Sunday, September 19, 2010



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

Anti-War & Anti-Racist Organizing Meeting
to Plan Protest on 9th Anniversary of Afghanistan War, Other Upcoming Actions
Sun. Sept. 19, 1pm
Centro del Pueblo, 474 Valencia St., San Francisco
A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
Act Now to Stop War & End Racism
2489 Mission St. Rm. 24
San Francisco: 415-821-6545

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


Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:




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


Anti-War & Anti-Racist Organizing Meeting
to Plan Protest on 9th Anniversary of Afghanistan War, Other Upcoming Actions
Sun. Sept. 19, 1pm
Centro del Pueblo, 474 Valencia St., San Francisco

The U.S./NATO War in Afghanistan is Escalating ... Colonial Oppression in Palestine is Intensifying ... The Occupation of Iraq is Continuing . . . U.S. Threats against Latin America are Growing ... The Pentagon Budget is the Most Massive in History ... Millions are Unemployed and Millions More Losing Homes, Jobs, Healthcare and Education ... Unions are Under Attack ... Youth, Especially from Black and Latino Communities, are Victims of Racist Police Violence ... Immigrants, Muslims are Being Scapegoated for the System's Crisis ...

Join us on Sunday, September 19 for a meeting to discuss and plan upcoming actions against war, racism and the attacks on working people. The dramatic escalation of the war in Afghanistan over the past 18 months has brought a sharp rise in casualties.

A particular focus of the meeting will be organizing a protest to mark the 9th anniversary of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, on Wednesday, October 6, 5 p.m. at Powell and Market Sts. in San Francisco, the same place where people gathered the night the war broke out in 2001.

We will hear updates from organizers of important upcoming activities including:
• New developments in the Local 2 Hotel Workers long battle for a new contract and to maintain healthcare benefits for 9,000 workers in San Francisco.

• Oct. 2: March on Washington called by the NAACP, unions and a wide range of organizations.

• Oct. 7: National Day of Action to Defend Education

• Oct. 23: Justice for Oscar Grant march & rally in Oakland initiated by ILWU Lo. 10.

In addition to other upcoming actions, we will begin discussing plans for a mass march and rally in Spring 2011. The weekend of March 19-20, 2011 will mark the 7th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

While the Obama administration has just held a series of PR ceremonies declaring the war in Iraq at an end, the war is not over - in fact, it appears to be intensifying.
Changing the name of the U.S. occupation to "Operation New Dawn," is just more spin. Even if they further reduce the number of U.S. troops in the country, Washington has no intention of leaving - not next year, not in 10 years - and will not leave until they are forced to. Iraq, like Afghanistan and Palestine, remains under brutal colonial occupation. The death and destruction caused by occupation is beyond description, but the determination to resist foreign domination remains strong.

At a time when the real U.S. unemployment/underemployment rate is over 20%, when millions of people have lost their homes, healthcare and pensions, when schools are shutting down and hundreds of thousands of teachers have been fired, the real U.S. military budget this year will exceed $1 trillion, that's $1,000,000,000,000, or about $32,000 per second!

The situation we face will not change until the people organize to make it change. Join us on Sunday, September 19 for this important organizing meeting! All are welcome.

Call 415-821-6545 for more info.

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

Make a tax-deductible donation to A.N.S.W.E.R. by credit card over a secure server,
learn how to donate by check.


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

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

Whereas, the 1934 General Strike was initiated after the murder of 2 strikers by police during the West Coast Maritime Strike; 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 the San Francisco Labor Council 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 by communicating their endorsement and the time and place of the rally to affiliated unions, area labor councils and community allies through Fax Blast and other means;

An Injury To One Is An Injury To All.


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




What's Going On In The Gulf?
"But remember, one of the world's top oil industry accident experts says that the well may never be killed.
I hope and pray that the relief well is successful. But if there were insurmountable problems in capping the well, do you think we would hear about it before the November elections?"
[There are several video's at this]
Thursday, September 16, 2010


Prof. says HOMELAND SECURITY confiscated samples and NOTES with inside info on dispersant

Science in the Gulf, NPR Science Friday, August 20, 2010:

Darren in College Station, Texas: I'm an adjunct professor here at [Texas] A&M

We were also in the Gulf and got thrown out.

We were testing a theory that the chemical conposition ofthe dispersant they wee using was causing the dispersant to sink. And we'd been there for approximately three days and federal agents told us to get out.

Federal agents said it was in the interest of national security.

They were Homeland Security officers.

They took all the samples we had and they also took some notes that we had, the theory we were operating upon was information that had been given to us by someone who worked in the plant that made that dispersant, and they took everything.

Cary Nelson, president, American Association of University Professors, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois: This is kind of an insane world we've entered into kind of the barring of reputable scientists from a public site who could contribute considerably to the knowledge we have.

Talk of the Nation: Dr D'Elia, have you head of other cases like that?

Dr. Christopher D'Elia, professor and dean, School of The Coast and Environment, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, La.: Yes I've heard of other cases.



(Scott Stringer, Manhattan borough president: "The entrance fee to live here is a million-dollar condo." - The New York Times, July 4)

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses,"

Said Emma Lazarus - but time passes,

And the poor go back to being wretched refuse

For which the condo captains have no use.

And so the needy are forced again to disperse,

To search for ill-lit tenements, or worse,

From which their outcast children may behold

The soaring towers built of glass and gold.

Leon Freilich


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) Amid Blight and Scavenging, 'Old G.M.' Plants Linger
September 14, 2010

2) 7 Civilians Killed in U.S. and Iraqi Raid
September 15, 2010

3) Record Level of U.S. Airstrikes Hit Afghan Militants
September 15, 2010

4) Racial Disparity in School Suspensions
September 13, 2010

5) Vegas drone trial makes history
posted by Jason Whited
Tuesday, Sep. 14, 2010 at 10:24 PM

6) Let's Have a Real Protest, Not a Democratic Pep Rally, on October 2nd
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
September 15, 2010

7) Poverty Rate Rose Sharply in 2009, Says Census Bureau
"For a single adult in 2009, the poverty line was $10,830 in pretax cash income; for a family of four, $22,050."
September 16, 2010

8) Rethinking the Process for BP Spill Claims
September 15, 2010

9) Selling the 'Stop' in 'Stop and Frisk'
September 16, 2010, 10:37 am

10) China Hinders U.S. Recovery, Senators Tell Geithner
September 16, 2010

11) From The Gulf Stream To The Bloodstream and Why What You're About To Read Is The Alarm Bell of The Pending Gulf Disaster
September 6, 2010

12) Relief Well Reaches Stricken BP Well
September 17, 2010

13) Clash Over Peru Irrigation Project Kills One
September 17, 2010

14) 30 Years Later, Freedom in a Case With Tragedy for All Involved
"A couple of years earlier, lawyers for the Innocence Project had received an application for help from Mr. Dixon through a corrections officer. The lawyers, pointing to studies that show the frequency of false confessions, requested a DNA test of the evidence from the rape kit."
September 16, 2010

15) Money for Prisons, Not for Social Services
By Haider Rizvi
September 16, 2010

16) After 5 Months, Hopes for Stricken Well's Quiet Death
"Mr. Patzek said he thought the formation might contain even more recoverable oil and gas, 'but whether it's 50 million or 100 million, that's still a pretty decent target,' with potential revenues in the billions of dollars."
September 18, 2010

17) Activists upset with Facebook
By: Josh Gerstein
September 18, 2010 07:07 AM EDT

18) What's Going On In The Gulf?
"But remember, one of the world's top oil industry accident experts says that the well may never be killed.
I hope and pray that the relief well is successful. But if there were insurmountable problems in capping the well, do you think we would hear about it before the November elections?"
Thursday, September 16, 2010

19) Cuba Resets the Revolution
September 18, 2010

19) BP Permanently "Killed" Gulf Macondo Well: U.S. Officials
September 19, 2010

20) The U.S.-China Exchange Rate Squeeze
September 18, 2010


1) Amid Blight and Scavenging, 'Old G.M.' Plants Linger
September 14, 2010

FLINT, Mich. - By day, hundreds of General Motors workers make pistons and other engine parts at a factory on this city's east side. By night, gangs of thieves have repeatedly looted empty G.M. plants on the same property, and have twice fired shots at security guards.

