also revelation: We, all of us, are living in a nation of whores.

Doubt it?

Now, I'm not here referring to a young call girl; nor am I really talking about former N.Y. Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Although, in truth, there is much more than sex that unites them; more, in fact, than that which divides them.

For, despite first reports, Kristen hails from a well-to-do New Jersey family, who-having left home-has experienced hard times. In that sense, both she and Spitzer hail from the same (or a somewhat similar) class.

Her sense of ambition for financial security drove her to the high-end business of prostitution. Similarly, Spitzer's ambition drove him to the law, and while not for financial enhancements, his pay was the most potent drug available: power.

And both whored themselves, just for different pay.

But this is bigger than the both of them (even as she entertains million-dollar offers for shots in the buff for porn magazines-or, just another kind of whoring-selling her image instead of her sweat).

In America, where culture, entertainment, politics, and all fields of endeavor are under the sway of capital, the question ain't whether we're for sale, but for how much?

And what is whoring, but exploitation?

In a nation fast facing de-industrialization, where manufacturing is becoming a memory, and the economy tumbles into the bin of the service industries, what is the quintessential "service", but the world's oldest profession-prostitution?

Sometimes movies appear that reflect great, deep social or cultural shifts. Remember the movie "Pretty Woman", the vehicle featuring actress Julia Roberts? The theme was the whore with the heart of gold, who caught the eye of a wealthy man.

What do you think that film whispered to millions of little girls (or, for that matter, little boys) sitting in the dark, lost in flickering light, dreaming about tomorrow?

And what is our daily diet on TV, under the guise of so-called "reality shows", but selling oneself-whoring oneself-for dollars? The more humiliating, the more dough, it seems.

But, culture-even corporate culture-sometimes reflects and even presages what is happening in real life. What we laugh at during the nights' entertainment becomes dreaded drudgery in morning light. For, it seems, what we find ridiculous on the tube, we lie on the job, for both reflect the daily humiliations of survival.

In politics, in entertainment, in business, in our social lives, we sell ourselves to the highest bidder-whores in every sense but name.

At bottom, it's about power and exploitation; the sale of the body, which in capitalism's logic, is just another commodity.

Welcome to Whore Nation., March 14, 2008


Why the War Will Not Soon End

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

As America marches into its 6th year of war in Iraq, there is a deep suspicion that the nation stands on the brink of a profound change in who holds the White House, and thus, who governs American foreign policy.

In essence, if polls are to be believed, a Democratic presidential candidate (either a Black man or a woman) will almost cruise into the Oval Office.

But there are at least two reasons why such an outcome is by no means certain.

First, because in politics, eight months is an eternity, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to predict what can happen in so long a time. We have seen, in the space of less than a week, how the bitter convergence of the net, cable TV, and DVD's has dealt an undeniable blow to the front-running campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (D.ILL.). He may very well survive, and even outrun, this latest dustup, but let no one be fooled. There is blood in the air; and the hounds of hell have been loosed.

Secondly, Republicans and neo cons will not go quietly into that dark night, away from the light and warmth of power. They will fight, tooth and nail, to prevail-and they may yet do so. Fear and patriotism are powerful levers with which to move minds.

That said; there is yet a third option. A Democrat may win, and once at the helm of the ship of state, reverse policies, for a politician's promises are a lot like a whore's kisses.

It's nothing personal; it's just business.

The great radical historian (author of the seminal Black Jacobins (1938), C.L. R. James once opined that professional politicians quickly learn the art of fooling the people.

Nor do we need to look far to see the position of politicians who have succeeded in that endeavor, for quite recently, when a reporter asked Vice-President Dick Cheney about pursuing a war policy opposed by three quarters of the electorate he laconically responded, "So?"

Having been elected and reelected to a second term as the bottom half of the Bush ticket; he could care less what three quarters of the electorate wanted.

Once in, politicians are deeply insulated from popular will.

C.L.R. James, as a revolutionary socialist organizer, called for direct democracy when organizing in Trinidad, and tried to build support for instant recall of politicians who disappointed or betrayed the people who voted for them. While his initiative failed (few parliamentarians would endorse such a radical notion,) think of the implications.

In 2006, millions of U.S. voters went to the polls to put in a Democratic and presumably anti-Iraq War congressional majority. Once in, these congress people promptly jettisoned their anti war rhetoric, and instead voted for tens of billions in more public moneys for the Iraq Occupation.

As they found the funds to refuel the war based on lies and deception, tens of thousands of homeowners, many of whom voted to end this war, faced the horrors of foreclosures, and loss of their homes. How many sons and daughters of those millions who marched to the polls, still go to schools with inadequate resources, poorly trained teachers, or a failing physical plant?

Yet, they found mega-billions for war.

There is a lesson in this.

The question is; what have we learned?, March 20, 2008


Lawmakers equal Lawbreakers-The Spitzer Drama
By Mumia Abu-Jamal

The rise and imminent fall of New York's Governor, Eliot Spitzer has all the drama and pathos of a TV movie.

If it weren't true, it could hardly be believed.

Spitzer, the Dick Tracy of the prosecutorial set (with his squinting blue eyes, and square jaw), has joined the peculiarly American photo op of the fallen politician, with his doleful wife dutifully standing beside him, a look in her eyes like a deer in headlights.

It is rare to see such a spectacle in Asia, Africa or Europe, where there is a certain maturity about affairs of the heart (or the loins).

But this is the U.S., not France.

While the Spitzer affair is but the latest in what seems like a seasonal event, it is different from those that came before because of the nature of the man, who built his political career on being the ruthless prosecutor, the "clean up man" of the filthy political culture of the Empire state. It is indeed, more than the obvious: hypocrisy run wild. It is a classic case of a man 'hoisted by his own petard' (or destroyed by his own weapon).

For, inasmuch as the former state Attorney General won a trip to the Governor's Mansion in Albany because of his relentless attacks on Wall Street brokers, he also had an appetite for the doings of prostitution rings, one of which led to his own front door.

According to published and broadcast reports, Spitzer paid nearly $80,000 for his trysts with high-end call girls.

And while this still seems a peculiar American fascination and revulsion with sex, the particulars of his money-changing to secure these services suggests that he has violated federal criminal statutes -- some that have been on the books for nearly a century.

At issue is the infamous Mann Act-a law known (particularly in the African-American community) because of its usage against the great Black boxing champ, Jack Johnson (1878-1946). The law is perhaps best known as the "White Slavery" law, for it has been used to prosecute men charged with trafficking in the sexual services of white women.

The Mann Act, as defined by the prestigious Black's Law Dictionary, is as follows:

"Federal statute (White Slave Traffic Act, 18 U.S. CA # 2421) making it a crime to transport a woman or girl in interstate or foreign commerce for the purpose prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose." (Black Law Dictionary, 5th ed., West Publishing, 1979, p.869.)

Yet, if news reports are correct (i.e., that he essentially hired young women to cross state lines for "immoral" purposes), it is doubtful that this high-ranking political figure will face a jail cell. For him, it might suffice to surrender his lofty office, while his loyal acolytes will fill op-ed pages with furtive prose that the public figure "has suffered enough."

In the legendary life of the first Black heavyweight boxing champ, Jack Johnson, this internationally renowned pugilist was charged, tried, convicted and sentenced for violating the Mann Act, for driving two white women across state lines to accompany him as he plied his trade. The government didn't claim that either of these women were prostitutes.

They were his wives! They were Etta Terry Duryea, whom he married in 1911, and after her suicide, Lucille Cameron.

The immorality? The mere fact that he, a Black man, had married white women.

After his 1913 conviction, he fled the U.S. for France to stay out of prison.

But that was then; this is now. Violations of the letter of the law don't mean the same thing when it comes to rich, powerful white men (unless they were prosecuted by Spitzer, that is.)

In addition to being the most powerful political figure in the state, Spitzer wears (until his resignation) the title of super-delegate, and he has already pledged to vote for Hillary Clinton.

What does one of the nations' foremost feminists have to say about her homie, and his exploitation of women in the sex trades?

Hypocrisy, it seems, doesn't end in the Governor's Mansion.

(Source: Appiah, Kwame Anthony and Henry Louis Gates, editors, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African-American Experience, Concise Desk Reference, Philadelphia, PA: Running Press, 2003, pp.481-83), March 11, 2008


The Politician and the Preacher
By Mumia Abu-Jamal

The recent quasi-controversy over the comments made by the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, retired pastor of the United Church of Christ, to which Sen. Barack Obama (D.IL) belongs and attends, has shown us how limited, and how narrow, is this new politics peddled by the freshman Senator from Chicago.

Although first popularized via the web, the Reverend's comments caused Sen. Obama to say he was "appalled" by them, and he has repudiated such remarks as "offensive."

Just what were these comments? As far as I've heard, they were that Sen. Hilary Clinton (D.NY) has had a political advantage because she's white; that she was raised in a family of means (especially when contrasted with Obama's upbringing); and she was never called a nigger.

Sounds objectively true to me.

Rev. Wright's other remarks were that the country was built on racism, is run by rich white people, and that the events of September 11 was a direct reaction to U.S. foreign policy.

Again-true enough.

And while we can see how such truths might cause discomfort to American nationalists, can we not also agree that they are truths? Consider, would Sen. Clinton be where she is if she were born in a Black female body? Or if she were born to a single mother in the projects? As for the nation, it may be too simplistic to say it was built on racism, but was surely built on racial slavery, from which its wealth was built. And who runs America, if not the super-rich white elites? Who doesn't know that politicians are puppets of corporate and inherited wealth?

And while Blacks of wealth and means certainly are able to exercise unprecedented influence, we would be insane to believe that they "run" this country. Oprah, Bob Johnson and Bill Cosby are indeed wealthy; but they have influence, not power. The limits of Cosby's power was shown when he tried to purchase the TV network, NBC, years ago. His offer received a corporate smirk. And Oprah's wealth, while remarkable, pales in comparison to the holdings of men like Bill Gates, or Warren Buffet.

Would George W. Bush be president today if he were named Jorje Guillermo Arbusto, and Mexican-American? (Not unless Jorje, Sr. was a multimillionaire!)

In his ambition to become America's first Black president, Obama is in a race to prove how Black he isn't; even to denouncing a man he has considered his mentor.

As one who has experienced the Black church from the inside, politics and social commentary are rarely far from the pulpit. The Rev. Dr. Martin L. King spoke of politics, war, racism, economics, and social justice all across America. His fair-weather friends betrayed him, and the press condemned his remarks as "inappropriate", "unpatriotic", and "controversial."

Rev. Dr. King said the U.S. was "the greatest purveyor of violence" on earth, and that the Vietnam War was illegitimate and unjust. Would Sen. Obama be denouncing these words, as the white press, and many civil rights figures did, in 1967? Are they "inflammatory?"

Only to politics based on white, corporate comfort uber alles (above all) only to a politics that ignores Black pain, and distorts Black history; only to a politics pitched more to the status quo, than to real change.

Politics is ultimately about more than winning elections; it's about principles; it's about being true to one's self, and honoring one's ancestors; it's about speaking truth to power.

It can't just be about change, because every change ain't for the better!, March 15, 2008


5) 304,000 Inmates Eligible for Deportation, Official Says
March 28, 2008

At least 304,000 immigrant criminals eligible for deportation are behind bars nationwide, a top federal immigration official said Thursday.

That is the first official estimate of the total number of such convicts in federal, state and local prisons and jails.

The head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Julie L. Myers, said the annual number of deportable immigrant inmates was expected to vary from 300,000 to 455,000, or 10 percent of the overall inmate population, for the next few years.

Ms. Myers estimated that it would cost at least $2 billion a year to find all those immigrants and deport them.

This week, Ms. Myers presented a plan to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security intended to speed the deportation of immigrants convicted of the most serious crimes by linking state prisons and county jails into federal databases that combine F.B.I. fingerprint files with immigration, border and antiterrorism records of the Homeland Security Department.

In an interview on Thursday, Ms. Myers said the plan would bring “a fundamental change” by streamlining deportations of foreign-born criminals.

Representative David E. Price, Democrat of North Carolina and chairman of the subcommittee, wrote a five-page letter on Thursday saying that the agency’s plan did “not meet the legal requirements” of the 2008 appropriation that gave the agency $200 million to deport criminals.

Mr. Price said the plan failed to focus mainly on illegal immigrants who committed crimes, did not provide for any coordination with immigration courts and justice officials and included huge unexplained cost increases.

Based on the schedule in the plan, Mr. Price said, he did not see evidence that the agency “shares my sense of urgency about removing criminals from our country before they victimize Americans again.”

In the intensely contentious debate over immigration, one point that generally draws broad agreement is that federal authorities should deport illegal immigrant criminals as swiftly as possible. But considerable confusion prevails about how fast that might be. Immigrants convicted of crimes — including illegal immigrants and those who had legal immigration status at the time of the crime — must serve their sentences before they can be deported. Many immigrant convicts are naturalized United States citizens who are not subject to deportation.

Ms. Myers said her agency, known as ICE, was seeking to expand operations to identify jailed immigrant criminals. The agency is working in all federal and state prisons, but reaches just 300 of 3,100 local jails, an official said.

The agency plans a major effort to use new technology and databases at local jails so law enforcement officers can determine at booking whether immigrants have previously committed serious crimes or immigration violations.

ICE officers bring charges while immigrants are serving their sentences so they can be deported as soon as they complete their terms without being released from custody.

“We will identify individuals who pose the greatest risk as quickly as possible,” Ms. Myers said, including in jails that the agency cannot visit regularly.

Surprised by Mr. Price’s letter, she rejected his criticism of the plan’s legality. She was supported by Representative Harold Rogers of Kentucky, senior Republican on the appropriations subcommittee, who said the plan could be refined.

In fiscal 2007, 164,000 immigrant inmates were charged with immigration violations to prepare the way for deportation, and 95,000 immigrants with criminal histories were deported, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement figures.

Immigration lawyers warned that unless local law enforcement officers were trained in immigration law, the ICE plan could focus on many immigrants who committed minor violations that did not make them deportable.

“Immigration law is confusing and convoluted and not user friendly,” said David Leopold, a vice president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “To turn that over to local law enforcement without training is asking for trouble.”


6) Odd Crop Prices Defy Economics
March 28, 2008

Economists note there should not be two prices for one thing at the same place and time. Could a drugstore sell two identical tubes of toothpaste, and charge 50 cents more for one of them? Of course not.

But, in effect, exactly that has been happening, repeatedly and mysteriously, in trading that sets prices for corn, soybeans and wheat — three of America’s biggest crops and, lately, popular targets for investors pouring into the volatile commodities market. Economists who have been studying this phenomenon say they are at a loss to explain it.

Whatever the reason, the price for a bushel of grain set in the derivatives markets has been substantially higher than the simultaneous price in the cash market.

When that happens, no one can be exactly sure which is the accurate price in these crucial commodity markets, an uncertainty that can influence food prices and production decisions around the world.

