Saturday, September 11, 2010


Open Letter to Bay Area Peace Activists

Dear Peace Activists,

Two groups have called meetings on Sunday, September 19 at 1:00 P.M. to do the same thing -- organize a series of mass antiwar actions and education this Fall and Spring of 2011.

Let's turn this situation into a good thing by asking each group, Bay Area United Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), and S.F. Act Now to Stop War and Racism, (A.N.S.W.E.R.) to make the next follow-up meeting after September 19th one big unified gathering. Let's ask both groups to pledge to work together and invite all antiwar groups and individuals to work together to build mass actions for human needs, not wars and occupations.

Both groups have basically the same antiwar agenda with the same demands on the government and the same approach of reaching out to the working people, youth, students, unions, communities of color, women, LGBT community, neighborhoods, to involve the largest numbers of people into mass actions to stop the wars and attend to human needs instead.

Let's remember the unified "The World Says No to War" actions of 10 million-plus worldwide before the U.S. invaded Iraq. Let's insist on this unity in action at both meetings, September 19th. The people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Palestine, and all the countries where the U.S. is conducting military interventions and placing U.S. bases deserve a campaign of unified solidarity from the people who live in and oppose the most violent military power in the world.


Carole Seligman
Bonnie Weinstein

Next Northern California United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) meeting
Sunday, September 19, 1:00 P.M.
522 Valencia Street between 16th and 17th Streets
San Francisco


Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:




Courage to Resist SF Bay Area Events

Saturday, September 11, 11am-4pm ~ San Francisco, California
Outreach at Power to the Peaceful
Just stop by, or RSVP to help out for an hour (, at the Courage to Resist booth at the free 12th annual Power to the Peaceful festival at Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park ( map). We'll be talking to folks about the growing campaign to free Bradley Manning and more.

Thursday, September 16, 7pm ~ Oakland, California
Afghanistan: Occupation, Wikileaks, and accused whistle-blower Bradley Manning
A benefit for the Bradley Manning Defense Fund featuring: Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistle-blower; Tom Hayden, author and activist; Aimee Allison, author and KPFA Morning Show host; WikiLeaks "Collateral Murder" video screening. Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street, Oakland ( map).

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


Demonstrate to Free the Cuban Five!
Monday, September 13, 5:00 P.M.
Powell and Market Sts., San Francisco

Sponsor: National Committee to Free the Cuban Five
Endorers: ANSWER Coalition, FMLN Bay Area, Marin Task Force on the Americas
Contact: 415-821-6545,


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


March and rally: Free Bradley Manning!
Saturday, September 18, 2pm ~ San Francisco, California
Blowing the whistle on war crimes is not a crime!
2pm rally in front of the SF War Memorial Building, 401 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco ( map). 3pm march. 4pm end at Union Square. Organized by Courage to Resist, Veterans for Peace-SF Bay Area, ANSWER Coalition, CodePink, and United for Peace and Justice.


Next Northern California United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) meeting
Sunday, September 19, 1:00 P.M.
522 Valencia Street between 16th and 17th Streets
San Francisco

Dear Antiwar Activists.

Some 60-plus activists from a broad range of antiwar and social justice groups attended the first meeting of the Northern California United National Antiwar Committee (UNAC) aimed at implementing the decisions of the UNAC Albany conference.

Several working committees were established, an interim committee agreed on to set the next agenda and a democratic discussion took place to debate and clarify UNAC's objectives and project.

We scheduled the next meeting for Sunday, September 19 at 1-3 pm and have secured, thanks to the Unitarian-Universalists for Peace, the same Unitarian Church at 1187 Franklin at Geary, Kincaid Room, for our next meeting. Please make every effort to attend and bring all the activists you know.

Following the important discussion at our meeting we decided to move ahead with implementing the Albany conference's 28-point Action Plan culminating in a bi-coastal, New York/San Francisco/LA mass mobilization based on the four demands and April 9 date adopted at the Albany conference,

So as to leave no doubt that April 9 and the four demands, including "End U.S. aid to Israel - military, diplomatic and economic! and End U.S. aid to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the siege of Gaza? were the official demands of the Albany conference two important meetings and discusssions took place following our meeting that left no doubt.

First, the four demands and the April 9 date were affirmed by the National Assembly to End U.S. Wars and Occupations, the initiating organization of the Albany conference. More important, the 53-person Continuations Committee of UNAC met last Sunday and voted by some 36-3 to affirm the demands, the date and the fact that UNAC was the formal organizer of April 9

The latter meeting voted to launch the April 9 New York march with a mass regional meeting in New York City on the weekend of November 6-7 and to print 3,000 placards with the four demands to carry on the October 2 march on Washington called by the NAACP and local 1199 SEIU, with the endorsement of the AFL-CIO.

A 19-person national multi-racial, multi-ethnic and very broad Steering Committee was elected to lead the implementation of the 28 points and the 53 person national Continuations Committee that voted these decisions was expected to be broadened to hundreds of groups across the country that will have final decision-making authority on all issues as we proceed toward April 9. Truly, the Albany conference decisions were affirmed and are on the road to implementation.

Great strides have been taken to reinvigorate a powerful, democratic, united and massive U.S. antiwar movement. It is essential that we do our part in Northern California to match the unity and enthusiasm that was generated in Albany when 800 of the nations antiwar and social justice activists came together to create something new, invaluable and unprecedented in the fight against U.S. wars and occupations abroad and against the war on working people, youth, students and oppressed people here at home.

We need everyone's help and participation to make the next nine months a time when we reach out deeply into our communities of every race, color and ethnicity in this united effort.

Be there on September 19! Bring your friends and fellow activists. Forward this email widely!

A proposed agenda will be emailed soon.

In solidarity,

Jeff Mackler, UNAC National Steering Committee


ILWU Local 10
Henry Schmidt Room
400 North Point, SF
Please send in all endorsements for the rally from unions, community organizations, political organizations and churches to:
We'll be doing a new rally flyer and need this information ASAP.
Jack Heyman


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,


[VIDEO] Balloons invade UC Berkeley on the first day of classes building for 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

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




Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love


Good morning it was a pleasure speaking with you yesterday about the Diablo Valley film Festival. Our Festival is a benefit for the Contra Costa animal services department and the Martinez schools 20/20 program. Our event is September 11, 2010, this Saturday, and our 11AM feature is "Scarred Lands and Wounded Llives". You can find more information about the festival at our website I thought that this would be a showing that would be of interest to you and your organization. We also have a block at five o'clock which is called "Save our Seas" which is a series of shorts on environmental issues regarding the oceans. Tickets can be purchased online at our website and the proceeds go to the above organizations. Your help in getting the word out to your membership and other causes that you think may be interested that I do not have access to will help to change the minds of hopefully more than a few people. Your help and your participation is greatly appreciated. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

Here is a link to a trailer for the movie:

Tony Blackburn, Executive Producer
Diablo Valley Film Festival
(925) 231-5365

Scarred Lands and Wounded Lives:
The Environmental Footprint of War


What prompts this film is recognition of our deep dependence on the natural world and the significant threat to that world posed by war and preparations for war.

The scale of environmental damage over the last half century is unprecedented. Falling water tables, shrinking forest cover, declining species diversity - all presage ecosystems in distress. These trends are now widely acknowledged as emanating from forces of humanity's own making: massive population increases, unsustainable demands on natural resources, species loss, ruinous environmental practices. Ironically however, war, that most destructive of human behaviors, is commonly bypassed.

In all its stages, from the production of weapons through combat to cleanup and restoration, war entails actions that pollute land, air, and water, destroy biodiversity, and drain natural resources. Yet the environmental damage occasioned by war and preparation for war is routinely underestimated, underreported, even ignored. The environment remains war's "silent casualty."

Activities that do such damage cry out for far-reaching public scrutiny. The very sustainability of our planet is at stake. We can no longer maintain silence about the environmental impact of war on the grounds that such scrutiny is "inconvenient" or "callous" at a time when human life is so endangered.

If we cannot eliminate war, we can at least require a fuller accounting of war's costs and consequences, and demand that destructive forces used in our name leave a lighter footprint on this highly vulnerable planet. It is to this change in values and actions that this documentary film is directed.


Alice T. Day was born in New York City and educated at the Brearley School in New York and at Smith College (BA, magna cum laude), Columbia (MA in sociology), and the Australian National University (PhD in sociology). Alice currently sits on the board of the Council for a Livable World; the Task Force on Environment and Natural Resources, Woman's National Democratic Club (Washington); and the Environmental Film Festival (Washington.)

Before moving to Washington, Alice was most recently Hofstee Fellow, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute, The Hague, 1994, and Director, Successful Ageing, A.C.T., an Australian government project, Canberra, A.C.T., 1990-93.

Best known books of the more than 30 books, professional articles, book chapters, and reports that she has written are: Remarkable Survivors - Insights into Successful Aging among Women; We Can Manage - Expectations about Care and Varieties of Family Support among Persons 75 Years of Age and Over; and (with Lincoln H. Day) Too Many Americans.


Lincoln H. Day was born in Ames, Iowa and educated in the public schools of Denver, Colorado, and at Yale (BA, cum laude) and Columbia (MA and PhD in sociology). He currently sits on the board of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation; the Environmental Film Festival (Washington); and is a member of the Council for a Livable World (Washington).

Before moving to Washington, Lincoln was most recently Hofstee Fellow, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute, The Hague, 1994, and Senior Fellow in Demography, Research School of Social Sciences, Institute of Advanced Studies, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia, 1973-1993.

In addition to some 80 book chapters and articles in professional journals, he is the author of two books, co-author of four others (two of which were written in collaboration with Alice T. Day), and editor and part author of two more. Apart from Too Many Americans (written with Alice T. Day), his best-known books are: The Future of Low-Birthrate Populations; and Analysing Population Trends - Differential Fertility in a Pluralistic Society.
Executive Producer of the Diablo Valley Film Festival
Student of the Grape
Soccer Player (Goal Keeper)
Wine Maker (In my own mind)
Facebook Ho (Friend Me!)
Motorcycle Rider (Kawasaki ZZR1200)


From The Gulf Stream To The Bloodstream - THE VIDEO BP DOESN'T WANT YOU TO SEE!


Plume? Stationary ROV covered by non-stop 'clouds' on seafloor (VIDEO)
September 4th, 2010 at 04:21 AM Print Post Email Post
Live feed from Development Driller 2 ROV 1, September 3, 2010 at 6:30 p.m. EDT:


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


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


George Orwell's "1984_



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


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


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


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




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!


"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)


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) Report by BP Finds Several Companies at Fault in Spill
[Surprise! Surprise! BP finds BP only a little at]
September 8, 2010

2) Protest in Los Angeles Over Killing
September 8, 2010

3) French Unions in National Strike on Pensions
September 7, 2010

4) Immigration Crackdown Steps Into the Kitchen
September 7, 2010

5) War Games
September 8, 2010

6) Court Dismisses a Case Asserting Torture by C.I.A.
"A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that former prisoners of the C.I.A. could not sue over their alleged torture in overseas prisons because such a lawsuit might expose secret government information. ...Among other policies, the Obama national security team has also authorized the C.I.A. to try to kill a United States citizen suspected of terrorism ties, blocked efforts by detainees in Afghanistan to bring habeas corpus lawsuits challenging the basis for their imprisonment without trial, and continued the C.I.A.'s so-called extraordinary rendition program of prisoner transfers - though the administration has forbidden torture and says it seeks assurances from other countries that detainees will not be mistreated."
September 8, 2010

7) Pakistan: Drone Strike Kills Six
September 8, 2010

8) Final Sealing of Gulf Well Is Delayed Again
September 8, 2010

9) BP Spill Report Hints at Legal Defense
September 8, 2010

10) Alabama: Execution Set for Man Whose Competency Is Questioned
September 8, 2010

11) Judge Rules That Military Policy Violates Rights of Gays
September 9, 2010

12) Secret Tape Has Police Pressing Ticket Quotas
September 9, 2010

13) Combat Game Goes Too Far for Military
"The lifelike simulations of combat are in part the product of a close working relationship between video game producers and the military. Game makers use access to military facilities and combat veterans to provide depth of detail. Recruiters, in turn, try to sell teenagers who grew up playing the games on the idea of signing up to experience the real thing. The games themselves can be found in stores on military bases and are wildly popular among service members. ...stores on Army, Air Force and Navy bases announced they would refuse to sell a soon-to-be-released combat simulation game, Medal of Honor by Electronic Arts...At issue is a feature in the game, set in post-Sept. 11 Afghanistan, that allows a user to become a Taliban fighter and attack American troops." [Perhaps, next, they will arrest and render as terrorists kids who choose to be Taliban fighters in the game!]
September 9, 2010

14) Pentagon Plan: Buying [and destroy] Books to Keep Secrets
September 9, 2010

15) Budget Woes Hit Defense Lawyers for the Indigent
September 9, 2010

16) E.P.A. to Study Chemicals Used to Tap Natural Gas
September 9, 2010

17) Public Schools Face Lawsuit Over Fees
September 10, 2010

18) Study Cites Drone Crew in Attack on Afghans
"And an officer on the ground had told the Predator crew, which was based in Nevada, that his commander intended to attack the vehicles if their passengers were carrying weapons. ...And after the analysts noted that they had seen an adolescent in a larger group of men, the Predator crew and the officers on the ground "transformed the adolescents into military-aged males," General Otto wrote. ...General Otto wrote, the pilot 'had a strong desire to find weapons,' and this 'colored - both consciously and unconsciously - his reporting of weapons and children.'"
September 10, 2010

19) Cuba: Castro Explains His Words
September 10, 2010


1) Report by BP Finds Several Companies at Fault in Spill
[Surprise! Surprise! BP finds BP only a little at]
September 8, 2010

WASHINGTON - The oil giant BP said Wednesday in its internal report that a series of failures involving a number of companies ultimately led to the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"No single factor caused the Macondo well tragedy," BP said in a statement about the report. "Rather, a sequence of failures involving a number of different parties led to the explosion and fire which killed 11 people and caused widespread pollution in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year."

