Saturday, July 12, 2008




Come to the next planning meeting to organize opposition
to the pro-JROTC initiative likely to be on the November
ballot (see article here):

Tuesday, July 22, 7:15 P.M.
Friends Meeting House
65 Ninth Street (Between Mission and Market Streets)
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!

S.F. JROTC likely to be on November ballot
Nanette Asimov, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 8, 2008

(07-07) 17:31 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco voters will have a chance in November to weigh in on the fate of a military-education program that has become an issue not only in the city schools, but in local politics.

On Monday, dozens of high school students handed in more than 13,600 signatures they collected to place a nonbinding measure on the ballot urging the Board of Education to reverse its decision to dishonorably discharge the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program.

The students - all cadets from the seven high schools with JROTC programs - needed only 7,200 signatures. If the city Department of Elections verifies that at least that many signatures are valid, the measure will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The students said they had found broad support from the political right and left alike.

"A lot of people said they were anti-military and anti-JROTC, but they said they wanted students to have a choice," said Neal Jaranilla, 16, who will be a junior at Balboa High School this fall. He spent the past five weeks collecting signatures.

The school board voted in 2006 to ax the 90-year-old program on the grounds that it is operated by the U.S. military, which bars gays and lesbians, and that the board has no say over who is hired as an instructor.

The board then voted to let the program continue through spring 2009. But in June, the board said it would no longer grant physical-education credit for the program, a move that will make it impossible for most students to fit JROTC into their schedules next school year.

Until its future became uncertain, the JROTC attracted about 1,600 students a year. It has since lost about 400 participants.

The ballot measure declares that JROTC supporters oppose the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which allows gays and lesbians to be expelled from the armed services, and have expressed that view to Congress.

The measure says JROTC "teaches students discipline, leadership skills and the importance of civic responsibility," and notes that cadets put in "hundreds of community service hours" and that most are students of color.

Mayor Gavin Newsom surprised the students Monday by joining them and their supporters on the steps of City Hall. He told The Chronicle he was very disappointed by the school board's decisions to drop JROTC and remove the PE credit.

"You don't do that to these kids," he said. "I think the opportunity here is for a new school board."

Two members, Mark Sanchez and Eric Mar, have led the 4-3 opposition to JROTC. Both are running for open seats on the Board of Supervisors - Sanchez for District Nine in the left-leaning Bernal Heights and Mission neighborhoods, and Mar in District One, the more centrist Richmond.

"I don't expect his support," Sanchez said of the mayor. In fact, Newsom is endorsing Eva Royale, a community leader, in District Nine, and former Planning Commissioner Sue Lee in District One.

Sanchez said he was aware that the JROTC issue has already bled beyond school district boundaries and become a factor in the supervisor races. But he said he hoped it would work to his benefit.

"I'm very proud of what I've done with JROTC," he said, noting that even though the program does not discriminate against gay people, it is run by the military, which does.

"As a gay man and as president of the Board of Education, that's the main reason" for opposing JROTC, Sanchez said.

He said that even if the measure is approved in November, he would consider voters' 2005 opposition to military recruitment in the schools as a better indication of their views on the subject.

JROTC supporters said Sanchez, Mar and other board members are putting politics ahead of students.

Even though the JROTC ballot measure wouldn't have the force of law, it would help guide voters in choosing new school board members, said Steve Ziman, a co-chairman of Choice for Students, which is organizing the campaign to save JROTC.

"It will basically help us organize the city to really look at the candidates," he said. "Most people don't know who they're voting for."



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


Leonard Peltier Health Alert
Date: Mon, 7 Jul 2008 15:36:41 -0400
Subject: Write and Keep Writing

- Please Post Widely -

Dear Friends and Supporters,

The U.S. penitentiary at Lewisburg is in lockdown for the fifth consecutive day. Lockdowns, especially those that last a long while, are dangerous. Why? First, it's common for Leonard not to receive his medications at such times. Second, the prison has told all of us that Leonard has access to a diabetes testing kit in the infirmary. Right? Unfortunately, during a lockdown, Leonard isn't allowed to go to the infirmary at all. There's no way for him to test his blood glucose level.

Please help us ensure that Leonard receives proper medical care.

1. Leonard must receive his medications as prescribed.

2. Leonard also still needs access to a diabetes testing kit. Leonard should be allowed his own kit at the pharmacy for accurate readings, as well as easy and regular access. In this way, he'll be able to test himself three or four times a day and hopefully achieve a balanced blood glucose level.

3. Leonard needs diabetic shoes that will help him with his diabetes-related foot problems.

If the prison cannot provide a kit and/or a proper pair of shoes, the family will work with an approved medical supply company to see to it that Leonard gets what he needs.

All supporters are requested to continue to contact:

Warden Bledsoe
USP Lewisburg
US Penitentiary
2400 Robert F. Miller Drive
Lewisburg, PA 17837
Phone: 570-523-1251
Fax: 570-522-7745
E-mail: lew/

Also contact:

D. Scott Dodrill, Regional Director
Northeast Regional Office
US Custom House
2nd & Chesnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: 215-521-7301
E-mail: nero/

Harley G. Lappin, Director
Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First Street., NW
Washington, DC 20534
Phone: 202-307-3198

Thank you for your concern.

Betty Ann Peltier Solano
Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee
PO Box 7488, Fargo, ND 58106
Phone: 701/235-2206


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


"Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about his religion. Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and of service to your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

"Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place. Show respect to all people, but grovel to none. When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.

"Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home." by: Tecumseh -(1768-1813) Shawnee Chief


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.


"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

Canada ruling boosts US deserter
By Lee Carter
BBC News, Toronto

A Canadian court has ordered the country's refugee board to re-examine an American deserter's rejected attempt for asylum in Canada.

The court ruled that the board made mistakes when it turned down Joshua Key's claim for asylum.

Mr Key served in Iraq in 2003 before deserting to Canada with his family while on leave in the US.

The ruling could affect scores of other US soldiers sheltering in Canada who have refused to fight in Iraq.

Possible deportations

Joshua Key served in Iraq as a US combat engineer in Iraq in 2003.

He claims that he witnessed several cases of abusive acts against civilians and the killing of innocent people.

While on leave at home in Oklahoma, he decided that he would not return to duty and took his family to Canada where he applied for asylum.

Although the Canadian refugee board found Mr Key credible, it rejected his application, saying that unless his claims of abuse constituted a war crime, they did not justify his desertion from the US army.

In its ruling, the federal court has disagreed with that analysis, saying that being forced to participate in military misconduct, even if it stops short of a war crime, may support a claim to protection in Canada.

There are at least 200 American war deserters in Canada and many face deportation after their asylum cases were also rejected.

Joshua Key's lawyer said that the ruling may help their cases.

The Canadian government is reviewing the court's decision and has not said whether it will appeal.


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]




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




1) Partnership for Civil Justice Files Lawsuit to Strike Down DC’s Checkpoint Program
Class Action Lawsuit Challenges Constitutionality of Stops and Data Collection

2) Class Action Filed Over Checkpoints
Rights Group Calls Police Activity in Trinidad Neighborhood Unconstitutional
By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 21, 2008; B02

3) National Antiwar Conference Does the Right Thing
By Carole Seligman
July/August Socialist Viewpoint

4) Evaluation of the June 28-29, 2008 National Assembly to End the Iraq War and Occupation
By Jerry Gordon, Marilyn Levin, and Jeff Mackler
Members of the Administrative Committee of the Assembly’s 50-Member Coordinating Committee [VIA Email]

5) Siphoning G.M.’s Future
Op-Ed Contributor
"...pension commitments last forever. They far outlived Detroit’s prosperity."
[This writer treats pensions and healthcare as if it is a gift from the altruistic boss to their over-fat, greedy workforce living high on the hog. Anything a worker gets from the boss is part and parcel of their under-compensation for the profits their labor creates for the boss--in the case of Ford and GM--billions and billions of dollars in profits and giant CEO bonuses. The quote above suggests that the problem is that the workers live too long! They have outlived the bosses expectations! Nothing said about the fact that many are suffering work-related injuries built from decades of repetitive motion and chemical contamination, among other things, after they retire. And they imply that the company has empty pockets as a result of this lavish treatment of workers who became useless a long time ago. Perhaps it would be more economical to shoot workers and their families that depend upon them instead of retire them. What kind of world do we want to live in? Down with barbarism!]
July 10, 2008

6) Rice Warns Iran That U.S. Will Defend Allies
July 11, 2008

7) Senate Approves Bill to Broaden Wiretap Powers
July 10, 2008

8) As Outbreak Affects 1,000, Experts See Flaws in Law
July 10, 2008

9) U.S. Soldiers Lose Haven in Canada
July 13, 2008

10) Immigrants Find Solace After Storm of Arrests
On Religion
July 12, 2008

11) Psychiatric Group Faces Scrutiny Over Drug Industry Ties
July 12, 2008

12) Group Apologizes for Its Racial Bias
July 11, 2008


1) Partnership for Civil Justice Files Lawsuit to Strike Down DC’s Checkpoint Program
Class Action Lawsuit Challenges Constitutionality of Stops and Data Collection

The Partnership for Civil Justice, a Washington DC-based public interest law firm, filed a class action lawsuit today in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia seeking an injunction against the Metropolitan Police Department’s Neighborhood Safety Zone checkpoint program.