These disparities also raise the question of whether American farmers, who rely almost exclusively on the cash market, are being shortchanged by cash prices that are lower than they should be.

“We do not have a clear understanding of what is driving these episodic instances,” said Prof. Scott H. Irwin, one of three agricultural economists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who have done extensive research on these price distortions.

Professor Irwin and his colleagues, Prof. Philip T. Garcia and Prof. Darrel L. Good, first sounded the alarm about these price distortions in late 2006 in a study financed by the Chicago Board of Trade. Their findings drew little attention then, Professor Irwin said, but lately “people have begun to get very seriously interested in why this is happening — because it is a fundamental problem in markets that have generally worked well in the past.”

Market regulators say they have ruled out deliberate market manipulation. But they, too, are baffled. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which regulates the exchanges where these grain derivatives trade, has scheduled a forum on April 22 where market participants will discuss these anomalies and other pressure points arising in the agricultural markets.

The mechanics of the commodity markets are more complex than selling toothpaste, however. The anomalies are occurring between the price of a bushel of grain in the cash market and the price of that same bushel of grain, as determined by the expiration price of a futures contract traded in Chicago.

A futures contract is an agreement to deliver a specific amount of a commodity — 5,000 bushels of wheat, say — on a certain date in the future. Such contracts are important hedging tools for farmers, grain elevators, commodity processors and anyone with a stake in future grain prices. A futures contract that calls for delivery of wheat in July may trade for more or less for each bushel than today’s cash market price. But as each day goes by, its price should move a bit closer to that day’s cash price. And on expiration day, when the bushels of wheat covered by that futures contract are due for delivery, their price should very nearly match the price in the cash market, allowing for a little market friction or major delivery disruptions like Hurricane Katrina.

But on dozens of occasions since early 2006, the futures contracts for corn, wheat and soybeans have expired at a price that was much higher than that day’s cash price for those grains.

For example, soybean futures contracts expired in July at a price of $9.13 a bushel, which was 80 cents higher than the cash price that day, Professor Irwin said. In August, the futures expired at $8.62, or 68 cents above the cash price, and in September, the expiration price was $9.43, or 78 cents above the cash price.

Corn has been similarly eccentric. A corn futures contract expired last September at $3.36, which was a remarkable 55 cents above the cash price, but the contract that expired in March 2007 was roughly even with the cash price.

“As far as I know, nothing like this has ever happened in the corn market,” said Professor Irwin.

Wheat futures had been especially prone to this phenomenon, going back several years. Indeed, the 2007 study by Professor Irwin and his colleagues concluded that wheat price distortions reflected a “failure to accomplish one of the fundamental tasks of a futures market.”

And while the situation improved sharply for wheat futures in Chicago late last year, it deteriorated for futures traded in Kansas City. And it has gotten worse for corn and soybeans, Professor Irwin said. Many people have a theory about why this is happening, but none of them seem to cover all the available facts.

Mary Haffenberg, a spokeswoman for the CME Group, which owns the Chicago Board of Trade, where these contracts trade, said the anomalies might be a temporary result of “a lot of shocks to the system,” including sharp increases in worldwide food demand, uncertainty about supplies and surging commodity investments.

Veteran traders and many farmers blame the new arrivals in the commodities markets: hedge funds, pension funds and index funds. These investors and speculators, they complain, are distorting futures prices by pouring in so much money without regard to market fundamentals.

“The market sends a sell signal, but they don’t sell,” said Kendell W. Keith, president of the National Grain and Feed Association. “So the markets are not behaving the way they otherwise would — and the pricing formula for the industry is a lot fuzzier and a lot less efficient than we’ve ever seen.”

Representatives of the new financial speculators dispute that. Their money has vastly increased the liquidity in the futures markets, they say, and better liquidity improves markets, making them less volatile for everyone.

And, as Professor Irwin noted, if new money pouring into the market has been causing these distortions, they probably would be occurring more consistently than they are.

Some experienced commodity analysts think the flaw may be in the design of the contracts, said Richard J. Feltes, senior vice president and director of commodity research for MF Global, the world’s largest commodity futures brokerage firm. If futures were settled based on a cash index, it would eliminate these odd disparities, Mr. Feltes said.

Ms. Haffenberg at the CME Group said cash settlement had “not been ruled out,” but it raised the question of finding the appropriate cash index. Other modest contract changes are awaiting approval of the futures trading commission, she said.

“We are continuing to have industry meetings to discuss what we need to do,” she said. “But we want to be careful, before we undertake any changes, that above all, we don’t do any harm.”

Moreover, defenders of the exchange’s current contract design note that these widely used agreements have gone largely unchanged for some time — and yet, have only begun to display this odd and inconsistent behavior in the last few years.

Some economists are exploring whether some unperceived bottlenecks in the delivery system explain what is going on. But traders say that such bottlenecks would eventually become known in the market and prices would adjust. Professor Irwin, whose research is continuing, said there might not be a single explanation for the price distortions.

Markets may simply be responding to the uneven impact of new financial technology, which allows more money to flow in and out, and to investors’ growing but fluctuating appetite for hard assets.

“Those factors may be combining to create this highly volatile environment for discovering prices,” he said. “But for now, that is pure conjecture on my part.”

What is not happening in these markets is equally mysterious. Normally, price disparities like these are quickly exploited by arbitrage traders who buy goods in the cheap market and sell them in the expensive one. Their buying and selling quickly brings the prices back into balance — but that is not happening here.

“These are highly competitive markets with very experienced traders,” he said. “Yet they are leaving these profits alone? It just doesn’t make sense.”


7) Drop in U.A.W. Rolls Reflects Automakers’ Problems
March 28, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — Membership in the United Auto Workers union has fallen below 500,000 for the first time since World War II, reflecting the reorganization undertaken by Detroit’s automakers.

The union reported Friday in a filing with the Labor Department that it had 464,910 members by the end of 2007, compared with 538,448 at the end of 2006. U.A.W. membership peaked in 1979 at 1.5 million but has been dropping ever since.

Mike Smith, director of the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University in Detroit, said the last time the U.A.W. had fewer than 500,000 members was in 1941. By 1945, membership had topped one million.

The General Motors Corporation, the Ford Motor Company, Chrysler and their suppliers have cut tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs as foreign competition and a weak economy have slowed auto sales.

All three automakers are offering buyouts to their U.A.W.-represented hourly workers. In 2006, more than 67,000 hourly workers took buyouts to leave G.M. and Ford. Chrysler has said it was trying to cut 21,000 of its 45,000 manufacturing jobs by 2009.

Harley Shaiken, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley who specializes in labor issues, said the union had “stopped the bleeding in terms of job losses” and was looking to rebuild.

The union’s efforts at organizing North American plants run by Toyota, Honda and other Asian and European automakers have been unsuccessful.

A U.A.W. spokesman, Roger Kerson, declined to comment. The union has said membership levels cited by the Labor Department give a false impression of the union’s size. They typically cite a 12-month average membership that is higher — the U.A.W.’s 12-month average was more than 576,000 members in 2006 and 512,560 in 2007.

The government reports union membership listed on Dec. 31.


8) Treasury Dept. Plan Would Give Fed Wide New Power
March 29, 2008

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department will propose on Monday that Congress give the Federal Reserve broad new authority to oversee financial market stability, in effect allowing it to send SWAT teams into any corner of the industry or any institution that might pose a risk to the overall system.

The proposal is part of a sweeping blueprint to overhaul the nation’s hodgepodge of financial regulatory agencies, which many experts say failed to recognize rampant excesses in mortgage lending until after they set off what is now the worst financial calamity in decades.

Democratic lawmakers are all but certain to say the proposal does not go far enough in restricting the kinds of practices that caused the financial crisis. Many of the proposals, like those that would consolidate regulatory agencies, have nothing to do with the turmoil in financial markets. And some of the proposals could actually reduce regulation.

According to a summary provided by the administration, the plan would consolidate an alphabet soup of banking and securities regulators into a powerful trio of overseers responsible for everything from banks and brokerage firms to hedge funds and private equity firms.

While the plan could expose Wall Street investment banks and hedge funds to greater scrutiny, it carefully avoids a call for tighter regulation.

The plan would not rein in practices that have been linked to the housing and mortgage crisis, like packaging risky subprime mortgages into securities carrying the highest ratings.

The plan would give the Fed some authority over Wall Street firms, but only when an investment bank’s practices threatened the entire financial system.

And the plan does not recommend tighter rules over the vast and largely unregulated markets for risk sharing and hedging, like credit default swaps, which are supposed to insure lenders against loss but became a speculative instrument themselves and gave many institutions a false sense of security.

Parts of the plan could reduce the power of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is charged with maintaining orderly stock and bond markets and protecting investors. The plan would merge the S.E.C. with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which regulates exchange-traded futures for oil, grains, currencies and the like.

The blueprint also suggests several areas where the S.E.C. should take a lighter approach to its oversight. Among them are allowing stock exchanges greater leeway to regulate themselves and streamlining the approval of new products, even allowing automatic approval of securities products that are being traded in foreign markets.

The proposal began last year as an effort by Henry M. Paulson Jr., secretary of the Treasury, to make American financial markets more competitive against overseas markets by modernizing a creaky regulatory system.

His goal was to streamline the different and sometimes clashing rules for commercial banks, savings and loans and nonbank mortgage lenders.

“I am not suggesting that more regulation is the answer, or even that more effective regulation can prevent the periods of financial market stress that seem to occur every 5 to 10 years,” Mr. Paulson will say in a speech on Monday, according to a draft. “I am suggesting that we should and can have a structure that is designed for the world we live in, one that is more flexible.”

Congress would have to approve almost every element of the proposal, and Democratic leaders are already drafting their own bills to impose tougher supervision over Wall Street investment banks, hedge funds and the fast-growing market in derivatives like credit default swaps.

But Mr. Paulson’s proposal for the Fed echoes ideas championed by Representative Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

Both see the Fed overseeing risk across the entire financial spectrum, but Mr. Frank is likely to favor a stronger Fed role and to subject investment banks to the same rules that commercial banks now must follow, especially for capital reserves.

The Treasury plan would let Fed officials examine the practices and even the internal bookkeeping of brokerage firms, hedge funds, commodity-trading exchanges and any other institution that might pose a risk to the overall financial system.

That would be a significant expansion of the central bank’s regulatory mission.

When Fed officials agreed this month to rescue Bear Stearns, once the nation’s fifth-largest investment bank, they pointedly noted that the Fed never had the authority to monitor its financial condition or order it to bolster its protections against a collapse.

In two unprecedented moves, the Fed engineered a marriage between JPMorgan Chase and Bear Stearns, lending $29 billion to JPMorgan to prevent a Bear bankruptcy and a chain of defaults that might have felled much of the financial system.

For the first time since the 1930s, the Fed also agreed to let investment banks borrow hundreds of billions of dollars from its discount window, an emergency lending program reserved for commercial banks and other depository institutions.

But Mr. Paulson’s proposal would fall well short of the kind of regulation that Democrats have been proposing. Mr. Frank and other senior Democrats have argued that investment banks and other lightly regulated institutions now compete with commercial banks and should be subject to similar regulation, including examiners who regularly pore over their books and quietly demand changes in their practices.

In a recent interview, Mr. Frank said he realized the need for tighter regulation of Wall Street firms after a meeting with Charles O. Prince III, then chairman of Citigroup.

When Mr. Frank asked why Citigroup had kept billions of dollars in “structured investment vehicles” off the firm’s balance sheet, he recalled, Mr. Prince responded that Citigroup, as a bank holding company, would have been at a disadvantage because investment firms can operate with higher debt and lower capital reserves.

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, has taken a similar stance.

“Commercial banks continue to be supervised closely, and are subject to a host of rules meant to limit systemic risk,” Mr. Schumer wrote in an op-ed article on Friday in The Wall Street Journal. “But many other financial institutions, including investment banks and hedge funds, are regulated lightly, if at all, even though they act in many ways like banks.”

Mr. Paulson’s proposal is likely to provoke bruising turf battles in Congress among agencies and rival industry groups that benefit from the current regulations.

Administration officials acknowledged on Friday that they did not expect the proposal to become law this year, but said they hoped it would help frame a policy debate that would extend well after the elections in November.

In a nod to the debacle in mortgage lending, the administration proposed a Mortgage Origination Commission to evaluate the effectiveness of state governments in regulating mortgage brokers and protecting consumers.

The bulk of the proposal, however, was developed before soaring mortgage defaults set off a much broader credit crisis, and most of the proposals are geared to streamlining regulation.

This plan would consolidate a large number of regulators into roughly three big new agencies.

Bank supervision, now divided among five federal agencies, would be led by a Prudential Financial Regulator, which could send examiners into any bank or depository institution that is protected by either federal deposit insurance or other federal backstops. It would eliminate the distinction between “banks” and “thrift institutions,” which are already indistinguishable to most consumers, and shut down the Office of Thrift Supervision.

Any effort to merge the Commodity Futures Trading Commission with the S.E.C. is likely to provoke battles.

Yet another proposal would, for the first time, create a national regulator for insurance companies, an industry that state governments now oversee.

Administration officials argue that a national system would eliminate the inefficiencies of having 50 different state regulators, who have jealously guarded their powers and are likely to fight any federal encroachment.

Arthur Levitt, a former S.E.C. chairman who has long pushed for stronger investor protection, said his first impression of the plan was positive. Even though the S.E.C.’s powers might be reduced, Mr. Levitt said, the plan would create a broader agency to regulate business conduct in all financial services.

“It’s a thoughtful document,” he said. “I’m intrigued by the fact that it puts an emphasis on investor protection, and that it establishes an agency specifically for that purpose, which would operate across all markets. I think that’s a very constructive first step.”


9) U.S. Airstrikes Aid Iraqi Army in Basra
March 29, 2008

BAGHDAD — The American military conducted airstrikes Thursday and Friday to back up stalled Iraqi forces in Basra and battle Shiite militias in Baghdad as continued violence and political infighting worsened the prospects for any timely reconciliation among Iraq’s warring factions.

Although American officials have emphasized that the campaign in the southern port city of Basra is directed by Iraqi forces, the Iraqis have failed so far to wrest control of neighborhoods in Basra from Shiite militias and asked the Americans and British to step in. The Iraqi military does not have jet fighters.

In Baghdad, American helicopters exchanged fire with Mahdi Army militia members in the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City, and rockets crashed into the office of Iraq’s Sunni vice president in the heavily fortified Green Zone, killing a security guard.

The operation is deepening the country’s sectarian and political fissures, ones American military officials repeatedly urged Iraqi leaders to address during the past months of decreased attacks.

At the same time, the surge in violence around Iraq has underscored the fragility of the security gains of recent months. Just a few weeks ago, many people in Baghdad were feeling confident enough to venture out to restaurants, visit friends and have some sense that they might make it to work safely each morning.

