Saturday, May 30, 2009



U.S. Out Now! From Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and all U.S. bases around the world; End all U.S. Aid to Israel; Get the military out of our schools and our communities; Demand Equal Rights and Justice for ALL!


Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 7:00pm at the Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street, Oakland


"I, Kevin Cooper, am asking you to get involved in a life and death struggle. This struggle is not just about me. Even though the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals just denied my petition, if you read the 101 page dissent you will see that many of the judges acknowledged my innocence. They write that the evidence was tampered with, and that my constitutional rights were violated. I have been fighting, and will continue to fight. And I am asking you to fight, too.

You best believe that this state is now working very, very hard to have the legal obstacles to starting executions again removed. By the time this brief moratorium is over, there may be close to 20 inmates in here without any appeals left. Just think how many more men, and maybe women, will have their appeals denied by the court, and will be sitting here waiting to be tortured and murdered by this state?! This state will become 'Texas West' if they restart this killing machine in California! So what are we going to do about it? Are we ready for it, because it's coming?!"


Dear Friends,

Kevin Cooper, an innocent man on death row, was denied by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on May 11th. His case will next go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Kevin got support from a substantial minority of justices who voted against the denial. Judge Fletcher, who wrote the dissenting opinion, began his dissent: "The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." The dissent describes in detail the case for Kevin's innocence, the tampering, planting, and mishandling of evidence, police and prosecution misconduct, and the constitutional violations.

At the same time, a public comment period on the lethal injection process for the state of California has begun, and will end June 30th with a public hearing in Sacramento. The wrangling over the issue of lethal injection has stopped the State from executing anyone. If the courts approve the latest method, executions will restart.

Kevin, his friends and allies would like to invite you to a meeting to discuss Kevin's case and the state of the death penalty in California, and plan a course of action.

The meeting will be held Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 7:00pm at the Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street, Oakland.


Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and dissent:

May 18, 2009 interview with Kevin Cooper on Flashpoints radio show:

Kevin Cooper's website:


Campaign to End the Death Penalty
phone: 510-394-8625


End the Siege of Gaza! Rally in San Francisco on June 6
Solidarity Day on the 42nd Anniversary of Israel's seizure of Gaza
Support the Palestinian Right of Return! Stop U.S. Aid to Israel!
Saturday, June 6
12:00 noon
UN Plaza (7th and Market Sts.)

Saturday, June 6 marks the 42nd anniversary of the Israeli seizure of Gaza. Organizations and individuals in solidarity with the people of Palestine will be taking to the streets once again to demand: End the Siege of Gaza!

The world looked on in horror this past winter as Israel mercilessly starved and bombed the people of Gaza, killing around 1,200 Palestinians (at least a third of whom were children). The Arab world now refers to the dark days from the end of December to mid-January "The Gaza Massacre." Although the mainstream media no longer focuses on Gaza, the suffering continues there nonetheless. Using the pretext of combating terrorism, Israel has refused to allow in even one truckload of cement into Gaza. In other words, the city that was reduced to rubble still lies in rubble today. All these months later, people are still living in tents and are scarcely able to secure the necessities of life.

People of conscience around the world continue to raise their voices in outrage at this crime against humanity, and in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Gaza. We will also stand for all Palestinian people's inalienable right to return to their homes from which they were evicted. Let your voice be heard -- join us Saturday, June 6, at 12 noon at UN Plaza in San Francisco (7th and Market Sts.). There will be a joint action in Washington DC on June 6.

Sponsoring organizations include ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism), Muslim American Society (MAS) Freedom, National Council of Arab Americans (NCA), Free Palestine Alliance (FPA), Al-Awda - Palestine Right of Return Coalition, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) and more!

Contact us at 415-821-6545 or to endorse or volunteer!

The June 6 demonstration is a major undertaking and we can't do it without the support of the large number of people who are standing with Palestine. Please click this link right now to make a generous donation:



850 Bryant St. @ 7th., San Francisco

The SF 8 are Black community elders and activists arrested in January
2007 on charges related to the 1971 killing of a San Francisco police
officer. The case against the SF8 is a frame up based on
torture-induced "confessions" and fabricated evidence. The same case
was thrown out of court 30 years ago but was revived after 9/11 with
money from Homeland Security. After two and a half long years, the
preliminary hearing is finally starting on June 8 and is expected to
last for three months. The hearing will determine whether or not the
SF8 will go to trial.

In an effort to bolster the very weak case against the SF8, the San
Francisco Chronicle just published a sensationalistic article filled
with racist innuendos and unsubstantiated implications. Without
offering one shred of evidence, the article (John Koopman, 5/24)
implies that the murder of a young white woman in 1971 is somehow
linked to the SF8. We must demand that the Chronicle and other
corporate media stop circulating such blatant misinformation!

* Attend court during the preliminary hearing from June to September (Monday through Thursday)
* Sign the open letter demanding that Attorney General Jerry
Brown drop the charges against the SF8 -

* Write the SF Chronicle demanding that they retract Koopman's
inflammatory article (
* Invite a speaker from the SF 8 Defense Committee to your school
or organization
* Donate to support the work to free the SF8 -
* Sign up to get regular information and updates about the SF8
case -




Appeals court to hear Pinkney defense June 9, 2009
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
The Michigan Citizen

To sign a petition in support of Pinkney:

On June 9, the State Appeals Court of Michigan will hear defense arguments in the case of Rev. Edward Pinkney. Pinkney, who is the leader of the Benton Harbor Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizers (BANCO), was convicted by a Berrien County, all-white jury in March 2007 on trumped-up charges related to false allegations of voter fraud.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan has taken Pinkney's case and was successful in winning his release on bond in December 2008, pending the outcome of the appeal.

Pinkney was convicted of four felony counts and one misdemeanor after heading a successful recall campaign against a City Commissioner.

As a result of the recall, the courts in Berrien County overturned the election results citing irregularities. The first trial against Pinkney ended in a hung jury in 2006. The charges were reinstated leading to Pinkney's conviction and subsequent house arrest. He was initially sentenced to one year in jail and four years probation by Berrien County Judge Alfred Butzbaugh.

Pinkney was placed on a tether and not allowed to step outside of his home. His phone calls were monitored and he was prohibited from engaging in community or church activities in Berrien County.

When Pinkney published an article in the Chicago-based People's Tribune newspaper criticizing Judge Butzbaugh's actions in his case, Berrien County hauled Pinkney into courtroom in December of 2007. He was charged with threatening the life of the trial judge and sentenced to three to 10 years in state prison because in the article he had quoted the Book of Deuteronomy 28:14-22.

Over the next year Pinkney was transferred to over six correctional facilities throughout the state.

A nationwide campaign in his defense drew worldwide attention to the pastor's plight as a political prisoner. Even though Pinkney was released on appeal bond on December 24, 2008, his conditions of probation are draconian.

Rev. Pinkney's bond hearing was held in the same Berrien County court system. Under his appeal bond he is denied the right to preach, grant interviews, write articles, address crowds or engage in politics.

Support Builds for Appeals Hearing

In March three friend-of the court briefs were filed in support of overturning the conviction of Rev. Pinkney. A broad-based group of religious organizations, law professors and free speech advocates submitted the legal documents.

"We are thrilled with the overwhelming support from the religious community, constitutional scholars and free speech organizations," said Michael J. Steinberg, ACLU of Michigan Legal Director. "The groups persuasively argue for the fundamental American principle that a preacher cannot be thrown in prison for his religious speech even if some find it offensive."

The religious freedom brief encompasses the views of numerous faith-based organizations.

Another brief was submitted by 18 law professors from various universities including Wayne State Law School, University of Detroit Law School and the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. The brief states that "In this country, under this Constitution, and on this Court's watch, he must not be imprisoned for speaking his conscience."

Also the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression argued in its brief that "In finding that Rev. Pinkney's newspaper editorial violated his conditions of probation, the lower court punished speech at the core of First Amendment protection: public criticism of the judiciary."

Berrien County and American Apartheid

This southwest Michigan county is a stark representation of racism and national oppression in the United States. Benton Harbor, which is over 90 percent African American, is one of the most underdeveloped cities in the state of Michigan. In neighboring St. Joseph, a nearly all-white city, the standard of living is much higher and it is the seat of the county where the court is located.

Over the last several years a so-called development project, Harbor Shores, has unveiled plans to take control of large sections of Benton Harbor to construct a golf course and residential enclave for the wealthy. These plans, along with astronomical foreclosure and unemployment rates, are forcing many residents of Benton Harbor to leave the area.

According to an article published by Dorothy Pinkney, the wife of the persecuted minister, the presiding trial Judge Butzbaugh has interests in the Harbor Shores development project. The Whirlpool Corporation, which is highly-influential in the region, is major promoter of the Harbor Shores scheme.

"My husband was denied due process and the right under state law to an impartial decision maker because the trial judge, Alfred Butzbaugh, had a financial interest in the development of Harbor Shores. This huge development project is what motivated my husband to seek the recall of the corrupt Benton Harbor City Commissioner Glen Yarbrough," Dorothy Pinkney wrote.

She continues by pointing out that "The trial court's financial interest in the Harbor Shores project was not known to my husband until after the trial. The Harbor Shores project which has been primarily pressed by Cornerstone Alliance on behalf of Whirlpool Corporation began in 1998 when the community economic development corporation was formed by John Dewane of the law firm Butzbaugh and Ryan." (BANCO website, April 2009)

The Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice (MECAWI), the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO) and the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR) are mobilizing people to attend the appeals hearing for Rev. Pinkney on June 9.

The hearing will take place in Grand Rapids at the Court of Appeals Building, 350 Ottawa St at 9:00 a.m.

For information on transportation from the Detroit area please call MECAWI at 313.680.5508. [For other Michigan transportation, contact]


Urgent News
Hearing on Death Penalty June 30, Sacramento

On May 1st, the State of California announced that it is moving forward with developing execution procedures in order to comply with a recent legal ruling and resume executions, which have been on hold for more than three years.

