Saturday, July 11, 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:




SF Bay Area Communities Celebrate
Iraq War Resister Robin Long
Released from Military Prison

You are invited to meet this extraordinary American. Army Spc Robin Long travelled to Canada in 2005 to resist deployment to Iraq. In July 2008 Canadian authorities deported him—the first such deportation since the Vietnam War. He has been imprisoned for the last year. Robin will be released on July 9th.

Thursday, July 16 at 6:30 pm, San Francisco
Veterans War Memorial Building, 401 Van Ness Ave, 2nd Floor
Co-sponsored by Courage to Resist, Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace #69. Endorsed by War Resisters League-West.

Friday, July 17 at 7:00 pm, Kentfield
309 Kent Ave. near the College of Marin
Dessert potluck party. Call 415-461-362 for more info.

These free events are fundraisers for Courage to Resist’s work in support of current Afghanistan GI resisters Travis Bishop and Victor Agosto (Ft. Hood, TX), and Dustin Stevens (Ft. Bragg, NC).

Tuesday, July 21 at 6:00 pm
Mailing & Pizza Party, Oakland
3945 Opal St. (at 40th St.)
Courage to Resist workspace

Help Courage to Resist stuff, stamp and mail our national fundraising newsletter. No licking required! With a brief report back on our July 8th rally at the SF Canadian Consulate that requested, “Dear Canada: Stop the deportation of Kimberly Rivera… and allow U.S. war resisters to stay in Canada.”

Donate to Courage to Resist:


TUESDAY, JULY 21, 7:00 P.M.
(Corner of 9th Street and Alice Street
two blocks from Lake Merritt BART Station)

Kevin Cooper is an innocent man on death row. In 2004, he came within hours of execution. Recently, he was denied by the federal courts. But many judges disagreed. One judge began his opposing opinion by saying, "The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man."

Kevin's case is an example of everything that is wrong with the death penalty--it's racist, it targets the poor, it kills innocent people. Join us for a discussion about Kevin Cooper and find out how you can help stop this injustice.

For more information, visit or contact the Campaign to End the Death Penalty: phone: 510-394-8625; email:



Sign up here and spread the word:

On October 10-11, 2009, we will gather in Washington DC from all across
America to let our elected leaders know that *now is the time for full equal
rights for LGBT people.* We will gather. We will march. And we will leave
energized and empowered to do the work that needs to be done in every
community across the nation.

This site will be updated as more information is available. We will organize
grassroots, from the bottom-up, and details will be shared on this website.

Our single demand:

Equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states.

Our philosophy:

As members of every race, class, faith, and community, we see the struggle
for LGBT equality as part of a larger movement for peace and social justice.

Our strategy:

Decentralized organizing for this march in every one of the 435
Congressional districts will build a network to continue organizing beyond




Express your support for parole for
Native American leader and political prisoner
Leonard Peltier!

Hearing scheduled for July 27
Your letter must be received before July 14

Leonard Peltier, Native American leader, Ojibwa-Sioux of Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in North Dakota, has been unjustly imprisoned for 34 years in U.S. federal prison, a victim of FBI political persecution. His upcoming parole hearing is Monday, July 27. We urge you to write letters of support for Leonard’s parole to the Bureau of Prisons by clicking here.

Act Today! Letters should be received by the BOP before July 14. Add your voice to help free Leonard Peltier!


Condemn Honduran Coup and Restore Honduran President Zelaya NOW!

Sign the Emergency Petition!

To: President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

CC: Vice President Joe Biden, Congressional leaders, U.N. General Assembly President d'Escoto-Brockmann, U.N. Secretary General Ban, and major media representatives including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, and Reuters.

I demand that the Barack Obama administration and the U.S. Congress unequivocally condemn the unconstitutional and anti-democratic military coup in Honduras and insist that the military regime and the newly appointed but illegitimate president of Honduras restore President Zelaya to office, free all the imprisoned popular leaders and remove the curfew. I further demand that the U.S. Ambassador to Honduras be recalled immediately until such time as President Zelaya is restored to office.


(Your signature will be appended here based on the contact information you enter in the form)

Sign the Petition Online




July 6th was the fourth anniversary of the United Nations deadly
assault on the community of Cite Soleil. Now, four years later, the
same type of UN violence continues. Enough is enough. Far from
“peacekeeping”, the UN occupation of Haiti is terrorizing the popular
movement and the poorest communities in Haiti.

On Wednesday, June 17th, United Nations troops from Brazil opened fire
on mourners in Port-au-Prince who had attended the funeral of Father
Gerard Jean-Juste. One young man was killed in the attack.

Father Jean-Juste was a beloved Haitian priest and human rights
advocate whose whole life was dedicated to the poor. He died on May
27th in Miami after battling leukemia that he had contracted while
being incarcerated in Haiti as a political prisoner, from October –
November, 2004 and then again from July 2005 – January 2006. He was
jailed for his vocal opposition to the 2004 kidnapping/coup d’etat
against the democratically elected government of President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the subsequent violent repression against
supporters of Fanmi Lavalas, the majority party inHaiti.

The Haiti Information Project reported, “UN troops on the scene began
shooting indiscriminately at the crowd killing a young man identified
only as "Junior" from the neighborhood of Solino. Hundreds more
protestors then took the body of the victim to the front of Haiti's
National Palace.”

This is not the first time that UN forces have murdered unarmed
civilians in Haiti. On July 6, 2005, for example, UN troops shot over
20,000 rounds of ammunition in the crowded, poor neighborhood of Cite
Soleil, a stronghold of support for the Lavalas movement, killing
dozens. In the early morning of December 22, 2006, 400 Brazilian-led
UN troops again carried out a massive assault in Cite Soleil in
Port-au-Prince. This operation took the lives of dozens of
Port-au-Prince residents. Similar operations by UN troops have taken
the lives of innocent women, men and children on other occasions, most
notably in February 2007.

This latest killing takes place in the context of the Préval
government’s denying the right of Fanmi Lavalas, the main political
party in Haiti, to participate in recent Senatorial elections. Lavalas
activists who called for an electoral boycott were ordered arrested.

Former President Bill Clinton is now the UN Special Envoy to Haiti.
Please phone or fax Mr. Clinton to protest this latest murder by UN troops. Help
honor the memory of Father Jean-Juste by continuing to demand real democracy
in Haiti.

Phone: 212-348-8882
Fax: 212-348-9245



"RESOLUTION: The Torture Song" By David Ippolito


Update on Ward Churchill:

In a stunning and incomprehensible decision, the judge in the Ward Churchill case has ruled that the fired professor will get neither money nor reinstatement. He ruled that since the jury awarded Churchill only a token damage, he could not ignore the jury's presumed wishes (this is false since jury members said after the trial that all but one favored a large money award). And he ruled that since the relationship between the university and Churchill was beyond repair he could not order reinstatement. Plus Churchill did not make a good faith effort to obtain comparable employment since his firing.

See article:

Court Upholds Dismissal of Colorado Professor
July 8, 2009


Troy Anthony Davis is an African American man who has spent the last 18 years on death row for a murder he did not commit. There is no physical evidence tying him to the crime and seven out of nine witnesses have recanted. New evidence and new testimony have been presented to the Georgia courts, but the justice system refuses to consider this evidence, which would prove Troy Davis' innocence once and for all.

Sign the petition and join the NAACP, Amnesty International USA, and other partners in demanding justice for Troy Davis!

For Now, High Court Punts on Troy Davis, on Death Row for 18 Years
By Ashby Jones
Wall Street Journal Law Blog
June 30, 2009

Take action now:


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

New videos from April 24 Oakland Mumia event

Donations for Mumia's Legal Defense in the U.S. Our legal effort is the front line of the battle for Mumia's freedom and life. His legal defense needs help. The costs are substantial for our litigation in the U.S. Supreme Court and at the state level. To help, please make your checks payable to the National Lawyers Guild Foundation (indicate "Mumia" on the bottom left). All donations are tax deductible under the Internal Revenue Code, section 501(c)(3), and should be mailed to:

It is outrageous and a violation of human rights that Mumia remains in prison and on death row. His life hangs in the balance. My career has been marked by successfully representing people facing death in murder cases. I will not rest until we win Mumia's case. Justice requires no less.

With best wishes,

Robert R. Bryan
Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal


IVAW Member Victor Agosto Refuses Deployment to Afghanistan

Sign our Petition in Support of Victor's Resistance Today:

Support Victor by making a donation to his legal defense fund:


Short Video About Al-Awda's Work
The following link is to a short video which provides an overview of Al-Awda's work since the founding of our organization in 2000. This video was first shown on Saturday May 23, 2009 at the fundraising banquet of the 7th Annual Int'l Al-Awda Convention in Anaheim California. It was produced from footage collected over the past nine years.
Support Al-Awda, a Great Organization and Cause!

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, depends on your financial support to carry out its work.

To submit your tax-deductible donation to support our work, go to and follow the simple instructions.

Thank you for your generosity!


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:


Support the troops who refuse to fight!






1) Michael Jackson: The Man in Our Mirror
By Greg Tate
The Village Voice
June 30, 2009

2) That ’30s Show
Op-Ed Columnist
July 3, 2009

3) Activists Held by Israel for Trying to Break Gaza Blockade
July 3, 2009

4) U.S. Says It Will Preserve Secret Jails for Terror Case
July 3, 2009

5) San Francisco 8 case takes a critical turn
Posted By blockreportradio
July 3, 2009
by Wanda Sabir

6) In Prisoners’ Wake, a Tide of Troubled Kids
July 5, 2009

7) Biden Suggests U.S. Not Standing in Israel’s Way on Iran
July 6, 2009

8) Safety Net Is Fraying for the Very Poor
July 5, 2009

9) HELP Is on the Way
Op-Ed Columnist
July 6, 2009

10) Lessons for Failing Schools
July 6, 2009

11) Piecing Together an Immigrant’s Life the U.S. Refused to See
July 6, 2009

12) Honduras Is Rattled as Leader Tries Return
July 6, 2009

13) Summer Brings a Wave of Homeless Families
July 7, 2009

14) Former Inmate Says Photos Show Abuse at Guantánamo
July 7, 2009

15) The Crooks Get Cash While the Poor Get Screwed
By Chris Hedges
Jul 6, 2009

16) Court Upholds Dismissal of Colorado Professor
July 8, 2009

17) Military-backed public schools on the rise despite protests
By Dorie Turner, Associated Press
June 4, 2009

18) Air Canada Workers Reject Wage, Pension Concessions
Roger Annis
July 8, 2009

19) Fears for the World's Poor Countries as the Rich Grab Land to Grow Food
* UN sounds warning after 30m hectares bought up
* G8 leaders to discuss 'neo-colonialism'
John Vidal, environment editor
Friday 3 July 2009

21) Obama's Cap and Trade Carbon Emissions Bill -
A Stealth Scheme to License Pollution and Fraud
by Stephen Lendman
Wednesday July 8, 2009

22) Decision to dump TVA's spilled coal waste in Alabama community sparks resistance
By Sue Sturgis
Facing South
July 8, 2009

23) The Human Equation
Op-Ed Columnist
July 11, 2009

24) U.S. Inaction Seen After Taliban P.O.W.’s Died
July 11, 2009

25) Budget Cuts Eroding Progress in Juvenile Justice
July 11, 2009

26) A More Narrow Focus for Enforcement Program
National Briefing | Immigration
July 11, 2009

27) Collect Now, or Later? Timing Your Social Security Benefits
July 11, 2009

28) Off the Charts
On the Unemployment Line, Unable to Move
July 11, 2009

29) A.I.G. Seeks U.S. Support for Bonuses
July 10, 2009


1) Michael Jackson: The Man in Our Mirror
By Greg Tate
The Village Voice
June 30, 2009

What Black American culture-musical and otherwise-lacks for now isn't talent or ambition, but the unmistakable presence of some kind of spiritual genius: the sense that something other than or even more than human is speaking through whatever fragile mortal vessel is burdened with repping for the divine, the magical, the supernatural, the ancestral. You can still feel it when you go hear Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Aretha Franklin, or Cecil Taylor, or when you read Toni Morrison-living Orishas who carry on a tradition whose true genius lies in making forms and notions as abstract, complex, and philosophical as soul, jazz, or the blues so deeply and universally felt. But such transcendence is rare now, given how desperate, soul-crushing, and immobilizing modern American life has become for the poorest strata of our folk, and how dissolute, dispersed, and distanced from that resource-poor, but culturally rich, heavyweight strata the rest of us are becoming. And, like Morrison cautioned a few years ago, where the culture is going now, not even the music may be enough to save us.

The yin and yang of it is simple: You don't get the insatiable hunger (or the Black acculturation) that made James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and Michael Jackson run, not walk, out the 'hood without there being a 'hood-the Olympic obstacle-course incubator of much musical Black genius as we know it. As George Clinton likes to say, "Without the humps, there's no getting over." (Next stop: hip-hop-and maybe the last stop, too, though who knows, maybe the next humbling god of the kulcha will be a starchitect or a superstring theorist, the Michael Jackson of D-branes, black P-branes, and dark-energy engineering.) Black Americans are inherently and even literally "damaged goods," a people whose central struggle has been overcoming the non-person status we got stamped and stomped into us during slavery and post-Reconstruction and resonates even now, if you happen to be Black and poor enough. (As M-1 of dead prez wondered out loud, "What are we going to do to get all this poverty off of us?") As a people, we have become past-masters of devising strategies for erasing the erasure. Dreaming up what's still the most sublime visual representation of this process is what makes Jean-Michel Basquiat's work not just ingenious, but righteous and profound. His dreaming up the most self-flagellating erasure of self to stymie the erasure is what makes Michael Jackson's story so numbing, so macabre, so absurdly Stephen King.

The scariest thing about the Motown legacy, as my father likes to argue, is that you could have gone into any Black American community at the time and found raw talents equal to any of the label's polished fruit: the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, or Holland-Dozier-Holland-all my love for the mighty D and its denizens notwithstanding. Berry Gordy just industrialized the process, the same as Harvard or the CIA has always done for the brightest prospective servants of the Evil Empire. The wisdom of Berry's intervention is borne out by the fact that since Motown left Detroit, the city's production of extraordinary musical talent can be measured in droplets: the Clark Sisters, Geri Allen, Jeff Mills, Derrick May, Kenny Garrett, J Dilla. But Michael himself is our best proof that Motown didn't have a lock on the young, Black, and gifted pool, as he and his siblings were born in Gary, Indiana: a town otherwise only notable for electing our good brother Richard Hatcher to a 20-year mayoral term and for hosting the historic 1972 National Black Political Convention, a gathering where our most politically educated folk (the Black Panther Party excepted) chose to shun Shirley Chisholm's presidential run. Unlike Motown, no one could ever accuse my Black radical tradition of blithely practicing unity for the community. Or of possessing the vision and infrastructure required to pull a cat like Michael up from the abysmal basement of America and groom him for world domination.

Motown saved Michael from Gary, Indiana: no small feat. Michael and his family remain among the few Negroes of note to escape from the now century-old city, which today has a Black American population of 84 percent. These numbers would mean nothing if we were talking about a small Caribbean nation, but they tend to represent a sign of the apocalypse where urban America is concerned. The Gary of 2009 is considered the 17th most dangerous city in America, which may be an improvement. The real question of the hour is, how many other Black American men born in Gary in 1958 lived to see their 24th birthday in 1982, the year Thriller broke the world open louder than a cobalt bomb and remade Black American success in Michael's before-and-after image? Where Black modernity is concerned, Michael is the real missing link: the "bridge of sighs" between the Way We Were and What We've Become in what Nelson George has astutely dubbed the "Post-Soul Era"-the only race-coded "post" neologism grounded in actual history and not puffery. Michael's post-Motown life and career are a testament to all the cultural greatness that Motown and the chitlin circuit wrought, but also all the acute identity crises those entities helped set in motion in the same funky breath.

From Compton to Harlem, we've witnessed grown men broke-down crying in the 'hood over Michael; some of my most hard-bitten, 24/7 militant Black friends, male and female alike, copped to bawling their eyes out for days after they got the news. It's not hard to understand why: For just about anybody born in Black America after 1958-and this includes kids I'm hearing about who are as young as nine years old right now-Michael came to own a good chunk of our best childhood and adolescent memories. The absolute irony of all the jokes and speculation about Michael trying to turn into a European woman is that after James Brown, his music (and his dancing) represent the epitome-one of the mightiest peaks-of what we call Black Music. Fortunately for us, that suspect skin-lightening disease, bleaching away his Black-nuss via physical or psychological means, had no effect on the field-holler screams palpable in his voice, or the electromagnetism fueling his elegant and preternatural sense of rhythm, flexibility, and fluid motion. With just his vocal gifts and his body alone as vehicles, Michael came to rank as one of the great storytellers and soothsayers of the last 100 years.

Furthermore, unlike almost everyone in the Apollo Theater pantheon save George Clinton, Michael now seems as important to us an image-maker-an illusionist and a fantasist at that-as he was a musician/entertainer. And until Hype Williams came on the music-video scene in the mid '90s, no one else insisted that the visuals supporting r&b and hip-hop be as memorable, eye-popping, and seductive as the music itself. Nor did anyone else spare no expense to ensure that they were. But Michael's phantasmal, shape-shifting videos, upon reflection, were also, strangely enough, his way of socially and politically engaging the worlds of other real Blackfolk from places like South Central L.A., Bahia, East Africa, the prison system, Ancient Egypt. He did this sometimes in pursuit of mere spectacle ("Black and White"), sometimes as critical observer ("The Way You Make Me Feel"), sometimes as a cultural nationalist romantic ("Remember the Time"), even occasionally as a harsh American political commentator ("They Don't Care About Us"). Looking at those clips again, as millions of us have done over this past weekend, is to realize how prophetic Michael was in dropping mad cash to leave behind a visual record of his work that was as state-of-the-art as his musical legacy. As if he knew that one day our musical history would be more valued for what can be seen as for what can be heard.

(Having said that, my official all-time-favorite Michael clip is the one of him on Oprah viciously beatboxing [his 808 kick sound could straight castrate even Rahzel's!] and freestyling a new jam into creation-instantaneously connecting Michael in a syncopating heartbeat to those spiritual tributaries that Langston Hughes described, the ones "ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins." Bottom line: Anyone whose racial-litmus-test challenge to Michael came with a rhythm-and-blues battle royale event would have gotten their ass royally waxed.)

