Saturday, May 31, 2008



On May 10th, Palestinians, Arabs, and people from all communities came together at Civic Center for a historic and beautiful commemoration of the Nakba, and celebration of Palestinian resistance, now....

June 1st, Protest Israel in the Gardens!
Meet near St. Patrick's Church on Mission between 3rd and 4th at 11am.
Wear Black. Bring Signs and Flags.

On Sunday June 1st, 2008, the Yerba Buena Gardens is hosting the "Israel in the Gardens" 60th Celebration. As a group of activists and human rights advocates we cannot let such celebrations of Apartheid, Ethnic Cleansing and Genocide take place without asserting our narrative of the reality - 60 years of a Catastrophe!

Email info@araborganizing .org for more information.

*Zionist attendees of this event in previous years have been seen to be very confrontational with pro-Palestine protesters, it is generally best to not engage with them directly for everyone's security.*


Tuesday, June 3, 7:00 P.M.
Global Exchange, 2017 Mission Street near 16th.

The next meeting of the Board of Education is the following Tuesday, June 10th, 7:00 P.M. At 555 Franklin Street near McAllister Street.
415/241-6427 or (415) 241-6493
(To get on the speaker’s list call the Monday before the meeting from 8:30 AM - 4:00 PM or Tuesday, the day of the meeting from 8:30 AM - 3:30 PM. You will get at most, two minutes and most probably only one minute to speak.


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

Stop the War in Iraq! Bring the Troops Home NOW!

We invite everyone who opposes the war and occupation to attend an open democratic
national antiwar conference to place on the agenda of the entire US antiwar movement
a proposal for the largest possible united mass mobilization to stop the war and end
the occupation.

Saturday, June 28 & Sunday, June 29, 2008
Cleveland, Ohio

Speakers include:

Donna Dewitt, President, South Carolina AFL-CIO

Fred Mason, President of the Maryland AFL-CIO and President of the
Metro Washington D.C. Central Labor Council, one of the National
Co-Convenors of U.S. Labor Against the War

Greg Coleridge, Program Director, Northeast Ohio American Friends
Service Committee; Coordinator, Northeast Ohio Anti-War Coalition

Jonathan Hutto, Navy Petty Officer, author, Anti-War Soldier and
co-founder of Appeal for Redress

Jeremy Scahill, Author, of "Blackwater: The Rise of the World‚s Most Powerful Mercenary Army"

Jesse Diaz, Organizer of the May 1, 2006 immigrant rights boycott

Cindy Sheehan, by video

To register and for more information, log on to:


The Girl Who Silenced the World at the UN!
Born and raised in Vancouver, Severn Suzuki has been working on environmental and social justice issues since kindergarten. At age 9, she and some friends started the Environmental Children's Organization (ECO), a small group of children committed to learning and teaching other kids about environmental issues. They traveled to 1992's UN Earth Summit, where 12 year-old Severn gave this powerful speech that deeply affected (and silenced) some of the most prominent world leaders. The speech had such an impact that she has become a frequent invitee to many U.N. conferences.
[Note: the text of her speech is also available at this]




"Dear Canada: Let U.S. war resisters stay!"


NO on state Prop. 98!

San Francisco Tenants Union (415) 282-5525

Wealthy landlords and other right-wing operatives placed Prop. 98 on the state ballot. This is a dangerous and deceptive measure. Disguised as an effort to reform eminent domain laws and protect homeowners, Prop. 98 would abolish tenant protections such as rent control and just-cause eviction laws, and would end a number of other environmental protection and land use laws. [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]


We All Hate that 98!



Stop fumigation of citizens without their consent in California
Target: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senator Joe Simitian, Assemblymember Loni Hancock, Assemblymember John Laird, Senator Abel Maldonado
Sponsored by: John Russo

Additional information is available at




1) Secretary Gates Visits Guam Military Base
May 30, 2008

2) Ultimate Fighting Recruits Military to Its Ranks
May 30, 2008

3) JROTC Must Go! Campaign Heating Up
by Riva Enteen
Beyond Chron
May 30, 2008

4) This Legal Update is made on behalf of my client, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is on Pennsylvania’s death row.
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia The U.S. Court of Appeals has granted my motion for a 14-day extension of time to file the Petition for Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc. It will be submitted on June 10, 2008. The following is a related news story:
Posted on Wed., May. 28, 2008
Robert R. Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117
Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal

5) From Kennedy to Obama: Liberalism’s Last Fling
By John Pilger
May 28, 2008

6) Police Taser Man Suffering Diabetic Seizure, Charge Him with DUI
By David Gutierrez
May 29, 2008

7) Coming Late to the Table
Op-Ed Columnist
May 31, 2008

8) Troubled Oceans
May 31, 2008

9) Insurers See Women With Past Caesareans as Risk
June 1, 2008

10) Apocalypse in the Oceans
By Anneli Rufus
May 30, 2008

11) Police Told to Give Street-Stop Data
May 31, 2008

12) Legitimizing Marijuana
What's Online
May 31, 2008


1) Secretary Gates Visits Guam Military Base
May 30, 2008

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam — Dipping low over this tropical island in a Navy helicopter on Friday, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates gazed out over one of the largest American military construction projects in decades.

Over the next six years, the Pentagon is planning to spend $15 billion to upgrade and expand World War II-era air bases, barracks and ports, and carve out of the jungle new housing and headquarters to accommodate thousands of additional troops and their families who are scheduled to arrive.

It is all part of the military’s effort to remake Guam into a strategic hub in the western Pacific, underscoring both the increasing geopolitical importance of Asia to Washington as well as the Pentagon’s priority to project power from American territory rather than foreign bases.

Mr. Gates made Guam his first stop on a weeklong trip to Asia, his fourth to the region since becoming defense secretary 17 months ago. He will also attend a regional security conference in Singapore, and confer with defense officials in Thailand and South Korea.

An underlying theme of the trip, Mr. Gates said, will be “affirming that the United States is not distracted by our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from our long-term interests here in Asia.”

With American officials warily watching China’s military buildup as well as the continuing standoff with North Korea over its nuclear program, the massive construction projects already underway and on the drawing board here are striking.

The military owns about one-third of this island, and much of the remaining jungle will be bulldozed to build military headquarters, housing, hospitals, schools and commissaries, officials said.

By 2014, some 8,000 marines are expected to move here from their long-time base in Okinawa, requiring a new headquarters, housing and a small-arms training range. The Japanese government is paying $6 billion to help defray costs of the move and the new constructions here, said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary.

Japanese defense forces will train and conduct exercises with American troops here, said Mr. Morrell, in a historical twist of fate. Three days after the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan’s occupation of this American island started and continued until United States soldiers returned to Guam on July 21, 1944, a date celebrated here as Liberation Day.

The Navy, which has three submarines, a helicopter squadron and supply ships based here, is planning to dredge the harbor to accommodate large marine amphibious ships.

Since 2004, the Air Force has been rotating B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers through Guam from bases in the United States. The rotations are designed to support American security in the Asia-Pacific while other United States forces are diverted to the Middle East.

The Air Force is also planning to build hangars for three Global Hawk surveillance aircraft, and expand facilities to accommodate periodic rotations of fighter jets, including the Air Force’s newest fighter, the F-22, from their bases in Hawaii and Alaska.

“Andersen in six years will not look anything like it does today,” Brig. Gen. Doug Owens, the base commander here, told reporters traveling with Mr. Gates.

In all, Mr. Gates said, more than 12,000 additional American troops will move here, more than doubling the current total of about 7,000 service members.

American and Guamanian officials acknowledge that the wave of new construction — as well as the more than 25,000 workers likely to flock to the island to supplement local laborers — will require a careful balancing of environmental protections and national security priorities.

Mr. Gates said the Pentagon wants to complete these projects “in a way that’s sensitive to the needs of the people of Guam as well as to our military needs.”


2) Ultimate Fighting Recruits Military to Its Ranks
May 30, 2008

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — The United States military is embracing a combat sport commonly called ultimate fighting that a decade ago was called human cockfighting and largely outlawed.

The sport, also known as mixed martial arts and involving disciplines like jiu-jitsu, boxing and wrestling, adopted safety measures that satisfied most state regulators. It is now soaring in popularity, especially among young men; on Saturday, an event will be broadcast live in prime time on network television for the first time. The armed forces, acknowledging the phenomenon and the suitable demographics, are using the sport not only as a way to build morale and aid in recruiting, but also as a training aid to enhance the skills of soldiers.