The State will be holding a hearing on Tuesday, June 30th from 9am to 3pm in Sacramento to hear public comments about the proposed execution procedures.

Death Penalty Focus, along with our allies, will be organizing a critical Day of Action to End the Death Penalty on June 30th.

What You Can Do to Help:

1. Please plan to attend the hearing on June 30th in Sacramento. We will be organizing buses from the SF Bay Area (more details to be announced very soon).


We need to pack the room with more than 300 hundred supporters. More than one hundred individuals will be needed to give public comment. If they cannot accommodate everyone who signs up to speak, it is possible they will have to schedule another hearing.

After the hearing, we will head to the Capitol to share ours views with elected officials.

2. Please plan to submit a written comment to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). In just a few days we will be sending out suggestions for your comments and instructions on how to submit your comments. The CDCR is required by law to review and respond to every written comment. We need to generate thousands of comments from across the state, country and globe. We need to flood them with paperwork.

Please help us make this Day of Action a success!

Legislative Successes

Colorado came very close to ending the death penalty this month when their State Senate voted 17-18 in favor of replacing the death penalty with life without parole and redirecting funding to solve murders. The State House has already passed the bill by a vote of 33-32.

On May 13, the Connecticut House voted 90-56 in favor of ending the death penalty. The bill now moves on to the Senate.

Several abolition bills are still active in other states, including New Hampshire, Illinois, Washington, and also in the U.S. Senate.


Dear Brothers and Sisters:

On behalf of the National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations, we are writing to invite you and members of your organization to attend a national antiwar conference to be held July 10-12, 2009 at La Roche College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The purpose of this conference is to bring together antiwar and social justice activists from across the country to discuss and decide what we can do together to end the wars, occupations, bombing attacks, threats and interventions that are taking place in the Middle East and beyond, which the U.S. government is conducting and promoting.

We believe that such a conference will be welcomed by the peoples of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine and Iran, who are the victims of these policies. It will also be welcomed by victims of the depression-type conditions in this country, with tens of millions losing jobs, homes, health care coverage and pensions, while trillions of dollars are spent bailing out Wall Street and the banks, waging expansionist wars and occupations, and funding the Pentagon's insatiable appetite.

This will be the National Assembly's second conference. The first was held in Cleveland last June and it was attended by over 400 people, including top leaders of the antiwar movement and activists from many states. After discussion and debate, attendees voted - on the basis of one person, one vote - to urge the movement to join together for united spring actions. The National Assembly endorsed and helped build the March actions in Washington D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles, and the April actions in New York City.

We are all aware of the developments since our last conference - the election of a new administration in the U.S., the ongoing occupation of Iraq, the escalation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the horrific Israeli bombing of Gaza, and the extreme peril of an additional war in the Middle East, this time against Iran. Given all this, it is crystal clear that a strong, united, independent antiwar movement is needed now more than ever. We urge you to help build such a movement by attending the July conference and sharing your ideas and proposals with other attendees regarding where the antiwar movement goes from here.

For more information, please visit the National Assembly's website at, email us at, or call 216-736-4704. We will be glad to send you upon request brochures announcing the July conference (a copy is attached) and you can also register for the conference online. [Please be aware that La Roche College is making available private rooms with baths at a very reasonable rate, but will only guarantee them if reserved by June 25.]

Yours for peace, justice and unity,
National Assembly Administrative Body

Zaineb Alani, Author of The Words of an Iraqi War Survivor & More; Colia Clark, Chair, Richard Wright Centennial Committee, Grandmothers for Mumia Abu-Jamal; Greg Coleridge, Coordinator, Northeast Ohio Anti-War Coalition (NOAC) and Economic Justice and Empowerment Program Director, Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee (AFSC); Alan Dale, Iraq Peace Action Coalition (MN); Donna Dewitt, President, South Carolina AFL-CIO; Mike Ferner, President, Veterans for Peace; Jerry Gordon, Former National Co-Coordinator of the Vietnam-Era National Peace Action Coalition (NPAC) and Member, U.S. Labor Against the War Steering Committee; Jonathan Hutto, Navy Petty Officer, Author of Anti-War Soldier; Co-Founder of Appeal for Redress; Marilyn Levin, Coordinating Committee, Greater Boston United for Justice with Peace, Middle East Crisis Coalition; Jeff Mackler, Founder, San Francisco Mobilization for Peace, Jobs and Justice; Fred Mason, President, Maryland State and District of Columbia AFL-CIO and Co-Convenor, U.S. Labor Against the War; Mary Nichols-Rhodes, Progressive Democrats of America/Ohio Branch; Lynne Stewart, Lynne Stewart Organization/Long Time Attorney and Defender of Constitutional Rights [Bay Area United Against War also was represented at the founding conference and will be there again this year. Carole Seligman and I initiated the motion to include adding opposition to the War in Afghanistan to the demands and title of the National Assembly.




FLASHPOINTS Interview with Innocent San Quentin Death Row Inmate
Kevin Cooper -- Aired Monday, May 18,2009
To learn more about Kevin Cooper go to:
San Francisco Chronicle article on the recent ruling:
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and dissent:


Don't let them kill Troy Davis

The case of Troy Davis highlights the need for criminal justice reform in the United States.

Please help us fight for the rights -- and life -- of Troy Davis today by signing the petition below, asking Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to act on behalf of justice and commute Troy Davis's death sentence to ensure that Georgia does not put to death a man who may well be innocent.

Mr. Davis has a strong claim to innocence, but he could be executed without a court ever holding a hearing on his claims. Because of this, I urge you to act in the interests of justice and support clemency for Troy Davis. An execution without a proper hearing on significant evidence of innocence would compromise the integrity of Georgia's justice system.

As you may know, Mr. Davis was convicted of the 1989 murder of police officer Mark MacPhail, a conviction based solely on witness testimony. Seven of the nine non-police witnesses have recanted or contradicted their trial testimony.

The courts, citing procedural rules and time limits, have so far refused to hold an evidentiary hearing to examine these witnesses. Executive clemency exists, and executive action - and your leadership - is required to preserve justice when the protections afforded by our appeals process fail to do so.

Thank you for your attention.

See also:

In the Absence of Proof
Op-Ed Columnist
May 23, 2009


Support the troops who refuse to fight!






1) France Opens First Military Bases in the Gulf
May 27, 2009

2) French Repression after General Strike Victory in Guadeloupe
The UGTG (General Union of Workers of Guadeloupe) issues call to the democratic and workers' movement internationally:
Elie Domota
Secretary General
General Union of Workers of Guadeloupe (UGTG)

3) Antitrust Laws a Hurdle to Health Care Overhaul
"Antitrust lawyers say doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and drug makers will be running huge legal risks if they get together and agree on a strategy to hold down prices and reduce the growth of health spending." [Wouldn't you know? It's illegal to cut healthcare costs!]
May 27, 2009

4) Abu Ghraib Abuse Photos "Show Rape"
By Duncan Gardham and Paul Cruickshank
Thursday 28 May 2009

5) Another Rescue?
May 29, 2009

6) The Big Inflation Scare
Op-Ed Columnist
May 29, 2009

7) Off-Duty Officer Is Fatally Shot by Police in Harlem
May 30, 2009

8) Misery Hangs Over Gaza Despite Pledges of Help
May 29, 2009

9) Still Working, but Making Do With Less
May 29, 2009

10) Brooklyn Man Claiming Police Assault in Subway Station Sues
May 29, 2009

11) Massachusetts, Model for Universal Health Care, Sees Ups and Downs in Policy
May 28, 2009

12) On Diverse Force, Blacks Still Face Special Peril
May 31, 2009

13) Her Prince Has Come. Critics, Too.
May 31, 2009

14) Deep Cuts Threaten to Reshape California
“Government doesn’t provide services to rich people,” Mike Genest, the state’s finance director, said on a conference call with reporters on Friday. “It doesn’t even really provide services to the middle class.” He added: “You have to cut where the money is.”
Political Memo
May 31, 2009


1) France Opens First Military Bases in the Gulf
May 27, 2009

PARIS - President Nicolas Sarkozy opened France's first military facilities in the Gulf on Tuesday, deepening the government's alliance with the United Arab Emirates and highlighting its shifting foreign policy priorities.

Mr. Sarkozy attended a ceremony to open French naval, air and army facilities in Abu Dhabi. The bases are the first permanent French military installations to be built outside of French territory since the process of decolonization began more than half a century ago.

The Gulf is of geopolitical importance both because of its gas and oil resources and because of its proximity to Iran. Abu Dhabi sits just 225 kilometers, or 140 miles, directly across the Gulf from Iran.

"The permanent French military installation in Abu Dhabi shows the responsibility that France, as a global power, agrees to assume with its closest partners, in a region that is a fault line for the whole world," Mr. Sarkozy said in the text of a speech delivered in the Emirate.

The new military presence comprises a French facility at the Emirate's Al Dhafra air base, which can accommodate Mirage and Rafale jets; a naval base of eight hectares, or about 20 acres, at the port of Mina Zayed, which can handle any French naval vessels except aircraft carriers, though these can berth in a nearby port; and an army camp at Zayed, specializing in urban combat training. There are also intelligence-gathering facilities.

Eventually, about 500 French military personnel will be permanently stationed at the sites.

France's main military base serving the Gulf region is in Djibouti, a former colony on the mouth of the Red Sea, which serves as a hub for its operations against pirates. Mr. Sarkozy said the new facilities would not affect the French presence in Djibouti.

France signaled a strategic policy shift last summer with a government "White Paper," which sought to better prepare the country for a world in which conventional military threats are being replaced by a multitude of complex, global risks. The paper also identified a strategic geographical axis of priorities from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean.

This was a rejection of the policies set under former President Charles de Gaulle, which stressed the independence of French foreign policy.

Under Mr. Sarkozy, France has rejoined the military command of NATO, has sent troops to Afghanistan and has joined the international effort at protecting vital shipping lanes in the Gulf.

"This initiative continues a longstanding cooperation between France and the Emirate, while also allowing France to extend its reach in a very strategic region," said Denis Bauchard, a senior fellow at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris.