George Clinton thought the reason Michael constantly chipped away at his appearance was less about racial self-loathing than about the number-one problem superstars have, which is figuring out what to do when people get sick of looking at your face. His orgies of rhino- and other plasty's were no more than an attempt to stay ahead of a fickle public's fickleness. In the '90s, at least until Eminem showed up, hip-hop would seem to have proven that major Black pop success in America didn't require a whitening up, maybe much to Michael's chagrin. Critical sidebar: I have always wanted to believe that Michael was actually one of the most secretly angry Black race-men on the planet. I thought that if he had been cast as the Iraqi nativist who beat the shit out of Marky Mark in Ridley and Russell's Three Kings while screaming, "What is the problem with Michael Jackson? Your sick fucking country makes the Black man hate his self," Wahlberg would have left the set that day looking like the Great Pumpkin. I have also come to wonder if a mid-life-crisis Michael was, in fact, capable and culpable of having staged his own pedophilic race-war revival of that bitterly angry role? Especially during those Jesus Juice-swilling sleepovers at his Neverland Plantation, again and again and again? I honestly hope to never discover that this was indeed the truth.

Akon to, yes, OK, smartass, cosmetic surgeons. In any event, once he went solo, Michael was, above all else, committed to his genius being felt as powerfully as whatever else in mass culture he caught masses of people feeling at the time. I suppose there is some divine symmetry to be found in Michael checking out when Barack Obama, the new King of Pop, is just settling in: Just count me among those who feel that, in Michael Jackson terms, the young orator from Hawaii is only up to about the Destiny tour.

Of course, Michael's careerism had a steep downside, tripped onto a slippery slope, when he decided that his public and private life could be merged, orchestrated, and manipulated for publicity and mass consumption as masterfully as his albums and videos. I certainly began to feel this when word got out of him sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber or trying to buy the Elephant Man's bones, and I became almost certain this was the case when he dangled his hooded baby son over a balcony for the paparazzi, to say nothing of his alleged darker impulses. At what point, we have to wonder, did the line blur for him between Dr. Jacko and Mr. Jackson, between Peter Pan fantasies and predatory behaviors? At what point did the Man in the Mirror turn into Dorian Gray? When did the Warholian creature that Michael created to deflect access to his inner life turn on him and virally rot him from the inside?

Real Soul Men eat self-destruction, chased by catastrophic forces from birth and then set upon by the hounds of hell the moment someone pays them cash-money for using the voice of God to sing about secular adult passion. If you can find a more freakish litany of figures who have suffered more freakishly disastrous demises and career denouements than the Black American Soul Man, I'll pay you cash-money. Go down the line: Robert Johnson, Louis Jordan, Johnny Ace, Little Willie John, Frankie Lymon, Sam Cooke, James Carr, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Al Green, Teddy Pendergrass, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield. You name it, they have been smacked down by it: guns, planes, cars, drugs, grits, lighting rigs, shoe polish, asphyxiation by vomit, electrocution, enervation, incarceration, their own death-dealing preacher-daddy. A few, like Isaac Hayes, get to slowly rust before they grow old. A select few, like Sly, prove too slick and elusive for the tide of the River Styx, despite giddy years mocking death with self-sabotage and self-abuse.

Michael's death was probably the most shocking celebrity curtain call of our time because he had stopped being vaguely mortal or human for us quite a while ago, had become such an implacably bizarre and abstracted tabloid creation, worlds removed from the various Michaels we had once loved so much. The unfortunate blessing of his departure is that we can now all go back to loving him as we first found him, without shame, despair, or complication. "Which Michael do you want back?" is the other real question of the hour: Over the years, we've seen him variously as our Hamlet, our Superman, our Peter Pan, our Icarus, our Fred Astaire, our Marcel Marceau, our Houdini, our Charlie Chaplin, our Scarecrow, our Peter Parker and Black Spider-Man, our Ziggy Stardust and Thin White Duke, our Little Richard redux, our Alien vs. Predator, our Elephant Man, our Great Gatsby, our Lon Chaney, our Ol' Blue Eyes, our Elvis, our Frankenstein, our ET, our Mystique, our Dark Phoenix.

Celebrity idols are never more present than when they up and disappear, never ever saying goodbye, while affirming James Brown's prophetic reasoning that "Money won't change you/But time will take you out." JB also told us, "I've got money, but now I need love." And here we are. Sitting with the rise and fall and demise of Michael, and grappling with how, as dream hampton put it, "The loneliest man in the world could be one of the most beloved." Now that some of us oldheads can have our Michael Jackson back, we feel liberated to be more gentle toward his spirit, releasing him from our outright rancor for scarring up whichever pre-trial, pre-chalk-complexion incarnation of him first tickled our fancies. Michael not being in the world as a Kabuki ghost makes it even easier to get through all those late-career movie-budget clips where he already looks headed for the out-door. Perhaps it's a blessing in disguise both for him and for us that he finally got shoved through it.

-The Village Voice, June 30, 2009


2) That ’30s Show
Op-Ed Columnist
July 3, 2009

O.K., Thursday’s jobs report settles it. We’re going to need a bigger stimulus. But does the president know that?

Let’s do the math.

Since the recession began, the U.S. economy has lost 6 _ million jobs — and as that grim employment report confirmed, it’s continuing to lose jobs at a rapid pace. Once you take into account the 100,000-plus new jobs that we need each month just to keep up with a growing population, we’re about 8 _ million jobs in the hole.

And the deeper the hole gets, the harder it will be to dig ourselves out. The job figures weren’t the only bad news in Thursday’s report, which also showed wages stalling and possibly on the verge of outright decline. That’s a recipe for a descent into Japanese-style deflation, which is very difficult to reverse. Lost decade, anyone?

Wait — there’s more bad news: the fiscal crisis of the states. Unlike the federal government, states are required to run balanced budgets. And faced with a sharp drop in revenue, most states are preparing savage budget cuts, many of them at the expense of the most vulnerable. Aside from directly creating a great deal of misery, these cuts will depress the economy even further.

So what do we have to counter this scary prospect? We have the Obama stimulus plan, which aims to create 3 _ million jobs by late next year. That’s much better than nothing, but it’s not remotely enough. And there doesn’t seem to be much else going on. Do you remember the administration’s plan to sharply reduce the rate of foreclosures, or its plan to get the banks lending again by taking toxic assets off their balance sheets? Neither do I.

All of this is depressingly familiar to anyone who has studied economic policy in the 1930s. Once again a Democratic president has pushed through job-creation policies that will mitigate the slump but aren’t aggressive enough to produce a full recovery. Once again much of the stimulus at the federal level is being undone by budget retrenchment at the state and local level.

So have we failed to learn from history, and are we, therefore, doomed to repeat it? Not necessarily — but it’s up to the president and his economic team to ensure that things are different this time. President Obama and his officials need to ramp up their efforts, starting with a plan to make the stimulus bigger.

Just to be clear, I’m well aware of how difficult it will be to get such a plan enacted.

There won’t be any cooperation from Republican leaders, who have settled on a strategy of total opposition, unconstrained by facts or logic. Indeed, these leaders responded to the latest job numbers by proclaiming the failure of the Obama economic plan. That’s ludicrous, of course. The administration warned from the beginning that it would be several quarters before the plan had any major positive effects. But that didn’t stop the chairman of the Republican Study Committee from issuing a statement demanding: “Where are the jobs?”

It’s also not clear whether the administration will get much help from Senate “centrists,” who partially eviscerated the original stimulus plan by demanding cuts in aid to state and local governments — aid that, as we’re now seeing, was desperately needed. I’d like to think that some of these centrists are feeling remorse, but if they are, I haven’t seen any evidence to that effect.

And as an economist, I’d add that many members of my profession are playing a distinctly unhelpful role.

It has been a rude shock to see so many economists with good reputations recycling old fallacies — like the claim that any rise in government spending automatically displaces an equal amount of private spending, even when there is mass unemployment — and lending their names to grossly exaggerated claims about the evils of short-run budget deficits. (Right now the risks associated with additional debt are much less than the risks associated with failing to give the economy adequate support.)

Also, as in the 1930s, the opponents of action are peddling scare stories about inflation even as deflation looms.

So getting another round of stimulus will be difficult. But it’s essential.

Obama administration economists understand the stakes. Indeed, just a few weeks ago, Christina Romer, the chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers, published an article on the “lessons of 1937” — the year that F.D.R. gave in to the deficit and inflation hawks, with disastrous consequences both for the economy and for his political agenda.

What I don’t know is whether the administration has faced up to the inadequacy of what it has done so far.

So here’s my message to the president: You need to get both your economic team and your political people working on additional stimulus, now. Because if you don’t, you’ll soon be facing your own personal 1937.


3) Activists Held by Israel for Trying to Break Gaza Blockade
July 3, 2009

JERUSALEM — Nineteen foreign activists of the pro-Palestinian Free Gaza Movement were being held in Israel awaiting deportation on Thursday, two days after the Israeli Navy seized control of their boat off Gaza.

A former United States Representative, Cynthia McKinney, and an Irish peace activist and Nobel laureate, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, were among those being held. Two additional Israeli activists were released without being charged on Wednesday, according to the group.

The Free Gaza Movement and other campaigners have sailed several boats to Gaza in the last year, saying they wanted to bring humanitarian aid and challenging the Israeli blockade. Israel has let some boats reach the coastal strip and forced others to turn back at sea

This time, the Israeli navy commandeered the boat and brought the crew and passengers ashore in Ashdod. The military said in a statement that the navy had previously contacted the boat at sea and warned that it would not be permitted to enter Gaza coastal waters “because of security risks in the area and the existing naval blockade.”

Richard Falk, the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories, said in a statement from Geneva on Thursday that the seizure of the boat was unlawful and that the Israeli blockade of Gaza constituted a “continuing crime against humanity.”

The boat left Cyprus on Monday and was seized on Tuesday. The activists said they had a cargo of medical and reconstruction supplies and children’s toys.

The Israeli military said the aid would be transferred to Gaza subject to security authorization.

Ramzi Kysia, an activist with the Free Gaza Movement, said the 19 people being detained were likely to be deported by Friday, once deportation procedures were complete. But he said some might refuse deportation unless all of those being detained were released together and all the equipment of journalists with the group was returned.

Speaking by telephone from Cyprus, Mr. Kysia said that five of the detainees were Bahraini citizens and that they were being held apart from the others in a cramped facility.

In a report issued earlier this week, the International Committee of the Red Cross criticized the Israeli-imposed embargo, saying that Gaza’s 1.5 million residents were “trapped in despair.”

The Israeli government has said it is reviewing the embargo policy, but it has not yet made any decisions.

Also Thursday, Palestinian reports said that a girl, 17, had been killed by a shell from an Israeli tank in central Gaza and that several others had been wounded. The Israeli military said an army patrol had come under fire along the border in the evening and fired mortars in response. Military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity under army rules, said initial investigations indicated that Palestinian militants had also fired mortars during the clash and that the Palestinian casualties had probably been caused by Palestinian fire.


4) U.S. Says It Will Preserve Secret Jails for Terror Case
July 3, 2009

The government will agree to preserve the secret overseas sites where a defendant in a terror case was once held and, his lawyers say, subjected to harsh interrogation techniques after his capture in 2004, a prosecutor indicated in court in New York on Thursday.

Lawyers for the defendant, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, told a judge this week that they were afraid that the so-called black sites, which were run by the Central Intelligence Agency, would be demolished as the agency has said it will discontinue their use.

Mr. Ghailani, who was ordered by President Obama to be tried in civilian court, spent up to two years in the black sites before he was moved to the naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

He has been charged with participating in a conspiracy that included the 1998 bombings of the United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, attacks organized by Al Qaeda which killed 224 people and wounded thousands.

Prosecutors have charged that Mr. Ghailani, a Tanzanian believed to be in his mid-30s, helped obtain explosives and a truck and assisted with other logistics in the Tanzanian bombing.

He became a fugitive after the attacks, and later was a bodyguard and cook for Osama bin Laden, the military has said. He has pleaded not guilty.

The case has been seen as a test of President Obama’s goal to close Guantánamo and try terrorism suspects in the federal courts “whenever feasible.”

On Thursday, the judge, Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan, making clear that he wanted the case to move expeditiously, set a trial date of Sept. 13, 2010.

“There’s a public interest in seeing justice done here,” Judge Kaplan said.

The prosecutor, David Raskin, chief of the terrorism and national security unit in the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, also told the judge that the government would not use any statements Mr. Ghailani may have made “while he was in custody of other government agencies,” an obvious reference to his detention in the black sites and at Guantánamo.

The agency has never confirmed the locations or other details of the secret prisons, and a C.I.A. spokesman on Thursday declined to comment on the prosecutor’s statement in court. Prosecutors also declined to comment after the hearing.

It is unclear exactly what would be involved in preserving the secret sites for court cases, and it is possible that some sites may already have been demolished, stripped of equipment or altered for reuse.

In asking that the sites be preserved, Mr. Ghailani’s lawyers said they wanted to inspect them as part of their investigation into what had happened to Mr. Ghailani during his detention.

“It appears undeniable,” one lawyer, Peter E. Quijano, wrote, “that the defendant was subjected to harsh conditions and harsh interrogation techniques while detained in C.I.A. ‘black sites.’ ”

The lawyers said that they wanted to present “a detailed and accurate representation of the physical sites” where Mr. Ghailani was held as mitigating evidence against the death penalty if it is sought in his case.

Mr. Raskin at first suggested that the government would have to respond at least in part with classified information. But Judge Kaplan asked why prosecutors could not simply agree to the defense’s request that the government “preserve certain things,” as the judge put it.

“We will do that," Mr. Raskin said, adding that prosecutors should be able to resolve the issue with defense lawyers.

If they are unable to do so, the judge said, prosecutors should file their response to the defense.

The C.I.A.’s secret jails were created starting in 2002, after President George W. Bush assigned the agency responsibility for questioning high-level members of Al Qaeda. Working with friendly foreign intelligence services, the C.I.A. built or renovated buildings in several countries, including Afghanistan, Thailand and Poland, according to former agency officials.

After the location of the prisons in Eastern Europe was revealed in late 2005, C.I.A. officials scrambled to move the prisoners to other, still-secret places. It is not known where Mr. Ghailani was held, but it appears that many prisoners were held in more than one place at different times.

It was also revealed in court that the Justice Department has told Judge Kaplan that it was not prepared to rule out seeking the death penalty at this time in the case. The Defense Department had decided not to seek it when Mr. Ghailani was in the military commission system.


5) San Francisco 8 case takes a critical turn
Posted By blockreportradio
July 3, 2009
by Wanda Sabir

The news presently on all the dials and stations and headlines is the death of one of my personal icons, Michael Jackson, who died suddenly last week, June 25, from cardiac arrest. He was 50. His birthday, Aug. 29, is shared by my cousin, Jeffery Lewis, and my friend, Karla Brundage.

The date is also the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It is the day after Martin King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which celebrated its 45th anniversary last year, the day President Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for president.

However, off the radar is a critical turn in an important case, the San Francisco 8 (SF8) a case involving initially eight former members and associates of the Black Panther Party who were charged in a shootout at the Ingleside Police Department in San Francisco – also on Aug. 29, the year 1971. In this shooting, a policeman was killed.

What makes this case unique is the fact that in the pursuit of “justice,” the San Francisco Police Department rounded up Black Panther Party members throughout the country and extradited three of the men charged in San Francisco to New Orleans, where the FBI and SFPD watched NOPD torture them in 1973. Subsequently, the evidence and case were thrown out. This was 30 years ago. One of the men, John Bowman, has since died. Another, Richard O’Neal, was cleared of all charges. The film, “Legacy of Torture,” produced by Freedom Archives,, looks at the use of torture in this case.

The grand jury stated that evidence extracted through torture was inadmissible. Fast forward 30 years: Jerry Brown is elected California’s new attorney general and he revives this case. The men, now in their 50s, 60s and even 70s, are rounded up from across the country Jan. 23, 2007, two men, Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim (Anthony Bottom), brought from New York where Bell has been incarcerated in New York since 1973 and Muntaqim since 1978 and charged with the murder.

Preliminary hearings to decide whether the case will go to trial begin Monday, July 6, in San Francisco Superior Court, 850 Bryant St. at Seventh Street. A rally to drop the charges begins at 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. is the hearing. Visit and

A few days ago, Herman Bell accepted a plea bargain from the prosecution and will be returning to New York for his parole hearing as soon as California gets him on a return flight. The news was greeted soberly and from some quarters with bemusement.

What does it mean to the other SF8 plaintiffs’ case when one of its plaintiffs jumps ship and confesses to the crime: possession of arms and being present at the Ingleside police station the night a policeman was killed? Even though one of the stipulations to the plea was that the prosecution cannot call Bell as a witness, unless he agrees, gone is an opportunity for him to be a character witness for Jalil Muntaquim.

As the SF8 posse, about 50 strong, sat behind Bell to the right of the bench – our side a lot more packed than the other side, which only had five or six guys in suits, clearly lawyers – Herman Bell’s attitude was somber.

It’s a heavy thing to confess to a crime one didn’t commit.

I watched Bell, dressed in red, glasses perched on his slender nose, but I couldn’t imagine what was going through his mind as the prosecution stated the terms of the agreement and then his attorney, Stuart Hanlon, restated these terms, emphasizing certain aspects which he felt weren’t clear, like the 12 months in county jail, the court fees, Bell’s transport back to New York State, and Bell’s protection from self incrimination as a state witness.

What I didn’t understand, after Bell waved his rights under oath and confessed to the crime — voluntary manslaughter for his role in the killing of San Francisco police officer John Young on Aug. 29, 1971, was what was meant when the judge stated certain circumstances which would void the current agreement and allow Bell to recant the plea of guilty. The second charge faced by Mr. Bell, conspiracy to kill the policeman, was dismissed.

Dressed in a red jumpsuit, seated next to his attorney, Stuart Hanlon, Herman Bell must have been anticipating his return to New York; I wondered when. After 36 years behind bars, the possibility of missing his parole date, something he’d been waiting for for a long time, something he hoped to have approved this time around, probably filled Bell with mixed emotions, sad for the plaintiffs he leaves behind, yet excited as his decision Monday places him that much closer to freedom. He’ll supposedly be on probation for five years – that was part of the plea bargain – but that might be a moot point also, given the fact that he is going to be outside California.

