Friday, January 23, 2009



January 20, 2009: Changefest '09 - Obama's Inaugural Speech


Immortal Technique -- The Poverty of Philosophy


Excommunicated Landscape


Israeli attack on the UNRWA school, Beit Lahia, Gaza
white phosphorus bombs
January 17, 2009
the third UN facility attacked since the invasion, Dec 27 '08
Photographer: Iyad El-Baba
Organization: UNRWA attack_dec08jan09/UNRWA_%20Beit-Lahia_jan-17-2009.htm


Stop the War on Women
Saturday, January 24th, 2009
Music Concourse, Embarcadero, end of Market Street, San Francisco

Next organizing meeting:
Wednesday, January 21,
7pm @ 1260 Mission St. between 8th and 9th

(1 block from the Civic Center BART station; MUNI NO. 14).
Free Abortion on Demand, No Forced Sterilization!

Defend Immigrant Rights, Stop the Minutemen!

Civil Rights for Queers, Rescind Prop 8!

Join the Bay Area Coalition for Our Reproductive Rights (BACORR) to counter the right wing "Walk for Life".

There will be regular Wednesday meetings in December and January to organize a vibrant counter protest to right wing bigotry- build the West Coast movement for reproductive justice!

Future Wednesday night meetings will be at 1260 Mission St. between 8th and 9th Street in San Francisco , 7pm, one block from Civic Center BART. January 7th, January 14th, and January 21st.

For more information, please call 415-864-1278 or email

Fight back with BACORR!


Great news: VETRANS FOR PEACE HAS ENDORSED MARCH 21!and MIKE FERNER HAS BEEN ELECTED PRESIDENT OF VETERANS FOR PEACE (For anyone who may not know, Mike is a long time antiwar activist from Toledo. He has traveled twice to Iraq, has written a book about it, and has authored several articles. He is a member of the Administrative Body of the National Assembly)
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2009, 2:00 P.M.


WORLD DEMONSTRATION GAZA PALESTINE, 2009 London, New York ,Japan, Russia,France,India,Pakistan


Doctors report Israel using DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive) weapons in Gaza


Gaza, Qaddafi, and Starbucks


Jews in Solidarity with Palestine
Sign the Statement, view list of Signers, donate at:

Jews in Solidarity with Palestine

Stop the U.S.-backed genocidal Israeli war on Gaza

-More than 1300 women, men and children killed by U.S.-made Israeli bombs
-More than 5400 wounded
-1.5 million under siege for the past 18 months, without food, water, medicine, fuel
-Collective punishment for resisting occupation; emergency aid blocked
-Massive violations of international law
-Apartheid wall
-Racist oppression
-Homes and land stolen
-Forced into refugee camps
-60 years of occupation, from the river to the sea

We Say Enough!

We Are

Jews in Solidarity with Palestine

No to Israel! Yes To Self-Determination, Democracy & Freedom!

Stop U.S. Funding of the War on Palestine!

The whole world is horrified by the murderous Israeli assault against the suffering people of Gaza. From Seoul to Caracas, from Johannesburg to Amman to London, millions of people have poured into the streets to demand an end to this genocidal campaign, which is funded by the United States and carried out with U.S.-supplied weaponry.

There have also been protests in U.S. cities. While most of those marching are Arab-Americans, many African Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans and whites have joined in. Many Jewish people, outraged at Israel's war crimes and anguished that they are carried out in their name, are speaking out.

It's good that Jewish people of conscience are disassociating themselves from the Gaza aggression. But it's not enough. This atrocity is only the latest, and it's no aberration. It reflects the program of the Israeli settler state -- which is based on the theft of Palestine, the ouster and suppression of the Palestinian people, and the racist ideology of Zionism -- and of its primary sponsor, the Pentagon and U.S. business establishment.

It's not enough to oppose the bombing. It's not enough to demand an end to the 41-year occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. We stand in complete and unconditional support for the self-determination of the Palestinian people. This includes the right to return to Palestine, from the river to the sea, and the right to democratically determine the form and the future of the Palestinian state.

Nothing less will undo the historic crime of al Nakba -- the 1948 catastrophe of the establishment of the state of Israel based on the ouster of the Palestinian people from their homeland, oppression and inequality.

That crime betrayed the whole history of the Jewish people. From helping topple the czar in Russia and build the unions in New York, to resisting pogroms and fighting to the last breath in the Warsaw Ghetto, opposition to persecution, oppression and racism was central to the Jewish heritage.

We call on Jewish people around the world, including those inside Israel, to join us in reclaiming that heritage. Reject racism and genocide. Reject the Zionist state, the very concept of which is racist to the core. Take the hand of our Palestinian sisters and brothers. Defend their righteous struggle to restore their stolen land and build a democratic Palestine.

This is not an impossible quest. Remember how mighty the settler state in South Africa seemed, only a little over two decades ago? The racist regime there was buttressed by U.S. -- and Israeli -- support. But it was battered by the unstoppable political and military struggle against apartheid, which gained worldwide support. Apartheid fell, replaced by a new state based on legal equality.

A future of equality for all is possible in Palestine too. Until this future is won, the Palestinian struggle will go on. We stand with that struggle.

We Are
Jews in Solidarity with Palestine

No to Israel! Yes To Self-Determination, Democracy & Freedom!
Stop U.S. Funding of the War on Palestine!


Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition


Fourth Al-Awda West Coast Regional Conference
Sunday February 8, 2009 at The University of California in San Diego (UCSD)
hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine

Save the Date! Mark Your Calendars! Plan to Attend!

The Palestine Right to Return Coalition's Al-Awda chapters in Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego thank all who took part in the Mass Rally and March in Los Angeles yesterday January 10 as part of the Let Gaza Live National Emergency Day of Mass Action and Protest that took place around the country. Thousands took to the streets demanding an immediate end to the carnage that is being carried out by the 'Israeli' military against our people in the Gaza Strip, and to demand an end to the political, economic and military support it has received from the US administration.

As announced at the protests, please take note that the Fourth Al-Awda West Coast Regional Conference, LET GAZA LIVE!, will take place Sunday February 8, 2009 at The University of California in San Diego (UCSD). This conference will be hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine. All members and supporters of the Right to Return movement on the West Coast are urged to participate in this important and timely one day conference.

Save the Date, Mark Your Calendars, and Plan to Attend.

Further details will be posted over the next few days and as soon as they become available.
Until Return,

Al-Awda Chapters in Southern California
The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
PO Box 131352
Carlsbad, CA 92013, USA
Tel: 760-918-9441
Fax: 760-918-9442

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


March on the Pentagon! March 21, 2009

The National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations is joining with other coalitions, organizations, and networks in a united MARCH 21 NATIONAL COALITION to organize the broadest mobilization of people across the United States to take part in a March on the Pentagon on the sixth year of the military invasion and occupation of the Iraq War: Saturday, March 21.

To endorse the March 21 March on the Pentagon, please click here.

To send a contribution to support the National Assembly's work, please click here.

For more information, please visit the National Assembly's website at or write or call 216-736-4704.



To endorse the March 21 March on the Pentagon, click here. To sign up to be a Transportation Organizing Center, click here.
To sign up to be a Transportation Organizing Center, click here.

P.S. You can make a difference. Please continue to support the ANSWER Coalition's crucial anti-war work by making your end-of-the-year tax-deductible donation online using our secure server by clicking here, where you can also find information on how to donate by check.

A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
National Office in Washington DC: 202-544-3389
New York City: 212-694-8720
Los Angeles: 213-251-1025
San Francisco: 415-821-6545
Chicago: 773-463-0311


Stop the Bombing and Blockade of Gaza!
End all U.S. Aid to Israel!
Bring the Troops Home Now from Iraq and Afghanistan!

Read the Statement Issued by the National Assembly to
End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations at:

Join with the National Assembly and other coalitions, networks and organizations on March 21, 2009 for a national mass March on the Pentagon in D.C. (and actions in San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities) to demand:

Stop the Wars Against Iraq and Afghanistan! -Bring the Troops Home Now!

End U.S. Support for the Occupation of Palestine!

No to U.S. Wars Against Iran and Pakistan!

Money for Jobs, Health Care, Housing, Pensions, and Education-Not for Wars and Corporate Bailouts!

For further information contact:

National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations,, 216-736-4704


Labor Boycott Of Israel Backed By Bay Area Trade Unionists
To Stop Invasion/Occupation Of Gaza/Palestine

On Junuary 10, 2009 thousands of people in the bay area protested the US supported attack by Israel on the people of Gaza at a rally and march in San Francisco. Trade unionists including leaders of the Oakland Education Association and ILWU Local 10 and a leader of the California Peace and Freedom party condemned the attack and supported a labor boycott of Israel by the world trade union movement. Labor Video Project P.O. Box 720027 San Francisco, CA 94172 (415)282-1908

Labor Video Project
P.O. Box 720027
San Francisco, CA 94172


Israelis Soldiers refuse to serve in Gaza
January 13, 2009


Open Letter to Israeli Soldiers

As you may know, American Jews for a Just Peace has written an Open Letter to Israeli soldiers calling on them to refuse to take part in war crimes and atrocities in Gaza. We are gathering signatures from Jews all over the world, and hope to raise enough money to publish the Open Letter as an ad in Ha'aretz in the coming days. The views of "World Jewry" still carry some weight in Israel, and we owe it to both the people of Gaza and to the Israeli soldiers to try to raise our voices in opposition to the horror we are watching unfold day by day.

If you haven't already done so, I invite you to read and sign the Open Letter. If you can contribute even a small amount, it will help us toward the total advertisement cost. Organizational signers are invited to email to authorize organizational participation.

A link to the Open Letter is on the front page of AJJP's website:

In these dark days, it is good to be able to do something -- anything. I hope you will join this effort.

Hannah Schwarzschild
for the Coordinating Committee


U.S. resisters' solidarity with Israeli "shministim" refusers
Courage to Resist

Statement signed by over two dozen U.S. military war resisters. Reprinted by AlterNet, Democracy Now, The Progressive, Common Dreams, Indymedia, and Daily Kos.

