Saturday, August 07, 2010



Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:




Progressive Film Festival Aug. 7-8
A fundraiser for the ANSWER Coalition
at ATA, 992 Valencia St. at 21st St., San Francisco

$6 admission for each screening
Light refreshments. Wheelchair accessible.

Sat. August 7
7pm - Maquilapolis (City of Factories)
Documenting the struggle of women workers in Tijuana.

"Many consider the U.S.-Mexico border to be 'the laboratory of the future.' In Maquilapolis the border is also the site where global capitalism is facing profound resistance. The maquiladora workers are neither helpless victims nor dupes of neo-liberal capitalism, but rather social actors in the full sense of the word" -Rosa-Linda Fregoso, UCSC

Carmen Durán works the graveyard shift at one of Tijuana's 800 maquiladoras; she is one of millions of women around the world who labor for poverty level wages in the factories of transnational corporations. When the plant where Carmen worked for six years moved to Indonesia, they try to avoid paying the legally mandated severance pay to which they were entitled by law. Carmen becomes a promotora, a grassroots activist, challenging the usual illegal tactics of the powerful transnationals.

The filmmakers gave several women workers in Tijuana video cameras to make a record of their struggles, giving the film the intimate feel of video diaries. Spanish with English subtitles, 68min., 2006

8:30pm - 9 Star Hotel
A story of Palestinian workers struggling for survival under Israeli occupation.

This unflinching documentary follows Ahmed and Muhammad, two of the many Palestinians who illegally cross the border into the Israeli city of Modi'in in search of work. Together they share food, belongings and stories, and live under the constant threat of imprisonment from Israeli soldiers and police. With raw, handheld images, this disconcerting yet touching film documents friendship, nostalgia and the uncompromising urge to survive. 2007, 78min., Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles.

Sun. August 8
Cuba: An African Odyssey
Documenting Cuba's role in the African Liberation struggles of the 60's & 70's.

5pm - Part 1: Congo and Guinea Bissau

7:30pm - Part 2: Angola

In this ambitious and revealing documentary, Egyptian-French filmmaker Jihan El-Tahri traces the history of Cuban solidarity with African liberation movements in the 1960s and 70s. It begins in 1965 when Che Guevara led a group of Cuban revolutionary fighters in an unsuccessful attempt to support the struggle for true independence in the Congo. It then moves to Cuban's role in the struggles against Portuguese/NATO colonialism in Guinea-Bissau and Angola.

Cuba: An African Odyssey combines remarkable archival footage-much of it never before seen in the U.S.-with an amazing cast of participants showing Cuba's pivotal role in the liberation movements in Africa. Over 300,000 Cubans fought alongside African revolutionaries, one of many examples of Cuba's true internationalism. Spanish and English with English subtitles, 2007, Part 1 - 130min., Part 2 - 60min.

If you cannot attend, but would like to make a much-needed donation to the ANSWER Coalition:

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



Benton Harbor, Mich. - August 10, 2010



200 WALL ST.

Aug. 10, 10:30am

Questions: Contact Rev. Edward Pinkney, 269-925-0001

YOUR CITY COULD BE NEXT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


There are signs plastered all over the New York City subway system warning that, "Assaulting MTA New York City Transit subway personnel is a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison." What will Johannes Mehserle, an Oakland BART subway cop get for the murder of Oscar Grant? HE COULD EVEN GET PAROLLE! OR AS LITTLE AS FOUR YEARS! WE WANT THE MAXIMUM FOR MEHSERLE!

Longshore workers call for labor/community rally for:

Justice for Oscar Grant! Jail Killer Cops!

The next labor/community organizing meeting will be:

7 PM, Tuesday August 31, 2010
Longshore Hall - Henry Schmidt room
400 North Point St @ Mason
near Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco
Media/Publicity: Jack Heyman 510-531-4717,

You are urged to attend!

A broad group of labor and community organizers met Tuesday, July 27 to help organize a mass demonstration demanding Justice for Oscar Grant! Jail Killer Cops! to take place Saturday, October 23 in Oakland. Committees were set up and organizing has begun involving people from the Bay Area and coordinated nation-wide. Bay Area United Against War Newsletter encourages everyone to become involved in organizing and building this very urgent event. We can't allow the police to have a license to murder the innocent and unarmed with a slap on the wrist. We demand the maximum for Johannes Mehserle!

Oscar Grant was murdered in cold blood!


Media/Publicity: Jack Heyman 510-531-4717,

ILWU Local 10 Motion on the Verdict in the Oscar Grant Case
Whereas, Oscar Grant's killer, BART police officer Johannes Mehserle received a verdict of involuntary manslaughter on July 8, 2010; and

Whereas, video tapes show clearly that Oscar Grant was lying face down on the Fruitvale BART platform, waiting to be handcuffed with another cop's boot on his neck posing no threat when he was shot in the back and killed in cold blood by Mehserle; and
Whereas, this is just another example in a racist justice system where police officers go free for killing young black men; and

Whereas, the Contra Costa Times reports that police are holding a rally in Walnut Creek on July 19, 2010 to show support for the killer cop so his sentence will only be a slap on the wrist; and

Whereas; the ILWU has always stood for social justice;

Therefore be it resolved that the labor movement organize a mass protest rally October 23, 2010 with participation from community groups, civil rights organizations, civil liberties organizations and all who stand for social justice demand jail for killer cops.



Education 4 the People!
October 7 Day of Action in Defense of Public Education - California

MORE THAN 100 activists from across California gathered in Los Angeles April 24 to debate next steps for the fight against the devastating cutbacks facing public education.

The main achievements of the conference were to set a date and location for the next statewide mass action-October 7-and for the next anti-cuts conference, which will happen October 16 at San Francisco State University. The other key outcome was the first steps toward the formation of an ad hoc volunteer coordinating committee to plan for the fall conference.

These decisions were a crucial step toward deepening and broadening the movement. For example, the fall conference will be the key venue for uniting activists from all sectors of public education, and especially from those schools and campuses which saw action on March 4, but which have yet to plug into the broader movement.

This will be crucial for extending the scope and increasing the strength of our movement, as well as for helping us strategize and prepare for what is certain to be a tough year ahead. Similarly, the fall mass action will be crucial to re-igniting the movement following the summer months.

Organizing for the next Statewide Public Education Mobilization Conference at SFSU on OCT 16th
Posted on May 24, 2010 by ooofireballooo
Organizing for the next Statewide Public Education Mobilization Conference
@ San Francisco State University on October 16th

MORE THAN 100 activists from across California gathered in Los Angeles April 24 to debate next steps for the fight against the devastating cutbacks facing public education.

The main achievements of the conference were to set a date and location for the next statewide mass action-October 7-and for the next anti-cuts conference, which will happen October 16 at San Francisco State University. The other key outcome was the first steps toward the formation of an ad hoc volunteer coordinating committee to plan for the fall conference.

These decisions were a crucial step toward deepening and broadening the movement. For example, the fall conference will be the key venue for uniting activists from all sectors of public education, and especially from those schools and campuses which saw action on March 4, but which have yet to plug into the broader movement.

This will be crucial for extending the scope and increasing the strength of our movement, as well as for helping us strategize and prepare for what is certain to be a tough year ahead. Similarly, the fall mass action will be crucial to re-igniting the movement following the summer months.

Proposal: Form a conference organizing listserve immediately!

Please join the google group today.

* Group home page:


November 18-21, 2010: Close the SOA and take a stand for justice in the Americas.

The November Vigil to Close the School of the Americas at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia will be held from November 18-21, 2010. The annual vigil is always held close to the anniversary of the 1989 murders of Celina Ramos, her mother Elba and six Jesuit priests at a the University of Central America in El Salvador.


November 2010 will mark the 20th anniversary of the vigil that brings together religious communities, students, teachers, veterans, community organizers, musicians, puppetistas and many others. New layers of activists are joining the movement to close the SOA in large numbers, including numerous youth and students from multinational, working-class communities. The movement is strong thanks to the committed work of thousands of organizers and volunteers around the country. They raise funds, spread the word through posters and flyers, organize buses and other transportation to Georgia, and carry out all the work that is needed to make the November vigil a success. Together, we are strong!


There will be exciting additions to this year's vigil program. Besides the rally at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia with inspiring speakers and amazing musicians from across the Americas, the four day convergence will also include an educational teach-in at the Columbus Convention Center, several evening concerts, workshops and for the first time, the Latin America Solidarity Coalition will stage a one-day Anti-Militarization Organizers Conference on Thursday, November 18, 2010.


Our work has unfortunately not gotten any easier and U.S. militarization in Latin America is accelerating. The SOA graduate led military coup in Honduras, the continuing repression against the Honduran pro-democracy resistance and the expansion of U.S. military bases in Colombia and Panama are grim examples of the ongoing threats of a U.S. foreign policy that is relying on the military to exert control over the people and the resources in the Americas. Join the people who are struggling for justice in Honduras, Colombia and throughout the Americas as we organize to push back.

Spread the word - Tell a friend about the November Vigil:

For more information, visit:

See you at the gates of Fort Benning in November 2010




Economic Hitmen: John Perkins on Economic Imperialism
[He's wrong, though, about there being a benign form of capitalism. There's only one kind of capitalism -- this kind of capitalism -- and it's all]


Narrated - Oil Leaking From BP Gulf Oil Spill Sea Floor Strata
[After the cement]


Lady Gaga Rallies Fans in Arizona: "If it wasn't for all you immigrants, this country wouldn't have s--t."
By Tanner Stransky

Lady Gaga is well known for stirring the pot while advocating for buzzy causes like gay rights, and now she's using her sizable cultural influence to stand up against SB 1070, the controversial Arizona immigration law. At her Monster Ball show in Phoenix on Saturday evening, the pop star encouraged her "little monsters" to not sit idle in regards to the law: "We have to be active. We have to actively protest," she told her audience. Since the news of SB 1070 came down, several heavyweights in the music biz have boycotted the state, but Gaga said she won't do the same.

"I will not cancel my show. I will hold you, and we will hold each other, and we will protest this state," Gaga told her audience. "I got a phone call from a couple really big rock-n-rollers, big pop stars, big rappers, and they said: 'We'd like you to boycott Arizona. We'd like you to boycott playing Arizona because of SB 1070.' And I said: 'You really think that us dumb f-ing pop stars are going to collapse the economy of Arizona?'" And that's when she urged fans to protest. "The nature of the Monster Ball is to actively protest prejudice and injustice and that bullshit that is put on our society!" See her whole impassioned speech here:


Missing Gulf Coast Oil Appears To Be Welling Up Under Barrier Island Beaches (VIDEO)

Last week, BP managed to finally cap the Deepwater Horizon oil volcano and the media suddenly found itself in the grips of a baffling problem with object permanence. Where did all the oil go, they wondered. Had it disappeared? Was it eaten by microbes? Did it get Raptured up to Oil Heaven? It was a mystery, wrapped in a miracle! At least it was until Mother Jones reporter Mac McClelland took about a minute to send some text messages to colleagues in the field, inquiring after the oil's whereabouts. They answered back: Where is the oil? How does all over the place grab you?

Over at The Upshot, Brett Michael Dykes highlights this report from WVUE in New Orleans, which confirms that the oil did not, in fact, fortuitously disappear into thin air:

According to WVUE correspondent John Snell, local officials dispatched a dive team to a barrier island off of southeastern Louisiana's Plaquemines parish to scan the sea floor for oil. The team, however, could barely see the sea floor, due to the current murky state of the area waters. But when the divers returned to shore, they made a rather remarkable discovery: tiny holes that burrowing Hermit crabs had dug into the ground effectively became oil-drilling holes. When the divers placed pressure on the ground near the holes, oil came oozing up.

So, basically, questioning where the oil has gone is the exact same thing as looking at the shoes attached to the ends of your legs and wondering if your feet have disappeared.


Video Shows Michigan Oil Spill
July 29, 2010, 1:57 pm

As my colleague Emma Graves Fitzsimmons reports from Michigan, the Environmental Protection Agency now estimates that more than one million gallons of oil may have spilled from a pipeline into the Kalamazoo River this week, which is far more than the pipeline's owner, Enbridge Energy Partners, initially estimated.

In a statement posted online, the E.P.A. explained that the government has taken charge of the clean-up effort and is working to keep the oil from reaching Lake Michigan.

On Monday, when a 30-inch pipeline burst in Marshall, Mich., releasing hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into Talmadge Creek, a waterway that feeds the Kalamazoo River, local residents started posting video of the damage on YouTube. As the site's own CitizenTube blog noted, a user calling herself Picture Takin Diva posted these aerial images of the creek, with the comment, "It's not the Gulf, but it's pretty bad!"

Another user, Corrive 9, who uploaded the video at the top of this post on Tuesday, also conducted some interviews with people who live near the river. Looking at the oily water, this man said, "It smells like a mechanic's shop, for one thing, but it's just a shame because this river was just becoming cleaner and now this. We fish this, catch a lot of small-mouth bass out here, great big ones."

A third YouTube user, who goes by 420 Stardust Glitter, uploaded these silent images of the oil water with a note saying, "The oil is so thick it's starting to look gummy and the smell of the toxins are unbearable."


BP Oil Spill Grand Isle Town Hall Meeting Part 3


Sometimes there are things so beautiful it takes your breath away and confirms the best and most basic good in the nature of
Stand By Me | Playing For Change | Song Around the World


Pete Seeger Live - New Protest Song About BP Oil Spill in Gulf Coast on Banjo w James Maddock Guitar
Published on Friday, July 30, 2010 by YouTube

On July 23th 2010 Pete Seeger performed live at a Gulf Coast Oil Spill fundraiser at The City Winery in New York City. There, he unveiled to the public his new protest song about the BP oil spill entitled "God's Counting on Me, God's Counting on You." Backing up Pete's singing and banjo picking is the singer/songwriter James Maddock on acoustic guitar. All proceeds of this concert went to the Gulf Restoration Project. The show was produced and hosted by Richard Barone. The video was edited and mixed by Matthew Billy.


When we look and we can see things are not what they should be
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
When we look and see things that should not be
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
Hopin' we'll all pull through, Hoping we'll all pull through,
Hopin' we'll all pull through
Me and you.

It's time to turn things around, trickle up not trickle down
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
It's time to turn things around, trickle up not trickle down
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
Hopin' we'll all pull through, Hoping we'll all pull through,
Hopin' we'll all pull through
Me and you.

And when drill, baby, drill turns to spill, baby, spill
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
Yes when drill, baby, drill turns to spill, baby, spill
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
Hopin' we'll all pull through, Hoping we'll all pull through,
Hopin' we'll all pull through
Me and you.

Don't give up don't give in, workin' together we all can win
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
Don't give up don't give in, workin' together we all can win
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
Hopin' we'll all pull through, Hoping we'll all pull through,
Hopin' we'll all pull through
Me and you.

There's big problems to be solved, let's get everyone involved
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
There's big problems to be solved, let's get everyone involved
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
Hopin' we'll all pull through, Hoping we'll all pull through,
Hopin' we'll all pull through
Me and you.

When we sing with younger folks, we can never give up hope
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
When we sing with younger folks, we can never give up hope
God's counting on me, God's counting on you
Hopin' we'll all pull through, Hoping we'll all pull through,
Hopin' we'll all pull through
Me and you.


Underwater Lakes Of Oil From BP Spill Will Continue To Cover Gulf Beaches With Toxic Layer Of Invisible Oil For Months
Posted by Alexander Higgins - July 28, 2010 at 10:59 pm - Permalink


Feds think public can't HANDLE THE TRUTH about toxic dispersants says EPA Sr. Analyst
July 28, 2010


Breathing Toxic Oil Vapors??? vid


Black Rain By Mob Rules


TOXIC RED ALERT! - Oil and Benzene RAIN is NOW FALLING!!!!


Justice for Oscar Grant! Jail Killer Cops!

Mooncricket: When Two Worlds Collide-The Mehserle Rally Raw & Uncut-Race Does Matter...
Posted on July 25, 2010 by Davey D

Big shout out to film maker Mooncricket who captured not only the rally that took place for killer cop Johannes Mehserle in Walnut Creek but also caught the ignorance and huge disconnect that many have when it comes to dealing with issues of race and police brutality..

In the clip below you hear the confrontations but more importantly you hear how deeply embedded racial perceptions are. pay close attention to the woman who wants to lecture one brother about genocide in Rwanda and then tells him about OJ Simpson.. It was a constant theme repeated over and over again which suggested that revenge from the OJ trial was sitting on everyone's mind.

In this video listen to the other woman who attempts to tell us why people get pulled over and profiled and finds it hard to believe the police are doing anything wrong...This same woman is later caught on film yelling that mexicans should go back to Mexico.

This is an intense confrontation and highlights what's far too often typical when dealing with issues of police brutality which is a variation of blaming the victim. 'How come you aren't here protesting when 'Blacks are killing Blacks' is usually the retort one hears from both whites and blacks when police brutality issues come up. It's a misplaced argument on a number of levels. First, many organizers are involved in programs, vigils, marches, churches etc about violence in their communities. For example, today Saturday June 24th there was a big Silence the Violence Rally in San Francisco that deals with urban crime. There are dozens of organization in Oakland that were started and still around to help foster conflict resolution and provide alternatives. They range from Youth Uprising to Love Life Foundation, Nation of Islam, Omega Boys Club to Urban Peace Movement etc..Such outlets under different names exist in every city around the country.

The second question that usually pops up is 'Well if you have so many organizations why is there still crime in the hood?' The question is a disingenuous one. My experience shows that most who ask those questions have not been involved in many of the community efforts to help push back on crime, yet they're expecting miracles. The fall back answer that many like to give is that they push back on crime by supporting the police. But even the police are looking for both volunteers and funds for their own programs like PAL and DARE... Those same people asking all these hard questions aren't involved in those outlets.

Lastly one can look at the huge array of tough 3 strike type laws, harsher sentencing guidelines, zero tolerance directives, higher budgets, new training and weaponry given to the police over the past 15-20 years and yet crime still persists. Should we not change some things about their approach?

With that being said, protesting Black on Black crime is not a criteria for addressing police misconduct. One has nothing to do with the other. The thug on the corner committing crimes is not a public servant. The police are. The thug on the block has not been granted a badge, a license to carry a gun, received months of training and given the trust and duty to protect and serve the citizens of various communities. The police have been given that which means they are directly accountable to the community. The thug has not made that contract with the community and so its bit unreasonable to expect folks to openly confront a criminal the way they would the police to seek redress.

One could easily ask that question to citizens in Walnut Creek or neighboring Concord if they are outside with signs protesting in front of meth houses which exist out there? Are they in front of the homes of people who commit domestic violence or any other number of crimes? ...Most aren't yet they wish to ask all these questions. There's an old saying don't ask of others what you aren't doing yourself?

In the scenes below you see some more intense arguments and some of the blatant racism that folks in the crowd are will to shout out at those who support Oscar Grant.

Below we see the Peaceful ending to rally in Walnut Creek ..As marchers leave and head toward the BART station they come top find the gates have been shut closed on the Grant protesters.


Innocence Lost: Ethan McCord recounts aftermath of Iraqi civilian massacre | UNPC 7/24/2010


BP OIL SPILL HEALTH EMERGENCY! DIRE! MUST BE WATCHED! Corexit Being Sprayed From Coast Guard Planes!




Papantonio: BP's Floating 3rd World Death Trap


Mexican kindergarten kids vs racist white minutemen
Little kids stand up for their parents after the minutemen go harass migrants at the Mexican Consulate in the city of Santa Ana.


HEALTH ALERT: Toxic Rain In Miami From Gulf Oil Leak, Plants & Trees Dying


Sarah Kruzan: Sentenced to Life Without Parole at Age 16


Make A Living With My Own Two Hands/ Hell It's Part of Being Who I Am
by Abby Zimet
July 14, 2010

After two days of often emotional testimony from Gulf Coast residents, the White House oil spill commission heard Louisiana native, crawfisherman and singer-songwriter Drew Landry sing it like it is in a newly, sorrowfully minted lament for a way of life he fears has been destroyed. From "The BP Blues": "Kickin mud off up a crawfish hole/ barefooted with a fishin pole/ went to workin in the oil fields/ that's the only way to pay our bills..."

After the song, Landry told the hearing: "It feels like BP is in control of this deal, and the Coast Guard does what they want...More importantly, it feels like the people don't have a voice in this thing. It just sucks. Let's just do the right damn thing. It shouldn't be this hard. It shouldn't take a committee to listen to people."


The Gulf 20 years from now

Tell President Obama to demand that BP stop blocking
clean-up workers from using life-saving respirators:


"Corporations don't mind if we repeat history--it's cheaper that way." --Keith Olberman

Gulf's Human Health Crisis Explodes -- Countdown with Keith Olberman


COREXIT is Eating Through Boats in the Gulf


Gulf toxicologist: Shrimpers exposed to Corexit "bleeding from the rectum"


BP Makes Me Sick


Tar ball clean up in Cocoa Beach -- East Coast of Central Florida


Tar ball clean up in Cocoa Beach
Oil/Water samples from Gulf...VERY TOXIC


YouTube - Obama admin bans press from filming BP oil spill areas in the Gulf!


Police State Canada


BP Death Clouds Already Onshore! Benzene-3400ppb Hyrdrogen Sulfide-1200ppb TOXIC AIR ALERT.flv


Kid with oil stuck on her! Destin Beach, Fl. June 23rd, 2010


Is it raining oil
in Metro New Orleans?
River Ridge, LA
Just south of the airport
[The question mark isn't appropriate in this title. The video clearly shows that it's raining oil in River Ridge--no question about]

G20 Police Accused of Rape Threats, Strip-Searches
29 June 2010


BP Slick Covers Dolphins and


Licence to Spill
Posted on 06.30.10


Two Pensacola Beach Scenes: Dying Baby Dolphin and Ocean "Water Bubbling "...Like It's Got Acid In It. God Help Us All"
For OpEdNews: theWeb - Writer
Two scenes from Pensacola--one of a dying baby dolphin, the other of water bubbling like there's acid in it.
A dying, oil-covered baby dolphin is taken from Pensacola waters. It died shortly after being discovered.




ROV films oil leak coming from rock cracks on seafloor.


Oil Spill Threatens Native American "Water" Village
The town of Grand Bayou, Louisiana, has no streets and no cars, just water and boats. And now the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico threatens the very existence of the Atakapa-Ishak Indians who live there. "We're facing the potential for cultural genocide," says one tribe member.
(c) 2010 National Geographic; videographer and field producer: Fritz Faerber


Roger Waters - "We Shall Overcome" for Gaza


Rachel Maddow: Disgraceful response to the oil itself


It Ain't My Fault by Mos Def & Lenny Kravitz |


Gulf Oil Spill?

Dear Readers,

If you are wondering why an antiwar newsletter is giving full coverage to the oil spill, it's because:

(1) "Supplying the US army with oil is one of BP's biggest markets, and further exploration in the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico is part of its long-term strategy."*
(2) "The Senate on Thursday, [May 27, 2010] approved a nearly $60 billion measure to pay for continuing military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq..."**

The two are inextricably entwined and interdependent.

--Bonnie Weinstein

*The black hole at the bottom of the Gulf
No one seems to know the extent of the BP disaster
By David Randall and Margareta Pagano
Sunday, 23 May 2010

**Senate Approves Nearly $60 Billion for Wars
May 27, 2010

Watch BP Live Video Webcam Camera Feed of Gulf Oil Spill Here! (Update 7)

What BP does not want you to see:
ABC News went underwater in the Gulf with Philippe Cousteau Jr., grandson of famous explorer Jacques Cousteau, and he described what he saw as "one of the most horrible things I've ever seen underwater."

Check out what BP does not want you to see. And please share this widely -- every American should see what's happening under the surface in the Gulf.

Live BP Gulf Oil Spill Webcam Video Reveals 5 Leaks

Stop Shell Oil's Offshore Drilling Plans in the Arctic

Sign the Petition to Ban Offshore Drilling Now!




Ohio may execute an innocent man unless you take action.

Kevin Keith is scheduled to be executed on September 15th, despite a wide range of new evidence that suggests he is innocent. Kevin, who has been on Ohio's death row for 16 years, was convicted on the basis of faulty eyewitness identification.

Thirteen years after he was convicted, Kevin discovered that one of the State's supposed "witnesses" -- a hospital nurse who was critical to corroborating the legitimacy of the surviving victim's eyewitness identification -- does not actually exist. He has an alibi affirmed by four people and new evidence has emerged implicating another suspect.

No court has heard the full array of new evidence pointing to Kevin's innocence. Take action today to stop Ohio from executing a man who very well may be innocent.


Stefanie Faucher
Associate Director


Please sign the petition to release Bradley Manning (Click to sign here)

To: US Department of Defense; US Department of Justice
We, the Undersigned, call for justice for US Army PFC Bradley Manning, incarcerated without charge (as of 18 June 2010) at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

Media accounts state that Mr. Manning was arrested in late May for leaking the video of US Apache helicopter pilots killing innocent people and seriously wounding two children in Baghdad, including those who arrived to help the wounded, as well as potentially other material. The video was released by WikiLeaks under the name "Collateral Murder".

If these allegations are untrue, we call upon the US Department of Defense to release Mr. Manning immediately.

If these allegations ARE true, we ALSO call upon the US Department of Defense to release Mr. Manning immediately.

Simultaneously, we express our support for Mr. Manning in any case, and our admiration for his courage if he is, in fact, the person who disclosed the video. Like in the cases of Daniel Ellsberg, W. Mark Felt, Frank Serpico and countless other whistleblowers before, government demands for secrecy must yield to public knowledge and justice when government crime and corruption are being kept hidden.

Justice for Bradley Manning!


The Undersigned:

Zaineb Alani
"Yesterday I lost a country. / I was in a hurry, / and didn't notice when it fell from me / like a broken branch from a forgetful tree. / Please, if anyone passes by / and stumbles across it, / perhaps in a suitcase / open to the sky, / or engraved on a rock / like a gaping wound, / ... / If anyone stumbles across it, / return it to me please. / Please return it, sir. / Please return it, madam. / It is my country . . . / I was in a hurry / when I lost it yesterday." -Dunya Mikhail, Iraqi poet


Dear Gio,

Thanks again for supporting military war resisters. We do this work because it is a tangible contribution to a future without empire and war. With your help, we've won a number of victories recently--you might have read about "Hip Hop" stop-loss soldier Marc Hall, or single mom, and Afghanistan deployment resister, Alexis Hutchinson in the news.

Now, intel analyst Bradley Manning is in the headlines and facing decades in prison for leaking a video of a massacre in Baghdad. If Pfc. Manning is the source of the video, then he did what he had to do to expose a war crime. Regardless, he's wrongly imprisoned and we are doing everything we can to support him. Keep an eye out for action alerts in the coming days on how to support Bradley!

If you have not yet had a chance to make a donation recently, I'm asking that you please consider doing so now so that together we can step up to support Bradley Manning and all GI war objectors!

Jeff Paterson,
Project Director, Courage to Resist

p.s. Our new August print newsletter is now available:


Please forward widely...

Lynne Stewart Sentenced to Ten Years in Prison
By Jeff Mackler
(Jeff Mackler is the West Coast Director of the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee.)

The full force of the U.S. criminal "justice" system came down on innocent political prisoner, 30-year veteran human rights attorney and radical political activist Lynne Stewart today, July 15, 2010.

In an obviously pre-prepared one hour and twenty minute technical tour de force designed to give legitimacy to a reactionary ruling Federal District Court John Koeltl, who in 2005 sentenced Stewart to 28 months in prison following her frame-up trial and jury conviction on four counts of "conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism," re-sentenced Stewart to 120 months or ten years. Koeltl recommended that Stewart serve her sentence in Danbury, Connecticut's minimum security prison. A final decision will be made by the Bureau of Prisons.

Stewart will remain in Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center for 60 days to prepare an appeal.

The jam-packed New York Federal District Court chamber observers where Koeltl held forth let our a gasp of pain and anguish as Lynne's family and friends were stunned - tears flowing down the stricken and somber faces of many. A magnificent Stewart, ever the political fighter and organizer was able to say to her supporters that she felt badly because she had "let them down," a reference to the massive outpouring of solidarity and defiance that was the prime characteristic of Lynne's long fight for freedom.