The lawsuit asserts that the roadblock program instituted in recent weeks is an unconstitutional suspicionless seizure of persons traveling on public roadways in the District of Columbia. The lawsuit also challenges the District’s use of these mass civil rights violations to collect and aggregate data on the movements, activities and associations of law abiding residents and visitors to the District and seeks expungement of this information.

The checkpoints are an extraordinary expansion of police power to stop, seize and interrogate individuals without any probable cause or suspicion of illegal activity. They are also ineffective at stopping crime.

“People want their children to be able to walk the streets in their neighborhood in a safe and secure environment. The District’s military-style roadblock system was deployed, in part, to give the appearance that the government is addressing this deeply felt need. But it is neither constitutional, nor effective. There is an urgent need to tackle the problems of violence, street crime, unemployment and education. This roadblock does not address any of them,” states the Class Action Complaint.

Copies of the Class Action Complaint, Mills v. District of Columbia and the Memorandum of Law in Support of a Preliminary Injunction links can be accessed at:

The attorneys on the lawsuit are Mara Verheyden-Hilliard and Carl Messineo, co-founders of the Partnership for Civil Justice.


2) Class Action Filed Over Checkpoints
Rights Group Calls Police Activity in Trinidad Neighborhood Unconstitutional
By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 21, 2008; B02

A civil rights group filed a federal lawsuit yesterday to halt the D.C. police department's new checkpoint initiative, arguing that it is unconstitutional to screen motorists and prevent some from entering certain neighborhoods.

The Partnership for Civil Justice filed the suit on behalf of four District residents who alleged that the checkpoints, set up after a stretch of deadly violence in Northeast Washington, led to "widespread civil rights violations." The suit seeks to bar police from using the program anywhere in the city.

"It is very clear that the District of Columbia is engaged in an unprecedented and unconstitutional system of suspicionless stops and seizures," Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, an attorney with the civil rights group, said in an interview.

Responding to a spate of shootings, including a triple homicide, D.C. police set up a checkpoint in the Trinidad area of Northeast Washington to prevent potential gunmen from entering the neighborhood in cars. At random times during a six-day period that ended June 12, officers questioned drivers to make sure they had a "legitimate" purpose for heading into the neighborhood. Some were denied entry. D.C. police hailed the program as a success, noting that no one was killed in the area while the program was running.

Nevertheless, the suit says the tactics were "neither constitutional, nor effective."

"The District's military-style roadblock system was deployed, in part, to give the appearance that the government is addressing" residents' hopes for safe neighborhoods, the suit states.

The lawsuit was filed as a class action to cover all people affected by the program. It also is seeking to stop a years-long initiative in which D.C. police use an array of checkpoints to collect information from drivers and their passengers all over the city. That information is entered into police computer systems used by law-enforcement officials.

D.C. police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said that she worked with the D.C. attorney general's and the U.S. attorney's offices on the checkpoint program and that she had a "legal sufficiency memo" before she went forward with the plan. She has said the Neighborhood Safety Zones could be set up in other areas if the need arises.

"I count on the attorneys to give me guidance. I don't ever act in a vacuum," Lanier said. "I run everything I do by them if I have any concern at all to make sure I do things the right way."

Interim Attorney General Peter Nickles has said that he thoroughly vetted the plan. But at a hearing this week, some D.C. Council members said they had doubts about its legality.

Nickles said yesterday that he had reviewed the lawsuit and that it "seems like an academic treatise that is heavy on the rhetoric but not very heavy on any analysis" of the law. He reiterated his belief that the law is on the city's side.

The lawsuit alleges that four D.C. residents were among those blocked from entering. Caneisha Mills, a Howard University student and hotel worker, said in the suit that she was turned away from Trinidad on June 7 when she refused to give police her identity or information about her activities.

Sarah Sloan, 27, a volunteer for the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, an antiwar and social advocacy group, reported that she was turned away June 11. In an interview, she said she was prevented from entering Trinidad when she refused to give officers details about who she was planning to meet.

"They asked me what I was doing, and I said I was going to a political meeting," Sloan said. "They asked me to give them more information about that meeting, but I didn't feel like I had to give them more details."

The American Civil Liberties Union, which monitored some of the activity, also has been considering a lawsuit. But one of the group's lawyers said yesterday that a lawsuit might be premature.

"We had been of the view that, given the fact that the police department had suspended activity in Trinidad and had no current plans to continue the activity, it may be better to wait and see if they undertake some future action," said Johnny Barnes, executive director of the ACLU National Capital Area. He added that ACLU lawyers would be in contact with the Partnership for Civil Justice and could join the litigation later.

Staff writer Allison Klein contributed to this report.


3) National Antiwar Conference Does the Right Thing
By Carole Seligman
July/August Socialist Viewpoint

The National Assembly to End the War in Iraq held on June 28 and 29 in Cleveland, Ohio, was successful in advancing the antiwar cause. Over 300 people participated in decision making, listened to educational speeches from a cross section of the leadership of the various national antiwar organizations, and participated in many workshops. The purpose of the conference—to bring the existing antiwar organizations together for stronger, united demonstrations for the U.S. to get out of Iraq (and Afghanistan)—was achieved.

Inspiring and moving speeches were presented to the crowd by Gold Star mother, Cindy Sheehan (by video); Navy antiwar soldier, Navy Petty Officer Jonathan Hutto; Sr.; Elaine Johnson, who for the first time in public told exactly how her son died (and all his grievous wounds) when his helicopter was shot down in Iraq; Lynn Stewart, the attorney on trial for her own work as a committed defense lawyer. Clarence Thomas, representing the International Long Shore and Warehouse Union inspired the attendees with his report of the May 1 West Coast Long Shore coast-wide work stoppage to protest both the Iraq and Afghan wars.

The moving force in calling and organizing this conference was the venerable Jerry Gordon, 79 years old, who many of the participants remembered and respected as a key leader in building the coalitions and mass actions against the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 70s. Several labor leaders, such as Donna DeWitt, of the South Carolina AFL-CIO and Fred Mason, of the Maryland and Washington, D.C. AFL-CIO participated.

Two pressing and controversial issues at the conference could have prevented participants from making a meaningful contribution to the antiwar movement. These were the U.S. war in Afghanistan and the Israeli attack on the Palestinians. The conference organizers wanted to focus solely on the war on Iraq. Pre-conference meetings and written resolutions specifically avoided calling for U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, even in the face of the recent Congressional vote to continue the massive funding for both wars, the U.S. bombing attacks on Afghan civilians, and the escalating U.S. casualties. They avoided the issue of Israel and Palestine although Israel’s assault on the Palestinians and their violation of Palestinian self-determination could not happen without U.S. military and financial support; despite the multiple links of Israel to U.S. plans to dominate the Middle East; and despite U.S. and Israel’s threats against Iran.

The conference leadership’s reasoning was their intention to make the conference decisions appeal to labor officials in the antiwar movement at a time when these leaders are heavily involved in the presidential elections and especially unwilling to adopt positions that oppose or differ with the Democratic Party politicians they support. This was an accommodation to Senator Obama, Congresswoman Pelosi, and other Democratic Party candidates and office holders who have spoken out against the Iraq war, but continue to fund it; who support the war against Afghanistan; and who compete with each other to be the most uncritical, adulatory supporters of the state of Israel. In this regard, Jonathan Hutto, Sr., the Navy petty officer, author of Anti-War Soldier, and co-founder of Appeal for Redress—the petition to the U.S. Congress by active duty soldiers to redress grievances—called Senator Obama “the greatest threat to the movement.” The conference participants rejected this accommodation.

A high point of the conference was a speech by Jeremy Scahill, the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He presented in rapid-fire fashion how the U.S. is contracting out many aspects of the wars to private contractors, who are reaping huge profits, are completely unaccountable for the atrocities they commit, and enjoy immunity from the U.S. and Iraqi governments from prosecution for their crimes.