We are U.S. military servicemembers and veterans who have refused or are currently refusing to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We stand in solidarity with the Israeli Shministim (Hebrew for "12th graders") who are also resisting military service. About 100 Israeli high school students have signed an open letter declaring their refusal to serve in the Israeli army and their opposition to "Israeli occupation and oppression policy in the occupied territories and the territories of Israel." In Israel, military service is mandatory for all graduating high school seniors, and resisters face the possibility of years in prison.
Read more at:




1) Text: Barack Obama's inaugural address
The Business Journal of the Greater Triad Area
Tuesday, January 20, 2009, 1:48pm EST

2) 900 people killed in Philippines by 'mysterious death squads'
Peasant leaders, environmental campaigners and student activists in the Philippines are being murdered by mysterious death squads who appear to have close links to the army.
By Thomas Bell, South East Asia Correspondent
Telegraph (U.K.)
Last Updated: 4:50PM GMT 19 Jan 2009

3) War, Natural Gas and Gaza's Marine Zone
By David K. Schermerhorn
January 14, 2009

4) Israel admits troops may have used phosphorus shells in Gaza
Amnesty warns Israel could be guilty of war crimes
Peter Beaumont in Jerusalem
Wednesday 21 January 2009 11.58 GMT

5) The HOPE Haze
January 21, 2009

6) Warming in Antarctica Looks Certain
January 22, 2009

7) Israel Completes Gaza Withdrawal
January 22, 2009

8) Israel Completes Gaza Withdrawal
January 22, 2009

9) Debating the Blame for Reducing Much of a Village to Rubble
January 21, 2009

10) Report Faults Treatment of Women Held at Immigration Centers
January 21, 2009

11) The One-State Solution
January 22, 2009
Op-Ed Contributor
[QUOTE FROM ARTICLE: "It is a fact that Palestinians inhabited the land and owned farms and homes there until recently, fleeing in fear of violence at the hands of Jews after 1948 - violence that did not occur, but rumors of which led to a mass exodus. It is important to note that the Jews did not forcibly expel Palestinians. They were never "un-welcomed."
LINKS TO THE REALITY OF: 33 massacres perpetrated by Israel and Israeli paramilitaries (terrorists)

12) Doctor Doom
The Worst Is Yet To Come
Nouriel Roubini, 01.22.09, 12:01 AM ET

13) The Forgotten Martin Luther King
By Mumia Abu-Jamal
January 15, 2009

14) Stuck in the Muddle
Op-Ed Columnist
January 23, 2009

15) Suspected US Missile Strikes Kill 14 in Pakistan
January 23, 2009
Filed at 11:57 a.m. ET

16) Hamas to Start Paying Gaza Residents Compensation and Reconstruction Aid
January 23, 2009

17) Environment Blamed in Western Tree Deaths
January 23, 2009

18) State Jobless Rate Soars; Benefits Extension Seen
January 23, 2009

19) More Americans Skipping Necessary Prescriptions, Survey Finds
January 23, 2009


1) Text: Barack Obama's inaugural address
The Business Journal of the Greater Triad Area
Tuesday, January 20, 2009, 1:48pm EST

Barack Obama took the oath of office Tuesday to become the nation's 44th president at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. The text of his address from the Presidential Inauguration Committee Web site,, is as follows:

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.


2) 900 people killed in Philippines by 'mysterious death squads'
Peasant leaders, environmental campaigners and student activists in the Philippines are being murdered by mysterious death squads who appear to have close links to the army.
By Thomas Bell, South East Asia Correspondent
Telegraph (U.K.)
Last Updated: 4:50PM GMT 19 Jan 2009

Since President Gloria Arroyo came to power in 2001, campaigners say over 900 people have been extra-judicially executed and 200 more have "disappeared".

A United Nations report in 2007 blamed the army for most of the killings, but no action has been taken and the unexplained murders continue.

One of the most dangerous areas is the Compostela Valley, on the southern island of Mindanao. It is a place of great natural beauty as well as rural poverty which is home to several foreign owned gold mines and a long-standing communist insurgency. In the final few weeks of 2008, five apparently peaceful, law-abiding men were mysteriously shot dead in the area.

The first victim was Danilo Qualbar, a 48-year-old activist for the Left-wing People First party, who was shot on November 6. Human rights researchers said there was no autopsy and no investigation - the police did not even interview the victim's family.

According to Mr Qualbar's widow, a group of soldiers called out "that one" as her husband passed through a military checkpoint a week before his murder.

The next victim was 4 days later when Rolando Antolihao, 39 - a banana plantation worker and People First party member - was shot dead in front of his wife and 2-year-old daughter. There was a small army post 50 metres away but according to reports the soldiers on duty did respond to the shooting.

In the following weeks two more activists were shot.

Finally, two days before Christmas Fernando Sarmiento, a 39-year-old environmentalist who argued that a local gold mine was damaging the interests of local people, was killed by assassins fitting the same description.

Mr Sarmiento's friends said he was arrested by the army in July and accused of being a communist guerrilla.

Witnesses noted that the killers in the Compostela Valley usually arrived on a red Honda motorcycle and used a .45 pistol. At the top of the list of suspects are soldiers from local army camps, but there has been no official investigation into the shootings, or whether the deaths are even in any way connected.

Human rights campaigners claim that the killings are part of an offensive launched by President Arroyo in an attempt to defeat Maoist guerrillas called the New People's Army (NPA) by 2010.

Although they deny the murders, senior army officers claim that legal parties such People First and other activist groups which most of the victims belong to are fronts for the communists.

Instead, the army frequently claims, the deaths are a result of feuds and purges within the communist party.

According to Lt Col Ernesto Torres, an army spokesman the "security forces are convenient scapegoats" for the killings and he claims allegations against the army are made by "groups who want to bring down the government and replace it with their own brand of government".

Yet, according to Alan Davies, director of the Philippine Human Rights Project, "No agency, either international or local, is trying to properly investigate and map these killings to see how they are linked".

One woman who knows the pain this official silence causes is Erlinda Cadapan. Her daughter Sherlyn was a 29-year-old university student campaigning for peasant rights when she was abducted along with a friend by suspected soldiers in 2006.

A witness, who claims he met the two women in army custody, has testified that he saw them raped and tortured by soldiers and that soldiers told him they were later killed.

Mrs Cadapan has written to President Arroyo but received no response.

In September a court ruled that, if they were still alive, the women must be released.

"That makes me really angry because in spite of the ruling no one from the government is willing to help me. They are trying to protect the armed forces," said Mrs Cadapan.

"There is some rumour that my daughter is still alive so we are hoping and praying fro that," she said. "But still they deny everything."

President Arroyo has remained mostly silent on the 900 killings and 200 "disappearances" on her watch, the army denies any role and no-one has ever been prosecuted.


3) War, Natural Gas and Gaza's Marine Zone
By David K. Schermerhorn
January 14, 2009


There is an historical connection between the Gazan community and the offshore fishery. In recent times some 3000 fishermen in over 700 boats made their livelihood in the waters off the shores of Gaza. Before 1978 when the fishing area included the sea off the Sinai coastline the area covered some 75,000 square kilometers.

The larger boats are about 20 meters in length and usually carry a crew of seven. They are typically trawlers using downriggers to lower their nets to the ocean bed. Currently their main catch is bream or sardines that average between eight and 14 inches. The smallest craft are rowboats normally used to deploy nets a few hundred meters off shore. The nets are then hauled in by hand from the beach. These catches are very modest.

After the 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement the fishermen were free to use a corridor extending 20 nautical miles from the Gaza shore bounded by restricted zones to the north and south abutting Israeli and Egyptian waters. After the UNs 2002 Bertini proposal the approved location was reduced to an area within 12 nautical miles of the coast. More recently the area available has been reduced to 300 square kilometers.

Beginning in late 2000 the Israeli military began a campaign of intimidation and harassment against the fishing boats that ventured near or beyond a six-nautical mile limit. No formal notice or explanation was ever given to the Palestinians. Instead the regulation was written and enforced by Israeli machine guns and water cannons. At least 14 fishermen have been killed by the Israelis, over 200 injured and numerous boats damaged or impounded.


In the late 1990s the British Gas Group (BG Group) discovered a vast deposit of natural gas under the waters off Gaza: Over one-trillion cubic feet equal to 150 million barrels of oil was estimated to be there. A significantly smaller deposit was also found in nearby Israeli waters.

On November 8, 1999 Chairman Yasser Arafat signed an agreement giving BG Group 90 percent interest and 10 percent to Consolidated Contractors Company, an Athens based Palestinian entity connected to the PLO. A final allocation of the rights continues to be contested between BG Group, Israel, Egypt and the Palestinians in obscured ongoing negotiations. The Israelis began their program of killing and harassing the Gazan fishermen only after the discovery of the natural gas deposits. It is a reasonable assumption that the two events are linked: That the Israelis are asserting control over this resource valued at over four billion dollars; And that they are intent on denying any benefit to the Palestinians regardless of who controls Gaza.


-May 4, 1994: PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed The Gaza-Jericho Agreement. Article XI established three Maritime Activity Zones that extended out to sea 20 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza. Two narrow Zones running parallel to the boundaries of Egyptian and Israeli waters were designated No Fishing Areas. Under the terms of the Agreement the larger remaining Zone "will be open for fishing, recreation and economic activities." The Gazan fishermen operated freely for the next 6 years within this Zone with no major confrontations with the Israelis.

-Late 1990s: The British Gas Group (later BG Group) began explorations off the Israeli and Gazan coasts for natural gas. A modest deposit was found in Israeli waters close to the Gaza Marine Activity Zone. A significantly larger deposit was found in a section of this Zone centered some 10 to 15 nautical miles offshore. It was estimated that there were sufficient reserves to generate electric power for all Palestinian needs for a decade and still have surplus to export.

-July 25, 2000: Yasser Arafat walked out on the Camp David meeting.

-September 27, 2000: Yasser Arafat traveled 19 miles off the Gaza coast to light the first flare stack flowing from the natural gas. An Israeli oil consortium had contested the Palestinian rights to the gas but was overturned in an Israeli court. The initial agreement with the BG Group gave them 90 percent interest and 10 percent to Consolidated Contractors Company, an Athens based Palestinian group. They and the Palestinian Investment Fund (PIF) had the option to later assume up to 40 per cent interest.

Initially BG Group negotiated with Egypt to run an undersea pipeline designed to import the gas. Under pressure from Tony Blair BG Group was forced to negotiate with the Israelis instead. Those discussions, which centered over price, have been so long and contentious that BG Group closed their Israel office and again began dealing with Egypt.

