Saturday, April 05, 2008



Mexico reconquers California? Absolut drinks to that!
The latest advertising campaign in Mexico from Swedish vodka maker Absolut promises to push all the right buttons south of the U.S. border, but it could ruffle a few feathers in El Norte. [see article and image of map at:


Film: "La Revolucion Communicativa: the rise of community radio and tv in Venezuela"

Sunday, April 13, 2008, 7 pm

Brava Theater
2781 24th Street
San Francisco, CA

$5 suggested donation ($3 students & seniors) no one turned away for lack of funds.

San Francisco premiere of documentary hosted by filmmakers Greg Miller and Sean Kriletich. Film explores how Venezuelans are taking to the airwaves to reclaim their culture, communities and democracy from corporate media. Showing followed by discussion led by filmmakers.

Showing celebrates the defeat of a military coup on April 11, 2002, and the restoration of the Venezuelan Constitution and President Hugo Chavez. Potluck will follow. Benefit for the Emergency Response Network sponsored by the Venezuelan Solidarity Network and Hands Off Venezuela! Information will be provided on a Symposium to be held in Washington D.C., April 18-20th.

For info: (510) 465-9914


Help Save Troy Davis

Troy Davis came within 24 hours of execution in July, 2007 before receiving a temporary stay of execution. Two weeks later the Georgia Supreme Court agreed to hear his extraordinary motion for a new trial. On Monday, March 17, 2008 the court denied Mr. Davis’ appeal. Troy Davis was sentenced to death for the murder of Police Officer Mark MacPhail in Georgia. The case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony which contained inconsistencies even during the trial. Since then, all but two of the state's nine non-police witnesses from the trial have recanted or contradicted their testimony. Many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements against Troy Davis.

The message:

"I welcomed your decision to stay the execution of Troy Anthony Davis in July 2007, and thank you for taking the time to consider evidence of his innocence. When you issued this decision, you stated that the board "will not allow an execution to proceed in this State unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused." Because the Georgia Supreme Court denied Troy Davis a hearing, doubts of his guilt will always remain. I appeal to you to be true to your words and commute the death sentence of Troy Davis.

"This case has generated widespread attention, which reflects serious concerns in Georgia and throughout the United States about the potential for executing an innocent man. The power of clemency exists as a safety net to prevent such an irreversible error. As you know, Mr. Davis has been on death row in Georgia for more than 15 years for the murder of a police officer he maintains that he did not commit. Davis' conviction was not based on any physical evidence, and the murder weapon was never found.

"Despite mounting evidence that Davis may in fact be innocent of the crime, appeals to courts to consider this evidence have been repeatedly denied for procedural reasons. Instead, the prosecution based its case on the testimony of purported "witnesses," many of whom allege police coercion, and most of whom have since recanted their testimony. One witness signed a police statement declaring that Davis was the assailant then later said "I did not read it because I cannot read." In another case a witness stated that the police "were telling me that I was an accessory to murder and that I would…go to jail for a long time and I would be lucky if I ever got out, especially because a police officer got killed…I was only sixteen and was so scared of going to jail." There are also several witnesses who have implicated another man in the crime but the police focused their efforts on convicting Troy.

"It is deeply troubling to me that Georgia might proceed with this execution given the strong claims of innocence in this case. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that our criminal justice system is not devoid of error and we now know that 127 individuals have been released from death rows across the United States due to wrongful conviction. We must confront the unalterable fact that the system of capital punishment is fallible, given that it is administered by fallible human beings. I respectfully urge the Board of Pardons and Paroles to demonstrate your strong commitment to fairness and justice and commute the death sentence of Troy Anthony Davis.

Thank you for your kind consideration."

Messages will be sent to:

Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles
2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, SE
Suite 458, Balcony Level, East Tower
Atlanta, Georgia 30334-4909

Telephone: (404) 657-9350
Fax: (404) 651-8502

Please take a moment to help Troy Davis. On Monday, March 17, 2008, the Georgia Supreme Court decided 4-3 to deny a new trial for Troy Anthony Davis, despite significant concerns regarding his innocence. The stunning decision by the Georgia Supreme Court to let Mr. Davis' death sentence stand means that the state of Georgia might soon execute a man who well may be innocent.



* 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



~ Please circulate this urgent update widely ~

The ANSWER Coalition is vigorously supporting the campaign launched by the Partnership for Civil Justice to defend free speech rights on the National Mall. We thank all the ANSWER Coalition supporters who have joined this campaign and we urge everyone to do so. What follows is an urgent message from the Partnership for Civil Justice about the campaign.

For those who already signed the Statement in Defense of Free Speech, Please take 30 seconds to let us know if we can publicize your name as a signer along with 15,000 others. If you signed up before, it is crucial that you take the next step by clicking this link.


Save the National Mall as a place of protest!

The struggle to preserve Free Speech in Washington D.C. has entered a new phase. We are writing to you so that you can help in the next step of this critical struggle. If he gets his way, Bush will leave office having shredded fundamental rights to redress grievances and engage in dissent on the National Mall in the nation's capital. But we can stop this plan.

Because of the participation of you and so many other people around the country, the Bush Administration has been pushed on the defensive. Due to immense public pressure that has been mobilized in the last months the government is now resorting to a smoke and mirror campaign to derail those who are fighting to preserve cherished rights. The people can stop them.

We need you to take action right now:

We are planning on sending the Statement in Defense of Free Speech Rights on the National Mall -- with a list of its thousands of signers -- to the National Park Service and want to further publish the statement. Showing just how many people have already taken action will be an important part of the campaign to defend the National Mall and the First Amendment.

Before we send or publish the statement and signers, we want to confirm with you that we can include you as a signer. We value your privacy. Please take 30 seconds to fill out the form here if you have already signed the statement.

Please take a moment and help this Free Speech movement take the next step. If you signed the Statement in Defense of Free Speech on the National Mall before it is crucial that you take the next step by clicking this link. You can also let us know on this same link if you do not want your name included publicly. Initial signers include, Howard Zinn, Cindy Sheehan, Ed Asner, Malik Rahim, Ramsey Clark, Kathy Kelly, Ron Kovic, Dennis Banks and many others.

Here is the situation: More than 15,000 letters flooded the National Park Service (NPS) supporting the centrality of free speech rights on the National Mall. The Bush Administration was shocked by the overwhelming response. They thought that they could essentially privatize the National Mall in Washington DC and quietly eliminate essential Free Speech activities. The plan is to go into effect the last month that Bush is in office in January 2009.

This insidious goal hasn't changed one bit but they have now quickly shifted their tactics to blunt the massive new movement that has arisen to defend Free Speech on the National Mall.

Bush's NPS has quickly revamped the web site. The phrase "First Amendment" now appears all over the site. You would think that they are re-organizing the National Mall in order to have more demonstrations, protests and rallies rather than try to banish or limit them. It is all smoke and mirrors. More untruths from the Bush Administration working in partnership with Corporate America.

This is a coordinated effort that we are seeing across the country - the privatization of our public spaces to make them off-limits for us to gather for free speech and assembly. While we have just been victorious in the fight for the Great Lawn of Central Park all eyes are now turning to the National Mall. This is the battle of most significance with repercussions that will be felt coast-to-coast.

Here is how you can help. It will take only a moment of your time but it will make a huge difference.

1) The Partnership for Civil Justice has set up an easy-to-use mechanism that will allow you to send a message directly to the National Park Service about their National Mall Plan. Click this link to send your message.

2) Sign the Statement in Defense of Free Speech Rights on the National Mall.

3) If you have already signed this statement, click this link right now to let us know if we can publicize you as a signer of this important statement.

4) If you are unsure whether you have already signed, you can sign the statement again, and all duplicate names will be eliminated.


Mara Verheyden-Hillard and Carl Messineo, co-founders of Partnership
for Civil Justice


More links

Background on the NPS initiative to restrict protesting on the National Mall

Washington Post article: The Battle to Remold the Mall

Alternet article: National Mall Redesign Could Seriously Restrict Free Speech


A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
National Office in Washington DC: 202-544-3389
New York City: 212-694-8720
Los Angeles: 323-464-1636
San Francisco: 415-821-6545
Chicago: 773-463-0311

If this message was forwared to you and you'd like to receive future ANSWER updates, click here:


Student Walkout Portland Oregon 3/20/08


The Sand Creek Massacre (6 MINUTES)


Thought you might enjoy this item I've posted about a 1970 antiwar
poster folio with a name similar to yours.
Lots of good history here.

Lincoln Cushing



At the start of the Iraq War in 2003, many working people were opposed to the invasion. Now the overwhelming majority want to end the war and withdraw troops. Yet, both major political parties continue to fund the war. Marches and demonstrations have not been able to stop the war. The Longshore Union (ILWU) will stop work for 8 hours in every port on the West Coast on May 1st. This action shows that working people have the power to stop the war.


We'll march from the Longshore Union hall at the corner of Mason and Beach Streets (Fisherman's Wharf area), along the Embarcadero--where San Francisco was forged into a union town in the 1934 General Strike. A rally will be held in Justin Herman Plaza across from the Ferry Building at noon.

--Stop the war!
--Withdraw the troops now!
--No scapegoating immigrant workers for the economic crisis!
--Healthcare for all!
--Funding for schools and housing!
--Defend civil liberties and workers'rights!


Port Workers' May Day Organizing Committee


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) Parts Maker Talks of Strikebreakers and Labor Abroad
April 1, 2008

2) Police arrest anti-war protester, 80, at mall
March 30, 2008,0,2022173.story

3) 1908-2008
Centennial of the Great White Fleet's departure from San Francisco Bay and reflections on American imperialism
By Lincoln Cushing, 4/1/2008
[Please visit this website for very powerful photos that go with this article…bw]

4) Fear of Regulating
April 3, 2008

5) Suit on Light Cigarettes Is Thrown Out
April 3, 2008

6) Israel Slow to Admit Gaza Patients, U.N. Says
April 3, 2008

7) 81% in Poll Say Nation Is on the Wrong Track
April 4, 2008

8) There Were Orders to Follow
April 4, 2008

9) 80,000 Jobs Cut in March; Unemployment Rate Rises
April 4, 2008

10) More Than 1,000 in Iraq’s Forces Quit Basra Fight
"Mr. Sadr, who asked his followers to stop fighting on Sunday, called Thursday for a million Iraqis to march to the Shiite holy city of Najaf next week to protest what he called the American occupation."
April 4, 2008

11) School’s New Rule for Pupils in Trouble: No Fun
April 4, 2008

12) Report Says Chevron Owes Billions for Ecuadorean Pollution
April 3, 2008

13) Bush Pledges More Troops For NATO Afghan Force
Filed at 12:58 p.m. ET
April 4, 2008

14) 2 Groups to Help Defend Detainees at Guantánamo
April 4, 2008

15) Lawsuit Challenges Immigration Raids in New Jersey
April 4, 2008

16) Senate Rejects a Proposal to Allow Bankruptcy Judges to Alter Home Mortgages
April 4, 2008

17) As Fight for Water Heats Up, Prized Fish Suffer
April 1, 2008

18) Army Worried by Rising Stress of Return Tours to Iraq
April 6, 2008

19) Unemployment Rising
April 5, 2008

20) Drug Makers Near an Old Goal: A Legal Shield
April 6, 2008

21) San Francisco Reaches Out to Immigrants
April 6, 2008

22) Injured Woman Wins Wal-Mart Saga
April 4, 2008, 11:44 am

23) Executive Pay: A Special Report
A Brighter Spotlight, Yet the Pay Rises
April 6, 2008


1) Parts Maker Talks of Strikebreakers and Labor Abroad
April 1, 2008

DETROIT — American Axle and Manufacturing, the auto parts maker, is trying to force an end to the industry’s longest strike in a decade by calling back laid-off employees, advertising for replacement workers and threatening to move production out of the United States.

The company is feeling increasing pressure from its largest customer, General Motors, to end the monthlong strike. G.M. temporarily closed its Detroit sedan plant on Monday and is expected to close its sedan plant in Lordstown, Ohio, later this week, when it will run out of some parts.

Until now, the strike had affected only the production of slower-selling pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles, but analysts say that halting the production of cars like the compact Chevrolet Cobalt, which is built in Lordstown, could quickly hurt G.M. sales.

A total of 30 G.M. factories, including a transmission plant in Ohio that also closed Monday, have been fully or partly shut down, along with dozens of factories run by other G.M. parts suppliers, since 3,650 members of the United Automobile Workers union at American Axle walked out on Feb. 26.

Formal negotiations broke off, and officials said no new talks had been scheduled. The strike began when the U.A.W. refused to go along with American Axle’s plan to cut wages by as much as half, citing a need to remain competitive with lower-cost rivals like the Dana Corporation.

The union, in turn, says that a profitable company should not be reducing its workers’ pay. (American Axle earned $37 million in 2007.)

“If a company making profits can break the union, then any company can,” said Adrian King, the president of U.A.W. Local 235, which represents American Axle workers in Detroit. “We’re willing to be out here one day longer than the company to get a fair and equitable contract.”

On Monday morning, about 400 people who had recently been laid off by American Axle joined picket lines in Michigan and New York after the company recalled them over the weekend. The workers were given the choice of either returning to their jobs or risk losing their unemployment benefits, but there was no indication that anyone had crossed the picket lines.

Striking workers were incensed on Monday after American Axle ran help-wanted ads in newspapers near its factories in Detroit and Three Rivers, Mich., and in the Buffalo, N.Y., area. The ads describe the jobs as “anticipated attrition replacement openings after negotiations or in place of employees involved in this strike.”

The U.A.W. is assuming that the company intends to bring in nonunion replacements.