Blackwater is an armed wing of the Bush administration, said Scahill, who called the private military contracts the “greatest transfer of public funds to the private sector,” and said that 70 percent of U.S. intelligence gathering is now done by private contractors. He also said that the military industrial corporations are giving more money to Democrats in this election period than they are giving to the Republicans and that Barack Obama, when elected President, will “bring more business to them.” Obama, said Scahill, “has no intention of ending the occupation of Iraq by 2009, or even by the end of his first term,” and he wants to send 7,000 more troops into Afghanistan! Obama now has “all the old hands of war from the Clinton regime” working as advisors, said Scahill.

A Saturday evening rally featured speakers from several of the most effective and largest antiwar organizations including antiwar mom and independent candidate for Congress, Cindy Sheehan; Brian Becker, of A.N.S.W.E.R.; Clarence Thomas of the ILWU; Jorge Mujica of the Chicago area immigrant rights movement; Leslie Cagan, of United for Peace and Justice; and Larry Holmes, a National Coordinator of the Troops Out Now Coalition. All of these speakers were very positive toward the National Assembly and its call for all the groups to work productively together on common actions in the Fall of this year and in Spring of 2009. Holmes put forward a wonderful slogan, “Foreclose the war, Not our homes!” which was enthusiastically received by the conference participants. Most of the speakers spoke against the war on Afghanistan.

Sunday morning the conference was addressed by Veterans for Peace President, Elliott Adams; attorney Lynne Stewart, who compared the current attack on immigrants to the Jim Crow era, calling their recruitment to fight the U.S. wars “Juan Crow;” and Jesse Diaz, Co-founder of the Los Angeles March 25 Coalition and facilitator of the 2006 immigrant rights demonstration in Los Angeles of over one million people, who advocated collaboration of the antiwar and immigrant rights movement, saying “Imagine if all of us stopped for one day [May 1, 2009]!”

The conference adopted a stronger position of opposition to Israel’s assault on the Palestinians than the conference organizers proposed. The organizers wanted only to say that the issues of Israel and Palestine are “interrelated” to the U.S. war on Iraq, but the conference majority took a stronger stand in opposition to Zionism and U.S. support of Israel.

A strong conference majority voted to add Afghanistan to the call for U.S. Out Now, adding opposition to the Afghanistan war to the name of the National Assembly group and to the action resolution. This was a vindication for those who had pushed for the conference to represent the real desires of the antiwar movement’s activist majority, who see the two wars as prongs of the War on Terror—both illegal, both immoral, both based on lies of the Bush administration, and both completely indefensible.

The conference took a strong stand to oppose any steps toward a war against Iran. This was not a controversial issue at the conference and there was a lot of interest in adding a statement strengthening the organizers’ resolution with respect to Iran.

A proposal to elect a 9-person coordinating committee was expanded to a 13-member committee and several people who had supported adding Afghanistan and Palestine to opposition to the Iraq war were voted onto the committee as well as the nine recommended by the conference organizers.

Hopefully, the National Assembly conference will mean that the antiwar movement, which has been badly sidetracked by the elections and false hopes of many antiwar people in Senator Obama’s rhetoric about ending the Iraq war, will come roaring back onto the streets, at least after the election is over. That will be long overdue, but most necessary.


4) Evaluation of the June 28-29, 2008 National Assembly to End the Iraq War and Occupation
By Jerry Gordon, Marilyn Levin, and Jeff Mackler
Members of the Administrative Committee of the Assembly’s 50-Member Coordinating Committee [VIA Email]

Our overall assessment is that the conference was an overwhelming success. Over 400 people from many parts of the country and Canada attended, including a bus of 44—mostly youth—from Connecticut (see breakdown by states below*). The conference met its main objective, which was to urge united and massive mobilizations in the spring to “Bring the Troops Home Now,” as well as supporting actions that build towards that date. It also provided a prototype for how an antiwar movement can function effectively and democratically. The one person-one vote voting formula made everyone feel involved, able to have a voice, and capable of influencing decisions on critical issues. People left the conference sky high, and with renewed energy and determination to build the movement.

Conference highlights included the following:

1. Ensured that it was action oriented by urging support for demonstrations at the Republican and Democratic Party conventions (September 1-4, 2008 and August 25-28, 2008 respectively), other actions preceding the elections—especially those called for October 11—and proposing December 9-14 as dates for local actions across the country demanding the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. These December actions provide the best potential for uniting the entire movement in the months ahead. ANSWER and the Troops Out Now Coalition have endorsed them and the hope is that UFPJ will do the same. The need now is to take these proposed dates to local antiwar coalitions; labor groups, especially U.S. Labor Against the War; veterans and military families organizations: the faith community; Black, Hispanic, Asian, Arab, Muslim and other nationalities, racial and ethnic groups; students; women’s peace organizations; the Moratorium; and all other social forces that can be drawn into antiwar activities. All actions are viewed as springboards for building massive, united, independent and bi-coastal Spring 2009 demonstrations against the war.

2. Expressed its strong opposition to attacks against Iran, as well as sanctions and other forms of intervention into that country’s internal affairs; registered determination to join other antiwar forces in massive united, protest actions in the event that the U.S. or its proxy, Israel, bombs Iran; and urged that if this occurs an emergency meeting of all the major antiwar forces be called to plan such actions.

3. Added Afghanistan to the name of the Assembly because the U.S. is fighting two unjust, illegal and brutal wars simultaneously and both must be opposed. We are now the National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations.

4. Voted to integrate the issue of Palestine into the broader antiwar struggle and to challenge U.S. support for the Israeli occupation.

5. Included in the conference program and agenda a number of workshops of interest to attendees, with the workshops designed to show the interconnection between the wars and occupations and other issues of concern. Here is the list of workshops: The Cost of the War and the Deepening Economic Crisis; War Rages While Racism, Anti-Immigrant Attacks and the War at Home Escalate; Building the Antiwar Movement in Labor Organizations: International Solidarity and the Common Needs of U.S. and Iraqi Workers; Lessons From the Vietnam Antiwar Movement; Students, the Economic Draft and Military Recruitment in Our Schools; Confronting the Assault on Civil Liberties and the U.S. Constitution: the War on Terror—Today’s Justification for Washington’s Wars at Home and Abroad; Palestine, the Middle East and Iraq: Drawing the Connections; The Critical Role of Veterans and Military Families Opposed to the War; Latin America and the Caribbean: the Next U.S. War of Intervention?; The Next Oil Wars: Africa Command (AFRICOM) and the Expansion of U.S. Military Intervention in Africa; This Is What Democracy Looks Like: Effective Lobbying to End the Occupation; Local Organizing and the Iraq Moratorium; Nonviolent Direct Action: Is It Effective?; Outsourcing Our Sovereignty: Blackwater and the Privatization of War with Public Money; War, Militarism, Violence Against Women, and Women’s Resistance; The St. Paul Republican National Convention Protest; and the Movement and the Media.

6. Attracted a broad range of movement activists as well as the leadership of the nation’s most prominent antiwar coalitions—UFPJ, ANSWER and TONC—as well as leaders and representatives of U.S. Labor Against the War, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, and Military Families Speak Out.

7. Featured an impressive array of speakers representing critical constituencies, several of whom pledged future collaboration. These included: Donna Dewitt, President of the South Carolina AFL-CIO and Co-Chair, South Carolina Progressive Network; Fred Mason, President, Maryland AFL-CIO and Co-Convenor, U.S. Labor Against the War; Cindy Sheehan, Gold Star Families for Peace (by video tape); Jonathon Hutto,Navy Petty Officer, Author of Anti-War Soldier and Co-Founder of Appeal for Redress; Elliott Adams, President, Veterans for Peace; Beth Lerman, Coordinator of Military Families Speak Out in Ohio; Leslie Cagan, National Coordinator, United for Peace and Justice; Jesse Diaz, Organizer of the May 1, 2006 immigrant rights boycott; Marilyn Levin, Boston United for Justice with Peace, New England United, and Middle East Crisis Coalition; Brian Becker, National Coordinator, A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition; Colia Lafayette Clark, Richard Wright Centennial Committee; Jorge Mujica, Chicago March 10 Coalition; Jeremy Scahill, Author, of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army; Clarence Thomas, Executive Board Member, ILWU Local 10, the trade union that initiated the May 1 one-day antiwar strike that closed all U.S. West Coast ports from Canada to Mexico; Riham Barghouti, Adalah, New York City; Lynne Stewart, attorney and 30-year veteran of civil liberties and civil rights defense work; Josh Davidson, Shaker Heights High School Students for a Democratic Society (SDS); Larry Holmes, Coordinator, Troops Out Now Coalition; Jeff Mackler, Coordinating Committee, National Assembly to End the Iraq War and Occupation; and Jerry Gordon, Steering Committee, U.S. Labor Against the War and Co-Coordinator of the Vietnam-era National Peace Action Coalition. Saturday Night Performer: Son of Nun.