-September 28, 2000: Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount despite warnings by Arafat and other leading Palestinians. The predictable riots and deaths following this provocation marked the beginning of 2nd Intafada. Sharon was elected Prime Minister in February 2001. He vowed that Israel would never buy gas from the Palestinians. After the outbreak of the 2nd Intafada the Israelis began an ever-tightening blockade of Gaza with fewer and fewer trucks allowed to enter.

-Late 2000: Attacks by Israeli patrol boats against Gazan fishing boats began and have continued to this day. These attacks began five years before Hamas freely won the legislative elections on January 25, 2006. It is apparent that these assaults on the fishermen had nothing to do with security or with Hamas. Instead it had everything to do with a four billion dollar resource belonging to the Palestinians.

-August, 2002: In response to a request from Prime Minister Sharon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations appointed Ms. Catherine Bertini as his Personal Humanitarian Envoy to asses humanitarian needs of the Palestinians. At the end of her visit to the area she made numerous recommendations including one that dealt with the fishing boats. In her report she included a list of "Previous Commitments Made by Israel." Item two states: "The fishing zone for Palestinian fishing boats off the Gaza coast is 12 nautical miles. This policy needs to be fully implemented." But never was!

-Although the attacks occurred throughout the Maritime Activity Zone they were more common once a boat had passed the six-mile limit. Most boats now carry GPS's in order to know their exact positions. Some captains are intimidated by the Israeli threat and turn back before crossing the line. Others go further despite the increased danger from the Israelis. The fishery closer to shore has collapsed after so many boats were forced to operate in such a limited area. In addition the waters near shore are polluted due to sewage pouring in from broken pipes. One more consequence of an infrastructure crippled by the Israelis. Since the outset of these assaults at least 14 fishermen have been killed and over 200 injured. Boats continue to be damaged or impounded.

September 12, 2005-Israel announced that it had ended the occupation of Gaza and withdrew its forces. It maintained control of land and sea-lanes as well as all border crossings on land.

January 25, 2006-Hamas won 76 of 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council in an open honest election. After a bloody battle with Fatah elements Hamas took control of Gaza. Israel and the United States branded Hamas a terrorist organization and have had no public contact with it thereafter. The restrictions at the border crossings were tightened further with severe limitations on the traffic of produce, materials, medicines and people. Anemia and malnutrition were widespread as a result.

Early June 2008-Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to covertly prepare for an invasion of Gaza to be known as operation "Cast Lead."

June 2008-Israel contacted BG Group to propose reopening negotiations over the natural gas deposits. Actual negotiations overseen by Ehud Olmert were taking place in October 2008. It appears that Israel wished to reach an agreement with BG Group before the secretly planned invasion began.

June 19, 2008-Hamas and Israel signed a six-month truce agreement calling for cessation of rocket firings by Hamas and military incursions by Israel. In May over 300 rockets had been fired. In September only five to 10 were fired. Hamas was lead to believe that significant increase in shipments would be allowed to enter Gaza. Before the truce roughly 70 trucks were allowed to bring provisions into Gaza each day compared with some 900 permitted before the Israeli clamp down in 2000. Hamas believed that a similar flow of traffic would be restored. Instead Israel allowed only an increase from the 70 to 90 trucks.

November 5, 2008-IDF forces killed six Palestinians while supposedly searching for a tunnel passing under the border. In effect the truce was over after this provocation. During the next five weeks 237 rockets were fired into Israel compared with the five to 10 fired in September. The increase in rocket fire was Israel's public justification for launching the long planned "Cast Lead" invasion.

November 18, 2008-An Egyptian court ordered the government to stop shipping natural gas to Israel. Under a 2005 agreement Egypt agreed to deliver 1.7 billion cubic meters of gas to Israel over a 15-year period. The gas began to flow in May 2008. A lawsuit followed seeking to bar delivery since the Parliament had not given its approval. The court supported the lawsuit and its findings are being appealed. The potential cutoff of the gas from Egypt gave Israel even more incentive to take control of the Gaza Marine deposits and to deny any benefits to Palestinians whether Hamas or Fatah.

November 18, 2008-Israeli naval vessels attacked three Palestinian fishing boats located seven miles off the coast of Deir Al Balah, clearly within the limits permitted in the 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement. Fifteen Palestinian fishermen and three international observers were kidnapped and taken with the boats to Israel. The fishermen were held for a day and then released. The boats were eventually returned but damaged. The internationals were jailed in Israel for many days and then deported.

December 27, 2008-Israel began bombing Gaza as phase one of operation "Cast Lead." The vast natural gas deposits of Gaza Marine one and two rest a few miles offshore.

To the victor the spoils one more time? Only time and perhaps the conscience of the world will determine.

Although the violations of law and basic human rights to the Gazan fishermen pale in comparison to the horrors that have unfolded they should not be forgot or forgiven. Based on the limited reports coming from Gaza due to Israeli restrictions on journalists it is possible that there are no fishing boats left or even a harbor. Perhaps justice will never be served on those who initiated and perpetuated these assaults. But let us never forget that the greed and self-interest embodied in these policies are those of a country that has lost its shame. Has lost its honor.

David K. Schermerhorn has traveled on humanitarian missions to Gaza on three separate occasions in recent months aboard Free Gaza ( boats. He spent two days aboard fishing boats that were harassed by Israeli machine gun fire and assaulted by water cannons.


4) Israel admits troops may have used phosphorus shells in Gaza
Amnesty warns Israel could be guilty of war crimes
Peter Beaumont in Jerusalem
Wednesday 21 January 2009 11.58 GMT

Israel has admitted - after mounting pressure - that its troops may have
used white phosphorus shells in contravention of international law,
during its three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip.

One of the places most seriously affected by the use of white phosphorus
was the main UN compound in Gaza City, which was hit by three shells on
15 January. The same munition was used in a strike on the al-Quds
hospital in Gaza City the same day.

Under review by Colonel Shai Alkalai is the use of white phosphorus by a
reserve paratroop brigade in northern Israel.

According to army sources the brigade fired up to 20 phosphorus shells
in a heavily built-up area around the Gaza township of Beit Lahiya, one
of the worst hit areas of Gaza.

The internal inquiry - which the army says does not have the status of
the full investigation demanded by human rights groups including Amnesty
International and Human Rights Watch - follows weeks of fighting in
which Israel either denied outright that it was using phosphorus-based
weapons, or insisted that what weapons it was using "were in line with
international law".
Dr Ahmed Almi from the al-Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis describes
serious injuries and chemical burns, with victims covered in a white
powder that continues to burn long after initial exposure Link to this video

Phosphorus is a toxic chemical agent that burns on contact with air and
creates thick white smokes in order to hide troop movements. However
phosphorus shells are largely indiscriminate scattering large numbers of
fragments over a large area, which can cause severe damage to both human
tissue and property.

As the Guardian reported yesterday, Palestinian doctors have reported
treating dozens of cases of suspected phosphorus burns.

According to senior IDF officers, quoted today in the Ha'aretz
newspaper, the Israeli military made use of two different types of
phosphorus munitions.

The first, they insisted, was contained in 155mm artillery shells, and
contained "almost no phosphorus" except for a trace to ignite the smoke

The second munitions, at the centre of the inquiry by Col Alkalai, are
standard phosphorus shells - both 88mm and 120mm - fired from mortars.

About 200 of these shells were fired during Israel's Operation Cast Lead
in Gaza, and of these - say the IDF - 180 were fired on Hamas fighters
and rocket launch crews in northern Gaza.

Alkalai is investigating the circumstances in which the remaining 20
shells were fired, amid compelling evidence on the ground that
phosphorus munitions were involved in the attack on a UN warehouse and a
UN school.

The mortar system is guided by GPS and according to Israel a failure of
the targeting system may have been responsible for civilian deaths.
However, critics point out the same explanation was used for
mis-targeting deaths in Beit Hanoun in Gaza in 2006.

The brigade's officers, however, added that the shells were fired only
at places that had been positively identified as sources of enemy fire.

The use of phosphorus as an incendiary weapon as it now appears to have
been used against Hamas fighters - as opposed to a smoke screen - is
covered by the Convention of Certain Conventional Weapons to which
Israel in not a signatory.

However, Israel also is obliged under the Geneva Conventions and
customary international humanitarian law to give due care to protecting
the civilian population when deciding on appropriate military targeting
and response to hostile fire, particularly in heavily built up areas
with a strict prohibition on the use of indiscriminate force.

"They obviously could not have gone on denying the use of phosphorus,"
Donatella Rovera, Amnesty researcher for Israel and the Occupied
Territories, told the Guardian yesterday. "There are still phosphorus
wedges burning all over Gaza including at the UN compound and at the school.

"It is clear they are not using it as smoke screen as they claimed. They
used it in areas where they had no forces, and there are much less
problematic smoke screens that they could have used."

Amnesty on Monday warned that Israel could be guilty of war crimes,
saying the use of the shells in a civilian areas was "clear and undeniable".

Rovera demanded too that Israel produce clear evidence that there were
fighters in the areas it says its troops were fired upon when the
phosphorus munitions were fired.

The admission that the shells may have been used improperly follows
yesterday's demand by the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon for an
investigation into the targeting of UN facilities - including by
phosphorus weapons.

It also follows the decision by the IDF to protect the names of
battalion and brigade commanders who participated in Operation Cast Lead.

According to Israel Army Radio on Wednesday the decision - ordered by
defence minister Ehud Barak - was made in anticipation that war crimes
charges may be filed against IDF officers, who could face prosecution
when they travel overseas.


5) New York Is Forced to Borrow to Pay Jobless Claims
January 22, 2009

New York State's unemployment insurance system, besieged by claims from laid-off workers, ran out of money on the first business day of the year and is borrowing daily from the federal government to bridge a fast-growing and potentially huge deficit, state labor officials say.

Despite paying lower benefits to its jobless residents than other Northeastern states, the state's unemployment fund has been borrowing about $90 million a week from the federal unemployment trust fund, state officials said. The deficit has already reached $212 million and is expected to exceed $2.5 billion by the end of 2010, they said.

Those loans could wind up costing the state's unemployment fund more than $100 million in interest and could result in a punitive tax on all employers across the state two years from now, state officials and experts on the unemployment insurance system said.

More than 500,000 people were collecting unemployment checks in New York State in the first week of this year, nearly three times as many as a year before.

The system's ballooning deficit is a result not only of the flood of new unemployment claims, but also of the relatively low payroll tax that finances unemployment benefits. The state has not increased that tax in nearly a decade, mainly because of opposition from business groups, making it difficult to avoid shortfalls even in milder downturns, officials and experts say.

