Tuesday, August 31, 2010



Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:




September 2, 2010


Hyatt Regency Embarcadero
Market and Drumm Streets
San Francisco
7am to 11am

Hyatt Regency SF Airport
1333 Old Bayshore Highway
Burlingame, CA 94010
2pm to 6pm

If you need a ride to Burlingame, please let us know.
A bus will leave Local 2at these times: 2pm and 4pm

Hyatt Regency Santa Clara
5101 Great America Parkway
Santa Clara, CA 95054

Over 2,000 Protest
Hilton Union Square Proposals

Following an afternoon where nearly 300 San Francisco housekeepers were presented with Hilton's "refresh" program, which would increase their workload by 40%, over 2,000 hotel workers and community members demonstrated on August 25th and 26th for twelve hours each day, at the Hilton Union Square Hotel.

Workers are outraged at the Hilton management for proposing such an increase in workloads, on top of their contract proposals that would reduce pension benefits and require workers to pay hundreds of dollars a month for family health coverage, over the term of the contract. These proposals come as Hilton (which is owned by the Blackstone Group, the world's biggest private equity firm) recently purchased Dynegy (a power company in Houston) for $4.7 billion.

Blackstone also recently posted its fourth-straight quarterly profit and increased the value of its private-equity holdings by 16%. Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone's Chairman, stated in April 2010, "We can feel this turnaround in the economy. It's certainly visible over the last month or two." Yet, Blackstone/Hilton continues to squeeze every last penny from its hotel workers in the name of economic hardships.

Hotel workers will continue standing together, stronger than ever, to defend their benefits and build a better future for their families and the San Francisco community! FAIR CONTRACT NOW!

Including Hilton Union Square, seven other San Francisco hotels are under boycott. These hotels are the scene of regular actions and demonstrations. Dozens of organizations, big and small, have decided to stay out of this labor dispute and use a different venue. If you have a reservation or an event at the following hotels, you should move to another hotel immediately. Please contact us for information and help.



UNITE HERE! is leading the fight to for hotel workers - many of them women of color and immigrants - in hotels across San Francisco and North America. UNITE HERE! represents more than 250,000 workers throughout the U.S. and Canada who work in the hospitality, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, laundry, and airport industries. We are at the forefront of the battle for workers rights, immigration reform and living wages.

In San Francisco, union contracts for thousands of hotel workers have expired. These workers are standing in solidarity to defend their standards against dozens ruthless hotel corporations. Additionally, non-union hotel workers are also engaged in an ongoing struggle at two hotels, the HEI Le Meridien and the Hyatt at Fisherman's Wharf.

Our ground-up model of organizing and our comprehensive corporate campaigns are largely worker and volunteer run. In this current economic crisis, it is more important than ever for committed local activists to get involved in the fight for workers rights.

We are seeking enthusiastic volunteer activists to help build the labor movement in San Francisco. Currently, the Local 2 Boycott Apprenticeship Program is offering non-paid internship opportunities.


Location: San Francisco

Education: No requirement

Additional Qualifications:
Passion for social justice, assertive personality and basic computer skills for research (Spreadsheets, Databases, Internet search tools).

Duties include:

30% - Coordinating and executing creative actions at strategic locations to help enforce worker called boycotts.

70% - Research and campaign related work.

4 - 10 Hours a week minimum, Ongoing program.


Let us learn together, and fight together. Join Local 2's awesome Boycott Team.

For volunteer opportunities, please contact:
Powell DeGange, pdegange@unitehere.org
415-864-8770 ext. 759


Bradley Manning benefit w/ Dan Ellsberg, Tom Hayden, Aimee Allison
Thursday, September 16, 7:00-9:00 P.M.
Humanist Hall
390 27th St., Oakland, CA
(Between Telegraph and Broadway)

Courage to Resist Bay Area Event Alert

"Afghanistan: Occupation, Wikileaks, and Accused Whistle-blower Army Pfc. Bradley Manning" - a benefit for the Bradley Manning defense fund


--Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistle-blower

--Tom Hayden, author and activist

--Aimee Allison, author and KPFA Morning Show Host

--Carl Davison, US Marine/Army veteran of Guantanamo Bay, Africa, and Asia

--Wikileaks "Collateral Murder" video screening

Presented by Courage to Resist_with the help of Veterans for Peace-Bay Area Chapter, National Lawyers Guild Bay Area Military Law Panel, CodePink, War Resisters League-West, Iraq Veterans Against the War-Bay Area, BAY-Peace, World Can't Wait-SF Bay, Asian Americans for Peace and Justice, Grandmothers Against the War and Bay Area United for Peace and Justice.

The Bradley Manning defense fund is hosted by Courage to Resist (www.couragetoresist.org) in collaboration with the Bradley Manning Support Network (www.bradleymanning.org). $5 requested donation at door to cover expenses, with defense fund pitch during the event. Wheelchair accessible via 411 28th Street entrance. For more info, please contact 510-488-3559 or courage@riseup.net


Stop the madness
Bring our troops home now!
Come Rally for Peace!
Friday, September 17th, 2 - 3 PM
Corner of Action and University
Wheelchair Accessible.

Fran Rachel
Strawberry Creek Lodge Tenants Association

Berkeley - East Bay Gray Panthers




Berkeley, CA: Robert Fisk "Lies, Misreporting, and Catastrophe in the Middle East"
Wednesday, September 22, 7:00pm

The Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA) presents the intrepid, witty and courageous author ROBERT FISK "one of the most famous journalists in the world" speaking on "Lies, Misreporting, and Catastrophe in the Middle East"

Fisk will be interviewed by scholar-activist DR. HATEM BAZIAN

Winner of countless journalism awards and three honorary doctorates, Beirut-based Robert Fisk has reported from the Middle East for over 30 years, covering 11 major wars.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - 7pm
First Congregational Church of Berkeley
2345 Channing Way (@ Dana)6 blocks from Downtown Berkeley BART

**Tickets available for Special Reception with Fisk as well!**

Tickets: $15 general, $10 students/low income
$50 includes post-event reception plus reserved event seating in front rows.


Only $15 tickets at area bookstores: (East Bay) Books Inc., Diesel, Moe's Books, Pegasus/Solano, Pegasus/Shattuck, Walden Pond (SF) Modern Times.

Benefit for children in Palestine & Lebanon. No one turned away for lack of funds.

Wheelchair accessible, ASL interpreted

For info: 510-548-0542, events@mecaforpeace.org


October 7 Balloons and Cal Disorientation Guide 2010
Balloons invade UC Berkeley on the first day of classes! Oct. 7th Strike!
Posted on 08/27/2010 by ooofireballooo

[VIDEO] Balloons invade UC Berkeley on the first day of classes! Oct. 7th Strike!
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: http://groups.google.com/group/fallconferencesfsu


Media/Publicity: Jack Heyman 510-531-4717, jackheyman@comcast.net

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.



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






New video! Fishermen find dispersants and oil on Mississippi shrimp and oyster grounds


October 7 Balloons and Cal Disorientation Guide 2010
Balloons invade UC Berkeley on the first day of classes! Oct. 7th Strike!
Posted on 08/27/2010 by ooofireballooo

[VIDEO] Balloons invade UC Berkeley on the first day of classes! Oct. 7th Strike!
Education 4 the People!


The Video the US Military doesn't want you to see


George Orwell's "1984_


August 22, 2010

Coastal Heritage Society of La, Kindra, Jo & Vick spent the day in the bayou, bay and swamps August 19 taking air and water samples and documenting the oil that BP cant seem to find... We also found plenty of boom just floating out in the bay, and littering up the marsh - no one has bothered to pick it up...BP will not allow our fishermen or anyone else to remove it - saying we will be arrested if we do. We have about 400 more photos and will get them posted on our website as soon as we can along with the results from the air and water tests.
Visit us at www.CHSLouisiana.org

In the meanwhile, we will continue to test, to document, to share the truth with anyone who cares and to try to take care od the affected families who have NOT been paid by BP - there are plenty of them who need help. We are asking America to pitch in and help us help them. PLEASE! consider supporting our efforts by sending gift cards or donations of any size to Coastal Heritage Society of La PO Box 297 Belle Chasse, La 70037. Gift card wish list:

Walgreens (to help with medications and first aid supplies)
Walmart (to help with food, care package items, household supplies)
Kmart (to help with medications, care package items)
Visa gift cards are best as they will allow for all of the above. The amount isnt important, the action is.
Thanks for all who support our all volunteer efforts to protect the people, culture and heritage of coastal Louisiana.



Lyrics: Smiling Faces Sometimes
Smiling faces sometimes pretend to be your friend
Smiling faces show no traces of the evil that lurks within
Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes
They don't tell the truth uh
Smiling faces, smiling faces
Tell lies and I got proof

The truth is in the eyes
Cause the eyes don't lie, amen
Remember a smile is just
A frown turned upside down
My friend let me tell you
Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes
They don't tell the truth, uh
Smiling faces, smiling faces
Tell lies and I got proof
Beware, beware of the handshake
That hides the snake
I'm telling you beware
Beware of the pat on the back
It just might hold you back
Jealousy (jealousy)
Misery (misery)

I tell you, you can't see behind smiling faces
Smiling faces sometimes they don't tell the truth
Smiling faces, smiling faces
Tell lies and I got proof

Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes
They don't tell the truth
Smiling faces, smiling faces
Tell lies and I got proof
(Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes)
(Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes)
I'm telling you beware, beware of the handshake
That hides the snake
Listen to me now, beware
Beware of that pat on the back
It just might hold you back
Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes
They don't tell the truth
Smiling faces, smiling faces
Tell lies and I got proof

Your enemy won't do you no harm
Cause you'll know where he's coming from
Don't let the handshake and the smile fool ya
Take my advice I'm only try' to school ya


A Top Scientist Working On BP Gulf Oil Spill For The Federal Government Confirms BP Drilled Two Wells
Posted by Alexander Higgins - August 20, 2010
Dr Robert Bea, a top scientists working on the BP Gulf Oil Spill for the Federal Government confirms that BP Drilled a second well near the Deepwater Horizon leak that was previously abandoned because they almost blew it up.

I recently posted "A Tale Of Two Wells - Is BP and the Government Showing Us The Wrong Well?" which questions whether or not BP is hiding the real well that is leaking as Matt Simmon's claimed.

So here is the latest going around the internet. I haven't vetted it yet so watch and make your own judgment.

If the font is to small watch in full screen.



Larry Pinkney protests Harbor Shores golf course opening.
Political commentator and brother of protest organizer, Larry Pinkney calls for unity in the face of challenge.
Read a sample of his work here:
Here is a link to background information regarding this protest:
Mass Demonstration Planned in Benton Harbor on 8/10
August 6, 2010


Toxic Soup in Ocean Springs Ms By Lorrie Williams
August 13, 2010
August 16, 2010


BP Oil Spill Cleanup Worker Exposes the Realities of Beach Cleanup In Gulf of Mexico
August 11, 2010


NEWS BREAKING Louisiana official willing to go to jail in fight against federal Government!!
August 12, 2010


The Coast Guard threatens to have Louisiana official arrested for fighting oil spill
August 13, 2010


Days After Tar Balls Hit New York Beach Massive Fish Kills Stretch From New Jersey to Massachusetts


WikiLeaks' Collateral Murder: U.S. Soldier Ethan McCord's Eyewitness Story


On The Move: Mumia Abu-Jamal's Message to the United National Peace Conference


Videos: Hideous Conditions at Long Beach Harbor, MS
By Denise Rednour
August 7, 2010

August 7th, 2010 -- LONG BEACH MS - Very thick oil in and around the harbor at Long Beach, MS today. It's a very sad day indeed. The stench of dispersants and dead fish is in the air as well.

PLEASE, don't be fooled by mainstream media and politicians who are telling people it's over, it's safe to swim, and the seafood is harmless. All beaches in Mississippi remain open without cautions even. All waters are open to commercial and sport fishing of fin fish and shrimp. The only activity banned at the present is crab and oyster fishing.


Video: George Carlin: "The American Dream"/"Workers Nightmare"
Because the Owners of This Country Own Everything - They Own You - They Don't Want Critical Thinking - They Want Obedient Workers


Citizens of New Orleans Respond to the BP Oil Spill


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 bad...bw]


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


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


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??? video




Instituto del Derecho de Asilo - Casa Museo Leon Trotsky, A.C.
Avenida Río Churubusco No. 410
Col. del Carmen Coyoacán
CP 04100 México, DF -- MEXICO
Tel. 56 58 87 32

Dear Friends in the United States:

We are writing this letter to invite you to support the effort to preserve and renovate the Leon Trotsky Museum (IDA-MCLTAC) in Mexico City.

Already many of our U.S. supporters have sent out appeals to their friends urging support for our project. We thank them for their efforts, and we thank the dozens of you who have already sent in financial contributions to our fund.

On August 20, at 4 p.m., we launched the International Friends of the Leon Trotsky Museum at a special event in a larger venue than our Museum's auditorium: the Foro Coyoacanense, Hugo Argüelles, Calle Allende No. 36, in the center district of Coyoacán, in the southern region of Mexico City.

This event was part of a three-day series of activities on August 19-21 marking the 70th anniversary of the assassination of Leon Trotsky, the 35th anniversary of the opening of the Trotsky Museum, and the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Institute on the Right of Asylum.

We would like to invite all our friends and supporters in the United States to join "International Friends."

If you would like to join "International Friends," please send us a note to the email address listed above. We welcome all who support our Museum's six-point "Statement on Social Objectives" and our four-point "Renovation Project" [see below], and who wish to help us raise desperately needed funds to promote these objectives.

Our goal is for International Friends to include the broadest possible regroupment of personalities, democratic rights activists (including supporters of the right to asylum, which is one of the main themes of our Museum), political activists, and museologists of different progressive political tendencies and backgrounds.

On August 19 and August 20 we also held in our Museum's auditorium a Conference on "Socialism, Democracy and Dissident Movements." There were presentations by Mexican and international speakers. Some of the panels were the following:

- Trotsky and the Dewey Commission (Prof. Olivia Gall, UNAM and Trotsky Museum),

- Participation and Rights of Latinos in the United States (Prof. Suzanne Oboler, Editor, Latino Studies, CUNY),

- Dissident Social Movements on the Left and the Right in the United States (Alan Benjamin, Editor, The Organizer),

- The Relevance of Victor Serge (Suzi Weissman, KPFK Radio producer and author),

- Trotsky and the Dissident Movements in Eastern Europe (Prof. Gabriel García Higueras, University of Lima, Peru), and

- Victor Serge, the POUM and the "Socialism and Liberty" group (Prof. Claudio Albertini, UACM).

The program of the event launching the International Friends of the Leon Trotsky Museum on August 20 included presentations by Esteban Volkov (Trotsky's grandson and president of the board of directors of the museum) and Olivia Gall (director of the museum); a theatrical presentation by Grupo Sol Azul of Moises Mendelewicz titled "Conversations with Trotsky"; a presentation on Political Asylum in Mexico by Pablo Yankelvich (INAH); and a trailer presentation of the film "Planet Without a Visa" (by David Weiss and Linda Laub), with an introduction by Linda Laub.

Finally, on August 21, there was a placing of a wreath on the tombstones of Leon Trotsky and Natalia Sedova, with a presentation by Esteban Volkov.

We invite you to donate to our Museum preservation/renovation fund and to join our International Friends of the Leon Trotsky group and campaign. Please send your checks, payable to Global Exchange (write "Trotsky Museum" on Memo line of your check), to International Friends of the Leon Trotsky Museum, P.O. Box 40009, San Francisco, CA 94140.

Esteban Volkov Bronstein
Grandson of Leon Trotsky
President of the Board of the IDA-MCLTAC
Olivia Gall
Full Professor, CEIICH-UNAM
Director of the IDA-MCLTAC
* * * * * * * * * *

Appendix No. 1

International Friends of the
Leon Trotsky Museum (IFLTM)


The IDA-MCLTAC's Social Objectives

The Social Objective of the Institution is:

1. To maintain, protect, preserve, restore, guard and improve in all pertinent and necessary ways, the Leon Trotsky House-Museum, who must offer its visitors the best possible museology services.

2. To maintain, protect, preserve, guard and increase, in all pertinent and necessary ways, the existing materials in the Rafael Galván Library and in the association's Documentary Center, which must offer its visitors the best possible information and research services.

3. To promote and develop research, analysis, education and effective communication regarding the topic of the right of asylum, and, when related to asylum, on those of migration and refuge.

4. To promote and develop the study, analysis, education and effective communication regarding "the defense of public rights and public freedom."

5. To manage the association's assets and resources, as well as those received through donations, contributions, transfers, bequests, wills, liens, trusts, funding, agreements or employment contracts, in cash or in kind, coming from individuals or corporations, domestic or foreign, public or private. These funds and resources will be used exclusively for the purposes of the Association.

6. To establish partnerships through agreements or other legal forms provided by existing legislation, with any cultural, artistic, social or academic national or international institution, both public and private, which may contribute to the better attainment of its goals.


Appendix No. 2

Renovation Project

The Directive Council of the Institution has developed a project consisting in gradually transforming the IDA-MCLTAC into an institution that takes the figure of Leon Trotsky as its central axis, but also approaches the different ideological and political currents of socialist thought, actions and debates, the right of asylum and the history of revolutionary and post-revolutionary Mexico, in which Trotsky was admitted as a political refugee. The goal is to create an institution that will establish agreements with academics, museums and documentary, visual and bibliographical archives from all over the world, in order to offer the public:


* A well-preserved house-museum that will give its visitors an idea of the real environment in which Trotsky, his friends, guards, secretaries and guests lived between May 1939 and August 1940: a tense and anguished environment, not always but sometimes joyful, not very prosperous, but of hard work and comradeship.

* Permanent as well as temporary exhibits built on visual, audiovisual, documentary and interactive materials.


* Consultation of printed, graphic, audiovisual and interactive materials, in situ or via the web,

* The development of educational and cultural programs, which will consist in conferences, symposia, book presentations, courses and workshops.

* A small bookstore in which our visitors will find books -in three languages, if possible- related to the institution's subjects.


In it, old and new short films, movies and documentaries, organized according to different subjects of historical, political, intellectual and cultural interest will be shown and discussed.


A space that will try to constitute an original, simple, elegant and international cultural option that will harbor:

* Diverse cultural expressions of our contemporary world: sculptors, painters, mimes, actors, storytellers, dancers, poets, musicians, etc.

* The house's garden, such as it was kept by Natalia Sedova and by Sieva Volkov's family between 1939 and the early 1970s.

* A cafeteria that will serve very good coffee, tea, pastries and appetizers, and that will offer in Coyoacán a touch of originality given by four combined elements: (a) a simple international menu made by a few Baltic, Jewish, Balkan, Turkish, French, Norwegian and Mexican dishes, typical of the countries where Trotsky lived or was exiled, (b) the access to reading, in situ, some international newspapers and magazines, (c) a decoration that will portray the style of Mexican restaurants in the thirties, and (d) some music or poetry evenings.

* A shop, selling posters, little boxes, mugs, pens, calendars book markers, agendas, etc., so that our visitors may take home some of the museum's souvenirs.


Say No to Islamophobia!
Defend Mosques and Community Centers!
The Fight for Peace and Social Justice Requires Defense of All Under Attack!


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

http://www.petitiononline.com/manning1/petition.html (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...


These two bills are now in Congress and need your support. Either or both bills would drastically decrease Lynne's and other federal sentences substantially.

H.R. 1475 "Federal Prison Work Incentive Act Amended 2009," Congressman Danny Davis, Democrat, Illinois

This bill will restore and amend the former federal B.O.P. good time allowances. It will let all federal prisoners, except lifers, earn significant reductions to their sentences. Second, earn monthly good time days by working prison jobs. Third, allowances for performing outstanding services or duties in connection with institutional operations. In addition, part of this bill is to bring back parole to federal long term prisoners.

Go to: www.FedCURE.org and www.FAMM.org

At this time, federal prisoners only earn 47 days per year good time. If H.R. 1475 passes, Lynne Stewart would earn 120-180 days per year good time!

H.R. 61 "45 And Older," Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee (18th Congressional District, Texas)

This bill provides early release from federal prison after serving half of a violent crime or violent conduct in prison.

Please write, call, email your Representatives and Senators. Demand their votes!

This information is brought to you by Diane E. Schindelwig, a federal prisoner #36582-177 and friend and supporter of Lynne Stewart.

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!



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: http://www.causes.com/causes/188135


"Judge William T. Moore, Jr. ruled that while executing an innocent person would violate the United States Constitution, Davis didn't meet the extraordinarily high legal bar to prove his innocence."
Amnesty International Press Release
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Contact: Wende Gozan Brown at 212-633-4247, wgozan@aiusa.org.

(Washington, D.C.) - Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) today expressed deep concern that a federal district court decision puts Georgia death-row inmate Troy Anthony Davis back on track for execution, despite doubts about his guilt that were raised during a June evidentiary hearing. Judge William T. Moore, Jr. ruled that while executing an innocent person would violate the United States Constitution, Davis didn't meet the extraordinarily high legal bar to prove his innocence.

"Nobody walking out of that hearing could view this as an open-and-shut case," said Larry Cox, executive director of AIUSA. "The testimony that came to light demonstrates that doubt still exists, but the legal bar for proving innocence was set so high it was virtually insurmountable. It would be utterly unconscionable to proceed with this execution, plain and simple."

