Friday, September 03, 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,
415-864-8770 ext. 759


A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition Film Showing & Discussion
"Faubourg Tremé-The Untold Story of Black New Orleans"
Thurs. Sept. 9, 7:30pm
ATA (Artists' Television Access), 992 Valencia St., at 21st St., SF

A documentary film about the radical Black history of New Orleans on the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. With an introduction and discussion with ANSWER Coalition organizer, Gloria La Riva, who was in New Orleans just days after the 2005 catastrophe.

Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans was largely shot before the Katrina tragedy but edited afterward, giving the film both a celebratory and elegiac tone. It is a film of such effortless intimacy, subtle glances and authentic details that only two native New Orleanians could have made it.

During slavery, Faubourg Tremé-a neighborhood near the French Quarter-was home to the largest community of free Black people in the Deep South and a hotbed of political ferment. Black and white, free and enslaved, rich and poor co-habitated, collaborated, and clashed to create much of what defines New Orleans culture up to the present day.

The film tells the history of the radical roots of this New Orleans community where during slavery, Black people could earn their freedom and purchase a house. Where sit-ins, almost a century before Rosa Parks, won the integration of public transportation.

The film concludes with the new challenges facing the Black community after the Katrina disaster. It does not just commemorate, but reminds us that U.S. society still confronts the same battles that the residents of Tremé have waged through two centuries-demands for economic justice, voting rights, equal education, decent public services, in short, full citizenship for African Americans. 2007, 67 min.

Call 415-821-6545 for more info.

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


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 ( in collaboration with the Bradley Manning Support Network ( $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


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,


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:


Justice for Oscar Grant Rally
Saturday, October 23, 12:00 Noon
Frank Ogawa Plaza
(Oakland City Hall near 14th and Broadway)

Join family and friends of Oscar Grant, Labor and Community to demand:

--Maximum sentence for Johannes Mehserle!
--Stop police brutality! Jail racist killer cops!
--Expand jobs and education, not war and repression!

Stand up and make your voice heard! Johannes Mehserle was only arrested after people took to the streets to express their outrage. Without continuous labor and community action, Mehserle might have been acquitted. Together we can make sure that the killer cop gets the maximum sentence so other cops don't think they can get away with murder.

Sponsored by:

ILWU Local 10

Endorsed by other labor and community organizations.

For more information please contact:
Farless Dailey, Secretary Treasurer, 415-776-8100


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



Resolution in Support of October 23 ILWU Rally for Justice for Oscar Grant

Whereas, Oscar Grant's killer, BART police officer Johannes Mehserle received a verdict of involuntary manslaughter on July 8, 2010 and will be sentenced on November 5; 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, wherever employers try to break a strike, police are there to protect the scabs and attack workers, as we know from the 1934 West Coast Maritime Strike, to the Charleston Five longshore struggle in 2000; and

Whereas, black and brown racial minorities, and especially immigrant workers today, struggling for equal rights have borne the brunt of police violence; and

Whereas , Oscar Grant's killing is another manifestation of the same unjust system where the message for the poor, the working class, and people of color is submission or death; and

Whereas, ILWU Local 10 has initiated the call for a mass labor and community protest rally on Saturday October 23, 2010 in Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza calling for justice for Oscar Grant in the sentencing of Johannes Mehserle,

Therefore be it Resolved, that (name of organization) endorses this rally along with other labor unions, community groups, civil rights organizations, civil liberties organizations and will help to mobilize for this rally for justice for Oscar Grant;

An Injury To One Is An Injury To All.


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




air force sprays oil dispersant


Appeals Court Ruling Allows Government to Use GPS to Track People's Moves

A federal court in California has issued a ruling that's raising widespread alarm among advocates for civil liberties. Earlier this month, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said law enforcement agents can sneak onto a person's property, plant a GPS device on their vehicle, and track their every movements. The court's ruling means the spying is legal in California and eight other Western states.




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

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]


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


BP Oil Spill Grand Isle Town Hall Meeting Part 3


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




Deafening Silence, Chuck Africa (MOVE 9)

Peace People,
This poem is from Chuck Africa, one of the MOVE 9, who is currently serving 30-100 years on trump up charges of killing a police officer. After 32 years in prison, the MOVE 9 are repeatly denied parole, after serving their minimum sentence. Chuck wanted me to share this with the people, so that we can see how our silence in demanding the MOVE 9's freedom is inherently an invitation to their death behind prison walls.

Deafening Silence

Don't ya'll hear cries of anguish?

In the climate of pain come joining voices?

But voices become unheard and strained by inactions

Of dead brains

How long will thou Philly soul remain in the pit of agonizing apathy?

Indifference seems to greet you like the morning mirror

Look closely in the mirror and realize it's a period of mourning....

My Sistas, mothers, daughters, wives and warriors

Languish in prisons obscurity like a distant star in the galaxies as does their brothers

We need to be free....

How loud can you stay silence?

Have the courage to stand up and have a say,

Choose resistance and let go of your fears.

The history of injustice to MOVE; we all know so well

But your deafening silence could be my DEATH KNELL.

Chuck Africa

Please share, inform people and get involve in demanding the MOVE 9's freedom!


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!


Kevin Keith Update: Good News! Death sentence commuted!

Ohio may execute an innocent man unless you take action.

Ohio's Governor Spares Life of a Death Row Inmate Kevin Keith


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

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

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

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

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

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

Justice for Bradley Manning!


The Undersigned:

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


Dear Gio,

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

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

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

Jeff Paterson,
Project Director, Courage to Resist

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


Please forward widely...


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: and

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:


"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,

(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

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.

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

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


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

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

With best wishes,

Robert R. Bryan
Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal


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

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

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

Thank you for your generosity!


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


Support the troops who refuse to fight!




1) Appeals Court Backs Away From War Powers Ruling
August 31, 2010

2) Rules Tighten for Oil Regulators to Avoid Favoritism to Drillers
August 31, 2010

3) Offshore Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico Explodes
September 2, 2010

4) Child's Ordeal Shows Risks of Psychosis Drugs for Young
"But it is cheaper to medicate children than to pay for family counseling, a fact highlighted by a Rutgers University study last year that found children from low-income families, like Kyle, were four times as likely as the privately insured to receive antipsychotic medicines."
September 1, 2010

5) Survey: Employers Pass on More Health Costs to Workers
September 2, 2010, 11:00 am

6) The Peanut Solution
"Nutriset has aggressively protected its intellectual property, and the bulk of Plumpy'nut production continues to take place at Nutriset facilities in France. (Unicef, the world's primary buyer, purchases 90 percent of its supply from that factory, according to a 2009 report prepared for the agency.)"
September 2, 2010

7) Sundiata Acoli Freedom Campaign
Legal Update
Black August 30, 2010

8) Busted: Stories of the Financial Crisis
Joshua Clover | September 1, 2010

9) BP Says Limits on Drilling Imperil Oil Spill Payouts
September 2, 2010

10) An Oil Platform Burns, Blanketing the Gulf With Angst
"In another year, the blaze may not have garnered much attention; it might have been seen as one of the scores of fires and explosions that occur on offshore platforms in the gulf every year. ...Federal records show that there have been at least four accidents at that platform in the past decade. At least one of them led to a serious injury, and another led to a hospitalization."
September 2, 2010

11) Employers Push Costs for Health on Workers
September 2, 2010

12) Ohio's Governor Spares Life of a Death Row Inmate
September 2, 2010


1) Appeals Court Backs Away From War Powers Ruling
August 31, 2010

WASHINGTON - A federal appeals court on Tuesday unanimously upheld the detention of a Guantánamo prisoner from Yemen. But lurking just beneath the surface of its ruling was a sharp disagreement among the judges over the scope and limits of presidential power.

At issue, beyond this single case, is whether international laws of armed conflict can restrict the wartime power of the president. In January, two of the most conservative judges appointed by President George W. Bush - Janice Rogers Brown and Brett M. Kavanaugh - declared that international law does not restrict presidential power.

That proposition, in a panel ruling upholding the detention of the Yemeni detainee at the Guantánamo Bay naval base, Ghaleb Nassar al-Bihani, sent shockwaves through the legal world. It was criticized by many scholars, and the Obama administration said it did not agree with it - even though the ruling gave the executive branch more power.

On Tuesday, all nine judges on United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected a request by Mr. Bihani to rehear his case. But seven of the nine judges issued an unusual one-paragraph note saying that they viewed Judge Brown's and Judge Kavanaugh's discussion of international law as irrelevant to deciding Mr. Bihani's fate.

Stephen I. Vladeck, an American University law professor who filed a friend-of-the-court brief asking the court to rehear the case, said the note amounted to a nullification of the more sweeping parts of the January ruling without the court bothering to rehear it. The paragraph, he said, tells the world that the section of the January ruling about international law should be treated like what lawyers call "dicta" - editorializing about issues that are not necessary to decide the matter at hand, which has little controlling authority for other cases.

"They've basically removed the single biggest complaint people had with that opinion," Mr. Vladeck said. "They said, 'We don't think we need to rehear the whole case just to limit the opinion - we can just say it, and going forward this is how we understand it.' That matters a lot."

The Obama administration and judges have been wrestling with legal questions about the outer bounds of the government's power to detain terrorism suspects. The issue turns on how much contact with Al Qaeda and what kind is sufficient to define someone as part of the enemy force.

That question can be murky in a conflict against a global network of terrorists who wear no uniforms and whose membership is vague. In some cases, whether principles of international law that were developed for traditional wars should come into play can make the difference between whether someone on Al Qaeda's fringes must be let go or can be imprisoned indefinitely - or even targeted for killing.

In response to their colleagues' implicit rebuke, Judge Brown and Judge Kavanaugh issued 15-page and 87-page opinions, respectively. Judge Brown attacked her seven colleagues for appending "a cryptic statement" that she said would "muddy the clear holding" that international law does not limit the war powers Congress authorized.

Judge Kavanaugh defended the proposition that only rules explicitly enacted by Congress, not international laws of armed conflict, can constrain what an American president can do in wartime. "International law is not a judicially enforceable limit on a president's wartime authority unless Congress expressly says it is," he wrote with emphasis.


2) Rules Tighten for Oil Regulators to Avoid Favoritism to Drillers
August 31, 2010

WASHINGTON - Years after revelations of bribery, favoritism and a spinning door between the oil industry and its regulators, the federal agency charged with policing offshore oil drillers is moving to end some of its most egregious past practices.

Michael R. Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement - the successor to the discredited Minerals Management Service - issued guidelines this week to try to cool the cozy relationship between government and the oil companies.

The new policy is one of the government's efforts to tighten regulation of drilling after the BP Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico in April.

Employees of the regulatory agency must now immediately report any attempt to coerce or cajole them into ignoring violations of laws and regulations for offshore operations. Audits and investigations have uncovered cases in which oil company executives used bribes, favors and threats to avoid citations for noncompliance, which can lead to heavy fines or other penalties.

Regulatory workers are not allowed to perform inspections or other regulatory actions against a former employer in the drilling or contracting business for at least two years after leaving that company.

Agency workers must now disclose any family or close personal relationships with employees of the drilling companies they regulate. Such relationships should generally lead to the government official's recusal from any contact with the company involved, according to the new policy.

"A close personal relationship is defined as a relative who maintains a personal connection and regular social contact with the employee or a member of the employee's household," Mr. Bromwich's memorandum states.

All Bureau of Ocean Energy Management employees involved in offshore regulation will have to fill out a two-page form disclosing all personal and business relationships with companies supervised by the agency.

