Wednesday, April 14, 2010





Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:




S.O.S: SAVE OUR SCHOOLS! Invest In Education-Tax Day Action!
Thursday, April 15th, 5:00-6:30pm Rally
Oakland Federal Building 1301 Clay Street, Oakland, CA
Sponsored by: Youth Together, AYPAL, BAY-Peace, California's for Justice, All City Council, Meaningful Student Engagement, Alliance for Education Justice.
Tell the Government you want your TAXES spent on public education. Join youth and community members across the country in a creative action to tell the feds that you want your taxes to support education. Actions are being held in 15 cities across the country.
For more information contact: Charles McDonald 510.452.2728


Picket in Support of ILWU Local 30
Friday, April 16, 11:00 A.M.
British Consulate: 1 Sansome St., S.F.

Rio Tinto, a global mining giant, will begin its annual shareholders meeting in London on April 15. It is implicated in the deaths of ten percent of the population of the northernmost Solomon Island in New Guinea. It was involved in massacres of tribal people and environmental devastation. Our brothers and sisters will picket and rally in London, Los Angeles and Seattle. Join in the international support for the 600 locked-out Rio Tinto miners. Don't handle Rio Tinto scab cargo.

Labor Donated


Full Picture Truth-in-Recruitment Training Day
Saturday, April 17, 2010, 9:15am - 3:30pm
War Memorial Veteran's Building - 401 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco (Civic Center BART)
Registration, coffee & bagels. we start 9:30 sharp!

MORNING WORKSHOP 9:15am -12:00pm-Introduction to doing TIR work in schools
Get comfortable with in school strategies!
-making contacts in the school
-getting materials in school libraries and career centers
-arranging classroom presentations for vets & others

AFTERNOON WORKSHOP 1:00pm -3:30pm-Focused training for veterans and classroom presenters
An in-depth session developing classroom presentation skills for veterans and others.
Pablo Paredes, Veterans Speakers Alliance, IVAW and others.
It will include:
-key points that every presentation should include.
-How to handle difficult questions.
-Resources and practice

This is a free event, though donations will be solicited to benefit
Full Picture (a Truth-in-Recruitment Project of the AFSC)
These are two separate trainings. We recommend that you bring a bag lunch if you plan to attend both.
For more info:,

$500 Grants Available for High School Counter Recruitment Projects
If you are part of a high school student group that would like to do a counter recruitment project, you can apply for a grant of up to $500 to help you get your message out about non-military alternatives for youth, aggressive military recruiting in our schools and resisting war.
Any Bay Area high school students may apply. The deadline is the last day of each month, and the funds will be distributed quickly to qualified applicants, so don't wait to apply!
Some possible projects could include
• a spoken word contest,
• a mural project,
• an assembly or teach-in at your school,
• a concert or conference,
• a job fair
• a demonstration,
• a poster series,
or anything else you can think of!
For info contact:


MONDAY, APRIL 19, 2010
COURT: 9:00 A.M.
850 BRYANT STREET (Between 6th and 7th Streets)

New Episodes of Kiilu Nyasha's TV show focusing on the SF8: Harold Taylor and Charles Bourdon, attorney for Cisco Torres

These two new episodes are well timed with Cisco Torres' upcoming court date. If you live in the area, please come to his next court date on Monday April 19: 8:00 a.m. demonstration; 9:00 a.m. court. SF Court Building: 850 Bryant Street (btw 6th and 7th streets), San Francisco. For more information, go to

Harold Taylor:

Freedom is a Constant Struggle TV show, April 25, 2008

Our guest is Harold Taylor, of Panama City, Florida, one of the elders known as the San Francisco 8 who was freed on bail last September. Harold was one of the organizers of the San Diego chapter of the Black Panther Party. Father of five children, Harold worked for the U.S. Air Force at Tyndal, and as a hi-voltage journeyman lineman for over 15 years. In his own words, "In 1971, two brothers and I were set up by the FBI. We didn't learn about COINTELPRO until years later. In 1973 I was arrested in New Orleans and was beaten and tortured for several days. in 2003 the detectives that were responsible for my torture came to my house to try and question me. I have not been the same since."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Currently, as of April 2010, Cisco Torres is the only member of the SF8 still facing charges. Please come to his next court date on Monday April 19: 8:00 a.m. demonstration; 9:00 a.m. court. SF Court Building: 850 Bryant Street (btw 6th and 7th streets), San Francisco. For more information, go to

Charles Bourdon, attorney for Cisco Torres:

Freedom is a Constant Struggle TV show, February 8, 2008

Our guest is Charles F. Bourdon, Attorney for Francisco Torres of the San Francisco Eight. Collectively, the SF8 are a group of community activists who have devoted their lives to serving the people and making a difference. Richard Brown (65), for example, has worked for decades in the Fillmore District mentoring youth; including 20 years as a Program Coordinator at Ella Hill Hutch Community Center and is fondly referred to as the Mayor. While conspiracy charges have been dropped against Brown and four other defendants, effectively freeing Richard ONeal, lawyers will argue in court on Feb. 7 to have the same charges dropped against the remaining three defendants.


Eight former Black community activists - Black Panthers and others - were arrested January 23, 2007 in California, New York, and Florida on charges related to the 1971 killing of a San Francisco police officer. Similar charges were thrown out after it was revealed that police used torture to extract confessions when some of these same men were arrested in New Orleans in 1973.

Richard Brown, Richard O'Neal, Ray Boudreaux, and Hank Jones were arrested in California. Francisco Torres was arrested in Queens, New York. Harold Taylor was arrested in Florida. Two men charged - Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim - have been held as political prisoners for over 30 years in New York State prisons. The men were charged with the murder of Sgt. John Young and conspiracy that encompasses numerous acts between 1968 and 1973.

Harold Taylor and John Bowman (recently deceased) as well as Ruben Scott (thought to be a government witness) were first charged in 1975. But a judge tossed out the charges, finding that Taylor and his two co-defendants made statements after police in New Orleans tortured them for several days employing electric shock, cattle prods, beatings, sensory deprivation, plastic bags and hot, wet blankets for asphyxiation. Such "evidence" is neither credible nor legal.

Now, After 38 years, the government's case against eight former Black Panther Party members and supporters has almost completely unraveled. (See the SF 8 statement of August 6). Only Francisco Torres still faces charges - see the Open Letter calling for his charges to be dropped. The eight were arrested January 23, 2007 in California, New York, and Florida on charges related to the 1971 killing of a San Francisco police officer. Similar charges were brought in 1975, but a California judge tossed out the charges, finding that they were based on statements made by three of the men after police in New Orleans tortured them for several days employing electric shock, cattle prods, beatings, sensory deprivation, plastic bags and hot, wet blankets for asphyxiation.

At the end of July, Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim were sentenced to probation and time served, after Herman agreed to plead to voluntary manslaughter and Jalil to conspiracy to voluntary manslaughter. All charges were then dropped on Richard Brown, Hank Jones, Harold Taylor, and Ray Boudreaux, with the prosecution admitting it had "insufficient evidence" against them. Charges had already been dropped against Richard O'Neal last year.

Francisco Torres, of NYC, is the last person still with charges; he maintains his innocence.

Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim have been in prison in New York for almost 40 years on similar charges based on the US Government's COINTELPRO actions to disrupt and destroy radical organizations, especially the Black Panther Party. Showing the weakness of the prosecution's case, Bell and Muntaqim were given no additional prison time, and have been returned to NY where they will continue to fight for parole.

Two and a half years of mass support for the Brothers, including resolutions from the San Francisco Central Labor Council, the Berkeley City Council, and several San Francisco Supervisors, have almost broken the back of a vindictive prosecution organized by Homeland Security, the FBI, and California Attorney General Jerry Brown. The defense committee has vowed to keep up the pressure until charges are dropped against Francisco Torres and Herman and Jalil are back with their families and community.


