Friday, July 04, 2008



Pastors for Peace Caravan stopped at U.S.-Mexico border
Computers destined for Cuba seized by Border Patrol
Take Action Now!

We have just received word that the Pastors for Peace Caravan, which challenges the U.S. blockade of Cuba on an annual basis, has been stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border. As always, the Pastors for Peace buses are carrying medicines and other materials to show their solidarity with the people of Cuba. Rev. Thomas Smith, President of the Board of Directors for the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization/Pastors for Peace, told ANSWER, "We've had 31 computers seized by the Customs and Border Patrol at the U.S.-Mexico border. These computers were destined for classrooms, clinic and hospitals in Cuba. These are 31 classrooms, clinics and hospitals that now will not have the opportunity to have computers." Smith vowed to "maintain a demonstration until we get the computers back" and called upon all opponents of the U.S. blockade to take a moment to protest this outrageous and cruel confiscation of humanitarian materials by contacting the following:

1) The Border Patrol, which under the Department of Homeland Security, which can be reached at 877-227-5511

2) The Office of Foreign Assets Control, which regulates the U.S. blockade of Cuba, which can be reached at 1-800-540-6322 or

3) Your House representative, who can be reached at the Congressional switchboard at 202-225-3121.

In your phone calls and emails demand the immediate release of all items belonging to the Pastors for Peace Caravan, which have been seized at the U.S.-Mexico border. Let them know that you stand with the Caravan members who are currently protesting at the border, that you oppose the blockade of Cuba. Take action right now!

Check out the 19th US-Cuba Friendshipment Caravan: Houston Event 2


On the Waterboard
How does it feel to be “aggressively interrogated”? Christopher Hitchens found out for himself, submitting to a brutal waterboarding session in an effort to understand the human cost of America’s use of harsh tactics at Guantánamo and elsewhere. has the footage. Related: “Believe Me, It’s Torture,” from the August 2008 issue.


Indicted, Sami Al-Arian Faces Possible Life Imprisonment new
John Halliwell, July 1, 2008
Last March, Sami Al-Arian was given a choice: 1) damned if you do; and 2) damned if you don't; he chose "damned if you don't". Finally, a full three months after making that decision, he was formally charged last Thursday with contempt of court, a crime which has no maximum penalty. In other words, Dr. Al-Arian - a man whose innocence has been grudgingly admitted by even his worst enemies* - is now facing the possibility of life in jail all because he had the guts to stand up for what he believes in--read more at:

1. Call Senator Patrick Leahy ((202) 224- 4242) and Congressman John Conyers ((202) 225-5126) - the Judicial Committee chairmen of the Senate and House respectively - and ask them to meet with the Attorney General and have him stop Assistant US Attorney Gordon Kromberg from going forward with this unlawful indictment. Even if you are not their constituent, they are obliged to listen to your opinion since their duties extend to all Americans.

2. Fax a letter to the Office of Professional Responsibility at the US Department of Justice: (202) 514-5050.



Come to a planning meeting to celebrate and take stock of where we are now:

Thursday, July 10, 7:00 P.M.
2489 Mission Street, Rm. 28
(Near 21st Street)
San Francisco

JROTC is a military recruitment program!
JROTC discriminates against queers!
(JROTC says it's OK to be gay in JROTC, but not in the military. How can that instill pride in anyone?)
JROTC costs the school district a million bucks!

P.S., I got the following from Pat Gerber letting us know that there will be at least one “antiwar” resolution on the ballot this November, filed by Chris Daly and signed by Tom Ammiano, Ross Mirkarimi and Jack McGoldrick that states:

"It is the Policy of the people of the City and County of San Francisco that:

"Its elected representatives in the United States Senate and House of Representatives should vote against any further funding for the deployment of United States Armed Forces in Iraq, with the exception of funds specifically earmarked to provide for their safe and orderly withdrawal."

We don't know what the resolution ballot designation will be yet--Prop.?
We will keep you posted about the ballot designation.



Memo from U.S. Army Cadet Command ordering JROTC teachers to help the military recruit students into the Army. Can be used to rebut claims that JROTC is not a recruiting program.
From PROJECT YANO, The Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities


ATCC-ZA (145-1)
30 March 1999


Region Commanders, u.s. Army Cadet Command Brigade Commanders, U.s. Army Cadet Command Battalion Commanders, U.s. Army Cadet Command

SUBJECT: Policy Memorandum 50 - U.s. Army Recruiting Command (USAREC) Partnership Initiatives

1. Purpose: To provide guidance on implementation of initiatives to enhance recruiting efforts with USAREC and Cadet Command.

2. Scope: Provisions of this memorandum apply to Cadet Command elements worldwide.

3. Philosophy: The mission of the ROTC program is to commission the future officer leadership of the u.s. Army and to motivate young people to be better citizens .. The Senior ROTC program is designed to produce officers for the U.S. Army and the Junior ROTC program is designed to help young people become better citizens. While not designed to be a specific recruiting tool, there is nothing in existing law, DOD directive or Army regulations that precludes either ROTC program from facilitating the recruitment of young men and women into the U.S. Army.

4. Cadet Command elements, at all levels, will:

a. Establish forums to exchange information with USAREC and state National Guards on recruiting and enrollment programs and policies.

b. Conduct joint advertising efforts with USAREC and the National Guard when applicable and appropriate.

c. Provide leads and prospect referrals to their USAREC and National Guard counterparts obtained froITl college dropout and ROTC dropout lists. Refer qualified leads generated during off-campus visits th~ough QUEST using established procedures.

SUBJECT: Policy Memorandum 50 - U.S. Army Recruiting Command (USAREC) Partnership Initiatives

d. Provide USAREC and National Guard counterpart elements a listing of current ROTC Recruiting Publicity Items (RPIs).

e. Assist USAREC and National Guard recruiters in obtaining access to Army JROTC units within the local geographic area.

f. Encourage USAREC and National Guard participation in scheduled ROTC social functions.

g. Share on-campus logistical and operational assets, e.g. I5-passenger van, office space for conducting recruiting interviews, and on-campus community support/endorsement of USAREC initiatives.

5. SROTC Battalion Commander will:

a. Invite all recruiters (officer and NCO) in surrounding area to meet with ROTC Cadre at least quarterly to share information and update each other on each program.

b. Provide recruiters names of college dropouts, ROTC dropouts and graduating seniors who are not cadets.

c. Include USAREC personnel in social functions, parades and ceremonies, etc.

d. Include USAREC in all Quality of Life initiatives.

e. Recognize recruiters who provide cadets to the program.

f. In selected locations provide administrative and logistical support for recruiters working on campus in conjunction with ROTC.

SUBJECT: Policy Memorandum 50 - U.S. Army Recruiting Command (USAREC) Partnership Initiatives

6. JROTC SAI and AI will:

a. Actively assist cadets who want to enlist in the military. Emphasize service in the U.S. Army (all components).

b. Facilitate recruiter access to cadets in JROTC program and to the entire student body.

c. Encourage college bound cadets to enroll in SROTC.

d. Work closely with high school guidance counselors to sell the Army story. Encourage them to display RPIs and advertising material and make sure they know how to obtain information on Army opportunities, including SROTC scholarships.

7. The intent of these partnership initiatives is to promote a synergistic effort of all Army assets, maximize recruiting efforts, exchange quality referrals, and educate all on both recruiting and ROTC programs and benefits.

Stewart W. Wallace,
Major General, U.S. Army

DCG, U.S. Army Cadet Command


An Emergency Call to Action AUGUST 2:
• An Attack could be Imminent
• We Can’t Afford to Wait
• Take It to the Streets This Summer
• U.S. out of Iraq, Money for human needs, not war!

Assemble 12 p.m.
at Times Square
43rd St. & Broadway


Consider as soon as possible if you can organize a STOP WAR ON IRAN protest in your locality during the weekend of August 2 – 3. Let us know so that your protest can be listed.


The U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan is hated by the people there. These wars have no support at home and are ruining the domestic economy. Instead of pulling out, the Bush administration is preparing for still another warÅ]this time against Iran . This must be stopped!


On June 4, George Bush, with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at his side, called Iran a “threat to peace.” Two days before, acting as a proxy for the Pentagon, Israel used advanced U.S. fighter planes to conduct massive air maneuvers, which the media called a “dress rehearsal” for an attack on Iran ’s nuclear facility. Under pressure from the U.S. , the European Union announced sanctions against Iran on June 23. A bill is before Congress for further U.S. sanctions on Iran and even a blockade of Iran.


Iran as a “nuclear threat” is as much a hoax as Bush’s claim of “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq used to justify the war there. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which inspects Iran ’s nuclear facilities, says it has no weapons program and is developing nuclear power for the days when its oil runs out. Even Washington ’s 16 top spy agencies issued a joint statement that said Iran does not have nuclear weapons technology!

U.S. and Israel are the real nuclear danger. The Pentagon has a huge, nuclear-capable naval armada in the Persian/Arabian Gulf, with guns aimed at Iran . Israel , the Pentagon’s proxy force in the Middle East , has up to 200 nuclear warheads and has never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran did sign it.


While billions of dollars go to war, at home the unemployment rate had the biggest spike in 23 years. Home foreclosures and evictions are increasing; fuel and food prices are through the roof. While the situation is growing dire for many, Washington ’s cuts to domestic programs continue. A new U.S. war will bring only more suffering.


While the summer is a difficult time to call protests, the August recess of Congress gives the White House an opportunity for unopposed aggression against Iran . We must not let this happen! From the anti-war movement and all movements for social change, to religious and grassroots organizations, unions and schools, let us join forces to demand “No war on Iran, U.S. out of Iraq, Money for human needs not war! “

This call to action is issued by , a network of thousands of concerned activists and organizations fighting to stop a new war against Iran since February 2006.