The former presidents François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac deepened cooperation with Abu Dhabi through arms sales. Paris and Abu Dhabi also signed bilateral defense accords in 1991 and 1995, which were updated Tuesday.

Mr. Sarkozy also hopes that his trip will help secure the sale of Dassault Rafale jet fighters to replace Mirage 2000s in the Emirates Air Force, as well as satellite equipment and a civilian nuclear contract. France has been unable to sell the Rafale abroad, due in part to fierce international competition, especially from Lockheed Martin's F-16 Falcon.

The new French facilities were originally agreed upon in mid-2007 after an approach by the Emirate. The project has been managed by the Élysée Palace. Abu Dhabi, the wealthiest and most influential of the Emirates, paid for the installations.

The United States remains the major foreign military presence in the Gulf with strategic air bases, logistics operations and the headquarters of the 5th Fleet in Bahrain.

The agreement with France represents an insurance policy while the United States scales back in the region as the conflict in Iraq winds down, analysts said.

Last week, Tehran said that it had successfully tested a "Sajil" missile, a surface-to-surface weapon with a range of 2,000 kilometers. The reported launching followed efforts by the Obama administration to seek a new relationship with Tehran to forestall a nuclear program that Western countries allege is designed to build a nuclear bomb.

Separately, Mr. Sarkozy also used the two-day trip to press for talks between oil producers and consumers to find "a satisfactory level" for crude to avoid the "erratic movements" of prices seen last year. Such talks could cover stocks, transport, technology, the organization of markets and speculation.

Mr. Sarkozy said he planned to propose a mechanism at a summit of the Group of 8 leaders in Italy in July.

"Why don't we agree, producer countries and consumers, on general price guidelines to give to the market, I would say even a price range which would guarantee investments over the long term but which would not overwhelm consumer economies," he said during the speech.

His trip also included a visit to the future site of a branch of the Louvre Museum in the Emirate.


2) French Repression after General Strike Victory in Guadeloupe
The UGTG (General Union of Workers of Guadeloupe) issues call to the democratic and workers' movement internationally:
Elie Domota
Secretary General
General Union of Workers of Guadeloupe (UGTG)

Dear comrades, dear friends,

Again the French State, with the complicity of key elected officials from Guadeloupe, has used its repressive apparatus against the youth, workers, and people of Guadeloupe.

Failing to push back the movement underway for five months against pwofitasyon-the mass movement led by Guadeloupan organizations, especially the trade unions-the French State has now decided to use its judicial repressive apparatus toward this same goal. It is important to remember that this movement led to the signing of the Bino Agreement on February 26, 2009-an agreement that won a 200-euro increase in the monthly minimum wage-and of a Memorandum of Understanding on March 4, 2009, which lifted the general strike that began on January 20.

Now, as a backlash, we are witnessing a series of criminal investigations and trials against leaders of this movement, particularly against leaders of the UGTG trade union federation:

• March 8: opening of a judicial inquiry against Elie Domota, Secretary General of the UGTG and spokesperson of the LKP (The Collective Against Exploitation) coalition;

• May 15: Trial against youth from Gourbeyre;

• May 19: For having denounced the illegal wiretapping against them, Sarah Masters and Patrice Aristide Tacit were summoned to the court of Pointe à Pitre by a judge of the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Paris; the Attorney General of the Lower Court requested the removal of the case by the magistrate court of Pointe à Pitre;

• May 20: Summons to the judicial authorities issued for Michel Madassamy and Gabriel Bourguinion, leaders of the UGTG;

• May 26: Trial of Raymond Gautherot, former Secretary General of the UGTG; sentenced to three months in prison.

• May 29: Trial of Jocelyn Leborgne, member of the Union Council of UGTG;

• June 4: Trial of Comrade Max Delourneau for his participation in the mobilizations of the LKP.

• June 9: Trial of Brother Christopher, a member of Union Council of the UGTG.

Why this pattern of repression against the workers, youth, people of Guadeloupe?

Because the workers, with their unions, are refusing to capitulate to the attacks that are coming down from all sides: they have continued to organize strikes and mass demonstrations of striking employees to enforce the Bino agreement-against threats of all sorts and the blackmail or layoffs.

Because on May 1, 2009 there were more than 30,000 demonstrators in Petit Canal. Because the LKP continues to make gains in the negotiations on the platform of 146 points that are ongoing with the support of the population. Because thousands of youth, unemployed, workers, retirees, continue to participate in meetings in the municipalities in response to the call of LKP.

It is thanks to the determination of the workers and people of Guadeloupe, through the general strike of 44 days and the mobilization of the entire population, including a mass protest with 100,000 demonstrators, that we were able to obtain satisfaction of our demands. It is also thanks to your international solidarity.

On behalf of the rights of the workers and people of Guadeloupe to fight for their legitimate demands and against repression, we again call for your international solidarity.


Elie Domota

Secretary General

General Union of Workers of Guadeloupe (UGTG)

Messages of protest should be sent to:

Prefect of Guadeloupe

Lardenoy Street, 97100 Basse-Terre.

Fax: International: 00 335 90 81 58 32, or: 00 590 590 8158 32

From France: 05 90 81 58 32

Yves Jego, Secretary of State for Overseas Department

27, rue Oudinot, 75007 Paris

Fax: International: 00 331 53 69 28 04

From France: 01 53 69 28 04

Tribunal de Grande Instance de Pointe à P itre Guadeloupe

Fax - International: 00 33 590 8361 04, or: 00 590 590 8361 04

From France: 05 90 83 61 04

Tribunal de Grande Instance de Basse-Terre Guadeloupe

Fax: International: 00 33 590 8063 61 or: 00 590 590 8063 61

From France: 05 90 80 63 61

Please send copies to:

UGTG, rue Paul-Lacavé, 97110 Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe.

Fax: International: 00 335 90 89 08 70, or: 00 590 89 08 70

From France 05 90 806361



3) Antitrust Laws a Hurdle to Health Care Overhaul
"Antitrust lawyers say doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and drug makers will be running huge legal risks if they get together and agree on a strategy to hold down prices and reduce the growth of health spending." [Wouldn't you know? It's illegal to cut healthcare costs!]
May 27, 2009

WASHINGTON - President Obama's campaign to cut health costs by $2 trillion over the next decade, announced with fanfare two weeks ago, may have hit another snag: the nation's antitrust laws.

Antitrust lawyers say doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and drug makers will be running huge legal risks if they get together and agree on a strategy to hold down prices and reduce the growth of health spending.

Robert F. Leibenluft, a former official at the Federal Trade Commission, said, "Any agreement among competitors with regard to prices or price increases - even if they set a maximum - would raise legal concerns."

Already, some leaders of the health care industry who appeared at the White House on May 11 say the president may have overstated their cost-control commitment. Three days after the gathering, hospital executives said that they had agreed to help save $2 trillion by gradually slowing the growth of health spending, but that they did not commit to cutting the growth rate by 1.5 percentage points each year for 10 years.

White House officials say even the more limited commitment is significant. Under current law, federal officials predict that health spending will grow an average of 6.2 percent a year, to $4.4 trillion in 2018.

Mr. Obama is asking the industry for detailed proposals to control costs. But so far the administration has not offered the industry any relief from antitrust laws and has, in fact, vowed to step up enforcement.

As a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama said consumers had suffered because of "lax enforcement" of antitrust laws in many health insurance markets.

In 1993, when President Bill Clinton made the last major effort to overhaul the health care system, the lobby for the drug industry, then known as the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, devised a voluntary cost-control plan. Under it, each drug company offered to limit the annual increase in the average price of its prescription drug products to the increase in the Consumer Price Index.

The Justice Department rejected the proposal, saying it would violate antitrust laws. In blocking the proposal, the department said the Supreme Court had made clear that agreements setting maximum prices were just as illegal as agreements that set minimum ones.

"Such maximum price-fixing agreements create the risk that the maximum prices will become minimum or uniform prices," the department said in a business review letter signed Oct. 1, 1993, by Anne K. Bingaman, then the assistant attorney general in charge of the antitrust division.

In 1978, hospitals also asked the Justice Department for an assurance they would not be charged with antitrust violations when they undertook a "voluntary effort" to curb costs as an alternative to legislation proposed by President Jimmy Carter. The department would not provide such an assurance.

Many savings now envisioned by the health care industry would require much closer cooperation by independent doctors and hospitals, taking them into a gray area of the law where federal agencies have not provided clear guidance.

In a recent letter to the Senate Finance Committee, the American Hospital Association said uncertainty about enforcement of the antitrust laws "makes it difficult for a hospital and doctors to collaborate to improve care" and lower costs.

Doctors often want to collaborate and share information about prices without sharing financial risk or fully merging their office practices. The American Medical Association has asked Congress to revise antitrust laws so doctors can collectively negotiate with insurers over fees and other issues.

The Federal Trade Commission has repeatedly challenged such collective action as illegal price-fixing, even though doctors say they are at a severe disadvantage in trying to negotiate with giant insurance companies.

A new study by an economist at Northwestern University, Leemore S. Dafny, finds that a growing number of geographic markets are dominated by a handful of insurance companies, and that the decline in competition may contribute to higher prices.

Among the groups that say they have joined together to rein in health costs, besides the hospital and medical associations, are America's Health Insurance Plans and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Jamie Court, the president of Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy group, said he was wary of such joint efforts.

"When companies that control the health care system get together to change it, there is a serious risk that they are doing it to stifle competition at the expense of consumers," Mr. Court said.

The Federal Trade Commission says that while cooperation among health care providers can benefit consumers, it can also increase the bargaining power of hospitals and doctors, making it easier for them to set prices and eliminate competition.


4) Abu Ghraib Abuse Photos "Show Rape"
By Duncan Gardham and Paul Cruickshank
Thursday 28 May 2009

At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.

Another apparently shows a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts.

Detail of the content emerged from Major General Antonio Taguba, the former army officer who conducted an inquiry into the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq.