SF Workers Memorial Day
Stand Up For Injured Workers
& Commemorate Workers Killed On The Job
Wed April 28, 7:00 PM
ILWU Local 34 2nd St./Embarcadero SF

Shiela Davis, Executive Director Silicon Valley Toxic Coalition
Mike Daly, Ironworkers Local 377* delegate to San Francisco Labor Council
Leuren Moret, Geo-scientist who worked at the Livermore nuclear weapons lab
Carol Criss, SEIU-UHW Kaiser Steward Transcriptionist
Roland Sheppard, Retired BA Painters Local 4
Dina Padilla, Injured Worker Advocate
Becky McClain, Injure Pfizer Molecular Biologist by telephone
Sandy Trend, mother of injured Agraquest injured biotech worker David Bell

Workers in the bay area and nationally continue to get injured and killed on the job. In California, OSHA inspectors have been threatened and retaliated against for speaking out about the decline of the agency and the failure of the agency to do a proper job protecting injured workers and the public. Additionally all the OSHA doctors for California's 17 million workers have also been terminated thereby threatening the safety of workers and the public. There are more CA Fish and Game Inspectors than Ca-OSHA inspectors and this needs to change.

Hundreds of NUMMI injured workers who have been on disability are also now being discriminated against by the company and treated as 2nd class workers in the compensation plan. Is this fair? Many of these workers have given decades of their lives to the company yet they are now being punished for being disabled. This is cost shifting since their healthcare will now be paid for by the State and SSI when they go on permanent disability. This is yet another example of cost shifting by the corporations making the tax payer pay for their liabilities.

Workers Memorial Day is held every year to commemorate those workers killed and injured on the job. The deregulation of workers compensation has also allowed employers and the insurance industry to deny seriously injured workers prompt healthcare and also has cut the permanent disability payments by 50% as well as completely eliminating retraining.

There is a national struggle to strengthen OSHA protection called the Protecting America's Workers Act H.R. 2067 needs to be supported and also to require that all injured workers are entitled to their exposure records on the job. Health and safety must trump privacy/secrecy laws.

We also support H.R. 635 which will create a US Commission on State Workers Compensation Laws and will study the affect of deregulation for injured workers in the U.S. At the same time, OSHA plans to remove some chemical warnings on exposure limits for workers.

We need to educate and reactivate the labor movement to protect our lives and health and safety in the workplace. Please join with workers and their families at this memorial meeting and speak out and demand healthcare and justice for all workers and people in the community.

Wed April 28, 7:00 PM
ILWU Local 34 2nd St./Embarcadero SF
Injured workers, health and safety advocates and family members will participate

Shiela Davis, Executive Director Silicon Valley Toxic Coalition
Mike Daly, Ironworkers Local 377* delegate to San Francisco Labor Council
Leuren Moret, Geo-scientist who worked at the Livermore nuclear weapons lab
Carol Criss, SEIU-UHW Kaiser Steward Transcriptionist
Roland Sheppard, Retired BA Painters Local 4
Dina Padilla, Injured Worker Advocate
Becky McClain, Injure Pfizer Molecular Biologist by telephone
Sandy Trend, mother of injured Agraquest injured biotech worker David Bell

California Coalition For Workers Memorial Day CCWMD


Protest on International Workers' Day
Full Rights for Undocumented Workers
Legalization/Amnesty for All!
Money for Jobs and Education, Not War and Occupation
Jobs for All!
No Budget Cuts or Fee Hikes
Tax the Rich and Corporations!
March and Rally
Saturday May 1, 12noon
March Assembles: 24th and Mission Sts., SF
Sponsored by the May Day 2010 Coalition, of which the ANSWER Coalition is a member.

Proteste durante el Día Internacional del Trabajador
¡Derechos Incondicionales para Trabajadores Indocumentados
Legalización/Amnistía para todos!
¡Dinero Para Trabajos y Educación, No para Guerra y Ocupación
Trabajos para todos!
¡No Recortes o Aumentos-Cobren a los Ricos y Corporaciones!
Marcha y Mitin
Sab. 1º de Mayo, 12pm
Uniéndose sobre la calle 24 y Misión, SF
Patrocinado por la Coalición Día de Mayo 2010, la cual la Coalición ANSWER es un participante.

A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
Act Now to Stop War & End Racism
2489 Mission St. Rm. 24
San Francisco: 415-821-6545


A National Conference
To Bring the Troops Home Now!
JULY 23, 24, 25, 2010
Crowne Plaza Hotel, Albany, New York

AN INVITATION FROM: After Downing Street, Arab American Union Members Council, Black Agenda Report, Campaign for Peace and Democracy, Campus Antiwar Network, Code Pink, Iraq Veterans Against the War, National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations, Peace of the Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Progressive Democrats of America, U.S. Labor Against the War, The Fellowship of Reconciliation, Veterans for Peace, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom [list in formation]

We demand the immediate and total withdrawal of U.S. military forces, mercenaries and contractors from Afghanistan and Iraq. Moreover, we recognize that the Middle East cauldron today also encompasses Iran, Pakistan, Yemen, Palestine and Israel, while Haiti, Honduras, Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba and other countries in Latin America are targeted for intervention, subversion, occupation and control as a consequence of a militarized U.S. foreign policy. Our challenge is not only to end wars and occupations, but to fundamentally change the aggressive policies that inevitably lead our country to militarism and war.

Join us in Albany, New York, July 23-25, 2010!
Issued by the United National Antiwar Conference (UNAC) Planning Committee
For more information, write, or UNAC at P.O. Box 21675, Cleveland, OH 44121 or call 518-227-6947 or visit our website at




URGENT: Support the Fight of Florida Students & Teachers Against Privatization of Public Schools and Resegregation

URGENT: Support the Fight of Florida Students & Teachers Against Privatization of Public Schools and the Assignment of Students and Teachers in Black and Latina/o Areas to Permanent, Legal, Second-Class Status
Over 1500 Miami/Dade Teachers staged a sick-out and rally today (Monday, April 12) to demand that Governor Crist veto Senate Bill 6.

"If passed, this law will hasten the privatization of public education and the proliferation of charters in Florida, penalize teachers who teach the least privileged students and punish students who perform poorly on standardized tests (particularly English language learners) by withholding a high school diploma from even those who have earned the highest grades," said Ceresta Smith, a teacher from Dade County.

The 1500 teachers who called in sick assembled in Tropical Park, where they were joined by an additional 2500 supporters, including parents, students and community members.

"If passed, SB6 would assign both teachers and students in black and Latino areas to a permanent, legal, second-class status. In the south, where many charters are all white, the charter school movement has increased segregation - SB6 would accelerate this trend by widening the doors to publicly funded, privately-operated schools such as those that the segregationists founded in the 1950's to avoid the mandate of integration ordered by Brown v. Board of Education," said Shanta Driver, spokesperson for BAMN (By Any Means Necessary), the civil rights organization that sponsored a March on Washington to Defend Public Education last Saturday, and is supporting the fight of Florida teachers.

The teachers plan to caravan to Tallahassee later this week to protest at the Governor's office.

For more information and to support and build the movement, contact BAMN National Coordinator Donna Stern 313-468-3398 or
Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) (313) 468-3398
Equal Opportunity Now (NOW) Caucus


Greetings All:

This letter was written by Yuri Kochiyama who has asked us to spread this letter far and wide. Please do :).


March 1, 2010
Dear Friends of Mumia Abu Jamal:

Mumia's birthday is April 24 and we would like to celebrate the whole month of April with a gigantic Freedom Birthday Remembrance for Mumia Abu Jamal.

Please join Pam and Ramona Africa and all who love and admire Mumia by avalanching him through the month of April with Freedom Birthday wishes. And, to those who can afford to, please send a few dollars through postal money orders. This would be helpful when he is released.

Mail cards to:
Mumia Abu Jamal AM 8335
SCI Greene
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370-8090

Tell your family members, friends, fellow workers, neighbors, classmates, etc. Also, notify progressive radio stations, newspapers and organizations. Please do so immediately as April is almost upon us. Remember what Mumia has endured at the hands of the U.S. government and the Pennsylvania criminal justice system. Mumia has already done 32 years and is still on death row because of prosecutorial misconduct. Yet he is innocent! Act now before it is too late.