The state fund also had insolvency troubles, though less severe, after the recession that began in 2001. But disputes over how to fix the system prevented Albany from taking action, leaving the state vulnerable to a replay this year, state officials and advocates for low-wage workers said.

The state's poorly financed unemployment system has had another consequence: New York pays lower benefits than about two dozen other states, including all of its neighbors.

New York's maximum weekly unemployment benefit of $405 has not changed since 2000. Other Northeastern states that offer significantly higher benefits have indexed them to rise with inflation. In New Jersey, for example, the maximum weekly benefit rose to $584 from $560 on Jan. 1. Connecticut, Vermont, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts also pay higher benefits.

That disparity came as surprise to Yvette Joseph, 51, who worked for an advertising company for 25 years until she was laid off in mid-2008. Since then, Ms. Joseph, who lives in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, with her husband and three children, has been collecting $405 a week in benefits, far less than the $55,000 annual salary she earned. To keep up the $2,800 monthly mortgage payments on her family's home, she has been borrowing from her 401(k) retirement savings plan, she said.

"Are you serious?" Ms. Joseph said when told how much higher benefits can be in other states. "I thought that New York probably pays the most because, you know, it's New York. It's a big state."

New York applies the payroll tax only to the first $8,500 in annual wages paid to each employee, a limit that also has not changed this decade. Many other states tax a much higher portion of wages. In New Jersey, the taxable base is more than three times as high, at $27,700. In Connecticut, it is $15,000.

"The taxable wage base in comparison to wages is very low," said Andrew Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project, which has been lobbying for an overhaul of the entire unemployment insurance system. "The way I see it is, maybe the solvency problems will spark people in Albany to make some real fixes of the unemployment program at a time when it's really needed."

The strains on the state's fund began to show almost immediately after the holidays, when the number of New Yorkers applying for jobless benefits spiked. On Jan. 2, the first business day of the new year, more money went out to the unemployed than came in from employers, forcing the state to borrow $39 million from the federal fund, state officials said. Since then, it has borrowed more than $80 million a week.

"I think we went insolvent about two hours into 2009," said M. Patricia Smith, the state's labor commissioner. "We're seeing 50 percent more claimants each week than a year ago."

Ms. Smith said she would press lawmakers to reconsider a solution to the chronic shortage of funds for the state's unemployed. Republicans have typically fought raising the payroll tax, but this year, for the first time in decades, Democrats control both houses of the Legislature and the executive branch.

Still, worries about raising taxes during a deepening recession may again thwart efforts to overhaul the system, state officials said. Indeed, although Ms. Smith said that aides to Gov. David A. Paterson had expressed support for the idea, the governor did not include the proposal in his budget.

Assemblywoman Susan V. John, a Democrat from Rochester, the chairwoman of the Assembly's Labor Committee, sponsored a bill last year that would have raised benefits and the taxable base in stages over several years. Had it passed, the legislation would have raised the maximum weekly benefit to $475 last fall, then to $550 this year and $630 next year. After that, it would have been set at half of the state's average weekly wage.

Ms. John said that even if her bill had passed last year, the state's fund would still have run into a deficit this year. But, she added, the proposed changes would gradually have solved the problem of recurring shortfalls. She said she remained optimistic that the Legislature would reconsider updating the system. Still, with the state facing a $13.5 billion budget deficit, she said, "There may not be the stomach to also raise the revenue to stabilize the unemployment insurance fund."

Insolvency in the unemployment system can cost both the state and employers. When a state cannot repay loans from the federal fund, as New York failed to do from 2003 through 2006, it incurs interest at a rate set by the United States Treasury. (This year's borrowing rate was set last week at 4.64 percent, according to state officials.)

And if the debt is not paid off within two years, the federal government takes away part of the tax credit that employers receive for complying with the rules of the unemployment insurance system.

In 2005, employers in New York State paid a penalty that amounted to $14 per worker; in 2006, that penalty doubled to about $28 per worker, Mr. Stettner said. The revenue from that special assessment went into the state's unemployment fund to help repay the debt to the federal fund.

The penalty falls even on businesses that do not lay off workers, and in 2005 and 2006, some small employers who had not added to the unemployment fund's burden complained about having to pay the additional tax, Mr. Stettner said.

Still, the business lobby has remained opposed to raising the payroll tax. Last year, the Business Council of New York State, the largest statewide business organization, also objected to Ms. John's bill, because it would have raised the tax and benefits automatically each year, something other states do.

Michael Moran, a spokesman for the council, said he expected the subject to surface in Albany again soon because of the shortfall in the system. But that is no guarantee of action.

Of the nine states that had to borrow to pay unemployment benefits during and after the last recession, only Texas borrowed more than New York, according to a study published by the Urban Institute. Texas and four of the other states that borrowed - Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Missouri - made legislative changes to try to avoid another bout with insolvency. But New York has not.


6) The HOPE Haze
January 21, 2009

There are days when I feel so out of it, so alienated, that I wonder if
I've gone insane or suffer some deep personality disorder. After
yesterday's drool fest, where countless adults behaved like sugar-crazed
children, I certainly hope that I'm nuts. Because if I'm not, if what I
perceive is actually true, then we are so beyond fucked that the glimmer
of fucked is a fuzzy speck on the horizon.

Now, I don't want to feel this way; I have enough negative emotions as
it is. But after watching the $150 million imperial saturnalia,
augmented by the siren songs of fawners, spin doctors, and state
mouthpieces, despair and anxiety rage inside my battered brain. Even
worse, average people loved it. Simply fucking loved it. Everywhere I
went online, it was the same maypole dance, the same sighing, the same
crying. "Free at last!" was the collective chant, as though Bush and
Cheney were run out of Washington by revolutionary forces. If only. "I
thank President Bush for his service to our nation," said Obama,
praising the war criminal's "generosity and cooperation" in helping him
prepare to assume the same role.

What's that? You say Obama won't commit war crimes? That he thanked Bush
because he's "post-partisan" and sees the Big Picture? Maybe you're
right. Maybe the new president will transform his office into something
other than it's been since at least 1945. Maybe he has a Secret Plan
that lesser minds like ours cannot fully grasp. "Maybe" itself is
variant of HOPE, and you know how much HOPE means these days. Besides,
Barry looks smooth and cool, Michelle is hot, their daughters cute, so
if nothing else we can feast on that, like munching grass on a sunny
meadow under Obama's benevolent gaze.

Wow. I feel better already!

As he did throughout his campaign, Obama delivered an inaugural speech
loaded with clich├ęs, falsehoods, and myths, but crafted in a way that
anyone could project on it anything they liked. Many online libs fairly
jerked off to the speech, overwhelmed by Obama's force and vision, his
call to our "better selves," his homilies to God, blood, and soil. Then
again, many liberals love state power when a Democrat is in charge, so
their arousal was expected, at least by lunatics like me. How long
liberals will remain stimulated? I'll rub my psychic dildo and predict
that their frenzied self-abuse will never really cease, so long as
Obama's in office. Oh, there'll be some lulls when the orgasms aren't as
intense. But rest assured that the stroking will continue, lubricated or
dry. The psychic dildo's rarely wrong.

Hold on there, Herr Cynic! Should Obama stray from his promises,
liberals will be the first to challenge him, because Obama cares what
The People think, especially those who voted for him no matter what he
said. Again, I seriously doubt this will happen. Does anyone truly
expect a mass liberal revolt against the Democratic Party? Whimpering,
yes. Rubbing hands, sure. Netroots defection? Pardon me for a moment.

(Leaves desk, walks barefoot into the snow, releases a loud laugh that
at first sounds cheerful, but quickly mutates into a twisted emotional
outcry, almost non-human, sending the squirrels back to their nests,
causing the crows to caw in unison. The neighbor across the street who
still has her Obama/Biden yard sign up approaches and asks if there's
anything wrong. She is told that the opposite is true -- that the
hideous screaming is actually a cry of joy for living to see this
wonderful new age. She smiles and starts howling as well, because we are
Americans, and we will not apologize for our way of life.)

Anyway, these should prove to be interesting days. If you tire of
liberal tug jobs, I'll be here with my peeling sandwich board, scrawling
whatever delirium my brain insists is real. And of course, the psychic
dildo. Why should Obamaites have all the fun?


7) Warming in Antarctica Looks Certain
January 22, 2009

Antarctica is warming.

That is the conclusion of scientists analyzing half a century of temperatures on the continent, and the findings may help resolve a climate enigma at the bottom of the planet.

While some regions of Antarctica, particularly the peninsula the stretches toward South America, have warmed rapidly in recent decades, weather stations including the one at the South Pole have recorded a cooling trend. That ran counter to the forecasts of computer climate models, and global warming skeptics have pointed to Antarctica in questioning the reliability of the models.

In the new study, scientists took into account satellite measurements to interpolate temperatures in the vast areas between the sparse weather stations.

"We now see warming is taking place on all seven of the earth's continents in accord with what models predict as a response to greenhouse gases," said Eric J. Steig, a professor of space sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle and the lead author of a paper appearing Thursday in the journal Nature.

"We're highly confident our calculation is very good," Dr. Steig said.

Because of the climate record is still short, more work needs to be done to determine how much of the warming results from natural climate swings and how much from the warming effects of carbon dioxide released by the burning of fossil fuels, Dr. Steig said.

He and another author, Drew T. Shindell of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, presented the findings at a news conference on Wednesday.

From 1957 through 2006, temperatures across Antarctica rose an average of 0.18 degrees Fahrenheit per decade, comparable to the warming that has been measured globally.

In West Antarctica, where the base of some large ice sheets lies below sea level, the warming was even more pronounced, at 0.3 degrees per Fahrenheit. In East Antarctica, where temperatures had been believed to be falling, the researchers found a slight warming over the 50-year period.

With the uncertainties, East Antarctica may have indeed been cooling, but the rise in temperatures in the west more than offset any cooling.

The average temperature for Antarctica is about minus 58 degrees.

"There is very convincing evidence in this work of warming over West Antarctica," said Andrew Monaghan, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., who was not involved with the research reported in Nature.

As with earlier studies, the scientists found that temperatures had cooled in East Antarctica since the late 1970s, a phenomenon that many atmospheric scientists attribute to emissions of chloroflurocarbons, a family of chemicals used as coolants that destroyed high-altitude ozone. Those chemicals have since been phased out, the ozone hole is expected to heal, and the cooling trend may reverse.