Allegations of rape and abuse were included in his 2004 report but the fact there were photographs was never revealed. He has now confirmed their existence in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

The graphic nature of some of the images may explain the US President's attempts to block the release of an estimated 2,000 photographs from prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan despite an earlier promise to allow them to be published.

Maj Gen Taguba, who retired in January 2007, said he supported the President's decision, adding: "These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency.

"I am not sure what purpose their release would serve other than a legal one and the consequence would be to imperil our troops, the only protectors of our foreign policy, when we most need them, and British troops who are trying to build security in Afghanistan.

"The mere description of these pictures is horrendous enough, take my word for it."

In April, Mr Obama's administration said the photographs would be released and it would be "pointless to appeal" against a court judgment in favour of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

But after lobbying from senior military figures, Mr Obama changed his mind saying they could put the safety of troops at risk.

Earlier this month, he said: "The most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to inflame anti-American public opinion and to put our troops in greater danger."

It was thought the images were similar to those leaked five years ago, which showed naked and bloody prisoners being intimidated by dogs, dragged around on a leash, piled into a human pyramid and hooded and attached to wires.

Mr Obama seemed to reinforce that view by adding: "I want to emphasise that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib."

The latest photographs relate to 400 cases of alleged abuse between 2001 and 2005 in Abu Ghraib and six other prisons. Mr Obama said the individuals involved had been "identified, and appropriate actions" taken.

Maj Gen Taguba's internal inquiry into the abuse at Abu Ghraib, included sworn statements by 13 detainees, which, he said in the report, he found "credible based on the clarity of their statements and supporting evidence provided by other witnesses."

Among the graphic statements, which were later released under US freedom of information laws, is that of Kasim Mehaddi Hilas in which he says: "I saw [name of a translator] ******* a kid, his age would be about 15 to 18 years. The kid was hurting very bad and they covered all the doors with sheets. Then when I heard screaming I climbed the door because on top it wasn't covered and I saw [name] who was wearing the military uniform, putting his **** in the little kid's ***.... and the female soldier was taking pictures."

The translator was an American Egyptian who is now the subject of a civil court case in the US.

Three detainees, including the alleged victim, refer to the use of a phosphorescent tube in the sexual abuse and another to the use of wire, while the victim also refers to part of a policeman's "stick" all of which were apparently photographed.


5) Another Rescue?
May 29, 2009

Remember the days, not so long ago, when you had never heard of subprime mortgages or credit default swaps or collateralized debt obligations? As government officials try to sort out those messes, states and localities are asking for federal aid for another financial trouble child: the VRDO, or the variable rate demand obligation.

A VRDO (rhymes with weirdo) is a type of municipal bond that combines a long maturity with a floating interest rate and other tricky features. With some $400 billion outstanding, VRDOs are a big chunk of the $2.7 trillion in municipal debt that has been issued by more than 50,000 entities, mainly state and local governments.

As the recession has deepened, impairing the credit quality of insurers and banks that back the bonds, interest-rate increases have been triggered on some VRDOs. That has led to higher debt payments at a time when municipalities can least afford it. It has also become increasingly more expensive to issue new bonds, because fewer insurers and banks are able or willing to backstop them, especially for cash-strapped issuers.

The result has been less access to capital at a higher cost, a squeeze that state and local governments say will only prolong the recession.

On Capitol Hill, Representative Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, is now drafting legislation that would provide federal backing for VRDOs and other municipal bonds. That would make it easier and less costly for state and local governments to borrow.

At first glance, support for the municipal bond market seems like one more unfortunate but unavoidable lifeline for a troubled financial system. But we are not yet persuaded that the need is as urgent as some politicians are claiming - or if such support would be wise.

States and localities are hurting, no doubt. But they have also been on the receiving end of substantial federal stimulus dollars, and will likely receive more if the downturn deepens. They also will be the direct or indirect beneficiaries of other policy actions - like federal foreclosure relief and the bank bailouts. Encouraging more borrowing, especially with potentially dicey instruments, may not be the best way to help.

There is a legitimate concern that propping up VRDOs could lead governments to over rely on them, even though the financial crisis has exposed their weaknesses. This latest round of trouble is also one more reminder of the urgent need to reform the credit rating agencies, whose faulty ratings led in part to the municipalities' reliance on VRDOs and other borrowing.

If federal backing is deemed necessary, Congress must be frank about the costs and risks. Debt guarantees by the Treasury can carry a cost, even if there is no immediate outlay. In the year a guarantee is extended, the federal budget records an amount that the government is likely to lose in the event of default. Each year the amount is re-estimated, based on the loan's performance. Losses add to the budget deficit and the federal debt.

That isn't the only cost. The more the government spends, guarantees and borrows to prop up the financial system, the more nervous investors have become about the possibility of future inflation, a worry that of late has contributed to big swings in the stock market.

In these very difficult times, states and localities certainly need help from the federal government. But before any support is provided to the municipal debt market, the case for aid has to be made based on thorough analysis and full transparency.


6) The Big Inflation Scare
Op-Ed Columnist
May 29, 2009

Suddenly it seems as if everyone is talking about inflation. Stern opinion pieces warn that hyperinflation is just around the corner. And markets may be heeding these warnings: Interest rates on long-term government bonds are up, with fear of future inflation one possible reason for the interest-rate spike.

But does the big inflation scare make any sense? Basically, no - with one caveat I'll get to later. And I suspect that the scare is at least partly about politics rather than economics.

First things first. It's important to realize that there's no hint of inflationary pressures in the economy right now. Consumer prices are lower now than they were a year ago, and wage increases have stalled in the face of high unemployment. Deflation, not inflation, is the clear and present danger.

So if prices aren't rising, why the inflation worries? Some claim that the Federal Reserve is printing lots of money, which must be inflationary, while others claim that budget deficits will eventually force the U.S. government to inflate away its debt.

The first story is just wrong. The second could be right, but isn't.

Now, it's true that the Fed has taken unprecedented actions lately. More specifically, it has been buying lots of debt both from the government and from the private sector, and paying for these purchases by crediting banks with extra reserves. And in ordinary times, this would be highly inflationary: banks, flush with reserves, would increase loans, which would drive up demand, which would push up prices.

But these aren't ordinary times. Banks aren't lending out their extra reserves. They're just sitting on them - in effect, they're sending the money right back to the Fed. So the Fed isn't really printing money after all.

Still, don't such actions have to be inflationary sooner or later? No. The Bank of Japan, faced with economic difficulties not too different from those we face today, purchased debt on a huge scale between 1997 and 2003. What happened to consumer prices? They fell.

All in all, much of the current inflation discussion calls to mind what happened during the early years of the Great Depression when many influential people were warning about inflation even as prices plunged. As the British economist Ralph Hawtrey wrote, "Fantastic fears of inflation were expressed. That was to cry, Fire, Fire in Noah's Flood." And he went on, "It is after depression and unemployment have subsided that inflation becomes dangerous."

Is there a risk that we'll have inflation after the economy recovers? That's the claim of those who look at projections that federal debt may rise to more than 100 percent of G.D.P. and say that America will eventually have to inflate away that debt - that is, drive up prices so that the real value of the debt is reduced.

Such things have happened in the past. For example, France ultimately inflated away much of the debt it incurred while fighting World War I.

But more modern examples are lacking. Over the past two decades, Belgium, Canada and, of course, Japan have all gone through episodes when debt exceeded 100 percent of G.D.P. And the United States itself emerged from World War II with debt exceeding 120 percent of G.D.P. In none of these cases did governments resort to inflation to resolve their problems.

So is there any reason to think that inflation is coming? Some economists have argued for moderate inflation as a deliberate policy, as a way to encourage lending and reduce private debt burdens. I'm sympathetic to these arguments and made a similar case for Japan in the 1990s. But the case for inflation never made headway with Japanese policy makers then, and there's no sign it's getting traction with U.S. policy makers now.

All of this raises the question: If inflation isn't a real risk, why all the claims that it is?

Well, as you may have noticed, economists sometimes disagree. And big disagreements are especially likely in weird times like the present, when many of the normal rules no longer apply.

But it's hard to escape the sense that the current inflation fear-mongering is partly political, coming largely from economists who had no problem with deficits caused by tax cuts but suddenly became fiscal scolds when the government started spending money to rescue the economy. And their goal seems to be to bully the Obama administration into abandoning those rescue efforts.

Needless to say, the president should not let himself be bullied. The economy is still in deep trouble and needs continuing help.

Yes, we have a long-run budget problem, and we need to start laying the groundwork for a long-run solution. But when it comes to inflation, the only thing we have to fear is inflation fear itself.


7) Off-Duty Officer Is Fatally Shot by Police in Harlem
May 30, 2009

A New York City police officer who had just gotten off duty was fatally shot late Thursday night in East Harlem by a fellow officer who mistook him for an armed criminal, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said.

The slain officer, Omar J. Edwards, 25, who was assigned to patrol housing projects and was wearing plain clothes, was shot in the arm and chest after a team of three other plainclothes officers in a car saw him chasing a man on East 125th Street between First and Second Avenues with his gun drawn, Mr. Kelly said.

Sources identified the officer who fired the shot as Andrew Dunton, a four-year veteran of the force from Long Island.

Officer Dunton and the two other officers assigned to the anticrime unit in the 25th Precinct got out of their vehicle and confronted Officer Edwards. The department on Friday was investigating whether the officers had identified themselves or demanded that Officer Edwards drop his weapon before Officer Dunton opened fire.

Mr. Kelly said two of six bullets fired from the officer's 9-millimeter Glock struck Officer Edwards, who had just come off duty and was not wearing a bulletproof vest.

Officer Edwards, a recently married father of two from Brooklyn, was taken to Harlem Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead at 11:21 p.m. No one else was injured.

"While we don't know all of the details of what happened tonight, this is a tragedy," Mayor Bloomberg said during an early morning news conference at the hospital. "Rest assured we will find out exactly what happened here and see what we can learn from it so it can never happen again."