The scene at Flint North, as the complex of mostly closed factories is known, is a vivid reminder that the automaker's bankruptcy last year gave birth to two different G.M.'s - and that one of them is struggling in the shadow of the other.

When American taxpayers bailed out General Motors, the company was split, with the best assets going to the reorganized automaker of the same name. This new General Motors is selling cars, making money and preparing a public stock offering.

The least valuable assets, including the run-down factories in Flint, were left in the shell of the old G.M., now named the Motors Liquidation Company.

This company has filed a bankruptcy reorganization plan that lays out how it will clean up and sell off the dozens of unwanted pieces of what was once the world's largest automaker.

But the process is slow, and while plant closings have already cost jobs and tax revenue in many communities, the empty factories themselves are now becoming a burden.

"When General Motors closed shop in Flint, they just turned the lights off," said Chris Swanson, a captain with the Genesee County Sheriff's Department, which has made nearly two dozen arrests this year at the Flint North complex on charges of theft, assault with intent to murder and others.

Law enforcement officials say thieves have stripped tons of copper from the plants in Flint over the last year, but only last month, after shots were fired at an unarmed security guard, did G.M. hire off-duty sheriff deputies to patrol the area. Two nights later, someone fired at one of the deputies as well.

Fifty miles west of Flint, officials in Lansing Township have a different problem. They are still waiting for either company - G.M. or Motors Liquidation - to cart off mounds of rubble from two big plants demolished before bankruptcy. The sites are an eyesore, and an obstacle to redevelopment efforts, officials said.

"It has left us somewhat devastated," said John Daher, the township's supervisor.

Officials from Motors Liquidation would not comment for this article, beyond issuing a brief statement about their commitment to safety at the properties. "M.L.C. takes facility security very seriously," it said. "In collaboration with General Motors Co., M.L.C. has over the past year taken many steps to ensure the security of the facilities it owns, including in Flint."

The Motors Liquidation assets constitute the infrastructure of what could be a small automaker: four assembly plants, five engine plants and several factories that stamp out parts. It also owns warehouses, offices, parking lots and other real estate. Many of the properties are contaminated with industrial waste.

The biggest challenge for Motors Liquidation, the company said in its recent bankruptcy filing, is to fix the environmental problems so old facilities can be put up for sale. "It is nearly impossible to redevelop such properties for productive, job-creating purposes unless environmental remediation is complete," said one executive, Ted Stenger.

The disposal of the properties is being financed by taxpayers in the form of a $1.17 billion loan made by the Treasury Department. Most of that money, $836 million, will go toward the cleanup of about 90 plants in 14 states. The bulk of that work should begin by early 2011.

None of the Treasury loan has been repaid, and payments are not likely to happen until the cleanup efforts are completed and more properties are sold, which could take years.

In the meantime, many areas face a long, barren period of minimal activity at idle factories.

Two of the closed assembly plants have found buyers, and a third, in Shreveport, La., will continue to make cars for G.M. until its shutdown in 2012. But the fate of other factory sites is less clear, and may not be decided until the court accepts the bankruptcy reorganization plan, which could take several months.

Some of the facilities are still tangled in relationships with the new General Motors. Union workers at a closed stamping plant in Indiana, for example, have balked at a contract with a potential buyer because many of the workers might have rights to transfer to other G.M. factories, in jobs that would pay better.

In Moraine, Ohio, Representative Michael R. Turner is asking the Obama administration to discourage Motors Liquidation from selling that city's closed G.M. plant to anyone who would tear it down and sell it for scrap. Ron Bloom, a former member of the administration's automotive task force, responded that the Treasury Department had stressed "the importance of supporting redevelopment and job creation," according to a letter Mr. Turner released Tuesday.

So far, the situation at Flint North has been the messiest.

The complex is the last vestige of the enormous Buick City manufacturing center that in the 1980s was among the largest automotive production sites in the world. The six plants at Flint North had been phased out by G.M. in stages.

Ownership of Flint North was ceded to Motors Liquidation in July 2009, though in a special arrangement, G.M. kept making pistons and other engine parts at one of the factories. The empty plants were essentially abandoned in their as-is condition on their last day of production. "They still have personal goods on the table," said Captain Swanson of the sheriff's department. "There's still ceiling fans going."

Shortly afterward, thieves began to systematically strip copper - used in heating, cooling and other systems - from one of the nearby vacant plants. Authorities said that a ring of thieves hit the building night after night over a three-month period, taking out more than 150,000 pounds of copper.

The gang would load the metal on flatbed rail cars - owned and once used by G.M. - and roll the cars to a hole in a fence, where the copper was put on trucks and then sold to scrap dealers.

In March, the authorities arrested 11 people and estimated the value of the stolen copper at more than $1 million. "They were trying to steal every piece of copper that they could," said the Genesee County prosecutor, David S. Leyton.

But even after the arrests, no additional security was posted at Flint North until August, when thieves returned and the arrests resumed. Seven adults and four juveniles were arrested, including one person who had been convicted and sentenced to probation for participating in the earlier burglaries, the police said.

Since the latest intrusions, Motors Liquidation and G.M. said they had hired more armed guards to patrol the complex. The 400 workers at the only functioning plant, meanwhile, will either be transferred out of the plant or laid off by November.


2) 7 Civilians Killed in U.S. and Iraqi Raid
September 15, 2010

BAGHDAD - Seven Iraqi civilians were killed near the western city of Falluja on Wednesday during an early morning raid conducted by American and Iraqi security forces, officials said.

Four of the dead were brothers between the ages of 10 and 18, according to the Iraqi police and residents of the area.

The United States military in Iraq said in an e-mail on Wednesday afternoon that the Iraqi military had "planned and led" the "joint counterterrorism" operation.

The raid underscored the continuing presence of American service members in security operations, even after the United States declared an official end to combat on Aug. 31. An American military spokeswoman Wednesday directed inquiries to the government of Iraq.

Among the approximately 50,000 United States troops remaining in Iraq are about 4,500 Special Forces troops who take part in raids with specialized Iraqi security force units. The operations typically pursue those suspected of being leading members of the insurgency or who belong to other armed groups.

It is not clear whether the dead were the targets of the raid or how they were killed. Four other people were wounded during the operation.

Officials in Iraq's Ministry of Defense and in the prime minister's office did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Iraqi police said that the raid started at about 1 a.m. Wednesday in the village of Hay Jibel, about 40 miles west of Baghdad in Anbar Province.

At least four American helicopters provided support, police officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

In addition to the four brothers who were killed, police officials said that a man who had been a colonel in the Iraqi Army under Saddam Hussein had also died. The police officials said they believe the man, whose identity has not been released, may have been the original target of the raid.

Residents of Hay Jibel described a chaotic scene in which security force members moved through the neighborhood in the darkness, firing at people who represented no threat.

"I was sleeping when I was awakened by gunfire and explosions," said a resident who identified himself only by his first name, Mohammed, because he feared reprisal if Iraqi security force members knew who he was. "I went out to see what was happening and they shot at me. They missed, but I went back inside and stayed there."

Abdul Satar, 30, said he was sleeping inside his house with his wife and two children when he also heard noises.

"I opened the door and there were flashlights shining on me," he said. "They were Iraqi and American soldiers with a dog. They released the dog and it bit me on my left leg and right hand. They forced me to take off all my clothes and then made my children take their clothes off as well." Mr. Satar said the soldiers allowed his wife to stay dressed, but ordered the family to remain outdoors until the operation concluded.

Iraqi police, who said they had been barred from taking part in the raid, said the joint security force members took four of the seven bodies before they departed at about 7 a.m.

Qasim Mohammed Abed, the governor of Anbar Province, said he had been angered by how the raid was conducted and blamed both the American and Iraqi militaries for the deaths.

"We did not know about this operation - they only informed us that there was going to be a small raid in which they would arrest someone," he said. "We did not expect this to happen."

Mr. Abed said he had been told by witnesses that the deaths were unjustified.

"The security forces behaved without morals," the governor said. "They say that people there resisted them, but it is not true. No one resisted them. They just came to bring trouble to this province."

Near the northern city of Mosul on Wednesday, nine Iraqi soldiers were killed and seven other people were wounded after the minibus carrying them struck a roadside bomb, the Iraqi police said.