To rally the troops, military leaders have welcomed professional fighters with names like Ace and the Huntington Beach Bad Boy. The Army has conducted tournaments among soldiers. In an opinion article for Army Times last year, Maj. Kelly Crigger urged commanders to field a team of fighters on television in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the dominant pro league.

“Many of those viewers are eligible recruits,” Major Crigger wrote. “The U.F.C. provides a great venue to get the Army name into the minds of millions of young Americans.”

Across the service, the embrace of mixed martial arts has come with some reservations. The sport’s emphasis on solitary glory runs counter to the Army’s recent efforts to shift recruiting themes from individual development (Be All That You Can Be; Army of One) to group unity (Army Strong; Go Army).

But as the sport found its audience on channels aimed at young men, recruiters and drill sergeants soon took notice.

In 2006, officials at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California invited the U.F.C. fighter Tito Ortiz, marketed as the Huntington Beach Bad Boy, to attend their birthday ball as a guest of honor. Letters to Marine Times protested the invitation, but it was rescinded only after the Bad Boy indicated that he planned to take his girlfriend, the porn star Jenna Jameson.

Rich Franklin, the former U.F.C. middleweight champion known as Ace, frequently appears on Marine bases. Last year, Matt Hughes, a former U.F.C. welterweight champion, was applauded on a visit to Fort Benning, an Army base in Georgia.

Without any formal arrangement, the military has also produced fighters for the professional leagues. Brian Stann, the light-heavyweight champion of World Extreme Cagefighting, fought in Iraq with the Marines. Last November, a Marine named Will Thiery was promoted on the undercard at an event in Florida called Salute to Our Armed Forces. Staff Sgt. James Damien Stelly, an Army Ranger with three tours in Afghanistan, has gained a following through fights for several professional outfits.

Promoters have sought to capitalize on the common ground. In April, Harrah’s Casino in Tunica, Miss., promoted a fight night billed as G.I.’s vs. Pros.

“You have an organization like the United States Army that in our minds best personifies the combative sports we’re involved in,” said C. J. Comu, organizer of the event. “This is their demographic, 18-30-year-old males.”

Military officials have sought practical applications. In 2002, the Army published a new field manual section on mixed martial arts techniques. Its author, Matthew C. Larsen, the director of the Modern Army Combatives Program, considered competition a powerful motivator.

“As long as we’re all about our values and upfront about what the Army stands for, and that’s being warriors, the question is, what kind of warriors?” said Mr. Larsen, who served as a young Marine in Tokyo and earned several black belts. “The game of mixed martial arts is just that, it’s a game. But the game can be training for the real thing.”

Mr. Larsen has promoted his program cautiously, acknowledging that too much focus on competition could train soldiers to win competitions, not battles. But the shifting nature of modern warfare, especially as conducted in the cramped corridors of Iraqi homes, has helped make his case.

“These guys could be in any situation, from a life-and-death battle with a bad guy to trying to subdue a citizen who has Stockholm syndrome, and you don’t even want to hurt that guy,” Mr. Larsen said. “But you’ve got to have all these moves for all those different situations.”

Army bases around the country now conduct mixed martial arts tournaments, sending the winners to a branchwide championship at Fort Benning. The fourth annual championship, set for October, has been planned to incorporate, for the first time, advanced rules indistinguishable from mixed martial arts. The rules, allowing closed-fisted punches to the head and knee blows, still ban moves considered dangerous, ostentatious or ineffective in battle, like elbow strikes, biting and eye gouging.

In January, the Air Force adopted the Combatives program. The Navy has trained certain units. The Marine Corps has trained recruits in martial arts since 2000, with less emphasis on competition.

There are several professional mixed martial arts leagues around the world, and most have adopted rules since the sport’s early no-holds-barred era, when bloodshed was common and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and his party’s presumptive candidate for president, called the sport human cockfighting. Rules differ from league to league, but most fighters wear open-fingered gloves, and gouges and blows to certain body parts are forbidden.

As military mixed martial arts competitions have gained popularity, the matches have come to resemble the real thing. Since the first Army-wide championship in 2005, commanders at Fort Knox have allowed soldiers to fight inside a six-foot-high steel cage. Mr. Larsen has been trying to coordinate a tournament in Baghdad for broadcast on ESPN.

Here in the Cape Fear Valley of North Carolina, the soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division conducted a tournament last week as word of new deployments spread across the base. Among the 259 men and 9 women entered, many knew they would not be available come October to compete in the Army-wide championship.

The soldiers seemed eager to test themselves. Pfc. Melissa Jenkins, 20, from Union City, Ind., chose confronting men in the fighting tournament over soccer, running and other competitions. She fought hard but was eliminated in the early rounds, in which traditional wrestling rules were in effect. The mixed martial arts rules were phased in during the semifinal rounds.

“I knew it was going to be difficult,” Private Jenkins said. “He was a lot stronger than I was, so I expected to be the underdog.”

The tournament director, Sgt. Jeff Yurk, who had fought in mixed martial arts events in San Diego before joining the Army, strictly enforced rules of sportsmanship. He was quick to end matches when fighters failed to defend themselves.

“You get a lot of the just-out-of-high-school guys, they’re looking to be part of something, that’s where M.M.A. and the Army share the same demographic,” Sergeant Yurk said. But getting in the ring, he said, “is the same thing as going up to that door in Iraq, knowing there’s a bad guy on the other side and still doing it.”

Among those in the tournament was Pfc. Carl Miller, entered as a welterweight. He had returned from a tour of Iraq in March, enrolling in fight training instead of taking leave. He was aiming to win a berth in the All-Army championships, admission to higher-level training classes and a path toward becoming a mixed martial arts instructor.

“It’s a mental game,” Private Miller said. “If I could do this, I’d stay in the Army for 20 years.”


3) JROTC Must Go! Campaign Heating Up
by Riva Enteen
Beyond Chron
May 30, 2008

For more information:
JROTC Must Go!
(415) 575-5543

The San Francisco chapter of the Green Party, the Chinese Progressive Association and the Idriss Stelley Foundation have joined the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, the SF Tenants Union and the SF Bay View newspaper in saying that they "will look very closely" at the next School Board vote on JROTC, and "consider the votes carefully when making any endorsement for future candidates."

These comments are aimed at two school board members, Green Party member Jane Kim and "progressive" Kim-Shree Maufas, who are the swing votes. Matt Gonzalez, former President of the Board of Supervisors, puts it even more bluntly. "I would not ever support a candidate for the Board of Education that continued JROTC and I would urge other progressives to do the same."

Last Tuesday, May 27, a delegation of JROTC opponents met with Maufas.

Kiilu Nyasha, 69, our Black elder, began by talking about the blood that the US military has on its hands, and the corporate nature of US foreign policy. Nyasha then spoke of her son, raised in the Bayview, who studied martial arts to stay out of trouble, the epitome of the discipline JROTC claims to foster. We don't need the military to teach our children discipline, she insisted.

Babara Lopez, 29, who works with La Voz Latina of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic Youth Program, told of parents she works with who say Mission High staff are telling immigrant families that students must take JROTC to graduate. She then spoke emotionally about her father, who was tortured in Mexico by agents of the US military. She said that she thinks of his torture every day, and has done work to expose Abu Ghraib.

Sabrina Davidson, a 21-year-old gay Black woman, expressed outrage that the school district allows the military to remain in our schools, even though they practice outright and illegal discrimination against gays and lesbians. She also made the point that she knows many youth who joined the military after JROTC because they couldn't find any other jobs.

Forrest Schmidt, 31, a vet recruited out of high school, spoke of the pervasive racism in the military, sexist violence against female soldiers, and of the anti-gay hostility he saw and experienced. He said that the real alternative to JROTC would be a commitment to giving youth jobs and education.

Jackson Losh, 18, a Lowell senior, recalled the intimidation against JROTC opponents by JROTC cadets at previous School Board meetings, and said such constant intimidation makes it hard for students (and teachers)to speak out. He said that the military wouldn't be spending money on JROTC if it didn't produce recruits for the military.

Mara Kubrin, 18, who graduated high school last year, ended the meeting by giving Maufas a copy of an open letter she wrote to Maufas and Jane Kim. "JROTC is a recruitment tool," Kubrin wrote, "so have the program at recruitment centers. If students are so insistent that this and only this program will provide the discipline, leadership, and family element that they want, then they can seek it out in their own time, using the military's own funding, and on its own recruitment grounds. The military does not belong in our schools."