But after intense clashes between Mahdi Army fighters and Iraqi and American forces on Thursday, the city is under a strict curfew, its streets and markets deserted and its citizens cowering in their houses, listening for the boom of mortar rounds and the crackle of gunfire.

The violence in Iraq threw an unpredictable new element into the presidential race in the United States, where the war has taken a back seat recently to concerns about the economy. The developments pose a particular challenge to Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, who was an early and vocal supporter of the increase in American troops and has been highlighting its success.

“I’m not surprised they would seek our support,” Mr. McCain said of the Iraqi Army on Friday in Las Vegas. “The brunt of the fighting is obviously on the ground being taken by the Iraqi military.”

Both Democratic hopefuls, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, have called for troop reductions and an eventual pullout, although Mr. Obama has criticized Mrs. Clinton for voting to authorize President Bush to use military force in Iraq.

In Washington, Mr. Bush strongly defended Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki on Friday at what he called a “defining moment” for the Baghdad government, saying the United States supported the Iraqi offensive and would provide any military assistance that was sought.

“It’s still a dangerous, fragile situation in Iraq,” Mr. Bush said when asked whether the renewed fighting might draw Americans in more deeply and disrupt plans to withdraw more American combat troops in the next few months. He said his top military commanders and national security advisers, who briefed him on Iraq earlier in the week, are “all aiming to make sure that we have enough of a presence to make sure that we’re successful in Iraq.”

In Basra, the conflict has put the city into a state of virtual siege, with electricity and drinkable water cut off in most neighborhoods. Militiamen sabotaged a major oil pipeline in the city, according to a Western official. And fighters in the Mahdi Army militia tried to raid the Central Bank, but were repulsed.

F-18 fighter jets dropped cannon rounds on a militia stronghold and on a mortar team that was attacking Iraqi forces in Basra. The airstrikes, one at 9 p.m. Thursday and a second after midnight, were made at the request of the Iraqi Army, said Maj. Tom Holloway, a spokesman for the British Army.

Major Holloway said that British and American planes had been conducting surveillance runs over Basra since the fighting began to support the Iraqi military, but that this was the first time they had entered active fighting. “I think the point here is actually that the Iraqis are capable, they are strong and they have been engaging successfully,” Major Holloway said.

A Western official said negotiations between Iraqi government leaders and militia leaders in Basra had begun even as gunmen clashed. The official said that British and American aircraft were providing aerial support and that a small number of American ground troops had also entered Basra for the first time in years, mainly to monitor the performance of Iraqi forces.

The need to call in the American-led forces raised questions about the Iraqi Army’s ability to wage a successful campaign on its own. Witnesses have said that large parts of Basra — perhaps as much as 50 to 70 percent — are still controlled by Shiite militias.

The city’s streets were quieter on Friday than the day before, when only a few residents ventured out, waving poles tied with white shirts or underwear as flags of surrender. But sporadic clashes broke out around the city.

Fighting also continued in the Qurna district, 40 miles northwest of Basra.

In Baghdad, an American helicopter fired on Mahdi Army fighters in the Sadr City neighborhood, killing five people, according to the Iraqi police in the area. The American military confirmed the 4 a.m. strike but said it was called in after ground troops were shot at by Mahdi fighters.

Clashes also took place in other Shiite-dominated neighborhoods in the capital, including the Topchi and Huriya districts and Kadhimiya.

As it has been for several days, the Green Zone was pounded by rocket and mortar fire on Friday, with one missile landing on the residence of the Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi.

Lubna al-Hashimi, Mr. Hashimi’s daughter and chief secretary, wept as she described the attack. “We have just been hit by two mortars,” she said in a telephone interview. “One of my colleagues died at once.”

About three miles away, a rocket landed on a street near the home of Mahmoud al-Mashadani, the speaker of the Iraqi Parliament. Jabbar al-Mashadani, a spokesman for the speaker, said that other senior Iraqi government officials also lived in the area, so it was difficult to know who was the target of the attack, which took place about 5:30 p.m.

South of Baghdad, an American soldier was killed Friday by a homemade bomb, American military officials reported.

Vali S. Nasr, adjunct senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said in an interview posted on the council’s Web site that the outbreak of fighting reflected failures to address sectarian tensions during the lull in violence.

“The fundamental issues — the balance of power between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, and, within the Shiites, the balance of power between the two most powerful Shiite groups — have been unresolved,” he said.

Iraqi politicians said Friday that opposition to Mr. Maliki’s use of military force to root out Shiite militias in Basra was increasing even among some of the Shiite and Kurdish allies in his coalition, most of whom failed to attend a parliamentary session called to address the crisis.

Mahmoud Othman, a member of Parliament from the Kurdish Alliance, said, “The Sadr movement exists in Parliament, and there should have been negotiations before conducting military operations.”

In Washington, administration and military officials said that a cease-fire by the Mahdi Army was so far holding, and that the clashes with American and Iraqi troops appeared to involve groups splintering off the main body.

The fighting in Sadr City and other neighborhoods in Baghdad came in response to clashes and attacks with fighters, and not as part of a planned operation, the officials said. “We’re not moving an armored brigade into Sadr City,” one officer said.

The United States military has liaisons and trainers with the Iraqi forces, though the exact number was not made clear. The officer said that the American troops’ main contribution was to communicate and coordinate operations, including providing intelligence and calling the airstrikes, as happened Thursday night and again on Friday.

Mr. Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, said the United States had known of the Basra operation in advance, suggesting a good deal of coordination between the United States and Iraq.

Despite rising concern over the violence, one senior administration official suggested that the operation in Basra reflected a model of future operations. The official cited the strategy outlined by Gen. David H. Petraeus to reduce the American presence in Iraq, eventually, to a limited role supporting Iraqi forces without being involved in day-to-day operations to protect the Iraqi public. In testimony to Congress in September, General Petraeus called that phase of operations “overwatch.”

“This is what overwatch looks like,” the official said, referring to the American role in Basra so far.

Around Iraq, sectarian violence also erupted on Friday.

American forces shelled Asriyah in the Touz Khormato district, about 50 miles northeast of Baghdad, in Kirkuk Province, killing two civilians. In Diwaniya, in the southeast, Mahdi Army gunmen attacked the mayor’s office in the Gammas district, killing the mayor.

In Mahmudiya, fierce clashes broke out between the Mahdi Army and Iraqi and American forces in the city center. And in Nasiriya, northwest of Basra, violence erupted after two days of calm, as Mahdi Army gunmen attacked Iraqi Army tanks that patrolled the city, enforcing a curfew.

As the blood pooled on village streets and ran into city gutters, news arrived of older, though no less wrenching deaths. American military officials said that, “acting on a tip,” American soldiers and Iraqi police officers had stumbled upon a mass grave containing 37 bodies in Muqdadiya, an area of palm orchards northeast of Baquba.

Some of the bodies showed signs of torture, the American military said.

Reporting was contributed by Steven Lee Myers from Washington, Steve Friess from Las Vegas and Solomon Moore from New York. Qais Mizher, Ahmad Fadam, Mudhafer al-Husaini, Hosham Hussein, Michael Kamber, Anwar J. Ali and Iraqi employees of The New York Times contributed from Basra, Baghdad, Diwaniya, Nasiriya, Kirkuk and Diyala Province.


10) Case Against U.S. Marine Is Dismissed
March 29, 2008

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Hours before his court-martial was set to begin, all charges were dismissed Friday against one of two remaining enlisted marines involved in a combat action that killed 24 Iraqis in Haditha in 2005, the Marine Corps announced.

With little public explanation, a Marine general in charge of the prosecution dropped the charges against Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum, who was among four enlisted marines originally charged with murder in the case.

The charges against him had been reduced to involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and aggravated assault for what prosecutors said was his role in shooting a group of unarmed women and children.

As a result of the dismissal, Corporal Tatum’s squad leader, Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, is the only remaining enlisted marine, and the only infantryman who was involved in the Haditha killings, still facing charges in the case. His trial is likely to begin this summer, lawyers said.

Charges against the other two enlisted marines were dropped previously.

A court-martial of an officer, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, in charge of the battalion Sergeant Wuterich and Corporal Tatum were part of, is to begin in late April. Colonel Chessani is charged with dereliction of duty for failing to properly investigate the Haditha killings.

The killings occurred on Nov. 19, 2005, when a squad of infantrymen from Third Battalion, First Marines, swept through a group of Iraqi homes in search of attackers after a roadside bomb exploded near their convoy, killing a marine. Over a period of hours, marines assaulted four Iraqi homes, killing 24 people, almost all unarmed.


11) Payments Are Ordered in Searches of Inmates
March 29, 2008

More than 20,000 nonviolent inmates who were wrongfully strip-searched at the Nassau County jail in the late 1990s are now eligible to receive compensation, under a federal judge’s ruling issued Thursday evening.

The ruling by the judge, Denis R. Hurley, of Federal District Court in Central Islip, on Long Island, opened the possibility that county officials may have to pay damages amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, to as many as 23,000 inmates who were strip-searched at the jail from 1996 to 1999 while being housed there on misdemeanor charges.

“I think it’s a very significant loss for the county and a very significant win for our class,” said Robert L. Herbst, a lawyer who represented the inmates. Mr. Herbst said Judge Hurley had scheduled a conference for May 9 to begin the process of determining how much the compensation should be.

In 2001, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, ruled that strip searches of misdemeanor suspects were illegal, unless officials specifically suspected they were carrying contraband. The appellate ruling led to, among other things, a settlement agreement in October between New York City correction officials and as many as 150,000 such inmates who had been wrongly strip-searched on Rikers Island, the city’s largest jail.

In his ruling, Judge Hurley went beyond merely saying that damages were appropriate and criticized the practice of strip-searching misdemeanor suspects. He wrote that “human dignity is inextricably intertwined in the nature of the unlawful act at issue — the strip search.”

Jennifer Kim, a spokeswoman for Thomas R. Suozzi, the Nassau County executive, said the county attorney’s office was studying Judge Hurley’s ruling and trying to determine both the county’s legal options and the ruling’s potential impact on the county budget.


12) Alaska Suit Against Lilly Is Settled
March 27, 2008

The prospect of a pending Supreme Court case that could sweep away many lawsuits against drug companies loomed over Alaska’s decision to settle the state’s suit against Eli Lilly over the schizophrenia drug Zyprexa, lawyers for Lilly and the state said Wednesday.

Alaska had sued to recoup medical bills it said were generated by Medicaid patients who developed diabetes while taking Zyprexa. But on Wednesday it agreed to settle for $15 million — a fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars in damages that Ed Sniffen, Alaska’s senior assistant attorney general, had said the state was seeking when the trial opened three weeks ago.

On Wednesday, though, Mr. Sniffen said he was satisfied with the deal, in which Lilly did not admit wrongdoing.

“It’s a good settlement,” Mr. Sniffen said. “Probably not a great settlement, but I think it’s a good settlement.”

Good, at least, in light of that looming Supreme Court case. Mr. Sniffen noted that in October 2008, the Supreme Court is expected to hear Wyeth v. Levine, in which the drug maker Wyeth argues that federal laws bar, or “pre-empt,” most state court lawsuits filed by patients who say they were injured by drugs they have taken.

Based on last month’s 8-to-1 Supreme Court ruling in favor of pre-emption in a similar case about medical devices, the court is assumed to be leaning in favor of the drug industry in the Wyeth case. And so plaintiffs’ lawyers and state attorneys general are worried that they could have many of their pending claims dismissed when the court decides Wyeth.

Even cases that have already reached trial could be vulnerable, since drug makers almost always appeal jury verdicts against them, extending cases for months, if not years.

“We had this issue with the Supreme Court deciding pre-emption this fall that could have completely unwound any victory we might have had,” Mr. Sniffen said. Nina Gussack, a lawyer for Pepper Hamilton, which represented Lilly, agreed that pre-emption concerns had played a major role in the settlement.

“The state took a very strong and hard look at their case, and recognized that even if they were successful, they had a substantial chance of losing their case on pre-emption grounds,” Ms. Gussack said.

Given the fact that Alaska has fewer than 700,000 residents, and only 6,300 Medicaid patients taking Zyprexa, the $15 million payment is larger than it first seems.

But the private lawyers Alaska hired to represent it at the trial said Wednesday that they were unhappy that the state had agreed to settle. They said they believed that the jury had understood the medical evidence and the Lilly marketing documents presented to it and was ready to rule in their favor.

“The settlement was done exclusively by the attorney general without our input,” said Tommy Fibich, a lawyer from Houston who was one of the outside attorneys hired by Alaska. “As a lawyer, I feel we really have not been treated well.”

Still, Mr. Fibich said he understood the state’s concerns about pre-emption. He added that he was worried that without the threat of lawsuits in state courts, drug makers would be even more aggressive about hiding risks and promoting drugs for unapproved uses.

Internal Lilly documents presented at the trial indicated that company executives had played down Zyprexa’s health risks to doctors and had encouraged its use for off-label conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.

“If you think these guys speed now, wait and see what happens when they get pre-emption,” Mr. Fibich said.

Zyprexa helps calm the hallucinations and delusions associated with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The drug is widely used, with sales of $4.8 billion last year, about half in the United States.

But Zyprexa can cause severe weight gain, blood sugar changes and cholesterol problems, and it has been linked to diabetes.

The impact of the Alaska settlement on Lilly’s other legal problems over Zyprexa is not yet clear. Nine other states have sued Lilly with claims similar to those made by Alaska. Another 33 have not yet sued but are investigating the company in a joint action and seeking a single settlement of their claims.

At the same time, federal prosecutors in Pennsylvania are investigating Lilly’s marketing of Zyprexa and whether the company hid Zyprexa’s dangers from doctors and the Food and Drug Administration.

If the company does seek a broad settlement to resolve all the state and federal investigations at once, the $15 million payment to Alaska — considered per patient— could represent a benchmark for broader talks.

If it does, Lilly might need to pay billions of dollars to resolve the bigger cases, since more than 10 million people in the United States have used Zyprexa.

Lilly and the prosecutors in Philadelphia have already discussed a settlement of the federal investigations that would require Lilly to pay $1 billion to $2 billion, according to people who have been briefed on the talks.

At this point, though, none of the remaining lawsuits are likely to reach courtrooms before the Supreme Court decides the Wyeth pre-emption case — and potentially knocks out many of the remaining state lawsuits.

At the same time, Lilly will argue that the Alaska settlement should not represent a benchmark for future cases, said George Lehner, a partner at Pepper Hamilton. Mr. Lehner said Wednesday that Alaska consumer protection laws were unusually favorable to plaintiffs, so other states’ claims would be worth less per person than Alaska’s.

Alaska and Lilly discussed a settlement before the trial began, and mediation efforts resumed last week, according to the statement announcing the settlement.

Shares of Lilly rose 2 cents, to $50.19.