Don't let Mumia become another victim of a government's destructive history. Mumia's life is in peril and must be saved. He is needed to teach us how to fight for a better world for all. If ever Mumia was needed, it is now!

Join us in celebrating Mumia's birthday throughout April and let it be a celebration for Mumia's freedom!

Remember we need him more than he needs us. We need him, not only for today, but for all the tomorrows coming. Join us. Write to Mumia now.

From Friends and Family of Mumia Abu Jamal


Please sign the petition to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal and
and forward it to all your lists.

"Mumia Abu-Jamal and The Global Abolition of the Death Penalty"

(A Life In the Balance - The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, at 34, Amnesty Int'l, 2000; www.

[Note: This petition is approved by Mumia Abu-Jamal and his lead attorney, Robert R. Bryan, San Francisco (E-mail:; Website:]

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


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 501c)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


Collateral Murder



5th April 2010 10:44 EST WikiLeaks has released a classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad -- including two Reuters news staff.

Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-site, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded.


San Francisco City and County Tramples on Civil Liberties
A Letter to Antiwar Activists
Dear Activists:
On Saturday, March 20, the San Francisco City and County Recreation and Parks Department's Park Rangers patrolled a large public antiwar demonstration, shutting down the distribution of Socialist Viewpoint magazine. The rally in Civic Center Plaza was held in protest of the illegal and immoral U.S. wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, and to commemorate the 7th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The Park Rangers went table-to-table examining each one. They photographed the Socialist Viewpoint table and the person attending it-me. My sister, Debbie and I, had set up the table. We had a sign on the table that asked for a donation of $1.25 for the magazine. The Park Rangers demanded that I "pack it up" and go, because selling or even asking for donations for newspapers or magazines is no longer permitted without the purchase of a new and expensive "vendors license." Their rationale for this denial of free speech is that the distribution of newspapers, magazines, T-shirts-and even food-would make the political protest a "festival" and not a political protest demonstration!
This City's action is clearly a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution-the right to free speech and freedom of the press-and can't be tolerated.
While they are firing teachers and other San Francisco workers, closing schools, cutting back healthcare access, cutting services to the disabled and elderly, it is outrageous that the Mayor and City Government chose to spend thousands of dollars to police tables at an antiwar rally-a protest demonstration by the people!
We can't let this become the norm. It is so fundamentally anti-democratic. The costs of the permits for the rally, the march, the amplified sound, is already prohibitive. Protest is not a privilege we should have to pay for. It's a basic right in this country and we should reclaim it!
Personally, I experienced a deep feeling of alienation as the crisply-uniformed Park Ranger told me I had to "pack it up"-especially when I knew that they were being paid by the City to do this at this demonstration!
I hope you will join this protest of the violation of the right to distribute and, therefore, the right to read Socialist Viewpoint, by writing or emailing the City officials who are listed below.1
In solidarity,

Bonnie Weinstein, Editorial Board Member, Socialist Viewpoint
60 - 29th Street, #429
San Francisco, CA 94110

1 Mayor Gavin Newsom
City Hall, Room 200
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102

Board of Supervisors
City Hall
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 244
San Francisco, Ca 94102-4689

San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department Park Rangers
McLaren Lodge & Annex
501 Stanyan Street
San Francisco, CA 94117

San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission
501 Stanyan Street
San Francisco, CA 94117

Chief of Police George Gascón
850 Bryant Street, #525
San Francisco, CA 94103
(I could not find an email address for him.).



Lynne Stewart in Jail!

Mail tax free contributions payable to National Lawyers Guild Foundation. Write in memo box: "Lynne Stewart Defense." Mail to: Lynne Stewart Defense, P.O. Box 10328, Oakland, CA 94610.



U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Department of Justice Main Switchboard - 202-514-2000
Office of the Attorney General Public Comment Line - 202-353-1555

To send Lynne a letter, write:
Lynne Stewart
150 Park Row
New York, NY 10007

Lynne Stewart speaks in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal


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:


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) Hallucinogens Have Doctors Tuning In Again
"'This feeling that we're all in it together may have benefited communities by encouraging reciprocal generosity," Dr. Griffiths said. "On the other hand, universal love isn't always adaptive, either.'"
April 11, 2010

2) Tax Audits of Big Business Are Declining, Study Says
April 11, 2010

3) Tax Day and America's Wars
What the mayor of one community hard hit by war spending is doing
By Jo Comerford
April 11, 2010

4) 'A Different Creature'
Op-Ed Columnist
April 13, 2010

5) Leg Lost, Dancer Is Caught Between Caregivers
April 12, 2010

6) Study Says Overuse Threatens Gains From Modified Crops
April 13, 2010

7) Bill Would Allow Layoffs of Teachers With Seniority
"Two Democratic state lawmakers have sponsored a bill that would give principals in New York City the power to choose who should lose their jobs if the city needs to lay off teachers because of budget cuts."
April 12, 2010

8) Stern, Head of S.E.I.U., Plans to Retire
April 13, 2010

9) 2010 PayWatch Exposes Corporate Lobbying on Financial Reform
Posted By James Parks
April 13, 2010

10) Long Recovery for Barrier Reef
April 13, 2010


1) Hallucinogens Have Doctors Tuning In Again
"'This feeling that we're all in it together may have benefited communities by encouraging reciprocal generosity," Dr. Griffiths said. "On the other hand, universal love isn't always adaptive, either.'"
April 11, 2010

As a retired clinical psychologist, Clark Martin was well acquainted with traditional treatments for depression, but his own case seemed untreatable as he struggled through chemotherapy and other grueling regimens for kidney cancer. Counseling seemed futile to him. So did the antidepressant pills he tried.

Nothing had any lasting effect until, at the age of 65, he had his first psychedelic experience. He left his home in Vancouver, Wash., to take part in an experiment at Johns Hopkins medical school involving psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient found in certain mushrooms.

Scientists are taking a new look at hallucinogens, which became taboo among regulators after enthusiasts like Timothy Leary promoted them in the 1960s with the slogan "Turn on, tune in, drop out." Now, using rigorous protocols and safeguards, scientists have won permission to study once again the drugs' potential for treating mental problems and illuminating the nature of consciousness.

After taking the hallucinogen, Dr. Martin put on an eye mask and headphones, and lay on a couch listening to classical music as he contemplated the universe.

"All of a sudden, everything familiar started evaporating," he recalled. "Imagine you fall off a boat out in the open ocean, and you turn around, and the boat is gone. And then the water's gone. And then you're gone."

Today, more than a year later, Dr. Martin credits that six-hour experience with helping him overcome his depression and profoundly transforming his relationships with his daughter and friends. He ranks it among the most meaningful events of his life, which makes him a fairly typical member of a growing club of experimental subjects.

Researchers from around the world are gathering this week in San Jose, Calif., for the largest conference on psychedelic science held in the United States in four decades. They plan to discuss studies of psilocybin and other psychedelics for treating depression in cancer patients, obsessive-compulsive disorder, end-of-life anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction to drugs or alcohol.

The results so far are encouraging but also preliminary, and researchers caution against reading too much into these small-scale studies. They do not want to repeat the mistakes of the 1960s, when some scientists-turned-evangelists exaggerated their understanding of the drugs' risks and benefits.

Because reactions to hallucinogens can vary so much depending on the setting, experimenters and review boards have developed guidelines to set up a comfortable environment with expert monitors in the room to deal with adverse reactions. They have established standard protocols so that the drugs' effects can be gauged more accurately, and they have also directly observed the drugs' effects by scanning the brains of people under the influence of hallucinogens.