The region of East Antarctica, which includes the South Pole, is at much higher elevation and extends farther north than West Antarctica. The Transantarctic Mountains separate the two.

While the scientists said the ozone hole most likely had a significant influence on Antarctic temperatures, other factors, including sea ice and greenhouse gases, may play a larger role.

"Obviously the situation is complex, resulting from a combination of man-made factors and natural variability," said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences at Princeton, who was not involved in the research. "But the idea of a long-term cooling is pretty clearly debunked."

Dr. Monaghan, who had not detected the rapid warming of West Antarctica in an earlier study, said the new study had "spurred me to take another look at ours - I've since gone back and included additional records."

That reanalysis, which used somewhat different techniques and assumptions, has not yet been published, but he presented his revised findings last month at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

"The results I get are very similar to his," Dr. Monaghan said.

Andrew C. Revkin contributed reporting.


8) Israel Completes Gaza Withdrawal
January 22, 2009

GAZA - After more than three weeks of fighting, Israeli troops completed their withdrawal from Gaza early on Wednesday, the military said, but residents reported the continued sound of what they said was naval gunfire in the waters off the Mediterranean coastline here.

The troops did not go far: they were redeployed on the perimeter of the war-battered enclave, where more than 1,300 Palestinians died in the Israeli campaign against Hamas, the Islamist group that runs Gaza. Thirteen Israelis, including three civilians, also died during the 22-day offensive, according to military officials.

Separately, the Israeli Army said it had begun an investigation into reports by some non-governmental organizations that it used white phosphorous weapons illegally during the Gaza war.

A military spokesman in Tel Aviv said such weapons were not prohibited under international law if they were used to create smoke-screens or for marking battlefield areas. The spokesman said Israel only used legal weapons.

Human rights groups are concerned about the Israeli use of white phosphorous, illegal if used against civilians, because it can burn flesh like a kind of napalm.

The Israeli spokesman said: "in response to the claims of non-governmental organizations and claims in the foreign press relating to the use of phosphorous weapons, and in order to remove any ambiguity, an investigative team has been established in the Southern Command to look into the issue."

The spokesman said the investigation was first announced on Jan. 16 and was repeated on Wednesday after the newspaper Haaretz reported that the military was "investigating whether a reserve paratroops brigade made improper use of phosphorus shells during the fighting in Gaza."

"The brigade fired about 20 such shells in a built-up area of northern Gaza," the Haaretz report said. "Aside from this one case, the shells were used very sparingly and, in the army's view, in compliance with international law." The United Nations has said its headquarters building in Gaza was hit by three such shells, sparking a huge blaze last week.

As the Israeli troops withdrawal wound down on Wednesday, a military spokesman in Tel Aviv, speaking in return for customary anonymity, said: "The last troops left Gaza this morning and they redeployed around the Gaza Strip." In their new positions, he said, the troops were "prepared for any occurrences."

The spokesman also said reservists called up during the offensive, which ended with separate cease-fires declared last weekend by Israel and Hamas, were being discharged "little by little."

But the spokesman had no immediate comment on what Gaza residents said seemed to be naval gunfire that persisted Wednesday. On Tuesday, Israeli gunboats offshore occasionally fired warning shots at boats that ventured too close.

During the offensive, Israel moved against Hamas by land, sea and air in a campaign aimed in part at preventing Hamas from firing rockets and other weapons out of Gaza into southern Israel.

On Tuesday, however, Israeli troops twice came under fire, and eight mortar shells were shot at Israel, all falling short. Israel responded with air strikes on launching sites.

On Tuesday, thousands of Palestinians supported Hamas at four rallies here while the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, visited to express support for those who had suffered in the war. An Arab meeting in Kuwait aimed at helping Gaza ended in disarray.

Mr. Ban, the highest-ranking international figure to come to Gaza since the war, visited the United Nations compound, damaged by an Israeli strike. He called the attack "outrageous" and demanded an investigation. He said Israel had used excessive force in Gaza. After touring the area, Mr. Ban called the destruction "shocking and alarming."

Later, he visited Sderot, the southern Israeli town that has long borne the brunt of Hamas rocket fire, and said using rockets against civilians violated international law. Still, he said, Israel should lift its border closing on Gaza, strangling its economy.

The pro-Hamas rallies in Gaza, in four cities, produced a blaze of green Hamas flags as marchers walked past the devastation from Israeli air raids. In Gaza City, the march passed the United Nations headquarters as Mr. Ban spoke, and Gaza's main security headquarters, now rubble, ending in front of the Parliament building, also in ruins.

A Hamas spokesman, Ismail Radwan, told the crowd that Israel had not achieved its goals. To several questions, the crowd roared a response. "Have they killed Hamas?" he asked. "No!" "Have they killed the government?" "No!" "Have they dismantled the resistance?" "No!"

Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, said Israel had achieved its objectives in the war and had sent Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, and Iran a message that it would respond if attacked. She opposed any dialogue with Hamas, adding, "It is a terrorist organization."

The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, told the visiting Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, that Israel would take part in reconstructing Gaza only if Hamas did not lead the process.

Ethan Bronner reported from Gaza and Alan Cowell from Paris. Michael Slackman contributed reporting from Kuwait City, Taghreed El-Khodary from Gaza and Steven Erlanger and Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem.


9) Debating the Blame for Reducing Much of a Village to Rubble
January 21, 2009

JUHR EL DIK, Gaza - When the Assi brothers returned to their village, most of it was missing. Their house was flattened, and their olive groves crushed. The only thing left standing was a single almond tree.

Of all the areas hit in Israel's military campaign, Juhr el Dik, a farming village on Gaza's eastern border, had more than its share of loss. In its center is now a giant swath of destruction where about 40 houses once stood.

"It's an earthquake," said Salim Abu Ayadah, the mayor of the town, whose house was among those destroyed. "When I saw it, I couldn't believe my eyes. I couldn't walk."

The destruction was a hard fact, but how it happened was not, with Israelis and Gazans each offering their own divergent versions of events, alternate realities that have come to typify this war.

Villagers here say the Israelis bulldozed the area during their ground operation, which began on Jan. 3. Tread marks from tanks or bulldozers crisscross the area.

An Israeli government minister said that Israel had not planned to enter the village, but that it was left with no choice when six Hamas fighters shot at its troops from a water cistern there. Soon after, a group of houses detonated at once, wired to explode as Israeli troops passed, said the minister, Isaac Herzog, who is in charge of humanitarian relief for Gaza and who cited information from a brigade commander.

Residents strongly dispute that account. Three of them, including the mayor, said all the houses were intact when they fled several days after the ground invasion began.

"It's simply not true," Mr. Abu Ayadah said. Hamas fighters would occasionally drive up in a car, fire a rocket and leave, he said, but they did not have close relations with the villagers, farmers who were far from urban politics.

Giving the Israeli version the benefit of the doubt, he said, "So suppose there's a bomb in one house, but in many houses - no."

What is left is an unnatural landscape. Mounds of concrete rubble mix with broken olive trees. Flies buzz over dead goats. Spoons, slippers and hair brushes are strewn in the dirt.

When Khaled al-Assi returned, he first noticed the broken bodies of his olive trees. The trees, which would take 20 years to grow back, were dearer to him than his house, which could be rebuilt. His father had planted them when Mr. Assi was little, and, until recent weeks, they had supported his family, as well as an impoverished widow, Um Salama, a villager who was no relation.

"We can't build our house without outside help, so we're focusing on the trees now," Mr. Assi said, his brother Ziad scooping sandy soil out of a four-foot hole he was digging.

The task was urgent, because the trees, whose unearthed roots had not had water in days, were close to dying. Of his several dozen trees, a handful appeared to be salvageable.

But there was another reason for urgency. When the brothers first saw the house in a crumpled heap, they said, they were so stunned it was hard to breathe. Ziad started crying. They plunged into tree planting to escape.

"Everybody now is trying to forget," Khaled said, standing among his broken trees in a blue button-down shirt, and jeans smudged with dirt. "The only way to put your mind on something else is to replant."

The village on Tuesday was a scene of frenetic activity. Men scurried over broken piles of concrete blocks, yanking out pieces of metal to use for makeshift roofs. A team of men dragged branches onto a donkey cart to make fires for cooking.

Mr. Abu Ayadah said about 130 homes in Juhr el Dik had been destroyed and 40 others seriously damaged. In all, there are 600 to 700 homes, he said.

The destruction was so complete in the Assis' area that it looked surreal. Even the animals were confused. A brood of chickens rustled noisily underneath a fallen guava tree that had flattened their coop. A cat mewed plaintively, unseen. A dog wandered.

"They can't find their house," Mahmud el-Bahabsa said of the chickens. "Even the dog is lost."

There were few clues about how the destruction actually happened. A giant artillery shell, knee-high standing upright and marked M825E1, gave few answers. A map drawn in black marker on the back of a kitchen cabinet door, and a calendar with days crossed off sketched on a wall, did not help much either. Rounds fired from an Apache helicopter also turned up in the rubble.

Up the hill, another resident was thinking about her trees. Noha Shawa, an affluent woman whose family owns a summer house here, looked ruefully at her unearthed grove.

She was particularly angry because she had just replanted after May, when the Israeli military bulldozed older trees she had nurtured. She was home when the soldiers came that time. They closed her in a room and began to bulldoze, she said.

"I wish this could happen to their land," she said, sitting on a plastic lawn chair, surveying her damage. "I wish I could see the look on their faces."

Ms. Shawa's son owns a children's clothing store in Gaza City. His business partners, Israeli Jews, are reliable and trustworthy, he said. But since an embargo that Israel imposed after Hamas pushed out its political rival in 2007, business has plummeted.

"We are like chickens - they decide what to feed us," Ms. Shawa said. "They would not accept this life for themselves."

The residents seemed determined to make the best of a bad situation.

The Assis' 80-year-old neighbor, Abu Tawfiq, joked that he would use the artillery shell as a teapot. Pea plants that were still alive would provide dinner. Cured olives in a blue plastic jug, unspoiled, turned up in the rubble.

By late afternoon, four trees had been replanted, their smooth trunks twisting unnaturally out of the sandy soil. It was unclear, Khaled al-Assi said, if they would survive. He would keep thinking about them, he said, even in his sleep.

"I'm going to sleep and to look at the sand," he said. "I will imagine that there is still an olive grove there."

Ethan Bronner and Nadim Audi contributed reporting.