13) Shiite Militias Cling to Swaths of Basra and Stage Raids
March 30, 2008

BAGHDAD — Shiite militias in Basra openly controlled wide swaths of the city on Saturday and staged increasingly bold raids on Iraqi government forces sent in five days ago to wrest control from the gunmen, witnesses said, as Iraqi political leaders grew increasingly critical of the stalled assault.

Witnesses in Basra said that members of the most powerful militia in the city, the Mahdi Army, were setting up checkpoints and controlling traffic in many places ringing the central district controlled by some of the 30,000 Iraqi Army and police forces involved in the assault. Fighters were regularly attacking the government forces, then quickly retreating.

Senior members of several political parties said Saturday that the operation, ordered by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, had been poorly planned. The growing discontent adds a new level of complication to the American-led effort to demonstrate that the Iraqi government had made strides toward being able to operate a functioning country and keep the peace without thousands of American troops.

Since the Basra assault began Tuesday, violence has spread to Shiite districts of Baghdad and other places in Iraq where Shiite militiamen hold sway, raising fears that security gains often attributed to a yearlong American troop buildup could be at risk. Any widespread breakdown of a cease-fire called by Moktada al-Sadr, the Shiite cleric who founded the Mahdi Army, could bring the country right back to the sectarian violence that racked it in 2006 and 2007.

Mr. Maliki has personally staked his reputation on the success of the Basra assault, fulfilling a longstanding American desire for him to boldly take on rogue Shiite groups. But at the same time, as criticism of the assault has risen, it has also brought into question yet another American benchmark of progress in Iraq: political reconciliation.

“We don’t have to rush to military solutions,” said Nadeem al-Jabiri, a Parliament member from the Fadhila Party, a strong rival of Mr. Sadr’s party that would have been expected to back the operation, at least on political grounds. Instead of solving the problems in Basra, Mr. Jabiri said, Mr. Maliki “escalated the situation.”

For the third straight day, the American military was reported to be conducting airstrikes in support of Iraqi troops in Basra. Iraqi police officials reported that an American bombing run killed eight civilians.

The American military did not immediately acknowledge the incident. But Maj. Tom Holloway, a British military spokesman, said: “We are aware of reports of an incident in the Basra area resulting in civilian casualties. We are investigating the report and do not have further details at this time.”

Major Holloway did say that “coalition air power,” meaning American or British jets, dropped two more precision-guided bombs just after noon on Saturday on what was identified as “an enemy stronghold” in Basra. Shortly afterward, British artillery fired on a militia mortar team. The mortar was destroyed, Major Holloway said.

At a news briefing in Basra on Saturday, Iraq’s defense minister, Abdul-Kader Jassem al-Obeidi , conceded that the assault had not gone according to expectations. “We were surprised by a very strong resistance that made us change our plans,” he said.

In Baghdad, the American military was also drawn deeper into the violence generated by the Basra assault, as the military issued a statement saying that American soldiers had killed nine Iraqis that it called terrorists in firefights around Sadr City, the Shiite slum that forms Mr. Sadr’s base of support. The statement said that seven of the Iraqis were killed after they attacked an American unit and two more when they were caught placing roadside bombs. Later Saturday, the military announced that two American soldiers had been killed by a roadside bomb in Shiite-controlled eastern Baghdad.

Mr. Maliki’s forces may also have lost ground in the battle for public opinion when, in a well-publicized event in Sadr City, 40 men who said they were Iraqi police officers surrendered their weapons to Sadr officials, who symbolically gave the officers olive branches and Korans. The weapons were returned after the officers pledged not to use them against Mahdi Army members.

“These weapons are for defending the country but not for fighting your brothers,” said Sheik Salman al-Fraji, head of the Sadr office there.

Although a citywide curfew remained in effect in Baghdad, the booms of rockets or mortars were heard in the morning. It was not immediately clear who had fired them or where they landed, although the fortified Green Zone, the nerve center of American and Iraqi governmental operations here, has been a frequent target since the Basra operation began.

Clashes between militias and Iraqi government security forces continued elsewhere in the country. There was intense fighting for a second straight day north of Basra in Dhi Qar Province and its capital, Nasiriya, where officials said the toll on Saturday was 28 killed and 59 wounded. There were running battles on a main bridge in the center of Nasiriya, an Iraqi police officer said, and gunmen controlled the town of Shatra, about 20 miles north.

There also appeared to be a major operation under way around Baquba, north of Baghdad, where government tanks blocked streets in at least three neighborhoods as troops sought out members of the Mahdi Army.

The Turkish military said Saturday that it had killed 15 Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq on Thursday using long-range land weapons, Reuters reported.

In Basra, mortar shells rained down in the late afternoon on the area of the Presidential Palace and the Shatt Al Arab hotel, where the assault has its operations center. Groups of 10 to 12 militia members set up checkpoints as close as 50 yards from to government positions throughout the northern and western parts of the city, carrying out raids on remaining areas in the city center still controlled by government forces.

“Is this the gift that Maliki promised Basra?” said Walid Nabeel, 25, a medical student. He conceded that security had been far from ideal before the assault, but said, “Now we have hundreds of killed and injured.”

The government set up an Army recruitment center in the center of Basra. But anyone heading in that direction was stopped by Mahdi Army members, who questioned whether they were “Hakim’s people,” loyalists of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, whose armed wing, the Badr Organization, is a prime rival of the Mahdi Army on the streets of Basra. Few people were seen in front of the recruitment center itself.

“Unfortunately we were expecting one thing but we saw something else,” said Ali Hussam, 48, a teacher, who said that after Saddam Hussein the people of Basra hoped for peace. “But unfortunately with the presence of this new government and this democracy that was brought to us by the invader it made us kill each other.”

“And the war is now between us,” he said.

Reporting was contributed by Qais Mizher, Ahmad Fadam, Mudafer al-Husaini, Hosham Hussein and other Iraqi employees of The New York Times in Baghdad, Basra, Nasiriya and Diyala Province.


14) To the Anti-war/ Peace and Justice Movements, Thank You For Your Support of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Winter Soldier (Please forward widely)
Visit for Winter Soldier Iraq and Afghanistan information and video
peace: One step at a time.
Support VFP

Please distribute widely

March 27, 2008

To the Anti-war/ Peace and Justice Movements,

Thank You For Your Support of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Winter Soldier

March 13-16, 2008 Iraq Veterans Against the War held Winter Solider: Iraq and Afghanistan (Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations) in Silver Springs, Maryland. The event was a great success and I would like to thank the greater anti-war/peace movements for your support in helping IVAW, Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Veterans For Peace in our efforts.

There were many of us who wanted to have a large mass mobilization that weekend. IVAW asked all of us to hold off on a mobilization and local actions in Washington, DC during the testimonies so that the event would be the most prominent activity during that time period. Everyone was not in full agreement that this was the best tactic for this moment and a heated debate ensued. But over time the movements united, activists put their shoulders to the wheel and ensured Winter Soldier and the subsequent activities on March 19th to mark the end of the 5th and beginning of the 6th year of the occupation was well attended and in the spotlight. I am personally grateful to all of you for pulling together in our collective effort to make the war visible to the American public and demand that our government end the occupation of Iraq.

We all know we are in a critical time as we continue to resist the illegal and immoral policies of the Bush administration. Most of us are frustrated at the slow pace of change and the lack of an apparent end to this nightmare. We know President Bush will not change course. Congress has abdicated nearly all of its responsibilities to control the Executive Branch and the major parties’ presidential candidates give us little cause to celebrate. It should appear to the realist that the prospects of ending the occupation are bleak. Fortunately for us we do not use the eyes of realists to chart our future; we are activists. Of course we must be pragmatic in our assessments, decision making and planning, but as activists we are in the business of shaping the future and making the change we want to see. With the new tool of Winter Soldier we all possess the voices of Iraq and Afghan veterans to share with our friends, neighbors, relatives, Congress persons and political adversaries. We no longer need to find a person to talk about the occupation. We no longer have to wonder about the truth of the occupation. We now have the truth easily accessible. The tasks at hand are to show and tell the story, step up our organizing, continue to speak truth to power and turn out in mass numbers to demand an end to the occupation.

Lastly, I ask all of us not to fear, because our time is coming. There are far too many examples of those who have come before us facing insurmountable odds; armed with little or nothing, and yet they stood strong in the face of power and changed history. The names are too numerous to mention, but I will attempt to share a few of the movements. Shay’s Rebellion, the Abolitionist Movement to end slavery, the 1st Wave of the Women’s Movement, Labor Movements, the Civil Right Movement, the Student Movement, the Vietnam Veterans Movement, the 2nd Wave of the Women’s Movement, the American Indian Movement, The Gay, Lesbian, Bi Sexual, Transgender and Queer Movements, and others. We have a responsibility to take heart and move forward because our struggle to end this occupation and stop the onslaught of U.S. Imperialism is just beginning and like those who have come before us we will make the impossible possible.

Michael T. McPhearson
Executive Director, Veterans For Peace
Co-Chair, United For Peace and Justice
314 725-6005


15) American College of Physicians Position Takes Aim at Marijuana Laws
Tim King
They support research into the therapeutic role of marijuana.
The American College of Physicians paper is below the article (Feb-18-2008 20:38)

(SALEM, Ore.) - The American College of Physicians has released a paper urging the federal government to change its position on the legal aspects of marijuana, which it continues to classify in a category with heroin and LSD.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) is a national organization of internists — physicians who specialize in the prevention, detection and treatment of illnesses in adults. This is the largest medical-specialty organization and second-largest physician group in the United States. More than 124,000 internists, internal medicine subspecialists, and medical students, residents, and fellows make up its membership.

The physicians say marijuana has been smoked for its medicinal properties for centuries, and preclinical, clinical, and anecdotal reports suggest numerous potential medical uses for marijuana.

The use of medical marijuana in treating HIV wasting and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting has been well documented, but this large and respected aspect of the medical community says it is a problem that less information is available about other potential medical uses.

The doctors believe additional research is needed to clarify marijuana’s therapeutic properties and determine standard and optimal doses and routes of delivery.
Supporting Research into the
Therapeutic Role of Marijuana
American College of Physicians
A Position Paper 2008

Supporting Research into the Therapeutic Role
of Marijuana
A Position Paper of the American College of Physicians

This paper, written by Tia Taylor, MPH, was developed for the Health and Public Policy Committee of the American College of Physicians: J. Fred Ralston, MD, FACP, Chair; MollyCooke, MD, FACP, Vice Chair; Andrew A. Chang, MA, Charles Cutler, MD, FACP; MA, David A. Fleming, MD, FACP; Brian P. Freeman, MD, FACP; Robert Gluckman, MD, FACP; MarkLiebow, MD, FACP; Kenneth Musana, MB, ChB; Robert McLean, MD, FACP; Mark Purtle,MD, FACP; P. Preston Reynolds; and Kathleen Weaver, MD, FACP. It was approved by the Board of Regents in January 2008

Executive Summary

Marijuana has been smoked for its medicinal properties for centuries. Preclinical, clinical, and anecdotal reports suggest numerous potential medical uses for marijuana. Although the indications for some conditions (e.g., HIV wasting and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting) have been well documented, less information is available about other potential medical uses. Additional research is needed to clarify marijuana's therapeutic properties and determine standard and optimal doses and routes of delivery. Unfortunately, research expansion has been hindered by a complicated federal approval process, limited availability of research-grade
marijuana, and the debate over legalization. Marijuana's categorization as a Schedule I controlled substance raises significant concerns for researchers, physicians, and patients. As such, theCollege's policy positions on marijuana as medicine are as follows:
Position 1: ACP supports programs and funding for rigorous scientific evaluation of the potential therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana and the publication of such findings.
Position 1a: ACP supports increased research for conditions where the efficacy of marijuana has been established to determine optimal dosage and route of delivery.
Position 1b: Medical marijuana research should not only focus on determining drug efficacy and safety but also on determining efficacy in comparison with other available treatments.
Position 2: ACP encourages the use of nonsmoked forms of THC that have proven therapeutic value.
Position 3: ACP supports the current process for obtaining federal research-grade cannabis.
Position 4: ACP urges review of marijuana's status as a schedule I controlled substance and its reclassification into a more appropriate schedule, given the scientific evidence regarding marijuana's safety and efficacy in some clinical conditions.
Position 5: ACP strongly supports exemption from federal criminal prosecution; civil liability; or professional sanctioning, such as loss of licensure or credentialing, for physicians who prescribe or dispense medical marijuana in accordance with state law. Similarly, ACP strongly urges protection from criminal or civil penalties for patients who use medical marijuana as permitted under state laws.


The marijuana plant, cannabis, contains more than 60 chemical compounds, known as cannabinoids. The main psychoactive element in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most abundant cannabinoid, but it has no psychoactive effects. The concentration of THC and other cannabinoids in marijuana is highly variable, depending on growing condition, plant genetics, and processing after harvest (1). This variability in composition has hindered research on and evaluation of the drug's medical value. Marijuana has been smoked for its medicinal properties for centuries. It was in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia until 1942 when it was removed because federal legislation made the drug illegal(2). The Controlled Substance Act of 1970 placed marijuana in the Schedule I category along with other substances deemed to have no medicinal value and high potential for abuse. Still, the overwhelming number of anecdotal reports on the therapeutic properties of marijuana sparks interest from scientists, health care providers, and patients. Over the past 20 years, researchers have discovered cannabinoid receptors: CB1, which mediates the central nervous system (CNS), and CB2, which occurs outside the CNS and is believed to have anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive activity (3, 4). These scientific developments have revealed much information supporting expansion of research into the potential therapeutic properties of marijuana and its cannabinoids.
In 1997, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to review scientific evidence and assess the risks and benefits of marijuana. The IOM concluded that scientific developments indicate marijuana and its cannabinoids have therapeutic
properties that could potentially treat many illnesses and conditions. The IOM recommended that cannabis research should focus on the development of rapid-onset, reliable, and safe delivery systems (5). Since the IOM report, the body of research on cannabinoids for symptom management has grown slightly.