Conducted by the company's safety chief, Mark Bly, and a team of about 50 mostly BP employees, the inquiry was initiated almost immediately after the April 20 explosion that killed 11 and spilled almost five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Citing "a complex and interlinked series of mechanical failures, human judgments, engineering design, operational implementation and team interfaces," the 193-page report deflects attention away from BP and back onto its contractors, especially Transocean, which owned the rig, and Halliburton, which performed cement jobs on the well.

The report, which took about four months to complete, focuses less on decisions that BP made in designing and drilling the well than on what rig workers, mostly from Transocean, did after the blowout occurred.

"To put it simply, there was a bad cement job and a failure of the shoe track barrier at the bottom of the well, which let hydrocarbons from the reservoir into the production casing," BP's departing chief executive, Tony Hayward, said in a statement on Wednesday. "Based on the report, it would appear unlikely that the well design contributed to the incident, as the investigation found that the hydrocarbons flowed up the production casing through the bottom of the well."

While it puts some responsibility on BP for errors made - such as misreading pressure data that indicated a blowout was imminent - the report tries to undermine the notion that the company acted with gross negligence.

Among its most significant conclusions, the report said that the blowout came up the center of the pipe and not up the outside of the well casing, the area known as the annulus.

If true, the finding is significant because it plays down the importance of certain BP decisions that have been criticized as negligent. One such decision was BP's choice of a type of well casing that internal documents indicated the company knew was cheaper but riskier. Another such decision was BP's use of fewer-than-advised centralizers, devices that are meant to keep the casing properly positioned.

Because of its authorship, the report is unlikely to carry much weight in influencing the Department of Justice, which is considering criminal and civil charges related to the spill.

The report is, however, as much a public relations exercise as a preview of BP's probable legal strategy as it prepares to defend itself against possible federal charges, penalties and hundreds of pending lawsuits. A series of other reports, including one from the Coast Guard and the federal minerals management agency, are expected in the coming months.

The report faults Transocean workers for failing to recognize and act on the influx of hydrocarbons into the well for more than 40 minutes until the hydrocarbons were in the riser and rapidly flowing to the surface.

And the report adds that the well-flow was routed to a mud-gas separator after it reached the rig, causing gas to be vented directly onto the rig rather than diverted overboard.

The flow of gas into the engine rooms through the ventilation system created a potential for ignition that the rig's fire and gas system did not prevent, BP investigators found.

In recent testimony, BP executives have pointed out the blowout preventer did not go through an extensive certification as required by federal regulations, a fact that was earlier documented in internal Transocean equipment reports.

"Even after explosion and fire had disabled its crew-operated controls, the rig's blow-out preventer on the seabed should have activated automatically to seal the well," the report concludes. "But it failed to operate, probably because critical components were not working."

Investigators found there were several failures involving the blowout preventer.

Shortly after the initial explosion, an attempt to activate a set of shear rams - which would have cut the drill pipe, allowing the rig to move away, and sealed the well - failed, probably because electrical control lines on the rig were damaged in the explosion. A battery-powered backup system also failed, the investigators said, probably because of problems with both of the blowout preventer's control pods, which are identical boxes containing electric valves that regulate the flow of hydraulic fluid.

Only one pod was necessary to work, but the investigators said that one had a battery that was nearly dead while the other had a defective valve.

BP did not have a chance to analyze the blowout preventer before the company released its report. The failed device was removed from the sea floor on Saturday and sent to a NASA facility in New Orleans where federal investigators are waiting to inspect it.

The report also cited Halliburton for its work in cementing the well. Halliburton designed and pumped a cement seal that investigators have said may have allowed explosive natural gas to enter the well and rush up to the rig.

"The cement and shoe track barriers - and in particular the cement slurry that was used - at the bottom of the Macondo well failed to contain hydrocarbons within the reservoir, as they were designed to do, and allowed gas and liquids to flow up the production casing," BP investigators said.

The finding is in keeping with a claim that BP executives have made repeatedly in recent weeks.

In testimony, Halliburton executives have argued that they were following BP's orders, pointing to e-mails from April 18 in which Halliburton executives warn BP of a potential "severe gas flow problem."

But BP executives have highlighted other internal documents provided to The New York Times that they said showed Halliburton's confidence in its cementing job.

"We have completed the job and it went well," one Halliburton worker wrote about the cement work in an e-mail only hours before the explosion. "Full returns were observed throughout."

However, several engineers who were asked to review the documents said that the warnings from Halliburton were clear and firm. They also pointed out that ultimate responsibility for decision-making on the rig rested with BP.

The report contains 25 recommendations for preventing a future disaster, in areas such as oversight of contractors.

Henry Fountain contributed reporting from New York.


2) Protest in Los Angeles Over Killing
September 8, 2010

Filed at 9:55 a.m. ET

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Police Chief Charlie Beck pleaded for calm and vowed his department would conduct an exhaustive investigation into a bicycle officer's fatal shooting of a drunken day laborer with a knife.

But his words did little to dissuade demonstrators, who spilled into the streets for a second straight night Tuesday -- some to pray and light candles and others to pelt a police station near downtown Los Angeles with eggs, rocks and bottles.

Police reported 22 arrests on Tuesday night, mainly for failure to disperse and unlawful assembly, Officer Karen Rayner said.

Officers fired at least two rounds of nonlethal foam projectiles at demonstrators, Rayner said.

At least one officer and a Univision reporter were slightly injured by thrown or slingshot-propelled objects, police told City News Service, and a man who fell off his bicycle suffered a head wound.

Some protesters pushed rolling metal trash bins at officers and tossed household items from apartment buildings.

''People were throwing televisions, air conditioning units, miscellaneous furniture and other objects from the windows,'' Lt. Cory Palka said.

Guatemalan immigrant Manuel Jamines, 37, was shot twice by a police officer Sunday afternoon near MacArthur Park, a poor neighborhood packed with recent immigrants from Central America.

In the wake of the protests, authorities scheduled a community meeting for Wednesday evening at a local school.

On Monday, four people were arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor inciting a riot, and others threw rocks and bottles at police, slightly injuring three officers, Officer Bruce Borihanh said.

On Tuesday, about 300 protesters took their complaints to the police station only two blocks from where Jamines died, said Lt. Andrew Neiman. Officers tried to move the demonstrators away from the station and keep them away from the park.

A citywide tactical alert was called to free up officers to respond to the area, Rayner said.

Beck said the incident involving Jamines started when someone flagged down three bicycle officers to tell them a man was threatening people with a knife.

The officers approached the suspect and told him in Spanish and English to put down the weapon. Instead, Jamines raised the knife above his head and lunged at Officer Frank Hernandez, a 13-year veteran of the department, Beck said.

Eyewitness accounts from six civilians, nine police personnel and two fire department staff indicate Hernandez fired twice ''in immediate defense of life,'' Beck said. Jamines, 37, died at the scene.

Investigators recovered a bloody, 6-inch knife at the scene but didn't know where the blood came from.

''This was a very brief moment in time, just 40 seconds between first contact and the time of the shooting,'' Beck said.

Beck said the timeline was based on preliminary interviews. He said the department's Force Investigation Division will conduct a thorough, transparent probe.

The three officers involved in the shooting have been temporarily reassigned during the investigation.

Jamines had a wife and three children -- ages 13, 6 and 8 -- in his hometown of Mazatenango, Guatemala, according to his cousin Juan Jaminez, 38. He came to the United States six years ago to find work as a day laborer and spent most of his time looking for jobs in a Home Depot parking lot near his home.

Jamines was drunk but not dangerous, his cousin and neighbors said.

''Killing a drunk isn't right,'' said Juan Jaminez, also a day laborer. He and others described Jamines as a friendly, hardworking man who liked to drink on the weekends but wasn't violent.

''The officer who did this should be subject to discipline and a thorough investigation,'' said Juan Flores, 39, a cook at a downtown restaurant who knew Jamines. ''We want to know, is he on vacation or is he fired?''

Flores said the officers should have used a non-lethal weapon to subdue Jamines.

Beck said the officer involved in the shooting didn't have a baton or stun gun with him. He said bicycle officers frequently do not carry the selection of non-lethal weapons found in patrol cars.

Juana Neri, 57, a Mexican immigrant housewife who lives nearby, pushed her grocery bag in a baby stroller past the corner where Jamines was killed.

''It's bad, what the police did, but what's worse is the silly stuff that people were doing here,'' she said, referring to Monday's violence. ''We are not in our country, and with the problems that Hispanic immigrants have these days, it's better not to cause problems.''

MacArthur Park was the site of a May 1, 2007, clash in which police officers pummeled immigration rights marchers and reporters with batons and shot rubber bullets into the crowd. Dozens of protesters and journalists were injured. Police said it began with a group of ''agitators'' outside the park throwing objects at officers.


3) French Unions in National Strike on Pensions
September 7, 2010

PARIS - Just back from summer vacation, French unions carried out a one-day national strike on Tuesday, snarling transportation just as Parliament was to begin debating a measure that would raise the minimum retirement age to 62 from 60.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has called the pension bill the last major legislation of his first term and vowed that the government would not bend on the essentials of the proposal, which is intended to avoid large and growing deficits in the pension system as people live longer and baby boomers start to reach retirement age.

But after an anxious summer of urban violence and a government effort to harden its security policy, aggressively deporting non-French Roma who overstay their allowed period in France, Mr. Sarkozy finds himself at a political crossroads - historically low in the opinion polls and with his own party divided and dispirited.

The unions said 2.5 million people went on strike, exceeding their goal of 2 million, while the Interior Ministry said the figure was considerably lower, 1.12 million, in 220 protests across France.

In Paris, unions said 250,000 people demonstrated, while the police said the figure was 80,000. There were significant disruptions in suburban and intercity train travel, and many short-haul flights were canceled, though the subway system in Paris operated at near-normal capacity on most lines. Many teachers also were on strike, meaning that many parents of small children were forced to stay at home.

The man in charge of drafting and pushing through the pension law, Labor Minister Éric Woerth, is barely hanging on to his job after revelations that he has been economical with the truth in discussing his relationship with the family and fortune of Liliane Bettencourt, the heiress of L'Oréal.

Mr. Woerth's problems of conflict of interest - he pushed Mr. Sarkozy to give Mrs. Bettencourt's wealth manager a Légion d'Honneur just before the manager hired Mr. Woerth's wife - might not loom so large had he not also been until recently the treasurer of Mr. Sarkozy's governing party, the Union for a Popular Movement. Suggestions of political payoffs, hardly unusual in France, are being gleefully promoted by a generally left-leaning print and Internet news media.

Mr. Sarkozy plans a significant reshuffling of the cabinet late next month, but aides say he remains uncertain about whether to replace his prime minister, François Fillon, and whether to bring in internal party critics who are associated with former President Jacques Chirac and former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

Mr. Fillon and the party's leader in the National Assembly, Jean-François Copé, are already maneuvering for the party leadership past 2012, and Defense Minister Hervé Morin, who leads his own small party, has told its members that "freedom of speech" is about to return. The foreign minister, the well-known Socialist Bernard Kouchner, is expected to lose his job, since Mr. Sarkozy's early effort at an "opening" to the left has been rapidly closing.

The pension problem in France is real. Under the current law, the number of pensioners will increase 47 percent between now and 2050. The French state pension system today is running a deficit of $14 billion; by 2050, it will be $131 billion, about 2.6 percent of projected economic output.

The change to 62 from 60 for a minimum pension, and to 67 from 65 for a full pension, will not solve all of the problems, and already represents a political compromise by Mr. Sarkozy.

He must also find other savings in the budget, which this year has a deficit of 8 percent of gross domestic product. He has promised European allies - and the investors in the bond markets - to reduce that to 6 percent next year and to 3 percent by 2013, leaving many economists skeptical that he can do so without raising taxes. Another Sarkozy proposal, to eliminate a level of regional government in the bureaucrat-heavy French state, has been shelved for now in the face of opposition from the Socialists, who dominate local government.

Mr. Sarkozy also wants to pass other controversial, though less important, legislation, including a ban on the wearing of a full facial veil in any public place and an amendment to another law that would strip French citizenship from naturalized citizens if they threatened or took the life of a French police officer or official.

These measures, in particular the crackdown on Roma and the threat to citizenship, have prompted widespread criticism from the center-right to the left, with the Socialist Party leader, Martine Aubry, calling this "the summer of shame."

Ms. Aubry has given some backbone to her own divided party, and the Socialists are now considered to have a reasonable chance of defeating Mr. Sarkozy in 2012 - if they can unite around a candidate who is not too doctrinaire. Ms. Aubry has presidential ambitions, but she is credited with passing the 35-hour work week in France, which has not been a great success, and she has said that retiring at the age of 60 is "a question of justice" - even though other comparable European countries, like Spain and Germany, have much later retirement ages.

Her rivals include the former leader of the party, François Hollande, and his former partner, Ségolène Royal, who lost the 2007 presidential race.

The most likely Socialist candidate is Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, whose Washington job is prestigious and well paid. Mr. Sarkozy engineered his appointment, in part to get him out of French politics.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn is considered to have done an excellent job navigating the economic crisis. He has kept public distance from internal politics, but friends say he wants to be president. But they also say he is reluctant to leave his current post to take part in the new primary system Ms. Aubry has instituted to pick a presidential candidate.

Primaries will favor candidates further to the left, and Mr. Strauss-Kahn is unlikely to want to give up his job if he believes he might lose in the primaries. But in early polls, two years before any election, he is the Socialist who beats Mr. Sarkozy most handily.

Still, Mr. Sarkozy is a tough politician who speaks fluently to the nation and whose platform of change remains popular, even if he is considered to have been too timid. He will also make a splash as France heads up both the Group of 20 and the Group of 8, the main international economic groupings, and as he pushes for more regulation of markets and commodity prices.

He is currently trying to re-energize his own party while undermining the far right. Those tasks may be impossible, especially if the taint of corruption sticks to him or his closest allies, after having promised voters "an irreproachable government." But for now, few are willing to bet against him.