Endorse the Emergency Call to Action for August 2 at

List your local action at

Sign the Petition at

Make an Emergency Donation at

Tell a Friend

Sign up for updates

Please help build a grassroots campaign to Stop War on Iran

• Endorse the Emergency Call to Action for August 2
• List your local action
• Sign the Petition
• Make an Emergency Donation
• Tell a Friend
• Sign up for updates



Despite calling itself a "sanctuary city", S.F. politicians are permitting the harrassment of undocumented immigrants and allowing the MIGRA-ICE police to enter the jail facilities.

We will picket any store that cooperates with the MIGRA or reports undocumented brothers and sisters. We demand AMNESTY without conditions!

project of BARRIO UNIDO


george carlin nails it

Howard Zinn: An illustrated people's history of the US empire

This is a wonderful short video publicizing the main ideas behind the
Cleveland conference coming up this weekend [see below for details.] Take a look and pass it along!


"Canada: Abide by resolution - Let U.S. war resisters stay!"
Dear Canada: Let Them Stay
Urgent action request—In wake of Parliament win, please sign this new letter to Canada.
By Courage to Resist
June 18, 2008


Alison Bodine defense Committee
Lift the Two-year Ban

Watch the Sept 28 Video on Alison's Case!


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]


Not So Sweet
Why Dunkin' Donuts shouldn't have caved in the controversy over Rachael Ray's 'kaffiyeh' scarf.
By Lorraine Ali
Newsweek Web Exclusive
May 30, 2008
Read Article [#4 Below] on line at:
Sign Petition:




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


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) Union Fears the Loss of High Pay and Solid Benefits, Once Virtual Givens at Con Ed
"'The union was really taking care of us at the time,” said Mr. Cobert, now 86. 'Prices were going up, and the union always thought you had to do better than in the previous contract. When the union got going and started pushing hard on things, the threat of a strike was always there.'”
July 1, 2008

2) EXPOSÉ and THE JOURNAL go inside America's poultry industry, which employs almost a quarter million workers nationwide, to show the reality of working conditions and to investigate how official statistics showing a drop in workplace injuries may have been the result of deceptive reporting.
Bill Moyers Journal
June 27, 2008

3) Believe Me, It’s Torture
What more can be added to the debate over U.S. interrogation methods, and whether waterboarding is torture? Try firsthand experience. The author undergoes the controversial drowning technique, at the hands of men who once trained American soldiers to resist—not inflict—it.
by Christopher Hitchens August 2008

4) Deepening Cycle of Job Loss Seen Lasting Into ’09
July 2, 2008

5) Wal-Mart Faces Fine in Minnesota Suit Involving Work Breaks
"Judge King wrote that Ms. Braun had recounted the humiliating experience of soiling herself while at work because she had not been permitted time to use the restroom. He said that another Wal-Mart employee 'had to beg to use the restroom during one of her menstrual cycles.'”
July 2, 2008

6) Birth defects spike with U.S. use of 'special weaponry'
By Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail
Updated Jul 2, 2008, 10:59 am

7) Employers Cut Workers for a Sixth Month
July 4, 2008

8) Federal Report Recommends Improvements in Reporting Deaths of Immigrant Detainees
July 3, 2008

9) Steelworkers Merge With British Union
July 3, 2008

10) U.S. - Led Air Raid Kills 22 Afghan Civilians
Filed at 10:32 a.m. ET
July 4, 2008

11) 2 Supervisors Are Arrested After Sweep at Meat Plant
July 4, 2008


1) Union Fears the Loss of High Pay and Solid Benefits, Once Virtual Givens at Con Ed
"'The union was really taking care of us at the time,” said Mr. Cobert, now 86. 'Prices were going up, and the union always thought you had to do better than in the previous contract. When the union got going and started pushing hard on things, the threat of a strike was always there.'”
July 1, 2008

Last year, Con Edison officials said, the company sifted through 68,000 job applications to hire 1,314 new workers. So far in 2008, the utility has picked up 528 new people from a pool of 26,000. The deluge of applicants for what has long been seen as a blue-collar ticket to a middle-class life led Louis L. Rana, president of Consolidated Edison of New York Inc., to remark over the weekend that his company was harder to get into than Harvard.

Now, the solid wages and benefits that for decades have led Irish- and Italian-American men to follow their fathers and grandfathers into manholes, bucket trucks and substations are under threat, as the utility and the union that represents 8,800 of its nearly 14,000 workers try to hammer out a new four-year contract. The most recent pact expired on Sunday morning, with the union angry over what it described as the company’s proposal for a 1.5 percent annual wage increase — short of the 4.2 percent inflation rate — and a 401(k)-style savings plan, rather than the traditional pension, for new workers. The union, Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers Union of America, represents almost two-thirds of Con Edison’s employees.

“When I started, Con Ed was a very good company with great benefits, job security,” said Ken Burns, 46, a splicer who works in the Bronx and has 22 years with the company, where his grandfather spent his working life. “But with each contract, our benefits have decreased.”

Like other Con Edison workers interviewed on Monday, Mr. Burns said he liked his job and was treated well. But with gas prices rising, he said he had been spending $120 a week lately to get to work from his home in Stroudsburg, Pa., where he moved because he said it was the closest place he could find something affordable. And he noted that splicers risk serious injury handling high-voltage lines and must work in extreme heat and cold.

The slowing economy and the increase in prices of everyday goods make the prospect of going on strike unappealing to many workers. At the same time, the union has some leverage, because fast-growing parts of the country have a shortage of utility workers and are offering higher wages with lower costs of living.

Talks are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday at 9 a.m.

Wages at Con Edison appear to be healthy for workers without college diplomas, with a general utility worker, the equivalent of an Army private, earning $15.20 an hour to start and topping out at $25.35, which translates into about $52,000 a year for a full-time worker. Meter readers can earn as much as $31.92, mechanics up to $36.33, though it may take them nearly 20 years to reach that level. Splicers like Mr. Burns can earn more than $38 an hour.

As the power industry was deregulated over the past decade, Con Edison, like other utilities, has been under pressure from shareholders and customers to keep labor costs down, eroding some of the benefits that drew workers to the utility.

“I know the company needs to pay for increased prices of fuel, et cetera, but I feel the company is trying to take advantage of the situation,” said Winston Krieger, 49, who lives in Hicksville, N.Y., and has been a welding mechanic at the utility for 20 years. “They’re going backwards. If they give us this this time, what will they do next time?”

Paul Albano, a mechanic in transformer operations for 21 years, said that he started putting money aside as a precaution about a month ago, when the possibility of a strike began to seem real. “It’s hard on me, as well as everyone else,” said Mr. Albano, 45, who supports an ill wife on his wages and has six children. “There are a lot of young people working here with children and older folks with health issues.”

Con Edison executives declined to discuss the tenor or details of the contract negotiations.

With electricity demand in New York City having grown 20 percent in the last decade and baby boomers retiring, Con Edison has been hiring aggressively, and more than a third of the utility’s current work force has less than five years’ experience. That has created a rift between older workers who are trying to protect what they have fought for and younger workers not wanting to jeopardize their standing in the company.

While Irish and Italian men long dominated both the rank and file and the union leadership, more than half of the people hired in the past two years have been minorities, company officials said, and one in five were women.

Union officials contend the company is trying to drive a wedge between the generations with the two-tiered pension plan.

“The men are nervous,” said Joseph Tusa, 57, who has worked for 38 years at Con Edison as an underground transmission mechanic, as he left the utility’s substation in Astoria, Queens, on Monday. “They don’t have confidence in the future. They are worried about who is going to get the money in the future. It’s a trap for down the road.”

Ed Ott, the executive director of New York City Central Labor Council, said of the union workers: “They’ve obtained a certain level of benefits, health care and raises that anyone would be glad to have, and they’re fighting to keep what they gained.”

Local 1-2 began representing Con Edison’s workers in 1937, the year after the Public Service Commission approved a merger of several utility companies.

According to one history, those smaller, individual utilities had what were known as company unions, which management had helped set up. Once Con Edison was formed, the workers moved quickly to leave those organizations and join the feisty Utility Workers Union.

Through a series of contract battles during the late 1930s and ’40s, the union, part of the often-militant Congress of Industrial Organizations, obtained a coveted compensation package for Con Edison workers.

“It was a union where you get out of high school, you get a job and because of that union, you get a good life,” said Joshua B. Freeman, a historian at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and author of “Working-Class New York.”

Joseph Cobert went to work at Con Edison in 1948, after serving on the Intrepid during World War II, and spent 58 years as a utility mechanic, returning home every day covered with coal dust.

“The union was really taking care of us at the time,” said Mr. Cobert, now 86. “Prices were going up, and the union always thought you had to do better than in the previous contract. When the union got going and started pushing hard on things, the threat of a strike was always there.”

Sushil Cheema, Ann Farmer and Jason Grant contributed reporting.


2) EXPOSÉ and THE JOURNAL go inside America's poultry industry, which employs almost a quarter million workers nationwide, to show the reality of working conditions and to investigate how official statistics showing a drop in workplace injuries may have been the result of deceptive reporting.
Bill Moyers Journal
June 27, 2008

BILL MOYERS: As Senator Boxer dukes it out over the health and safety of the planet, other hearings in Congress are looking at health and safety in the workplace.

GEORGE MILLER: That you will tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth…

BILL MOYERS: Just last week, the House Committee on Education and Labor heard some disturbing testimony about the reliability of the government agency charged with protecting workers on the job.

BOB WHITMORE: The mission of OSHA is to take care of American Workers. If OSHA can't or won't do its job, it's up to you all to make it do the job.

BILL MOYERS: That's Bob Whitmore, a longtime civil servant at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration - or OSHA. And that's his lawyer sitting behind him. Whitmore's been placed on administrative leave, and he's testifying as a private citizen despite his two decades of expertise overseeing the agency's injury and illness records.