Maufas did not indicate at the meeting whether or not she would vote to end JROTC now. We are waiting for her answer to this question.

Let Maufas and Kim know that they should join the 60% of San Franciscans who oppose the military in our schools. You can reach them at and


4) This Legal Update is made on behalf of my client, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is on Pennsylvania’s death row.
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia The U.S. Court of Appeals has granted my motion for a 14-day extension of time to file the Petition for Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc. It will be submitted on June 10, 2008. The following is a related news story:
Posted on Wed., May. 28, 2008
Robert R. Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117
Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal

Abu-Jamal lawyers granted two-week extension

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit yesterday granted a two-week extension for lawyers for death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal to file a petition for a rehearing on his effort to get a new trial.

Abu-Jamal was convicted in 1982 of the murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner and was sentenced to death. In late March, a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit affirmed Abu-Jamal's conviction but vacated the death sentence. The court said Abu-Jamal should be sentenced to life in prison or get a chance to persuade a new Philadelphia jury that he deserves a life sentence rather than death.

Defense lawyer Robert R. Bryan of San Francisco intends to seek a rehearing before the court on his contention that Abu-Jamal deserves a new trial, or at least a hearing on his argument that some blacks were intentionally excluded from his jury. The court said the new filing deadline is June 10. - Emilie Lounsberry

On March 27 the U.S. Court of Appeals court ordered a new jury trial on whether Mumia should be sentenced to life or death, because of unconstitutional jury instructions. Mumia remains on death row since the ruling has not taken effect and the prosecution has vowed to appeal and continue its quest to see him executed. It is always good when there is a determination that the death penalty was wrongfully imposed, especially where, as here, it could help others sentenced to death. Yet, we are not pleased with the ruling because the court refused to reverse the conviction and order a new trial on the question of innocence. The indisputable facts are that the prosecutor engaged in racism to select the jury, made a misleading argument to the jury that turned the concept of reasonable doubt on its head, and the trial judge was biased.

The bright side of the federal decision is that Justice Thomas L. Ambro wrote a lengthy dissenting opinion on the issue of racism in jury selection. The first sentence set the tone: “Excluding even a single person from a jury because of race violates the Equal Protection Clause of our Constitution.” He concluded that the “core guarantee of equal protection, ensuring citizens that their State will not discriminate on account of race, would be meaningless were we to approve the exclusion of jurors on the basis of . . . race. . . . I respectfully dissent.” These words are a light in the darkness in our effort to seek a rehearing before the full court.

Donations for Mumia's Legal Defense in the United States With Mumia's authorization, a process now exists in the U.S. guaranteeing both that donations will go only to the legal defense and are tax-deductible. This is the exclusive process in this country for donations to the legal defense. Checks should be made payable to the National Lawyers Guild Foundation (indicate "Mumia" on the bottom left), and mailed to:

Committee To Save Mumia Abu-Jamal
P.O. Box 2012
New York, NY 10159-2012

United States Supreme Court I have filed pleadings in the U.S. Supreme Court on issues we litigated in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, e.g., that the prosecution use false testimony and fabricated evidence. Justice David H. Souter has granted my motion and set the petition filing date as July 18, 2008. This has no bearing on the proceedings pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Conclusion My goal remains a new jury trial in which Mumia will be found "not guilty" so that he can return home to his family. The ongoing concern by so many people for human rights is appreciated. Mumia and I humbly thank you.

Yours very truly,

Robert R. Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117
Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal


5) From Kennedy to Obama: Liberalism’s Last Fling
By John Pilger
May 28, 2008

In this season of 1968 nostalgia, one anniversary illuminates today. It is
the rise and fall of Robert Kennedy, who would have been elected president
of the United States had he not been assassinated in June 1968. Having
traveled with Kennedy up to the moment of his shooting at the Ambassador
Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, I heard The Speech many times. He would
“return government to the people” and bestow “dignity and justice” on the
oppressed. “As Bernard Shaw once said,” he would say, “‘Most men look at
things as they are and wonder why. I dream of things that never were and
ask: Why not?’” That was the signal to run back to the bus. It was fun until
a hail of bullets passed over our shoulders.

Kennedy’s campaign is a model for Barack Obama. Like Obama, he was a senator
with no achievements to his name. Like Obama, he raised the expectations of
young people and minorities. Like Obama, he promised to end an unpopular
war, not because he opposed the war’s conquest of other people’s land and
resources, but because it was “unwinnable.”

Should Obama beat John McCain to the White House in November, it will be
liberalism’s last fling. In the United States and Britain, liberalism as a
war-making, divisive ideology is once again being used to destroy liberalism
as a reality. A great many people understand this, as the hatred of Blair
and new Labor attest, but many are disoriented and eager for “leadership”
and basic social democracy. In the U.S., where unrelenting propaganda about
American democratic uniqueness disguises a corporate system based on
extremes of wealth and privilege, liberalism as expressed through the
Democratic Party has played a crucial, compliant role.

In 1968, Robert Kennedy sought to rescue the party and his own ambitions
from the threat of real change that came from an alliance of the civil
rights campaign and the anti-war movement then commanding the streets of the
main cities, and which Martin Luther King had drawn together until he was
assassinated in April that year. Kennedy had supported the war in Vietnam
and continued to support it in private, but this was skillfully suppressed
as he competed against the maverick Eugene McCarthy, whose surprise win in
the New Hampshire primary on an anti-war ticket had forced President Lyndon
Johnson to abandon the idea of another term. Using the memory of his
martyred brother, Kennedy assiduously exploited the electoral power of
delusion among people hungry for politics that represented them, not the

“These people love you,” I said to him as we left Calexico, California,
where the immigrant population lived in abject poverty and people came like
a great wave and swept him out of his car, his hands fastened to their lips.

“Yes, yes, sure they love me,” he replied. “I love them!” I asked him how
exactly he would lift them out of poverty: just what was his political

“Philosophy? Well, it’s based on a faith in this country and I believe that
many Americans have lost this faith and I want to give it back to them,
because we are the last and the best hope of the world, as Thomas Jefferson

“That’s what you say in your speech. Surely the question is: How?”

“How? By charting a new direction for America.”

The vacuities are familiar. Obama is his echo. Like Kennedy, Obama may well
“chart a new direction for America” in specious, media-honed language, but
in reality he will secure, like every president, the best damned democracy
money can buy.

As their contest for the White House draws closer, watch how, regardless of
the inevitable personal smears, Obama and McCain draw nearer to each other.
They already concur on America’s divine right to control all before it. “We
lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good,”
said Obama. “We must lead by building a 21st-century military . . . to
advance the security of all people.” McCain agrees. Obama says in pursuing
“terrorists” he would attack Pakistan. McCain wouldn’t quarrel. Both
candidates have paid ritual obeisance to the regime in Tel Aviv,
unquestioning support for which defines all presidential ambition. In
opposing a UN Security Council resolution implying criticism of Israel’s
starvation of the people of Gaza, Obama was ahead of both McCain and Hillary
Clinton. In January, pressured by the Israel lobby, he massaged a statement
that “nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people” to now, read:
“Nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people from the failure of
the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel.” Such is his concern for the
victims of the longest, illegal military occupation of modern times. Like
all the candidates, Obama has furthered Israeli/Bush fictions about Iran,
whose regime, he says absurdly, “is a threat to all of us.”

On the war in Iraq, Obama the dove and McCain the hawk are almost united.
McCain now says he wants U.S. troops to leave in five years (instead of “100
years,” his earlier option). Obama has now “reserved the right” to change
his pledge to get troops out next year. “I will listen to our commanders on
the ground,” he now says, echoing Bush. His adviser on Iraq, Colin Kahl,
says the U.S. should maintain up to 80,000 troops in Iraq until 2010. Like
McCain, Obama has voted repeatedly in the Senate to support Bush’s demands
for funding of the occupation of Iraq; and he has called for more troops to
be sent to Afghanistan. His senior advisers embrace McCain’s proposal for an
aggressive “league of democracies” led by the United States, to circumvent
the United Nations.

Like McCain, he would extend the crippling embargo on Cuba.

Amusingly, both have denounced their “preachers” for speaking out. Whereas
McCain’s man of God praised Hitler, in the fashion of lunatic white
holy-rollers, Obama’s man, Jeremiah Wright, spoke an embarrassing truth. He
said that the attacks of September 11, 2001 had taken place as a consequence
of the violence of U.S. power across the world. The media demanded that
Obama disown Wright and swear an oath of loyalty to the Bush lie that
“terrorists attacked America because they hate our freedoms.” So he did. The
conflict in the Middle East, said Obama, was rooted not “primarily in the
actions of stalwart allies like Israel,” but in “the perverse and hateful
ideologies of radical Islam.” Journalists applauded. Islamophobia is a
liberal specialty.