A spokeswoman for American Axle, Renee B. Rogers, said the company merely wanted to have new hires ready when current employees leave through a buyout program after the strike is settled. But Ms. Rogers left open the possibility that some striking workers could be replaced “on a temporary basis.”

“The main purpose of this is to get this pool of potential associates when people taking the buyouts and early retirements exit,” she said.

The U.A.W. was also angered last week by a regulatory filing showing that American Axle raised the salary for its chief executive, Richard E. Dauch, by 9.5 percent in 2007, to $10.2 million, and by Mr. Dauch’s statement that he would shift production to plants in Mexico, South America or other regions if the union continued to refuse his demands.

“We have the flexibility to source all of our business to other locations around the world, and we have the right to do so,” he told The Detroit Free Press. “If we cannot compete for new contracts in the U.S., there will be no work in the original plants.”

Ms. Rogers said Monday that Mr. Dauch did not want to take part in additional interviews.

Workers said threats of a closing of their plants did not change their opinion of the company’s proposed wage scale.

“If he wants to take it to Mexico, let him,” said Nate Mitchell, 41, a machine operator at the Detroit plant. “I’m not working for nothing.”

David Gregory, a professor of labor law at St. John’s University School of Law in New York, said the U.A.W.’s hard line against American Axle had as much to do with its overall future as a union as it did with workers at that particular company.

The U.A.W.’s membership fell below 500,000 in 2007, the lowest since World War II, according to a filing by the union on Friday. In the 1970s, the U.A.W. reported a membership of 1.5 million. But employment at the automakers and their suppliers has since fallen steadily, particularly in the last few years as the Detroit carmakers began a succession of sweeping corporate cutbacks.

“The U.A.W. is sending a signal that as a union they are still formidable, and can’t be underestimated,” Mr. Gregory said “It’s critically important that they send that signal, or they really could be headed for oblivion.”


2) Police arrest anti-war protester, 80, at mall
March 30, 2008,0,2022173.story

An 80-year-old church deacon was removed from the Smith Haven Mall yesterday in a wheelchair and arrested by police for refusing to remove a T-shirt protesting the Iraq War.

Police said that Don Zirkel, of Bethpage, was disturbing shoppers at the Lake Grove mall with his T-shirt, which had what they described as "graphic anti-war images." Zirkel, a deacon at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Wyandanch, said his shirt had the death tolls of American military personnel and Iraqis - 4,000 and 1 million - and the words "Dead" and "Enough." The shirt also has three blotches resembling blood splatters.

Police said in a release last night that Zirkel was handing out anti-war pamphlets to mallgoers and that mall security told him to stop and turn his shirt inside out. Zirkel refused to turn his shirt inside out and wouldn't leave, police said. Security placed him on "civilian arrest" and called police. When police arrived, Zirkel passively resisted attempts to bring him to a police car, the release said.

But Zirkel said he was sitting in the food court drinking coffee with his wife Marie, 77, and several others when police and mall security officers approached and demanded they remove their anti-war T-shirts.

The others complied, but Zirkel said he refused, and when he wouldn't stand up to be removed and arrested, authorities brought over a wheelchair. "They forcibly picked me up and put me in the wheelchair," said Zirkel, a deacon at one of the poorest Catholic parishes on Long Island, where a devastating fire recently destroyed the rectory and storage areas.

Zirkel was charged with criminal trespassing and resisting arrest. He was released on bail. A spokeswoman for mall owner Simon Property Group did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Generally speaking, a mall has the right to control what happens on its property, said John McEntee, a Uniondale commercial litigation lawyer.

Activists with dueling opinions had gathered to support and oppose America's five-year campaign.

As Zirkel was being wheeled to the police car, the crowd chanted "We shall not be moved!" Moments later, they moved; police and mall security had ordered them off the property. Many joined a larger anti-war crowd assembled by the mall's entrance, off mall property, on Veterans Memorial Highway.

They were complemented nearby by protesters saying the Iraq war is vital for security.

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.


3) 1908-2008
Centennial of the Great White Fleet's departure from San Francisco Bay and reflections on American imperialism
By Lincoln Cushing, 4/1/2008
[Please visit this website for very powerful photos that go with this article…bw]

“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” Karl Marx; Selected Works, vol. 2 (1942). Paraphrase of the opening sentences of The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852).

Between May 6 and July 7, 1908 San Francisco Bay was host to the most powerful naval fleet assembled to date. Sixteen new battleships of the Atlantic Fleet (later known as "The Great White Fleet" because they were painted white except for gilded scrollwork on their bows), accompanied by a "Torpedo Flotilla" of six destroyers and several auxiliary ships, had departed from Hampton Roads, Virginia, on December 16,1907. After leaving San Francisco the the fleet visited Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, the Philippine Islands, Japan, and Ceylon before arriving in Egypt on January 3, 1909.

Between 1904 to 1907, American shipyards turned out eleven new battleships to replace the ailing fleet that won the Spanish-American War campaigns in the Caribbean (1898) and the early naval engagements in its Pacific extension, which became known as the Philippine-American War. Then-president Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt had been assistant secretary of the Navy before serving in that war, and was dedicated to expressing American military power around the world. The naval tour was a bold bid to counter a growing Japanese presence in the Pacific.

This war, like many others, was a complex mixture of motivations and events. Despite popular rhetoric about the sinking of the Maine and mistreatment of the Cuban people by the Spanish colonial authorities, U.S. commercial and military interests fueled an invasion that subsumed the Cuban's and Puerto Rican's struggle for self-determination, resulting in geopolitical consequences that remain with us to this day. The situation in the Pacific was even worse. Although the Filipinos initially appreciated the U.S. role in evicting Spanish rule, tensions mounted as it became clear that our interest there had less to do with protecting democracy than it did with territorial expansion. Even before the Peace Treaty was signed, U.S. troops fired on a group of Filipinos and started the Philippine-American War, a vicious and ugly chapter in U.S. history that lasted until 1914.

This war had started out as a popular campaign, but as time went by the shine had worn off and some brave citizens began to raise their voices in protest. Among them was the great American author Mark Twain, who advocated the position that "An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war." Twain, along with many other prominent citizens such as Samuel Gompers of the American Federation of Labor and Jane Addams, first woman to win Nobel Peace Prize, were part of the U.S. Anti-Imperialist League to challenge this expansionist tragedy.

Openly racist views of the Filipinos underscored public debate and policy. Newspapers and magazines of the day used depictions of Filipinos as children and monkeys. Whole villages were relocated into concentration camps, a method shamefully reminiscent of both the Spanish military practices we had earlier criticized in Cuba and the "strategic hamlets" we would later establish in Viet Nam. The actual death toll will never be known, but estimates of civilian deaths from famine, disease, and other war-related causes range from 200,000 to 600,000.

A hundred years later, these same issues resonate about our role in Iraq. Many of the issues are grotesquely similar - controversy over the use of "waterboarding" to extract information from prisioners (then it was called the "Water Cure"); massacres of Muslim civilians; racist depictions of the enemy. A January 2008 naval incident involving unidentified radio heckling of U.S. ships in the Gulf of Iran was eventually blamed on a "Filipino Monkey," a term with roots in the song "The monkeys have no tails in Zamboanga" written sometime between 1900 and 1906.

In 1981, San Francisco mayor Diane Feinstein instituted Fleet Week, a deliberate homage to the glory of Teddy Roosevelt's imperial force. At the time, the U.S. Navy had numerous facilities in the region, but with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, San Francisco's naval presence is virtually extinct. Yet the annual event persists, and has become an increasingly obscene expense of tax dollars. The Bay Area Peace Navy, among others, has called for its conversion to a broader and more inclusive celebration of the bay, like Seattle's annual Seafair.

2008 marks the centennial of this dark period in U.S. history. Let us use the opportunity to reflect on that legacy and try more peaceful and constructive approaches in our role as members of a global community.


4) Fear of Regulating
April 3, 2008

To understand the White House’s blueprint for regulating the financial markets, start with what the Bush administration did not do. It did not offer America a plan to respond to the ongoing credit crisis or to the Federal Reserve’s dramatic intervention to prevent the collapse of Bear Stearns. It certainly did not provide a roadmap for avoiding this sort of meltdown in the future.

The Fed’s role in the Bear debacle has put taxpayers at risk of having to shoulder big losses, but the administration’s so-called regulatory reform does not address what the Bear mess made obvious: if something goes badly wrong in under-regulated or unregulated corners of the financial markets, it could topple the whole system.

In fact, the blueprint was mostly developed before the current financial crisis and accordingly comes across as outdated. The message of the administration’s proposals is that the markets will — and should — return to where they were before the near-collapse of Bear Stearns. It’s doubtful whether many of its suggested policies would have been apt even in that earlier context. It’s indisputable that they are inapt now.

It will be up to Congress — and the next administration — to create the necessary new rules for 21st-century financial markets. These include requirements that firms engaged in risky financial behavior maintain large amounts of high-quality capital, other limits on borrowed money and complex derivatives and incentives for bankers’ pay that hold them accountable for losses.

There may be nuggets in the administration’s blueprint that would be worth saving for that serious work. The proposal for a regulator whose authority is defined by the type of financial product, rather than by industry, could benefit consumers and investors — if the regulator has the power to enforce standards. But as Congress moves forward with its investigations of the credit crisis, it’s important for lawmakers and the public to realize that the administration’s ideas are fundamentally flawed.

Its proposals are premised on the notion that market discipline is the most effective tool to limit risks to the financial system. Current events show how absurd that is. Discipline was utterly lacking as today’s problems were being created. In the absence of rules — and regulators who are willing and empowered to enforce them — market discipline is a fantasy.

Sure enough, the Bush blueprint is weakest when it comes to regulation of the financial system beyond banks. One key proposal would allow the Fed to gather more information from such entities as Wall Street firms, hedge funds and private equity partnerships, but it could take action only if overall financial stability was threatened. That would institutionalize the Fed’s role as bystander while bubbles inflate and crisis manager when they burst. That’s a recipe for more crises. Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, told Congress on Wednesday that broader reach would have to be accompanied by “adequate powers, authorities, expertise and so on.”

It’s probably useless to hope for anything better from Bush administration officials. They are complicit in the credit crisis because the anti-regulatory ethos and practices of the administration fostered the conditions for the debacle. It’s difficult to solve problems of one’s own making and impossible to respond effectively if you don’t first face up to your role in causing them. The administration apparently prefers to perpetuate the myth of self-policing, self-correcting global free markets, rather than own up to the fatal flaws that are now so evident in that myth.

In the end, Mr. Bush’s regulatory blueprint will allow him to leave office with that ideology in tact — in his mind at least. The real work will be left to others.


5) Suit on Light Cigarettes Is Thrown Out
April 3, 2008

The tobacco industry scored a legal victory on Thursday when a federal appeals court threw out an $800 billion class-action lawsuit on behalf of smokers of light cigarettes who said they were misled to believe the cigarettes were safer than regular ones.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers had wanted to represent potentially millions of people across the country who had smoked light cigarettes, but the court found that it was impossible to tell why smokers chose light cigarettes, so the group could not be treated as a class. Instead, smokers would have to sue individually.

“Individualized proof is needed to overcome the possibility that a member of the purported class purchased lights for some other reason than the belief that lights were a healthier alternative,” the ruling said.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit means that individuals can still pursue lawsuits against cigarette makers, but they cannot be grouped together as a class.

Stocks of big tobacco companies were little changed by news of the ruling, which was not entirely unexpected. Shares of the Altria Group, which owns Philip Morris USA, maker of Marlboro cigarrettes, were up 2 cents, to $22.06, in mid-afternoon trading Thursday in New York. Stock in Reynolds American, whose R. J. Reynolds Tobacco unit markets the Camel brand, were up 14 cents, to $59.85.

The court decision was a setback for lawyers who thought that the ruling approving the class, issued by Federal District Judge B. Weinstein in Brooklyn in September 2006, could have opened a new avenue for litigation against the tobacco industry, exposing cigarette companies to potentially large damages.

Judge Weinstein’s ruling in the case, known as Schwab for one of its plaintiffs, Barbara Schwab, had been viewed as significant. That was partly because it was the first so-called lights case certified as a class in federal court and partly because such lawsuits on behalf of smokers of light cigarettes have generally not been successful.

Unlike most tobacco lawsuits, the Schwab case did not contend that smokers were injured but instead that they had been subjected to a fraud since 1971, when Philip Morris began selling Marlboro Lights, the first light cigarette.

Even though the appeals court ruling was generally expected, analysts still viewed the decision as a victory for the tobacco industry.

In a note to investors, a Goldman Sachs tobacco industry analyst, Judy Hong, said that the ruling “should continue to increase investors’ confidence about the legal environment and allow the cigarette companies to have more balance sheet flexibility.”

Besides Philip Morris and R. J. Reynolds, the tobacco companies that might light cigarettes include the Lowe Corporation’s Lorillard Tobacco unit, whose brands include Newport.


6) Israel Slow to Admit Gaza Patients, U.N. Says
April 3, 2008

JERUSALEM — A new report by the World Health Organization says that 32 Palestinians from Gaza have died in recent months largely because of Israeli restrictions that delayed their access to urgent medical treatment in Israel.

But Israeli officials rejected the findings on Wednesday. They said that the people who had compiled the report had never asked them about the cases, that Israeli officials had no records of entry permits being sought in some of the cases and that details of other cases were inaccurate. Israeli officials also said that the number of Gazans admitted to Israel for advanced medical treatment was increasing.

The report, released Tuesday by the W.H.O., the United Nations health authority, and covering October through March, says that in some cases permits to enter Israel had been late, while other applicants had been denied permits on security grounds. In five cases, the reason given for the delay was a lack of available hospital beds.