Potential Medical Uses of Marijuana
Appetite Stimulation/Antiemetic

The research supporting THC as an effective appetite stimulant and antiemetic is abundant. In 1986, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Marinol® (dronabinol), an oral synthetic form of THC, to treat severe weight loss associated with AIDS (HIV/AIDS wasting) and nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy for patients who fail to respond to other antiemetics. Clinical trials have demonstrated that both oral and smoked marijuana stimulate appetite, increase caloric intake, and result in weight gain among patients experiencing HIV wasting (6–9). Studies of chemotherapy patients with nausea and vomiting found THC to be equivalent or superior to other antiemetics (including prochlorperazine or metoclopramide) for symptom reduction (10). Research has also found that administration of THC along with another antiemetic was more effective that either drug alone, suggesting opportunities for combined therapy. The IOM concluded that cannabinoids are "modest" antiemetics but may be effective for those who respond poorly to other available antiemetics. THC and other cannabinoids may offer relief not found in other drugs (11). Glaucoma High intraocular pressure (IOP) is a known risk factor for glaucoma. Cannabinoids have been shown to have neuroprotective properties and to reduce IOP, pupil restriction, and conjunctival hyperemia (12–14). Smoked or eaten marijuana and oral THC can reduce IOP by approximately 25% in people with normal IOP who have visual field changes, with similar results exhibited in healthy adults and glaucoma patients. However, the effects of cannabinoids on IOP are shortlived, and high doses are required to produce any effects at all. There is concern that long-term use of marijuana could reduce blood flow to the optic nerve because of its systemic hypotensive effects and its potential for interaction with other antiglaucoma drugs (15). In addition, the
cardiovascular and psychoactive effects of smoked marijuana contraindicate its use in glaucoma patients, many of whom are elderly and have comorbidities. This led to the development and testing of a topical THC, but its effect on IOP was insignificant. As a result, the IOM and American Academy of Ophthalmology concluded that no scientific evidence has demonstrated increased benefits or diminished risks of marijuana use to treat glaucoma compared with the wide variety of pharmaceutical agents currently available (16, 17).

Neurological and Movement Disorders

Anecdotal, survey, and clinical trial data suggest that smoked marijuana and oral THC provide relief of spasticity, pain, and tremor in some patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), spinal cord injuries, or other trauma (18, 19). A recent study of patients with HIV-associated sensory neuropathy (HIV–SN) found that those who smoked marijuana 3 times a day reported a decrease
of 34% in HIV–SN, compared with 17% in the placebo group. However, the psychoactive effects of THC impaired posture and balance among subjects (20). CBD has some anti-inflammatory properties and inhibits smooth muscle contractions, thus making it a potentially powerful anticonvulsant that does not contain the psychoactive effects of THC. CBD has been indicated as
a treatment for several types of seizures and epilepsy, although human research is scant.
Preclinical trials revealed that the anticonvulsant properties of cannabinoids differ widely by dose and between species. CBD has been shown to induce seizures in some species and to be strongly anticonvulsant in others (21).


Current research on the role of various forms of marijuana as an analgesic is promising. Oral doses of THC resulted in pain reductions similar to that from codeine among cancer patients (22). A randomized, double-blind trial of patients with rheumatoid arthritis found that Sativex®, an oromucosal THC spray, significantly reduced pain on movement and at rest and improved
quality of sleep (23). While studies indicate that THC has analgesic properties, there is a very narrow therapeutic window between doses that produce useful analgesia and those that produce unacceptable adverse effects. A recent study found that subjects who smoked 4% THC cigarettes
reported reduced pain sensations after 45 minutes. On the other hand, subjects who smoked 8% THC cigarettes reported an increased sensitivity to pain after 45 minutes (24). In another study, smoked marijuana increased sensitivity to electric shock among normal patients. The biphasic action of THC, stimulation followed by sedation, increases then decreases pain. These properties support the need for research to identify the specific kinds of pain that may be relieved by marijuana and the development of a synthetic cannabinoid with few actions other than analgesia.

Adverse Effects

Acutely, smoked marijuana increases heart rate and may decrease blood pressure on standing; however, some patients find the drug's psychoactive effects more disturbing. Undesired effects include impairment of short-term memory, attention, motor skills, reaction times, and the
organization and integration of complex information (25). These effects are generally more severe for oral THC than for smoked marijuana (26).
The chronic effects of smoked marijuana are of much greater concern, as its gas and tar phases contain many of the same compounds as tobacco smoke. Chronic use of smoked marijuana is associated with increased risk of cancer, lung damage, bacterial pneumonia, and poor pregnancy
outcomes. Chronic marijuana use has also been linked to the development of tolerance to some effects and the appearance of withdrawal symptoms (restlessness, irritability, mild agitation, insomnia, sleep disturbances, nausea, cramping) with the onset of abstinence. However, these withdrawal symptoms are mild compared with those experienced with opiates or
benzodiazepines (27). Moreover, THC, while quite potent in comparison with other psychoactive drugs, has remarkably low lethal toxicity. This led the IOM to conclude that "except for harms associated with smoking, adverse effects of marijuana use are within the range of effects tolerated for other medications (28)."

As with any potential therapeutic drug, there are many factors that should be considered in evaluating its medicinal value. These include the drug's side effects, methods of administration, and availability and comparability of alternatives. However, marijuana's categorization as a
Schedule I controlled substance creates additional concerns for researchers, physicians, and patients. As such, the College adopts the following positions on medical marijuana:
Position 1: ACP supports programs and funding for rigorous scientific evaluation of the potential therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana and the publication of such findings. Preclinical and clinical research and anecdotal reports suggest numerous potential medical uses for marijuana. Unfortunately, the debate surrounding marijuana's legalization for general use has obscured scientific findings. Current available data suggest numerous indications for cannabinoids, especially antiemesis, appetite stimulation, and pain relief. For patients with AIDS or those undergoing chemotherapy, who suffer severe pain, nausea, and appetite loss,
cannabinoid drugs may provide symptom relief not found in any other medication. The data supporting cannabinoid use for the relief of muscle spasticity and movement disorders is promising, but further research is needed to clarify the roles of cannabinoids in treating these conditions. For epilepsy and glaucoma, the data is much less convincing, and many of the reports supporting marijuana use for these conditions remain anecdotal. In addition, while the therapeutic effects of THC are well established, less is known about the effects and potential indications of other cannabinoids. Additional research is needed to clarify both the therapeutic properties of cannabinoids and their effects on symptom management. The IOM recommended the following guidelines for clinical trials of marijuana for medical use:

• Clinical trials should involve only short-term use (less than 6 months);
• Clinical trials should be conducted in patients for whom there is a reasonable
expectation of efficacy;
• Clinical trials should be approved by institutional review boards; and
• Clinical trials should collect efficacy data (29).

Position 1a: ACP supports increased research for conditions where the efficacy of marijuana has been established to determine optimal dosage and route of delivery. To date, much of the research into the medicinal properties of marijuana has been on oral and smoked forms of THC. The pharmacokinetics of oral and smoked THC differ greatly and therefore have varying implications. The oral, synthetic THC has low and variable bioavailability (30). Oral THC is slow in onset of action but produces more pronounced, and often unfavorable, psychoactive effects that last much longer than those experienced with smoking (31). On the other hand, smoked THC is quickly absorbed into the blood and effects are experienced
immediately. Studies have found that patients prefer the immediate effect on symptoms that occurs after smoking marijuana (32, 33). Therefore, there may be some patient populations (e.g., cancer patients who experience nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy) for whom the inhalation route might offer advantages over the currently available capsule formulation (34).
Also, many cancer and HIV/AIDS patients may prefer smoking over swallowing a pill.
However, examining the effects of smoked marijuana can be difficult because the absorption and efficacy of THC on symptom relief is dependent on subject familiarity with smoking and inhaling. Experienced smokers are more competent at self-titrating to get the desired results.
Thus, smoking behavior is not easily quantified or replicated (35). Other problems with smoked marijuana include difficulty in attempting to match placebo control against smoked marijuana (especially for those with previous marijuana experience) and the no-smoking policy of hospitals and public facilities. Overall, the clinical utility of smoked marijuana is limited by its short
duration of action and accompanying side effects. Although the long-term effects of smoked marijuana may not be relevant for patients with terminal illnesses or debilitating symptoms, the residual effects of smoked marijuana are prohibitive for long-term medical use. The IOM concluded that clinical trials of smoked marijuana should be the first step toward the possible
development of nonsmoked, rapid-onset cannabinoid delivery systems (36). Additional research is also needed to determine optimal dosage of cannabinoid drugs for symptom management. Current data has shown that for some indications, particularly pain relief, there is a small margin between clinical benefit and unacceptable adverse events.
Position 1b: Medical marijuana research should not only focus on determining drug efficacy and safety but also on determining efficacy in comparison with other available treatments. Most of the conditions for which efficacy of cannabinoid drugs has been determined already have well-established and effective treatments. However, little is known about how cannabinoids perform in comparison with these other treatments. Because of the availability of an oral form of THC, several studies have compared the effectiveness of both smoked THC and Marinol® to other antiemetic drugs (mainly prochlorperazine). Although the results from these studies varied,
they all found that THC was as effective as prochlorperazine at controlling nausea and vomiting.
Several studies also found that the combination of THC and other antiemetics was more effective than either drug alone. Research suggests that cannabinoids may have synergistic effects that may indicate its use as an adjunctive therapy to both antiemetics for nausea and vomiting and opioids for pain relief. Further research is needed to compare cannabinoids' efficacy and safety with current treatments and to examine their potential role in combination therapy for some conditions.
Position 2: ACP encourages the use of nonsmoked forms of THC that have proven therapeutic value.
The negative effects associated with long-term smoked marijuana use necessitate consideration of varying modes of cannabinoid delivery. Only 2 cannabinoid drugs are currently licensed for sale in the U.S. (dronabinol [Marinol ®] and nabilone [Cesamet ®]), and both are only available in oral form. While useful for some, these drugs have serious limitations. The oral route of administration hampers the effectiveness of THC because of slow absorption. In addition, swallowing a pill may not be feasible for patients with severe nausea and vomiting, for whom oral THC is indicated. To overcome the limitations of oral administration, researchers have focused on developing other nonsmoked, rapid-onset formulations. Sativex®, an oromucosal spray of natural cannabis, was approved in June 2006 for prescription use in Canada to treat neuropathic pain in patients with MS. The manufacturer, GW Pharmaceuticals, received FDA approval to begin a U.S. clinical trial of Sativex for cancer patients in 2007.
The development of a vapor route for THC delivery offers promise for the future of medical marijuana research. A recent study found that THC administered through the Volcano® vaporizer resulted in higher plasma THC levels than smoked marijuana at both 30 and 60 minutes after administration. It also found that exhaled carbon monoxide increased very little after vapor
compared with smoking (37). Those findings, along with patient preference for the vapor method, indicate opportunities for future clinical trials. Vaporization of THC offers the rapid onset of symptom relief without the negative effects from smoking. It allows patients to selfregulate their dosage immediately by ceasing inhalation when or if psychoactive effects become unpleasant. Scientists are also developing a pulmonary dronabinol to be delivered with a pressurized metered-dosed inhaler. Preliminary studies show rapid absorption, but FDA approval remains distant.
Position 3: ACP supports the current process for obtaining federal research-grade medical marijuana.
Some scientists and physicians believe the procedures for obtaining marijuana for research and publishing research findings are particularly arduous because of the debate surrounding its legalization for general use (38). Marijuana's designation as a Schedule I controlled substance
does pose a unique challenge for researchers. The federal government is the only legal producer of marijuana for medical research; scientists must therefore apply for both an Investigational
New Drug Application (IND) from the FDA and a Schedule I license from the Drug EnforcementAdministration (DEA) to receive and dispense marijuana through a designated pharmacy. The marijuana is provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Through the Drug Supply Program, NIDA arranges for marijuana to be grown and processed through contracts with the University of Mississippi and the Research Triangle Institute. The University grows, harvests, and dries marijuana, and the Institute processes it into cigarettes. Researchers can obtain marijuana free of charge from NIDA through an NIH-approved
grant to investigate marijuana or through a separate protocol review.
Because of the high biovariability in cannabis plants, obtaining research-grade cannabis is critical to conducting well-designed clinical trials on the safety and efficacy of marijuana and its cannabinoids. In addition, because of the drug's widespread general use and high potential for abuse, it is imperative that the federal process is followed for obtaining research-grade marijuana and conducting clinical trials.
Position 4: ACP urges review of marijuana's status as a Schedule I controlled substance and its reclassification into a more appropriate schedule, given the scientific evidence regarding marijuana's safety and efficacy in some clinical conditions.
Currently, marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it has no medicinal value and high potential for abuse. An evaluation by several Department of Health and Human Services agencies, including the FDA and NIDA, concluded that no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States (39). This conflicts with a review by the IOM, which declared that "for patients such as those with AIDS or who are undergoing chemotherapy and who suffer simultaneously from severe pain, scientific studies support medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States." The IOM also concluded that compared with other licit and illicit drugs, including alcohol, tobacco, and cocaine, "dependence among
marijuana users is relatively rare and dependence appears to be less severe than dependence on other drugs." (40) A clear discord exists between the scientific community and federal legal and regulatory agencies over the medicinal value of marijuana, which impedes the expansion of research.
The concern that marijuana is a "gateway" drug also hinders opportunities to evaluate its potential therapeutic benefits. However, the IOM concluded that marijuana is a gateway drug only in the sense that its use normally precedes, rather than follows, initiation of other illicit
drugs. Marijuana has not been proven to be the cause or even the most serious predictor of serious drug abuse. It is also important to note that the data on marijuana's role in illicit drug use progression only pertains to its nonmedical use (41).
Dronabinol, oral THC, is classified as a Schedule III substance. Recently, the DEA proposed a rule that would allow for classification of both synthetic and natural (derived from the cannabis plant) dronabinol products in Schedule III. Opiates are highly addictive yet medically effective substances and are classified as Schedule II substances. There is no evidence to suggest that medical use of opiates has increased perception that their illicit use is safe or acceptable (42).
Given marijuana's proven efficacy at treating certain symptoms and its relatively low toxicity, reclassification would reduce barriers to research and increase availability of cannabinoid drugs to patients who have failed to respond to other treatments.
Position 5: ACP strongly supports exemption from federal criminal prosecution; civil liability; or professional sanctioning, such as loss of licensure or credentialing, for physicians who prescribe or dispense medical marijuana in accordance with state law.
Similarly, ACP strongly urges protection from criminal or civil penalties for patients who use medical marijuana as permitted under state laws.
Reclassification of marijuana into a more appropriate schedule would remove the legal stresses that can affect the physician–patient relationship. Although marijuana is a Schedule I drug, 12 states currently have legislation permitting its use for medicinal purposes. Similar legislation is pending in New York and support has been shown for legislation in Minnesota and New
Hampshire. The movement among states to permit the use of marijuana for certain conditions
was spearheaded by California's Proposition 215, which received the support of 56% of state
voters in 1996. This led to the establishment of a $3 million state-funded Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) at the University of California's San Diego and San Francisco campuses. CMCR receives the marijuana for its research from NIDA. Despite these state laws and initiatives, possession of marijuana is a punishable federal offense.
In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that state laws confer no immunity from prosecution under federal law, which does not include a medical exemption to the prohibition on marijuana possession. This creates additional concerns for researchers, physicians, and patients. Physicians must be selective in their wording (when discussing the substance) so as not to appear that they are aiding or abetting patients in obtaining cannabis. In addition to the legalities, the lack of availability and standards on dose and route of delivery present medical concerns. Physicians cannot supervise and have very little control over their patient's behavior. Also, the quality of the drug is usually undeterminable.