8. Projected an atmosphere where spirited and sometimes sharp debate could take place in a civil manner on substantive issues. The few attempts to deprecate groups or individuals encountered a strong negative response.

9. Voted to maintain the Assembly as a network with its mission intact and continuing: to be a catalyst and unifier, striving always to unite the movement in the streets. Our abiding conviction is that a united movement is a stronger movement and one better able to reach out to and involve the broader forces that must be won if we are to put an end to the wars and occupations.

10. Elected a 13-member Administrative Body (AB), composed of Zaineb Alani, Colia Clark, Greg Coleridge, Donna Dewitt, Jamilla El-Shafei, Mike Ferner, Jerry Gordon, Jonathan Hutto, Marilyn Levin, Jeff Mackler, Fred Mason, Mary Nichols-Rhodes and Lynne Stewart.

11. Raised enough money to pay all the bills for what was a very expensive undertaking, with the total cost being an estimated $23,500.
Hitches Along the Way

Of course, there were flaws in the planning and preparation for the conference and, in retrospect; there were things we would have done differently. The most serious problem was not making it clear beforehand what was meant by an action proposal as differentiated from requests for endorsements of events, minor word changes, and proposals outside the realistic scope of the conference. This resulted in an avalanche of proposals and later of amendments to the action proposal the conference voted to focus on. Because all of these amendments could not be taken up in the allotted time, many were referred to the incoming Administrative Body.

Then, too, the Saturday night program lasted too long and the concluding speakers, as well as Son of Nun, who performed magnificently at the end, were heard by dwindling numbers. We also underestimated the turnout and although we prepared 400 kits going into the conference at a time when registrations totaled about 300, there were not enough kits to go around (especially since a number of people took more than one so they could pass them along to activists back home).

We will learn from all this and make the necessary changes the next time around. After all, this was the Assembly’s founding conference. We are confident the next one will be bigger and better.

Where Does the Assembly Go from Here?

As we see it, the immediate priorities are completing work on the action and structure proposals and posting them on the Assembly website; circulating them widely throughout the movement; securing endorsements for the December 9-14 actions and acting as a clearinghouse for listing and promoting the December actions; encouraging groups which are in agreement with the five points that unite us—”Out Now!” as the movement’s unifying demand, mass action as the central strategy, unity of the movement, democratic decision making, and independence from all political parties—to elect representatives to the Assembly’s Continuations Body and help guide us as we move forward; and preparing a DVD featuring highlights of the conference for distribution and sale.

Was the conference a success? This will be determined less by what we discussed and voted upon there and more by what conference attendees do in the aftermath. If those who went through the experience of the conference are vocal and assertive in not only pressing for united actions in the future but demanding them and if, as a result, our fractured antiwar movement at last comes together in the streets, and stays there until the U.S. stops waging war on the peoples of the Middle East, as well as Afghanistan, then it may truly be said that the June 28-29 conference held in Cleveland, Ohio was, indeed, an historic event.

* Conference attendance: 417 people registered, 12 who did register did not come, so the total attendance was 405. One person came from Arizona, 29 from California, one from Colorado, 41 from Connecticut, 7 from Washington, D.C., 2 from Florida, 27 from Illinois, one from Indiana, 16 from Massachusetts, 5 from Maryland, 17 from Michigan, 14 from Minnesota, 6 from Missouri, 1 from North Carolina, 10 from New Jersey, 39 from New York, 140 from Ohio, 1 from Oregon, 21 from Pennsylvania, 6 from Rhode Island, 2 from South Carolina, 1 from Texas, 1 from Utah, 4 from Virginia, 3 from Washington State, 6 from Wisconsin, 4 from Ontario, Canada.


5) Siphoning G.M.’s Future
Op-Ed Contributor
"...pension commitments last forever. They far outlived Detroit’s prosperity."
[This writer treats pensions and healthcare as if it is a gift from the altruistic boss to their over-fat, greedy workforce living high on the hog. Anything a worker gets from the boss is part and parcel of their under-compensation for the profits their labor creates for the boss--in the case of Ford and GM--billions and billions of dollars in profits and giant CEO bonuses. The quote above suggests that the problem is that the workers live too long! They have outlived the bosses expectations! Nothing said about the fact that many are suffering work-related injuries built from decades of repetitive motion and chemical contamination, among other things, after they retire. And they imply that the company has empty pockets as a result of this lavish treatment of workers who became useless a long time ago. Perhaps it would be more economical to shoot workers and their families that depend upon them instead of retire them. What kind of world do we want to live in? Down with barbarism!]
July 10, 2008

WHO shot General Motors? The company’s stock is at its lowest level in 50 years, and its market valuation has plunged to $5.9 billion, less than that of the Hershey candy-bar company. The automaker is weighing yet another round of layoffs — and maybe even a fire sale of venerable brands like Buick and Pontiac.

General Motors once manufactured half the cars on the American road, but now it sells barely 2 in 10. Bankruptcy is not unthinkable for Detroit’s former king. The immediate cause of G.M.’s distress, of course, is the surging price of oil, which has put a chill on the sale of gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles and trucks. The company’s failure to invest early enough in hybrids is another culprit. Years of poor car design is another.

But none of G.M.’s management miscues was so damaging to its long-term fate as the rich pensions and health care that robbed General Motors of its financial flexibility and, ultimately, of its cash.

General Motors established its pension in the “treaty of Detroit,” the five-year contract that it signed with the United Automobile Workers in 1950 that also provided health insurance and other benefits for the company’s workers. Walter Reuther, the union’s captain, would have preferred that the government provide pensions and health care to all citizens. He urged the automakers to “go down to Washington and fight with us” for federal benefits.

But the automakers wanted no part of socialized care. They seemed not to notice, as a union expert wrote, that if Washington didn’t provide social insurance it would be “sought from employers across the collective bargaining table.”

Detroit was too flush to envision that it would ever face a financial strain. Ford and Chrysler signed identical pacts with labor, so all three automakers were able to pass on their costs to customers. Besides, the industry’s work force was so young that few workers would be collecting a pension any time soon.

But pension commitments last forever. They far outlived Detroit’s prosperity.

General Motors got into the dubious habit of steadily increasing worker benefits. In 1961, G.M. was able to get away with a skimpy 2.5 percent increase in wages by also guaranteeing a 12 percent rise in pensions. Such promises significantly burdened the company’s future. As workers lived longer, the cost of fulfilling pension commitments rose. And health care costs exploded.

By the 1980s, it was clear that the Big Three automakers faced a serious threat from Japan. But General Motors and the U.A.W. were locked in a mutually destructive embrace. G.M., fearing the short-term consequences of a strike, continued to grant large increases in benefits — creating an intolerable gap between its costs and those of its foreign competitors. Union officials feared to face the rank and file without a big contract.

In the ’90s, the consequences of maintaining a corporate welfare state became too obvious to ignore. In that decade, General Motors poured tens of billions of dollars into its pension fund — an irretrievable loss of opportunity. What else might G.M. have accomplished with that money? It could have designed new cars or researched alternative fuels. Or it could have acquired half of Toyota — a company that the stock market now values at close to $150 billion.

G.M. acknowledged in its most recent annual report that from 1993 to 2007 it spent $103 billion “to fund legacy pensions and retiree health care — an average of about $7 billion a year — a dramatic competitive and cash-flow disadvantage.” During those 15 years, G.M. paid only $13 billion or so in shareholder dividends. The company has been sending far more money to its retirees than to its owners.

After falling $20 billion behind on its pension earlier this decade, G.M. doggedly put money into its plan to catch up. It has also agreed to invest more than $30 billion in a fund to cover future health-care expenses. But these efforts have starved its business.

The sorry decline of General Motors has proved Reuther right: the government is the better provider of social insurance. Let industry worry about selling products.

Unhappily, however, the fate of many public-sector pension plans is even worse than G.M.’s. Responding to the same temptation to offload expenses into the future, public employers have committed to trillions of dollars in future liabilities. In New Jersey, a huge pension liability has created a budgetary nightmare for the state. The city of Vallejo, Calif., burdened by police pensions, recently filed for bankruptcy.

Just as G.M.’s shareholders bore the burdens of its pensions, states and cities will have to force taxpayers to sacrifice in the form of service cuts, tax increases or both.