At the time of the crime, Aug. 29, 1971, sentences were harsher and longer, both prosecution and the defense agreed. In 1976, the law changed and sentences for such crimes were reduced. The prosecution took this into consideration when it offered the SF8 the plea bargain and in the terms of this agreement.

The proceedings were all polite and orderly. Bell didn’t make a statement when given the opportunity. I would have liked to hear his rationale, but this was court and he is not free, so perhaps the less said the better.

In the hallway, there wasn’t much jubilation, but people were happy for Herman and hopeful for his case.

I have never spent a day behind bars; however, this lack of direct experience does not mean that I am not affected or that I don’t know how disruptive it can be to a family to have one’s father or grandfather snatched from the home at night by people in uniforms waving badges. This happened to me as a youth in San Francisco when my father was defending our home one afternoon. He was arrested, and my brother and I were left alone. Sister Elretha picked my brother and me up and took us to stay with her family until my dad was released.

I remember going to visit him in the county jail. I remember watching him walk over to the chair, where a glass separated us, and pick up the phone. I remember his face through the glass even though I don’t recall what we spoke about, nor do I remember how long it was before he came home. Perhaps this is the beginning of my amnesia, this erasing?

I don’t remember if my brother was there with me. I don’t know how Daddy got home or what time of day it was. I just know it wasn’t two years, or anything like what Herman Bell’s family has had to endure.

Bell, his attorney Stuart Hanlon said in a follow-up email, “was facing life without the possibility of parole in a maximum security prison in California if convicted. The government, through an informant, originally alleged that Mr. Bell was the shooter of Sgt. Young. However, it is difficult to believe that the Attorney General of California, who prosecuted this case, would have allowed Mr. Bell to plead to a lesser charge with a sentence of only informal probation if there was credible evidence he had shot Sgt. Young.”

Bell’s supporters see this move as a victory and look forward to a positive outcome once he goes before the parole board in New York. Richard Brown has told me many times that the state of California is set on using SF8 as the poster case for admission of evidence gathered through torture.

I’ve invited Richard Brown and other SF8 plaintiffs who will be in town from Florida, Southern California and New York on my radio show Friday, July 3, 8 a.m. We’ll be talking about the SF8 case, Herman Bell’s decision and the coming weeks. I have also invited Herman Bell’s attorney Stuart Hanlon, on the air. Hanlon has confirmed. Also invited is Kamel Bell, CEO of Ankh Productions. Kamel has not confirmed.

Visit (for archived shows). You can also listen live at the website or by calling the listener line: (347) 237-4610. The shows are: Wednesday, 6-8 a.m. and Friday, 8-10 a.m. PST. This is the plan.

Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at Visit her website at for an expanded version of Wanda’s Picks, her blog, photos and Wanda’s Picks Radio. Her shows are streamed live Wednesdays at 6-7 a.m. and Fridays at 8-10 a.m. and archived on the Afrikan Sistahs’ Media Network, .


6) In Prisoners’ Wake, a Tide of Troubled Kids
July 5, 2009

WASHINGTON — Herbert Rashad Scott, whose parents were in and out of prison throughout his childhood, vowed to break his family’s cycle of self-destruction.

The circumstances were not promising. Mr. Scott, 20, was awaiting sentencing for drug possession and robbery, but he was allowed supervised release from jail in May to attend a job preparation class — a chance to turn his life around. As he spoke, he wriggled his neck, trying to get used to the necktie required, and he tried to ignore the tracking device on his ankle.

“I had low self-esteem and depression,” Mr. Scott said of his teenage years. Now, his ex-girlfriend was pregnant, and he pondered his child’s prospects.

“I want to be there for this child, and I want the child to know that jail ain’t no place to be,” he said.

The chances of seeing a parent go to prison have never been greater, especially for poor black Americans, and new research is documenting the long-term harm to the children they leave behind. Recent studies indicate that having an incarcerated parent doubles the chance that a child will be at least temporarily homeless and measurably increases the likelihood of physically aggressive behavior, social isolation, depression and problems in school — all portending dimmer prospects in adulthood.

“Parental imprisonment has emerged as a novel, and distinctly American, childhood risk that is concentrated among black children and children of low-education parents,” said Christopher Wildeman, a sociologist at the University of Michigan who is studying what some now call the “incarceration generation.”

Incarceration rates in the United States have multiplied over the last three decades, in part because of stiffer sentencing rules. At any given moment, more than 1.5 million children have a parent, usually their father, in prison, according to federal data. But many more are affected over the course of childhood, especially if they are black, new studies show.

Among those born in 1990, one in four black children, compared with one in 25 white children, had a father in prison by age 14. Risk is concentrated among black children whose parents are high-school dropouts; half of those children had a father in prison, compared with one in 14 white children with dropout parents, according to a report by Dr. Wildeman recently published in the journal Demography.

For both blacks and whites, the chances of parental incarceration were far higher than they were for children born just 12 years earlier, in 1978.

Scholars agree that in some cases children may benefit from a parent’s forced removal, especially when a father is a sexual predator or violent at home. But more often, the harm outweighs any benefits, studies have found.

If a parent’s imprisonment deprives a struggling family of earnings or child support, the practical consequences can be fairly clear-cut. While poor urban children had a 3 percent chance of experiencing a period of homelessness over the previous year, those with an incarcerated parent had a 6 percent chance, one study found.

Quantifying other effects of parental incarceration, like aggressive behavior and depression, is more complex because many children of prisoners are already living in deprived and turbulent environments. But researchers using newly available surveys that follow families over time are starting to home in on the impact.

Among 5-year-old urban boys, 49 percent of those who had a father incarcerated within the previous 30 months exhibited physically aggressive behaviors like hitting others or destroying objects, compared with 38 percent of those in otherwise similar circumstances who did not have a father imprisoned, Dr. Wildeman found.

While most attention has been placed on physical aggression, a study by Sara Wakefield, a sociologist following children in Chicago, found that having a parent imprisoned was a mental-health tipping point for some. Thus, while 28 percent of the children in her study over all experienced feelings of social isolation, depression or anxiety at levels that would warrant clinical evaluation or treatment, about 35 percent of those who had an incarcerated parent did.

Such hidden issues can have lifelong consequences.

Terrisa Bryant, 20, who was in the same jobs class as Mr. Scott, with a group called Strive, said she grew up resenting her father’s absences, including his time spent in prison. With her mother working day and night to put food on the table, Ms. Bryant was the baby sitter for her younger siblings.

“I couldn’t go out,” Ms. Bryant said. “I felt isolated.”

Ms. Bryant said she thought her anger and isolation helped explain why she got pregnant at 14 and had to drop out of school to raise her child. Now, she hopes to get certified for a career in child care.

With financial woes now forcing many states to rethink the relentless expansion of prisons, “this intergenerational transfer of problems should be included as an additional cost of incarceration to society,” said Sarah S. McLanahan, a sociologist at Princeton University and director of a national survey of families that is providing data for many of the new studies.

Heather Mac Donald, a legal expert at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative research group, agreed that everything possible should be done to help the children of people who were incarcerated. But Ms. Mac Donald said that it was hard to distinguish the effects of having a parent in prison from those of having a parent who is a criminal, and that any evaluation of tough sentencing policies, which she supports, had to weigh the benefits for the larger community. “A large portion of fathers were imprisoned on violence or drug-trafficking charges,” she said. “What would be the effects on other children in the neighborhood if those men are out there?”

Adam Gaines, 40, of Owings Mills, Md., has firsthand experience of watching his children flounder. He was freed last year after 13 and a half years in prison for robbery. Now, he is trying to be the father he never was to a son who dropped out of school in the 10th grade, another son who is just starting high school and a teenage daughter who had a baby and dropped out of school.

Mr. Gaines shook his heroin addiction after years in prison, has moved back in with his wife, Tasuha, and is studying to be a fitness teacher.

When his father was behind bars, said Mr. Gaines’s oldest child, Adam Jr., 19, “I didn’t have a role model, and I had to learn on the streets how to carry myself, what it meant to be a man.”

Mr. Scott, too, may not be around for his child. Despite his vow to break the cycle of failure and his job preparation class, he disappeared shortly after talking to a reporter in May, apparently to avoid a mandatory drug test, and did not report to his probation officer.

Mr. Scott was arrested on charges of absconding in the last week of May and is now in a Washington jail awaiting a sentence that could be three years or more — and making it more likely that his child, too, will join the incarceration generation.


7) Biden Suggests U.S. Not Standing in Israel’s Way on Iran
July 6, 2009

WASHINGTON — Plunging squarely into one of the most sensitive issues in the Middle East, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. suggested on Sunday that the United States would not stand in the way of Israeli military action aimed at the Iranian nuclear program.

The United States, Mr. Biden said in an interview broadcast on ABC’s “This Week,” “cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do.”

"Israel can determine for itself — it’s a sovereign nation — what’s in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else," he said, in an interview taped in Baghdad at the end of a visit there.

The remarks went beyond at least the spirit of any public utterances by President Barack Obama, who has said that diplomatic efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear program should be given to the end of the year. But the president has also said that he is “not reconciled” to the possibility of Iran possessing a nuclear weapon — a goal Tehran denies.

Mr. Biden’s comments came at a particularly sensitive time, amid the continuing tumult over the disputed Iranian elections, and seemed to risk handing a besieged President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a new tool with which to fan nationalist sentiments in Iran.

What was not immediately clear was whether Mr. Biden, who has a long-standing reputation for speaking volubly — and sometimes going too far in the heat of the moment — was sending an officially sanctioned message.

The Obama administration has said, and Mr. Biden reaffirmed this, that it remains open to negotiations with Tehran, even after the bitterly contested election that returned Mr. Ahmadinejad to the presidency.

“If the Iranians respond to the offer of engagement, we will engage,” Mr. Biden said. “The offer’s on the table.”

But separately, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned of the costs of any military strike against Iran.

“It could be very destabilizing, and it is the unintended consequences of that which aren’t predictable,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Still, he added, “I think it’s very important, as we deal with Iran, that we don’t take any options, including military options, off the table.”

Earlier in his interview with ABC, Mr. Biden had seemed sensitive to the risk of handing Mr. Ahmadinejad and the supreme Iranian leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, a propaganda edge by criticizing the elections too forcefully and allowing them to claim that “the reason why there was unrest is outside influence.”

He called Mr. Obama’s original condemnations, which some criticized as overly cautious, “absolutely pitch-perfect.”

If Mr. Biden’s comments on Israel and Iran were perhaps off the cuff, he did not back away from them when given a chance to do so.

George Stephanopoulos, the program’s host, asked: “But just to be clear here, if the Israelis decide Iran is an existential threat, they have to take out the nuclear program, militarily the United States will not stand in the way?”

And Mr. Biden replied: “Look, we cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do when they make a determination — if they make a determination — that they’re existentially threatened and their survival is threatened by another country.”

The Israeli government has said that it hopes to see the Iranian nuclear program halted through diplomacy, but it has not ruled out a military strike. Talk of such a strike flared episodically during the Bush presidency.

Such a strike is considered highly problematic, both for the unpredictable shock waves it would send coursing through the region and because of the technical difficulty of destroying nuclear facilities that are scattered around Iran, some of them deep underground.

Still, the disputed Iranian election result has raised concerns in Israel. Officials there say that the victory by Mr. Ahmadinejad, who has called for the destruction of Israel, underscored the Iranian threat and bolstered the argument for tough action.

In May, Mr. Obama told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel during a meeting at the White House that “we’re not going to have talks forever” with Iran; in the absence of cooperation from Tehran, he said, the administration would not rule out “a range of steps.”

But the two sides have seemed in discord about what those steps might be.


8) Safety Net Is Fraying for the Very Poor
July 5, 2009

Government “safety net” programs like Social Security and food stamps have pulled growing numbers of Americans out of poverty since the mid-1990s. But even before the current recession, these programs were providing less help to the most desperately poor, mainly nonworking families with children, according to a new study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a private group in Washington.

The recession is expected to raise poverty rates, economists agree, although the impact is being softened by the federal stimulus package adopted this year, which temporarily expanded measures like food stamps, child tax credits, unemployment benefits and housing and tuition aid.

In view of the gloomy employment report last week, economists are debating whether to increase stimulus funds over all. But in a side argument, poverty experts are also asking whether elements of the package aimed at the most vulnerable Americans should be extended beyond their scheduled expiration in two years or even made permanent.

The new safety-net study found that federal aid programs had helped tens of millions of Americans stay afloat in recent years, especially those with low-end jobs who benefited from rising tax credits.

Going into the recession that began in late 2007, however, “the safety net was already enfeebled for jobless families,” said Arloc Sherman, a senior researcher at the center on budget priorities and author of the new study.

“It’s a good thing we have the stimulus package,” Mr. Sherman said. “But what happens to the most vulnerable families in two years, when most of the provisions expire?”

On Thursday, the Labor Department announced that unemployment had crept to 9.5 percent. The rate is far higher among blacks and Hispanics.

Even after growth resumes, all signs are that the recession’s impacts will be protracted, said Harry J. Holzer, a labor economist at Georgetown University. “We’ll not only see an increase in poverty and unemployment, but those numbers are not going to improve quickly,” Mr. Holzer said. “I think it will be important to extend some of the provisions of the stimulus plan beyond 2010.”

The recession and the stimulus package have brought “a new focus on the need for expanding and modernizing the social safety net,” said Sheldon Danziger, an economist and professor of public policy at the University of Michigan.

Mr. Danziger said the overhaul of cash welfare since 1996, aimed at pushing single mothers into jobs, “makes sense when unemployment is 5 percent.”

“But if you are out of work, the welfare system in a time of recession doesn’t have anything to offer,” he said.

In a recent paper, Mr. Danziger and Maria Cancian, professor of public affairs and social work at the University of Wisconsin, argued that because of changes in the economy, in the population and in social policy, economic growth per se did less to reduce poverty than it used to. Specific efforts to raise low-end wages, support working parents with child care and tax credits and raise education levels will be vital to reducing poverty, they said.

In the new study of the safety net, the center on budget priorities used a broader method for calculating poverty rates than is used by the federal government in its annual assessments, including the value of food stamps, housing subsidies and tax credits as income, but also adjusting for the local cost of housing.

The study found that federal aid in 2005 had reduced the number of Americans living in poverty, under this expanded definition, by 44 percent — lifting 31 million people above the poverty line. But it also found that as aid programs were increasingly aimed at supporting work, fewer of the worst-off, jobless families were pulled out of the deepest poverty, defined as an income below half the poverty line.

Douglas Besharov, an economist at the University of Maryland, said that while aid programs had undeniably reduced poverty, the 31 million number was overstated. Noting that the largest group helped was retirees receiving Social Security, Mr. Besharov said that in the expectation of benefits, some cling to larger houses or transfer assets to children, making their incomes lower than they would otherwise be.

The figures for families in “deep poverty,” too, may be misleading, Mr. Besharov and others say. In surveys, it appears that some people are eking by on almost nothing. But some have off-the-books income or receive aid from housemates or relatives that is never recorded.


9) HELP Is on the Way
Op-Ed Columnist
July 6, 2009

The Congressional Budget Office has looked at the future of American health insurance, and it works.

A few weeks ago there was a furor when the budget office “scored” two incomplete Senate health reform proposals — that is, estimated their costs and likely impacts over the next 10 years. One proposal came in more expensive than expected; the other didn’t cover enough people. Health reform, it seemed, was in trouble.

But last week the budget office scored the full proposed legislation from the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). And the news — which got far less play in the media than the downbeat earlier analysis — was very, very good. Yes, we can reform health care.

Let me start by pointing out something serious health economists have known all along: on general principles, universal health insurance should be eminently affordable.

After all, every other advanced country offers universal coverage, while spending much less on health care than we do. For example, the French health care system covers everyone, offers excellent care and costs barely more than half as much per person as our system.

And even if we didn’t have this international evidence to reassure us, a look at the U.S. numbers makes it clear that insuring the uninsured shouldn’t cost all that much, for two reasons.

First, the uninsured are disproportionately young adults, whose medical costs tend to be relatively low. The big spending is mainly on the elderly, who are already covered by Medicare.

Second, even now the uninsured receive a considerable (though inadequate) amount of “uncompensated” care, whose costs are passed on to the rest of the population. So the net cost of giving the uninsured explicit coverage is substantially less than it might seem.

Putting these observations together, what sounds at first like a daunting prospect — extending coverage to most or all of the 45 million people in America without health insurance — should, in the end, add only a few percent to our overall national health bill. And that’s exactly what the budget office found when scoring the HELP proposal.

Now, about those specifics: The HELP plan achieves near-universal coverage through a combination of regulation and subsidies. Insurance companies would be required to offer the same coverage to everyone, regardless of medical history; on the other side, everyone except the poor and near-poor would be obliged to buy insurance, with the aid of subsidies that would limit premiums as a share of income.

Employers would also have to chip in, with all firms employing more than 25 people required to offer their workers insurance or pay a penalty. By the way, the absence of such an “employer mandate” was the big problem with the earlier, incomplete version of the plan.

And those who prefer not to buy insurance from the private sector would be able to choose a public plan instead. This would, among other things, bring some real competition to the health insurance market, which is currently a collection of local monopolies and cartels.

The budget office says that all this would cost $597 billion over the next decade. But that doesn’t include the cost of insuring the poor and near-poor, whom HELP suggests covering via an expansion of Medicaid (which is outside the committee’s jurisdiction). Add in the cost of this expansion, and we’re probably looking at between $1 trillion and $1.3 trillion.

There are a number of ways to look at this number, but maybe the best is to point out that it’s less than 4 percent of the $33 trillion the U.S. government predicts we’ll spend on health care over the next decade. And that in turn means that much of the expense can be offset with straightforward cost-saving measures, like ending Medicare overpayments to private health insurers and reining in spending on medical procedures with no demonstrated health benefits.

So fundamental health reform — reform that would eliminate the insecurity about health coverage that looms so large for many Americans — is now within reach. The “centrist” senators, most of them Democrats, who have been holding up reform can no longer claim either that universal coverage is unaffordable or that it won’t work.