The American media love both Obama and McCain. Reminiscent of mating calls
by Guardian writers to Blair more than a decade ago, Jann Wenner, founder of
the liberal Rolling Stone, wrote: “There is a sense of dignity, even
majesty, about him, and underneath that ease lies a resolute discipline . .
. Like Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama challenges America to rise up, to do
what so many of us long to do: to summon ‘the better angels of our nature.’”
At the liberal New Republic, Charles Lane confessed: “I know it shouldn’t be
happening, but it is. I’m falling for John McCain.” His colleague Michael
Lewis had gone further. His feelings for McCain, he wrote, were like “the
war that must occur inside a 14-year-old boy who discovers he is more
sexually attracted to boys than to girls.”

The objects of these uncontrollable passions are as one in their support for
America’s true deity, its corporate oligarchs. Despite claiming that his
campaign wealth comes from small individual donors, Obama is backed by the
biggest Wall Street firms: Goldman Sachs, UBS AG, Lehman Brothers, J P
Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse, as well as the
huge hedge fund Citadel Investment Group. “Seven of the Obama campaign’s top
14 donors,” wrote the investigator Pam Martens, “consisted of officers and
employees of the same Wall Street firms charged time and again with looting
the public and newly implicated in originating and/or bundling fraudulently
made mortgages.” A report by United for a Fair Economy, a non-profit group,
estimates the total loss to poor Americans of color who took out sub-prime
loans as being between $164 billion and $213 billion: the greatest loss of
wealth ever recorded for people of color in the United States. “Washington
lobbyists haven’t funded my campaign,” said Obama in January, “they won’t
run my White House and they will not drown out the voices of working
Americans when I am president.” According to files held by the Centre for
Responsive Politics, the top five contributors to the Obama campaign are
registered corporate lobbyists.

What is Obama’s attraction to big business? Precisely the same as Robert
Kennedy’s. By offering a “new,” young and apparently progressive face of the
Democratic Party—with the bonus of being a member of the black elite—he can
blunt and divert real opposition. That was Colin Powell’s role as Bush’s
secretary of state. An Obama victory will bring intense pressure on the U.S.
anti-war and social justice movements to accept a Democratic administration
for all its faults. If that happens, domestic resistance to rapacious
America will fall silent.

America’s war on Iran has already begun. In December, Bush secretly
authorized support for two guerrilla armies inside Iran, one of which, the
military arm of Mujahedin-e Khalq, is described by the state department as
terrorist. The U.S. is also engaged in attacks or subversion against
Somalia, Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Bolivia and
Venezuela. A new military command, Africom, is being set up to fight proxy
wars for control of Africa’s oil and other riches. With U.S. missiles soon
to be stationed provocatively on Russia’s borders, the Cold War is back.
None of these piracies and dangers has raised a whisper in the presidential
campaign, not least from its great liberal hope.

Moreover, none of the candidates represents so-called mainstream America. In
poll after poll, voters make clear that they want the normal decencies of
jobs, proper housing and health care. They want their troops out of Iraq and
the Israelis to live in peace with their Palestinian neighbors. This is a
remarkable testimony, given the daily brainwashing of ordinary Americans in
almost everything they watch and read.

On this side of the Atlantic, a deeply cynical electorate watches British
liberalism’s equivalent last fling. Most of the “philosophy” of new Labor
was borrowed wholesale from the U.S.. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were
interchangeable. Both were hostile to traditionalists in their parties who
might question the corporate-speak of their class-based economic policies
and their relish for colonial conquests. Now the British find themselves
spectators to the rise of new Tory, distinguishable from Blair’s new Labor
only in the personality of its leader, a former corporate public relations
man who presents himself as Tonier than thou. We all deserve better.


6) Police Taser Man Suffering Diabetic Seizure, Charge Him with DUI
By David Gutierrez
May 29, 2008

(NaturalNews) Police in Ozark, Alabama, Tasered and arrested an unconscious, sober man who was having a diabetic seizure on November 6, then charged him with drunk driving and resisting arrest.

James Bludsworth, 54, was pulling a trailer in his black Nissan truck when he began to have a diabetic seizure. Bludsworth promptly pulled over to the side of the road, where he passed out.

After receiving a call about the truck and trailer parked on the side of the road, three police cruisers responded to the scene. When Bludsworth failed to respond to their commands, the officers fired Tasers at his unconscious body three times.

A Taser is a type of electroshock weapon that fires small metal darts attached to the gun by wires, then administers an electric shock that disrupts nerve and muscle function and induces severe pain.

Bludsworth was then taken to the Dale County Jail and charged with resisting arrest, drunk driving and a towing infraction. He was not given medical attention.

After posting $1,000 bail and scoring 0.00 blood alcohol on a breathalyzer test, Bludsworth was released. The towing infraction was dropped, but the criminal charges against him remain.

Ozark Deputy Police Chief Myron Williams defended the officers' response to the situation, saying that the unconscious man was "combative."

"The officers were looking for a medical alert bracelet that would signify some medical condition, and he didn't have one," Williams said. "The officer asked [Bludsworth] how much had he been drinking and he said 'a whole lot.' The officer also asked him did he need an ambulance and he said 'no.'"

One of the responding officers now says that he smelled alcohol on Bludsworth's breath at the time.

The officers involved in the incident will not be disciplined. Bludsworth has another court date in December, at which point his arresting officer will have the option to recommend that the charges against him be dropped.


7) Coming Late to the Table
Op-Ed Columnist
May 31, 2008

I guess it’s official now since we have a Bush administration insider, Scott McClellan, telling us that the war in Iraq was a monumental strategic blunder, and that it was sold cynically and deceitfully to a craven Congress and to a public still traumatized by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Some of us already knew that, Scott. Some of us knew it at the time.

In his new book, “What Happened,” Mr. McClellan even tells us that wars “should only be waged when necessary.”

Gee, Scott, some of us have known that deep in our hearts all of our lives.

Even the most cursory reading of wartime history — take your pick: World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, any war — would convey the message that to engage in warfare unnecessarily is insane.

Reading Mr. McClellan’s book, I kept thinking of the many ordinary people — the service members, their relatives, and so many others — who have suffered so grievously from this misbegotten and thoroughly unnecessary war.

I remember talking with Tyler Hall, a baby-faced sergeant from Wasilla, Alaska, in 2004. “I was blown up in an I.E.D. attack,” he told me.

Sergeant Hall had three bones in his back broken. His arm was broken. He lost his left leg below the knee. He was badly burned. Part of his palate was destroyed. The lower part of his face had to be reconstructed. He suffered a brain injury. And so forth.

That is just the tiniest glimpse of the sort of thing that happens when a president refuses to heed the call of reason and instead, immaturely and unforgivably, sends his country’s brave young volunteers into a pointless conflagration.

More than 4,000 Americans have made the supreme sacrifice for this unnecessary war.

The New York Times and HBO jointly produced a documentary called “Last Letters Home,” a title that requires no explanation. One of those letters was to John Witmer from his daughter Michele, a 20-year-old Army specialist from New Berlin, Wis.

“Dear Daddy,” she wrote, “Happy Father’s Day. I love you so much and you can’t imagine how often I think of you. I hope you have lots of fun today and that the weather is lovely.”

I’ve talked to so many parents who lost children in the war. During an interview in her home in Philadelphia, Celeste Zappa told me about the moment she found out that her son, Sherwood Baker, a sergeant in the Pennsylvania National Guard, had been killed.

One evening in April 2004, Ms. Zappa noticed a man in a dress uniform with medals on his chest coming onto her porch. “He had a notebook in his hand,” she said. “I could see him very clearly even though it was dark and kind of raining. So I came out on the porch and I looked at him. And I knew, but I didn’t want to know.”

Sergeant Baker had only been in Baghdad six weeks when he was blown up in an explosion at a factory. An absurd footnote to his death was the fact that he was helping to provide security for the Iraq Survey Group, which was hunting for the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

The war in Iraq, which has taken 100,000 or more Iraqi lives, and which will cost the U.S. upwards of $3 trillion, and which continues indefinitely, is a scandal and a crime. Scott McClellan is a little late to be blowing the whistle on this outrage.