4) Immigration Crackdown Steps Into the Kitchen
September 7, 2010


FOR a man facing the possibility of up to 30 years in prison, almost $4 million in fines and the government seizure of his small French restaurant here, Michel Malecot has an unusually jovial and serene air.

During lunch recently, he walked around the French Gourmet, his 45-seat restaurant, bakery and catering company in the city's Pacific Beach neighborhood, hugging his regular customers and planting a kiss on each cheek, before meandering back into the sprawling kitchen to make himself a herring baguette with butter.

"Serve this with warm potatoes," Mr. Malecot said, "and c'est bon."

An immigrant from the South of France, he came here in 1972, settling in San Diego because he said the climate reminded him of home. And now it is the knotty issue of immigration that has made him a local cause célèbre, thrust him into one of the nation's most contentious debates, jeopardized his future and sent a current of fear through the $550-billion-plus restaurant industry.

In April, Mr. Malecot, 58, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of illegally hiring 12 undocumented immigrants and, in what prosecutors portray as a brazen deception, continuing to employ them after learning that they were in the country illegally. He pleaded not guilty. Now, if convicted, he faces the possibility of forfeiture of the restaurant building, along with an adjacent rental property, Froggy's Bar. Legal experts say it would be an exceptionally stiff punishment, but one that could be a sign of things to come for an industry that is one of the nation's largest employers of immigrants.

"They're using a body of law intended for drug dealers and money launderers and going after an iconic bakery and philanthropic business," said Jot Condie, the president of the California Restaurant Association, which has 22,000 members. "If their strategy is to get the attention of the industry, mission accomplished."

Under a policy that went into effect in April 2009, the Obama administration is taking a much tougher stance on employers who hire illegal immigrants than any administration in decades. Enforcement agents have subjected businesses across the country to much greater scrutiny, using tactics that were almost nonexistent until two years ago. Federal officials said they expected to announce record numbers of investigations and fines by the end of the year. As of July 31, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, had announced investigations of 2,073 businesses so far this year, outpacing the 1,461 conducted in all of 2009.

Restaurants are not the only businesses to fall under the searchlight. But until recently, immigration enforcement had been notoriously lax, with a kind of universal wink at kitchens filled with employees working either off the books or with false documents, government officials and industry experts say.

But that is quickly changing, based on the rising number of investigations and the penalties being sought against restaurateurs.

In June, the owner of two Maryland restaurants who pleaded guilty to hiring and harboring illegal immigrants was ordered to forfeit to the government more than $700,000 in assets - in addition to his motorcycle - and faces up to 10 years in prison. In November, a restaurateur in Mississippi who had pleaded guilty to hiring illegal immigrants was sentenced to a year in prison and a year of supervised release. Combined fines in the case, shared among several defendants, amount to $600,000.

Out of a total of about 12.7 million workers in the restaurant industry, an estimated 1.4 million - both legal and illegal immigrants - are foreign born, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to 2008 estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center, about 20 percent of the nearly 2.6 million chefs, head cooks and cooks are illegal immigrants. Among the 360,000 dishwashers, 28 percent are undocumented, according to the estimates.

Those numbers sounded low to a Manhattan chef and restaurateur who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he does not want to draw attention to his TriBeCa restaurant.

"We always, always hire the undocumented workers," he said. "It's not just me, it's everybody in the industry. First, they are willing to do the work. Second, they are willing to learn. Third, they are not paid as well. It's an economic decision. It's less expensive to hire an undocumented person."

While many restaurants do comply with the law, according to government officials, labor economists say immigrants are highly appealing hires because they tend to be especially loyal, stable and dependable. They are also more likely than United States citizens to work for lower wages without health insurance, sick days or paid vacations and paid breaks.

Of nine major chefs and restaurateurs asked about the government's intensified focus on employers of immigrants - Wolfgang Puck, Stephen P. Hanson, Stephen Starr, Jeffrey Chodorow, Danny Meyer, Daniel Boulud, Rick Bayless, Rich Melman and Nick Valenti - only Mr. Valenti's company, the Patina Restaurant Group, would comment.

In a written statement, the company said: "Patina Restaurant Group does periodically bring in employees from other countries following all Federal Immigration laws. This is a small percentage of our workforce, for which we utilize the programs provided by the department of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, allowing us to bring in chefs and management talent from abroad, along with international students to expand their knowledge with hands on training."

The TriBeCa restaurateur, who said he had been working in the business for more than two decades, said that about one-fourth of his employees are illegal immigrants, mostly from Mexico, Africa and South America. He said that those who provide him with Social Security numbers are paid by check. Others receive cash, which allows restaurant owners to avoid paying taxes. He insisted that he did not pay anyone less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

"If they give me a Social Security number, I don't ask questions," he said. "That's what people do."

If immigration laws are fully enforced in the restaurant business, "At the end of the day, the customer is going to end up paying for it," he said. "We'll have to pay higher wages, more taxes and then we will have to charge more. The economy is not that great, so you charge more, you have fewer customers and more people going out of business."

Barbara Coe, founder and president of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, which advocates limiting immigration, said she has little sympathy for restaurants that hire illegal workers.

"Any restaurant that chooses to hire them deserves to go bankrupt," she said. "They are padding their pockets by breaking the law."

Some advocates for immigrants agree.

"We don't think a restaurant should exist if it doesn't pay legal wages," said Ted Smukler, public policy director of Interfaith Worker Justice, a workers' rights group. "New immigrants are deathly afraid of complaining, and that makes them appealing workers for unscrupulous employers."

At the French Gourmet, the government says that in addition to Mr. Malecot, Richard Kauffmann, a manager and pastry chef, was deeply involved in what it calls a conspiracy. Mr. Kauffmann faces similar charges, prison time and fines, and has pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Malecot opened the French Gourmet, which now has about 120 full- and part-time employees, in 1979. He married an American woman and became a United States citizen in 1985.

He is one of the city's top caterers, having won a slew of local and state awards for the business. Its wedding cakes have been listed as a "Best of Weddings" pick on for several years.

But the business, whose motto is "It's a Delicious Day at the French Gourmet!", drew a less welcome brand of attention after Mr. Malecot catered a benefit free of charge for a veteran returning from the Iraq war in 2006. According to Mr. Malecot's lawyer, Eugene Iredale, the small dinner was held at an Air Force base, where heightened security measures and identity checks led to the discovery that one of the French Gourmet's employees, an Algerian immigrant, was working illegally. From then on, the authorities were watching.

According to the indictment, the business had already received what are known as "no match" letters from the Social Security Administration, saying that the Social Security numbers used by some employees were not valid. Those letters instruct employers not to take any action against the workers, but instead to resubmit valid numbers.

The indictment contends that Mr. Malecot then started paying those employees in cash, before Mr. Kauffmann and others submitted new Social Security numbers that they falsely certified as genuine. And the government says the French Gourmet went to great lengths to deceive the authorities - leading to felony charges of harboring immigrants, or concealing their illegal status.

On May 15, 2008, the streets around the French Gourmet were shut down as about a dozen armed agents stormed into the restaurant. They arrested 12 workers, dug through papers and carted away hard drives from the office.

(Mr. Malecot was in France at the time of the raid, and charges were not filed against him until last February. He surrendered in court, without being arrested, and was released on $150,000 bail.)

Mr. Malecot's case points up one of the complexities of hiring immigrants: A federal law requires businesses to submit worker documents that "on their face reasonably appear to be genuine," the law says. But fake papers are easily obtained by immigrants. To avoid being tripped up by paperwork that looks real, employers say that they are forced into the role of policing immigrants.

Government agencies now recommend that employers hire an auditing firm or train personnel to detect fraudulent documents. A growing number of states now require employers to use E-verify, a government-run online system that instantly determines the eligibility of job applicants to work in the United States. Even in states where the system is not required, industry experts said, more restaurants are using the system. The French Gourmet is now among them.

Critics, however, say that the data in the system can be wrong and that some people who are eligible to work are being turned away.

The National Restaurant Association is lobbying a deadlocked Congress for changes in immigration laws, including policies that would make it easier for undocumented workers to gain legal status.

Mr. Malecot, who spoke freely in an interview at the restaurant, said he believed that he had filed all the proper employment paperwork for the arrested employees. Those workers are now witnesses in the case against him, according to Mr. Iredale.

"Maybe you just look at this as destiny," Mr. Malecot said. "I came here with nothing. I guess it's all a game. But it's definitely a blow, and it's frustrating."

Mr. Malecot is an active philanthropist in San Diego, contributing to causes including Alzheimer's and cancer research and education to help victims of torture. His employees describe him as a father figure who has paid for their dental work and babysitting, charters a fishing boat for the annual company party and provides every employee with a week's paid vacation, extremely rare in restaurants.

Because of his financial troubles as a result of the case, he said, he can no longer afford some of these perks. The next court date is Nov. 29.

"He's very generous," Asunción Gallardo, a Mexican immigrant who has cooked at the restaurant for 16 years, said in Spanish, out of earshot of Mr. Malecot. "It's like we're all a family. We eat - he gives us three meals a day and food to go. And then he gives out food for the poor."

Since the indictment, Mr. Malecot said, he has lost at least $500,000 in catering jobs. Catering accounts for about 70 percent of the French Gourmet's revenues, which so far this year amount to roughly $4.5 million, Mr. Malecot said.

But longtime customers have been dining there more often to show their support, he said.

One of them, Pat Hyndman, has been eating at the French Gourmet for 10 years and said: "My immediate reaction is this is a bunch of government nonsense. He's the most respected caterer in town. But then I realized this is much bigger than Michel."

Toby Lyles contributed research.


5) War Games
September 8, 2010

Unless you regard something like "Iron Man" as a film about Afghanistan, the movies inspired by America's contemporary wars have consistently been box-office flops. Even "The Hurt Locker" grossed only $16 million in theaters. Video games that evoke our current conflicts, on the other hand, are blockbusters - during the past three years, they have become the most popular fictional depictions of America's current wars. Last year's best-selling game was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which opens in Afghanistan; it was a sequel to a multimillion-selling 2007 game that features an American invasion of a nameless Middle Eastern country. Modern Warfare 2 has made "Avatar"-like profits for its studio, Activision. On the day the game was published in November, it sold nearly five million copies in North America and Britain, racking up $310 million in sales in 24 hours. By January of this year, the game's worldwide sales added up to $1 billion.

For years, earlier installments of the Call of Duty franchise and other military shooters - the video-game industry's term for these games about warfare - were, like cable-TV miniseries produced by Tom Hanks, always about World War II. But the Modern Warfare series has demonstrated that players have an appetite for games that purport to connect them to the wars their college roommates, or their sons, might be fighting in. Both Modern Warfare games are set in a mythical near-future, but the weapons - Predator drones, AC-130 gunships, nukes - clearly conjure Afghanistan and Iraq, as do the games' good guys (Americans, British) and bad guys (terrorists). The appeal of this quasi-fictional setting is one reason that Modern Warfare 2 now sits alongside titles from more-famous franchises like Grand Theft Auto and Super Mario on the lists of the top-selling video games ever made.

No doubt as a result, in June, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the video-game industry's annual trade show in Los Angeles, it sometimes seemed as if every studio was introducing a game about a war against an enemy who might conceivably be regarded as part of the Axis of Evil. In one game scheduled for release next year, the North Koreans will mount a land invasion of the United States. In another, American troops are sent into an improbably menacing Dubai.

Beyond their settings, what these future-war games have in common with the Modern Warfare series is a refusal to forthrightly acknowledge the inspiration for their subject matter. Video-game designers and players like to brag about how "realistic" the games are, but when gamers talk about verisimilitude, they're usually talking about graphical fidelity, about how lifelike the characters and environments are in an otherwise fantastical world - and not about how the medium reflects anything else about the actual world in which we live.

The one war game at the expo that acknowledged the ripped-from-the-headlines nature of its setting was Medal of Honor, the latest iteration of a game franchise created in 1999 by Steven Spielberg, in the wake of "Saving Private Ryan," as a World War II game for Dreamworks Interactive. The new game (the 11th in the series for PCs or consoles like the PlayStation and Xbox) will be published in October by Electronic Arts. With it, Medal of Honor is following the path trod by Call of Duty, "rebooting" a popular World War II series by situating a game in something that resembles the present day. Unlike its rival, however, Medal of Honor is not anticipating the very near future. Instead it is delving into the very recent past: the game will be set in Afghanistan, in the early stages of the American intervention there.

In a darkened room at the expo, PlayStation 3s were hooked up to HDTVs, so that a team of players, of which I was a member, could insert themselves into the avatars of coalition soldiers in the Helmand Valley and do battle with Taliban fighters. On the convention-center floor, I adopted the role of a Taliban insurgent in the ruins of Kabul, shooting at coalition (read: American) troops in a "Team Deathmatch" mode.

Medal of Honor does not aspire to capture the war in Afghanistan in a documentary sense, but like other shooters, it creates a visceral sensation of combat. In essence, it forgoes one kind of realism while embracing another. Are video games like this mere frivolities that dishonor the real soldiers who have fought in the wars depicted - as critics, including military families, have recently charged? Or does their popularity indicate that they are successfully conveying an experience of war to audiences in a way that is at least as effective and affecting as the war stories told in literature or film?

Electronic Arts is no doubt hoping that Medal of Honor will make it a lot of money. Video games have become astonishingly expensive to produce - the entrance fee to develop a big-budget, mainstream video game is now north of $20 million, and Medal of Honor probably cost significantly more than that to make. New games usually sell at retail for just under $60, and selling even a million copies of a new game is no longer considered an indication of success. The best insight I received into the size of Medal of Honor's budget, during a visit in June to Electronic Arts in Los Angeles, came when Greg Goodrich, the game's executive producer, told me that if the game doesn't sell at least three million copies, "I'm not going to be able to do another one."

Medal of Honor's story begins, chronologically, just before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In an opening sequence, the camera - gamers describe the perspective you see in a game as "the camera," even though video games are not really a lens-based medium - descends through the earth's atmosphere toward Afghanistan, passing communications satellites that give off the sounds of Al Qaeda "chatter" and of news broadcasts from Lower Manhattan.