BOB WHITMORE: Information is inaccurate to impart to wide-scale underreporting

BILL MOYERS: As you'll see, Whitmore has a record of challenging the credibility of reports companies are required to provide OSHA about injuries and illnesses workers suffer on the job. The Chairman of the Committee, Representative George Miller of California, had some strong remarks about OSHA's performance.

GEORGE MILLER: OSHA refuses to recognize that the problem exists. We simply must not allow the lack of information to allow hazardous conditions to exist, putting workers lives and limbs at risk.

BILL MOYERS: Businesses, on the other hand, say the requirements are cumbersome, and have long pressured the agency for weaker standards of regulation.

The pressure's paid off. THE NEW YORK TIMES' Stephen Labaton reported last year that since George W. Bush became president, the agency has left worker safety largely in the hands of industry, and has issued the fewest significant standards in its history.

Then, last February, came another strong indictment. THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER published an investigative series on how and why OSHA has let companies in the poultry industry get away with reporting inaccurate information about injured workers. As often happens in journalism, The OBSERVER reporters were in pursuit of one story when an unexpected lead sent them on to something bigger. What happened is the subject of this report from our colleagues at Exposé. Sylvia Chase narrates.

NARRATOR: In the fall of 2005, reporters at THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER were hard at work researching and reporting a story that gripped the nation: the avian flu.

For much of the media, the story was an end in itself. For the OBSERVER, it was only the beginning.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ: The workers would tell me, if if there is avian flu here in this plant, we're going to get it. But we really have much more serious problems right here, right now.

The problems the workers described were not about disease…they were about on-the-job injuries.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ: They're cutting thousands of thousands of times without breaks, you know, developing tendonitis problem, hand problems, wrist problems, uh, shoulder and back problems; a lot of workers having carpal tunnel and not being able to get medical care, because every time they go to the nurse to say, hey, I'm in pain, they either get written up or told that they're not being -- they're not hurting from this job and it's something else.

NARRATOR: The poultry industry employs about 28,000 workers in the Carolinas and about 240,000 nationwide. Its production lines move at a relentless pace, meeting the enormous demand for America's most popular meat.

AMES ALEXANDER: Workers are making 20,000 cuts a day, highly prone to repetitive motion kinds of problems like carpal tunnel. They're working with sharp knives, around dangerous chemicals and equipment.

KERRY HALL: We started to wonder who was looking out for the workers. They really seemed to be kind of on their own. What really is happening behind these factory walls?

MITCH WEISS: I said, "let's do this;" we know from, from our initial research that there are poultry plants in 27 states. Why don't we start filing Freedom of Information Act requests with all the agencies out there that deal with the poultry industry.

KERRY HALL: I ended up sending more than 50 FOIAs to agencies in 27 states requesting more than 800 inspection files.

NARRATOR: While waiting for the FOIA requests to be filled, THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER's Kerry Hall and Ames Alexander researched publicly available Bureau of Labor Statistics about safety in poultry plants. They were surprised by what they found.

AMES ALEXANDER: What we saw is that according to the official records, the injury and illness rates in the poultry industry had declined immensely over the last decade, by more than half.

NARRATOR: Especially surprising were statistics saying that incidents of certain painful and debilitating injuries like carpal tunnel and tendonitis had gone down even more. Poultry workers suffered these conditions less than 25% as often as they had ten years ago.

These muscoloskeletal disorders - or "MSD's," as they are known --are common in jobs where workers perform repetitive motions. But by 2006, the statistics suggested it had become harder to get an MSD working in a poultry plant…than in a toy store. Intrigued, the OBSERVER reporters began questioning sources knowledgeable about industry conditions. They included labor attorneys, experts in workplace safety, regulators and physicians.

AMES ALEXANDER: And a lot of the experts we began talking to said that these official numbers just couldn't possibly be right, because this was a very dangerous industry.

NARRATOR: One example: Dr. Jorge Garcia, who practiced in rural South Carolina. He told the paper he had seen about 1000 poultry workers in the past seven years. He said, "I don't know a single worker who doesn't have some sort of pain in their hand."

NARRATOR: Soon, data from the reporters' freedom of information requests began to trickle in.

KERRY HALL: Here actually is some of our FOIA requests and FOIA responses. Letters from all the agencies: Indiana, Texas, Wisconsin, Georgia, Pennsylvania.

NARRATOR: The documents included not only plant inspection reports but also injury logs from the occupational safety and health administration…OSHA.

KERRY HALL: OSHA regulates poultry plants based off of these self-reported injury and illness rates. If you have a high injury and illness rate you'll get targeted possibly for an inspection. If you post a low rate, you can fall off the radar screen completely.

NARRATOR: While the documents showed some gruesome injuries, even deaths, there was nothing to contradict the statistics that said injury rates were way down.

But in comments that OSHA inspectors included in their reports, there were clues that something might be amiss.

AMES ALEXANDER: Inspectors were finding cases where injuries weren't showing up on the official records for one reason or another. There were, there were, uh, workers who said, you know, uh, "People get hurt all the time, but they're afraid to report."

NARRATOR: "Afraid," the paper would learn, because most line workers in poultry plants are immigrants, concerned they might be fired if they complain.

And many, though not all, are undocumented, and also fear deportation.

NARRATOR: Now Spanish-speaking reporter Franco Ordoñez went to see if some Latino immigrant workers might be willing to speak up.

Some did talk.

Celia Lopez had carpal tunnel;

Karina Zorita's hand pain made it hard to bend her fingers…or hold things.

Seferino Guadalupe shattered his ankle in a forklift accident.

It was put back together with screws.

And there was much more: punctures, fractures, chemical burns, and laceration after laceration.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ: these communities are just filled with injured workers. I mean, this -- these plants are just, you know, just shredding them out.

NARRATOR: Ordonez also learned of workers who had not only been injured…but claimed to have been coerced into staying at work once they were.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ: Jaime Hernandez was probably the most difficult to track down. We were looking for him for about three weeks to a month. Jaime Hernandez: My job focused on the meat, getting it off the bone, at first grab it and cut it, that is piece after piece after piece.

JAIME HERNANDEZ: Because of the pain and such, I got these little balls in my hand. I had surgery, and after that, I asked if I could go home to rest. And they said no, that I needed to be at work, even if I didn't do anything, just sitting in the office. And I said, but I don't feel well, I'm dizzy, it hurts, things like that. They said you have to be at the plant so they can pay you, because if you aren't, you can lose your job.

NARRATOR: Hernandez told Franco Ordonez a supervisor drove him back to work right after his surgery. The OBSERVER learned why a company might do that.

Patrick Scott: having no days away from work is the single biggest factor in determining worker's compensation costs for a factory.

NARRATOR: Consultants who advise companies on workers compensation told the OBSERVER if injured workers return quickly, a company can save money in workers comp costs.

A quick return also means the company won't have to report what OSHA calls a lost-time injury - reducing the chance that regulators will inspect the plant.

Jaime Hernandez worked for a company called House of Raeford Farms. The company would tell the OBSERVER that the paper's account of what happened to Hernandez was inaccurate…but that it couldn't discuss why because its personnel records are confidential.

House of Raeford is one of the nation's top ten poultry producers, employing about 6,000 people in seven plants in the Carolinas and one in Louisiana.

The company slaughters and processes about 29 million pounds of chicken and turkey each week.

Kerry Hall and OBSERVER photographer John Simmons were granted access to House of Raeford's West Columbia, South Carolina plant…where they got a firsthand glimpse of working conditions.

JOHN SIMMONS: The start of, uh, the whole process is in the live hang room. Where all the employee stands behind the line, uh, that -where live chickens are fed up a conveyer belt, and they're moving around; they're squawking and-and, uh, cackling. And, uh, the people are grabbing them, these large birds -- at least 5, maybe 7 lbs, and they're hanging them upside down by their -- by their feet in the, uh, stirrups as they go by.

JOHN SIMMONS: Uh, there's an animal feces smell from the, uh, from the chickens. Um, and just the animal smell itself. They're doing hundreds and hundreds of birds per shift, if not thousands.

JOHN SIMMONS: And they're constantly working to sharpen the knife - and immediately going back and cutting the bird.

KERRY HALL: I could see these people really literally standing shoulder to shoulder just having to do this work over and over again, and kind of the relentlessness of it.

NARRATOR: Kerry Hall had learned a remarkable fact about the West Columbia plant. It had gone four straight years without reporting a single case of a musculoskeletal disorder.

Experts told her zero MSD's were inconceivable in a place where jobs require so much repetitive motion.

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At another House of Raeford plant -- this one is in Greenville, South Carolina, and known as "Columbia Farms" -- Franco Ordonez and Ames Alexander interviewed the safety director, Bill Lewis.

He told the reporters that Columbia Farms had a streak of seven million safe hours. He said -- quote -- "we come to work with five fingers and toes, and we go home with the same thing we came in with."

AMES ALEXANDER: You know, after we got back from that interview, we started looking through the logs.

KERRY HALL: And noticed that there had been some pretty serious injuries that occurred during this time that there were seven million safe hours with no lost-time accidents.

NARRATOR: The logs the reporters were examining are known as 300 logs. They're required by OSHA and are intended to serve as an accounting of serious jobsite injuries and illnesses. Osha uses 300 logs to help determine how safe plants are, and whether or not they need inspection.

The reporters would use them to help determine whether or not the companies were under-reporting injuries.

But it was something the logs didn't contain that would help them answer a broader question: why did official statistics make the poultry industry seem so much safer than experts believed it could possibly be?

AMES ALEXANDER: There used to be a column on injury logs where companies were supposed to record all repetitive motion injuries. Uh, and this essentially gave OSHA inspectors a very quick idea of how common repetitive motion problems like carpal tunnel, like tendonitis, were. Uh, and then, uh, under pressure, uh, from the industry, OSHA removed that column.

NARRATOR: It was OSHA under the Bush administration that removed the column in 2002. The result, according to Ames Alexander?