It is too late to restore G.M. to its former grandeur. But if public officials do not show courage by quickly funding the pensions they have promised to their workers, taxpayers will soon find themselves in an even worse crisis than the one G.M.’s shareholders are facing now.

Roger Lowenstein is the author of “While America Aged: How Pension Debts Ruined General Motors, Stopped the N.Y.C. Subways, Bankrupted San Diego and Loom as the Next Financial Crisis.”


6) Rice Warns Iran That U.S. Will Defend Allies
July 11, 2008

MOSCOW — The confrontation between Tehran and Washington seemed to sharpen on Thursday as Iran said it tested missiles for a second day and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States would defend its allies and protect its interests against an attack.

Ms. Rice was speaking in the former Soviet republic of Georgia at the end of a three-day tour of Eastern Europe. Shortly after she spoke, state-run media in Iran began reporting the new missile tests, which followed a warning from an Iranian official earlier this week that Tehran would strike Tel Aviv and United States interests if Washington attacked it first.

Iranian state television showed a missile blasting off in darkness, trailed by a fiery exhaust plume. The television said the new tests took place during the night into Thursday. A commander in the Revolutionary Guards had said earlier that night missile maneuvers would take place but did not give details.

“Deep in the Persian Gulf waters, the launch of different types of ground-to-sea, surface-to-surface, sea-to-air and the powerful launch of the Hoot missile successfully took place,” state radio said, without giving further details of the missiles. The missile’s name is sometimes spelled Hout.

Iran claimed to have first tested the Hoot, which means “whale” in Persian, in April 2006. A senior military official at the time described the torpedo as a sonar-evading underwater missile capable of traveling at about 230 miles per hour, about three times the speed of Western torpedoes. Military analysts have said that the Hoot, also spelled Hout, resembles a Russian rocket torpedo called the VA-111 Shkval, or Squall, a limited range weapon used in close-proximity combat.

The latest tests came a day after Iran said it test-fired nine missiles, including one with the range to strike Israel.

At a news conference in Georgia with President Mikheil Saakashvili, Ms. Rice declared:

“We will defend our interests and defend our allies.”

“We take very, very strongly our obligations to defend our allies and no one should be confused of that,” she said.

The remarks come amid increasingly tense exchanges between Iran and the United States over Iran’s civilian nuclear program, which Washington and many Western governments have warned could be used to cloak the development of a nuclear weapon, a charge Tehran has denied repeatedly.

The United States has hinted that it could use military force against Iran, but officials have made diplomacy a priority. Negotiations between Iran and the West on Iran’s nuclear ambitions are scheduled to resume this month.

Washington has been pushing the deployment of an antiballistic missile shield in Eastern Europe that officials say will help defend against a possible missile attack from Iran. Ms. Rice was in the Czech Republic on Tuesday, where she signed a landmark agreement to allow the Pentagon to begin construction of the first elements of this system.

The accord provoked strong criticism from Russia, which has said that the system could undermine Russia’s nuclear response capabilities. After the signing, Moscow threatened to respond militarily if the missile shield was put into operation.

Ms. Rice’s remarks seemed to go further than comments on Wednesday by Gordon D. Johndroe, the deputy White House press secretary, who said in a statement at the Group of 8 meeting in Japan that Iran’s development of ballistic missiles was a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

He urged Iran’s leaders to “refrain from further missile tests if they truly seek to gain the trust of the world,” and said, “The Iranians should stop the development of ballistic missiles which could be used as a delivery vehicle for a potential nuclear weapon immediately.”

Some in the United States saw the Iranian tests on Wednesday as essentially deterrent in nature. A senior American intelligence official said the missile tests, together with belligerent comments by Iranian officials, seemed part of a strategy to warn Iran’s neighbors of its “capacity to inflict pain.”

“I think Iran has a hedgehog strategy: mess with me and you’ll get stuck,” said the official, Thomas Fingar, the deputy director of national intelligence for analysis and head of the National Intelligence Council, during remarks at the Center for National Policy, in Washington.

Iran’s Arabic-language Al Alam television said the missiles launched on Wednesday included a “Shahab-3 with a conventional warhead weighing one ton and a 2,000-kilometer range,” about 1,250 miles. Cairo, Athens, Istanbul, New Delhi and the Arabian peninsula are within that distance of Iranian territory.

Iranian television showed what appeared to be two Shahabs lifting off within seconds of each other.

“That’s surprising,” Charles P. Vick, an expert on the Iranian rocket program at, a research group in Alexandria, Va., said in a telephone interview. “Historically, it’s always been single launches.”

Mr. Vick added, however, that the Shahab display might be less formidable than Iran had claimed. The missile’s conic warhead appeared to resemble an older Shahab model with a range of about 1,500 kilometers, or about 900 miles, rather than the newest one.

The Iranians fired their first Shahab a decade ago, Mr. Vick said, and are now replacing all models with a more advanced missile that burns solid propellants, which are considered better for quick launchings.

Hossein Salami, a commander of the Revolutionary Guards, was quoted as saying: “The aim of these war games is to show we are ready to defend the integrity of the Iranian nation.”

Michael Schwirtz reported from Moscow, and Alan Cowell from Paris. Reporting was contributed by William J. Broad from New York, Myra Noveck from Jerusalem, Sheryl Gay Stolberg from Rusutsu, Japan, and Mark Mazzetti from Washington.


7) Senate Approves Bill to Broaden Wiretap Powers
July 10, 2008

WASHINGTON — The Senate gave final approval on Wednesday to a major expansion of the government’s surveillance powers, handing President Bush one more victory in a series of hard-fought clashes with Democrats over national security issues.

The measure, approved by a vote of 69 to 28, is the biggest revamping of federal surveillance law in 30 years. It includes a divisive element that Mr. Bush had deemed essential: legal immunity for the phone companies that cooperated in the National Security Agency wiretapping program he approved after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The vote came two and a half years after public disclosure of the wiretapping program set off a fierce national debate over the balance between protecting the country from another terrorist strike and ensuring civil liberties. The final outcome in Congress, which opponents of the surveillance measure had conceded for weeks, seemed almost anticlimactic in contrast.

Mr. Bush, appearing in the Rose Garden just after his return from Japan, called the vote “long overdue.” He promised to sign the measure into law quickly, saying it was critical to national security and showed that “even in an election year, we can come together and get important pieces of legislation passed.”

Even as his political stature has waned, Mr. Bush has managed to maintain his dominance on national security issues in a Democratic-led Congress. He has beat back efforts to cut troops and financing in Iraq, and he has won important victories on issues like interrogation tactics and military tribunals in the fight against terrorism.

Debate over the surveillance law was the one area where Democrats had held firm in opposition. House Democrats went so far as to allow a temporary surveillance measure to expire in February, leading to a five-month impasse and prompting accusations from Mr. Bush that the nation’s defenses against another strike by Al Qaeda had been weakened.

But in the end Mr. Bush won out, as administration officials helped forge a deal between Republican and Democratic leaders that included almost all the major elements the White House wanted. The measure gives the executive branch broader latitude in eavesdropping on people abroad and at home who it believes are tied to terrorism, and it reduces the role of a secret intelligence court in overseeing some operations.

Supporters maintained that the plan includes enough safeguards to protect Americans’ civil liberties, including reviews by several inspectors general. There is nothing to fear in the bill, said Senator Christopher S. Bond, the Missouri Republican who was a lead negotiator, “unless you have Al Qaeda on your speed dial.”

But some Democratic opponents saw the deal as “capitulation” to White House pressure by fellow Democrats.

“I urge my colleagues to stand up for the rule of law and defeat this bill,” Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, said Wednesday as the outcome was all but assured.

The final plan, which overhauls the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act passed by Congress in 1978 in the wake of Watergate, reflected both political reality and legal practicality, supporters said.

Wiretapping orders approved by secret orders under the previous version of the surveillance law were set to begin expiring in August unless Congress acted. Heading into their political convention in Denver next month and on to the November Congressional elections, many Democrats were wary of handing the Republicans a potent political weapon.

The issue put Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, in a particularly precarious spot. He had long opposed giving legal immunity to the phone companies that took part in the N.S.A.’s wiretapping program, even threatening a filibuster during his run for the nomination. But on Wednesday, he ended up voting for what he called “an improved but imperfect bill” after backing a failed attempt earlier in the day to strip the immunity provision from the bill through an amendment.

Mr. Obama’s decision last month to reverse course angered some ardent supporters, who organized an Internet drive to influence his vote. And his position came to symbolize the continuing difficulties that Democrats have faced in striking a position on national security issues even against a weakened president. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, who had battled Mr. Obama for the nomination, voted against the bill.