Iraqi employees of The New York Times contributed reporting from Anbar and Nineveh Provinces.


3) Record Level of U.S. Airstrikes Hit Afghan Militants
September 15, 2010

Filed at 12:59 a.m. ET

MIR ALI, Pakistan (AP) -- Drone aircraft unleashed a missile attack in a lawless tribal region on the Afghan border Wednesday, keeping up the most intense period of U.S. strikes in Pakistan since they began in 2004, intelligence officials said.

The stepped-up campaign that included Wednesday's strike is focused on a small area of farming villages and mountainous, thickly forested terrain controlled by the Haqqani network, a ruthless American foe in Afghanistan, U.S. officials say. There is some evidence the network is being squeezed as a result, one official said.

In the latest strike, US missiles killed 12 people in a house in Dargah Mandi, 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) west of the main town of Miran Shah in North Waziristan, Pakistani intelligence officials told The Associated Press.

American officials said the airstrikes were designed to degrade the Haqqanis' operations on the Pakistani side of the border, creating a ''hammer-and-anvil'' effect as U.S. special operations forces carry out raids against their fighters across the frontier in Afghanistan. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing classified operations.

The missiles have killed more than 60 people in 13 strikes since Sept. 2 in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan, according to an Associated Press tally based on Pakistani intelligence officials' reports. Many struck around Datta Khel, a town of about 40,000 people that sits on a strategically vital road to the Afghan border.

The border region has long been a refuge for Islamist extremists from around the world. Osama Bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders are believed to have fled there after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials said most of this month's strikes have targeted the forces of Jalaluddin and Sirajuddin Haqqani, a former anti-Soviet commander and his son who are now battling American forces in eastern Afghanistan.

The raids targeting the group in Afghanistan are led mainly by the Joint Special Operations Command. Such raids across Afghanistan are now more frequent than at any previous time in the nearly nine-year war, with some 4,000 recorded between May and August as special operations numbers were boosted by troops arriving from Iraq.

The raids have focused on the Haqqanis for the last two years, officials said.

A senior American intelligence official in Afghanistan said the U.S. had reports that Haqqani commanders were under pressure from the operations.

''We're seeing from some of the raids that some of the more senior guys are trying to move back into Pakistan,'' the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence.

The official cautioned that the Haqqanis often employ military disinformation. And so far, the official said, neither the special operations raids nor the missile strikes on the Pakistan side of the border appear to have degraded the militants' ability to fill the ranks of the slain.

But sometimes, the U.S. official said, the replacements are far less competent than their predecessors.

The Pakistan army has launched several offensives in the tribal regions over the last 2 1/2 years, but has not moved in force into North Waziristan. The U.S. is unable to send ground forces into Pakistani territory, and must rely on the drone strikes.

A major offensive in North Waziristan became even less feasible last month after massive flooding forced tens of thousands of Pakistani soldiers to focus exclusively on rescuing stranded victims, redirecting flood waters and rebuilding damaged infrastructure.

Last month also saw a lull in U.S. airstrikes, until an attack on Sept. 2 began days of repetitive missile attacks.

U.S. officials did not discuss specific reasons for the surge of airstrikes this month. A former American military official said poor weather often hampers drone operations.

Until now, the highest number of airstrikes inside Pakistan in a single month had been the 11 launched in January 2010 after a suicide bomber killed a Jordanian intelligence officer and seven CIA employees at a base in Afghanistan.

''Usually when there's this type of intensity in strikes, they're going after something specific,'' Bill Roggio, of the Long War Journal, which tracks the strikes, said of this month's attacks. ''They hit it, watch what moves, then hit it again. It becomes an intel feedback loop,'' that fuels further strikes, he said.

U.S. officials do not publicly acknowledge the missile strikes but have said privately that they have killed several senior Taliban and al-Qaida militants and scores of foot soldiers in a region largely out of the control of the Pakistani state.

Critics say innocents are also killed, fueling support for the insurgency.

A Pakistani intelligence official told the AP that ''most of the fighters killed in recent weeks are from the Haqqani network,'' adding that Arab militants had also been killed. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

''We live in constant fear,'' said Munawar Khan, 28, who lives in the nearby village of Darpa Khel. ''We have missile strikes every day.''

U.S. forces began targeting Pakistan's tribal regions with aerial drones in 2004 but the number of strikes soared in 2008 and has been steadily climbing since then, with nearly 70 attacks this year, according to an AP tally.

There has been little evident public or official outrage inside Pakistan in the wake of September's airstrikes, but the Pakistani government says it has not altered its long-standing objection to such attacks, which have also targeted Pakistani Taliban militants who carry out attacks inside the country.

''The position of the army and government is the same, that it harms more than it helps,'' said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, an army spokesman.

The Haqqanis worked closely with Pakistan's intelligence service during the anti-Soviet war and have not waged attacks inside Pakistan.

In Afghanistan, however, they often use suicide bombs in civilian areas and do not let suicide bombers back out of an attack, unlike the Afghan Taliban, the U.S. intelligence official told AP.

There's some disagreement in U.S. intelligence ranks as to whether the Haqqanis are part of the Taliban, or simply allied with them in what an intelligence official in the U.S. called ''a marriage of convenience.''

Many in the Haqqani leadership have roles as Taliban commanders. But officials say the Haqqanis seek dominion only over the areas in which they hold sway -- Afghanistan's mountainous eastern provinces of Paktika, Paktia, and Khost, stretching to the outskirts of the capital, Kabul. The Taliban, by contrast, want to take over the whole country. The two ruled those areas side by side when the Taliban governed Afghanistan -- though Jalaluddin Haqqani was subservient to Taliban ruler Mullah Omar and did not have independence.


Dozier reported from Kabul. Associated Press writers Michael Weissenstein and Asif Shahzad in Islamabad and Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan contributed to this report.


4) Racial Disparity in School Suspensions
September 13, 2010

In many of the nation's middle schools, black boys were nearly three times as likely to be suspended as white boys, according to a new study, which also found that black girls were suspended at four times the rate of white girls.

School authorities also suspended Hispanic and American Indian middle school students at higher rates than white students, though not at such disproportionate rates as for black children, the study found. Asian students were less likely to be suspended than whites.

The study analyzed four decades of federal Department of Education data on suspensions, with a special focus on figures from 2002 and 2006, that were drawn from 9,220 of the nation's 16,000 public middle schools.

The study, "Suspended Education: Urban Middle Schools in Crisis," was published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization.

The co-authors, Daniel J. Losen, a senior associate at the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Russell Skiba, a professor at Indiana University, said they focused on suspensions from middle schools because recent research had shown that students' middle school experience was crucial for determining future academic success.

One recent study of 400 incarcerated high school freshmen in Baltimore found that two-thirds had been suspended at least once in middle school.

Federal law requires schools to expel students for weapons possession and incidents involving the most serious safety issues. The authors said they focused on suspensions, which often result from fighting, abusive language and classroom disruptions, because they were a measure that school administrators can apply at their discretion.

Throughout America's public schools, in kindergarten through high school, the percent of students suspended each year nearly doubled from the early 1970s through 2006, the authors said, an increase that they associate, in part, with the rise of so-called zero-tolerance school discipline policies.

In 1973, on average, 3.7 percent of public school students of all races were suspended at least once. By 2006, that percentage had risen to 6.9 percent.

Both in 1973 and in 2006, black students were suspended at higher rates than whites, but over that period, the gap increased. In 1973, 6 percent of all black students were suspended. In 2006, 15 percent of all blacks were suspended.

Among the students attending one of the 9,220 middle schools in the study sample, 28 percent of black boys and 18 percent of black girls, compared with 10 percent of white boys and 4 percent of white girls, were suspended in 2006, the study found.

The researchers found wide disparities in suspension rates among different city school systems and even among middle schools in the same district.

Using the federal data, they calculated suspension rates for middle school students, broken down by race, in 18 large urban districts.

Two districts showed especially high rates. In Palm Beach County, Fla., and Milwaukee, more than 50 percent of black male middle school students were suspended at least once in 2006, the study showed.

Jennie Dorsey, director of family services in the Milwaukee district, said the district had recognized that its suspension rate was too high and had begun a program aimed at changing students' behavior without suspensions.