From there, the game places the player in the body of a member of a Navy Special Operations team infiltrating the Taliban-held town of Gardez, Afghanistan. Medal of Honor later puts players behind the eyes of an Army Special Operations soldier, as well as an Army Ranger and an Apache helicopter gunner, as they seize Bagram air base from the Taliban, ride all-terrain vehicles through the Shah-i-Kot Valley, snipe Al Qaeda fighters near the mountain of Takur Ghar and more. (The game is rated M, for Mature, the video-game equivalent of an R rating.)

In the argot of video games, Medal of Honor is a first-person shooter, meaning that players see the action from the viewpoint of the characters they control. The term for the genre is something of a misnomer. Properly described, these games would be called second-person shooters, as the protagonist in them is a broadly identifiable You, rather than a richly drawn I, a character speaking in his own voice. In fact, the protagonist of Medal of Honor never talks at all.

One of the most compelling things about video games is this sense of identification between the player and the protagonist. The best games do not give you a sense that you are controlling someone else - they give you a sense that you are someone else. For this reason, over the course of the 10 or 12 hours that it generally takes to complete Medal of Honor, you never see or hear any of the four different playable characters - beyond the sight of the hands that extend from the edges of the screen to grip the weapon that you're carrying. "Because we don't ever want to break that immersion, that it's you, there," Goodrich told me in June as I watched him play through one of the game's levels.

Rich Farrelly, the game's senior creative director, sat on a couch across from Goodrich. We were in Overlord, a room on the campus of Electronic Arts in Los Angeles - nearly all the rooms used by the Medal of Honor development team are named after military operations. Camouflage netting lay on a counter nearby. "That's where the fun comes in, at least for me," Farrelly said. "I've now created this soldier fiction for the player and put him in those boots. And now I'm making him think like a soldier."

One of the buzzwords tossed around frequently by the Medal of Honor team is "authenticity." The game has more than 50 actors, delivering thousands of lines of dialogue, with foreign dialogue recorded in Pashto, Gulf Arabic and Chechen. To create some of the animation used in the game, Medal of Honor's computer-graphics team examined videos from Afghanistan that are posted on sites like YouTube and LiveLeak. "We want the player to feel, not like they're in a movie, but like they're in Afghanistan," Waylon Brinck, the computer-graphics supervisor for the game, told me.

The scale of the effort devoted to this can be mind-boggling. Using more than 100 microphones, audio engineers recorded actual weapons fire at Fort Irwin in California, in a mock Iraqi village used by the military for training. With the Pentagon's permission, the audio team attached microphones to Apache helicopters and recorded the sounds of takeoffs and landings, as well as the sounds of the helicopters firing their rounds. They even hooked microphones up to the targets that the helicopters destroyed.

Goodrich described Medal of Honor as "historical fiction," but it felt transgressively real when I played it. The battles are fought in civilian-free zones, where pretty much everyone you encounter is an enemy - Taliban, Al Qaeda or Chechen - and a threat to your life. Or rather (there's that sense of identification again), your character's life. The action is sometimes slow and methodical - your character is asked to kill four enemies instead of 40, or 400 - and at other times the body count exceeds that of a 1980s Schwarzenegger movie. I killed a lot, and was killed, a lot.

Critics of the war in Afghanistan (and perhaps even its supporters) will detect at least a whiff of jingoism in the game. During one of the game's levels, as the Rangers approach the Shah-i-Kot Valley in a helicopter, one of them describes the flight's "main course" as "all-you-can-eat Taliban" and adds, "Hope you like foreign foods." Within sight of the Pakistan border, a Ranger says, "We'll be going there soon enough." At another moment, a character brags that "we're going to make it farther than the Russians did." The game ends with a dedication written by its consultants, who are veterans of the Special Operations community.

There are limits to the game's aspirations to realism. I was repeatedly told that Medal of Honor intentionally avoided the subject of politics in favor of "telling the soldier's story." Goodrich also told me, "I don't want to make the bummer game." Still, mistakes are made in the game by American troops and commanders. Friendly fire accidents happen. The intelligence agencies get things wrong. No matter how skilled a player is, Americans will die. The general arc of the entire game is consistent with the theme of most war video games, which Ian Bogost, a professor at Georgia Tech and an author of several books on video games, summed up to me this way: "War is horrible and badass."

In what may have been the first - and sometimes feels like the only - time that someone suggested video games are making humanity less violent and militaristic, a 33-year-old Stewart Brand, writing about the video game Spacewar in Rolling Stone in 1972, opined that "Spacewar serves Earthpeace." Invented by a band of students at M.I.T. in 1962, Spacewar is regarded by many observers as the first successful video game. Brand was smitten. He wrote that this new form of digital play ("the enthusiasm of irresponsible youngsters") was "heresy, uninvited and unwelcome" in a world of "passive consumerism." Spacewar, and by logical extension the new medium of video games, was remarkable, Brand went on, because it was "intensely interactive in real time with the computer," because it "bonded human and machine," because it "served human interest, not machine" and, perhaps best of all, it was "merely delightful." (Brand also wrote that the fact that "computers are coming to the people" was "good news, maybe the best since psychedelics.")

In the intervening four decades, most of the rhetoric, if not the evidence, has been on the other side of the debate. Not many of the first observers of video games were willing to give Earthpeace a chance. From almost the moment that arcades and consoles appeared in America's shopping malls and living rooms, critics have charged that video games "add to the dehumanization and objectification of human beings," as a rabbi from the Philadelphia suburbs put it on "The MacNeil/Lehrer Report" in 1982, a time when the country came down with a seemingly anodyne bout of Pac-Man fever. Six years before that, the nation had already seen what one historian of the medium calls "the first major moral panic over the content of a video game" when "60 Minutes" examined the controversy over 1976's Death Race, a sort of proto-Grand Theft Auto involving rudimentarily animated cars that drove over rudimentarily animated pedestrians. The apotheosis of this critique could be heard years later, in 1999, when the video game Doom was blamed, implausibly, for helping to prepare Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris to carry out the Columbine massacre.

As video games have become a more-or-less accepted form of mass entertainment for adults, arguments like these have been heard with less frequency and mounted with less vigor. But many people still find something unsettling about the medium. A mini-scandal over Medal of Honor played out in August after Karen Meredith, the mother of Ken Ballard, an Army lieutenant killed in Najaf, Iraq, in 2004, went on "Fox and Friends" and said that any game based on a continuing conflict was "disrespectful" to those whose family members have died in the war. "Families who are burying their children are going to be seeing this," she said. Not long after Meredith's interview with Fox News, Britain's defense secretary, Liam Fox, called the game "un-British" because, in its multiplayer incarnation, it will allow players to fight as the Taliban against coalition forces. "I would urge retailers to show their support for our armed forces and ban this tasteless product," he said. Earlier this month, a Defense Department agency asked GameStop, a chain of video-game stores, not to sell Medal of Honor on Army and Air Force bases.

Liam Fox is a member of Britain's Conservative Party; others, on the left, have raised their own reasons to find Medal of Honor disquieting. An editor at Mother Jones, Adam Weinstein, blogged in August that the game is "war profiteering of the first order," and Adam Serwer, who blogs for The American Prospect, wrote, "Realistic war simulations have always bothered me." Serwer added, "I'm playing video games to escape from the frustrations of the real world, I don't want to be thrust into another, realistic existence far more bleak than the one I'm currently living."

Many gamers, however - no matter their politics - subscribe to a McLuhanesque notion that only the form, and never the content, of this medium is of significance. Video games, in this view, are about problem-solving and game play, the captivating, kinetic interaction between the movements a player makes on a controller and the simultaneous action on-screen. And it's surely true that Medal of Honor's game play will determine whether it is a best seller or a bust. "Whether this is set on Afghanistan or set on the moon, it doesn't really matter," Geoff Keighley, a video-game journalist who hosts a show on Spike TV, told me. Will Wright, the designer of games like SimCity and The Sims, has seemed to embrace this view, saying that games are about agency (the ability to navigate a virtual world), not empathy (relating emotionally to the particulars of that world). But in many ways, the main project of the past several years among video-game developers has been to try to prove Will Wright wrong. Maybe the agency that games allow can, in the hands of the right storytellers, lead to empathy. Maybe the interactive nature of video games can, when combined with narrative elements like story and character, evoke feelings in players in a way that is unique to the medium.

After all, the video gamers who choose to play military shooters typically take the fictional elements of these games quite seriously. A survey conducted by Joel Penney, a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication, found that these gamers viewed their chosen pastime as something more than simple escapism or problem-solving exercises with good sound effects. The players - adults mostly between ages 18 and 29 (though some were in their 50s), largely Americans and almost all men - said playing the World War II versions of Medal of Honor or Call of Duty made them feel empathy for their countrymen. One wrote that, after playing the games, his "feelings have deepened in respect for those who have died."

Greg Goodrich told me that the "holy grail" of his medium was to get game play and fiction to interact in such a way that the fusion of the two would affect players in ways that movies and books cannot. "I think you have the potential to touch them in a more emotional and engaging way because they took part in it," he said. Penney's study suggests that military shooters, by grounding their stories in the lived experiences of American soldiers, have had more success in this realm than their designers are given credit for. Feeling empathy for real soldiers fighting in foreign wars is not the same as feeling it toward fictional characters, but without being moved by the fiction in these games, it's hard to see how players were subsequently moved to feel more humanely toward their fellow citizens.

At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, video games are taken more seriously as a form of entertainment than ever before, even by the priests of high culture. Nicholson Baker recently wrote in The New Yorker that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 might be "truer, realer than almost all war movies." Junot Diaz cheerfully reviewed Grand Theft Auto IV - the kind of game that once provoked a moral panic with every sequel - in The Wall Street Journal a couple of years ago. And in The London Review of Books last year, John Lanchester called the first Modern Warfare game, published in 2007, "more involving" than the Hollywood movies with which it might be compared. "The next decade or so is going to see the world of video games convulsed by battles between the moneymen and the artists," Lanchester wrote. "If the good guys win, or win enough of the time, we're going to have a whole new art form."

But the feeling among many video-game players is that the artists lost an important skirmish a little more than a year ago. In April 2009, the video game Six Days in Fallujah was canceled by its Japanese publisher, Ko_nami, in the very same month that the game's development was announced to the public. Six Days in Fallujah had been billed as an "interactive documentary" about the second battle of Fallujah in 2004. In addition to working with actual Marines who fought in Fallujah, the game's developers said they were talking to Iraqis who lived through the battle - both civilians and insurgents.

Peter Tamte, the president of Atomic Games, the North Carolina-based studio that was developing Six Days in Fallujah for Ko_nami before it was canceled, told me this summer that "the heart of the controversy that caused Konami to pull out of the project" was the combination of "the stereotypes that are associated with the word 'game' and the incompatibility of that with the word 'Iraq.' "

Read Omohundro, the captain of a Marine company that fought in Fallujah, served as a consultant on the game. "It's very important to have the enemy's perspective of what's going on," he told me. "You have to understand the environment, and if you just see it from the American viewpoint, that's all you know."

Six Days in Fallujah proposed adding "a layer of moral ambiguity" to warfare that Jamin Brophy-Warren, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who now publishes Kill Screen, a magazine about video games, says he hasn't seen in other military shooters. Brophy-Warren says he was "kind of blown away" by the demo for Six Days in Fallujah that he saw last year in San Francisco during the annual Game Developers Conference. "There's an Iraqi who picks up a gun, and you don't know if he's an insurgent or not," he said. "Do you shoot him?"

Omohundro described the reaction from the public, especially from a group of mothers whose sons had been killed in action in Fallujah, as "blinded by fury." Beth Houck, the mother of David Houck, a Marine rifleman who was killed in Fallujah in 2004, told me that her objections to Six Days in Fallujah apply to Medal of Honor as well: despite the genre's claims to authenticity, military shooters do not show the toll the wars have taken on the homefront. "They don't show the heartache of family members who are left without a spouse, or a father, or a child who does not return," she said.

Omohundro says he is disappointed the game was never completed. A video game, he suggested, can portray combat in a way that is impossible to achieve in another medium. "In a movie, you don't get the opportunity to make decisions that have consequences," he said. "You simply watch what's on the screen that's in front of you."

The Marines that Six Days in Fallujah planned to portray would have been based on real people who fought in a real battle. The soldiers in Medal of Honor, on the other hand, are fictional characters. But some of them are inspired by the careers of real service members, men now working as consultants to the game who have experience in Special Operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere. On Father's Day, I met with three of them for brunch at the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey, Calif. They did not tell me their names and instead asked to be known by the handles - Coop, Dusty and Vandal - by which they are known inside Electronic Arts. They said they have done "extensive work in the two main theaters, and theaters outside of those as well," as Vandal put it. Greg Bishop, a retired lieutenant colonel who worked with the Medal of Honor team for two years as the Army's liaison to the entertainment industry, told me later that the men represented themselves accurately. Vandal and Coop said they came from a background in naval special warfare - meaning the most elite Seals - and Dusty is a former member of the Army Special Operations unit commonly known as Delta Force.

None of the three men would discuss their current work, but a Central Intelligence Agency contractor with the handle of Dusty is mentioned in the book "Jawbreaker," by the former C.I.A. field commander Gary Berntsen, as a participant in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. They did not sport beards or balaclavas and wore sunglasses only because we were sitting outside. They all wore taut T-shirts and jeans or khakis. Dusty brought his wife. They addressed one another openly by their first names.

The day before, Dusty sat for an interview for a promotional Web video for the game. In a nasal Georgia accent that was obscured, along with his face, when snippets of the interview were posted on the Medal of Honor site, Dusty talked about riding in a pickup truck from Jalalabad into the mountains of Tora Bora in December 2001. He stood on a ridge only about 3,600 feet from an Al Qaeda camp. He watched planes drop 675,000 pounds of bombs on the camp over the course of 72 hours.

But even a man who may have come painfully close to killing Bin Laden feels the need to look cool for a teenage child. "The reason it was important for me to be involved in the game was so I could impress my 19-year-old son," Dusty said. "He was like: 'You? They asked you? For your advice, Dad?' " More important, Dusty went on to say, "I want people to come away with an honest feeling of what it's like to be out there, doing some of that stuff."