Judge Koeltl was ordered to revisit his relatively short sentence when it was overturned by a two-judge majority of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Judges Robert D. Sack and Guido Calabresi ruled that Koeltl's sentence was flawed because he had declined to determine whether Stewart committed perjury when she testified at her trial that she believed that she was effectively operating under a "bubble" protecting her from prosecution when she issued a press release on behalf of her also framed-up client, the blind Sheik Omar Abdel Rachman. Rachman was falsely charged with conspiracy to damage New York state buildings.

Dissenting Judge John M. Walker, who called Stewart's sentence, "breathtakingly low" in view of Stewart's "extraordinarily severe criminal conduct" deemed the Second Circuit's majority opinion "substantively unreasonable." Walker essentially sought to impose or demand a 30-year sentence.

The three-judge panel on Dec. 20, 2009 followed its initial ruling with even tougher language demanding that Koeltl revisit his treatment of the "terrorism enhancement" aspects of the law. A cowardly Koeltl, who didn't need this argument to dramatically increase Stewart's sentence, asserted that he had already taken it under consideration in his original deliberations.

Government prosecutors, who in 2005 sought a 30-year sentence, had submitted a 155-page memorandum arguing in support of a 15-30 year sentence. Their arguments demonstrated how twisted logic coupled with vindictive and lying government officials routinely turn the victim into the criminal.

Stewart's attorneys countered with a detailed brief recounting the facts of the case and demonstrating that Stewart's actions in defense of her client were well within the realm of past practice and accepted procedures. They argued that Koeltl properly exercised his discretion in determining that, while the terrorism enhancement provisions of the "law" had to be taken into consideration, the 30-year-prison term associated with it was "dramatically unreasonable," "overstated the seriousness" of Stewart's conduct" and had already been factored into Koeltl's decision.

Stewart's attorneys also argued convincingly in their brief that the Special Administrative Measure (SAM) that Stewart was convicted of violating by releasing a statement from her client to the media was well within the established practice of Stewart's experienced and mentoring co-counsels- former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and past American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee president Abdeen Jabarra. Both had issued similar statements to the media with no government reprisal. Clark was an observer in Koeltl's courtroom. When he testified in support of Lynne during her trial one overzealous prosecutor suggested that he too be subject to the conspiracy charges. The more discreet team of government lawyers quietly dropped the matter.

At worst, in such matters, government officials refuse defense attorneys client visiting rights until an agreement on a contested interpretation of a SAM is reached. This was the case with Stewart and her visiting rights were eventually restored with no punishment or further action. Indeed, when the matter was brought to then Attorney General Janet Reno, the government declined to prosecute or otherwise take any action against Stewart.

But Koeltl, who had essentially accepted this view in his original sentence, reversed himself entirely and proceeded in his erudite-sounding new rendition of the law to repeatedly charge Stewart with multiple acts of perjury regarding her statements on the SAM during her trial.

Koeltl took the occasion to lecture Stewart regarding the first words she uttered in front of a bevy of media outlets when she joyfully alighted from the courthouse following the judge's original 28-month sentence. Said Stewart at that time, "I can do 28 months standing on my head." A few moments earlier Stewart, with nothing but a plastic bag containing a toothbrush, toothpaste and her various medications, had stood before Koeltl, who had been asked by the government to sentence her to a 30-year term, effectively a death sentence for Lynne, aged 70, a diabetic and recovering breast cancer victim in less than excellent health.

Koeltl dutifully followed the lead of the Second Circuit judges, who feigned outrage that Stewart could possibly appear joyful that her life was spared despite 28 months in prison. Koeltl insisted that Stewart's remark was essentially contemptuous of his sentence and insufficient to convince Stewart of the seriousness of her "crime." Lynne's defense was that while she fully understood that 28 months behind bars, separating from her "family, friends and comrades," as she proudly stated, was a harsh penalty, she was nevertheless "relieved" that she would not die in prison. Koeltl needed a legal brick to throw at Lynne's head and ignored her humanity, honesty and deep feeling of relief when she expressed it to a crowd of two thousand friends, supporters and a good portion of the nation's media.

The same Judge Koeltl who stated in 2005, when he rendered the 28-month jail term, that Lynne was "a credit to her profession and to the nation," clearly heard the voice of institutionalized hate and cruelty and responded in according with its unstated code. "Show no mercy! Thou shall not dissent without grave punishment" in capitalist America.

Lynne was convicted in the post-911 generated climate of political hysteria. Bush appointee, Attorney General John Ashcroft, decided to make an example of her aimed at warning future attorneys that the mere act of defending anyone whom the government charged with "conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism," could trigger terrible consequences.

On July 15 Judge Koeltl made the decision of his career. Known for his meticulous preparation in such matters, and already having enraged the powers that be with his "light" sentence of Stewart, he bent full tilt to the reactionary political pressures exerted on him by the court hierarchy. He had the option to stand tall and reaffirm his original decision. The "law" allowed him to do so. He could have permitted Lynne to leave prison in less than two years, recover her health, and lead a productive life. His massively extended sentence, unless overturned, will likely lead to Lynne's demise behind bars - a brilliant and dedicated fighter sacrificed on the alter of an intolerant class-biased system of repression and war.

Courage is a rare quality in the capitalist judiciary. For every defiant decision made, usually driven by a change in the political climate and pressed forward by the rise of mass social protest movements, there are thousands and more of political appointees that affirm the status quo, including its punishment of all who struggle to challenge capitalist prerogatives and power.

Lynne Stewart stands tall among the latter. We can only hope that the winds of change that are stirring the consciousness of millions today in the context of an American capitalism in economic and moral crisis keeps the movement for her freedom alive and well. The fight is not over! What we do now remains critical. Lynne's expected appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court cannot be written off as absurd and hopeless. What we do collectively to free her and all political prisoners and to fight for freedom and justice on every front counts for everything!

Write to Lynne at:

Lynne Stewart 53504-054
150 Park Row
New York, NY 10007

For further information call Lynne's husband, Ralph Poynter, leader of the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee
718-789-0558 or 917-853-9759

Send contributions payable to:

Lynne Stewart Organization
1070 Dean Street
Brooklyn, New York, 11216


Listen to Lynne Stewart event, that took place July 8, 2010 at Judson Memorial Church
Excerpts include: Mumia Abu Jamal, Ralph Poynter, Ramsey Clark, Juanita
Young, Fred Hampton Jr., Raging Grannies, Ralph Schoenman

And check out this article (link) too!


Requesting Your Support
By Dahr Jamail
July 12th, 2010
Dear Readers:

This morning we hired a flight out to the well site where the Deepwater Horizon sank. This environmental crime scene is now littered with boats and relief wells flailing to stop the flow of oil that has been gushing into the Gulf of Mexico for almost 3 months. Tomorrow, we are hiring a boat to take us to some of the most devastated coastline, which is still smeared in oil, causing harm to uncountable ecosystems and wildlife.

I have been on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana for two weeks now, and together with my partner, Erika Blumenfeld, we have brought you stories and photographs that document and archive the human and environmental impact of the historic and horrific disaster that is the BP oil catastrophe.

In our story, Fending For Themselves, we wrote about the growing crisis of the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe being displaced by the encroaching oil, and showed you images of their dying marshlands.

We produced an original photo essay for Truthout, Mitigating Annihilation, which clearly depicts the futility of the booming efforts, and the resulting destruction of the local and migratory bird rookeries, along with South Louisiana's fragile and endangered coastline.

Our most recent post, Hell Has Come To South Louisiana, articulates the desperate situation of the shrimpers and fisher-folk whose livelihood that spans generations is threatened by extinction.

The complexity and breadth of this continued crisis is beyond what we could have imagined, and our questions have led us to dynamic and impassioned interviews with environmental philosophers, activists, scientists, sociologists, riverkeepers, bayoukeepers, indigenous tribes, and fisher people.

As a freelance team, we could not have produced this important work without your generous support. We are deeply grateful to those who were able to contribute to our efforts thus far.

Our work here is just beginning, and with so much of our investigation requiring that we be out in the field, I am humbly appealing for your continued support to help us extend our reporting, so that we may continue to bring you the unfolding events of this devastating issue that clearly effects us all.

Please support our work in the Gulf Coast by making a donation. There are several ways you can donate:

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation, International Media Project (IMP) is providing fiscal sponsorship to Dahr Jamail.

Checks for tax-deductible donations should be made out to "International Media Project." please write"Dahr Jamail" in the memo line and mail to:

International Media Project/Dahr Jamail
1714 Franklin St.
Oakland, CA 94612

Online, you can use Paypal to donate HERE.

Donations can also be mailed to:

Dahr Jamail
P.O. Box 970
Marfa, TX 79843

Direct links to our pieces produced thus far:

Living on a dying delta

Fending For Themselves

No Free Press for BP Oil Disaster

Mitigating Annihilation

Hell Has Come to South Louisiana



RIP Oscar!

Victory for movement, but justice still needs to be won

Calling on all supporters of justice for Oscar Grant and opponents of racist police brutality:

The jury verdict is not justice for Oscar Grant - it is up to the new movement to use its power to win real justice. THIS IS THE TIME TO ACT.


The maximum sentence for killer cop Johannes Mehserle.

Jail Officers Pirone and Domenici, the two police who were accomplices to murder.

Disarm and disband the BART Police.

Provide massive funding to Oakland for education and jobs for Oakland's black, Latina/o, Asian, and poor and working-class white youth.

Stop police/ICE racial profiling of Latina/o, black, Asian, and other minority youth with and without papers.

Furthermore, we call on Oakland Mayor Dellums and other governmental authorities in Oakland to declare that this verdict does not render justice to Oscar Grant and to act on the demands of the movement.

If you haven't already done so yet, join the JUSTICE FOR OSCAR GRANT ACTION PAGE on Facebook at:


Oscar Grant Verdict Is Victory for the Movement,
But Justice for Oscar Grant Still Needs to Be Won

Today's [THURSDAY, JULY 8, 2010] conviction of Johannes Mehserle is a victory for the movement. Despite all the foot-dragging and machinations of the police, the justice system, the government, and the politicians, the movement secured the first conviction of a California police officer for the killing of a black man. This victory is important and provides some greater protection for black and Latina/o youth. However, this verdict does NOT constitute justice for Oscar Grant.

Tens of millions of people around the world saw the videotape and know that Oscar Grant was murdered in cold blood by Johannes Mehserle. And yet, because of the failure of the prosecutor's office to fight the change in venue, and because of the pro-police bias of the judge, the jury was deprived of even being able to consider convicting Mehserle of first-degree murder. The Los Angeles county jury which heard that case did not include a single black juror.

BAMN salutes the new civil rights movement for this victory. However, achieving justice for Oscar Grant requires that the movement continue to build and grow in determination, drawing in millions more black, Latina/o and other youth.

BAMN also salutes Wanda Johnson, Oscar Grant's mother, for refusing to accept a civil settlement and for fighting to achieve justice for her son. We pledge to Wanda Johnson, Oscar's daughter Tatiana, her mother, and all family and friends that we will not rest until we achieve justice for Oscar.

We call on the movement to maintain the fight for justice for Oscar Grant by raising and fighting to win the following demands:

The maximum sentence for killer cop Johannes Mehserle.

Jail Officers Pirone and Domenici, the two police who were accomplices to murder.

Disarm and disband the BART Police.

Provide massive funding to Oakland for education and jobs for Oakland's black, Latina/o, Asian, and poor and working-class white youth.

Stop police/ICE racial profiling of Latina/o, black, Asian, and other minority youth with and without papers.

Furthermore, we call on Oakland Mayor Dellums and other governmental authorities in Oakland to declare that this verdict does not render justice to Oscar Grant and to act on the demands of the movement.

Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN)

(510) 502-9072 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (510) 502-9072 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Ronald Cruz
BAMN Organizer,
& Civil Rights Attorney



Georgia: Witnesses in Murder Case Recant
June 23, 2010

In an unusual hearing ordered by the Supreme Court that began in Savannah on Wednesday, several witnesses said they had concocted testimony that Troy Anthony Davis killed a police officer, Mark MacPhail, in 1989. Last August, the Supreme Court ordered a federal district court to determine if new evidence "clearly establishes" Mr. Davis's innocence, its first order in an "actual innocence" petition from a state prisoner in nearly 50 years, according to Justice Antonin Scalia, who dissented. Seven of the witnesses who testified against Mr. Davis at his trial have recanted, and some have implicated the chief informer in the case. Mr. Davis's execution has been stayed three times.

For more info: | | Savannah Branch NAACP: 912-233-4161


Mumia Abu-Jamal - Legal Update
June 9, 2010
Robert R. Bryan, Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117

Dear All:

There are significant developments on various fronts in the coordinated legal campaign to save & free Mumia Abu-Jamal. The complex court proceedings are moving forward at a fast pace. Mumia's life is on the line.

Court Developments: We are engaged in pivotal litigation in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia. At stake is whether Mumia will be executed or granted a new jury trial on the question of the death penalty. Two years ago we won on that issue, with the federal court finding that the trial judge misled the jury thereby rendering the proceedings constitutionally unfair. Then in January 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court vacated that ruling based upon its decision in another case, & ordered that the case be again reviewed by the Court of Appeals.

The prosecution continues its obsession to kill my client, regardless of the truth as to what happened at the time of the 1981 police shooting. Its opening brief was filed April 26. Our initial brief will be submitted on July 28. At issue is the death penalty.

In separate litigation, we are awaiting a decision in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on prosecutorial abuses, having completed all briefing in April. The focus is on ballistics.

Petition for President Barack Obama: It is crucial for people to sign the petition for President Barack Obama, Mumia Abu-Jamal & the Global Abolition of the Death Penalty, which was initially in 10 languages (Swahili & Turkish have since been added). This is the only petition approved by Mumia & me, & is a vital part of the legal effort to save his life. Please sign the petition & circulate its link:

Nearly 22,000 people from around the globe have signed. These include: Bishop Desmond Tutu, South Africa (Nobel Peace Prize); Günter Grass, Germany (Nobel Prize in Literature); Danielle Mitterrand, Paris (former First Lady of France); Fatima Bhutto, Pakistan (writer); Colin Firth (Academy Award Best-Actor nominee), Noam Chomsky, MIT (philosopher & author); Ed Asner (actor); Mike Farrell (actor); & Michael Radford (director of the Oscar winning film Il Postino); Robert Meeropol (son of Julius & Ethel Rosenberg, executed in 1953); Fatima Bhutto, Pakistan (writer); Noam Chomsky, MIT (philosopher & author); Ed Asner (actor); Mike Farrell (actor); Michael Radford (director of the Oscar winning film Il Postino); members of the European Parliament; members of the German Bundestag; European Association of Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights; Reporters Without Borders, Paris.

European Parliament; Rosa Luxemburg Conference; World Congress Against the Death Penalty; Geneva Human Rights Film Festival: We began the year with a major address to the annual Rosa Luxemburg Conference in Berlin, Germany, sponsored by the newspaper junge Welt. The large auditorium was filled with a standing-room audience. Mumia joined me by telephone. We announced the launching of the online petition, Mumia Abu-Jamal & the Global Abolition of the Death Penalty.

A large audience on the concluding night of the World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Geneva, Switzerland, February 25, heard Mumia by telephone. He spoke as a symbolic representative of the over 20,000 men, women & children on death rows around the world. The call came as a surprise, since we thought it had been canceled. Mumia's comments from inside his death-row cell brought to reality the horror of daily life in which death is a common denominator. During an earlier panel discussion I spoke of racism in capital cases around the globe with the case of Mumia as a prime example. A day before the Congress on February 23, I talked at the Geneva Human Rights Film Festival on the power of films in fighting the death penalty & saving Mumia.

On March 2 in the European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium, members Søren Søndergaard (Denmark) & Sabine Lösing (Germany) announced the beginning of a campaign to save Mumia & end executions. They were joined by Sabine Kebir, the noted German author & PEN member, Nicole Bryan, & me. We discussed the online petition which helps not only Mumia, but all the condemned around the globe.

Donations for Mumia's Legal Defense & Online Petition: The complex litigation & investigation that is being pursued on behalf of Mumia is enormously expensive. We are in both the federal & state courts on the issue of the death penalty, prosecutorial wrongdoing, etc. Mumia's life is on the line.

How to Help: For information on how to help, both through donations & signing the Obama petition, please go to Mumia's legal defense website: .

Conclusion: Mumia remains on death row under a death judgment. He is in greater danger than at any time since his arrest 28 years ago. The prosecution is pursuing his execution. I win cases, & will not let them kill my client. He must be free.

Yours very truly,

Robert R. Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117

Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal


Lynne Stewart and the Guantanamo Lawyers: Same Fact Patterns, Same Opponent, Different Endings?
Lynne Stewart will be re-sentenced sometime in July, in NYC.
By Ralph Poynter
(Ralph Poynter is the Life partner of Lynne Stewart. He is presently dedicated 24/7 to her defense, as well as other causes.)

In the Spring of 2002, Lynne Stewart was arrested by the FBI, at her home in Brooklyn, for materially aiding terrorism by virtue of making a public press release to Reuters on behalf of her client, Sheik Abdel Omar Rahman of Egypt. This was done after she had signed a Special Administrative Measure issued by the Bureau of Prisons not permitting her to communicate with the media, on his behalf.

In 2006, a number of attorneys appointed and working pro bono for detainees at Guantanamo were discovered to be acting in a manner that disobeyed a Federal Judge's protective court order. The adversary in both cases was the United States Department of Justice. The results in each case were very different.

In March of 2010, a right wing group "Keep America Safe" led by Lynne Cheney, hoping to dilute Guantanamo representation and impugn the reputations and careers of the volunteer lawyers, launched a campaign. Initially they attacked the right of the detainees to be represented at all. This was met with a massive denouncement by Press, other media, Civil rights organizations ,and rightly so, as being a threat to the Constitution and particularly the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

A second attack on the Gitmo lawyers was made in the Wall Street Journal of March 16. This has been totally ignored in the media and by civil and human rights groups. This latter revelation about the violations, by these lawyers, of the Judge's protective orders and was revealed via litigation and the Freedom of Information Act. These pro bono lawyers serving clients assigned to them at Gitmo used privileged attorney client mail to send banned materials. They carried in news report of US failures in Afghanistan and Iraq . One lawyer drew a map of the prison. Another delivered lists to his client of all the suspects held there. They placed on the internet a facsimile of the badges worn by the Guards. Some lawyers "provided news outlets with 'interviews' of their clients using questions provided in advance by the news organizations." When a partner at one of the large Wall Street law firms sent in multiple copies of an Amnesty International brochure, which her client was to distribute to other prisoners, she was relieved from her representation and barred by the Military Commander from visiting her client.

This case is significant to interpret not because of the right wing line to punish these lawyers and manipulate their corporate clients to stop patronizing such "wayward" firms. Instead it is significant because, Lynne Stewart, a left wing progressive lawyer who had dedicated her thirty year career to defending the poor, the despised, the political prisoner and those ensnared by reason of race, gender, ethnicity, religion , who was dealt with by the same Department of Justice, in such a draconian fashion, confirms our deepest suspicions that she was targeted for prosecution and punishment because of who she is and who she represented so ably and not because of any misdeed.

Let me be very clear, I am not saying that the Gitmo lawyers acted in any "criminal" manner. The great tradition of the defense bar is to be able to make crucial decisions for and with the client without interference by the adversary Government.

I believe that they were acting as zealous attorneys trying to establish rapport and trust with their clients. That said, the moment the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice tried to remove Julia Tarver Mason from her client, the playing field tilted. Ms Tarver Mason was not led out of her home in handcuffs to the full glare of publicity. There was no press conference. The Attorney General did not go on the David Letterman show to gloat about the latest strike in the War on Terror, the purge of the Gitmo lawyer...NO.

Instead an "armada" of corporate lawyers went to Court against the Government. They, in the terms of the litigation trade, papered the US District Courthouse in Washington D.C. They brought to bear the full force of their Money and Power-- derived from the corporate world--and in 2006 "settled" the case with the government, restoring their clients to Guantanamo without any punishment at all, not to say any Indictment. Lynne Stewart, without corporate connections and coming from a working class background, was tried and convicted for issuing, on behalf of her client, a public press release to Reuters. There was no injury, no harm, no attacks, no deaths.

Yet that same Department of Justice that dealt so favorably and capitulated to the Gitmo corporate lawyers, wants to sentence Lynne Stewart to thirty (30) YEARS in prison. It is the equivalent of asking for a death sentence since she is 70 years old.

This vast disparity in treatment between Lynne and the Gitmo lawyers reveals the deep contradictions of the system ---those who derive power from rich and potent corporations, those whose day to day work maintains and increases that power--are treated differently. Is it because the Corporate Power is intertwined with Government Power???

Lynne Stewart deserves Justice... equal justice under law. Her present sentence of 28 months incarceration (she is in Federal Prison) should at least be maintained, if not made equal to the punishment that was meted out to the Gitmo lawyers. The thirty year sentence, assiduously pursued by DOJ under both Bush and Obama, is an obscenity and an affront to fundamental fairness. They wanted to make her career and dedication to individual clients, a warning, to the defense bar that the Government can arrest any lawyer on any pretext. The sharp contrasts between the cases of Lynne and the Gitmo lawyers just confirm that she is getting a raw deal--one that should be protested actively, visibly and with the full force of our righteous resistance.

Write to Lynne:

Lynne Stewart 53504-054
150 Park Row
New York, New York 10007


Bernadette McAliskey Quote on Zionists:

"The root cause of conflict in the Middle East is the very nature of the state of Israel. It is a facist state. It is a international bully, which exists not to protect the rights of the Jewish people but to perpetuate a belief of Zionist supremacy. It debases the victims of the holocaust by its own strategy for extermination of Palestine and Palestinians and has become the image and likeness of its own worst enemy, the Third Reich.

"Anyone challenging their position, their crazed self-image is entitled, in the fascist construction of their thinking, to be wiped out. Every humanitarian becomes a terrorist? How long is the reality of the danger Israel poses to world peace going to be denied by the Western powers who created this monster?"



[ The poem does not mention that the popular herb cardamom is banned from importation into Gaza. Israel probably fears that cardamom can be used as a biological weapon. Rockets with cardamom filled projectiles landing in Israel could cause Israeli soldiers 'guarding' the border to succumb to pangs of hunger, leave their posts to go get something eat, and leave Israel defenseless. - Howard Keylor]

Richard Tillinghast is an American poet who lives in Co Tipperary. He is the author of eight books of poetry, the latest of which is Selected Poems (Dedalus Press, 2010 ), as well as several works of non-fiction


No tinned meat is allowed, no tomato paste,
no clothing, no shoes, no notebooks.
These will be stored in our warehouses at Kerem Shalom
until further notice.
Bananas, apples, and persimmons are allowed into Gaza,
peaches and dates, and now macaroni
(after the American Senator's visit).
These are vital for daily sustenance.

But no apricots, no plums, no grapes, no avocados, no jam.
These are luxuries and are not allowed.
Paper for textbooks is not allowed.
The terrorists could use it to print seditious material.
And why do you need textbooks
now that your schools are rubble?
No steel is allowed, no building supplies, no plastic pipe.
These the terrorists could use to launch rockets
against us.

Pumpkins and carrots you may have, but no delicacies,
no cherries, no pomegranates, no watermelon, no onions,
no chocolate.

We have a list of three dozen items that are allowed,
but we are not obliged to disclose its contents.
This is the decision arrived at
by Colonel Levi, Colonel Rosenzweig, and Colonel Segal.

Our motto:
'No prosperity, no development, no humanitarian crisis.'
You may fish in the Mediterranean,
but only as far as three km from shore.
Beyond that and we open fire.
It is a great pity the waters are polluted
twenty million gallons of raw sewage dumped into the sea every day
is the figure given.

Our rockets struck the sewage treatments plants,
and at this point spare parts to repair them are not allowed.
As long as Hamas threatens us,
no cement is allowed, no glass, no medical equipment.
We are watching you from our pilotless drones
as you cook your sparse meals over open fires
and bed down
in the ruins of houses destroyed by tank shells.

And if your children can't sleep,
missing the ones who were killed in our incursion,
or cry out in the night, or wet their beds
in your makeshift refugee tents,
or scream, feeling pain in their amputated limbs -
that's the price you pay for harbouring terrorists.

God gave us this land.
A land without a people for a people without a land.
Greta Berlin, Co-Founder
+357 99 18 72 75


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


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) California: Ban on Affirmative Action Is Upheld
August 2, 2010

2) 99 Weeks Later, Jobless Have Only Desperation
August 2, 2010

3) BP's "Missing Oil" Washes up in St. Mary's Parish, LA
by Antonia Juhasz

4) In the thick of it: Former Danville resident engulfed in oil spill research
July 31, 2010

5) Between Queens and Brooklyn, an Oil Spill's Legacy
"Estimated at 17 million to 30 million gallons - smaller than the ballpark estimate of 100 million gallons released by the Deepwater Horizon well but outstripping the 11 million that poured from the Exxon Valdez - the combined spills along Newtown Creek have obliterated wildlife, polluted an aquifer, hindered economic development and set off health scares among those who live and work nearby."
August 3, 2010

6) U.S. Finds Most Oil From Spill Poses Little Additional Risk
August 4, 2010

7) More Workers Face Pay Cuts, Not Furloughs
August 3, 2010

8) How Disney Magic and the Corporate Media Shape Youth Identity in the Digital Age
by: Henry Giroux and Grace Pollock, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed
Wednesday 04 August 2010

9) Oilgate! BP and All the President's Men (Except One) Seek to Contain Truth of Leak in the Gulf (PHOTOS)(VIDEO)
By Riki Ott, Marine toxicologist and Exxon Valdez survivor
Posted: August 2, 2010 03:49 PM

10) BP oil spill: Obama administration's scientists admit alarm over chemicals
Environmental Protection Agency experts expressed concerns to superiors about use of dispersants, says whistleblower group
By Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

11) Court Rejects Same-Sex Marriage Ban in California
August 4, 2010

12) Oil Rig's Owner Had Safety Issue at Three Other Wells
August 4, 2010

13) In Gulf, Good News Is Taken With Grain of Salt
August 4, 2010

14) Oil Spill Calculations Stir Debate on Damage
"Of course, that 26 percent equals more than 53 million gallons of oil, five times the size of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. 'One way of looking at it is to say that 26 percent of the world's largest oil spill is still out there,' said Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society. 'And that is a lot of oil.'"
August 4, 2010

15) National Priorities Project Tallies Cost of War through September 30, 2010
$749.9 billion for Iraq
$337.8 billion for Afghanistan
$1.09 trillion total spending

16) Nuke U: How the University of California Is Helping to Blow Up the World
"the 2011 budget request for nuclear weapons is the largest in our nation's history; bigger than under George W. Bush and a whopping 40 percent higher than the amount spent for nuclear weapons activities on average during the Cold War."
by Norman Solomon
August 4, 2010

17) Private Growth Is Tepid as U.S. Economy Sheds Jobs Overall
August 6, 2010

18) Afghans Say NATO Strikes Killed Civilians
"Afghan accounts put the civilian deaths as high as 32."
August 5, 2010

19) Mexican Guest Workers, Laid Off, Want BP's Help
"'We would like to see them treated not as disposable workers, but as people who deserve relief in a disaster.' In theory, guest workers have the same rights to compensation from BP as anyone else who lost income due to the oil spill. But as a practical matter, getting that compensation is far more difficult for workers from another county, who speak little English and may not understand the claims process or have the documentation from employers to file a claim." [Slavery alive and well in the good old]
August 5, 2010

20) Exotic Deals Put Denver Schools Deeper in Debt
[Check out "The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity-and What We Can Do About It" by Les Leopold. It's a concise description of the mechanics of this swindle which also took place in ]
August 5, 2010

21) Medicare Stronger, Social Security Worse in Short Run, Report Finds
August 5, 2010

22) Senate Approves $600 Million Border Bill
By Jim Abrams
08/ 5/10 07:12 PM

23) Putting Our Brains on Hold
August 6, 2010

24) Fidel Castro Makes an Official Appearance
August 7, 2010

25) Coverage Turns, Cautiously, to Spill Impact
August 6, 2010

26) U.S. Lost 131,000 Jobs as Governments Cut Back
August 6, 2010


1) California: Ban on Affirmative Action Is Upheld
August 2, 2010

The State Supreme Court on Monday upheld California's 14-year-old law barring preferential treatment of women and minorities in public school admissions, government hiring and contracting. In a 6-to-1 ruling, the court rejected arguments from the City of San Francisco and Attorney General Jerry Brown that the law, known as Proposition 209, violates federal equality protections. Opponents of the ban say it creates barriers for minorities and women that do not exist for other groups, like veterans seeking preference.