In a note to all bureau employees, Mr. Bromwich said the new policy "is an important reform that underscores the importance of independence, objectivity and the absence of real or apparent bias."


3) Offshore Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico Explodes
September 2, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - An offshore oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday morning, injuring one worker, the United States Coast Guard said.

The rig was located just west of where another rig leased by BP blew up and sank this spring, killing 11 people and touching off an environmental calamity.

All 13 members of the work crew on board on Thursday were accounted for, the Coast Guard said.

News reports said there was smoke rising from the platform, but it was unclear whether the rig was actively burning or in danger of foundering, or whether the explosion had set off any underground oil leaks.

Several helicopters, airplanes and boats were speeding to the scene of the explosion, south of Vermillion Bay in Louisiana.

Citing the Department of Homeland Security, the Associated Press reported that the rig was owned by the Texas-based Mariner Energy, and was not actively producing oil and gas.


4) Child's Ordeal Shows Risks of Psychosis Drugs for Young
"But it is cheaper to medicate children than to pay for family counseling, a fact highlighted by a Rutgers University study last year that found children from low-income families, like Kyle, were four times as likely as the privately insured to receive antipsychotic medicines."
September 1, 2010

OPELOUSAS, La. - At 18 months, Kyle Warren started taking a daily antipsychotic drug on the orders of a pediatrician trying to quell the boy's severe temper tantrums.

Thus began a troubled toddler's journey from one doctor to another, from one diagnosis to another, involving even more drugs. Autism, bipolar disorder, hyperactivity, insomnia, oppositional defiant disorder. The boy's daily pill regimen multiplied: the antipsychotic Risperdal, the antidepressant Prozac, two sleeping medicines and one for attention-deficit disorder. All by the time he was 3.

He was sedated, drooling and overweight from the side effects of the antipsychotic medicine. Although his mother, Brandy Warren, had been at her "wit's end" when she resorted to the drug treatment, she began to worry about Kyle's altered personality. "All I had was a medicated little boy," Ms. Warren said. "I didn't have my son. It's like, you'd look into his eyes and you would just see just blankness."

Today, 6-year-old Kyle is in his fourth week of first grade, scoring high marks on his first tests. He is rambunctious and much thinner. Weaned off the drugs through a program affiliated with Tulane University that is aimed at helping low-income families whose children have mental health problems, Kyle now laughs easily and teases his family.

Ms. Warren and Kyle's new doctors point to his remarkable progress - and a more common diagnosis for children of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder - as proof that he should have never been prescribed such powerful drugs in the first place.

Kyle now takes one drug, Vyvanse, for his attention deficit. His mother shared his medical records to help document a public glimpse into a trend that some psychiatric experts say they are finding increasingly worrisome: ready prescription-writing by doctors of more potent drugs to treat extremely young children, even infants, whose conditions rarely require such measures.

More than 500,000 children and adolescents in America are now taking antipsychotic drugs, according to a September 2009 report by the Food and Drug Administration. Their use is growing not only among older teenagers, when schizophrenia is believed to emerge, but also among tens of thousands of preschoolers.

A Columbia University study recently found a doubling of the rate of prescribing antipsychotic drugs for privately insured 2- to 5-year-olds from 2000 to 2007. Only 40 percent of them had received a proper mental health assessment, violating practice standards from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

"There are too many children getting on too many of these drugs too soon," Dr. Mark Olfson, professor of clinical psychiatry and lead researcher in the government-financed study, said.

Such radical treatments are indeed needed, some doctors and experts say, to help young children with severe problems stay safe and in school or day care. In 2006, the F.D.A. did approve treating children as young as 5 with Risperdal if they had autistic disorder and aggressive behavior, self-injury tendencies, tantrums or severe mood swings. Two other drugs, Seroquel from AstraZeneca and Abilify from Bristol-Myers Squibb, are permitted for youths 10 or older with bipolar disorder.

But many doctors say prescribing them for younger and younger children may pose grave risks to development of both their fast-growing brains and their bodies. Doctors can legally prescribe them for off-label use, including in preschoolers, even though research has not shown them to be safe or effective for children. Boys are far more likely to be medicated than girls.

Dr. Ben Vitiello, chief of child and adolescent treatment and preventive research at the National Institute of Mental Health, says conditions in young children are extremely difficult to diagnose properly because of their emotional variability. "This is a recent phenomenon, in large part driven by the misperception that these agents are safe and well tolerated," he said.

Even the most reluctant prescribers encounter a marketing juggernaut that has made antipsychotics the nation's top-selling class of drugs by revenue, $14.6 billion last year, with prominent promotions aimed at treating children. In the waiting room of Kyle's original child psychiatrist, children played with Legos stamped with the word Risperdal, made by Johnson & Johnson. It has since lost its patent on the drug and stopped handing out the toys.

Greg Panico, a company spokesman, said the Legos were not intended for children to play with - only as a promotional item.

Cheaper to Medicate

Dr. Lawrence L. Greenhill, president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, concerned about the lack of research, has recommended a national registry to track preschoolers on antipsychotic drugs for the next 10 years. "Psychotherapy is the key to the treatment of preschool children with severe mental disorders, and antipsychotics are adjunctive therapy - not the other way around," he said.

But it is cheaper to medicate children than to pay for family counseling, a fact highlighted by a Rutgers University study last year that found children from low-income families, like Kyle, were four times as likely as the privately insured to receive antipsychotic medicines.

Texas Medicaid data obtained by The New York Times showed a record $96 million was spent last year on antipsychotic drugs for teenagers and children - including three unidentified infants who were given the drugs before their first birthdays.

In addition, foster care children seem to be medicated more often, prompting a Senate panel in June to ask the Government Accountability Office to investigate such practices.

In the last few years, doctors' concerns have led some states, like Florida and California, to put in place restrictions on doctors who want to prescribe antipsychotics for young children, requiring a second opinion or prior approval, especially for those on Medicaid. Some states now report prescriptions are declining as a result.

A study released in July by 16 state Medicaid medical directors, which once had the working title "Too Many, Too Much, Too Young," recommended that more states require second opinions, outside consultation or other methods to assure proper prescriptions. The F.D.A. has also strengthened warnings about using some of these drugs in treating children.

No Medical Reason

Kyle was rescued from his medicated state through a therapy program called Early Childhood Supports and Services, established in Louisiana through a confluence of like-minded child psychiatrists at Tulane, Louisiana State University and the state. It surrounds troubled children and their parents with social and mental health support services.

Dr. Mary Margaret Gleason, a professor of pediatrics and child psychiatry at Tulane who treated Kyle from ages 3 to 5 as he was weaned off the heavy medications, said there was no valid medical reason to give antipsychotic drugs to the boy, or virtually any other 2-year-old. "It's disturbing," she said.

Dr. Gleason says Kyle's current status proves he probably never had bipolar disorder, autism or psychosis. His doctors now say Kyle's tantrums arose from family turmoil and language delays, not any of the diagnoses used to justify antipsychotics.

"I will never, ever let my children be put on these drugs again," said Ms. Warren, 28, choking back tears. "I didn't realize what I was doing."

Dr. Edgardo R. Concepcion, the first child psychiatrist to treat Kyle, said he believed the drugs could help bipolar disorder in little children. "It's not easy to do this and prescribe this heavy medication," he said in an interview. "But when they come to me, I have no choice. I have to help this family, this mother. I have no choice."

Ms. Warren conceded that she resorted to medicating Kyle because she was unprepared for parenthood at age 22, living in difficult circumstances, sometimes distracted. "It was complicated," she said. "Very tense."

Behavior Problems

Kyle was a healthy baby physically, but he was afraid of some things. He spent hours lining up toys. When upset, he screamed, threw objects, even hit his head on the wall or floor - not uncommon for toddlers, but frightening.

"I'd bring him to the doctor and the doctor would say, 'You just need to discipline him,' " Ms. Warren said. "How can you discipline a 6-month-old?"

When Kyle's behavior worsened after his brother was born, Ms. Warren turned to a pediatrician, Dr. Martin J. deGravelle.

"Within five minutes of sitting with him, he looked at me and said, 'He has autism, there's no doubt about it,' " Ms. Warren said.

Dr. deGravelle's clinic notes say Kyle was hyperactive, prone to tantrums, spoke only three words and "does not interact well with strangers."

He prescribed Risperdal. At the time, Risperdal was approved by the F.D.A. only for adults with schizophrenia or acute manic episodes. The following year it was approved for certain children, 5 and older, with autism and extremely aggressive behavior. It has never been approved by the F.D.A. for use in children younger than 5, although doctors may legally prescribe it as an off-label use.

"Kyle at the time was very aggressive and easily agitated, so you try to find medication that can make him more easily controlled, because you can't reason with an 18-month-old," Dr. deGravelle said in a telephone interview. But Kyle was not autistic - according to several later evaluations, including one that Dr. deGravelle arranged with a neurologist. Kyle did not have the autistic child's core deficit of social interaction, Dr. Gleason said. Instead, he craved more positive attention from his mother.

"He had trouble communicating," Dr. Gleason said. "He didn't have people to listen to him."

After the neurologist review, the diagnosis changed to "oppositional defiant disorder" and the Risperdal continued.

"Yes, I did ask for it," Ms. Warren said. "But I was at my wit's end, and I didn't know what else to do."

Dr. deGravelle referred her to Dr. Concepcion, who in turn diagnosed Kyle's condition as bipolar disorder.

"Some children, when they come to me, the parents are really so frustrated," Dr. Concepcion said in a phone interview. "Especially the mothers are so scared or desperate in getting help. Their children are really acting psychotic."

Dr. Concepcion also spoke with Dr. Charles H. Zeanah, a Tulane medical professor, who disagreed with both the diagnosis and the treatment. "I have never seen a preschool child with bipolar disorder in 30 years as a child psychiatrist specializing in early childhood mental health," Dr. Zeanah said.

More Pills

"It's a controversial diagnosis, I agree with that," said Dr. Concepcion. "But if you will commit yourself in giving these children these medicines, you have to have a diagnosis that supports your treatment plan. You can't just give a nondiagnosis and give them the atypical antipsychotic."

He also prescribed four more pills.

Kyle's third birthday photo shows a pink-cheeked boy who had ballooned to 49 pounds. Obesity and diabetes are childhood risks of antipsychotics. Kyle smiles at the camera. He is sedated.

"His shell was there, but he wasn't there," Ms. Warren said. "And I didn't like that."

Dr. Concepcion referred Kyle to the early childhood support program, which has helped about 3,000 preschoolers from low-income families at risk for mental health problems since 2002.

His speech improved. He threw fewer tantrums. "They started working with us as a family," said Ms. Warren, who also received parenting advice. "That helps."

Kyle's treatment was directed by Dr. Gleason, a Columbia medical graduate who had led a team that wrote 2007 practice guidelines for psychopharmacological treatment of very young children.

"Families sometimes feel the need for a quick fix," Dr. Gleason said. "That's often the prescription pad. But I'm concerned that when a child sees someone who prescribes but doesn't do therapy, they're closing the door that can make longer-lasting change."

Off most drugs, Kyle started losing weight and his behavior improved. Ms. Warren's life also improved. She met a man and they moved into their own house five miles out of Opalousas, a town of 25,000. They were married last Saturday.

At their home recently, Kyle and his brother, Jade, ran and played while their baby sister watched from a playpen. Their clothes were neatly folded in a shared bedroom. They often responded "Yes, ma'am" or "Yes, sir."