Most of the report was based on interviews in Gaza with relatives of the dead, and with Palestinian medical workers and other Palestinian officials.

The report points to the turmoil in the Gaza Strip and bureaucratic staff changes there as factors hampering access to urgent health care. But Dr. Ambrogio Manenti, the director of the World Health Organization office for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, focused on the effects of the Israeli border closing in presenting the report and said the cases it described were illustrations of “nonsense, inhumanity and, at the end, tragedies” that “could have and should have been avoided.”

Israel has restricted movement in and out of Gaza, where only limited health care is available, since the militant Islamic group Hamas took over last June, but says it makes exceptions for humanitarian cases daily.

In 2007, more than 7,000 patients received permits to enter Israel for care, many more than the 4,900 in 2006, said the W.H.O. and the Israeli Coordination and Liaison Administration, which manages movement at the Gaza border crossings. But 18.5 percent of permit applications were denied in 2007, compared with fewer than 10 percent in 2006.

Gaza’s border with Egypt was closed in June 2007, after the Hamas takeover, leaving Israel as the only option for most patients seeking advanced care. The liaison administration says that more than 2,300 patients entered Israel in the first quarter of 2008.

The report details five case studies, including that of Amir al-Yazji, 9, who contracted meningoencephalitis and died in a Gaza hospital on Nov. 19. Amir fell ill on Nov. 5, the report says his family reported, and his condition was diagnosed days later. Shaher Yazji, his father, described a desperate race against time from Nov. 14, when he got an urgent referral from Gaza for an Israeli hospital, until the Israelis processed the entry permit on Nov. 18, the report says.

Mr. Yazji says in the report that when full approval came through that afternoon for the boy and the medics who would accompany him to the Erez crossing, they were told they would have to arrive within 15 minutes, before the liaison office closed. But transferring Amir to an ambulance and the trip to the checkpoint took at least an hour, so it was put off a day, the report says. Amir died the next morning, it says.

In a written statement on Wednesday, Col. Nir Press, who leads the Israeli Coordination and Liaison Administration for the Gaza crossings, said that his office received the request for Amir on Nov. 18 and gave final approval that day. He said the boy’s departure from Gaza had been delayed a day at the Palestinians’ request because his condition had deteriorated and needed to be stabilized before he could travel. A spokesman for Colonel Press denied that Amir had been given 15 minutes to arrive.

Colonel Press added that among the other 31 deaths the report listed were patients who were unknown to the Israelis, with no request having been received on their behalf.


7) 81% in Poll Say Nation Is on the Wrong Track
April 4, 2008

Americans are more dissatisfied with the country’s direction than at any time since the New York Times/CBS News poll began asking about the subject in the early 1990s, according to the latest poll.

In the poll, 81 percent of respondents said they believed “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track,” up from 69 percent a year ago and 35 percent in early 2002.

Although the public mood has been darkening since the early days of the war in Iraq, it has taken a new turn for the worse in the last few months, as the economy has seemed to slip into recession. There is now nearly a national consensus that the country faces significant problems.

A majority of nearly every demographic and political group — Democrats and Republicans, men and women, residents of cities and rural areas, college graduates and those who finished only high school — say the United States is headed in the wrong direction. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the country was worse off than five years ago; just 4 percent said it was better off.

The dissatisfaction is especially striking because public opinion usually hits its low point only in the months and years after an economic downturn, not at the beginning of one. Today, however, Americans report being deeply worried about the country even though many say their own personal finances are still in fairly good shape.

Only 21 percent of respondents said the overall economy was in good condition, the lowest such number since late 1992, when the recession that began in the summer of 1990 had already been over for more than a year. In the latest poll, two in three people said they believed the economy was in recession today.

The unhappiness presents clear risks for Republicans in this year’s elections, given the continued unpopularity of President Bush. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they approved of the job he was doing, a number that has barely changed since last summer. But Democrats, who have controlled the House and Senate since last year, also face the risk that unhappy voters will punish Congressional incumbents.

Mr. Bush and leaders of both parties on Capitol Hill have moved in recent weeks to react to the economic slowdown, first by passing a stimulus bill that will send checks of up to $1,200 to many couples this spring. They are now negotiating over proposals to overhaul financial regulations, blunt the effects of a likely wave of home foreclosures and otherwise respond to the real estate slump and related crisis on Wall Street.

The poll found that Americans blame government officials for the crisis more than banks or home buyers and other borrowers. Forty percent of respondents said regulators were mostly to blame, while 28 percent named lenders and 14 percent named borrowers.

In assessing possible responses to the mortgage crisis, Americans displayed a populist streak, favoring help for individuals but not for financial institutions. A clear majority said they did not want the government to lend a hand to banks, even if the measures would help limit the depth of a recession.

“What I learned from economics is that the market is not always going to be a happy place,” Sandi Heller, who works at the University of Colorado and is also studying for a master’s degree in business there, said in a follow-up interview. If the government steps in to help out, said Ms. Heller, 43, it could encourage banks to take more foolish risks.

“There are a million and one better ways for the government to spend that money,” she said.

Respondents were considerably more open to government help for home owners at risk of foreclosure. Fifty-three percent said they believed the government should help those whose interest rates were rising, while 41 percent said they opposed such a move.

The nationwide telephone survey of 1,368 adults was conducted from March 28 to April 2. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

When the presidential campaign began last year, the war in Iraq and terrorism easily topped Americans’ list of concerns. Almost 30 percent of people in a December poll said that one of those issues was the country’s most pressing problem. About half as many named the economy or jobs.

But the issues have switched places in just a few months’ time. In the latest poll, 17 percent named terrorism or the war, while 37 percent named the economy or the job market. When looking at the current state of their own finances, Americans remain relatively sanguine. More than 70 percent said their financial situation was fairly good or very good, a number that has dropped only modestly since 2006.

Yet many say they are merely managing to stay in place, rather than get ahead. This view is consistent with the income statistics of the past five years, which suggest that median household income has still not returned to the inflation-adjusted peak it hit in 1999. Since the Census Bureau began keeping records in the 1960s, there has never been an extended economic expansion that ended without setting a new record for household income.

Economists cite a variety of factors for the sluggish income growth, including technology and globalization, and it clearly seems to have made Americans anxious about the future. Fewer than half of parents — 46 percent — said they expected their children to enjoy a better standard of living than they themselves do, down from 56 percent in 2005.

Respondents were more pessimistic when asked in general terms about the next generation, with only a third saying it would live better than people do today. (Polls usually find people more upbeat about their personal situation than about the state of society, but the gap is now larger than usual.)

Charles Parrish, a 56-year-old retired fireman in Evans, Ga., who now works a maintenance job for the local school system, said he was worried the country was not preparing children for the high-technology economy of the future. Instead, the government passed a stimulus package that simply sends checks to taxpayers and worsens the deficit in the process.

“Who’s going to pay back the money?” Mr. Parrish, an independent, said. “We are. They are giving me money, except I’m going to have to pay interest on it.”

Democrats have asserted recently that the lack of wage growth has made people more open to government intervention in the economy than in the past, and the poll found mixed results on this score.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they would support raising taxes on households making more than $250,000 to pay for tax cuts or government programs for people making less than that amount. Only 38 percent called it a bad idea. Both Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidates, have made proposals along these lines.

More broadly, 43 percent of those surveyed said they would prefer a larger government that provided more services, which is tied for the highest such number since The Times and CBS News began asking the question in 1991. But an identical 43 percent said they wanted a smaller government that provided fewer services.

And although both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama have blamed trade with other countries for some of the economy’s problems, Americans say they continue to favor trade — if not quite as strongly as in the past. Fifty-eight percent called it good for the economy; 32 percent called it bad, up from 17 percent in 1996.

At the same time, 68 percent said they favored trade restrictions to protect domestic industries, instead of allowing unrestrained trade. In early 1996, 55 percent favored such restrictions.

Dalia Sussman and Marina Stefan contributed reporting.


8) There Were Orders to Follow
April 4, 2008

Correction Appended

You can often tell if someone understands how wrong their actions are by the lengths to which they go to rationalize them. It took 81 pages of twisted legal reasoning to justify President Bush’s decision to ignore federal law and international treaties and authorize the abuse and torture of prisoners.

Eighty-one spine-crawling pages in a memo that might have been unearthed from the dusty archives of some authoritarian regime and has no place in the annals of the United States. It is must reading for anyone who still doubts whether the abuse of prisoners were rogue acts rather than calculated policy.

The March 14, 2003, memo was written by John C. Yoo, then a lawyer for the Justice Department. He earlier helped draft a memo that redefined torture to justify repugnant, clearly illegal acts against Al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners.

The purpose of the March 14 memo was equally insidious: to make sure that the policy makers who authorized those acts, or the subordinates who carried out the orders, were not convicted of any crime. The list of laws that Mr. Yoo’s memo sought to circumvent is long: federal laws against assault, maiming, interstate stalking, war crimes and torture; international laws against torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; and the Geneva Conventions.

Mr. Yoo, who, inexplicably, teaches law at the University of California, Berkeley, never directly argues that it is legal to chain prisoners to the ceiling for days, sexually abuse them or subject them to waterboarding — all things done by American jailers.

His primary argument, in which he reaches back to 19th-century legal opinions justifying the execution of Indians who rejected the reservation, is that the laws didn’t apply to Mr. Bush because he is commander in chief. He cited an earlier opinion from Bush administration lawyers that Al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners were not covered by the Geneva Conventions — a decision that put every captured American soldier at grave risk.

Then, should someone reject his legal reasoning and decide to file charges, Mr. Yoo offered a detailed blueprint for escaping accountability.

American and international laws against torture prohibit making a prisoner fear “imminent death.” For most people, waterboarding — making a prisoner feel as if he is about to drown — would fit. But Mr. Yoo argues that the statutes apply only if the interrogators actually intended to kill the prisoner. Since waterboarding simulates drowning, there is no “threat of imminent death.”

After the memo’s general contents were first reported, the Pentagon said in early 2004 that it was “no longer operative.” Reading the full text, released this week, makes it startlingly clear how deeply the Bush administration corrupted the law and the role of lawyers to give cover to existing and plainly illegal policies.

The memo is also a reminder of how many secrets about this administration’s cynical and abusive policies still need to be revealed. As Senator Edward M. Kennedy noted, the release of the Yoo memo is a reminder that neither Congress nor the American people have seen the policy memos that govern interrogations today. We know of at least two being kept secret for supposed reasons of national security, including one authorizing waterboarding.

When the abuses at Abu Ghraib became public, we were told these were the depraved actions of a few soldiers. The Yoo memo makes it chillingly apparent that senior officials authorized unspeakable acts and went to great lengths to shield themselves from prosecution.

Correction: April 4, 2008
An earlier version of this editorial referred to John C. Yoo as a former lawyer for the Pentagon, instead of for the Department of Justice.


9) 80,000 Jobs Cut in March; Unemployment Rate Rises
April 4, 2008

The economy shed 80,000 jobs in March, the third consecutive month of rising unemployment, presenting a stark sign that the country may already be in a recession.

Sharp downturns in the manufacturing and construction sectors led the decline, the biggest in five years. The Labor Department also said employers cut far more jobs in January and February than originally estimated.

There were fewer jobs in March than there had been five months earlier. In the last 50 years, whenever there has been an employment downturn like the one of the last few months, a recession has followed.

The unemployment rate ticked up to 5.1 percent from 4.8 percent, its highest level since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in September 2005. More Americans looked for work than in February, when many simply took themselves out of the job market. But employment opportunities remained sparse.

“Three months in a row of payroll job losses and a sizable negative revision: these are clear signs that the job market is in recession,” said Jared Bernstein, an economist at the Economics Policy Institute. “I’m hard-pressed to imagine anyone who would raise doubt to that at this point.”

Stock markets on Wall Street fell modestly in early trading, as investors hoped that the worst of the downturn was over.

But economists were less optimistic. The drop in payrolls was worse than feared: many analysts had expected a decline of 50,000 jobs and an unemployment rate of 5 percent.

“This report is telling us that the recession started awhile back, in December,” said Nigel Gault, the chief United States economist at Global Insight, a research firm. “It is not like we are starting this month. We’re in it; we’ve been in it.”

The employment report is considered the most important monthly indicator of the health of the economy. Many economists were already bracing for a poor report, and the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben S. Bernanke, told Congress earlier this week that the labor market would continue to soften.

The numbers suggest the Fed will extend its string of rate-cutting when it meets April 29. Investors expect central bankers to lower the benchmark interest rate by at least a quarter point, a move that can stimulate growth.

Wage increases continue to fall behind inflation, meaning many employees are actually earning less than a year earlier. Average hourly salaries ticked up 5 cents, or 0.3 percent, in March, and were running 3.6 percent higher than a year earlier. But consumer prices rose 4 percent over the same period.

As the housing slump erases home equity values and the crisis on Wall Street puts a crimp on the ability of businesses to lend, Americans from all walks of life are facing one of the most difficult job markets in years.

In March, private payrolls dropped for a fourth month, as factories, home builders and retail outlets all slashed positions. The only increases came in education and government jobs, as well as the leisure and hospitality industries.

Employers cut 76,000 jobs in January and February, far more than originally estimated.

In the Chicago area, the last year has brought shift eliminations at auto plants as well as layoffs in the manufacturing, construction and financial services industries.

George Putnam, an economist with the Illinois state government, says that when he talks with employers about hiring, he hears caution in their voices.

It is the same hesitation that has frustrated Gina Gerhardt, a 47-year-old mother of two, for more than three months. A resident of Lake Zurich, a northwestern suburb of Chicago, Ms. Gerhardt has been out of work since December, when she was laid off after six years as an executive assistant and project manager at a suburban roofing company.