The program has brought only modest reductions in the suspension rate so far, but Ms. Dorsey predicted sharper reductions over several years.

Nat Harrington, a spokesman for the Palm Beach County district, disputed the study's statistics, but acknowledged that "all the data show an unacceptably high number of black students being suspended." He said the district was using several strategies to reduce suspensions.


5) Vegas drone trial makes history
posted by Jason Whited
Tuesday, Sep. 14, 2010 at 10:24 PM

Fourteen anti-war activists may have made history today in a Las Vegas courtroom when they turned a misdemeanor trespassing trial into a possible referendum on America's newfound taste for remote-controlled warfare.

The so-called Creech 14, a group of peace activists from across the country, went on trial this morning for allegedly trespassing onto Creech Air Force Base in April 2009.

From the start of today's trial, prosecutors did their best to keep the focus on whether the activists were guilty of allegations they illegally entered the base and refused to leave as a way to protest the base's role as the little-known headquarters for U.S. military operations involving unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, over Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

But a funny thing happened on the way to prosecutors' hope for a quick decision.

Appearing as witnesses for the Creech 14 today were some of the biggest names in the modern anti-war movement: Ramsey Clark, former U.S. attorney general under President Lyndon Johnson; Ann Wright, a retired U.S. Army colonel and one of three former U.S. State Department officials who resigned on the eve of the 2003 invasion of Iraq; and Bill Quigley, legal director for the New York City-based Center for Constitutional Rights.

By the time those three witnesses finished their testimony as to why they believed the activists had protested at the base, they'd managed to convince Las Vegas Township Justice Court Judge William Jansen to delay his verdict for four months - and had managed clearly to frustrate prosecutors.

For the better part of the day, Clark, Wright and Quigley testified under direct questioning from witnesses and a surly cross-examination from the Clark County district attorney's office.

Each witness spoke eloquently, and at length, about the need for nonviolent civil disobedience in the face of criminal actions by the U.S. government - which is how most in today's anti-war movement and many international observers have characterized America's drone war.

"[People] are allowed to trespass if it's for the greater good - and there are certainly exceptions [to the law] when there is an emerging, urgent need," said Quigley, while on the stand.

By all accounts, the Creech 14 trial is the first time in history an American judge has allowed a trial to touch on possible motivations of anti-drone protesters.

No one knows how Jansen will ultimately rule, but most took it as a good sign when, at the end of the day's proceedings, applause flooded the courtroom and Jansen sent the Creech 14 - all of them part of a robust Catholic anti-war movement - on their way by echoing the words of Jesus Christ with his call of "Go in peace!"

Look for the full story in the Sept. 23 edition of Las Vegas CityLife.


6) Let's Have a Real Protest, Not a Democratic Pep Rally, on October 2nd
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
September 15, 2010

"The character and importance of the 'One Nation' rally will be determined by the demands that are made on Power, most especially on the White House."

The October 2 rally in Washington to demand jobs and "stop moving money out of education and into wars and prisons," in the words of NAACP president Ben Jealous, promises to be huge. SEIU Local 1199, a co-initiator of the event along with the NAACP, has booked 500 busses from New York City, alone, and thousands more will be rolling into the nation's capital from around the country. Participating organizations include nearly the entire spectrum of labor, social justice and peace formations in the United States.

But big does not necessarily mean historic, or even useful. The character and importance of the "One Nation" rally will be determined by the demands that are made on Power, most especially on the White House, where one man wields the power of an entire branch of government, is the leader of the majority party in both Houses of Congress, and commands national and global attention by virtue of the presidential "bully pulpit." A Washington rally for jobs, justice and peace that makes no specific demands on President Obama would amount to a capitulation to the status quo on all counts, no matter if half a million attended. And if the event is allowed to become wholly a pep rally for Obama and Democrats, then that will tell the world that real movements for laboring people, social justice and peace do not currently exist in the United States - just a bunch of Democratic Party groupies with delusions of relevance to the burning issues of the day.

"Tremendous pressures that have been brought to bear by the administration to avoid embarrassing the president and his party on the eve of congressional elections."

That's why, mindful of the tremendous pressures that have been brought to bear by the administration to avoid embarrassing the president and his party on the eve of congressional elections, strong majorities of the United National Anti-War Conference (UNAC), held in Albany, New York, in late July, endorsed a series of demands to be put forward at the October 2 rally, and beyond. These demands will be reflected in the placards carried by thousands of demonstrators concentrated in the UNAC contingent at the "One Nation" rally:

* $Trillions for jobs and education, not wars and bank bailouts.

* Bring the troops, mercenaries and war dollars home from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, now!

* Stop government attacks on unions, Muslims, immigrants and people of color. Civil liberties for all.

* End U.S aid to Israel. Billions for jobs, not occupation. End the siege of Gaza. Free Palestine!

The Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations is in agreement with the four demands, and will rally alongside the UNAC contingent on the Washington Mall. Black is Back will also demand an end to the ongoing wars waged against Black people here at home, through mass Black incarceration, police terror and constant economic aggression against Black communities.

"Any peace movement worthy of the name must demand withdrawal NOW."

There is no point in going to a demonstration for jobs, social justice and peace if you are not going to make substantive demands. It is the Obama administration that is waging wars of aggression in Asia and Africa; the Congress - including, most of the time, most Democrats -funds these wars. President Obama always claims to be in the process of ending his wars, even as he escalates, just as did George Bush. Any peace movement worthy of the name must demand withdrawal NOW.

The NAACP and labor say they want to see money moved "from war to jobs and education." That's what we used to call a "peace dividend." But there is no hint of peace in Obama's rhetoric of open-ended warfare to infinity, and no evidence of any military scale-back that could yield a peace dividend. The dividend can only come with the end of imperial warfare.

By far the biggest share of the bank bailouts that ultimately netted Wall Street $12 to $14 trillion of the people's money were finagled by the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury, both directly or indirectly accountable to Barack Obama. If you have any complaints about the bailouts, lay them at Obama's doorstep, where they belong. Demand he stop the wealth transfers to Wall Street, NOW!

"If you have any complaints about the bailouts, lay them at Obama's doorstep, where they belong."

It is the government under President Obama that entraps and frames Muslims (largely African Americans) on terror charges, harries and deports more undocumented immigrants than did the Bush regime, fails to defend working people's rights to organize, and maintains what is arguably the most thoroughly racist criminal justice system on the face of the planet. Obama is the executive in charge. Demand in plain language that he use all his powers to end the injustices.

The plank on Israel was the most hotly contested of the Albany conference, and caused a small minority of attendees and participating organizations to leave the United National Anti-War Committee. Too damn bad. It is long past time that the American anti-war movement make a decisive break with Israel, as the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) did way back in 1967. An anti-war movement that seeks to rein in its own government's aggressions in the world but fails to condemn apartheid Israel's ceaseless violations of international law and crimes against humanity since the birth of the state, has no credibility.

The Obama administration's water carriers within the October 2 rally's sponsoring organizations will doubtless seek to transform the occasion into a campaign event for the Democrats. It is up to the crowd to demonstrate righteous discontent with the powers-that-be, and call the malefactors out by name. If that's your preference, hang with UNAC and Black is Back. You'll identify them by their clear and insistent demands - which is how it should be.


7) Poverty Rate Rose Sharply in 2009, Says Census Bureau
"For a single adult in 2009, the poverty line was $10,830 in pretax cash income; for a family of four, $22,050."
September 16, 2010

Forty-four million people, or one in seven residents, lived in poverty in the United States in 2009, an increase of 4 million from the year before, the Census Bureau reported on Thursday.

The poverty rate climbed to 14.3 percent - the highest since 1994 - from 13.2 percent in 2008. The rise in poverty was steepest for children, with one in five residents under 18 living below the official poverty line, the bureau said.

The report provides the most detailed picture yet of the impact of the recession and unemployment on incomes, especially at the bottom of the scale. It also found that the temporary increases in benefits in last year's stimulus bill eased the burdens on millions of families.

For a single adult in 2009, the poverty line was $10,830 in pretax cash income; for a family of four, $22,050.

The number of residents without health insurance in 2009 climbed to 51 million from 46 million in 2008. The share of children who were uninsured fell, though, reflecting an expansion of government health programs covering low-income children. The share of uninsured adults rose, as a long-term decline continued in the number who have private health insurance. Health experts expect the share of residents without health coverage to decline in coming years as the health-care overhaul adopted by Congress in March begins to take effect.