Amnesty International representatives, including Cox, attended the hearing in Savannah, Ga. The organization noted that evidence continues to cast doubt over the case:

· Four witnesses admitted in court that they lied at trial when they implicated Troy Davis and that they did not know who shot Officer Mark MacPhail.

· Four witnesses implicated another man as the one who killed the officer - including a man who says he saw the shooting and could clearly identify the alternative suspect, who is a family member.

· Three original state witnesses described police coercion during questioning, including one man who was 16 years old at the time of the murder and was questioned by several police officers without his parents or other adults present.

"The Troy Davis case is emblematic of everything that is wrong with capital punishment," said Laura Moye, director of AIUSA's Death Penalty Abolition Campaign. "In a system rife with error, mistakes can be made. There are no do-overs when it comes to death. Lawmakers across the country should scrutinize this case carefully, not only because of its unprecedented nature, but because it clearly indicates the need to abolish the death penalty in the United States."

Since the launch of its February 2007 report, Where Is the Justice for Me? The Case of Troy Davis, Facing Execution in Georgia, Amnesty International has campaigned intensively for a new evidentiary hearing or trial and clemency for Davis, collecting hundreds of thousands of clemency petition signatures and letters from across the United States and around the world. To date, internationally known figures such as Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter have all joined the call for clemency, as well as lawmakers from within and outside of Georgia.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers who campaign for universal human rights from more than 150 countries. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

# # #

For more information visit www.amnestyusa.org/troydavis.

Wende Gozan Brown
Media Relations Director
Amnesty International USA
212/633-4247 (o)
347/526-5520 (c)


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?"


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. Amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/001/2000.)

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

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.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTiAkbB5uC0&eurl
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
http://www.al-awda.org/donate.html 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) Now That's Rich
[The fact is, whether or not the tax breaks for the wealthy are extended, they already got one of the biggest billion-dollar-boondoggles in the world already, plunging millions of the poorest further down into the depths of poverty with no end in sight...bw]
August 22, 2010

2) As Claims for Spill Losses Shift to Administrator, Queries Follow
August 23, 2010

3) Maintenance of Oil Rig Is Subject at Hearing
August 23, 2010

"Judge William T. Moore, Jr. ruled that while executing an innocent person would violate the United States Constitution, Davis didn't meet the extraordinarily high legal bar to prove his innocence."
Amnesty International Press Release
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Contact: Wende Gozan Brown at 212-633-4247, wgozan@aiusa.org

5) First Hand account: Florida Beaches Are Polluted With Oil (I was wrong)
Posted by Alexander Higgins
[There are videos at this site...bw]
August 24, 2010

6) The Secret Killers
By Pratap Chatterjee
The Nation, August 19, 2010

7) Missing Piece in Oil Rig Inquiry: Who Was in Charge?
August 25, 2010

8) Acrimony Behind the Scenes of Gulf Oil Spill
August 26, 2010

9) Struggling Cities Shut Firehouses in Budget Crisis
August 26, 2010

10) Rumor to Fact in Tales of Post-Katrina Violence
August 26, 2010

11) Example Set by First Military Tribunal Case Has U.S. Wary
August 27, 2010

12) Medical Use of Marijuana Costs Some a Paycheck
August 28, 2010

13) Feds probing post-Katrina 'shoot looters' claim
By MARY FOSTER, Associated Press Writer Mary Foster, Associated Press Writer
Fri Aug 27, 9:26 pm ET

14) Despite "All Clear," Mississippi
Sound Tests Positive for Oil
By Dahr Jamail and Erika Blumenfeld
t r u t h o u t | Report, August 29, 2010
[Video: http://bridgethegulfproject.info/node/29]

15) Risk-Taking Rises as Oil Rigs in Gulf Drill Deeper
"More than 20 percent of all bids in the gulf last year were for leases in water deeper than 6,500 feet. The deepest well in production in the gulf - Perdido's Tobago well - lies in 9,600 feet of water. Meanwhile, new ships that can drill in 12,000 feet of water have recently arrived in the gulf."
August 29, 2010

16) With Neighbors Unaware, Toxic Spill at a BP Plant
"Officials in Texas City said they were not informed of the scale of the release until it was over. BP said it met the requirements of state law by informing state officials of the release in writing on April 7, then filing a final report on June 4, after the equipment was fixed.
"That final report said the release of chemicals had gone on for 959 hours, until May 16. Among other pollutants, the plant had released 17,000 pounds of benzene; 37,000 pounds of nitrogen oxides, which can cause respiratory problems; and 186,000 pounds of carbon monoxide. Another 262,000 pounds of various volatile organic compounds also escaped.
"'The state's investigation shows that BP's failure to properly maintain its equipment caused the malfunction and could have been prevented,' the attorney general's office said in a statement."
August 29, 2010

17) When the Border Patrol Comes Aboard
August 30, 2010, 10:04 am

18) Border Sweeps in North Reach Miles Into U.S.
August 29, 2010

19) We Owe the Troops an Exit
August 30, 2010

20) Restoring Names to Iraq War's Unknown Casualties
August 30, 2010

21) Rights Groups Sue U.S. on Effort to Kill Cleric
August 30, 2010

22) Egg Farms Violated Safety Rules
August 30, 2010

23) Are Smart Meters Smart?
EMF Safety Network
[see video's at this site...bw]

24) Blowback
Enthusiasm for Palestinian prime minister isn't shared by Palestinians
Salam Fayyad's embrace by the U.S. and Israel doesn't change the fact that millions of Palestinians languish under occupation and in poverty.
Ali Abunimah
August 31, 2010


1) Now That's Rich
[The fact is, whether or not the tax breaks for the wealthy are extended, they already got one of the biggest billion-dollar-boondoggles in the world already, plunging millions of the poorest further down into the depths of poverty with no end in sight...bw]
August 22, 2010

We need to pinch pennies these days. Don't you know we have a budget deficit? For months that has been the word from Republicans and conservative Democrats, who have rejected every suggestion that we do more to avoid deep cuts in public services and help the ailing economy.

But these same politicians are eager to cut checks averaging $3 million each to the richest 120,000 people in the country.

What - you haven't heard about this proposal? Actually, you have: I'm talking about demands that we make all of the Bush tax cuts, not just those for the middle class, permanent.

Some background: Back in 2001, when the first set of Bush tax cuts was rammed through Congress, the legislation was written with a peculiar provision - namely, that the whole thing would expire, with tax rates reverting to 2000 levels, on the last day of 2010.

Why the cutoff date? In part, it was used to disguise the fiscal irresponsibility of the tax cuts: lopping off that last year reduced the headline cost of the cuts, because such costs are normally calculated over a 10-year period. It also allowed the Bush administration to pass the tax cuts using reconciliation - yes, the same procedure that Republicans denounced when it was used to enact health reform - while sidestepping rules designed to prevent the use of that procedure to increase long-run budget deficits.

Obviously, the idea was to go back at a later date and make those tax cuts permanent. But things didn't go according to plan. And now the witching hour is upon us.

So what's the choice now? The Obama administration wants to preserve those parts of the original tax cuts that mainly benefit the middle class - which is an expensive proposition in its own right - but to let those provisions benefiting only people with very high incomes expire on schedule. Republicans, with support from some conservative Democrats, want to keep the whole thing.

And there's a real chance that Republicans will get what they want. That's a demonstration, if anyone needed one, that our political culture has become not just dysfunctional but deeply corrupt.

What's at stake here? According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, making all of the Bush tax cuts permanent, as opposed to following the Obama proposal, would cost the federal government $680 billion in revenue over the next 10 years. For the sake of comparison, it took months of hard negotiations to get Congressional approval for a mere $26 billion in desperately needed aid to state and local governments.

And where would this $680 billion go? Nearly all of it would go to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people with incomes of more than $500,000 a year. But that's the least of it: the policy center's estimates say that the majority of the tax cuts would go to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. Take a group of 1,000 randomly selected Americans, and pick the one with the highest income; he's going to get the majority of that group's tax break. And the average tax break for those lucky few - the poorest members of the group have annual incomes of more than $2 million, and the average member makes more than $7 million a year - would be $3 million over the course of the next decade.

How can this kind of giveaway be justified at a time when politicians claim to care about budget deficits? Well, history is repeating itself. The original campaign for the Bush tax cuts relied on deception and dishonesty. In fact, my first suspicions that we were being misled into invading Iraq were based on the resemblance between the campaign for war and the campaign for tax cuts the previous year. And sure enough, that same trademark deception and dishonesty is being deployed on behalf of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

So, for example, we're told that it's all about helping small business; but only a tiny fraction of small-business owners would receive any tax break at all. And how many small-business owners do you know making several million a year?

Or we're told that it's about helping the economy recover. But it's hard to think of a less cost-effective way to help the economy than giving money to people who already have plenty, and aren't likely to spend a windfall.

No, this has nothing to do with sound economic policy. Instead, as I said, it's about a dysfunctional and corrupt political culture, in which Congress won't take action to revive the economy, pleads poverty when it comes to protecting the jobs of schoolteachers and firefighters, but declares cost no object when it comes to sparing the already wealthy even the slightest financial inconvenience.

So far, the Obama administration is standing firm against this outrage. Let's hope that it prevails in its fight. Otherwise, it will be hard not to lose all faith in America's future.


2) As Claims for Spill Losses Shift to Administrator, Queries Follow
August 23, 2010

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. - "The day is here," Kenneth R. Feinberg announced on Monday at the American Legion Post 139 Bingo Hall, just over a mile from this town's quiet gulf beaches. "If you've got a claim from BP, those days are over," he continued. "BP's out of the business."

"The day" was when Mr. Feinberg officially took control as administrator of the $20 billion fund set up by BP to pay out claims to those whose lives or businesses have been hurt by the BP oil spill. For the occasion, he traveled along the Mississippi coast, laying out his plans, answering questions and encouraging people to file claims immediately.

Details of his plan have been made public over the past few days, but there was no shortage of questions from the skeptical crowd at the bingo hall, a mix of shrimpers, lawyers, real estate developers, restaurateurs and politicians, in flip-flops, flats and oxford shoes.

Keath Ladner, owner of Gulf Shores Sea Products, said he had been communicating with scientists around the country and had serious concerns that the August 2013 deadline for final settlement claims might fall before the true extent of the damage was known. Even if the shrimp, crab and oysters are found to be safe, it is impossible to say how long seafood buyers will be suspicious of gulf seafood. For now, Mr. Ladner said, they certainly are not buying.

"This is one of the most difficult questions we've got," Mr. Feinberg said, before going on to list several options for Mr. Ladner, including opting out of the process and suing.

One woman, a lawyer and politician, asked if there was a cap on emergency claims. (No.) Another man asked if the fund would pay for relocation costs if someone decided to leave the gulf because of the spill. (No.) One woman was curious about Mr. Feinberg himself.

"If you're not with BP and you're not with the government, who are you with?" she asked.

"My decisions are strictly my own," said Mr. Feinberg, a Washington lawyer who also handled the Sept. 11 victims' compensation fund.

The issue of proximity to the gulf, one of the more controversial qualifications for receiving a claim, did not arise in this beach town. But there were several pointed questions about Mr. Feinberg's policy on real estate reimbursement, and the askers came away dissatisfied. Under the terms of the fund, people can be compensated if they sold property and could prove that they received much less for it than they would have if the spill had not occurred. And they could be compensated for loss of rental income.

But a mere drop in property value, Mr. Feinberg said unequivocally, would not be compensated.

"Is he encouraging everybody on the Gulf Coast to dump their property?" asked Mr. Ladner's brother, Kirk, who had been trying to sell beachfront property to developers before the spill. One group of developers walked away from about 13 acres and now, he said, no one wants to buy the property and he has no recourse in the claims process.

What was most frustrating about that, said Mr. Lander's partner in the land deal, Russell Elliott, was that BP had seemed open to some sort of claim on lost property value.

"Now he comes and throws it in the garbage," Mr. Elliott said. "He's made a Catch-22. You can't sell it, but you can't collect until you sell."

While those who have already filed claims did not have to provide new documentation of their losses - BP was handing over the paperwork - they did have to refile their claims. Mr. Feinberg said that as of 9 a.m. more than 500 claims had been filed.

Beverly and Frank Fontenot, owners of Benigno's seafood restaurant, fueled themselves with coffee and stayed up until midnight to call the new claims hot line as soon as it opened for business. The person on the other end could not find their claim, but the Fontenots were still more confident about the new process 10 hours later.

Dealing with BP, Mr. Fontenot said, had been a nightmare. He says he could account for at least $60,000 in lost revenue over the summer, and he has only a $5,000 check from BP to show for it.

Ms. Fontenot said she was cautiously optimistic about Mr. Feinberg.

"I believe that this man with his experience has got to have some logic, some reason behind his thinking," she said.

They filed a claim on Monday and were told they would receive the money within seven days.

"Now," she said, "we'll have to see how impressive he really is."


3) Maintenance of Oil Rig Is Subject at Hearing
August 23, 2010

HOUSTON - Government investigators are turning their attention this week to actions by onshore managers for BP and Transocean that may have contributed to the oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

After interviewing more than a dozen workers who survived the Deepwater Horizon explosion, a federal panel here is shifting its focus to land-based supervisors from the two main companies operating aboard the rig.

On Monday, the panel pressed officials from the companies about an audit that found hundreds of mechanical problems less than a year before the April 20 explosion that began the spill.

The September 2009 audit, conducted by four BP officials, cited 390 maintenance issues, including many that were considered "high priority," and would require 3,545 hours of labor.

An onshore BP official, Neil Cramond, the marine authority for the Gulf of Mexico, testified Monday that at least 63 of the 70 repairs under his supervision had been completed by the day of the disaster.

But it remains unclear whether many of the most critical problems - including an "inhibited" safety alarm and broken watertight doors - were ever repaired. Another BP official reviewed the alarm system in March and found it operational, Mr. Cramond testified. But the rig's chief technician, Mike Williams, testified last month that the main emergency alarm was not fully activated to avoid waking the crew with loud morning sirens.

Another witness, Paul Johnson, an onshore rig manager for Transocean, testified Monday that some of the maintenance issues in the audit were important enough that BP did not want drilling to continue until they were fixed.

Under questioning from BP lawyers, Mr. Johnson said Transocean lost more than $500,000 in rig rental fees for every day that repairs prevented drilling. Investigators have raised questions about whether financial realities pressured the companies to take shortcuts on safety.

Also Monday, BP prepared to remove drill pipe from the blowout preventer on its now dormant well. Thad W. Allen, the retired Coast Guard admiral who is leading the federal response, said BP had sent a video camera into the preventer and discovered three sections of pipe inside.

Two of the sections are short and were apparently cut during the effort to cap the well. The third extends perhaps for several thousand feet below the preventer. BP will try to remove as much of the pipe as possible in order to remove the preventer and replace it with an undamaged one as it prepares for the final plugging of the well.


"Judge William T. Moore, Jr. ruled that while executing an innocent person would violate the United States Constitution, Davis didn't meet the extraordinarily high legal bar to prove his innocence."
Amnesty International Press Release
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Contact: Wende Gozan Brown at 212-633-4247, wgozan@aiusa.org.

(Washington, D.C.) - Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) today expressed deep concern that a federal district court decision puts Georgia death-row inmate Troy Anthony Davis back on track for execution, despite doubts about his guilt that were raised during a June evidentiary hearing. Judge William T. Moore, Jr. ruled that while executing an innocent person would violate the United States Constitution, Davis didn't meet the extraordinarily high legal bar to prove his innocence.

"Nobody walking out of that hearing could view this as an open-and-shut case," said Larry Cox, executive director of AIUSA. "The testimony that came to light demonstrates that doubt still exists, but the legal bar for proving innocence was set so high it was virtually insurmountable. It would be utterly unconscionable to proceed with this execution, plain and simple."

Amnesty International representatives, including Cox, attended the hearing in Savannah, Ga. The organization noted that evidence continues to cast doubt over the case:

· Four witnesses admitted in court that they lied at trial when they implicated Troy Davis and that they did not know who shot Officer Mark MacPhail.

· Four witnesses implicated another man as the one who killed the officer - including a man who says he saw the shooting and could clearly identify the alternative suspect, who is a family member.

· Three original state witnesses described police coercion during questioning, including one man who was 16 years old at the time of the murder and was questioned by several police officers without his parents or other adults present.

"The Troy Davis case is emblematic of everything that is wrong with capital punishment," said Laura Moye, director of AIUSA's Death Penalty Abolition Campaign. "In a system rife with error, mistakes can be made. There are no do-overs when it comes to death. Lawmakers across the country should scrutinize this case carefully, not only because of its unprecedented nature, but because it clearly indicates the need to abolish the death penalty in the United States."

Since the launch of its February 2007 report, Where Is the Justice for Me? The Case of Troy Davis, Facing Execution in Georgia, Amnesty International has campaigned intensively for a new evidentiary hearing or trial and clemency for Davis, collecting hundreds of thousands of clemency petition signatures and letters from across the United States and around the world. To date, internationally known figures such as Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter have all joined the call for clemency, as well as lawmakers from within and outside of Georgia.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers who campaign for universal human rights from more than 150 countries. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

# # #

For more information visit www.amnestyusa.org/troydavis.

Wende Gozan Brown
Media Relations Director
Amnesty International USA
212/633-4247 (o)
347/526-5520 (c)


5) First Hand account: Florida Beaches Are Polluted With Oil (I was wrong)
Posted by Alexander Higgins
[There are videos at this site...bw]
August 24, 2010

A local Florida resident who advocated the use of dispersants and had been denying that Florida waters have been polluted by the BP Gulf Oil Spill now admits he was wrong and the waters are polluted in a first hand account of the devastation.

First, let me apologize to all those members that I have criticized for putting down the Florida beaches. I have been lobbying for our beaches since the start, and I have had many good trips to the beach. That ended today, and I am disgusted. I just finished an hour long shower for me and the kids.

Second, let me say that I have lived in this area for 10 years. I am familiar with the normal way the beach looks, the water looks, the wildlife reacts. I am familiar with the seasonal changes. I have ridden out storms, I know what Red Tide and storm damage looks like. I have swam at closed beaches, I have surfed in storm surges, etc., etc.

I am going to post 5 videos and some snap shots. The videos are revealing, but they don't compare to the real thing.

Normally.......Our beaches are sugary white. The quartz is unique to this area. It leaves the Appalachian Mountainsand it is pinkish. It is sun bleached and it is so pure it squeeks when you walk on it. Of all the beaches I have experienced in Cancun, Cozumel, Jamaica, Hawaii, the West Coast, of all of the beaches, the Florida Panhandle is by far the prettiest. It has sugar white, squeeky sand, and beautiful emerald green water, visibility for snorkelers and scuba divers is typically almost 100 ft. There is no place better.

Today, we noticed something was......just off? The water was darker, the seaweed was worse, the beach was littered with Conch shells. The Horshoe crabs were aggressive. The fish were jumping a lot. But, we waded in anyway. At first we thought the seaweed had made the water darker. A tropical system passed through a few days ago, so it made sense. Once we were in the water, it felt different. It was slicker, and it burned some scrapes on my leg. Typically the seawater is soothing to skin. Today it was uncomfortable. Still we pushed on, hate to waste a good beach day, and we were looking forward to watching a sunset.

After some wading, we decided not to submerge and swim, it was just too dirty. We sat down on the beach and I dug down in the sand a little. To my surprise the hole filled with chocolate colored water? This has never happened before, no matter how much seaweed or silt is present. It NEVER penetrates the sand, and if you dig a hole you always get crystal clear water. Now I was getting very concerned!

My wife and I got up and looked more closely at the water, and we made our kids back away from it. Only now did we notice the suspended frothy brown color. We looked at each other and down the beach and we noticed a linear striation of color. The typical bright white sand was up on the dunes, but as we looked closer to the water, lines of darker and darker water marks were present. At the water line the sand was grey/black. I took my foot and dug down and the sand below the surface was brown and oily looking. The water that filled the hole, even many feet from the beach, the water that filled the hole was brown and cloudy!!

Now, the seaweed, dead conches, erratic fish behavior, and odd feeling seawater all made sense.

The dispersants are certainly working. The oil is thoroughly mixed into the sea water. It isn't washing up on the shore, instead it is embedding into the sand. The filter fish are feeling the effects the worst. The oyster beds and shell fish are dying off. The seaweed is dying. Sadly, people were fishing just down the beach from us!!

Here are the videos and I am still working on getting the snapshots up. Please feel free to ask questions. I am totally disheartened and upset at this moment. My wife was feeling depressed and we went to the beach to cheer up. That was a big mistake!


6) The Secret Killers
By Pratap Chatterjee
The Nation, August 19, 2010

"Find, fix, finish, and follow-up" is the way the Pentagon describes the mission of secret military teams in Afghanistan which have been given a mandate to pursue alleged members of the Taliban or al-Qaeda wherever they may be found. Some call these "manhunting" operations and the units assigned to them "capture/kill" teams.

Whatever terminology you choose, the details of dozens of their specific operations -- and how they regularly went badly wrong -- have been revealed for the first time in the mass of secret U.S. military and intelligence documents published by the website Wikileaks in July to a storm of news coverage and official protest. Representing a form of U.S. covert warfare now on the rise, these teams regularly make more enemies than friends and undermine any goodwill created by U.S. reconstruction projects.