The shooting has once again raised questions again about departmental procedures involving communications among plainclothes officers - particularly those in different units - as well as issues of race.

Officer Edwards was black, and Officer Dunton is white.

While a source in a position to know said that he had come across nothing so far that raised questions about the conduct of Officer Dunton or his fellow officers, the Rev. Al Sharpton said on Friday that he was "concerned of a growing pattern of black officers being killed with the assumption that they are the criminals."

"This calls for federal investigation and intervention to sort out the facts and bring about a just resolve," Mr. Sharpton said. "Can police investigate themselves fairly and impartially? It would seem very difficult at best and unlikely in fact."

Mayor Bloomberg said on his morning radio show that investigators were reviewing security tapes of the shooting, which he maintained was not deliberate, and interviewing witnesses. Investigators were also questioning the man Officer Edwards had been chasing.

"The only thing that can come out of this is to improve procedures so perhaps it doesn't happen again," the mayor said. "We all know policing is a dangerous job and accidents happen when people have guns in their hands, even legal guns in this case which they are authorized and trained to use."

He added: "It's easy for people to say, 'oh, you know, how can this happen,' but when the adrenaline is running, and you don't know where the bullets are coming from, and you don't know who that person is on the other side of the street, it's easy to second guess. That's why they are trained. Can you ever do enough training? I suppose not."

The department's policy manual - the Patrol Guide - is specific in putting the responsibility on the off-duty officer in such situations.

In one section, titled "confrontation situations," it says that if an off-duty officer is trying to make a arrest and is confronted by an on-duty officer, that the off-duty officer must abandon the arrest effort and comply with the on-duty officer's orders.

"In such encounters, the actions of the members in the first few seconds are of vital importance," the guide states. "It must be absolutely clear in the minds of all members of the service that in any confrontation, the burden of proving identity rests on the confronted officer, whether on or off duty. The challenging officer, however, also has a responsibility to use sound tactics and judgment in approaching the situation."

For member of the Police Department, the tragedy was compounded because Officer Edwards's father-in-law is also a police officer stationed in the 67th Precinct in Brooklyn, officials said.

Officer Edwards, who joined the force in July 2007, was working as part of an Impact Response Team, a roving team of officers that supplements the department's prime crime-suppression program: Operation Impact. The program teams new officers with seasoned supervisors to flood areas where crime is surging.

Mr. Kelly said the tragic string of events began when Officer Edwards left duty about 10:30 p.m., approached his car and saw that a man had broken the driver's side window and was rummaging through the vehicle. The two scuffled, and the man escaped Officer Edwards's grip by slipping out of his sweater.

A police official said officers at the scene learned that Officer Edwards was a colleague only when they ripped open his shirt in an effort to revive him and saw a Police Academy T-shirt. They then searched his pants pockets and found a badge.

Officer Dunton and his two colleagues in the car that spotted Officer Edwards - one of them a sergeant - were all assigned to the anti-crime unit from the 25th Precinct. Investigators were interviewing the two officers in the car who did not fire at Officer Edwards. The department does not interview officers involved in fatal shootings until a prosecutor determines whether criminal charges will be brought.

The man who apparently broke into Officer Edwards's car, Miguel Santiago, was also being interviewed by investigators, officials said. The police said his five previous arrests include charges of robbery, assault and drug violations.

There have been at least two cases of off-duty police officers being shot by colleagues in the New York region in recent years.

In January 2008, a Mount Vernon officer, Christopher A. Ridley, 23, was killed by Westchester County police officers in downtown White Plains as he tried to restrain a homeless man whom he had seen assault another person.

And in February 2006, a New York City officer, Eric Hernandez, 24, was fatally shot by a fellow officer while responding to a 911 call about a fight at a White Castle restaurant in the Bronx.

Thursday night's shooting occurred near the approach to the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge (formerly the Triborough).

Maalik Lane, 20, was waiting for a bus nearby at 125th Street and Third Avenue when, he said, he heard more than five gunshots.

"I saw police, up to 20 police cars," driving by at high speeds, said Mr. Lane, who lives on Wards Island. "I was, like, someone is having a shootout with police. The bus driver said, 'Somebody shot the police.' "

Mr. Lane added, "I feared for my life."

Just before 1 a.m. Friday, the ambulance parking bay at the hospital had been roped off, with six police officers standing sentry. More than a dozen officers, some in uniform, others in plain clothes, paced and waited for news.

After the news conference, about 3 a.m., officers left the hospital, several in tears and consoling one another.

On Friday morning, members of the Police Department's football team, commiserated over their teammate, colleague and friend - "a great guy," as Det. Ed Gardner put it - during a practice at Erasmus Hall High School.

"We are a little sluggish today," said Detective Gardner, one of the team's administrators. "Everybody is like, it is like you are missing a family member."

It was not long ago that the team lost another member to friendly fire: Officer Eric Hernandez.

"Omar is the same type of person," he said. "A great man."

Detective Gardner said that Officer Edwards, though not a starter, played on the team last year. This year he was taking time off because of his recent marriage.

"He was a team player, he said, "and he was all about team."

Mitchell L. Blumenthal, Jason Grant, Jennifer Mascia and Mathew R. Warren contributed reporting.


8) Misery Hangs Over Gaza Despite Pledges of Help
May 29, 2009

GAZA - Dozens of families still live in tents amid collapsed buildings and rusting pipes. With construction materials barred, a few are building mud-brick homes. Everything but food and medicine has to be smuggled through desert tunnels from Egypt. Among the items that people seek is an addictive pain reliever used to fight depression.

Four months after Israel waged a war here to stop Hamas rocket fire and two years after Hamas took full control of this coastal strip, Gaza is like an island adrift. Squeezed from without by an Israeli and Egyptian boycott and from within by their Islamist rulers, the 1.5 million people here are cut off from any productivity or hope.

"Right after the war, everybody came - journalists, foreign governments and charities promising to help," said Hashem Dardona, 47, who is unemployed. "Now, nobody comes."

But with the Obama administration pressing Israel to allow in reconstruction materials, and with attention increasingly focused on internal Palestinian divisions, Gaza will soon be back at the center of Middle East peace negotiations. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, met with President Obama on Thursday in Washington.

For many Israelis, Gaza is a symbol of all that is wrong with Palestinian sovereignty, which they view increasingly as an opportunity for anti-Israeli forces, notably Iran, to get within rocket range.

That leaves Gaza suspended in a state of misery that defies easy categorization. It is, of course, crowded and poor, but it is better off than nearly all of Africa as well as parts of Asia. There is no acute malnutrition, and infant mortality rates compare with those in Egypt and Jordan, according to Mahmoud Daher of the World Health Organization here.

This is because although Israel and Egypt have shut the borders for the past three years in an effort to squeeze Hamas, Israel rations aid daily, allowing in about 100 trucks of food and medicine. Military officers in Tel Aviv count the calories to avoid a disaster. And the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees runs schools and medical clinics that are clean and efficient.

But there are many levels of deprivation short of catastrophe, and Gaza inhabits most of them. It has almost nothing of a functioning economy apart from basic commerce and farming. Education has declined terribly; medical care is declining.

There are tens of thousands of educated and ambitious people here, teachers, engineers, translators, business managers, who have nothing to do but grow frustrated. They cannot practice their professions and they cannot leave. They collect welfare and smoke in cafes. A United Nations survey shows a spike in domestic violence.

Some people say they have started to take a small capsule known as Tramal, the commercial name for an opiate-like painkiller that increases sexual desire and a sense of control. Hamas has recently warned of imprisonment for those who traffic in and take the drug.

Yet the pills arrive, along with clothing, furniture and cigarettes, through the hundreds of tunnels punched into the desert at the southern border town of Rafah by rough-edged entrepreneurs who pay the Hamas authorities a tax on the goods.

Similar tunnels also serve as conduits for arms. Israel periodically bombs those in hopes of weakening Hamas, which says it will never recognize Israel and will reserve the right to use violence against it until it leaves all the land it won in the 1967 war. After that, there would be a 10-year truce while the next steps were contemplated, although the Hamas charter calls for the destruction of Israel in any borders.

Israel began the siege after Hamas won Palestinian legislative elections in 2006. It was tightened after Hamas pushed the Palestinian Authority out of Gaza in June 2007. Iranian backing for Hamas has added to Israel's conviction that the siege is the right path.

The aim is to keep Gaza at subsistence and offer a contrast with the West Bank, which in theory benefits from foreign aid and economic and political development. Hamas supporters will then realize their mistake. The plan has not gone well, however, partly because the West Bank under Israeli occupation remains no one's idea of paradise and partly because Hamas seems more in control here every year, with cleaner streets and lower crime, although its popularity is hard to gauge.

"Hamas is learning from its mistakes and getting stronger and stronger," said Sharhabeel al-Zaeem, a prominent lawyer here. He and others have been urging international officials to get construction materials and other goods into Gaza through the closed crossings.

They argue that the current system serves only Hamas, since it taxes the illicit tunnel goods and limited currency exchanges and is not blamed by the people for the outside siege. If glass and cement were allowed in through the crossings with Israel, they say, Hamas would not get the credit and the Palestinian Authority could collect the taxes.

"The people of Gaza are depressed, and depressed people turn to myth and fantasy, meaning religion and drugs," said Jawdat Khoudary, a building contractor. "This kind of a prison feeds extremism. Let people see out to see a different version of reality."

Israeli officials remain skeptical of opening the borders. Many believe that their war served as deterrence and note the drastic reduction in rocket fire as evidence. They fear that steel or cement will be siphoned off by Hamas for arms. But they are feeling pressure from the Americans and United Nations, and they are discussing a pilot project.

Meanwhile, Gaza feels more and more like a Hamas state and less linked to the West Bank. Men are increasingly bearded, women are more covered. Hamas is the main employer. Schools and courts, once run by the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, are all Hamas. The government is collecting information on companies and nonprofit groups and seeking control over them.

Many here are especially worried about the young. At a program aimed at helping those traumatized by the January war, teenagers are offered colored markers to draw anything they like, says Farah Abu Qasem, 20, a student of English translation who volunteers at the program.