"They're respectful, but they're hyper kids," Ms. Warren said. "Once he came off the medication, he's Kyle. He's an intelligent person. He's loud. He's funny. He's smart. He's bouncy. I mean, there's never a dull moment. He has a few little behavior issues. But he's like any other normal 6-year-old."

Kyle paused to show a reading report card from the end of his kindergarten year, with an A grade.

"Awesome job, Kyle!" his kindergarten teacher wrote.


5) Survey: Employers Pass on More Health Costs to Workers
September 2, 2010, 11:00 am

Score one for the nation's employers. On average, the total cost of a family health insurance policy rose just 3 percent last year, to $13,770 in annual premiums, according to a survey of employer health benefits released on
Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit research group.

But the news was much better for employers than their workers, according to the survey, which is conducted yearly by Kaiser with the Health Research and Educational Trust, an organization affiliated with the American Hospital Association. Instead of sharing the pain, as they have generally done in the past, employers chose to keep their costs steady by passing the higher costs onto workers.

As a result, the employee contribution toward family coverage rose an average of 14 percent, or almost $500, from what employees paid last year. Workers are now paying nearly $4,000 a year for a family policy, a jump of 47 percent since 2005. Wages have increased by just 18 percent during that time, according to Kaiser. It included a chart detailing the changes over the last five years.
Kaiser Family Foundation

Employees are not only paying higher premiums but also higher deductibles. About a quarter of covered workers have a deductible of at least $1,000, according to Kaiser, and nearly half of employees in small companies do.

"From a consumer perspective, the cost of health insurance just keeps going up faster than wages," said Drew Altman, Kaiser's chief executive, in a news release.

In a separate report also out on Thursday, the Commonwealth Fund outlines the impact of the new health care legislation on small businesses. Among the early benefits: tax credits for those small employers buying coverage for their workers. By the fund's calculation, nearly 17 million workers are employed by companies that will be eligible for the tax credits this year, and some 3.4 million workers for companies that will probably avail themselves of the credit in 2013.

While the Commonwealth researchers acknowledge that a majority of the companies most likely to make use of the tax credits are those that are already offering coverage, they still argue that the credits will make a difference in persuading companies to keep health insurance for their employees. "It is really an economic stimulus measure that will help small businesses get through this rough economic time," said Karen Davis, the fund's president.


6) The Peanut Solution
"Nutriset has aggressively protected its intellectual property, and the bulk of Plumpy'nut production continues to take place at Nutriset facilities in France. (Unicef, the world's primary buyer, purchases 90 percent of its supply from that factory, according to a 2009 report prepared for the agency.)"
September 2, 2010

Like most tales of great invention, the story of Plumpy'nut begins with a eureka moment, in this case involving a French doctor and a jar of Nutella, and proceeds through the stages of rejection, acceptance, evangelization and mass production. The product may not look like much - a little foil packet filled with a soft, sticky substance - but its advocates are prone to use the language of magic and wonders. What is Plumpy'nut? Sound it out, and you get the idea: it's an edible paste made of peanuts, packed with calories and vitamins, that is specially formulated to renourish starving children. Since its widespread introduction five years ago, it has been credited with significantly lowering mortality rates during famines in Africa. Children on a Plumpy'nut regimen add pounds rapidly, often going from a near-death state to relative health in a month. In the world of humanitarian aid, where progress is usually measured in subtle increments of misery, the new product offers a rare satisfaction: swift, visible, fantastic efficacy.

Plumpy'nut is also a brand name, however, the registered trademark of Nutriset, a private French company that first manufactured and marketed the paste. It was not the intention of Plumpy'nut's inventor, a crusading pediatrician named André Briend, to create an industry around Plumpy'nut. Briend, his friends say, was always personally indifferent to money. (Also, apparently, to publicity - he declined repeated requests to be interviewed for this article.) One element of genius in Briend's recipe was precisely its easy replicability: it could be made by poor people, for poor people, to the benefit of patients and farmers alike. Most of the world's peanuts are grown in developing countries, where allergies to them are relatively uncommon, and the rest of the concoction is simple to prepare. On a visit to Malawi, Briend whipped up a batch in a blender to prove that Plumpy'nut could be made just about anywhere.

Others, however, quickly realized that the miracle product had more than just moral value. Nutriset has aggressively protected its intellectual property, and the bulk of Plumpy'nut production continues to take place at Nutriset facilities in France. (Unicef, the world's primary buyer, purchases 90 percent of its supply from that factory, according to a 2009 report prepared for the agency.) Internationally, there has been a vituperative debate over who should control the means of production, with India going so far as to impose sharp restrictions on Plumpy'nut, calling it an unproven colonialist import. Elsewhere, local producers are simply ignoring the patent. In Haiti, two manufacturers are making products similar to Plumpy'nut independently of Nutriset: one is Partners in Health, the charity co-founded by the prominent global-health activist Paul Farmer. Partners in Health harvests peanuts from a 30-acre farm or buys them from a cooperative of 200 smallholders. It's planning to build a larger factory, but for now the nuts are taken to the main hospital in Cange, where women sort them in straw baskets, roast them over an outside gas burner, run them through a hand grinder and mix all the ingredients into a paste that is poured into reusable plastic canisters. Peanuts in Haiti and throughout the developing world have a high incidence of aflatoxin, a fungus that can sicken children, especially fragile ones. But Partners in Health says the product, which it calls Nourimanba, is safe.

When I visited one of the charity's outpatient clinics in July, 1-year-old Elorky Decena was silent and listless as a nurse hooked a scale over the clinic's doorway and put him in an attached harness. A month before, he was found to have severe acute malnutrition, a condition characterized by extreme stunting and wasting that afflicts an estimated 20 million children worldwide. The nurse announced that he had gained more than four pounds on a diet of Nourimanba.

Patents are meant to offer incentives to innovators by giving them a time-limited right to exclusively exploit their ideas for profit. But many say that lifesaving products should be treated by a different set of rules. There has been a long and bitter argument, for instance, over the affordability of patented AIDS drugs in Africa. Critics have made a similar case against Plumpy'nut, which is fairly expensive, costing about $60 per child for a full two-month treatment. "We were concerned because of the way Nutriset was managing their intellectual property," said Stéphane Doyon, a nutrition specialist with Doctors Without Borders, a medical charity. "We felt that there was the possibility for the creation of a monopoly."

"Poverty is a business," Patricia Wolff, a St. Louis pediatrician, said. She founded Meds and Food for Kids, the other local producer of fortified nut paste in Haiti. When I first spoke with her in May, Meds and Food for Kids was struggling to raise money to expand its operations, and Wolff complained mightily about the difficulties she faced because of Nutriset's market dominance. "There's money to be made," she said, "and there are people who have that kind of way of thinking." Two months later, Wolff made a tentative deal for Meds and Food for Kids to become a Nutriset franchisee. In the end, she said, she couldn't afford to battle hunger on her own.

In the United States, Plumpy'nut's sole manufacturer and chief promoter is a 38-year-old mother of four from Barrington, R.I. Navyn Salem doesn't have a background in medicine or aid work. She first glimpsed the potential of Plumpy'nut three years ago on "60 Minutes." Since then, Salem has devoted herself to making the product for export to needy nations like Haiti. Though her Providence factory, a joint venture with Nutriset, has all the trappings of a business, selling its wares to relief agencies under the name Edesia Global Nutrition Solutions, the operation is registered as a nonprofit foundation and was established with seed money from Salem and her husband, Paul, a private-equity financier. Dancing along the nebulous line between capitalism and charity, Salem casts herself as a marketer, offering a neatly packaged solution to a tragic and no longer intractable malady. On a Tuesday in May, she brought her message of good news to a Mother's Day benefit in Midtown Manhattan.

"This is not my ZIP code," Salem said as she stood in the East Side Social Club, a wood-paneled restaurant, amid a jostling crowd of bejeweled women pinching noontime flutes of Champagne. She met one of the party's hosts, Lauren Bush, the former model and niece of the most recent ex-president, a couple of years ago at a conference of the Clinton Global Initiative. Now Bush and her mother, Sharon, were selling a specially designed line of teddy bears - a big one called Plumpy and a small one called Nut - to raise money to purchase the product for children in Africa.

When it came time to eat their own meal, a three-course lunch_eon, the party guests found seats at tables set with elaborate centerpieces, made up of stuffed bears and Plumpy'nut packets. As volunteers sold raffle tickets for a Dior handbag, Salem delivered a practiced speech. Earnest and attractive, with wide brown eyes, she told the audience that her father, a member of an Indian merchant family, grew up in Tanzania. "There are over a billion people in our world that are malnourished," Salem said. "It's a shocking statistic. The good news is there's a very simple solution." And that, she said, was Plumpy'nut. "It's really revolutionary, because it doesn't need to be mixed with water or refrigerated," Salem continued. "And the most miraculous part is, it will transform a child from literally skin and bones to certain survival in just four to six weeks."

This transformation, seen in before-and-after photos - on one side a sick and wasted child, on the other, a chubby, smiling one - was the promise that captured imaginations far beyond the technocratic community of specialists that originally developed Plumpy'nut. "People love a silver bullet," says the prominent nutritionist Steve Collins. Salem's decision to devote a portion of her family's fortune to the cause was impressive, but she is hardly the only person who was touched by the substance's potential. At the benefit, many of the attendees said they had seen the same inspiring "60 Minutes" segment, in which Anderson Cooper compared the paste to penicillin, concluding that it "may just be the most important advance ever" in the realm of childhood malnutrition. After Salem spoke, she began squeezing dabs of Plumpy'nut onto plates and passing them around, assuring the partygoers that the brownish goo was surprisingly tasty, with the consistency and sweetness of a cookie filling. Everyone ate it right up.

Plumpy'nut proved so palatable and so valuable that it was only natural that other interests were now trying to take a bite. "You want to hear about the bad stuff?" Salem whispered. There was a lot to talk about. Outside the restaurant, beyond the protective cordon of appreciation, rival factions were fighting over a less innocent - though perhaps no less important - issue: who should profit? Plaintiffs were suing, accusing her partners at Nutriset of anticompetitive practices to protect their position atop a $200 million marketplace. Doctors, foreign-aid organizations and agribusinesses were staking competing claims, each invoking the interests of the world's most fragile children. "Forget all the politics," Salem pleads. "I'd like to erase them all." But try as she might, she can't wish away the questions of property and law.

Everyone, it seemed, wanted to own a bit of Plumpy'nut.

At the beginning, the problem was devilishly simple: malnutrition was killing millions in poor countries - it's thought to be responsible for a third of all deaths of children under 5. And yet the global medical community was expending little effort to develop improved treatments. In the early 1990s, the accepted regimen for severe acute malnutrition - a watery mixture fed through a tube - was 30 years old and was unable to prevent the deaths of 20 to 60 percent of patients in hospitals. Frustrated, a small group of doctors began searching for a better way to get nutrients into starving children. One of them was André Briend.

According to legend, Briend hit upon the inspiration for Plumpy'nut one morning at the breakfast table, when, after years of vainly mixing nutrients into cookies, pancakes and yogurt, he opened a jar of Nutella, and the idea came to him: a paste! Like most such stories, this one is not completely true - or rather, it elides many years of false starts, research, scientific collaboration and infighting. The first advance came in the form of F100, a dried high-energy milk that was fortified with a mix of vitamins and minerals that were designed to counter the specific biochemical effects of malnutrition in children. F100 had to be mixed with water, though, which in poor countries was apt to be rife with bacteria. It also tasted unpleasant. As a childhood-nutrition expert attached to a French government institute, Briend came up with the idea of mixing F100 together with peanuts, milk, sugar and oil. The concoction was full of protein and fat, which insulated its nutrients from oxygen and humidity and masked their unappetizing flavor.