Like many experienced workers who find themselves out of a job, Ms. Gerhardt said she has had trouble finding a position with a salary that would cover her bills. Her savings have nearly run dry, and she uses food stamps to buy her groceries.

“There are so many applicants out there. If they found my résumé out of the hundreds they get, it’d be a miracle,” she said.

Shabon Chadwick, 24, who lives in the Detroit suburb of Taylor, Mich., has had several part-time jobs since losing her position at a produce plant. But full-time work has remained out of reach, and she has been forced to borrow money from family members to keep up with her bills.

Michigan’s job market has been particularly battered by the recent downturn, as auto plants let go thousands of workers. Part-time work “is all you can find out here,” Ms. Chadwick said. “It makes me want to move out of Michigan because there are no jobs here.”

The downturn has even come to San Francisco, where highly trained workers with elite degrees flock to work for some of the world’s biggest technology companies. CNet Networks, the online media giant, laid off 10 percent of its staff — about 120 workers — this year in an effort to increase profitability and its share price. Yahoo, the search engine company, said it would cut its work force by 1,000.

Until recently, Parul Vora, 28, was earning a six-figure salary as part of an elite research team at Yahoo. Ms. Vora, who has a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, lost her job in early February.

“I had never been laid off and never imagined being laid off,” Ms. Vora said. “I was sad personally and professionally.”

But Ms. Vora has better prospects than most. She said she has already been wooed by several potential employers.

“There are a lot of jobs out there, but I’m pretty picky,” Ms. Vora said. “My biggest worry is finding a new job I like.”

Reporting was contributed by Nick Bunkley in Detroit, Carolyn Marshall in San Francisco and Crystal Yednak in Chicago.


10) More Than 1,000 in Iraq’s Forces Quit Basra Fight
"Mr. Sadr, who asked his followers to stop fighting on Sunday, called Thursday for a million Iraqis to march to the Shiite holy city of Najaf next week to protest what he called the American occupation."
April 4, 2008

BAGHDAD — More than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen either refused to fight or simply abandoned their posts during the inconclusive assault against Shiite militias in Basra last week, a senior Iraqi government official said Thursday. Iraqi military officials said the group included dozens of officers, including at least two senior field commanders in the battle.

The desertions in the heat of a major battle cast fresh doubt on the effectiveness of the American-trained Iraqi security forces. The White House has conditioned further withdrawals of American troops on the readiness of the Iraqi military and police.

The crisis created by the desertions and other problems with the Basra operation was serious enough that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki hastily began funneling some 10,000 recruits from local Shiite tribes into his armed forces. That move has already generated anger among Sunni tribesmen whom Mr. Maliki has been much less eager to recruit despite their cooperation with the government in its fight against Sunni insurgents and criminal gangs.

A British military official said that Mr. Maliki had brought 6,600 reinforcements to Basra to join the 30,000 security personnel already stationed there, and a senior American military official said that he understood that 1,000 to 1,500 Iraqi forces had deserted or underperformed. That would represent a little over 4 percent of the total.

A new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq cites significant security improvements but concludes that security remains fragile, several American government officials said.

Even as officials described problems with the planning and performance of the Iraqi forces during the Basra operation, signs emerged Wednesday that tensions with Moktada al-Sadr, the radical cleric who leads the Mahdi Army militia, could flare up again. Mr. Sadr, who asked his followers to stop fighting on Sunday, called Thursday for a million Iraqis to march to the Shiite holy city of Najaf next week to protest what he called the American occupation. He also issued a veiled threat against Mr. Maliki’s forces, whom he accused of violating the terms of an agreement with the Iraqi government to stand down.

Estimates by Iraqi military officials of the number of officers who refused to fight during the Basra operation varied from several dozen to more than 100. But three officials said that among those who had been relieved of duty for refusing to fight were Col. Rahim Jabbar and Lt. Col. Shakir Khalaf, the commander and deputy commander of an entire brigade affiliated with the Interior Ministry.

A senior military official in Basra asserted that some members of Colonel Khalaf’s unit fought even though he did not. Asked why he believed Colonel Khalaf did not fight, the official said that the colonel did not believe the Iraqi security forces would be able to protect him against threats to his life that he had received for his involvement in the assault.

“If he fights today, he might be killed later,” the official said.

The senior American military official said the number of officers was “less than a couple dozen at most,” but conceded that the figure could rise as the performance of senior officers was assessed.

But most of the deserters were not officers. The American military official said, “From what we understand, the bulk of these were from fairly fresh troops who had only just gotten out of basic training and were probably pushed into the fight too soon.”

“There were obviously others who elected to not fight their fellow Shia,” the official said, but added that the coalition did not see the failures as a “major issue,” especially if the Iraqi government dealt firmly with them.

Mr. Maliki, who personally directed the Basra operation, which both American and Iraqi officials have criticized as poorly planned and executed, acknowledged the desertions without giving a specific number in public statements on Thursday.

“Everyone who was not on the side of the security forces will go into the military courts,” Mr. Maliki said in a news briefing in the Green Zone. “Joining the army or police is not a trip or a picnic, there is something that they have to pay back to commit to the interests of the state and not the party or the sect.”

“They swore on the Koran that they would not support their sect or their party, but they were lying,” he said.

On Sunday, Mr. Sadr gave the prime minister a somewhat face-saving way out of the Basra fight by ordering the Mahdi fighters to lay down their weapons after days in which government forces had made no headway.

Mr. Sadr simultaneously made a series of demands, which senior Iraqi politicians involved in the talks said they believed that Mr. Maliki had agreed to in advance. But the prime minister has since denied any involvement in the talks, and government raids on Mahdi Army units — something Mr. Sadr had said must stop — have if anything become more frequent in Basra and Baghdad.

Accordingly, Mr. Sadr’s latest statement began by quoting a section of the Koran promising doom to those who make promises and then break them. He then complained bitterly that his followers were being unjustly suppressed and arrested, and warned that nothing would force them to completely withdraw. But he did not explicitly call for new fighting.

American support for Iraqi government forces has also continued, and on Thursday the American military said it had carried out two airstrikes on Wednesday in Basra, one “to destroy an enemy structure housing a sniper engaging Iraqi security forces in Basra” and another to destroy a machine gun nest.

The Iraqi police said one of the strikes leveled a two-story house in Basra’s Kibla neighborhood, killing three people and wounding three, all in the same family. The police made no mention of hostile activity.

Ryan C. Crocker, the United States ambassador to Iraq, said Mr. Maliki took the lead in talks with Shiite tribes and said that the turnout of thousands of security applicants in Basra was testament to his success.

“It is very clear that they have moved over toward the prime minister in a very significant way,” Mr. Crocker said during a briefing in the United States Embassy in Baghdad.

“The tribal element he managed himself, as far as I can see,” he said. “You may recall he had a series of meetings with different tribal leaders, three or four of them, maybe more. That was something he focused on almost from the beginning, and pressed it hard straight through and has seen it pay off. Did he have counsel to do it, I don’t know. But he is the one who did it.”

Two southern tribal sheiks said that by providing recruits for the security forces, they were expressing support for the government. But the sheiks made clear that the promise of good-paying jobs for the largely unemployed young men in their tribes had also been a powerful inducement.

Sheik Kamal al-Helfi, head of the Basra branch of the Halaf tribe, said by phone that he was still bargaining to increase his tribe’s allotment of 25 jobs in the security forces. “Many people faced a bad situation since the time of Saddam, and they have no jobs,” he said.

Another southern tribal leader, Sheik Adel al-Subihawi, said larger and more powerful tribes had received quotas as high as 300 jobs.

Mr. Maliki also announced $100 million in economic assistance to Basra, to be administered by the central government in partnership with the provincial government, and said the government would create 25,000 jobs in the city over the coming year.

Citing that promise of assistance and the tribal discussions, Mr. Crocker said, “Were there deals? Like everything else, that is not an engagement you win purely by military means. The prime minister is employing the economic dimension of power right now, and good on him, I think. Money is in many respects his most important weapon and he is using it.”

Mr. Maliki said that the tribal recruits would be carefully vetted. But that was not enough to satisfy some Sunnis farther north who have been waiting for months to see comparable numbers of their tribesmen accepted into the government security forces. Tens of thousands of these Sunnis, including many former insurgents, are working alongside Iraqi and American troops in a so-called tribal awakening movement — clearly a model for the tribal outreach in Basra.

“Recruiting large number of young people in Basra to fight the JAM proves once again that the government of Nuri al-Maliki is a sectarian government, a double-standard one that favors one sect at the expense of other sects,” said Abu Othman, a senior member of Fadhil Awakening Council, referring to the Mahdi Army by its Arabic acronym.

Abu Othman said four months ago he had presented 100 Sunni names for enrollment in the Iraqi police and had received no reply.

“The Maliki government wants security forces that are controlled, manipulated and moved by them,” he said.

Reporting was contributed by Michael Gordon, Qais Mizher, Ahmad Fadam and Karim al-Hilmi from Baghdad, and Iraqi employees of The New York Times from Basra.


11) School’s New Rule for Pupils in Trouble: No Fun
April 4, 2008

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. — Like a bouncer at a nightclub, Melissa Gladwell was parked at the main entrance of Cheektowaga Central Middle School on Friday night, with a list of 150 names highlighted in yellow marker, the names of students barred from the after-hours games, crafts and ice cream because of poor grades or bad attitudes.

“You’re ineligible,” Ms. Gladwell, a sixth-grade teacher, told one boy, who turned around without protest. “That happens. I think they think we’re going to forget.”

In a far-reaching experiment with disciplinary measures reminiscent of old-style Catholic schools or military academies, the Cheektowaga district this year began essentially grounding middle school students whose grade in any class falls below 65, or who show what educators describe as a lack of effort.

Such students — more than a quarter of the 580 at the school as of last week — are excluded from all aspects of extracurricular life, including athletic contests, academic clubs, dances and plays, unless they demonstrate improvement on weekly progress reports filled out by their teachers.

The policy is far stricter than those at most high schools, which generally have eligibility requirements only for varsity sports teams. It is part of a larger campaign to instill more responsibility in young adolescents in this town of 80,000 on the outskirts of Buffalo. Starting this week, the students also automatically get detention on any day they fail to wear their identification cards; 13 were punished on the first day of the new policy and 14 the second, including several repeaters.

And there are social rules that govern nearly every minute of the day, from riding the bus to using the bathroom, as part of a program known as “positive behavioral interventions and supports.” Students are required to keep to the right of the dotted yellow line down the middle of hallways. They are assigned seats in the cafeteria and must wait for a teacher to call them up to get food. If enough students act up or even litter, they all risk a declaration of “silent lunch” in the cafeteria.

“I’d like to go to a normal school,” said Anthony Pachetti, 12, a seventh grader who has been barred from activities for failing math, science and social studies. “It’s not doing anything for me except taking everything away.”

Such harsh regimens are rare, and generally have been found in tough urban schools like Eastside High in Paterson, N.J., where Joe Clark, an Army-drill-instructor-turned-principal, famously expelled dozens of students in a single day in the early 1980s, and inspired the movie “Lean on Me.” Now tough policies are spreading to outlying areas like Cheektowaga at a time when they are facing increased pressure to improve academic achievement. Middle schools, in particular, have long struggled with performance slumps and competing theories on how to strike the right balance between structure and independence for students at a transitional, volatile age. But few have gone as far as Cheektowaga has in clamping down on the natural disorder of early adolescence.

Even Joe Clark’s Paterson district backed away from requiring that 10th, 11th and 12th graders maintain a 2.5 grade-point average to participate in extracurricular activities in 2006. Instead, it adopted a lower standard — a 2.0 average only for athletes — after community opposition.

Critics of the tough-love approach cite studies showing that students active in extracurricular activities tend to perform better in class, and they worry that without structured activities after school, troubled youngsters will be more apt to find trouble.

“A child who only has detention to look forward to at the end of the day is less likely to come to school,” said Laura Rogers, a school psychologist in Harvard, Mass. and the co-author of “Fires in the Middle School Bathroom.”

Deborah Meier, a senior scholar at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education and a former New York City principal, said that such “law and order” approaches are counterproductive.

“Sounds like prison,” she said of Cheektowaga. “It’s such a sad, sad commentary because, in my opinion, the improvements that it can make in behavior are marginal, and it does not begin to touch upon what engages the students in school.”

Some similar tactics have been tried recently in places as varied as rural Twin Falls, Idaho, where high school students with grade-point-averages below 2.0 were barred from competing in extracurricular activities and required to attend tutoring starting this year, and in the Pittsburgh suburbs, where the Penn Hills school district set a 1.5 minimum average in 2006 to qualify for activities, raised that to 1.75 this school year, and has bumped it up again, to 2.0, for next fall.

Here in Cheektowaga, the new policy arrived with a new principal, Brian Bridges, who said that over four years as an assistant principal at the school, he saw less and less respect — and more and more attitude — from students growing up in a society that he believes is too permissive.

At the same time, many teachers were not prepared for the new students brought by the demographic changes sweeping the school, he said; its enrollment has gone from overwhelmingly white and working class to 35 percent black and Hispanic in recent years as minority families have moved in from Buffalo. And nearly half the students are poor enough to qualify for free and reduced-price lunches.

Mr. Bridges, 39, is a former social worker who said that he was raised by a strict single mother who smacked him when he so much as gave her a disrespectful look. Teachers here nicknamed him “Joe Clark” and gave him a bullhorn, which he gladly accepted and sometimes uses in the hallways and to direct students to buses. He said that bringing more structure and discipline to the school creates a safer environment and teaches students to be members of a community.

So along with barring failing students from after-school activities, he has added things like pep rallies and hat and pajama days during school hours, and rewarded those who succeed under the new rules with raffle prizes.