The only question now is whether a combination of persuasion from President Obama, pressure from health reform activists and, one hopes, senators’ own consciences will get the centrists on board — or at least get them to vote for cloture, so that diehard opponents of reform can’t block it with a filibuster.

This is a historic opportunity — arguably the best opportunity since 1947, when the A.M.A. killed Harry Truman’s health-care dreams. We’re right on the cusp. All it takes is a few more senators, and HELP will be on the way.


10) Lessons for Failing Schools
July 6, 2009

The $100 billion education stimulus package gives Education Secretary Arne Duncan unprecedented leverage to energize the languishing school reform effort.

Mr. Duncan has said from the start that he wants the states to transform about 5,000 of the lowest-performing schools, not in a piecemeal fashion but with bold policies that have an impact right away. The argument in favor of a tightly focused effort aimed at these schools is compelling. We now know, for example, that about 12 percent of the nation’s high schools account for half the country’s dropouts generally — and almost three-quarters of minority dropouts. A plan that fixed these schools, raising high school graduation and college-going rates, would pay enormous dividends for the country as a whole.

Mr. Duncan can use his burgeoning discretionary budget to reward states that take the initiative in this area. But Congress could push the reform effort further and faster by granting the education department’s request for two changes in federal education law. The first would be to come up with new federal school improvement money and require the states to focus 40 percent of it on the lowest-performing middle and high schools. The second change would allow the secretary to directly finance charter-school operators that have already produced high-quality schools.

Charter schools get public money but often are exempt from curricular requirements and other rules that govern traditional public schools. Currently, high-quality charter-school programs often go begging while states finance charters that are worse than the traditional public schools they were meant to replace. The problem is underscored in an eye-opening study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes.

The study, which looked at schools in 15 states and the District of Columbia, showed that 17 percent of charter schools provided a better education than traditional public schools in the same states. But charter backers and state officials were startled to learn that 37 percent of charters offered a worse education than children would have received had they remained in traditional schools.

Mr. Duncan confronted this issue directly at a charter school alliance meeting held in Washington last month, pointing out that the states needed to do a much better oversight job and that failing charters needed to be swiftly shut down. High-quality charter models like the ones used by the KIPP program have a role to play in the plan, the goal of which is to change the cultures of chronically failing schools. Charter operators could be brought into some schools, but other schools might need to simply force out the current staff and bring in a new one. In other cases, states will need to shut down chronically failing schools and enroll students elsewhere.

The secretary should focus intently on the dropout factories, the relatively small number of schools that produce so many of the nation’s dropouts. Efforts at especially difficult schools will need to include social service and community outreach programs, modeled on those already in place in the Harlem Children’s Zone in Upper Manhattan.

Mr. Duncan is on the mark when he says the country needs bold action. It can no longer tolerate schools that have trapped generations of students at the margins of society and locked them out of the new economy.


11) Piecing Together an Immigrant’s Life the U.S. Refused to See
July 6, 2009

When the 43-year-old man died in a New Jersey immigration jail in 2005, the very fact seemed to fall into a black hole. Although a fellow inmate scrawled a note telling immigrant advocates that the detainee’s symptoms of a heart attack had long gone unheeded, government officials would not even confirm that the dead man had existed.

In March, more than three years after the death, federal immigration authorities acknowledged that they had overlooked it, and added a name, “Ahmad, Tanveer,” to their list of fatalities in custody.

Even as the man’s death was retrieved from official oblivion, however, his life remained a mystery, The New York Times reported in an April article on the case that pointed up the secrecy and lack of accountability in the nation’s ballooning immigration detention system. Just who the man was and why he had been detained were unknown.

Yet at the end of a long trail of government documents and interviews with friends and relatives in New York, Texas and his native Pakistan, there was his name, “Ahmad, T.,” still listed last week on the tenants’ buzzer board at the Eldorado, an apartment building in Flatbush, Brooklyn, where he had lived for years. And the tenant list itself — Jones, Nadler, Mahmud, Fong, Quinones — testified to the long history of American immigration that he had tried so hard to join.

Tanveer Ahmad, it turns out, was a longtime New York City cabdriver who had paid thousands of dollars in taxes and immigration application fees. Whether out of love, loneliness or the quest for a green card, he had twice married American women after entering the country on a visitor’s visa in 1993. His only trouble with the law was a $200 fine for disorderly conduct in 1997: While working at a Houston gas station, he had displayed the business’s unlicensed gun to stop a robbery.

It would come back to haunt him. For if Mr. Ahmad’s overlooked death showed how immigrants could vanish in detention, his overlooked American life shows how 9/11 changed the stakes for those caught in the nation’s tangle of immigration laws.

In the end, his body went back in a box to his native village, to be buried by his Pakistani widow and their two children, conceived on his only two trips home in a dozen years. He had always hoped to bring them all to the United States, his widow, Rafia Perveen, said in a tearful telephone interview through a translator.

“He said America is very good,” she recalled. “When it comes to the treatment of Muslims in the U.S., he had faith in the rule of law. He said, ‘In America, they don’t bother anyone just for no reason.’ ”

When immigration agents burst into Mr. Ahmad’s two-room Flatbush apartment on Aug. 2, 2005, they were looking for someone else, his friends say — a roommate suspected of violating his student visa by working. But they ordered Mr. Ahmad to report to immigration headquarters in Manhattan on Aug. 11.

He went, and was delivered in shackles to the Monmouth County Correctional Institute in Freehold, N.J. His Texas misdemeanor had popped up in the computer as an offense involving a deadly weapon — reason enough, after 9/11, for authorities to detain him pending deportation proceedings.

Like several million other residents of the United States, Mr. Ahmad occupied the complicated gray zone between illegal and legal immigration. Though he had overstayed his first visa, he had repeatedly been authorized to work while his applications for “adjustment of status” were pending. Twice before 9/11 he had been allowed back into the country after visits to Pakistan.

But the green card application sponsored by his Bronx-born wife, Shanise Farrar, had been officially denied in March 2005, leaving him without a valid visa. Although the couple could have reapplied, by the time he was arrested they had not spoken in more than a year, and Ms. Farrar, who had received a letter threatening a marriage fraud investigation, was unaware of his detention.

As she tells it, theirs was an intimate relationship ruined by 9/11. With regret, she recalled her reaction: “I was just cursing him. I was like, ‘You people come here and kill us and mess up our city.’ He was trying to convince me and prove to me that he’s a good man, not those people.”

“I loved him,” she added. “It was just, once the World Trade Center came down, I changed my mind.”

He was a natural immigrant, friends said, the fifth child in a poor but striving family, the captain of his village school’s victorious cricket team who grew into a funny and generous adult. After his family arranged his engagement to his cousin Rafia, he left to work in a brother’s store in Saudi Arabia. But once he visited New York, he had eyes only for the United States.

“His brother called him to come back,” recalled Mohammad S. Tariq, 58, a cabby whose Brooklyn apartment was Mr. Ahmad’s first home in the city. “But Tanveer did not want to go back.”

Instead he followed a job to Texas. He worked the night shift at a gas station that was robbed at gunpoint 7 times in 35 days, said the manager, Kathy Jean Lewis — who married him while she was battling thyroid cancer.

After her recovery, Mr. Ahmad made a three-month trip back to Pakistan, where he wed his cousin in 1998. His marriage to Ms. Lewis, now 53, was annulled by a Texas court in 1999.

She harbors no hard feelings. “He was emotionally supportive when I was sick,” she said, recalling how Mr. Ahmad took her to midnight dinners at her favorite restaurant when she was undergoing radiation treatment. “He just had a very big heart.”

His second American wife, Ms. Farrar, tells a similar story.

They wed at the city clerk’s office in Manhattan in July 2000, when Ms. Farrar was a single mother struggling to support her young son as a car service dispatcher, and they applied for a green card. She says she did not know he had a wife in Pakistan, and she denies that hers was “a paper marriage,” as Mr. Ahmad’s Pakistani widow put it. Ms. Farrar, 36, still speaks wistfully of family outings to Six Flags Great Adventure and the Bronx Zoo.

Then came 9/11. “Friends and family, ringing my phone — ‘You better watch it, you maybe married a terrorist,’ ” Ms. Farrar recalled, evoking a period when hundreds of Muslim immigrants in New York were swept up on the strength of vague suspicions. “I would bring it to him. He was scared anybody was going to hurt him.”

They patched things up before a November 2002 immigration interview, Ms. Farrar said. But they flunked it — the interviewing agent apparently doubted their marriage was genuine — and never appeared for the second-chance interview in 2003, Ms. Farrar said, because they had split up.

By the time Mr. Ahmad was taken in handcuffs to immigration court on Aug. 17, 2005, all he wanted was to return to Pakistan. He insisted on giving up his right to contest deportation, even though he faced a 10-year bar on returning, said Kenneth M. Schonfeld, an immigration lawyer hurriedly hired by Mr. Ahmad’s friends, all cabdrivers from Pakistan.

“He couldn’t stand the thought of having to stay in custody,” the lawyer said, and he seemed “really terrified” of the Monmouth jail. “It’s a place that would frighten or depress anyone.”

Three weeks later, Mr. Ahmad was dead. Since he had no known health problems, his friends were shocked and disbelieving. They were told that Mr. Ahmad had suffered a heart attack in the jail, and despite all efforts to revive him, had been pronounced dead in a hospital emergency room at 5:51 p.m. on Sept. 9. An autopsy cited “occlusive coronary atherosclerosis.”

His friends did not know that the jail had a history of detainee complaints of medical neglect and physical abuse, and did not allow guards to send detainees to the medical unit without prior approval. Similar complaints have been made about many detention centers, spurring the Obama administration to order a review of the system.

According to the jail’s internal investigation, Mr. Ahmad walked into the medical unit shortly after 3:50 p.m. on Sept. 9 and “was seen immediately.” But the letter scrawled by a fellow inmate contended that before he showed up there, Mr. Ahmad’s pleas for treatment had been rebuffed by a guard for an hour.

Complaints about his death were filed with the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, documents show; the matter was passed for internal inquiry to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, with the notation that it need not report back its findings.

By 2007, when the immigration agency compiled its first list of deaths in immigration detention, under pressure from Congress and the news media, Mr. Ahmad’s death was not on it.

Yet if his death was not counted, his arrest was — it had been added to the agency’s anti-terrorism statistics, according to government documents showing he was termed a “collateral” apprehension in Operation Secure Commute, raids seeking visa violators after the London transit bombings.

How his children will remember him is another matter. Without the money Mr. Ahmad used to send, they had to move in with relatives far from his grave in Pakistan. But his 10-year-old son clings to a souvenir, the widow said: “He keeps his father’s photograph in his pocket.”

Margot Williams contributed research.


12) Honduras Is Rattled as Leader Tries Return
July 6, 2009

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — An airborne drama that held Honduras in suspense for most of the day ended Sunday evening with the ousted president’s plane circling over the airport here in the capital, where soldiers and riot police officers blocked the runway and used tear gas and bullets to disperse supporters who had awaited what was supposed to have been his triumphal return.

As the plane carrying the ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, swept in low and made two passes over the city, cheers erupted from the crowds below. An air force jet then streaked across the sky and Mr. Zelaya’s plane flew off to Nicaragua, where he made a brief stopover before heading to El Salvador.

“The runway is blocked,” Mr. Zelaya said in an interview from the sky that was broadcast over loudspeakers to his supporters on the ground. “There is no way I can land.”

He vowed to make another attempt soon.

Despite the anticlimax of the landing efforts, diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis seemed to move forward.

Earlier in the day, the interim president in Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, said he was willing to negotiate with the Organization of American States, the group that suspended Honduras on Saturday night for ousting the president. It remained unclear whether Mr. Micheletti’s proposal represented a breakthrough, as some Obama administration officials said might be the case.

Mr. Zelaya’s return to Honduras, however, was out of the question, officials said. The leaders who expelled Mr. Zelaya in an early-morning coup last Sunday had bluntly declared that the plane carrying the deposed president and other aircraft accompanying it would be denied permission to enter Honduran air space. “If he pushes it, there will be 10,000 people on the runway to prevent him,” said Enrique Ortez, foreign minister of the caretaker government.

But Mr. Zelaya went ahead anyway. He boarded a Venezuelan plane in Washington on Sunday afternoon with the United Nations General Assembly president, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, and a small group of advisers and others. As he flew, large crowds gathered at the airport in Tegucigalpa to greet him.

When hundreds of demonstrators tried to gain access to the airport, the soldiers at one of the runways began firing. At least one protester was killed and eight people were injured, rescue officials said.

Adding to the tensions, Mr. Zelaya was giving interviews from the air as he approached Central America. “No one can obligate me to turn around,” he told Telesur, a Venezuelan network that had reporters on the plane. “The Constitution prohibits expelling Hondurans from the country. I am returning with all of my constitutional guarantees.”

The presidents of Ecuador, Paraguay and Argentina as well as José Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the O.A.S., were flying in a separate plane and they had plans to land only if Mr. Zelaya’s plane landed safely.

As Mr. Zelaya’s plane neared the airport, he addressed the military directly on live television, asking soldiers to return their loyalty to him “in the name of God, in the name of the people, and in the name of justice.”

But soldiers and military vehicles blocked the runway, making a landing impossible.

The flyover infuriated some members of Honduras’s air force. “That was a flagrant violation of our sovereignty by a Venezuelan aircraft,” said an air force officer who spoke on the condition that he not be identified. “They entered our airspace without permission and they were flying lower than allowed. It was an act of provocation.”

Tensions were high throughout the region. Mr. Micheletti said that Nicaraguan troops had been observed near the Honduras border, which he called a provocation. He called on President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua to withdraw the troops and vowed to defend Honduran territory.

But Mr. Ortega denied in a radio interview that any troops were massing, and American officials in Washington said they lacked any information of Nicaraguan troop movements.

Even as they vowed to discuss the matter with the O.A.S., members of the new government did not back off a bit from their contention that the ouster of Mr. Zelaya by the army was legal and that under no circumstances would he be allowed to complete the final six months of his presidency.

Mr. Micheletti said he was concerned that Mr. Zelaya’s arrival in the country would cause violence. “We don’t want internal conflicts,” he said. “We don’t want bloodshed and this could be the consequence of his coming back.”

Awaiting him upon return, Mr. Micheletti said, were 18 arrest warrants for treason, abuse of authority and other charges. The new government said Mr. Zelaya had broken the law by pushing ahead, even when the courts ordered him not to, with a referendum on whether to change the Constitution. Critics feared he intended to extend his rule past January, when he would have been required to step down.

But even as Mr. Zelaya’s flight approached Honduras, a flurry of diplomatic efforts were under way to try to stop the crisis from spinning out of control.

In a possible reciprocation of the de facto government’s offer to talk, the O.A.S. shifted away from a strategy that prohibited its diplomats from speaking with Mr. Micheletti. For the first time, officials indicated that the organization would open direct channels of communication.

In a telephone interview, a senior Obama administration official said that the United States, worried about the worsening tensions on the streets of Honduras, was also beginning its own diplomatic efforts, in coordination with the O.A.S., to get the negotiations with the de facto government moving sooner rather than later. The officials would not give details of their efforts.

“This is an extremely difficult and delicate situation,” the senior administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, “and from our point of view, speed is of the essence.”

Marc Lacey reported from Tegucigalpa, and Ginger Thompson from Washington.


13) Stop the War draft statement on the crisis in Iran

The crisis unfolding in Iran must not become the pretext for renewed intervention by the USA or Britain in the region, nor for a whipping up of further tension around Iran’s nuclear programme.

The responsibility of the anti-war movement is first of all to oppose the role of the British government in the region, and to prevent its posturing being used as a pretence to justify a US or Israeli military attack against Iran, an attack which would have catastrophic results for the whole Middle East and the Iranian people.

The Stop the War Coalition believes that resolving the crisis is the right and responsibility of the Iranian people alone, and that external interference can play no positive role – particularly interference by those powers which have laid waste to neighbouring Iraq in a lawless war and occupation, and which unfailingly support Israeli aggression in the region.

It would be wrong for us to take any position on the disputed outcome of the Iranian presidential election. We do, however, support the right to demonstrate peacefully, just as we support the Iranian people’s right to political, trade union and other civil freedoms and to struggle to achieve them. We unequivocally condemn the shooting of protesters and other violations of democratic liberties by the Iranian government.

We note the anger displayed by many Iranians against the British government. These sentiments reflect Britain’s shameful history in the country, from overthrowing the democratic regime of Mossadeq in 1952, to its stalwart support for the Shah’s despotism and its support for Saddam Hussein in his aggression against the Islamic Republic in the 1980s.

This anger can only be exacerbated by British interference in the present crisis. The British government remained silent when its ally Hosni Mubarak falsified election results in Egypt, and it has refused to deal with democratically-elected leaders in the Palestine Authority and in Lebanon. The government supports the Saudi kleptocracy, which does not need to manipulate elections because they are never held there.

The British and US governments wish to see regime change in Iran in order to dominate the Middle East and its resources and leave Israel as the region’s unchallenged military superpower. And a government which ignored millions of its own people marching against its planned war against Iraq is in no position to lecture others on democratic attitudes.

In expressing our solidarity with all the Iranian people striving for a democratic outcome to the crisis in their country, the Coalition will support demonstrations and initiatives which reflect these principles.

Note: This is a draft statement by the officers of Stop the War Coalition, which will be put for endorsement to Stop the War's National Steering Committee on Saturday 27 June 2009.


13) Summer Brings a Wave of Homeless Families
July 7, 2009

As the school year sailed to a close last month, Arielle Figueras crossed the stage in her cap and gown and proudly accepted her fifth-grade diploma.

The next day, she was homeless.

Arielle, a petite 11-year-old, and her parents, brother and sister packed their belongings and arrived at the intake center for homeless families in the South Bronx. Though they had been fighting with their landlord for months and their gas and electricity had long been shut off, they refused to leave their apartment while school was in session.

“She was graduating, so we had to wait,” Arielle’s mother, Marilyn Maldonado, said. “We just didn’t want to disrupt their routines. We couldn’t do that to them.”

Many New Yorkers view summer as a time for vacations, camp and lazy days at the beach. But city officials have been preparing for quite a different summer ritual: the swelling of the population of homeless families.