The true advance lay not in the formulation, however, but in the way the paste could be put to work. Earlier treatments had to be administered in a hospital setting, which meant a long, expensive stay away from home for both mother and patient, so children were rarely brought in for treatment until they were already extremely weak and susceptible to all the pathogens that lurk in third-world health facilities. What Briend and a few other specialists envisioned was a treatment that could be administered at home, by families instead of doctors. For medical professionals, this required a radical shift in mind-set. Briend searched the world for someone willing to conduct field tests, cautioning that collaborators in his experiments, as he put it in a 2000 message to a malnutrition Listserv, "should be ready to accept a road with trial and errors."

One doctor who decided to take a risk was Mark Manary, a pediatrician and professor, who was working at a hospital in Malawi. His malnutrition ward was crammed full of dozens of children lying on mats. "It was really an incredible burden," Manary recalled. "These kids are deathly ill, you're doing whatever you can for them, and you think you're on the right track, and then you come in the next morning and four of them have died." Manary emptied out the ward, sending his patients home with Plumpy'nut. Many malnutrition experts were horrified. "It seemed dangerous to them, and it made them afraid," said Manary, who recalled that one eminent figure stood up at a conference and said, "You're killing children." In fact, when the results were analyzed, it was found that 95 percent of the subjects who received Plumpy'nut at home made a full recovery, a rate far better than that achieved with inpatient treatment.

The Malawi test emboldened Doctors Without Borders, which recognized that treating children outside clinical settings would allow a vastly scaled-up response to humanitarian emergencies. In 2005, it distributed Plumpy'nut to 60,000 children with severe acute malnutrition during a famine in Niger. Ninety percent completely recovered, and only 3 percent died. Within two years, the United Nations endorsed home care with Plumpy'nut as the preferred treatment for severe acute malnutrition. "This is an enormous breakthrough," said Werner Schultink, chief of nutrition for Unicef. "It has created the opportunity to reach many more children with relatively limited resources." Nonetheless, Schultink estimates that the product reaches only 10 to 15 percent of those who need it, because of logistical and budgetary constraints.

Briend's invention may satisfy a need, the hunger of children, but that doesn't directly correspond to economic demand, which is set by buyers - the donor nations and international agencies that spend billions of dollars on food aid and famine relief. This is the gap Navyn Salem is hoping to fill. Her mission is threefold. First, her plant manufactures Plumpy'nut for sale. Second, she is trying to use publicity and humanitarian appeals to persuade the customer base - the foreign-aid donors - to allocate more money to purchase and distribute the product. Finally, and most ambitiously, she is advocating the use of Plumpy'nut and a number of spinoff products to address a wider array of challenges, including malnutrition prevention. The broadened market, in theory, could be enormous: The World Bank, in a recent report, recommended that aid agencies scale up their spending on such programs, which currently stands at $300 million annually, to $6 billion a year. The U.S. Agency for International Development, which administers the $2.2 billion Food for Peace program, has been examining the usefulness of Plumpy'nut and products similar to it. American food aid must comply with stringent regulations meant to encourage domestic procurement, a requirement Navyn Salem is perfectly placed to meet.

Salem's interest in philanthropy was intensified after reading a biography of Farmer, the crusading physician, with whom she subsequently traveled to Rwanda, but it took Plumpy'nut to galvanize her thoughts. "We talk about AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and how detrimental they are, these terrible epidemics, but then I realized that malnutrition was killing more than all of them combined," Salem said. "And we know how to fix it." She didn't know much about famine relief or the insular community of nutritionists who deal with it, but she had a professional background in advertising and marketing, and she wanted to do something that drew on what she saw as her natural entrepreneurial strengths. "I thought, Let's figure out if we can run a business that saves thousands and thousands of lives," she said. Salem's factory, located in an industrial area of Providence just off Interstate 95, cost $2 million to start. In March, right around the time she opened for business, she gave me a tour. The front lobby was decorated with large photos of grinning African children that Salem took on her trips to Rwanda and Tanzania. We donned blue smocks, hairnets and booties and entered the sanitized factory floor, where two workers, a Burundian and a Liberian, were using scoops to weigh out portions of sugar. "Most of our production staff are refugees who were recently resettled in Rhode Island," Salem said. After the Plumpy'nut was mixed, it was run through overhead pipes into a contraption that squirted it into foil packets, which were sealed and ejected onto a conveyor belt, where workers packed them for shipping. In an adjacent warehouse, there were pallets of boxes labeled for delivery to Haiti, Yemen and Nicaragua.

Salem led me to a gleaming stainless-steel tank, which was about as tall as she was and hot to the touch. She opened a door on top, and a fragrant peanut smell wafted out as we craned to look in. "Here it is," Salem said. "The magic stuff."

That magic is the property of Nutriset. To trace how a family-run company based in a small town in the Normandy countryside ended up owning the patent to one of the world's most promising humanitarian interventions, you have to go back to André Briend. He never knew anything about manufacturing food, so at the time he was trying to demonstrate the worth of Plumpy'nut, he signed a consulting agreement with Nutriset, which specialized in making therapeutic milk products. He and the company's founder, a food scientist named Michel Lescanne, were listed as inventors on the 1997 French patent. The patent has since been registered in 38 countries, including much of Africa.

"Michel is a guy who probably holds hundreds of patents, he thinks up things all the time, but he didn't have a viable business" before Plumpy'nut, said Mark Manary, who now runs a nonprofit group that manufactures the product under license in Malawi. "So André and I were all about this as a therapeutic opportunity, and Michel was like, 'This is an entrepreneurial opportunity.' " Lescanne's expertise was invaluable when it came to engineering the taste, texture and shelf life of Plumpy'nut.

For its contribution, Nutriset has been richly rewarded. Last year, the company produced around 14,000 metric tons of Plumpy'nut and related products, more than a tenfold increase over the amount it made in 2004, registering $66 million in sales. The family-owned company has paid out millions in dividends, according to an internal document, although the company claims the money has largely been reinvested in expanding the business. The state institute where Briend did his research receives 1 percent of sale proceeds, Nutriset says, while the inventor himself has renounced any ownership interest.

A few years ago, after some pressure from buyers, Nutriset announced that it would take a more liberal stance on licensing the product - but only in the developing world. Its affiliate network has since expanded to 11 countries, most of them in Africa. But when it comes to Europe and North America, the company has been aggressive about protecting its interests. When Salem first approached Nutriset about obtaining a license to make Plumpy'nut, she says she received a frosty reception, even though her original idea was to build a factory in Tanzania, her father's birthplace. After meeting with Salem and her husband, the company relented, although the plan changed a bit in the process. The locus of their new joint venture, Edesia, was shifted to Rhode Island, so that it could satisfy domestic-sourcing requirements for U.S. government aid.

"Our idea with Edesia is for it to really be an incubator," said Adeline Lescanne, Michel's daughter and the deputy general manager of the company. She said the company was investing its profits in research into a new generation of ready-to-use therapeutic foods, or R.U.T.F., as they are called in the jargon of the foreign-aid community. The new lines would be designed to prevent malnutrition, not just cure it. "It's a kind of pity that there is not a lot of research on new R.U.T.F.," Lescanne said. "There are only people fighting to produce this product."

Nutriset's critics say that line of argument is disingenuous, because the Plumpy'nut patent is so broad as to encompass just about any kind of nut-based nutritional paste. "There are other people that would like to enter into the business," Ben Tabatchnick, who runs a New Jersey-based kosher soup company, said. "But everybody is afraid of being sued." Last year, Tabatchnick went to France to talk to Nutriset about his plans to develop ready-to-use therapeutic foods on a for-profit basis. "I had a meeting with them that lasted about 10 minutes, and they threw me out of the room," he told me. Afterward, Nutriset sent him a pair of ominous letters, indicating that it had found "some similarities" between Plumpy'nut and his product, Nutty Butta.

Nutriset has sent similar saber-rattling correspondence to a number of other potential competitors. Lescanne told me that Nutriset's vigilance over its intellectual property has a benevolent purpose. Between now and the time the patent is scheduled to expire, in 2017, the company wants to focus on building its network of affiliates in countries like Congo, Mozambique and Niger. (Salem's plant in Tanzania is supposed to open later this year.) "We have to protect this network," Lescanne said. "We are a bit afraid that big industrial companies will come." In recent months, to take one example, PepsiCo Inc. has talked publicly about playing "a more decisive role" in bringing ready-to-use foods to needy populations. This has raised hackles: in a recent journal article titled "The Snack Attack," three nutritionists warned that Pepsi-branded therapies would potentially be "potent ambassadors for equivalently branded baby foods, cola drinks and snack foods."

"What we don't want," Salem told me, "is for General Mills to take over and put our Ethiopian producer out of business." Opponents of the patent, however, say that Nutriset is just trying to avoid competition that would cut into its bottom line. Recently, a handful of companies have set up shop in countries where, because of the vagaries of various treaties, the Plumpy'nut patent is not in force. In the United States, two would-be competitors have taken a more confrontational route. They filed a lawsuit with the federal district court in Washington, D.C., seeking to have the patent invalidated.

The plaintiffs are a Texas-based manufacturer called Breedlove Foods and the Mama Cares Foundation, the charitable arm of a snack-food manufacturer based in Carlsbad, Calif. Both are small nonprofit organizations with strong ties to Christian aid organizations. But Nutriset's defenders suspect that larger corporate interests are lurking in the background. In the French press, the patent dispute has been portrayed as a case of a plucky Gallic company besieged, as Le Monde put it, by " 'légions' Américaines."

In fact, there is a not-so-hidden instigator behind the case: the American peanut lobby. A few years ago, a Unicef official gave a presentation to an industry trade group, forecasting dramatically increasing demand for peanut pastes. That got the growers excited. They looked at Nutriset's patent and came to the conclusion that, as a technical matter, Plumpy'nut was really nothing more than fortified peanut butter. "People have been making this stuff for centuries," Jeff Johnson, a board member of the Peanut Institute, said. "It's nothing new." Johnson is the president of Birdsong Peanuts, one of the country's largest shelling operations. Through a friend, he heard about Breedlove Foods, which was based in Lubbock, close to one of his processing plants. Johnson met with the company and proposed a challenge to Nutriset.

"It's a cotton-pickin' shame that they decided to take the stance that they have with the intellectual-property issue," said David Fish, Breedlove's chief executive, whose lawsuit contends that the patent is hurting starving children. But even some Nutriset critics have questioned the motives behind the lawsuit, pointing out that America has a long and controversial history of dumping its agricultural surpluses on poor countries through food aid. "If you want to develop countries out of third-world status," Fish replies, "they've got to come out and compete on the open market."

Plumpy! Plumpy!"

With the shouted order from Rosemond Avril, an agent of a charity group, workers began unloading cardboard boxes full of foil packets from the back of a rusty blue truck. It was a sweltering Haitian morning, and next to a hive of canvas tents, the women of Bineau-Lestere were lined up beneath the branches of a gnarled quenepa tree. They were a handful of the millions displaced by last January's earthquake, which had turned the nearby city of Léogâne into a jagged pile of concrete. Their camp, thrown up amid fields of sugar cane, was surviving on aid. On this morning, the U.N.'s World Food Program was distributing Supplementary'Plumpy, a slightly weaker formulation of the original product, to mothers with children between 6 months and 35 months.