When Danny Hall and Gordon Phillips, the civilian and military directors of the U.S. provincial reconstruction team in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, arrived for a meeting with Gul Agha Sherzai, the local governor, in mid-June 2007, they knew that they had a lot of apologizing to do. Philips had to explain why a covert U.S. military "capture/kill" team named Task Force 373, hunting for Qari Ur-Rahman, an alleged Taliban commander given the code-name "Carbon," had called in an AC-130 Spectre gunship and inadvertently killed seven Afghan police officers in the middle of the night.

The incident vividly demonstrated the inherent clash between two doctrines in the U.S. war in Afghanistan -- counterinsurgency ("protecting the people") and counterterrorism (killing terrorists). Although the Obama administration has given lip service to the former, the latter has been, and continues to be, the driving force in its war in Afghanistan.

For Hall, a Foreign Service officer who was less than two months away from a plush assignment in London, working with the military had already proven more difficult than he expected. In an article for Foreign Service Journal published a couple of months before the meeting, he wrote, "I felt like I never really knew what was going on, where I was supposed to be, what my role was, or if I even had one. In particular, I didn't speak either language that I needed: Pashtu or military."

It had been no less awkward for Phillips. Just a month earlier, he had personally handed over "solatia" payments -- condolence payments for civilian deaths wrongfully caused by U.S. forces -- in Governor Sherzai's presence, while condemning the act of a Taliban suicide bomber who had killed 19 civilians, setting off the incident in question. "We come here as your guests," he told the relatives of those killed, "invited to aid in the reconstruction and improved security and governance of Nangarhar, to bring you a better life and a brighter future for you and your children. Today, as I look upon the victims and their families, I join you in mourning for your loved ones."

Hall and Phillips were in charge of a portfolio of 33 active U.S. reconstruction projects worth $11 million in Nangarhar, focused on road-building, school supplies, and an agricultural program aimed at exporting fruits and vegetables from the province.

Yet the mission of their military-led "provincial reconstruction team" (made up of civilian experts, State department officials, and soldiers) appeared to be in direct conflict with those of the "capture/kill" team of special operations forces (Navy Seals, Army Rangers, and Green Berets, together with operatives from the Central Intelligence Agency's Special Activities Division) whose mandate was to pursue Afghans alleged to be terrorists as well as insurgent leaders. That team was leaving a trail of dead civilian bodies and recrimination in its wake.

Details of some of the missions of Task Force 373 first became public as a result of more than 76,000 incident reports leaked to the public by Wikileaks, a whistleblower website, together with analyses of those documents in Der Spiegel, the Guardian, and the New York Times. A full accounting of the depredations of the task force may be some time in coming, however, as the Obama administration refuses to comment on its ongoing assassination spree in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A short history of the unit can nonetheless be gleaned from a careful reading of the Wikileaks documents as well as related reports from Afghanistan and unclassified Special Forces reports.

The Wikileaks data suggests that as many as 2,058 people on a secret hit list called the "Joint Prioritized Effects List" (JPEL) were considered "capture/kill" targets in Afghanistan. A total of 757 prisoners -- most likely from this list -- were being held at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility (BTIF), a U.S.-run prison on Bagram Air Base as of the end of December 2009.

Capture/Kill Operations

The idea of "joint" teams from different branches of the military working collaboratively with the CIA was first conceived in 1980 after the disastrous Operation Eagle Claw, when personnel from the Air Force, Army, and Navy engaged in a disastrously botched, seat-of-the-pants attempt to rescue U.S. hostages in Iran with help from the Agency. Eight soldiers were killed when two helicopters collided in the Iranian desert. Afterwards, a high-level, six-member commission led by Admiral James L. Holloway, III recommended the creation of a Joint Special Forces command to ensure that different branches of the military and the CIA should do far more advance coordination planning in the future.

This process accelerated greatly after September 11, 2001. That month, a CIA team called Jawbreaker headed for Afghanistan to plan a U.S.-led invasion of the country. Shortly thereafter, an Army Green Beret team set up Task Force Dagger to pursue the same mission. Despite an initial rivalry between the commanders of the two groups, they eventually teamed up.

The first covert "joint" team involving the CIA and various military special operations forces to work together in Afghanistan was Task Force 5, charged with the mission of capturing or killing "high value targets" like Osama bin Laden, senior leaders of al-Qaeda, and Mullah Mohammed Omar, the head of the Taliban. A sister organization set up in Iraq was called Task Force 20. The two were eventually combined into Task Force 121 by General John Abizaid, the head of the U.S. Central Command.

In a new book to be released this month, Operation Darkheart, Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer describes the work of Task Force 121 in 2003, when he was serving as part of a team dubbed the Jedi Knights. Working under the alias of Major Christopher Stryker, he ran operations for the Defense Intelligence Agency (the military equivalent of the CIA) out of Bagram Air Base.

One October night, Shaffer was dropped into a village near Asadabad in Kunar province by an MH-47 Chinook helicopter to lead a "joint" team, including Army Rangers (a Special Forces division) and 10th Mountain Division troops. They were on a mission to capture a lieutenant of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a notorious warlord allied with the Taliban, based on information provided by the CIA.

It wasn't easy. "They succeeded in striking at the core of the Taliban and their safe havens across the border in Pakistan. For a moment Shaffer saw us winning the war," reads the promotional material for the book. "Then the military brass got involved. The policies that top officials relied on were hopelessly flawed. Shaffer and his team were forced to sit and watch as the insurgency grew -- just across the border in Pakistan."

Almost a quarter century after Operation Eagle Claw, Shaffer, who was part of the Able Danger team that had pursued Al Qaeda in the 1990s, describes the bitter turf wars between the CIA and Special Forces teams over how the shadowy world of secret assassinations in Afghanistan and Pakistan should be run.

Task Force 373

Fast forward to 2007, the first time Task Force 373 is mentioned in the Wikileaks documents. We don't know whether its number means anything, but coincidentally or not, chapter 373 of the U.S. Code 10, the act of Congress that sets out what the U.S. military is legally allowed to do, permits the Secretary of Defense to empower any "civilian employee" of the military "to execute warrants and make arrests without a warrant" in criminal matters. Whether or not this is indeed the basis for that "373" remains a classified matter -- as indeed, until the Wikileaks document dump occurred, was the very existence of the group.

Analysts say that Task Force 373 complements Task Force 121 by using "white forces" like the Rangers and the Green Berets, as opposed to the more secretive Delta Force. Task Force 373 is supposedly run out of three military bases -- in Kabul, the Afghan capital; Kandahar, the country's second largest city; and Khost City near the Pakistani tribal lands. It's possible that some of its operations also come out of Camp Marmal, a German base in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Sources familiar with the program say that the task force has its own helicopters and aircraft, notably AC-130 Spectre gunships, dedicated only to its use.

Its commander appears to have been Brigadier General Raymond Palumbo, based out of the Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Palumbo, however, left Fort Bragg in mid-July, shortly after General Stanley McChrystal was relieved as Afghan war commander by President Obama. The name of the new commander of the task force is not known.

In more than 100 incident reports in the Wikileaks files, Task Force 373 is described as leading numerous "capture/kill" efforts, notably in Khost, Paktika, and Nangarhar provinces, all bordering the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of northern Pakistan. Some reportedly resulted in successful captures, while others led to the death of local police officers or even small children, causing angry villagers to protest and attack U.S.-led military forces.

In April 2007, David Adams, commander of the Khost provincial reconstruction team, was called to meet with elders from the village of Gurbuz in Khost province, who were angry about Task Force 373's operations in their community. The incident report on Wikileaks does not indicate just what Task Force 373 did to upset Gurbuz's elders, but the governor of Khost, Arsala Jamal, had been publicly complaining about Special Forces operations and civilian deaths in his province since December 2006, when five civilians were killed in a raid on Darnami village.

"This is our land," he said then. "I've been asking with greater force: Let us sit together, we know our Afghan brothers, we know our culture better. With these operations we should not create more enemies. We are in a position to reduce mistakes."

As Adams would later recall in an op-ed he co-authored for the Wall Street Journal, "The increasing number of raids on Afghan homes alienated many of Khost's tribal elders."

On June 12, 2007, Danny Hall and Gordon Philips, working in Nangarhar province just northeast of Khost, were called into that meeting with Governor Sherzai to explain how Task Force 373 had killed those seven local Afghan police officers. Like Jamal, Sherzai made the point to Hall and Philips that "he strongly encourages better coordination... and he further emphasized that he does not want to see this happen again."

Less than a week later, a Task Force 373 team fired five rockets at a compound in Nangar Khel in Paktika province to the south of Khost, in an attempt to kill Abu Laith al-Libi, an alleged al-Qaeda member from Libya. When the U.S. forces made it to the village, they found that Task Force 373 had destroyed a madrassa (or Islamic school), killing six children and grievously wounding a seventh who, despite the efforts of a U.S. medical team, would soon die. (In late January 2008, al-Libi was reported killed by a Hellfire missile from a Predator drone strike in a village near Mir Ali in North Waziristan in Pakistan.)

Paktika Governor Akram Khapalwak met with the U.S. military the day after the raid. Unlike his counterparts in Khost and Nangarhar, Khapalwak agreed to support the "talking points" developed for Task Force 373 to explain the incident to the media. According to the Wikileaks incident report, the governor then "echoed the tragedy of children being killed, but stressed this could've been prevented had the people exposed the presence of insurgents in the area."

However, no military talking points, no matter in whose mouth, could stop the civilian deaths as long as Task Force 373's raids continued.

On October 4, 2007, its members called in an air strike -- 500 pound Paveway bombs -- on a house in the village of Laswanday, just six miles from Nangar Khel in Paktika province (where those seven children had already died). This time, four men, one woman, and a girl -- all civilians -- as well as a donkey, a dog, and several chickens would be slaughtered. A dozen U.S. soldiers were injured, but the soldiers reported that not one "enemy" was detained or killed.

The Missing Afghan Story

Not all raids resulted in civilian deaths. The U.S. military incident reports released by Wikileaks suggest that Task Force 373 had better luck in capturing "targets" alive and avoiding civilian deaths on December 14, 2007. The 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne) was asked that day to support Task Force 373 in a search in Paktika province for Bitonai and Nadr, two alleged al-Qaeda leaders listed on the JPEL. The operation took place just outside the town of Orgun, close to U.S. Forward Operating Base (FOB) Harriman. Located 7,000 feet above sea level and surrounded by mountains, it hosts about 300 soldiers as well as a small CIA compound, and is often visited by chattering military helicopters well as sleepy camel herds belonging to local Pashtuns.

An airborne assault team code-named "Operation Spartan" descended on the compounds where Bitonai and Nadr were supposed to be living, but failed to find them. When a local Afghan informant told the Special Forces soldiers that the suspects were at a location about two miles away, Task Force 373 seized both men as well as 33 others who were detained at FOB Harriman for questioning and possible transfer to the prison at Bagram.

But when Task Force 373 was on the prowl, civilians were, it seems, always at risk, and while the Wikileaks documents reveal what the U.S soldiers were willing to report, the Afghan side of the story was often left in a ditch. For example, on a Monday night in mid-November 2009, Task Force 373 conducted an operation to capture or kill an alleged militant code-named "Ballentine" in Ghazni province. A terse incident report announced that one Afghan woman and four "insurgents" had been killed. The next morning, Task Force White Eagle, a Polish unit under the command of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, reported that some 80 people gathered to protest the killings. The window of an armored vehicle was damaged by the angry villagers, but the documents don't offer us their version of the incident.

In an ironic twist, one of the last Task Force 373 incidents recorded in the Wikileaks documents was almost a reprise of the original Operation Eagle Claw disaster that led to the creation of the "joint" capture/kill teams. Just before sunrise on October 26, 2009, two U.S. helicopters, a UH-1 Huey and an AH-1 Cobra, collided near the town of Garmsir in the southern province of Helmand, killing four Marines.

Closely allied with Task Force 373 is a British unit, Task Force 42, composed of Special Air Service, Special Boat Service, and Special Reconnaissance Regiment commandos who operate in Helmand province and are mentioned in several Wikileaks incident reports.


"Capture/kill" is a key part of a new military "doctrine" developed by the Special Forces Command established after the failure of Operation Eagle Claw. Under the leadership of General Bryan D. Brown, who took over the Special Forces Command in September 2003, the doctrine came to be known as F4, which stood for "find, fix, finish, and follow-up" -- a slightly euphemistic but not hard to understand message about how alleged terrorists and insurgents were to be dealt with.

Under Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in the Bush years, Brown began setting up "joint Special Forces" teams to conduct F4 missions outside war zones. These were given the anodyne name "Military Liaison Elements." At least one killing by such a team in Paraguay (of an armed robber not on any targeting list) was written up by New York Times reporters Scott Shane and Thom Shanker. The team, whose presence had not been made known to the U.S. ambassador there, was ordered to leave the country.

"The number-one requirement is to defend the homeland. And so sometimes that requires that you find and capture or kill terrorist targets around the world that are trying to do harm to this nation," Brown told the House Committee on Armed Services in March 2006. "Our foreign partners... are willing but incapable nations that want help in building their own capability to defend their borders and eliminate terrorism in their countries or in their regions." In April 2007, President Bush rewarded Brown's planning by creating a special high-level office at the Pentagon for an assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities.

Michael G. Vickers, made famous in the book and film Charlie Wilson's War as the architect of the covert arms-and-money supply chain to the mujaheedin in the CIA's anti-Soviet Afghan campaign of the 1980s, was nominated to fill the position. Under his leadership, a new directive was issued in December 2008 to "develop capabilities for extending U.S. reach into denied areas and uncertain environments by operating with and through indigenous foreign forces or by conducting low visibility operations." In this way, the "capture/kill" program was institutionalized in Washington.

"The war on terror is fundamentally an indirect war... It's a war of partners... but it also is a bit of the war in the shadows, either because of political sensitivity or the problem of finding terrorists," Vickers told the Washington Post as 2007 ended. "That's why the Central Intelligence Agency is so important... and our Special Operations forces play a large role."

George W. Bush's departure from the White House did not dampen the enthusiasm for F4. Quite the contrary: even though the F4 formula has recently been tinkered with, in typical military fashion, and has now become "find, fix, finish, exploit, and analyze," or F3EA, President Obama has, by all accounts, expanded military intelligence gathering and "capture/kill" programs globally in tandem with an escalation of drone-strike operations by the CIA.

There are quite a few outspoken supporters of the "capture/kill" doctrine. Columbia University Professor Austin Long is one academic who has jumped on the F3EA bandwagon. Noting its similarity to the Phoenix assassination program, responsible for tens of thousands of deaths during the U.S. war in Vietnam (which he defends), he has called for a shrinking of the U.S. military "footprint" in Afghanistan to 13,000 Special Forces troops who would focus exclusively on counter-terrorism, particularly assassination operations. "Phoenix suggests that intelligence coordination and the integration of intelligence with an action arm can have a powerful effect on even extremely large and capable armed groups," he and his co-author William Rosenau wrote in a July 2009 Rand Institute monograph entitled" "The Phoenix Program and Contemporary Counterinsurgency."

Others are even more aggressively inclined. Lieutenant George Crawford, who retired from the position of "lead strategist" for the Special Forces Command to go work for Archimedes Global, Inc., a Washington consulting firm, has suggested that F3EA be replaced by one term: "Manhunting." In a monograph published by the Joint Special Operations University in September 2009, "Manhunting: Counter-Network Organization for Irregular Warfare," Crawford spells out "how to best address the responsibility to develop manhunting as a capability for American national security."

Killing the Wrong People

The strange evolution of these concepts, the creation of ever more global hunter-killer teams whose purpose in life is assassination 24/7, and the civilians these "joint Special Forces" teams regularly kill in their raids on supposed "targets" have unsettled even military experts.

For example, Christopher Lamb, the acting director of the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University, and Martin Cinnamond, a former U.N. official in Afghanistan, penned an article for the Spring 2010 issue of the Joint Forces Quarterly in which they wrote: "There is broad agreement... that the indirect approach to counterinsurgency should take precedence over kill/capture operations. However, the opposite has occurred."

Other military types claim that the hunter-killer approach is short-sighted and counterproductive. "My take on Task Force 373 and other task forces, it has a purpose because it keeps the enemy off balance. But It does not understand the fundamental root cause of the conflict, of why people are supporting the Taliban," says Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and State Department contractor who resigned from the government last September. Hoh, who often worked with Task Force 373 as well as other Special Forces "capture/kill" programs in Afghanistan and Iraq, adds: "We are killing the wrong people, the mid-level Taliban who are only fighting us because we are in their valleys. If we were not there, they would not be fighting the U.S."

Task Force 373 may be a nightmare for Afghans. For the rest of us -- now that Wikileaks has flushed it into the open -- it should be seen as a symptom of deeper policy disasters. After all, it raises a basic question: Is this country really going to become known as a global Manhunters, Inc.?


7) Missing Piece in Oil Rig Inquiry: Who Was in Charge?
August 25, 2010

HOUSTON - Even after dozens of witnesses, a hundred hours of testimony and three months of investigation, a chairman of a federal panel exploring the Deepwater Horizon disaster admitted Wednesday that he still lacked a simple fact: Who was the top authority on the oil rig when it exploded?

The finger-pointing among various witnesses and lawyers has become so routine at the government hearings that the chairman, Capt. Hung Nguyen of the Coast Guard, said he viewed the rig as a "three-legged stool" - wobbly and without anyone taking responsibility.

"Somebody's got to be in charge here," Mr. Nguyen said. "I just don't have a clear picture in my mind of who it is here."

The panel of Coast Guard and Interior Department representatives is trying to determine the causes of the explosion that led to the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But the hearings have been dominated by disagreements among lawyers for the companies involved: BP, which owned the well and leased the rig; Transocean, the rig's owner; and Halliburton, which poured cement around the well.

Looming over the hearings are pending civil trials and a Department of Justice criminal investigation that are likely to involve the same witnesses and rely on facts that emerge from their testimony.

This week, BP has been pushing back against the perception that it is primarily responsible for the spill. On Wednesday, the company issued a statement saying that Halliburton should have stopped work on cementing the well if its workers held genuine safety concerns. To not do so, BP said, would be "morally repugnant."

Halliburton replied with a statement that said BP had ignored its warnings and persisted with a risky plan to use fewer devices called centralizers when cementing the well. "Ultimately, Halliburton acted on the decisions of and at the explicit direction of the well owner," the statement said.

The dispute follows testimony Tuesday about a report from Halliburton to BP two days before the explosion that said the cement could result in a "severe gas flow" problem.

The federal hearings have unearthed many new details about the final actions taken to try to control the runaway well.

On Wednesday, a senior BP official testified that emergency equipment at the top of the well had been configured improperly and therefore delayed the response effort. The official, Harry Thierens, the vice president for drilling and completions, testified that it was the responsibility of Transocean, the rig's owner, to maintain and configure the equipment.

That testimony could help investigators explain a lingering mystery: why the equipment did not shear the well closed as designed.

The equipment, known as a blowout preventer or BOP, is designed to suppress rising hydrocarbons inside the well. It was one of many devices that malfunctioned as engineers tried for months to control the well.

Transocean released a statement saying that the configuration mistake "had no bearing on the BOP's ability to function on the night of the incident." The statement added that the mistake was discovered by a subsea robot within 24 hours.

The oil leak went uncontrolled for 86 days, causing the largest deepwater oil spill in United States history, before engineers finally capped it on July 15.


8) Acrimony Behind the Scenes of Gulf Oil Spill
August 26, 2010

This article is by Clifford Krauss, Henry Fountain and John M. Broder.

HOUSTON - Richard Lynch was walking down the hall in BP's crisis command center in early May when some engineers rushed up, bearing bad news.

"We've lost the cofferdam," they said.

In fact the cofferdam, a 100-ton, four-story-high steel dome that the company had lowered to try to contain the flow of oil from its out-of-control well, had become clogged with icelike crystals and was rising in the water, full of flammable gas and oil.

"I said: 'What the hell do you mean you've lost the cofferdam? How did you lose it? Don't give me that!' " Mr. Lynch, a BP vice president and a leader of the effort to kill the well, recalled. "This thing has taken off like a damn balloon."

Had the dome hit one of the work ships, another inferno like the one that destroyed the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig might have resulted, with more lives lost. But eventually the engineers managed to maneuver it to safety.

"The last thing you'd want is this thing filled with ice rushing up to the bottom of the vessel," Mr. Lynch said.

The official death of the now-notorious Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico is expected after Labor Day, with the completion of a relief well. Whether the four-month effort to kill it was a remarkable feat of engineering performed under near-impossible circumstances or a stumbling exercise in trial and error that took longer than it should have will be debated for some time.

But interviews with BP engineers and technicians, contractors and Obama administration officials who, with the eyes of the world upon them, worked to stop the flow of oil, suggest that the process was also far more stressful, hair-raising and acrimonious than the public was aware of.

There were close calls, the details of which were not released to the public, like the panic over the rising dome. Sleep-deprived men and women neglected family birthdays and watched long-planned summer vacations vanish. Inside the command center here and at the well site, 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana, tempers flared - in one heated argument, a senior engineer on a ship threatened to throw another senior engineer overboard - and blood pressures rose.

The dome was only the first public debacle. As failure followed failure, the relationship between BP executives and administration officials deteriorated, resulting in disputes that some oil industry experts say delayed the killing of the well.

Looking back, administration officials said that they became concerned that BP could not handle the crisis and that at crucial junctures the company made serious errors of judgment. "There was an arc of loss of confidence," said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. "I was not comfortable they knew what they were doing."

Those on the industry side saw it differently. "The only benefit I see is they actually challenged us to a level of detail and communication," Mark Mazzella, BP's top well-control expert, said of the government scientists who stepped in to supervise the effort. "They didn't offer anything that changed anything we actually did."