"They seem only to choose black and to draw things like tanks," she said. "And when we ask them to draw something that represents the future, they leave the paper blank."

Taghreed El-Khodary contributed reporting.


9) Still Working, but Making Do With Less
May 29, 2009

LINCOLN, Calif. - The Ferrells have cut back on dance lessons for their twin daughters. Vaccinations for the family's two cats and two dogs are out. Haircuts have become a luxury.

And before heading out recently to the discount grocery store that has become the family's new lifeline, Sharon Ferrell checked her bank account balance one more time, dialing the toll-free number from memory.

"Your available balance for withdrawal is, $490.40," the disembodied electronic voice informed her.

At the store, with that number firmly in mind, she punched the price of each item into a calculator as she dropped it into her cart, making sure she stayed under her limit. It was all part of a new regimen of fiscal restraint for the Ferrells, begun in January, when state workers, including Mrs. Ferrell's husband, Jeff, were forced to accept two-day-a-month furloughs.

For millions of families, this is the recession: not a layoff, or a drastic reduction in income, but a pay cut that has forced them to thrash through daily calculations similar to the Ferrells'. Even if workers have managed to avoid being laid off, many employers have cut back in other ways, reducing employees' hours, imposing furloughs and even sometimes trimming salaries.

About 6.7 million people were working fewer than 35 hours a week in April because of "slack work or business conditions," nearly double the number a year earlier, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A recent survey of 518 large companies by Hewitt Associates, a human resources consulting firm, found 16 percent had cut pay and 20 percent had cut hours or imposed furloughs, far more than the firm has seen in previous recessions. (The actual percentage of workers affected is likely to be significantly lower.)

Some have managed to absorb the shrinking of their paychecks with minimal pain, especially households where a second income has helped cushion the blow.

Melissa Saavedra, a customer service technician for the City of Redlands, Calif., who normally earned about $38,000 a year, took a 10 percent pay cut along with other city workers in January.

In part because Ms. Saavedra's husband was still employed at an electronics company, the family of five had so far made only modest adjustments. She and her husband take their lunch to work now; she tries to buy meat on sale at the grocery and clips coupons. "We probably had extra money left over every month," she said. "Now there's less of that money, but we're still O.K."

For families like the Ferrells, however, who were already just a car repair or an appliance breakdown away from falling behind, even a modest step down can bring hard choices.

The furloughs meant a roughly 9 percent reduction to Mr. Ferrell's $72,000-a-year salary as an industrial hygienist, in which he evaluates health hazards in the workplace. The couple and their two sets of twins - the older twins are 7 and the younger are 20 months - have had to make do with about $450 less per month.

Should they cut the $315 a month they were spending on ballet lessons for the older twins? What about the $55 a month for the satellite television service they had because they could not get regular cable in their semi-rural home here about 40 miles outside of Sacramento?

Rising living expenses over the last few years had mostly exhausted the family's savings and led to several thousand dollars in credit card debt.

The Ferrells had only recently begun to relax a bit after Mr. Ferrell, 55, received a 5 percent raise in December. But the furloughs, which are slated to extend at least to mid-2010, took away the raise and then some, dropping Mr. Ferrell's take-home pay to $4,856 a month from $5,308.

In January, the couple sat down at their computer in their cluttered living room and waded through their major bills, including the mortgage, utilities and car insurance. The Ferrells concluded they had just $1,200 a month left over to cover everything else, from groceries to diapers.

Many of their remaining expenses seemed impossible to reduce by much, like the roughly $360 a month for gas. It quickly became apparent how little the family had left over for necessities like food.

"People just say: 'Oh, it's just a 10 percent pay cut. Cut the fat out of your budget,' " Mrs. Ferrell said. "But we've cut the fat. We've cut the fat all along, and so this is really pushing us close to the bone now."

Mrs. Ferrell began mapping out family dinners a month in advance on a refrigerator whiteboard. Instead of grocery shopping at regular supermarkets, she began loading up her minivan once a month at WinCo, a giant, no-frills discount grocery chain.

"That way I can control exactly what I buy," she said. "I make menus so that I don't over-shop, or don't impulse-purchase at the store."

Mrs. Ferrell estimated the approach saves the family as much as $200 a month.

When the Ferrells told the children's dance teacher they might have to take a break, she let them attend free for a month. Eventually, the couple decided to continue to pay for lessons, on a reduced schedule, which saved $65 a month.

"They're little girls, and they shouldn't have to worry about it," Mr. Ferrell said. "They should be able to enjoy their childhood. They only get the one."

The couple decided to keep the satellite television because of the children's programming.

But Mrs. Ferrell has not had a haircut in six months; Mr. Farrell longer than that. They have also cut back on trims for the older twins.

"We put a lot of conditioner in," Mrs. Ferrell said.

When the family ran short on sliced bread, Mrs. Ferrell hauled out the breadmaker. She takes few pictures of their toddlers now, because of the cost of film and developing. The Dollar Store has become a regular stop.

The air-conditioning in Mrs. Ferrell's minivan broke recently. Instead of fixing it, she tries to drive only when it is cool out, or go to places where she knows she can park in the shade.

In the end, a stash of savings bonds that Mrs. Ferrell's grandparents gave her as a child, which the couple had hoped to save for a home renovation, has become the family's salvation. In late March, Mrs. Ferrell redeemed one for $2,300. She calculates that at their current rate they have enough bonds to last another year. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, however, is proposing an additional 5 percent salary cut. Mrs. Ferrell hopes her family can simply hang on.


10) Brooklyn Man Claiming Police Assault in Subway Station Sues
May 29, 2009

A 24-year-old man who prosecutors say was brutalized by a group of uniformed police officers inside a Brooklyn subway station last October filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Thursday against the city, the Police Department and four officers.

The midday attack on the man, Michael Mineo, led to indictments in December against three of the four officers named in the suit, including one who prosecutors said shoved his retractable baton repeatedly between Mr. Mineo's buttocks, ripping his skin and causing him to bleed.

A spokesman for Charles J. Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney, said the criminal trial for the three officers - Richard Kern, Alex Cruz and Andrew Morales - was scheduled to begin in September, with the next court date Sept. 15.

Mr. Mineo's lawyers, Kevin L. Mosley and Stephen C. Jackson, filed the suit in United States District Court in Brooklyn. It seeks a total of $220 million in damages from the defendants, more than the $155 million sought more than a decade ago by lawyers for Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant who was tortured and sodomized with a broom handle in the bathroom of a Brooklyn police station in 1997. Mr. Louima settled his lawsuit after receiving $9 million from the city and the police union.

Lawyers for two officers took issue with the $220 million figure, but Mr. Jackson, at a news conference in front of the courthouse, said it was "commensurate" with his client's injuries and would serve to send a message to the city that "we will no longer tolerate these kinds of egregious incidents of brutality."

Standing behind him, Mr. Mineo said he was seeing a therapist, and still endured "enormous pain," including problems with his bowels. In response to a question about whether he was worried about being portrayed as motivated by money, he said, "They were trying to slander my name from the beginning."

Mr. Mosley then tried to interject, citing the pending criminal case, but Mr. Mineo kept talking.

"This is going to be in history," said Mr. Mineo, who was working at a Brooklyn tattoo parlor at the time of the attack. "My kids are going to know about this when I have a kid. It's humiliating."

Mr. Mosley said the suit reflected the criminal charges, but also accused the city and the department of being "negligent in training, hiring and supervising" the officers involved.

"It is a civil rights lawsuit, primarily," Mr. Mosley said. "They used excessive force, and they had no cause to do so."

Paul J. Browne, the Police Department's chief spokesman, declined to comment on the suit. He said that Officers Kern, Cruz and Morales remained on desk duty, stripped of their guns and badges.

The fourth officer named in the suit, Noel Jugraj, did not take part in the Oct. 15 attack, prosecutors said. Officers Jugraj and Cruz were nearby when Mr. Mineo and a friend approached the Prospect Park subway station in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens; Mr. Mineo, who was smoking a marijuana cigarette, saw Officers Kern and Morales, threw away the cigarette and ran.

The officers chased him, and Mr. Mineo was tackled and handcuffed inside the station. Officer Jugraj stood at the top of the stairs to the station and saw the struggle, officials said.

Kate O'Brien Ahlers, a spokeswoman for the city's Law Department, said on Thursday, "We have not seen the legal papers yet, but we will review them thoroughly."

Officer Kern's lawyer, John D. Patten, said he had no comment. Officer Cruz's lawyer, Stuart London, said the suit "just reinforces, in my mind, that financial gain was always the primary concern for the complainant in this case."

Officer Morales's lawyer, Richard H. B. Murray, said the civil suit was a "search for deep pockets," and "probably what is motivating the whole thing."

"It does not affect what we do," he said. "Our position is, Officer Morales did nothing wrong. So far, I don't believe there is any criminal case. I don't think there is any wrongdoing by any officers, and certainly not by my officer, who wasn't even in the station when this occurred."

He added, "I am very confident there will be an acquittal once a jury hears all the evidence in a criminal case."

Officer Jugraj's lawyer, Edward J. Mandery, said, "It is disheartening to hear of this in light of the fact that the D.A.'s office, and the grand jury, did a complete and comprehensive investigation of this case and determined that my client had no criminal liability."


11) Massachusetts, Model for Universal Health Care, Sees Ups and Downs in Policy
May 28, 2009

Despite a weakening economy, Massachusetts continued to measure gains in the share of residents who reported having a steady source of health care in 2008, its second year of near-universal coverage, a new study has found.

But the annual survey, taken each fall since 2006, also raised red flags regarding the ability of residents to actually use that care, with growing numbers saying they could not afford needed treatments and many reporting shortages of primary care physicians.

The study's authors wrote that there were lessons for Washington, where Congressional committees are incorporating much of the Massachusetts model into federal health care legislation.

"Although major expansions in coverage can be achieved without addressing health care costs, cost pressures have the potential to undermine the gains," wrote the researchers, Sharon K. Long and Paul B. Masi of the Urban Institute.