Haiti wasn't starving, but experts were still concerned about the perilous condition of its children. Even before the earthquake, an estimated quarter of them were chronically malnourished, and now many breadwinners were dead, livelihoods disrupted and much of the country's commercial infrastructure destroyed. By administering Supplementary'Plumpy to children in the age group most vulnerable to severe malnutrition, the World Food Program was trying to keep a bad situation from turning into a crisis. Across Haiti, the agency was distributing such aid to 500,000 people, and the results of a survey suggested that malnutrition levels had remained stable. "This is all new," said Myrta Kaulard, country director for the World Food Program in Haiti. "It's preventative action."

Darting around the scrum of women and toddlers, as a relief worker announced instructions in Creole through a bullhorn, Navyn Salem snapped pictures with her Nikon. She looked on with satisfaction as one jug-eared little boy ripped open a packet and squeezed the light brown paste into his mouth. She clicked the photo, and before long it was on its way to the Facebook page of Edesia Global Nutrition Solutions.

Salem had flown to Haiti a few days earlier aboard a private jet, lent by her husband, on a characteristically blurry mission: part sales call, part fact-finding tour. Edesia was sending its products to agencies in Haiti, the World Food Program among them, but what interested Salem most was the prospect of using ready-to-use foods to address conditions beyond severe malnutrition. She and Maria Kasparian, her second-in-command at Edesia, were shuttling from one charity to another in a loaned van, carrying boxes of free samples and brochures promoting three products designed to be taken as daily supplements. "Everyone knows Plumpy'nut," Salem said before the trip, "but what we're really trying to do is push these others, to address malnutrition sooner."

Scientists have shown that there is, in the words of The Lancet, "a golden interval" for childhood nutrition that occurs before the age of 2. "This is the period when brain growth is very extensive and babies are developing their immune systems," said Kathryn Dewey, a professor in the department of nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Stunting that persists after age 2 is generally irreversible, while improved nutrition in early childhood correlates to greater educational success. One study, in Guatemala, showed that boys given a nutritional supplement as babies made 46 percent higher wages as men. Dewey has been testing whether Nutributter, one of Nutriset's new (and patent-protected) products, might achieve similar results. "There has to be a way to break the cycle of poverty and malnutrition that has plagued these populations for hundreds and hundreds of years," she said. "That's the more grandiose vision of where this is headed."

In Haiti's Artibonite Valley, Ian Rawson, the managing director of the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, took Salem to see malnutrition inpatients - "our failures," he called them - in a dimly lighted ward where they lay beneath a mural of parrots. Many of the children were unnaturally small and had patchy, orange-tinted hair, a classic sign of protein deficiency. "This," Rawson said, waving a packet of Plumpy'nut, "is our immunization." He was applying for a U.S. government grant to distribute Nutributter in the surrounding mountains, where poverty is dire, 9 out of 10 adults can't read and acute malnutrition rates can top 35 percent. "It seems simple to me," he said. "What's the downside to me giving every child who's over 4 months old a tube of Nutributter per day?"

Advocates of the preventive approach foresee a future in which children around the world consume a daily packet of nutrient-filled paste. "It's not just for poverty-stricken people," Salem said. "It's just like I give my children a multi_vitamin." Of course, this changes the nature of the intervention from an emergency treatment to a habitual routine and also dramatically escalates its prospective cost to donors. As a practical matter, Salem says, supplements will probably have to reach children through consumer markets, perhaps with subsidies. Edesia is conducting testing in Tanzania to see whether Nutributter could be sold in stores.

Some experts, however, warn that enthusiasm may be running ahead of the science. "In their rush to be innovators, I think a lot of agencies are using ready-to-use supplementary foods without evidence," said Steve Collins, who was a pioneering advocate of home-based care for severe malnutrition. "I wouldn't want to see a new world order where poor people are dependent on packaged supplementary foods that are manufactured in Europe or the United States."

His wariness reflects a larger ideological divide over the proper distribution of profit. Nutriset says it is committed to opening more developing-world franchises, a strategy that brings down shipping costs and hence prices, but the majority of its network's inventory still comes from France, and now, with the entry of Edesia, Nutriset is going to be expanding exports from the United States. Collins asks, "How are they addressing the need for poor people in Haiti not to be dependent on outside intervention in the first place?"

This question hung, unanswerable, over Salem's journey through Haiti. Salem went there with a promise to donate a shipping container filled with $60,000 worth of Nutriset-patented products to Partners in Health, the charity run by her friend Paul Farmer. While grateful, the organization still preferred to manufacture its own product, Nourimanba, with the profits accruing to local farmers. But even this program was more a principled exercise than a development strategy. Haiti's endemic problem of malnutrition wasn't something you could solve with peanuts. Partners in Health also took Salem on a couple of home visits. At a one-room shack in Cange, a mother presented her 3-year-old daughter, saying she had gained 11 pounds on a regimen of Nourimanba. But the mother complained that there was no help for other serious problems she faced, like the fact that she had no job and the tin roof of her shack leaked.

Out in the hills, down a muddy path shaded by coconut palms, the health workers checked in on a small wooden farmhouse. Two children living there were on a regimen of ready-to-use food - and six were receiving nothing. The older ones watched as their little sister wolfed down an entire cup of peanut paste for the benefit of the visitors. The children's grandmother, who was looking after them, was asked why malnutrition had been diagnosed in these two and the others not. She said she couldn't really say, except that there simply wasn't enough food to go around. There was no foil-wrapped answer to the maddening persistence of poverty. All that existed was a determination to meet the challenge with all the fallible tools of human ingenuity.

"We're trying to put ourselves out of business," said Salem, still brimming with optimism, after the trip. "That would be the best-case scenario."

Andrew Rice is a contributing writer and author of "The Teeth May Smile but the Heart Does Not Forget," about a Ugandan murder trial.


7) Sundiata Acoli Freedom Campaign
Legal Update
Black August 30, 2010

On March 4, 2010 Sundiata Acoli, who is 73 years old, was denied parole for the third time by the New Jersey State parole board. Sundiata has served 37 years in prison as he was convicted in the May 2, 1973 shooting of a New Jersey State Trooper on the NJ Turnpike. Sundiata was last denied parole in 1994; the parole board continues to cite among other things, that "He was not rehabilitated." Sundiata has maintained an infraction free prison record since 1996.

Over a thousand letters and petitions from a diverse group of influential people, including psychologists, lawyers, clergy, professors, journalists and community members were sent to the parole board expressing love from the community and support for his release.

Nevertheless, Sundiata was denied parole just minutes after an in- person review by two members of the board. No time was taken to deliberate the decision, and notice of the denial was given to him on a sheet with barely legible hand-written notes on it. Not only was he denied, but he was told his case would be referred to a 3-member panel to establish a FET ("hit") outside the guidelines. In mid July, Sundiata received written notice that a three member panel, two of which included the two members who denied him, had decided to give him a 10 year hit, which means he must serve an additional 6 years in prison before he will again be eligible for a parole hearing. He will be 79 years old.

The "hit" is particularly harsh since on August 1, 2010 a new law was passed in New Jersey capping to 36 months, the number of years the parole board can establish a FET. The New Jersey Parole Board rushed to send this letter to Sundiata to avoid the August 1st deadline. As of this posting, Sundiata has not yet received any explanation from the board for this 10 year "hit".

The Sundiata Acoli Freedom Campaign continues to be vigilant in seeking justice for Sundiata and his right to freedom. Sundiata's legal advisors have consulted with a NJ attorney to appeal the decision. The attorney has been retained and has prepared and filed an administrative appeal to the NJ Parole Board outlining in very clear terms, the errors made by the panel in denying Sundiata's parole. The appeal was filed on August 27, 2010.

We believe the case for appealing the NJ Parole Board's decision is strong! SAFC will continue to keep pushing for Sundiata's release and raising awareness about his case. Members of SAFC are available to speak and share information with any group who requests it. Simply email

Sundiata needs your love and support and SAFC needs to raise funds to cover Sundiata's legal expenses. Regular commissary donations to keep Sundiata smiling and knowing he is loved are also encouraged. We understand the financial limitations of people during these times and we appreciate anything you can give.

Please take a moment and give what you can to support his release:

To make a contribution to Sundiata's legal expenses, please send a check or money order payable to SAFC:

PO BOX 766
New York, New York 10027

Please be sure to note in the memo field that your check is for Legal Fees

To send money directly to Sundiata's commissary send money orders only made out to:

Clark Squire #39794-066 and mail to:

Federal Bureau of Prisons
Clark Squire #39794-066
Post Office Box 474701
Des Moines, Iowa 50947-0001

Do not send a note with your money order or it will be returned.

Commissary donations can also be made online or by phone using a debit or credit card through Western Union Quick Collect. For more instructions on that just email

To send Sundiata a card, a photo, a poem, artwork or just a simple letter saying you are thinking about him, write him:

Sundiata Acoli #39794-066 (Squire)
PO Box 3000
FCI Otisville
Otisville, NY 10963-1000

Any one of these things is a great way to show your love and support.

Thank you in advance!

A message from Sundiata to his supporters:
... A revolution now cannot be confined to the place or people where it may commence, but flashes with lightning speed from heart to heart, from land to land, til it has traversed the globe ...
--Frederick Douglass

Free All Political Prisoners! •


8) Busted: Stories of the Financial Crisis
Joshua Clover | September 1, 2010

For all the fame surrounding Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand and Alan Greenspan, their contributions to a political economy of modern capitalism are minor in relation to those of Friedrich von Hayek, a founder of the Mont Pelerin Society and prophet of the "price signal." A striking and original intellect, Hayek argued that something's market price is not simply what it would cost you but a kind of information used to allocate goods and services most efficiently within the social matrix. Because centrally planned economies lack a mechanism to price commodities correctly, they are unable to put things where they need to go. Individuals wouldn't get what they desired; the larger economy would be unable to balance production and consumption, supply and demand. Shortages would appear cheek by jowl with surpluses. This would have disastrous and eventually fatal consequences, not only for the market but for the lives of its subjects.

The free market, contrarily, able to revalue every object with supple velocity according not to some ideological program but the aggregate will of the people-not just the invisible hand but the invisible spirit, as it were-was more suited not simply to survival but to individual freedom. Hayek's case, best known from The Road to Serfdom (1944), remains the most rigorously persuasive brief for twentieth-century capitalism in its long, acrimonious and cordite-scented war against every other form of life. At the time, the 1989 collapse of the Soviet bloc, and the discrediting of its economic hypotheses, seemed to confer on Hayek's insight the aura of truth.

And yet, having triumphed more or less absolutely, the American model of capitalism has proved itself to be catastrophically lacking in the very balance that Hayek suggested was its singular virtue. The boom-bubble-bust cycle grows ever swifter and more calamitous. The latest crisis bests Black Monday of 1987, the Asian contagion that threatened the globe in 1997-98 and the bonfire of capital that was the tech collapse. It is already well remarked as the worst in eight decades. Each day (and especially each employment report) affirms that it is not at all over; that hopes for a swift recovery are somewhere between optimistic and delusional; and that it may yet surpass the Great Depression, possibly bringing to an end the century-long global domination of the United States.

In the big picture, this imperial denouement is the money shot; we have not yet reached that climax. Nonetheless, it is to be expected that reams of paper and no small amount of server space have already been devoted to parsing the events and partial outcomes. These accounts arrive from several professional strata: journalists, historians, economists, policy wonks, even philosophers (see, for example, Slavoj Zizek's cheerfully messy and ineluctably provocative pocket book First as Tragedy, Then as Farce).