AMES ALEXANDER: OSHA essentially made it easier for companies to hide these sort of repetitive motion injuries. One plant we looked at, uh, in 2001, it had 150 repetitive motion injuries. After they removed the column, they had fewer than 10.

NARRATOR: The Bush administration also repealed a collection of rules put in place at the end of the Clinton administration. The rules, which formed a national ergonomics standard, would have required employers to correct workplace conditions likely to cause repetitive-motion and other injuries.

Charles Jeffress, who headed OSHA from 1997 to 2001, told the OBSERVER that the effect of repealing the ergonomic standard and removing the column was to "turn a blind eye to a lot of what happens in poultry plants."

And one OSHA insider was even more blunt. Bob Whitmore - When you look at a log, it's supposed to tell us -- it is supposed to tell us what's going on in this workplace. You have to understand, it was always intended to be a surveillance tool.

NARRATOR: Bob Whitmore, for twenty years the OSHA official in charge of the agency's injury and illness records, agreed to act as an inside source for the OBSERVER.

BOB WHITMORE: We have so many workplaces to cover and so few people to cover them with. When we walk in, we want to see what's going on. It's like a Candid Camera. That's what it's supposed to be. It's not like that anymore; it's a report card. Problem is, the students are grading themselves.

NARRATOR: Other OSHA officials told the OBSERVER that poultry plants are safer than ever. They cited enforcement programs, a decade of declining reported-injury rates, and a growing recognition that reducing injuries is good for business.

NARRATOR: For Franco Ordonez, one woman's story crystalized the plight of immigrant poultry workers. Her name was Cornelia Vicente, and she worked at House of Raeford's Columbia Farms plant.

The OBSERVER found her name in the records of a workers compensation lawsuit. Now Ordonez went looking for her.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ: I was able to find Cornelia through talking to enough workers, where eventually they'd point you to the right house.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ: She slowly started to open up, uh, about what occurred to her. Um, and as she opened up and she, uh, started to explain what happened, she just started -- basically just everything started pouring out of her, uh, you know, all the-the anger, the sadness, the fear, um, everything that kind of was wrapped up in this experience of her working at that poultry plant.

KERRY HALL: She had been working on a conveyor belt. She was grabbing boxes. And she didn't want to get behind in her work so she tried to grab two boxes at the same time and her right arm ended up getting caught in the conveyor belt. It grabbed her arm, broke her arm and amputated the tip of her, uh, one of her fingers.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ: you know, she gets rushed to the -- to the hospital, uh, you know, she doesn't know what's going on…

KERRY HALL: While she was at the hospital she says the plant nurse came and visited with her and fed her but also told her that she was expected back for the next shift. Patrick Scott: So she wound up going to work and saying that she was -- wanted to go home. She had asked to go home, that she was crying at work because she couldn't deal with the pain of the physical loss of her finger and her broken arm and the pain of having your body altered.

NARRATOR: Jaime Hernandez worked at Columbia Farms. He saw Cornelia Vicente the day after her she returned to work. The next day when she got there she went around, trembling, sad, crying like she wasn't even there. She wasn't there. Physically yes, but in her thoughts no. She was out of it, gone. I felt like crying with her.

NARRATOR: The Columbia Farms log revealed that Vicente would spend over nine weeks on what it known as "job transfer," given tasks away from the conveyor belt.

KERRY HALL: She said at one point they asked her to sweep and she said it was -- she described it as an impossible task given her broken arm and the pain she was feeling.

NARRATOR: When the reporters compared Vicente's account of her injuries and her medical records with what House of Raeford Farms had reported to regulators they found the company had mentioned the broken arm…but not the amputation.

KERRY HALL: That wasn't noted on this.

NARRATOR: And, the OBSERVER would report, because Vicente didn't miss a complete shift, the accident wouldn't have to be counted as a lost-time injury.

KERRY HALL: She was on job transfer for 64 days. No days away from work.

NARRATOR: The paper would also report that House of Raeford refused to answer its questions about Cornelia Vicente.

In 2006 and 7, Ordonez, Hall and Alexander interviewed more than 200 current and former poultry workers from different companies, mostly in the Carolinas... Including about 120 from House of Raeford Farms.

Now, in March 2007, armed with numerous stories of underreporting of injuries -- and employees being pressured to work while injured -- Kerry Hall went to Washington to seek comment from the OSHA records expert, Bob Whitmore . Among other evidence, the reporters had compiled a list of injury rates reported by poultry companies in 2005.

KERRY HALL: When I was showing this to Bob...


KERRY HALL: He was looking through this and he would see these zeroes, these zero injury and illness rates, and he just started getting fired up. He would just start saying, "I can't believe that, I can't believe that's there."

NARRATOR: Kerry Hall also shared evidence of 41 House of Raeford injuries that the team learned of in a sampling of workers who lived near the company's plants.

BOB WHITMORE: As Kerry and I went through some of the descriptions of injuries that she was finding out about, I decided at that point in time was that a recordable case or not? Should it have been on that log?

NARRATOR: Whitmore concluded the company violated workplace safety law by failing to record more than half of the injuries. The OBSERVER would report that House of Raeford Farms told the paper the company follows the law, looks out for the safety of its workers and treats them with respect.

Presented with findings from the OBSERVER, the company wrote in a letter that there were - quote - "many inaccuracies" in the information workers provided, and said that "the allegations made by these former employees do not fairly or accurately represent the policies or management practices of House of Raeford Farms." The letter continued, "We value our employees and strive to treat them in a fair and respectful manner at all times."

NARRATOR: In February 2008, after 22 months of work examining thousands of pages of documents and conducting over 800 interviews THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER published a 6-day series. It was called "The Cruelest Cuts."

The paper concluded that "weak enforcement, minimal fines and dwindling inspections have allowed [poultry] companies to operate largely unchecked"…and that "official injury statistics aren't accurate and that the industry is more dangerous than its reports to regulators suggest."

Among other findings:

In North Carolina, the number of OSHA poultry plant inspections fell from 25 in 1997 to nine in 2006. South Carolina poultry plant inspections dropped from 36 in 1999 to 1 in 2006.

Nationwide, OSHA workplace safety inspections at U.S. poultry plants have dropped to their lowest point in 15 years. In fact the government rewards companies that report low injury rates by inspecting them less often. And Washington's regulators rarely check whether companies are reporting accurately.

BOB WHITMORE: There's a disconnect. The spin in D.C. disconnects you from reality. The agency isn't doing what it should be doing. Because we're not there representing the workers. We're there representing the businesses.

MITCH WEISS: You know, when I go to work every day there is the expectation that I'm going to come home in one piece. That I'm going to go to an office and leave and come home safe. These workers have no such expectations.

© 2007 Public Affairs Television. All Rights Reserved.

Take a moment to educate yourself about what happened with the workers at House of Raeford. It's the ugly side of America we don't want to see or even believe --


3) Believe Me, It’s Torture
What more can be added to the debate over U.S. interrogation methods, and whether waterboarding is torture? Try firsthand experience. The author undergoes the controversial drowning technique, at the hands of men who once trained American soldiers to resist—not inflict—it.
by Christopher Hitchens August 2008

Here is the most chilling way I can find of stating the matter. Until recently, “waterboarding” was something that Americans did to other Americans. It was inflicted, and endured, by those members of the Special Forces who underwent the advanced form of training known as sere (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape). In these harsh exercises, brave men and women were introduced to the sorts of barbarism that they might expect to meet at the hands of a lawless foe who disregarded the Geneva Conventions. But it was something that Americans were being trained to resist, not to inflict.

Exploring this narrow but deep distinction, on a gorgeous day last May I found myself deep in the hill country of western North Carolina, preparing to be surprised by a team of extremely hardened veterans who had confronted their country’s enemies in highly arduous terrain all over the world. They knew about everything from unarmed combat to enhanced interrogation and, in exchange for anonymity, were going to show me as nearly as possible what real waterboarding might be like.

View a video of Hitchens’s waterboarding experience.

It goes without saying that I knew I could stop the process at any time, and that when it was all over I would be released into happy daylight rather than returned to a darkened cell. But it’s been well said that cowards die many times before their deaths, and it was difficult for me to completely forget the clause in the contract of indemnification that I had signed. This document (written by one who knew) stated revealingly:

“Water boarding” is a potentially dangerous activity in which the participant can receive serious and permanent (physical, emotional and psychological) injuries and even death, including injuries and death due to the respiratory and neurological systems of the body.

As the agreement went on to say, there would be safeguards provided “during the ‘water boarding’ process, however, these measures may fail and even if they work properly they may not prevent Hitchens from experiencing serious injury or death.”

On the night before the encounter I got to sleep with what I thought was creditable ease, but woke early and knew at once that I wasn’t going back to any sort of doze or snooze. The first specialist I had approached with the scheme had asked my age on the telephone and when told what it was (I am 59) had laughed out loud and told me to forget it. Waterboarding is for Green Berets in training, or wiry young jihadists whose teeth can bite through the gristle of an old goat. It’s not for wheezing, paunchy scribblers. For my current “handlers” I had had to produce a doctor’s certificate assuring them that I did not have asthma, but I wondered whether I should tell them about the 15,000 cigarettes I had inhaled every year for the last several decades. I was feeling apprehensive, in other words, and beginning to wish I hadn’t given myself so long to think about it.

I have to be opaque about exactly where I was later that day, but there came a moment when, sitting on a porch outside a remote house at the end of a winding country road, I was very gently yet firmly grabbed from behind, pulled to my feet, pinioned by my wrists (which were then cuffed to a belt), and cut off from the sunlight by having a black hood pulled over my face. I was then turned around a few times, I presume to assist in disorienting me, and led over some crunchy gravel into a darkened room. Well, mainly darkened: there were some oddly spaced bright lights that came as pinpoints through my hood. And some weird music assaulted my ears. (I’m no judge of these things, but I wouldn’t have expected former Special Forces types to be so fond of New Age techno-disco.) The outside world seemed very suddenly very distant indeed.