10) Report Faults Treatment of Women Held at Immigration Centers
January 21, 2009

Some 300 women held at immigration detention centers in Arizona face dangerous delays in health care and widespread mistreatment, according to a new study by the University of Arizona, the latest report to criticize conditions at such centers throughout the United States.

The study, which federal immigration officials criticized as narrow and unsubstantiated, was conducted from August 2007 to August 2008 by the Southwest Institute of Research on Women and the James E. Rogers College of Law, both at the University of Arizona. It was released Jan. 13.

Researchers examined the conditions facing women in the process of deportation proceedings at three federal immigration centers in Arizona. An estimated 3,000 women are being held nationwide.

The study concluded that immigration authorities were too aggressive in detaining the women, who rarely posed a flight risk, and that as a result, they experienced severe hardships, including a lack of prenatal care, treatment for cancer, ovarian cysts and other serious medical conditions, and, in some cases, being mixed in with federal prisoners.

Katrina S. Kane, who directs Arizona detention and removal operations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, dismissed the study as unsubstantiated accounts from a limited number of detainees and their advocates.

"Reports such as this, while alleging to be unbiased, do great harm to the public's understanding of the complex issues involved in immigration law enforcement," Ms. Kane said.

The director of border research for the institute on women, Nina Rabin, an immigration lawyer who led the study, countered that interviews with detainees, former detainees and their lawyers corroborated a pattern of endemic mistreatment.

And Ms. Rabin said she had spoken with immigrant advocacy groups around the United States, many of whom stated that mistreatment of women at the centers was not unusual.

"We were pretty shocked to learn about all the ways in which life is made endlessly difficult for these women," Ms. Rabin said, especially those who were pregnant or had recently given birth.

The immigration department has been under increasing pressure to improve conditions at its detention centers. The federal Government Accountability Office and the inspector general's office at the Department of Homeland Security have each released reports in the last three years criticizing standards at such centers, many of which are operated by private contractors.

Last September, the immigration department announced plans to improve conditions at its detention centers, but the new rules will not fully take effect until 2010. Meanwhile, Congress has been weighing whether to impose its own requirements on the department after a New York Times article on immigrants who died in federal custody.

The three centers that the study focused on are not run by the immigration department but by the Pinal County Sheriff's Department and the Corrections Corporation of America.

"We strictly enforce all national ICE standards," Ms. Kane said, "and if we find those standards are not being met and we feel the deficiencies are not being corrected, we locate our detainees to other facilities."

In one of several cases documented in the study, a woman being held at the Central Arizona Detention Center in Florence who experienced excruciating abdominal pain for months after she had been forced to undergo female genital mutilation in West Africa was told by the center's staff to "exercise and watch her diet," her lawyer at the time, Raha Jorjani, said. After nearly six months, the woman, who had been convicted of a nonviolent crime, was taken to a hospital where an ultrasound revealed a cyst the size of a five-month-old fetus, Ms. Jorjani said.

Immigration officials then suddenly released the woman with no money or health insurance to treat the cyst, Ms. Jorjani said.

"That she had to remain in detention at all during this period is egregious," Ms. Jorjani said. "She shouldn't have had to get that sick for immigration to consider her request for release."

Ms. Kane, the department spokeswoman, said that this was the first the agency had heard of the case and that it took accusations of mistreatment seriously.

In one case the study described, an illegal immigrant identified as Ana, who had come to the United States from Mexico as a baby and served a brief stint in jail for using a fake credit card, was being held at the Central Arizona Detention Center.

Although Ana was six months pregnant and had an ovarian cyst, she was ordered to use a top bunk and denied a sonogram and prenatal vitamins during the five weeks she was held, the study said.

Three women also told a local immigrant rights group that they had suffered miscarriages while in detention in the last three years, according to the study.

Ms. Kane said that while her department could not corroborate any of the report's accusations, it had found that a detainee's contention that she had not received treatment for cervical cancer had proved false.


11) The One-State Solution
January 22, 2009
Op-Ed Contributor
[QUOTE FROM ARTICLE: "It is a fact that Palestinians inhabited the land and owned farms and homes there until recently, fleeing in fear of violence at the hands of Jews after 1948 - violence that did not occur, but rumors of which led to a mass exodus. It is important to note that the Jews did not forcibly expel Palestinians. They were never "un-welcomed."
LINKS TO THE REALITY OF: 33 massacres perpetrated by Israel and Israeli paramilitaries (terrorists)

Tripoli, Libya

THE shocking level of the last wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence, which ended with this weekend's cease-fire, reminds us why a final resolution to the so-called Middle East crisis is so important. It is vital not just to break this cycle of destruction and injustice, but also to deny the religious extremists in the region who feed on the conflict an excuse to advance their own causes.

But everywhere one looks, among the speeches and the desperate diplomacy, there is no real way forward. A just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians is possible, but it lies in the history of the people of this conflicted land, and not in the tired rhetoric of partition and two-state solutions.

Although it's hard to realize after the horrors we've just witnessed, the state of war between the Jews and Palestinians has not always existed. In fact, many of the divisions between Jews and Palestinians are recent ones. The very name "Palestine" was commonly used to describe the whole area, even by the Jews who lived there, until 1948, when the name "Israel" came into use.

Jews and Muslims are cousins descended from Abraham. Throughout the centuries both faced cruel persecution and often found refuge with one another. Arabs sheltered Jews and protected them after maltreatment at the hands of the Romans and their expulsion from Spain in the Middle Ages.

The history of Israel/Palestine is not remarkable by regional standards - a country inhabited by different peoples, with rule passing among many tribes, nations and ethnic groups; a country that has withstood many wars and waves of peoples from all directions. This is why it gets so complicated when members of either party claims the right to assert that it is their land.

The basis for the modern State of Israel is the persecution of the Jewish people, which is undeniable. The Jews have been held captive, massacred, disadvantaged in every possible fashion by the Egyptians, the Romans, the English, the Russians, the Babylonians, the Canaanites and, most recently, the Germans under Hitler. The Jewish people want and deserve their homeland.

But the Palestinians too have a history of persecution, and they view the coastal towns of Haifa, Acre, Jaffa and others as the land of their forefathers, passed from generation to generation, until only a short time ago.

Thus the Palestinians believe that what is now called Israel forms part of their nation, even were they to secure the West Bank and Gaza. And the Jews believe that the West Bank is Samaria and Judea, part of their homeland, even if a Palestinian state were established there. Now, as Gaza still smolders, calls for a two-state solution or partition persist. But neither will work.

A two-state solution will create an unacceptable security threat to Israel. An armed Arab state, presumably in the West Bank, would give Israel less than 10 miles of strategic depth at its narrowest point. Further, a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would do little to resolve the problem of refugees. Any situation that keeps the majority of Palestinians in refugee camps and does not offer a solution within the historical borders of Israel/Palestine is not a solution at all.

For the same reasons, the older idea of partition of the West Bank into Jewish and Arab areas, with buffer zones between them, won't work. The Palestinian-held areas could not accommodate all of the refugees, and buffer zones symbolize exclusion and breed tension. Israelis and Palestinians have also become increasingly intertwined, economically and politically.

In absolute terms, the two movements must remain in perpetual war or a compromise must be reached. The compromise is one state for all, an "Isratine" that would allow the people in each party to feel that they live in all of the disputed land and they are not deprived of any one part of it.

A key prerequisite for peace is the right of return for Palestinian refugees to the homes their families left behind in 1948. It is an injustice that Jews who were not originally inhabitants of Palestine, nor were their ancestors, can move in from abroad while Palestinians who were displaced only a relatively short time ago should not be so permitted.

It is a fact that Palestinians inhabited the land and owned farms and homes there until recently, fleeing in fear of violence at the hands of Jews after 1948 - violence that did not occur, but rumors of which led to a mass exodus. It is important to note that the Jews did not forcibly expel Palestinians. They were never "un-welcomed." Yet only the full territories of Isratine can accommodate all the refugees and bring about the justice that is key to peace.

Assimilation is already a fact of life in Israel. There are more than one million Muslim Arabs in Israel; they possess Israeli nationality and take part in political life with the Jews, forming political parties. On the other side, there are Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Israeli factories depend on Palestinian labor, and goods and services are exchanged. This successful assimilation can be a model for Isratine.

If the present interdependence and the historical fact of Jewish-Palestinian coexistence guide their leaders, and if they can see beyond the horizon of the recent violence and thirst for revenge toward a long-term solution, then these two peoples will come to realize, I hope sooner rather than later, that living under one roof is the only option for a lasting peace.

Muammar Qaddafi is the leader of Libya.


12) Doctor Doom
The Worst Is Yet To Come
Nouriel Roubini, 01.22.09, 12:01 AM ET

I have been predicting for a while that the most recent bear market
sucker's rally would lose its steam and, like the previous bear market
rallies in the last 18 months, U.S. and global equities prices would
head again toward new lows. Here's why.

As my work and the work of our research team at RGE Monitor predicts (we
will publish, later this week, our 2009 Global Economic Outlook, a
75-page research piece for our clients), this will be the worst U.S.
recession in the last 50 years--and the worst synchronized global
recession in decades.

For a few weeks since late November, equity markets ignored the
onslaught of much-worse-than-expected macro news (and all the news was
really worse than awful) and had a nice 25% bear market sucker's rally.
But the drumbeat of worse-than-expected macro new--and earnings news,
and financial news--has finally taken a toll on the delusional market
belief that the worst was over for financial markets and for equity
markets and that the U.S. and global economy would recover in the second
half of 2009. So equity prices have already reversed more than half of
their most recent bear market rally as the lousy macro news has finally
shocked the wishful thinkers.

Indeed, the retail sales figures just published confirmed that a
shopped-out, savings-less and debt-burdened U.S. consumer is now
faltering as job losses, income losses, falls in home wealth, falls in
equity wealth, high and rising debt and debt-servicing ratios and a
severe credit crunch take a severe toll on the ability of consumers to
spend. And reduction in spending and deleveraging of the U.S. consumer
will take years to rebuild the savings rate of a household sector now
hit by a severe shock to its net worth (as equity and home values fall
while debts have been rising), and shocked in its inability to generate
income as job losses mount and the unemployment rate surges.

Our research at RGE Monitor suggests that the U.S. and global recession
will continue at least until Q4 2009 (a nasty, 24-month, U-shaped
recession) and that the recovery in 2010-'11 will be very weak, with
growth around 1%--well below a potential of 2.75%. And we cannot rule
out that a more severe L-shaped stag-deflation (as in Japan in the
1990s) will take hold. Indeed, as I have argued, while the odds of a
systemic financial meltdown have been reduced by the actions of the
Group of Seven and other economies, severe vulnerabilities remain.