More important than his belated musings on the war, and his aggrieved take on the leaking of a C.I.A. operative’s identity, is Mr. McClellan’s warning about the “culture of deception” that has poisoned the very atmosphere of national politics and government.

“Washington has become the home of the permanent campaign,” he writes, “a game of endless politicking based on the manipulation of shades of truth, partial truths, twisting of the truth, and spin. Governing has become an appendage of politics rather than the other way around, with the electoral victory and the control of power as the sole measures of success.”

Mr. McClellan’s book landed like a bombshell on Washington not because of any startling revelations or staggering new insights, but because he was an insider who wrote unflatteringly about his boss.

Forget that this is supposed to be a government of, by and for the people, and that the truth is supposed to matter. Mr. McClellan is being denounced as a traitor by those who readily accept the culture of deception, and who believe that a government official’s primary loyalty is not to the people, but to power itself — in this case, to the president.

It’s exactly that kind of thinking that begets unnecessary wars.


8) Troubled Oceans
May 31, 2008

Five years have elapsed since the Pew Oceans Commission’s seminal report urging prompt action to arrest the alarming decline of this country’s ocean resources. Four years have elapsed since a blue-ribbon presidential commission said much the same thing, urging special attention to problems like overfishing and the deterioration of coastal wetlands and estuaries. Despite an occasional burst of energy, however, the Bush administration and Congress have left much to be done. And time is running out.

As is true with many environmental issues — climate change comes immediately to mind — the states have done a better job. New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts have either passed legislation or established a regulatory structure to better manage their coastal waters (states control the first three miles, the federal government controls the rest until international waters begin 200 miles offshore). California, always at the leading edge, has begun setting up a network of fully protected zones where fish can flourish with minimal commercial intrusion.

These actions show that progress is possible and challenge the White House and Congress to do better.

President Bush has expressed interest in leaving a positive “blue legacy.” Last year, he created one of the biggest protected marine reserves in the world — 138,000 square miles of largely unspoiled reefs and shoals near Hawaii. He should create at least one and possibly more such reserves elsewhere in American waters before he leaves office — and should persuade other world leaders to do the same.

The president must also give teeth to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the basic law governing fishing in federal waters. Congress reauthorized and strengthened the law in 2006, establishing more ambitious timetables for rebuilding depleted fish species and giving scientists greater say over how many fish can be taken from the sea. Everything depends on whether the National Marine Fisheries Service buttresses good law with strong rules and does not let the commercial fisherman hijack the process.

For its part, Congress must give ocean issues greater priority, in part by reorganizing the way the federal government deals with them. America’s waters are managed under 140 different laws spread across 20 different government agencies. A bill known as Oceans 21 seeks to bring order out of chaos and give ocean protection the prominence it deserves. The bill is slowly gaining traction in the House but could use a strong push from Senate Democrats and the White House.

Many experts believe that the biggest long-term threat to the oceans may be global warming, which could disrupt ocean chemistry in ways that cause havoc with the food chain. The science on this issue is still unclear, however, and in any case, global warming is best addressed in broad legislation like the climate change bill now before the Senate. In the meantime, there is much that Washington can do to strengthen the resilience of the ocean and its inhabitants so they can withstand whatever stresses the future may bring.


9) Insurers See Women With Past Caesareans as Risk
June 1, 2008

When the Golden Rule Insurance Company rejected her application for health coverage last year, Peggy Robertson was mystified.

“It made no sense,” said Ms. Robertson, 39, who lives in Centennial, Colo. “I’m in perfect health.”

She was turned down because she had given birth by Caesarean section. Having the operation once increases the odds that it will be performed again, and if she became pregnant and needed another Caesarean, Golden Rule did not want to pay for it. A letter from the company explained that if she had been sterilized after the Caesarean, or if she were over 40 and had given birth two or more years before applying, she might have qualified.

Ms. Robertson had been shopping around for individual health insurance, the kind that people buy on their own. She already had insurance but was looking for a better rate. After being rejected by Golden Rule, she kept her existing coverage.

With individual insurance, unlike the group coverage usually sponsored by employers, insurance companies in many states are free to pick and choose the people and conditions they cover, and base the price on a person’s medical history. Sometimes, a past Caesarean means higher premiums.

Although it is not known how many women are in Ms. Robertson’s situation, the number seems likely to increase, because the pool of people seeking individual health insurance, now about 18 million, has been growing steadily — and so has the Caesarean rate, which is at an all-time high of 31.1 percent. In 2006, more than 1.2 million Caesareans were performed in the United States, and researchers estimate that each year, half a million women giving birth have had previous Caesareans.

“Obstetricians are rendering large numbers of women uninsurable by overusing this surgery,” said Pamela Udy, president of the International Caesarean Awareness Network, a group whose mission is to prevent unnecessary Caesareans.

Although many women who have had a Caesarean can safely have a normal birth later, something that Ms. Udy’s group advocates, in recent years many doctors and hospitals have refused to allow such births, because they carry a small risk of a potentially fatal complication, uterine rupture. Now, Ms. Udy says, insurers are adding insult to injury. Not only are women feeling pressure to have Caesareans that they do not want and may not need, but they may also be denied coverage for the surgery.

“You have women just caught in the middle of this huge triangle of hospitals, insurance companies and doctors pointing the finger at each other,” Ms. Udy said.

Insurers’ rules on prior Caesareans vary by company and also by state, since the states regulate insurers, said Susan Pisano of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group. Some companies ignore the surgery, she said, but others treat it like a pre-existing condition.

“Sometimes the coverage will come with a rider saying that coverage for a Caesarean delivery is excluded for a period of time,” Ms. Pisano said. Sometimes, she said, applicants with prior Caesareans are charged higher premiums or deductibles.

“In many respects it works a lot like other situations where someone has a condition that will foreshadow the potential for higher costs going forward,” Ms. Pisano said.

Her group has reported that although most Americans with health insurance, 160 million, have group plans through employers, the number needing individual policies will probably keep rising, because more and more people are becoming self-employed or taking jobs without health benefits.

In a letter to Ms. Robertson, Golden Rule, which sells individual policies in 30 states, said it would insure a woman who had had a Caesarean only if it could exclude paying for another one for three years. But in Colorado, such exclusions are considered discriminatory and are forbidden, so Golden Rule simply rejects women who have had the surgery, unless they have been sterilized or meet the company’s age requirements.

“If you don’t work for someone who has insurance, and you have to get insurance on your own, this is terrifying,” Ms. Robertson said.

A spokeswoman for Golden Rule declined to explain how long it had been excluding Caesareans, how it had decided to do so or how many were affected, saying the information was proprietary. The company, based in Indianapolis, is owned by UnitedHealthcare, which collects more than $50 billion a year in premiums and has 26 million members, most with group coverage.

In Colorado, people denied individual health insurance can obtain it through a state program, Cover Colorado, which insures about 7,200 people. But the premiums are high, 140 percent of standard rates, a spokeswoman said, adding that some women had enrolled specifically because prior Caesareans had disqualified them from private insurance.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, which has about 300,000 members with individual coverage, used to exclude repeat Caesareans, but recently began to cover them — for a 25 percent increase in premiums for five years. Like Golden Rule, the company exempts women if they have been sterilized.

“After five years, if there is not a complication of pregnancy, another C-section, or if they get their tubes tied and are no longer in that risk situation, that rate-up goes away,” said Randy M. Kammer, the vice president for regulatory affairs and public policy.

The higher rate is based on a Caesarean costing an average of $2,700 more than a vaginal birth (assuming no complications in either type of delivery). Ms. Kammer said Blue Cross Blue Shield could not provide a tally of how many members were paying the higher rates because of Caesareans.

“The aggravating thing is, there are a lot of elective Caesareans, and that adds to costs,” she said.

Elizabeth Bonet, who lives in Sunrise, Fla., learned about the higher rates this year when she applied to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida.

“I was very angry, outraged, shocked,” Ms. Bonet said. “It made me feel very helpless. These were not Caesareans I wanted. They were not elective Caesareans. I very much wanted natural births with both babies and was not able to have them, and to have to pay for that for years is outrageous, and I feel it’s discriminatory as well.”

Each state’s Blue Cross Blue Shield plan sets its own policies. In Texas, a spokeswoman said, a prior Caesarean will not affect a woman’s premiums or insurability, as long as she has recovered fully.

A spokeswoman for another major insurer, Wellpoint, said the company’s decisions about prior Caesareans varied case by case, but declined to explain further.