A decision by Energy Secretary Steven Chu to turn to BP's competitors for advice was viewed as an insult by many at the company, said a technician who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the matter.

The tensions above filtered down to the command center - a series of rooms on the third floor of a tower on BP's campus in Houston's Westlake section - where the seasoned well experts faced a challenge of unparalleled scale and difficulty: to apply techniques used often on land to an out-of-control well 5,000 feet underwater.

"If ever there was a 'war,' this would qualify," one contractor wrote in a letter to BP.

The walls of the center were papered with notes from well-wishers: "You are heroes, may God lead, direct and protect you all," read a poster sent by BP workers in South Africa. BP offered the scores of exhausted workers services including massages, "stress therapy" and information on sleep hygiene and ergonomic techniques to reduce physical strain.

But by mid-August, when the oil was finally contained, the well was cemented and all that remained was the completion of the relief well, the intensity of the experience was becoming clear to many of those who worked to stop the worst marine oil spill in American history.

"It's been one of those sort of very profound periods in your life," said Paul Tooms, BP's vice president for engineering. "I'm not quite sure what normal is going to feel like after this."

Mounting Frustrations

Mr. Mazzella, the BP well-control expert, who ropes and rides at rodeos in his spare time, was at a practice rodeo in early June when the wife of a friend confronted him.

"You're not doing a very good job, are you?" she said.

Even Mr. Mazzella's elderly father pointedly asked him one day when BP would finally get the well plugged.

"We are tired of hearing about it on the TV," he told his son.

Mr. Mazzella said he and his colleagues struggled to shrug off the criticism and stay focused on their task. But the humiliation peaked over Memorial Day weekend, when the procedure called the top kill also met with failure.

Senior BP executives and government officials, once again, had publicly offered optimistic predictions about the success of the technique, which involved pumping in heavy drilling mud and, in a process known as a junk shot, assorted objects including golf balls. Privately, it turned out, some engineers with BP and with Wild Well Control, a contractor, were far less confident that the top kill would work.

For three days, engineers worked high-powered pumps on two surface ships to overcome the oil and gas belching out of the well.

At one point, technicians said in interviews, a plumbing problem on one of the pump ships forced a delay in the operation. Then a screaming match over the radio between two senior engineers ended in one of them threatening to come over and throw the other overboard.

At the Houston command center, officials assembled to monitor the top kill. A BP technician called out pressure readings. Dr. Chu, in shirtsleeves, performed his own calculations with paper and pen.

As they watched, the pressures started to decrease - a sign that the pumped-in drilling mud was succeeding in overcoming the pressure of the oil spewing out of the well. There were high-fives around the room, and government officials sent text messages to the White House saying that victory might be near.

But an hour later, the pressure readings leveled off. The attempt had failed.

The next day, Dr. Chu, concerned about putting too much pressure on the well, ordered an end to the operation. It was a turning point: the government was now in charge, and with greater frequency, Energy Department officials and scientists were conferring with Exxon Mobil and Shell engineers, asking for advice about what to do next.

For BP's engineers and technicians, it was one more thing to be depressed about. Mr. Mazzella recalled the faces of his crew members when they returned from the ships by helicopter to Houma, La., after the top kill had failed.

"They were down, they were," he said. "It impacted everybody when we had to walk away from that thing and the oil was still flowing."

"Everybody came up to me," Mr. Mazzella said, "and they were almost apologetic - 'We're sorry we didn't get this done.' "

His voice trailed off. "We didn't get this done," he repeated softly.

Learning From Failures

With the top kill abandoned, "it was quite obvious that this was going to keep going for some time," Mr. Tooms recalled. The problems facing the team seemed overwhelming.

"I didn't feel like I had the answers," he said.

For the most part, Mr. Tooms said, he was able to ignore the news clippings sent by friends back home in Britain. But reports in the American news media would send him ranting to his boss.

At the same time, government scientists were starting to press BP for more data and more analysis.

Dr. Chu told his Energy Department associates he was no longer willing to settle for half-measures or wishful thinking. "I wanted to make sure this thing is really killed dead, dead, dead," he said in an interview.

But Kent Wells, a BP senior vice president who early on became the effort's public face, said in an interview that looking back, the Houston engineers had learned something from the failures. The experience with the cofferdam, for example, had taught them a better way to cap the well - avoiding the formation of the icelike crystals by first lowering the capping device to the seabed off to the side, away from the plume of oil, then sliding it into place. This paid off less than a month later, he said, when engineers installed a loose-fitting "top hat" cap on the well.

The top hat was the first modest success, eventually funneling about 15,000 barrels of oil a day for surface collection. But it was viewed only as a stopgap; what was needed, many on the team were convinced, was a more radical approach, one that had been proposed only a few days after the blowout on the Deepwater Horizon rig, when the team brainstormed solutions to the disaster: a tight-fitting cap.

"To meaningfully go forward in any rational way required a pretty bold step, which was to open up the flow again and put a device on that that would give you some pressure control," Mr. Tooms said. "That was for me the defining moment."

A Pressing Question

As bolts go, this one was enormous: nearly a foot and a half long and tipping the scales at 51 pounds. With five identical ones, it held what remained of the broken riser pipe atop the well's crippled blowout preventer at the seabed.

If there was to be any hope of putting on the cap and shutting off the flow of oil before the relief well did the job later in the summer, the bolts had to be removed. But no one knew how stuck they might have become by sitting in the deep for so long.

To the public, their expectations dulled by the repeated failures, a tight-fitting cap was just one more hill on a four-month roller coaster ride. But engineers were focused on a single pressing question: Could the bolts could be loosened by remotely operated submersibles, the high-tech marionettes that did the work in the crushing pressures and frigid temperatures 5,000 feet down?

The engineers scrounged around and came up with the biggest subsea torque wrench they could find, and watched from the Houston command center as a remotely operated submersible used it to easily loosen one of the bolts.

That seemingly simple act was a game-changer, said Mr. Lynch, the BP vice president.

"Suddenly," he said, "I've got a pressure containment device I can put on this, and it's real and it works. Now I've got an opportunity to close the well in."

Which is what the engineers did several days later, bolting on the new device, called a capping stack, and preparing to conduct an "integrity test" by slowly closing valves on the stack and raising the pressure in the well.

Yet the test was delayed, a fact that BP and government officials publicly attributed to a benign request by the government for more information. In fact, a dispute had erupted. BP wanted to go ahead with the tests. Dr. Chu and his advisers were blocking them. Closing the valves, they argued, could force the oil out of the well and make a bad situation much worse.

The government team convened a conference call with hydrologists and geophysicists from universities and other oil companies. They raised alarms to Mr. Wells, Andy Inglis, BP's chief executive for exploration and production, and James Dupree, a BP senior vice president, who continued to insist that the procedure was safe, administration sources say.

"Chu raised his concerns about the subsea geology with the BP people and they couldn't answer his questions," an aide to the energy secretary said. "The result was that the plan to conduct the integrity test was halted for 24 hours."

Some BP executives, a government official said, were furious, skipping some of the scheduled engineering meetings over the next several days.

"It was like, 'Where the hell are they?' " the official said. "It was frustrating to them that people were still asking questions."

Eventually, BP engineers persuaded the government to continue with the test, and on July 15, Mr. Tooms stood in the engineering room, watching the valves being closed on video feeds.

The room was hushed, except for the background radio chatter between technicians in Houston and out in the gulf, calling out pressure readings and the number of turns as the final valve was dialed closed. "And then there was almost kind of a pause," Mr. Tooms said, "kind of like a realization that it stopped."

At two news conferences on July 16 - the tension between the government and BP had long before led them to hold briefings separately - Mr. Wells and Thad W. Allen, the retired Coast Guard admiral who led the federal government's response to the spill, announced that the test had started. Oil was no longer flowing into the gulf. On BP's live video feed, the torrents of oil and gas gave way to images of small white particles drifting lazily through the water past a quiet metal hulk.

Yet how long the respite would last was uncertain. The government scientists were still skeptical about leaving the cap closed, while BP engineers were convinced that the well could handle the pressure.

The issue came to a climax at a meeting the next morning in the 20th-floor boardroom at the BP office tower. Mr. Tooms's team took up many of the 22 seats around the long conference table. They were joined by government scientists. Dr. Chu was dialed in by speaker phone, as were Carol Browner, President Obama's adviser on environmental issues, and Admiral Allen.

"We just laid out our technical case of why we believed what we believed," Mr. Tooms said. "When you have the level of intellectual you are talking to, they are going to ask you questions about why your technical case is correct. And we went through all that."

It would prove a pivotal moment. After hours of discussion, the government agreed to keep the cap closed. The pressure held, the flow of oil remained shut off and BP could eventually proceed with plans to seal the well permanently.

"Had we opened it up at that point that would have been, I think, probably the darkest moment in my career," Mr. Tooms said.

One More Twist

In the weeks after the oil was shut off, the well offered up one final surprise.

The story had gradually receded from the headlines - a comfort to BP executives, who had watched the company's stock price plummet, and to the Obama administration, which had been criticized for the speed of its response to the leak.

But on Aug. 2, as workers prepared to pump mud into the well to kill it permanently, an engineer stuck his head into office of Mr. Lynch, the BP vice president.

"Richard, we've got a problem," the engineer said.

A hydraulic leak had caused a critical valve on the cap to open up again. A second, fail-safe valve behind it was being kept closed by little more than friction. If that second valve opened, oil and gas would again start pouring into the gulf.

In the end, the valve held, and a renewed nightmare was averted.

But as Mr. Lynch recalled, "The difference between us having the well shut and everything going swimmingly well and the fact that we could have been flowing hydrocarbons back into the sea was that close."


9) Struggling Cities Shut Firehouses in Budget Crisis
August 26, 2010

SAN DIEGO - Fire departments around the nation are cutting jobs, closing firehouses and increasingly resorting to "rolling brownouts" in which they shut different fire companies on different days as the economic downturn forces many cities and towns to make deep cuts that are slowing their responses to fires and other emergencies.

Philadelphia began rolling brownouts this month, joining cities from Baltimore to Sacramento that now shut some units every day. San Jose, Calif., laid off 49 firefighters last month. And Lawrence, Mass., north of Boston, has laid off firefighters and shut down half of its six firehouses, forcing the city to rely on help from neighboring departments each time a fire goes to a second alarm.

Fire chiefs and union officials alike say it is the first time they have seen such deep cuts in so many parts of the country. "I've never seen it so widespread," said Harold A. Schaitberger, the general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

The risks of cutting fire service were driven home here last month when Bentley Do, a 2-year-old boy who was visiting relatives, somehow got his hands on a gum ball, put it in his mouth, started laughing and then began choking.

"It blocked the air hole," said his uncle, Brian Do, who called 911 while other relatives frantically tried to dislodge the gum ball. "No air could flow in and out."

It is only 600 steps from the front door of the neatly kept stucco home where the boy was staying to the nearest fire station, just down the block. But the station was empty that evening: its engine was in another part of town, on a call in an area usually covered by an engine that had been taken out of service as part of a brownout plan.

The police came to the home within five minutes and began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, officials said. But it took nine and a half minutes - almost twice the national goal of arriving within five minutes - for the fire engine, with a paramedic and more medical equipment, to get there. An ambulance came moments later and took Bentley to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The San Diego Fire-Rescue chief, Javier Mainar, said it was impossible to say whether the delay contributed to Bentley's death on July 20. But he said there was no doubt that the city's brownouts, which take 13 percent of firefighters off the streets each day to save $11.5 million annually, led to the delay.

"You can just lock everything down and look at it sequentially, chronologically, as to what occurred," Chief Mainar said in an interview. "There is no question that the brownout of Engine 44 resulted in Engine 38 having to take a response in that community, and because of that, Engine 38 was now out of position to respond to something that happened just down the street from their fire station."

Fire service was once a sacred cow at budget time. But the downturn has lingered so long that many cities, which have already made deep cuts in other agencies, are now turning to their fire departments.

Some are trying to wrest concessions from unions, which over the years have won generous pension plans that allow many firefighters to retire in their 40s and 50s - plans that many cities say are unaffordable. Others want to reduce minimum-staffing requirements, which often force them to resort to costly overtime to fill shifts. Others are simply cutting service.

Analysts worry that some of the cuts could be putting people and property in danger. As the downturn has worn on, ISO, an organization that evaluates cities' fire protection capabilities for the insurance industry, has downgraded more cities, said Michael R. Waters, ISO's vice president of risk-detection services.

"This is generally due to a reduction in firefighting personnel available for responding to calls, a reduction in the number of responding fire apparatus, and gaps in the optimal deployment of apparatus or deficiencies in firefighter training programs," Mr. Waters said in a statement.

Several fire chiefs said in interviews that the cuts were making them nervous.

"It's roulette," said Chief James S. Clack of the Baltimore City Fire Department, which recently reduced the number of fire units closed each day to three from six. Officials saw that the closings in the 55-unit department were in some cases leading to longer response times. "I'm always worried that something's going to happen where one of these companies is closed."

Early in his mayoralty, Michael R. Bloomberg of New York closed six fire companies to save money. This year, a threat to close 20 more - a 6 percent reduction in New York's fire companies - was averted when the city found savings elsewhere.

Several cities - including Lawrence - have said that they were forced to cut service because the unions failed to make concessions. Mr. Schaitberger, the union president, who was here for a union convention, said that protecting the pensions his members have won over the years was a top priority this year.

The pension issue has an added resonance in San Diego. The city was forced to consider a bankruptcy filing even before the Great Recession, and was barred from raising money by selling bonds to the public after officials disclosed that they had shortchanged the pension fund for city workers for years, even as they improved pension benefits. San Diego's pension fund has only two-thirds of the money it needs to pay the benefits promised to retirees, according to an updated calculation made by the city in the spring, and faces a shortfall of $2.1 billion.

So even before the recession and the brownouts, fire service in San Diego was stretched thin. A previous San Diego fire chief, Jeff Bowman, was hired in 2002 with a mandate to build up the department, but he resigned in 2006, after the pension-fueled fiscal crisis surfaced and it became clear that he would not get the money to build and staff the extra fire stations he believed were needed. "The question is whether fire protection is adequate, and in my opinion it's not," he said in an interview.

After Bentley Do died, the City Council agreed to put a question on the ballot in November asking voters to approve a sales tax increase, which could be put in place only if the city adopts certain budget and pension reforms. The money could restore the fire service and help close a deep budget gap projected for next year.

But it would come too late for the Do family. Bentley, whose father, Nam Do, an American, was working in Vietnam as an architect, was just visiting San Diego with his mother, Mien Nguyen. Ms. Nguyen, who was six months pregnant, was here to take the oath of United States citizenship. She was sworn in the day after Bentley died, Brian Do, the uncle, said, but she fainted when she got her certificate and was taken to the hospital. Nam Do left his job in Vietnam to come here to grieve for his son, and goes to a temple every day, Brian Do said.

He said that the family had no plans to sue the city. "We're not blaming the city or blaming the Fire Department," he said, "but the reason I speak out is because I want them to do a better job for other people."


10) Rumor to Fact in Tales of Post-Katrina Violence
August 26, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - In the days after Hurricane Katrina left much of New Orleans in flooded ruins, the city was awash in tales of violence and bloodshed.

The narrative of those early, chaotic days - built largely on rumors and half-baked anecdotes - quickly hardened into a kind of ugly consensus: poor blacks and looters were murdering innocents and terrorizing whoever crossed their path in the dark, unprotected city.

"As you look back on it, at the time it was being reported, it looked like the city was under siege," said Russel L. Honoré, the retired Army lieutenant general who led military relief efforts after the storm.

Today, a clearer picture is emerging, and it is an equally ugly one, including white vigilante violence, police killings, official cover-ups and a suffering population far more brutalized than many were willing to believe. Several police officers and a white civilian accused of racially motivated violence have recently been indicted in various cases, and more incidents are coming to light as the Justice Department has started several investigations into civil rights violations after the storm.

"The environment that was produced by the storm brought out what was dormant in people here - the anger and the contempt they felt against African-Americans in the community," said John Penny, a criminologist at Southern University of New Orleans. "We might not ever know how many people were shot, killed, or whose bodies will never be found."

Broken levees left 80 percent of New Orleans submerged, but in unflooded Algiers Point, for instance, a mostly white enclave in a predominantly black neighborhood on the west bank of the Mississippi River, armed white militias cordoned off many of the streets.

They posted signs that boasted, "We shoot looters." And the sound of gunfire peppered the hot days and nights like thunderclaps of a second storm.

Reginald Bell, a black resident, said in a recent interview that he was threatened at gunpoint by two white men there a few days after the storm. The men, on a balcony a few blocks from his home, yelled at him, "We don't want your kind around here!"

Then one of the men racked his pump-action shotgun, aimed it at Mr. Bell and dared him to be seen again on the streets of Algiers Point, Mr. Bell said. The next day, he said, the men confronted him on his porch while he sat with his girlfriend. They shoved guns - a shotgun and a long-nose .357 Magnum - in the couple's faces and reiterated their demand.

"There was no electricity, no police, no nothing," said Mr. Bell, 41, sitting on his porch on a recent afternoon. "We were like sitting ducks. I slept with a butcher knife and a hatchet under my pillow."

The West Bank area of the city was spared any flooding, but in the days and weeks after the storm, it was littered with fallen trees and, according to witnesses, with the bodies of several black men - none of whom appeared to have drowned.

"I done seen bodies lay in the streets for weeks," said Malik Rahim, who lives around the corner from Mr. Bell and came to his aid. "I'm not talking about the flooded Ninth Ward, I'm talking about dry Algiers. I watched them become bloated and torn apart by dogs. And they all had bullet wounds.

"We've been screaming it from the top of our lungs since those first days, but nobody wanted to listen."

Mr. Bell said that he went to the police not long after the confrontation with the two gun-wielding white men but no report or action was taken. It was not until last year when he was interviewed by a federal grand jury looking into civil rights violations in post-Katrina New Orleans that people seemed to pay attention, he said.

Some of the most serious accusations surfaced after investigations by The Times-Picayune and the nonprofit news organization ProPublica, which spotlighted much of the police violence and racially motivated violence around Algiers Point.

One case is that of a former Algiers resident, Roland J. Bourgeois Jr., who is white and was accused of being part of one of the vigilante groups. He was recently indicted by the federal government on civil rights charges in the shooting of three black men who were trying to leave the city. According to the indictment, Mr. Bourgeois, who now lives in Mississippi, warned one neighbor that "anything coming up this street darker than a brown paper bag is getting shot."

The highest-profile case involving the police is the Danziger Bridge shooting in eastern New Orleans, where six days after Katrina, a group of police officers wielding assault rifles and automatic weapons fired on a group of unarmed civilians, wounding a family of four and killing two, including a teenager and a mentally disabled man. The man, Ronald Madison, 40, was shot in the back with a shotgun and then stomped and kicked as he lay dying, according to court papers.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu in May invited the Justice Department to conduct a full review of the city's Police Department. The Justice Department has also begun several civil and criminal investigations into post-Katrina violence involving the police and civilians.

Thomas Perez, an assistant attorney general, said the federal government was investigating eight criminal cases involving accusations of police misconduct. Many people in the city - including activists, victims and witnesses - had long contended that racial violence was being ignored by local law enforcement.

"We were dismissed as kooks for the last four years," said Jacques Morial, a co-director of the Louisiana Justice Institute, a nonprofit advocacy organization, and the son of New Orleans' first black mayor. "I think what we are seeing now recalibrates the reality of Katrina, and I think it vindicates lots of folks."

The city's police superintendent, Ronal Serpas, who took over the department in May, said he was troubled by what has come to light since the storm.

"We have to confront this and look at it head on," Mr. Serpas said. "There have been far too many examples of men who have worn this badge and admitted in court to behavior that is an absolute insult to this city and to the men and women of this department who wear this badge with dignity and pride."

On a recent afternoon, Mr. Rahim, 62, walked through the streets of Algiers and pointed out where, block by block, the militias had set up barricades and stood guard. He walked along the levee where the charred remains of Henry Glover were found in the trunk of a burned-out car, precipitating the indictment of three current and two former police officers.

"How can you remove the scars from the eyes of all the children who witnessed these atrocities?" Mr. Rahim asked.

General Honoré said that he had been asking himself questions, too.

"I think, every year there is more time for people to reflect on it," he said. "I came out of Katrina with one perspective on it. And there isn't a month that goes by that I don't talk to someone who survived it who gives me a different perspective than I had before."


11) Example Set by First Military Tribunal Case Has U.S. Wary
August 27, 2010

WASHINGTON - After working for a year to redeem the international reputation of military commissions, Obama administration officials are alarmed by the first case to go to trial under revamped rules: the prosecution of a former child soldier whom an American interrogator implicitly threatened with gang rape.

The defendant, Omar Khadr, was 15 when he was captured in Afghanistan and accused of throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier. Senior officials say his trial is undermining their broader effort to showcase reforms that they say have made military commissions fair and just.

"Optically, this has been a terrible case to begin the commissions with," said Matthew Waxman, who was the Pentagon's top detainee affairs official during the Bush administration. "There is a great deal of international skepticism and hostility toward military commissions, and this is a very tough case with which to push back against that skepticism and hostility."

Senior officials at the White House, the Justice Department and the Pentagon have agreed privately that it would be better to reach a plea bargain in the Khadr case so that a less problematic one would be the inaugural trial, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former officials. But the administration has not pushed to do so because officials fear, for legal and political reasons, that it would be seen as improper interference.