At the Ritz-Carlton, Coop, Dusty and Vandal acknowledged that one of the things they asked the Medal of Honor developers to do was to make the game less realistic than its creators initially envisioned. In a document called "Faceless" that the consultants wrote and circulated to the Medal of Honor team when they first joined the project, the men explained that their cooperation was dependent on maintaining their community's reputation as silent professionals. "People want to know who these men are," they wrote. "With MOH" - everyone at E.A. calls Medal of Honor "MOH," pronounced like the Stooge or the bartender from "The Simpsons" - "they are going to get a little slice of that. However, a little slice is all they should get." At the men's behest, Medal of Honor refers to these elite members of the Special Operations community merely as "Tier One."

"They're selling authenticity and realism," said Coop, a thick man with a Boston accent; he looks not unlike one of the muscled space marines in Gears of War, a popular sci-fi video game. "We wanted to help bring that to the table," he said. "But we also wanted to make sure it didn't go too far."

Last summer, Goodrich showed the men storyboards for a game, with the title Medal of Honor: Anaconda, that would be something like a "Black Hawk Down" for Afghanistan: it would be based on the disastrous 2002 operation known as Anaconda, including the battle of Takur Ghar, in which Neil Roberts, a Navy Seal, fell out of a helicopter and was dragged away to his death by Al Qaeda fighters. The game "resembled very closely events overseas that involved friends of ours that had been killed," Coop said. "We thought it hit a little too close to home" and would "put a sour taste in our brothers' mouths."

That night, Goodrich told the men at dinner that he would excise the scene with Neil Roberts from the game and change the game into a work of historical fiction rather than a sort of docudrama. In Medal of Honor, when a helicopter is hit over the mountain of Takur Ghar, the men on board leap out and take the fight to the enemy. Goodrich says the consultants helped to make the game "authentic and plausible" rather than "accurate and realistic."

"There's nothing so close where it's a re-enactment," Coop said at brunch. "In my eyes, that would be wrong."

Not all soldiers are eager to endorse video games as a medium for helping audiences understand the nature of combat. As an Army platoon leader in 2002, Andrew Exum found himself in the Shah-i-Kot Valley, where he killed a man for the first time in his life and then found the gear of three dead Rangers who had been sent to try to rescue Neil Roberts. "I can tell you I'd probably be a little offended if things were exactly modeled on some of the things that happened during Anaconda," Exum, now a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told me. "Returning that gear to those guys who were in the First Rangers, it was a tough thing."

Exum emphasized that he is not outraged by Medal of Honor or any other military shooter. But he can't help, he says, being a little bit bothered by these games. "This is the thing," he told me. "Point 5 percent of this country actually fights in these conflicts." Nearly 80,000 Americans are deployed in Afghanistan, Exum said, while 2.2 million played Modern Warfare 2 on Xbox Live during a single day last fall. "There's something annoying that most of America experiences the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are actually taking place, through a video game," he said. Would he feel similarly, I later asked, if Americans were heading to a movie called "Medal of Honor" about Operation Anaconda? "I think there is a difference between being a participant and an observer," Exum replied in an e-mail.

All war fiction, granted, reduces combat to something less than what it is in reality. " 'The Iliad' trivialized war into something ancient feasters could listen to while they ate," Roger Travis, a classics professor at the University of Connecticut, wrote earlier this year on his blog about video games. But it does seem a fair critique to suggest that military shooters turn the classic description of war on its head, converting the experience into long periods of sheer terror punctuated by moments of boredom. "Real war's a lot more like 'Catch-22' than 'Black Hawk Down,' " one veteran told me. "No one would dramatize the real experience" of a platoon in Afghanistan "because it's too boring," he added. "How do you make a game out of drinking chai with an elder?"

The Onion actually gave this a shot last year, with a mock news broadcast about "Modern Warfare 3," described as "the most true-to-life military game every created, with the majority of game play spent hauling equipment and filling out paperwork." In this nonexistent game, the single-player campaign lasts "a record 17,250 hours."

To be fair, comedy is easy. Making video games is hard. Medal of Honor may not reinvent the first-person shooter, but some in the industry - including several who worked on Six Days in Fallujah - hope that its mere existence is a brave and incremental step that will pave the way for nonfiction approaches to war in the medium. A video-game documentary about Iraq or Afghanistan is inevitable, whether it is a Medal of Honor sequel, or Six Days in Fallujah, or another game altogether, Read Omohundro told me.

"I think that eventually it will be permitted," he said. "And if it becomes permitted, it will be accepted. It's just going to take a while."

Chris Suellentrop is an editor at the magazine. He writes frequently about video games.


6) Court Dismisses a Case Asserting Torture by C.I.A.
"A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that former prisoners of the C.I.A. could not sue over their alleged torture in overseas prisons because such a lawsuit might expose secret government information. ...Among other policies, the Obama national security team has also authorized the C.I.A. to try to kill a United States citizen suspected of terrorism ties, blocked efforts by detainees in Afghanistan to bring habeas corpus lawsuits challenging the basis for their imprisonment without trial, and continued the C.I.A.'s so-called extraordinary rendition program of prisoner transfers - though the administration has forbidden torture and says it seeks assurances from other countries that detainees will not be mistreated."
September 8, 2010

WASHINGTON - A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that former prisoners of the C.I.A. could not sue over their alleged torture in overseas prisons because such a lawsuit might expose secret government information.

The sharply divided ruling was a major victory for the Obama administration's efforts to advance a sweeping view of executive secrecy powers. It strengthens the White House's hand as it has pushed an array of assertive counterterrorism policies, while raising an opportunity for the Supreme Court to rule for the first time in decades on the scope of the president's power to restrict litigation that could reveal state secrets.

By a 6-to-5 vote, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed a lawsuit against Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., a Boeing subsidiary accused of arranging flights for the Central Intelligence Agency to transfer prisoners to other countries for imprisonment and interrogation. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the case on behalf of five former prisoners who say they were tortured in captivity - and that Jeppesen was complicit in that alleged abuse.

Judge Raymond C. Fisher described the case, which reversed an earlier decision, as presenting "a painful conflict between human rights and national security." But, he said, the majority had "reluctantly" concluded that the lawsuit represented "a rare case" in which the government's need to protect state secrets trumped the plaintiffs' need to have a day in court.

While the alleged abuses occurred during the Bush administration, the ruling added a chapter to the Obama administration's aggressive national security policies.

Its counterterrorism programs have in some ways departed from the expectations of change fostered by President Obama's campaign rhetoric, which was often sharply critical of former President George W. Bush's approach.

Among other policies, the Obama national security team has also authorized the C.I.A. to try to kill a United States citizen suspected of terrorism ties, blocked efforts by detainees in Afghanistan to bring habeas corpus lawsuits challenging the basis for their imprisonment without trial, and continued the C.I.A.'s so-called extraordinary rendition program of prisoner transfers - though the administration has forbidden torture and says it seeks assurances from other countries that detainees will not be mistreated.

The A.C.L.U. vowed to appeal the Jeppesen Dataplan case to the Supreme Court, which would present the Roberts court with a fresh opportunity to weigh in on a high-profile test of the scope and limits of presidential power in counterterrorism matters.

It has been more than 50 years since the Supreme Court issued a major ruling on the state-secrets privilege, a judicially created doctrine that the government has increasingly used to win dismissals of lawsuits related to national security, shielding its actions from judicial review. In 2007, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a similar rendition and torture ruling by the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va.

The current case turns on whether the executive can invoke the state-secrets privilege to shut down entire lawsuits, or whether that power should be limited to withholding particular pieces of secret information. In April 2009, a three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit adopted the narrower view, ruling that the lawsuit as a whole should proceed.

But the Obama administration appealed to the full San Francisco-based appeals court. A group of 11 of its judges reheard the case, and a narrow majority endorsed the broader view of executive secrecy powers. They concluded that the lawsuit must be dismissed without a trial - even one that would seek to rely only on public information.

"This case requires us to address the difficult balance the state secrets doctrine strikes between fundamental principles of our liberty, including justice, transparency, accountability and national security," Judge Fisher wrote. "Although as judges we strive to honor all of these principles, there are times when exceptional circumstances create an irreconcilable conflict between them."

Ben Wizner, a senior A.C.L.U. lawyer who argued the case before the appeals court, said the group was disappointed in the ruling.

"To this date, not a single victim of the Bush administration's torture program has had his day in court," Mr. Wizner said. "That makes this a sad day not only for the torture survivors who are seeking justice in this case, but for all Americans who care about the rule of law and our nation's reputation in the world. If this decision stands, the United States will have closed its courts to torture victims while providing complete immunity to their torturers."

Some plaintiffs in the case said they were tortured by C.I.A. interrogators at an agency "black site" prison in Afghanistan, while others said they were tortured by Egypt and Morocco after the C.I.A. handed them off to foreign security services.

The lead plaintiff is Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian citizen and legal resident of Britain who was arrested in Pakistan in 2002. He claimed he was turned over to the C.I.A., which flew him to Morocco and handed him off to its security service.

Moroccan interrogators, he said, held him for 18 months and subjected him to an array of tortures, including cutting his penis with a scalpel and then pouring a hot, stinging liquid on the open wounds.

Mr. Mohamed was later transferred back to the C.I.A., which he said flew him to its secret prison in Afghanistan. There, he said, he was held in continuous darkness, fed sparsely and subjected to loud noise - like the recorded screams of women and children - 24 hours a day.

He was later transferred again to the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where he was held for an additional five years. He was released and returned to Britain in early 2009 and is now free.

There were signs in the court's ruling that the majority felt conflicted. In a highly unusual move, the court ordered the government to pay the plaintiffs' legal costs, even though they lost the case and had not requested such payment.

Judge Fisher, who was a senior Justice Department official before President Bill Clinton appointed him to the bench in 1999, also urged the executive branch and Congress to grant reparations to victims of C.I.A. "misjudgments or mistakes" that violated their human rights if government records confirmed their accusations, even though the courthouse was closed to them.


He cited as precedent payments made to Latin Americans of Japanese descent who were forcibly sent to United States internment camps during World War II. But the five dissenting judges criticized the realism of that idea, noting that those reparations took five decades.

"Permitting the executive to police its own errors and determine the remedy dispensed would not only deprive the judiciary of its role, but also deprive plaintiffs of a fair assessment of their claims by a neutral arbiter," Judge Michael Daly Hawkins wrote.

After the A.C.L.U. filed the case in 2007, the Bush administration asked a district judge to dismiss it, submitting public and classified declarations by the C.I.A. director at the time, Michael Hayden, arguing that litigating the matter would jeopardize national security.

The trial judge dismissed the case. As an appeal was pending, Mr. Obama won the 2008 presidential election. Although he had criticized the Bush administration's frequent use of the state-secrets privilege, in February 2009 his weeks-old administration told the appeals court that it agreed with the Bush view in that case.

In September 2009, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. issued a new state-secrets privilege policy requiring high-level approval, instructing officials to try to avoid shutting down lawsuits if possible, and forbidding its use with a motive of covering up lawbreaking or preventing embarrassment.

The administration told the court that using the privilege in the Jeppesen Dataplan case complied with that policy.

Judge Fisher agreed that "the government is not invoking the privilege to avoid embarrassment or to escape scrutiny of its recent controversial transfer and interrogation policies, rather than to protect legitimate national security concerns."

Jeppesen Dataplan and the C.I.A. referred questions to the Justice Department, where a spokesman, Matthew Miller, praised its new standards.

"The attorney general adopted a new policy last year to ensure the state-secrets privilege is only used in cases where it is essential to protect national security, and we are pleased that the court recognized that the policy was used appropriately in this case," Mr. Miller said.


7) Pakistan: Drone Strike Kills Six
September 8, 2010

A drone strike killed at least six people in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday when it fired a missile at a house linked to a member of the Haqqani network, a militant group based in North Waziristan that often carries out attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan, intelligence officials said. The missile struck a house owned by Maulvi Azizullah in a village near Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan. The United States has reportedly carried out five drone strikes in North Waziristan in less than a week.


8) Final Sealing of Gulf Well Is Delayed Again
September 8, 2010

The final sealing of BP's stricken well in the Gulf of Mexico has been delayed again, the government said Wednesday, as engineers worked to better understand the well's condition.

"We're in a diagnostic mode," Thad W. Allen, the retired Coast Guard admiral who leads the federal spill response, said in a conference call from Washington.

A long section of drill pipe that engineers thought would be hanging from the original blowout preventer is instead down inside the well, Admiral Allen said, and technicians will try to remove at least some of it, a procedure known as fishing. He said that the earliest the final sealing operation could begin would be Tuesday, and that it would take about a week.

With the installation last week of a new blowout preventer having eliminated any threat of further leaks, there is no urgency in sealing the well permanently, Admiral Allen said. He said BP engineers, in consultation with government scientists, were now considering pumping more cement into the space between the well casing and surrounding rock in two ways: through a relief well as originally planned and through the existing well by punching holes in the casing.


9) BP Spill Report Hints at Legal Defense
September 8, 2010

WASHINGTON - BP spent months this summer trying to contain the gusher of oil on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. Now the company is trying to contain the legal and financial fallout from the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, and on Wednesday it released the results of an internal investigation that mostly pointed fingers at other companies.

Conducted by the company's safety chief, Mark Bly, and a team of about 50 made up mostly of BP employees, the inquiry was initiated almost immediately after the April 20 explosion that killed 11 and spilled almost five million barrels of oil into the ocean.

The 193-page report is part mea culpa, part public relations exercise, but mostly a preview of BP's legal argument as it prepares to defend itself against possible criminal or civil charges, federal penalties and hundreds of pending lawsuits.

The report deflects attention from BP and onto its contractors, especially Transocean, which owned the rig, and Halliburton, which performed cement jobs on the well. It also focuses less on decisions that BP made in designing and drilling the well than on what rig workers, from Transocean and Halliburton, did in the hours leading up to the blowout.