Senator John McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, was campaigning in Ohio and did not vote, though he has consistently supported the immunity plan.

Support from key Democrats ensured passage of the measure.

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who leads the intelligence committee and helped broker the deal, said modernizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was essential to give intelligence officials the technology tools they need to deter another attack. But he said the plan “was made even more complicated by the president’s decision, in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, to go outside of FISA rather than work with Congress to fix it.”

He was referring to the secret program approved by Mr. Bush weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks that allowed the N.S.A, in a sharp legal and operational shift, to wiretap the international communications of Americans suspected of links to Al Qaeda without first getting court orders. The program was disclosed in December 2005 by The New York Times.

As Congress repeatedly tried to find a legislative solution, the main stumbling block was Mr. Bush’s insistence on legal immunity for the phone companies. The program itself ended in January 2007, when the White House agreed to bring it under the auspices of the FISA court, but more than 40 lawsuits continued churning through federal courts, charging AT&T, Verizon and other major carriers with violating customers’ privacy by conducting wiretaps at the White House’s direction without court orders.

The final deal, which passed the House on June 20, effectively ends those lawsuits. It includes a narrow review by a district court to determine whether the companies being sued received formal requests or directives from the administration to take part in the program. The administration has already acknowledged those directives exist. Once such a finding is made, the lawsuits “shall be promptly dismissed,” the bill says. Republican leaders say they regard the process as a mere formality to protect the phone carriers from liability.

Lawyers involved in the suits against the phone companies promised to challenge the immunity provision in federal court.

“The law itself is a massive intrusion into the due process rights of all of the phone subscribers who would be a part of the suit,” said Bruce Afran, a New Jersey lawyer representing several hundred plaintiffs suing Verizon and other companies. “It is a violation of the separation of powers. It’s presidential election-year cowardice. The Democrats are afraid of looking weak on national security.”

The legislation also expands the government’s power to invoke emergency wiretapping procedures. While the N.S.A. would be allowed to seek court orders for broad groups of foreign targets, the law creates a new seven-day period for directing wiretaps at foreigners without a court order in “exigent” circumstances if government officials assert that important national security information would be lost. The law also expands to seven days, from three, the period for emergency wiretaps on Americans without a court order if the attorney general certifies there is probable cause to believe the target is linked to terrorism.

Democrats pointed to some concessions they had won. The final bill includes a reaffirmation that the FISA law is the “exclusive” means of conducting intelligence wiretaps — a provision that Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House speaker, and other Democrats insisted would prevent Mr. Bush or any future president from evading court scrutiny in the way they say that the N.S.A. program did.

David Stout contributed reporting.


8) As Outbreak Affects 1,000, Experts See Flaws in Law
July 10, 2008

More than 1,000 people in 41 states and the District of Columbia have now been sickened in the nation’s salmonella outbreak, in what officials said Wednesday was the largest food-borne outbreak in the last decade. And some food safety experts this week tied problems in tracing the source of the contamination to what they say are shortcomings in the Bioterrorism Act of 2002.

Federal investigators have now linked at least some of the outbreak to fresh jalapeños, Dr. Robert Tauxe of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, though they have not ruled out tomatoes.

But officials have still not pinpointed the source of the contamination. Nor do they know the country or state where the tainted produce was grown, despite a rule issued by the Food and Drug Administration under the bioterrorism law that was intended to give federal officials a way to respond immediately to threats to the nation’s food supply.

The rule requires importers, processors and distributors to keep track of where they buy produce and where it goes. A major hurdle facing investigators in this outbreak, however, is that processors frequently repack boxes of tomatoes to meet a buyer’s demands. In doing so, officials said, they are not required to record the tomatoes’ farm, state or even country of origin.

“The purpose of the recordkeeping provision of the Bioterrorism Act was to support going back to the origin of food after people have gotten sick when you are trying to find out how the biological agent got there,” said Michael Taylor, a professor at the George Washington University and a former F.D.A. official. “But the provisions are of little or no value with respect to trace-backs of fresh produce because of the amount of shoe leather and time it would take.”

The rule requires only that produce handlers keep track of food one step back and one step forward in the supply chain and does not apply to retailers or growers. Because the rule does not specify the format for records, investigators are sifting through a hodgepodge of paper trails to identify the source of the contaminated produce.

“It’s clear that the F.D.A. is not equipped to deal with a trace-back of the magnitude that they are dealing with right now,” said Mike Doyle, director of the center for food safety at the University of Georgia.

Several lawmakers and consumer advocates are calling for a system that requires the industry to track the entire history of food products. Some groups, like the Produce Marketing Association, said they would support national regulation.

Dr. David Acheson, the agency’s associate commissioner for foods, said in a telephone interview on Monday that the F.D.A. lacked authority to require full trace-back capability, adding, “It’s the industry’s responsibility to put that kind of system in place, not ours.”

But Dr. David A. Kessler, the F.D.A. commissioner in the Clinton and first Bush administrations, said the agency has the authority to require the industry to trace produce as it travels from “farm to table,” but has lacked “the impetus” to do so.

“The technology exists to trace the entire chain of a food product,” Dr. Kessler said. “The agency needs to require the industry to put into effect mechanisms to do full trace-back. That regulation could be put in place in months, not years.”

Representative Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado, said Congress needed to expand the agency’s authority to “trace contamination to the source.” Ms. DeGette has proposed legislation directing the agency to establish a tracing system.

California requires tomato growers to be able to trace their product from the marketplace to the field, which most do using electronic systems that track codes on boxes, said Jay Van Rein of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.


9) U.S. Soldiers Lose Haven in Canada
July 13, 2008

TORONTO — James Corey Glass, apprentice mortician and United States Army deserter, was keeping an unusually close eye on the text messages coming into his cellphone. He was hoping to hear that a court had blocked the Canadian government’s attempt to send him back to the United States.

On Wednesday afternoon, the message came: Mr. Glass, 25, could remain in Canada while he appealed his removal order by the country’s Immigration Department. It was a welcome reprieve, he said, but well short of a guarantee that he and other deserters could make Canada their new home.

The Canadian government’s effort to remove Mr. Glass contrasts with the warm reception given to deserters and draft avoiders from the United States during the war in Vietnam. And although the war in Iraq has very little support among Canadians, the situation of Mr. Glass and others who abandoned their military positions provokes a wide range of responses. For American soldiers seeking an escape, Canada is no longer a guaranteed haven.

“It’s quite clear that the current Canadian government does not want to annoy the U.S. government on this issue and will not give any ground,” said Michael Byers, a professor of politics and international law at the University of British Columbia.

During the Vietnam War, the Liberal prime minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, welcomed American deserters and draft dodgers, declaring that Canada “should be a refuge from militarism.” Americans who arrived were generally able to obtain legal immigrant status simply by applying at the border, or even after they entered Canada.

But while the current Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not backed the Iraq war, it has shown little sympathy for American deserters. During a recent parliamentary debate, Laurie Hawn, a Conservative from Alberta, asked, “Why do they not fight it within their own legal system instead of being faux refugees in Canada?”

No American deserter of the Iraq war has been deported by the Canadian government, but that is not for lack of effort. Immigration authorities have ordered about nine deserters to leave Canada, leading to public battles in the courts.

Changes to immigration laws have made it far more difficult for deserters to remain in Canada. Deserters wanting at least temporary legal status must be declared refugees. But refugees in Canada must show that they have, as the government puts it, a “well-founded fear of being persecuted” for religious, racial or political reasons. Alternately, refugees may demonstrate that for them to be returned to their home country would put their lives at risk, or would subject them to torture or “cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.”

As for Mr. Glass, he said he was between low-paying factory jobs in Indiana when he joined the National Guard six years ago.

But he said he had one crucial question for the recruiters before he signed. “They told me I’m not going to fight a war on foreign shores,” Mr. Glass said.

Maj. Nathan Banks, a spokesman for the Army, said, “recruiters would never have made a comment of that sort.”

Not long after Mr. Glass joined, it became clear that he would not be exempt from overseas duty, he said. But he stayed with the Guard and was deployed to Iraq in 2005.

Six months into his 18-month tour, Mr. Glass, a sergeant, said he was sent home on a temporary stress leave. Immediately after returning to the United States, he went on the run, living in a tent in various states, he said. Like many of his counterparts in Canada, Mr. Glass eventually contacted Lee Zaslofsky, who deserted the United States Army for Toronto in 1970 and is now a national coordinator for the War Resisters Support Campaign, which houses and advocates for deserters. As he says he does with all callers, Mr. Zaslofsky, a naturalized Canadian citizen, told Mr. Glass that while he would be beyond the reach of the United States military in Canada, there were no guarantees he could stay in the country. Mr. Glass moved anyway.