Exemplary among the journalistic is John Lanchester's awkwardly titled I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay. The title is in part awkward because its significance is never paid in full, as it were; more on that later. Lanchester is a much admired novelist and contributing editor to the London Review of Books, which has featured some of the finest grapplings with the crisis (the essays of Donald MacKenzie deserve particular attention). But I.O.U. most strongly resembles not print journalism but the radio variety-specifically, the National Public Radio podcast "Planet Money." This is not a bad thing. The offshoot of "The Giant Pool of Money," NPR's early foray into crisis explication, "Planet Money" has a flair for the domestic analogy that can help nonexperts understand the obdurately complex instruments and operations of contemporary finance.

Such analogical virtue can be analytic vice. When one converts, say, collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps into a folksy story about the neighbors and their home insurance, the crisis appears more legible than its components, those acronymic phantasms of fictitious capital traded by the blind protocols of shell companies hoping to arbitrage a few billion pennies from minuscule imbalances in a great global system. But such personalizing can lead to a humanist dead end-now we are compelled to pious outrage over the bankrupting of Becky and Jack, especially if we have just heard them interviewed on-air. All we want is for them to be made whole. The effort to grasp the malignant, impersonal structure of the crisis goes by the wayside.

Lanchester navigates this terrain nimbly. As a primer on these "weapons of mass destruction" (an appellation for which Warren Buffett gets much credit, obscuring the heft of Berkshire Hathaway's derivatives portfolio), I.O.U. is terrific. Here is a moment of signal clarity: "Banking does not just involve the management of risk; banking is the management of risk." He continues:

A big component of that risk is how big to be. In practice, that means how much bigger your liabilities can be than your equity. This is known as "leverage".... During the boom, the leverage ratios of the big European banks-the multiple by which their assets exceeded their equity-reached a point where they were the financial equivalent of bungee jumping.

The elaborate entanglement of instruments leveraged into such mad motion condenses into a clearheaded story of the Joneses, Smiths and Wilsons. Even better, Lanchester's move to analogy is often enough a way of reversing out of the human-interest cul-de-sac. He ends this passage with an explanation of the credit default swap, which, "invented as a way of making lending safer, turned out to magnify and spread risks throughout the global financial system." His punch line is a knockout: "It's as if people had used the invention of seat belts as an opportunity to take up drunk driving."

A couple of years on from the precipice of September 2008, the urgency to pierce the veil of these alchemical financial instruments has somewhat eased. Certainly they are opaque, and intentionally so, it turns out: the better to lure overconfident, underinformed investors during the postmillennial credit run-up that drove the vertiginous climb in property values. But basically, they were credit schemes that seemed to advance gold against dung. And people took the credit, and people bet on the credit, and people bet on (and against) the credit issuers and credit resellers and credit insurers, and most of all they bet that there would be more borrowers and more bettors coming along behind them. Except by "people" I mostly mean corporations. And vast funds, and municipal and state entities.

The rage to understand the intricacies of these shenanigans is understandable. But in trying to grasp what happened, we must finally be concerned with the larger dynamic that drove so many to sell these instruments; and so many to buy them; and so many to applaud, marvel and cheer. The Mont Pelerin Society's first stated aim in 1947 was, after all, "the analysis and exploration of the nature of the present crisis so as to bring home to others its essential moral and economic origins."

Regarding origins, I.O.U. comes up short. It's as if one must choose between grace with description or narration, and Lanchester has opted for the former. This is not to say he doesn't proffer culprits. "Accounts of the banking-and-credit crisis tend to focus their explanations, which usually also means their blame, on one or more of the following four factors: greed, stupidity, government, or the banks." He timorously suggests an admixture of the four.

In truth, this quatrain offers only a couplet for blame: character and institutions. These two, moreover, are one: the failures of the latter require reference to the former. For Lanchester, "culture" figures prominently. The gap between the industrial and finance sectors is a "cultural difference." The myriad screw-ups of the banking sector, "all the funny smells, the missed warning signals, the misaligned incentives, the distorted attitudes to risk, the arrogance of the masters of the universe, the complicity of regulators, the doziness of legislators-symptomized a culture, and also constituted one. It was the culture of the financial industry." Or consider this explanation for a property boom with scarcely a historical precedent: "Our risky, long-term, innovative (sometimes recklessly so) mortgages came into existence because the market set out to find ways to let us fulfill our heart's deepest desire, to own our own property. The appetite created the products, not the other way around."

In other words, it's the cupidity, stupid. Even Alan Greenspan, arguably the most substantial institutional player in the history of the present crisis, settles on greed as the answer. In 2008, after two decades as head of the Federal Reserve (where his insistence on low regulatory standards and lower interest rates helped inflate the credit bubble), he had a revelation on par with Saul on the road to Damascus. There was "a flaw in the model...that defines how the world works." That flaw was greed: the "self-interest of lending institutions" failed to protect shareholders, much less customers.

The evident irony is that greed-the self-interest of individuals, spread across the society-is exactly what's supposed to make capitalism work. This is a tenet of classic liberalism, raised to a fundamentalism by Ayn Rand and her protégé Greenspan. And while Lanchester rakes Greenspan over the coals for this contradiction, he can only do so halfheartedly. They basically agree on the cause of the current crisis. Greed done us in.

A further, more superficial flaw of the greed explanation regards its character as an unchanging truth of human disposition. How has it nonetheless managed to peak so recently? Lanchester offers at least one curious rejoinder: the United States won the cold war. Absent ideological combat with communism, "the good guys won, the beauty contest came to an end." Once "capitalism was unchallenged as the world's dominant political-economic system," it brooked no checks on its power; greed had a free hand, and everything went pear-shaped. He seems serious as he writes this. Never mind about the Great Depression, say, or the Panic of 1873, or the South Sea Bubble.

Peculiar as this history is, the basic elements are familiar: greed and regulation, hammer and tongs. This is the forever war on offer in 13 Bankers, by Simon Johnson and James Kwak. Chapter One opens in the heyday of the Federalist debates, with Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton arguing over the power of a central bank; two centuries later, the war between go-go bankers (Team Greed) and prudent government (Team Regulation) retains its furor.

Johnson and Kwak operate the econo-blog The Baseline Scenario; Johnson is better known as the former lead economist of the International Monetary Fund. But of late he is a celebrity apostate. His 2009 Atlantic article "The Quiet Coup" made the elegant point that if any other country were offered the assistance package with which the US government favored its corporate sector, it would have been squeezed into a structural adjustment program so austere it would have made the stones of Mt. Rushmore bleed. No such measures were forthcoming. From this, we deduce the current balance of power in the United States: as slanted toward its money oligarchs as the most corrupt backwater, having captured the Bretton Woods organizations to boot.

13 Bankers reprises the argument, but it is not enough for an entire book. The authors fill it out with the requisite glosses on the motley of finance schemes and regulatory regimes, albeit with less facility than Lanchester. More pointedly, they plop their kernel of analysis within the context of past struggles and wheel toward the future (the "next financial meltdown" of the subtitle). The current crisis has provided us an opportunity to do things differently: "History shows that finance can be made safe again. But it will be quite a fight."

And yet the history told in their book shows nothing of the sort. Quite the opposite. The book, perhaps unintentionally, thoroughly debunks the dream of regulation. Instead, it suggests that the fight is no fight at all but a fairly rigid bit of choreography. The authors detail at prolix length the "oscillation" between Team Greed and Team Regulation, each of which perpetually insists it has brought the systemic problems to heel, and each of which is inevitably embarrassed. Writing about the lotus-eaters of the '90s-"Sophisticated macroeconomic theories and wise policymakers, they suggested, had learned to tame the cycle of booms and busts that had plagued capitalism for centuries"-Johnson and Kwak promptly note how wrong they were. Again.

The authors seem, in that instant, on the verge of realizing that the problem is the dynamic itself-that the choice between greed and regulation is a false one, that the dance of bankers and regulators is exactly what ends in a tangle on the floor, with the markets a shambles, liquidity in drought and real unemployment trending toward 20 percent. But they are policy professionals, after all. They can think only certain thoughts. And so, as if in the grip of a nightmare or a repetition compulsion, they simply bid to be the very "wise policymakers" they have just pilloried. Surely this time, Team Regulation will get things sorted. Have Johnson and Kwak not bothered to read the book they've written?

Finally, neither of these standpoints-journalists and policy pros, however well intentioned-can grasp the extraordinary turn we have all taken or its historical specificity. At best, they are given ephemeral intuitions. Lanchester and Johnson and Kwak note that something world-changing happened in the 1970s, but none of them are quite able to put a finger on it. "Beginning in the 1970s and accelerating through the 1980s, the financial services industry broke free from the constraints of the Depression-era bargain," write Johnson and Kwak; no why is forthcoming. Meanwhile, Lanchester's mysterious wave at the cold war at least suggests the dimension of the disaster.

Among the many acronyms of the great bailout, certainly the most significant were TARP and TALF: the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (together they're the Public-Private Investment Program for Legacy Assets). Different in many regards, they share a core purpose: to assist in the purchase of "toxic assets" that are otherwise unsellable, so as to pump liquidity back into markets.

Ponder this for a moment. The market, functioning freely as Hayek would have hoped, has assigned a value to these assets: zero. There they should rest. But instead the government steps in to pay people, in effect, to buy things they think are worth nothing. By people I still mean corporations.

We could complain that this is another handout to the financial sector, and that is inarguable. But this is to miss its true significance: the price signal is dead. Capitalism's virtue has survived its greatest modern rival by scarcely a generation. At a minimum, the triumphalism of the post-'89 era lies in tatters at our feet. The much-bruited Project for the New American Century didn't last a decade and has been replaced by shivering anxiety about what China will do next. (A Chinese company moved to purchase the bankrupt Hummer brand, DOB 1992, and was blocked by Chinese regulators: an allegory worth reflection.) And yet somehow we want to tell a story about a few bad banks and rogue financiers, a glitch in the human spirit, the resiliency of Team Regulation.

The time has come, all of this makes clear, to assess capitalism again from the outside. We should begin by understanding that it is the utter discrediting of capitalism's most basic premises that explains the return of Karl Marx as spectral bogeyman. Not the current president's (staunchly pro-corporate) proclivities, not ACORN and not China's nominal communism. Marx's Capital reached an all-time high in sales in the same season that the Public-Private Investment Program was announced.

Capital is the strangest of books: not a work of political economics but, per its own insistence, a "critique of political economy." It is a concerted effort to understand the faux objectivity of modern economics not as an explanation of a system but as its apologia. At the same time Capital is economics as such; a landmark in materialist philosophy; a theory of history larded with empirical studies. It can be intractable.

David Harvey has been teaching courses on Capital for more than three decades; his seminar is freely available at various sites online. Now it arrives in published form. A geographer by trade, Harvey is particularly brilliant on the spatial dimensions of economics (as in his landmark earlier work, The Limits to Capital). But A Companion to Marx's "Capital" is at once sleeker and more lucid, communicating the theoretical nuances of dialectical thought and the history of struggles over the length of the working day with marvelous grace. It is without a doubt one of the two best companions to Marx's pivotal work (the other is Ben Fine and Alfredo Saad-Filho's Marx's "Capital"). One can glean much of the primary text's character from reading Harvey's companion alone; Harvey is rightly insistent that they be read in tandem.

At our conjuncture, we must ask of these texts one simple question: can they help us tell the story of capitalist crisis better? The answer is, certainly. Perhaps too well. As the old joke goes, did you know that Marxist economists have predicted ten of the last three crises? This is pretty funny.