Mr. Khadr's trial at the naval base in Guantánamo Bay started earlier in August but was put on a monthlong hiatus because a lawyer got sick and collapsed in court. The pause has allowed the administration to consider the negative images the trial has already generated.

Chief among them are persistent questions about the propriety of prosecuting a child soldier. Moreover, in a blow to establishing an image of openness, the Pentagon sought to ban journalists who wrote about publicly known information that it decreed should be treated as secret.

The judge declined to suppress statements Mr. Khadr made after an Army interrogator sought to frighten him with a fabricated story about an Afghan youth who disappointed interrogators and was sent to an American prison where he died after a gang rape. In a pretrial hearing, the interrogator confirmed making that implicit threat, but the judge ruled it did not taint Mr. Khadr's later confessions.

And prosecutors disqualified an officer from the jury because he said he agreed with President Obama that Guantánamo had compromised America's values and international reputation.

Administration officials would speak only anonymously about deliberations on whether to try to abort the trial. But their view about the need to improve the system's perceived credibility - so allies will cooperate by providing evidence or extraditing defendants - was echoed by Kenneth L. Wainstein, assistant attorney general for national security in the Bush administration.

"It is important for the government to be able to proceed through a trial, to do so in a transparent way, and have the world see that this is a fair process with strong safeguards and full due process," he said. "The sooner that happens, the better."

No one intended the Khadr case to be the first trial under the revamped system.

He had already been charged when Mr. Obama froze the tribunals in January 2009. In November, after Congress overhauled commission rules, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. included Mr. Khadr in an initial batch of five detainees who would remain in the military system.

At the time, officials say, it was assumed that other referrals would quickly follow. But controversy over Mr. Holder's decision to move five other detainees to the regular court system for a trial in New York over the Sept. 11 attacks shut down the process, and military prosecutors resumed Mr. Khadr's case.

Mr. Khadr, who was born in Toronto and comes from a Qaeda-linked family, was a teenager in 2002 when he was found, heavily wounded, at a compound in Afghanistan after a firefight with United States troops. A grenade blast in that battle killed an Army sergeant, Christopher Speer.

Investigators concluded that Mr. Khadr threw the grenade - a theory defense lawyers reject. A videotape found at the compound was said to show Mr. Khadr helping to make and plant roadside bombs. But the centerpiece of five charges against him is Sergeant Speer's killing.

Earlier this summer, prosecutors and retired Vice Adm. Bruce MacDonald, the commissions' convening authority who must approve any sentence, apparently raised the possibility of a deal that would allow Mr. Khadr to serve only a few years, rather than a potential life sentence, if he pleaded guilty.

But Mr. Khadr, now 23, reacted by firing two defense lawyers. He told the court he was offended by what he saw as an attempt to "legitimize the sham process" by dangling "the least sentence possible" to coerce a confession.

Still, Dennis Edney, a Canadian lawyer assisting the Khadr family, said a deal involving a lesser charge, like conspiracy to support terrorism, remained possible.

"I would strongly recommend a reasonable deal to Omar if the murder charge was off the table," Mr. Edney said.

Sergeant Speer's wife, Tabitha Speer, might object to that outcome. She attended the opening of the trial and has written of her husband's death, "The pain now carried by both myself and our children will last a lifetime."

Administration officials have discussed whether senior civilian leaders at the Pentagon or elsewhere could get involved, helping to revive plea negotiations or even directing Admiral MacDonald to make a more attractive offer. (Admiral MacDonald did not respond to an interview request.)

A similar high-level intervention would clearly be allowed in the regular court system, where the attorney general supervises prosecutions. But tribunal rules insulate commission officials.

A provision in the Military Commissions Act prohibits "unlawful command influence," defined as attempting "to coerce, or, by any unauthorized means, influence" the judgment or actions of prosecutors or the convening authority. Officials are debating what that means.

The provision's wording was suggested to lawmakers in 2006 by Col. Morris D. Davis, then the chief commissions prosecutor, who complained that Bush appointees had inappropriately pressured him to take aggressive steps like using evidence he considered tainted by torture.

Now retired, Colonel Davis said he believes the provision was not meant to bar pressure to sweeten a plea offer: "It's clearly not 'command influence' to do something favorable to the accused," he said. "The whole concept was the opposite of that."

Still, the statute makes no such distinction. And officials do not want to risk intervening, lest it become partisan ammunition for conservatives who might accuse them of using political interference to coddle a terrorist.

Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale Law School, said there was " no clear answer" to how far administration officials may intrude. But given the risks, he said, "they are right to be cautious."


12) Medical Use of Marijuana Costs Some a Paycheck
August 28, 2010

Residents in 14 states and Washington can now appeal to their doctors for prescriptions for medical marijuana to help them with their pain.

Their employers, however, may not be so understanding.

In some cases, workers have been fired for failing drug tests despite having prescriptions saying, in effect, that what they are doing is legal according to the laws of their states.

Though the number of such cases appears to be small, they are exposing a new legal gray area, with workers complaining of rights violations and company officials scratching their heads over how to enforce a uniform policy for a drug that the federal government has not recognized as having a legitimate medical purpose.

"The current state of affairs puts employers in a very difficult situation," said Barbara L. Johnson, an employment lawyer in Washington. "But the reality is that there are no federal guidelines like there are when dealing with other types of prescription medications."

Some workers have learned about this legal quandary first-hand, at the cost of their jobs.

Nick Stennet, 20, has a congenital disorder called Poland's syndrome, which left him without a chest muscle on the right side of his body and with a right hand with fingers substantially shorter than those on his left.

Doctors prescribed one or two inhalations of marijuana each night before bed to relieve severe muscle stiffness and shooting pains in his arms.

Mr. Stennet said he told the human resources manager at the Home Depot in Hilo, Hawaii, about his prescription when he was being hired. But after his drug test came back positive for tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active chemical in marijuana, he was out a job.

"Why would they send me down there when they know I am going to test positive?" he said. "I feel like they put me through ridicule when it was so avoidable."

Steve Holmes, a Home Depot spokesman, said the company followed federal guidelines for its drug policy. Employees are allowed to take a leave if they choose to use marijuana to combat the side effects of treatment for a serious ailment. When they return, however, the THC must be out of their systems.

"It's a safety issue for us," Mr. Holmes said.

Cynthia Estlund, a professor of labor and employment law at New York University, said that only one state that had legalized medical marijuana had taken the additional step of saying explicitly that it was unlawful to fire someone for using a lawful substance.

At the same time, Ms. Estlund said, "Nothing in the law tells employers what to do, so they don't have to fire them under federal law."

That is the objection raised by Scott Michelman, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of his client, Joseph Casias.

In 2008, Mr. Casias, a father of two who medicates with marijuana to relieve the pain of inoperable brain and sinus cancer, was named associate of the year at the Wal-Mart in Battle Creek, Mich. But when he injured his knee last year, company policy required a drug test. The positive result cost him his job.

In June, the A.C.L.U. filed a complaint in state court on his behalf, citing wrongful termination. He is seeking reinstatement and damages.

"The cancer is not what's keeping him from earning a living - Wal-Mart is," Mr. Michelman said. "There's actually no law to require Wal-Mart to do what they did."

Greg Rossiter, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, said: "This is obviously an unfortunate situation all around. But we have to consider the overall safety of our customers and our associates."

On the broader legal question, Mr. Rossiter added: "As more states allow this treatment, employers are left without guidelines."

Only the Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Act offers protection to medical marijuana cardholders for students, employees and tenants. Michigan's law does not compel an employer to make accommodations for marijuana consumption "in any workplace" or for "any employee working while under the influence of marijuana," according to the legislation.

While that addresses marijuana smoking at work or just before work, the Michigan law does not speak to what employees can do away from work. Mr. Michelman of the A.C.L.U. said he believed that there was no gray area and that federal law does not govern the relationship between a private employer and an employee.

"There is only one law governing this situation, and that's Michigan law," he said.

John Vasconcellos, a California state senator who was a leading advocate for medical marijuana legislation there, said lawmakers had not anticipated such a collision of state and federal law in employment practices.

"I think they're hiding from common sense, and they're hiding from the science that shows it might help their employee be more healthy and feel less pain," Mr. Vasconcellos said of companies that fired employees with medical marijuana registry cards, prescriptions or endorsements from doctors.

In Colorado, the right to use medical marijuana for a debilitating medical condition is protected by the State Constitution - though with limitations - making it unique among states where it is legal. But Brandon Coats, 30, a phone operator at Dish Network who has used a wheelchair since he was paralyzed in a car accident 14 years go, was fired after a random drug test came back positive.

Mr. Coats's doctors had recommended medical marijuana to control his involuntary muscle spasms and seizures after prescription drugs were no longer effective for him. A few puffs before bed allows him to work comfortably the next day, said his lawyer, Michael Evans.

Mr. Evans said that Mr. Coats - who, he said, had consistently received good performance reviews - was terminated for conduct that was legal and outside of work.

In an e-mail, Francie Bauer, the company's corporate communications manager, said: "Dish Network does not comment on the specifics of employee matters. As a national company with more than 21,000 employees, Dish Network is committed to its drug-free workplace policy and compliance with federal law, which does not permit the use of marijuana, even for medicinal purposes."

The issue has not worked its way through the Colorado courts.

Some companies have begun to recognize marijuana as a legitimate therapy. Jian Software, based in Chico, Calif., recently consulted with the National Organization of Marijuana Reform Laws, or Norml, in an effort to institute a drug policy that accounts for the medicinal use of marijuana.

This is necessary, said R. Keith Stroup, legal counsel for Norml, because the courts have not yet held that medical marijuana users enjoy "a legally enforceable, fundamental right" to smoke.

"Employers in states that have legalized the medical use of marijuana under state law unfortunately remain free to fire employees who test positive for THC," Mr. Stroup said in an e-mail. "It is terribly unfair to these patients, but at this time it is not illegal."


13) Feds probing post-Katrina 'shoot looters' claim
By MARY FOSTER, Associated Press Writer Mary Foster, Associated Press Writer
Fri Aug 27, 9:26 pm ET

NEW ORLEANS - Federal authorities are investigating allegations that New Orleans police were told after Hurricane Katrina to "take the city back and shoot the looters."

Police spokesman Bob Young said Friday that federal officials have asked police for information and for permission to interview officers about the alleged orders. The U.S. Attorney's office in New Orleans and FBI spokeswoman Sheila Thorne refused to comment on the investigation.

The August 2005 storm flooded 80 percent of the city, knocked out power and police communications and led to widespread chaos. Looters were photographed carrying merchandise from upscale New Orleans stores, gunfire could be heard in many areas of the city and residents were terrified of lawlessness.

In a documentary this week by reporters from The Times-Picayune, PBS Frontline and ProPublica, several incidents were cited in which officers claimed they were authorized by police brass to shoot looters after Katrina.

"In response to the printed and televised interviews published, I have been contacted by federal authorities who have initiated a review and inquiry into this matter. Due to this, the NOPD cannot discuss this matter," Superintendent Ronal Serpas said in a prepared statement.

Attorney Eric Hessler said he witnessed an interview in which a police captain said then-deputy superintendent Warren Riley told officers to "take the city back and shoot looters." Hessler said Capt. Henry Mendoza made the statement this week to two FBI investigators, indicating the conversation with Riley took place two or three days after Katrina struck on Aug. 29.

Riley refused to comment on Friday, but has previously denied issuing such an order.

Reporters for the Frontline report were shown a portion of a grainy videotape in which Capt. James Scott told officers, "We have authority by martial law to shoot looters."

There is no provision under the Louisiana Constitution for martial law, although the governor can declare a state of emergency, said Loyola law professor Dane Ciolino said.

"The police chief clearly had no power whatsoever to declare any sort of martial law," Ciolino said. "And the principles and rules on the use of deadly force can't be changed by the police chief, the mayor or the governor."

Eleven civilians were shot by police in the week following Katrina, although just one of them was said to have been looting.

The case is one of at least nine ongoing federal investigations of the New Orleans Police Department, growing out of Hurricane Katrina, that have resulted in charges against 18 current or former officers.


14) Despite "All Clear," Mississippi
Sound Tests Positive for Oil
By Dahr Jamail and Erika Blumenfeld
t r u t h o u t | Report, August 29, 2010

The State of Mississippi's Department of Marine Resources (DMR) opened all of its territorial waters to fishing on August 6. This was done in coordination with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Food and Drug Administration, despite concerns from commercial fishermen in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida about the presence of oil and toxic dispersants from the BP oil disaster.

On August 19, Truthout accompanied two commercial fishermen from Mississippi on a trip into the Mississippi Sound in order to test for the presence of submerged oil. Laboratory test results from samples taken on that trip show extremely high concentrations of oil in the Mississippi Sound.

James "Catfish" Miller and Mark Stewart, both lifelong fishermen, have refused to trawl for shrimp because they believe the Mississippi Sound contains submerged oil.

"I can't tell you how hard it is for me not to be shrimping right now, because I'm a trawler," Miller told Truthout as he piloted his shrimp boat out of Pass Christian Harbor, "That's what I do. I trawl."

But Miller and Stewart have been alarmed by their state's decision to reopen the waters, and have been conducting their own tests for oil in areas where they have fished for years. Their method was simple - they tied an absorbent pad to a weighted hook, dropped it overboard for a short duration of time, then pulled it up to find the results.

On each of the eight tests Truthout witnessed, the white pads were brought up covered in a brown oily substance that the fishermen identified as a mix of BP's crude oil and toxic dispersants.

The first test conducted was approximately one-quarter mile out from the harbor, and the pad pulled up was stained brown.

"They're letting people swim in this," Miller exclaimed, while holding the stained pad up to the sun.

Miller and Stewart were both in BP's Vessels Of Opportunity (VOO) program and were trained in identifying oil and dispersants.

This writer took two samples from two absorbent pads that were brought up from the water that were covered in brown residue and had them tested in a private laboratory via gas chromatography.

The environmental analyst who worked with this writer did so on condition of anonymity, and performed a micro extraction that tests for Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH). The lower reporting limit the analyst is able to detect from a solid sample like the absorbent pad is 50 parts per million (ppm).

The first sample this writer took was from a sorbent pad dropped overboard to a depth of approximately eight feet and held there for roughly one minute. The location of this was 30 18.461 North, 089 14.171 West, taken at 9:40 AM. This sample tested positive for oil, with a hydrocarbon concentration of 479 ppm. Seawater that is free of oil would test at zero ppm of hydrocarbons.

The second sample this writer took was from a sorbent pad dropped overboard to a depth of approximately eight feet and held there for roughly one minute. The location of this was 30 18.256 North, 089 11.241 West, taken at 10:35 AM. This sample tested positive for oil, with a hydrocarbon concentration of 587 ppm.

"For the sorbent pads, I had to include the weight of the actual pad itself, so that the extraction was done as a solid," the environmental analyst explained. "Had I had enough liquid in these samples to do a liquid extraction, the numbers would have been substantially higher."

Jonathan Henderson, with the nonprofit environmental group, Gulf Restoration Network, was on board to witness the sampling.

"I can verify that the shrimp boat captain retrieved what appeared to be an oily residue," Henderson told Truthout. "My suspicion is that it was oil. It felt like oil to the touch, and it smelled like oil when you sniffed it."

On August 11, the two fishermen brought out scientist Dr. Ed Cake of Gulf Environmental Associates. (Video from the "Bridge the Gulf Project" of that trip with Miller and Stewart finding an oil and dispersant mixture on open Mississippi fishing waters.)

Dr. Cake wrote of the experience: "When the vessel was stopped for sampling, small, 0.5- to 1.0-inch-diameter bubbles would periodically rise to the surface and shortly thereafter they would pop leaving a small oil sheen. According to the fishermen, several of BP's Vessels-of-Opportunity (Carolina Skiffs with tanks of dispersants [Corexit?]) were hand spraying in Mississippi Sound off the Pass Christian Harbor in prior days/nights. It appears to this observer that the dispersants are still in the area and are continuing to react with oil in the waters off Pass Christian Harbor."

Shortly thereafter, Miller took the samples to a community meeting in nearby D'Iberville to show fishermen and families the contaminated sorbent pads. At the meeting, fishermen unanimously supported a petition calling for the firing of Dr. Bill Walker, the head of Mississippi's DMR, who is responsible for opening the fishing grounds.

On August 9, Walker, despite ongoing reports of tar balls, oil and dispersants being found in Mississippi waters, declared "there should be no new threats" and issued an order for all local coast governments to halt ongoing oil disaster work being funded by BP money that was granted to the state.

Recent weeks in Mississippi waters have found fishermen and scientists finding oil in Garden Pond on Horn Island, massive fish kills near Cat Island and Biloxi, "black water" in Mississippi Sound, oil inside Pass Christian Harbor and submerged oil in Pass Christian, in addition to what Miller and Stewart showed Truthout and others with their testing.

"We've sent samples to all the news media we know, here in Mississippi and in [Washington] D.C.," Stewart, a third-generation fisherman from Ocean Springs told Truthout, "We had Ray Mabus' people on this boat, and we sent them away with contaminated samples they watched us take, and we haven't heard back from any of them."

Raymond Mabus is the United States Secretary of the Navy and a former governor of Mississippi. President Obama tasked him with developing "a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan as soon as possible."

Mabus has been accused by many Gulf Coast fishermen of not living up to his task.

Thus, since neither the federal nor state governments will conduct the testing they feel is necessary, Miller and Stewart decided to take matters into their own hands.

Stewart had on board another homemade method of capturing oil in the water column. He took two tomato cages and filled them with sorbent pad, layered it in plastic to hold it together, and left a hole at the bottom for the water to flow through, creating a large sorbent cone that could flow through the water.

The method proved fruitful. After several tests in the water column, being careful to never let it touch bottom, the cone was turned a dark brown with what turned out to be a very high concentration of oil.

"Normally we have a lot of white shrimp in the Sound right now," Stewart told Truthout of the current situation in the Mississippi Sound. "You can catch 500-800 pounds a night, but right now, there are very few people shrimping, and those that are, are catching nothing or maybe 200 pounds per night. You can't even pay your expenses on 200 pounds per night."

"We think they opened shrimp season prematurely," Miller told Truthout. "How can we put our product back on the market when everybody in America knows what happened down here? I have seen so many dead animals in the last few months I can't even keep count."

On August 19, several commercial shrimpers, including Miller and Stewart, held a press conference at the Biloxi Marina. Other fishermen there were not fishing because they feared making people sick from toxic seafood they might catch.

"I don't want people to get sick," Danny Ross, a commercial fisherman from Biloxi told Truthout. "We want the government and BP to have transparency with the Corexit dispersants."

Ross said he has watched horseshoe crabs trying to crawl out of the water and other marine life like stingrays and flounder also trying to escape the water. He believes this is because the water is hypoxic due to the toxicity of the dispersants, of which BP admits to using approximately 1.9 million gallons.

"I will not wet a net and catch shrimp until I know it's safe to do so," Ross added, "I have no way of life now. I can't shrimp and others are calling the shots. For the next 20 years, what am I supposed to do? Because that's how long it's going to take for our waters to be safe again."

David Wallis, another fisherman from Biloxi, attended the press conference. "We don't feel our seafood is safe, and we demand more testing be done," Wallis told Truthout. "I've seen crabs crawling out of the water in the middle of the day. This is going to be affecting us far into the future."

"A lot of fishermen feel as we do. Most of them I talk to don't want the season opened, for our safety as well as others," Wallis added. "Right now there's barely any shrimp out there to catch. We should be overloaded with shrimp right now. That's not normal. I won't eat any seafood that comes out of these waters, because it's not safe."

Miller told Truthout that when he worked in BP's VOO program, "I came out here and looked at the oil and they didn't let us clean it up most days. Instead, I watched them spray dispersants on it at night, and now we're seeing acid rain burn holes in our plants. I've seen them spray Corexit from Carolina Skiffs with my own eyes. For the last several weeks now they keep shoving these lies in our face. You can only turn your head so far, for so long."

The hydrocarbon tests conducted on the samples taken by this writer only represent a tiny part of the Gulf compared to the massive area of the ocean that has been affected by BP's oil catastrophe. A comprehensive sampling regime across the Gulf, taken regularly over the years ahead, is clearly required in order to implement appropriate cleanup responses and take public safety precautions.

On their own, Miller and Stewart have made at least seven sampling runs, covering many tens of miles of the Mississippi Sound, and have, in their words, "rarely pulled up a sorbent pad that did not contain oil residue."


15) Risk-Taking Rises as Oil Rigs in Gulf Drill Deeper
"More than 20 percent of all bids in the gulf last year were for leases in water deeper than 6,500 feet. The deepest well in production in the gulf - Perdido's Tobago well - lies in 9,600 feet of water. Meanwhile, new ships that can drill in 12,000 feet of water have recently arrived in the gulf."
August 29, 2010

In a remote reach of the Gulf of Mexico, nearly 200 miles from shore, a floating oil platform thrusts its tentacles deep into the ocean like a giant steel octopus.

The $3 billion rig, called Perdido, can pump oil from dozens of wells nearly two miles under the sea while simultaneously drilling new ones. It is part of a wave of ultra-deep platforms - all far more sophisticated than the rig that was used to drill the ill-fated BP well that blew up in April. These platforms have sprung up far from shore and have pushed the frontiers of technology in the gulf, a region that now accounts for a quarter of the nation's oil output.