A big difference between the current round of deserters and those during the Vietnam War appears to be scale. No precise data exist, but Victor Levant, who wrote “Quiet Complicity: Canadian Involvement in the Vietnam War,” estimated that about 20,000 Americans came to Canada to escape the Vietnam-era draft and 12,000 others in the armed forces deserted and entered Canada. Mr. Zaslofsky said he believed that no more than 200 American deserters from the Iraq war were now in Canada.

While the government does not publish figures, it appears that only about 50 deserters have made refugee applications, with the rest living illegally in Canada.

Exactly what Mr. Glass and others face if they return to the United States is unclear. Major Banks, the Army spokesman, said Mr. Glass had been given “an other-than-honorable discharge” from the California National Guard, but remained a member of the Army Reserve. He declined to say what, if anything, would happen to Mr. Glass if he returned to the United States.

Mr. Glass, however, said he had been advised by a lawyer in the Army’s legal unit, and by an American military law specialist he had hired, that the discharge did not mean that he would avoid desertion charges, which could bring the equivalent of a felony conviction and a prison sentence. “They said it doesn’t change anything,” Mr. Glass said, referring to his lawyers. His Canadian lawyer agreed. The deserters have support among opposition members of Parliament, who have passed a motion asking the government to give deserters and their families legal immigrant status. The measure, however, is not binding, and the Conservatives have ignored it.

Bob Rae, a Liberal member of Parliament, acknowledged that the response of the Canadian public to the deserters’ cause was muted compared with its reaction during the Vietnam War, partly because the current newcomers are volunteers, not conscripts. But, he argued, the public favors giving American deserters special consideration.

“As a country which concluded that the Iraq conflict was not justified under international law, we have to take a position,” Mr. Rae said.

Karen Shadd, a spokeswoman for the Immigration Department, said that no special deals were planned.

“Creating a special and unique channel would undermine the fairness of the system,” she said.

The results under the current system have generally been discouraging for people like Mr. Glass, including a refusal by the Supreme Court of Canada to hear appeals from two deserters.

But deserters have won judgments as well. On July 4, a ordered a refugee board to reconsider the application of Joshua Key, an Army private who said he had witnessed many abuses by American forces in Iraq.

As for Mr. Glass, he said he would return if ultimately ordered.

“I’m going to obey Canadian laws,” Mr. Glass said. “I’m not going to break any laws here.”

But what he would do in the United States is unclear. “I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”


10) Immigrants Find Solace After Storm of Arrests
On Religion
July 12, 2008

POSTVILLE, Iowa — Back in 2002, before all the trouble, the Rev. Paul Ouderkirk retired from St. Bridget’s Roman Catholic Church here, his last station in 43 years of ministry. He built a home 35 miles away in a town along the Mississippi, and he indulged a passion for family history, tracing his lineage to an ancestor who had arrived in New Amsterdam with the Dutch East India Company.

Once a month or so, Father Ouderkirk drove back to St. Bridget’s to officiate at a wedding or baptize a baby. He savored those rituals, proof that the Hispanic immigrants who had arrived over the past decade to work in Postville’s kosher-meat plant were setting down roots. Some had bought homes. Their children had graduated from high school, even been selected for the National Honor Society.

Then came the morning of May 12, when both satisfaction and retirement ended for the 75-year-old priest. Federal immigration agents raided the Agriprocessors factory, arresting nearly 400 workers, most of them men, for being in the United States illegally. Within minutes of the raid, with surveillance helicopters buzzing above the leafy streets, the wives and children of Mexican and Guatemalan families began trickling into St. Bridget’s Church, the safest place they knew.

It was about that time, with several dozen cowering people inside the church, when Sister Mary McCauley, the pastor administrator at St. Bridget’s, found out that Father Ouderkirk was attending a ceremony for diocesan priests nearly two hours away in Dubuque. Unable to reach him directly, she left a simple, urgent message: “We need to see a collar here.”

By the time Father Ouderkirk extricated himself and reached Postville in the evening, nearly 400 families, some of them not even Catholic, filled the rotunda and social hall of St. Bridget’s. They occupied every pew, every aisle, every folding chair, every inch of floor. Children clutched mothers. One girl shook uncontrollably.

A few volunteers from the old Postville, descendants of the Irish and Norwegian immigrants who settled here more than a century ago, set out food. Others took turns standing watch at the church door, as if the sight of an Anglo might somehow dissuade the feared Migra, as the immigrants call Immigration and Customs Enforcement, from invading their sanctuary.

Already, members of the church staff and a Spanish teacher from a nearby college were tallying the names of the detained workers. Father Ouderkirk conducted his own version of a census in this predominantly Hispanic parish. Gone were all but two members of the choir he had assembled over the years. Gone were all but one of the eight altar servers. Gone were the husbands from the weddings he had performed, and gone were the fathers of the children he had baptized.

As for the mothers, many of them also worked at Agriprocessors and had been arrested. In a putative show of compassion, federal authorities released them after putting an electronic homing device on each woman’s ankle to monitor her whereabouts. These mothers were, in the new lexicon of Postville, “las personas con brazalete,” the people with a bracelet.

During his earlier tenure at parishes in North Texas and Marshalltown, Iowa, Father Ouderkirk had experienced immigration raids twice before, but never on this scale. By the second day, he had moved back into his bedroom in the rectory.

“It’s like God saying, ‘I gave you a little practice,’ because this is the worst,” Father Ouderkirk said in an interview late last month at St. Bridget’s. “This has happened after 10 years of stable living. These people were in school. They were achieving. It has ripped the heart out of the community and out of the parish. Probably every child I baptized has been affected. To see them stunned is beyond belief.”

The only redemptive thing that can be said, perhaps, is that in the crisis at Postville — with nearly 400 immigrants imprisoned and facing deportation, with 40 mothers under house arrest awaiting their own court dates, with families that had two working parents now forced to survive on handouts from a food pantry — the beacon of the Roman Catholic Church to immigrants has rarely shone more brilliantly.

“I came to the church because I feel safe there, I feel secure,” said Irma López, the mother of a 2-year-old daughter, who was arrested along with her husband, Marcelo, after they had worked at Agriprocessors for six years. “I feel protected. I feel at peace. I feel comforted.”

At a practical level, Father Ouderkirk has hired four temporary staff members to help track the court cases and distribute food and financial aid to the affected families. Along with other religious leaders around Iowa, he had been preparing for a march in defense of immigrants’ rights. St. Bridget’s parish, which has only about 350 members, is spending $500,000 in the relief effort, he said.

One month after the raid, St. Bridget’s held a Mass in remembrance of the detainees. The name of every one was recited from the altar, and after every 20 names, a candle was lighted, usually by a persona con brazalete. The candles, half burned, remain in the nave, beneath a wood carving of the Virgin Mother, each one an offering for a miracle.

“I pray to God for the opportunity to stay in this country so my daughter can be educated here,” Mrs. López said. “That was my dream.”

Sitting in the rectory alongside Mrs. López, Rosa Zamora nodded in agreement. “When I pray, I know God is close to me,” said Mrs. Zamora, whose husband, like Mrs. López’s, is now jailed in Louisiana awaiting deportation to Guatemala. “I know there are laws, but God is the judge of everything.”

Judgment of a different sort, though, has been visited on Father Ouderkirk and his aides. One anonymous phone message warned him, “What you’re doing is against the law. Harboring criminals.” Sister Mary received an unsigned letter stating: “You are as far as possible from being the image of Mother Teresa. May you rot in hell.”

It is infuriating in a particular way for Father Ouderkirk and his staff members to hear from such nativists. St. Bridget’s Spanish-speaking lay pastor, Paul Real, has forebears who settled in what is now New Mexico in the 1500s. And Father Ouderkirk’s heritage, of course, goes back to the Dutch colonists.

“I think it’s made me more empathetic,” he said. “I think of the chances my ancestors had. Here are people who’ve been here 10 years, and to get torn up like this, it’s doesn’t make any sense to me. It cuts so deep. Like Sister Mary says, once you’ve cried for two straight weeks, you don’t have any more tears. But it doesn’t mean you stopped feeling.”



11) Psychiatric Group Faces Scrutiny Over Drug Industry Ties
July 12, 2008

It seemed an ideal marriage, a scientific partnership that would attack mental illness from all sides. Psychiatrists would bring to the union their expertise and clinical experience, drug makers would provide their products and the money to run rigorous studies, and patients would get better medications, faster.