On Friday afternoon, Mr. Bridges straddled the yellow line in a hallway to force students passing in both directions to stay on the right side.

“Go back!” he roared at an eighth grader bounding by him.

The boy stopped, protested, went back, then made the trip down the hallway again — at a fast walk.

“I’m the first one in the hallways wanting to have fun with my kids,” Mr. Bridges said. “But I know I have to have a stronger hand.”

It is too soon to see whether the policies will have an effect on state test scores, since this year’s results will not be released until late spring. Last year, 53.8 percent of eighth graders passed the state’s standardized math tests and 51 percent language arts, compared with 58.8 percent and 57 percent statewide.

Ms. Gladwell and other teachers said that there has not been an overall improvement in classroom grades, but that they had seen more homework turned in, more class participation, and fewer fights in the hallways and cafeteria. Attendance has stayed steady at about 95 percent.

The new eligibility policy for extracurricular activities drew complaints from more than two dozen parents last October after the school barred 75 students from attending the first dance, Mr. Bridges said.

But Sondra LaMacchia, a stay-at-home mother of five, said that after years of telling her 14-year-old daughter, Cortney, to study harder, the message came through much clearer when Cortney had to watch her friends and younger sister attend school dances from which she was barred.

“It’s nobody’s fault but hers,” said Ms. LaMacchia, 35.

Some teachers have complained that enforcing the policy takes time away from academic instruction and burdens them with paperwork. There have also been concerns that the eligibility policy was keeping students from pursuing academic interests like the math and science clubs.

Ms. Gladwell, who is also the school’s volleyball coach, benched one of her top players in October because she forgot to bring her progress report. Afterward, she said, the player’s mother came up and thanked her.

“She never forgot again,” Ms. Gladwell said. “It’s about teaching them responsibility.”

Ellen Pieroni, 13, an eighth grader who is co-president of the student council, had considered boycotting a dance in December because her friends could not go, but now says that she supports the policy. “I think they get lazy and don’t do the work,” she said. But other students said that the school had too many rules.

Having forgotten his identification card for the seventh time this year, Cameron Kaeding, a sixth grader, had to wear a temporary sticker and wait to get his lunch because students without their ID cards are served last. He has also been kept from a pep rally and two dances because of his struggles in math and social studies. “It’s horrible,” he said. “I think it’s going a little too far because kids aren’t perfect, and this school thinks that they are.”


12) Report Says Chevron Owes Billions for Ecuadorean Pollution
April 3, 2008

An independent environmental expert told a court in Ecuador that the oil company Chevron should pay $7 billion to $16 billion in compensation for environmental damage in the country.

In a report to the court, the expert, Richard Cabrera, who is a geologist, said the low end of the range represented the cost to remediate soils and pay for health care costs, a water system and infrastructure improvements.

The high end of the range was based on an “unjust enrichment” penalty.

The lawsuit, which peasants and Indians in Ecuador brought in the early 1990s, contends that Texaco, which Chevron bought in 2001, polluted the jungle and damaged their health by dumping 18 billion gallons of contaminated water from 1972 to 1992.

Chevron’s general counsel, Charles James, disputed the findings of the report, saying the case had become a political issue in Ecuador.

“This is no longer a private lawsuit; it is a working partnership between the government and plaintiffs,” he said. “This is more extortion that a real lawsuit. We will protest this report.”

He did not rule out reaching an out-of-court settlement with the plaintiffs, but said the company would not be “blackmailed.”

The company said later it would petition the local court to dismiss the report.

Steven Donziger, a lawyer based in the United States who is advising the plaintiffs, said the report was “a complete rejection of everything that Chevron has been saying since the case began 15 years ago.”

He said Mr. Cabrera’s report validates the plaintiffs’ arguments, and added that he expected a court ruling in 2009 “knowing that Chevron will try to delay the process.”

Chevron has argued that it was released from any liability because it paid $40 million for an environmental cleanup in the 1990s. It blames the state oil company, Petroecuador, for much of the pollution.


13) Bush Pledges More Troops For NATO Afghan Force
Filed at 12:58 p.m. ET
April 4, 2008

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - President George W. Bush pledged at a NATO summit to provide a "significant" number of extra U.S. troops to the alliance mission in Afghanistan at a summit, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Friday.

Bush told alliance leaders about the expected troop boost when they discussed Afghanistan in the Romanian capital Bucharest on Thursday, Gates told reporters on his plane as he flew out of the summit to the Gulf state of Oman.

"The president indicated that he expected in 2009 that the United States would make a significant additional contribution," Gates said.

Bush leaves office in January 2009. But Gates said the war in Afghanistan against Taliban insurgents enjoyed broad political support in the United States and he expected the next president would honor the pledge.

"I believe this is one area where there is very broad bipartisan support in the United States for being successful and I think that no matter who is elected they will want to be successful in Afghanistan," Gates said.

"I think this was a pretty safe thing for him to say."

The United States is the biggest contributor to NATO's 47,000-strong force in Afghanistan, with around 17,000 troops.

Gates said it was too soon to put a figure on how many more U.S. troops may deploy to Afghanistan or define their role or likely location.


Earlier on Friday, Russia agreed to let NATO use its land to deliver non-lethal supplies to alliance forces in Afghanistan, but not troops or air transit arrangements initially sought by


The deal was showcased at a summit between alliance leaders and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Bucharest as evidence of cooperation between the former Cold War foes, even though it fell short of NATO hopes.

"It's been done," a NATO spokeswoman said of the deal with Russia. "It will cover land transit of non-lethal equipment. Air transit is not for today."

A subsequent statement said an existing NATO-Russian program on training local counter-narcotics officials would be upgraded to a more permanent arrangement.

Afghanistan was a major topic of discussion for NATO leaders on Thursday, when several countries pledged to boost their contributions to the alliance's force there. More details of their contributions emerged on Friday.

Of the nations that announced more forces, France offered the biggest contribution of 700 soldiers.

Azerbaijan offered another 45 troops while the Czech Republic said it would provide 120 special forces soldiers in the violent south of the country, according to a source close to the discussion on Afghanistan.

Italy, Romania and Greece offered teams of a few dozen troops to train units of Afghan security forces, the source said. NATO says such teams are among its most pressing needs.

Romanian Defense Minister Teodor Melescanu told reporters Romania had not taken a decision on sending additional troops during the summit.

"Romania will show its solidarity and, from our assessment, we think we could boost our military presence in Afghanistan with 120 or 150 soldiers," he said.

(Reporting by Oleg Shchedrov and Mark John; Editing by Timothy Heritage)


14) 2 Groups to Help Defend Detainees at Guantánamo
April 4, 2008

WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union and one of the country’s leading lawyers’ groups, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said Thursday that they had assembled experienced teams of lawyers to defend some of the most notorious detainees at Guantánamo, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who has said he was the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The joint statement by the two groups said they were preparing an $8 million program to oppose vigorously the government’s prosecutions of at least seven of the detainees who were once held in secret Central Intelligence Agency prisons.

Those detainees, five of whom have been charged with participation in the Sept. 11 attacks, include men who were held in harsh conditions and subjected to aggressive interrogation techniques like waterboarding. The groups portrayed their effort as part of an American tradition of providing vigorous representation to unpopular defendants.

The groups said the Pentagon had not provided adequate financing to military defense lawyers who are to be assigned to represent all detainees charged with war crimes in a process that the groups said permitted convictions based on “secret evidence, hearsay and confessions derived from torture.”

They also made clear that the lawyers provided by the groups were expecting to use the detainees’ cases to expose what they see as flaws in the Bush administration’s war-crimes system. “Our involvement cannot cure the fundamental flaws of this process,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the A.C.L.U.

“We are stepping into the ring to make the proceedings as fair as possible because we believe strongly in defending fundamental American values and challenging the government’s attempts to stack the deck in its favor.”

A Pentagon spokesman for the Office of Military Commissions, Maj. Bobby Don Gifford, said the military had “gone to great lengths to provide a system that is full, fair and just” and had exercised all possible efforts to provide the resources necessary so that defense lawyers could adequately represent the detainees.

The chief military defense lawyer for the Guantánamo cases, Col. Steven David, said he knew few details of the groups’ proposal but welcomed it. “It is a huge development in terms of the resources that might be available to the accused,” Colonel David said. A detainee would have the right to accept or reject a lawyer. None of the men the groups are offering to represent has been arraigned at the war-crimes tribunal in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The groups said they had the resources to provide financing for the project, which is to involve paying experienced criminal defense lawyers and death penalty experts. But they said they were seeking foundation grants and other sources of financing.

Many Guantánamo detainees have long been represented by volunteer American lawyers in civil cases contesting their imprisonment, and several detainees who are facing war-crimes charges also have civilian lawyers who have worked with military defense lawyers.

In some cases there has been friction between the civilian and the military lawyers. One lawyer who is involved in the military defense effort said Thursday that there could be tensions over the extent to which legal efforts focus on defending individual detainees and how much they focus on challenging the entire military commission system.


15) Lawsuit Challenges Immigration Raids in New Jersey
April 4, 2008

Immigration agents systematically entered homes and made arrests without proper warrants during raids to round up immigration fugitives in New Jersey, according to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday.

The lawsuit, brought by lawyers at the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall Law School in Newark, will provide a constitutional test of law enforcement methods often used by immigration agents since May 2006 when they began operations across the country to track down and deport immigrants who had been ordered to leave by the courts.

The suit, against officials of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, on behalf of 10 plaintiffs, including two United States citizens, contends that teams of ICE agents used “deceit or, in some cases, raw force” to gain “unlawful entry.”

The lawsuit claims that agents, sometimes misrepresenting themselves as local police officers hunting for criminals, entered homes where no fugitives being sought were present and detained residents without showing any legal cause. Immigration agents have broad authority to question foreigners about their immigration status, but they may not enter a home without either a warrant or consent.

A spokesman for the immigration agency, Michael Gilhooly, said he could not comment on pending litigation. The suit was filed in Federal District Court in New Jersey.

Speaking generally, Mr. Gilhooly said all fugitives who were targets of ICE searches had been ordered deported by immigration judges.

“They became fugitives when they chose to ignore the judge’s order,” Mr. Gilhooly said, adding that operations to arrest fugitives “are planned after meticulous investigation and surveillance.”

In the last two years, immigration authorities have faced intense political pressure to track down fugitive illegal immigrants. In most cases, the immigrants overstayed visas or were caught when they tried to sneak into the country over a land border, then failed to appear at hearings, leading judges to order them to be deported.

Last year, ICE agents arrested 30,408 immigration fugitives, according to official figures, about double the number for 2006.

One plaintiff in the lawsuit, Maria Argueta, has been a legal immigrant since 2001. During a predawn operation in January at her home in North Bergen, N.J., the lawsuit claims, ICE agents persuaded Ms. Argueta to open her door by telling her they were police officers searching for a wanted criminal. Ms. Argueta was detained and held for 36 hours.

Another plaintiff, Arturo Flores, a United States citizen, said ICE agents showed no warrant when they forced their way into his house in Clifton, N.J., in November 2006 and conducted a search. A third plaintiff, Veronica Covias, a legal immigrant in Paterson, N.J., said agents pushed open her door in March 2007 even though she demanded that they show her a warrant.


16) Senate Rejects a Proposal to Allow Bankruptcy Judges to Alter Home Mortgages
April 4, 2008

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday rejected a proposal to let bankruptcy judges modify mortgages on primary residences to help financially distressed homeowners, but lawmakers continued to work on a bipartisan bill that includes other foreclosure assistance as well as tax breaks intended to stabilize the housing market.

The proposal to let bankruptcy judges alter loan terms on primary homes, as they can already do on vacation homes and investment properties, was the most controversial in a series of amendments to the larger housing measure. It faced stiff opposition from many Republicans as well as the banking and mortgage loan industries.

Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, had championed the bankruptcy provision but asked that it be set aside when it threatened to stall the larger bill — a move that won him praise. Tabling the amendment effectively killed it.

After the Senate voted, 58 to 36, to table Mr. Durbin’s amendment, lawmakers resumed debate on other amendments with final passage of the bill expected next week.

The Senate housing package is expected to be a first modest step by Congress to address the onslaught of home foreclosures and wider unrest in the mortgage and housing industries.

Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, praised the Senate bill on Thursday but said the House would work to improve it.

“The value of what the Senate did is they came together in a bipartisan way and gave a signal that Congress is prepared to act,” Ms. Pelosi said. “I think there are improvements that certainly need to be made.”

A more aggressive legislative rescue effort for homeowners is expected to pick up steam next week in the House. Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the Financial Services Committee, will hold hearings on a plan to provide up to $300 billion in federally guaranteed loans to help refinance the mortgages of as many as 1.5 million homeowners at risk of default.

That proposal would require lenders and loan service companies to agree to cut the principal balances of troubled loans and take a loss, with the hope of avoiding further losses in a foreclosure. Senator Christopher J. Dodd had hoped to include a version of that proposal in the Senate package but said it was too complicated and would require separate legislation.

Instead, the more modest Senate bill includes a new standard property tax deduction of up to $1,000 for couples and $500 for individuals that will benefit 28.3 million tax filers who do not itemize their deductions.

The bill includes $10 billion in tax-exempt bonds for local housing agencies to refinance subprime loans and provide mortgages for first-time home buyers, $4 billion in grants for local governments to buy foreclosed properties and $100 million to expand counseling for homeowners at risk of defaulting on their loans.

It would also give a $7,000 tax credit to buyers of foreclosed homes and a tax break for home builders and other businesses, allowing them to claim current losses against taxes paid in previous years. Officials said the proposals would cost taxpayers $15 billion to $20 billion.