The difficulties in receiving care were severest among low-income residents, who have gained the most from expanded access under the state's law, passed in 2006. It requires most residents to have health insurance and provides state-subsidized plans for the poor. Massachusetts now has the country's lowest percentage of the uninsured - 2.6 percent, compared with a national average of 15 percent.

But the study, which was scheduled for publication Thursday in the journal Health Affairs, found that increased demand for care from the newly insured was confronting an insufficient supply of willing physicians. One in five adults said they had been told in the last 12 months that a doctor or clinic was not accepting new patients or would not see patients with their type of insurance. The rejection rates for low-income adults and those with public insurance were double the rates for higher-income residents and those with private coverage.

The authors concluded that the high rejection rates helped explain another important finding: that there has been little change in the use of emergency rooms for non-emergency treatment. Among low-income residents - defined as those with incomes of less than three times the federal poverty level, or $66,150 for a family of four - 23 percent said their last trip to an emergency room had been for a non-emergency, the same as in 2006.

The report sets the stage for legislative recommendations expected next month from a state commission that hopes to slow the growth in health spending. The commission has already drafted principles calling for a system of global payments to networks of doctors, hospitals and other providers. The networks would be paid for an individual's ongoing care, rather than for each procedure or office visit, providing an incentive to keep patients healthy rather than merely treating their ailments.

The researchers found consistent yearly increases in the percentage of residents who said they had a usual source of care and who had seen a doctor or dentist in the past year. But they concluded that initial gains in procuring needed care had begun to erode by the fall of 2008.

For instance, the share of people from low-income families who did not get needed care in the previous year because of cost dropped to 17 percent in fall 2007 from 27 percent in fall 2006. But it then jumped to 18 percent last year.


12) On Diverse Force, Blacks Still Face Special Peril
May 31, 2009

Two black police officers stand outside the 70th Precinct station in Brooklyn and consider the disastrous turn of events the night before: an off-duty black officer dead in a Harlem street, felled by the bullets of a white officer who mistook him for a threat.

One runs his hand across his corn-rowed scalp; he is disgusted. “Same deal always,” he says of the deadly encounter between colleagues on Thursday night. “They’ll say it’s about training.”

A block away, a Latino officer with six years on the force acknowledges being conflicted. “Tell you the truth, I feel bad for the shooter. It happens so fast, and now he has got to live with this.” His voice trails off.

At the Newkirk Avenue subway station, a black officer of many years’ experience stares straight ahead. “There’s your training and there’s your reaction,” he says quietly of such split-second tragedies. “That’s two different things.”

Its serried ranks are more diverse than ever, its training and rules on use of force more rigorous than in the past, yet the New York Police Department still struggles with the problem of fraternal shootings across the color line. Beginning with the first such shooting in 1940, when white officers in Harlem mistook a black officer, John A. Holt Jr., for a burglar and shot him dead in his own apartment building, these killings come attended by an air of political ritual: protesters march, panels are appointed and reforms are most often accepted by police commissioners.

After a white officer shot and killed an undercover detective, William Capers, in 1972, the department drew up guidelines intended to prevent fraternal fire and undercover officers began wearing their badges on strings around their necks.

In 1994, after a white officer fired shots into the back of a black undercover transit officer, Desmond Robinson, the police commissioner, William J. Bratton, acknowledged what seemed painfully obvious to black undercover officers — the department needed to appoint a panel to examine the racial assumptions of their white colleagues.

“It’s a reality,” Mr. Bratton said. “Minority officers are at risk.”

New York City has fewer fatal police shootings per officer than any other large police department in the nation, according to a department official. And the Police Department recently enacted stricter rules governing when and how officers should use firearms. But a 25-year-old police officer, Omar J. Edwards, now lies in a city morgue, and his death imposes its own reality. Anguished cries and tears come accompanied by questions about whether too many officers harbor too many assumptions and fire too quickly.

“This is the most Shakespearean aspect of policing,” said State Senator Eric Adams of Brooklyn, who is black and a former police captain. “Your greatest fear is to be shot and slain on duty, and that’s only matched by your fear of shooting another officer.”

He adds: “If you speak with nine out of 10 officers of color they would tell you that when they hear sirens, in their head they are thinking: ‘I hope these cops know that I’m one of the good guys.’ ”

That worry comes embedded in a paradox: The New York New YorkPolice Department never has been so diverse. A majority of the cadets in the last rookie police class were members of ethnic and racial minorities, offering a rainbow cross-section of the city itself. Over all, 47.8 percent of the city’s officers are white, 28.7 percent Hispanic, 17.9 percent black and 5.4 percent Asian.

But, replenished although this department is, its very youth and diversity present a challenge. Officer Edwards had been on the force for two years; the officer who shot him, Andrew P. Dunton, had been an officer for 4 ½ years. Younger officers, say those who teach them, are more likely to experience surges of judgment-blurring testosterone and adrenaline.

In Officer Edwards’s case, the young, off-duty officer apparently had drawn his service weapon and was chasing a man who had tried to break into his car when he encountered his on-duty colleagues, who according to their initial testimony saw his gun, shouted “Police” and fired when he turned to face them. Such actions might have been in violation of departmental protocols.

“The department has very good training on use of force and firearm simulators,” said Maria Haberfeld, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a specialist in the use of police force. “The physiological impact on the officer is great. It’s very detrimental to solid judgment. Your adrenaline is pumping, and your visual skills are impaired.

“It’s not a situation you can replicate in a classroom.”

The city is a measurably safer place than it was two decades ago, when the number of homicides hovered around 2,000 each year. Last year, the city recorded 516 homicides. When former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani folded the large transit and housing police forces into the New York Police Department in the mid-1990s, he eliminated much of the perilous confusion that came with balkanized forces. But particularly for young officers, whose training comes in high-crime precincts, New York City can cast a confusing, even threatening shadow.

Officers, many of whom grew up in segregated neighborhoods, find themselves challenged to remember on a daily basis that their own come in every shape and color.

“There was a time if you were a cop you could grab your gun and go into the streets and count on a stereotype to protect you,” said Eugene J. O’Donnell, a professor of law and police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former police officer. “Now the cops look like everybody, and everybody looks like a cop.

“So stereotypes,” he said, “offer no protection at all.”

Sorting out such shootings, not least the role played by race, is a complicated business. In a few cases, gunman and victim share an ethnicity. In 2006, a gang brawled with an off-duty police officer, Eric Hernandez, at a White Castle restaurant in the Bronx. Officer Alfredo Toro responded to a 911 call and shot Mr. Hernandez, not realizing he was an officer. Mr. Hernandez later died.

It “is naïve to assume that our department is driven by racism,” Ms. Haberfeld, the professor, says. “Your experience will be based on what you encounter, and it’s natural to build up a profile.”

But some black officers and academics counter that this is too easy. “If it was just a mistake, we would see more of these mistakes with officers of different colors,” said Prof. Delores Jones-Brown, director of John Jay’s Center on Race, Crime and Justice.

Instinctual judgments about race and crime are woven into the culture of the streets. “We tend to pretend in the police force that we don’t see race, we don’t see ethnicity, but we do,” said Mr. Adams, the former police captain. “One of my cops once said that if he sees a non-uniformed black man with a gun, he takes precautions for himself; if he sees a white guy with a gun, he takes precautions for both because he knows it could be a fellow cop.”

Desmond Robinson lived this experience. In 1994, in the confusion of the 53rd Street subway station, he chased a teenager with a gun. Another undercover officer, Peter Del-Debbio, who is white, came from the other direction and fired at Mr. Robinson, the last few shots pumped into his back at close range.

Officer Del-Debbio was convicted of second-degree assault and sentenced to five years’ probation. Officer Robinson recovered and left the force.

“Everyone carries baggage subconsciously and retraining the mind takes lots of work,” said Mr. Robinson, who lives in Florida. “There are a lot of black undercovers out there, and officers need to understand that not every black man with a gun is a criminal.”


13) Her Prince Has Come. Critics, Too.
May 31, 2009


“THE Princess and the Frog” does not open nationwide until December, but the buzz is already breathless: For the first time in Walt Disney animation history, the fairest of them all is black.

Princess Tiana, a hand-drawn throwback to classic Disney characters like Cinderella and Snow White, has a dazzling green gown, a classy upsweep hairdo and a diamond tiara. Like her predecessors, she is a strong-willed songbird (courtesy of the Tony-winning actress Anika Noni Rose) who finds her muscle-bound boyfriend against all odds.

“Finally, here is something that all little girls, especially young black girls, can embrace,” Cori Murray, an entertainment director at Essence magazine, recently told CNN.

To the dismay of Disney executives — along with the African-American bloggers and others who side with the company — the film is also attracting chatter of an uglier nature. Is “The Princess and the Frog,” set in New Orleans in the 1920s, about to vaporize stereotypes or promote them?

The film, directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, two of the men behind “The Little Mermaid,” unfolds against a raucous backdrop of voodoo and jazz. Tiana, a waitress and budding chef who dreams of owning a restaurant, is persuaded to kiss a frog who is really a prince.

The spell backfires and — poof! — she is also an amphibian. Accompanied by a Cajun firefly and a folksy alligator, the couple search for a cure.

After viewing some photographs of merchandise tied to the movie, which is still unfinished, Black Voices, a Web site on AOL dedicated to African-American culture, faulted the prince’s relatively light skin color. Prince Naveen hails from the fictional land of Maldonia and is voiced by a Brazilian actor; Disney says that he is not white.

“Disney obviously doesn’t think a black man is worthy of the title of prince,” Angela Bronner Helm wrote March 19 on the site. “His hair and features are decidedly non-black. This has left many in the community shaking their head in befuddlement and even rage.”

Others see insensitivity in the locale.

“Disney should be ashamed,” William Blackburn, a former columnist at The Charlotte Observer, told London’s Daily Telegraph. “This princess story is set in New Orleans, the setting of one of the most devastating tragedies to beset a black community.”