Marx's Capital is, among its cornucopia of analyses, a theory of crisis: how capital, with its immutable compulsion to expand or collapse, pushes itself via self-destructive competition into disaster-at which moment it endeavors to shake apart and reform itself even more grandly. This is, at least, a story. And a pretty good one: it narrates usefully the development of a market economy out of the Renaissance and eventually into the British Empire, yielding to an even more global US order. It also reminds us of the simplest fact, yet one seemingly elusive to most of the recent crackup's commentators: greed is an irrelevancy. When the investment bank across the street leverages up to a debt/equity ratio of twenty-nine to one, you leverage up to thirty or get out. Greenspan's account, and those of Lanchester and Johnson and Kwak, and an army of like cases, are pure hoodoo. Your moral sentiments have nothing to do with it.

Moreover, Marx's 150-year-old guide renders specifics of the current crisis that appear only as intuition in the other books. Something really did happen in the 1970s. The long postwar boom played itself out; intensive competition born in that period pushed industries to accept lower and lower profit rates. Eventually they got too low, and capital itself needed another profit center if it was to continue its requisite expansion. Enter finance, on the heels of creeping deregulation, among other things, seeming to provide not just its own profits but a broader cycle of consumption-fueled growth.

This raises our last question; fittingly, it is the same as the first, the part Lanchester never quite answers. We know why everyone owes everyone: because there was fresh dough to be made in extending credit, until there wasn't. What we don't know is, Why can't anyone pay? Why didn't property values ascend forever? Why didn't the market just keep expanding? This is not a question answered by Johnson and Kwak either. It is, let's say, above their pay grade (or perhaps far below). To tell the story, one would need an account of where value actually comes from. This is not impossibly complex; unlike the niceties of derivatives, it's not rocket science. If value is generated by people laboring to produce stuff that gets sold, and profit comes from exploiting the productive value of labor-this is a simplification, of course, but not a mistake-sooner or later people will have to labor productively to make good on any extended credit. By people I mean people.

But this becomes decreasingly likely, until it is impossible. Promises to do all that work later will reach limits, particularly as companies cut labor costs, replace workers with machines and outsource work to overseas markets. New value, arising only from the discrepancy between wages and productivity, appears elsewhere when it appears at all (witness the growth of India and China). Or it appears to glimmer in the future: credit is the name for spending it now. But even the future has a limited number of hours, technically. Meanwhile, over in the finance sector, where the money seemed so recently to reside, there is only a genteel, bloody struggle over how existing value is divided; no new value is created. The gap between value that can be realized and "fictitious capital"-claims on future value, all those derivatives purling through the purportedly new economy-has become a chasm. No one can vault over it any longer.

But the economy made its tiger's leap out of the stale factory and into the open air of finance for a reason; we can't just return to the fading industrial base with an oops shrug. We have no new line of widgets to labor over and sell. This is why ours is a real crisis, not just a panic. This is why we have seen exactly what the analysis grimly promised: shortages cheek by jowl with surpluses, unemployed workers stacked up next to unused factories. We deferred this reckoning once, twice, three times, depending on your measure. Certainly the most recent credit bubble was pure deferral, pure delusion: Wile E. Coyote out over the gap, legs spinning. He hovered there for a while, and lots of people pretended the laws of physics had been revised, even as he started to plummet. Boom. By boom I mean bust.

Versions of this plaint have been made frequently enough by "mainstream" economists, seemingly unaware they're borrowing the lineaments of an account they've spent careers disavowing as a mystery cult. Well, there are no atheists in foxholes. Or, as a friend says, Marxism is like gold; in an economic crisis, everybody runs to those who have it. Not surprisingly, economists cannot borrow, even at low levels of interest, the insights most needed: the basic understanding that capitalism's flaws are internal to its own logic and can't be whisked away by another round of financial regulation or everybody promising to be less of a creep. It is indeed a compulsion, and it ends poorly.

The possibility of an unhappy ending for capitalism is exactly the one thing that a thousand books written from within the crisis won't contemplate, even as we know that everything ends eventually. And so, as we parse the flood of explanatory texts, we should turn to China one more time-but not to speculate about whether it will revalue the renminbi against the dollar. We must resurrect the judgment of Zhou Enlai (often misattributed to Mao) on the success of the 1789 French Revolution, offered some century and a half on. But we must take it as an admonition regarding our race to grasp the historical import of the 2007 Crisis of Capital: "It's too early to tell."
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9) BP Says Limits on Drilling Imperil Oil Spill Payouts
September 2, 2010

BP is warning Congress that if lawmakers pass legislation that bars the company from getting new offshore drilling permits, it may not have the money to pay for all the damages caused by its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The company says a ban would also imperil the ambitious Gulf Coast restoration efforts that officials want the company to voluntarily support.

BP executives insist that they have not backed away from their commitment to the White House to set aside $20 billion in an escrow fund over the next four years to pay damage claims and government penalties stemming from the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. The explosion killed 11 workers and spewed millions of barrels of oil into the gulf.

The company has also agreed to contribute $100 million to a foundation to support rig workers who have lost their jobs because of the administration's deepwater drilling moratorium. And it pledged $500 million for a 10-year research program to study the impact of the spill.

But as state and federal officials, individuals and businesses continue to seek additional funds beyond the minimum fines and compensation that BP must pay under the law, the company has signaled its reluctance to cooperate unless it can continue to operate in the Gulf of Mexico. The gulf accounts for 11 percent of its global production.

"If we are unable to keep those fields going, that is going to have a substantial impact on our cash flow," said David Nagel, BP's executive vice president for BP America, in an interview. That, he added, "makes it harder for us to fund things, fund these programs."

The requests keep coming for BP to provide additional money to the Gulf Coast to help mitigate the effects of the spill. This week, Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, reiterated his request that BP finance a five-year, $173 million program to test, certify and promote gulf seafood.

BP has already agreed to pay for some measures that exceed its legal obligations. For instance, to help promote tourism in affected regions, it donated $32 million to Florida's marketing efforts and $15 million each to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

But the company, which is based in London, now appears to be using such voluntary payments as a bargaining chip with American lawmakers.

BP is particularly concerned about a drilling overhaul bill passed by the House on July 30. The bill includes an amendment that would bar any company from receiving permits to drill on the Outer Continental Shelf if more than 10 fatalities had occurred at its offshore or onshore facilities. It would also bar permits if the company had been penalized with fines of $10 million or more under the Clean Air or Clean Water Acts within a seven-year period.

While BP is not mentioned by name in the legislation, it is the only company that currently meets that description.

The provision was written by Representative George Miller, Democrat of California, who is a strong environmental advocate and a close ally of Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker.

It was specifically designed to punish BP for its past transgressions, including the Deepwater Horizon explosion, and deny the company access to American offshore oil and natural gas.

"The risk of having a dangerous company like BP develop new resources in the gulf is too great," said Daniel Weiss, Mr. Miller's chief of staff. "Year after year after year, no matter how many incidents they're involved in, no matter how many fines they've had to pay, they never changed their behavior. BP has no one to blame but themselves."

BP's concerns are becoming public as the company begins final preparations for permanently sealing its stricken well. On Thursday, it removed the temporary cap on top of the well, which had earlier been blocked with cement, so that it could replace the blowout preventer. The blowout preventer, a massive piece of equipment whose valves failed to shut down the oil flow after the explosion, is a crucial piece of evidence in the investigation.

Andrew Gowers, a BP spokesman, said that BP had shown good will by going beyond its legal obligations to clean up the spill and compensate those affected.

"We have committed to do a number of things that are not part of the formal agreement with the White House," he said. "We are not making a direct statement about anything we are committed to do. We are just expressing frustration that our commitments of good will have at least in some quarters been met with this kind of response."

Mr. Gowers suggested that the proposed legislation contradicted President Obama's stated desire to keep BP a strong and viable company after the agreement to set up the escrow fund. He added, "I am not going to make a direct linkage to the $20 billion, but our ability to fund these assets and the cash coming from these assets that are securing these funds would be lost" if the House bill were enacted by Congress.

BP executives have said that regulators in other countries have not circumscribed their deepwater operations since the gulf accident. The only exception came in Greenland, where officials quietly told BP that it was not welcome to join in an auction for offshore leases in a new Arctic drilling zone.

BP is the largest producer of oil and gas in the gulf, pumping 400,000 barrels a day and accounting for about 20 percent of total production from deepwater reservoirs in the region. The company operates 89 production wells and shares a stake in 60 other wells operated by partner companies.

As BP has tried to raise cash to pay for damages caused by the spill, it has suspended its dividend and intends to sell off as much as $30 billion of assets around the world.

But the Gulf of Mexico remains crucial to the company's finances.

"The gulf is the most profitable barrel in BP's portfolio," said Fadel Gheit, a managing director at Oppenheimer & Company. He estimated that the gulf generated $5 billion to $7 billion in profits annually for BP, or about a quarter of the company's total.

Mr. Weiss dismissed BP's warning that it might not be able to meet its financial obligations. "BP has substantial assets, whether they develop them or sell them," he said. "If BP needs to sell assets to meet its financial obligations, that's a decision they have to make."

BP said that the House bill would stymie new drilling and cripple the company's existing gulf operations.

Mr. Nagle said BP had discussed the matter with House leaders, and that company executives intended to discuss the matter with Senate leaders after the summer recess. The Senate version of the drilling reform bill does not specifically ban BP from future leases, but it grants regulators explicit authority to deny leases to companies with safety or environmental problems.

The Obama administration endorsed the overall House bill, but has been silent on the Miller amendment. An Interior Department official said that the agency already had the authority to deny a company guilty of safety or environmental regulations the right to bid on offshore leases.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: September 3, 2010

An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of the executive vice president of BP America. He is David Nagel, not Nagle.


10) An Oil Platform Burns, Blanketing the Gulf With Angst
"In another year, the blaze may not have garnered much attention; it might have been seen as one of the scores of fires and explosions that occur on offshore platforms in the gulf every year. ...Federal records show that there have been at least four accidents at that platform in the past decade. At least one of them led to a serious injury, and another led to a hospitalization."
September 2, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - An oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico caught fire on Thursday morning, forcing its 13 crew members overboard and sending waves of anxiety along a coast that has just begun to recover from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

By early evening, the workers had been rescued with no serious injuries reported and the fire had been put out. Coast Guard officials said that no oil could be seen on the water near the platform, contradicting an earlier report.

In another year, the blaze may not have garnered much attention; it might have been seen as one of the scores of fires and explosions that occur on offshore platforms in the gulf every year. But coming so soon after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in April, which killed 11 workers and set off the largest marine oil spill in American history, it took on much larger significance.

Environmental groups quickly issued news releases, arguing that the fire proved the wisdom of the current federal moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling (though the platform was not drilling, nor was it in deep water).

Officials from Mariner Energy, which owns the well, will now take their turn answering to Congress, following in the well-worn footsteps of executives of BP and Transocean, which operated the Deepwater Horizon.

The three ranking House Democrats in the energy field - Henry A. Waxman of California, the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee; Bart Stupak of Michigan, the chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee; and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, the chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee - sent a letter on Thursday to Scott D. Josey, the chairman and chief executive of Mariner Energy, requesting a briefing by next Friday.

Officials from Mariner, echoed by others in the industry, took pains to note the differences between this fire and the explosion that sank the Deepwater Horizon.

"There was no blowout, no explosion, no injuries, no spill," said Patrick Cassidy, the director of investor relations for Mariner Energy, a relatively small oil and gas company in Houston with 330 employees and about $1 billion in annual revenues.