2) 99 Weeks Later, Jobless Have Only Desperation
August 2, 2010

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. - Facing eviction from her Tennessee apartment after several months of unpaid rent, Alexandra Jarrin packed up whatever she could fit into her two-door coupe recently and drove out of town.

Ms. Jarrin, 49, wound up at a motel here, putting down $260 she had managed to scrape together from friends and from selling her living room set, enough for a weeklong stay. It was essentially all the money she had left after her unemployment benefits expired in March. Now she is facing a previously unimaginable situation for a woman who, not that long ago, had a corporate job near New York City and was enrolled in a graduate business school, whose sticker is still emblazoned on her back windshield.

"Barring a miracle, I'm going to be in my car," she said.

Ms. Jarrin is part of a hard-luck group of jobless Americans whose members have taken to calling themselves "99ers," because they have exhausted the maximum 99 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits that they can claim.

For them, the resolution recently of the lengthy Senate impasse over extending jobless benefits was no balm. The measure renewed two federal programs that extended jobless benefits in this recession beyond the traditional 26 weeks to anywhere from 60 to 99 weeks, depending on the state's unemployment rate. But many jobless have now exceeded those limits. They are adjusting to a new, harsh reality with no income.

In June, with long-term unemployment at record levels, about 1.4 million people were out of work for 99 weeks or more, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Not all of them received unemployment benefits, but for many of those who did, the modest payments were a lifeline that enabled them to maintain at least a veneer of normalcy, keeping a roof over their heads, putting gas in their cars, paying electric and phone bills.

Without the checks, many like Ms. Jarrin, who lost her job as director of client services at a small technology company in March 2008, are beginning to tumble over the economic cliff. The last vestiges of their former working-class or middle-class lives are gone; it is inescapable now that they are indigent.

Ms. Jarrin said she wept as she drove away from her old life last month, wondering if she would ever be able to reclaim it.

"At one point, I thought, you know, what if I turned the wheel in my car and wrecked my car?" she said.

Nevertheless, the political appetite to help people like Ms. Jarrin appears limited. Over the last few months, 99ers have tried to organize to press Congress to provide an additional tier of unemployment insurance. But the political potency of fears about the skyrocketing deficit has drowned them out. The notion that unemployment benefits discourage recipients from finding work has also crept into Republican arguments against extensions. As a result, the plight of 99ers was notably absent from the recent debate in the Senate.

Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan, is now working on a bill to help those in the group, a spokesman, Miguel Ayala, said, but the chances of providing them with additional weeks of benefits seem dim.

"It's going to be extremely hard to pass," said Andrew Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project. "We barely got 60 votes to keep 99 weeks, so it's even harder to get more."

Other ways of helping the long-term jobless might have a better shot of succeeding, Mr. Stettner said, like a temporary jobs program or assistance for emergency needs.

Ms. Jarrin ping-pongs between resolve and despair. She received her last unemployment check in the third week of March, putting her among the first wave of 99ers. Her two checking accounts now show negative balances (she has overdrafts on both). Her cellphone has been ringing incessantly with calls from the financing company for her car loan. Her vehicle is on the verge of being repossessed.

It is a sickening plummet, considering that she was earning $56,000 a year in her old job, enjoyed vacationing in places like Mexico and the Caribbean, and had started business school in 2008 at Iona College.

Ms. Jarrin had scrabbled for her foothold in the middle class. She graduated from college late in life, in 2003, attending classes while working full time. She used to believe that education would be her ticket to prosperity, but is now bitter about what it has gotten her.

"I owe $92,000 for an education which is basically worthless," she said.

Last year she moved to Brentwood, Tenn., south of Nashville, in search of work. After initially trying to finish her M.B.A. program remotely, she dropped out because of the stress from her sinking finances. She has applied for everything from minimum-wage jobs to director positions.

She should have been evicted from her two-bedroom apartment several months ago, but the process was delayed when flooding gripped middle Tennessee in May. In mid-July, a judge finally gave her 10 days to vacate.

Helped by some gas cards donated by a church, she decided to return to this quiet New England town, where she had spent most of her adult life. She figured the health care safety net was better, as well as the job market.

She contacted a local shelter but learned there was a waiting list. Welfare is not an option, because she does not have young children. She says none of her three adult sons are in a position to help her.

A friend wired her $200 while she was driving from Tennessee, enabling her to check into a motel along the way and helping to pay for her stay here. But Ms. Jarrin doubts that much more charity is coming.

"The only help I'm going to get is from myself," she said. "I'm going to have to take care of me. That has to be through a job."

So, in her drab motel room, Ms. Jarrin has been spending her days surfing the Internet, applying for jobs.

Lining the shelves underneath the television are her food supplies: rice and noodles that Ms. Jarrin mixes with water in the motel's ice bucket and heats up in a microwave; peanut butter and jelly; a loaf of white bread.

Ms. Jarrin still has food stamps, which she qualified for in Tennessee. But she is required to report her move, which will cut them off, so she will have to reapply in Vermont.

She has been struggling with new obstacles, like what to do when an address is required in online applications. She is worried about what will happen when her cellphone is finally cut off, because then any calls to the number she sent out with her résumés will disappear into a netherworld.

The news, however, has not been all bad. She had her first face-to-face interview in more than a year, for a coordinator position at a nonprofit drop-in center, on Monday.

And last Thursday, she got her first miracle, when an old friend from New York sent by overnight mail $300 in cash, enough for another week in purgatory.


3) BP's "Missing Oil" Washes up in St. Mary's Parish, LA
by Antonia Juhasz

BP's "Missing Oil" coats wetlands and beaches along the waterways near St. Mary's Parish, Louisiana, where no one is booming, cleaning, skimming, or watching.

I am traveling the Gulf Coast writing a new book on the Gulf oil disaster.

The good news is that the cap is holding. The bad news is that, with the well no longer gushing, the oil is out of sight and out of mind and BP is pulling up boom and pulling back workers, skimmers, cleaners, and the rest of the clean-up apparatus all across the Gulf. Even without new oil, the 40,000 barrels a day that spewed from the Macondo well for nearly 100 days continue to wash up on shores, including ones which no one is protecting or cleaning.

There is no shortage of people desperate to do this work. On Wednesday, July 28, Mayor Ron Davis of Prichard, Alabama took me to visit a packed Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) training class required for anyone involved in BP clean-up efforts. The city offers these classes for free. With unemployment at over 14% and poverty reaching 40%, the students who filled this, the tenth class, were effusive with gratitude. Although there is a waiting list over two months long to get in, as the the cleanup jobs shrivel away, this is the last class the city will offer.

The next night I attended a BP community forum in St. Mary's Parish, Louisiana with representatives from BP, the U.S. Coast Guard, and other agencies available to talk to the public.

Here I met fishermen desperate to be put to work as part of BP's Vessels Of Opportunity (VOO) program, using their boats to fish for oil instead of seafood by laying boom and absorbents and skimming. When the Parish President announced that St. Mary's Parish did not, does not, and would not have oil, he was immediately surrounded by local fishermen, one of whom said loudly, "then why does Kermit have oil in his bag right now?" At which point the President turned off the mike and, in Kermit's words, "all hell broke lose."

Kermit Duck's (yes, that's his real name) grandfather, great grandfather, and so on, have been fishers in St. Mary's Parish since Morgan City was founded. Kermit had spent that day looking for oil. He found a lot of it and brought some to the meeting in a ziplock bag to prove that it is out there. He is not a part of the VOO program, although he has spent two months on a waiting list trying to get hired. Instead, thanks to BP, he is four months unemployed and desperate to see a real clean-up effort take place so that one day he might be able to fish again.

On Friday Kermit took me out on a boat to show me the oil.

We spent five hours on the water traveling between Oyster Bayou and Taylor's Bayou. We saw a lot of oil. With the exception of a small amount of boom outside of the Mouth of East Bay Junop, we saw no boom, skimmers, absorbents, or clean-up crews. The Juno boom was coated with oil, as was the area behind it.

We saw plenty of freshly oil-soaked grass and beach. The strong harsh smell of crude filled the air as we neared. The oil had washed up in waves, covering a large patch of grass here, leaving a clean patch beside it there. Fields of oil glistened as the sun picked up the oil's sheen.

We walked along a shell beach on the south end of Oyster Bayou speckled throughout with fresh tar balls that reached from the reeds to inside the water's edge. Kermit's friend Buddy used an oar to dig below the beach surface, revealing more oil beneath.

Over the last months I have traveled the coasts of every state affected by the spill. Until this trip, every time I walked an area with oil, clean-up crews were never far behind. The oil would wash up, the crews would clean it, and the oil would wash up again. It was a sad dance to watch.

This is far more disturbing. BP's oil continues to coat the Gulf Coast. The oil I saw yesterday was washing up into Louisiana's vital wetlands, the last barrier of protection from hurricanes. If the grass remains unprotected and unclean, the oil can enter the root system, killing the grass forever. The oil was also at the mouth of Oyster Bayou, at the heart of St. Mary's Parish's way of life.

Before I left, Kermit assured me that his Parish President would now act and hold BP accountable to clean up the oil. Hopefully, he will not be alone in his efforts.
Copyright (c) 2010, Inc.

Antonia Juhasz is the author of The Tyranny of Oil: the World's Most Powerful Industry, and What We Must Do To Stop It (HarperCollins, 2008), and The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time (HarperCollins, 2006). She is working on a new book on the Gulf Coast oil disaster for Wiley Publishers.


4) In the thick of it: Former Danville resident engulfed in oil spill research
July 31, 2010

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. - The Deepwater Horizon disaster has spawned a massive, deadening monster in the water off the Gulf Coast.

Created partially by adding nearly 2 million gallons of secretive chemical dispersants to scores of millions of gallons of leaked oil, the monster floats beneath the surface, creating oxygen-free zones that are toxic to almost all life.

The monster has forced sharks, dolphins, fish and even tiny zooplankton to flee to the shallows of the coastline as it expands; it has disrupted the food chain as oil- and methane-consuming bacteria thrive in the newly darkened waters; it has devastated industries like tourism and seafood, while simultaneously impacting seemingly unrelated areas like feed for livestock.

The monster is an anomaly the likes of which science has never seen before - and likely will never see again. Because of its unique, unheard-of nature, no one knows how light or severe the long-term effects will be.

But one former Danville resident, perched fortuitously at a forefront of biological research and observation in the gulf, will have a front-row seat to whatever the aftermath of the monster turns out to be.

Monty Graham knew what he wanted to do with his life when he was 6 years old.

He was living in New Hampshire at the time, and got to visit the prominent New England Aquarium in Boston.

"I visited New England Aquarium once and was hooked. Never wavered," Graham wrote.

Graham was born in Lexington and spent more than 10 years of his life in Danville. He graduated from Danville High School and spent two years at Centre College before transferring to the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He later taught biology at Danville High School for the better part of a year in the late 80s.

Graham went on to earn a master's in marine science and a doctorate in biology with an emphasis on oceanography.

Today, Graham is a biological oceanographer specializing in plankton at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab on the coast of Alabama. Plankton and the even tinier zooplankton sit at the bottom of the ocean's food chain in a very important position.

"The reason we're interested in these small guys is because they're the most abundant life in the ocean," Graham said. "What they lack in size, they make up for in numbers."

Graham has worked at the Sea Lab for about six years, studying oxygen levels in the water, measuring attributes of plankton and zooplankton, and gaining a scientific understanding of the natural ebb and flow of life in the Gulf of Mexico from season to season.

This spring, decades after his formative childhood moment at the aquarium, Graham experienced another formative moment, one he believes will shape much of the rest of his career - the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

After the rig sank in late April, oil and methane began leaking at extreme rates from a pipe on the floor of the ocean, eventually becoming one of the largest oil spills in human history. The spill dwarfs the 1989 Exxon-Valdez spill and by some estimates beats the 1980 Ixtoc and 1991 Gulf War oil spills as well.

"People are just clawing their way through a mess right now to figure out what's happening," Graham said. "Something of this magnitude is not going to happen again. It better not happen again."

The problems caused by the spill are manifold, but one unique issue now plaguing the Gulf is BP's use of largely unstudied chemical dispersants to minimize the amount of oil reaching the shore, Graham said.

The dispersants used by BP are preauthorized for the handling of oil spills, but they're usually used to handle spills of 100 barrels or less, Graham said. According to media reports, more than 1.8 million gallons of dispersants have been applied to oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon site.

"They're using them in quantities that have never been imagined," Graham said.

The specific line of dispersants used by BP - Corexit - is banned in the United Kingdom but was approved for use in the Gulf of Mexico by the Environmental Protection Agency. Corexit dispersants are more toxic and less effective than other dispersants, according to the EPA.

Oil dispersants trap oil and hold it in globules in the water instead of allowing it to rise to the surface, where it can evaporate. By keeping the oil away from the surface and therefore away from the shore, BP is minimizing its costs of cleaning up oil that reaches the shore, Graham said.

But BP's use of dispersants on top of the water and below the surface has effectively trapped the oil throughout the water column, preventing it from rising to the surface, where lighter toxic compounds in the oil can evaporate off, he said.

"One of the concerns is we're maintaining toxicity for a longer period of time," he said. "The concern is that it will be a problem that we're going to be dealing with not just for a few months now, but it's going to be a decades-long issue."

Graham said scientists in the Gulf have been trying to get BP and the federal government to let them study the dispersants being used in order to better understand their toxicity and possible effects, but no one will provide any samples for research.

"We get nothing. It's been a very difficult situation to work in," he said. "The academic scientists who know the most about this area ... have been marginalized."

Effects of the spill

Besides potentially maintaining higher levels of toxicity, the oil trapped in the water column is also suffocating the ocean, causing radical drops in oxygen levels never before seen, Graham said.

Following the oil and methane spill, Graham's measurements of oxygen levels in the waters where he studies plankton dropped to two to three times lower than normal, to a level so low most animals cannot tolerate it.

That suffocating effect is why all kinds of sea animals have been showing up in greater and greater numbers, closer and closer to shore - they can't breathe in their normal habitats anymore.

"It really changed our whole ecosystem in a number of ways," Graham said.

In addition to the oxygen-free dead zones created by leaking oil, another problem that gets much less attention but may be more important is the creation of high-density methane pockets in the water, with concentrations of methane thousands, even tens of thousands of times higher than the concentration of methane in the air, Graham said.

"When this is done, everybody's going to look back and they're going to say the big thing environmentally was not the oil, it was the methane," Graham said.

The high concentrations of methane, created after methane escaping from the ocean floor dissolves into the water, are like huge all-you-can-eat buffets for bacteria in the water, Graham said.

"They're going crazy on the methane," he said.

The Gulf Coast area has an incredibly flexible, resilient ecosystem that sees changes quite regularly. Hurricanes buffet the area every year and freshwater from the Mississippi River and other freshwater sources create a high level of variability.

"If there's one thing you can describe the northern gulf as, it's extremely variable," Graham said.

But even with the Gulf Coast's enormous capacity for change, the effects of the oil spill are still way outside anything the ecosystem is used to handling. After studying the Gulf Coast for six years, not many know that fact better than Graham.

"We do know how this little part of the ocean behaves normally," he said. "We have a good understanding of how variable the system should be."

One of the elemental changes Graham is currently observing is an increase in heavier carbon in zooplankton. Zooplankton usually contain a certain percentage of carbon-12, the most common form of carbon on earth, as well as a smaller amount of a slightly heavier form of carbon, carbon-13.

Following the oil spill, Graham has been watching as zooplankton get heavier and heavier, as the ratio of carbon-13 to carbon-12 in their systems climbs.

"There's a shift in those ratios beyond anything we've ever seen before," he said.

Graham said he's hopeful the Gulf ecosystem will prove resilient enough to beat the oil and methane behemoths, but only time will tell.

"We know that the system is extremely variable. Now it's our task to (study this) unnatural insult to this system," he said. "The ecosystem doesn't have a glass jaw. It can take a lick and it can come right back. ... There is hope that it's not going to be completely changed for decades."

A silver lining

There are some upsides to the whole situation for Graham. Shortly after the oil spill, Graham applied for funding from the National Science Foundation to help him study the Gulf ecosystem in the wake of the spill.

Normally, scientists who apply for grants from the NSF have about a 15-percent success rate, Graham said. But following the spill, NSF released funding through a special program designed to get money to researchers when something unique has happened and people need get out into the field and do research immediately.

"I essentially wrote a three-page letter on Thursday ... and then heard on Friday morning that I was going to be funded," he said.

The additional money from the NSF allowed him to hire an additional scientist in his lab and increase his number of sample collections from the ocean.

Beyond additional funding, the leaked oil itself actually has a potential upside as far as research goes.

Despite its destructive and transformative effects, the oil spill has also made it possible for Graham to trace the ecosystem's food chain on a level that would otherwise have been impossible.

In an environment like a small pond, it's easy for biologists to figure out who eats whom by adding what's called a "tracer."

If the tracer shows up in bacteria and then in fish, the biologists know the fish are eating the bacteria. If the tracer shows up in plankton, then they know the plankton are eating the bacteria. But in a giant ocean ecosystem like the Gulf, there was no way to get enough tracer into enough of the population to accurately measure who is eating whom on a large scale.

Until the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, that is.

"We've never been able to trace this until now," Graham said. "Unbeknownst to BP, they actually injected a tracer into the water column."

Having a tracer like that is helping Graham to learn about the food chain and giving him another window from which to observe the Gulf ecosystem as it reacts to the spill.

Graham said he has no idea what the coming months and years will reveal about the gulf ecosystem and the long-term effects of the oil spill. It truly is a one-of-a-kind event, one for which you cannot make predictions, he said.

"We really can't say anything definitive. There is no model," he said. "It may be years before we understand how this is all happening."

Copyright: 2010


5) Between Queens and Brooklyn, an Oil Spill's Legacy
"Estimated at 17 million to 30 million gallons - smaller than the ballpark estimate of 100 million gallons released by the Deepwater Horizon well but outstripping the 11 million that poured from the Exxon Valdez - the combined spills along Newtown Creek have obliterated wildlife, polluted an aquifer, hindered economic development and set off health scares among those who live and work nearby."
August 3, 2010

The salt marshes are long gone from Newtown Creek, and so are most of the birds and fish. Instead, this waterway straddling Brooklyn and Queens is dotted by bulkheads and containment booms meant to keep oil away from the shoreline while underground pumps work around the clock removing petroleum from adjacent land.

Decades in the making and confined to a corner of industrial New York, the oil spills in and along Newtown Creek lack the drama of disasters like the current one in the Gulf of Mexico and the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

But long before the Deepwater Horizon disaster riveted the nation, more than a century of unchecked operations and storage by more than 50 oil refineries along the four-mile-long creek fouled its waters and seeped through 55 acres of land in the vicinity.

Estimated at 17 million to 30 million gallons - smaller than the ballpark estimate of 100 million gallons released by the Deepwater Horizon well but outstripping the 11 million that poured from the Exxon Valdez - the combined spills along Newtown Creek have obliterated wildlife, polluted an aquifer, hindered economic development and set off health scares among those who live and work nearby.

"The impact is more subtle than in the gulf," said Phillip Musegaas, a lawyer with Riverkeeper, an environmental group that sued ExxonMobil in 2004 for its role in the contamination. "The spill is unseen, and it's in an area that was industrialized and already polluted. But the waterway is severely stressed, and it's not a functioning ecosystem anymore."

Now, after a history of neglect and lawsuits against oil companies like BP and Exxon Mobil over the extent and pace of cleanup efforts, local residents say they have cause for hope: the federal government is proposing to designate the creek a toxic Superfund site, mandating a rigorous cleanup of the water and sediment.

Some residents say the gulf spill is helping to sensitize New Yorkers now as never before to the responsibilities borne by oil companies and the risks that people run in living cheek by jowl with toxic contaminants.

"We all joke that we're going to end up with big lumps in our throat so we can afford our rents," said Nate Zubal, 29, an interior designer in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, where many residences and businesses sit atop a layer of spilled fuel oils. "A cleanup is pretty important with so many people living so close."

The Bloomberg administration supports the Superfund designation for the creek, although it lobbied hard against one for Brooklyn's noxious Gowanus Canal out of fear that it could derail lucrative development projects. (The Environmental Protection Agency prevailed and gave the Gowanus Superfund status in March.)

While the E.P.A. calls Newtown Creek one of the nation's most heavily polluted waterways, oil is hardly the only problem. In samples of the sediment and surface water, the agency has also found sewage from system overflows, as well as pesticides, metals and PCBs from decades of industrial activity.

Officials say that Superfund designation for the creek could come as early as September, opening the way for a thorough federal assessment of the extent of the contamination and how long and costly the cleanup will be.

"The Superfund designation means that this water body will be evaluated in its entirety, which has never happened to date," said Angela Carpenter, a branch chief in New York with the E.P.A., which runs the Superfund program.

State officials say the Superfund cleanup could last more than a decade.

Under the program, the E.P.A. requires the parties responsible for contaminating the site to pay to reverse the damage. BP, ExxonMobil and Chevron are expected to be among the parties enlisted.

The cleanup would deal only with the water and sediment in Newtown Creek, not the contamination underneath the adjacent land in Greenpoint. The federal Superfund program excludes strictly petroleum cleanups. But environmental and community groups say the designation will at least prevent oil from leaching into the water from the land as it has in the past.

"Everyone is excited about getting the job done," said Katie Schmid, director of the Newtown Creek Alliance, an advocacy group. "You need federal oversight of the whole project to ensure effective remediation."

While the creek itself awaits a cleanup, oil companies are continuing to pump out oil from their property in Greenpoint, an effort that began over two decades ago after the Coast Guard first spotted evidence of oil seepage into the creek in 1978. Since 1990, ExxonMobil, BP and Chevron have pumped out about 11.1 million gallons of spilled oil, state officials say.

The pace has been too slow for Greenpoint residents, environmental groups and the New York state attorney general's office, which all have lawsuits pending against some or all of the companies for the pollution. (Negotiations are under way to settle suits filed by the state and Riverkeeper against ExxonMobil.)

BP's role was mostly inherited: its petroleum storage terminal in Greenpoint was once home to a Mobil refinery whose operations released about five million gallons into the ground, state environmental officials say. In 1969, BP's predecessor, the Amoco Oil Company, bought the 10-acre property; it began a cleanup in 1981 under an agreement with the city. About two million gallons now remain to be recovered under the BP property, state officials say.

The state says that BP is not meeting its schedule for collecting oil from the ground and asked that the company increase its current lineup of nine extraction wells.

Marti D. Powers, a spokeswoman for BP, said the company is adding four additional wells to meet state requirements, but it is fighting a lawsuit by residents. "The plaintiffs have to date not identified any spills by BP that have impacted them," she said.

The bulk of the overall cleanup work, from the collection of oil to the treatment of contaminated groundwater before it is released into Newtown Creek, has rather fallen to ExxonMobil.

As the main inheritor of Standard Oil, which had dozens of refineries along the creek by the end of the 19th century, ExxonMobil owns most of the contaminated land and is responsible for an oil plume that extends under about 300 homes in a residential area of Greenpoint.

Carolina Asirifi, a spokeswoman for ExxonMobil, said the company's 20 operating recovery wells were pumping as fast as was safely possible - currently at a rate of about 2,000 gallons of oil and a million gallons of groundwater a day.

"ExxonMobil has been working extremely hard," she said. "We've made significant progress."

Residents fear that toxic gases will penetrate their homes from below. A state Department of Environmental Conservation study in 2006 found no oil-related vapors in samples of indoor air, although a comprehensive study of the health consequences of the spills has yet to be carried out.

As the community awaits the Superfund decision and more detailed analysis, the proposed Superfund designation has spawned a kind of creek boosterism.

"We're turning the corner," said Ted Gruber, chairman of the Long Island City Community Boathouse, whose members often venture into Newtown Creek in canoes. "People like us are paddling in greater numbers. People are beginning to care."


6) U.S. Finds Most Oil From Spill Poses Little Additional Risk
August 4, 2010

WASHINGTON - The government is expected to announce on Wednesday that three-quarters of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon leak has already evaporated, dispersed, been captured or otherwise eliminated - and that much of the rest is so diluted that it does not seem to pose much additional risk of harm.

A government report finds that about 26 percent of the oil released from BP's runaway well is still in the water or onshore in a form that could, in principle, cause new problems. But most is light sheen at the ocean surface or in a dispersed form below the surface, and federal scientists believe that it is breaking down rapidly in both places.

On Tuesday, BP began pumping drilling mud into the well in an attempt to seal it for good. Since the flow of oil was stopped with a cap on July 15, people on the Gulf Coast have been wondering if another shoe was going to drop - a huge underwater glob of oil emerging to damage more shorelines, for instance.

Assuming that the government's calculations stand scrutiny, that looks increasingly unlikely. "There's absolutely no evidence that there's any significant concentration of oil that's out there that we haven't accounted for," said Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the lead agency in producing the new report.

She emphasized, however, that the government remained concerned about the ecological damage that has already occurred and the potential for more, and said it would continue monitoring the gulf.

"I think we don't know yet the full impact of this spill on the ecosystem or the people of the gulf," Dr. Lubchenco said.

Among the biggest unanswered questions, she said, is how much damage the oil has done to the eggs and larvae of organisms like fish, crabs and shrimp. That may not become clear for a year or longer, as new generations of those creatures come to maturity.

Thousands of birds and other animals are known to have been damaged or killed by the spill, a relatively modest toll given the scale of some other oil disasters that killed millions of animals. Efforts are still under way in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida to clean up more than 600 miles of oiled shoreline. The government and BP collected 35,818 tons of oily debris from shorelines through Sunday.

It remains to be seen whether subtle, long-lasting environmental damage from the spill will be found, as has been the case after other large oil spills.

The report, which is to be unveiled on Wednesday morning, is a result of an extensive effort by federal scientists, with outside help, to add up the total volume of oil released and to figure out where it went.

The lead agency behind the report, the oceanic and atmospheric administration, played down the size of the spill in the early days, and the Obama administration was ultimately forced to appoint a scientific panel that came up with far higher estimates of the flow rate from the well. Whether the new report will withstand critical scrutiny is uncertain; advocacy groups and most outside scientists had not learned of it on Tuesday.

The government announced early this week that the total oil release, from the time the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20 until the well was effectively capped, was 4.9 million barrels, plus or minus 10 percent. That estimate makes the Deepwater Horizon disaster the largest marine spill in history. It is surpassed on land by a 1910 spill in the California desert.

As the scientists did their calculations, they were able to rely on direct measurements of the fate of some of the oil that spewed from the broken well. For example, BP and its contractors succeeded in capturing about 17 percent of it with various containment mechanisms, the report says.

The outcome for much of the oil could not be directly measured, but had to be estimated using protocols that were scrutinized by scientists inside and outside the government, Dr. Lubchenco said.

The report calculates, for example, that about 25 percent of the chemicals in the oil evaporated at the surface or dissolved into seawater in the same way that sugar dissolves in tea. (The government appears to have settled on a conservative number for that estimate, with the scientific literature saying that as much as 40 percent of the oil from a spill can disappear in this way.)

The aggressive response mounted by BP and the government - the largest in history, ultimately involving more than 5,000 vessels - also played a role in getting rid of the oil, the report says. Fully 5 percent of the oil was burned at the surface, it estimates, while 3 percent was skimmed and 8 percent was broken up into tiny droplets using chemical dispersants. Another 16 percent dispersed naturally as the oil shot out of the well at high speed.

All told, the report calculates that about 74 percent of the oil has been effectively dealt with by capture, burning, skimming, evaporation, dissolution or dispersion. Much of the dissolved and dispersed oil can be expected to break down in the environment, though federal scientists are still working to establish the precise rate at which that is happening.

"I think we are fortunate in this situation that the rates of degradation in the gulf ecosystem are quite high," Dr. Lubchenco said.