Evidence not only supports the use of medical marijuana in certain conditions but also suggests numerous indications for cannabinoids.
Additional research is needed to further clarify the therapeutic value of cannabinoids and determine optimal routes of administration. The science on medical marijuana should not be obscured or hindered by the debate surrounding the legalization of marijuana for general use.

1. National Institutes of Health, Ad Hoc Expert Group. Workshop on the Medical Utility of
Marijuana Expert Report 1997. Accessed June 7, 2007 at
2. Hollister L. Marijuana (Cannabis) as Medicine. Journal of Cannabis Therapuetics 2001;
1(1): 5-27.
3. Grant I, Cahn BR. Cannabis and Endocannabinoid Modulators: Therapeutic Promises and
Challenges. Clinical Neuroscience Research 2005; 5: 185-99
4. Robson P. Therapeutic Aspects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids. British Journal of Psychiatry
2001; 178: 107-15.
5. Joy JE, Watson SJ, Benson JA. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base.
National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC; 1999.
6. Hollister L. Marijuana (Cannabis) as Medicine. Journal of Cannabis Therapuetics 2001;
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7. Woolridge E, Barton S, Samuel J, Osorio J, Dougherty A, Holdcroft A. Cannabis Use in
HIV for Pain and Other Medical Symptoms. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management
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8. Abrams D, Hilton J, Leiser R, Shade S, Elbeik T, et al. Short-Term Effects of
Cannabinoids in Patients with HIV-Infection. Annals of Internal Medicine 2003; 139: 258-
9. Beal J, Olson R, Lefkowitz L, Laubenstein, et al. Long-Term Efficacy and Safety of
Dronabinol for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome-Associate Anorexia. Journal of Pain
and Symptom Management 1997; 14(1): 7-14
10. Musty R, Rossi R. Effects of Smoked Cannabis and Oral O 9- Tetrahydrocannabinol on
Nausea and Emesis After Cancer Chemotherapy: A Review of State Clinical Trials. Journal
of Cannabis Therapeutics 2001; 1(1): 29-42.
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National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC; 1999.
12. Grant I, Cahn BR. Cannabis and Endocannabinoid Modulators: Therapeutic Promises and
Challenges. Clinical Neuroscience Research 2005; 5: 185-99
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2001 citing Merrit JC, Crawford WJ, Alexander PC, Anduze AL, Gelbart SS. Effect of
Marijuana on Intraocular and Blood Pressure in Glaucoma. Opthamology 1980; 87:222-28.
14. Hampson AJ, Grimald M, Axelrod J, Wink D. Cannabidiol and O 9- Tetrahydrocannabinol
Are Neuroprotective Antioxidants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA
1998; 95: 8268-73.
15. American Medical Association. Featured Report: Medical Marijuana. Chicago, IL; June
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National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC; 1999.
17. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Complementary Therapy Assessment: Marijuana
in the Treatment of Glaucoma. Accessed on June 12, 2007 at
18. Consroe P, Musty R, Rein J, Tillery W, Pertwee R. The Perceived Effects of Smoked
Cannabis on Patients with Multiple Sclerosis. European Neurology: 38: 44-48.
19. American Medical Association. Featured Report: Medical Marijuana. Chicago, IL; June
2001 citing Malec J, Harvey RF, Cayner JJ. Cannabis Effect on Spasticity In Spinal Cord
Injury. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 1982: 63: 116-118.
20. Abrams DI, Jay CA, Shade SB, Vizoso H, Reda H, Press S, et al. Cannanbis in Painful
HIV-Associated Sensory Neuropathy: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. Neurology
2007; 68: 515-21.
21. Robson P. Therapeutic Aspects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids. British Journal of Psychiatry
2001; 178: 107-15.
22. Hollister L. Marijuana (Cannabis) as Medicine. Journal of Cannabis Therapuetics 2001;
1(1): 5-27 citing Noyes R, Brunk DR, Avery DH, Canter A. The Analgesic Properties of
delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and codeine. Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics 1975;
23. Blake DR, Robson P, Ho M, Jubb RW, McCabe CS. Preliminary Assessment of the
Efficacy, Tolerability and Safety of a Cannabis-Based Medicine (Sativex) in the Treatment of
Pain Caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis. Rheumatology 2006; 45: 50-52.
24. Wallace MS, et al. Dose-dependent effects of smoked cannabis on capsaicin-induced pain
and hyperalgesia in healthy volunteers. Anesthesiology 2007; 107: epub.
25. Grant I, Cahn BR. Cannabis and Endocannabinoid Modulators: Therapeutic Promises and
Challenges. Clinical Neuroscience Research 2005; 5: 185-99
26. Joy JE, Watson SJ, Benson JA. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base.
National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC; 1999.
27. Joy JE, Watson SJ, Benson JA. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base.
National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC; 1999.
28. Joy JE, Watson SJ, Benson JA. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base.
National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC; 1999.
29. Joy JE, Watson SJ, Benson JA. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base.
National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC; 1999.
30. American Medical Association. Featured Report: Medical Marijuana. Chicago, IL; June
31. Beal J, Olson R, Lefkowitz L, Laubenstein, et al. Long-Term Efficacy and Safety of
Dronabinol for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome-Associate Anorexia. Journal of Pain
and Symptom Management 1997; 14(1): 7-14
32. Abrams D, Hilton J, Leiser R, Shade S, Elbeik, T et al. Short-Term Effects of
Cannabinoids in Patients with HIV-Infection. Annals of Internal Medicine 2003; 139: 258-
33. Musty R, Rossi R. Effects of Smoked Cannabis and Oral O 9- Tetrahydrocannabinol on
Nausea and Emesis After Cancer Chemotherapy: A Review of State Clinical Trials. Journal
of Cannabis Therapeutics 2001; 1(1): 29-42.
34. National Institutes of Health, Ad Hoc Expert Group. Workshop on the Medical Utility of
MarijuanaExpert Report 1997. Accessed June 7, 2007 at
35. Joy JE, Watson SJ, Benson JA. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base.
National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC; 1999.
36. Joy JE, Watson SJ, Benson JA. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base.
National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC; 1999.
37. Abrams DI, Vizoso HP, Shade SB, Jay C, Kelly ME, Benowitz NL. Vaporization as a
Smokeless Cannabis Delivery System: A Pilot Study. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics
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38. Sorrel, AL. Arrested Development: The Case for Studying Medical Marijuana. AMNews July
10, 2006. Accessed April 2, 2007 at www.amaassn.
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That Smoked Marijuana Is Medicine. April 20, 2006. Accessed June 12, 2007 at
40. Joy JE, Watson SJ, Benson JA. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base.
National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC; 1999.
41. Joy JE, Watson SJ, Benson JA. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base.
National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC; 1999.
42. Joy JE, Watson SJ, Benson JA. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base.
National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC; 1999.


16) No War:
The Movement That Has Dissolved Itself
by Tariq Ali

What has happened to the movement against the war that exploded in 2003, mobilizing millions of people in the entire West, to the point that the New York Times called it "the second superpower"?

The fact is that it never was, in the true and proper sense of the word, a movement -- only a day of paroxysm, a spontaneous and desperate attempt of citizens of all political persuasions to stop the war.

It was conceived, if you will, as a preventive blow against a war that people instinctively knew was based on a heap of lies. The day when the war really began, antiwar mobilizations began to die. Citizens, demoralized by their own failure, could no longer find the strength to take to the streets in great numbers.

Nevertheless, on the fifth anniversary of this cruel and immoral occupation, data from Iraq are dramatic: more than a million civilians dead, and at least as many injured; three million refugees taking shelter in neighboring countries; total destruction of social infrastructures of the country, and its de facto Balkanization.

In the face of all that, the response of North American and European citizens is silence. Why? There is no solidarity with the Iraqis. They are Arabs, largely Muslims, and the wave of Islamophobia that has swept the West has brought with it the dehumanization of those who were murdered.

The same thing happened when eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century European colonialism conquered the Maghreb. The atrocities committed by Italians in Libya and the public hanging of the rebel leader Sheikh Mukhtar did not provoke the least emotion in Italy. It took a long time before the French protested against the Algeria war. The examples are many. The "civilizing mission fever," now as then, has demobilized the Western public opinion. Then, there is the fact that the groups resisting the occupation of Iraq tend to be religious (although the religious are not the only ones): and the movements of workers and progressives in general in Western Europe, increasingly in crisis, are indifferent to their destiny -- just as they are indifferent to the suffering of Palestinians.

All that is also a reflection of what is happening in the West itself. Although in the last several years there has been scarce any mobilization against the war to speak of, a majority of the North American and European citizens are still in favor of the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq: however, their voices are not being heard by the political establishment. There is a growing crisis of political representation in the West. Democracy is becoming hollow. In the US electoral campaign, both the Democratic candidates publicly say they are in favor of a withdrawal from Iraq, but privately they reassure the military that they do not seriously intend to withdraw despite being forced to say so because people are discontent.

In the end, the fact that there is no draft in the US means that most Americans are not directly affected by the war. Military families opposed to the war constitute the only important pressure group. As a substitute for the draft, the US has recruited mercenaries from all over the world: there are 50,000 Ugandans, thousands of Central Americans, South Africans, and others who are paid the market price to fight in Iraq. Who cares if they die? It's a risk that they assume, in exchange for wages and US citizenship. A grim picture, which should make Westerners think.
Tariq Ali, a member of the New Left Review editorial committee, is the author of Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope (Verso 2006) among numerous other books and articles. His new book, The Duel: Pakistan in the Flight Path of American Power, will be published later this year. The essay in Italian was first published in Il Manifesto on 20 March 2008, available at Essere Comunisti. N.B. The English text on the right is a translation from the Italian text, not Tariq Ali's own words. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.


17) Sadr Offers Deal for Truce as Fighting Persists in Iraq
March 31, 2008

BAGHDAD — The Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr on Sunday took a step toward ending six days of intense combat between his militia allies and Iraqi and American forces in Basra and Baghdad, saying in a statement that his followers would lay down their arms providing the Iraqi government met a series of demands.

The substance of the nine-point statement, released by Mr. Sadr on Sunday afternoon, was hammered out in elaborate negotiations over the past few days with senior Iraqi officials, some of whom traveled to Iran to meet with Mr. Sadr, according to several officials involved in the negotiations.

Just minutes after the statement was released, however, two mortar shells fired by militia fighters hit the presidential palace in Basra, which is an active government office complex but has been at least partly deserted since the violence started. And in Baghdad, the Green Zone continued to be a target for mortar and rocket attacks throughout the afternoon. Street clashes also persisted in Basra and other cities, according to witnesses.

Iraqi forces, backed up by American war planes and ground troops, have been in a stalemate with Shiite militias affiliated with Mr. Sadr in Basra for the past six days, in a military operation that has stirred harsh criticism of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Mr. Maliki’s campaign to take back militia-controlled parts of the southern city has met with far more resistance than was expected from militia fighters, Iraq’s defense minister, Abdul Kadir al-Obeidi, conceded last week.

Many Iraqi politicians say that Mr. Maliki’s political capital has been severely depleted by the campaign and that he is now in the curious position of having to turn to Mr. Sadr, a longtime rival and now his opponent in battle, for a solution to the crisis.

In the statement, Mr. Sadr told militia members “to end all military actions in Basra and in all the provinces” and “to cooperate with the government to achieve security.”

But he also made demands, including an amnesty for fighters in the Mahdi Army militia and the release of all imprisoned members of the Sadrist movement who have not been convicted of crimes. While the government has occasionally made small-scale releases of Sadrists, it has resisted earlier demands for more sweeping action.

The move by Mr. Sadr stood in stark contrast to his actions in 2004, when he ordered his militia to fight to the death in the old city of Najaf, suggesting that Mr. Sadr’s political sophistication and skill at military strategizing has grown in the past few years.

“With this statement, Sayyed Moktada al-Sadr proved that he is a good politician, working for the sake of Iraq,” said Mahmoud al-Mashadani, the speaker of the Iraqi Parliament and a senior Sunni politician.

Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for Mr. Maliki, appeared on the Iraqi television station Iraqia and said that the government welcomed the action and that Mr. Sadr’s gesture demonstrated his “concern for Iraq and Iraqis.” Still, it was not immediately clear which, if any, of the concessions the Iraqi government has agreed to.

Mr. Sadr’s statement did not appear to have an immediate effect on the violence that has rippled throughout the country and paralyzed the capital over the last week.

In the Sadr City neighborhood, there were reports that two American Stryker personnel carriers had been blown up by roadside bombs. A spokesman for the American military, Lt. Col. Steve Stover, would not confirm or deny the attacks, saying, “We don’t discuss damages to our vehicles as that provides information to the enemy on the effectiveness of their attacks.”

But Mr. Stover did confirm that American helicopters had made airstrikes in two other neighborhoods, New Baghdad, just south of Sadr City, and Ghazaliya in eastern Baghdad, killing at least five people.


18) Files Suggest Venezuela Bid to Aid Colombia Rebels
March 30, 2008

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Files provided by Colombian officials from computers they say were captured in a cross-border raid in Ecuador this month appear to tie Venezuela’s government to efforts to secure arms for Colombia’s largest insurgency.

Officials taking part in Colombia’s investigation of the computers provided The New York Times with copies of more than 20 files, some of which also showed contributions from the rebels to the 2006 campaign of Ecuador’s leftist president, Rafael Correa.

If verified, the files would offer rare insight into the cloak-and-dagger nature of Latin America’s longest-running guerrilla conflict, including what appeared to be the killing of a Colombian government spy with microchips implanted in her body, a crime apparently carried out by the rebels in their jungle redoubt.

The files would also potentially link the governments of Venezuela and Ecuador to the leftist guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which the United States says is a terrorist group and has fought to overthrow Colombia’s government for four decades.

Though it was impossible to authenticate the files independently, the Colombian officials said their government had invited Interpol to verify the files. The officials did not want to be identified while any Interpol inquiry was under way.

Both the United States and Colombia, Washington’s staunchest ally in the region, have a strong interest in undercutting President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who has sought to counter United States influence by forming his own leftist bloc in the region. But the Colombian officials who provided the computer files adamantly vouched for them.

The files contained touches that suggested authenticity: they were filled with revolutionary jargon, passages in numerical code, missives about American policy in Latin America and even brief personal reflections like one by a senior rebel commander on the joy of becoming a grandfather.

Other senior Colombian officials said the files made public so far only scratched the surface of the captured archives, risking new friction with Venezuela and Ecuador, both of whom have dismissed the files as fakes.

Vice President Francisco Santos said Colombia’s stability was at risk if explicit support from its neighbors for the FARC, the country’s largest armed insurgency, was proved true. “The idea that using weapons to topple a democratic government has not been censured,” Mr. Santos said in an interview, “is not only stupid — it is frankly frightening.”

Colombia’s relations with its two Andean neighbors veered suddenly toward armed conflict after Colombian forces raided a FARC camp inside Ecuador on March 1, killing 26 people, including a top FARC commander, and capturing the computers, according to the Colombians.