They call it the summer surge, and say that this year could be the worst yet.

Because the homeless population this spring was up more than 20 percent over last spring, possibly because of higher unemployment, officials are girding for an all-time high in the number of families in shelters at once, expecting close to 10,000. Already, the number has reached 9,420.

Other cities are noticing a similar trend. In Toledo, Ohio, one overcrowded shelter has been turning away dozens of people each night. In Charlotte, N.C., a shelter that is typically open only in winter has stayed open for the summer to meet demand, which is 20 percent higher than last summer. Across town, a Salvation Army shelter is so full, it has set up mats on the floors.

The reasons are varied but simple. Landlords who are reluctant to evict during winter are less hesitant when it is warmer. Parents like the Maldonados, who have endured poor housing conditions to spare their children agitation and humiliation at school, finally pack up and leave. And relatives who have taken in families in cramped apartments lose patience when children are suddenly underfoot all day long.

“When school’s open, families tend to stay where they are,” said Deronda Metz, the director of social services for the Salvation Army in Charlotte. “And when school’s out, they’re told it’s time to go.”

In New York, the number of homeless families applying for shelter in the summer has been 28 percent higher than the rest of the year the last three years. Their first stop is the intake center, a 24-hour, sprawling 66,000-square-foot brick building in the Bronx. They must walk through metal detectors, must submit to questioning from social workers and, after hours of waiting for their names to be called, are bused to a temporary hotel room or apartment.

Workers have begun to make room for the hundreds of extra families that are expected at the center this summer. On the second floor, all of the cubicles in one room were dismantled, replaced by rows of plastic chairs to make a waiting room for up to 114 people. Rows of boxy light gray metal lockers — each large enough to hold several suitcases — were installed. Employees at the intake center are being limited to one week of vacation during July and August.

Just a few hours after the public schools let out for summer, families began trickling into the center, their faces tight with stress. One woman walked briskly inside with her young son, who wore a bright blue backpack and held an armful of books. Another woman, who would not give her name, waited outside with her daughter, who had just finished second grade. “My sister said we couldn’t stay with her anymore,” she said, fanning herself for some relief from the humidity. “I said once she’s done with school, we’d get out.”

Arielle’s father, Douglas Maldonado, said that their landlord had stopped making repairs and had altered the building’s electric billing to make the Maldonados pay for other apartments’ power, up to $8,000 a month. But they held onto their apartment just long enough for Arielle’s graduation and for their son, Sabino Figueras, to graduate from eighth grade the week before.

The Bloomberg administration has run into trouble before with its handling of the summer influx of homeless families. In 2002, there was a public relations debacle when officials allowed hundreds of parents and children to wait in the intake office each day, more than three times the number that city fire codes allowed. Other families were placed in an empty men’s jail in the Bronx that was later discovered to have been contaminated with lead paint.

This summer, the administration will use a combination of existing homeless shelters that are not quite full and vacant apartment buildings that have been fixed up for homeless families, said Robert V. Hess, the commissioner of homeless services.

“We have a variety of options, so that we can be as nimble as possible,” Mr. Hess said. “We keep some reserve.”

One essential part of the city’s plan is to place families in hotels temporarily, some of which are used for both homeless people and paying customers.

Mr. Maldonado’s family spent its first few nights in a hotel on 145th Street in the Bronx. One of the mattresses in the room, Mr. Maldonado said, was filthy and stained with urine.

On June 28, Tarshima Dixon, a mother of four, went to the intake center with her 14-year-old son, Jason. Two more sons, Craig Dixon, 13, and Nahjee Johnson, 8, waited outside with their grandmother and cheerfully bounced a basketball on the sidewalk as Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” played from their minivan’s stereo.

The family was evicted in April, and Ms. Dixon’s mother did not have room for all of them. So Ms. Dixon, along with Craig, Nahjee and another son, Gregory, 16, moved into a shelter in Brooklyn soon after. Jason had been living with his father in Camden, N.J., but Ms. Dixon wanted him back with his brothers. They had to come to the intake center to let the city know there would be one more homeless person needing a bed.

“He just finished school this week,” said Ms. Dixon, who added that she was determined that the whole family would move into an apartment by August. “I wasn’t going to bring him here until he was done.”


14) Former Inmate Says Photos Show Abuse at Guantánamo
July 7, 2009

A former inmate of the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, who was released to Britain this year, has asked a federal court in Washington to preserve “photographic evidence” that he says shows him being “savagely beaten” while a detainee.

In an affidavit filed in June with United States District Court, the former inmate, Binyam Mohamed, said that video and still cameras had documented his abuse, and that he had seen some of the images, which he said were in the possession of his lawyers.

He said in the affidavit that in May 2006 a guard “slammed my forehead down on the concrete floor,” and another “grabbed my testicles and punched me.”

Later, another guard “slammed me and my Koran into the fence,” Mr. Mohamed said. He said soldiers had strapped him down and shaved half his beard, and “they then performed a humiliating ‘anal cavity search,’ although it was patently obvious that there was nothing to find.”

A Pentagon spokesman, Cmdr. Jeffrey D. Gordon of the Navy, denied the allegations, saying, “In response to allegations made by Binyam Mohamed, repeated internal reviews showed no evidence of mistreatment while in U.S. custody.”

Mr. Mohamed has previously alleged abuse, mainly by the C.I.A. in Morocco. The C.I.A. has declined to say whether he was ever held in Morocco and has denied that he, or anyone else in its custody, was ever tortured.

Mr. Mohamed said that his lawyers were prohibited by the rules governing counsel for Guantánamo detainees from talking about the photographs, but that he was not.

One of his lawyers, Clive Stafford Smith, confirmed that he had a copy of at least one photo, and that he could not talk about it. He provided a copy of the affidavit by Mr. Mohamed, filed in connection to a pending legal action that began before his release.

Under the rules for lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees, Mr. Stafford Smith said, the government has ordered him to destroy the photographic evidence now that Mr. Mohamed has been freed. He added that it had made similar requests in other cases of released detainees.

Pakistani authorities picked up Mr. Mohamed, a British resident who was born in Ethiopia, in 2002 and turned him over to the Americans, who took him to Morocco, according to court documents in his case, and American and British officials. He eventually ended up at Guantánamo.

Shortly after his capture, Bush administration officials said he was part of a plot to explode a dirty bomb in the United States.

Before being released from Guantánamo in February, Mr. Mohamed was offered a plea bargain, which required him to agree to abandon his efforts to obtain documents that might bolster his torture claims and not to file lawsuits against the United States government or any of its officials.

He rejected the offer and a few months later all charges against him were dropped.

“I want these photos, as they are obviously the best evidence I could obtain to prove some of the worst aspects of my abuse,” Mr. Mohamed said in the affidavit. “It would help me show what happened, and how the statements extracted from me were the bitter fruit of torture.”


15) The Crooks Get Cash While the Poor Get Screwed
By Chris Hedges
Jul 6, 2009

Tearyan Brown became a father when he was 16. He did what a lot of inner-city kids desperate to make money do. He sold drugs. He was arrested and sent to jail three years later for dealing marijuana and PCP on the streets of Trenton, N.J., mostly to white kids driving in from the suburbs. It was a job which saw him robbed at gunpoint and stabbed in the chest. But it made him about $1,400 a week.

Brown, when he got out after three and a half years, was done with street life. He got a job as a security guard and then as a fork lift operator. He eventually made about $30,000 a year. He shepherded his son through high school, then college and a master’s degree. His boy, now 24, is a high school teacher in Texas. Brown would not leave the streets of Trenton but his son would. It made him proud. It gave him hope.

And then one morning in 2005 when he was visiting his mother’s house the cops showed up. He saw the cruiser and the officers standing on his mother’s porch. He hurried down the block toward the home to see what was wrong. What was wrong was him. On the basis of a police photograph, he had been identified by an 82-year-old woman as the man who had robbed her of $9 at gunpoint a few hours earlier. The only other witness to the crime insisted the elderly victim was confused. The witness told the police Brown was innocent. Brown’s friends said Brown was with them when the robbery took place.

“Why would I rob a woman for $9,” he asks me. “I had been paid the day before. I had not committed a crime in 20 years. It didn’t make any sense.”

He was again sent to jail. But this time he was charged with armed robbery. If convicted, he would be locked away for many years. His grown son and his three young boys would live, as he had, without the presence of a father. The little ones—11-year-old twins and a 10-year-old—would be adults when he got out. When he met with his state-appointed attorney, the lawyer, like most state-appointed attorneys, pushed for accepting a plea bargain, one that would see him behind bars for at least the next decade. Brown pulled the pictures of his children out of his wallet, laid the pictures carefully on the table in front of the lawyer, looked at the faces of his children and broke down in tears. He shook and sobbed. It was a hard thing to do for a man who stands nearly 6 feet tall and weights 210 pounds and has coped with a lot in his life.

“I didn’t do nothing,” he choked out to the lawyer.

He refused the plea bargain offer. He sat in jail for the next two years before getting a trial. It was a time of deep despair. Jail had changed since he had last been incarcerated. The facilities were overcrowded, with inmates sleeping in corridors and on the floor. The gangs taunted those who, like Brown, were not affiliated with a gang. Gang members knocked trays of food to the floor. They pissed on mattresses. They stole canteen items and commissary orders. And there was nothing the victims could do about it.

“See this,” he says to me in a dimly lit coffee shop in downtown Trenton as he rolls up the right sleeve of his T-shirt. “It’s the grim reaper. I got it in jail. I was so scared. I was scared I wouldn’t get out this time. I was scared I would not see my kids grow up. They make their own tattoo guns in jail with a toothbrush, a staple and the motor of a Walkman. It cost me $15, well, not really dollars. I had to give him about 10 soups and a package of cigarettes. On the street this would be three or four hundred dollars.”

Under the tattoo of the scythe-wielding, hooded figure are the words “Death Awaits.”

He had a trial after two years in jail and was found not guilty. The sheriff’s deputies in the courtroom said as he was walking out that they “had never seen anything like this.” He reaches into his baggy jeans and pulls out his thin brown wallet. He opens it to show me a folded piece of paper. The paper says, “Verdict: Defendant found not guilty on all charges.” It is dated Jan. 31, 2008.

But innocence and guilt are funny things in America. If you are rich and guilty, if you have defrauded banks and customers and investment firms of billions of dollars, as AIG or Citibank has, if you wear fancy suits and have degrees from elite universities that cost more per year than Brown used to make, you get taxpayer money. You get lots of it. You maintain the lavish lifestyle of jets and spas and million-dollar bonuses. You live a life of unchecked greed and have too much in a world where most have too little. If you are moral scum in America we take care of you. But if you are poor, if you are, say, Tearyan Brown and African-American and 39 years old with four kids and no job and you live in the inner city, you are in trouble. No one comes to help you. You don’t get a second chance. This is what being poor means.

Brown found that life had changed when he got out. He had lost his job as a fork lift operator. And there were no new jobs to be found. He had faithfully paid child support until his arrest but, with no income, he could not pay from jail and now he was being hauled into court by the state every few weeks for being in arrears for $13,000. The mother of his three youngest boys goes to court with him. She explains that he paid regularly while he had work. She explains that when she works on the weekends Brown takes the kids. She asks that he be forgiven until he can get a job and begin paying again. But there are no jobs.

“I would not be in arrears in child support if I had not been incarcerated for something I didn’t do,” he says. “I will never get above ground owing $13,000. How can I pay $120 a week when I don’t have a job?”

Brown lives on $200 a month in food stamps and $40 in cash. Welfare will pay his apartment for another four months. He is barely making it. I ask him what he will do when he loses the rent subsidy.

“I’ll be homeless,” he says.

“My son says come down to Texas,” he adds. “Start a new life with me. But what about my three little boys? I can’t leave them. I can’t leave them in Trenton. They need a father.”

Brown works out every day. He does calisthenics. He is a vegetarian. He volunteers at a food pantry. He attends the Jerusalem Baptist Church with his little boys. “They are church kids,” he tells me proudly. “They are pretty much raised by the church.”

He is trying to keep himself together. But he lives in a world that is falling apart. The gangs on the streets of Trenton carry Glock 9-millimeter pistols and AK-47 assault rifles. When the Trenton police stop a car or raid a house filled with suspected gang members, they approach with loaded M-16s. A local newspaper, The Trentonian, reports the daily chronicle of crime, decay and neglect. The lead story in the day’s paper, which Brown has with him, is about a young man named James Deonte James, whose street name is “Lurch.” James was charged in the death of a 13-year-old girl during a gang shooting. He is reputed to be a “five star general in the Sex Money Murder set of the Bloods street gang.”

In another story, an ex-con and reputed mobster, Michael “Mickey Rome” Dimattia, was arrested in his car after a woman behind the wheel was seen driving erratically. “Mickey Rome,” dressed in a black bathrobe with a red scarf around his neck, was found to be wearing a bulletproof vest, with three guns stuck in his waistband, and had a crack pipe, crack cocaine and prescription pills in his pockets. He had been convicted in 1990 of killing a 17-year-old boy with a shotgun blast to the head. He served less than three years for the murder.

A feature story on Page 4 of the paper is about a man with AIDS who raped his girlfriend’s son 55 times and infected the boy with the virus. The boy was 9 when the rapes took place.

“There are thousands more guns out there than when I was on the street,” Brown says. “It is easier to buy a gun than get liquor from a liquor store.”

He says he rarely goes out at night, even to the corner store. It is too dangerous.

The desperation is palpable. People don’t know where to turn. Benefits are running out. More and more people are out of work.

“You see things getting worse and worse,” he says. “You see people who wonder how they are going to eat and take care of themselves and their kids. You see people starting to do anything to get food, to hustle or rob, to go back to doing things they do not want to do. Good people start doin’ bad things. People are getting eviler.”

He pauses.

“All things are better with God,” he says softly, looking down at the tabletop.

He is reading a book about the Bible. It is about Jesus and God. It is about learning to trust in God’s help. In America that is about all the poor have left. And when God fails them, they are on their own.


16) Court Upholds Dismissal of Colorado Professor
July 8, 2009

DENVER — Three months after a jury ruled that Ward L. Churchill, a former University of Colorado professor, was wrongfully terminated for his political views, a judge on Tuesday refused to give him his job back.

Chief Judge Larry J. Naves of Denver District Court ruled that the university’s regents were effectively acting as judicial officers when they voted to dismiss Mr. Churchill in 2007 after a faculty committee concluded that he had committed academic fraud. As a result, Judge Naves found, the regents were legally protected from Mr. Churchill’s effort to reverse their ruling.

Mr. Churchill’s lawyer, David Lane, said he would appeal the decision.

“To me, this is judicial activism in its worst form,” Mr. Lane said. “What is really a shame here is that a jury said Ward Churchill’s free speech was violated, and yet Judge Naves goes on for almost 50 pages, saying in so many words, ‘Too bad.’ ”

Mr. Churchill, an ethnic studies professor, caused an uproar when he referred in an essay to some victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as “little Eichmanns,” and argued that that was the true reason he was terminated. He filed a wrongful-termination suit, and after a trial earlier this year, a jury found that his political views played a substantial role in his dismissal. But in his 42-page ruling, Judge Naves said the jury’s decision to award Mr. Churchill only $1 compelled him to deny reinstatement.

“If I am required to enter an order that is ‘consistent with the jury’s findings,’ I cannot order a remedy that ‘disregards the jury’s implicit finding’ that Professor Churchill has suffered no actual damages that an award of reinstatement would prospectively remedy,” Judge Naves wrote.

Judge Naves also said that Mr. Churchill’s rejection of the faculty committee’s conclusion that he had engaged in academic misconduct had made it difficult to return Mr. Churchill to campus.

The ruling is a clear victory for the university, which also faced the prospect of having to pay Mr. Churchill for the years he might have taught there, an option Judge Naves also rejected.

“At the moment, we feel very satisfied,” said Bronson Hilliard, a university spokesman. “There was an important principle at stake here, and that is academic integrity, which is at the heart of everything we do in research and teaching. We feel very gratified at the outcome.”

The decision on Tuesday is at least a temporary conclusion to a tumultuous case that has lasted nearly five years.

When Mr. Churchill’s controversial essay first appeared in 2001, it attracted little notice. In it, he described some workers at the World Trade Center as “little Eichmanns,” referring to Adolf Eichmann, who has been called the architect of the Holocaust.

By 2005, however, the essay had spread over Web sites, provoking outrage. Shortly after, scholars came forward, accusing Mr. Churchill of plagiarism in his research on American Indians.

In May 2006, a faculty committee at the university found serious problems with Mr. Churchill’s scholarship. A year later, the regents dismissed him and Mr. Churchill filed his lawsuit.

After the jury’s verdict, Mr. Churchill’s lawyers asked Judge Naves to order reinstatement, and at a hearing last week, they argued that returning him to his job would be logical, based on the jury’s findings. Patrick O’Rourke, a lawyer for the university, countered that Mr. Churchill’s return would harm the institution.

Faculty members and administrators testified for both sides, some arguing that Mr. Churchill was a critical voice on campus and others saying that his return would set a terrible precedent.

After the initial controversy surrounding Mr. Churchill, faculty members leaped to defend his right to free speech, but that support eroded after the accusations of research misconduct.

Scott Robinson, a Denver trial lawyer and analyst who has followed the trial, said he was not surprised at the ruling, given that courts have shied from interfering with university decisions. By the same token, Mr. Robinson said, it was difficult to equate regents with judges, as Judge Naves had, particularly when in this case the regents publicly denounced Mr. Churchill at the outset of the controversy.

“This is an extraordinary case which is going to result in some sort of extraordinary final ruling,” Mr. Robinson said.


17) Military-backed public schools on the rise despite protests
By Dorie Turner, Associated Press
June 4, 2009

ATLANTA — The U.S. Marine Corps is wooing public school districts across the country, expanding a network of military academies that has grown steadily despite criticism that it's a recruiting ploy.

The Marines are talking with at least six districts — including in suburban Atlanta, New Orleans and Las Vegas — about opening schools where every student wears a uniform, participates in Junior ROTC and takes military classes, said Bill McHenry, who runs the Junior ROTC program for the Marines.