Arms already lost to me, I wasn’t able to flail as I was pushed onto a sloping board and positioned with my head lower than my heart. (That’s the main point: the angle can be slight or steep.) Then my legs were lashed together so that the board and I were one single and trussed unit. Not to bore you with my phobias, but if I don’t have at least two pillows I wake up with acid reflux and mild sleep apnea, so even a merely supine position makes me uneasy. And, to tell you something I had been keeping from myself as well as from my new experimental friends, I do have a fear of drowning that comes from a bad childhood moment on the Isle of Wight, when I got out of my depth. As a boy reading the climactic torture scene of 1984, where what is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world, I realize that somewhere in my version of that hideous chamber comes the moment when the wave washes over me. Not that that makes me special: I don’t know anyone who likes the idea of drowning. As mammals we may have originated in the ocean, but water has many ways of reminding us that when we are in it we are out of our element. In brief, when it comes to breathing, give me good old air every time.

You may have read by now the official lie about this treatment, which is that it “simulates” the feeling of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning—or, rather, being drowned, albeit slowly and under controlled conditions and at the mercy (or otherwise) of those who are applying the pressure. The “board” is the instrument, not the method. You are not being boarded. You are being watered. This was very rapidly brought home to me when, on top of the hood, which still admitted a few flashes of random and worrying strobe light to my vision, three layers of enveloping towel were added. In this pregnant darkness, head downward, I waited for a while until I abruptly felt a slow cascade of water going up my nose. Determined to resist if only for the honor of my navy ancestors who had so often been in peril on the sea, I held my breath for a while and then had to exhale and—as you might expect—inhale in turn. The inhalation brought the damp cloths tight against my nostrils, as if a huge, wet paw had been suddenly and annihilatingly clamped over my face. Unable to determine whether I was breathing in or out, and flooded more with sheer panic than with mere water, I triggered the pre-arranged signal and felt the unbelievable relief of being pulled upright and having the soaking and stifling layers pulled off me. I find I don’t want to tell you how little time I lasted.

This is because I had read that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, invariably referred to as the “mastermind” of the atrocities of September 11, 2001, had impressed his interrogators by holding out for upwards of two minutes before cracking. (By the way, this story is not confirmed. My North Carolina friends jeered at it. “Hell,” said one, “from what I heard they only washed his damn face before he babbled.”) But, hell, I thought in my turn, no Hitchens is going to do worse than that. Well, O.K., I admit I didn’t outdo him. And so then I said, with slightly more bravado than was justified, that I’d like to try it one more time. There was a paramedic present who checked my racing pulse and warned me about adrenaline rush. An interval was ordered, and then I felt the mask come down again. Steeling myself to remember what it had been like last time, and to learn from the previous panic attack, I fought down the first, and some of the second, wave of nausea and terror but soon found that I was an abject prisoner of my gag reflex. The interrogators would hardly have had time to ask me any questions, and I knew that I would quite readily have agreed to supply any answer. I still feel ashamed when I think about it. Also, in case it’s of interest, I have since woken up trying to push the bedcovers off my face, and if I do anything that makes me short of breath I find myself clawing at the air with a horrible sensation of smothering and claustrophobia. No doubt this will pass. As if detecting my misery and shame, one of my interrogators comfortingly said, “Any time is a long time when you’re breathing water.” I could have hugged him for saying so, and just then I was hit with a ghastly sense of the sadomasochistic dimension that underlies the relationship between the torturer and the tortured. I apply the Abraham Lincoln test for moral casuistry: “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” Well, then, if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.
Hitchens is helped up after signaling for the waterboarding to stop

Hitchens is helped up after signaling for the waterboarding to stop.

I am somewhat proud of my ability to “keep my head,” as the saying goes, and to maintain presence of mind under trying circumstances. I was completely convinced that, when the water pressure had become intolerable, I had firmly uttered the pre-determined code word that would cause it to cease. But my interrogator told me that, rather to his surprise, I had not spoken a word. I had activated the “dead man’s handle” that signaled the onset of unconsciousness. So now I have to wonder about the role of false memory and delusion. What I do recall clearly, though, is a hard finger feeling for my solar plexus as the water was being poured. What was that for? “That’s to find out if you are trying to cheat, and timing your breathing to the doses. If you try that, we can outsmart you. We have all kinds of enhancements.” I was briefly embarrassed that I hadn’t earned or warranted these refinements, but it hit me yet again that this is certainly the language of torture.

Maybe I am being premature in phrasing it thus. Among the veterans there are at least two views on all this, which means in practice that there are two opinions on whether or not “waterboarding” constitutes torture. I have had some extremely serious conversations on the topic, with two groups of highly decent and serious men, and I think that both cases have to be stated at their strongest.

The team who agreed to give me a hard time in the woods of North Carolina belong to a highly honorable group. This group regards itself as out on the front line in defense of a society that is too spoiled and too ungrateful to appreciate those solid, underpaid volunteers who guard us while we sleep. These heroes stay on the ramparts at all hours and in all weather, and if they make a mistake they may be arraigned in order to scratch some domestic political itch. Faced with appalling enemies who make horror videos of torture and beheadings, they feel that they are the ones who confront denunciation in our press, and possible prosecution. As they have just tried to demonstrate to me, a man who has been waterboarded may well emerge from the experience a bit shaky, but he is in a mood to surrender the relevant information and is unmarked and undamaged and indeed ready for another bout in quite a short time. When contrasted to actual torture, waterboarding is more like foreplay. No thumbscrew, no pincers, no electrodes, no rack. Can one say this of those who have been captured by the tormentors and murderers of (say) Daniel Pearl? On this analysis, any call to indict the United States for torture is therefore a lame and diseased attempt to arrive at a moral equivalence between those who defend civilization and those who exploit its freedoms to hollow it out, and ultimately to bring it down. I myself do not trust anybody who does not clearly understand this viewpoint.

Against it, however, I call as my main witness Mr. Malcolm Nance. Mr. Nance is not what you call a bleeding heart. In fact, speaking of the coronary area, he has said that, in battlefield conditions, he “would personally cut bin Laden’s heart out with a plastic M.R.E. spoon.” He was to the fore on September 11, 2001, dealing with the burning nightmare in the debris of the Pentagon. He has been involved with the sere program since 1997. He speaks Arabic and has been on al-Qaeda’s tail since the early 1990s. His most recent book, The Terrorists of Iraq, is a highly potent analysis both of the jihadist threat in Mesopotamia and of the ways in which we have made its life easier. I passed one of the most dramatic evenings of my life listening to his cold but enraged denunciation of the adoption of waterboarding by the United States. The argument goes like this:

1. Waterboarding is a deliberate torture technique and has been prosecuted as such by our judicial arm when perpetrated by others.

2. If we allow it and justify it, we cannot complain if it is employed in the future by other regimes on captive U.S. citizens. It is a method of putting American prisoners in harm’s way.

3. It may be a means of extracting information, but it is also a means of extracting junk information. (Mr. Nance told me that he had heard of someone’s being compelled to confess that he was a hermaphrodite. I later had an awful twinge while wondering if I myself could have been “dunked” this far.) To put it briefly, even the C.I.A. sources for the Washington Post story on waterboarding conceded that the information they got out of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was “not all of it reliable.” Just put a pencil line under that last phrase, or commit it to memory.

4. It opens a door that cannot be closed. Once you have posed the notorious “ticking bomb” question, and once you assume that you are in the right, what will you not do? Waterboarding not getting results fast enough? The terrorist’s clock still ticking? Well, then, bring on the thumbscrews and the pincers and the electrodes and the rack.

Masked by these arguments, there lurks another very penetrating point. Nance doubts very much that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed lasted that long under the water treatment (and I am pathetically pleased to hear it). It’s also quite thinkable, if he did, that he was trying to attain martyrdom at our hands. But even if he endured so long, and since the United States has in any case bragged that in fact he did, one of our worst enemies has now become one of the founders of something that will someday disturb your sleep as well as mine. To quote Nance:

Torture advocates hide behind the argument that an open discussion about specific American interrogation techniques will aid the enemy. Yet, convicted Al Qaeda members and innocent captives who were released to their host nations have already debriefed the world through hundreds of interviews, movies and documentaries on exactly what methods they were subjected to and how they endured. Our own missteps have created a cadre of highly experienced lecturers for Al Qaeda’s own virtual sere school for terrorists.

Which returns us to my starting point, about the distinction between training for something and training to resist it. One used to be told—and surely with truth—that the lethal fanatics of al-Qaeda were schooled to lie, and instructed to claim that they had been tortured and maltreated whether they had been tortured and maltreated or not. Did we notice what a frontier we had crossed when we admitted and even proclaimed that their stories might in fact be true? I had only a very slight encounter on that frontier, but I still wish that my experience were the only way in which the words “waterboard” and “American” could be mentioned in the same (gasping and sobbing) breath.


4) Deepening Cycle of Job Loss Seen Lasting Into ’09
July 2, 2008

As automakers dropped their latest batch of awful sales numbers on the market on Tuesday, reinforcing the gloom spreading across the economy, the troubles confronting American workers seemed to intensify.

Plummeting home prices have in recent months eliminated jobs for hundreds of thousands of people, from bankers and real estate agents to construction workers and furniture manufacturers. Tighter lending standards imposed by banks in the wake of huge mortgage losses have made it hard for many Americans to secure credit — the lifeblood of expansion in recent years — crimping the appetite of consumers, whose spending amounts to 70 percent of the economy.

Joblessness has accelerated, and employers have slashed working hours even for those on their payrolls, shrinking the size of paychecks just as workers need them the most.

Now, add to that unsavory mix the word from automakers that sales plunged in June — by 28 percent for Ford, 21 percent for Toyota and 18 percent for General Motors — a sharp sign that consumers are pulling back, making manufacturers more likely to cut production and impose more layoffs. Until recently, the weak labor market has been marked more by the reluctance of employers to create new jobs than by mass layoffs.