Though tensions ebbed after a summit meeting of Latin American nations in the Dominican Republic this month, the matter of the computer files has threatened to reignite the diplomatic crisis caused by the raid.

Shortly after the crisis erupted, Colombian officials began releasing a small portion of the computer files, some of which they said showed efforts by Mr. Chavez’s government to provide financial support for the FARC.

Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said in an interview that officials had obtained more than 16,000 files from three computers belonging to Luis Édgar Devia Silva, a commander known by his nom de guerre, Raúl Reyes, who was killed in the raid. Two other hard drives were also captured, he said.

“Everything has been accessed and everything is being validated by Interpol,” Mr. Santos said, adding that he expected the work on the validation to be completed by the end of April. “It is a great deal of information that is extremely valuable and important.”

Mr. Santos, who said the computers survived the raid because they were in metal casing, strongly defended Colombia’s military foray into Ecuador, which drew condemnation in other parts of Latin America as a violation of Ecuador’s sovereignty.

“Personally I do not regret a thing, absolutely nothing, but I am a minister of a government that has agreed this type of action would not be repeated,” he said. “Of course, this depends on our neighbors collaborating on the fight against terrorism.”

For his part, Mr. Chávez, in a meeting with foreign journalists last week in Caracas, lashed out at Colombia’s government and mocked the files.

“The main weapon they have now is the computer, the supposed computer of Raúl Reyes,” Mr. Chávez said. “This computer is like à la carte service, giving you whatever you want. You want steak? Or fried fish? How would you like it prepared? You’ll get it however the empire decides.”

The correspondence also pointed to warm relations between Venezuela’s government and the FARC.

One letter, dated Jan. 25, 2007, by Iván Márquez, a member of the FARC’s seven-member secretariat, discussed a meeting with a Venezuelan official called Carvajal. “Carvajal,” Mr. Márquez wrote, “left with the pledge of bringing an arms dealer from Panama.”

Officials here said they believed that the official in question was Gen. Hugo Carvajal, the director of military intelligence in Venezuela, a confidant of Mr. Chávez and perhaps Venezuela’s most powerful intelligence official.

In other correspondence from September 2004 after the killing by the FARC of six Venezuelan soldiers and one Venezuelan engineer on Venezuelan soil that month, General Carvajal’s longstanding ties to the guerrillas also come into focus. In those letters, the guerrillas describe talks with General Carvajal, Mr. Chávez’s emissary to deal with the issue.

“Today I met with General Hugo Carvajal,” a FARC commander wrote in on letter dated Sept. 23, 2004. “He said he guarded the secret hope that what happened in Apure,” the rebel wrote in reference to the Venezuelan border state where the killings took place, “was the work of a force different from our own.”

Officials in General Carvajal’s office at the General Directorate of Military Intelligence in Caracas did not respond to requests for comment on the letters. Mr. Chávez responded to a report earlier this year in Colombia claiming that General Carvajal provided logistical assistance to the FARC by calling it an “attack on the revolution” he has led in Venezuela.

Another file recovered from Mr. Devia’s computers, dated a week earlier on Jan. 18, 2007, described efforts by the FARC’s secretariat to secure Mr. Chávez’s assistance for buying arms and obtaining a $250 million loan, “to be paid when we take power.”

The FARC, a Marxist-inspired insurgency that has persisted for four decades, finances itself largely through cocaine trafficking and kidnappings for ransom. But other files from the computers suggested that Colombia’s counterinsurgency effort, financed in large part by $600 million a year in aid from Washington, was making those activities less lucrative for the FARC, forcing it to consider options like selling Venezuelan gasoline at a profit in Colombia.

The release of the files comes at a delicate time when some lawmakers in Washington are pressing for Venezuela to be included on a list of countries that are state sponsors of terrorism. But with Venezuela remaining a leading supplier of oil to the United States, such a move is considered unlikely because of the limits on trade it would entail.

Moreover, interpretations of the files from Mr. Devia’s computers have already led to some mistakes.

For instance, El Tiempo, Colombia’s leading daily newspaper, issued an apology this month to Gustavo Larrea, Ecuador’s security minister, after publishing a photograph obtained from the computers in which the newspaper claimed Mr. Larrea was shown meeting with Mr. Devia at a FARC camp. In fact, the photograph was of Patricio Etchegaray, an official with the Communist Party in Argentina.

Still, the files from Mr. Devia’s computers are expected to haunt relations between Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela for some time.

For instance, one piece of correspondence dated Nov. 21, 2006, and circulated among the FARC’s secretariat, describes a $100,000 donation to the campaign of Mr. Correa, Ecuador’s president.

Of that amount, $50,000 came from the FARC’s “Eastern bloc,” a militarily strong faction that operates in eastern Colombia, and $20,000 from the group’s “Southern bloc,” according to the document.

President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia referred this month to files from Mr. Devia’s computers showing financing of Mr. Correa’s campaign by the FARC, but he stopped short of releasing them after tensions eased at the summit meeting in the Dominican Republic.

“Any archive is not valid until it is verified,” said Pedro Artieda, a spokesman at the Ecuadorean Foreign Ministry, when asked for comment. “Therefore, the government cannot comment on something that is not confirmed.” Mr. Correa had previously disputed the campaign-finance claims based on the computers files, saying they lacked “technical and legal” validity.

Other files offer insight into the methods employed both by the FARC and Colombia’s government in their four-decade war. In one letter by Mr. Devia dated Jan. 5, 2007, to Manuel Marulanda, the most senior member of the FARC’s secretariat, he described a woman in their ranks who was discovered to be a government spy.

“The new thing here,” Mr. Devia wrote, “was that she had two microchips, one under her breast and the other beneath her jaw.”

Mr. Devia went on to describe the reaction to this discovery, explaining in the rebels’ slang that she was given “a course.”

“Yesterday they threw her into the hole after proving what she was,” he wrote, “and giving her the counsel of war.”


19) Foreclosure Machine Thrives on Woes
March 30, 2008

NOBODY wins when a home enters foreclosure — neither the borrower, who is evicted, nor the lender, who takes a loss when the home is resold. That’s the conventional wisdom, anyway.

The reality is very different. Behind the scenes in these dramas, a small army of law firms and default servicing companies, who represent mortgage lenders, have been raking in mounting profits. These little-known firms assess legal fees and a host of other charges, calculate what the borrowers owe and draw up the documents required to remove them from their homes.

As the subprime mortgage crisis has spread, the volume of the business has soared, and firms that handle loan defaults have been the primary beneficiaries. Law firms, paid by the number of motions filed in foreclosure cases, have sometimes issued a flurry of claims without regard for the requirements of bankruptcy law, several judges say.

Much as Wall Street’s mortgage securitization machinery helped to fuel questionable lending across the United States, default, or foreclosure, servicing operations have been compounding the woes of troubled borrowers. Court documents say that some of the largest firms in the industry have repeatedly submitted erroneous affidavits when moving to seize homes and levied improper fees that make it harder for homeowners to get back on track with payments. Consumer lawyers call these operations “foreclosure mills.”
“They get paid by the volume and speed with which they process these foreclosures,” said Mal Maynard, director of the Financial Protection Law Center, a nonprofit firm in Wilmington, N.C.
John and Robin Atchley of Waleska, Ga., have experienced dubious foreclosure practices at first hand. Twice during a four-month period in 2006, the Atchleys were almost forced from their home when Countrywide Home Loans, part of Countrywide Financial, and the law firm representing it said they were delinquent on their mortgage. Countrywide’s lawyers withdrew their motions to seize the Atchleys’ home only after the couple proved them wrong in court.

The possibility that some lenders and their representatives are running roughshod over borrowers is of increasing concern to bankruptcy judges overseeing Chapter 13 cases across the country. The United States Trustee Program, a unit of the Justice Department that oversees the integrity of the nation’s bankruptcy courts, is bringing cases against lenders that it says are abusing the bankruptcy system.

Joel B. Rosenthal, a United States bankruptcy judge in the Western District of Massachusetts, wrote in a case last year involving Wells Fargo Bank that rising foreclosures were resulting in greater numbers of lenders that “in their rush to foreclose, haphazardly fail to comply with even the most basic legal requirements of the bankruptcy system.”

Law firms and default servicing operations that process large numbers of cases have made it harder for borrowers to design repayment plans, or workouts, consumer lawyers say. “As I talk to people around the country, they all unanimously state that the foreclosure mills are impediments to loan workouts,” Mr. Maynard said.

LAST month, almost 225,000 properties in the United States were in some stage of foreclosure, up nearly 60 percent from the period a year earlier, according to RealtyTrac, an online foreclosure research firm and marketplace.
These proceedings generate considerable revenue for the firms involved: eviction and appraisal charges, late fees, title search costs, recording fees, certified mailing costs, document retrieval fees, and legal fees. The borrower, already in financial distress, is billed for these often burdensome costs. While much of the revenue goes to the law firms hired by lenders, some is kept by the servicers of the loans.
Fidelity National Default Solutions, a unit of Fidelity National Information Services of Jacksonville, Fla., is one of the biggest foreclosure service companies. It assists 19 of the top 25 residential mortgage servicers and 14 of the top 25 subprime loan servicers.

Citing “accelerating demand” for foreclosure services last year, Fidelity generated operating income of $443 million in its lender processing unit, a 13.3 percent increase over 2006. By contrast, the increase from 2005 to 2006 was just 1 percent. The firm is not associated with Fidelity Investments.

Law firms representing lenders are also big beneficiaries of the foreclosure surge. These include Barrett Burke Wilson Castle Daffin & Frappier, a 38-lawyer firm in Houston; McCalla, Raymer, Padrick, Cobb, Nichols & Clark, a 37-member firm in Atlanta that is a designated counsel to Fannie Mae; and the Shapiro Attorneys Network, a nationwide group of 24 firms.
While these private firms do not disclose their revenues, Wesley W. Steen, chief bankruptcy judge for the Southern District of Texas, recently estimated that Barrett Burke generated between $9.7 million and $11.6 million a year in its practice. Another judge estimated last year that the firm generated $125,000 every two weeks — or $3.3 million a year — filing motions that start the process of seizing borrowers’ homes.

Court records from 2007 indicate that McCalla, Raymer generated $10.4 million a year on its work for Countrywide alone. In 2005, some McCalla, Raymer employees left the firm and created MR Default Services, an entity that provides foreclosure services; it is now called Prommis Solutions.
For years, consumer lawyers say, bankruptcy courts routinely approved these firms’ claims and fees. Now, as the foreclosure tsunami threatens millions of families, the firms’ practices are coming under scrutiny.

And none too soon, consumer lawyers say, because most foreclosures are uncontested by borrowers, who generally rely on what the lender or its representative says is owed, including hefty fees assessed during the foreclosure process. In Georgia, for example, a borrower can watch his home go up for auction on the courthouse steps after just 40 days in foreclosure, leaving relatively little chance to question fees that his lender has levied.

A recent analysis of 1,733 foreclosures across the country by Katherine M. Porter, associate professor of law at the University of Iowa, showed that questionable fees were added to borrowers’ bills in almost half the loans.

Specific cases inching through the courts support the notion that figures supplied by lenders are often incorrect. Lawyers representing clients who have filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the program intended to help them keep their homes, say it is especially distressing when these numbers are used to evict borrowers.

“If the debtor wants accurate information in a bankruptcy case on her mortgage, she has got to work hard to find that out,” said Howard D. Rothbloom, a lawyer in Marietta, Ga., who represents borrowers. That work, usually done by a lawyer, is costly.

Mr. Rothbloom represents the Atchleys, who almost lost their home in early 2006 when legal representatives of their loan servicer, Countrywide, incorrectly told the court that the Atchleys were 60 days delinquent in Chapter 13 plan payments two times over four months. Borrowers can lose their homes if they fail to make such payments.

After the Atchleys supplied proof that they had made their payments on both occasions, Countrywide withdrew its motions to begin foreclosure. But the company also levied $2,793 in fees on the Atchleys’ loan that it did not explain, court documents said. “Every paycheck went to what they said we owed,” Robin Atchley said. “And every statement we got, the payoff was $179,000 and it never went down. I really think they took advantage of us.”

The Atchleys, who have four children, sold the house and now rent. Mrs. Atchley said they lost more than $23,000 in equity in the home because of fees levied by Countrywide.

The United States Trustee sued Countrywide last month in the Atchley case, saying its pattern of conduct was an abuse of the bankruptcy system. Countrywide said that it could not comment on pending litigation and that privacy concerns prevented it from discussing specific borrowers.

A generation ago, home foreclosures were a local business, lawyers say. If a borrower got into trouble, the lender who made the loan was often a nearby bank that held on to the mortgage. That bank would hire a local lawyer to try to work with the borrower; foreclosure proceedings were a last resort.

Now foreclosures are farmed out to third-party processors who hire local counsel to litigate. Lenders negotiate flat-fee arrangements to try to keep legal bills down.

AN unfortunate result, according to several judges, is a drive to increase revenue by filing more motions. Jeff Bohm, a bankruptcy judge in Texas who oversaw a case between William Allen Parsley, a borrower in Willis, Tex., and legal representatives for Countrywide, said the flat-fee structure “has fostered a corrosive ‘assembly line’ culture of practicing law.” Both McCalla, Raymer and Barrett Burke represented Countrywide in the matter.

Gee Aldridge, managing partner at McCalla, Raymer, called the Parsley case unique. “It is the goal of every single one of my clients to do whatever they can do to keep borrowers in their homes,” he said. Officials at Barrett Burke did not return phone calls seeking comment.

In a statement, Countrywide said it recognized the importance of the efficient functioning of the bankruptcy system. It said that servicing loans for borrowers in bankruptcy was complex, but that it had improved its procedures, hired new employees and was “aggressively exploring additional technology solutions to ensure that we are servicing loans in a manner consistent with applicable guidelines and policies.”

The September 2006 issue of The Summit, an in-house promotional publication of Fidelity National Foreclosure Solutions, another unit of Fidelity, trumpeted the efficiency of its 18-member “document execution team.” Set up “like a production line,” the publication said, the team executes 1,000 documents a day, on average.

OTHER judges are cracking down on some foreclosure practices. In 2006, Morris Stern, the federal bankruptcy judge overseeing a matter involving Jenny Rivera, a borrower in Lodi, N.J., issued a $125,000 sanction against the Shapiro & Diaz firm, which is a part of the Shapiro Attorneys Network. The judge found that Shapiro & Diaz had filed 250 motions seeking permission to seize homes using pre-signed certifications of default executed by an employee who had not worked at the firm for more than a year.

In testimony before the judge, a Shapiro & Diaz employee said that the firm used the pre-signed documents beginning in 2000 and that they were attached to “95 percent” of the firm’s motions seeking permission to seize a borrower’s home. Individuals making such filings are supposed to attest to their accuracy. Judge Stern called Shapiro & Diaz’s use of these documents “the blithe implementation of a renegade practice.”