Government benefits like food stamps and tax credits, which can provide hundreds or even thousands of dollars in extra income, are not included in calculating whether a family's income falls above or below the poverty line. But rises in the cost of housing, medical care or energy and the large regional difference in the cost of living are not taken into account either.

By any measure, living on so little income is precarious, and some experts think that people who are getting by on as much as twice the official poverty line should nonetheless be considered poor.

If the temporarily augmented food-stamp benefits and low-income tax credits were included as income, close to 8 million of those labeled as poor in the report would instead be just above the poverty line, the Census report estimated.

At the same time, expanded unemployment benefits, which are considered cash income and included in the calculations, helped keep 3 million families above the line last year, the report said.

The median income of all families remained roughly the same from 2008 to 2009. It had fallen sharply the year before, as the recession gained steam, and remains well below the levels of the late 1990's, a sign of the stagnation or decline in earnings of non-elderly Americans as a group.

Some economists had predicted that household incomes would fall further in the latest report.

David Johnson, a division chief of the Census Bureau, said that taking the two latest years together, the 3.4 percent drop in incomes in 2008 and 2009 was comparable to the income declines during previous recessions.

The poverty line is a flawed measure, experts agree, but it remains the best consistent long-term guage of need available, and its ups and downs seem to reflect genuine trends.

When the line was first developed in the 1960's, it was based principally on the cost of food. Since then, it has been adjusted for inflation, and the costs of housing, medical care and energy have become far more important factors. At the same time, the growth in non-cash benefits and tax credits have not been included.

The federal government is devising an alternate calculation that will include important non-cash and after-tax income, and account for regional differences in costs. But it will continue to calculate the rate in the current way as well, in part because eligibility for many benefit programs, from Medicaid to free school lunches, is based on the longstanding poverty line.


8) Rethinking the Process for BP Spill Claims
September 15, 2010

HOUMA, La. - Two months ago, Kenneth R. Feinberg barnstormed the gulf states and visited towns like this one to pledge that once he took over a $20 billion BP fund to compensate people affected by the oil spill, things would change. Individuals would see their claims for damages turned around in 48 hours, he said. Businesses? Seven days.

This week he has been back on the coast, offering more apologies than promises to angry residents, including a woman at a public meeting here on Monday who held a sign reading, "This is the longest 48 hours of my life."

And he is acknowledging that he underestimated the time it would take to sort through the tens of thousands of applications for emergency aid, many of them woefully undocumented.

"It has not gone as fast as I had hoped," he said before a crowd of hundreds, many of whom had met him before, but were now much less hospitable. More than a few people called him a liar.

"These payments will be made," said Mr. Feinberg, who took over control of the fund from BP on Aug. 23. "That is my responsibility. I'm here to tell you we'll improve it."

In response to some of this criticism, Mr. Feinberg has admitted rethinking parts of his claims process.

He announced in Houma that he was reconsidering a decision to deduct the money that fishermen earned as temporary employees in the cleanup operation from their claims payments.

And on Tuesday, at a meeting in Orlando, Fla., he said he was looking anew at a rule that based eligibility for claims on proximity to the oil-tainted areas of the coast, an issue that limits recovery for Florida hotels and restaurants.

While insisting that the law supports the proximity rule, he added, "If I say, 'No, you're not eligible,' what have I done but drive you into the court system, which is something the facility is designed to avoid?"

Lawyers have also angrily accused Mr. Feinberg of discouraging those affected by the spill from hiring lawyers to file their claims.

Mike Papantonio, a Florida lawyer, said lawyers helped document claims and made the process more predictable. Without their involvement, Mr. Papantonio said, "He has destined the process for failure."

In his Florida speech, Mr. Feinberg acknowledged a shift in his thinking on that score as well. "I am increasingly of the view as I go forward with this program that the lawyers around this country can play a very valuable role," he said, by helping people package their claims.

He has also started issuing supplemental claims to people who can demonstrate that their first emergency claims payments were too low.

The adjustments did little to assuage his audience in Houma, and in some cases made them even angrier.

"They come up with this thing on the Web site about supplemental payments and I went ballistic," said Michelle Brooks, 49, a deckhand on a commercial shrimp boat who has yet to have her claim paid. "You're going to go back and review when some people haven't even gotten the first payment?"

Ms. Brooks said the captain of her shrimp boat had received his payment, but that it was about a quarter of what he asked for - and a quarter of what he was getting from BP before Mr. Feinberg took over administration of the fund.

In an interview from Tallahassee, Mr. Feinberg defended the program while acknowledging a rocky start. Saying that BP had paid $398 million in emergency claims in four months, he said, "We will easily surpass that, and demonstrate the generosity of this program, the fairness of this program, the consistency of this program."

His team has already approved "about 16,000 claims" of the 52,000 filed, he said, and authorized more than $175 million. The claims office is processing 1,000 payments each day, he said.

But nearly 15,000 claims have little documentation or none at all, he said. "I don't need tax returns," he said. "I don't need a profit and loss statement. I need something other than 'pay me,' and in thousands of cases I don't have it."

Two thousand more of the current claims are duplicates, he said, no doubt filed twice by people who went online and visited a claims office for good measure. An additional 500 claims are for losses related to the drilling moratorium, which are dealt with under a $100 million fund that is not under his control.

Beyond that, he said, "I've got 1,000 that are very, very suspicious."

He said that his investigators were combing through such claims and would hand over the ones that look most like fraud to the Department of Justice.

But Karen Yacich, 56, a financial manager at Ameripure Oysters in Franklin, La., is not buying it.

"It's not the paperwork, it's just not," she said.

Ms. Yacich, who described herself as a sort of den mother at Ameripure, was at the meeting in Houma with around 10 other workers. She knew all of their wages and salaries, and she knew that their claims paperwork was uniform and complete: she had prepared the packets herself.

But some workers got a small fraction of what they were claiming, some were still waiting three weeks later and others seemed to have gotten more than they were due.

"How they churned out these checks I don't know," Ms. Yacich said. "BP took care of us way better than this man did," she said. "These people, it's garbage."

Mr. Feinberg said that he had added to the processing team in Washington, though the number of people working along the gulf is about the same.

He has faced this kind of anger before, especially in the raw aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, when he was in charge of the victim compensation fund.

"I did battle with Ken, serious battle," said Charles G. Wolf, who lost his wife in the World Trade Center attack and was one of the fiercest initial critics of Mr. Feinberg, calling him cruel and patronizing. Over time, Mr. Wolf said, Mr. Feinberg became more flexible, and now Mr. Wolf is one of his strongest advocates.

Mr. Feinberg said he expected the history to repeat itself. "If the pattern holds true, it will turn," he said. "It will turn in the direction of success. It will turn in the direction of, 'I wasn't sure, but at the end of the day he certainly did what he said he would.' "

Gulf Coast residents are not so confident.

Ms. Yacich's boss, John Tesvich, 53, the president of Ameripure, said he had not filed a business claim yet and had hired a financial expert to pore over his books so the company's emergency claims payment would be thorough and airtight. He is planning to take his time.

"I personally did not walk in, because I figured there would be some chaos at first," he said. "I didn't know it would be this much."


9) Selling the 'Stop' in 'Stop and Frisk'
September 16, 2010, 10:37 am

There's no doubt that the New York City Police Department's tactic of stopping and frisking people on the street can create tensions with those stopped, and within the neighborhoods where many of the encounters occur. Yet the department is loath to give up the tactic, calling it a core law enforcement tool.

The Newark police director, Garry F. McCarthy, speaking at a law enforcement breakfast recently in Manhattan, proposed one idea: "Sell the stop."

Meaning: After you do it, explain why you did. Nicely.

Chosen to lead his city's police force in September 2006, Mr. McCarthy, 51, is the son of a United States Marine. He retired from the New York Police Department as the deputy commissioner of operations after a career of more than 20 years. In his speech, he raised the notion of street-stop encounters - known in the Police Department's language as "stop, question and frisk" encounters. And he said the police in Newark want to make these interactions opportunities to bridge the often caustic divide between officers and civilians, and not linger as moments that foment discord.