But now the profession itself is under attack in Congress, accused of allowing this relationship to become too cozy. After a series of stinging investigations of individual doctors’ arrangements with drug makers, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, is demanding that the American Psychiatric Association, the field’s premier professional organization, give an accounting of its financing.

The association is the voice of establishment psychiatry, publishing the field’s major journals and its standard diagnostic manual.

“I have come to understand that money from the pharmaceutical industry can shape the practices of nonprofit organizations that purport to be independent in their viewpoints and actions,” Mr. Grassley said Thursday in a letter to the association.

In 2006, the latest year for which numbers are available, the drug industry accounted for about 30 percent of the association’s $62.5 million in financing. About half of that money went to drug advertisements in psychiatric journals and exhibits at the annual meeting, and the other half to sponsor fellowships, conferences and industry symposiums at the annual meeting.

This weekend in Chicago, the psychiatry association’s board will meet behind closed doors, in part to discuss how to respond to the increasingly intense scrutiny and questions about conflicts of interest.

“With every new revelation, our credibility with patients has been damaged, and we have to protect that first and foremost,” said Dr. Steven S. Sharfstein, a former president of the association and now president of the Sheppard Pratt Health System in Baltimore. “I think we need to review all arrangements between doctors and industry and be very clear about what constitutes a conflict of interest and what does not.”

One of the doctors named by Mr. Grassley is the association’s president-elect, Dr. Alan F. Schatzberg of Stanford, whose $4.8 million stock holdings in a drug development company raised the senator’s concern. In a telephone interview, Dr. Schatzberg said he had fully complied with Stanford’s rigorous disclosure policies and federal guidelines that pertained to his research.

Blocking or constraining researchers from trying to bring medications to market “will mean less opportunities to help patients with severe illnesses,” Dr. Schatzberg said, adding, “Drugs that are helpful may not be developed by big pharmaceutical companies, for a variety of reasons, and we need some degree of communication between academia and industry” to expand options for patients.

Commercial arrangements are rampant throughout medicine. In the past two decades, drug and device makers have paid tens of thousands of doctors and researchers of all specialties. Worried that this money could taint doctors’ research plans or clinical judgment, government agencies, medical journals and universities have been forced to look more closely at deal details.

In psychiatry, Mr. Grassley has found an orchard of low-hanging fruit. As a group, psychiatrists earn less in base salary than any other specialists, according to a nationwide survey by the Medical Group Management Association. In 2007, median compensation for psychiatrists was $198,653, less than half of the $464,420 earned by diagnostic radiologists and barely more than the $190,547 earned by doctors practicing internal medicine.

But many psychiatrists supplement this income with consulting arrangements with drug makers, traveling the country to give dinner talks about drugs to other doctors for fees generally ranging from $750 to $3,500 per event, for instance.

While data on industry consulting arrangements are sparse, state officials in Vermont reported that in the 2007 fiscal year, drug makers gave more money to psychiatrists than to doctors in any other specialty. Eleven psychiatrists in the state received an average of $56,944 each. Data from Minnesota, among the few other states to collect such information, show a similar trend.

In both states, individual psychiatrists are not top earners, but consulting arrangements are so common that their total tops all others. The worry is that this money may subtly alter psychiatrists’ choices of which drugs to prescribe.

An analysis of Minnesota data by The New York Times last year found that on average, psychiatrists who received at least $5,000 from makers of newer-generation antipsychotic drugs appear to have written three times as many prescriptions to children for the drugs as psychiatrists who received less money or none. The drugs are not approved for most uses in children, who appear to be especially susceptible to the side effects, including rapid weight gain.

Senator Grassley’s investigations have not only detailed how lucrative those arrangements can be but have also shown that some top psychiatrists failed to report all their earnings as required.

After The Times reported on such an arrangement involving Dr. Melissa P. DelBello of the University of Cincinnati, Mr. Grassley asked the university to provide her income disclosure forms and asked AstraZeneca, the maker of the antipsychotic Seroquel, to reveal how much it paid her.

In scientific publications, Dr. DelBello has reported working for eight drug makers and told university officials that from 2005 to 2007 she earned about $100,000 in outside income, according to Mr. Grassley.

But AstraZeneca told Mr. Grassley it paid her more than $238,000 in that period. AstraZeneca sent some of its payments through MSZ Associates, an Ohio corporation Dr. DelBello established for “personal financial purposes.”

The University of Cincinnati agreed to monitor those payments more closely.

In early June, the senator reported to Congress that Dr. Joseph Biederman, a renowned child psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, and a colleague, Dr. Timothy E. Wilens, had reported to university officials earning several hundred thousand dollars apiece in consulting fees from drug makers from 2000 to 2007 when in fact they had earned at least $1.6 million each.

Another member of the Harvard group, Dr. Thomas Spencer, reported earning at least $1 million after being pressed by Mr. Grassley’s investigators. The Harvard psychiatrists said they took conflict-of-interest policies seriously and had abided by disclosure rules.

In late June, after Mr. Grassley singled out Dr. Schatzberg, Stanford disputed some of the numbers in the report and has denied that Dr. Schatzberg violated any research rules devised to police such conflicts.

In an interview on Wednesday, Dr. Nada L. Stotland, president of the psychiatric association, said the group had studied Mr. Grassley’s letter and Stanford’s response and agreed with Stanford. Dr. Schatzberg will take over as president of the association as planned, she said.

“The larger issue here is that there’s a revolution going on” in how medicine handles industry money, said Dr. Stotland, a psychiatrist at Rush Medical College in Chicago. “That’s good, that’s what we need, and I believe we’ve been on the cutting edge of that revolution in many ways.”

Dr. Stotland said that the association began reviewing the income it received from pharmaceutical companies last March, to identify potential conflicts. Doctors and academic researchers generally worked at arm’s length from industry until the early 1980s, when Congress passed the Bayh-Dole Act. This legislation encouraged closer collaboration between researchers and industry to bring products to market more quickly. The act helped foster the growth of the biotech industry, and soon professors and universities were busy obtaining patents and building relationships with industry.

Some psychiatrists have long argued that consulting with a company — to help design a rigorous drug trial, for instance — benefits patients, as long as the researcher has no financial stake in the product and is not paid to speak about the drug to other doctors, like a traveling pitchman.

Others say industry and academic researchers are now so deeply intertwined that exposing doctors’ private arrangements only stokes suspicion without correcting the real problem: bias.

“Having everyone stand up like a Boy Scout and make a pledge isn’t going to quell suspicion,” said Dr. Donald Klein, an emeritus professor at Columbia, who has consulted with drug makers himself. “The only hope to rule out bias is to have open access to all data that’s produced in studies and know that there are people checking it” who are not on that company’s payroll.

Studies have shown that researchers who are paid by a company are more likely to report positive findings when evaluating that company’s drugs. The private deals can directly affect patient care, said Dr. William Niederhut, a psychiatrist in private practice in Denver who receives no industry money.

Dr. Niederhut said company-sponsored doctors had spread the word that new and expensive drugs were better in treating bipolar disorder than lithium, the cheaper old standby treatment.

“It’s a sales pitch, and now it’s looking like a whole lot of people would have done better if they’d started on lithium in the first place,” Dr. Niederhut said in a telephone interview. “The profession absolutely has to come clean on these industry deals, and soon.”

Tighter rules, stronger statements and more debate may not make much difference, if Mr. Grassley’s findings are any guide. Universities have rules requiring that faculty members disclose their outside income so that conflicts of interest in research or patient care can be managed. But some of the psychiatrists named in the investigations apparently ignored the rules.

“I think we may be coming to a point where hospitals and medical schools have to get serious about sanctioning,” said Dr. Paul S. Appelbaum, director of the division of psychiatry, medicine and the law at Columbia. “You can suspend doctors’ privileges, or suspend their right to treat patients; both have a huge impact on income and career. But if you’re serious about these disclosure policies, you have to be willing to back them up.”


12) Group Apologizes for Its Racial Bias
July 11, 2008

CHICAGO (AP) — The American Medical Association formally apologized on Thursday for more than a century of policies that excluded blacks from the group, long considered to be the voice of American doctors.

It was not until the 1960s that association delegates took a strong stance against policies dating to the 1800s that barred blacks from some state and local medical societies.

While the association did not have a formal policy barring black doctors, physicians were required to be members of the local groups to participate in the association, said Dr. Ronald M. Davis, the group’s immediate past president.

In a statement on its Web site, the association apologized “for its past history of racial inequality toward African-American physicians, and shares its current efforts to increase the ranks of minority physicians and their participation in the A.M.A.”

Association data show that fewer than 2 percent of its members are black, and that fewer than 3 percent of the nation’s one million medical students and physicians are black.




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
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[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