Major offshore accidents are not common. But whether through equipment failure or human error, the risks increase as the rigs get larger and more complicated.

Yet even as regulators investigate the causes of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the broader dangers posed by the industry's push into deeper waters have gone largely unscrutinized.

"Our ability to manage risks hasn't caught up with our ability to explore and produce in deep water," said Edward C. Chow, a former industry executive who is now a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "The question now is, how are we going to protect against a blowout as well as all of the other associated risks offshore?"

Dangers do not directly increase with greater depth, according to experts like Mr. Chow. But they do rise as exploration and production rigs become more complex and more remote.

Perdido, for example, is more than a 20-hour supply boat journey from shore - far enough out that a major fire could burn out of control before assistance arrived. Hurricanes regularly batter the region with giant waves and winds exceeding 100 miles an hour. Underwater, both powerful currents and mudslides play havoc with delicate equipment and the pipelines that bring oil and gas back to shore.

The water temperature, which hovers at just above freezing at depths below 3,000 feet, can harden natural gas into crystallike structures called hydrates that can clog pipelines and other equipment. And because the wells are deeper than human divers can go, oil companies must rely on remote-controlled submarines to maintain their equipment or perform repairs.

Oil industry officials, while acknowledging the risks, say safety concerns are overblown.

Chris Smith, a senior manager at Royal Dutch Shell in charge of running Perdido's production, said that projects like Perdido were engineered with multiple safety barriers and redundant systems.

"We've proven over the years, and the decades, that if the reserves justify it, we will find a way to do it," Mr. Smith said. "The trick is how to do it safely."

Perdido, which means "lost" in Spanish, is at the cutting edge. The deepest offshore platform in the world, it is intended to pump oil from 35 wells over the next two decades.

Like dozens of other deepwater facilities that have sprung up in the gulf in recent years with names like Blind Faith, Mad Dog and Atlantis, Perdido uses the latest technology to tap offshore oil fields that were previously inaccessible.

In contrast to the Deepwater Horizon, a floating rig that was focused on drilling new wells, the Perdido platform is a vast hub that can drill and pump oil from wells across 30 miles of ocean floor. Below it is a subsea cityscape of pumps, pipes, valves, manifolds, wellheads and blowout preventers - all painted a bright yellow so as to be visible to the floodlights of the remote-controlled submarines that maintain it.

Shell, in reducing the weight of the platform, which can produce up to 130,000 barrels of oil a day, is among the first companies to use a new technique: instead of pumping the drilled liquid to the platform and separating the oil, gas and water there, as is typically done, engineers installed new separation equipment directly on the sea floor. While that improves efficiency, the equipment is also more difficult to monitor and fix than if it were on the platform.

Thomas M. Leschine, a marine expert at the University of Washington, Seattle, said oil companies and regulators have become complacent about the growing risks of offshore drilling because accidents are so rare.

"It's clearly in the interest of the industry to believe their activities are safe," said Mr. Leschine, who testified before Congress about safety issues in June.

Engineering innovations during the 1990s, like better seismic imaging technology, greatly pushed the boundaries of deepwater production - traditionally defined as deeper than 1,000 feet of water.

More than 20 percent of all bids in the gulf last year were for leases in water deeper than 6,500 feet. The deepest well in production in the gulf - Perdido's Tobago well - lies in 9,600 feet of water. Meanwhile, new ships that can drill in 12,000 feet of water have recently arrived in the gulf.

Problems are more common than the industry likes to admit.

For example, BP's Thunder Horse platform, the company's flagship project in the gulf, ran into one unexpected engineering problem after another before it even began production in 2008. Examples included a backward valve that nearly flooded the facility and faulty welding on subsea equipment that left pipes with dangerous cracks. Repairs delayed the project by three years.

Hurricanes are a constant menace. Hundreds of offshore platforms and pipelines were destroyed by hurricanes Rita and Katrina in 2005, shutting down the gulf's entire oil and gas production for weeks. A Shell platform called Mars was badly damaged when its drilling rig tumbled over in Hurricane Katrina, shattering equipment, living quarters and the steel pipes that girdle all facilities. The two pipelines that take Mars's oil and natural gas to shore were also badly damaged.

"The industry has entered a new domain of vastly increased complexity and increased risks," said Robert Bea, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who compared the drive into ever-deeper waters to deep space exploration, both in its rewards and its risks. "Going to the moon is hazardous. Going to Mars is even more hazardous."

Since the 1980s, the industry's drive offshore has been encouraged by presidents and lawmakers of both parties who were seeking to expand domestic sources of energy and reap royalties from oil leases.

After the BP accident, the Obama administration imposed a six-month ban on deepwater drilling, and it is now considering how to allow operations to resume while improving safety.

The administration is also reorganizing the agency that oversees deepwater drilling, which was renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. The agency's new director, Michael R. Bromwich, is currently hosting forums with energy experts to examine "the different challenges" of offshore drilling, said a spokesman, Nicholas Pardi.

But after years of lax oversight, critics say regulators must take a much closer look at the industry's activities offshore. For instance, they say, the government must increase the number of platform inspections and carefully vet emergency response plans.

"There was an overreliance on the industry's representation that they could drill ultra-deep and ultra-safe," said Representative Edward J. Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. "The era of assuming an accident couldn't happen is over."

Oil companies insist that offshore drilling is often safer than land-based drilling because the investments involved are far larger and the safety procedures far more rigorous. They say that they have drilled more than 4,000 wells in the gulf's deep waters, including 700 in waters deeper than 5,000 feet. Before the BP accident, just 1,800 barrels of oil were spilled in blowouts from 1979 to 2009, according to the Interior Department.

Company executives have repeatedly cautioned against government overreaction to the BP spill, which they say resulted from a doomsday situation unlikely to repeat itself.

"The industry approach is that we always focus on prevention," said Rex W. Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil.

However, during Congressional hearings in June, the industry's titans acknowledged their inability to contain a deepwater spill and vowed to create a new response system.

Under a $1 billion initiative announced in July, four oil majors - Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon and Shell - said they would design and build equipment that could be used to contain and cap well blowouts at depths of up to 10,000 feet. However, they say the new devices will not be tested and ready for 18 months, and the plan is not likely to work in places outside the gulf, like Alaska, where conditions differ.

Some experts worry that everyone is focusing too much on the causes of the recent crisis, not the next one. After the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, the industry concentrated on preventing another tanker spill. That plan was essentially useless in the BP accident.

"This is symptomatic of fighting the last war," said Mr. Chow. "The industry is going to have to examine all of the offshore risks. There is a lot of catching up to do."


16) With Neighbors Unaware, Toxic Spill at a BP Plant
"Officials in Texas City said they were not informed of the scale of the release until it was over. BP said it met the requirements of state law by informing state officials of the release in writing on April 7, then filing a final report on June 4, after the equipment was fixed.
"That final report said the release of chemicals had gone on for 959 hours, until May 16. Among other pollutants, the plant had released 17,000 pounds of benzene; 37,000 pounds of nitrogen oxides, which can cause respiratory problems; and 186,000 pounds of carbon monoxide. Another 262,000 pounds of various volatile organic compounds also escaped.
"'The state's investigation shows that BP's failure to properly maintain its equipment caused the malfunction and could have been prevented,' the attorney general's office said in a statement."
August 29, 2010

TEXAS CITY, Tex. - While the world was focused on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a BP refinery here released huge amounts of toxic chemicals into the air that went unnoticed by residents until many saw their children come down with respiratory problems.

For 40 days after a piece of equipment critical to the refinery's operation broke down, a total of 538,000 pounds of toxic chemicals, including the carcinogen benzene, poured out of the refinery.

Rather than taking the costly step of shutting down the refinery to make repairs, the engineers at the plant diverted gases to a smokestack and tried to burn them off, but hundreds of thousands of pounds still escaped into the air, according to state environmental officials.

Neither the state nor the oil company informed neighbors or local officials about the pollutants until two weeks after the release ended, and angry residents of Texas City have signed up in droves to join a $10 billion class-action lawsuit against BP. The state attorney general, Greg Abbott, has also sued the company, seeking fines of about $600,000.

BP maintains three air monitors along the fence around the plant and two in the surrounding community, and they did not show a rise in pollution during April and May, the company said. "BP does not believe there is any basis to pay claims in connection with this event," said Michael Marr, a spokesman for the company.

But scores of Texas City residents said they experienced respiratory problems this spring, and environmentalists said the release of toxic gases ranked as one of the largest in the state's history.

Neil Carman of the Lone Star Sierra Club said the release was probably even larger than BP had acknowledged, because the company estimated that more than 98 percent of the pollution was burned off by a flare, an overly optimistic figure in the eyes of many environmental scientists.

He also said there were too few air monitors to accurately assess what had happened. "There are huge gaps in the monitoring network," Mr. Carman said.

Dionne Ramirez, 29, who lives about a mile from the refinery, said she had little doubt that elevated pollution harmed her family. Not only have both she and her husband had coughs, but all three of their young sons have suffered from severe chest congestion, sore throats and endless coughing since April. Her 4-year-old had to be hospitalized for two nights because he could not stop coughing, she said.

When the news of the pollution was made public on June 4, Ms. Ramirez was irate. "I didn't know why they were getting sick or what was going on," she said. "They are healthy little kids."

Her experience was echoed by other families living in the shadow of the jumbled smokestacks, pipelines, cylindrical tanks and giant globes of the refinery. Nearly every household on one block of First Avenue, just a half-mile from the BP complex, had someone fall ill during May, residents there said.

"We all became real sick - throwing up, diarrhea, couldn't keep anything down - and we just thought it was something that was going around," said Khristina Kelley, who lives with her husband and four children on the street. "But then everybody around here got it."

Ms. Kelley said the release of chemicals was less troubling to her than the company's silence. "I'm worried that one day I'll take my kids to the doctor and something that could have been prevented wasn't prevented because we didn't know to the last moment," she said.

Officials in Texas City said they were not informed of the scale of the release until it was over. BP said it met the requirements of state law by informing state officials of the release in writing on April 7, then filing a final report on June 4, after the equipment was fixed.

That final report said the release of chemicals had gone on for 959 hours, until May 16. Among other pollutants, the plant had released 17,000 pounds of benzene; 37,000 pounds of nitrogen oxides, which can cause respiratory problems; and 186,000 pounds of carbon monoxide. Another 262,000 pounds of various volatile organic compounds also escaped.

"The state's investigation shows that BP's failure to properly maintain its equipment caused the malfunction and could have been prevented," the attorney general's office said in a statement.

Mr. Marr, the BP spokesman, declined to comment on those accusations.

The trouble started when a fire broke out on the seal of a hydrogen compressor, which traps noxious chemicals and returns them to be used as fuel in other parts of the plant. The compressor was part of the refinery's "ultracracker unit," which can process 65,000 barrels of oil per day and mostly produces high-octane blending components for gasoline. The company sent the gases to a flare at the end of a smokestack, 300 feet in the air, hoping to burn off the hazardous chemicals. But a monitor at the top of the stack showed that the emissions were far higher than permitted.

The attorney general's office alleges in its complaint against BP that the fire started because workers had allowed iron sulfide to build up on the seal of the compressor.

Violations are nothing new at the plant, federal and state officials say. In 2005, an explosion at the refinery killed 15 people and injured more than 170, and BP was fined $87 million by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for safety lapses that led to that blast. This month, BP agreed to pay $50.6 million, a record.

On air pollution, the refinery has a similarly checkered history, a pattern of breaking limits on air pollution and being slow to report those events, state officials claim in legal complaints. In 2009, Mr. Abbott, the attorney general, sued BP for violating clean-air standards 72 times in the previous five years.

Still, the refinery is a major employer in Texas City, a town with about 45,000 residents, modest frame houses, fast-food restaurants and dollar stores on the coastal plains across a channel from Galveston. The refineries dwarf the clapboard abodes of workers here, thrusting up into tropical skies in utilitarian ugliness and painting the azure with smoke. Those smokestacks mean jobs, and many people are skeptical about those claiming they have gotten sick.

"This is just money-hungry money grubbers is all it is," said Pete Fernandez, a longtime resident. He called the lawsuits "frivolous - completely, totally frivolous."

Yet some longtime refinery workers are among those suing. Robert L. Sukiennik, 45, has worked at a refinery operated by Valero here for two decades. In early May, he started to cough and felt weak. He finally saw a doctor in mid-July, who became alarmed at his white blood cell count. A CT scan a week later revealed abnormal spots on his kidneys, and he was referred to an oncologist for more tests. Leukemia was a possibility, he was told.

It is impossible to know for certain if Mr. Sukiennik's sudden decline in health is connected to the emissions from BP, but he says that the refinery has had so many troubles over the years, he is filled with suspicion that it might be the root of his problems.

"Every day they have some problem over there," he said. "I don't think BP itself really cares about the community. They are not trying for safety; all they care about is the big bucks."

Daniel Cadis contributed reporting.


17) When the Border Patrol Comes Aboard
August 30, 2010, 10:04 am

Todd Heisler/The New York Times Border Patrol officials next to an Amtrak train at the Buffalo train station. Citizenship checks began on a small scale in 2006 at the train stations and bus depots in western New York and are now a little-publicized but regular feature of domestic travel.

Nina Bernstein has an article on the front page today about American Border Patrol agents who board trains running completely within the United States looking for undocumented immigrants. Here is her first-person experience on such a train in upstate New York. If you've had an encounter with the Border Patrol, let us know in the comment box below.

Traveling from New York City to Buffalo on Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited last month, I wondered what I would say if Border Patrol agents showed up on the train at Syracuse or Rochester and asked, "Are you a U.S. citizen?"

My plan was to politely decline to answer, and see what happened next.

After all, the train was not crossing an international frontier. At the train stations and bus depots in western New York where such citizenship checks began on a small scale in 2006 and are now a little-publicized but regular feature of domestic travel, the Canadian border is far away, in the middle of Lake Ontario.

The Border Patrol said it had jurisdiction to enforce immigration laws within 100 miles of the border. But it also said that its agents' questions were a part of "consensual, nonintrusive conversation." In theory, that means that people are free to refuse to answer and walk away. One goal of my reporting trip was to see for myself, and for readers of The New York Times, how such conversations played out in practice.

Thousands of passengers have been taken to detention because they answered that they were not United States citizens, and then could not show immigration documents that satisfied the agents. Other passengers simply declared American citizenship and stayed in their seats. The inland transportation checks have increased as the number of agents deployed in the region has grown sixfold since 9/11.

Joanne Macri, director of the Criminal Defense Immigration Project of the New York State Defenders Association, who frequently travels by bus or train between Albany and Buffalo, told me she had never seen anyone refuse to answer in the many encounters she had witnessed.

Once, Ms. Macri said, an agent prevented her from handing her organization's card to two Latino men he was taking from the train, and asked her if she knew what obstruction of justice was. Another time, at 1 a.m. on a Trailways bus in Rochester, a young man who showed agents a driver's license was questioned about what hospital he had been born in, and then taken off the bus for further inquiries before eventually being allowed to reboard and travel on to Buffalo.

Ms. Macri has always answered the agents, "even though I know everybody has a right to remain silent," she said.

"It's 1 o'clock in the morning," she said, "and reality sets in: Do I really want to be kicked off the bus?"

It was 4:20 a.m. by the time my train limped in to the Buffalo-Depew station, more than four hours late - too late for the Border Patrol, it appeared. But by 9 a.m., when a train on the return journey pulled into the same station, half a dozen men in green uniforms with pistols on their hips strode down the platform toward me and a family that included two women wearing saris.

An agent with a shaved head and sunglasses stopped beside me. "Are you a U.S. citizen?" he asked.

"I don't want to answer that question," I replied.

"Fine," he said, and promptly turned to the family - two children, their parents and grandmother.

Unlike me, a white woman in jeans who had spoken American English with no accent, they looked and sounded like immigrants. If they said they were citizens, would they be asked for identification? If they refused to answer, as I had, would the agent just move on? Or, as upstate immigration lawyers maintained, would the agent take their silence as a justification for further inquiry?

I would never know, because the father readily replied that they were all legal permanent residents of the United States from India. He handed over all their Indian passports as soon as the agent asked for them.

A minute or two later, on the Rochester-bound train, I caught up with the same agent just as Ruth Fernandez, a naturalized citizen born in Ecuador, was giving him her United States passport. These days she feels obliged to carry it whenever she visits her sister in Ohio, she told me later.

"Checking people, I see every time," she added in imperfect English, as her grandchild slept beside her. "I don't like it. Not supposed to." In Spanish, she added: "He said it was because of terrorism that they do this. I think it's for the immigrants."

Overhearing her complaint, another passenger, Katie Miller, objected, praising the officer for his politeness. "He wasn't threatening anybody," she said. With so many television reports of children being kidnapped, and the Canadian border nearby, she added, the presence of the patrol made her feel safer.

But Ms. Miller's father, Fred Linxweiler, was not so sure. "What I worry about is how he picked her," he said, referring to the agent's decision to ask Ms. Fernandez for identification. "It's O.K. if it's really random. Otherwise, it's going to look like this new Arizona law."

Most passengers answered the agents readily. Others, startled from sleep, simply stared, and the agents prompted them: "State your citizenship for me, please, sir. What country were you born in?"

Some had been on the train overnight, since Chicago; many had boarded at dawn. Their features reflected ancestry from every continent: a stout black grandmother in a Brooklyn T-shirt. A graybeard wearing a yarmulke. A pale young man lost in his iPod, who said later: "I'm clueless. I don't pay attention to news and politics. Aren't they doing that in Arizona or something?"

By then, after a stop scheduled for five minutes had turned into 15 or 20, the agents had left the train. Other passengers, too, turned out to have Arizona on their minds, including Joe Hedger, 37, a blond graduate student in philosophy who was moving to Syracuse from Tempe with his wife and 2-year-old son.

"We've had Sheriff Arpaio doing this for a while," he said, referring to Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, who patrols metropolitan Phoenix and administers the jails, "just pulling people over and asking if they're citizens, and if they're not, just carting them away, I guess. I was really surprised that this was happening in New York."

He added, "It's just like they're authority figures, so you answer."

Sheldon and Pam Cole of New Canaan, N.Y., who had promptly replied "both U.S. citizens" when the agent asked, also had second thoughts about the exchange.

"I am a U.S. citizen, but I could have been a German who spoke good English," said Mr. Cole, 65, whose gray ponytail could be seen under his baseball cap. "It didn't make a whole bunch of sense. It bothers me, because in America we've never been expected to carry around and produce proof of citizenship on demand."

Without such a document requirement, he added, "It's virtual racial profiling."

But a couple from Norfolk, N.Y., Charlie and Sheree Frego, strongly disagreed. "They've got a good eye," Mr. Frego, 51, said of the Border Patrol, citing his years of living near the Canadian border. "They can tell by your response."

The Fregos had encountered the patrol before on buses near the border, they said. Once, at Watertown, on a bus that stops near a prison, they said, they saw agents take an African-American man off for extra screening. "I thought they did the right thing," Mr. Frego said, adding, "He got back on the bus after 20 minutes."

My conversations were interrupted by an Amtrak conductor who insisted that I needed written permission from the company's media relations department to interview the passengers. I disagreed, citing the First Amendment and my ticket to Rochester.

"Are you a passenger or a reporter?" the conductor demanded.

"Both," I said, and went back to work.

Much later, I called Cliff Cole, a spokesman for Amtrak, seeking a clarification of the railroad's role in the patrol checks.

"Amtrak does not delay the train," Mr. Cole said. "It's a Border Patrol initiative with which Amtrak has been cooperative and will continue to be cooperative."

"It's a security measure," he added. "They come on the train to do what they have to do - just like you would have air marshals on an airplane."

As for my asking fellow passengers about the experience, he said, "Amtrak's media relations policy is if you want to conduct a story and interview our passengers on a train, it must be done with prior permission."

He did not respond to complaints from immigrant advocates that the company gives no prior notice of the requests for documents made on the Lake Shore Limited, though it warns passengers on its international routes. Others have contended that illegal immigrants should not expect a warning that they are risking apprehension when they travel.

The same issues swirled around the bus station in Rochester two days after my train trip, when agents emerged from waiting vans and boarded the Boston-to-Cleveland bus. I asked the dispatcher if I could get on to observe.

"It's up to you, but be careful," he said. "They don't like traffic once they're started asking questions - they're nice guys, but they can get kind of ornery."

The empty aisle seat I chose turned out to be a problem.

"Move out of the way, please," an agent told me, gesturing at the young Latino in the window seat. "I need to get this gentleman off the bus."

I complied, as the agent asked in Spanish if the man had found his missing papers. He had not.

As the agents hurried him off the bus and into a van, I followed, calling out to ask his name. He tried to answer, but the words were lost as the bus behind us pulled away.

Other passengers had been taken off another bus early that morning, I learned - a Bangladeshi family of four, including a woman and her son, a minor. If these apprehensions had been criminal arrests, I could have quickly learned names, ages, charges and where those arrested were being held. But no such transparency exists in these cases.

Rafael LeMaitre, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection in Washington, said privacy law did not allow the agency to say anything about the young man, or to confirm the family relationship of the Bangladeshis. Eventually, in response to repeated inquiries, he said the young man was Mexican, accused of returning to the United States illegally after accepting "voluntary departure," and had probably been taken to detention in Batavia, N.Y. - though he could have been transferred anywhere in the country.

By then, I had traveled south from Rochester on the Lake Shore Limited, missing the patrol's reappearance at Buffalo-Depew, according to a train attendant, Hamat Kumar, who described an unusually large contingent this time - 17 agents, including a dozen trainees.