"Even a negative police interaction, if done in the proper circumstance, can leave somebody with a positive mindset when you're done," Mr. McCarthy said.

The issue resonates in New York City, where last year, the police force set a record by compiling more than half a million street stops. And the pace is on the rise this year, with officers making 319,156 stops through June, departmental statistics show.

"When you first interact with somebody, you're stopping them at the level where you have to be on guard - we all know that," Mr. McCarthy said. "Once the level comes down, once you determine that there's not a danger to yourself or the community by your interaction with this person, you're going to explain to them why you did it."

"You're going to tell them what you did," he said. "You're going to tell them why you did it. You're going to tell them how you did it, and 99 percent of the time those interactions are going to work O.K."

In the crowd - it was the Citizens Crime Commission breakfast - was made up of people who could arguably be described as loving policing, and police forces, with such passion that they often find themselves facing the most controversial law enforcement issues head on.

Sitting there was William J. Bratton, the former New York City police commissioner. So, too, was Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, and Richard A. Brown, the Queens district attorney, among a host of other law enforcement officials and academics, including Jeremy Travis, the president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who were gathered by Richard M. Aborn, the commission's president.

Mr. McCarthy continued, in a kind of policing stream of consciousness:

The point is, if we do it in the proper fashion, if we use procedural justice, if we concentrate on the concepts of police legitimacy, if we concentrate on the fact that those are interactions, and each one of them is a teachable moment, where we can learn something and they can learn something, the person who is stopped, and we walk away from those stops not cursing them, we walk away from those stops trying to come to some sort of a conclusion that people will understand why we're doing what we're doing, because the controversy that comes up revolves around the fact that we know any law enforcement person knows that stopping people who carry guns prevents people from getting shot. Not a very deep concept. And when people talk about the fact that only 10 to 15 percent of those stops result in an arrest, they say you have an 85 percent failure rate. Well, I'm not so sure of that, because if we weren't stopping people, they'd carry more guns. They'd carry more guns. And I can tell you this, through the strategies that we've employed in Newark, we've been able to stop shootings of people who just happened to be carrying guns and get into an argument with somebody over a parking spot, or "the bump," or "the stare," when a gun is available and the guy pulls it out and shoots him.

Of Mice and Policemen (and Women)

Things can move fast, and with certainty, at 1 Police Plaza, and the forces at play are sometimes opaque. There's a reason rank-and-file officers call the place the Puzzle Palace.

Take some recent events, which fall clearly under the heading "inside baseball."

Last week, we reported a mouse scurrying around the second floor of the headquarters building in Lower Manhattan. And we noted the curious presence of a blood pressure machine near the building's concession and commissary area, also on the second floor.

There has been action on both fronts.

Early this week, the blood pressure machine was moved down the hall and around the corner from the junk-food machines, out of direct view of the snack machines. Two signs were hung, one on a wall and another from the ceiling, each pointing to the new location of the device.

"Blood pressure monitoring machine," say the words, written in white against an institutional-brown background. An arrow shows the way to a new spot.

Then, on Wednesday, two men showed up to tackle the mouse issue. One was from the department's headquarters custodial staff; the other from an outside exterminating firm.

They put down some mousetraps, including some sticky ones with a banana scent.

"They run around," the man from the in-house custodial unit said, apparently describing the chief activity of mice.

The exterminator said the mice were searched out recurrently, wherever they show up, whether on the 9th floor or the 10th floor or elsewhere at 1 Police Plaza.

The building, at 14 stories, has a lot of areas for mice to run, he said.

Custodial officials should be notified if any mice are found in the traps, they instructed. The men seemed confident that their remedies would keep the rodents at bay.

N.C.T.C. Visits N.Y.P.D.

Michael E. Leiter, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, traveled to New York City on Wednesday. He was in the city to give a presentation at New York University Law School and to meet with with senior police officials, including Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and David Cohen, the department's deputy commissioner of intelligence, according to Carl Kropf, a spokesman for Mr. Leiter.

Mr. Leiter was sworn into his position in June 2008. His group, according to its Web site, has two missions.

"The first is to serve as the primary organization in the U.S. government for analysis and integration of all terrorism intelligence," the Web site said. "In this role, Mr. Leiter reports to the director of national intelligence. The second mission is to conduct strategic operational planning for counterterrorism activities integrating all elements of U.S. national power. In this role he reports to President Obama."

A set of queries about Mr. Leiter's visit was posted to the New York Police Department's public information office. A representative promised to look into it, but did not immediately provide answers.


10) China Hinders U.S. Recovery, Senators Tell Geithner
September 16, 2010

WASHINGTON - As a part of a tough new posture on China, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner laid out a list of complaints about China's economic policies on Thursday and urged it to allow "significant, sustained appreciation" of its undervalued currency.

But senators from both parties expressed impatience with the Obama administration's reliance on persuasion and negotiation, saying such tactics had yielded few gains so far.

"There is no question that the economic and trade policies of China represent clear roadblocks to our recovery," Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and the chairman of the banking committee, said at a hearing with Mr. Geithner seated before him.

"I've listened to every administration, Democrats and Republicans, from Ronald Reagan to the current administration, say virtually the same thing," Mr. Dodd, who is not seeking re-election, said. "And China does basically whatever it wants, while we grow weaker and they grow stronger."

He added: "It's clearly time for a change in strategy."

Pointing at Mr. Geithner, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said: "What is the administration afraid of, when every month we lose jobs and wealth that we will never recover?"

The top Republican on the banking committee, Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, was just as harsh. "There is no question that China manipulates its currency in order to subsidize Chinese exports," he said. "The only question is: Why is the administration protecting China by refusing to designate it as a currency manipulator?"

In Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Thursday that the pressure from the United States over its currency, the renminbi, would not help resolve the issue and could even backfire. "I would point out that appreciation of the renminbi will not solve the U.S. deficit and unemployment problems," a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, said at news conference.

A House bill with more than 140 sponsors would virtually compel the administration to find China to be a manipulator and impose duties or other trade barriers in retaliation. The administration has not expressed support for the proposal; its officials believe such a law would violate United States obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization.

But even in the Senate, which has been more patient, there were indications that legislative remedies against the Chinese might be considered.

"Frankly I think we're all coming to the conclusion that they don't believe we're serious," Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, told Mr. Geithner. "And as a result, they will listen to you politely but they will not take any effective action."

Mr. Geithner told the Senate committee that he agreed with the International Monetary Fund's assessment that China's currency was "significantly undervalued" in light of the country's rapid growth in income and productivity relative to its trading partners, and its gaping current-account surplus with the rest of the world.

China spends an estimated $1 billion a day to keep the renminbi more or less pegged to the dollar. Though it pledged in June to allow a more flexible exchange peg, the renminbi has risen only about 1 percent against the dollar since then - and the renminbi has actually depreciated against the trade-weighted averages of its trading partners' currencies, as Mr. Geithner pointed out.

The Treasury secretary said that "the pace of appreciation has been too slow and the extent of appreciation too limited."

The administration has declined, like its predecessors, to formally declare China a currency manipulator, a finding that could trigger a series of retaliatory measures. But Mr. Geithner said the Treasury "will take China's actions into account as we prepare the next Foreign Exchange Report," which is due Oct. 15.

Mr. Geithner laid out other concerns about China's policies, including its support for "indigenous innovation," a set of practices that American officials believe result in discrimination against foreign products and technology.

The secretary also attacked what he called "rampant" violations of intellectual property rights and an "unacceptable" level of theft of intellectual property.

And he criticized a proposal by China to require that certain products be accredited before being sold to the Chinese government. The United States believes that such requirements might violate the standards China must abide by as part of its membership of the World Trade Organization, which it joined in 2001. China has been re-evaluating the policy.

"We are very concerned about the negative impact of these policies on our economic interests, and are pursuing a carefully designed, targeted approach to address these problems," he said.

Mr. Geithner said the United States would work through international forums like the Group of 20 and the International Monetary Fund. He also pledged that the administration would be "aggressively using the full set of trade remedies available to us," including filing new cases against the W.T.O.

And he said the administration was "reviewing carefully" a complaint by the United Steelworkers union over a range of Chinese policies in the renewable energy sector.