Scientists are especially intrigued by the similarities between hallucinogenic experiences and the life-changing revelations reported throughout history by religious mystics and those who meditate. These similarities have been identified in neural imaging studies conducted by Swiss researchers and in experiments led by Roland Griffiths, a professor of behavioral biology at Johns Hopkins.

In one of Dr. Griffiths's first studies, involving 36 people with no serious physical or emotional problems, he and colleagues found that psilocybin could induce what the experimental subjects described as a profound spiritual experience with lasting positive effects for most of them. None had had any previous experience with hallucinogens, and none were even sure what drug was being administered.

To make the experiment double-blind, neither the subjects nor the two experts monitoring them knew whether the subjects were receiving a placebo, psilocybin or another drug like Ritalin, nicotine, caffeine or an amphetamine. Although veterans of the '60s psychedelic culture may have a hard time believing it, Dr. Griffiths said that even the monitors sometimes could not tell from the reactions whether the person had taken psilocybin or Ritalin.

The monitors sometimes had to console people through periods of anxiety, Dr. Griffiths said, but these were generally short-lived, and none of the people reported any serious negative effects. In a survey conducted two months later, the people who received psilocybin reported significantly more improvements in their general feelings and behavior than did the members of the control group.

The findings were repeated in another follow-up survey, taken 14 months after the experiment. At that point most of the psilocybin subjects once again expressed more satisfaction with their lives and rated the experience as one of the five most meaningful events of their lives.

Since that study, which was published in 2008, Dr. Griffiths and his colleagues have gone on to give psilocybin to people dealing with cancer and depression, like Dr. Martin, the retired psychologist from Vancouver. Dr. Martin's experience is fairly typical, Dr. Griffiths said: an improved outlook on life after an experience in which the boundaries between the self and others disappear.

In interviews, Dr. Martin and other subjects described their egos and bodies vanishing as they felt part of some larger state of consciousness in which their personal worries and insecurities vanished. They found themselves reviewing past relationships with lovers and relatives with a new sense of empathy.

"It was a whole personality shift for me," Dr. Martin said. "I wasn't any longer attached to my performance and trying to control things. I could see that the really good things in life will happen if you just show up and share your natural enthusiasms with people. You have a feeling of attunement with other people."

The subjects' reports mirrored so closely the accounts of religious mystical experiences, Dr. Griffiths said, that it seems likely the human brain is wired to undergo these "unitive" experiences, perhaps because of some evolutionary advantage.

"This feeling that we're all in it together may have benefited communities by encouraging reciprocal generosity," Dr. Griffiths said. "On the other hand, universal love isn't always adaptive, either."

Although federal regulators have resumed granting approval for controlled experiments with psychedelics, there has been little public money granted for the research, which is being conducted at Hopkins, the University of Arizona; Harvard; New York University; the University of California, Los Angeles; and other places.

The work has been supported by nonprofit groups like the Heffter Research Institute and MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.

"There's this coming together of science and spirituality," said Rick Doblin, the executive director of MAPS. "We're hoping that the mainstream and the psychedelic community can meet in the middle and avoid another culture war. Thanks to changes over the last 40 years in the social acceptance of the hospice movement and yoga and meditation, our culture is much more receptive now, and we're showing that these drugs can provide benefits that current treatments can't."

Researchers are reporting preliminary success in using psilocybin to ease the anxiety of patients with terminal illnesses. Dr. Charles S. Grob, a psychiatrist who is involved in an experiment at U.C.L.A., describes it as "existential medicine" that helps dying people overcome fear, panic and depression.

"Under the influences of hallucinogens," Dr. Grob writes, "individuals transcend their primary identification with their bodies and experience ego-free states before the time of their actual physical demise, and return with a new perspective and profound acceptance of the life constant: change."


2) Tax Audits of Big Business Are Declining, Study Says
April 11, 2010

Despite the federal government's repeated pledges to crack down on big businesses that underpay their taxes, the Internal Revenue Service has decreased in recent years the time it spends auditing the returns of the nation's largest corporations, according to a new study.

And in 2009, the government audited just one in four of the largest corporations, lower than any rate in more than 20 years, according to the analysis, released Sunday by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonpartisan research group affiliated with Syracuse University.

Researchers said the audit data and other memos, which had both been obtained from the government under the Freedom of Information Act, suggested that a "perverse quota system" within the I.R.S. may be pressuring auditors to focus on small and medium-size businesses and give less scrutiny to the largest corporations - those with $250 million or more in assets.

"The decision to audit the smaller companies does not help the government collect more taxes," the study concluded. "This is because the data indicate that the larger the business, the larger the dollar amounts of tax underreporting and back taxes on average that they may owe."

I.R.S. officials, who have for years disputed the methodology used by TRAC, were quick to rebut the study's findings. Steven T. Miller, the I.R.S. director of enforcement, said the study was skewed because it failed to take into account a surge in hours that I.R.S. agents spent working with businesses before they filed their returns to prevent errors or underpayments.

He asserted that the data actually showed that the agency had become more efficient in recovering unpaid taxes from the largest corporations because the average amount of money the auditors recovered per hour had risen to $9,704 in 2009 from $6,928 in 2005.

"We believe we're looking at the right cases, we're looking at the largest cases, we're adding folks to these programs and have worked to really focus on the largest corporations," Mr. Miller said. "This issue is about more than just the number of feet on the beat."

The nation's tax gap - the amount of taxes underpaid by businesses and individuals - is more than $345 billion, according to the most recent estimates formulated by the I.R.S. The I.R.S. collected $48.9 billion in underpaid taxes last year through audits and other collection actions, including $28.5 billion from large companies and $1.8 billion from small and medium-size businesses.

In much of the last decade, as corporate profits soared and the number of wealthy Americans increased sharply, the I.R.S. periodically decreased the level of scrutiny it directed at individual taxpayers at the top of the income scale.

But the I.R.S. reversed that trend in the last two years, giving increased attention to the wealthiest individuals: in 2009, the agency audited 6.5 percent of those who declared income of $1 million or more; 2.9 percent of taxpayers with income of $200,000 to $1 million; and about 1 percent of those whose income was below $200,000.

But the TRAC study said the I.R.S. had not followed through on federal officials' promises to help reduce the soaring budget deficit by aggressively recovering underpayments by large corporations. Since 2005, the study reports, the number of hours devoted to audits of the largest companies fell 33 percent, while the hours spent auditing small businesses increased 30.4 percent and rose 12.6 percent for midsize businesses.

In the same period, the number of I.R.S. audits of large corporations fell to 3,675 from 4,693, a decrease of 21.7 percent.

Terry Lemons, an I.R.S. spokesman, said it was misleading to use 2005 as a basis for comparison because the I.R.S. had conducted a major drive to close old cases that year, and thus completed an unusually high number of audits carried forward from previous years.

Mr. Miller, the enforcement chief, said the I.R.S. audited 100 percent of those corporations with assets over $20 billion and 50 percent of those with assets of $5 billion to $20 billion in 2009.

In January, Commissioner Douglas Shulman announced that all major businesses would be required to include a detailed statement in their tax return that described any potentially questionable deductions. That new plan, which will be fully put into effect later this year, will allow auditors to concentrate their efforts on areas where they are most likely to recover any underpayment, Mr. Miller said.

"Enforcement is a function of looking at the right cases and the right issues," he said.


3) Tax Day and America's Wars
What the mayor of one community hard hit by war spending is doing
By Jo Comerford
April 11, 2010

Matt Ryan, the mayor of Binghamton, New York, is sick and tired of watching people in local communities "squabble over crumbs," as he puts it, while so much local money pours into the Pentagon's coffers and into America's wars. He's so sick and tired of it, in fact, that, urged on by local residents, he's decided to do something about it. He's planning to be the first mayor in the United States to decorate the façade of City Hall with a large, digital "cost of war" counter, funded entirely by private contributions.