"They always get on in Buffalo," said Mr. Kumar, 30, a naturalized citizen born in India. "There's nothing I can do about it."

"If I say no," he added with a laugh, "they take me, too!"


18) Border Sweeps in North Reach Miles Into U.S.
August 29, 2010

ROCHESTER - The Lake Shore Limited runs between Chicago and New York City without crossing the Canadian border. But when it stops at Amtrak stations in western New York State, armed Border Patrol agents routinely board the train, question passengers about their citizenship and take away noncitizens who cannot produce satisfactory immigration papers.

"Are you a U.S. citizen?" agents asked one recent morning, moving through a Rochester-bound train full of dozing passengers at a station outside Buffalo. "What country were you born in?"

When the answer came back, "the U.S.," they moved on. But Ruth Fernandez, 60, a naturalized citizen born in Ecuador, was asked for identification. And though she was only traveling home to New York City from her sister's in Ohio, she had made sure to carry her American passport. On earlier trips, she said, agents had photographed her, and taken away a nervous Hispanic man.

He was one of hundreds of passengers taken to detention each year from domestic trains and buses along the nation's northern border. The little-publicized transportation checks are the result of the Border Patrol's growth since 9/11, fueled by Congressional antiterrorism spending and an expanding definition of border jurisdiction. In the Rochester area, where the border is miles away in the middle of Lake Ontario, the patrol arrested 2,788 passengers from October 2005 through last September.

The checks are "a vital component to our overall border security efforts" to prevent terrorism and illegal entry, said Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesman for United States Customs and Border Protection. He said that the patrol had jurisdiction to enforce immigration laws within 100 miles of the border, and that one mission was preventing smugglers and human traffickers from exploiting inland transit hubs.

The patrol says that answering agents' questions is voluntary, part of a "consensual and nonintrusive conversation" Some passengers agree, though they are not told that they can keep silent. But others, from immigration lawyers and university officials to American-born travelers startled by an agent's flashlight in their eyes, say the practice is coercive, unconstitutional and tainted by racial profiling.

The Lake Shore Limited route is a journey across the spectrum of public attitudes toward illegal immigrants - from cities where they have been accepted and often treated as future citizens, to places where they are seen as lawbreakers the federal government is doing too little to expel.

The journey also highlights conflicting enforcement policies. Immigration authorities, vowing to concentrate resources on deporting immigrants with serious criminal convictions, have recently been halting the deportation of students who were brought to the country as children without papers - a group the Obama administration favors for legalization.

But some of the same kinds of students are being jailed by the patrol, like a Taiwan-born Ph.D. candidate who had excelled in New York City public schools since age 11. Two days after he gave a paper on Chaucer at a conference in Chicago last year, he was taken from his train seat and strip-searched at a detention center in Batavia, N.Y., facing deportation for an expired visa.

For some, the patrol's practices evoke the same fears as a new immigration law in Arizona - that anyone, anytime, can be interrogated without cause.

The federal government is authorized to do just that at places where people enter and leave the country, and at a "reasonable distance" from the border. But as the patrol expands and tries to raise falling arrest numbers, critics say, the concept of the border is becoming more fluid, eroding Constitutional limits on search and seizure. And unlike Arizona's law, the change is happening without public debate.

"It's turned into a police state on the northern border," said Cary M. Jensen, director of international services for the University of Rochester, whose foreign students, scholars and parents have been questioned and jailed, often because the patrol did not recognize their legal status. "It's essentially become an internal document check."

Domestic transportation checks are not mentioned in a report on the northern border strategy that Customs and Border Protection delivered last year to Congress, which has more than doubled the patrol since 2006, to 2,212 agents, with plans to double it again soon. The data available suggests that such stops account for as many as half the reported 6,000 arrests a year.

In Rochester, the Border Patrol station opened in 2004, with four agents to screen passengers of a new ferry from Toronto. The ferry went bankrupt, but the unit has since grown tenfold; its agents have one of the highest arrest rates on the northern border - 1,040 people in the 2008 fiscal year, 95 percent of them from buses and trains - though officials say numbers have fallen as word of the patrols reached immigrant communities.

"Our mission is to defend the homeland, primarily against terrorists and terrorist weapons," said Thomas Pocorobba Jr., the agent in charge of the Rochester station, one of 55 between Washington State and Maine. "We still do our traditional mission, which is to enforce the nation's immigration laws."

Legal scholars say the government's border authority, which extends to fixed checkpoints intercepting cross-border traffic, cannot be broadly applied to roving patrols in a swath of territory. But such authority is not needed to ask questions if people can refuse to answer. The patrol does not track how many people decline, Mr. Pocorobba said.

Asked if agents could question people in Times Square, which like most of the nation's population centers is within 100 miles of international waters, Mr. Pocorobba replied, "Technically, we can, but we don't." He added, "Our job is strictly cross-border."

Lawyers challenging the stops in several deportation cases questioned the rationale that they were aimed at border traffic. Government data obtained in litigation shows that at least three-quarters of those arrested since 2006 had been in the country more than a year.

Though many Americans may welcome such arrests, the patrol's costly expansion was based on a bipartisan consensus about border security, not interior enforcement to sweep up farmworkers and students, said Nancy Morawetz, who directs the immigration rights clinic at New York University.

One case she is challenging involves a Nassau County high school graduate taken from the Lake Shore Limited in Rochester in 2007. The government says the graduate, then 21, voluntarily produced a Guatemalan passport and could not prove she was in the country legally. A database later showed she had an expired visitor's visa.

Unlike a criminal arrest, such detentions come with few due process protections. The woman was held at a county jail, then transferred across the country while her mother, a house cleaner, and a high school teacher tried to reach her. The woman first saw an immigration judge more than three weeks after her arrest. He halved the $10,000 bail set by the patrol, and she was eventually released at night at a rural Texas gas station.

"I was shocked," said the teacher, Susanne Marcus, who said her former student had been awarded a $2,000 college scholarship.

Another challenge is pending in the 2009 train arrest of the Taiwan-born doctoral student, who had to answer the agent after being singled out for intense questioning because of his "Asian appearance," he said. His account was corroborated in an affidavit filed this month by another passenger.

Similar complaints have been made by others, including a Chicago couple who encountered the patrol on a train to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., for the woman's graduation from Vassar College.

"At least in Arizona, you have to be doing something wrong to be stopped," said the woman, a citizen of Chinese-American descent who said her Mexican boyfriend was sleeping when an agent started questioning him. "Here, you're sitting on the train asleep and if you don't look like a U.S. citizen, it's 'Wake up!' "

Mr. Pocorobba denied that agents used racial profiling; the proof, he said, was that those arrested had come from 96 countries. Agents say they often act on suspicion, prompted by a passenger's demeanor. Of those detained, most were in the country illegally - including the Mexican, 24, who admitted that he had sneaked across the southern border at 16 to find his father. Others were supposed to be carrying their papers, like a Pakistani college student detained for two weeks before authorities confirmed that he was a legal resident.

Some American-born passengers welcome the patrol. "It makes me feel safe," volunteered Katie Miller, 34, who was riding Amtrak to New York from Ohio. "I don't mind being monitored."

To others, it evokes travel through the old Communist bloc. "I was actually woken up with a flashlight in my face," recalled Mike Santomauro, 27, a law student who encountered the patrol in April, at 2 a.m. on a train in Rochester.

Across the aisle, he said, six agents grilled a student with a computer who had only an electronic version of his immigration documents. Through the window, Mr. Santomauro said, he could see three black passengers, standing with arms raised beside a Border Patrol van.

"As a citizen I'm offended," he said. But he added, "To say I didn't want to answer didn't seem a viable option."


19) Death of the First Amendment
The Nazification of the United States
Weekend Edition
August 27-29, 2010

Chuck Norris is no pinko-liberal-commie, and Human Events is a very conservative publication. The two have come together to produce an important article, "Obama's US Assassination Program."

It seems only yesterday that Americans, or those interested in their civil liberties, were shocked that the Bush regime so flagrantly violated the FlSA law against spying on American citizens without a warrant. A federal judge serving on the FISA court even resigned in protest to the illegality of the spying.

Nothing was done about it. "National security" placed the president and executive branch above the law of the land. Civil libertarians worried that the US government was freeing its power from the constraints of law, but no one else seemed to care.

Encouraged by its success in breaking the law, the executive branch early this year announced that the Obama regime has given itself the right to murder Americans abroad if such Americans are considered a "threat." "Threat" was not defined and, thus, a death sentence would be issued by a subjective decision of an unaccountable official.

There was hardly a peep out of the public or the media. Americans and the media were content for the government to summarily execute traitors and turncoats, and who better to identify traitors and turncoats than the government with all its spy programs.

The problem with this sort of thing is that once it starts, it doesn't stop. As Norris reports, citing Obama regime security officials, the next stage is to criminalize dissent and criticism of the government. The May 2010 National Security Strategy states: "We are now moving beyond traditional distinctions between homeland and national security. . . . This includes a determination to prevent terrorist attacks against the American people by fully coordinating the actions that we take abroad with the actions and precautions that we take at home."

Most Americans will respond that the "indispensable" US government would never confuse an American exercising First Amendment rights with a terrorist or an enemy of the state. But, in fact, governments always have. Even one of our Founding Fathers, John Adams and the Federalist Party, had their "Alien and Sedition Acts" which targeted the Republican press.

Few with power can brook opposition or criticism, especially when it is a simple matter for those with power to sweep away constraints upon their power in the name of "national security." Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan recently explained that more steps are being taken, because of the growing number of Americans who have been "captivated by extremist ideology or causes." Notice that this phrasing goes beyond concern with Muslim terrorists.

In pursuit of hegemony over both the world and its own subjects, the US government is shutting down the First Amendment and turning criticism of the government into an act of "domestic extremism," a capital crime punishable by execution, just as it was in Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia.

Initially German courts resisted Hitler's illegal acts. Hitler got around the courts by creating a parallel court system, like the Bush regime did with its military tribunals. It won't be long before a decision of the US Supreme Court will not mean anything. Any decision that goes against the regime will simply be ignored.

This is already happening in Canada, an American puppet state. Writing for CounterPunch, Andy Worthington documents the lawlessness of the US trial of Canadian Omar Khadr. In January of this year, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the interrogation of Khadr constituted "state conduct that violates the principles of fundamental justice" and "offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects." According to the Toronto Star, the Court instructed the government to "shape a response that reconciled its foreign policy imperatives with its constitutional obligations to Khadr," but the puppet prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, ignored the Court and permitted the US government to proceed with its lawless abuse of a Canadian citizen.

September 11 destroyed more than lives, World Trade Center buildings, and Americans' sense of invulnerability. The event destroyed American liberty, the rule of law and the US Constitution.

Paul Craig Roberts was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com


19) We Owe the Troops an Exit
August 30, 2010

At least 14 American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan over the past few days.

We learned on Saturday that our so-called partner in this forlorn war, Hamid Karzai, fired a top prosecutor who had insisted on, gasp, fighting the corruption that runs like a crippling disease through his country.

Time magazine tells us that stressed-out, depressed and despondent soldiers are seeking help for their mental difficulties at a rate that is overwhelming the capacity of available professionals. What we are doing to these troops who have been serving tour after tour in Afghanistan and Iraq is unconscionable.

Time described the mental-health issue as "the U.S. Army's third front," with the reporter, Mark Thompson, writing: "While its combat troops fight two wars, its mental-health professionals are waging a battle to save soldiers' sanity when they come back, one that will cost billions long after combat ends in Baghdad and Kabul."

In addition to the terrible physical toll, the ultimate economic costs of these two wars, as the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and his colleague Linda Bilmes have pointed out, will run to more than $3 trillion.

I get a headache when I hear supporters of this endless warfare complaining about the federal budget deficits. They're like arsonists complaining about the smell of smoke in the neighborhood.

There is no silver lining to this nearly decade-old war in Afghanistan. Poll after poll has shown that it no longer has the support of most Americans. And yet we fight on, feeding troops into the meat-grinder year after tragic year - to what end?

"Clearly, the final chapters of this particular endeavor are very much yet to be written," said Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, during a BBC interview over the weekend. He sounded as if those chapters would not be written any time soon.

In a reference to President Obama's assertion that U.S. troops would begin to withdraw from Afghanistan next July, General Petraeus told the interviewer: "That's a date when a process begins, nothing more, nothing less. It's not the date when the American forces begin an exodus and look for the exit and the light to turn off on the way out of the room."

A lot of Americans who had listened to the president thought it was, in fact, a date when the American forces would begin an exodus. The general seems to have heard something quite different.

In truth, it's not at all clear how President Obama really feels about the awesome responsibilities involved in waging war, and that's a problem. The Times's Peter Baker wrote a compelling and in many ways troubling article recently about the steep learning curve that Mr. Obama, with no previous military background, has had to negotiate as a wartime commander in chief.

Quoting an unnamed adviser to the president, Mr. Baker wrote that Mr. Obama sees the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as "problems that need managing" while he pursues his mission of transforming the nation. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking on the record, said, "He's got a very full plate of very big issues, and I think he does not want to create the impression that he's so preoccupied with these two wars that he's not addressing the domestic issues that are uppermost in people's minds."

Wars are not problems that need managing, which suggests that they will always be with us. They are catastrophes that need to be brought to an end as quickly as possible. Wars consume lives by the thousands (in Iraq, by the scores of thousands) and sometimes, as in World War II, by the millions. The goal when fighting any war should be peace, not a permanent simmer of nonstop maiming and killing. Wars are meant to be won - if they have to be fought at all - not endlessly looked after.

One of the reasons we're in this state of nonstop warfare is the fact that so few Americans have had any personal stake in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no draft and no direct financial hardship resulting from the wars. So we keep shipping other people's children off to combat as if they were some sort of commodity, like coal or wheat, with no real regard for the terrible price so many have to pay, physically and psychologically.

Not only is this tragic, it is profoundly disrespectful. These are real men and women, courageous and mostly uncomplaining human beings, that we are sending into the war zones, and we owe them our most careful attention. Above all, we owe them an end to two wars that have gone on much too long.


20) Restoring Names to Iraq War's Unknown Casualties
August 30, 2010

BAGHDAD - In a pastel-colored room at the Baghdad morgue known simply as the Missing, where faces of the thousands of unidentified dead of this war are projected onto four screens, Hamid Jassem came on a Sunday searching for answers.

In a blue plastic chair, he sat under harsh fluorescent lights and a clock that read 8:58 and 44 seconds, no longer keeping time. With deference and patience, he stared at the screen, each corpse bearing four digits and the word "majhoul," or unknown:

No. 5060 passed, with a bullet to the right temple; 5061, with a bruised and bloated face; 5062 bore a tattoo that read, "Mother, where is happiness?" The eyes of 5071 were open, as if remembering what had happened to him.

"Go back," Hamid asked the projectionist. No. 5061 returned to the screen. "That's him," he said, nodding grimly.

His mother followed him into the room, her weathered face framed in a black veil. "Show me my son!" she cried.

Behind her, Hamid pleaded silently. He waved his hands at the projectionist, begging him to spare her. In vain, he shook his head and mouthed the word "no."

"Don't tell me he's dead," she shouted at the room. "It's not him! It's not him!"

No. 5061 returned to the screen.

She lurched forward, shaking her head in denial. Her eyes stared hard. And in seconds, her son's 33 years of life seemed to pass before her eyes.

"Yes, yes, yes," she finally sobbed, falling back in her chair.

Reflexively, her hands slapped her face. They clawed, until her nails drew blood. "If I had only known from the first day!" she cried.

The horror of this war is its numbers, frozen in the portraits at the morgue: an infant's eyes sealed shut and a woman's hair combed in blood and ash. "Files tossed on the shelves," a policeman called the dead, and that very anonymity lends itself to the war's name here - al-ahdath, or the events.

On the charts that the American military provides, those numbers are seen as success, from nearly 4,000 dead in one month in 2006 to the few hundred today. The Interior Ministry offers its own toll of war - 72,124 since 2003, a number too precise to be true. At the morgue, more than 20,000 of the dead, which even sober estimates suggest total 100,000 or more, are still unidentified.

This number had a name, though.

No. 5061 was Muhammad Jassem Bouhan al-Izzawi, father, son and brother. At 9 a.m., on that Sunday, Aug. 15, his family left the morgue in a white Nissan and set out to find his body in a city torn between remembering and forgetting, where death haunts a country neither at war nor peace.

There is a notion in Islamic thought called taqiya, in which believers can conceal their faith in the face of persecution. Hamid's family, Sunnis in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of New Baghdad, engaged in their own.

As sectarian killings intensified in 2005 and Shiite militias stepped up attacks, they hung two posters of Shiite saints near the apartment's windows, shattered in car bombings and patched with cardboard. To strangers, they changed their tribal name from Izzawi to Mujahadi, hoping to blend in. They learned not to say, "Salaam aleikum" - peace be upon you - in farewell, as more devout Sunnis will do.

Burly and bearded, Muhammad was the most devout in the family, and perhaps the least discreet. He allowed himself American action films, "Van Damme and Arnold," his brother recalled. But his routine was ordered by the call to prayer, bringing him five times a day to the Arafat Mosque.

"We said, 'Listen to us, just pray at home,' " Hamid recalled begging him.

"It's in God's hands if I'm killed," he said his brother replied.

On July 1, 2005, at 5 a.m., guns clanged on their metal front door like brittle bells. Muhammad's mother opened it, and men dressed as police officers forced her back. Barely awake, Muhammad clambered down the stairs in a white undershirt and red pajamas. The men bundled him into a police pickup and drove off, leaving his 2-month-old daughter, Aisha, and his wife and mother, who cried for help as the headlights disappeared into the dawn.

In all, 11 men joined the ranks of the missing that morning.

Willing to Help, for $20,000

Shadowed by militias, the family found that going to the morgue was often too dangerous, but as the weeks passed, Muhammad's brother-in-law went anyway. He found nothing. The family gave nearly $650 to a relative who had a friend who knew a driver for a Shiite militiaman. A month later, he came back with no word, but kept $100 for his time. Another acquaintance offered to help for $20,000.

"Where were we going to get that kind of money?" Hamid asked.

A chance encounter in August brought the family to the morgue. A neighbor had found his father among the pictures in the Missing room. He was one of the 11.

Hamid is a quiet man in a city that does not embrace silence. Modest, even bashful, he is full of abbreviated gestures, questions becoming stutters when faced with authority.

Gingerly, he clutched a note from the morgue. No. 5061, it said, along with the name of the police station, Rafidain, that had recovered his brother's body. He drove his family to the vast Shiite slum Sadr City, past a gas station named for April 9, the date of Saddam Hussein's fall, and a bare pedestal where the dictator's statue once stood.

Police officers in mismatched uniforms sprawled in chairs at the entrance, near a barricade of razor wire laced through tires, a car seat and a fender that suggested the city's impermanence. "What do you want?" one of them barked at Hamid.

The family needed a letter from the police station, the first step in claiming Muhammad's death certificate and finding out where he was buried. With Hamid beside her, the mother pleaded to let them inside. For five years they had looked for him, she said.

The policeman glared at her suspiciously. "If you're lying, I'll put you all in jail right now," he shouted.

"My son is dead, and this is what you say to us?" the mother answered.

The policeman turned his head in disgust.

"Dog," he muttered under his breath.

Slogans litter Baghdad. They are scrawled on the blast walls that partition this city of concrete. They proclaim unity from billboards over traffic snarled at impotent checkpoints. The more they are uttered, it seems, the less resonant they become.

"Respect and be respected," read the one the family passed, entering the police station.

They followed Kadhem Hassan, the weary 60-year-old police officer in charge of records, whose office was around the corner from toilets piled with excrement.

"They keep throwing rocks at us at night," he said, kicking shards of bricks away from the entrance to his office, near a slogan that read, "Heroes."

His office was bare but for a rickety desk and cabinets piled with curled, yellowing files. A fan circulated the heat; Officer Hassan had bought it for $20. Sitting in his chair, he endlessly shuffled files. In words slurred by missing teeth, he told Hamid's nephew to go buy paper if they wanted a letter.

Eventually, he found the police report of Muhammad's death.

Dated July 3, 2005, it read: "We discovered 11 unidentified bodies, their hands bound from behind, their eyes blindfolded and their mouths gagged. The bodies bore signs of torture."

"All of us were victims," Officer Hassan told Hamid, in an attempt at sympathy. "Who was the exception? No one was. Not the martyrs, not the policemen, no one."

"If they just shot them, O.K.," Hamid said. "But they beat them, tortured them and then they burned them. Why? And those guys" - the politicians, he meant - " are just watching."

"Power and positions, that's all they're worried about," Officer Hassan said.

"Let me be honest," Hamid said, flashing rare anger at no one in particular. "Just to tell the truth. It would have been better if we had stayed under Saddam Hussein."

The policeman shrugged and stayed silent.

A Bureaucratic Odyssey

From the Rafidain police station, carrying a letter on paper he had paid for, Hamid went to the morgue. His letter, said a clerk there, Ihab Sami, was incomplete.

"The police don't understand and neither do you!" Mr. Sami shouted at him.

Quiet, Hamid shook his head and returned to Sadr City.

"Come tomorrow morning," Officer Hassan told him.

He did. Sometimes with his mother, sometimes his nephew, he went back to the morgue, the police station again, the courthouse in Sadr City and the morgue. Over seven days, he collected papers, each with the number 5061.