While it provides some new details about what occurred on April 20, the report is by no means definitive. Many questions remain, including why the blowout preventer failed, who within BP was responsible for key decisions and why more tests were not taken of the cement that should have blocked gas from leaking upward.

Though the report faults BP for its role in some smaller decisions that led to the explosion, it highlights as most important eight findings of fault, only one of which places blame on BP. That finding says that BP shared blame with Transocean for having misread pressure tests that foreshadowed the explosion.

Central to BP's legal strategy will be the need to rebuff claims that the company acted with gross negligence. The difference between gross negligence and negligence for BP, in this case, may be more than $15 billion in additional civil penalties under the Clean Water Act.

Toward that end, the report plays down BP's well design as a factor in causing the explosion.

Transocean, which is conducting its own investigation of the disaster, disagreed, arguing in a statement that well design had played a critical role in the accident and accusing BP of having made "cost-saving decisions that increased risk - in some cases, severely."

BP also used the report to point the finger at Halliburton for its work in cementing the well. Halliburton designed and pumped a cement seal that investigators have said may have allowed explosive natural gas to enter the well and rush up to the rig.

In a news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Bly denied that his company had cut corners or rushed work. BP relied on Halliburton for the design and application of the cement, he said, adding that his company should have monitored Halliburton's work more. "Halliburton should have done more extensive testing and signaling to BP that there were issues to think about and BP should have done a better job of ensuring that that happened," he said.

In a news release, Halliburton officials rejected this view.

"The well owner is responsible for designing the well program and any testing related to the well," company officials wrote. "Contractors do not specify well design or make decisions regarding testing procedures as that responsibility lies with the well owner."

One of the most important legal questions will concern the failed blowout preventer, which BP investigators did not have access to because it was only recently removed from the gulf floor.

Because the device was made by Cameron International, then bought by Transocean, BP may not the only company held accountable for its failure.

The report attributes the failure of the blowout preventer mostly to maintenance issues that would have been the fault of companies other than BP.

It does not address questions that might focus attention back on BP, like those concerning the blowout preventer's design, including the decision to use a single blind shear ram, essentially the last finger in the dike during a blowout. Numerous studies have shown that two blind shear rams are a safer option.

Among the report's most significant conclusions is a finding by investigators that the blowout came up the center of the pipe, not along the outside of the well casing, the area known as the annulus.

If true, the finding is significant because it reduces the importance of certain BP decisions that have been criticized as negligent.

One of them BP's decision to use a type of well casing that internal documents indicated the company knew was cheaper but riskier. Another such decision was BP's use of fewer centralizers - devices that are meant to keep the casing properly positioned - than experts typically recommend.

The report offers scant insight into how high the responsibility for the explosion goes within BP, why certain decisions were made and by whom - questions that will probably become important in the coming legal battles.

The report does not say why the crew failed to notice that the well was flowing until it was too late. It does not clearly explain why the blowout preventer shear ram failed to seal the well when it was eventually closed after the explosion.

Nor does it say why BP failed to follow its own internal guidelines, which called for further evaluation if the top of the cement was not 1,000 feet above the reservoir, as was the case with this well.

The report does, however, fault Transocean workers for failing to recognize and act on the flow of hydrocarbons into the well for more than 40 minutes until the hydrocarbons were in the riser and rapidly rising to the surface.

It also says that a liquid known as spacer fluid that was used in the process of displacing mud from the riser and replacing it with sea water might have gummed up the kill line and led to the misreading of an important pressure test on the well.

As the blowout began, the flow from the well was routed to a mud-gas separator after it reached the rig, causing gas to be vented directly onto the rig rather than diverted overboard, BP investigators found.

A number of other reports, including one from the Coast Guard and the federal minerals management agency, are expected in the coming months.

BP's report is unlikely to carry much weight in pending litigation or in influencing the Justice Department, which is considering criminal and civil charges related to the spill.

"The investigation team did not evaluate evidence against legal standards," BP said in the report's executive summary. "including but not limited to standards regarding causation, liability, intent and the admissibility of evidence in court or other proceedings.".

People interviewed for the report were not put under oath, the company's investigators did not record the interviews or produce transcripts of them, and interviewees were not asked "to review or endorse the notes taken."

BP made more than two dozen recommendations for preventing a future spill, including increasing oversight of contractors and changing how well tests are conducted.

One of the more surprising recommendations was for BP to reconsider its "high consequence drilling activities as a priority, starting with the Gulf of Mexico Exploration and Appraisal drilling team."

Reporting was contributed by John M. Broder in Washington, Henry Fountain and John Schwartz in New York and James Glanz in Iowa City.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: September 8, 2010

An earlier version of this article misstated the metric equivalent of 1,000 feet. It is about 305 meters, not 3,300.


10) Alabama: Execution Set for Man Whose Competency Is Questioned
September 8, 2010

A man whose lawyers contend he received inadequate legal counsel during sentencing and should have been classified as mentally retarded is scheduled to be executed Thursday. In January, the United States Supreme Court upheld the death penalty for the man, Holly Wood, 50, who confessed to shooting his ex-girlfriend while she slept. Defense lawyers argued that a court-appointed lawyer with less than a year of trial experience failed to tell jurors during sentencing that Mr. Wood is not mentally competent to be executed. His I.Q. has been found to be well below 70, the score that experts often consider the border for mental retardation. But Alabama, like many states, considers other factors, including performance tests and employment history in evaluating competence.


11) Judge Rules That Military Policy Violates Rights of Gays
September 9, 2010

The "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gay members of the military is unconstitutional, a federal judge in California ruled Thursday.

Judge Virginia A. Phillips of Federal District Court struck down the rule in an opinion issued late in the day. The policy was signed into law in 1993 as a compromise that would allow gay and lesbian soldiers to serve in the military.

The rule limits the military's ability to ask about the sexual orientation of service members, and allows homosexuals to serve, as long as they do not disclose their orientation and do not engage in homosexual acts.

The plaintiffs challenged the law under the Fifth and First Amendments to the Constitution, and Judge Phillips agreed.

"The 'don't ask, don't tell' act infringes the fundamental rights of United States service members in many ways," she wrote. "In order to justify the encroachment on these rights, defendants faced the burden at trial of showing the 'don't ask, don't tell' act was necessary to significantly further the government's important interests in military readiness and unit cohesion. Defendants failed to meet that burden."

The rule, she wrote in an 86-page opinion, has a "direct and deleterious effect" on the armed services.

The plaintiffs argued that the act violated the rights of service members in two ways.

First, they said, it violates their guarantee of substantive due process under the Fifth Amendment. The second restriction, the plaintiffs said, involves the free-speech rights guaranteed under the First Amendment. Although those rights are diminished in the military, the judge wrote, the restrictions in the act still fail the constitutional test of being "reasonably necessary" to protect "a substantial government interest."

The "sweeping reach" of the speech restrictions under the act, she said, "is far broader than is reasonably necessary to protect the substantial government interest at stake here."

The decision is among a number of recent rulings that suggest a growing judicial skepticism about measures that discriminate against homosexuals, including rulings against California's ban on same-sex marriage and a Massachusetts decision striking down a federal law forbidding the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage.

It will not change the policy right away; the judge called for the plaintiffs to submit a proposed injunction limiting the law by Sept. 16th. The defendants will submit their objections to the plan a week after that. Any decision would probably be stayed pending appeals.

The suit was brought by the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay organization. The group's executive director, R. Clarke Cooper, pronounced himself "delighted" with the ruling, which he called "not just a win for Log Cabin Republican service members but all American service members."

Those who would have preserved the rule were critical of the decision.

"It is hard to believe that a District Court-level judge in California knows more about what impacts military readiness than the service chiefs who are all on record saying the law on homosexuality in the military should not be changed," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative group. He called Judge Phillips, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, a "judicial activist."

As a candidate for president, Senator Barack Obama vowed to end "don't ask, don't tell." Once elected, he remained critical of the policy but said it was the role of Congress to change the law; the Justice Department has continued to defend the law in court.

In February, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, asked Congress to allow gays to serve openly by repealing the law. The House has voted for repeal, but the Senate has not yet acted.

Richard Socarides, a lawyer who served as an adviser to the Clinton administration on gay issues when the policy was passed into law, said the legal action was long overdue. "The president has said he opposes the policy, yet he has defended it in court. Now that he's lost, and resoundingly so, he must stop enforcing it."

The case, which was heard in July, involved testimony from six military officers who had been discharged because of the policy. One, Michael Almy, was an Air Force major who was serving his third tour of duty in Iraq when someone using his computer found at least one message to a man discussing homosexual conduct.

Another plaintiff, John Nicholson, was going through training for intelligence work in the Army and tried to conceal his sexual orientation by writing to a friend in Portuguese. A fellow service member who was also fluent in that language, however, read the letter on his desk and rumors spread throughout his unit.

When Mr. Nicholson asked a platoon sergeant to help quash the rumors, the sergeant instead informed his superiors, who initiated discharge proceedings.


12) Secret Tape Has Police Pressing Ticket Quotas
September 9, 2010

For nearly every New Yorker who has received a summons in the city - caught at a checkpoint monitoring seat-belt use, or approached by a small army of police officers descending on illegally parked cars - quotas are a maddening fact of life.

No matter how often the Police Department denies the existence of quotas, many New Yorkers will swear that officers are sometimes forced to write a certain number of tickets in a certain amount of time.

Now, in a secret recording made in a police station in Brooklyn, there is persuasive evidence of the existence of quotas.

The hourlong recording, which a lawyer provided this week to The New York Times, was made by a police supervisor during a meeting in April of supervisors from the 81st Precinct.

The recording makes clear that precinct leaders were focused on raising the number of summonses issued - even as the Police Department had already begun an inquiry into whether crime statistics in that precinct were being manipulated.

The Police Department's chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, did not respond Thursday to three e-mails and three phone calls requesting comments on the tape. He was sent extensive excerpts from the recording.

On the tape, a police captain, Alex Perez, can be heard warning his top commanders that their officers must start writing more summonses or face consequences. Captain Perez offered a precise number and suggested a method. He said each officer on a day tour should write 20 summonses a week: five each for double-parking, parking at a bus stop, driving without a seat belt and driving while using a cellphone.

"You, as bosses, have to demand this and have to count it," Captain Perez said, citing pressure from top police officials. At another point, Captain Perez emphasized his willingness to punish officers who do not meet the targets, saying, "I really don't have a problem firing people."

The recording is the latest in a series of audiotapes from the precinct that have raised concerns among community leaders and residents of the neighborhoods it covers, Brownsville and Bedford-Stuyvesant. Those Brooklyn residents contend that the tapes show a department fixated on the number of summonses and low-level arrests, and that the result is a pattern of harassment.

Critics say this is the flip side of CompStat, the Police Department analysis system that has been credited with bringing down major crimes but faulted as creating a numbers-driven culture.

Police officials have long denied the existence of a quota system, but they add that they do have "performance goals" they expect officers to meet.

A previous set of recordings of station-house roll calls was made in 2008 and 2009 by Patrol Officer Adrian Schoolcraft, who has filed a lawsuit against the department claiming retaliation after he reported accusations to the Internal Affairs Bureau.

Officer Schoolcraft accused supervisors in the precinct of manipulating crime statistics and enforcing ticket and arrest quotas, which are a violation of state labor law.

The accusations are at the center of a broad internal investigation of how the precinct recorded crime statistics. Amid the inquiry, Deputy Inspector Steven Mauriello, who had been the commander at the 81st Precinct, was transferred in July to a transit district in the Bronx.

The latest recording was made on April 1, as the internal inquiry was under way, and after some of Officer Schoolcraft's allegations had become public in The Daily News and The New York Post.

Inspector Mauriello invoked Officer Schoolcraft's name at the April 1 meeting, as he warned precinct leaders about "rats coming out of here wearing tape recorders."

The person who made the recording gave it this week to Officer Schoolcraft's lawyer, Jon L. Norinsberg, in an effort to show that Officer Schoolcraft, who has been suspended from the force, was not alone.

"He wanted to do anything in his power to support Schoolcraft, and I think this is his way of corroborating Schoolcraft's allegations," said Mr. Norinsberg, who said the new recordings would be used as evidence in his case. "It is evidence the quota system is ongoing. Subsequent to the public revelations that have taken place, it's business as usual in the N.Y.P.D."

At one point in the new tapes, Inspector Mauriello introduced Captain Perez, who the supervisor said was second in command, as someone who "wants his summonses."

"They're counting seat belts and cellphones; they're counting double parkers and bus stops," Captain Perez said, referring to types of low-level summonses typically tracked by the department's TrafficStat program. "If day tours contributed with five seat belts and five cellphones a week, five double-parkers and five bus stops a week, O.K.

"Your goal is five in each of these categories, not a difficult task to accomplish on Monday," he added. "If it's not accomplished by Monday, you've got to follow up with it on Tuesday. But there's no reason it can't be done by Thursday. So whatever I get by Friday, Saturday, Sunday is gravy. I'm not looking to break records here, but there is no reason we should be losing this number by 30 a week."

Losing by 30 a week refers to a decline in the activity as reflected in departmental CompStat reports, which tally the weekly summons totals and the year-to-date totals for every command, said the person who made the recording. He spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation and of risking his standing with people in the department.

Asked if the conversations were evidence of a quota, he said, "Absolutely," adding that he had seen evidence of it in several boroughs.

He added that his concerns about the precinct's integrity led him to begin recording meetings, well before he had ever met Officer Schoolcraft.

Roy T. Richter, the president of the Captains Endowment Association, said he did not believe that what Captain Perez, a member of his union, said "articulates a quota."

From several references in the new recording, and in a separate recording made after April 1 and given to Officer Schoolcraft's lawyer, it is clear that Inspector Mauriello and other supervisors were out to push underproducing officers - and punish them if they did not deliver.

"What I plan on doing - three cops are getting bounced to midnights, and three midnight cops are getting bounced to day tours," Captain Perez said in the April 1 meeting.

"I don't care about people's families, if they don't want to do their job," he said. "Their paycheck is taking care of their family. If they don't realize that, they're going to change their tour; they're going to start being productive if they want a tour that works for their family."