Those schools would be on top of more than a dozen public military academies that have already opened nationwide, a trend that's picking up speed as the U.S. Department of Defense looks for ways to increase the number of units in Junior ROTC, which stands for Reserve Officers Training Corps.

"Many kids in our country don't get a fair shake. Many kids live in war zones. Many kids who are bright and have so much potential and so much to offer, all they need to be given is a chance," McHenry said. "If you look at stats, what we're doing now isn't working."

Last year, Congress passed a defense policy bill that included a call for increasing the number of Junior ROTC units across the country from 3,400 to 3,700 in the next 11 years, an effort that will cost about $170 million, Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen M. Lainez said. The process will go faster by opening military academies, which count as four or more units, McHenry said.

Other military branches also are aiming to increase their presence in school hallways, but the Marines are leading the charge.

In DeKalb County, which includes part of Atlanta, protests by parents and threats of lawsuits began almost as soon as the school board announced last year that it planned to open a Marine Corps high school. The district wanted to open it this fall, but the approval process in Washington has delayed that. The district hopes to open the school in fall 2010.

Critics like Mike Hearington, a 56-year-old Vietnam War veteran whose son attends Shamrock Middle School in DeKalb County, say the schools are breeding grounds for the military.

"To pursue children like they are is criminal in my mind," Hearington said.

Between 5% and 10% of graduating seniors from the nation's public military schools end up enlisting, according to an Associated Press review of the majority of the schools' records. About 3% of all new high school graduates join the military, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Proponents say the academies aren't recruiting tools but focus on discipline, ethics and civics, giving at-risk teens a place where they can flourish to help battle the country's high school dropout rate of one in four kids.

"The whole notion behind this is that there is so much literature out there and myth that kids from low socio-economic levels can't learn and won't learn," said DeKalb County schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis. "We are partnering with the Marines to show if we come together and do this right, we will debunk that whole stereotype."

The first public military school in the U.S. opened in Richmond, Va., in 1980. Since then, about a dozen have been added with the number increasing over the last five years as struggling districts look for innovative ways to meet federal No Child Left Behind standards.

In DeKalb County, the school district would get about $500,000 a year plus $1.4 million in start-up funds from the Marines, Lewis said. The school would open with 150 cadets, growing eventually to about 650 drawn from a pool of low-performing students who have high test scores and want to attend, Lewis said.

The academy would be much like a typical high school, except students would wear ROTC uniforms and start each day with a military formation and inspection. Besides Spanish club and debate team, students can sign up for military drill team and color guard. The school's principal likely will be a retired Marine.

In Chicago, the nation's third-largest public school district began opening military academies in 1999 with encouragement from Mayor Richard Daley and then-Superintendent Paul Vallas. Vallas left in 2002 and took the idea with him to Philadelphia, where two military schools have since opened.

Chicago has six public military academies and is the only district with schools representing all four branches of the military.

For Brenda Hernandez, who will be in the first graduating class at Rickover Naval Academy in Chicago on June 10, the option let her avoid the gang-ridden schools in her neighborhood. The 17-year-old commutes an hour each way by bus and train. She credits the school with helping her shake her shy nature through one-on-one attention from teachers and ample extracurricular activities.

"I've come out of my shell more," said Hernandez, who plans to attend DePaul University in the fall to major in business. "I can be more outspoken and confident in what I do."

School districts in St. Louis, Mo.; Sarasota, Fla.; Kenosha, Wis.; Sandy Hook, N.J.; Charleston Heights, S.C., and Forestville, Md., have also started similar academies with the U.S. Department of Defense.

The academies have the support of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who ran Chicago Public Schools before being tapped by President Barack Obama. Duncan sees the schools as another option for kids who don't fit well in a traditional educational setting.

"For the right child, these schools are a lifesaver," Duncan said.

Test results have been mixed.

More than 70% of 11th graders at Philadelphia Military Academy at Elverson scored at the basic level or better on the state math test in 2008, compared to a district average of 41%, according to data on the district's website. For reading, 88% met standards, compared to 58% districtwide.

Meanwhile, students at the public military schools in Chicago have struggled.

Just 27% met standards in 2008 — the most recent data available — compared to the district average of 60% and the state average of 74%. At Carver Military Academy in Chicago, just 8% of students passed muster on state tests.

None of the Chicago military schools made "adequate yearly progress" last year, meaning they fell short of basic standards under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Chicago schools spokesman Franklin Shuftan said many of the military academies replaced underperforming high schools, and it will take time for them to improve test scores and student achievement.

Chicago's military schools did reduce chronic truancy from 24% to 8.5% from 2007 to 2008 and increased the average ACT exam score from 15.8 to 17.3, out of a possible 36.

Mary Ann Hernandez, mother of soon-to-be Rickover graduate Brenda Hernandez, enrolled her daughter because the regular public school in her Chicago neighborhood isn't as academically challenging. She said she's proudly watched as her daughter took Advanced Placement and honors courses and became a leader on the drill and color guard squads.

"It's been an incredible experience for her and for us," the mother said. "I saw it as an opportunity to get a better education for my daughter."


18) Air Canada Workers Reject Wage, Pension Concessions
Roger Annis
July 8, 2009

Members of the largest union at Air Canada have narrowly voted to reject an
extraordinary agreement that would have frozen their wages for the next 21
months and allowed the company to suspend payments into the employee
pension plan. The International Association of Machinist (IAM) members
voted "No" by a 51 per cent majority.

Similar agreements were negotiated with all five of the airline’s unions.
Air Canada is the former state-owned, national airline. It was privatized
in 1989 and today employs some 28,000 workers. It is the fourteenth-largest
airline in the world.

The IAM represents some 11,000 technical, mechanical and support workers at
Air Canada. Other unions include the Canadian Union of Public Employees
(6,700 flight attendants) and the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) (5,000
service and sales employees). The CAW has already voted in favour of an
agreement; votes among pilots and CUPE members will conclude on July 13.

The extraordinary agreements were negotiated after Air Canada announced
earlier this year that it may head into bankruptcy protection. It says it
needs emergency financing of hundreds of millions of dollars as well as
relief from its pension obligations. Its current pension deficit is

The law governing federally registered pension plans requires that payment
schedules cover any deficits within five years. Canada’s largest industrial
employers, Air Canada included, are lobbying hard to extend deficit payment
schedules to ten years.

Ottawa Demands Concessions

The Canadian government has said it will provide up to $600-million in
financing to the airline, but on condition that employees offer up monetary
concessions, including on pensions. The company wants to suspend most
payments to the pension plan for the next 21 months.

In exchange for monetary and work-rule concessions from workers, Air Canada
will place stock value in the employee pension plan. Air Canada shares
currently trade at $1.43, down from more than $8 at the outset of last
year’s world financial collapse.

The IAM and the airline are now discussing what next steps to be taken. One
option being considered by the union is to simply hold another vote. Voter
turnout was low, less than 50 per cent of union members. Another option is
to negotiate what one IAM leader called "a tweaking of the contract" to
address worker concerns over job security.

The main reason for the "No" vote is anger and concern over job security in
the airline’s maintenance division. Last year, Air Canada took further
steps to spin-off its maintenance division, now called AVEOS. The division
includes a repair facility in El Salvador, Aeroman, that the airline
acquired in 2007. Union members are convinced that the company intends to
transfer much of its maintenance work there in order to profit from
significantly lower wages.

The "No" vote was strong in Montreal and tipped the national balance. Rank
and file members of the union there reportedly organized against the deal.
Air Canada’s largest repair facility is located in Montreal; its other two
facilities in Canada are in Winnipeg and Vancouver.

Union members are also angered over the years of wages and work rule
concessions they have taken, all the while watching shareholders and
executives loot the company. The reviled former CEO, Robert Milton, earned
a cool $39-million for the two years 2006 and 2007.

Corporate Looting

At first glance, it would seem strange that Air Canada would be approaching
bankruptcy for a second time. Six years ago, it emerged from bankruptcy
protection and has since made a killing for its investors and executives.
But as the June 2009 Globe and Mail Report on Business magazine reported,
the source of the investor bonanza was a combination of financial gimmickry
and the spinning off of profitable divisions into separate corporate
entities. These include regional carrier Air Canada Jazz, the Aeroplan
rewards program, and the aforementioned AVEOS.

Altogether, the former "Air Canada" has been looted of its profit-making
divisions. What’s left is a fleet of large aircraft flying national and
international routes in the face of very stiff competition.

"It was raped by Cerebus," airline analyst Ben Cherniavsky told Report on
Business, referring to Cerebus Capital Management, a New York "equity" firm
that became one of Air Canada’s largest shareholders after the airline
emerged from bankruptcy. "The good cash-flow businesses were taken out of

There are striking similarities in all of this to the fate of Chrysler,
General Motors and other recently bankrupted enterprises.

As with auto workers, the unions of airline and aerospace workers need a
political program and course of action to end the corporate looting of
social wealth and place vital services such as transportation under public
ownership and planning. One of the pressing goals of economic planning must
be a radical change in urban design and transportation modes in order to
end the environmental destruction that accompanies the reckless
proliferation of fossil-fuel burning cars and aeroplanes. The vote of IAM
members at Air Canada and questions over the fate of the airline opens up
more space for such discussion. •

Roger Annis is an aerospace worker in Vancouver and a member of the
International Association of Machinists.


19) Fears for the World's Poor Countries as the Rich Grab Land to Grow Food
* UN sounds warning after 30m hectares bought up
* G8 leaders to discuss 'neo-colonialism'
John Vidal, environment editor
Friday 3 July 2009

The acquisition of farmland from the world's poor by rich countries and international corporations is accelerating at an alarming rate, with an area half the size of Europe's farmland targeted in the last six months, reports from UN officials and agriculture experts say.

New reports from the UN and analysts in India, Washington and London estimate that at least 30m hectares is being acquired to grow food for countries such as China and the Gulf states who cannot produce enough for their populations. According to the UN, the trend is accelerating and could severely impair the ability of poor countries to feed themselves.

Today it emerged that world leaders are to discuss what is being described as "land grabbing" or "neo-colonialism" at the G8 meeting next week. A spokesman for Japan's ministry of foreign affairs confirmed that it would raise the issue: "We feel there should be a code of conduct for investment in farmland that will be a win-win situation for both producing and consuming countries," he said.

Olivier De Schutter, special envoy for food at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: "[The trend] is accelerating quickly. All countries observe each other and when one sees others buying land it does the same."

The UN's food and agricultural organisation and other analysts estimate that nearly 20m hectares (50m acres) of farmland – an area roughly half the size of all arable land in Europe – has been sold or has been negotiated for sale or lease in the last six months. Around 10m hectares was bought last year. The land grab is being blamed on wealthy countries with concerns about food security.

Some of the largest deals include South Korea's acquisition of 700,000ha in Sudan, and Saudi Arabia's purchase of 500,000ha in Tanzania. The Democratic Republic of the Congo expects to shortly conclude an 8m-hectare deal with a group of South African businesses to grow maize and soya beans as well as poultry and dairy farming.

India has lent money to 80 companies to buy 350,000ha in Africa. At least six countries are known to have bought large landholdings in Sudan, one of the least food-secure countries in the world.

Other countries that have acquired land in the last year include the Gulf states, Sweden, China and Libya. Those targeted include not only fertile countries such as Brazil, Russia and Ukraine, but also poor countries like Cameroon, Ethiopia, Madagascar, and Zambia.

De Schutter said that after the food crisis of 2008, many countries found food imports hit their balance of payments, "so now they want to insure themselves".

"This is speculation, betting on future prices. What we see now is that countries have lost trust in the international market. We know volatility will increase in the next few years. Land prices will continue to rise. Many deals are even now being negotiated. Not all are complete yet."

He said that about one-fifth of the land deals were expected to grow biofuel crops. "But it is impossible to know with certainty because declarations are not made as to what crops will be grown," he said.

Some of the world's largest food, financial and car companies have invested in land.

Alpcot Agro of Sweden bought 120,000ha in Russia, South Korea's Hyundai has paid $6.5m (£4m) for a majority stake in Khorol Zerno, which owns 10,000ha in Eastern Siberia, while Morgan Stanley has bought 40,000ha in Ukraine. Last year South Korea's Daewoo signed a 99-year lease for 1.3m hectares of agricultural land in Madagascar.

Devinder Sharma, analyst with the Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security in India, predicted civil unrest.

"Outsourcing food production will ensure food security for investing countries but would leave behind a trail of hunger, starvation and food scarcities for local populations," he said. "The environmental tab of highly intensive farming – devastated soils, dry aquifer, and ruined ecology from chemical infestation – will be left for the host country to pick up."

In Madagascar, the Daewoo agreement was seen as a factor in the subsequent uprising that led to the ousting of the president, Marc Ravalomanana. His replacement, Andry Rajoelina, immediately moved to repeal the deal.

Concern is mounting because much of the land has been targeted for its good water supplies and proximity to ports. According to a report last month by the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development, the land deals "create risks and opportunities".

"Increased investment may bring benefits such as GDP growth and improved government revenues, and may create opportunities for economic development and livelihood improvement. But they may result in local people losing access to the resources on which they depend for their food security – particularly as some key recipient countries are themselves faced with food security challenges", said the authors.

According to a US-based thinktank, the International Food Policy Research Institute, nearly $20bn to $30bn a year is being spent by rich countries on land in developing countries. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2009


21) Obama's Cap and Trade Carbon Emissions Bill -
A Stealth Scheme to License Pollution and Fraud
by Stephen Lendman
Wednesday July 8, 2009

On May 15, HR 2454: American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACESA) was introduced in the House purportedly "To create clean energy jobs, achieve energy independence, reduce global warming pollution and transition to a clean energy economy."

In fact, it's to let corporate polluters reap huge windfall profits by charging consumers more for energy and fuel as well as create a new bubble through carbon trading derivatives speculation. It does nothing to address environmental issues, yet on June 26 the House narrowly passed (229 - 212) and sent it to the Senate to be debated and voted on. More on that below.

On March 31, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey released a "discussion draft" of the proposed legislation and falsely claimed:

-- it's "a comprehensive approach to America's energy policy that charts a new course towards a clean energy economy;" it will

-- create millions of clean energy jobs....that can't be shipped overseas;

-- put America on the path to energy independence;

-- reduce our dependence on foreign oil;

-- save money by the billions;

-- unleash energy investment by the trillions;

-- cut global warming pollution;

-- strengthen our economy;" and

-- make "America the world leader in new clean energy and energy efficiency technologies."

Strong-arm pressure, threats and bribes got the bill through the House. Forty-four Democrats opposed it. Eight Republicans backed it. Over 1200 pages long, few if any lawmakers read it.

After passage, Chairman Markey said:

"It's been an incredible six months to go from a point where no one believed we could pass this legislation to a point now where we can begin to say that we are going to send President Obama to Copenhagen in December as the leader of the world on climate change."

Speaker Pelosi praised the bill as "transformational legislation which takes us into the future" and added that after passage she took congratulatory calls from Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Al Gore. The former vice-president has long-standing ties to Goldman Sachs (GS), and in 2004 he and David Blood, CEO of GS's asset management division until 2003, co-founded Generation Investment Management LLC, a firm likely to profit greatly from cap and trade schemes.

In a prepared June 25 statement ahead of the House vote, Obama said:

"Right now, the House of Representatives is moving toward a vote of historic proportions on a piece of legislation that will open the door to a new, clean energy economy."

After citing the same false claims as Waxman and Markey, he called the legislation "balanced and sensible" and "urge(d) every member of Congress - Democrats and Republicans - to come together and support" it.

Polluters love it. So does Wall Street and corporate-friendly environmental groups like the Environmental Defense Fund. The opposition, however, includes Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Public Citizen.

In a joint May 13 press release, they were "extremely troubled (about) compromises to the already flawed American Clean Energy & Security Act."

It contains enough loopholes to make its claimed performance standards worthless, one of which prohibits the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate future greenhouse gas emissions. That alone means they'll proliferate beyond what new technology reduces on its own, and only then if it's profitable to do it.

On June 23, Friends of the Earth president Brent Blackwelder said:

"Corporate polluters including Shell and Duke Energy helped write this bill, and the result is that we're left with legislation that fails to come anywhere close to solving the climate crisis. Worse, the bill eliminates preexisting EPA authority to address global warming - that means it's actually a step backward."

A June 25 Greenpeace press release stated:

"As it comes to the floor, the Waxman-Markey bill sets emission reduction targets far lower than science demands, then undermines even those targets with massive offsets. The giveaways and preferences in the bill will actually spur a new generation of nuclear and coal-fired power plants to the detriment of real energy solutions."

On June 27, Public Citizen (PC) called the bill "a new legal right to pollute (that) gives away 85 percent of (its) credits to polluters. (It) will not solve our climate crisis but will enrich already powerful oil, coal and nuclear power companies." PC wants polluters to cut their emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 and pay for credits, not get them free. It also cited the American Wind Energy Association saying that the renewable standard will deliver "effectively zero" new ones.

PC wants consumers protected, not charged a "carbon tax....The bill doesn't, but should, provide money to help homeowners pay for such things as weatherization or to receive rebates for rooftop solar." Its main "consumer protection provision distributes free pollution allowances to electric and natural gas utilities (on the assumption) that the 50 different state utility commissions will redirect all that money back to consumers." In fact, HR 2454 is a thinly-veiled scheme to let companies profit from polluted air, in part financed by a consumer "carbon tax."

Big Coal gets a waiver until 2025. Agribusiness is exempt altogether even though it's responsible for up to one-fourth of greenhouse gas emissions. The nuclear industry will benefit hugely from the free allowances provision. A leaked memo had Exelon, the nation's largest nuclear power company, bragging that it will reap a $1 - $1.5 billion annual windfall.

Overall, carbon trading is a scam, first promoted in the 1980s under Reagan. Clinton made it a key provision of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. He signed it in 1998, but it was never ratified. As of February 2009, 183 nations did both, but independent scientists call it "miserable failure" needing to be scrapped and replaced by a meaningful alternative.

ACESA is about profits, not environmental remediation. Its emissions reduction targets are so weak, they effectively license pollution by creating a new profit center to do it.