The remaining 26 percent of the oil "is on or just below the surface as light sheen or weathered tar balls, has washed ashore or been collected from the shore, or is buried in sand and sediments," the report says.

Some fishermen in Louisiana are worried about the buried oil, fearing that storms could stir it up and coat vital shrimp or oyster grounds, a possibility the government has not ruled out.

Testing of fish has shown little cause for worry so far, and fishing grounds in the gulf are being reopened at a brisk clip. At one point the government had closed 36 percent of federal gulf waters to fishing, but that figure is now down to 24 percent and is expected to drop further in coming weeks.

States are also reopening fishing grounds near their coasts. The big economic question now is whether the American public is ready to buy gulf seafood again.

The new government report comes as BP engineers began pumping heavy drilling mud into the stricken well on Tuesday, with the hope of achieving a permanent seal or at least revealing critical clues about how to kill the well before the end of the month.

Through the afternoon, in what is known as a static kill, engineers pumped mud weighing about 13.2 pounds per gallon at slow speeds from a surface vessel through a pipe into the blowout preventer on top of the well. If all goes well, cement may be applied over the next few days. But officials said they could be confident the well was plugged only when one of two relief wells now being drilled was completed, allowing the well to be completely sealed with cement.

"The static kill will increase the probability that the relief well will work," Thad W. Allen, the retired Coast Guard admiral who is leading the federal spill response effort, told reporters on Tuesday. "But the whole thing will not be done until the relief well is completed."

The static kill operation could last for close to three days. After it is completed, work can resume on the final 100 feet of the first relief well, which officials say should be completed by Aug. 15 unless bad weather intervenes.

Clifford Krauss contributed reporting from Houston, and Campbell Robertson from New Orleans.


7) More Workers Face Pay Cuts, Not Furloughs
"Allied with multimedia giant Apple, Inc. (Apple CEO Steve Jobs is the single largest shareholder in Disney) and the cutting-edge animation studio Pixar, Disney is beyond doubt a powerful example of the new corporate media at the beginning of the 21st century."
August 3, 2010

The furloughs that popped up during the recession are being replaced by a highly unusual tactic: actual cuts in pay.

Local and state governments, as well as some companies, are squeezing their employees to work the same amount for less money in cost-saving measures that are often described as a last-ditch effort to avoid layoffs.

A new report on Tuesday showed a slight dip in overall wages and salaries in June, caused partly by employees working fewer hours.

Though average hourly pay is still higher than when the recession began, the new wage rollbacks feed worries that the economy has weakened and could even be at risk of deflation. That is when the prices of goods and assets fall and people withhold spending as they wait for prices to drop further, a familiar idea to those following the recent housing market.

A period of such slack economic demand produced a lost decade in Japan, and while it is still seen as unlikely here, some policy-making officials at the Federal Reserve recently voiced concern about the possibility because the consequences could be so dire.

Pay cuts are appearing most frequently among state and local governments, which are under extraordinary budget pressures and have often already tried furloughs, i.e., docking pay in exchange for time off. Warning that they will have to lay off people otherwise, many governors and mayors are pressing public employee unions to accept a reduction in salary of a few percentage points, without getting days off in exchange.

At the University of Hawaii, professors have accepted a 6.7 percent cut. Albuquerque has trimmed pay for its 6,000 employees by 1.8 percent on average, and New York's governor, David A. Paterson, has sought a 4 percent wage rollback for most state employees. State troopers in Vermont agreed to a 3 percent cut. In California, teachers in the Capistrano and Pacheco school districts have accepted salary cuts.

"We've seen pay freezes before in the public sector, but pay cuts are something very new to that sector," said Gary N. Chaison, an industrial relations professor at Clark University. Outsize pension costs and balanced budget requirements are squeezing many states as tax revenue has come up short.

It is impossible to say how many employers have cut workers' pay, because the government does not keep such statistics. Economists say a modest but growing number of employers have ordered wage cuts, especially in the public sector. In a 2010 survey by the National League of Cities, 51 percent of the cities that responded said they had either cut or frozen salaries of city employees, 22 percent said they had revised union contracts to reduce some pay and benefits, and 19 percent said they had instituted furloughs.

Some businesses are also cutting workers' pay, often to help stay afloat or to eliminate their losses, although a few have seized on the slack labor market and workers' weak bargaining power to cut pay and thereby increase their profits and competitiveness.

Economists note that wages continued to increase in 2008 after the recession began, even adjusted for inflation. But those wages have been flat for the last 18 months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Mr. Chaison says the latest wave of private-sector pay cuts is reminiscent of those in the early 1980s, when many companies - especially those with unionized work forces - cut wages in response to a recession, intensified competition from imports and new low-cost competitors spawned by government-backed deregulation. Now, as then, companies frequently say that compensation for unionized workers, in both wages and benefits, is out of line. For instance, the Westin Hotel in Providence, R.I., after failing to reach a new contract with its main union, has sliced wages 20 percent, saying its previous pay levels were not competitive with those at the city's many nonunion hotels.

Factory owners sometimes warn that they will close or move jobs to lower-cost locales unless workers agree to a pay cut. In its most recent union contract, General Motors is paying new employees $14 an hour, half the rate it pays its long-term workers.

Sub-Zero, which makes refrigerators, freezers and ovens, warned its workers last month that it might close one or more factories in Wisconsin and lay off 500 employees unless they accepted a 20 percent cut in wages and benefits. Management warned that it might transfer those operations to Kentucky or Arizona, saying it needed lower costs because sales were weaker than hoped.

The pain is felt across industries. At the Seattle Symphony, musicians have taken a 5 percent pay cut, while ABF Freight System, a major trucking company, has asked the Teamsters to agree to 15 percent less. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has lowered pay 6 percent, while Newsday has gotten its staff to accept a 5 to 10 percent pay cut.

While most of the pay cuts seem to hit unionized workers, David Lewin, a professor of management at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has written extensively on employee compensation, says some cuts are also quietly taking place among nonunion employers.

Reed Smith, a firm with 1,500 lawyers, has cut salaries for first-year associates in major cities to $130,000 from $160,000. Warren Hospital, a nonunionized facility in Phillipsburg, N.J., ordered pay cuts of 2 to 4 percent because lower Medicaid reimbursements had squeezed the hospital's finances.

Fast-rising pension and health costs are making benefit costs grow more rapidly than wages, some employers say, and cutting wages is often easier than other ways to pare labor costs. But some workers say these cuts are unfair at a time when corporate profits and employee productivity have risen strongly.

Sometimes unions and their workers cooperate with management on pay cuts, hoping to recoup some wage increases when conditions improve. In Madawaska, Me., 460 unionized workers accepted an 8.5 percent wage cut in May to help keep their paper mill in business.

"Workers, of course, do not like to have their pay cut, but I think that workers' major concern now is, 'Do I have a job?' " Professor Lewin said. "If the unemployment rate were lower, we'd see a lot more resentment toward pay cuts."

But workers sometimes fight back - particularly if an employer doesn't show signs of distress.

In Albuquerque, where the mayor pushed through pay cuts to bridge a $66 million budget deficit, the largest union of municipal workers is suing, arguing that the mayor's plan should include furloughs.

The mayor, Richard J. Berry, rejected that idea. "You want to keep people employed. You want to preserve public services. And you don't want to raise taxes," he said. "When you're trying to lower the cost of government while maintaining services, furloughs don't do the trick."

Albuquerque would have to trim at least 100 jobs without the cuts, he said, which top out at 3.5 percent for employees earning more than $90,000. Those earning under $30,000 will not be affected.

At the Mott's apple juice and sauce plant in Williamson, N.Y., 30 miles east of Rochester, 300 unionized workers have been on strike since May 23 over management's demands for a $1.50-an-hour wage cut, a reduction in company 401(k) contributions and higher employee contributions to health insurance. The strikers are seething over management's demands because the plant has been profitable and Mott's corporate parent, the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, reported record profits last year.

"They keep piling more and more work on us, but they want to pay us less and less," said Michele Morgan, a Mott's employee. "It's a slap in the face."

Chris Barnes, a company spokesman, said the Mott's employees were overpaid, at $21 an hour, given that the average in the area for food manufacturing workers was $14 an hour. The union disputes those figures.

"Our only objective," Mr. Barnes said, "was to continue to enhance the competitiveness and flexibility of our operations."


8) How Disney Magic and the Corporate Media Shape Youth Identity in the Digital Age
by: Henry Giroux and Grace Pollock, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed
Wednesday 04 August 2010

While the "empire of consumption" has been around for a long time[1], American society in the last 30 years has undergone a sea change in the daily lives of children - one marked by a major transition from a culture of innocence and social protection, however imperfect, to a culture of commodification. Youth are now assaulted by a never-ending proliferation of marketing strategies that colonize their consciousness and daily lives. Under the tutelage of Disney and other megacorporations, children have become an audience captive not only to traditional forms of media such as film, television and print, but even more so to the new digital media made readily accessible through mobile phones, PDAs, laptop computers and the Internet. The information, entertainment and cultural pedagogy disseminated by massive multimedia corporations have become central in shaping and influencing every waking moment of children's daily lives - all toward a lifetime of constant, unthinking consumption. Consumer culture in the United States and increasingly across the globe, does more than undermine the ideals of a secure and happy childhood: it exhibits the bad faith of a society in which, for children, "there can be only one kind of value, market value; one kind of success, profit; one kind of existence, commodities; and one kind of social relationship, markets."[2] But corporate-controlled culture not only exploits and distorts the hopes and desires of individuals: it is fundamentally driven toward exploiting public goods for private gain, if it does not also more boldly seek to privatize everything in the public realm. Among US multimedia megacorporations, Disney appears one of the least daunted in attempting to dominate public discourse and undermine the critical and political capacities necessary for the next generation of young people to sustain even the most basic institutions of democracy.

The impact of new electronic technologies as teaching machines can be seen in some rather astounding statistics. It is estimated that the average American spends more than six hours a day watching video-based entertainment and, by 2013, the numbers of daily hours spent watching television and videos will match the numbers of hours spent sleeping.[3] The American Medical Association reports that the combined hours "spent in front of a television or video screen is the single biggest chunk of time in the waking life of an American child."[4] Such statistics warrant grave concern, given that the messages provided through such programming are shaped largely by a $263-billion-dollar-a-year US advertising industry[5], which sells not only its products, but also values, images and identities largely aimed at teaching young people to be consumers. A virtual army of marketers, psychologists and corporate executives are currently engaged in what Susan Linn calls a "hostile takeover of childhood,"[6] seeking in the new media environment to take advantage of the growing economic power wielded by children and teens. Figures on direct spending by young people have dramatically increased in the last ten years to the point where it is now estimated that each year pre-teens and teenagers marshal "$200 billion in spending power."[7] And this is not all. Young people also exert a powerful influence on parental spending, offering up a market in which, according to Anap Shah, "Children (under 12) and teens influence parental purchases totaling over ... $670 billion a year."[8] Because of their value as consumers and their ability to influence spending, young people have become major targets of an advertising and marketing industry that spends over $17 billion a year on shaping children's identities and desires.[9]

Exposed to a marketing machinery eager and ready to transform them into full-fledged members of consumer society, children's time is conscripted by a commercial world defined by the Walt Disney Company and a few other corporations, and the amount of time spent in this world is as breathtaking as it is disturbing. Typical children see about "40,000 ads a year on TV alone," and by the time they enter the fourth grade, they will have "memorized 300-400 brands."[10] In 2005, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that young people are "exposed to the equivalent of 81/2 hours a day of media content ... [and that] the typical 8-18 year-old lives in a home with an average of 3.6 CD or tape players, 3.5 TVs, 3.3 radios, 2.0 VCRs/DVD players, 2.1 video game consoles and 1.5 computers."[11] There was a time when a family traveling in a car might entertain itself by singing or playing games. Now, however, many kids have their own laptops or cell phones and many family vehicles come equipped with DVD players. Family members need not look to each other or the outside world for entertainment when a constant stream of media sources is at their fingertips. Today's kids have more money to spend and more electronic toys to play with, but, increasingly, they are left on their own to navigate the virtual and visual worlds created by US media corporations.

In what has become the most "consumer-oriented society in the world," Juliet Schor observes that kids and teens have taken center stage as "the epicenter of American consumer culture."[12] The tragic result is that youth now inhabit a cultural landscape in which, increasingly, they can only recognize themselves in terms preferred by the market. Multi-billion-dollar media corporations, with a commanding role over commodity markets as well as support from the highest reaches of government, have become the primary educational and cultural force in shaping, if not hijacking, how youth define their interests, values and relations to others.

Given its powerful role among media-driven modes of communication, the Walt Disney Company exercises a highly disproportionate concentration of control over the means of producing, circulating and exchanging information, especially to kids. Once a company that catered primarily to a three- to eight-year-old crowd with its animated films, theme parks and television shows, Disney in the new millennium has been at the forefront of the multimedia conglomerates now aggressively marketing products for infants, toddlers and tweens (kids age eight to twelve).[13] Web sites, video games, computer-generated animation, Disney TV and pop music - developed around franchises like "High School Musical," "Hannah Montana" and the Jonas Brothers, and accessible online with the touch of a button - are now sustaining Disney fans into their teenage and young adult years. Allied with multimedia giant Apple, Inc. (Apple CEO Steve Jobs is the single largest shareholder in Disney) and the cutting-edge animation studio Pixar, Disney is beyond doubt a powerful example of the new corporate media at the beginning of the 21st century.

Disney not only represents "one of the best-known symbols of capitalist consumerism,"[14] but also claims to offer consumers a stable, known quantity in its brand-name products. Understanding Disney's cultural role is neither a simple nor a trivial task. Like many other megacorporations, it focuses on popular culture and continually expands its products and services to reach every available media platform. What is unique about Disney, however, is its titanium-clad brand image - synonymous with a notion of childhood innocence and wholesome entertainment - that manages to deflect, if not completely trounce, criticism at every turn. As an icon of American culture and middle-class family values, Disney actively appeals to both conscientious parents and youthful fantasies as it works hard to transform every child into a lifetime consumer of Disney products and ideas. Put the Disney corporation under scrutiny, however, and a contradiction quickly appears between a Disney culture that presents itself as the paragon of virtue and childlike innocence and the reality of the company's cutthroat commercial ethos.

Disney, like many corporations, trades in sound bites; the result is that the choices, exclusions and values that inform its narratives about joy, pleasure, living and survival in a global world are often difficult to discern. Disney needs to be addressed within a widening circle of awareness, so we can place the history, meaning and influence of the Disney empire outside of its own narrow interpretive frameworks that often shut down critical assessments of how Disney is actually engaged in the commercial carpet bombing of children and teens. Understanding Disney in the year 2010 requires that we draw attention to the too often hidden or forgotten corporate dimension surrounding the production, distribution and consumption of Disney culture and, in so doing, equip parents, youth, educators, and others with tools that will enable them to critically mediate the ways in which they encounter Disney. In 1999, Disney was a $22 billion profit-making machine.[15] Ten years later, Disney is generating over $37.8 billion per year and quickly expanding the market for its products in countries such as China, where the latest Disney theme park - Hong Kong Disneyland - opened in 2005, and another park is slated for development in Shanghai.[16] Now a worldwide distributor of a particular kind of cultural politics, Disney is a teaching machine that not only exerts influence over young people in the United States, but also wages an aggressive campaign to peddle its political and cultural influence overseas. As global capital spreads its influence virtually unchecked by national governments and the international community, citizenship becomes increasingly privatized and youth are educated to become consuming subjects rather than civic-minded and critical citizens. If today's young people are to look ahead to a more rather than less democratic future, it has become imperative for people everywhere to develop a critical language in which notions of the public good, public issues and public life become central to overcoming the privatizing and depoliticizing language of the market.

Disney's Marketing Juggernaut

One measure of the corporate assault on kids can be seen in the reach, acceleration and effectiveness of Disney's marketing and advertising efforts to turn kids into consumers and childhood into a salable commodity. Every child, regardless of how young, is now a potential consumer ripe for being commodified and immersed in a commercial culture defined by brands. The Walt Disney Company spares little expense in generating a coherent brand image and encapsulating its many products and services within the seductive symbolism of childhood innocence and wholesome family fun. The company's approach makes Disney a particularly useful case for understanding corporate strategies directed at youth in the new media environment. At the same time as Disney represents nostalgia and tradition, it has become a global leader in transforming digital technologies into profit-making platforms and developing a consumer-centered discourse that deflects criticism away from, while it softens, what can only be called boldly commercial self-promotion. Disney, with its legion of media holdings, armies of marketers and omnipresent advertisers sets out not just to exploit children and youth for profit: it actually constructs them as commodities while promoting the very concept of childhood as a salable commodity. Childhood ideals increasingly give way to a market-driven politics in which young people are prepared for a life of objectification that will simultaneously drain them of any viable sense of moral and political agency. This is especially true in the current consumer society in which children more than ever mediate their identities and relations to others through the consumption of goods and images. No longer imagined within the language of responsibility and justice, childhood begins with what might be called the scandalous philosophy of money, that is, a corporate logic in which everything, including the worth of young people, is measured through the potentially barbaric calculations of finance, exchange value and profitability.

Disney, perhaps more than any other corporation, has created a marketing powerhouse that uses the pivotal educational force of children's culture in combination with new digital media technologies. Kids can download enormous amounts of media in seconds and carry around such information, images and videos in a device the size of a thin cigarette lighter. Moreover, "[media] technologies themselves are morphing and merging, forming an ever-expanding presence throughout our daily environment."[17] Mobile phones alone have grown "to include video game platforms, e-mail devices, digital cameras and Internet connections," making it easier for marketers and advertisers to reach young people.[18] Kids of all ages now find themselves in what the Berkeley Media Studies Group and the Center for Digital Democracy call "a new 'marketing ecosystem' that encompasses cell phones, mobile music devices, broadband video, instant messaging, video games and virtual three-dimensional worlds," all of which provide the knowledge and information that young people use to navigate their place in families, schools and communities.[19] Disney along with its researchers, marketing departments and purveyors of commerce largely define and control this massive virtual entertainment complex, spending vast amounts of time trying to understand the needs, desires, tastes, preferences, social relations and networks that characterize youth as a potential market.

The disconnect between market values and the ethical responsibility to care for children is on full display in Disney's almost boastful use of research to mine the inner lives and experiences of young children. That Disney's insidious strategies receive front page coverage in The New York Times and are presented without so much as a critical comment is a testament to how commercial values have numbed the public's ability to recognize the danger such values often present to children. According to The New York Times, Disney is at the forefront of finding ways to capitalize on the $50 billion dollars spent worldwide by young boys between the ages of six and 14.[20] As part of such an effort, Disney seeks the advice of educators, anthropologists and even a research consultant with "a background in the casino industry," not only to study all aspects of the culture and intimate lives of young boys, but to do so in a way that allows Disney to produce "emotional hooks" that lure young boys into the wonderful world of corporate Disney in order to turn them into enthusiastic consumers.[21] Disney's recent attempts to "figure out the boys' entertainment market" enlisted the services of Kelly Pena, described as "the kid whisperer," who attempts to uncover what makes young boys tick by using her anthropological skills to convince young boys and their parents to allow her to look into the kids' closets, go shopping with them and pay them $75 to be interviewed. Ms. Pena, with no irony intended, prides herself on the fact that "Children ... open up to her."[22] Given Disney's desire to expand into boys' culture, the company's announcement in 2009 that it had purchased Marvel Entertainment Inc. came as no surprise. Marvel's comic book empire owns the licenses to approximately 5,000 superhero characters. The Wall Street Journal remarked that by "bringing in macho types such as Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, the Marvel deal would expand Disney's audience, adding properties that appeal to boys from their preteen years into young adulthood." [23]

It is even more disturbing that Disney and a growing number of marketers and advertisers now work with child psychologists and other experts, who study young people in order to better understand children's culture so as to develop marketing methods that are more camouflaged, seductive and successful. Disney claims this kind of intensive research pays off in lucrative dividends and reinforces the Disney motto that, in order to be a successful company, "You have to start with the kids themselves."[24] Several psychologists, especially Allen D. Kanner, have publicly criticized such disingenuous practices.[25] Disney's recent attempt to corner the young male market through the use of sophisticated research models, ethnographic tools and the expertise of academics indicates the degree to which the language of the market has disengaged itself from either moral considerations or the social good. It is clear that Disney's only goal is to win over the hearts and minds of young people so as to deliver them to the market as both loyal consumers and commodities. In such unscrupulous strategies, the contradiction becomes visible between Disney's public relations image as a purveyor of wholesome entertainment and the hidden reality of Disney as a political and economic power that promotes ideology conducive to its own corporate interests, thereby impoverishing the imaginative possibilities of youth and dismantling the public foundations for a thriving civic culture.

Childhood, Inc.

Corporate culture is rewriting the nature of children's culture, a trend that becomes visible in the various ways traditional boundaries once maintained between the spheres of formal education and entertainment are collapsed. According to Lawrence Grossberg, children are introduced to the world of logos, advertising and the mattering maps of consumerism long before they can speak: Capitalism targets kids as soon as they are old enough to watch commercials, even though they may not be old enough to distinguish programming from commercials or to recognize the effects of branding and product placement.[26] In fact, researchers have found that while children as young as three years old recognize brand logos, not until they are around eight years old do they understand advertising's intention to manipulate their desires.[27] But this has not stopped corporations from exposing kids from birth to adulthood to a consumer blitz of advertising, marketing, education and entertainment that has no historical precedent. There is now even a market for videos for toddlers and infants as young as three months old. Not surprisingly, this is part of a growing $4.8 billion market aimed at the youngest children - an area of multimedia culture into which Disney recently expanded.[28]

In 2000, Disney purchased the Baby Einstein Company from its founder, Julie Aigner-Clark, who had created a line of products and toys known to mesmerize these youngest television watchers by displaying, for example, vibrant moving objects while playing a soundtrack of classical music selections. The marketing of the products suggests that parents can purchase toys and videos that will not only enable their children to develop good taste in music, but also make them capable of great intellectual achievements. (Disney/Pixar's 2004 film "The Incredibles" plugs the Baby Einstein franchise shamelessly when one character exclaims, "Mozart makes babies smarter.") Despite objections against the marketing of baby videos as educational media by organizations such as the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Disney persists in using clever packaging for the videos that implies they are, at best, beneficial learning tools to be used in a child's most formative years and, at worst, harmless distractions for infant audiences. And the marketing strategy works. A 2007 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 48 percent of parents believe that baby videos have "a positive effect on early childhood development."[29] The news that baby DVDs and videos actually impair infants' cognitive development broke in 2007 when the University of Washington issued a press release about a study published in the prestigious Journal of Pediatrics that concluded infants eight to 16 months old, who were exposed to one hour of viewing baby DVDs and videos per day, displayed slower language development: those children understood on average six to eight fewer words for every hour of viewing than infants who did not watch the videos.[30] Reading to a child once a day, by contrast, produced an observable increase in vocabulary.[31]

How did Disney respond to the researchers' findings? President and CEO Robert Iger demanded that the University of Washington immediately retract its statements on the grounds that the study's assessment methodology was faulty and the publication of the results was "misleading, irresponsible and derogatory."[32] Disney's main objection was that the study did not differentiate between brands when it tested the effects of baby videos on language development. Mark Emmert, president of the University of Washington, refused to comply with Iger's demand for a retraction and instead articulated a need for more "research aimed at helping parents and society enhance the lives of children."[33] While this research was clearly not enough to deter Disney from marketing its Baby Einstein wares as beneficial for babies and toddlers, other researchers have found that one of greatest costs associated with surrounding very young children with screen media is a reduction in the time they spend engaging in creative, unstructured play. In a 2007 report, the American Academy of Pediatrics lamented, "time for free play has been markedly reduced for some children."[34] Yet Disney's message to parents continues to foster the idea that parents should not only accept the ubiquitous presence screen culture in their babies' lives, but view it as an inevitable fact of life, one pointless to criticize and impossible to change.[35] In an utterly cynical gesture, the Baby Einstein web site cites a 2003 finding by the Kaiser Family Foundation that "in a typical day, 68% of all children under two use screen media."[36] This statistic is not presented as something that should alarm concerned parents and encourage different parenting practices; on the contrary, it becomes simple proof of "the reality of today's parents, families and households" and an indicator of how the American Academy of Pediatrics, which discourages television viewing for children under two years old, is simply stuck in the past.37.

Disney's marketing tactics utilize the idea that parents who want their kids to keep up in a highly competitive world must supply them with every available product that purports to nurture young minds. In 2007, Disney launched an educational web site for parents,, which offers parenting advice "in a manner that is compelling, comprehensive, entertaining and, most importantly, objective." The web site taps into the growing parenting industry, claiming to target "the more than 32 million moms that are online in the US."[38] Given Disney's attempt to refute work by leading researchers in children's health, it is unclear what the web site intends to publish as "articles from experts in the parenting field." But if the so-called expertise is not useful to parents, they can at least download a coupon from the "Family Tool Box."[39] The web site also features the "Disney Family Learning Center," developed in collaboration with Sony Electronics and Powered, Inc., an online education provider that also happens to specialize in social marketing. Disney finds ways to promote Sony's and its own products when advising parents on child development, entertainment options and other "family-relevant information" in its online courses, such as "Traveling Light with Kids and Technology" and "Contact Management for the Busy Mom and Dad."[40]

The Internet's commercial potential is certainly not lost on Disney, as Steve Wadsworth, president of the Walt Disney Internet Group, stated, "There is massive opportunity here."[41] Harnessing the power of virtual space is a strategy openly championed by CEO Robert Iger, whose stated goal is for the company to establish "clear leadership in the kids and families online virtual worlds space around the globe."[42] Disney views online media as an opportunity not so much to enhance children's lives as to make money for shareholders, enjoy low overhead costs and keep the company's film and television franchises profitable. The site, redesigned in 2007, includes video games, social networking, customized user content and videos on demand. As of the summer of 2009, approximately 16 million users have designed customized fairy avatars that inhabit Pixie Hollow at[43] Internet sites offering cooperative games and social networking to children seem like a relatively innocuous option in a media culture currently exploiting every imaginable angle to populate reality television's competitive worlds of winners and losers. It is far less innocuous, however, that these web sites help Disney collect and use personal information to assail consumer groups with targeted, cross-promotional advertising. Web-based social media not only acculturate children to being constantly bombarded with advertising, but give them the illusion of control while they are actually being manipulated.

Disney's interest in capturing the attention of very young people through the Internet has also involved the acquisition of Club Penguin, a web-based virtual world, in a $700 million deal in 2007. Disney's Club Penguin targets kids ages six to fourteen and provides each user with an animated penguin avatar that interacts in a snow-covered world, chats with other users and earns virtual money to purchase items such as pets, clothing and furnishings for an igloo home. Users can play for free, but must pay $5.95 per month for access to certain features of the game. As an interactive and "immersive environment," Club Penguin enables Disney to train children in the habits of consumption - merchandise, such as stuffed penguins, is advertised on the site - while making direct contact with its global consumer base through the online network. Similarly, Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean," for children under ten years of age, lures kids into a virtual world of consumers that is predicted to include 20 million children by 2011.[44] As Brooks Barnes points out in The New York Times, these electronic malls are only superficially envisioned by developers as entertainment or educational sites. Their main purpose, she states, is to enable media conglomerates to "deliver quick growth, help keep movie franchises alive and instill brand loyalty in a generation of new customers."[45]

In order to tap further into the youth market, Disney's recent strategy has involved spending $180 million on video game development. Disney-branded online space includes the Internet's first multiplayer game for kids, "Toontown Online." As Sara Grimes points out, multiplayer online games "construct entire cultural experiences based around beloved characters, fantasy and play [but] entry into these worlds is only possible through a perpetual cycle of consumption."[46] Another product, the video game "Epic Mickey," revamps the character of Mickey Mouse in an alleged effort to make him more appealing to today's generation of youth. The mouse will no longer embody a childlike innocence and generosity, but will instead be "cantankerous and cunning" and will exhibit "selfish, destructive behavior."[47] With Mickey's popularity in decline in the United States, Disney's market-driven agenda is visible not only in its willingness to transform the hallowed icon upon which its corporate empire was built, but also in the very way it has transformed Mickey Mouse's character. Although Disney's representatives suggest that this reimagining of Mickey Mouse merely reflects what is currently popular among young people, it seems more aligned with the current ideology of a ruthless economic Darwinism (also evident in reality TV shows) that has little to do with the needs of children and a great deal to do with a survival-of-the-fittest view of the world perpetuated by market-centered culture. The recent moves by the Walt Disney Company to darken the characters it incorporates into its cultural offerings should be seen as less a demystification of the brand image of Disneyfied innocence and more a signal of the company's desire for a growing compatibility between its public pedagogy and a commercial culture's ethos of egocentric narcissism, social aggression and hypermasculinity.