In the Senate, where a lawmaker’s bad mood can bring proceedings to a standstill, Mr. Durbin’s move to table his amendment drew high praise.

“That is unheard-of in the Senate,” the majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, declared. “He did that in an effort to move this along. He knew where the votes were, and I want the record to be read with the fact that this is a fine legislator, a good human being.”


17) As Fight for Water Heats Up, Prized Fish Suffer
April 1, 2008

WISDOM, Mont. — It’s a simple fact of life across the rural West, as it is here in Montana’s mountain-ringed Big Hole River Valley. Flooding river bottoms to grow hay sustains the economy but means less water in the river for the prized wild trout population.

The competition for water is not new, but it is intensifying as the climate here gets warmer and drier.

“The biggest worry for trout is that smaller streams will simply run dry in late summer and temperatures in the remaining pools will exceed lethal levels,” said Steven W. Running, a climate scientist at the University of Montana in Missoula who is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Even if the stream has good flow 11 months of the year, fish have to survive the highest stress conditions in late summer. We could lose the populations in these smaller streams, and they won’t come back.”

By all accounts, these kinds of changes in the West’s celebrated trout fisheries are happening quickly — faster, experts say, than in other parts of the country. A new report by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, based on research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows temperatures in the West the last five years increased by 1.7 percent, compared with 1 percent elsewhere.

In a February paper in the journal Science, researchers said they expected the changes to accelerate.

“We’ll see less snow, even if there is the same amount of moisture,” said the lead author, Tim Barnett, a researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. “The snow there will melt sooner and the flow will end sooner. It’s not a nice picture that emerges.”

Floods, wildfires, livestock grazing and roads only make the picture worse. Some studies project the loss of Western trout populations in some regions could be more than 60 percent, and the loss of bull trout could exceed 90 percent by 2050. Salmon will also see a decline, up to 40 percent.

In the Big Hole River, the grayling are bearing the brunt of the changes. Grayling are the most imperiled of Montana’s fish, largely because of warming temperatures. In the 1990s, studies showed 60 grayling per mile, a number that has dropped to 5 to 15. So far, the ranchers and the fish and environmentalists have been able, in unusual cooperation, to work things out so both are assured water at crucial times.

Some conservationists, though, say it is not enough and have filed a federal lawsuit to list the grayling as a threatened species, which could force ranchers to keep more water in the river.

“It’s pretty bleak for the grayling,” said Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity, which filed the lawsuit in November. “The river has almost run dry every year for the last seven years because of irrigation.”

Ranchers say they can protect the fish on their own. “If they take water away from agriculture, it will wreck us,” said Guy Peterson, who is part of an agreement to protect fish. “And that won’t be good for the fishery.”

Peter Lamothe, the Arctic grayling biologist for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the number of grayling was so low he was concerned about whether genetic traits important for survival might have been lost. A genetic analysis is being done.

A striking fish with a large top fin and iridescent colors, the grayling, common in the Arctic, had a range that extended south to Michigan and Montana. The Big Hole now holds the only river population in the lower 48 states. Climate change is having other affects on the fisheries. Last year sections of 20 rivers in the state were closed to fishing because of warm water temperatures, while in 2001 none were closed.

Water temperatures are now reaching dangerous levels earlier in the summer. Trout fishing is being shut down in July, rather than August. Most rivers in Montana run high in the spring when snow melts in the mountains. The run-off once stretched into late June and even July, but now it ends as much as three weeks earlier than it did a half century ago. And in that time the average temperature in the month of March in parts of Montana has risen by nearly six degrees, Dr. Running said.

Last year, rivers in Yellowstone National Park also faced record warm temperatures. “In early July we were looking at angling closures, because the temperatures were already approaching lethal levels,” said Todd Koel, fisheries biologist in the park. “That’s early.”

In large rivers like the Yellowstone and the Missouri, warmer-water-loving small-mouth bass are moving upstream, and biologists say they may supplant trout in some places.

The key to keeping fish in smaller rivers is to keep water flowing in the summer, but water law in Montana complicates strategies to assure flow. State law has a “use it or lose it” rule: If one rancher does not take his entitlement, the next user downstream can.

So as water temperatures reach critical levels in the summer, Mr. Lamothe asks a rancher near Wisdom to forgo some of his water to keep it in-stream for fish survival. He then follows that slug of water down the river, driving from ranch to ranch, asking ranchers to let the water pass. One positive note, researchers say, is that wild trout are better suited to survive changes, and most trout in Montana are wild.

The key to protecting trout as the climate warms is habitat improvement, experts say. That means removing culverts, reconnecting blocked sections of rivers and reclaiming vegetation. On the Big Hole, volunteers have planted willows and grasses to shade and slow the water. Ranchers here are fencing cows off stream banks and drilling wells to water stock instead of diverting it.

While things look gloomy for grayling, Mr. Lamothe says not to count them out. In some places where willows were planted the number of fish have recovered to 60 to 70 per mile. “There’s hope yet for the grayling,” he said.


18) Army Worried by Rising Stress of Return Tours to Iraq
April 6, 2008

WASHINGTON — Army leaders are expressing increased alarm about the mental health of soldiers who would be sent back to the front again and again under plans that call for troop numbers to be sustained at high levels in Iraq for this year and beyond.

Among combat troops sent to Iraq for the third or fourth time, more than one in four show signs of anxiety, depression or acute stress, according to an official Army survey of soldiers’ mental health.

The stress of long and multiple deployments to Iraq is just one of the concerns being voiced by senior military officers in Washington as Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior Iraq commander, prepares to tell Congress this week that he is not ready to endorse any drawdowns beyond those already scheduled through July.

President Bush has signaled that he will endorse General Petraeus’s recommendation, a decision that will leave close to 140,000 American troops in Iraq at least through the summer. But in a meeting with Mr. Bush late last month in advance of General Petraeus’s testimony, the Joint Chiefs of Staff expressed deep concern about stress on the force, senior Defense Department and military officials said.

Among the 513,000 active-duty soldiers who have served in Iraq since the invasion of 2003, more than 197,000 have deployed more than once, and more than 53,000 have deployed three or more times, according to a separate set of statistics provided this week by Army personnel officers. The percentage of troops sent back to Iraq for repeat deployments would have to increase in the months ahead.

The Army study of mental health showed that 27 percent of noncommissioned officers — a critically important group — on their third or fourth tour exhibited symptoms commonly referred to as post-traumatic stress disorders. That figure is far higher than the roughly 12 percent who exhibit those symptoms after one tour and the 18.5 percent who develop the disorders after a second deployment, according to the study, which was conducted by the Army surgeon general’s Mental Health Advisory Team.

The Army and the rest of the service chiefs have endorsed General Petraeus’s recommendations for continued high troop levels in Iraq. But Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, and their top deputies also have warned that the war in Iraq should not be permitted to inflict an unacceptable toll on the military as a whole. “Our readiness is being consumed as fast as we build it,” Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army vice chief of staff, said in stark comments delivered to Congress last week. “Lengthy and repeated deployments with insufficient recovery time have placed incredible stress on our soldiers and our families, testing the resolve of our all-volunteer force like never before.”

Beyond the Army, members of the Joint Chiefs have also told the president that the continued troop commitment to Iraq means that there is a significant level of risk should another crisis erupt elsewhere in the world. Any mission could be carried out successfully, the chiefs believe, but the operation would be slower, longer and costlier in lives and equipment than if the armed forces were not so strained.

Under the drawdown already planned, the departure of five combat brigades from Iraq by July should allow the Army to announce that tours will be shortened to 12 months from 15 by the end of summer.

Even so, senior officers warn that time at home must be increased from the current 12 months between combat tours. Otherwise, they say, the ground forces risk an unacceptable level of retirements of sergeants — the key leaders of the small-unit operations — and of experienced captains, who represent the future of the Army’s officer corps.

The mental health study conducted by the Army was carried out in Iraq last October and November, and does not represent a purely scientific sampling of deployed troops, because that is difficult to accomplish in a combat environment, the authors of the study have said. Instead, the study was based on 2,295 anonymous surveys and additional interviews from members of frontline units in combat brigades, and not from those assigned primarily to safer operating bases. Since the study was distributed last month, it has become a central topic of high-level internal discussions within the Army, and its findings have been accepted by Army leaders, senior Pentagon and military officials say.

The survey found that the proportion of soldiers serving in Iraq who had encountered mental health problems was about the same as found in previous studies — about 18 percent of deployed soldiers. But in analyzing the effect of the war on those with previous duty in Iraq, the study found that “soldiers on multiple deployments report low morale, more mental health problems and more stress-related work problems.”

By the time they are on their third or fourth deployments, soldiers “are at particular risk of reporting mental health problems,” the study found.

The range of symptoms reported by soldiers varies widely, from sleeplessness and anxiety to more severe depression and stress. To assist soldiers facing problems, the Army has begun to hire more civilian mental health professionals while directing Army counselors to spend more time with frontline units.

Senior officers at the Pentagon have tried to avoid shrill warnings about the health of the force, cognizant that such comments might embolden potential adversaries, and they continue to hope that troop levels in Iraq can be reduced next year. Still, none deny the level of stress on the force from current deployments.

Admiral Mullen spoke broadly to those concerns last week, saying at a Pentagon news conference that the military would have already assigned forces to missions elsewhere in the world were it not for what he called “the pressure that’s on our forces right now.”

He added that the military would “continue to be there until, should conditions allow, we start to be able to reduce our force levels in Iraq.”

One example of the pressure has come in Afghanistan, where the Pentagon has been unable to meet all of the commanders’ requests for more forces, in particular for several thousand military trainers.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters on Friday that he expected that the United States would be able to add significantly to its deployments in Afghanistan in 2009. But to do that — and to increase time at home for soldiers between deployments — probably would require further reductions in troop levels in Iraq, Pentagon planners said.

Members of the Joint Chiefs also acknowledge that the deployments to Iraq, with the emphasis on counterinsurgency warfare, have left the ground forces no time to train for the full range of missions required to defend American interests.


19) Unemployment Rising
April 5, 2008

Friday’s awful news of 80,000 lost jobs in March surprised economic forecasters, who had not expected such a severe contraction. But it’s safe to say that it did not surprise most Americans. Just days before the report, a poll taken by this paper and CBS News showed that a stunning 81 percent of Americans believe the nation is on the wrong track. That’s the highest percentage since the poll began asking about the country’s direction in the early 1990s. Two in three respondents said they believed the economy was in a recession.

The March employment report leaves virtually no doubt they are right. The job contraction last month was on top of large losses in January and February. Not since the 1950s has job growth contracted for three months straight without recession. The question is whether lawmakers in Washington will catch up to where the people are in time to help in a meaningful way.

The worsening job market, for instance, could worsen the foreclosure crisis. To date, many foreclosures have occurred because mortgages were made to people who had no ability to repay over time. Poorly underwritten, such loans are now being foreclosed in large numbers, even for borrowers who have not experienced job loss or other adverse financial events, like illness or divorce. Now, on top of junk loans that are headed for default, more people will find themselves strapped because they are out of work.

Even for those who escape layoffs, a deteriorating labor market (unemployment spiked from 4.8 percent in February to 5.1 percent in March) means slower wage growth. When new inflation data is released next week, March is expected to become the sixth month in a row in which wage growth has not outpaced inflation. The likely result is more defaults by people who otherwise would have been able to keep paying their mortgages.

Yet Congress is just now getting around to responding to the foreclosure crisis, doing things that would have been too modest even months ago, and are now clearly not up to the scale of the problem. In the relief package debated by the Senate this week and expected to pass next week, lawmakers bowed to the mortgage industry. They ditched what would have been the bill’s most powerful measure — allowing bankrupt homeowners to have their mortgages modified under court protection. The remaining features in the package are smaller bore — $10 billion in tax-exempt bonds to help local housing agencies refinance subprime loans, $4 billion for local governments to buy foreclosed properties and $100 million to expand counseling for homeowners at risk.

Rising unemployment will worsen all of the expected problems of a downturn — from waning consumer spending, to foreclosures, to rising demand for government-paid health care, food stamps and unemployment benefits. Congress has all the data it needs to quit dithering and take bold action. Restoring the bankruptcy reform to the relief package as it moves through Congress would be a good place to start.


20) Drug Makers Near an Old Goal: A Legal Shield
April 6, 2008

For years, Johnson & Johnson obscured evidence that its popular Ortho Evra birth control patch delivered much more estrogen than standard birth control pills, potentially increasing the risk of blood clots and strokes, according to internal company documents.

But because the Food and Drug Administration approved the patch, the company is arguing in court that it cannot be sued by women who claim that they were injured by the product — even though its old label inaccurately described the amount of estrogen it released.

This legal argument is called pre-emption. After decades of being dismissed by courts, the tactic now appears to be on the verge of success, lawyers for plaintiffs and drug companies say.

The Bush administration has argued strongly in favor of the doctrine, which holds that the F.D.A. is the only agency with enough expertise to regulate drug makers and that its decisions should not be second-guessed by courts. The Supreme Court is to rule on a case next term that could make pre-emption a legal standard for drug cases. The court already ruled in February that many suits against the makers of medical devices like pacemakers are pre-empted.

More than 3,000 women and their families have sued Johnson & Johnson, asserting that users of the Ortho Evra patch suffered heart attacks, strokes and, in 40 cases, death. From 2002 to 2006, the food and drug agency received reports of at least 50 deaths associated with the drug.

Documents and e-mail messages from Johnson & Johnson, made public as part of the lawsuits against the company, show that even before the drug agency approved the product in 2001, the company’s own researchers found that the patch delivered far more estrogen each day than low-dose pills. When it reported the results publicly, the company reduced the numbers by 40 percent.