Aetna does not treat a Caesarean itself as a pre-existing condition, but does factor in chronic or recurring problems that might have led to the Caesarean, like diabetes or high blood pressure, a spokeswoman said.

A spokeswoman for another company, Mega Life and Health Insurance, in North Richland Hills, Tex., said: “If the Caesarean section was considered by the physician to be medically necessary for the safety of the mother or child then coverage is issued without conditions. If the procedure was determined to be ‘elective,’ coverage would be offered with a temporary waiver or at a higher premium rate.”

Insurers often accuse women and obstetricians of scheduling unneeded Caesareans for their own convenience — to deliver the baby at a certain time, or to avoid labor. But it is not known how much of the overall increase in Caesareans is because of a rise in unnecessary operations, or how many Caesareans are done at the mother’s request, according to a 2006 report by the National Institutes of Health.

“I think it’s really a very small amount, but we need more data,” said Dr. Mary D’Alton, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, and an author of the report.

She said she was amazed to hear that insurers would charge higher premiums or deny coverage because of a past Caesarean.

“I would think if it’s happening, the medical profession has to take a stand,” Dr. D’Alton said.

But to people familiar with the rough and tumble world of individual insurance, the companies’ practices are no surprise.

Individual insurance differs sharply from the group coverage with which most people are familiar. Group policies generally require that the insurer cover everybody in the group, and charge the same rates for all. But with individual coverage, insurers in many states can vary their prices based on medical history, exclude certain services or reject anyone they consider a bad risk. (Several states, however, including New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, ban such practices.)

Insurers say they need these strategies to protect themselves, because some customers apply only after they get sick or pregnant, skewing the pool toward people with high expenses.

Ms. Robertson said that had she known a Caesarean was grounds for rejection, she would not have even applied to Golden Rule, because the denial may be held against her in the future. Insurers routinely ask applicants if they have ever been denied, and red-flag anyone who says yes.

“My understanding is that once you’re denied it’s hard to get other insurance,” Ms. Robertson said. “Man, is that a scary thing.”


10) Apocalypse in the Oceans
By Anneli Rufus
May 30, 2008

Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood
By Taras Grescoe
SBN13: 9781596912250
ISBN10: 1596912251

With 150 dead zones in our oceans, some the size of Ireland, author Taras Grescoe argues that there's been a massive die out of sea life.

In pictures, on “CSI Miami,” and to the naked eye the sea looks the same today as it ever did: blue, green or blue-green, rolling in glassy crashing curls, tormented then serene. It will look this way tomorrow, next year, arguably for eternity. No matter what freaks us out on earth, our species takes great comfort in knowing that the sea always looks exactly the same.

From up here.

But not down there. Not underneath. Under the swells and the sparkles and the froth, fathoms down, the globe's oceans have transformed over the last several decades, transforming even as we sit here into wastelands, ghost worlds, desolate deathscapes that could be filmed in situ for sci-fi films about the post-apocalypse. You won't find this out from a day at the beach. The smiling sea captain depicted on the fish-sticks box is keeping mum. But Canadian food journalist Taras Grescoe tells all in his important new book, Bottomfeeder (Bloomsbury, 2008).

"Rather quickly, the oceans are becoming environments unlike any we have ever known," Grescoe agonizes, giving as his first example the North Atlantic, where he watches Nova Scotian fishermen exulting over a new lobster boom while apparently neither knowing nor caring about its probable cause: human greed.

Yes, climate change plays a part but it's marginal compared to the massive overfishing required to supply restaurants and stores in a world that stuffs itself on tuna sandwiches, salmon steaks, shrimp cocktail and sashimi.

"The shallow waters off Nova Scotia used to be full of swordfish and bluefin tuna, as well as untold numbers of hake, halibut, and haddock. Cod in particular were the apex predators in these parts," Grescoe writes. (Later in the book, he quotes early observers describing "cod mountains" off a once-rich Newfoundland coast where the fifteenth-century navigator John Cabot reported cod populations so thick that they actually blocked his ships' passage.) Cod, Grescoe writes, once "prowled the gullies offshore in dense shoals, using their powerful mouths to suck up free-swimming larvae, sea urchins, and even full-grown crustaceans. But the cod were fished to collapse in the early 1990s. With the cod gone, stocks of lobsters and other low-in-the-food-chain species exploded." By wiping out predator species, the fishing industry screws up ecosystems. As sea creatures high on the food chain disappear, their populations more than decimated in the last half-century, a lobster boom "may just be a tiny blip on a slippery slope to oceans filled with jellyfish, bacteria, and slime."

Meanwhile, overfishing has created some 150 "dead zones"—oxygen-free patches of ocean that can sustain no life—around the world: Some of these patches, Grescoe tells us forebodingly, "are now as large as Ireland." In search of seafloor-dwelling species such as the trendy monkfish—long ignored, then popularized single-handedly by Julia Child in 1979—bottom-trawls weighing more than 26,000 pounds each rake and flatten wildlife-rich undersea peaks, leaving a paved-looking flatness in their wake. Oh, and a large percentage of coral reefs worldwide are dying or already dead. Oh, and those bluefin tuna and halibut steaks you like? Say it with me: Mercury. Those jumbo fried shrimp battened on pesticides and antibiotics in bacteria-riddled Chinese farms, their decomposing flesh treated with borax? How's your health insurance?

It is happening right this minute but not quite right before our eyes. This is exactly the sort of thing our species prefers not to think about. What kind of catastrophe is it? Take your pick. Ecological. Medical.

And ethical: Grescoe started this project as a diner, "a fish lover, but ... no fish hugger" who has caught and eaten seafood eagerly all his life. But knowing as he does "that ours might be among the last generations in history able to enjoy the down-to-earth luxury of freshly caught wild fish," his fantasies of sampling Japanese pufferfish and Chinese "drunken shrimp" slam hard against reality:

"I draw the line," he resolves, "where the pursuit or cultivation of my dinner obviously damages the environment, where cruelty is involved, where pollution or adulterants make it unsafe to eat. I would get no pleasure from eating a nearly extinct songbird, wine made from tiger bones, or the last few grams of beluga caviar from the Caspian. For me, a pleasure that diminishes the experience of everybody else on earth is no pleasure at all."

Fair enough. So in this spirit of sad apprehension he set out around the world to report on the state of some of humanity's most celebrated sea foods and the communities surrounding their consumption: from Chesapeake Bay oysters to Japanese sushi to English fish and chips and beyond. Part detective, part adventurer, part whistleblower, he reveals underhanded practices, such as Japan's "scientific" whale fishing, and outright crime, such as tons of cod harvested illegally, exceeding official quotas, during their spawning season by Russian ships that offload their catch to other ships at sea in order to evade detection. (Greenpeace calls this "pirate fishing.") The results end up in myriad English "chippies," doused with salt and vinegar.

And we learn about "finning," the practice of slicing off just-caught sharks' pectoral and dorsal fins—destined for soup—with hot metal blades. "Kicked back into the ocean, alive and bleeding," it can take the sharks days to die. Nearly forty million are killed this way annually. Seventeen countries, including the U.S. and Canada, now ban finning, but China and the EU are among the world's remaining avid finners; Grescoe identifies Spain as the most avid of all. Although shark hunting is technically forbidden in Galapagos National Park, a vast marine reserve, some 300,000 sharks are caught there every year. Until the 1960s, whitetip sharks were "the most abundant large animals on earth," Grescoe writes. "Forty years later they have all but disappeared from the Gulf of Mexico," where they once thrived. "Up the length of the Atlantic coast, the story is the same: since 1972, bull, dusky, smooth, and hammerhead shark populations have all been fished to one percent of their former levels." Who cares? Well, it's all about the ecosystems. Sharks eat skates and rays. Sans sharks, skyrocketing skate and ray populations are eating scallops and clams into extinction.

This book is a veritable eulogy. For ecosystems. For the toxic, dead water. For sea creatures. And for many of our fellow human beings, although honestly it's hard to care much at this point about anyone who would eat sharkfins or whale: "Every year, twenty thousand tons of heavy metals and eight hundred tons of cyanide end up in Chinese waters," Grescoe reveals. Unsurprisingly, two years ago cancer has been the leading cause of death in China. Massive quantities of cheap seafood from pesticide-suffused Chinese fish farms is exported worldwide; only a fraction is tested or inspected. Much is infected with salmonella and listeria. Most has lived its life in water thick with fecal bacteria, human and animal: "The fish, in other words, were bathing in shit."