The issues surrounding Disney culture as a source of identity for young people are complex. Adult existence, according to Zygmunt Bauman, involves "changing one's ego" through "an unending series of self-focused pursuits, each episode lived through as an overture to the next."[48] Whether or not this is a dramatic departure from the way life was lived in the past, it is nevertheless becoming clear that today's youth also are now caught up in negotiating shifting identities through processes that involve a constant engagement with educational sites throughout the culture. How much more challenging, then, will young people who are just embarking on the process of identity development find the navigation of a commercialized culture that appears to offer limitless choice in terms of selfhood, yet, effectively limits the choices that both children and adults can make in extending their sense of personal and collective agency?

One sign of how the Walt Disney Company seeks to intervene in children's lives by shaping their identity narratives was evident in the company's 2009 announcement that it would be redesigning its chain of 340 Disney Stores to mirror a theme park design. Based on the prototype called Imagination Park, the renovated stores will be entirely networked with interactive technology to create a multisensory recreational experience that encourages consumer participation and emphasizes community through collective activities.[49] The Disney store refurbishment project's "goal is to make children clamor to visit the stores and stay longer" and will cost approximately $1 million per store. By enabling visitors to generate a narrative for their own consumption, the stores will offer the illusion that kids are the producers of meaning and have the capacity to customize their identities through the stories that are created around Disney products and places. Such power is not necessarily false and it is undoubtedly seductive in a world of narrowing opportunities for agency and expression - perhaps even more so for children and youth for whom such opportunities are few and for whom the spectacular has not yet lost the appeal of novelty. At the same time, it confines the imagination and any corresponding sense of community to the narratives on offer, which ultimately all lead back to immersing the individual in fun, conflict-free processes of consumption designed to generate corporate profits.

It is astounding the ease with which Disney's conventional fantasy formula for young adults - recently updated and reissued in films like "High School Musical" - reduces unpleasant and contradictory lived experiences to the "trials and tribulations" of well-off kids who "just want to fit in," and can easily do so by participating in consumer culture. Elayne Rapping observes a similar thematic message in the design of Disney World, which, not unlike the world of the "High School Musical" films, is "uniform in its middle-American, asexual, uninflected sameness," all of which works to embody a "sense of classless luxury and unthreatening sameness ... a synthetic spirit of democracy" that promises a kind of belonging free from the "stress of competition."[50] The Disney celebrity factory has long been masterful at churning out clean-cut teen idols who symbolize these wholesomely bland American values. Miley Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana) is one of the latest incarnations of Disney's star-making power. According to a New York Times article, for many people, but especially for those "parents unnerved by the spectacle of the Spears family," Miley Cyrus represents a positive role model for "millions of girls still figuring out how they feel about boys."[51] Cyrus plays the character Miley Stewart in the Disney TV show "Hannah Montana" alongside her real-life father, country singer Billy Ray Cyrus. The show focuses on the story of a teenage girl, who wants to lead a totally normal life at home and school and, therefore, decides to keep it a secret that she is also the superstar pop singer Hannah Montana. She achieves this goal by changing her clothing and hair color. On the show, then, the lead character, Miley Stewart, has a rock-star altar ego named Hannah Montana and, in real life, Disney aggressively markets Miley Cyrus as a pop icon by producing her music CDs and funding a 2007 concert tour, called Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds. As one reporter for The New York Times commented, Disney's public relations' ingenuity ensures that consumers get "three girls for the price of one."[52] It seems that in a world increasingly defined by fragmentation and instability, "Hannah Montana" taps into the fantasy of celebrity, offering young people the lure of agency through an endless reinvention of the self. A tween girl might identify with the family dynamics depicted on the show, but need not stop there when she can also transform herself among her classmates and achieve the chic look of a rock starlet merely by purchasing "Hannah Montana" clothing at Wal-Mart. According to the Disney formula, self-expression is once again reduced to what a young person can afford to buy. And Disney is expert at reinforcing such cycles of brand promotion by generating relationships between its media offerings and consumer products. As Mike Budd explains, the company exhibits "highly developed corporate synergy in which every Disney product is both a commodity and an ad for every other Disney commodity."[53] The comment from The New York Times about Cyrus being a good role model for kids should be considered within this context of consumerism and what it teaches young girls in terms of their identities, values and aspirations. Hannah Montana is not a superhero, but merely a superstar whose only responsibility in life is to entertain her fans and make money. Miley Stewart's raison d'être is to deceive the people around her so that she can live her life unencumbered by the social responsibilities attendant on being a well-known public figure. Finally, does not Cyrus, as the real life embodiment of "three girls for the price of one," represent the most commodified of role models, severely and insidiously proscribing the imaginative possibilities for a generation of young women who are sadly being encouraged to view their bodies as objects, their identities as things to be bought and sold and their emotional and psychological health as best nurtured through "retail therapy" (shopping)?

Concepts of self and society are undoubtedly shifting as we witness the "growing interpenetration of the economic and the cultural."[54] Spaces that were once constructed through "forms of public culture," as noted by Sharon Zukin, have now become privatized, controlled and framed by corporate culture.[55] These spaces, from suburban shopping malls to tourist spots to city centers, encourage leisure while also "priming the young for consumerism."[56] While colonizing multiple cultural spaces, corporations like Disney are increasingly looking to virtual space in order to provide "enhanced" experiences for a consumer class that wants to maximize its leisure time. Developing virtual online worlds gives Disney, to a greater extent than at any previous point in history, more global corporate control over the "production of subjectivity that is not fixed in identity, but hybrid and modulating."[57] Paradoxically, though, Disney gains access to children and adults by selling the illusion of fixity. Disney not only represents "one of the best-known symbols of capitalist consumerism,"[58] but also claims to offer consumers a stable, known quantity in its brand-name products. In other words, Disney culture acts as a temporary salve to growing feelings of uncertainty and insecurity produced by economic dislocations and social instability on a national and global scale. It is no small irony that, while offering people the "swindle of fulfillment" promised by rampant consumerism[59], multinational corporations such as Disney are one of the globalizing forces largely responsible for the instabilities and upheavals facing contemporary nation states.

Indeed, the sovereignty of national governments is increasingly challenged by the power of multinational corporations and the logic of the marketplace they embody; governments are downsized and their services are privatized or gutted, corporations receive incentives in the form of huge tax breaks or bailouts with taxpayers' money, legislation is passed that further deregulates the market and democratically elected governments fail in their responsibilities to foster a just and equal society. Given these conditions, it is no wonder that individuals find comfort in the stable meanings they can ascribe to Disney and turn to consumption for even the semblance of personal agency. Multinational corporations such as Disney have become "the aristocratic articulations" of a global monopoly of power and coercion that is imposed from above and that achieves control through circuits that do not reveal themselves because they operate on the "terrain of the production and regulation of subjectivity" itself [60] - that is, in the realm of cultural production and consumption. According to Jeremy Weber, capitalism adapts to local cultures and conditions in ways that secure its profit-making power: "The market does not simply obliterate all earlier traditions. It is opportunistic. It will enhance and concentrate on those features of a society which turn a profit or change them in such a way that they will make money."[61] Consequently, everything potentially becomes a commodity, including and perhaps most especially, identity. Global capitalism manages and controls diversity by commodifying and selling different identity positions, while also encouraging self-commodification - particularly of youth - through various marketing trends and technologies that become increasingly ubiquitous in the lives of the adults, teens and the very youngest children alike.[62]


Children are not born with consumer habits. Their identities have to be actively directed to assume the role of consumer. If Disney had its way, kids' culture would become not merely a new market for the accumulation of capital, but a petri dish for producing new commodified subjects. As a group, young people are vulnerable to corporate giants such as Disney, which makes every effort "to expand 'inwardly' into the psyche and emotional life of the individual in order to utilize human potential" in the service of a market society.[63] Virtually every child is now vulnerable to the many advertisers and entertainment providers who diversify markets through various niches, most recently evident in the use of mobile technologies and online social media. Complicit, wittingly or unwittingly, with a global politics defined by market power, the American public offers little resistance to children's culture being expropriated and colonized by large multimedia conglomerates and Madison Avenue advertisers. Eager to enthrall kids with invented fears and lacks, corporate media culture also entices them with equally unimagined new desires, to prod them into spending money or to influence their parents to spend it in order to fill corporate coffers.

The potential for lucrative profits to be made off the spending habits and economic influence of kids has certainly not been lost on Disney and a number of other multinational corporations, which under the deregulated, privatized, no-holds-barred world of the free market have set out to embed the dynamics of commerce, exchange value and commercial transactions into every aspect of personal and daily life. Wrapping itself up in the discourse of innocence and family-oriented amusement in order to camouflage the mechanisms and deployment of corporate power, Disney uses its various entertainment platforms that cut across all forms of traditional and new media in a relentless search for young customers to incessantly bombard with a pedagogy of commerce. In the broader society, as the culture of the market displaces civic culture, children are no longer prioritized as an important social investment or viewed as a central marker for the moral life of the nation. Instead, childhood ideals linked to the protection and well-being of youth are transformed - decoupled from the "call to conscience [and] civic engagement"[64] - and redefined through what amounts to a culture of excessive individualism and the numbing of public consciousness.

Rather than participate mindlessly in the Disneyfication of culture, we all need to excavate the excluded memories and silenced voices that could challenge the uncomplicated commodified identities offered to young people by Disney in the name of the innocence and entertainment. As one of the most influential corporations in the world, Disney does more than provide entertainment: it also shapes in very powerful ways how young people understand themselves, relate to others and experience the larger society. It is not difficult to recognize tragedy in the fact that a combination of entrenched social inequality and a lack of resources means that kids disappear literally into foster care institutions, teachers are overwhelmed in overcrowded classrooms and state services are drained of funds and cannot provide basic food and shelter to growing numbers of kids and their families. Yet, corporations such as Disney have ample funds to hire a battalion of highly educated and specialized experts to infiltrate the most intimate spaces of children and family life - all the better to colonize the fears, aspirations and futures of young people.

Disney's commodification of childhood is neither innocent nor simply a function of entertainment. The values Disney produces as it attempts to commandeer children's desires and hopes may offer us one of the most important clues about the changing nature of our society and the destructive force behind the unchecked economic power wielded by massive corporations. Strategies for challenging the corporate power and the consumer culture Disney propagates in the United States and increasingly across the rest of the globe must be aligned with a vision of a democracy that is on the side of children and youth. It must enable the conditions for young people to learn and develop as engaged social actors more alive to their responsibility to future generations than those adults who have presently turned away from the challenge.


1. Lizabeth Cohen, "A Consumer's Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America," (New York: Vintage, 2003).

2. Lawrence Grossberg, "Caught in the Crossfire: Kids, Politics and America's Future," (Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2005), p. 264.

3. Press release on Multiplatform Video Report by Solutions Research Group, "Daily Hours Watching Video and TV to Match Sleep by 2013," Solutions Research Group, June 11, 2008.

4. Cited in Don Hazen and Julie Winokur, eds. "We the Media, "(New York: New Press, 1997), p. 64.

5. Robert Bryce, "Click and Sell," University of Texas at Austin News, August 15 - 22, 2005.

6. Susan Linn, :Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood," (New York: New Press, 2004), p. 8.

7. Alex Molnar and Faith Boninger, "Adrift: Schools in a Total Marketing Environment," Tenth Annual Report on Schoolhouse Commercialism Trends: 2006-2007 (Tempe: Arizona State University, 2007), pp. 6-7.

8. Anup Shah, "Children as Consumers," Global Issues (January 8, 2008).

9. See Josh Golin, "Nation's Strongest School Commercialism Bill Advances Out of Committee," Common Dreams Progressive Newswire (August 1, 2007).

10. Victoria Rideout, Donald F. Roberts and Ulla G. Foehr, "Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-Olds," (Washington, D. C.: The Kaiser Family Foundation, March 2005), pp. 6, 9.

11. Rideout, Roberts and Foehr, "Generation M," p. 4.

12. Juliet B. Schor, "Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture," (New York: Scribner, 2004), p. 9.

13. For a list of the Walt Disney Company's vast holdings, see Columbia Journalism Review, "Who Owns What," April 14, 2009.

14. Jack Lyne, "Hong Kong Disneyland Tops Out Centerpiece Structure," The Site Selection Online Insider, October 10, 2004.

15. Henry A. Giroux, "The Mouse That Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence," (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999), p. 26.

16. Robert Iger, "Letter to Shareholders, Part II," in The Walt Disney Company 2008 Annual Report, Disney Investor Relations

17. Rideout, Roberts and Foehr, Generation M, p. 4.

18. Ibid.

19. Jeff Chester and Kathryn Montgomery, "Interactive Food and Beverage Marketing: Targeting Children in the Digital Age," (Berkeley: Media Studies Group; Washington, DC: Center for Digital Democracy, 2007), p. 13

20. Brooks Barnes, "Disney Expert Uses Science to Draw Boy Viewers," New York Times (April 14, 2009), A1.

21. Ibid.

22. Ibid.

23. Ethan Smith and Lauren A.E. Schuker, "Disney Nabs Marvel Heroes," Wall Street Journal, September 1, 2009, A1.

24. Barnes, "Disney Expert," A14.

25. Allen D. Kanner and some of his colleagues raised the ethical issues with child psychologists helping marketers in a letter to the American Psychological Association. See Miriam H. Zoll, "Psychologists Challenge Ethics of Marketing to Children," American News Service (April 5, 2000). See also Allen D. Kanner, "The Corporatized Child," California Psychologist 39.1 (January/February 2006), pp. 1-2; and Allen D. Kanner, "Globalization and the Commercialization of Childhood," Tikkun 20:5 (September/October, 2005), pp. 49-51. Kanner's articles are online.

26. Grossberg, "Caught in the Crossfire," p. 88.

27. Paul M. Fischer et al., "Brand Logo Recognition by Children Aged 3 to 6 Years: Mickey Mouse and Old Joe the Camel," Journal of the American Medical Association 266, no. 22 (1991), pp. 3145-3148; American Psychological Association news release, "Television Advertising Leads to Unhealthy Habits in Children, Says APA Task Force," APA Online, February 23, 2004.

28. Molnar and Boninger, "Adrift," p. 9.

29. Victoria Rideout, "Parents, Children and Media: A Kaiser Family Foundation Survey," Kaiser Family Foundation, June 2007, 7.

30. Joel Schwarz, "Baby DVDs, Videos May Hinder, Not Help, Infants' Language Development," University of Washington News, August 7, 2007.

31. See Frederick J. Zimmerman, Dimitri A. Christakis and Andrew N. Meltzoff, "Associations between Media Viewing and Language Development in Children under Age 2 Years," Journal of Pediatrics 151, no. 4 (October 2007), pp. 364-68.

32. A transcript of this letter from Robert A. Iger to Mark A. Emmert, president of the University of Washington, dated August 13, 2007, is available online. See Meg Marco, "Walt Disney Demands Retraction from University of Washington over Baby Einstein Video Press Release," The Consumerist, August 13, 2007.

33. Letter from Mark A. Emmert to Robert Iger, dated August 16, 2007, is available online. See Joel Schwarz, "UW President Rejects Disney Complaints," University of Washington News, August 16, 2007.

34. Kenneth R. Ginsburg, "The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds," Pediatrics 119, no. 1 (January 2007), 183. Available online. Additional factors affecting this loss of time include (1) pressure on parents "to produce superachieving children," which leads them to overschedule their kids' time in structured, "enrichment" activities; and (2) the restructuring of public schools to focus on academic study, which has led to decreased time for recess periods, physical education and creative-arts programming.

35. For an excellent critique of how parental fears are mobilized as part of a larger effort to professionalize parenting, see Frank Furedi, "Paranoid Parenting," 2nd ed., (New York: Continuum, 2008).

36. Victoria J. Rideout, Elizabeth A. Vandewater and Ellen A. Wartella, "Zero to Six: Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers," Kaiser Family Foundation, Fall 2003, 5. Available online.

37. "About Baby Einstein," Disney Baby Einstein web site.

38. Powered press release, "Disney and Sony Electronics Launch Virtual Classroom for Moms," RedOrbit, May 16, 2007.

39. Disney news release, "Disney Creates One-Stop Online Resource for Parents," Walt Disney Interactive Media Group Newsroom, March 13, 2007.

40. Powered press release, "Disney"

41. Brooks Barnes, "Web Playgrounds of the Very Young," New York Times, December 31, 2007.

42. Disney news release, "The Walt Disney Company Acquires Club Penguin," Disney News Releases, August 1, 2007.

43. Disney news release, "Disney Interactive Studios Announces Disney Fairies: Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure for Nintendo DS," Financial Post, June 2, 2009.

44. Cited in Barnes, "Web Playgrounds."

45. Ibid.

46. Sara M. Grimes, "Saturday Morning Cartoons Go MMOG," Media International Australia 126 (February 2008): 120 - 31. Available online.

47. Brooks Barnes, "After Mickey's Makeover, Less Mr. Nice Guy," New York Times, (November 5, 2009).

48. Zygmunt Bauman, "Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty (London: Polity, 2007), 107, 109.

49. Brooks Barnes, "Disney's Retail Plan Is a Theme Park in Its Stores," New York Times, (October 13, 2009).

50. Elayne Rapping, "A Bad Ride at Disney World," The Progressive, November 1995.

51. Kelefa Sanneh, "3 Girls for the Price of One (if You Could Get a Ticket)," New York Times, December 31, 2007.

52. Ibid.

53. Mike Budd, "Introduction: Private Disney, Public Disney," in "Rethinking Disney: Private Control, Public Dimensions," ed. Mike Budd and Max H. Kirsch (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2005), p. 1.

54. Alan Bryman, "The Disneyization of Society," (London: Sage, 2004), 173.

55. Sharon Zukin, "Learning from Disney World," The Cultures of Cities, (Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1995), p. 77.

56. Bryman, "The Disneyization of Society," p. 169.

57. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, "Empire," (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2000), p. 331.

58. Jack Lyne, "Hong Kong Disneyland Tops Out Centerpiece Structure," The Site Selection Online Insider, October 10, 2004.

59. Ernest Bloch, cited in Anson Rabinach, "Unclaimed Heritage: Ernst Bloch's Heritage of Our Times and the Theory of Fascism," New German Critique (Spring 1977), p. 8.

60. Hardt and Negri, "Empire," pp. 314, 321.

61. Jeremy Seabrook, "Racketeers of Illusion," New Internationalist 308, (December 1998).

62. Jeff Chester and Kathryn Montgomery, "No Escape: Marketing to Kids in the Digital Age," Multinational Monitor 30, No. 1 (July/August 2008).

63. Rutherford, "Cultures of Capitalism."

64. Kiku Adatto, "Selling Out Childhood," Hedgehog Review 5: 2 (Summer 2003), p. 40.


9) Oilgate! BP and All the President's Men (Except One) Seek to Contain Truth of Leak in the Gulf (PHOTOS)(VIDEO)
By Riki Ott, Marine toxicologist and Exxon Valdez survivor
Posted: August 2, 2010 03:49 PM

Barataria, LA. -- Bonnie Schumaker slowed her souped-up Cessna 180 from 130 to 50 knots so I could hold open the window for documentary film producer Bo Bodart to shoot the grim scene below us. The oil-laced air rushed in and stung our throats and eyes.

Bay Jimmy on the northeast side of Barataria Bay was full of oil. So was Bay Baptiste, Lake Grande Ecaille, and Billet Bay. Sitting next to me was Mike Roberts, a shrimper with Louisiana Bayoukeepers, who has grown up in this area. His voice crackled over the headset as I strained to hold the window. "I've fished in all these waters - everywhere you can see. It's all oiled. This is the worst I've seen. This is a heart-break..."

We followed thick streamers of black oil and ribbons of rainbow sheen from Bay Baptiste and Bay Jimmy south across Barataria Bay through Four Bayou Pass and into the Gulf of Mexico. The ocean's smooth surface glinted like molten lead in the late afternoon sun. Oil. As far as we could see: Oil.

This was July 31, Day 103 of BP's disaster and more than two weeks after BP had sealed its broken wellhead that had hemorrhaged oil into the Gulf for nearly three months. BP's latest pretend is that tropical storm Bonnie washed the oil away - or at least off the surface - so the company is busily laying off response crews and claiming damages were over-exaggerated.

Since Day 1, BP has consistently downplayed the size of its gusher and the damage it was causing to wildlife and people. This is what happens when governments leave the spiller in charge of the spill or, in this case, the criminal in charge of the crime scene. Evidence disappears as the criminal seeks to minimize its liability for damages. What should be a war on the spill becomes a war against the truth, the environment, and the injured people.

The official story emerging now from BP and most of the president's men - and now being echoed by some national media - is: the oil is gone; the danger is past and was exaggerated; the dispersants were effective in keeping oil from reaching the shore; the oil that does reach shore is mostly weathered and not toxic; and federal officials have found no unsafe levels of oil in air or water samples and no evidence of illness due to oil or dispersant use.

As my father used to say: Good story if true.

The official story does not match the reality that I saw from the Cessna or have heard from people I have met during community visits since the well was temporarily sealed - and ever since I first arrived in early May. Public health is a huge concern - and with good reason.

BP has created Frankenstein in its Gulf laboratory: an oil-dispersant chemical stew that so far has contaminated over 44,000 square miles of ocean and caused internal bleeding and hemorrhaging in workers and dolphins alike, according to Hugh Kaufman, a senior policy analyst at the EPA, who recently blew the whistle on the industry-government cover up. BP has sprayed dispersants steadily in the Gulf with Coast Guard approval from the beginning - under the sea, on the surface, offshore, near shore, in inland waters, at night, during the day - despite a public uproar to cease and desist.

The dispersants used in BP's draconian experiment contain solvents such as petroleum distillates and 2-butoxyethanol. Solvents dissolve oil, grease, and rubber. Spill responders have told me that the hard rubber impellors in their engines and the soft rubber bushings on their outboard motor pumps are falling apart and need frequent replacement. They say the plastic corks used to float the absorbent booms during skimming operations dissolve after a week of use. They say the hard epoxy resin on and below the waterline of their fiberglass boats is also dissolving and chipping away. Divers have told me that they have had to replace the soft rubber o-rings on their gear after dives in the Gulf and that the oil-chemical stew eats its way into even the Hazmat dive suits.

Given this evidence, it should be no surprise that solvents are also notoriously toxic to people, something the medical community has long known. In Generations at Risk, medical doctor Ted Schettler and others warn that solvents can rapidly enter the human body: They evaporate in air and are easily inhaled, they penetrate skin easily, and they cross the placenta into fetuses. For example, 2-butoxyethanol is a human health hazard substance: It is a fetal toxin and it breaks down blood cells, causing blood and kidney disorders.

I suspect that the oil-chemical stew is likely the culprit behind the strange rashes reported by people across the Gulf - rashes that break out into deep blisters on legs or repeated peeling on hands. Stories accompany the rashes, stories of handling dead sea turtles, wading or swimming in the Gulf, or washing clothes of spill responders. Medical doctors are diagnosing rashes as staph infections or scabies, but the rashes are not responding to medical treatment as they would if the causation was biological instead of chemical.

Blisters and rashes experienced by fisher and Venice, Louisiana, Councilwoman Kindra Arneson are widespread across the Gulf. Rashes are not responding to treatment for staph or scabies. The cause may be chemical, not biological. 2010 Kindra Arneson.

Cindy Feinberg and her family visited Ft. Walton, Florida, on vacation in mid June when the "ocean was full of tar" and crews were picking up tar balls on the beach. The day after swimming in the Gulf - people were told it was safe, her palms became fiery red and flaked and peeled repeatedly for several days. Other people have shown me similar rashes that have lingered for months. June 18, 2010. Cindy Feinberg.

In Sound Truth and Corporate Myths, I wrote of similar rashes and peeling skin experienced by Exxon Valdez spill responders, especially ones who used dispersants and other chemical solvents. Yet in the Gulf, many doctors are turning a blind eye to chemical causes, because BP insists that solvents "disappear" after only a day or two. Retired toxicologist and forensic chemist John Laseter disagrees. Laseter's long career includes evaluation of human health effects of some of the largest toxic chemical and petroleum releases into the environment in the United States and Europe. He also founded and ran Accu-Chem, a lab that analyzed blood work for criminal justice cases.

Laseter told me that solvents "solubilize" or become soluble in oil and remain a threat for up to two months. He said the oil-solvent mixture sticks on biological tissue - gills of fish, the organic film coating sand grains and raindrops - and can wreak havoc. He told me that the dispersants are "almost certainly" making the oil penetrate more deeply into the skin and could very well be causing the rashes in the Gulf. Other toxicologists confirm that dispersants amount to a "delivery system" for oil: the combination is worse for human and sea life than the oil or dispersant alone.

Yet all the president's men - the Coast Guard, OSHA, NIOSH, FDA, and the EPA (except the EPA whistleblower noted above), in keeping with the cover up, cannot seem to find any unsafe levels of oil or solvents in the air or water. But other people are.

For example, about a week after the oil started coming ashore in Alabama, the Mobile television station WKRG took samples of water and sand from Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Katrina Key, and Dauphin Island. The test was nothing fancy. The on-air reporter simply dipped a jar into the ocean and another into some surf water filling a sand pit dug by a small child. In the samples, oil was not visible in the water or the sand, but the chemist who analyzed them reported astonishingly high levels of oil ranging from 16 to 221 parts per million (ppm). Except for the Dauphin Island sample -- that one literally exploded in the lab before testing could be completed. The chemist thought maybe the exploding sample contained methane or 2-butoxyethanol.

There is also evidence of dangerous levels of oil in the air. A preliminary study commissioned in mid-July by Guardians of the Gulf, a community-based nonprofit organization in Orange Beach, Alabama, found that nightly air inversions - common in the area during the summer and fall - were trapping pollutants near the ground.

Total Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) - including the carcinogen benzene, and oil vapors - reached 85 to 108 ppm at 9:00 a.m. but rapidly dropped to zero (or nondetectable) within half an hour as the sun burned through the inversion layer. (For comparison, the federal standard for 15-minute exposure to benzene is 5 ppm.) The EPA did find unsafe levels of VOCs once in early May, but pulled much of its early data, as I reported earlier.

Such high levels could explain the bout of respiratory problems, dizziness, nausea, sore throats, headaches, and ear bleeds that I have heard about from residents and health professionals from Houma, Louisiana, to Apalachicola, Florida. Even the oil industry knows that these chemicals are unsafe. As long ago as 1948, the American Petroleum Institute confirmed, "The only absolutely safe concentration for benzene is zero."

When we landed after our 2-hour flight, our pilot told us that she sometimes has to wipe an oily reddish film off the leading edges of her plane's wings after flying over the Gulf. Hurricane Creekkeeper John Wathem documented similar oily films on planes he chartered for Gulf over-flights. Bonnie doesn't wear gloves when she wipes her plane. She showed me her hands -- red rash, blisters, and peeling palms.

If peeling palms are an indication of the oil-solvent stew, the reddish film on Bonnie's plane and others means that the stew is not only in the Gulf, it is in the rain clouds above the Gulf. And in the middle of hurricane season, this means the oil-solvent mix could rain down anywhere across the Gulf.

Why all this pretend in the Gulf by BP and all the president's men except the EPA whistleblower that oil and dispersants are not toxic? By comparison, last week in Calhoun County, Michigan, an Enbridge pipeline ruptured, spilling at least 19,500 barrels of oil. At least thirty families were temporarily relocated because of the stench and roads and beaches were closed. Health officials have warned people to stay away from the fumes and beaches, and to avoid swimming and fishing near oiled areas. "It's a very toxic and dangerous environment," Calhoun County health officer Jim Rutherford said.

If spilled oil is "toxic and dangerous" in Michigan, it's also toxic and dangerous in the Gulf. But in the Gulf, public officials have downplayed the health risk despite hard evidence of an epidemic of chemical illnesses related to, I believe, the oil-chemical stew.