Mariner, which plans to merge with a subsidiary of the Apache Corporation, holds oil and gas interests around the Gulf Coast area, as well as in Arkansas, New Mexico, North Dakota and Wyoming.

But 85 percent of its production comes from offshore in the gulf.

The platform that caught fire is about 14 years old, and is located in a section of the gulf known as Vermilion Block 380.

It has four columns standing on the seafloor at a depth of 320 feet, and seven oil-producing wells are connected to it. Its production, averaging 9.2 million cubic feet of natural gas and 1,400 barrels of oil daily, is much less than that of platforms now being built in far deeper waters of the gulf.

The fire broke out just after sunrise in the living quarters, as the crew was painting and cleaning the platform, Mr. Cassidy said. He said the company was investigating the cause but did not yet have any answers.

"It doesn't appear to be related to the wells," Mr. Cassidy said. "And it doesn't appear that there was any release of oil."

He said that automatic shut-off equipment on the platform sealed off the oil and gas wells before the fire had occurred and that the crew had abandoned the platform. But he could not explain why the equipment had been activated.

At 9:19 a.m., the Coast Guard received a call from a nearby platform saying that the Mariner Energy platform was engulfed in flames, Capt. Peter Troedsson, the chief of staff for the Coast Guard's Eighth District, said at an afternoon news conference.

The 13 workers who had been aboard were spotted from a helicopter, huddled together and floating in protective suits about a mile from the platform.

Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana visited a hospital where the workers had been taken. In a statement, he said two of them told him that one of workers could not get a life jacket because it was too close the fire.

"Some of the workers held one of the men up in the water, which is probably why one worker was thought to be injured when seen from far away," Mr. Jindal said.

An offshore supply vessel called the Crystal Clear, which was at a nearby oil platform, picked the crew members up and took them to the nearest platform. They were taken to land by helicopter later in the day.

The Coast Guard sent seven helicopters and six vessels to the scene. Earlier in the day, a response vessel had reported an oil sheen one mile long and 100 feet wide. But Captain Troedsson said that Coast Guard responders at the site could not see any sheen.

Responders working for Mariner were studying the wells attached to the platform to see if there were any leaks, but for now they appeared to have been closed off, he said.

"The company monitors each of these wells, and their data showed there's no flow," Captain Troedsson said. Similar assurances were made after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon - in that case, they proved to be wrong.

By midafternoon, Captain Troedsson said, the fire aboard the platform had been put out.

Federal records show that there have been at least four accidents at that platform in the past decade. At least one of them led to a serious injury, and another led to a hospitalization.

Mariner Energy itself has been forced to pay at least $85,000 in civil penalties for safety violations over the same period, including in two instances last year.

The fire reinvigorated the debate about the federal moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling, which has been fiercely criticized by industry officials and residents of coastal states.

The moratorium is currently scheduled to expire on Nov. 30. But Michael R. Bromwich, the director of the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, is reviewing safety policies and records of deepwater drilling companies to determine whether the suspension could be modified or lifted sooner.

An Interior Department spokeswoman said that the Nov. 30 date had not been revised, in light of Thursday's accident.

The three most recent drilling approvals for the Vermilion Block 380, the area where Thursday's fire occurred, were approved by federal regulators in 1999 and 2000, using categorical exclusions, according to federal mining records.

Categorical exclusions are waivers that allow companies to proceed with drilling without having to undergo an in-depth environmental review.

This is the same type of waiver that was granted for the BP Deepwater Horizon project. Since the explosion on that rig, the use of categorical exclusions has come under attack as a prime example of lax regulatory oversight of the oil and gas industry.

In August, a presidential commission decided that the use of categorical exclusions would be halted for deepwater drilling but would continue to be allowed for shallow-water operations.

Jacqueline Savitz, a senior scientist at the environmental advocacy group Oceana, said that the accident showed that the government needs to keep the moratorium in place for new offshore drilling to ensure the safety of rig workers and marine ecosystems.

"It's another reminder that drilling accidents happen all too frequently," she said.

But industry officials said the fire had nothing to do with the issues being addressed in the moratorium.

The Shallow Water Energy Security Coalition, an industry group of several gulf operators, pointed out that there are many differences - in equipment and relative risks - between shallow-water production platforms and deepwater drillers.

"It is so unrelated to anything involved in the moratorium," said Lee Hunt, the chief executive of the International Association of Drilling Contractors. "These platforms are regulated under a whole different set of standards."

Reporting was contributed by John Broder, Ian Urbina and Matthew L. Wald in Washington; Clifford Krauss in Houston; and Alain Delaquérière, Andrew W. Lehren and Toby Lyles in New York.


11) Employers Push Costs for Health on Workers
September 2, 2010

As health care costs continue their relentless climb, companies are increasingly passing on higher premium costs to workers.

The shift is occurring, policy analysts and others say, as employers feel more pressure from the weak economy and the threat of even more expensive coverage under the new health care law.

In contrast to past practices of absorbing higher prices, some companies chose this year to keep their costs the same by passing the entire increase in premiums for family coverage onto their workers, according to a new survey released on Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit research group.

Workers' share of the cost of a family policy jumped an average of 14 percent, an increase of about $500 a year. The cost of a policy rose just 3 percent, to an average of $13,770.

Workers are now paying nearly $4,000 for family coverage, according to the survey, and their costs have increased much faster than those of employers.

Since 2005, while wages have increased just 18 percent, workers' contributions to premiums have jumped 47 percent, almost twice as fast as the rise in the policy's overall cost.

Workers also increasingly face higher deductibles, forcing them to pay a larger share of their overall medical bills. "The long-term trend is pretty clear," said Drew E. Altman, the chief executive of the Kaiser foundation, which conducted the survey this year with the Health Research and Educational Trust, a research organization affiliated with the American Hospital Association. "Insurance is getting stingier and less comprehensive."

Companies may be at a point where they are no longer willing or able to protect their workers' health benefits, said Helen Darling, the president of the National Business Group on Health, an organization representing employers that provide coverage.

She says that companies expect that their costs will only go up more under the new health care law because it requires them to provide more benefits, like coverage for preventive care.

"There's a sense we can't keep up," Ms. Darling said. "We can't afford to continue to subsidize what's happening." Her group's own survey, conducted last month, found that almost two-thirds of employers said they planned to increase the percentage their workers would have to contribute toward premiums next year.

More employers may be changing their view of providing health benefits, moving toward contributing only a fixed amount rather than maintaining certain levels of coverage, she said. "It's a portent of the future," Ms. Darling said.

But businesses may also have felt less need to protect their workers because the increase in the cost of premiums was modest, said Nancy-Ann DeParle, who oversees health care for President Obama. "It's the lowest increase in many years," she said.

And Ms. DeParle pointed to a number of initiatives under the health care legislation that were likely to help companies better afford insurance, including $40 billion in tax credits for small businesses and $5 billion to help companies pay for retiree health benefits.

The economy may be the dominant influence in forcing employers' hands, said Mr. Altman of Kaiser. The decision by companies to pass on the higher costs "speaks to the depth of the recession and its impact on employers," he said. Businesses may have no other alternative in trying to steady costs, he said.

Some examples around the country offer examples of the choices being made by employers and their workers.

Faced with a potential increase in the premiums paid that would bring the cost of family coverage to about $1,000 a month, the executives at a trucking business in Salt Lake City chose to switch to a plan that had a $6,000 annual deductible.

The company, Utility Trailer Sales of Utah, and a related company were able to reduce their monthly premiums by nearly $200, to $647 a family, according to the chief financial officer, Clair Heslop.

Mr. Heslop acknowledged that people with chronic conditions or the need for expensive medicines had felt the impact of the change. "It's hit them hard," he said. "They're paying the bill because they're consuming the goods."

The Kaiser survey found a significant increase in the number of employees who had a deductible of at least $1,000, to 27 percent this year, from 22 percent in 2009. Almost half of workers who are covered by a small employer with fewer than 200 workers have an annual deductible of that amount.

Some employers, however, may be looking for ways to limit their exposure. In Utah, the state is setting up an insurance exchange that explicitly allows smaller employers to give workers a fixed amount of money to buy a health policy, much as they might make a defined contribution to a retirement plan.

Workers choose among about 60 policies offered by four major insurers, paying the difference if the coverage is more expensive than the amount provided by their employer. State officials this week opened the exchange to any business with 50 or fewer employees.

They say the exchange offers employers the ability to better manage their health care costs.

"We've given predictability to both the employer and the employee," said Spencer Eccles, executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, which manages the exchange.

The exchange will have to make some changes under the federal law. When the exchanges are up and running, some workers may be able to get vouchers from their employers under certain conditions to allow them to shop independently in the exchange if their company's coverage is too expensive.

But some policy analysts are concerned that the movement toward a system in which employers feel responsible for paying a fixed amount for health care is not an answer to the higher costs.

"We're taking the easy way out," said Judi Hillman, the executive director of the Utah Health Policy Project, which is itself exploring the idea of covering its employees through the exchange and is trying to form a group of businesses to better understand the dynamics of the exchange. "We're not thinking structurally and systemically in Utah, but I think federal reform will do that."

Once employers have a better handle on the new legislation, they may well pursue different strategies, including moving toward a system in which they are responsible for only a fixed amount of the cost of coverage, said Tracy Watts, a partner with Mercer Health and Benefits, which advises companies about the health benefits they offer. "There's going to be a lot of studying about what are the longer-term strategies, what makes sense," she said.


12) Ohio's Governor Spares Life of a Death Row Inmate
September 2, 2010

CINCINNATI - A death row inmate convicted of murdering a child and two adults was spared the death penalty Thursday by Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio, who said there were possible problems with the evidence.

A diverse group of Republicans and Democrats, attorneys general and federal and state judges and prosecutors had rallied around the case of the inmate, Kevin Keith, 46, after his lawyers uncovered evidence they say casts doubt on his guilt.

In commuting the death sentence, Mr. Strickland, a Democrat, said that he believed it was still likely that Mr. Keith committed the murders, but that he was troubled by the likelihood that evidence uncovered since his conviction would not be presented to a court before the scheduled Sept. 15 execution.

"That would be unfortunate," Mr. Strickland said in a statement. "This case is clearly one in which a full, fair analysis of all of the unanswered questions should be considered by a court. Under these circumstances, I cannot allow Mr. Keith to be executed."

The request for a commutation from the governor was the last resort for Mr. Keith, who lost numerous appeals in state courts and whose case was not considered by the United States Supreme Court. The parole board in Ohio unanimously rejected his clemency request in August. Mr. Strickland, who can commute sentences or issue full pardons, said he would consider further action if it was justified by the evidence.

Mr. Keith, 46, was convicted of murdering two women and a 4-year-old girl and wounding a man and two children in February 1994. Prosecutors said he had sprayed gunfire through an apartment in Bucyrus, Ohio, to retaliate against a relative of some of the victims, an informer who had cooperated with a drug raid.

Defense lawyers say another man told a confidential informer in a separate drug investigation that he had been hired for $15,000 to "cripple" the informer. They say the photo lineup in which Mr. Keith was identified was prejudiced because his photo was larger than the others, the photos were presented by police officers who knew Mr. Keith was a suspect, and the photos were displayed simultaneously rather than sequentially.

Mr. Keith's legal team applauded the commutation but said he should be freed.

"The same compelling reasons that support Governor Strickland's actions today," said one of his lawyers, Rachel Troutman, "warrant a new, fair trial for Mr. Keith, including the existence of newly discovered evidence, the revelation of evidence withheld by the state, and the development of new science behind eyewitness identification, all of which point to Mr. Keith's innocence."



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