The F.D.A. did not warn the public of the potential risks until November 2005 — six years after the company’s own study showed the high estrogen releases. At that point, the product’s label was changed, and prescriptions fell 80 percent, to 187,000 by last February from 900,000 in March 2004.

Gloria Vanderham, a Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman, said the company acted responsibly.

“We have regularly disclosed data to the F.D.A., the medical community and the public in a timely manner,” Ms. Vanderham said. “Ortho Evra is a safe and effective birth control option for women when used according to the labeling.”

But Janet Abaray, a plaintiff’s lawyer from Cincinnati, said that Johnson & Johnson took advantage of an agency overwhelmed by its many responsibilities.

“Johnson & Johnson knew that F.D.A. does not have the funding or the manpower to police drug companies,” Ms. Abaray said.

A series of independent assessments have concluded that the agency is poorly organized, scientifically deficient and short of money. In February, its commissioner, Andrew C. von Eschenbach, acknowledged that the agency faces a crisis and may not be “adequate to regulate the food and drugs of the 21st century.”

The F.D.A. does not test experimental medicines but relies on drug makers to report the results of their own tests completely and honestly. Even when companies fail to follow agency rules, officials rarely seek to penalize them. “These are scientists, not cops,” said David Vladeck, a professor at Georgetown Law School.

Last month, at a trial over the schizophrenia drug Zyprexa, Dr. John Gueriguian, a scientist who worked at the F.D.A. for two decades, testified that the agency did not always ask for strong warnings even if it believed a drug was risky. Companies typically oppose warnings, and the agency knows it must compromise on its requests or face years of delay, Dr. Gueriguian said.

“We at the F.D.A. know what we can obtain and we cannot obtain,” Dr. Gueriguian said. “We have many, many problems, and we have a management system — what we can’t obtain we will not ask.”

For years, top officials at the agency acknowledged that lawsuits could aid the agency’s oversight of safety issues. In the last decade, suits over Zyprexa, the withdrawn pain pill Vioxx, the withdrawn diabetes medicine Rezulin, the withdrawn heartburn medicine Propulsid and several antidepressants have shown that companies played down the risks of their medicines and failed to disclose clinical trials to the public even as they have aggressively marketed their drugs.

But now, the agency says a proliferation of lawsuits could lead to an overlapping patchwork of rules that would burden companies and might discourage patients from taking useful medicines.

The Ortho case, however, suggests that Johnson & Johnson, like other drug makers, is not always quick to tell the F.D.A. about potential problems with its medicines.

In 1996, the company told the agency it planned to develop the Ortho Evra patch in part because it would be likely to expose women to less estrogen than pills. The company suggested that the body would not break down hormones delivered via the patch as readily as the pill, so lower doses could be used to achieve contraception. And unlike the pill, which must be taken daily, the patch is changed weekly.

High doses of estrogen are known to raise the risk for blood clots that can cause heart attacks and strokes.

But a crucial trial completed in 1999 showed that the patch delivered 30 to 38 micrograms of estrogen into the bloodstream each day, according to company documents.

Because up to half of the estrogen in pills is lost in the digestive tract before it reaches the blood, the study suggested that the patch delivered an amount of estrogen that could be as high as a pill containing 76 micrograms of estrogen. In 1988, the F.D.A. banned birth control pills with more than 50 micrograms of estrogen.

But the study’s author, Dr. Larry Abrams, who has since retired from Johnson & Johnson, decided to apply a “correction factor” to the results of the 1999 trial, according to documents. He claimed that the patch actually delivered about 40 percent less estrogen than the trial results showed — about 20 micrograms a day.

Dr. Abrams made the change, according to his deposition, to adjust for the different ways the body metabolizes hormones from pills and patches. This adjustment was never part of the study protocol, a plan filed with the F.D.A..

“The judgment was made by the pharmacokeneticists at the time that in doing the calculation, it was probably appropriate to make that correction,” Bob Tucker, a lawyer representing Johnson & Johnson, said in an interview Thursday. “Later on when people looked at it in a different time frame, they concluded that probably the correction shouldn’t be applied.” The company mentioned its decision to use the “correction factor” only once in a 435-page report filed with the F.D.A., and then only in a complex mathematical formula. When the study was published in 2002, there was no reference to the alteration.

Mr. Tucker said that the F.D.A. was aware of the “correction factor.”

Clinical trials conducted before the patch was approved raised other red flags, as patients complained of breast soreness and nausea. “The side effects seem related” to high estrogen doses, one company scientist wrote in an e-mail message.

Two other studies, one conducted in 1999 and another in 2003, confirmed that the patch released more estrogen than the pill. Still, Johnson & Johnson delayed reporting those results to the food and drug agency, according to documents that have been made public in lawsuits.

After the patch was approved, the company marketed it as releasing 20 micrograms of estrogen to the blood every 24 hours, a figure it now acknowledges was inaccurate. It also acknowledges that the patch releases more estrogen than the pill but says that the estrogen released under the two methods cannot be directly compared.

The New York Times provided the drug agency with a copy of a court brief and asked whether agency medical reviewers were aware of the “correction factor.”

Rita Chappelle, an F.D.A. spokeswoman, replied, “At present, we are reviewing the allegations and cannot comment further at this time.”

Prescriptions for the patch grew rapidly after its introduction, reaching more than 900,000 by March 2004, according to data from Wolters Kluwer, a company that tracks prescription trends. But as the use of the patch rose, so did reports of side effects.

By 2004, after the death of Zakiya Kennedy, an 18-year-old college freshman in New York, food and drug officials had become concerned.

In November 2005, the agency announced that it had placed a warning that the patch “exposes women to higher levels of estrogen than most birth control pills.”

Since then, an epidemiological study has shown that women on the patch can have as much as double the risk of blood clots than those taking pills. And prescriptions for the patch have fallen 80 percent.

Still, lawyers for Johnson & Johnson say that patients should not be allowed to sue the company because the F.D.A. approved the patch and its label.

“F.D.A. is responsible for making those decisions,” said John Winter, a lawyer for the company.

Judge David A. Katz of Federal District Court for the Northern District of Ohio is expected to rule soon on whether any of the lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson can go forward.

In the fall, the Supreme Court will hear a separate pre-emption case involving Wyeth, another drug company. Chris Seeger, a plaintiffs’ lawyer who has about 125 Ortho Evra cases, said he expected the court to rule in Wyeth’s favor.

“Our lawsuits are the ultimate check against the mistake made by the government, or fraud made by the companies against the government, or just an underfunded bureaucracy stretched thin,” he said.

Janet Roberts contributed reporting.


21) San Francisco Reaches Out to Immigrants
April 6, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO — The city of San Francisco has started an advertising push with a very specific target market: illegal immigrants. And while the advertisements will come in a bundle of languages — English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese — they all carry the same message: you are safe here.

In what may be the first such campaign of its kind, the city plans to publish multilanguage brochures and fill the airwaves with advertisements relaying assurance that San Francisco will not report them to federal immigration authorities.

Mayor Gavin Newsom said the campaign was simply an amplification of a longstanding position of not cooperating with immigration raids or other enforcement. The city passed a so-called sanctuary ordinance in 1989.

Still, Mr. Newsom said, it never hurts to advertise. “It’s one thing to have a policy on paper,” he said. “It’s another to communicate it directly to people who could be impacted.”

The television and radio campaign will tell immigrants they have “safe access” to public services, including schools, health clinics and — perhaps most importantly — the police, something that local law enforcement officials say is a chronic problem in émigré communities.

“It is a trademark of a criminal predator to convince victims that because of the victims’ immigration status that they — not the predator — will be treated as the criminal,” said Kamala Harris, the city’s district attorney. “We want to remove that tool from the criminal’s tool belt.”

Ms. Harris said particular problems in immigrant communities include human trafficking, fraud and elder abuse, which she said was widely underreported.

San Francisco is not alone in its sanctuary status; New York, Detroit and Washington have policies that discourage the police from enforcing immigration law. Nevertheless, the campaign’s announcement prompted a round of eye-rolling among anti-immigration forces in California and Washington, many of whom are still galled by the city’s 2007 decision to grant identification cards to anyone who could prove residence, regardless of legal status.

“I guess it’s what you expect from San Francisco,” said Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform in Washington, which lobbies for stronger immigration enforcement. “But now, not only are they helping people break the law of the federal government, they are advertising it. I don’t know of any other city actually looking for illegal immigrants.”

Rick Oltman, national media director for Californians for Population Stabilization in Santa Barbara, said the campaign could actually be a boon for other Bay Area cities if it drew illegal immigrants out of those communities and into San Francisco.

“The only people who are the losers here are the people of San Francisco who are going to hate the way the city looks in two or five years, when the illegal immigrant population grows massively,” said Mr. Oltman, who said such populations had a negative effect on crime, education, health and the environment.

But Mr. Newsom said his advertising campaign was less a hard sell than a hard look at the reality of immigration policy.

“We’re not arguing against common-sense reforms,” he said. “We’re not arguing against reforms at all. But in lieu of that, we’re doing the best we can to say if they see a crime report it, and if they have a child educate them.”


22) Injured Woman Wins Wal-Mart Saga
April 4, 2008, 11:44 am

A crusade by MSNBC personality Keith Olbermann on behalf of a former Wal-Mart employee who suffered a head injury has ended with the big retail giant backing down.

Mr. Olbermann has been vilifying Wal-Mart for the past week for its attempts to be reimbursed for health care costs from a former employee. The woman, Deborah Shank, was a shelf stocker who suffered severe brain damage when her car was hit by a truck. Wal-Mart insurance benefits paid for her care initially. Later, the woman’s family reached a settlement with the trucking company that left her with $417,000 in a trust fund for her long-term care. But that’s when Wal-Mart went after the money, suing Ms. Shank to collect reimbursement for $470,000 in medical costs.

The tactic, apparently, is not unusual. Many health plans include a “subrogation” policy that allows the plan to recover costs if a covered worker ever receives damages in a settlement related to the injury.

Wal-Mart corporate communications director Daphne Moore issued this statement, cited on

“This is a very sad case and we understand that people will naturally have an emotional and sympathetic reaction. While the Shank case involves a tragic situation, the reality is that the health plan is required to protect its assets so that it can pay the future claims of other associates and their family members. These plans are funded by associate premiums and company contributions. Any money recovered is returned to the health plan, not to the business. This is done out of fairness to everyone who contributes to and benefits from the plan. The Supreme Court recently declined to hear an appeal of the case, which concludes all litigation. While Wal-Mart’s benefit plan was entitled to more than the amount that remained in the Shank trust, the plan only recovered the funds remaining in that trust.”

But Mr. Olbermann was unrelenting, featuring the case nightly, including the fact that Ms. Shank’s son had been killed in Iraq. He named Wal-Mart chief executive Lee Scott his “Worst Person in the World.” On March 28, Mr. Olbermann said this about the case:

A week after Wal-Mart beat her in court, Mrs. Shank lost her 18-year-old son in Iraq. Because of her brain damage from the accident, her memory is intermittent. So every time she asks about him, they have to tell her he’s dead. It’s as if she’s hearing it for the first time. Wal-Mart is suing her for all the money she has in the world. Wal-Mart, always low prices, always low humanity. Yes, we’re going to keep doing this until Wal-Mart atones.

The issue lit up the blogosphere as commentators denounced Wal-Mart. Earlier this week, Wal-Mart announced it would drop its effort to collect and would change its policy regarding subrogation to allow for exceptions.

“Occasionally others help us step back and look at a situation in a different way,” Ms. Moore said in a statement. “This is one of those times.”

One of the more interesting takes on this issue is on, which talks about the public relations toll on the retail giant. The article notes that as insensitive as subrogation policies seem, they are “a business necessity to keep some check on health care and related costs.” Ultimately, Ms. Shank “got paid twice for her medical bills,” pointed out Ben Matthews, general counsel at Mid Carolina Hospital Group.

Mr. Olbermann was not the first to take up Ms. Shank’s case, just the loudest. In November, The Wall Street Journal wrote an excellent page one story featuring Ms. Shank called “Accident Victims Face Grab for Legal Winnings.” Read that story here. Michelle Andrews at U.S. News and World Report also has a good column about the larger issues raised by the case. And the Associated Press carried this story, noting that despite the victory, the family of Deborah Shank still faces a difficult road ahead.


23) Executive Pay: A Special Report
A Brighter Spotlight, Yet the Pay Rises
April 6, 2008

WASN’T 2008 supposed to be the year of shareholder victory on the executive compensation front?

After all, tighter disclosure rules kicked in last year, and — the theory went — once companies had to shine a spotlight on their compensation practices, they were bound to make them better. Politicians, never loath to acknowledge the national mood — particularly in an election year — held several hearings about excessive pay.

But signs of sweeping change remain few. Once again, many — perhaps most — companies filled their proxies with a blizzard of words and numbers that did more to obscure their processes than to illuminate them. And most irksome of all, true links between pay and performance remained scarce.

Shareholders were mad about excessive compensation last year, when the economy was booming. This year, governance experts say, they are livid. “They are furious about the dichotomy of experiences — their shares fall, yet C.E.O. pay still rises,” said Paul Hodgson, a senior research associate at the Corporate Library, a governance research group.

The compensation research firm Equilar recently compiled data about chief executive pay at 200 companies that filed their proxies by March 28 and had revenues of at least $6.5 billion. And the data illustrates Mr. Hodgson’s point. It shows that average compensation for chief executives who had held the job at least two years rose 5 percent in 2007, to $11.2 million (If new C.E.O.’s are counted, that number is $11.7 million). Even though performance-based bonuses were down last year, the value and prevalence of discretionary bonuses — ones not linked to performance — were up. A result is that C.E.O.’s who have held their jobs for two years received an average total bonus payout of $2.8 million, up 1.1 percent from 2006.