The fact that the official story in the Gulf does not match what people are experiencing is more alarming to me than the oil disaster. How can our president hold BP accountable if he accepts - or worse is complicit in - the crime?

Correcting the false official story is the first step toward holding the criminal accountable to the law and lore of the land. If the government fails to hold the criminal accountable, as it did during the Exxon Valdez, then the people and environment will bear the costs of this avoidable tragedy.

Riki Ott, marine toxicologist and author of Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (Chelsea Green, 2008), is working with Gulf residents and others to design and implement an independent air and water quality sampling program.


10) BP oil spill: Obama administration's scientists admit alarm over chemicals
Environmental Protection Agency experts expressed concerns to superiors about use of dispersants, says whistleblower group
By Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Obama administration is facing internal dissent from its scientists for approving the use of huge quantities of chemical dispersants to tackle the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Guardian has learned.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has come under attack in Congress and from independent scientists for allowing BP to spray almost 2m gallons of the dispersant Corexit on to the slick and, even more controversially, into the leak site 5,000ft below the sea. Now it emerges that EPA's own experts have been raising similar concerns within the agency.

Jeff Ruch, the exective director of the whistleblower support group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said he had heard from five scientists and two other officials who had expressed concerns to their superiors about the use of dispersants.

"There was one toxicologist who was very concerned about the underwater application particularly," he said. "The concern was the agency appeared to be flying blind and not consulting its own specialists and even the literature that was available."

Veterans of the Exxon Valdez spill questioned the wisdom of trying to break up the oil in the deep water at the same time as trying to skim it on the surface. Other EPA experts raised alarm about the effect of dispersants on seafood.

Ruch said EPA experts were being excluded from decision-making on the spill. "Other than a few people in the united command, there is no involvement from the rest of the agency," he said. EPA scientists would not go public for fear of retaliation, he added.

Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat who introduced a ban on dispersants pending further testing in an oil spill bill passed by the House of Representatives last week, said the EPA had failed in its duty to protect the environment.

"We are undertaking a huge uncontrolled experiment with the entire Gulf," he said. "They have fallen down on the job very substantially because they allowed BP to use dispersants. Even when they told BP not to use dispersants they allowed BP to ignore their advice."

Independent scientists also criticised the EPA for claiming that the combination of oil and dispersants posed no greater danger to marine life on its own.

On Wednesday, a toxicologist from Texas Tech University is scheduled to tell a Senate hearing that the unprecedented use of dispersants "created an eco-toxicological experiment".

"The bottom line is that a lot of oil is still at sea dispersed in the water column," said Ron Kendall. "It's a big ecological question as to how this will ultimately unfold." Previous studies, including a 400-page study by the National Academy of Sciences, have warned that the combination of oil and dispersants is more toxic than oil on its own, because the chemicals break down cell walls, making organisms more susceptible to oil.

The EPA issued a report on Monday, based on a study of how much of the mixture was needed to kill a species of shrimp and small fish, just two of the 15,000 types of marine life in the Gulf. The EPA test did not address medium- or long-term effects, or reports last week that dispersants were discovered in the larvae of blue crab, entering the food chain.

"It was only one test and it was very crude. We knew going into this and the EPA knew that this mixture is highly toxic to many, many species. There is a whole weight of literature," said Susan Shaw, the director of the Marine Environmental Research Institute, who has been organising on the issue. "It is not the whole science. It's the convenient science."

Hugh Kaufman, a senior EPA policy analyst, dismissed the tests as little more than a PR stunt. "They are trying to spin this limited piece of information to make it look like dispersants are safe and that the Corexit dispersant is safe."

EPA did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It is under fire from Congress for allowing BP and the coast guard to ignore its order last May to cut the use of dispersants by 75%. Documents released by the Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey this week show the EPA allowed spraying of dispersants 74 times over a period of 48 days. At times, the EPA gave advance approval for the use of dispersants for up to a week. The documents also showed the EPA allowed BP to spray 36,000 gallons of Corexit in a single day. The controversy surrounding EPA's role in the oil spill marks a turning point for the Obama administration, which came to power vowing to repair the frayed relationship between scientists and government under George Bush and promising a new era of transparency.

Nine leading scientists have written a public letter calling on BP and the Obama administration to release all scientific data related to the spill, including wildlife death. "Just as the unprecedented use of dispersants has served to sweep millions of gallons of oil under the rug, we're concerned the public may not get to see critical scientific data until BP has long since declared its responsibility over," said Bruce Stein of the National Wildlife Federation.


11) Court Rejects Same-Sex Marriage Ban in California
August 4, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - Saying that it discriminates against gay men and women, a federal judge in San Francisco struck down California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage on Wednesday, handing supporters of such unions at least a temporary victory in a legal battle that seems all but certain to be settled by the Supreme Court.

Wednesday's decision is just the latest chapter in what is expected to be a long battle over the ban - Proposition 8, which was passed in 2008 with 52 percent of the vote. Indeed, while striking down Proposition 8, the decision will not immediately lead to any new same-sex marriages being performed in California. Vaughn R. Walker, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in San Francisco, immediately stayed his own decision, pending appeals by proponents of Proposition 8, who seem confident that higher courts would hear and favor their position.

But on Wednesday the winds seemed to be at the back of those who feel that marriage is not, as the voters of California and many other states have said, solely the province of a man and a woman.

"Proposition 8 cannot withstand any level of scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause," wrote Judge Walker. "Excluding same-sex couples from marriage is simply not rationally related to a legitimate state interest."

Supporters of Proposition 8 said that the decision defied the will of the people of California, and could well be an issue in November's midterm elections.

"This is going to set off a groundswell of opposition," said Jim Garlow, the pastor of Skyline Church in La Mesa, Calif., and a prominent supporter of Proposition 8. "It's going to rally people that might have been silent."

Wednesday's decision applied only to California and not to the dozens of other states that have either constitutional bans or other prohibitions against same-sex marriage. Nor does it affect federal law, which does not recognize such unions.

Still, the very existence of federal court ruling recognizing same-sex marriage in California, the nation's most populous state, set off cheers of "We won!" from crowds assembled in front of the courthouse in San Francisco. Evening rallies and celebrations were planned in dozens of cities across the state and several across the nation.

In West Hollywood, Ron Cook, 46, an accountant who is gay, said he was thrilled by the decision. "If the court had come back and upheld it," he said. "I would have moved out of the state."

The plaintiffs' case was argued by David Boies and Theodore B. Olson, ideological opposites who once famously sparred in the 2000 Supreme Court battle between George W. Bush and Al Gore over the Florida recount and the presidency. The lawyers brought the case - Perry v. Schwarzenegger - in May 2009 on behalf of two gay couples who said that Proposition 8 impinged on their constitutional rights to equal protection and due process.

On Wednesday, Mr. Olson called the decision a "victory for the American people," and anyone who had been denied rights "because they are unpopular, because they are a minority, because they are viewed differently."

For advocates of gay rights, same-sex marriage has increasingly become a central issue in their battle for equality, seen as both an emotional indicator of legitimacy and as a practical way to lessen discrimination.

"Being gay is about forming an adult family relationship with a person of the same sex," said Jennifer Pizer, the marriage project director for Lambda Legal in Los Angeles, who filed two briefs in support of the plaintiffs. "So denying us equality within the family system is to deny respect for the essence of who we are as gay people."

But Andrew Pugno, a lawyer for the defense, said Proposition 8 had nothing to do with discrimination, but rather with the will of California voters who "simply wished to preserve the historic definition of marriage."

"The other side's attack upon their good will and motives is lamentable and preposterous," Mr. Pugno said in a statement.

During the trial, which ended in June, plaintiffs offered evidence from experts on marriage, sociology and political science, and emotional testimony from the two couples who had brought the case. Proponents for Proposition 8 offered a much more straightforward defense of the measure, saying that same-sex marriage damaged traditional marriage as an institution and that marriage was historically rooted in the need to foster procreation, which same-sex unions cannot, and was thus fundamental to the existence and survival of the human race.

But Judge Walker seemed skeptical of those claims. "Tradition alone, however," he wrote, "cannot form the rational basis for a law."

Even before appeals to higher courts, Judge Walker seemed ready to continue to hear arguments, telling both sides to submit responses to his motion to stay the decision by Friday, at which point he could lift or extend it.

How the decision might play politically was also still unclear. In 2004, same-sex marriage was seen as a wedge issue that helped draw conservatives to the polls, and Richard Socarides, who advised President Bill Clinton on gay rights issues, said that this decision could be used as a rallying cry for Republicans again. "But Democrats and most importantly President Obama will now have to take sides on whether gays deserve full equality," Mr. Socarides wrote in an e-mail.

In California, it could also affect the race for governor. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, has been vocal in his support of same-sex marriage in his current role as California attorney general and hailed the decision on Wednesday. Meg Whitman, a Republican, has taken the position that marriage should be between a man and a woman - in line with the language of Proposition 8 - though she says that she strongly supports the state's domestic partnership laws, which afford many of the same rights as marriage.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a statement on Wednesday supported the ruling, saying it "affirms the full legal protections" for thousands of gay Californians.

Some gay rights activists initially feared the case, believing that a loss at a federal level could set back their more measured efforts to gain wider recognition for same-sex marriage, which is legal in five states and the District of Columbia. But those concerns seemed to fade as the trial began, and on Wednesday, the mood was of elation and cautious optimism that Mr. Boies and Mr. Olson's initial victory might change the debate.

Kate Kendell, executive director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said that she believed that there were members of the Supreme Court who "have a very deep-seated bias against L.G.B.T. people," meaning lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. But, she added, "This legal victory profoundly changes the conversation" by involving "folks in the legal world and the policy world who were previously unmoved by this struggle."

For those who had actually filed the suit, Wednesday's victory, while measured, also seemed sweet.

"This decision says that we are Americans, too. We too should be treated equally," said Kristin M. Perry, one of the plaintiffs. "Our family is just as loving, just as real and just valid as anyone else's."

Jesse McKinley reported from San Francisco, and John Schwartz from New York. Malia Wollan contributed reporting from San Francisco, and Rebecca Cathcart from West Hollywood, Calif.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 5, 2010

An earlier version of the multimedia presentation running with this article reversed the surnames of the plaintiffs Paul Katami and Jeff Zarillo.


12) Oil Rig's Owner Had Safety Issue at Three Other Wells
August 4, 2010

The company that owned the oil rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April had widespread safety concerns about several of its other rigs in the gulf, and a month before the disaster it commissioned a broad review of the safety culture of the company's North American operations, according to confidential internal reports.

In response to "a series of serious accidents and near-hits within the global organization," Transocean, the world's largest offshore drilling company, commissioned the risk management company Lloyd's Register to investigate its Houston headquarters and three other gulf rigs besides the Deepwater Horizon to assess its safety culture.

The confidential internal reports, obtained by The New York Times, offer an unusually candid view of safety and maintenance concerns within the world's largest offshore drilling company, and they indicate that the problems highlighted in earlier reports provided to The Times about the Deepwater Horizon were not limited to that rig, which exploded on April 20, leading to an oil spill that is estimated to have poured at least four million barrels of oil into the gulf.

Transocean has 14 rigs now operating in the Gulf of Mexico, and 139 worldwide, and these documents raise concerns about locations beyond Deepwater Horizon, especially the three additional gulf rigs that were recently investigated. In fact, one of those rigs is being leased by BP to drill one of the two relief wells near the Deepwater Horizon site.

The new documents also shed light on one of the lingering mysteries of the disaster: why the rig sank. They indicate that there were problems with the Deepwater Horizon's ballast system that was responsible for keeping the rig afloat and stable. If the rig had not sunk, the leak might not have occurred. Federal investigators have questioned whether deferred maintenance and other factors had played a role in the sinking of the rig.

A previous set of worker-safety reports provided to The Times were specific to the Deepwater Horizon. The new documents draw from analyses of three other rigs in the gulf and attempt to provide an overview for the entire North American division of the Transocean fleet.

The safety concerns cited in the company's assessment of its North American division are supplemented by newly released internal reports concerning the Deepwater Horizon's equipment. These equipment reports identify dozens of deficiencies, including some relating to the rig's blowout preventer, and some that are categorized as "critical equipment items that may lead to loss of life, serious injury or environmental damage as a result of inadequate use and/or failure of equipment."

"Without a doubt, previous incidents and near-hits experienced throughout the organization were as a result of multiple causes and many contributory factors," said the summary report, which gave an overview of the company's North American Division and draws from investigations of Transocean's Marianas, Discoverer Clear Leader, GSF Development Driller II and Deepwater Horizon drilling rigs.

This is not the first report of the Deepwater Horizon experiencing problems with its ballast system. In May 2008, Transocean was forced to evacuate more than 70 workers after problems with the ballast system flooded part of the rig, causing it to list to its side, federal records show.

A lack of hands-on experience for workers and managers has contributed to safety concerns at the company, and a stifling bureaucracy imposed by onshore management has led to widespread resentment among rig workers, the investigators found.

Nearly 40 percent of workers interviewed on the four rigs said that past problems were typically investigated by company officials strictly to attribute blame.

"It ticks me off when someone fails or has an incident; they focus on the paper rather than the process that was gone through," said a worker from the Discoverer Clear Leader.

Another worker on Transocean's Marianas rig said that the safety manual seemed to be "written for the courtroom, not the oil field."

The reports are likely to broaden the discussion of blame for the April 20 explosion, which killed 11 workers. BP, which was leasing the Deepwater Horizon from Transocean at the time of the explosion, has been under the harshest glare for its role, but the Justice Department has said that its criminal investigation of the disaster will look at the role of the many companies involved.

About 43 percent of workers on the four rigs expressed fears of reprisals for reporting problems, the documents said. About 54 percent of Deepwater Horizon workers cited these fears, while about 61 percent of workers on the Marianas did so.

Some workers said the company was systematically deferring maintenance to save money.

"This rig is getting $550,000 per day; unless it's a sink that needs fixing it isn't getting fixed," said a worker from the Marianas about the maintenance concerns. "They won't send the rig to the shipyard for major refurb that is required in certain areas."

The investigators who visited the four rigs in March concluded that many crew members and front-line supervisors were too readily promoted without sufficient on-the-job experience to appreciate the hazards. "Front-line crews are potentially working with a mind-set that they believe they are fully aware of all the hazards when it is highly likely that they are not," the investigators said, adding that the workload, and thus the risks, on the rigs was increasing.

After reviewing the new documents, Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington and the chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, voiced concern.

"These documents are more evidence that despite the growing count of worker deaths and safety violations, the oil and gas industry still just doesn't get it," she said. "They need to change their worker-safety culture, and I am pretty sure we can't count on them to do it by themselves."

She added, "The oil and gas industry is not the same as a mom-and-pop grocery, and they can't be treated the same."

Lou Colasuonno, a spokesman for Transocean, wrote in an e-mail that the company was committed to safety and maintenance and that it proactively commissioned independent employee surveys and rig condition assessments.

"Reading the complete reports makes it abundantly clear that that both studies were positive and were designed specifically to identify strengths and weaknesses - a critical step in evaluating performance," he wrote.

"Overall maintenance on the Deepwater Horizon met or exceeded regulatory and industry standards, and the company's proactive review process helped the Deepwater Horizon log seven consecutive years without a single lost time incident or major environmental event prior to this incident."

He declined to specify the series of "serious accidents and near-hits" that motivated the safety investigations.

The safety reports cite a variety of positive findings about Transocean. "Despite several rig management changes on board the rigs visited, rig leadership was generally praised by the work force," one said.

Almost 87 percent of workers said they believed that there was enough time to do their work according to rules and procedures.

"Rig management and supervisors were generally seen as approachable, set a good example of the company commitment to safety, and were generally highly visible," the investigators said.

But their praise often came with a certain ambivalence.

"Generally, the work force thought there was a sufficient number of staff to manage safety," one report concluded before adding, "There were, however, some questions surrounding the retention of skilled personnel, competency levels for some personnel, and of processes in place for competency development and assurance."

Although high levels of trust were reported at the rig level, "there was a significant level of mistrust between the rigs and the beach," the report said, referring to onshore management.

Around 46 percent of workers on the four rigs said that some of the work force was uncomfortable with calling a "time out for safety." Deepwater Horizon workers polled at about the same rate on this issue.

Transocean's equipment documents reveal for the first time the severity of the maintenance issues that plagued the Deepwater Horizon, and they indicate that the company was aware of the consequences of the problems.

These new documents refer to at least 36 pieces of equipment in ill repair on the Deepwater Horizon that "may lead to loss of life, serious injury or environmental damage as a result of inadequate use and/or failure of equipment."

The new equipment documents indicate that an inspection of the Deepwater Horizon rig conducted just days before the April 20 accident found various problems with hydraulic relays that controlled the rig's watertight doors, two of which had to be opened and closed by hand.

Of the four rigs investigated, the Development Driller II is now being used by BP to drill one of the two relief wells near the Deepwater Horizon. The Marianas was the original rig that was drilling BP's Macondo well before being damaged in a hurricane. Despite having been built in 2009, the Discoverer Clear Leader had "a few notable safety related incidents on the rig during its relatively short operational history." It is now being used by BP for oil containment at the Deepwater Horizon site.

It was not clear where the other rigs cited in the safety reports are operating now.

Griffin Palmer contributed reporting from New York.


13) In Gulf, Good News Is Taken With Grain of Salt
August 4, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - There is little celebration on the Gulf Coast.

Even with the news of the tentative plugging of BP's well, the attention here has largely been focused elsewhere, on a week's worth of reports, culminating in a federal study released on Wednesday, that the oil in the Gulf of Mexico has been rapidly breaking down and disappearing. These reports have been met, for the most part, with skepticism if not outright distrust.

"It's not gone," said George Barisich of the United Commercial Fisherman's Alliance, who has been making his money these days selling anti-BP T-shirts while also working in the Vessels of Opportunity program, a BP effort created to employ boats to help with the spill cleanup. "Mother Nature didn't suck it up and spit it out."

According to federal scientists, about a third of the oil was captured or mitigated by recovery efforts, a quarter naturally dissolved or evaporated and 16 percent was dispersed into microscopic droplets. Just over a quarter remains on or below the surface or has washed ashore, and is either being collected or is degrading naturally.

But many here have grown skeptical after the false assurances following Hurricane Katrina, the early flow rate estimates from BP and federal agencies that turned out to be drastically low and cautionary tales from Alaska about the Exxon Valdez disaster.

The skepticism has been stoked by environmental groups that came to the gulf in droves, lawyers who have been soliciting clients from billboards along roads leading south, a sensation-hungry news media and politicians who have gained broad popularity for thundering in opposition to response officials.

But it has also been fed by continued discoveries of oil clumped in marshes, stratified underneath fresh sand or exposed in the surf at low tide. These sightings do not contradict the scientific reports, which acknowledge millions of gallons of residual oil, but they fuel a broadly held fear: that the oil is merely hidden, liable to appear in a thick, brown ooze at any time.

Federal scientists and coastal residents agree in at least one respect: that the long-term effects of the spill are unknown, and that it is too early to make any conclusions about the true scale of the damage. That uncertainty leads to perhaps the most potent source of skepticism: a deep anxiety about the region's economic future.

The anxiety begins in the short term. Billions of dollars have poured into the gulf during the response, supporting coastal communities that have had a dreary summer but also enriching contractors involved in the cleanup. Any news of dissipating oil hints at a looming end to that.

BP has promised full compensation, but that has not stopped officials and residents from pursuing lawsuits or seeking billions more in restoration payments.

Just as the problems were being ironed out in the Vessels of Opportunity program, which had left many hurting commercial fishermen on the outside, recoverable oil started disappearing on the surface.

Plenty are worried that there will be no revenue to take the program's place as it wraps up.

"Even if it is true," Mr. Barisich said of the reports of dissipating oil, "and I can go catch some shrimp right now, I can't sell it. I don't have a dealer or processor who can take it right now."

Commercial fishing waters are being opened all along the coast, which can be done only with the approval of the Food and Drug Administration and after a variety of tests. But many fishermen, who early on were angered at what they saw as premature closings of water where little oil was visible, are now among the most concerned that the waters are being opened too quickly.

The perception of healthy seafood is nearly as important for the business as the reality, and reassuring consumers can be a long and tricky process.

"Alaska, it took them almost five years to overcome their perception challenges," said Ewell Smith, the executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.

And while BP has recently highlighted its efforts to speed up the claims process, more than two-thirds of claims have not been paid, mostly because adjusters are waiting on documentation that may be hard to come by for many in the largely cash-driven fishing business.

But the economic worries still come back to a fundamental disagreement: many residents simply do not believe that the oil is going away anytime soon, whatever scientists are saying.

"Smell that?" asked Forrest A. Travirca III, driving along the beach at Port Fourchon, La., on Monday. He climbed out of his cart and waded into the surf, where low tide had exposed mud flats, thick and dark with oil to a depth of three inches. The sight could be found up and down the beach.

Mr. Travirca, the field inspector for the Edward Wisner Donation, a nonprofit land trust, said that the oil had probably accumulated since late May, left by subcontracted cleanup crews that had done an incomplete job.

Both BP and federal response officials repeat that the cleanup will not be over until the beaches and marshes are clean, and that crews will not leave until local officials are satisfied. Mr. Travirca said the cleanup had been improving and gave high marks to the Coast Guard.

But the oil-caked mud flats provoked concern about the oil that may be unseen, buried all along the beach or sitting on the seabed offshore. Federal scientists said they had found that oil was not gathering on the floor of the gulf, but Mr. Travirca said he had a hard time believing that.

Fishermen are also keenly concerned about shrimp, crab and finfish larvae. If the larvae are in jeopardy, it may not be known until future fishing seasons, even after the cleanup ends.

Scientists have found hydrocarbons and possibly dispersant in samples of crab and fish larvae, but say that it is premature to draw any conclusions about the long-term effects.

That uncertainty is not reassuring, and to many here it is, in its own way, proof of deception. Response officials acknowledge that the use of dispersants was a trade-off, exposing marine life to risk but preventing a thorough oiling of the beaches and fragile marshes. And for such a huge spill, it has had a relatively small coastal impact.

But others say it was also convenient that the dispersant kept most of the oil out of public view.

"I think probably in the long term the application of the dispersants, at least at the wellhead, probably was the right thing to do," said Dr. William E. Hawkins, director of the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory of the University of Southern Mississippi. "But cynically I might say BP might have done it for the wrong reasons."


14) Oil Spill Calculations Stir Debate on Damage
"Of course, that 26 percent equals more than 53 million gallons of oil, five times the size of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. 'One way of looking at it is to say that 26 percent of the world's largest oil spill is still out there,' said Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society. 'And that is a lot of oil.'"
August 4, 2010

The Obama administration's latest report on the Gulf of Mexico disaster set off a war of words Wednesday among scientists, Gulf Coast residents and political pundits about what to make of the Deepwater Horizon spill and its aftermath.

The report, the subject of an extended White House briefing, claimed that most of the estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil that have leaked into the gulf could be accounted for, that much of it was effectively gone already, and that most of the remaining oil was in a highly diluted form. The implication of the report was that future damage from the oil might be less than had been feared.

That suggestion was not happily received on the Gulf Coast, where people are still coping with the collapse of fishing and tourism and saw the report as fresh evidence that the Obama administration was preparing to abandon them in the same way they felt the Bush administration did after Hurricane Katrina.

Gulf residents pointed to oiled beaches, blackened marshes and dead birds as evidence that, whatever the future damage from the remaining oil, the damage already done was severe enough.

President Obama, speaking at a union meeting in Washington on Wednesday, sought to allay the fears on the Gulf Coast. "We have to reverse the damage that's been done," he said. "We will continue to work to hold polluters accountable for the destruction they've caused, we've got to make sure that folks who were harmed are reimbursed, and we're going to stand by the people of the region however long it takes until they're back on their feet."

Even among scientists specializing in the issues raised by the new report, splits emerged Wednesday about how much credence to give it.

Some researchers attacked the findings and methodology, calling the report premature at best and sloppy at worst. They noted that considerable research was still under way to shed light on some of the main scientific issues raised in the report.

"A lot of this is based on modeling and extrapolation and very generous assumptions," said Samantha Joye, a marine scientist at the University of Georgia who has led some of the most important research on the Deepwater Horizon spill. "If an academic scientist put something like this out there, it would get torpedoed into a billion pieces."

But other scientists, while acknowledging that the report incorporated assumptions that could not be directly tested, found them reasonable, if not conservative. Edward B. Overton of Louisiana State University, one of the most experienced gulf researchers, said the report, if anything, might have underestimated the amount of oil that had effectively gone away or been dispersed. He expressed concern, however, that dispersed oil in the deep ocean might not break down quickly.

Jeffrey W. Short, a former federal scientist who led major studies after the Exxon Valdez disaster and now works for the environmental advocacy group Oceana, found the report plausible, over all.

The estimates in the report "are better than nothing, and probably not very far off," he said. "They have measured all the easy stuff to measure, and the rest will be very difficult to measure if not impossible. So I suspect it is not going to get a whole lot better than this."

The heart of the debate is the applicability, in a situation like the gulf spill, of the scientific technique known as modeling. In that approach, scientists build an elaborate computer program, incorporating numerous best guesses, to try to answer complex questions that cannot be tackled any other way.

In this case, the report's authors started with an estimate from another government scientific team: how much oil spewed from the out-of-control BP well before it was capped on July 15. That calculation was itself the product of a drawn-out controversy in which the government was accused of deliberately playing down the size of the spill in the early days.

Starting with the latest estimate, 4.9 million barrels plus or minus 10 percent, a scientific team led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration incorporated various assumptions about the nature of the oil and the fates it could have encountered after hitting the water. (NOAA is the same agency that devised the early, now-discredited estimate that the well was leaking only 5,000 barrels a day, one reason some people distrust the new report.)

The firmest number in the report is that 17 percent of the oil emerging from the wellhead was captured by various containment devices. From there, the numbers got less certain.

The report estimated, for instance, that 25 percent of the oil either evaporated from the hot ocean surface or dissolved in the water into individual molecules of hydrocarbon. Some scientists, Dr. Joye among them, said they doubted that more than 10 percent or 15 percent of the BP oil had disappeared in this way.

Bill Lehr, a NOAA scientist in Seattle who was involved in creating the model, said the figure was based on both direct measurement and past scientific research about the fate of spilled oil. Efforts to refine the estimate, and the rest of the model, are continuing, he said.

Dr. Lehr said one difficulty was figuring out how much oil had dispersed naturally into tiny droplets. The accepted methodology for making that calculation is based on shallow spills. In this one, the oil shot out of the broken well at high speed a mile below the ocean surface, and some of it dispersed in the deep ocean. A new formula had to be created to take that factor into account.

When all the math was done, the government team concluded that about 16 percent of the oil had dispersed naturally. "We think it's sound theory, but it's new," Dr. Lehr said. "You could say it's an experiment in that respect. You do the best you can with what you've got."

Similarly, the report offered calculations about how much oil had been burned or skimmed from the ocean surface, how much had been chemically dispersed, and so forth.

By a process of elimination, the researchers concluded that only 26 percent of the oil had come ashore or was still in the water in a form that could, in principle, do additional shoreline damage. And much of that was breaking down quickly in the warm waters of the gulf, the report said.

Of course, that 26 percent equals more than 53 million gallons of oil, five times the size of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

"One way of looking at it is to say that 26 percent of the world's largest oil spill is still out there," said Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society. "And that is a lot of oil."

Matthew L. Wald contributed reporting.


15) National Priorities Project Tallies Cost of War through September 30, 2010
$749.9 billion for Iraq
$337.8 billion for Afghanistan
$1.09 trillion total spending

Congress has appropriated an additional $136.8 billion for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the 2010 fiscal year. National Priorities Project estimates that for this fiscal year, $64.5 billion is directed to Iraq and $72.3 billion to Afghanistan. Bills that included war-related funding were the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act (H.R. 2892) passed on October 28, 2009; the Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 3288) passed on December 16, 2009; and the Department of Defense Appropriations Act (H.R. 3326) passed on December 19, 2009.