11) From The Gulf Stream To The Bloodstream and Why What You're About To Read Is The Alarm Bell of The Pending Gulf Disaster
September 6, 2010

When Is Enough, Enough?

For nearly five months, the BP oil disaster has consumed the minds of millions of people worldwide. In addition to the horrific impacts that the crude oil and chemical dispersants have daily on the environment and the economy, a fatal threat has quietly slipped by the public's proverbial radar. The harm dealt by this silent enemy is beginning to creep into the lives of those living and working in the Gulf. The problem has been lurking in the Gulf since the first days of the BP oil spill and now has the potential ignite a disaster unlike any this country has ever seen.

Who is this masked bandit? What is this mysterious force that has the potential to outpace the spill's catastrophic events thus far? Though it may sound like a simple answer, (and it is not easy to swallow) the truth is that this tragedy is silent, and if you live in the Gulf, it is most likely affecting you right now as you read this. What is it? Your health may be in extreme jeopardy due to the toxic effects of the dispersant Corexit and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from crude oil inundating the air. Through recent studies conducted under the combined efforts of Michelle Nix of Gulf Coast Oil Spill Volunteers, Jo Billups and Karen Harvill of Sassafrass, Dr. Robert Naman, Project Gulf Impact, medical professionals, and the brave Gulf residents who have agreed to be tested, the toxic health effects of the poisons in the air and in the sea have been documented for the first time. The results? This stands to become one of the greatest health tragedies The United States has ever seen.

If this is such a powerful threat, why has it gone so under reported for so long? Why is mainstream media ignoring these potentially large-scale health problems? The scenario's biggest problem is the scenario itself. Perpetrated by a corporation, the influx of relief that would ordinarily stream in after most acts of God has quietly gone elsewhere.

Why is this killer so silent? Why have we not heard much about the disastrous health effects of this oil and dispersant in the air? Why are everyday citizens not catching on to what gargantuan health problems are coming in the not-so-distant future, affecting everyone, even the journalists who should be reporting on it? The answer may seem strange, and it is complex, however the biggest problem facing this mounting horrific scenario is... the BP oil spill was not a hurricane.

The oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico will go down in history as one of the biggest catastrophes this planet has ever seen. Books are already being written on how much we didn't know. The cover up and the lies that led this country into the health crisis we are about to face will be documented in years to come. Acts of God, like hurricanes, are fast and furious, the damage is immediate. This, on the other hand, is a slow death.

With a hurricane, we know the death toll, the devastation right away. We see the bodies, the houses underwater, and the numbers of dollars lost in real-time as all of the data floods the national spotlight in the aftermath of the disaster. With disasters like Hurricane Katrina, our heartstrings are tugged as we witness cities underwater, mothers crying out for their children, and the newly homeless wandering the streets. We are used to hurricanes. We have evacuation routes. Whether they function or not, we have plans in place for disasters like these.

No such plan exists for the victims of an oil spill. Instinctively, we are aware of floods, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other "over the counter" disasters. Most of us have never suffered an oil spill, much less have any notion of what to do in the event of one. The problem we are facing now transcends most disasters this nation has suffered in the last century.

The oil spill, and our ensuing response, has created a darker and deadlier aftermath that will persist for decades. The difference is between a swift and lethal blow verses lingering end-stage cancer. Like the first stage of cancer, which often goes long-undetected, this aftermath is a slow, deadly creep. We are entering stage one of the Gulf residents' proverbial "cancer".

What BP, Thad Allen, The Federal Government, and The EPA Don't Want You To Know

The residents of the Gulf of Mexico are entering a crisis whose scope cannot be calculated. Several symptoms have been reported, from subtle to severe: skin rashes and infections, upper respiratory burning, congestion and cough, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and neurological symptoms including short-term memory loss and coordination problems. These health problems, if acknowledged at all, are mis-diagnosed, buried, and mis-attributed.

Amidst a vacuum created by the unwillingness of federal, state, and private sector medical organizations to address the growing health problems, independent, privately-funded groups like Gulf Coast Oil Spill Volunteers (GCOSV), Sassafrass, and Project Gulf Impact have taken matters into their own hands.

Patterns are emerging. The same symptoms are being reported across the four hardest hit states. Michelle Nix of GCOSV discovered the Volatile Solvents Profile - a blood test that tests for hydrocarbons in the blood. Through the generous support of Jo Billups and Karen Harvill of Sassafrass, and the support of Dr. Robert Naman, among others, testing on Gulf residents has begun. The results are extremely alarming.

Several volatile hydrocarbons found in crude oil have been detected in the blood of several residents from Orange Beach, AL. Among the hydrocarbons tested, ethylbenzene, xylene, hexane were detected at abnormally high levels. The individuals tested were not directly involved in BP's clean-up operations, nor had they been exposed to any industrial environment where the presence of these compounds would be of concern. Due to these circumstances, it can be deduced that residents living near the Gulf of Mexico shoreline are at exposure risk.

Crude oil is composed of several highly toxic compounds, including light weight hydrocarbons, often referred to as "light-ends," which can easily enter the atmosphere and invade the terrestrial environment. These lightweight hydrocarbons are classified as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's), which can be tested in the blood, urine, breath, and sometimes tissues. The tests that were performed on several gulf coast residents indicated the presence of ethyl benzene, xylene, & hexane. While their toxicity is known, specific data on the dose and physiological responses to the aforementioned hydrocarbons is generally scarce in the scientific literature. Ethyl benzene is suspected by the International Agency for Research on Cancer to be a human carcinogen. Acute, high-exposure symptoms include eye irritation, upper respiratory irritation, and dizziness. Chronic exposure has resulted in irreversible inner ear damage and hearing loss, as well as severe kidney damage and cancer.

Xylene is metabolized into methylhippuric acid by the body. Studies on xylene toxicity have determined a potential relationship between gaseous exposure and the development of leukemia. The chemical is highly toxic to the central nervous system and manifests as dizziness, lack of coordination, and cognitive decline. Chronic exposure is also known to cause kidney failure. Studies on hexane toxicity are highly limited, but include evidence of neurological impairment manifest by decreased nerve conduction velocity. (

These chemicals have the potential to cause both acute and chronic symptoms depending upon the dose and time frame of exposure. Thus, while low doses may not result in immediate and apparent symptoms, the cumulative nature of these toxins means that disease may still manifest years down the line if exposure occurs chronically. While many VOC's are excreted very quickly, the human body is impacted with every dose, no matter how minuscule. When the impact of several tiny doses are combined, such as in people who are experiencing daily low-level exposure, the result can be detrimental. In addition to the direct impact of these specific VOC's, many of them can be metabolized by the body and converted into other structurally distinct compounds, some of which are known to accumulate causing several different types of cancer, genetic damage, and birth defects. In essence, the health threat of chronic low-dose chemical toxicity is highly underestimated. Strict bio-monitoring and caution is required to prevent the potential unseen slaughter by a silent chemical killer.

These results prove that we are in an extremely dangerous situation, a bubble that is about to burst wide open. Unless people begin realizing that the sickness they've been feeling for the last few weeks is not a cold, but that it is chemical exposure, there will be no help. Unless people start demanding that this oil spill, and every horror that goes along with it is put immediately back into the national spotlight, there will be no hope for people to fully understand to dangers and take the necessary precautions. Unless we all stand up as a people, start communicating, researching, sharing information, and spreading the truth instead of lies, we will enter a catastrophe that we are, as a people, nowhere near prepared to handle on a local or national level. It is time to demand the truth, and demand it now.

The blood test performed on these individuals is called the Volatile Solvents Profile ( The test can be obtained and administered by any physician with the ability to perform a simple blood draw. The test will be shipped to a laboratory for analysis and returned to your doctor for interpretation and treatment.


12) Relief Well Reaches Stricken BP Well
September 17, 2010

Crews drilling a relief well have succeeded in intercepting BP's stricken oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, BP said on Friday, and the company will now go ahead with plans to place a final cement seal in the once-leaking well.

The company said in a statement that the relief well intercepted the stricken well's annulus - the space between the well's metal casing and the surrounding rock - nearly 13,000 feet below the seabed at 4:30 p.m. Central time on Thursday.

BP said that tests showed there was no cement or oil and gas in the annulus at the interception point, so there was no need to pump heavy drilling mud into the annulus through the relief well, a procedure known as a bottom kill. Instead, crews will pump only cement into the annulus, forming a final seal.