That counter will offer a constantly changing estimate of the total price Binghamton's taxpayers have been paying for our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since October 2001. By September 30, 2010, the city's "war tax" will reach $138.6 million-or even more if, as expected, Congress passes an Obama administration request for supplemental funds to cover the president's "surge" in Afghanistan. Mayor Ryan wants, he says, to put the counter "where everyone can see it, so that my constituents are urged to have a much-needed conversation."

In doing so, he's joining a growing chorus of mayors, including Chicago's Richard Daley and Boston's Thomas Menino, who are ever more insistently drawing attention to what Ryan calls the country's "skewed national priorities," especially the local impact of military and war spending. With more than three years left in his current term, Ryan has decided to pull out all the stops to reach his neighbors and constituents, all 47,000 of them, especially the near quarter of the city's inhabitants who currently live below the poverty line and the nine percent who are officially unemployed.

A hard hit rust-belt city

Like so many post-industrial rust-belt communities, Binghamton was hard hit by the financial meltdown of 2008 and the Great Recession that followed, though it faired better than a number of similar cities, in part because Ryan, his administration, and the Binghamton City Council are a smart and scrappy crew. No doubt that's why he earned the New York State Conference of Mayors Public Administration and Management award two years running.

These days, however, even the smartest and scrappiest of mayors still has to face grim reality. In July 2009, as the city began developing the 2010 budget, Ryan projected a $7 million shortfall. Contributing factors included a likely $700,000 decline in sales tax revenue, ever rising healthcare costs, increased pension contributions to replace funds lost in the market during the collapse of 2008-09, and a $500,000 drop in the return on the city's investment portfolio.

With worse times ahead, thanks in part to the projected end of federal stimulus money and a city drained dry of reserves, Ryan has had to face a classically unpalatable choice: raise city sales taxes from seven percent to an unheard of 24 percent or cut city jobs. He chose jobs, as have the vast majority of mayors and governors across the country, eliminating 39 of them. In the process, he sought greater program efficiencies and wrestled with ways to increase city revenues while cutting ever closer to Binghamton's proverbial bone.

It was in the context of this kind of local pain that Ryan was stunned to discover just how much of Binghamton's taxes were going to the military and to our distant wars, and how little was coming back to Binghamton in the form of aid and services. "When I first saw the cost of war numbers and made the connections," Ryan remarks, "I had to wonder if we're ever going to get our priorities straight as a nation. It's like we're facing an attack on government. As a mayor, I can see so clearly what increased federal spending could do for the people of my city."

Ryan's message doesn't resonate with all of his constituents-some have walked out on his public appearances-but he's used to controversy and convinced that Americans had better get their heads straight soon. "People are hurting so bad," he insists, "that, like it or not, we're all going to have to look at things seriously if we want our situation to change."

Heads should swivel, he thinks, when faced with the $138.6 million Binghamton's taxpayers are out of pocket since 2001 for the Iraq and Afghan wars. And that's not even counting the city's share of the supplemental funds Congress will undoubtedly agree to this spring to cover the Afghan "surge" or the city's portion of the basic Pentagon budget for the same period.

For a small city with an annual budget of $81.1 million, $138.6 million would be a hefty sum, even in non-recessionary times. For the same amount of money, Ryan could fund the Binghamton city library for the next 60 years, or pay for a four-year education for 95 percent of the incoming freshman class at the State University of New York at Binghamton, or offer four years of quality health coverage for everyone in Binghamton 19 or younger, or secure renewable electricity for every home in the city for the next 11 years. If he was feeling really flush, he could fully fund one-third of New York State's Head Start slots for one year.

For the same sum, Ryan could also authorize a $2,900 tax refund for every woman, man, and child in Binghamton or pay the salaries of all of Binghamton's hard-hit public school teachers and staff for about two years.

For $138.6 million, Mayor Ryan could hire 2,765 public safety officers for a year, or simply refund the 12 police positions cut in the latest budget contraction and guarantee those salaries for the next 230 years. Ridiculous? These days, no one is laughing in Binghamton or other cities like it.

A community starved by war

As tax day looms on April 15th, Ryan increasingly thinks about where Binghamton's tax dollars will be heading and dreams about a government system that would have the potential to raise and spend tax revenue in the service of social benefits like affordable healthcare.

He's disturbed by how Binghamton's tax dollars will be distributed and what they will-and won't-buy for his city. Consider, for instance, where the 2009 taxes paid by a median income Binghamton household actually went. That year, such a household's income hovered around $30,000 annually, while its members paid approximately $738 in federal income taxes.

According to the tax-day analysis of the National Priorities Project (NPP), an overwhelming 218 of those dollars went to pay for military expenditures and interest on military-related debt (generated, in part, by current war spending). The next highest amount-$137-went to healthcare, including Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

In 2009, $67, nearly 10 cents on every tax dollar, went to an aggregated category of spending NPP has titled "government," tripling it in a single year, largely thanks to the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), otherwise known as the bank bailout, whose cost every community in America has had to shoulder. Fifty-eight dollars (8.5 cents on every income-tax dollar) went to increased unemployment insurance payments and job-training initiatives, also a rise from the previous year.

Not surprisingly, the $15 that went to elementary, secondary, higher, and vocational education in 2009 represented a drop from 2008, a loss of a penny on every tax dollar. There's no way, of course, that Mayor Ryan's dream of free, quality education from kindergarten to college is likely to happen on but two percent of every individual federal income tax dollar. Nor will we usher in the green techno-revolution that he and President Obama both support, by spending 2.5 cents on every dollar for the combined categories of the environment, energy, and science, and another 1.3 cents of every dollar on transportation.

"It's a double whammy," Ryan says. "We have a revenue problem and a values and priorities problem in this nation."

Some desperate city leaders have suggested that the Mayor cut workers' pensions to help close the city's budget gap. Matt Ryan doesn't see that as a solution to anything. "I have secretaries making $25,000 or $30,000. I'm not about to cut their net, such as it is. We have to think long haul. We have to look at fundamental changes if we're going to make it as a country. We should all be talking about this-all the time."

A construction crew will soon arrive to install Binghamton's "cost of war" counter, which will overlook the city's busiest intersection and spur conversation around tax day. During the three minutes local motorists wait at the nearby traffic light, they can join Mayor Ryan in waving good-bye to $100. And Binghamton as a whole can grapple with spending $49,650 in war costs every day of 2010.


4) 'A Different Creature'
Op-Ed Columnist
April 13, 2010

Nancy Pelosi, at lunch, was making the point that this latest recession was not a typical cyclical downturn.

"This is a different creature," she said, "and it demands that we see it in a different way."

The evidence is stark. More than 44 percent of unemployed Americans have been out of work for six months or longer, the highest rate since World War II. Perhaps more chilling is a new analysis by the Pew Economic Policy Group that found that nearly a quarter of the nation's 15 million unemployed workers have been jobless for a year or more.

Everything in Washington is a heavy lift. The successful struggle to pass last year's stimulus package fended off an even worse economic disaster, and the Democrats have managed to enact their health care initiative. But the biggest threat to the health of the economy - corrosive, intractable, demoralizing unemployment - is still with us. And the deficit zealots, growing in strength, would do nothing to counter this scourge.

Ms. Pelosi acknowledged that "there is always a calibration" between concerns about deficit reduction and the spending that is necessary to substantially reduce unemployment. But she believes there are several fronts on which Congress and the Obama administration can - in fact, must - still move forward: on infrastructure and green energy initiatives, for example, and assistance to states hobbled with fiscal crises of their own.

The crippling nature of the joblessness that has moved through the society like a devastating virus has gotten neither the attention nor the response that it warrants. One of the more striking findings of the Pew study was that a college education has not been much of a defense against long-term unemployment.

"Twenty-one percent of unemployed workers with a bachelor's degree have been without work for a year or longer," the report found, "compared to 27 percent of unemployed high school graduates and 23 percent of unemployed high school dropouts."

Whole segments of the U.S. population are being left behind, even as economists are touting modest improvements in some categories of economic data, like the creation of 162,000 jobs in March. Jobless workers who are 55 or older are having a brutal time of it. Thirty percent have been jobless for a year or more.