Among economists, the sense is broadening that the troubles dogging the economy will be stubborn, leaving in place an uncomfortable combination of tight credit and scant job opportunities perhaps well into next year.

“It’s a slow-motion recession,” said Ethan Harris, chief United States economist for Lehman Brothers. “In a normal recession, things kind of collapse and get so weak that you have nowhere to go but up. But we’re not getting the classic two or three negative quarters. Instead, we’re expecting two years of sub-par growth. Growth that’s not enough to generate jobs. It’s kind of a chronic rather than an acute pain.”

Mr. Harris expects tepid economic growth and a shrinking labor market to persist through the fall of 2009.

The national unemployment rate climbed a full percentage point over the last year to 5.5 percent in May, according to the Labor Department. That does not include people who are jobless and have given up looking for work, or people who have been bumped to part-time jobs from full-time. Add in those people and the so-called underemployment rate rises to 9.7 percent, up from 8.3 percent in May 2007, according to the Labor Department.

Goldman Sachs forecasts that the unemployment rate will peak at 6.4 percent late in 2009 before the picture improves, meaning that the painful process of shedding jobs may be only half-way complete.

“The labor market is clearly deteriorating, and it’s highly likely to keep deteriorating,” said Andrew Tilton, an economist at Goldman Sachs. “It’s clear that the housing downturn and credit crunch are still very much under way. Clearly, there are more jobs to be lost in housing, finance and construction — hundreds of thousands of more jobs to be lost collectively.”

On Thursday, the Labor Department will release its snapshot of the job market for June. Economists generally expect the report to show 60,000 more jobs lost, marking the sixth consecutive month of decline.

But many anticipate the unemployment rate will nudge down a little bit, swinging back from an abrupt climb that could have been exaggerated by survey glitches in the previous month, when the rate jumped by half a percentage point — the sharpest one-month spike in 22 years.

If the unemployment rate were to hold steady or rise, that would likely spook markets, underscoring the impact of the economic slowdown.

“Slowing wage growth and falling employment is absolutely toxic if your business is selling anything to consumers,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief United States economist for High Frequency Economics.

Recent indications lend credence to the view that the job market is in the grip of a sustained downturn. Three weeks in a row, new unemployment claims have exceeded 380,000, a level generally associated with recession. Construction spending fell in May. The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Survey, which tracks attitudes about business and personal finance, has dropped to a depth last seen in 1980.

On the factory floor, a weak dollar has been fanning export sales. The I.S.M. Manufacturing Index — a widely watched gauge of factory activity — nudged up in June to 50.2 from 49.6 in May, entering barely positive territory, which indicates a slight expansion.

But that mostly reflected a buildup of inventories and higher prices for raw materials, and not an improvement in orders for factory goods, said Stuart G. Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Service Group in a note to clients. If business stays weak and orders do not materialize, factory layoffs could accelerate. Indeed, the employment component of the index declined to its lowest level in five years.

The slide in the labor market has become both symptom and cause of a weak economy, pulling many families into a downward spiral. Back when housing prices were still rising, Americans borrowed exuberantly against the value of their homes to finance renovations, vacations and shopping sprees. But that artery of finance has constricted considerably along with access to credit cards, forcing a reversion to the traditional limits of household finance. Millions of American families must now confine their spending to what they can bring home from work.

With job losses growing and working hours shrinking, many paychecks are eroding, prompting millions of families to cut their spending. Soaring prices for food and gasoline are overwhelming modest wage gains for most workers, leaving households with even less money to spend. All of which deprives struggling businesses of sales, prompting them to shed more workers, sending the cycle down another turn. Starbucks announced on Tuesday that it would close stores and eliminate up to 12,000 jobs, about 7 percent of its work force.

The fear of a downward spiral prompted the Bush administration to unleash $100 billion worth of tax rebates in the hopes that recipients would spend money and spur sales. The Treasury has already dispensed more than $78 billion, and the money appears to be finding its way into cash registers, with consumer spending climbing by 0.8 percent in May, according to the Commerce Department.

Economists expect the rebates will continue to help retail sales through the summer, fueling modest economic growth that spares some jobs and prevents an outright contraction.

But few expect these rebate-laced sales to expand the job market, because businesses understand that the one-time surge of money will wear off later this summer.

Many experts expect the economy to then be pulled back into the weeds by the same forces that have led the downturn — declining home prices, tighter credit and leaner paychecks.

“It’s going to be very hard to overcome those headwinds,” said Mr. Harris, the Lehman economist.


5) Wal-Mart Faces Fine in Minnesota Suit Involving Work Breaks
"Judge King wrote that Ms. Braun had recounted the humiliating experience of soiling herself while at work because she had not been permitted time to use the restroom. He said that another Wal-Mart employee 'had to beg to use the restroom during one of her menstrual cycles.'”
July 2, 2008

A state judge in Minnesota has ruled that Wal-Mart Stores violated state laws on rest breaks and other wage matters more than two million times and as a result could face more than $2 billion in fines. The judge has threatened to impose a $1,000 penalty for each violation.

The judge also ruled on Monday that Wal-Mart owed $6.5 million to 56,000 current and former employees because of contractual violations, including a failure to give workers promised rest breaks at least 1.5 million times. The judge also found that Wal-Mart managers in Minnesota had systematically broken the law by having employees take in-house training while off the clock.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said William R. Sieben, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, who filed the lawsuit nearly seven years ago. “It’s only through a decision like this that Wal-Mart can be held to its contractual agreements and to complying with Minnesota law.”

The judge, Robert R. King Jr. of the First Judicial District in Dakota County, ruled in favor of Wal-Mart on several important issues in the class-action lawsuit, finding that Wal-Mart managers did not routinely make cashiers and stock personnel work off the clock while doing their regular jobs.

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman, Daphne Moore, said the company was considering an appeal. “We do respectfully disagree with portions of the decision,” Ms. Moore said, adding that Wal-Mart was pleased that the court ruled in its favor on many points.

“Our policies are to pay every associate for every hour worked and make rest and meal breaks available for our associates,” said Ms. Moore, whose company uses the term associates for its employees.

Four women filed the lawsuit in September 2001, contending that Wal-Mart managers had often made employees work off the clock and denied them meal breaks and rest breaks that were promised in the employee handbook — promises that the judge said constituted a contractual obligation.

In his 151-page ruling, Judge King set Oct. 20 as the date for the second phase of the trial to allow a jury to determine punitive damages and the amount of statutory penalties.

The Minnesota case is one of more than 70 lawsuits filed across the country in which employees have accused Wal-Mart of making them work off the clock or miss required breaks. In Pennsylvania in 2006, a jury awarded $78 million in a lawsuit against Wal-Mart over rest breaks and off-the-clock work. Last year, a judge increased that award to $188 million to include damages, interest and lawyers’ fees.

In a 2005 verdict in California, Wal-Mart was ordered to pay $172 million for making employees miss meal breaks. The company has appealed both verdicts.

In the Minnesota case, Judge King found that Wal-Mart had violated state law by failing to keep records for 325,188 shifts, or 13 percent. He also found that on 69,710 occasions, Wal-Mart stores in the state had failed to make appropriate time records for people who were off the clock and having in-store computer-based training.

Judge King repeatedly said that Wal-Mart’s audits had found that its workers were missing meal and rest breaks tens of thousands of times.

Wal-Mart said that it could not rely on those audits, but the judge faulted company managers for taking no action in response to the audits. “They put their heads in the sand,” he wrote.

In what some workers said were the most serious violations, Judge King found that Wal-Mart owed $3.6 million for failing to provide the 56,000 members in the class-action suit with rest breaks to which they were contractually entitled.

He also said the company owed $1.6 million for 4.4 million contractual violations of shorting workers — giving workers less than the amount of time they were entitled to — on their 15-minute rest breaks

Under the ruling, Wal-Mart faces the greatest liability for violating Minnesota law by deducting several minutes from workers’ pay when they took rest breaks for 16, 17 or 18 minutes, when Wal-Mart said they were entitled to 15-minute breaks. Under Minnesota law, employers are barred from deducting minutes from a worker’s pay so long as the break lasts less than 20 minutes.

Judge King found that Wal-Mart had committed that statutory violation 1.5 million times; the company is subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for each of those violations.

Judge King also concluded that Wal-Mart had broken state law by failing to give 73,864 meal breaks. Each of those violations could also bring a $1,000 fine.

“There was just too much work to do and never enough time to do it,” said Nancy Braun, the lead plaintiff in the case. “There just wasn’t enough time in the day to take the breaks we were entitled to.”

Judge King wrote that Ms. Braun had recounted the humiliating experience of soiling herself while at work because she had not been permitted time to use the restroom. He said that another Wal-Mart employee “had to beg to use the restroom during one of her menstrual cycles.”

While saying that these incidents were aberrations and not classwide, Judge King wrote that the restrictions on using the restroom were “dehumanizing and reprehensible.”


6) Birth defects spike with U.S. use of 'special weaponry'
By Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail
Updated Jul 2, 2008, 10:59 am

Birth defects spike with U.S. use of uranium, phosphorus
Web Video: Fallujah, The Hidden Massacre (RAI TV, 2005)
[WARNING: Dear Readers, I was unable to finish viewing this film it was so gruesom--so horribly explicit. And I didn't need to be convinced of the horrors of war. We did see these images every day on the TV News during the War in Vietnam and some of that very footage is included in this important film. The U.S. news has been cleansed of these images. They are not for the weak of heart...Bonnie Weinstein]

FALLUJAH, Iraq (IPS/GIN) - Babies born in Fallujah are showing deformities and falling ill on a scale never seen before, doctors and residents say.

The spike in deformities and deaths among children resulted after "special weaponry" was used in the two massive bombing campaigns in Fallujah in 2004.

After denying it at first, the Pentagon admitted in November 2005 that white phosphorous, a restricted incendiary weapon, was used a year earlier in Fallujah.