The Next Bubble

Wall Street also will reap a huge bonanza through carbon trading derivatives speculation exploiting what Commodity Futures Trading commissioner Bart Chilton believes will be a $2 trillion market - "the biggest of any (commodities) derivatives product in the next five years." Others see a future annual market potential of up to $10 trillion based on these schemes:

-- government-issued cap and trading carbon allowance permits to let polluters emit a designated amount of greenhouse gases; those exceeding the limit can buy rights for more from companies below their limit;

-- carbon offsets that let companies emit excess greenhouse gases provided they invest in projects purportedly cutting them elsewhere, either domestically or abroad; they can also fulfill their obligation by stretching out investments for up to 40 years - far enough ahead to avoid them altogether; and

-- besides trading allowances and offsets, polluters and Wall Street can play the derivatives game, including with futures contracts for a designated number of allowances at an agreed on price for a specified date.

According to Robert Shapiro, former Undersecretary of Commerce in the Clinton administration: "We are on the verge of creating a new trillion dollar market (through) financial assets that will be securitized, derivatized, and speculated by Wall Street like the mortgage-backed securities market" and all others that inflated bubbles that burst. If cap and trade becomes law, this market will explode so Wall Street is pressuring senators to pass it.

According to the Center of Public Integrity (CPI), around "880 total businesses and groups....reported they were seeking to influence climate change policy" as addressed in HR 2454. Representing 770 of them are "an estimated 2340 lobbyists," a 300% increase in the past five years, or more than "four climate lobbyists for every member of Congress."

In 2003, Wall Street employed none on climate issues. CPI says it now has 130 representing the usual players like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and others, and why so is simple - to create a huge new revenue stream to make up for ones lost with perhaps others in the wings, thus far not revealed. Waxman - Markey delivered splendidly, setting the stage for another bubble if HR 2454 becomes law with huge pressure now on senators to assure it.

Warning: Cap and Trade Bubble Ahead

On July 1, Catherine Austin Fitts' blog headlined "The Next Really Scary Bubble" in stating:

"If you think the housing and credit bubble diminished your financial security and your community, or the bailouts, or the rising gas prices did as well, hold on to your hat" for what's coming. "Carbon trading is gearing up to make the housing and derivative bubbles look like target practice."

She quoted Rep. Geoff Davis calling it "a scam," Rep. Devin Nunes saying it's a "massive transfer of wealth" from the public to polluters and Wall Street, Rep. James Sensenbrenner stating "Carbon markets can and will be manipulated using the same Wall Street sleights of hand that brought us the financial crisis," and Dennis Kuchinich citing "The best description to date (to) be found in Matt Taibbi's....'The Great American Bubble Machine: From tech stocks to high gas prices, Goldman Sachs (GS) has engineered every major market manipulation since the Great Depression - and they are about to do it again.' "

Taibbi calls GS the "world's most powerful investment bank....a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money." It operates by positioning itself "in the middle of (every) speculative bubble, selling investments they know are crap."

They control Washington and profit by extracting "vast sums from the middle and lower floors of society with the aid of a crippled and corrupt state that (lets it) rewrite the rules in exchange for the relative pennies (it)throws (back as) political patronage."

When inflated bubbles burst "leaving millions of ordinary (people) broke and starving, they begin the entire process over again (inflating new bubbles and) lending us back our own money at interest...." They've been at this since the 1920s and are "preparing to do it again (with) what may be the biggest and most audacious bubble yet" - a new cap and trade derivatives scam written into HR 2454 with GS positioned to profit most from it. Taibbi calls its market edge a position of "supreme privilege (and) explicit advantage" ahead of all others on the Street.

Contributing $4,452,585 to Democrats in 2008 (around $1 million to Obama) was mere pocket change for what it can reap from scams like cap and trade disguised as an environmental plan. The scheme was devised. GS helped write it. The House passed it and sent it to the Senate. Unless stopped, it will transfer more of our wealth to corporate polluters and Wall Street on top of all they've stolen so far from derivatives fraud and the imploded housing and other bubbles. And Goldman will lead the way finding new ways to do it until there's nothing left to extract.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at


22) Decision to dump TVA's spilled coal waste in Alabama community sparks resistance
By Sue Sturgis
Facing South
July 8, 2009

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved a plan last week to dump 3 millions of tons of coal ash that spilled from a Tennessee Valley Authority power plant in eastern Tennessee in an impoverished, largely African-American community in Alabama -- and the decision is sparking resistance among local officials and residents who don't want the toxic waste.

The district attorney for Perry County, Ala. -- where the privately owned Arrowhead landfill that's getting the ash is located -- said yesterday the federal government's decision to bring the waste to his community was "tragic and shortsighted" and would endanger generations of residents, the Associated Press reports:

Perry County District Attorney Michael Jackson said he would monitor the lengthy disposal process to make sure the landfill operator and the federal utility comply with environmental regulations.

Jackson said he doesn't know if anything can be done to block the shipments, however.

"We're looking at every option, talking to different groups," Jackson said.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management defends the decision, and some Perry County officials say it will bring millions of dollars in payments and about 50 jobs to the area.

Coal ash contains significant levels of toxic pollutants including arsenic, lead and mercury as well as radioactive elements, but it is still not regulated by the federal government as hazardous waste. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has said her agency plans to release a proposed federal rule for the waste by year's end.

In May, Facing South broke the story that TVA's decision to primarily consider two landfills for dumping the ash -- in Perry County, Ala. and Taylor County, Ga. -- raised environmental justice concerns because of the social vulnerability of the communities targeted.

Georgia's Taylor County is an agricultural area where almost 41% of the population is African-American and more than 24% of residents live in poverty, according to census data. Alabama's Perry County -- part of the historic "Black Belt" -- is 69% African-American with more than 32% of its residents living in poverty, making it one of the state's poorest counties.

TVA reportedly considered moving the coal ash to two communities in eastern Tennessee that are predominantly white and with lower poverty levels, but the company sought regulators' approval only for the Georgia and Alabama sites. TVA's announcement regarding the Alabama landfill's selection said the choice was made after an evaluation process involving more than 30 companies.

In a letter to Facing South following publication of our May report, Peyton T. Hairston Jr., TVA's senior vice president for corporate responsibility and diversity, took issue with the story:

To write that TVA has made decisions on where to transport ash from the Kingston coal spill based on the racial composition of a community is simply wrong.

For the record, the story did not say TVA made its disposal decision because of the community's racial composition. But the effect is the same: TVA -- with EPA's approval -- has chosen to move toxic waste from a predominantly white and relatively well-off community in Tennessee to a poor and majority-black community in Alabama.

Meanwhile, Perry County District Attorney Jackson is not the only Alabamian raising concerns about the dumping decision. The Tuscaloosa News editorialized against the move in a piece titled "Coal ash dump site in Alabama not welcome":

Why is it that the cheapest, politically easiest option for dumping this toxic waste is to put it in a poor, rural county in Alabama's Black Belt?

Local residents are also voicing opposition -- some in creative ways. When TVA held a public meeting last month in Harriman, Tenn. to discuss the ash disposal plans, Perry County resident Betsy Ramaccia showed up wearing a protective suit and breathing mask to denounce the decision as "an environmental injustice and a social injustice," WVLT-TV reports. To view the segment, which was produced before EPA approved the disposal decision, see Jonathan Hiskes' report at Grist.

And residents of Uniontown, the community closest to the Alabama landfill, got an opportunity to speak their piece about the dumping plans via, a website created by Project M, a socially responsible design firm that's also behind the innovative PieLab community space in nearby Greensboro, Ala. It features a short video of Uniontown residents, including the man in the still shot above, delivering a simple message to the EPA administrator.

"Lisa Jackson, will you protect us?"


23) The Human Equation
Op-Ed Columnist
July 11, 2009

Vice President Joe Biden told us this week that the Obama administration “misread how bad the economy was” in the immediate aftermath of the inauguration.

Puh-leeze. Mr. Biden and President Obama won the election because the economy was cratering so badly there were fears we might be entering another depression. No one understood that better than the two of them. Mr. Obama tried to clean up the vice president’s remarks by saying his team hadn’t misread what was happening, but rather “we had incomplete information.”

That doesn’t hold water, either. The president has got the second coming of the best and the brightest working for him down there in Washington (think of Larry Summers as the latter-day Robert McNamara), and they’re crunching numbers every which way they can. They’ve got more than enough data. They understand the theories and the formulas as well as anyone. But they’re not coming up with the right answers because they’re missing the same thing that McNamara and his fellow technocrats were missing back in the 1960s: the human equation.

The crisis staring America in its face and threatening to bring it to its knees is unemployment. Joblessness. Why it is taking so long — seemingly forever — for our government officials to recognize the scope of this crisis and confront it directly is beyond me.

There are now five unemployed workers for every job opening in the U.S. The official unemployment rate is 9.5 percent, but that doesn’t begin to tell the true story of the economic suffering. The roof is caving in on struggling American families that have already seen the value of their homes and retirement accounts put to the torch.

At the present rate, upwards of seven million homes can be expected to fall into foreclosure this year and next. Welfare rolls are rising, according to a survey by The Wall Street Journal. The National Employment Law Project has pointed out that hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers will begin losing their jobless benefits, just about the only thing keeping them above water, by the end of the summer.

Virtually all of the job growth since the start of the 21st century (which was nothing to crow about) has vanished. If you include the men and women who are now working part time but would like to work full time, and those who have become so discouraged that they’ve stopped actively searching for work, you’ll find that 16.5 percent of Americans are jobless or underemployed. Nearly everyone who is fortunate enough to have a job has a spouse or a parent or an in-law or a close friend who is desperate for employment.

Anyone who believes that the Obama stimulus package will turn this jobs crisis around is deluded. It was too small, too weakened by tax cuts and not nearly focused enough on creating jobs. It’s like trying to turn a battleship around with a canoe. Even if it were working perfectly, the stimulus would not come close to stemming the cascade of joblessness unleashed by this megarecession.

I’d like to see the president go on television and, in a dramatic demonstration of real leadership, announce a plan geared toward increasing employment that is both big and visionary — something on the scale of the Manhattan Project, or the interstate highway program or the Apollo spaceflight initiative.

My choice would be a “Rebuild America” campaign that would put men and women to work repairing, maintaining, designing and rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure in the broadest sense — everything from roads and schools and the electrical power grid to innovative environmental initiatives and a sparkling new mass transportation network, including high-speed rail systems.

One of the ways of financing such an effort would be through the creation of a national infrastructure bank, which would provide federal investment capital for approved projects and use that money to leverage additional private investment.

There was a time when Americans could think on such a scale and get it done. We used to be better than any other nation on the planet at getting things done. It would be tragic if the 21st century turns out to be the time when that extraordinary can-do spirit disappears and we’re left with nothing more meaningful and exciting than lusting after tax cuts and trying to pay off credit card debt.

The joblessness the nation is experiencing is crushing any hope of a real economic recovery. With so many Americans maxed out on their credit cards and with the value of their homes deep in the tank, the only money available to spend in most cases is from paychecks. The best and the brightest in Washington may have a theory about how to get the economy booming without dealing with the employment crisis, but I’d like to see that theory work in the real world.


24) U.S. Inaction Seen After Taliban P.O.W.’s Died
July 11, 2009

WASHINGTON — After a mass killing of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Taliban prisoners of war by the forces of an American-backed warlord during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, Bush administration officials repeatedly discouraged efforts to investigate the episode, according to government officials and human rights organizations.

American officials had been reluctant to pursue an investigation — sought by officials from the F.B.I., the State Department, the Red Cross and human rights groups — because the warlord, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, was on the payroll of the C.I.A. and his militia worked closely with United States Special Forces in 2001, several officials said. They said the United States also worried about undermining the American-supported government of President Hamid Karzai, in which General Dostum had served as a defense official.

“At the White House, nobody said no to an investigation, but nobody ever said yes, either,” said Pierre Prosper, the former American ambassador for war crimes issues. “The first reaction of everybody there was, ‘Oh, this is a sensitive issue; this is a touchy issue politically.’ ”

It is not clear how — or if — the Obama administration will address the issue. But in recent weeks, State Department officials have quietly tried to thwart General Dostum’s reappointment as military chief of staff to the president, according to several senior officials, and suggested that the administration might not be hostile to an inquiry.

The question of culpability for the prisoner deaths — which may have been the most significant mass killing in Afghanistan after the 2001 American-led invasion — has taken on new urgency since the general, an important ally of Mr. Karzai, was reinstated to his government post last month. He had been suspended last year and living in exile in Turkey after he was accused of threatening a political rival at gunpoint.

“If you bring Dostum back, it will impact the progress of democracy and the trust people have in the government,” Mr. Prosper said. Arguing that the Obama administration should investigate the 2001 killings, he added, “There is always a time and place for justice.”

While President Obama has deepened the United States’ commitment to Afghanistan, sending 21,000 more American troops there to combat the growing Taliban insurgency, his administration has also tried to distance itself from Mr. Karzai, whose government is deeply unpopular and widely viewed as corrupt.

A senior State Department official said that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Richard C. Holbrooke, the special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan, had told Mr. Karzai of their objections to reinstating General Dostum. The American officials have also pressed his sponsors in Turkey to delay his return to Afghanistan while talks continue with Mr. Karzai over the general’s role, said an official briefed on the matter. Asked about looking into the prisoner deaths, the official said, “We believe that anyone suspected of war crimes should be thoroughly investigated.”

The Back Story

While the deaths have been previously reported, the back story of the frustrated efforts to investigate them has not been fully told. The killings occurred in late November 2001, just days after the American-led invasion forced the ouster of the Taliban government in Kabul. Thousands of Taliban fighters surrendered to General Dostum’s forces, which were part of the American-backed Northern Alliance, in the city of Kunduz. They were then transported to a prison run by the general’s forces near the town of Shibarghan.

Survivors and witnesses told The New York Times and Newsweek in 2002 that over a three-day period, Taliban prisoners were stuffed into closed metal shipping containers and given no food or water; many suffocated while being trucked to the prison. Other prisoners were killed when guards shot into the containers. The bodies were said to have been buried in a mass grave in Dasht-i-Leili, a stretch of desert just outside Shibarghan.

A recently declassified 2002 State Department intelligence report states that one source, whose identity is redacted, concluded that about 1,500 Taliban prisoners died. Estimates from other witnesses or human rights groups range from several hundred to several thousand. The report also says that several Afghan witnesses were later tortured or killed.

In Afghanistan, rival warlords have had a history of eliminating enemy troops by suffocating them in sealed containers. General Dostum, however, has said previously that any such deaths of the Taliban prisoners were unintentional. He has said that only 200 prisoners died and blamed combat wounds and disease for most of the fatalities. The general could not be reached for comment, and a spokesman declined to comment for this article.

While a dozen or so bodies were examined and several were autopsied, a full exhumation was never performed, and human rights groups are concerned that evidence has been destroyed. In 2008, a medical forensics team working with the United Nations discovered excavations that suggested the mass grave had been moved. Satellite photos obtained by The Times show that the site was disturbed even earlier, in 2006.

“Our repeated efforts to protect witnesses, secure evidence and get a full investigation have been met by the U.S. and its allies with buck-passing, delays and obstruction,” said Nathaniel Raymond, a researcher for Physicians for Human Rights, a group based in Boston that discovered the mass grave site in 2002.

Seeking an Investigation

The first calls for an investigation came from his group and the International Committee of the Red Cross. A military commander in the United States-led coalition rejected a request by a Red Cross official for an inquiry in late 2001, according to the official, who, in keeping with his organization’s policy, would speak only on condition of anonymity and declined to identify the commander.

A few months later, Dell Spry, the F.B.I.’s senior representative at the detainee prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, heard accounts of the deaths from agents he supervised there. Separately, 10 or so prisoners brought from Afghanistan reported that they had been “stacked like cordwood” in shipping containers and had to lick the perspiration off one another to survive, Mr. Spry recalled. They told similar accounts of suffocations and shootings, he said. A declassified F.B.I. report, dated January 2003, confirms that the detainees provided such accounts.

Mr. Spry, who is now an F.B.I. consultant, said he did not believe the stories because he knew that Al Qaeda trained members to fabricate tales about mistreatment. Still, the veteran agent said he thought the agency should investigate the reports “so they could be debunked.”

But a senior official at F.B.I. headquarters, whom Mr. Spry declined to identify, told him to drop the matter, saying it was not part of his mission and it would be up to the American military to investigate.

“I was disappointed because I believed that, true or untrue, we had to be in front of this story, because someday it may turn out to be a problem,” Mr. Spry said.

The Pentagon, however, showed little interest in the matter. In 2002, Physicians for Human Rights asked Defense Department officials to open an investigation and provide security for its forensics team to conduct a more thorough examination of the gravesite. “We met with blanket denials from the Pentagon,” recalls Jennifer Leaning, a board member with the group. “They said nothing happened.”

Pentagon spokesmen have said that the United States Central Command conducted an “informal inquiry,” asking Special Forces personnel members who worked with General Dostum if they knew of a mass killing by his forces. When they said they did not, the inquiry went no further.

“I did get the sense that there was little appetite for this matter within parts of D.O.D.,” said Marshall Billingslea, former acting assistant defense secretary for special operations, referring to the Department of Defense.

High-Level Conversation

Another former defense official, who would speak only on condition of anonymity, recalled that the prisoner deaths came up in a conversation with Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense at the time, in early 2003.

“Somebody mentioned Dostum and the story about the containers and the possibility that this was a war crime,” the official said. “And Wolfowitz said we are not going to be going after him for that.”

In an interview, Mr. Wolfowitz said he did not recall the conversation. However, Pentagon documents obtained by Physicians for Human Rights through a Freedom of Information Act request confirm that the issue was debated by Mr. Wolfowitz and other officials.

As evidence mounted about the deaths, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell assigned Mr. Prosper, the United States ambassador at large for war crimes, to look into them in 2002. He met with General Dostum, who denied the allegations, Mr. Prosper recalled. Meanwhile, Karzai government officials told him that they opposed any investigation.

“They made it clear that this was going to cause a problem,” said Mr. Prosper, who left the Bush administration in 2005 and is now a lawyer in Los Angeles. “They would say, ‘We have had decades of war crimes. Where do you start?’ ”

In Washington, Mr. Prosper encountered similar attitudes. In 2002, Zalmay M. Khalilzad, then the White House coordinator for Afghanistan, made it clear that he was concerned about efforts to investigate General Dostum, Mr. Prosper said. “Khalilzad never opposed an investigation,” Mr. Prosper recalled. “But he definitely raised the political implications of it.”