Nelson Diaz, a partner at the firm, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Butler & Hosch, a law firm in Orlando, Fla., that is employed by Fannie Mae, has also been the subject of penalties. Last year, a judge sanctioned the firm $33,500 for filing 67 faulty motions to remove borrowers from their homes. A spokesman for the firm declined to comment.

Barrett Burke in Texas has come under intense scrutiny by bankruptcy judges. Overseeing a case last year involving James Patrick Allen, a homeowner in Victoria, Tex., Judge Steen examined the firm’s conduct in eight other foreclosure cases and found problems in all of them. In five of the matters, documents show, the firm used inaccurate information about defaults or failed to attach proper documentation when it moved to seize borrowers’ homes. Judge Steen imposed $75,000 in sanctions against Barrett Burke for a pattern of errors in the Allen case.

A former Barrett Burke lawyer, who requested anonymity to avoid possible retaliation from the firm, said, “They’re trying to find a fine line between providing efficient, less costly service to the mortgage companies” and not harming the borrower.

Both he and another former lawyer at the firm said Barrett Burke relied heavily on paralegals and other nonlawyer employees in its foreclosure and bankruptcy practices. For example, they said, paralegals prepared documents to be filed in bankruptcy court, demanding that the court authorize foreclosure on a borrower’s home. Lawyers were supposed to review the documents before they were filed. Both former Barrett lawyers said that with at least 1,000 filings a month, it was hard to keep up with the volume.

This factory-line approach to litigation was one reason he decided to leave the firm, the first lawyer said. “I had questions,” he added, “about whether doing things efficiently was worth whatever the cost was to the consumer.”

James R. and Tracy A. Edwards, who are now living in New Mexico, say they have had problems with questionable fees charged by Countrywide and actions by Barrett Burke. In one month in 2002, when the couple lived in Houston, Countrywide Home Loans withdrew three monthly mortgage payments from their bank account, Mrs. Edwards said, leaving them unable to pay other bills. The family filed for bankruptcy to try to keep their home, cars and other assets.

Filings in the bankruptcy case of the Edwards family show that on at least three occasions, Countrywide’s lawyers at Barrett Burke filed motions contending that the borrowers had fallen behind. The firm subsequently withdrew the motions.

“They kept saying we owed tons and tons of fees on the house,” Mrs. Edwards said. Tired of this battle, the family gave up the Houston house and moved to one in Rio Rancho, N.M., that they had previously rented out.

Countrywide tried to foreclose on that house, too, contending that Mr. and Mrs. Edwards were behind in their payments. Again, Mrs. Edwards said, the culprit was a raft of fees that Countrywide had never told them about — and that were related to their Texas home. Mrs. Edwards says that she and her husband plan to sue Countrywide to block foreclosure on their New Mexico home.

Pamela L. Stewart, president of the Houston Association of Debtor Attorneys, said she has become skeptical of lenders’ claims of fees owed. “I want to see documents that back up where these numbers are coming from,” Ms. Stewart said. “To me, they’re pulled out of the air.”

An inaccurate mortgage payment history supplied by Ameriquest, a mortgage lender that is now defunct, was central to a case last year in federal bankruptcy court in Massachusetts. “Ameriquest is simply unable or unwilling to conform its accounting practices to what is required under the bankruptcy code,” Judge Rosenthal wrote. He awarded the borrower $250,000 in emotional-distress damages and $500,000 in punitive damages.

Fidelity National Information Services has also been sued. A complaint filed on behalf of Ernest and Mattie Harris in federal bankruptcy court in Houston contends that Fidelity receives kickbacks from the lawyers it works with on foreclosure matters.

The case shines some light on the complex relationships between lenders and default servicers and the law firms that represent them. The Harrises’ loan servicer is Saxon Mortgage Services, a Morgan Stanley unit, which signed an agreement with Fidelity National Foreclosure Solutions. Under it, Fidelity was to provide foreclosure and bankruptcy services on loans serviced by Saxon, as well as to manage lawyers acting on Saxon’s behalf. The agreement also specified that Saxon would pay the fees of the lawyers managed by Fidelity.

But Fidelity also struck a second agreement, with an outside law firm, Mann & Stevens in Houston, which spelled out the fees Fidelity was to be paid each time the law firm made filings in a case. Mann & Stevens, which did respond to phone calls, represented Saxon in the Harrises’ bankruptcy proceedings.

According to the complaint, Mann & Stevens billed Saxon $200 for filing an objection to the borrowers’ plan to emerge from bankruptcy. Saxon paid the $200 fee, then charged that amount to the Harrises, according to the complaint. But Mann & Stevens kept only $150, paying the remaining $50 to Fidelity, the complaint said.

This arrangement constitutes improper fee-sharing, the Harrises argued. Texas rules of professional conduct bar fee-sharing between lawyers and nonlawyers because that could motivate them to raise prices — and the Harrises argue that this is why the law firm charged $200 instead of $150. And under these rules, sharing fees with someone who is not a lawyer creates a risk that the financial relationship could affect the judgment of the lawyer, whose duty is to the client. Few exceptions are permitted — like sharing court-awarded fees with a nonprofit organization or keeping a retirement plan for nonlawyer employees of a law firm.

“If it’s fee-sharing, and if it doesn’t fall into those categories, it sounds wrong,” said Michael S. Frisch, adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University. Greg Whitworth, president of loan portfolio solutions at Fidelity, defended the arrangement, saying it was not unusual for a company to have an intermediary manage outside law firms on its behalf.

The Harrises contend that the bankruptcy-related fees charged by the law firms managed by Fidelity “are inflated by 25 to 50 percent.” The agreement between Fidelity and the law firm is also hidden, according to their complaint, so a presiding judge sees only the lender and the law firm, not the middleman.

Fidelity said the money it received from the law firm was not a kickback, but payments for services, just as a law firm would pay a copying service to duplicate documents. In response to the complaint, Fidelity asserted in a court filing that the Harrises’ claims were “nothing more than scandalous, hollow rhetoric.”

But the Fidelity fee schedule shows a charge for each action taken by the law firm, not a fee per page or kilobyte. And Fidelity’s contract appears to indemnify Saxon if the arrangement between Fidelity and its law firm runs afoul of conduct rules.

Mr. Whitworth of Fidelity said that the arrangement with Mann & Stevens did not constitute fee sharing, because Fidelity was to be paid by that law firm even if the law firm itself was not paid.

He also said that by helping a servicer manage dozens or even hundreds of law firms, Fidelity lowered the cost of foreclosure or bankruptcy proceedings, to the benefit of the law firm, the servicer and the borrower. “Both parties want us to be in the middle here,” Mr. Whitworth said, referring to law firms and mortgage servicing companies.

THE Fidelity contract attached to the complaint also hints at the money each motion generates. Foreclosures earn lawyers fees of $500 or more under the contract; evictions generate about $300. Those fees aren’t enormous if they require a substantial amount of time. But a few thousand such motions a month, executed by lawyers’ employees, translates into many hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue to the law firm — and the lower the firm’s costs, the greater the profits.

“Congress needs to enact a national foreclosure bill that sets a uniform procedure in every state that provides adequate notice, due process and transparency about fees and charges,” said O. Max Gardner III, a consumer lawyer in Shelby, N.C. “A lot of this stuff is such a maze of numbers and complex organizational structure most lawyers can’t get through it. For the average consumer, it is mission impossible.”


20) The Way We Live Now
March 30, 2008

Since the bank runs of the 1930s, federal protection of retail depositor institutions has been a hallmark of American capitalism. The Federal Reserve, in a sweeping extension, has now extended the privilege to gilt-edged investment firms.

Its flurry of interventions has prompted a double dose of unease. The central bank offered a lifeline to Wall Street investors who, seemingly, deserved a worse fate. And it arguably interrupted the cycle of boom, bust and renewal that leads to a durable recovery.

What is the true value of Bear Stearns? If the government-orchestrated takeover of Bear goes through as planned, we will never know. As with Bear, so with the billions of dollars of mortgage securities for which the central bank has suddenly become an eager customer. So, too, perhaps, with the nation’s stock of residential homes — the prices of which, instead of reverting to more realistic values, will get a boost from the Fed’s repeated rounds of interest rate-cutting.

Government interventions always bring disruptions, but when Washington meddles in financial markets, the potential for the sort of distortion that obscures proper incentives is especially large, due to our markets’ complexities. Even Robert Rubin, the Citigroup executive and former Treasury secretary, has admitted he had never heard of a type of contract responsible for major problems at Citi.

Bear is a far smaller company, and, it would seem, far simpler. But consider that as recently as three weeks ago, it was valued at $65 a share. Then, as it became clear that Bear faced the modern equivalent of a bank run,

JPMorgan Chase negotiated a merger with the figure of $10 a share in mind. Alas, at the 11th hour, Morgan’s bankers realized they couldn’t get a handle on what Bear owned — or owed — and got cold feet. Under heavy pressure from the Fed and the Treasury, a deal was struck at the price of a subway ride — $2 a share.

It is safe to say that neither Jamie Dimon, Morgan’s chief executive, nor Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman who pushed for the deal, know what Bear is really worth. For the record, Bear’s book value per share is $84. As Meredith Whitney, who follows Wall Street for Oppenheimer, remarked, “It’s hard to get a linear progression from 84 to 2.”

Capitalism isn’t supposed to work like this, and before the advent of modern finance, it usually didn’t. Market values fluctuate, but — in the absence of fraud — billion-dollar companies do not evaporate. Yet it’s worth noting that Lehman Brothers’ stock also fell by half and then recovered within a 24-hour span. Once, investors could get a read on financial firms’ assets and risks from their balance sheets; those days are history.

Firms now do much of their business off the balance sheet. The swashbuckling Bear Stearns was a party to $2.5 trillion — no typo — of a derivative instrument known as a credit default swap. Such swaps are off-the-books agreements with third parties to exchange sums of cash according to a motley assortment of other credit indicators. In truth, no outsider could understand what Bear (or Citi, or Lehman) was committed to. The thought that Bear’s counterparties (the firms on the other side of that $2.5 trillion) would call in their chits — and then cancel their trades with Lehman, perhaps with Merrill Lynch and so forth — sent Wall Street into panic mode. Had Bear collapsed, or so asserted a veteran employee, “it would have been the end: pandemonium and global meltdown.”

Perhaps. Or perhaps, after some bad weeks or months, Wall Street would have recovered. What is scary is the degree to which the Fed assimilated the alarmism on the Street: “These guys are so afraid of an economic cycle,” a hedge-fund manager remarked. And without public airing or debate, it stretched the implicit federal safety net under Wall Street.

To question intervention is not to dispute that markets need rules. But for nearly two decades, Washington has trimmed its regulatory sails. The repeal of Glass-Steagall, which once separated banks from securities firms, and the evolution of new instruments that circumvent disclosure rules have loosened the market’s moorings. Huge pools of capital have been permitted to operate virtually unregulated. Mortgages have been written to the flimsiest of credits. Swelling derivative books have made a mockery of disclosure.

The relaxation of oversight has implied an unholy bargain: let markets operate unfettered in good times, confident that the feds will come to the rescue in bad. In 1998, the Fed intervened to cushion the collapsing hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management; dot-com stocks immediately began their dubious ascent. Then, when the tech meltdown led to a recession and the Fed cut rates to 1 percent, adjustable-rate mortgages became as hot as the iPod. One rescue begets the next excess.

It is true that Bear’s shareholders have suffered steep losses. But the Fed went much further than in previous episodes to calm the waters. Notably, it announced it would accept mortgage securities as collateral for loans — enlarging its role as lender of last resort. (Wall Street jesters had it that the Fed would also be accepting “cereal box-tops.”) Then the Fed extended a backstop line of credit to JPMorgan to tide Bear over; finally, it agreed to absorb the ugliest $30 billion of Bear’s assets.

Government rescues are as old as private enterprise itself, but we are well beyond the days of guaranteeing loans to stodgy manufacturers à la Chrysler and Lockheed. Those cases were contained; the borders of finance are more nebulous. However pure of motive, Bernanke & Co. are underwriting overleveraged markets whose linkages, even today, are dimly understood. The formula of laissez faire in advance and intervention in the aftermath has it exactly wrong. Better that the Fed, with Congress’s help if need be, ensures that regulators and markets have the tools to know what companies are worth before the trouble hits.

Roger Lowenstein, a contributing writer, last wrote for the magazine about Ben Bernanke.




Rhode Island: Order to Combat Illegal Immigration
National Briefing | New England
Linking the presence of undocumented workers to the state’s financial woes, Gov. Donald L. Carcieri signed an executive order that includes steps to combat illegal immigration. The order requires state agencies and companies that do business with the state to verify the legal status of employees. It also directs the state police and prison and parole officials to work harder to find and deport illegal immigrants. The governor, a Republican, said that he understood illegal immigrants faced hardships, but that he did not want them in Rhode Island. Under his order, the state police will enter an agreement with federal immigration authorities permitting them access to specialized immigration databases.
March 29, 2008

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

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

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

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




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


Stop the Termination or the Cherokee Nation


We Didn't Start the Fire

I Can't Take it No More

The Art of Mental Warfare

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




Port of Olympia Anti-Militarization Action Nov. 2007


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

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

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

—MALCOLM X, 1965


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


LAPD vs. Immigrants (Video)


Dr. Julia Hare at the SOBA 2007


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


Wealth Inequality Charts


MALCOLM X: Oxford University Debate


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


YouTube clip of Che before the UN in 1964


The Wealthiest Americans Ever
NYT Interactive chart
JULY 15, 2007


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


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


Which country should we invade next?


My Favorite Mutiny, The Coup


Michael Moore- The Awful Truth


Morse v. Frederick Supreme Court arguments


Free Speech 4 Students Rally - Media Montage


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


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


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


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


FIGHTBACK! A Collection of Socialist Essays
By Sylvia Weinstein


[The Scab
"After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad,
and the vampire, he had some awful substance left with
which he made a scab."
"A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul,
a water brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue.
Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten
principles." "When a scab comes down the street,
men turn their backs and angels weep in heaven, and
the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out."
"No man (or woman) has a right to scab so long as there
is a pool of water to drown his carcass in,
or a rope long enough to hang his body with.
Judas was a gentleman compared with a scab.
For betraying his master, he had character enough
to hang himself." A scab has not.
"Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.
Judas sold his Savior for thirty pieces of silver.
Benedict Arnold sold his country for a promise of
a commision in the british army."
The scab sells his birthright, country, his wife,
his children and his fellowmen for an unfulfilled
promise from his employer.
Esau was a traitor to himself; Judas was a traitor
to his God; Benedict Arnold was a traitor to his country;
a scab is a traitor to his God, his country,
his family and his class."
Author --- Jack London (1876-1916)...Roland Sheppard]


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

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

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

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

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

Happy Holidays!

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

(scroll down when you get there])

SHOP: Articles at">


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