In addition, depleted uranium munitions, which contain low-level radioactive waste, were used heavily in Fallujah. The Pentagon admits to having used 1,200 metric tons of depleted uranium in Iraq thus far.

Many doctors believe depleted uranium to be the cause of a severe increase in the incidence of cancer in Iraq, as well as among U.S. veterans who served in the 1991 Gulf War and through the current occupation.

"We saw all the colors of the rainbow coming out of the exploding American shells and missiles," said Ali Sarhan, a 50-year-old teacher who lived through the two U.S. sieges of 2004." I saw bodies that turned into bones and coal right after they were exposed to bombs that we learned later to be phosphorus.

"The most worrying is that many of our women have suffered loss of their babies, and some had babies born with deformations."

"I had two children who had brain damage from birth," 28-year-old Hayfa Shukur said.

"My husband has been detained by the Americans since November 2004 and so I had to take the children around by myself to hospitals and private clinics. They died. I spent all our savings and borrowed a considerable amount of money."

Mrs. Shukur said doctors told her it was the use of the restricted weapons that caused her childrenís brain damage and subsequent deaths, "but none of them had the courage to give me a written report."

"Many babies were born with major congenital malformations,î said a pediatric doctor, speaking on condition of anonymity. ìThese infants include many with heart defects, cleft lip or palate, Downís syndrome and limb defects."

The doctor added, "I can say all kinds of problems related to toxic pollution took place in Fallujah after the November 2004 massacre."

Many doctors speak of similar cases and a similar pattern. The indications remain anecdotal, in the absence of either a study, or any available official records.

The Fallujah General Hospital administration was unwilling to give any statistics on deformed babies, but one doctor volunteered to speak on condition of anonymity, for fear of the reprisals he could face if seen as critical of the administration.

"Maternal exposure to toxins and radioactive material can lead to miscarriage and frequent abortions, still birth and congenital malformation," the doctor said. There have been many such cases, and the government "did not move to contain the damage, or present any assistance to the hospital whatsoever.

"These cases need intensive international efforts that provide the highest and most recent technologies that we will not have here in a hundred years," he added.

The International Committee of the Red Cross expressed concern March 31 about the lack of medical supplies in hospitals in Baghdad and Basra.

"Hospitals have used up stocks of vital medical items and require further supplies to cope with the influx of wounded patients. Access to water remains a matter of concern in certain areas," the Red Cross said in a statement.

A senior Iraqi health ministry official was quoted as saying Feb. 26 that the health sector is under "great pressure," with scores of doctors killed, an exodus of medical personnel, poor medical infrastructure and a shortage of medicines.

"We are experiencing a big shortage of everything," the official said. "We don't have enough specialist doctors and medicines, and most of the medical equipment is outdated. We used to get many spinal and head injures, but were unable to do anything as we didnít have enough specialists and medicines."

He said, "Intravenous fluid, which is a simple thing, is not available all the time," adding that no new hospitals have been built since 1986.

Iraqi Health Minister Salih al-Hassnawi highlighted the shortage of medicines at a press conference in Arbil in the Kurdistan region in the north Feb. 22. "The Iraqi Health Ministry is suffering from an acute shortage of medicines," he said. "We have decided to import medicines immediately to meet the needs."

He said the 2008 health budget meant that total expenditure on medicines, medical equipment and ambulances would amount to an average of $22 per citizen.

But this is too late for the unknown number of babies and their families who bore the consequences of the earlier devastation. And it is too little to cover the special needs of babies who survived with deformations.

FCN is a distributor (and not a publisher) of content supplied by third parties. Original content supplied by FCN and News is Copyright © 2008 FCN Publishing, Content supplied by third parties are the property of their respective owners.


7) Employers Cut Workers for a Sixth Month
July 4, 2008

About 62,000 jobs disappeared in June, the government reported Friday, the sixth consecutive month that payrolls have declined, as businesses rushed to lay off workers amid the worst economic climate in a generation.

And as job losses mount, even those still on payrolls have felt the pain: employers are cutting hours for their full-time employees and shrinking salaries, just as workers face record-high prices for gasoline and food.

The unemployment rate stayed steady in June at 5.5 percent, the highest level in four years. The elevated figure dispelled speculation among some economists that last month’s half-percentage point jump, the biggest monthly spike in 22 years, was a statistical anomaly.

Indeed, employers have been steadily shedding jobs for the last three months. Businesses cut 52,000 more workers in May and April than the government first thought, the Labor Department said, casting aside initial estimates that suggested some deceleration.

In the last 12 months, the economy had seen a net gain of only 15,000 jobs, the lowest net increase since November 2003.

In the last 50 years, the economy has entered a recession every time jobs have dropped for six consecutive months.

And most Americans who are still employed earned less money in June than they did a year ago. Wages, which have been steadily shrinking in recent months, took a sharp hit last month, growing at the slowest pace since September 2005.

Among rank-and-file workers, who make up the majority of the nation’s work force, weekly paychecks have grown 2.8 percent in the last 12 months. That was down from 3.2 percent in May and well below the rate of inflation.

Average hourly earnings grew 3.4 percent, the slowest pace since the start of 2006.

The drop in payrolls was in line with many economists’ forecasts, and stocks on Wall Street were trading higher on some relief that the June numbers were not worse.

The presumptive presidential candidates quickly weighed in on the numbers, with each calling for changes that fell along ideological lines.

“At a time when our small businesses need support from Washington, we cannot raise taxes, increase regulation and isolate ourselves from foreign markets,” Senator John McCain, the Republican candidate, said in a statement. He called for tax relief, job creation, and investment in innovation.

Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, attributed the downturn to “the failed economic policies of the past eight years” and said his opponent “has fully embraced the Bush economic agenda.”

“I’m calling on Congress and the president to enact real, immediate relief with energy rebates for working families this summer, a fund to help families avoid foreclosure, extended benefits for the long-term jobless, and assistance to states that have been hard-hit by the economic downturn,” Mr. Obama said.

June’s job losses affected a range of industries, including banks, construction companies, manufacturing firms and car dealerships. Janitors and administrative workers were the hardest hit, with about 70,000 workers losing their jobs last month alone. Temp agencies lost 30,000 jobs.

Among the few businesses still hiring were restaurants, government agencies and health care companies. Mining companies also added workers last month.

“The weak bargaining power of most workers means they are subject to pressures from three sides: declining jobs and hours, slower hourly wage growth, and faster price growth,” Jared Bernstein, of the Economic Policy Institute, wrote in a note. “This punishing combination is lowering their living standards.”

Jan Hatzius, chief domestic economist at Goldman Sachs, said the weak report suggests that the Bush administration’s efforts to revive the economy have fallen short.

“It is a sign that the fiscal stimulus, the tax rebates, are not having much of an impact on the broader economy,” Mr. Hatzius said.

And there is little relief on the horizon. The softening job market has prompted millions of families to reduce their spending, further hurting businesses and the economy as a whole. Soaring prices for food and gasoline are overwhelming modest wage gains for most workers, leaving households with even less money to spend.

“The labor market is clearly deteriorating, and it’s highly likely to keep deteriorating,” Andrew Tilton, an economist at Goldman Sachs, said earlier this week. “It’s clear that the housing downturn and credit crunch are still very much under way. Clearly, there are more jobs to be lost in housing, finance and construction — hundreds of thousands of more jobs to be lost collectively.”

The national unemployment rate climbed a full percentage point over the last year. That does not include people who are jobless and have given up looking for work, or people who have been bumped to part-time jobs from full time. Add in those people and the so-called underemployment rate rises to 9.9 percent. “The number of these underutilized workers is up over one million over the past year,” Mr. Bernstein wrote.

A separate report on Thursday revealed unexpected weakness in the services sector. An activity index devised by the Institute of Supply Management dropped to 48.2 in June from 51.7 in May, on a scale where readings under 50 show contraction. Businesses were pressured by significantly higher prices and a drop-off in customer demand. Employment levels fell as well.

Peter S. Goodman and Louis Uchitelle contributed reporting.


8) Federal Report Recommends Improvements in Reporting Deaths of Immigrant Detainees
July 3, 2008

The federal immigration agency should report all deaths in detention promptly, not only to the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, but also to state authorities where required by law, the inspector general has recommended after a “special review” of the deaths of two immigrant detainees.

The detainees — a 60-year-old South Korean woman in Albuquerque and a 30-year-old Ecuadorean woman in St. Paul — were among dozens whose deaths in the custody of the agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, have drawn scrutiny in the past year.

Congress, advocates for immigrants and the news media have highlighted the lack of systematic accountability in such cases, and documented problems with the medical care provided in the detention system, a patchwork of county jails, privately run prisons and federal facilities.

Both detainees died because of serious medical conditions that existed before they were detained. But the review found that the cases pointed to larger problems with oversight and medical care, including the failure to recognize or act on serious health care deficiencies in both detention centers that had been documented by routine inspections.

The 55-page report, released Tuesday, did not name the two detainees, but one was Young Sook Kim, a cook who died of metastasized pancreatic cancer on Sept. 11, 2006, a day after she was taken to a hospital from the Regional Correctional Center in Albuquerque, a county prison operated by the Cornell Companies.

A complaint to the inspector general’s hot line, testimony by a former employee, and an affidavit from a fellow detainee all contended that Ms. Kim had pleaded in vain for medical attention.

The review found that it was already too late to save her life, and that Cornell clinical records showed the staff had responded to her written medical requests — albeit only by giving her antacid tablets when she complained of stomach pain. But the review confirmed complaints that Cornell was slow to deal with sick calls because of a nursing shortage: a government inspection in September 2006 found ailing detainees had to wait for as long as 30 days to see the medical staff.

That inspection, by the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee, also found that only 11 of 20 detainees with chronic conditions were regularly scheduled for chronic care clinics, and that its policies did not fulfill requirements to notify the Homeland Security Department — the system’s parent agency — or the Justice Department of deaths.