"We lost someone," Hamid said as he drove. "They should take it easy on us." He grew quiet. "I guess nothing ends easily," he whispered, "for the living or the dead."

In a cauterized country caught between its haunted past and uncertain future, death seems to shape life in Baghdad. As Hamid drove patiently through its crumpled landscape, he passed the cemeteries whose tombstones read like an inventory of war, one built on the day after the fall of Saddam Hussein, at a riverside park, near pomegranate trees too desiccated to bear fruit.

"Whoever reads the Koran for me, cry for my youth," read the marker for Oday Ahmed Khalaf. "Yesterday I was living, and today I'm buried beneath the earth."

Across the Tigris River was the Jawad Orphanage, where Hussein Rahim, who does not know his age, played with other children whose parents had been killed in the violence. An explosion entombed his family in their home in July 2008. He lived because he was playing soccer. His father's name, he thinks, was Ali. But he can't recall the name of his 6-month-old sister, nor his mother. They are the past, he said, and "no one wants to talk about it."

"I can't forget," Hamid said, on the eighth day of his odyssey.

A roadside mine had closed the street, and Hamid parked nearly a mile away. With his nephew, he walked toward the office for unclaimed death certificates and past a billboard that read, "Hand in hand, we'll build Iraq together." Government offices under construction had grown dilapidated even before they were finished. The carcasses of car bombs were piled on the side of the street.

"I don't consider this my country anymore," Hamid said. "Really, I feel like a stranger. Not just me. Everyone does."

The office - a flattering term for a ramshackle tan trailer with brown trim - was down a dirt road, across from a nursery lined with unplanted pots. Here, even the nursery was coiled in barbed wire.

"They don't even put a sign out front," Hamid complained.

Perky, with good-natured cheer that seemed at odds with her work, Maysoun Azzawi sat inside with her harried and haggard assistant, Hajji Saleh. She dispatched him to plumb the 100 notebooks - stacked upright and on their side, some with binders missing, all with pages torn - to find the death certificate for 5061.

"Come on, hurry up!" she yelled at him. "Look for the old records! 2005!"

She turned to Hamid. "Are you a Sunni or Shiite?" she asked.

"Mixed," he answered.

She nodded knowingly, then yelled again. "Hajji, are you going to find it or do I have to come in there?"

He shuffled in, and she pored over the ledger, line after line of unidentified dead, its pages blown by an air-conditioner propped up on two broken cinder blocks.

"Whatever happened to us?" she asked, as she turned the pages, looking for 5061. "There are good people here, brother, but God damn this country."

"It's here," she said finally, and asked for a pen.

She pulled out the death certificate, written in red and numbered 946777. The morgue had sent Muhammad's body south for burial on July 22, she told Hamid, and the undertaker was Sheik Sadiq al-Sheikh Daham. She handed him the onionskin paper certificate.

"You have everything you need now," she said. "You can go to Najaf."

She kept the pen.

In the Valley of Peace

Najaf, the spiritual capital of Shiite Islam, is a city of the dead.

For more than a millennium, the deceased have arrived at its cemetery, the Valley of Peace, seeking blessings in their burial near the golden-domed tomb of Imam Ali, the revered Shiite saint. There are moments of beauty here - finely rendered calligraphy on turquoise tiles, domes of a perfect symmetry that life cannot share. But shades of ocher predominate, the tan brick of headstones stretching to the horizon like supplicants awaiting an audience.

The cemetery receives the unknown, whether Sunni or Shiite.

Before the sun rose, on the ninth day after identifying his brother's picture, Hamid drove his three sisters, Muhammad's wife and daughter and his mother past Baghdad's outskirts. American jets whispered through the sky. As the sun rose gingerly, Hamid's car passed the tomb of the Prophet Job.

In Hamid's hand was his brother's death certificate.

"Corrected," it read simply.

Only the caretaker knew where Muhammad's grave was; he had sketched its location on a hand-drawn map in a red leather book bound by yellow tape. Three stacks of bricks covered in hastily poured concrete marked it. "Unknown, 5061, July 2, 2005," it read. Next to it was 5067, 5060 and so on, hundreds more, stretching row after row, so cluttered that some of the dead shared a grave.

The women stumbled toward it, throwing sand on their heads in grief. Their chorus of cries intersected with the Shiite lamentations of a nearby funeral. Muhammad's wife grasped the marker, as though it was incarnate. His sister kissed the cement.

"How long have we looked for you, my son?" his mother screamed, tears turning the sand on her face to mud. "All this time, and you've been suffering under the sun."

She shouted at Hamid and the others.

"Please dig him out! Let me see him. It's been five years. Hamid! We haven't seen him. Show him to me, just show him to me for a little while."

She turned to Muhammad's daughter, Aisha.

"This is your child!" she yelled.

Wearing pink, Aisha paid no attention. Too young to know grief, she played with dusty red plastic carnations, glancing at the rest of the dead, anonymous like her father.

Hamid stayed back, his tears turning to sobs.

"There is nothing left to do," he said, shaking his head.

An hour later, the family pulled away in Hamid's car, his mother's cries still audible. "Let me take your place," she moaned. It turned onto a ribbon of black asphalt. For a moment, the car caught the glint of the sun, then disappeared behind the countless tombs.

Behind them was 5061. With a brick, they had furrowed a line into the marker. With a bottle of water, they had washed it, revealing a newly white tile in a sea of brown.


21) Rights Groups Sue U.S. on Effort to Kill Cleric
August 30, 2010

WASHINGTON - Two human rights organizations went to court on Monday to challenge the Obama administration's decision to authorize the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born radical Muslim cleric now hiding in Yemen.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington on behalf of Mr. Awlaki's father, Nasser al-Awlaki, argues that the United State government should not be permitted to kill an American citizen away from the battlefield and without judicial review.

The human rights groups, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, asked the court to prohibit the government from killing Mr. Awlaki until the lawsuit is heard. They also demand that the government disclose the standards it uses to determine who should be singled out for killing.

The lawsuit is the first legal challenge since administration officials disclosed that Mr. Awlaki was the first American citizen to be designated for capture or killing by the Central Intelligence Agency. The authorization, which also applies to the Defense Department, came after intelligence agencies concluded early this year that Mr. Awlaki was actively participating in plotting attacks against the United States, including the failed bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25.

Since then, Mr. Awlaki has escalated his criticism of the United States in a series of written and recorded statements broadcast by Al Jazeera and posted on the Web. Calling the United States "a nation of evil," Mr. Awlaki said in a March Web posting that "jihad against America is binding upon myself, just as it is binding on every other able Muslim."

Obama administration officials have argued that Mr. Awlaki, now believed to be an operative of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen branch of the terrorist network, has essentially joined the enemy in a time of war. The government does not need a court's permission to kill an enemy soldier, the officials say.

But some legal experts and human rights activists have noted that the law requires the government to get a court warrant to eavesdrop on Mr. Awlaki or other American citizens. An order to kill him should require at least the same degree of review, the activists say, to meet the Fifth Amendment's requirement of "due process" before depriving an American of life or liberty.

"The United States cannot simply execute people, including its own citizens, anywhere in the world based on its own say-so," said Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The lawsuit acknowledges that singling out someone for killing can be lawful "as a last resort to protect against concrete, specific and imminent threats of death or serious physical injury." But terrorism suspects designated secretly by the government and left on the target list for months or years do not qualify as such an urgent threat, the lawsuit says.

A Justice Department spokesman, Matthew A. Miller, would not comment on the lawsuit. But he noted that Congress authorized the use of force against Al Qaeda after the 2001 terrorist attacks and that international law recognized a right of self-defense.

Anwar al-Awlaki was born in 1971 in New Mexico, where his father was a graduate student, and moved with his family to Yemen at the age of 7. He returned to the United States to attend Colorado State University and later served as an imam in three American mosques before moving to London and back to Yemen in 2004.

His publicly expressed views have grown steadily more militant, and his prolific writings and recordings have been cited as an important influence on suspects in more than a dozen terrorism cases in the United States, Canada and Britain.

The Obama administration has pursued terrorism suspects using missiles fired from drones in Pakistan and from ships and jets in Yemen. Such strikes have killed hundreds of people, but the effort to capture or kill Mr. Awlaki has drawn particular attention because of his citizenship and prominence as a cleric.

In July, the Treasury Department designated Mr. Awlaki as a terrorist, meaning that providing him legal or other services could be a crime. The A.C.L.U. and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit earlier this month challenging the Treasury regulations, but the department issued a license to the two groups permitting them to take legal action on Mr. Awlaki's behalf. The lawsuit challenging the Treasury regulations is still pending.

William C. Banks, an expert on national security law at Syracuse University, said the lawsuit filed Monday faced numerous, probably insurmountable, legal obstacles. He said Nasser al-Awlaki might have difficulty showing that he had been injured by the actions taken against his son or overcoming the secrecy that protected counterterrorism programs.

Even if the elder Mr. Awlaki does have legal standing to sue, the government can cite the Congressional authorization of 2001 to justify its actions, Mr. Banks said. "The arguments in this lawsuit are creative," he said, "but I think it's unlikely to succeed."


22) Egg Farms Violated Safety Rules
August 30, 2010

Barns infested with flies, maggots and scurrying rodents, and overflowing manure pits were among the widespread food safety problems that federal inspectors found at a group of Iowa egg farms at the heart of a nationwide recall and salmonella outbreak.

Inspection reports released by the Food and Drug Administration on Monday described - often in nose-pinching detail - possible ways that salmonella could have been spread undetected through the vast complexes of two companies.

The inspections, conducted over the last three weeks, were the first to check compliance by large egg-producing companies with new federal egg safety rules that were written well before the current outbreak, but went into effect only last month.

"Clearly the observations here reflect significant deviations from what's expected," said Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for food for the F.D.A.

Mr. Taylor said that in response to the outbreak and recall, F.D.A. inspectors would visit all of the 600 major egg-producing facilities in the country over the next 15 months. Those farms, with 50,000 or more hens each, represent about 80 percent of nationwide egg production.

The recall, which began Aug. 13, involves more than half a billion eggs from the Iowa operations of two leading egg producers, Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms. About 1,500 reported cases of Salmonella enteritidis have been linked to tainted eggs since the spring - the largest known outbreak associated with that strain of salmonella.

The F.D.A. inspection reports portray areas of filth and poor sanitation at both operations, including many instances of rodents, wild birds or hens escaped from cages - all of which can carry salmonella - appearing to have had free run of the facilities.

It was difficult to gauge from the report how extensive the problems were. Both companies operate vast facilities housing seven million hens. Wright County Egg says inspectors visited 73 barns on its five egg farms.

Both companies said that they had acted quickly to correct problems and were continuing to cooperate with regulators. The reports cited numerous instances in which both companies had failed to follow through on basic measures meant to keep chickens from becoming infected with salmonella, which can cause them to lay eggs containing the bacteria.

"That is not good management, bottom line," said Kenneth E. Anderson, a professor of poultry science at North Carolina State University. "I am surprised that an operation was being operated in that manner in this day and age."

Inspection visits to Wright County Egg found barns with abundant rodent holes and gaps in doors, siding and foundations where rodents could enter. Inspectors spotted mice scampering about 11 laying houses.

Inspectors said that many of the barns lacked separate entrances, so that workers had to walk through one barn to get into another - conditions that could allow workers to track bacteria between barns. In addition, workers were seen moving from barn to barn without changing protective clothing or cleaning tools.

The report on Wright County Egg also described pits beneath laying houses where chicken manure was piled four to eight feet high. It also described hens that had escaped from laying cages tracking through the manure.

Officials last week said that they were taking a close look at a feed mill operated by Wright County Egg, after tests found salmonella in bone meal, a feed ingredient, and in feed given to young birds, known as pullets. The young birds were raised to become laying hens at both Wright County Egg and Hillandale.

The inspection report helped fill in the picture of the feed mill as a potential source of contamination, saying that birds were seen roosting and flying about the facility. (Officials said both wild birds and escaped hens were found at the mill.)

Nesting material was seen in parts of the mill, including the ingredient storage area and an area where trucks were loaded. The report also said that there were numerous holes in bins or other structures open to the outdoors. That included the bin containing meat and bone meal that provided the feed ingredient sample in which salmonella was found.

Officials said last week that they had found traces of salmonella similar to the strain associated with the outbreak in a total of six test samples taken from Wright County Egg facilities. That included the two feed tests and four tests taken from walkways or other areas.

On Monday, officials said for the first time that they had also found salmonella at a Hillandale facility. The bacteria was found in water that had been used to wash eggs.

The inspection report on Hillandale showed many problems similar to those found at Wright County Egg, including hens tracking through manure piles and signs of rodent infestation.

F.D.A. officials said they were not permitted to discuss possible enforcement actions. But, according to Mr. Taylor, the law allows for civil actions like injunctions as well as criminal prosecution.

"We are in the process of analyzing this evidence and considering what enforcement actions would be appropriate," Mr. Taylor said.

Officials said their investigation was continuing and they were not yet able to say how the salmonella had gotten into the laying operations.

Wright County Egg is owned by Jack DeCoster, who has a long history of environmental, labor and immigration violations at egg operations in Maine, Iowa and elsewhere. The inspection report identified Mr. DeCoster's son, Peter DeCoster, as the chief operating officer of the Iowa operation.

Both companies have stopped selling shell eggs to consumers from their Iowa facilities and instead are sending all their eggs to breaking plants where they are pasteurized, which kills the bacteria. The eggs would then most likely be sold in liquid form, possibly to food manufacturers.

Symptoms of salmonella include diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps. The bacteria is killed by pasteurization or by thoroughly cooking the eggs.


23) Are Smart Meters Smart?
EMF Safety Network
[see video's at this site...bw]

Smart Meters are one part of the new 'Smart Grid' system. They are designed to allow the utility company and the consumer to track and control their energy usage.

The Utility Reform Network, State Senator Dean Florez, the City and County of San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Marin County Board of Supervisors, Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo, the cities of Sebastopol, Berkeley, Cotati, Fairfax, Santa Cruz, Piedmont, Scotts Valley, Capitola, Watsonville, Sausalito, Belvedere, Monte Sereno, Novato, Richmond, Ross, Bolinas, Camp Meeker, the Peace and Freedom Party, the Marin Association of Realtors and The EMF Safety Network are calling for a moratorium, a ban, or are opposing Smart Meters.

Smart Meters are radio transmitters, sending radiofrequency microwave radiation (RF) signals from both electric and gas meters. The electric meter has two transmitters. One RF signal is sent directly into your home (or business), and the other to a neighborhood data collector, which could be located on a lamppost, telephone pole, building or a home. Homes will also be used as repeaters for neighborhood RF signals.

Smart Grid proponents are expecting consumers to install a Home Area Network, which includes an RF interior display unit and either retrofit or purchase new RF 'smart' appliances to learn how to manage and reduce their electricity usage. Installing these interior devices will allow the Utility company to further control the electric grid, by turning off certain appliances during peak use time, if needed.

PG&E has been unable to give us a consistent, believable, straight answer about how often the meters transmit RF, or what the instantaneous peak power of the RF signal is at certain distances. They do not know what the RF exposure levels will be for a home with multiple meters installed. They claim the meters transmit RF six times a day, or they say once an hour. Other RF experts have measured RF transmissions every 45 seconds. Why is PG&E hiding the numbers? Do they know what they are doing?

There are no RF warning signs and at this time you cannot opt out. Vulnerable groups include the EMF Sensitive, people with medical implants, children, pregnant women, seniors and the immune compromised. If you have a pacemaker PG&E is now warning you to adhere to the SIX INCH RULE. For your safety stay 6 inches away from a Smart Meter.

Health impacts include sleep disturbance, headaches, nausea, anxiety, heart palpitations, tinnitus and ear pain, concentration and memory problems, dizziness, speech (loss of words), immune, nervous and hormonal system impacts, behavior problems in children, DNA strand breaks, and long term risk of cancers.

Smart Meters don't run backwards, and are therefore incompatible with solar panel installations. PG&E has reported over 43,000 Smart Meter problems of one kind or another. Over three thousand complaints have been received by the CPUC for safety, RF impacts, EMF's, opting out, moratorium, requests to remove, and for other numerous reasons. (that doesn't include billing complaints)

Media reviews and consumers report numerous complaints prior to or following installation of Smart Meters for a variety of reasons.

(1) cost, billing overcharges, and reliability The Utility Reform Network

(2) health impacts EMF Safety Network Application for Modification with CPUC

(3) interference, billing, other complaints Smart Meter Public Comments

(4) privacy Joint Comments of the Center for Democracy & Technology and the Electronic Frontier Foundation

(5) security 'Smart' meters have security holes

(6) fire hazards Smart Meter Fire Risk

Learn more about Smart Meters in this Southern California Edison briefing by the co-editor of the Bioinitiative Report, RF expert Cindy Sage: Briefing Letter on Electric Utility Smart Meters

See this Silver Springs Network Smart Meter video: watch: "How it Works"

SEND Opt Out letter to CPUC For all utility districts in California: SEND THIS LETTER!

Take further action:


24) Blowback
Enthusiasm for Palestinian prime minister isn't shared by Palestinians
Salam Fayyad's embrace by the U.S. and Israel doesn't change the fact that millions of Palestinians languish under occupation and in poverty.
Ali Abunimah
August 31, 2010

Rabbi Kenneth Chasen is the latest to offer a glowing report of the Palestinian-state-in-the-making supposedly being built by Salam Fayyad, a political unknown until he was boosted from obscurity by the George W. Bush administration and installed as the unelected "prime minister" of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

But the booming businesses and sleek glass towers Chasen raves about in Ramallah are part of a mirage, a narrative in which a docile Palestinian leadership "reforms" Palestine from within, making little or no noise about the ongoing depredations of Israeli occupation.

Chasen may be pleased that Fayyad barely uses the word "occupation," but that doesn't make the occupation any less real for the millions of Palestinians who suffer under it. As B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights group, reported last month, Israeli settlements now control 42% of the West Bank. Virtually all of the Jordan Valley is off limits to Palestinians as Israel tightens its grip under the cover of a "peace process" that perpetually goes nowhere. In July alone, Israel demolished 141 homes and buildings belonging to Palestinians in the West Bank, the highest number since 2005, according to Human Rights Watch.

As for economic growth - Chasen claims an impressive 7% a year - this too is a mirage. There is in Ramallah a tiny, wealthy elite that has benefited from its connections and aid largesse, but in the rest of the West Bank, the situation is dire. Seventy-nine percent of families in "Area C," the three-fifths of the West Bank under direct Israeli military control, are chronically short of food, compared with 61% of families in the blockaded Gaza Strip, according to a recent Save the Children study.

It is likely that much of the "growth" in an economy that has shrunk dramatically in recent years is a statistical artifact of the large amounts of humanitarian aid being given to the Palestinian Authority. But this aid does nothing to tackle the real cause of poverty: the fact that Palestinians under occupation have no freedom to develop themselves and their resources in a sustainable way. As Palestinian American entrepreneur Sam Bahour wrote recently in The Hill, only an end to Israel's U.S.-subsidized occupation can unleash the economic potential in Palestine.

Chasen acknowledges that Fayyad rules in an "authoritarian" way, but this is putting it mildly. Last Wednesday, Palestinian Authority thugs raided a meeting of dozens of Palestinian political activists opposed to the authority taking part in new direct talks with Israel while settlement construction and other repression continue.

Palestine's Al-Haq human rights group condemned the attack, in which its staff along with many other individuals and journalists were assaulted, as further evidence of the "police state" the authority has become.

Claims that Fayyad is building the "institutions" of a future Palestinian state are equally hollow. As George Washington University professor Nathan Brown noted in a recent Carnegie Foundation analysis, Fayyad's regime "is not just postponing a democratic system; it is actively denying it." Brown concludes that contrary to glowing write-ups in the U.S. media, there has been little or no institution-building and that "ironically, there was more institution-building and civil society development under Yasser Arafat than there has been" since 2007, when Fayyad was installed without the legally required approval of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Fayyad's popularity around the world may indeed be on the rise, as Chasen claims. But support from foreign governments does not give Fayyad a popular mandate among Palestinians, the only people who should choose Palestinian leaders. Fayyad's party ran in the 2006 legislative elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and got just over 2% of the vote. Hamas, which had been observing a unilateral cease-fire, won the election and immediately invited all of the losers to join it in a broad national unity coalition, but it was never allowed to govern as Israel, the United States and other allies launched a determined effort to undermine it and overturn the election. The result was bitter internal Palestinian fighting and the devastating split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

What's even more disturbing than Chasen's support for an "authoritarian" regime, which many Palestinians view in the same light as Philippe Pétain's collaborationist Vichy regime in France during World War II, is his seeming endorsement of the "carrot and stick" approach to Gaza. One and a half million people are imprisoned in Gaza and deprived of basic needs in order to teach them a lesson: Support the U.S.- and Israeli-backed strongman in Ramallah, or continue to languish in misery. Absolutely no political goal can justify such collective punishment.

The enthusiasm among Israel's supporters for Fayyad is not hard to understand. Chasen himself warns that "the demographic clock ticks loudly toward the day when the growing population of non-Jews in Israel and the territories it controls" exceeds the number of Jews. That day may have already arrived. Just as the apartheid regime in South Africa invented the nominally independent "bantustans" ruled by favorite strongmen to create the fiction of black self-determination, Zionists hope that an illusory Palestinian "state" can serve as a fig leaf to cover the reality of Israeli apartheid.

Ali Abunimah is the author of "One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse."



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