These new appropriations bring total war-related spending for Iraq to $747.3 billion and for Afghanistan to $299 billion, with total war costs of $1.05 trillion1. National Priorities Project (NPP) updated its Cost of War counters to reflect the new totals and to show the local costs of these wars to states and many cities. NPP's trade-off tool allows you to explore what services could be obtained for your community with the same amount of money that Congress has appropriated for war spending.

These current year appropriations do not include funds to support the "surge" of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan proposed by the Obama administration on December 1, 2009. Conservative estimates suggest that it will cost approximately $30 billion to fund this surge. Supplemental appropriations for this funding are expected later this year.

Since 2001, the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and related activities have been funded through emergency supplemental appropriations. In a clear departure from this practice, the Obama administration integrated the FY2010 war funding into the core budget appropriations process. While this process purportedly allows for greater scrutiny and control over the allocation of tax dollars relative to the emergency supplemental funding process, it has - ironically - also become more difficult to ascertain the exact spending amounts directed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Past supplemental bills outlined funding almost exclusively for war costs whereas departmental appropriations combine these war costs with all other departmental funds for the entire fiscal year.

War funding was found within three separate appropriations bills with the bulk of money in the Defense Appropriations Bill passed just before Congress left for their winter break. In addition to defense funding, this bill was used to extend Food Stamp benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - SNAP), unemployment benefits, and COBRA payments to continue health insurance coverage for the unemployed2.

NPP will continue to follow Iraq and Afghanistan war funding including any supplemental bills to support the Afghanistan surge that has already begun as well as any other additional war costs.

For more information: 413.584.9556 or

1 Total war funding to date includes all approved funds for Afghanistan since FY2001 plus all approved funds for Iraq since FY2003. See also CRS Report RL33110 September 2009. Please note that funding estimates for FY2007-2009 have been revised in this updated report on which our estimates are based.

2 The cost of these extensions was not included in the bill but NPP estimates place funding for these three programs at approximately $40-$45 billion.


16) Nuke U: How the University of California Is Helping to Blow Up the World
"the 2011 budget request for nuclear weapons is the largest in our nation's history; bigger than under George W. Bush and a whopping 40 percent higher than the amount spent for nuclear weapons activities on average during the Cold War."
by Norman Solomon
August 4, 2010

On my way to the Los Alamos National Laboratory a few years ago, I found it listed in a New Mexico phone book-under "University of California."

Since the early 1940s, UC has managed the nation's top laboratories for designing nuclear bombs. Today, California's public university system is still immersed in the nuclear weapons business.

Sixty-five years after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9, 1945, the University of California imprimatur is an air freshener for the stench of preparations for global annihilation. Nuclear war planners have been pleased to exploit UC's vast technical expertise and its image of high-minded academic purpose.

During most of WWII, scientists labored in strict secrecy at the isolated Los Alamos lab in the New Mexico desert, making possible the first nuclear weaponry. After the atomic bombings of Japan, UC continued to manage Los Alamos. And in 1952, when the government opened a second nuclear bomb generator, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory east of San Francisco, UC won the prize to manage operations there, too.

A few years into the 21st century, security scandals caused a shakeup. UC lost its exclusive management slots at Los Alamos and Livermore, but retained major roles at both laboratories.

In mid-2006, the Los Alamos lab went under a new management structure, widened to also include Bechtel and a couple of other private firms. A year later, a similar team, likewise including UC and Bechtel, won a deal to jointly manage Livermore.

At Los Alamos, I learned that the new management team was, legally speaking, an LLC, a limited liability corporation. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the concept of "limited liability" for managers of a laboratory that designs nuclear weapons.

Weird, huh? But not any stranger than having the state of California's top system of higher education devoted to R&D for designing better ways to blow up the planet.

Yes, those laboratories do some nifty ecological research and other laudable things. But nuclear weapons remain central to the labs' mission. And, lofty rhetoric aside, the federal government is pouring billions more dollars into the continuous high-tech pursuit of nuclear weapons "modernization."

Last spring, the White House announced plans for this decade that include investing $80 billion "to sustain and modernize the nuclear weapons complex"-in addition to "well over $100 billion in nuclear delivery systems to sustain existing capabilities and modernize some strategic systems."

In fact, the U.S. government is now on a jag to boost spending for its nuclear arsenal. As the Livermore-based organization Tri-Valley CAREs noted weeks ago, "the 2011 budget request for nuclear weapons is the largest in our nation's history; bigger than under George W. Bush and a whopping 40 percent higher than the amount spent for nuclear weapons activities on average during the Cold War."

Credit where due: the UC-managed laboratories for nuclear bombs have been on the cutting edge of digital advancement. Their record recalls a comment from Martin Luther King Jr., who noted the proliferation of "guided missiles and misguided men."

When I interviewed Los Alamos press officer Kevin Roark, he explained that "this laboratory has been at the forefront of computing research and development" from the Manhattan Project days of slide rules and punch cards to the lab's present-day computers, with one able to do upwards of 100 trillion calculations per second.

An official website of the University of California boasts that "UC has been involved in the management of these laboratories since their inception-a relationship spanning seven decades-as a public service to the nation." With a lab on the UC Berkeley campus included in the mix, "the three laboratories have a combined workforce of more than 21,000 and operate on federally financed budgets totaling more than $4 billion."

For sure, there's plenty of money sloshing around to reward the masters-and academic servants-of the nuclear weapons industry. But should the University of California be managing laboratories that design the latest technologies for nuclear holocaust?

(c)Copyright 2010 Metro Newspapers
Norman Solomon is national co-chair of the Healthcare Not Warfare campaign and the author of many books, including 'War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.' He lives in Marin County.


17) Private Growth Is Tepid as U.S. Economy Sheds Jobs Overall
August 6, 2010

With the American economic recovery hanging in the balance, private employers added 71,000 jobs in July, up from a downwardly revised 31,000 in June but well below the consensus forecast of 90,000. The unemployment rate stayed steady at 9.5 percent.

Over all, the nation lost 131,000 jobs last month, but those losses came as 143,000 Census Bureau workers left their temporary posts, the Labor Department said. June's number was revised dramatically downward to a total loss of 221,000 jobs. The agency originally reported that the nation lost 125,000 jobs in June.

Figures released last week confirmed that the United States economy slowed in the spring, and the Department of Labor's monthly statistical snapshot of hiring pointed toward a stall in hiring this summer, as employers failed to add jobs at the rate they were earlier this year.

What's more, the number of jobs added in July is about half the 125,000 to 150,000 that economists generally say employers need to generate simply to accommodate new entrants to the labor market. With more than 8 million people having lost their jobs during the recession, such tepid job growth can't begin to plug the hole.

"The private sector is still hobbled and certainly is not nearly strong enough to overcome the drain on the government side," said Robert A. Dye, senior economist at PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh.

Mr. Dye added that employers were pushing for productivity gains among existing workers, as evidenced by a slight increase in the average workweek for private workers. "I think that many employers are realizing that they can get by with very lean payrolls and are pushing their employees as much as they can and without adding," he said.

Although the unemployment rate did not worsen, that was in part because people continued to leave the labor force, which means they simply stopped looking for work during the month. In July, 181,000 people left the labor force. [i.e., kicked off of]

With some economists predicting a "double dip" back into recession and the political stakes for the Obama administration rising as the weeks tick closer to the midterm elections, Friday's unemployment report renewed pressure on lawmakers to consider the next steps they might take to bolster the economy.

The Senate voted earlier this week to approve a $26 billion package of aid to states and school districts, and the House is expected to vote on the measure on Tuesday. Still to come is a fierce debate over whether to let the tax cuts for the wealthy enacted under President George W. Bush expire at the end of the year. Recent indicators focusing on consumer confidence, retail sales and housing appear to put the economy in a holding pattern.

Earlier this week, a crucial index of manufacturing showed that growth had slipped slightly in July, chain stores reported anemic increases in sales and unemployment claims rose above the level usual for this stage of a recovery. On the more positive side, auto sales increased 5.1 percent in July compared with a year earlier, although from a very low base.

For now, companies appear nervous about expanding their payrolls. "Businesses just don't want to hire," said Allen Sinai, chief global economist at Decision Economics. "Workers are too costly and it's very easy to substitute technology for labor."

He added that with corporate earnings rising partly on the back of cost-cutting, employers are reluctant to give up profits. "So while corporate earnings were spectacular," Mr. Sinai said, "the job market just stinks."

State government employment fell by 10,000 in July, and local governments lost 38,000 jobs as agencies came under budget pressures. In the past three months, state and local governments have shed a total of 102,000 jobs.

Manufacturing, which had recently been a bright spot in hiring, added 36,000 jobs during July, in part because automakers that usually close factories during the month kept plants open.

The number of people out of work for 27 weeks or more dipped slightly to 6.6 million from 6.8 million, while the median duration of unemployment eased to 22.2 weeks in July, from 25.5 weeks in June.

The overall unemployment rate, incorporating people who want jobs but did not look during the month, remained unchanged at 16.5 percent. .

"Our own view is that this is going to be a really protracted, drawn out recovery here," said Joshua Shapiro, chief United States economist at MFR Inc. "You sometimes have to take a magnifying glass to see it. There are others who are more optimistic and they just keep saying just wait, just wait and they've been saying just wait for quite some time."

For the 14.6 million people currently looking for work, the reluctance to hire outstrips the modest signs of economic growth. "This economy is absolutely appalling," said Mary Moore, 39, who has been applying for jobs as an administrative assistant in Norfolk. Va., since the publishing company she worked for closed in May of last year. Ms. Moore, who can collect unemployment benefits for a few more months, is struggling to pay her $525-a-month rent and health care premiums that recently nearly tripled to $379 a month.

"As an American I did not believe we would see times such as this," she said.


18) Afghans Say NATO Strikes Killed Civilians
"Afghan accounts put the civilian deaths as high as 32."
August 5, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan - NATO officials acknowledged preliminary reports that four to a dozen or more civilians were killed in a coalition airstrike Thursday in Nangarhar Province. Afghan accounts put the civilian deaths as high as 32.

A statement from the international forces confirmed that they had mounted an operation with Afghan forces in the area to search for a Taliban commander, and killed 2 senior Taliban leaders as well as 15 to 20 other insurgents. As the forces left they were fired on from several locations and called in an airstrike to cover their withdrawal, they said.

"Coalition forces deeply regret that our joint operation appears to have resulted in civilian loss of life and we express our sincerest condolences to the families," Rear Adm. Greg Smith, the international force's director of communication, said in a statement.

At the scene, in the village of Hashim Khail Wadi in the Khogyani district, a reporter for The New York Times counted 12 fresh graves. Residents said that they had just buried civilian victims of the bombing and that a total of 32 people had been killed there and in another village nearby, Nakrro Khail, in the Sherzad district.

The victims were said to be in a house in Nakrro Khail and at a ford in Hashim Khail Wadi, where vehicles were blocked by a flood and the drivers had parked, waiting to cross, when the vehicles were rocketed by planes. The attack took place about 4 a.m., the residents said.

President Hamid Karzai ordered an inquiry. Tolo TV in Kabul quoted local officials putting the civilian death toll at 12.

Hajji Zaman Khairy, a prominent tribal elder in the Khogyani district and a candidate for Parliament, also said 12 civilians were killed, but added that coalition forces captured seven people and killed 14 Afghan and foreign Taliban fighters.

A statement from the international forces said that 10 rocket-propelled grenades and multiple automatic weapons had been found at the scene.

In another case of civilian casualties, Afghan and coalition officials continued to dispute what happened in the Sangin district of Helmand Province on July 26, when United States Marines fired a missile at a house from which they had received gunfire.

A senior intelligence official for the international forces, speaking on condition of anonymity as a matter of policy because of his position, said that about 6 civilians were killed, as well as Taliban fighters, for a total of 14 deaths. The civilians were killed when the Marines fired a shoulder-mounted Javelin rocket at a house where Taliban had taken up positions on the roof, while keeping civilians trapped inside.

"The Marines were unbelievable in the length of the time they waited to return fire," the official said, adding that they took fire from the house for more than four hours before the decision to fire the rocket was made.

Afghan officials had put the death toll at 52 civilians, while officials from the international force denied at first that civilians had been killed.

President Karzai sent provincial and local officials to investigate and announced after meeting with them on Wednesday that 39 civilians were killed by the rocket strike on the house, where people had taken refuge from the fighting. The announcement noted, however, that the Taliban had been fighting from the house.

Asked to explain the divergence in accounts, the international force official said, "In Helmand, there are significant political challenges going on, to put it mildly." In addition, coalition forces were unable to visit the scene because the Taliban controlled the area, the official said.

The announcement from Mr. Karzai's office said that the president "once again insisted that under any conditions civilian casualties are not acceptable to him."

Elsewhere in Afghanistan on Thursday, a suicide bomber struck an American and Afghan convoy, killing 11 police officers and wounding seven civilians in northern Kunduz Province, Afghan officials said. None of the Americans were hurt.

The convoy was on a patrol in the Pul-e-Khesti area, in the Imam Sahib district, when the car bomb exploded near the patrol at 7:30 a.m., said Mohammad Ayub Haqyar, the district governor. He said an American armored vehicle was slightly damaged, but no one inside was hurt.

In Helmand Province, a roadside bomb struck a civilian vehicle on Thursday, killing nine civilians, pilgrims preparing for the hajj to Saudi Arabia.

Taimoor Shah contributed reporting from Kandahar; Abdul Waheed Wafa from Kabul; and Afghan employees of The New York Times from Jalalabad and Helmand Province.


19) Mexican Guest Workers, Laid Off, Want BP's Help
"'We would like to see them treated not as disposable workers, but as people who deserve relief in a disaster.' In theory, guest workers have the same rights to compensation from BP as anyone else who lost income due to the oil spill. But as a practical matter, getting that compensation is far more difficult for workers from another county, who speak little English and may not understand the claims process or have the documentation from employers to file a claim." [Slavery alive and well in the good old]
August 5, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - Soon after the oil from the Deepwater Horizon began gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, business at the Ramada Plaza Beach Resort in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., dried up - and so did the jobs of five Mexican housekeepers who were guest workers at the hotel under contracts guaranteeing them work until Nov. 1.

"On June 30, they told us our jobs were over, and that we had to leave our housing and go back to Mexico," Salvador Luna Espinoza, one of the housekeepers, said in a telephone interview conducted with a translator. "I'm staying with friends now, but I don't know how long they'll put up with me."

While thousands have lost their jobs as a result of the oil spill, the layoffs present special hardships for guest workers, mostly hotel workers and those working in shellfish processing.

Under their H-2B visas, they are allowed to work only for the employer who arranged their visa, and they must leave the United States within 10 days of losing their job.

Most took on debt of $1,000 or more to pay for the trip to the United States, planning to pay it back with their earnings.

Mr. Luna Espinoza, who has a wife and five children at home in El Tizate, Mexico, said that without the $7.75-an-hour hotel job, he had no hope of repaying his debt - and unless he could do so, no one would back him in arranging another visa or another job.

So he is still in the United States, awaiting compensation.

"What they face is basically a guillotine the moment they're laid off," said Saket Soni, executive director of the Alliance of Guestworkers for Dignity, a grass-roots New Orleans organization that is helping the laid-off housekeepers, and other guest workers laid off from a Baton Rouge seafood processor, file claims with BP. "We would like to see them treated not as disposable workers, but as people who deserve relief in a disaster."

In theory, guest workers have the same rights to compensation from BP as anyone else who lost income due to the oil spill. But as a practical matter, getting that compensation is far more difficult for workers from another county, who speak little English and may not understand the claims process or have the documentation from employers to file a claim.

With the help of Mr. Soni's alliance, Mr. Luna Espinoza filed a BP claim for lost wages of $5,498.63, backed up by a letter from Ramada saying that his layoff was due to the oil spill. He has not yet received compensation, though. On July 9, the alliance filed a petition with the Labor Department, asking that it issue a formal policy directing those in the spill zone who employ guest workers to pay all the wages due under the contract, as well as the guest workers' fare home.

"It shouldn't be on the guest workers' shoulders to bear the costs of the spill," Mr. Soni said. "The employers are in a much better position to get BP to reimburse them."

Indeed, guest workers are in a tenuous position, usually living in labor camps or other housing run by their employers, with little connection to the surrounding community, and little understanding of their legal rights. Many fear retaliation from employers or immigration authorities if they make complaints. And when their jobs end suddenly, many have no idea where to turn, and, like Mr. Luna Espinoza, drift off to stay with someone from their home country.

The alliance petition said many guest workers would no longer be in the United States when any compensation was issued. If BP does issue Mr. Luna Espinoza a check, it will be sent to the alliance, since he has no fixed address.

At the Labor Department, a spokeswoman for Nancy Leppink, deputy administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, would say only that the division would "respond appropriately" to the alliance's petition.

At the Ramada, business is still depressed, said Joseph Guidry, the general manager. Mr. Guidry declined to comment on the petition or the issue of requiring employers to pay out the contract and then await reimbursement from BP.

Mr. Luna Espinoza said he had been a guest worker before, working on a tobacco farm in Virginia. So which did he prefer?

"It was much better in tobacco," he said. "They had more hours of work for me."


20) Exotic Deals Put Denver Schools Deeper in Debt
[Check out "The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity-and What We Can Do About It" by Les Leopold. It's a concise description of the mechanics of this swindle which also took place in ]
August 5, 2010

In the spring of 2008, the Denver public school system needed to plug a $400 million hole in its pension fund. Bankers at JPMorgan Chase offered what seemed to be a perfect solution.

The bankers said that the school system could raise $750 million in an exotic transaction that would eliminate the pension gap and save tens of millions of dollars annually in debt costs - money that could be plowed back into Denver's classrooms, starved in recent years for funds.

To members of the Denver Board of Education, it sounded ideal. It was complex, involving several different financial institutions and transactions. But Michael F. Bennet, now a United States senator from Colorado who was superintendent of the school system at the time, and Thomas Boasberg, then the system's chief operating officer, persuaded the seven-person board of the deal's advantages, according to interviews with its members.

Rather than issue a plain-vanilla bond with a fixed interest rate, Denver followed its bankers' suggestions and issued so-called pension certificates with a derivative attached; the debt carried a lower rate but it could also fluctuate if economic conditions changed.

The Denver schools essentially made the same choice some homeowners make: opting for a variable-rate mortgage that offered lower monthly payments, with the risk that they could rise, instead of a conventional, fixed-rate mortgage that offered larger, but unchanging, monthly payments.

The Denver school board unanimously approved the JPMorgan deal and it closed in April 2008, just weeks after a major investment bank, Bear Stearns, failed. In short order, the transaction went awry because of stress in the credit markets, problems with the bond insurer and plummeting interest rates.

Since it struck the deal, the school system has paid $115 million in interest and other fees, at least $25 million more than it originally anticipated.

To avoid mounting expenses, the Denver schools are looking to renegotiate the deal. But to unwind it all, the schools would have to pay the banks $81 million in termination fees, or about 19 percent of its $420 million payroll.

John MacPherson, a former interim executive director of the Denver Public Schools Retirement System, predicts that the 2008 deal will generate big costs to the school system down the road. "There is no happy ending to this," Mr. MacPherson said. "Hindsight being 20-20, the pension certificates issuance is something that should never have happened."

A spokesman at JPMorgan, which led the Denver deal, declined to comment. Royal Bank of Canada, which acted as the school system's independent adviser even though it participated in the debt transaction, declined to comment. Denver school officials said that they had agreed to sign a conflict waiver with Royal Bank of Canada.

Denver isn't the only city confronted with budgetary woes aggravated by esoteric financial deals that Wall Street peddled in the years before the credit crisis. Banks have said the deals were appropriate for the issuers and that no one could have predicted the broad financial collapse that put pressure on the transactions.

Still, some municipalities have found such arguments wanting and are pushing back.

Last March, the Los Angeles City Council told its treasurer and city administrative officer to renegotiate interest-rate deals the city had used to try to lower its debt payments with the banks that sold them. "If they are unwilling to renegotiate, then those financial institutions should be excluded from any future business with the City of Los Angeles," noted a report by the City Council.

In Pennsylvania, some school districts have unwound interest-rate deals, and the state's auditor general, Jack Wagner, has urged other issuers to follow suit. "For the sake of Pennsylvania taxpayers, I call on the other school districts that have entered into similar swaps contracts to get out of these risky agreements as soon as they possibly can," he said in a statement in February.

Financial stress from these deals could not come at a worse time for cities, towns and school districts already saddled with high costs and falling revenue. Although it is difficult to tally how many public entities entered into interest-reduction deals, a recent analysis by the Service Employees International Union estimated that over the last two years, state and local governments have paid banks that arranged these transactions $28 billion to get out of the deals, seeking to avoid further crushing payments.

Many transactions remain on public issuers' books. S.E.I.U. estimates that New Jersey would have to pay $536 million to get out of its derivatives contracts, while California faces $234 million in such payments. Chicago is looking at $442 million in termination fees to unwind its transactions, and Philadelphia would have to pay $332 million.

Both Mr. Bennet, whom the White House has praised for his innovative approach to education, and Mr. Boasberg defend the deal they recommended in Denver back in 2008. They say that it has saved the school district $20 million it would have otherwise had to pay to cover the pension shortfall, and they maintain that no one could have predicted the credit crisis of 2008 that elevated the deal's costs.

But the savings cited by the two men do not take into account termination fees associated with the complex deal. And had the school district issued fixed-rate debt, Wall Street would not have received the cornucopia of fees embedded in the more complex deal.

While the expenses associated with more complex transactions vary depending on the terms of the deal, Denver offers an example of the additional costs they can impose. So far, Denver has paid about $9.7 million more in fees for its deal than it would have had it chosen a simpler transaction.

Joseph S. Fichera, chief executive of Saber Partners, a financial advisory firm that specializes in structured finance, said that the type of transaction pursued by the Denver schools was a false solution for what the issuers want to achieve - lower long-term costs - because the banks selling the deals rarely quantified all of the potential risks involved.

"The issuer made a simple financing highly complex and took on substantial risk without knowing how large its downside could be," he said, referring to the Denver deal. "The advisers and bankers may have disclosed that there were risks, but apparently did not help the issuer truly understand them. They typically present economic outcomes to the issuer only on projected savings and assume away any chance of the risks happening."


$400 Million Gap

In a Pension Fund

The Denver public schools needed to do financial contortions because, like many other public agencies nationwide, its pension plan did not have enough funds to meet the payments due to retirees. And for years, the school system had not met its required annual pension payments to ensure a fully funded plan; by 2007, the school system faced a $400 million gap.

The school system solicited advice from several banks on how to handle this problem and ultimately decided to issue bonds that allowed it to refinance its existing debt of $300 million, which had a fixed interest rate. It also raised an additional $450 million, most of which went into the pension to fill the gap in that plan. Together, $750 million was raised using the riskier pension certificates.

The Denver certificates contained debt issues that had variable rates and were to be resold to investors in weekly auctions; the arrangement carried an annual interest rate of around 5 percent, not counting fees and costs associated with that type of debt. Fixed-rate debt would have cost 7.2 percent.

Denver schools had issued pension certificates before, but this time the banks added a little spice to the recipe: an interest-rate swap that made the variable debt mimic a fixed-rate instrument. If prevailing rates fell, the school system would have to make up the difference to the banks. But if interest rates rose, the swap would protect the school system from having to pay higher debt costs.

It was a heady brew, one that required an unusual amount of financial expertise to assess. In that regard, Denver had an apparent advantage: Mr. Bennet and Mr. Boasberg.

Unlike many school district officials, both men were financially sophisticated and had worked together in the private sector. Mr. Bennet handled investments and structured financial deals for the Anschutz Investment Company, a private concern owned by the billionaire Philip Anschutz that has stakes in telecommunications and oil. Mr. Boasberg, meanwhile, was a deal maker in mergers and acquisitions at Level 3 Communications, a telecommunications concern.

"We looked at what the risks were," said Mr. Boasberg, who has been superintendent of the Denver public schools system since early 2009.

But according to several members of the board of education, the bankers' presentations for the 2008 debt deal outlined its risks only in broad terms, discussing, for example, what would happen if interest rates shifted or the economy weakened a bit. The banks provided no full-blown worst-case situations to the board, focusing instead on the transaction's upside: lower debt costs and a potential saving of $129 million in pension costs over the next 30 years.

School board members also said that bankers had not discussed problems in the variable-rate debt market that arose the previous year - a development that would have alerted them to troubles they might have had securing a manageable rate on the debt that they were refinancing.

Nor, they said, had the bankers discussed the outright collapse of trading in auction-rate securities, a $330 billion market that ran aground in mid-February 2008. Auction-rate securities are very similar to the variable-rate debt the Denver schools were considering at the time; both types of securities involve periodic auctions sponsored by financial institutions to determine what interest rates will be paid by the issuer.

Like the structural weaknesses in the variable-rate market, turmoil in the auction-rate market should have been a warning sign for the Denver school system and its financial stewards. But according to board members, its bankers and advisers never sent up warning flares of this sort.

"I think there was discussion around financial markets as a whole," said Bruce Hoyt, a board member since 2003 and treasurer at the time the deal was done. "I don't recall specific discussions about the freezing of auction-rate securities."

In the end, Denver became ensnared in the financial maelstrom that was stirring even before it restructured its debt and that gathered force as the credit crisis deepened through the summer and fall of 2008. Prevailing interest rates collapsed, and the market for the Denver public school system's debt shrank markedly.

Denver's funding costs rose further when Dexia, a Franco-Belgian company that had facilitated the transaction and insured the pension certificates, ran into trouble. Worried about Dexia's financial position, investors fled any securities the company had insured, including Denver's debt.

In the end, a deal that JPMorgan said would have an interest rate of around 5 percent spiked to 8.59 percent during its first fiscal year, and has since settled down to an average rate of 7.12 percent today.


Locked In for Years

As a Deal Sours

Financial advisers say that deals like Denver's might work for some issuers. But they say that their complexity can mask the fact that they often require issuers to give up far more than they get in return.

Like a homeowner, Denver essentially started out with the equivalent of a standard, fixed-rate mortgage that allowed it to refinance if interest rates fell. But the 2008 deal gave that up for the equivalent of a 30-year loan with a lower rate but significant penalties and costs if investor interest in the debt declined, as it did once the credit crisis kicked in.

Moreover, refinancing was extremely costly, given the hefty termination fees.

While such deals have become common in public finance circles, they are rare in the private sector. If corporations issue such debt, they will typically limit their terms to five years, which gives them room to maneuver as economic circumstances evolve.

Agreeing to be locked into a 30-year contract, as public entities have done, is especially costly because getting out of it requires paying penalties to the banks for every remaining year of the transaction.

Andrew Kalotay, founder of Andrew Kalotay Associates, a debt management advisory firm, said a deal like Denver's would be highly unusual among private sector issuers like corporations because they recognized the pitfalls of locking themselves into an arrangement for 30 years.

"I'm not aware of any corporations trying to get a better fixed rate" by issuing long-term instruments such as those used by Denver. "Why would the school district want to do this transaction with all the attendant risks of mispricing and the possibility of unfavorable unwind costs when they could have done a conventional, taxable fixed-rate deal?" he asked.

Bankers, however, love these deals. In addition to the enormous termination fees they can snare, bankers also get remarketing fees and swap advisory fees.

Termination fees, however, top them all. Like the punishing prepayment penalties some homeowners have to come up with when paying off a mortgage early, termination fees on deals like Denver's are essentially charges levied to rewrite the terms of a contract.

To some issuers, termination fees feel easier to swallow if they pay for it by issuing yet another round of debt, like a consumer using one credit card to pay the penalty charges on another. But even though no upfront cash is paid out, yet another layer of debt is incurred, adding to the cost of getting out of the deals.

Denver is considering paying its termination fees in this fashion, Mr. Boasberg said. It was unclear what the interest rate would be on the new debt, but he maintained that the school system would unwind the transactions only if it were economical and the interest rate on the debt were low enough to offset the termination fees.

Had Denver issued a standard, fixed-rate bond in 2008, it would not be facing termination fees now. While it is possible that the annual costs of the Denver deal will come down in the future, they are now roughly in line with what the school system would have paid in a fixed-rate transaction.

Jeannie Kaplan, a board of education member for almost five years, supported the 2008 deal but now regrets it because of its costs and complexity. "Bennet and Boasberg had been presented as financial saviors of the Denver school system, and I sat there wanting to believe what they were saying," she said. "The board probably should have had their own financial consultant."