Ms. Kim’s death was not reported, as required, to state medical investigators.

The immigration agency initially maintained that the county should have reported the death, but on Wednesday, a spokeswoman, Kelly Nantel, said that “as a result of the report,” the agency has directed that all deaths be reported to the appropriate state and federal authorities.

The report also urged the immigration agency to pool information with the detention trustee. In September 2006, it noted, trustee inspectors gave the Albuquerque prison the lowest overall rating, “at risk” — two levels below acceptable. But because the two agencies do not routinely share information, the report said, Immigration and Customs Enforcement placed some 3,500 more detainees at the facility.

Last August, the immigration agency removed all detainees after its inspectors found a host of other problems, including an inadequate suicide watch.

The Minnesota case involved Maria Inamagua Merchan, a department store worker who was detained in the Ramsey County jail and died in April 2006. For more than a month, her persistent headaches had been treated only with Tylenol; when she fell from a bunk bed, several hours passed before she was taken to the hospital, where physicians diagnosed neurocysticercosis, an infection of the brain by larvae of the pork tapeworm.

“We cannot determine with certainty whether this death could have been avoided had the detainee received immediate medical attention for head trauma,” the report said, after praising the authorities for promptly reporting the incident and for notifying the Consulate of Ecuador and the detainee’s spouse.

But it recommended better medical screening and education about the parasite, which is endemic in parts of Latin America.


9) Steelworkers Merge With British Union
July 3, 2008

The United Steelworkers signed a merger agreement on Wednesday with the largest labor organization in Britain and Ireland to create what union leaders said would be the world’s first global union.

The new union, to be called Workers Uniting, will represent more than 2.8 million workers in the steel, paper, oil, health care and transportation industries. Officials said the union plans to hold trans-Atlantic negotiations with companies including the oil conglomerate BP, and ArcelorMittal, the giant steel maker.

“This union is crucial for challenging the growing power of global capital,” said Leo W. Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, which represents 850,000 workers in the United States and Canada.

Under the merger agreement, the steelworkers and its trans-Atlantic partner, Unite the Union, will maintain their individual identities but will work to meld their activities and organizations. The new union will have a joint steering committee and an executive director to coordinate trans-Atlantic activities, although each union will continue to have its own president at least for a few years.

Unite the Union was formed last year when two of Britain’s largest unions, Amicus and the Transport and General Workers Union, merged, creating an organization with two million members and workers in more than a dozen industries.

Leaders of Unite the Union and the United Steelworkers, who signed the merger agreement at the steelworkers’ convention in Las Vegas on Wednesday, made it clear they hoped that other unions would merge with them to form a larger, more powerful organization.

“Our mission is to advance the interests of millions of workers throughout the world who are being shamefully exploited,” said Derek Simpson, general secretary of Unite’s Amicus division.

In the past year, the two unions have discussed strategies for saving manufacturing jobs in the United States, Canada, Britain and Ireland, and joint collective bargaining with employers in the paper, chemical and titanium industries. The new union plans to set up operations in Colombia to help protect union members there from violence, in Liberia to aid rubber workers, and in India to help impoverished shipbuilding workers, officials said.

The union’s founding constitution calls on its members to “build global union activism, recognizing that uniting as workers across international boundaries is the only way to challenge the injustices of globalization.”

In a telephone interview, Mr. Gerard said the merger would be more than an alliance. “This is going to create a grand new union,” he said. “We’ll have cooperation in similar industries and companies. We share a lot of membership in paper, aluminum, oil and refining.”

A labor relations expert at Ohio State University’s law school, James J. Brudney, called the merger “an overdue and important step considering the global nature of manufacturing.”

While it “is a first step toward developing a more comprehensive strategy toward globalization,” Mr. Brudney said, “the challenges remain daunting.”

The biggest challenge faced by manufacturing unions in industrial countries has been the exodus of operations and jobs to lower-wage developing countries and the downward pressures on wages from foreign competitors.


10) U.S. - Led Air Raid Kills 22 Afghan Civilians
Filed at 10:32 a.m. ET
July 4, 2008

ASADABAD, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Twenty-two civilians, including women and children, were killed in an air strike by U.S.-led forces on Friday in Afghanistan's eastern province of Nuristan, an official said.

The attack happened on a road in Want district while the noncombatants were traveling in two vehicles, the district chief, Zia-Ul Rahman, told reporters.

"The civilians were evacuating the district as they were told by the U.S.-led troops to do so because they wanted to launch an operation against the Taliban," he said.

"The civilians were in two vehicles when killed by the air raid," he added.

The U.S. military confirmed the mission, but said there was no report of civilian injuries. It said the strike was in response to an attack by militants against NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops.

"An ISAF RC-East combat outpost in Nuristan province received indirect fire from militants today. Coalition helicopter support was used to locate the militants," it said in a statement.

"The militants were moving in two vehicles when Coalition attack helicopters were used to destroy (them) killing the combatants. No reports of noncombatant injuries" were received, it added.

The incident comes amid an upsurge of violence in Afghanistan in the past two years, the bloodiest period since the overthrow of Taliban's government in 2001.

The issue of civilians killed by foreign troops is a sensitive one in Afghanistan as it undermines public support for the presence of around 71,000 international troops in the country and the government of President Hamid Karzai.

In the first six months of this year, 698 civilians were killed, 255 of them by Afghan government and foreign forces. In the same period last year, a total of 430 civilians were killed, the United Nations said last week.

(Reporting by Rohullah Anwari; Writing by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Jerry Norton)


11) 2 Supervisors Are Arrested After Sweep at Meat Plant
July 4, 2008

Two supervisors at a kosher meatpacking plant in Iowa where hundreds of illegal immigrants were rounded up in May were arrested Thursday on criminal immigration charges.

Federal prosecutors said they had also issued an arrest warrant for a third man described by workers as a plant manager.

The supervisors, Juan Carlos Guerrero Espinoza and Martin De la Rosa Loera, were arrested at the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, prosecutors said. They were the first employees who were not rank-and-file workers to be arrested since 389 illegal immigrants were rounded up at the plant on May 12, said Bob Teig, a spokesman for the United States attorney for the Northern District of Iowa.

Federal authorities called the raid the largest enforcement operation by immigration authorities at a single workplace. Unions and immigrant advocacy groups had criticized immigration officials for focusing arrests on workers while taking no action against top managers.

The arrest warrant was issued for Hosam Amara, 43. In interviews after the raid, several workers said Mr. Amara was a floor manager with more authority than line supervisors. They said he was a link between workers on the slaughterhouse floors and meatpacking lines and more senior management.

Agriprocessors, which before the raid was the country’s largest producer of kosher meat, is owned by Aaron Rubashkin. Two weeks after the raid, he removed his son Sholom as chief executive.

Most of the illegal immigrants arrested at the plant were from rural Guatemala. In expedited proceedings, 270 workers were sent to federal prison on criminal charges, most for presenting false documents when they were hired.

In a criminal complaint unsealed on Thursday, federal authorities said Mr. Guerrero was the supervisor of four departments in the Postville plant, including a slaughterhouse called Beef Kill. Workers cited anonymously in the complaint said Mr. Guerrero was running a business obtaining fraudulent immigration documents, known as green cards.

In the days before the raid, the workers said, according to the complaint, Mr. Guerrero told them in a meeting that “they needed new IDs and Social Security numbers to continue working at the company.” Mr. Guerrero collected $200 and a photograph from each worker, promising to provide new documents, the complaint says.

A former human resources employee cited in the complaint said Mr. Guerrero regularly brought in fake green cards for applicants.

A separate complaint says Mr. De la Rosa, a supervisor in Poultry Kill, also told illegal immigrant workers shortly before the raid that they needed new identity documents.

The complaints make it clear that a grand jury investigation of Agriprocessors is continuing.

Union officials said the new arrests did not go far enough.

“The arrest of two low-level supervisors, while a start, barely scratches the surface of this company’s bad behavior,” said Scott Frotman, a spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which has tried to organize the plant. “What about the allegations of worker abuse? Does anyone really believe that these low-level supervisors acted alone without the knowledge, or even the direction, of the Rubashkins and other senior management?”

On Thursday in Houston, five senior managers of another company that was recently raided, Action Rags USA, made their initial court appearances. Those arrested on Wednesday included Mabarik Kahlon, 45, the owner of the company, an exporter of used clothing, and his partner Rasheed Ahmed, 58. About 160 workers were arrested on June 25 at the company’s plant in Houston.




Louisiana: Case of Ex-Black Panther [The Angola Three]
National Briefing | South
The conviction of a former Black Panther in the killing of a prison guard in 1972 should be overturned because his former lawyer should have objected to testimony from witnesses who had died after his original trial, a federal magistrate found. The lawyer’s omission denied a fair second trial for the man, Albert Woodfox, in 1998, the magistrate, Christine Nolan, wrote Tuesday in a recommendation to the federal judge who will rule later. Mr. Woodfox, 61, and Herman Wallace, 66, were convicted in the stabbing death of the guard, Brent Miller, on April 17, 1972. Mr. Wallace has been appealing his conviction based on arguments similar to Mr. Woodfox’s. Mr. Woodfox and Mr. Wallace, with another former Black Panther, became known as the Angola Three because they were held in isolation for about three decades at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola.
June 12, 2008

Texas: Killer Is Executed
National Briefing | Southwest
A convicted killer, Karl E. Chamberlain, was put to death by lethal injection in Texas, becoming the first prisoner executed in the state since the Supreme Court lifted an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty in April. Texas, the country’s busiest death penalty state, is the fifth state to resume executions since the court rejected a legal challenge to the three-drug cocktail used in most executions for the past 30 years. Mr. Chamberlain, 37, was convicted of the 1991 murder of a 30-year-old Dallas woman who lived in the same apartment complex. Mr. Chamberlain was the 406th inmate executed in Texas since 1982 and the first this year.
June 12, 2008

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