ALSO under scrutiny is Ray the firefly, performed by Jim Cummings (the voice of Winnie the Pooh and Yosemite Sam). Some people think Ray sounds too much like the stereotype of an uneducated Southerner in an early trailer.

Of course, armchair critics have also been complaining about the princess. Disney originally called her Maddy (short for Madeleine). Too much like Mammy and thus racist. A rumor surfaced on the Internet that an early script called for her to be a chambermaid to a white woman, a historically correct profession. Too much like slavery.

And wait: We finally get a black princess and she spends the majority of her time on screen as a frog?

“Because of Disney’s history of stereotyping,” said Michael D. Baran, a cognitive psychologist and anthropologist who teaches at Harvard and specializes in how children learn about race, “people are really excited to see how Disney will handle her language, her culture, her physical attributes.”

Mr. Baran is reserving judgment and encourages others to do the same. But he added that the issue warrants scrutiny because of Disney’s outsize impact on children.

“People think that kids don’t catch subtle messages about race and gender in movies, but it’s quite the opposite,” he said.

Donna Farmer, a Los Angeles Web designer who is African-American and has two children, applauded Disney’s efforts to add diversity.

“I don’t know how important having a black princess is to little girls — my daughter loves Ariel and I see nothing wrong with that — but I think it’s important to moms,” she said.

“Who knows if Disney will get it right,” she added. “They haven’t always in the past, but the idea that Disney is not bending over backward to be sensitive is laughable. It wants to sell a whole lot of Tiana dolls and some Tiana paper plates and make people line up to see Tiana at Disney World.”

Few people outside the company have seen footage of the movie. Among them are consultants like Oprah Winfrey, whom Disney asked for input on the racial aspects of the film and was cast as Tiana’s mother. (Movie theater owners and members of the N.A.A.C.P. have also been shown scenes, and the reactions, according to a Disney spokeswoman, were “extremely positive.”)

Rather, fueling the debate are photos of related merchandise taken from a toy industry event, a one-minute teaser trailer and Disney’s enormous cultural impact.

The company wants to vanquish once and for all the whispers of racism that linger from stumbles in the past. Yes, “Dumbo” traded in black stereotypes in 1941 with its band of uneducated, pimp-hat-wearing crows. All the animals in “The Jungle Book” from 1967 speak in proper British accents except for the jive-talking monkeys who desperately want to become “real people.”

More recently, “Aladdin” ran into trouble in 1993. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee labeled certain song lyrics defamatory (“Where they cut off your ear/If they don’t like your face/It’s barbaric, but, hey, it’s home”).

The company responds that criticism of such well-worn examples — particularly of films from the ’60s and earlier — applies a 21st-century morality to movies made in sharply different times. The United States barely had a Civil Rights Act in 1967, much less a black president.

Disney executives think people should stop jumping to conclusions about “The Princess and the Frog.”

A producer of the film, Peter Del Vecho, said: “We feel a great responsibility to get this right. Every artistic decision is being carefully thought out.”

Ms. Rose, familiar to movie audiences for her role in “Dreamgirls,” has also defended Disney.

“There is no reason to get up in arms,” she told reporters at a recent Los Angeles Urban League dinner. “If there was something that I thought was disrespectful to me or to my heritage, I would certainly not be a part of it.”

Ms. Winfrey declined to comment. A spokesman for the N.A.A.C.P. said the organization had no immediate comment.

Disney often gets criticized no matter how carefully it strives to put together its television shows, theme-park attractions and movies. For years, Disney has been lambasted by some parents for not having a black princess. Now, some of those same voices are taking aim at the company without seeing the finished product. (Officially, the princesses are Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel of “The Little Mermaid,” Belle of “Beauty and the Beast” and Jasmine of “Aladdin” — all white except for Jasmine, who is Arabian. The leads from “Mulan” and “Pocahontas” are sometimes sold with the Princess merchandising line.)

Mr. Del Vecho said the idea for a black princess came about organically. The producers wanted to create a fairy tale set in the United States and centered on New Orleans, with its colorful past and deep musical history.

“As we spent time in New Orleans, we realized how truly it is a melting pot, which is how the idea of strongly multicultural characters came about,” Mr. Del Vecho said.

He described Tiana as “a resourceful and talented person” and the rare fairy tale heroine “who is not saved by a prince.” Once the decision was made to make the lead black, he added, “We wanted her to bear the traits of African-American women and be truly beautiful.”

Getting “The Princess and the Frog” right is of enormous importance to Disney. The company needs hits, as evidenced by a recently announced 97 percent drop in quarterly profit. The Disney Princess merchandising line is a $4 billion annual business and the company has plans for Tiana to be everywhere. Get ready for Tiana dresses, elaborate dolls and Halloween costumes.

The movie also marks a return by Disney to traditional hand-drawn animation. A failure could be the final nail in the coffin of an art form pioneered by Walt Disney himself.

In the last 20 years, Disney has made huge strides in depicting race. In 1997, the company’s television division presented a live-action version of “Cinderella” with a black actress, the singer Brandy, playing the lead. In 1998, “Mulan” was celebrated as a rare animated feature that depicted Chinese characters with realistic-looking slanted eyes; most animated films (even those from Japan) had Westernized versions of Asian people until that time.

THE debate surrounding “The Princess and the Frog” illustrates how difficult it is to deal with race in animation, experts say. Cartoons by their nature trade in caricatures.

Mainstream producers have largely avoided characters of color for fear of offending minority groups, although black producers have been creating cartoons featuring stereotyped characters since the days of “Fat Albert.”

Disney can take some comfort in a backlash to the backlash.

“This is one of those situations where I am ashamed of the black community,” Levi Roberts said in a YouTube video. “Are we being racist ourselves by saying this movie shouldn’t have a white prince?”

Perhaps the final word — for now — should come from somebody who is African-American and a former Disney animator.

“Overly sensitive people see racial or ethnic slights in every image,” wrote Floyd Norman, whose credits span from “Sleeping Beauty” to “Mulan,” in a 2007 essay on the Web site Jim Hill Media. “And in their zeal to sanitize and pasteurize everything, they’ve taken all the fun out of cartoon making.”


14) Deep Cuts Threaten to Reshape California
“Government doesn’t provide services to rich people,” Mike Genest, the state’s finance director, said on a conference call with reporters on Friday. “It doesn’t even really provide services to the middle class.” He added: “You have to cut where the money is.”
Political Memo
May 31, 2009

LOS ANGELES — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did not get the election results he sought. Now he seems determined to show California voters the consequences.

In a special election on May 19, voters rejected a batch of measures on increasing taxes, borrowing funds and reapportioning state money that were designed to close a multibillion-dollar budget gap. The cuts Mr. Schwarzenegger has proposed to make up the difference, if enacted by the Legislature, would turn California into a place that in some ways would be unrecognizable in modern America: poor children would have no health insurance, prisoners would be released by the thousands and state parks would be closed.

Nearly all of the billions of dollars in cuts the administration has proposed would affect programs for poor Californians, although prisons and schools would take hits, as well.

“Government doesn’t provide services to rich people,” Mike Genest, the state’s finance director, said on a conference call with reporters on Friday. “It doesn’t even really provide services to the middle class.” He added: “You have to cut where the money is.”

In less than two weeks, the administration has gone from warning residents that a vote against the budget measures would send the state — some $24 billion in the red — into utter turmoil to sanguine acceptance that “the people have spoken” and that the government must move on.

And so it is that administration officials have been sent off to talk to the Legislature and hold conference calls about the latest proposed blows to state programs, while Mr. Schwarzenegger largely tends to other aspects of governing. He was in Livermore on Friday dedicating the world’s largest laser system (for sustaining nuclear fusion), and has updated his Twitter feed. “Backstage at the Tonight Show,” one tweet said.

The measures proposed by the administration to balance the budget, including the $2.8 billion in cuts outlined on Friday, are unlike any proposed to the state’s social services in a generation.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, is threatening to eliminate the Healthy Family Program, the state’s health insurance program that covers over 900,000 children and is financed with state and federal money, as well as the state’s main welfare program, known as Cal-Works, which provides temporary financial assistance to poor families and a caregiver for the severely disabled.

The $1 billion in cuts to programs for the poor would be met with $680 million in new cuts to education and a 5 percent salary reduction for state employees, many of whom are already enduring furloughs.

These proposals, as well as those that would make cuts to state parks, the prison system and other state agencies, are winding their way through Sacramento now, where they will be voted on by committees and eventually the full Legislature.

Some of the proposed cuts are clearly saber rattling on the governor’s part, but there is a nervous acceptance among lawmakers, advocates for the poor and outside budget experts that the state is out of money and time.

If lawmakers sign off on closing the health insurance program for children whose families make too much to qualify for Medicaid, California would be the first state in the nation to close the popular program. Begun in 1997, the program, known as S-CHIP, reimburses states at a higher rate than for Medicaid to deliver health insurance to children and teenagers. With the cuts to Medicaid, the state would probably increase its number of uninsured people by nearly 2 million, the California Budget Project says.

“As the nation is debating how to move forward to provide broader health care coverage,” said Diane Rowland, the executive vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, “for a state to be scaling back coverage for children would be a major challenge. This program means a lot to working families. It is well run and well liked by people on both sides of the aisle.”

Further, the governor has gone after some spending not covered by mandates enacted by voters through ballot measures, a quirk of California budgeting that has helped create the mess the state is in.

“Certainly the programs that were targeted are not protected by the California Constitution or required by federal law,” said Jean Ross, the executive director of the California Budget Project, a left-leaning policy organization that analyzes the budget.

The Democratic-controlled Legislature has been uncharacteristically silent on most of the cuts, most likely because lawmakers know that tax increases are not politically palatable, that huge cuts in some form are in the offing no matter what, and that any program they wish to spare will quite likely have advocates among their ranks.

“There is no drawing lines in the sand,” said Alicia Trost, the spokeswoman for State Senator Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat and president pro tem. “Everyone knows we’re the majority, and we all know where we stand.”