The credit crunch will persist and spread beyond mortgages. Deleveraging
will continue, as thousands of hedge funds--many of which will go
bust--and other leveraged players are forced to sell assets into
illiquid and distressed markets, causing price declines and driving more
insolvent financial institutions out of business. Credit losses will
mount as the recession deepens, and a few emerging-market economies will
certainly experience full-blown financial crisis.

So 2009 will be a painful year of global recession and further financial
stresses, losses and bankruptcies. Currently, the probability of an
L-shaped, stag-deflation is now rising to one-third, while the
probability of a severe U-shaped recession is two-thirds. Only
aggressive, coordinated and effective policy action by both advanced and
emerging-market countries can ensure the global economy starts to
recover, however slowly, in 2010, rather than entering a more protracted
period of economic stagnation.

So while our benchmark scenarios see a severe U-shaped global recession
with very weak growth recovery in 2010, we cannot exclude the
possibility of a worse outcome--i.e. an L-shaped recession that, in our
view, has at least a one-third probability. So the worst is ahead of us
rather than behind us, both for the real economy and for financial markets.

With my forecast of 2009 earnings per share for S&P 500 firms being in
the $50 to $60 range, and with price-earnings ratios likely to be in the
10 to 12 range, given a severe global recession, the S&P 500 could
bottom at some point in 2009, at best at a level of 720 and, in a worse
scenario, as low as 500 or 600.

So, the worst is indeed still ahead of us.

Nouriel Roubini, a professor at the Stern Business School at New York
University and chairman of Roubini Global Economics, is a weekly
columnist for Analysts at Roubini Global Economics assisted
in research for this week's column.


13) The Forgotten Martin Luther King
By Mumia Abu-Jamal
January 15, 2009

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is once again being resurrected this time of year, in part because his birthday is approaching, but also, of course, because of the imminent swearing-in of President-elect Barack H. Obama -- the first Black man in U.S. history to be so honored.

As often is the case, the Rev. King who is being projected today bears little relationship to the real, live, breathing and growing man behind the name.

Like many men, he had his highs and his lows, his fears and his doubts, his inspirations and his insights. His Washington speech (known as "I Have a Dream") was neither his finest, nor his most profound, but like many Black preachers who are master orators, he brought his best to it.

King, like many busy leaders, had others write some of his speeches, and one of those men was Vincent Harding, now a theologian and historian. Harding contributed to Kings' groundbreaking N.Y. Riverside Church speech, delivered precisely a year before his assassination (where he denounced the Vietnam War), marking his break with an American president (L. B. Johnson), the corporate media, and many of his closest allies in the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference.)

President Johnson felt betrayed by King, and the media turned from praise to ridicule. In his book, Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero (N. Y.:Orbis, 1996), Harding quotes from the Washington Post editorial page which slammed King, who "had diminished his usefulness to his cause, to his country, and to his people" because of his speech against the Vietnam War (which the Vietnamese called, 'the American War')

But betrayals didn't stop him, nor did nasty editorials deter him. Indeed, the violence of war radicalized him deeply, so much so that he said later, "the evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism" (Harding, 101).

Think of that: capitalism, militarism, and racism -- as evils.

When's the last time you've heard that?

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was being radicalized by the churning events around him -- and, a year before his death, he was both anti-war and anti-capitalist.

Ask yourself, if King were alive today, with his views, could he be elected president?

If not, why not?

What does that say about the nation's political system?

--(c) '09 maj


14) Stuck in the Muddle
Op-Ed Columnist
January 23, 2009

Like anyone who pays attention to business and financial news, I am in a state of high economic anxiety. Like everyone of good will, I hoped that President Obama's Inaugural Address would offer some reassurance, that it would suggest that the new administration has this thing covered.

But it was not to be. I ended Tuesday less confident about the direction of economic policy than I was in the morning.

Just to be clear, there wasn't anything glaringly wrong with the address - although for those still hoping that Mr. Obama will lead the way to universal health care, it was disappointing that he spoke only of health care's excessive cost, never once mentioning the plight of the uninsured and underinsured.

Also, one wishes that the speechwriters had come up with something more inspiring than a call for an "era of responsibility" - which, not to put too fine a point on it, was the same thing former President George W. Bush called for eight years ago.

But my real problem with the speech, on matters economic, was its conventionality. In response to an unprecedented economic crisis - or, more accurately, a crisis whose only real precedent is the Great Depression - Mr. Obama did what people in Washington do when they want to sound serious: he spoke, more or less in the abstract, of the need to make hard choices and stand up to special interests.

That's not enough. In fact, it's not even right.

Thus, in his speech Mr. Obama attributed the economic crisis in part to "our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age" - but I have no idea what he meant. This is, first and foremost, a crisis brought on by a runaway financial industry. And if we failed to rein in that industry, it wasn't because Americans "collectively" refused to make hard choices; the American public had no idea what was going on, and the people who did know what was going on mostly thought deregulation was a great idea.

Or consider this statement from Mr. Obama: "Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed."

The first part of this passage was almost surely intended as a paraphrase of words that John Maynard Keynes wrote as the world was plunging into the Great Depression - and it was a great relief, after decades of knee-jerk denunciations of government, to hear a new president giving a shout-out to Keynes. "The resources of nature and men's devices," Keynes wrote, "are just as fertile and productive as they were. The rate of our progress towards solving the material problems of life is not less rapid. We are as capable as before of affording for everyone a high standard of life. ... But today we have involved ourselves in a colossal muddle, having blundered in the control of a delicate machine, the working of which we do not understand."

But something was lost in translation. Mr. Obama and Keynes both assert that we're failing to make use of our economic capacity. But Keynes's insight - that we're in a "muddle" that needs to be fixed - somehow was replaced with standard we're-all-at-fault, let's-get-tough-on-ourselves boilerplate.

Remember, Herbert Hoover didn't have a problem making unpleasant decisions: he had the courage and toughness to slash spending and raise taxes in the face of the Great Depression. Unfortunately, that just made things worse.

Still, a speech is just a speech. The members of Mr. Obama's economic team certainly understand the extraordinary nature of the mess we're in. So the tone of Tuesday's address may signify nothing about the Obama administration's future policy.

On the other hand, Mr. Obama is, as his predecessor put it, the decider. And he's going to have to make some big decisions very soon. In particular, he's going to have to decide how bold to be in his moves to sustain the financial system, where the outlook has deteriorated so drastically that a surprising number of economists, not all of them especially liberal, now argue that resolving the crisis will require the temporary nationalization of some major banks.

So is Mr. Obama ready for that? Or were the platitudes in his Inaugural Address a sign that he'll wait for the conventional wisdom to catch up with events? If so, his administration will find itself dangerously behind the curve.

And that's not a place that we want the new team to be. The economic crisis grows worse, and harder to resolve, with each passing week. If we don't get drastic action soon, we may find ourselves stuck in the muddle for a very long time.


15) Suspected US Missile Strikes Kill 14 in Pakistan
January 23, 2009
Filed at 11:57 a.m. ET

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Two suspected U.S missile attacks killed 14 people Friday in Pakistan just east of the Afghan border, security officials said, the first such strikes since the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

At least five victims were identified as foreign militants, an intelligence officer said.

The strikes in two districts of the lawless region where al-Qaida militants are known to hide out are the latest in a barrage of more than 30 since the middle of last year.

Pakistan's pro-U.S. leaders had expressed hope Obama would halt the attacks, which have reportedly killed several top al-Qaida operatives but triggered anger at the government by nationalist and Muslim critics.

Islamabad routinely protests the strikes in the northwest as a violation of the country's sovereignty, but most observers speculate that it has an unwritten agreement allowing them to take place, noting it would be highly damaging to be seen as colluding with Washington in attacks on its people.

The missiles are normally fired from spy planes believed to be launched from across the border in Afghanistan.

The first attack Friday took place in the village of Zharki in North Waziristan, when a single drone fired three missiles in the space of 10 minutes, the security officials said.

The missiles destroyed two buildings, killing 10 people, at least five of whom were foreign militants, the officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Hours later, a second missile struck a house in South Waziristan, killing four people, they said, giving no more details.

The United States rarely acknowledges firing the missiles, but there is little doubt it is responsible.

Washington is pressing Pakistan to crackdown on militants in the border, which it blames for rising attacks on Western troops in Afghanistan as well as violence within Pakistan.

Earlier Friday, a suicide attack and a roadside bomb killed two soldiers and three civilians in the Swat Valley, a one-time tourist destination close to the border region, officials said.

Pakistan has launched military offensives in parts of the northwest, but insurgents are making inroads Swat, blowing up schools, killing police and soldiers and calling for the imposition of a hard-line interpretation of Islamic law.

Militancy in Swat is seen as especially dangerous for Pakistan because the valley lies away from the areas where al-Qaida and the Taliban have traditionally operated.

In an indication of the difficulties facing the government, more than 1,000 hard-liners demonstrated in the capital, saying there would only be peace in Swat and other frontier regions if the government severs its ties with the United States.

''The lawlessness cannot end until the end of the pro-America policy,'' one speaker told the crowd gathered close to the Parliament building in Islamabad.

Associated Press Writer Ishtiaq Mahsud contributed to this report from Dera Ismail Khan.


16) Hamas to Start Paying Gaza Residents Compensation and Reconstruction Aid
January 23, 2009

JERUSALEM - Hamas said Thursday that it would begin handing out compensation and reconstruction aid to residents of Gaza, in a sign of the challenges Israel faces as it tries to weaken the militant group's hold after the army's operation there.

Taher al-Nunu, a spokesman for the Hamas government in Gaza, said at a news conference that it would start to distribute the first installment of $35 million to $40 million in payments to Gazans on Sunday. Israel ended its three-week offensive against Hamas last Sunday, and withdrew its last troops from the area early Wednesday.

An adviser to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel said Thursday that the "last thing" Israel wanted was for Hamas to get stronger after the military operation, which Israel has said was intended to reduce the threat of Hamas rocket fire against southern Israel.

The adviser, who requested anonymity in speaking to a small group of reporters because of the delicacy of the issues under discussion, said Israel was working "very extensively" with the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority and the international community to find ways to transfer money from "moderate forces" into Gaza for reconstruction. The aim, he said, would be to ensure that the rebuilding would not be credited to Hamas.