It's also a eulogy for lifestyles, for old-fashioned fisherfolk in those seafaring communities that spent centuries supporting themselves by catching, processing, selling and eating species in the wild: scallops in North Carolina, oysters in Chesapeake, hake in Namibia, shrimp in Tamil Nadu, India. On one hand, you could say, hey, they did it to themselves: got too greedy, maintained certain tactics that became unsustainable. On the other hand, you could say it's sad—that these communities fell victim to intrusive large-scale foreign operations, as fishing has gone from local to global: As an example, Grescoe visited a huge Nova Scotia processing plant that used to handle cod from Canadian waters but now gets its cod from Russia, its salmon from Chile, its catfish from Vietnam. The factory outsources labor-intensive tasks, such as skewering salmon, to China. The finished product is labeled "Product of Canada."

You could say too that the residents of these communities are relatively powerless over such government-controlled decisions as the 1.5 billion gallons of urban sewage that pour into Chesapeake Bay every day. Grescoe sympathizes with the Tamil Nadu fisherfolk who, put out of business by industrial shrimp farms, tell him: "Our village is going to die." But an encounter with a Yorkshireman who blusters angrily after being arrested for catching more than his legal share—and who blames declining salmon and cod populations on "horrible, sliming, stinking, eye-watering bloody seals"—leaves Grescoe cold:

"This kind of attitude lies at the heart of the problems facing the oceans," he seethes. "It is the ongoing plunder of the seas, done in the name of keeping a boat afloat for another season, and multiplied a hundred thousand times in all the ports of the world.... If this were still the age of inexhaustible cod mountains and endless salmon rivers, such a display of spirit might be admirable. It is the essence of the indomitable, shortsighted, buck-passing Atlantic fisherman: an independent, almost lordly working-class hero, romanticized to death in our culture. As long as there is a single jellyfish left in the ocean, he will be ready to go out and catch it." And jellyfish, down at the foot of the food chain, will be the last edible species out there in a not-too-distant future when our great-grandchildren, Grescoe half-jokes, will eat "peanut butter and jellyfish sandwiches" and "jellyfish and chips."

He agrees with the scientists and activists who now advocate a "slow-fish" movement. It would entail banning destructive fishing methods such as bottom-trawling; "revalorizing" earlier techniques such as hook-and-line; protecting overfished species; and drastically reducing aquaculture—that is, fish farming—as well as government subsidies to fishing fleets. And while Grescoe doesn't suggest never eating any seafood again, he now chooses his intelligently: avoiding the farmed, the faraway, the overfished, and those large, long-lived, high-on-the-food-chain species such as halibut, tuna, shark and swordfish whose meat is infused with mercury and other chemicals known to cause eventual nerve damage. Instead, he suggests sardines, sea urchins and squid: In other words: Become a Bottomfeeder—at least until, and if, the seas stop dying.

Anneli Rufus is the author of several books, including Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto.

—AlterNet, May 30, 2008


11) Police Told to Give Street-Stop Data
May 31, 2008

A state judge in Manhattan has ordered the Police Department to release its database on hundreds of thousands of civilians stopped by officers.

The decision, by Justice Marylin G. Diamond of State Supreme Court, was released on Friday in response to a lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union that asked the department to make public its electronic database on 756,514 stops from the beginning of 2006 through the first half of 2007.

The suit was filed in November 2007 so the civil liberties group could determine whether racial profiling had played a role in the street stops and whether they were justified. The New York Times, the City Bar Association and a group of 21 academic figures filed papers in January in support of the suit.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has said that officers do not practice racial profiling in making the stops. Last year, the civil liberties group sought access to the database through the Freedom of Information Law, but the Police Department argued against it, saying that it included private information about officers and civilians.

But Justice Diamond wrote that since the department had previously turned over the stop-and-frisk database to the RAND Corporation and to a University of Michigan research group, it could do so again, omitting the personal information.

“The N.Y.P.D. has not offered any reason why the petitioner should be denied access to the same database which it has already shared with other outside organizations,” the order said.

The judge ordered the department to redact the names and addresses of the people who had been stopped, and the names, addresses and tax identification numbers of the officers, before turning over the database.

The civil liberties union applauded the decision. “With the release of this database and the public scrutiny that will follow, the police will finally be held accountable to New Yorkers who want to know if the N.Y.P.D. is targeting people because of the color of their skin,” said the group’s executive director, Donna Lieberman.

The Police Department’s chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said on Friday that the data “parallels descriptions provided by crime victims, and it is consistent with the fact that the police respond frequently to calls for service from areas of higher crime.”

“Such stops have always been an important ingredient in crime-fighting,” he said. “They’ve just never been as thoroughly documented as they are today.” He added that department lawyers were reviewing the decision to see exactly what material would be considered sensitive.

Jesse I. Levine, a senior counsel in the city’s Law Department, said it, too, was reviewing the decision. “We are disappointed in the judge’s view of the law enforcement privileges asserted regarding this sensitive database,” he said in a statement.

Under police guidelines, officers stop people in the street when they have reasonable suspicion that the person has committed a crime or is about to. They then fill out what is known in police parlance as a “stop question and frisk” form, although not all of the street stops lead to an officer frisking or searching a suspect; some people are merely questioned.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Levine said the city was concerned that access to the database could expose law enforcement techniques. “It might give away information about specific policing methods, such as location, frequency of stops, and patterns,” he said.

The civil liberties group said that the database included information about 850,000 police stops of civilians from Jan. 1, 2006, through September 2007, gleaned from reports that officers are required to file with details like the race and sex of the person and the reason for the stop. In the subsequent two quarters, through March of this year, there were 254,953 stops, the N.Y.C.L.U. said.

Blacks made up more than half of the 469,000 stops in 2007, even though they make up only one-quarter of the city’s population, and Latinos, 30 percent, according to the civil liberties group. It said 88 percent of the people stopped that year did not get summonses or were not arrested.

In a report issued in November, the RAND Corporation, a private nonprofit organization, said that it had found “small racial differences in the rates of frisk, search, use of force and arrest.”

Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said it would look into whether there was legal justification for the stops. “The single most common reason in a majority of the stops was that the person was in a high-crime area,” he said.

“We plan to make it publicly available to anyone who wants to have access to it,” Mr. Dunn said of the study. “And we are going to have an independent review of the stop-and-frisk practices.” He said the group would now seek the release of the figures updated through March 2008 as well.

A lawyer for The Times, David E. McCraw, said the information would help uncover any bias. “Everybody should have a chance to decide for themselves,” he said.

Andrew G. Celli Jr. a lawyer for the 21 scholars, said, “This is the first time that data will be made available to scholars on an independent and autonomous basis to determine whether racial profiling is occurring.”


12) Legitimizing Marijuana
What's Online
May 31, 2008

JANE WELLS of CNBC keeps a blog called Funny Business, but her recent reports on California’s medical marijuana industry are about a business that is increasingly being taken seriously. They amount to a short primer on how the business works and how the operators of the state’s estimated 500 dispensaries deal with the high risks and high costs of working in a legal gray area (

Medical marijuana is legal in California, but federal law still bans sales. Amid the uncertainty that this creates — including the occasional raid by federal agents — a full-fledged industry has blossomed, taking in about $2 billion a year and generating $100 million in state sales taxes, CNBC reported.

Setting up a clinic “can cost as much as a hundred grand,” Ms. Wells reports. The equipment, the cuttings from which plants are grown and office space all tend to be expensive. And from there, the costs only grow, mostly in the form of legal fees. Many clinics keep lawyers on retainer.

Nonetheless, “this is the business model of the future,” says JoAnna La Force of Farmacy, an herbal remedy shop in Southern California. Ms. LaForce says her business is close to breaking even (

A slew of ancillary businesses has grown up around medical marijuana. Bill Britt, identified on the Web site as a patient, has found a new career as an expert witness in cases brought against dispensaries and patients, earning $250 to $350 a case.

He gained his expert knowledge by attending Oaksterdam University, a trade school in Oakland, Calif. At Oaksterdam (, students learn everything from “The Politics of Cannabis” to botany to business operations.

Getting into the quasi-legitimate marijuana business is a challenge, says Jeff Jones, chancellor of Oaksterdam’s Los Angeles campus. But, he adds, “The investment is well worth it, except for the federal risk.”