Mr. Khalilzad, who later served as the American ambassador to Afghanistan, did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Prosper said that because of the resistance from American and Afghan officials, his office dropped its inquiry. The State Department mentioned the episode in its annual human rights report for 2002, but took no further action.


25) Budget Cuts Eroding Progress in Juvenile Justice
July 11, 2009

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Her first night inside the razor wire at the state juvenile prison came as a 14-year-old in the mid-1970s, when she was locked up for running away from home. Her next experience came the following decade, when she began work as a correctional officer.

As Velvet McGowan tells it, care was a word not then in the lexicon of the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice. Teenagers were warehoused like problematic inventory, with as many as 80 crammed into spaces built for 40. Social services were meager. Violent outbreaks occurred daily.

Two decades later, Ms. McGowan oversees the girls’ prison, where she focuses on turning around troubled lives. New programs have expanded counseling and education, cutting the repeat offender rate. New facilities have extricated the state from a federal lawsuit brought in response to once appalling conditions.

But what South Carolina built over many years in eradicating its shameful past is being undermined by the deep economic recession. In the last year, the state has cut the financing for its juvenile justice system by one-fifth, forcing 285 layoffs and the closure of several facilities, including five group homes that focused on counseling.

The department has scrapped a program that helped paroled youngsters find jobs, unleashing them into a state with 11.6 percent unemployment. It has canceled state financing for 40 after-school centers for teenagers, where they get help with their homework, receive mentoring and take part in activities during hours when children are most likely to stray into trouble. It has trimmed the ranks of social workers to 20, from 36.

“I’m scared,” said Ms. McGowan, dabbing tears with a tissue. “I don’t want to relive the ’80s through a budget cut.”

Across the country, depleted coffers have prompted state and local officials to pare programs intended as alternatives to the mere incarceration of juvenile lawbreakers.

In Tennessee, state legislators voted last month to close a wilderness activity camp. In Louisiana, a boot camp aimed at deterring young people from crime has been shut down. In California, alternative facilities focused on counseling are threatened from San Jose to Sacramento.

For South Carolina, cuts are particularly unsettling given its history. For a dozen years ending in 2003, a federal judge supervised the department under the settlement of a class-action lawsuit arising from overcrowded prison conditions.

Since then, the system has stopped treating youthful offenders as hardened convicts, instead confronting them as social problems through new programs that attack the underlying causes of juvenile crime — like dysfunctional homes, drug abuse and difficulties in school.

The department’s director, William R. Byars Jr., a former family court justice, has overseen many of the changes. In his days on the bench, he fretted over the condition of the juvenile justice system, regretfully sending children to the prison then known as “Little Vietnam.”

“It was a dangerous place,” Judge Byars said. “Kids were in here with mental deficiencies. You had kids in here for status offenses, for cutting school or running away. They were all mixed together, because our system was not designed to ask, ‘What is the best situation for this child?’ ”

Under Judge Byars’s direction, the department has focused on drastically decreasing the numbers of young people held inside the razor wire at the prison, shipping hundreds out to wilderness camps and group homes. The number held at the prison has dropped to fewer than 400, from more than 1,000 in the mid-1990s, while the number held in alternative settings has increased by a similar magnitude.

The department has set up a network of so-called intensive supervision officers who get to know the youngsters and their families before they are released, and then visit frequently to stay on top of problems.

A recent department review found that only 12 percent of youths monitored by these officers wound up back in the system a year after their release, compared with 21 percent among those lacking intensive guidance.

The success of the reforms has been “truly remarkable,” wrote Karen L. Chinn, a consultant selected by the court to monitor conditions.

But the cuts of the last year “have already begun to unravel the progress,” Ms. Chinn said.

Judge Byars insists his department will not return to warehousing juveniles. If more cuts threaten to return the prison to overcrowded levels, he will release those on misdemeanor offenses to keep numbers down, he said.

For Ms. McGowan, talk of sliding backward is deeply personal. Like many of the 27 girls that fill the prison she now oversees, she slipped into trouble after a family crisis.

She was 14, and her mother had just died — or so she thought. In truth, the dead woman had been her grandmother, her family told her. Her real mother was someone she knew as her sister, a taciturn woman she did not much like.

“The most precious person of my life has been taken away from me,” Ms. McGowan said. “Nobody sat me down and talked to me about that. Nobody thought to ask me what was going on in my heart.”

She repeatedly ran away from home, was caught and sentenced to weekends at the prison. She occupied a hard mattress inside a low, dimly lighted concrete block building. Most of the other girls were, like her, African-American and the product of some sort of unaddressed trauma.

When Ms. McGowan was 22 and working as a restaurant cashier, she heard the juvenile prison was hiring. The children overflowed the facilities, some sleeping on pairs of bunk beds stuffed into rooms no bigger than 8 feet by 12 feet and some on mattresses covering the floors.

At night, she was sometimes alone, hoping no fight would break out, often finding the inmates tattooing one another with smuggled paper clips or lighting cigarettes by pressing them into bare electrical wiring.

“It was horrible,” she said. “It was like just trying to survive. The only thing we were supposed to provide was security, custody and control. Sometimes we’d sneak a talk. You know, ‘How are you doing? What are you feeling?’ It made me angry, like we were all animals.”

Today, all of the officers on Ms. McGowan’s staff are trained in counseling. The girls gather every morning in small groups to discuss their worries or whatever might be on the mind of a teenager waking up in prison.

A special transitional house for girls nearing release is meant to model life outside. In place of the stall showers and toilets found in the dorms, the house has two private bathrooms complete with bathtubs, the tiles painted with colorful fish and butterflies. One girl does the cooking for the day using a menu the girls create together.

Each girl receives $2,000 in virtual money a month and must write checks simulating payments for rent, electricity and food. If she is late, she pays a fine. She can earn money by doing extra chores. If she runs out of money, she loses privileges, like time watching television.

Britney, an 18-year-old in the house, was paying an extra $500 a month to cover the costs of diapers and food for her 7-month-old daughter, who was delivered in prison. Her mother was looking after the baby until Britney’s release.

That moment was less than 24 hours away, and Britney was both exhilarated and apprehensive. In and out of the juvenile justice system since she was 12 — mostly for running away after battles with her mother — she was about to become responsible for her own child.

“I stayed up on my bed last night thinking you all made me feel like you all cared,” Britney told the group one morning.

An intensive supervision officer had already held counseling sessions between Britney and her mother using a videoconference system. She planned to monitor closely how they were getting along. The officer was to take Britney on a tour of community colleges (she had earned a G.E.D. inside the prison), where she hoped to begin a career as a nurse practitioner. Britney was to be enrolled in parenting classes.

“They got everything planned out,” Britney said.

Still, the adults were anxious, cognizant that the end of Britney’s prison life was the beginning of her next incarnation as another jobless teenage single mother.

“Are you nervous about going home?” Ms. McGowan asked her.

“Yeah,” Britney said. “I’m a little nervous about being free, because I’ve been here so long.”

The girls lined up to go to school, a complex of classrooms inside the wire, as a guard administered pat-downs. Ms. McGowan watched Britney submit for a final day.

“This is a child we’ve really got to check in with,” she said. “It’s really crucial that we stay connected.” Yet the finances needed to maintain that connection were slipping. Inside the prison, the attention given to each child was being diluted by staff cuts.

“We don’t want to go back to how it was,” Ms. McGowan said. “We were just so heartless.”


26) A More Narrow Focus for Enforcement Program
National Briefing | Immigration
July 11, 2009

The Obama administration will expand a program that extends federal immigration enforcement authority to state and local police, but will focus it more sharply on capturing illegal immigrants who committed serious crimes, homeland security officials said. Officials said they would sign new, uniform agreements with 66 local jurisdictions that already have the program and with 11 new ones, formalizing the priority on pursuing “dangerous criminal aliens” but also specifying the powers granted to police and providing for new oversight by the Department of Homeland Security. Some advocates for immigrants have criticized the program, known as 287(g) after the law that set it up, as creating fear of the police by sweeping up illegal immigrants with no criminal record.


27) Collect Now, or Later? Timing Your Social Security Benefits
July 11, 2009

Collecting Social Security as soon as you are eligible is a tempting proposition — but experts agree you should try to resist if you can.

The majority of people don’t follow that advice, choosing instead to start benefits early. Why wait to collect what is rightfully yours?

That logic may sound reasonable now. But in reality, the bigger risk is that you will live to a ripe old age. You can claim Social Security any time from age 62 to 70, but the longer you wait, the larger your monthly check. And many people come out ahead if they wait at least until their full retirement age, which is different from the day you stop working for good. For people born 1943 to 1954, full retirement age is 66, and it creeps up for younger people.

What do you stand to lose by taking benefits early? Take those who are set to receive $1,000 a month at their full retirement age. If they sign up for benefits at age 62, they will collect only $750. But if they wait until 70, they will earn extra credit and receive up to $1,320 a month — nearly a third more.

At first glance, it seems that everyone should wait until they are 70. But that is not the case. The answer depends on many factors, including when you stop working, how much you have in savings, whether you are healthy, whether you are married or single and whether your spouse earns more — or less.

It may be impossible for some households to wait because the breadwinner has lost a job or is no longer able to work. And planners agree that it is smarter to collect earlier if it will prevent you from accumulating debt.

But if you can wait, think of the money you aren’t receiving during that period as a payment of sorts for an annuity that will pay a higher, guaranteed stream of income later, if you live a long time (or at least longer than your savings last), financial experts say.

“You can’t buy an inflation-adjusted annuity for anywhere near the cost of delaying Social Security,” said Henry Hebeler, a retired Boeing executive who created, a Web site that offers retirement advice and calculators.

For people who choose to defer benefits until age 66, it generally takes about 12 more years to collect as much as if you started getting checks at 62. So you break even, so to speak, about age 78, according to Avram Sacks, a Social Security law analyst for CCH, a tax and accounting information service. “If you are in good health, and you expect to live to 78 or longer, then the advantage goes to the person who waits,” he says. “But that’s assuming we’re all prophets and we know what’s going to happen tomorrow, and we don’t all know.”

And that is why financial advisers recommend planning for a long life. Here are some strategies to consider before signing up.

SINGLES Figuring out when to collect is easier when you do not have to worry about how your actions will affect a spouse. It usually pays to wait until your full retirement age if you can support yourself until then. (This obviously does not apply to people who are already in poor health and probably won’t live past 78, give or take a couple of years. People who are still working should also defer.)

Though many experts will tell you to delay as long as you can, waiting from 66 until 70 may not be optimal for some singles. “The reason is that they will have consumed too much of their savings in those extra four years to be able to offset the savings loss with higher Social Security payments within their lifetime,” said Mr. Hebeler, who has also written three books on retirement. “It’s surprising, but that’s what the analysis shows.”

Consider a single person with $200,000 in savings returning 5 percent a year. Instead of taking Social Security at age 62, she withdraws $19,000 annually until she turns 66. Her savings will last until age 94, but she will still have $21,000 a year in Social Security benefits. If she claimed at 62, her savings would run out at age 87 and she would be left with only $16,000 a year in Social Security.

For people with significant savings who expect to live well into their 80s, it may make sense to wait until 70, Mr. Hebeler added.

If you have already started receiving benefits, but wish you had waited, you are allowed to give it all back and start over. But this gets complicated. You will probably have to pay back more than what you actually received each month, since Medicare premiums and income taxes may have been deducted. Married people can do this, too, but some advisers caution against it.

MARRIED COUPLES Planning is more complex for married couples because there are age differences, varying retirement dates and earnings and other factors to consider. In many cases, the higher-earning spouse should delay his or her benefits until age 70, while the lower earner begins to collect at age 62. This ensures that the surviving spouse will end up with the maximum amount of benefits for the rest of his or her life. Even if the higher earner died before age 70, the survivor’s benefits would be bumped up to what the deceased spouse would have gotten, said Lesley J. Brey, a fee-only financial planner in Honolulu.

But once the higher earner hits full retirement age, there is a way for the lower earner to potentially get a bigger check by qualifying for spousal benefits. The higher earner can “file and suspend,” or file for benefits but immediately suspend them — it is perfectly legal and allows the lower-earning spouse to get up to half the higher earner’s benefits, while the higher earner’s benefits continue to accrue.

“This is the way to get the most out of the system without jeopardizing the longevity insurance aspect, which is the most important component,” Ms. Brey said. “You want the last survivor to have the highest possible payment. However, you get cash flow, which reduces the amount you have to withdraw from other sources and you don’t have to guess when anyone is going to die.”

But if the couple can afford it, should the lower earner wait until full retirement age? “It doesn’t matter because the goal is to get the most money for the person who lives the longest,” Ms. Brey said.

Married people with similar earnings may also consider another strategy. Here, one person claims spousal benefits at full retirement age and switches to his or her own, and presumably higher, benefits later, said Alicia H. Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

To get a more precise idea about how to maximize your benefits, go to the Social Security’s retirement estimator, which uses your actual earnings record in its calculation. (Click on “create scenarios” to how retiring at different ages affects benefits). offers calculators that will help determine the best time for singles and couples to take Social Security.

If figuring it all out on your own proves too difficult, have a fee-only financial planner run the analysis for you. “It is worth it,” Mr. Hebeler said, “to spend the money.”


28) Off the Charts
On the Unemployment Line, Unable to Move
July 11, 2009

LONG-TERM unemployment in the United States has risen to its highest level since the Great Depression, as those who have lost jobs have found it difficult to find new ones.

The government reported last week that the overall unemployment rate rose to 9.5 percent of the labor force in June, the highest since 1982, when the rate peaked at 10.8 percent.

The long-term unemployment rate — the proportion of the labor force that has been out of work for at least 15 weeks — climbed to 5.1 percent. Until this year, the post-Depression high for that rate had been 4.2 percent.

June was also the first month since the government began collecting the data in 1948 that more than half of the unemployed people had been out of work for at least 15 weeks.

The proportion of workers without jobs for at least 27 weeks rose to 2.8 percent, which is also the highest since World War II.

The figures reflect an economy where the pace of layoffs and firings has slowed this year, so that fewer people are being added to the unemployment rolls. But the pace of new hiring is now even lower than it was when layoffs were peaking.

A decline in labor mobility may help explain some of the failure of workers to find jobs even after they have been unemployed for months. In previous downturns, some regions remained relatively strong, and attracted workers from other areas. This time, the credit crisis has damaged job prospects almost everywhere, and plunging home prices mean that some who would like to move cannot afford to do so because they owe more than their house is worth.

Another factor is that workers now are less likely to be able to return to their old employers when the economy recovers. At the height of unemployment in 1982, one of every five unemployed workers was on a temporary layoff, with the expectation they would be recalled, sooner or later. Today the comparable figure is 1 of 10.

The average unemployed person now has been out of work for 24.5 weeks, or nearly half a year. That is also the longest period on record, and is a full six weeks longer than the average when total unemployment peaked in 1982.

The final chart shows the number of people who have been unemployed for more than 15 weeks, a figure that is now up to 7.8 million. That figure has more than tripled over the last 24 months, a rate of increase that had not been seen since the severe downturn of the mid-1970s.

There are limited signals that the deterioration in the labor market has slowed. The government estimates that there was a net loss of 1.3 million jobs in this year’s second quarter, compared with a loss of 2 million jobs in the previous quarter.

If that continues, it will be taken as a sign that the economy is stabilizing, and will encourage economists who think the economy will turn up soon. But even if that happens, the challenge will be to find jobs for people who have been out of work the longest. So far, there is no indication that much progress has been made.

Floyd Norris’s blog on finance and economics is at


29) A.I.G. Seeks U.S. Support for Bonuses
July 10, 2009

Seeking to avoid the public furor that erupted last spring, the American International Group has been quietly seeking approval from the new federal compensation czar to pay a total of $2.4 million dollars in bonuses to dozens of its senior executives.

Officials at the embattled insurance company, which has received more than $170 billion in taxpayer money, have sought meetings with Kenneth Feinberg, the pay czar, to review the payments for 40 of its highest ranking employees, according to individuals briefed on the matter.

Mr. Feinberg has been tasked with approving the pay for the 100 highest paid employees, but he also can also weigh in on other matters if a company requests.

A.I.G. executives want to make sure that Mr. Feinberg is comfortable with the company’s compensation program and hoped to work with him to address any shortfalls, according to a person briefed on the situation. The insurance giant does not actually need his permission. But by obtaining Mr. Feinberg’s blessing, the company would also have the political cover to shield it from criticism.

The move also allows the Treasury Department to wash its hands of any problems stemming from any role it had in setting pay.

The payments stem from 2008 bonuses that were retooled last year to keep executives from leaving the troubled company. About $9.6 million in bonuses was allocated to 40 executives, with roughly half of money paid in March and the rest scheduled to be paid out on July 15 and in mid-September so long as the employees met certain requirements. That would be an average payment of roughly $60,000 for each employee in both months.

Christina Pretto, an A.I.G. spokeswoman, declined to comment. Mr. Feinberg could not be reached for comment late last night.

Besides the current bonus payments, A.I.G. executives have also been seeking his guidance in other controversial areas, the individual briefed on the situation said. A.I.G. has sought his advice in determining compensation for employees in its Financial Products unit, whose trading of high-octane derivatives brought the company to its knees. It is also seeking advice on the retention bonus program it put in place last fall.

A.I.G. officials have struggled to balance the need to retain executives and traders who can unwind its trading positions and sell its businesses against the public’s outrage that those employees would be paid bonuses at all. In the spring, lawmakers erupted after learning that A.I.G. planned to pay more than $165 million to executives in that unit, an amount that was reduced when some were pressured to give the money back.

Ever since, the insurance company, which is nearly 80 percent owned by the government, has been treading a fine line. And it is not the only financial company to seek advice.

Since early June, Mr. Feinberg, who oversaw the federal government’s compensation fund for victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks, has been meeting with Citigroup, Bank of America and others that received at least two federal bailouts. Those companies, along with General Motors, Chrysler, and A.I.G., are required to submit detailed packets of information for his review in the next month.

“Companies will need to convince Mr. Feinberg that they have struck the right balance to discourage excessive risk taking,” said Andrew Williams, a Treasury spokesman.