Blue-collar workers are suffering through a crisis characterized as a "depression" by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. Blue-collar job losses during the so-called Great Recession surpassed 5.5 million, and many of those jobs will never be seen again. This disastrous situation will not be corrected, as analysts at the center have noted, "by a modest recovery of the U.S. economy over the next few years."

We need to pay less attention to the Tea Party yahoos and more attention to the very real suffering of individuals and families trapped in an employment crisis that is unprecedented in the post-Depression era. I've been in inner-city neighborhoods where residents will tell you that hardly anyone at all is working at a regular job.

The recession only worsened an employment picture that was already bleak. In a speech at the Harvard Kennedy School last week, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. President Richard Trumka spoke movingly about Americans "trying to hold on to a good job in a grim game of musical chairs where every time the music stopped, there were fewer good jobs and more people trying to get and keep one."

More than eight million jobs vanished during the recession, a period during which three million new jobs would have been needed to keep up with the growth of the population. "That's 11 million missing jobs," said Mr. Trumka.

Right now there is no plan that can even remotely be expected to result in job creation strong enough to rescue the hard-core groups being left behind. These include: long-term unemployed workers who are older; blue-collar workers of all ages; and younger people in the big cities, in the rust belt and in rural areas who are jobless and not well educated.

It is not possible to put together a thriving, self-sustaining economy while so many are being left out. As Mr. Trumka noted, "President Obama's economic recovery program has done a lot of good for working people - creating or saving more than two million jobs. But the reality is that two million jobs is just 18 percent of the hole in our labor market."

Ms. Pelosi spoke about "jobs creation" with a tone of urgency and commitment and seemed undeterred by the fact that a big new jobs bill seems hardly feasible in the current political environment.

"You can do smaller pieces," she said. "You can break the task up into segments, into discrete pieces of legislation. If size is a problem, we should not let it be an obstacle."


5) Leg Lost, Dancer Is Caught Between Caregivers
April 12, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Fabienne Jean, a professional dancer who lost her right leg in the earthquake, hopped on her slim left leg through the dusty General Hospital compound on her way to a very important X-ray.

Once at the radiography clinic, Ms. Jean, 31, wearing a form-fitting black minidress with a chunky lapis-blue necklace, draped herself on the examining table like a fashion model. Then the technician entered and positioned her stump for X-rays bound for New York, where, if things worked out, Ms. Jean would be heading, too.

"Maybe my luck is changing for the better?" she said that day, more than two months after she had survived a raging deadly infection by reluctantly agreeing to an amputation.

But then began a tug of war between two health care providers over who would get to rehabilitate Ms. Jean.

Would it be the big New York hospital whose director of critical care helped save her life five days after the quake? Would it be the small New England prosthetics company whose foundation has been working since to get her up and about? Or would the two organizations find a way to collaborate?

Among Haiti's thousands of new amputees, Ms. Jean, who was featured in an article in The New York Times in February, has been singled out for special opportunities because of serendipity, news media attention and her potential as a symbol of Haiti's resilience: if the dancer who almost died rises to dance again, that will resonate, her caregivers believe.

But Ms. Jean's situation also highlights the way in which many Haitians, like their country, are now dependent on international charity.

As Ms. Jean sees it, this is largely a blessing - "Thank God for the foreigners," she said - but it can also be complicated and uncomfortable.

The New York hospital, Mount Sinai Medical Center, wants to follow through on its Haiti relief team's involvement with Ms. Jean by offering her corrective surgery and rehabilitation. The hospital is petitioning the Obama administration to grant Ms. Jean humanitarian parole to enter the United States.

It has also found doctors and lawyers to volunteer their services and a Haitian-American nurse to provide Ms. Jean a home in Brooklyn during her treatment.

The New England Brace Company Foundation, on the other hand, believes that Ms. Jean can and should be treated in Haiti, where she will live.

With its prosthetists preparing to fly to Port-au-Prince to fit her with a temporary new leg this week, the New Hampshire-based group does not want to lose her as a patient, for personal and professional reasons. The foundation wants Ms. Jean's help in fund-raising, and has considered making her its spokeswoman.

For Ms. Jean, a dancer with Haiti's National Theater, tragedy has turned into opportunity in a way that dizzies her. During the Jan. 12 earthquake, a stone wall collapsed on her leg. For days afterward, she lay waiting for help in a sea of broken bodies on the grounds of the General Hospital, where Dr. Ernest Benjamin, Mount Sinai's director of critical care, arrived with a medical team.

Ms. Jean begged Dr. Benjamin, who is Haitian-born, to save her leg, arguing that it was crucial to her livelihood. But it was too late.

"It was not an easy decision to amputate, but she was critically ill and further delay would have cost her life," Dr. Benjamin, an intensive care specialist, said. "Indeed, despite the amputation we feared that we were going to lose her. She was the first patient to have a seizure after surgery. It was heart-wrenching and we promised ourselves that we would do everything to help her if she survived."

Not long after her amputation, though, the General Hospital transferred Ms. Jean to a clinic on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.

That is when Dr. Benjamin lost track of her - and when Dennis Acton of the New Hampshire group found her in a place he described as a kind of "squalid homeless shelter for amputees."

Moved, Mr. Acton pledged to help Ms. Jean walk - and dance - again. "Fabienne has a great attitude," he said. "I figured she would be a strong patient who could get back on her feet quickly and be a positive role model to other amputees."

With a team of New England prosthetists now committed to treating about 50 amputees in Haiti, the Nebco Foundation is a newly incorporated group that solicits donations on its Web site, saying: "No funding is trickling down from the large organizations who have raised over a billion dollars; we need your help to continue!"

The article in The Times on Ms. Jean moved scores of readers to offer help. At the same time, Dr. Benjamin, finding Ms. Jean again through the newspaper article, proposed that Mount Sinai bring her to the United States to continue her treatment, and began preparing a humanitarian parole application.

(The Department of Homeland Security has granted parole for medical reasons to scores of Haitians since the earthquake, Matthew Chandler, a department spokesman, said.)

Learning of Mount Sinai's initiative, Mr. Acton was initially upset because he had just been counseled by disability experts in Port-au-Prince that their guidelines advocate that Haitians be treated in Haiti.

Indeed, Handicap International, a leading group here, does not approve of sending Haitians abroad for rehabilitation, even though "there is little or no rehabilitation system in Haiti," Lea Radick, a spokeswoman for the group, said.

Haitian amputees need low-tech prostheses that can be repaired or replaced in Haiti, she said, adding, "The work before us involves building local capacity so that injured Haitians will have access to critical services for the rest of their lives."

Doctors at Mount Sinai say that Ms. Jean needs additional surgery before rehabilitation. Her stump ends in a thick, scabby scar that is likely to open with friction from a prosthetic limb, leaving her vulnerable to further infections, according to her application to enter the United States.

While Ms. Jean could potentially get such surgery in Haiti, resources are stretched thin, and Mount Sinai is offering her "world-class" medical treatment and rehabilitation, Dr. Benjamin said.

Mr. Acton, after considering this, hesitantly agreed that going to New York might be in Ms. Jean's best interest. He wrote an e-mail message in late March that he had initially been "defensive (and maybe a little jealous?)" but that "Fabienne will never get the care she needs in Haiti."

For a brief period, Mr. Acton and Mount Sinai appeared to be working in tandem. He offered to sign an affidavit of support for Ms. Jean to accompany her humanitarian parole application.

But later, he conditioned that offer on his group's remaining her prosthetic provider, and he said his board of directors was concerned that Mount Sinai was trying to steal a high-profile patient.

The cooperation broke down.

After a frustrating week in Haiti, Dr. Benjamin said that he believed the New England group was impeding his efforts to obtain documents needed for Ms. Jean's parole application.

The group, he said, while most likely "doing some wonderful stuff," had made an investment in Ms. Jean that it did not want to lose.