He explained how punishment for failure would proceed.

"After I bounce you to a different platoon for inactivity, the next thing is to put you on paper, start rating you below standards and look to fire you," Captain Perez said on the tape.

"I really don't have a problem firing people," he continued. "I don't need to carry you. So that's the attitude that you've got to sell to the cops."

At one point in the second recording, made after the tapes by Officer Schoolcraft were put online in May by The Village Voice, Inspector Mauriello told supervisors to get officers out of squad cars and onto the streets.

People in the community "think cops are on the take," Inspector Mauriello said. "I know it ain't true, but that's what they say: 'Man, I need help. I got drug dealers in front of my house, and they're in their car and they're not getting out, not moving them.' "

He also told supervisors not to emphasize specific numbers, even while pressing their officers for more activity. And at one point, he made clear the pressure he felt from his bosses.

"I'm going to get beat up," Inspector Mauriello said. "Everybody took a shot at me at CompStat, like a piñata last time, so I'm expecting that again."


13) Combat Game Goes Too Far for Military
"The lifelike simulations of combat are in part the product of a close working relationship between video game producers and the military. Game makers use access to military facilities and combat veterans to provide depth of detail. Recruiters, in turn, try to sell teenagers who grew up playing the games on the idea of signing up to experience the real thing. The games themselves can be found in stores on military bases and are wildly popular among service members. ...stores on Army, Air Force and Navy bases announced they would refuse to sell a soon-to-be-released combat simulation game, Medal of Honor by Electronic Arts...At issue is a feature in the game, set in post-Sept. 11 Afghanistan, that allows a user to become a Taliban fighter and attack American troops." [Perhaps, next, they will arrest and render as terrorists kids who choose to be Taliban fighters in the game!]
September 9, 2010

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. - Sgt. First Class Brian Hampton knows it is just a video game. But the details are unnervingly familiar: the uniforms, the weapons, even the military bases and desert towns where the action is set. Each time Sergeant Hampton, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, plays, his heart rate spikes, his breathing quickens and his muscles tense.

"It brings back a real reminder of what it actually felt like to be out there," Sergeant Hampton, 31, said Thursday.

That video war games, with ever-greater verisimilitude, provoke such a physical reaction makes the thought that some people might play at killing American soldiers all the more disturbing for some.

The lifelike simulations of combat are in part the product of a close working relationship between video game producers and the military. Game makers use access to military facilities and combat veterans to provide depth of detail. Recruiters, in turn, try to sell teenagers who grew up playing the games on the idea of signing up to experience the real thing. The games themselves can be found in stores on military bases and are wildly popular among service members.

But there was an unexpected rupture in that relationship when the organizations that run the stores on Army, Air Force and Navy bases announced they would refuse to sell a soon-to-be-released combat simulation game, Medal of Honor by Electronic Arts, one of the world's biggest video game publishers. (The body that runs the stores - known as PXs - for the Marines was still weighing whether to make the game available.)

At issue is a feature in the game, set in post-Sept. 11 Afghanistan, that allows a user to become a Taliban fighter and attack American troops.

"Out of respect to those we serve, we will not be stocking this game," Maj. Gen. Bruce Casella, commander of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which runs retail operations, said in a statement last week. "We regret any inconvenience this may cause authorized shoppers, but are optimistic that they will understand the sensitivity to the life-and-death scenarios this product presents as entertainment."

Here in the city that abuts Fort Leavenworth, where American flags line the streets and businesses are accented with the earth tones of camouflage uniforms, the decision provoked a mixed reaction among soldiers. Some said they supported it, characterizing the idea of Americans pretending to be Taliban fighters for fun as tasteless. Others suggested that the decision reflected a fundamental misunderstanding of the moral ambiguities embraced in video games and accused the military of censorship.

"It's a form of entertainment," said Sgt. Danny Waynes, 28, who served in Iraq. "I think it's wrong to blatantly censor something, whether it be a book, a movie or a video game."

Staff Sgt. William Schober, 28, said that he was a big fan of the previous versions of the game but that he found the new game insensitive.

"You know how many of my friends have been killed by the Taliban?" Sergeant Schober asked. "One of my friends was sniped in the head by them. That's something you want to have fun with?"

Medal of Honor was produced with the blessing and assistance of the military, which allowed Electronic Arts access to a mock Iraqi village used for training purposes at Fort Irwin in California. But an Army spokesman said that the Army was not aware that users would have the capability of fighting against United States troops and added that the review process would be more thorough in the future.

A spokesman for Electronic Arts said the company respected the decision but stressed that the game was intended to celebrate the role of American soldiers. He said that video games increasingly give users the options of embracing the role of bad guy during multiplayer showdowns (when people playing online can play against others online), noting that the last version of Medal of Honor, set in World War II, allowed players to fight against the Allied forces.

"Basically it's a cops-and-robbers dynamic," said the spokesman, Jeff Brown. "Someone has to play the bad guy."

Even some of those who supported the decision not to sell the games at military stores said they still planned to go to stores off base to buy a copy.

"I still might end up getting the game," Sergeant Hampton said during a lunch break, "but I won't play it like that."


14) Pentagon Plan: Buying [and destroy] Books to Keep Secrets
September 9, 2010

WASHINGTON - Defense Department officials are negotiating to buy and destroy all 10,000 copies of the first printing of an Afghan war memoir they say contains intelligence secrets, according to two people familiar with the dispute.

The publication of "Operation Dark Heart," by Anthony A. Shaffer, a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer and a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, has divided military security reviewers and highlighted the uncertainty about what information poses a genuine threat to security.

Disputes between the government and former intelligence officials over whether their books reveal too much have become commonplace. But veterans of the publishing industry and intelligence agencies could not recall another case in which an agency sought to dispose of a book that had already been printed.

Army reviewers suggested various changes and redactions and signed off on the edited book in January, saying they had "no objection on legal or operational security grounds," and the publisher, St. Martin's Press, planned for an Aug. 31 release.

But when the Defense Intelligence Agency saw the manuscript in July and showed it to other spy agencies, reviewers identified more than 200 passages suspected of containing classified information, setting off a scramble by Pentagon officials to stop the book's distribution.

Release of the book "could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to national security," Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess Jr., the D.I.A. director, wrote in an Aug. 6 memorandum. He said reviewers at the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and United States Special Operations Command had all found classified information in the manuscript.

The disputed material includes the names of American intelligence officers who served with Colonel Shaffer and his accounts of clandestine operations, including N.S.A. eavesdropping operations, according to two people briefed on the Pentagon's objections. They asked not to be named because the negotiations are supposed to be confidential.

By the time the D.I.A. objected, however, several dozen copies of the unexpurgated 299-page book had already been sent out to potential reviewers, and some copies found their way to online booksellers. The New York Times was able to buy a copy online late last week.

The dispute arises as the Obama administration is cracking down on disclosures of classified information to the news media, pursuing three such prosecutions to date, the first since 1985. Separately, the military has charged an Army private with giving tens of thousands of classified documents to the organization WikiLeaks.

Steven Aftergood, who directs the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, said the case showed that judgments on what is classified "are often arbitrary and highly subjective." But in this case, he said, it is possible that D.I.A. reviewers were more knowledgeable than their Army counterparts about damage that disclosures might do.

Mr. Aftergood, who generally advocates open government but has been sharply critical of WikiLeaks, said the government's move to stop distribution of the book would draw greater attention to the copies already in circulation.

"It's an awkward set of circumstances," he said. "The government is going to make this book famous."

Colonel Shaffer, his lawyer, Mark S. Zaid, and lawyers for the publisher are near an agreement with the Pentagon over what will be taken out of a new edition to be published Sept. 24, with the allegedly classified passages blacked out. But the two sides are still discussing whether the Pentagon will buy the first printing, currently in the publisher's Virginia warehouse, and at what price.

A Pentagon spokesman, Cmdr. Bob Mehal, said the book had not received a proper "information security review" initially and that officials were working "closely and cooperatively" with the publisher and author to resolve the problem.

In a brief telephone interview this week before Army superiors asked him not to comment further, Colonel Shaffer said he did not think it contained damaging disclosures. "I worked very closely with the Army to make sure there was nothing that would harm national security," he said.

"Operation Dark Heart" is a breezily written, first-person account of Colonel Shaffer's five months in Afghanistan in 2003, when he was a civilian D.I.A. officer based at Bagram Air Base near Kabul.

He worked undercover, using the pseudonym "Christopher Stryker," and was awarded a Bronze Star for his work. Col. Jose R. Olivero of the Army, who recommended Colonel Shaffer for the honor, wrote that he had shown "skill, leadership, tireless efforts and unfailing dedication."

But after 2003, Colonel Shaffer was involved in a dispute over his claim that an intelligence program he worked for, code named Able Danger, had identified Mohammed Atta as a terrorist threat before he became the lead hijacker in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. An investigation by the Defense Department's inspector general later concluded that the claim was inaccurate.

In 2004, after Colonel Shaffer returned from another brief assignment in Afghanistan, D.I.A. officials charged him with violating several agency rules, including claiming excessive expenses for a trip to Fort Dix, N.J. Despite the D.I.A. accusations, which resulted in the revocation of his security clearance, the Army promoted him to lieutenant colonel from major in 2005. He was effectively fired in 2006 by D.I.A., which said he could not stay on without a clearance, and now works at a Washington research group, the Center for Advanced Defense Studies.

Even before the Able Danger imbroglio, Colonel Shaffer admits in his book, he was seen by some at D.I.A. as a risk-taking troublemaker. He describes participating in a midday raid on a telephone facility in Kabul to download the names and numbers of all the cellphone users in the country and proposing an intelligence operation to cross into Pakistan and spy on a Taliban headquarters.

In much of the book, he portrays himself as a brash officer who sometimes ran into resistance from timid superiors.

"A lot of folks at D.I.A. felt that Tony Shaffer thought he could do whatever the hell he wanted," Mr. Shaffer writes about himself. "They never understood that I was doing things that were so secret that only a few knew about them."

The book includes some details that typically might be excised during a required security review, including the names of C.I.A. and N.S.A. officers in Afghanistan, casual references to "N.S.A.'s voice surveillance system," and American spying forays into Pakistan.

David Wise, author of many books on intelligence, said the episode recalled the C.I.A.'s response to the planned publication of his 1964 book on the agency, "The Invisible Government." John A. McCone, then the agency's director, met with him and his co-author, Thomas B. Ross, to ask for changes, but they were not government employees and refused the request.

The agency studied the possibility of buying the first printing, Mr. Wise said, but the publisher of Random House, Bennett Cerf, told the agency he would be glad to sell all the copies to the agency - and then print more.

"Their clumsy efforts to suppress the book only made it a bestseller," Mr. Wise said.


15) Budget Woes Hit Defense Lawyers for the Indigent
September 9, 2010

OZARK, Mo. - Some public defenders in Missouri say the stressed state budget is interfering with their ability to provide poor defendants with their constitutional right to a lawyer.

They say they are so overworked and underfinanced that they have begun trying to reject new cases assigned to them late in the month, when, they say, their workloads are already beyond capacity.

Concerns about a deteriorating, overwhelmed public defender system in this country have been around for decades, but they have ballooned recently as state budgets shrink and more defendants qualify for free legal counsel.

"This has been a problem in good economic times, and now it's only worse," said Jo-Ann Wallace, president and chief executive of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. "What you have is a situation where the eligible pool of clients is increasing, crime rates are potentially increasing, while the resources often for public defenders are going down."

Missouri's per capita spending on public defense ranks 49th in the nation (only Mississippi spends less), Ms. Wallace's group says. State officials say the defenders system, with its 570 employees, is expected to receive more than $34 million this year. The state public defender's office says a true solution would require 125 more lawyers, 90 more secretaries, 109 more investigators, 130 more legal assistants and more space - all of which would cost about $21 million a year - a seemingly impossible suggestion, given the fiscal climate.

In the meantime, they say, fiscal constraints are colliding with the requirement set forth in a 1963 Supreme Court decision, Gideon v. Wainwright, that poor people accused of serious crimes be provided with lawyers paid for by the government.

Last week, Jared Blacksher found his case sent to the Missouri Supreme Court - not over the accusations that he had stolen prescription pain pills and a blank check, but over the issue of whether the state's public defender system is in such dismal shape that it ought not be forced to represent him.

The public defender's office had pleaded with the judge, repeatedly, not to assign it Mr. Blacksher's case. It was just the latest example of public defenders, charged with representing the poor and indigent, saying they cannot take a case because they have too many already and not enough staff to handle them all. Public defenders in jurisdictions from Florida to Minnesota to Arizona have either sued over their caseloads or refused to take new cases.

The judge in the Blacksher case rejected the public defender's pleas not to be forced to take it. "It flies in the face of our Constitution," Judge John S. Waters told his Christian County courtroom here last month. "It flies in the face of our culture. It flies in the face of the reason we came over here 300 and some-odd years ago to get out of debtors' prison."

"I'm not saying the public defenders aren't overworked," Judge Waters said, but, "I don't know how to move his case and how to provide him what the law of the land provides."

But last Friday, the Missouri Supreme Court issued an order temporarily rescinding the assignment of public defenders in Mr. Blacksher's case, at least until the court can consider legal briefs on the question of the public defenders' latest demand to refuse cases.

Mr. Blacksher's case, which could now be delayed for several months, has become the center of a debate that long predates it in this state. To some, the signs of stress on the public defender system here have become overwhelming, even frightening: almost all the public defenders' 35 trial division offices lately carried caseloads that would require more than the total number of staff hours available in a month - in some cases, more than two times the hours available, said Cat Kelly, deputy director for the Missouri State Public Defender System.

"Missouri's public defender system has reached a point where what it provides is often nothing more than the illusion of a lawyer," an outside report asked for by the Missouri Bar concluded last year.

Yet some county prosecutors here are deeply skeptical of the defenders' complaints. With the state facing $550 million less in general fund revenues than a year ago, they say, defenders are no more burdened than the next department.