“We’re not against pay,” said Dennis Johnson, a senior portfolio manager who is responsible for corporate governance for Calpers, the California pension fund. “But we are certainly against pay for failure, or for just showing up.”

Certainly, some of the highest-paid chiefs — including Lawrence J. Ellison of Oracle, Alan G. Lafley of Procter & Gamble and Lloyd C. Blankfein of Goldman Sachs — presided over companies that did very well. But in other cases, it was hard to see a connection between high pay and savvy management.

Soaring oil prices, not stellar strategy, brought huge profits to many oil companies last year, yet Ray R. Irani, chief of Occidental Petroleum, saw his compensation rise 21 percent, to $33.6 million making him the sixth-highest-paid executive in the group of 200 in the survey.

Conversely, the aftermath of the subprime mortgage debacle wreaked havoc at Merrill Lynch, causing the ouster of E. Stanley O’Neal last fall. It is too soon to know whether John A. Thain, who now has the top spot, can restore Merrill’s former glory. But thanks in large part to a hefty sign-on bonus, he was the highest-paid executive in the survey, with a compensation package that totaled almost $83.8 million.

Then again, the financial services industry traditionally pays well. The heads of four financial companies — Mr. Thain, Mr. Blankfein, Kenneth I. Chenault of American Express and John J. Mack of Morgan Stanley — were among the 10 highest-paid chief executives in the survey.

Even when the credit crisis cost financial chiefs their jobs, it did not hurt their paychecks. Mr. O’Neal at Merrill and Charles Prince at Citigroup both walked away with fortunes.

Washington Mutual, meanwhile, decided that write-offs would not count when it calculated performance-based bonuses, a decision that one compensation expert referred to as calculating batting averages without counting strikes.

“Boards are just too willing to change the goal posts in bad times,” said Scott A. Fenn, managing director of policy for the proxy advisory firm Proxy Governance.

A result, said Charles M. Elson, a corporate governance expert at the University of Delaware, is that “we’re paying executives like successful entrepreneurs, without asking them to take entrepreneurial risks.”

THAT seemed particularly apparent among real estate companies that are coping with a housing downturn. Jeffrey Mezger, the new chief at KB Home, received a discretionary bonus of $6 million even though the company is suffering. Robert Toll, the chief at Toll Brothers, received no bonus in 2007 — but the company has rewritten the compensation plan so that he will probably get one this year even if home building does not recover.

“Directors have to look at C.E.O. pay in terms of return on investment, just like they judge any other dollar they allocate,” said Nell Minow, editor and co-founder of the Corporate Library. “They have to ask, ‘What are we getting back for this money?’ ”

In many cases, the answer would be “not much.” According to Equilar, the chiefs of the 10 largest financial services firms in the survey were awarded a combined total of $320 million last year, even though the firms reported mortgage-related losses that totaled $55 billion and that wiped out more than $200 billion in shareholder value.

Still, even the angriest shareholders acknowledge that some companies are trying to take inequities — and the mystique — out of their compensation plans. The chief executives of Morgan Stanley and Bear Stearns did forfeit their bonuses after the subprime mortgage debacle decimated company profits. And Morgan Stanley said it would introduce performance-related stock options.

At the 200 companies that Equilar studied this year, the average value of performance-based bonuses granted to chief executives who had been in their jobs for at least two years was $1.8 million, a drop of 2.5 percent from 2006. Moreover, only 73 percent of the chiefs got performance bonuses, down from 78.6 percent in 2006.

Equilar also said that 14.7 percent of the stock options and shares awarded to executives in the fourth quarter of 2007 had performance-based vesting criteria — a small percentage, but a big increase from 8.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2006.

More companies adopted clawback provisions, in which executives are required to return bonuses or stock options that were based on faulty numbers. The Arkansas Best Corporation even established one for outside directors if any “misconduct” on their part ever contributed to the need to restate finances. (Wal-Mart Stores adopted a similar clause two years ago.)

And a handful of chief executives and directors led the charge against excessive pay themselves.

Four years ago, when David P. Steiner was promoted to chief of Waste Management, he took what he calls a “surgical look” at the compensation system. It rewarded executives, including the chief, for bringing in new customers and orders, even unprofitable ones. “It sent the wrong message, that we wanted growth for growth’s sake,” he said.

Gradually the board, at Mr. Steiner’s prodding, changed the formula. Last year, 75 percent of Mr. Steiner’s long-term incentive plan was tied to specific targets for earnings growth and return on invested capital. And for the first time, the plan included a clawback provision, saying he must return any payments if they were based on numbers that had to be restated.

And next year’s proxy will reflect even more changes. Mr. Steiner’s pay is now linked entirely to achieving those targets. And some perks he used to get — about $35,000 worth of items like car allowances and country club dues — are gone, though their value will be added to his base salary or bonus.

RiskMetrics just went public this year, and M. Ethan Berman, its chief executive, insisted on getting it right from the start. Last year, RiskMetrics bought Institutional Shareholder Services, the high-profile proxy watchdog organization, so Mr. Berman knew that, as he put it, “Ours will be one of the world’s most well-read proxies.” He also buys into the concept, he said, that an excessive pay package can indicate a board that is too beholden to top management.

Thus, his incentive compensation will be based on attaining a mix of financial growth and client and employee retention objectives that are clearly spelled out in the proxy. Mr. Berman said he already owns 10 to 15 percent of the company — “more than enough to align my interests with shareholders,” he said — so he receives no stock grants or options. And he does not have a severance package. “I get the same four weeks vacation as any other employee, and if I leave, I’ll get the same severance,” he said.

Some companies that have been castigated for compensation fiascos in the past are emerging in the best light now. In 2007, shareholders howled when they discovered that Robert L. Nardelli’s contract as chief of Home Depot enabled him to command a severance package totaling $210 million when he was ousted.

The Home Depot board did not make the same mistake when it wrote the contract for Frank Blake, Mr. Nardelli’s successor. “Frank Blake’s package is so tied to performance that it is almost the mirror image of Nardelli’s,” said Ms. Minow of the Corporate Library. “Home Depot went from the worst pay package imaginable to one that is close to exemplary.”

Still, shareholders say praiseworthy packages remain in the minority. And they have plenty of compensation issues they continue to attack.

A group of investors, led by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, is asking companies to limit or bar “gross-ups,” in which companies pay the taxes the C.E.O.’s incur from their pay packages.

The timing is not surprising. Many shareholders were aghast last year when Angelo R. Mozilo, who earned $100 million at Countrywide Financial in 2006, successfully argued that Countrywide should pay the taxes that were incurred that year when his wife accompanied him to business functions on the corporate jet.

And gross-ups certainly have not disappeared this year. R. Chad Dreier, the chief of Ryland Homes, earned almost $8.2 million last year. Only $1 million of his pay was salary, and a bit over $2 million was bonus. More than $4 million was gross-ups to cover taxes incurred by vesting of restricted stock that was granted in previous years.

The Corporate Library has just released data showing that 20 percent of chief executives received a tax gross-up on part of their income in 2006. The median gross-up amount was just $13,000, but the concept — that any corporate chief should receive tax assistance on top of multimillion-dollar payouts — stuck in shareholders’ craws.

“We’re putting this research out early enough so that shareholders can wave it at directors,” Mr. Hodgson said.

Shareholders are also concerned about pay packages that can encourage executives to sacrifice the future for a present-day payout. Mr. Hodgson points to Sprint Nextel as a prime example. In a recent filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said it had redesigned its compensation plans so that incentive pay for progress toward goals would kick in every quarter.

“If you put a carrot in front of a donkey’s nose, it simply chases that carrot,” Mr. Hodgson said. “Better you add the carrots to the feedbag, but you don’t let the donkey eat any of them until it’s accomplished what’s needed for long-term success.”

And a growing cadre of investors are asking that companies reward only superior performance — for example, if the company was more profitable than its peers. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters has filed pay-for-superior-performance proposals at 33 companies, including Best Buy, Honeywell International, WellPoint and Northern Trust, according to RiskMetrics records.

Disclosure — or lack thereof — remains a huge issue for shareholders.

“We don’t want to see boilerplate,” said Hye-Won Choi, head of governance for TIAA-Cref, which has made compensation the cornerstone of its governance campaign this year. (Last year it was majority voting for directors.) “We want to see how the compensation plan is integrated into the business plan and strategic goals and how it is tied to the performance of the individual and the company. And we want companies to clearly articulate targets for payout.”

So does the S.E.C. The agency has contacted 350 companies to insist that they specify performance targets and couch their disclosures in understandable English.

It has also revamped its own Web site, to make it the go-to spot for companies seeking guidance on plain-English disclosure.

“It’s our aim to break down all the legalese and the jargon, and the dense cover-your-assets boilerplate that reads more like the insurance policy it is than the helpful guide to investors that it’s meant to be,” Christopher Cox, the agency’s chairman, said in a speech last year.

But excess, incomprehensible verbiage was not the only problem with disclosure this year. Many companies — most citing a reluctance to disclose competitive information — couched the criteria by which they measured performance in the vaguest of terms. According to the Corporate Library, two-thirds of companies listed fuzzy performance targets — and of those, no more than 30 percent were really competitively sensitive.

“Sure, we understand if you don’t want competitors to know that your chief executive’s bonus is tied to opening 10 stores in Delaware,” said John Nestor, director of the S.E.C.’s office of public affairs. “But you could at least say the bonus is dependent on successfully expanding.”

Shareholders, for the most part, say they accept that companies cannot divulge sensitive information. But they do not accept that stock price appreciation or profit growth goals belong in that category.

“Companies are still failing to disclose the performance hurdles that trigger pay for performance, and that remains a hugely contentious issue for shareholders,” said Patrick McGurn, special counsel to the RiskMetrics Group, the new name for Institutional Shareholder Services.

Perhaps surprisingly, not all governance experts buy into the idea of forced transparency on targets. Some worry that if shareholders win on this issue, it might be a pyrrhic victory.

“We worry about unintended consequences,” said Rebecca K. Darr, a senior fellow at the Aspen Institute, which convenes forums at which executives and shareholders discuss governance issues. “If companies have to say how they measure individual performance, they might simply revert to easily quantifiable numbers like earnings per share, rather than complex long-term goals.”

In fact, some compensation consultants say the S.E.C. disclosure rules went too far. Pearl Meyer, a senior managing director at Steven Hall & Partners, suggests that executives who missed performance targets might still deserve hefty bonuses, if they managed to stem losses even as economic factors beyond their control — say, soaring oil prices or a housing slowdown — decimated their industry. But, she said, it would be hard to lay out a cogent formula for that. Thus, she concludes, making directors spell out the details of their compensation plans could force them toward rewarding conventional short-term performance.

OF course, some governance experts are suggesting the quintessentially simple fix: Have directors sit down with shareholders and ask what they really want to know.

“When it comes to disclosure, last year was a dud,” said Stephen M. Davis, project director at the Millstein Center for Corporate Governance and Performance at Yale. “So you’d think that, since the proxy statements are supposed to communicate to the investor community, the boards would ask shareholders what should or should not go into them.”

Pfizer, for one, seems to be doing just that. Shareholders were outraged last year when Hank McKinnell, the company’s former chief, walked away with nearly $200 million when he was ousted. So last October, the Pfizer directors invited representatives of large shareholder groups to sit down and air any governance issues that troubled them. About a third of the discussion revolved around compensation.

“They billed it as a listening session, but it was interactive and seemed productive,” said Ms. Choi at TIAA-Cref, who said one of her colleagues attended. But she quickly added: “Of course, we don’t yet know if it will result in any action.”




Coal Company Verdict in West Virginia Is Thrown Out
April 4, 2008
National Briefing | Mid-Atlantic
The State Supreme Court for a second time threw out a $50 million verdict against the coal company Massey Energy. The court decided to rehear the case after the publication of photographs of its chief justice on vacation in Monte Carlo with the company’s chief executive, Don L. Blankenship. The chief justice, Elliott E. Maynard, and a second justice disqualified themselves from the rehearing and were replaced by appeals court judges, but the vote was again 3-to-2 in favor of Massey. A third justice, Brent D. Benjamin, who was elected to the court with the help of more than $3 million from Mr. Blankenship, refused to recuse himself.

Utah: Miners’ Families File Lawsuit
National Briefing | Rockies
April 3, 2008
A lawsuit by the families of six men killed in August in a mine cave-in claims the collapse occurred because the mine’s owners were harvesting coal unsafely. The suit, filed in Salt Lake City, says the Murray Energy Corporation performed risky retreat mining last summer. It seeks unspecified damages. Three men trying to reach the miners died 10 days after the collapse in another cave-in at the Crandall Canyon Mine.

Regimens: Drug Samples Found to Affect Spending
Vital Signs
Having doctors distribute free samples of medicines may do exactly what drug companies hope for — encourage patients to spend more money on drugs.
A study in the April issue of Medical Care found that patients who never received free samples spent an average of $178 for six months of prescriptions. Those receiving samples spent $166 in the six months before they obtained free medicine, $244 when they received the handouts and $212 in the six months after that.
Researchers studied 5,709 patients, tracking medical histories and drug expenditures; 14 percent of the group received free samples. The study adjusted for prior and current health conditions, race, socioeconomic level and other variables.
The authors acknowledge that the study results could be partly explained by unmeasured illness in the group given samples.
The lead author, Dr. G. Caleb Alexander, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, said although free samples might save some patients money, there were other ways to economize. “Using more generics, prescribing for three months’ supply rather than one month’s and stopping drugs that may no longer be needed can also save money,” Dr. Alexander said.
April 1, 2008

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">