"Her ability to dance again will help them cash in," he wrote to his colleagues in New York, proposing that they "throw in the towel" on their plan to bring Ms. Jean to Mount Sinai.

Mr. Acton said he would make sure that Ms. Jean got the care she needed. And he added that he resented the implication that his group was exploiting Ms. Jean, whom he said he considered a friend and "an equal partner" with "the power to decide how she wants to work with us in her future career, if at all."

He added: "I am learning the hard way that the disaster zone is more than just destruction and injured people; it is a complex mix of politics, egos and power plays as well."

In the end, Mount Sinai decided to keep pursuing permission for Ms. Jean to enter the United States. Separately, Mr. Acton prepared to travel to Haiti with her new limb.

And, in the middle, Ms. Jean, appreciative though stressed, does not want to take sides. But she does want to go to New York for treatment if possible.

She said in Creole: "I want to! I want to! I want to!"


6) Study Says Overuse Threatens Gains From Modified Crops
April 13, 2010

Genetically engineered crops have provided "substantial" environmental and economic benefits to American farmers, but overuse of the technology is threatening to erode the gains, a national science advisory organization said Tuesday in a report.

The report is described as the first comprehensive assessment of the impact of genetically modified crops on American farmers, who have rapidly adopted them since their introduction in 1996. The study was issued by the National Research Council, which is affiliated with the National Academy of Sciences and provides advice to the nation under a Congressional charter.

The report found that the crops allowed farmers to either reduce chemical spraying or to use less harmful chemicals. The crops also offered farmers lower production costs, higher output or extra convenience, benefits that generally outweighed the higher costs of the engineered seeds.

"Many American farmers are enjoying higher profits due to the widespread use of certain genetically engineered crops and are reducing environmental impacts on and off the farm," David Ervin, the chairman of the committee that wrote the report, said in a statement.

However, added Dr. Ervin, a professor of environmental management and economics at Portland State University in Oregon, "These benefits are not universal for all farmers."

Nor are they necessarily permanent. The report warned that farmers were jeopardizing the benefits by planting too many so-called Roundup Ready crops. These crops are genetically engineered to be impervious to the herbicide Roundup, allowing farmers to spray the chemical to kill weeds while leaving the crops unscathed.

Overuse of this seductively simple approach to weed control is starting to backfire. Use of Roundup, or its generic equivalent, glyphosate, has skyrocketed to the point that weeds are rapidly becoming resistant to the chemical. That is rendering the technology less useful, requiring farmers to start using additional herbicides, some of them more toxic than glyphosate.

"Farmer practices may be reducing the utility of some G.E. traits as pest-management tools and increasing the likelihood of a return to more environmentally damaging practices," the report concluded. It said the problem required national attention.

More than 80 percent of the corn, soybean and cotton grown in the United States is genetically engineered. The crops tolerate Roundup, are resistant to insects, or both.

American farmers were the first to widely adopt the technology and still account for about half of all the engineered crops grown. The crops are also being widely grown in Latin America and parts of Asia but still largely shunned in Europe.

The rapid adoption of the crops is evidence that American farmers see the technology as beneficial.

Nevertheless, in the fiercely polarized debate about genetically modified crops, there is little agreement on anything. Critics have issued studies saying that use of the crops have led to increased pesticide use and has had only a minimal effect on crop yields.

The National Research Council report was prepared by a committee of mainly academic scientists and relied primarily on peer reviewed papers.

Still, the report is not likely to win over critics of the crops.

One critic, Charles Benbrook, who reviewed a draft of the report, said the conclusion that the crops help farmers might no longer be true, or might not be true in the future. That is because the report relies mostly on data from the first few years, before prices of the biotech seeds rose sharply and the glyphosate-resistant weeds proliferated.

"This is a very different future," said Dr. Benbrook, an agricultural economist who is chief scientist at the Organic Center, which promotes organic food and farming. "The cost is going to be way higher. The environmental impacts are going to go up fairly dramatically."

As prices of the biotech seeds have risen sharply, even some farmers are now starting to question whether they are worth it. Just last week, Monsanto, the leading agricultural biotechnology company, said it would lower the prices of its newest genetically engineered soybeans and corn seeds because farmers were not buying as many of the seeds as it had expected.

The Department of Justice is now investigating whether Monsanto, which has patents on some of the fundamental technology including the Roundup Ready system, is violating antitrust laws, unduly increasing prices or hindering innovation.

The National Research Council report addresses this issue briefly without mentioning Monsanto. It says that issues of proprietary terms "has not adversely affected the economic welfare of farmers who adopt G.E. crops." But it said there is some evidence that the availability of non-engineered crops "may be restricted for some farmers."

The report said that the use of Roundup Ready crops has led to a huge increase in the spraying of glyphosate but a nearly concomitant decrease in the use of other herbicides. That is a net environmental benefit, the report said, because glyphosate is less toxic to animals than many other herbicides and does not last that long in the environment.

The use of herbicide-tolerant crops has also made it easier for farmers to forgo tilling their fields as a way to control weeds. So-called no-till farming helps prevent soil erosion and the runoff of rainwater containing sediments and chemicals.

The improvement in water quality could prove to be the largest benefit of the crops, the report said, though it added that efforts should be made to measure any such effects.

Still the biotech crops are only one factor promoting no-till farming. The report said that about half of soybeans were already being grown with little or no tillage by the time Roundup Ready soybeans were introduced in 1996. That rose to 63 percent in 2008.

The other major class of genetically engineered crops is the so-called BT corn and BT cotton, which contain bacterial genes allowing the plants to produce an insecticide.

The report said that use of chemical insecticides has declined as the BT crops have spread. In areas of with heavy insect pressure, it said, the use of the crops has increased farmer income because of higher yields and reduced expenditures on insecticide.

The report said that when genetically engineered crops were first introduced, some had lower yields than conventional varieties, a finding often cited by critics. But the report said that newer studies show either a modest increase in yield or a neutral effect.


7) Bill Would Allow Layoffs of Teachers With Seniority
"Two Democratic state lawmakers have sponsored a bill that would give principals in New York City the power to choose who should lose their jobs if the city needs to lay off teachers because of budget cuts."
April 12, 2010

When the Bloomberg administration raised the prospect of teacher layoffs this year, administration officials complained that they would be forced to get rid of the youngest newest teachers, and called on legislators to rewrite the seniority rules.

That wish may be one step closer. Two Democratic state lawmakers have sponsored a bill that would give principals in New York City the power to choose who should lose their jobs if the city needs to lay off teachers because of budget cuts.

The bill is certain to raise the ire of teachers' unions, which remain a powerful force in Albany. It could provoke also a new round of battles between the United Federation of Teachers and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who have had an icy relationship for months and are fighting over a new teachers' contract.

Mr. Bloomberg has said that as many 8,500 teachers would face layoffs, as the city's Education Department faces a budget cut of $600 million to $1.2 billion. Under the current law, teachers who have been in the system for the shortest amount of time would be the first to lose their jobs - a policy commonly known as last in, first out.

Last month, the schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, released numbers showing that the layoffs would be concentrated in the one of the wealthiest and one of the poorest districts in the city: in a worst-case situation, District 7 in the South Bronx would lose 21 percent of its teachers and District 2 on the Upper East Side would lose 19 percent, according to the city analysis. Some of those teachers would be replaced by more-senior teachers from elsewhere in the system.

"Experience matters, but it cannot be the sole or even principal factor considered in layoff decisions," Mr. Klein said in a statement. "We must be able to take into account each individual's track record of success."

Jonathan Bing, a Democratic assemblyman from the Upper East Side, said lobbyists from the city had approached him about sponsoring the bill soon after the city released those numbers.

"There needs to be some better way to go about doing this than to simply get rid of every teacher we have hired in the last few years," Mr. Bing said. "This has to be, on some level, about merit."

Mr. Bing said he had "great respect for teachers," noted that the union had donated to several of his political campaigns and acknowledged that the bill would almost certainly anger it.

"We are in an educational and economic crisis like no other," he added.