Mr. Boasberg said critics of the deal were politically motivated, pointing to the close primary runoff pitting Mr. Bennet, the former superintendent, against Andrew Romanoff, another Democrat, for a place on the ballot for the Senate in the November elections. But Ms. Kaplan said she started questioning the deal before Mr. Bennet was appointed to the Senate in early 2009.

The school system's 2008 refinancing is one of several issues that have come up in the runoff, including campaign financing, general integrity issues and Washington effectiveness.

Mr. Bennet became superintendent of the Denver schools in 2005 after he left the Anschutz organization to work for the mayor of Denver, John Hickenlooper.

From the campaign trail in mid-July, Mr. Bennet reiterated his support of the deal, saying that it had achieved the school system's goal of improving its cash flow and merging with Colorado's Public Employees' Retirement Association, which meant the schools no longer had to pay 8.5 percent interest on its annual pension shortfall.

"Despite going through the worst recession since the Great Depression, we did that," he said in a statement.


Another Shortfall,

And Cloudy Future

As Denver weighs its refinancing problems, it faces another conundrum: the money the city raised to shore up its pension fund has turned out to be inadequate because of the stock market's plunge.

The fund turned in a dismal performance in the credit crisis - as was the case with most such funds - losing almost twice the $400 million borrowed by the school district to plug the pension gap. As a result, the school system's pension shortfall recently stood at around $386 million, only slightly lower than it was two years ago, and even though $400 million had been funneled into it in 2008.

While the pension's merger with the state system allows Denver's school system to avoid paying interest on shortfalls, that benefit is temporary. If a shortfall still exists in 2015, the merger requires that it be closed.

Mr. Boasberg maintains that the deal has allowed Denver to hire teachers while other school districts are cutting back. But Henry Roman, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, said that fewer teachers had been hired this year than in previous years.

Some board of education members fear that the human costs of Denver's exotic refinancing deal are yet to be fully realized - and when they are, it will be in classrooms.

Ms. Kaplan says she is particularly concerned about the impact of having to fund the Denver school's pension plan fully in 2015 if investment losses have not been recouped by then.

"How is that going to affect kids and teachers and classrooms?" she asked. "It makes it difficult for board members to do a budget now."


21) Medicare Stronger, Social Security Worse in Short Run, Report Finds
August 5, 2010

WASHINGTON - Medicare will remain financially solvent for 12 additional years, until 2029, because of the cost-cutting measures in President Obama's recently enacted health care legislation, the program's trustees projected on Thursday.

The financial outlook for Social Security is "little changed from last year," the report said. In the short run, it added, the financial condition of the retirement program has worsened because of high unemployment, which has reduced payroll tax revenues. For the first time, money flowing out of the program this year exceeds money flowing in.

The trustees predicted that the Social Security trust fund would be exhausted in 2037, the same date as projected last year. The Social Security commissioner, Michael J. Astrue, said this was "not a cause for panic," because continuing tax revenue would still be sufficient to pay more than 75 percent of benefits even after exhaustion of the trust fund.

Both programs continue to face intense financial pressure in coming decades as the population ages and health care costs rise. Medicare, in particular, faces eventual insolvency if more is not done to balance its obligations to provide health care to older Americans with the tax revenues that pay for the program.

Because inflation remains low, the report said, Social Security beneficiaries will probably not receive a cost-of-living adjustment in 2011, just as they did not receive one this year.

The report comes at a time of growing political ferment over the future of the programs, which account for about one-third of all federal spending, and they provoked contradictory reactions.

Many advocates on the left seized on the updates to argue that no changes were needed, especially for Social Security, while some on the right said the report showed a need for cutbacks in future benefit promises or even for privatization.

Liberal groups have begun mobilizing this summer to oppose any cut in Social Security benefits or increase in the retirement age that might be recommended by a bipartisan fiscal commission. The panel, appointed by Mr. Obama, is to vote on its final report by Dec. 1.

Dozens of liberal organizations, including the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the N.A.A.C.P. and, formed the Strengthen Social Security coalition last week. On Tuesday, representatives of those groups and others, including AARP, met with two administration officials and "gave them an earful," in the words of one participant.

Nancy J. Altman, co-chairwoman of the coalition, said she feared that some people in Washington, including a few members of the president's fiscal commission, would use the trustees' report to "advance their agenda of cuts to Social Security benefits."

Many on the left are anxious because they believe that the administration, having won cost-saving changes in Medicare, is turning its sights to Social Security, in an effort to stabilize its long-term finances and reduce the nation's future debt load.

Bruce N. Reed, a former Clinton White House official who is executive director of the fiscal commission, said, "Some on the left are concerned that Social Security would be used for deficit reduction purposes, and that's not anybody's goal." But Mr. Reed added, "The trustees' report reaffirms the importance of taking action to strengthen Social Security's solvency over the long haul."

The trustees said the new health care law would contribute to an improvement in the finances of Social Security as well as Medicare. Starting in 2019, the law imposes a new tax on high-cost health insurance plans. The tax is expected to cause a shift in employee compensation from health insurance to wages, which are subject to Social Security payroll taxes.

In the short run, however, the outlook for Social Security continued to deteriorate. "Benefit payments are expected to exceed tax revenue for the first time this year, six years earlier than was projected last year," said Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner.

In their annual report, the trustees predicted that, under existing law, Medicare's hospital insurance trust fund would be exhausted in 2029, rather than in 2017, as projected in last year's report.

This is "a record increase from one report to the next," Mr. Geithner said.

The trustees, he said, assumed that the new health care law would produce "very substantial improvements in the rate of growth in health care costs" and fundamental changes in the way health care is delivered.

The new law squeezes nearly a half-trillion dollars from Medicare spending in the next 10 years. The savings are based on an assumption that hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers will become more efficient, increasing their productivity to match productivity gains in the overall economy.

If that does not happen, the trustees said, Medicare will pay many hospitals and doctors less than the cost of the goods and services they purchase, and providers may "eventually become unwilling or unable to treat Medicare beneficiaries."

The report also assumes that Medicare will cut payment rates for doctors' services by 23 percent on Dec. 1 and by a further 6.5 percent on Jan. 1, as required under existing law.

This assumption is unrealistic, the report said, because "Congress is virtually certain to override" the scheduled cuts, as it has done in recent years.

The report makes clear that Medicare still faces major financial problems. If, as expected, Congress overrides the cuts in doctors' fees, the cost of Part B of Medicare, which covers physician services, will grow about 8 percent a year in the coming decade, and Part D, which covers prescription drugs, will grow 9.4 percent a year - much faster than the economy, the trustees said.

About one-fourth of the people on Medicare, new beneficiaries and those with relatively high incomes, "will be subject to unusually large premium increases next year," the trustees said. But, they added, the other three-fourths of beneficiaries will not face a premium increase in 2011.


22) Target and LL Bean Butcher Progressive Musical Legacy
by Aaron Strong
08.06.10 - 9:55 AM

Video at the above link and at:


"The Big Rock Candy Mountain"
By Wobbly Harry "Haywire Mac" McClintock

One evening as the sun went down
And the jungle fire was burning,
Down the track came a hobo hikin',
And he said, "Boys, I'm not turning.
I'm headed for a land that's far away
Besides the crystal fountains.
So come with me, we'll go and see
The Big Rock Candy Mountains"

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains,
There's a land that's fair and bright,
Where the handouts grow on bushes
And you sleep out every night.
Where the boxcars all are empty
And the sun shines every day
On the birds and the bees
And the cigarette trees
The lemonade springs
Where the bluebird sings
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
All the cops have wooden legs
And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth
And the hens lay soft-boiled eggs
The farmers' trees are full of fruit
And the barns are full of hay
Oh I'm bound to go
Where there ain't no snow
Where the rain don't fall
The wind don't blow
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
You never change your socks
And the little streams of alcohol
Come a-trickling down the rocks
The brakemen have to tip their hats
And the railway bulls are blind
There's a lake of stew
And of whiskey too
You can paddle all around 'em
In a big canoe
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
The jails are made of tin.
And you can walk right out again
As soon as you are in.
There ain't no short-handled shovels,
No axes, saws or picks,
I'm a-goin' to stay
Where you sleep all day,
Where they hung the jerk
That invented work
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

I'll see you all this coming fall
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

We all remember Nike using The Beatles' Revolution in a commercial, or when Wrangler used Creedence Clearwater's Fortunate Son (to make it look like a patriotic song, not the antiwar ballad it is). Now Target and L.L. Bean have co-opted 2 more progressive classics.

Target has recently released a TV commercial for girl's back to school clothes using Marlo Thomas's Feminist Children's song Free to Be You and Me in the background. Many may remember this song from their childhoods (released in 1974); it was the title song from a record meant to teach children that they were not bound by traditional gender roles. The song sings of a time when people will not be judged by their race, sex, wealth, or personal differences. In the commercial, as the song plays, 3 girls wearing different colorful Target outfits show them off at school; each confident, because they are "free" to choose their own style.

Possibly worse is the new L.L. Bean TV Ad which plays a Smithsonian recording of Wobbly Haywire Mac McClintock singing his original version of The Big Rock Candy Mountain. A member of the radical Union The Industrial Workers of the World during it's height during the early 20th century. He was a contemporary of song writer and organizer Joe Hill, and among the first to publicly sing Hill's The Preacher and the Slave. The recording of McClintock Singing was taken from an interview with him at the end of his life. He talks of the Wobblies and that the original meaning of "The Big Rock Candy Mountain" (the more commercial version was rewritten by Burl Ives). It was a ballad of how older Hobos would trick younger ones to help them survive with stories of the Candy Mountain where there are cigarette trees and alcohol springs. These stories were based in part on springs with lemon flavored carbonated water in the Western United States. Haywire Mac is also known for Hallelujah I'm a Bum. These songs humanized the homeless, now The Big Rock Candy Mountain is being used to sell expensive, yuppie, camping equipment; in Haywire Mac's own voice. He must be rolling in his grave.


22) Senate Approves $600 Million Border Bill
By Jim Abrams
08/ 5/10 07:12 PM

WASHINGTON - The Senate agreed Thursday to add $600 million to the effort to stop the flow of illegal immigrants across the U.S. Mexican border.

The money would be used for such purposes as adding 1,500 new enforcement agents and deploying unmanned aerial drones to improve border surveillance.

The voice vote to pass the emergency spending came in the final hours before the Senate leaves for its monthlong summer break. Its sponsor, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, said it would boost border spending 10 percent above 2010 levels.

President Barack Obama has urged Congress to come up with $600 million to reinforce border security, and, with Arizona's attempt to crack down on undocumented immigrants bringing national focus to the issue, both Republicans and Democrats have endorsed more robust border security spending.

The main stumbling block has been how to pay for the increased spending. Republicans sought to use unspent funds from the economic stimulus act, an idea rejected by Democrats.

The Democratic plan passed Thursday would boost fees assessed on foreign-based personnel companies that take advantage of U.S. visa programs, such as the H-1B visa program for temporary skilled workers, to bring foreign workers, mainly from India, into the United States.

The House last week passed similar legislation with $701 million in emergency money for border security. It could take up the Senate bill when it interrupts its August recess next Tuesday for a one-day session to approve a Senate-passed jobs bill.

Schumer, who announced his proposal earlier Thursday with Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., challenged Republicans to put aside differences and support the measure. "It's a test of people's seriousness when it comes to the border," he said.

Sen. John McCain, who last week joined fellow Arizona Republican Jon Kyl in introducing a $701 million bill, initially objected, saying it was insufficient.

He suggested, among other things, the addition of $200 million to support Operation Streamline, a program begun under the George W. Bush administration subjecting anyone who crosses the border illegally in areas where the program is in place to federal charges with prison terms of up to six months for the first illegal entry. Those who re-enter face prosecution for felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

When Schumer said he could not accept McCain's amendments, McCain agreed to back the bill. "I believe we have a lot more to do, but this will contribute to our effort to get our border secured," he said.

The legislation includes $176 million for 1,000 new border patrol agents to form a strike force to be deployed at critical areas, $89 million for another 500 customs and immigration personnel and $32 million to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles or drones.

It provides an additional $196 million for the Justice Department to bolster its forces of U.S. marshals, and FBI, DEA and ATF agents along the border.

"Now our attention must turn to comprehensive reform, which is the only way to fully address the problem of illegal immigration," Schumer said after the vote.


23) Putting Our Brains on Hold
August 6, 2010

The world leadership qualities of the United States, once so prevalent, are fading faster than the polar ice caps.

We once set the standard for industrial might, for the advanced state of our physical infrastructure, and for the quality of our citizens' lives. All are experiencing significant decline.

The latest dismal news on the leadership front comes from the College Board, which tells us that the U.S., once the world's leader in the percentage of young people with college degrees, has fallen to 12th among 36 developed nations.

At a time when a college education is needed more than ever to establish and maintain a middle-class standard of living, America's young people are moving in exactly the wrong direction. A well-educated population also is crucially important if the U.S. is to succeed in an increasingly competitive global environment.

But instead of exercising the appropriate mental muscles, we're allowing ourselves to become a nation of nitwits, obsessed with the comings and goings of Lindsay Lohan and increasingly oblivious to crucially important societal issues that are all but screaming for attention. What should we be doing about the legions of jobless Americans, the deteriorating public schools, the debilitating wars, the scandalous economic inequality, the corporate hold on governmental affairs, the commercialization of the arts, the deficits?

Why is there not serious and widespread public engagement with these issues - and many others that could easily come to mind? That kind of engagement would lead to creative new ideas and would serve to enrich the lives of individual Americans and the nation as a whole. But it would require a heavy social and intellectual lift.

According to a new report from the College Board, the U.S. is 12th among developed nations in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees. The report said, "As America's aging and highly educated work force moves into retirement, the nation will rely on young Americans to increase our standing in the world."

The problem is that today's young Americans are not coming close to acquiring the education and training needed to carry out that mission. They're not even in the ballpark. In that key group, 25- to 34-year-olds with a college degree, the U.S. ranks behind Canada, South Korea, Russia, Japan, New Zealand, Ireland, Norway, Israel, France, Belgium and Australia. That is beyond pathetic.

"While the nation struggles to strengthen the economy," the report said, "the educational capacity of our country continues to decline."

Everybody is to blame - parents, students, the educational establishment, government leaders, the news media and on and on. A society that closes its eyes to the most important issues of the day, that often holds intellectual achievement in contempt, that is more interested in hip-hop and Lady Gaga than educating its young is all but guaranteed to spiral into a decline.

Speaking this week about the shortage of degrees in the 25- to 34-year-old demographic, Gaston Caperton, the president of the College Board and a former governor of West Virginia, said, "When I was in school, we were No. 1 in the world in college graduations. When I was governor, we were third, and I was surprised by that drop. Now we're 12th at a time when a good education is critically important to getting a decent job."

Among other things, he called on educators to develop curricula that are more "interesting and inspiring." And he said it is essential for students to work harder.

These are gloomy times in the United States. A child drops out of high school every 26 seconds. As incredible as it seems from the perspective of 2010, the report from the College Board tells us that "it is expected that the educational level of the younger generation of Americans will not approach their parents' level of education."

What is the matter with us? Have we been drinking? Whatever happened to that vaunted American dream? In Hawaii, the public schools were closed on 17 Fridays during the past school year for budget reasons.

When this is the educational environment, you can say goodbye to the kind of cultural, scientific and economic achievements that combine to make a great nation. We no longer know how to put our people to work. We read less and less and write like barbarians. We've increasingly turned our backs on the very idea of hard-won excellence while flinging open the doors to decadence and decline. No wonder Lady Gaga and Snooki from "Jersey Shore" are cultural heroes.

In their important book, "The Race Between Education and Technology," the Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz pointed out that educational attainment in the U.S. "was exceptionally rapid and continuous for the first three-quarters of the 20th century."

Then, foolishly, we applied the brakes. All that's at stake is our future.


24) Fidel Castro Makes an Official Appearance
August 7, 2010

Filed at 12:30 p.m. ET

HAVANA (AP) -- A lively and healthy-looking Fidel Castro appealed to President Barack Obama to prevent a global nuclear war in an emphatic speech Saturday that marked his first official government appearance since emergency surgery four years ago.

Castro's speech before the Cuban parliament, along with other numerous recent public appearances, raised questions about how much he will resume a leadership role.

Castro, who turns 84 in a week, arrived on the arm of a subordinate, waving and smiling as the crowd applauded loudly in unison.

''Fidel, Fidel, Fidel!'' the participants chanted. ''Long live Fidel!''

Dressed in olive-green fatigues without military insignias, he immediately took the podium and delivered a fiery 11-minute speech on his fears of an impending global nuclear war. He implored Obama and other wealthy nations to make sure such an event never happens.

Castro then took a seat next to Parliament leader Ricardo Alarcon -- instead of sitting in the chair that parliament members leave empty in his honor during his absence. Current President Raul Castro sat on the other side of the stage, where he listened intensely and took notes as his older brother spoke.

Lawmakers followed the speech with enthusiastic remarks to Fidel Castro about how fully recovered and healthy he appeared. They also commented on the topic at hand.

Asked by one parliamentarian if Obama would be capable of starting a nuclear war, Castro replied, ''No, not if we persuade him not to.''

He patted his hand on the desk for emphasis, then fell silent, seemingly surprising a crowd long accustomed to the hourslong speeches for which he was famous during his 49 years in power.

Castro's participation in Saturday's legislative session marks the bearded revolutionary's first official government act -- and his first joint appearance with Raul -- since his emergency intestinal surgery in 2006.

It was bound to raise questions about his future role in the government. Even before he confirmed his attendance at this weekend's gathering, top leaders and state media had begun calling him ''commander in chief,'' a title he had largely shunned since relinquishing power.

Fidel Castro was Cuba's unquestioned, unchallenged ''maximum leader'' for 49 years, starting after his band of rebels toppled Fulgencio Batista on New Year's Day 1959.

Following his surgery, he dropped from sight and ceded power to Raul, five years his junior. Rumors about his health swirled as he remained for years in near seclusion.

Recently, however, the former Cuban leader has been making near-daily appearances in and around Havana: He has addressed groups of Cuban intellectuals and Communist Youth meetings, and even made a trip to the Havana aquarium for a dolphin show.

Castro, who has written on the topic of nuclear war for months, maintains that the United States and Israel will attack Iran and that Washington could also target North Korea. He has suggested the conflict could have Armageddon-like consequences for the whole world, even predicting in several opinion columns that fighting was to already have begun by now.


25) Coverage Turns, Cautiously, to Spill Impact
August 6, 2010

And on the 106th day - after all the top kills and top hats and junk shots - the runaway oil well in the Gulf of Mexico finally seemed close to being tamed. Or was it?

It could be "the beginning of the end," Katie Couric told viewers Tuesday on the "CBS Evening News." The same phrase, with an extra "perhaps" attached to it, was used over on "NBC Nightly News." But Diane Sawyer did away with the caveats on ABC.

"Final fix," she declared Tuesday on "World News Tonight." "Tonight the permanent seal of the oil spill is under way."

Newsrooms are grappling with the same questions that the rest of the country is, after spending months watching oil gush into the water: Is the oil spill really over? And how damaging will it ultimately be to the gulf's environment and economy?

The conundrum for television, print and online journalists alike has been that no one wanted to declare "Mission Accomplished" on the gushing oil portion of the calamity prematurely. But no one wanted to be the last to report that the leak had been plugged.

Assuming the current cement plug holds, any number of dates could qualify as the end of the spill. No significant oil has leaked since the well was tightly capped in mid-July, officials said - an event "NBC Nightly News" also said "could be the beginning of the end."

This week's "static kill," an effort to plug the well with mud and then cement, seems to have worked. But the final stake through the heart - the relief well being drilled to make sure the well is dead - is not expected until later this month.

Then there is the once-bitten, twice-shy phenomenon, some news executives said, citing all the false starts and overly optimistic predictions of the past three months - the initial claim that there did not appear to be a significant oil leak, the vastly underestimated early guesses of how much oil was pouring into the gulf, the overly rosy assessments of past efforts to stanch the flow.

But by Friday, the seal seemed to be holding. Even The Times-Picayune - which has defended local interests in New Orleans and the region by casting a skeptical eye on any premature efforts to declare the crisis over - ran an upbeat headline on Friday's front page: "End in Sight as Cement Pumped into Rogue Well."

Now the coverage will shift from engineering to the environment and the economy.

"It's clear that one part of this story is over, and I think that's all fine and good, and it took a very long time," said Jon Banner, the executive producer of "World News." "I think it's also clear that another part of this story is far from over."

With the oil contained, possibly for good, another front has opened in the coverage: questions of how much oil is left in the water, and how damaging it will prove.

Time magazine ran a story questioning if the environmental damage of the spill had been overstated. When The New York Times reported that a federal study had found that nearly three-quarters of the spill had been collected, skimmed, burned or dispersed, some critics complained that it should have been more skeptical. Anderson Cooper, the CNN reporter who became one of the most visible faces of the spill, with weeks of coverage from the gulf, asked on his show last week, "Has the BP oil spill been overblown by politicians and scientists and media, including me?"

Recent reports that much of the oil seemed to have disappeared from the surface of the gulf prompted fierce reactions in the region.

"Some paint a rosy picture of crisis's end, but experts say looks can be deceiving," ran a front-page headline in The Times-Picayune. And a blog post on the Web site of The Gambitative weekly paper, suggested that the "most elemental concept of object permanence seemed to elude the national media."

"Kinda like when you're playing peekaboo with a baby, you know?" wrote Kevin Allman. "'Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it's gone away."

Andrew Tyndall, who tracks the evening newscasts, said that the Exxon Valdez oil spill got 203 minutes of coverage on them in 1989, the year of the spill. The BP oil spill, which sent far more oil into the water, also got far more coverage, he found: 1,100 minutes on the three nightly newscasts in just the first three months. In a provocative post last month, he argued that the coverage was excessive, compared with other disasters and major news stories, and suggested less national coverage. "Enough already!" he wrote.

News executives said that they had no intention of heeding that advice, and that they were committed to covering the lingering impacts of the spill.

"The story goes on," said Bob Epstein, the executive producer of "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams," who has crews living on house boats in the region. "Yeah, the Coast Guard and BP have certainly been successful at cementing the well, and the final kill, or whatever they are calling it, happens in a week or so, but we have not scaled back our commitment to the story."

And there is no guarantee that the "killed" well would not be revived some day.

A BP official left open the possibility that the company could drill again someday in the same area, a mile beneath the surface.

"There's lots of oil and gas here," the company's chief operating officer, Doug Suttles, said, according to The Associated Press. "We're going to have to think about what to do with that at some point."

BP later clarified, saying that the future use of the reservoir was not currently under consideration.


26) U.S. Lost 131,000 Jobs as Governments Cut Back
August 6, 2010

With the departure of thousands of temporary Census workers and thousands more let go by state and local governments, businesses could not rescue the American labor market in July.

Over all, the nation lost 131,000 jobs last month, according to the Department of Labor, which also said that June was far weaker than previously indicated.

Private employers added 71,000 jobs last month, but those figures were overtaken by the 143,000 cut as the Census wound down. It is also about half the number that economists say is needed to simply accommodate population growth, so the tepid job increases cannot begin to plug the hole created by the loss of more than eight million jobs during the recession. The unemployment rate, in fact, remained stuck at 9.5 percent in July.

"The private sector is still hobbled," said Robert A. Dye, senior economist at PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh, "and certainly is not nearly strong enough to overcome the drain on the government side."

Government figures released last week confirmed that the American economy slowed in the spring, and the latest jobs numbers suggested that the weakness continued into the early summer. With economists and politicians fervently arguing over whether the economy is poised for liftoff or stalled on the runway, Friday's jobs report did little to end the debate.

Some economists are talking about the risk of a "double dip" recession, and the political stakes for the Obama administration are rising as the midterm elections tick closer.

In remarks made while visiting Gelberg Signs, a small business in Washington, President Obama acknowledged the uneven pace of the economic revival.

"The road to recovery doesn't follow a straight line," he said. "Some sectors bounce back faster than others. So what we need to do is push forward. We can't go backwards."

Investors greeted Friday's lackluster report by buying Treasuries, a haven in uncertain times, and driving the yield on the two-year note to a record low. Investors appear to expect the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates low, perhaps for years, as unemployment remains stubbornly high. Stocks sold off in the morning, but rallied a bit in the afternoon, with the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index down about 0.4 percent for the day.

Many economists were surprised by the scale of layoffs by state and local governments, which cut 48,000 jobs in July. In the last three months, they have shed 102,000 jobs. The Senate voted earlier this week to approve a $26 billion package of aid to states and school districts, and the House is expected to vote on the measure on Tuesday. Economists pointed out that even if the bill passed, it would only stem additional layoffs, not induce hiring.

Government jobs are usually viewed as more stable than those in business, but severe budget shortfalls have hobbled state and local agencies.

"It just seems really drastic to me," said Michael Hidalgo, 33, who was let go at the end of July from the San Jose Fire Department. "Even though I knew there was a possibility, I didn't know that all the cuts would go through."

Although the nation's unemployment rate did not worsen, that was in part because people continued to leave the labor force, which means they simply stopped looking for work during the month.

The Labor Department greatly revised its headline number for June, widening the job loss figure for that month to 221,000 jobs, from 125,000. Private sector hiring in June, originally reported at 83,000, was lowered to 31,000.

Friday's jobs report renewed pressure on lawmakers to consider the next steps they might take to bolster the economy. Along with the consideration of aid to states, a fierce discussion is still to come about whether to let the tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush expire at the end of the year.

Recent indicators focusing on consumer confidence, retail sales and housing appear to put the economy in a holding pattern.

Earlier this week, a crucial index of manufacturing showed that growth had slippedslightly in July and chain stores reported anemic increases in sales. On the more positive side, auto sales increased 5.1 percent in July compared with a year earlier.

With corporate earnings rising partly on the back of cost cutting, employers are reluctant to give up profits. "So while corporate earnings were spectacular," said Allen Sinai, chief global economist at Decision Economics, "the job market just stinks."

July's labor report did admit a few shafts of light. The average number of hours worked in private sector jobs ticked up to 33.5 a week from 33.4 in June, suggesting that employers were squeezing more from employees. That usually presages hiring.

And average hourly earnings by workers on private payrolls edged up slightly to $22.59 in July, reflecting a 1.8 percent increase for the previous 12 months.

Manufacturing, which has been a relative bright spot in hiring the last few months, added 36,000 jobs in July. Automakers helped by keeping plants open that usually close during the month.

The number of people out of work for 27 weeks or more dipped slightly to 6.6 million, from 6.8 million, while the median duration of unemployment eased to 22.2 weeks in July, from 25.5 weeks in June.

The government's broadest definition of the unemployment rate, incorporating people who want jobs but did not search during the month, was unchanged at 16.5 percent.

Some economists say a slow recovery is inevitable, given the damage done by the financial crisis. Consumers, who account for about two-thirds of economic activity, have been reluctant to spend while still paying off debts racked up during the boom. Consumer credit shrank in June, the government reported on Friday, as it has for nearly two years.

"We forget that when you go from trying to move a rock with a lever and trying to move it with your bare hands, you might eventually be able to move it with your bare hands, but you're going to move it a lot more slowly and a shorter distance," said Jerry Webman, chief economist at Oppenheimer Funds. "That's the position we are in the American economy: our lever broke."

Even optimists were discouraged by Friday's report. "No question about it, the three-month average of adding 50,000 jobs is disappointing versus almost anybody's expectations," said Robert J. Barbera, chief economist of Mount Lucas Management, who has said that the economy is on track for sustained recovery. "And certainly it's less than half of what you need to keep things stable."

A prominent pessimist, Jan Hatzius, chief United States economist for Goldman Sachs, lowered his forecast of economic growth for 2011 to 1.9 percent, from 2.5 percent.

"This economy is absolutely appalling," said Mary Moore, 39, who has been applying for jobs as an administrative assistant in Norfolk, Va., since she lost her job at a publishing company in May 2009. Ms. Moore, who can collect unemployment benefits for a few more months, is struggling to pay her $525-a-month rent and health care insurance, which recently nearly tripled to $379 a month.

"As an American I did not believe we would see times such as this," she said.

Peter Baker contributed reporting.



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