But Hamas, like Hezbollah in southern Lebanon after the 2006 war, is eager to bolster its standing. Hamas estimates that more than 4,000 homes were destroyed and 17,000 damaged during the campaign. About 1,300 people were killed, according to medical officials in Gaza (Israeli military officials have put the number at about 1,200), and more than 5,000 were reported injured.

Mr. Nunu said that each family who had lost a home would receive almost $5,200, while those with damaged homes would get half that. The families of the dead would receive almost $1,300, and those of the injured would get almost $650, he said.

Believing that it has established deterrence against Hamas, Israel says its next priority is to stop the smuggling of foreign-made rockets and other weapons into Gaza via Egypt, and to thwart Hamas's efforts to rearm.

Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli Defense Ministry official, held talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo on Thursday about ways to stop the smuggling, Israeli officials said. Israel's foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, was in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss the antismuggling effort with European officials.

Most of the smuggling, according to Israel, takes place through hundreds of tunnels that run beneath Egypt's border with Gaza. Israel says it bombed 80 percent of the tunnels from the air. But television crews have already captured images of smugglers back at work, underlining Israel's argument that international efforts have to be made to stop the weapons before they reach the border.

Egypt refuses to have international forces on its side of the border, and Israel says a foreign force on the Gaza side would be ineffective. Instead, Israel envisages solutions like more technical assistance on the Egyptian side, heavier policing in the Egyptian Sinai and international action to stop shipments of weapons en route to Egypt by sea.

With many of the tunnels used for the smuggling of goods, and weapons, out of commission, European and international pressure is mounting on Israel to open the official border crossings with Gaza for normal operations. Opening the crossings and ending an 18-month embargo on the area is a central Hamas demand for any lasting cease-fire deal.

Israel seeks to postpone discussion on the opening of the crossings, and it insists that Hamas will not play any role in its operation. At the same time, Israel is allowing increasing amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza to meet people's immediate needs, officials said.

Also on Thursday, Israeli leaders, including Mr. Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, said conditions after the operation in Gaza might improve the chances that Hamas would agree to a prisoner exchange that could lead to the release of a captured Israeli corporal, Gilad Shalit.

Corporal Shalit was seized in a cross-border raid by Hamas and other militant groups and taken into Gaza in 2006. Hamas has demanded the release of hundreds of its prisoners in Israeli jails, including many convicted of terrorism, for the soldier's return.

Ethan Bronner contributed reporting from Gaza.


17) Environment Blamed in Western Tree Deaths
January 23, 2009

Rising temperatures and the resulting drought are causing trees in the West to die at more than twice the pace they did a few decades ago, a new study has found.

The combination of temperature and drought has also reduced the ability of the forests to absorb carbon dioxide, which traps heat and thus contributes to global warming, the authors of the study said, and has made forests sparser and more susceptible to fires and pests.

The scientists, who analyzed tree census data collected in 1955 and in later years, found that the mortality of trees increased in 87 percent of the 76 forest plots studied. In some plots, the die-off rate doubled in as little as 17 years; in others, it doubled after 29 years, the study found.

"Summers are getting longer," said Nathan L. Stephenson, of the United States Geological Survey, a leader of the study with Phillip van Mantgem, also of the geological survey. "Trees are under more drought stress."

The study will appear in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

The scientists analyzed the effects of higher temperatures on old-growth temperate forests in three regions: the Pacific Northwest (including southwestern British Columbia), California and inland Western states. The average temperature in those regions rose by more than one degree Fahrenheit from the mid-1970s to 2006.

Precipitation and snowpack runoff decreased over the same period.

The higher mortality rates held regardless of tree size or type or elevation at which it grew. The fact that birth rates remained unchanged among the nearly 60,000 pines, firs, hemlocks and other trees in the study indicates that forests are losing trees faster than they are replacing them, the authors noted.

It remains unclear how much of the regional warming is a result of a natural climate cycle and how much results from a global trend toward higher temperatures. But Jerry F. Franklin, a professor of ecosystem analysis at the University of Washington and an author of the study, blamed global warming. "We see the regional warming as part of a much larger shift globally," Mr. Franklin said.

The study focused on forests more than 200 years old where rapid changes in demographic rates would more likely be caused by environmental changes rather than by internal processes like self-thinning that are more common in young forests. The spike in mortality cannot be attributed to aging, fires and other events, the researchers said

Warmer weather makes trees more vulnerable to insects and pathogens that thrive in warmer conditions.

In a report last year, the Department of Agriculture said that climate change had "very likely" increased the size and number of fires, insect infestations and overall tree die-offs in forests in the West, the Southwest and Alaska, and that the damage would accelerate in the future.

The authors of the new study said in a teleconference that if tree mortality rates continued to rise, the average size of trees could fall because trees would die at younger ages. Smaller trees cannot store as much carbon dioxide as large ones.

In addition, areas could also become less suitable for some species and more welcoming for others, and existing species might begin to act in peculiar ways. "Novel behaviors on the part of pests and pathogens are the sort of thing we'll get surprised by," Mr. Franklin said.

But Steve Pyne, an environmental historian at the University of Texas who has studied fires in forests, said that how bad things became depended on what replaced the vegetation that was being lost.

"Part of the trick here is we don't know," Mr. Pyne said. "It's like the financial meltdown. It's the uncertainty. What's going to replace it?"

He added, "It may make no difference; it may make a huge difference."


18) State Jobless Rate Soars; Benefits Extension Seen
January 23, 2009

Unemployment in New York State rose last month at the fastest pace on record, as some companies laid off workers at a rapid clip while others refrained from their usual hiring around the holidays, the State Labor Department reported on Thursday.

The state's jobless rate, which is adjusted for seasonal fluctuations, was 7 percent in December, up from 6 percent in November, according to the report. That increase - the largest in any month in 32 years of state record-keeping - will set off another extension of benefits for many New Yorkers who have been looking for work for more than half a year, labor market experts said.

New York City's unemployment rate, after seasonal adjustments, rose even more, jumping to 7.4 percent from 6.3 percent, the Labor Department said. The city's count of private jobs declined by 8,500 in December, compared with a normal increase of almost 20,000 jobs in that month.

"We have a job market that has markedly deteriorated," said James P. Brown, who analyzes employment trends in the city for the State Labor Department. "Employers are nervous enough about the situation that they are pulling back from normal patterns of hiring. And that's beyond the industries, like banks and brokerage firms, that we know are downsizing."

The national unemployment rate, which, at 6.8 percent in November, was considerably higher than the state and city rates, rose to 7.2 percent in December.

"While New York State lagged the nation in entering the recession, we are catching up with a vengeance," said James Parrott, deputy director and chief economist of the Fiscal Policy Institute, a liberal research group.

Across the state, more than 670,000 people were reported as unemployed in December, a record one-month increase of 89,800 from November. More than 500,000 New Yorkers are currently collecting unemployment benefits and about half of them have already exhausted the standard allotment of 26 weekly checks.

Those who failed to find work before their standard benefits ran out have been able to collect up to 20 weeks of additional benefits. Now that the state's unemployment rate has averaged more than 6 percent for the last three months, an additional extension of 13 weeks of benefits will become available on Feb. 22, according to Andrew Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for the unemployed.

That extension will help thousands of New Yorkers who have already used up 40 weeks of benefits, but it will also put additional strain on the state's insolvent unemployment insurance fund. The state has been borrowing about $90 million each week this year from a federal fund to cover the shortfall in the unemployment fund.

State officials project that the fund's deficit will grow to more than $2.5 billion by the end of 2010 unless changes are made to the relatively low payroll tax system that feeds the fund. On Thursday, labor unions and advocates for low-wage workers called for legislation to overhaul the system and increase unemployment benefits. New York's maximum weekly unemployment benefit of $405 is lower than those of all of its neighboring states.


19) More Americans Skipping Necessary Prescriptions, Survey Finds
January 23, 2009

One in seven Americans under age 65 went without prescribed medicines in 2007 as drug costs spiraled upward in the United States, a nonprofit research group said on Thursday.

That figure is up substantially since 2003, when one in 10 people under 65 went without a prescription drug because they couldn't afford it, according to the Center for Studying Health System Change in Washington, D.C.

The current figure may be even higher because of the recent economic downturn, said Laurie E. Felland, a senior health researcher at the center and lead author of the study.

"Our findings are particularly troublesome given the increased reliance on prescription drugs to treat chronic conditions," she added. "People who go without their prescriptions experience worsening health and complications."

The people who were least able to afford medicine were often those who needed it most, Ms. Felland said: uninsured, working-age adults suffering from at least one chronic medical condition. Almost two-thirds of them in the survey said they had gone without filling a prescription.

But even those with private health insurance provided by their employers were affected: one in 10 working-age Americans with employer-sponsored coverage went without a prescription medication in 2007, up from 8.7 percent in 2003, the study found.

Among low-income Americans, three in 10 said they had been unable to fill a prescription because of cost, and nearly one in four adults on Medicaid or state insurance programs said they'd had difficulty affording drugs.

Ms. Felland said a number of factors contributed to the trend, including rising drug prices, the tendency of physicians to prescribe drugs more frequently, the introduction of expensive new specialty medications, and skimpier drug coverage that shifts a greater share of costs onto patients.

"Insurance coverage offers less financial protection against out-of-pocket costs than it did in the past," she said.

The study was based on results from the 2007 Health Tracking Household Survey, a nationally representative telephone survey of 10,400 adults under age 65, many of whom also discussed affordability of medications for their 2,600 children. Participants were asked whether there was a time in the previous 12 months when "you needed prescription medicines but didn't get them because you couldn't afford it."

Overall, 5 percent of children didn't have prescriptions filled in 2007 because of cost, up from 3.1 percent in 2003, and 17.8 percent of working-age adults couldn't afford drugs in 2007, up from 13.8 percent in 2003, the survey found. That translates into about 36.1 million Americans under 65 who were affected, according to the study.

Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that researches health care issues, said the new study confirms previous Commonwealth studies. In 2007, nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults, or an estimated 116 million people, struggled to pay medical bills, went without needed care because of cost, were uninsured for a time or were underinsured, according to the foundation.

"It has become a middle class problem," she added, noting that improving health coverage is an integral part of economic recovery.

"It's not enough just to help people have jobs," she said. "They need to have adequate coverage, so they can get care when they need it and pay the bills they incur when they do seek care."