Under the bill, each school would form a committee of parents, teachers and administrators to determine who should be laid off.

Seniority protection is dear to labor unions, who say that without it, employers would use layoffs to eliminate workers who make the most money.

Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, said that in other cities that had eliminated seniority, like Washington, the rate of teacher turnover had increased, making the system less stable.

"I would like to see something more fruitful to figure out how to avoid the catastrophic cuts," Mr. Mulgrew said Monday.

The city appealed to State Senator Rubén Díaz of the Bronx to sponsor the bill in the Senate, although just last year Mr. Díaz said that Mr. Klein should be fired.

"I used to be angry at the way they were treating parents," Mr. Díaz said. "Now this would allow parents to have a role. If a school needs to get rid of teachers, they should be able to decide their own special needs."


8) Stern, Head of S.E.I.U., Plans to Retire
April 13, 2010

Andrew Stern, president of the politically powerful Service Employees International Union, will tell his union's executive committee, meeting in Washington this week, that he plans to retire, several top union officials said on Tuesday.

Officials of the union said his retirement would set off a race for succession. Anna Burger, the union's secretary-treasurer and second-highest executive, is expected to face a challenge from an executive vice president, Mary Kay Henry.

Ms. Burger, one of Mr. Stern's closest associates, heads Change to Win, a federation of unions that broke away from the A.F.L.-C.I.O. Ms. Henry has been a forceful leader in the union's health care division, which represents more than one million hospital and nursing home workers as well as home-care aides.

On Monday night, one member of the union's 60-person executive board said that Mr. Stern, who is 59, thought it was time to resign because Congress had enacted one of his long-time goals, a health-care overhaul.

"It will be very soon," one board member said of Mr. Stern's decision.

The prospect of Mr. Stern's departure has surprised and shaken political and labor circles. Mr. Stern is widely seen as the nation's most visible and influential union leader, with the greatest entry to the White House and with an ability to direct thousands of union foot soldiers and hundreds of thousands of dollars into any political race that he and the union choose.

At a board meeting in January, several associates said, Mr. Stern stressed the importance of training younger leaders and allowing them to move up in the organization.

"Andy has always taken the position that people should not stay too long in office," another board member said, "and it is his job to build the organization and then make room for other people." Mr. Stern's plans to resign were first reported by the Politico web site.

Over the last year, Mr. Stern has been involved in fierce battles with two other unions, a large breakaway local in the San Francisco Bay area and Unite Here, the union representing hotel and restaurant workers. At the same time, Mr. Stern has come under ferocious attack from conservatives, and especially from Glenn Beck, who has repeatedly called him a power-hungry socialist.

Mr. Stern has become a lighting rod within labor, ever since he led a half dozen unions to quit the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the nation's main labor federation, in 2005. His union, which represents hundreds of thousands of health-care workers, janitors and others, asserted that the A.F.L.-C.I.O. had grown stodgy and was doing far too little to unionize workers.

While some union backers praise Mr. Stern as an innovative leader who has made labor a more potent force in politics, others criticize him for being divisive and too quick to make concessions to employers and political leaders. He was also criticized for reaching secret agreements with some companies that he did not disclose to the rank and file.

As one index of his power and proximity to the president, official records show that he visited the White House more than 20 times during Mr. Obama's first six months in office, making him the most frequent visitor of any person not in the administration. The White House political director, Patrick Gaspard, was formerly the political director of the union's giant health-care local in New York, and Craig Becker, newly appointed to the National Labor Relations Board, was associate general counsel to the union.

Mr. Stern would retire without having achieved one of his major goals, passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would make it easier to unionize workers.

In the past, Mr. Stern has talked of having a mandatory retirement age for union leaders and even having term limits for union leaders.


9) 2010 PayWatch Exposes Corporate Lobbying on Financial Reform
Posted By James Parks
April 13, 2010

The nation's biggest banks helped create the current financial crisis that required a $700 billion taxpayer bailout. In return, the banks cut back on lending to consumers and small businesses but paid out a record $145 billion in total compensation in 2009.

The 2010 AFL-CIO [1] Executive PayWatch, which launched today, shows the same [2] Big Six banks-Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo-are spending millions of dollars lobbying on [3] financial regulations, including limits on executive pay and risky actions like the ones that caused the current crisis.

In six case studies, PayWatch examines how the companies paid out big bucks to executives and lobbyists:

* Citigroup received more than $45 billion in bailout funds-the largest bank bailout and employs nearly 50 lobbyists. Citigroup's highest-paid executive, Institutional Clients Group CEO John Havens, received more than $11 million in 2009.
* At Bank of America, Thomas Montag, the head of global banking and markets, collected $30 million last year. And Kenneth Lewis, who retired as CEO at the end of 2009, could collect as much as $83 million over his retirement. The bank has lobbied federal officials and lawmakers on derivatives, executive compensation, oversight of the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

Today at noon EDT, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will host a [4] live webcast to review the new data and outline plans to enact real financial regulatory reform and make Wall Street pay for job creation through a financial speculation tax. Click [4] here for more information on the webcast.

The banks' actions are one of the main causes of [5] worker anger over the economy, Trumka told a press conference at the AFL-CIO headquarters this morning.

Our message this year to all these banking CEOs is that hard-working Americans will not be their ATMs. Working Americans are mad as hell and we won't take it any more. Big Wall Street banks helped create this economic crisis and should pay to create the jobs they destroyed.

For example, Wells Fargo increased its lobbying expenses by 27 percent last year. CEO John Stumpf received more than $21 million and was the highest-paid financial industry CEO in 2009. Because banks who received bailout money were forbidden by law to give their top executives bonuses or incentive compensation, Wells Fargo boosted Stumpf's base pay by more than a whopping 537 percent to $5.6 million in 2009.

The banking industry spent a total of some $50 million lobbying last year, and the Big Six banks spent nearly half of that, Trumka said.

The banking industry now has more lobbyists than there are Congress members in the U.S. House of Representatives. Banks also belong to trade associations such as the American Bankers Association, the Financial Services Roundtable, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that have been particularly active in lobbying against tighter financial regulations.

Karen Nussbaum, director of [6] Working America, the AFL-CIO's community affiliate, told reporters that her organization talks with some 1.5 million workers who are not union members.

The jobs crisis is personal. It's in every community and every family.

It makes sense to families that banks have been unfettered and have run amok and it makes sense to restore regulations to hold banks in line, she said.

Although Congress is considering measures to rein in Wall Street, we need bolder action, Trumka said, calling for "real financial reform, which includes an independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency and a financial speculation tax to make Wall Street pay for jobs." You can take action and urge your representative and senators to vote for financial reform [7] here on the PayWatch site.

PayWatch also provides opportunities for visitors to find out how you can have a [8] say on executive pay at companies where you hold stock. The site also includes a list of the shareholder meetings for the Big Six banks.

The site has a new updated database with key information on some 3,000 companies.

You also can compare your pay to that of your employer and join with Working America members in their campaign to tell Wall Street [9] "I Am Not Your ATM."

Article printed from AFL-CIO NOW BLOG:

URL to article:

URLs in this post:
[1] Executive PayWatch:
[2] Big Six:
[3] financial regulations:
[4] live webcast:
[5] worker anger:

[6] Working America:
[7] here:
[8] say on executive pay:
[9] "I Am Not Your ATM:


10) Long Recovery for Barrier Reef
April 13, 2010

It could take up to 20 years for a section of the Great Barrier Reef to regrow after the damage done by a Chinese coal carrier that ran aground and leaked oil, an Australian government scientist said Tuesday. The recovery could take longer depending on the toxicity of the ship's exterior paint, which is designed to prevent the growth of barnacles and other marine life. The Shen Neng 1 crashed onto a shoal near the southern end of the reef on April 3, then ground back and forth against the nearby coral until it was refloated late Monday. The scar on the reef is 1.9 miles long and up to 820 feet wide. About three tons of engine fuel were spilled.



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