A DISTINCTION, OF SORTS As air travel grows increasingly nightmarish even as it gets more expensive, Patrick Smith, writer of Salon’s Ask the Pilot column, has been singing the praises of Southwest Airlines, the (relatively) cut-rate, bare-bones carrier (

Southwest recently took first place in a survey of airline satisfaction conducted by the University of Michigan.

Mr. Smith’s initial explanation was this: “People don’t expect much. Southwest Airlines is nothing if not unpretentious” and has “mastered the art of get-what-you-pay-for satisfaction.”

His readers, though, thought otherwise. Many wrote to say that, though Southwest dispenses with a lot of perks, it offers a basic level of customer service that bigger airlines often do not.

Mr. Smith acknowledged that Southwest’s comparatively small size gave it an advantage in maintaining a consistent level of service. Nevertheless, it is “the last of a nearly vanished breed: an airline with a true personality, that large numbers of fliers have unwavering fondness for.”

BACK ON DRUGS As a test of airport security, a customs officer planted marijuana in the side pocket of a random suitcase at Narita International Airport in Tokyo, the BBC reports (

The test failed when the sniffer dogs were unable to detect the pot. But the officer could not remember which bag he had used.

Using an actual passenger’s suitcase is against regulations, and the airport’s customs service has apologized.

Meanwhile, the marijuana is still out there. “Anyone finding the package has been asked to contact customs officials,” according to the BBC. So far, nobody has spoken up.






Tennessee: State to Retry Inmate
National Briefing | South
The Union County district attorney said the county would meet a federal judge’s deadline for a new trial in the case of a death row inmate whose trial was questioned by the United States Supreme Court. The state is facing a June 17 deadline to retry or free the inmate, Paul House, who has been in limbo since June 2006, when the Supreme Court concluded that reasonable jurors would not have convicted him had they seen the results of DNA tests from the 1990s. The district attorney, Paul Phillips, said he would not seek the death penalty. Mr. House, 46, who has multiple sclerosis and must use a wheelchair, was sentenced in the 1985 killing of Carolyn Muncey. He has been in a state prison since 1986 and continues to maintain his innocence.
May 29, 2008

Israel: Carter Offers Details on Nuclear Arsenal
World Briefing | Middle East
Former President Jimmy Carter said Israel held at least 150 nuclear weapons, the first time a current or former American president had publicly acknowledged the Jewish state’s nuclear arsenal. Asked at a news conference in Wales on Sunday how a future president should deal with the Iranian nuclear threat, he sought to put the risk in context by listing atomic weapons held globally. “The U.S. has more than 12,000 nuclear weapons, the Soviet Union has about the same, Great Britain and France have several hundred, and Israel has 150 or more,” he said, according to a transcript. The existence of Israeli nuclear arms is widely assumed, but Israel has never admitted their existence and American officials have stuck to that line in public for years.
May 27, 2008

Iowa: Lawsuit Filed Over Raid
National Briefing | Midwest
The nation’s largest single immigration raid, in which nearly 400 workers at an Agriprocessors Inc. meat processing plant in Postville were detained on Monday, violated the constitutional rights of workers at a meatpacking plant, a lawsuit contends. The suit accuses the government of arbitrary and indefinite detention. A spokesman for the United States attorney’s office said he could not comment on the suit, which was filed Thursday on behalf of about 147 of the workers. Prosecutors said they filed criminal charges against 306 of the detained workers. The charges include accusations of aggravated identity theft, falsely using a Social Security number, illegally re-entering the United States after being deported and fraudulently using an alien registration card.
May 17, 2008

Senate Revises Drug Maker Gift Bill
National Breifing | Washington
A revised Senate bill would require drug makers and medical device makers to publicly report gifts over $500 a year to doctors, watering down the standard set in a previous version. The new language was endorsed by the drug maker Eli Lilly & Company. Lawmakers said they hoped the support would prompt other companies to back the bill, which had previously required all gifts valued over $25 be reported. The industry says the gifts are part of its doctor education, but critics say such lavish gestures influence prescribing habits.
May 14, 2008

Texas: Sect Mother Is Not a Minor
National Briefing | Southwest
Child welfare officials conceded to a judge that a newborn’s mother, held in foster care as a minor after being removed from a polygamous sect’s ranch, is an adult. The woman, who gave birth on April 29, had been held along with more than 400 children taken last month from a ranch run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was one of two pregnant sect members who officials had said were minors. The other member, who gave birth on Monday, may also be an adult, state officials said.
May 14, 2008

Four Military Branches Hit Recruiting Goals
National Briefing | Washington
The Marine Corps far surpassed its recruiting goal last month, enlisting 2,233 people, which was 142 percent of its goal, the Pentagon said. The Army recruited 5,681 people, 101 percent of its goal. The Navy and Air Force also met their goals, 2,905 sailors and 2,435 airmen. A Defense Department spokesman, Bryan Whitman, said that if the Marine Corps continued its recruiting success, it could reach its goal of growing to 202,000 people by the end of 2009, more than a year early.
May 13, 2008

Texas: Prison Settlement Approved
National Briefing | Southwest
A federal judge has approved a settlement between the Texas Youth Commission and the Justice Department over inmate safety at the state’s juvenile prison in Edinburg. The judge, Ricardo Hinojosa of Federal District Court, signed the settlement Monday, and it was announced by the commission Wednesday. Judge Hinojosa had previously rejected a settlement on grounds that it lacked a specific timeline. Federal prosecutors began investigating the prison, the Evins Regional Juvenile Center, in 2006. The settlement establishes parameters for safe conditions and staffing levels, restricts use of youth restraints and guards against retaliation for reporting abuse and misconduct.
May 8, 2008

Michigan: Insurance Ruling
National Briefing | Midwest
Local governments and state universities cannot offer health insurance to the partners of gay workers, the State Supreme Court ruled. The court ruled 5 to 2 that Michigan’s 2004 ban against same-sex marriage also blocks domestic-partner policies affecting gay employees at the University of Michigan and other public-sector employers. The decision affirms a February 2007 appeals court ruling. Up to 20 public universities, community colleges, school districts and local governments in Michigan have benefit policies covering at least 375 gay couples.
May 8, 2008

Halliburton Profit Rises
HOUSTON (AP) — Increasing its global presence is paying off for the oil field services provider Halliburton, whose first-quarter income rose nearly 6 percent on growing business in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, the company said Monday.
Business in the first three months of 2008 also was better than expected in North America, where higher costs and lower pricing squeezed results at the end of 2007.
Halliburton shares closed up 3 cents, at $47.46, on the New York Stock Exchange.
Halliburton said it earned $584 million, or 64 cents a share, in the three months that ended March 31, compared with a year-earlier profit of $552 million, or 54 cents a share. Revenue rose to $4.03 billion, from $3.42 billion a year earlier.
April 22, 2008

Illegal Immigrants Who Were Arrested at Poultry Plant in Arkansas to Be Deported
Eighteen illegal immigrants arrested at a poultry plant in Batesville will be processed for deportation, but will not serve any jail time for using fake Social Security numbers and state identification cards, federal judges ruled. Magistrate Judge Beth Deere and Judge James Moody of Federal District Court accepted guilty pleas from 17 of those arrested last week at the Pilgrim’s Pride plant. Federal prosecutors dismissed the misdemeanor charges against one man, but said they planned to ask Immigration and Customs Enforcement to begin deportation proceedings against him. The guilty pleas will give the 17 people criminal records, which will allow prosecutors to pursue tougher penalties if they illegally return to the United States. They had faced up to up to two years in prison and $205,000 in fines. Jane Duke, a United States attorney, said her office had no interest in seeing those arrested serve jail time, as they were “otherwise law-abiding citizens.”
National Briefing | South
April 22, 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]



"Award-Winning Writer/Filmmaker Donald L. Vasicek Launches New Sand
Creek Massacre Website"

May 21, 2008 -- CENTENNIAL, CO -- Award-winning filmmaker, Donald L.
Vasicek, has launched a new Sand Creek Massacre website. Titled,
"The Sand Creek Massacre", the site contains in depth witness
accounts of the massacre, the award-winning Sand Creek Massacre
trailer for viewing, the award-winning Sand Creek Massacre
documentary short for viewing, the story of the Sand Creek Massacre,
and a Shop to purchase Sand Creek Massacre DVD's and lesson
plans including the award-winning documentary film/educational DVD.

Vasicek, a board member of The American Indian Genocide Museum
( Houston, Texas, said, "The website was launched
to inform, to educate, and to provide educators, historians, students
and all others the accessibility to the Sand Creek Massacre story."

The link/URL to the website is

Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films+, LLC