"They say this every year," said Ron Cleek, the prosecuting attorney in Christian County, which includes Ozark, adding that he wondered whether some at the defenders offices might "want to think about what time they come in and when they go home."

"We all work hard," Mr. Cleek said. "They just need to suck it up and get out there and get it done."

Missouri's state auditor has announced her office will examine the public defender system to determine whether it is, indeed, overburdened.

Around the country, the indigent are defended by a hodgepodge of systems and financing sources. In some places, private lawyers are appointed by judges; elsewhere, statewide public defender networks (like Missouri's) have been created. Other jurisdictions use some combination of methods.

The public defenders in Missouri and elsewhere all ultimately pose a larger question: How far can defenders be stretched before they no longer provide poor people with the legal help ensured by Gideon?

"Is someone in prison who might have been acquitted if we had had more resources?" Rod Hackathorn, the public defender for a three-county district that includes Ozark, asked the other day. "You don't know. I'm sure that it's happened, and I don't know who it has happened to. And that's the scariest part of this all."

Mr. Hackathorn's district is one of two in the state to begin announcing this summer that it was turning down cases, including Mr. Blacksher's. Nine others are taking steps to do the same.

So far, results for poor defendants are murky. In cases involving those not in custody, some judges have sidestepped the entire question, quietly advising defendants to wait for the start of a new month (and a fresh monthly caseload count) - at which point their cases will be assigned to a public defender once more. In more serious cases, like Mr. Blacksher's, judges have rejected the public defenders' claims of "unavailability."

Hours after the State Supreme Court's decision in Mr. Blacksher's case, Mr. Blacksher, who is charged with burglary and forgery, seemed oblivious to what had happened and mystified by his brush with the debate over public defenders.

From the Christian County Jail, where he has been held since July, unable to afford bail, Mr. Blacksher, 22, said he had heard nothing of the delay in his case and was still expecting to be called from his cell for a hearing - which had once been set for last Friday - on its merits.

Just a day earlier, he had met with his assistant public defender and had agreed, he said, to plead guilty in exchange for a prison sentence that would most likely run several months. So far as he knew, he said, the public defender was still his lawyer, and his hearing might come any minute.


16) E.P.A. to Study Chemicals Used to Tap Natural Gas
September 9, 2010

The Environmental Protection Agency sent letters to nine drilling companies on Thursday requesting detailed information about the chemicals contained in fluids used to crack open underground rock formations in the hunt for oil and natural gas.

The move is part of the federal agency's preparations for a long-term scientific study of the effects of the practice, known as hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," on drinking water and public health.

"Natural gas is an important part of our nation's energy future, and it's critical that the extraction of this valuable natural resource does not come at the expense of safe water and healthy communities," the E.P.A. administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, said in a statement.

The agency asked the companies to respond to its request within seven days and to voluntarily provide the information within 30 days, according to a copy of the letter provided by the agency.

"To the extent that E.P.A. does not receive sufficient data in response to this letter," the agency warned, "E.P.A. will be exploring legal alternatives to compel submission of the needed information."

Hydraulic fracturing has been used for decades, and the industry maintains that it is safe. But in recent years, environmental groups and community activists, pointing to inconclusive but sometimes compelling anecdotes of possible water contamination, have complained that the drilling practice is far too loosely regulated. Those complaints increased after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

In a 2004 study, the E.P.A. concluded that hydraulic fracturing was essentially safe, but critics quickly condemned that analysis as sloppy and politically motivated. Congress used that study as partial justification the following year to exempt hydraulic fracturing from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The current Congress passed legislation requiring the E.P.A. to re-examine the issue, and the agency is currently drafting a new study with an aim of publishing results by the end of 2012.

Most companies that make the fluids used in hydraulic fracturing have declined to disclose their formulas, arguing that the exact components are trade secrets.

Cathy G. Mann, a spokeswoman for Halliburton, one of those named in the E.P.A.'s announcement, said the company had not yet received the official request for data, but that it planned to fully cooperate with the agency.

"Halliburton supports and continues to comply with state, local and federal requirements promoting the forthright disclosure of the chemical additives that typically comprise less than one-half of 1 percent of our hydraulic fracturing solutions," Ms. Mann said by e-mail. "We view this both as a means of enhancing public safety, and as a way to engage the public in a straightforward manner."

In addition to Halliburton, the E.P.A. said that letters were sent to BJ Services, Complete Production Services, Key Energy Services, Patterson-UTI Energy, RPC Inc., Schlumberger, Superior Well Services and Weatherford International.

Stephanie Meadows, the upstream senior policy adviser for the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group representing oil and natural gas companies, took issue with the threat of legal action for noncompliance.

"I'm not sure how they would do that, or if they even have the authority to do that," she said. "I'm little disappointed with the threats, because I thought we'd made it clear all along that we want to be helpful."

The oil and natural gas industry has long maintained that hydraulic fracturing fluids are almost entirely a mixture of sand and water, with just trace amounts of chemical lubricants, thickeners and other compounds. None of the compounds come in contact with the water table, the industry says.

An E.P.A. spokeswoman said the agency would honor the companies' requests for confidentiality about their exact formulas unless it determined that "disclosure of the information is necessary to protect health or the environment against an unreasonable risk of injury."

The industry estimates that 90 percent of the more than 450,000 operating natural gas wells in the United States rely on hydraulic fracturing.

As part of its information gathering, the agency is also asking the companies to turn over any data they have on the potential health and environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing, information on the location of all sites where it has been practiced and the procedures for its use.

The E.P.A. has been conducting a series of public hearings on hydraulic fracturing, which has become a controversial topic in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and parts of western New York, where potentially huge reserves of previously unreachable natural gas have drilling companies angling for access.

Two days of hearings are scheduled to be held next week in Binghamton, N.Y. Organizers expect large crowds and major demonstrations both for and against natural gas development in the state.

The New York State Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that would block natural gas exploration using hydraulic fracturing until early next year, to allow for closer examination of its effects. The State Assembly is expected to take up the matter later this month.


17) Public Schools Face Lawsuit Over Fees
September 10, 2010

Public schools across the nation, many facing budget shortfalls, have been charging students fees to use textbooks or to take required tests or courses.

Now a civil liberties group is suing California over those proliferating fees, arguing that the state has failed to protect the right to a free public education. Experts said it was the first case of its kind, and could tempt parents in other states to file similar suits.

In the suit, to be filed in a state court in Los Angeles on Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California names 35 school districts across California that list on their Web sites the fees their schools charge for courses including art, home economics and music, for Advanced Placement tests and for materials including gym uniforms.

"We found that the charging of fees for required academic courses is rampant," said Mark Rosenbaum, the A.C.L.U.'s legal director in Southern California. The suit names two anonymous plaintiffs, both students attending high schools in Orange County; their parents also declined to be identified.

But other parents have been speaking out about the fees. Sally Smith, who has put three children through public schools in San Diego, including a daughter who is a high school senior there, said she has watched fees for uniforms and to participate in team sports rise for years. "All these fees were really taking a bite out of our budget, and our children lost the opportunity to participate in a lot of activities because we couldn't afford them," Ms. Smith said.

Since the late 1970s, courts in nearly every state have seen lawsuits arguing for education equity between rich and poor districts. And since the 1990s, lawyers representing low-income students have filed a string of so-called educational adequacy suits, arguing that states have not allotted enough money to provide an adequate public education, said Michael P. Griffith, a school finance analyst at the Education Commission of the States, a nonpartisan research center based in Denver.

"What's new here is that this is not about funding levels for education, but about whether districts are charging kids to get a public education," Mr. Griffith said. "That's a brand-new argument. I wouldn't be surprised to see groups in other states adopt the same line of reasoning."

In San Diego, one of the cities whose school system is cited in the suit, a grand jury investigated similar reports this year and concluded that the fees were prohibited under California law. Nonetheless, the grand jury said in a June report, "Student fees are charged in almost all district schools."

It listed examples: $1,833 for the cheerleading program at one San Diego high school, $180 for water polo at another high school and $400 for the wrestling program at a third school.

Mark Bresee, the general counsel for San Diego Unified School District, said in an interview that after some parents complained about the fees last year, he looked into it and concluded that some schools were indeed assessing improper charges. Mr. Bresee said he has tried to clarify the rules for the district's 180 schools.

He acknowledged that even now, some school Web sites that have not been kept up to date may suggest that students are required to pay fees impermissible under state law.

"The school's Web site pages are one of the problems we've had in this yearlong quest to get information out there and clean this up," Mr. Bresee said.

The district's Web site currently offers a detailed list of dos and don'ts for San Diego school principals.

May a school charge fees for uniforms for team sports? "No, a school must provide a free uniform to any student who is a team member," the Web site says. What about gym clothes? Charges for standardized physical education attire are permissible, but the school may not mandate that the clothing be bought from the school.

Permissible charges include those for optional attendance at school-sponsored activities, for food served to students, for replacing books lent to students that they fail to return and for art materials if students take home what they make.

Officials in several of the districts cited dispute those assertions. Chaparral High School in the Temecula Valley Unified district in Riverside County, for instance, is accused of requiring students to pay an examination fee to enroll in Advanced Placement classes.

Jeff Okun, an assistant superintendent, said that students could enroll in the classes at no cost, but that taking the A.P. test required paying a fee to the College Board.

"The fee and the class are two separate things," Mr. Okun said.

The lawsuit names Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as a defendant, arguing that it was his responsibility to crack down on school districts imposing illegal fees.

Matt Connelly, a spokesman for Mr. Schwarzenegger, said, "The administration is aware of the lawsuit and will review the complaint once it has been served on us."

Ian Lovett contributed reporting.


18) Study Cites Drone Crew in Attack on Afghans
"And an officer on the ground had told the Predator crew, which was based in Nevada, that his commander intended to attack the vehicles if their passengers were carrying weapons. ...And after the analysts noted that they had seen an adolescent in a larger group of men, the Predator crew and the officers on the ground "transformed the adolescents into military-aged males," General Otto wrote. ...General Otto wrote, the pilot 'had a strong desire to find weapons,' and this 'colored - both consciously and unconsciously - his reporting of weapons and children.'"
September 10, 2010

A Predator drone pilot played down two warnings about the presence of children before military commanders ordered a helicopter attack that killed 23 Afghan civilians traveling down a road in February, an Air Force investigation has found.

A report on the investigation, released Friday, said the pilot's mistakes "clouded the picture" and contributed to poor judgments by field commanders, who believed the vehicles being monitored were carrying Taliban fighters.

The attack inflamed tensions over civilian casualties and raised questions about the hazards of relying on remotely piloted aircraft to track people suspected of being insurgents.

The report, prepared by an Air Force general, concluded that while intelligence analysts had spotted either children or adolescents on live video provided by the drone, the crew flying the Predator had questioned whether they were innocent teenagers or "military-aged males."

The investigator, Brig. Gen. Robert P. Otto, said the Air Force had disciplined members of the Predator crew for failing to fully relay the warnings to the battle commanders. His report said the procedures for resolving such disagreements had "not kept pace" with the demands of the war and needed to be adjusted.

The attack, which also wounded 12 civilians, occurred Feb. 21 as an Army Special Forces team conducted operations near the village of Shahidi Hassas, in Oruzgan Province.

The Predator's video cameras were trained on the vehicles - a pickup truck and two sport-utility vehicles - to try to determine if they were carrying insurgents seeking to outflank the American forces. General Otto's report said intercepted communications had indicated that might be the case. And an officer on the ground had told the Predator crew, which was based in Nevada, that his commander intended to attack the vehicles if their passengers were carrying weapons.

While many critics are concerned that the remote-controlled nature of the drones makes errors more likely, the report indicates that subtle pressures to verify the troops' worst fears, as well as gaps in the military's intricate communications systems, were the main problems in the Oruzgan attack.

The Air Force report said that during the three and a half hours that the Predator tracked the vehicles, the intelligence analysts noted three times in a computer chat room that they had clearly spotted weapons among the people in the vehicles. They also said they saw possible weapons two other times.

And on each of these five occasions, the report said, the Predator pilot, who was not identified, relayed this information by radio to an officer with the Special Forces unit. But when the analysts, who have more training in interpreting video images, confirmed early in the tracking that they had seen two children near the vehicles, the pilot relayed only that there were "possible children," the report said.

And after the analysts noted that they had seen an adolescent in a larger group of men, the Predator crew and the officers on the ground "transformed the adolescents into military-aged males," General Otto wrote.

He concluded that the Predator crew "inserted 'possible' into the assessment because they had not seen the children" and "wanted to take time to be sure."

But in his desire to support the ground forces, General Otto wrote, the pilot "had a strong desire to find weapons," and this "colored - both consciously and unconsciously - his reporting of weapons and children."

Other officials said the intelligence analysts were not privy to the radio communications between the Predator crews and the ground forces, and they had long complained that they should be able to listen in to make sure that their findings were properly relayed. General Otto said the Air Force was now working on giving the analysts that access.

The 23 Afghans who died were all men, while the 12 wounded included women and children.

Army officers at command posts in Afghanistan also had access to all the warnings that the Air Force analysts posted in the chat room, and they were also supposed to relay them to the Special Forces unit. But the Army found that the most junior officer was on duty at the nearest operations center, while three more experienced colleagues were off duty and asleep. And the field commander called in the helicopter strike even though the trucks were moving away from the American forces.


19) Cuba: Castro Explains His Words
September 10, 2010

Fidel Castro said Friday that his recent comment that Cuba's economic model did not work was badly understood and that what he really meant was that capitalism did not work. Mr. Castro, speaking at the University of Havana, said his words had been misinterpreted by his interviewer, Jeffrey Goldberg of Atlantic magazine. Mr. Goldberg wrote in a blog on Wednesday that he had asked Mr. Castro, 84, if Cuba's model was still worth exporting to other countries. "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore," Mr. Castro told him. Mr. Castro confirmed that he said those words "without bitterness or concern." But, he said, "the reality is that my response means exactly the opposite." He continued, "My idea, as the whole world knows, is that the capitalist system now doesn't work either for the United States or the world, driving it from crisis to crisis, which are each time more serious."


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