"It is expected that the MC252 well will be completely sealed on Saturday," the statement said, referring to the damaged oil well. Once it is sealed, the statement said, crews would begin standard procedures to abandon the well.

The interception was first announced in a statement late Thursday by Thad W. Allen, the former Coast Guard admiral leading the federal response to the disastrous spill from the oil well. He said that pressure readings and other data obtained after the interception indicated that the annulus had been effectively sealed off from the reservoir of oil and gas below it by a procedure in early August.

In that operation, called a top kill, mud followed by cement was pumped in to plug the casing pipe. BP and government scientists thought that some cement had gone up into the annulus, sealing it off from the reservoir as well, but they were worried that about 1,000 barrels, or roughly 40,000 gallons, of oil might still be trapped in the annulus. Work was suspended on the relief well for several weeks while BP replaced safety equipment at the top of the well to eliminate the possibility that any trapped oil might leak into the gulf.

But the BP announcement on Friday indicates that no oil was trapped in the annulus after the top kill procedure.The MC252 well leaked an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the gulf after an explosion and fire in late April on a drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon, which killed 11 workers, sank the rig and left the well gushing out of control a mile below the surface. The company did not succeed in halting the flow of oil and gas from the well until mid-July, when valves on a newly installed cap at the wellhead were closed. No appreciable amount has leaked since then.

Still, BP and government officials said they would not declare the well permanently "killed" until the cementing procedures were completed using one or both of the two relief wells the company began drilling soon after the accident.


13) Clash Over Peru Irrigation Project Kills One
September 17, 2010

LIMA, Peru (Reuters) - The police and demonstrators opposed to an irrigation project in the south of the country clashed Thursday, killing one man and injuring 18, as President Alan García faced a new conflict over natural resources in Peru's surging economy.

The skirmish occurred before dawn in the town of Espinar, 400 miles south of Lima, officials in Peru's human rights office said. Police officers fought with protesters who contended that the Majes-Siguas II irrigation project would leave Espinar without water, said Silvio Campana of the human rights office, which tries to mediate conflicts. The man who died was a bystander, officials said.

The irrigation project calls for a dam and water system capable of irrigating 95,000 acres of agricultural land in the region of Arequipa.

Peru's government has encouraged the growth of the petroleum industry and of export-oriented agricultural farms to diversify the economy, which has traditionally depended on mining. The economy is forecast to grow by about 7 percent a year.

But conflicts over natural resources have weighed on Mr. García, whose disapproval rating is nearly 60 percent. Last year, three dozen people died in a clash over land in the Amazon jungle where indigenous tribes oppose oil exploration.

Water is a sensitive issue in Peru, because desert covers its Pacific coast, where most of the population lives, and its Andean glaciers are melting because of climate change.

While the government has issued a decree guaranteeing the population's water supply, residents of Espinar were upset that the state investment agency awarded a concession on Monday for the irrigation project to a private consortium called Angostura-Siguas without taking into account their concerns.

"The Province of Espinar has its own needs that have never been considered," said Néstor Cuti, who leads the group of protesters and wants Mr. Garcia's prime minister to open negotiations to end the standoff.

"With this concession we are condemned to have a lack of water for life," Mr. Cuti said.

Prime Minister José Chang said the protests must stop for the government to agree to begin negotiating.

Mr. Chang said protesters had tried but failed to take over the nearby Tintaya copper mine, which is owned by the global metals firm Xstrata. Tintaya is an important mine in Peru, which is the world's No. 2 copper-producing nation.

"We are sure we will be able to reach a solution that will be just for the town of Espinar," Mr. Chang told reporters.

Finance Minister Ismael Benavides, who was sworn in Tuesday by Mr. García, represented the government's investment agency as the head of its water projects at a ceremony on Monday when the contract was awarded.

"I understand the worries about water among the people," Mr. Benavides said Thursday on RPP radio. But he added, "This project is going to generate 150,000 or 200,000 jobs, and I'm sure much of them will go to Espinar."


14) 30 Years Later, Freedom in a Case With Tragedy for All Involved
"A couple of years earlier, lawyers for the Innocence Project had received an application for help from Mr. Dixon through a corrections officer. The lawyers, pointing to studies that show the frequency of false confessions, requested a DNA test of the evidence from the rape kit."
September 16, 2010

HATTIESBURG, Miss. - A little after 10 o'clock on Thursday morning, it was all up to Phillip Bivens. Just like that. The judge adjourned the hearing and Mr. Bivens, standing in a red jumpsuit in the corner of the courtroom, could all of a sudden do anything he wanted. After 30 years in prison, he was not sure what that was.

"Take it easy, I guess," he said. "Try to ease my mind."

Mr. Bivens, 59, and Bobby Ray Dixon, 53, two men who were serving life sentences, were exonerated by a judge on Thursday morning, their guilty pleas to the charge of murder erased. The judge said it was likely that another man, Larry Ruffin, would soon be cleared for the same murder.

There was no special hurry in his case. Mr. Ruffin died in prison eight years ago.

The expected ruling would be one of only a handful of posthumous exonerations nationwide, and taken with Thursday's events, a rare triple exoneration.

Nonetheless, said Emily Maw, the director of the Innocence Project of New Orleans, the law center that pressed for the men's release, the case has been nothing but a series of tragedies.

On a warm night in early May 1979, a man broke into the home of Eva Gail Patterson, raped her and cut her throat in front of her 4-year-old son. Ms. Patterson, whose 2-year-old was sleeping in the next room and whose husband was working offshore on an oil platform, stumbled to her neighbor's carport, where she collapsed and died. The 4-year-old, Luke, told the police that a single man, "a bad boy," had killed his mother.

Larry Ruffin, 19 at the time, was picked up a few days later. The night of the murder he had been on leave from a halfway house, where he was sent after stealing some beer from a store. Over the next few weeks, he gave several statements, contradictory on many points but all conforming to the same basic storyline: He had raped and killed Ms. Patterson, and he had acted alone.

Mr. Ruffin soon recanted, however, saying that he had been physically coerced by law enforcement officials into confessing, and maintained his innocence. Over a year later, just before Mr. Ruffin's trial was set to begin, the police interviewed Mr. Dixon, who had been with Mr. Ruffin at the halfway house at the same time. Mr. Dixon told them that Mr. Ruffin had killed Ms. Patterson, but said that he had been with him that night. Mr. Dixon, who pleaded guilty to murder, apparently said Mr. Bivens was with them as well, though no records exist of that first interview.

Mr. Bivens, who had returned to his home in California several months earlier, was arrested by police officers who showed up at his door one night.

"I'd never been on a airplane before," he said on a car ride out of Mississippi after the hearing. "I thought they were going to kill me. I thought they were going to get me up there and push me out."

Back in Hattiesburg, he was told he could be facing the death penalty unless he pleaded guilty. Law enforcement officials showed him pictures of the crime scene and asked what he remembered, he said. He had never met Mr. Dixon before, he said, but, fearing for his life, he backed up Mr. Dixon's account.

"All of these things, it's hard to push them out of my mind," he said on the car ride, staring out the window. "I don't like to think about it. I feel like I should have been stronger than that."

The trial, in the winter of 1980, was based almost exclusively on the three statements.

On the stand, Mr. Dixon, who described himself as a "hard learner" who could barely read, began to contradict his own testimony. Finally, he said that he had not been with the other two that night and that he did not even know what Ms. Patterson looked like. He said that he had been kicked in the head by a horse as a child and ever since had suffered seizures.

"I don't have the right mind," he said on the witness stand. "My mind comes and goes, and I don't like to see nobody took away for nothing they ain't done."

Mr. Ruffin was convicted, though a hung jury prevented a death sentence. He was sentenced to life in prison and died of a heart attack in 2002.

Mr. Dixon, whose seizures were so frequent in prison that guards gave him a baseball batting helmet, developed lung cancer last year, which has since spread to his brain.

A couple of years earlier, lawyers for the Innocence Project had received an application for help from Mr. Dixon through a corrections officer. The lawyers, pointing to studies that show the frequency of false confessions, requested a DNA test of the evidence from the rape kit.

In July, the results came back. They implicated a man named Andrew Harris, who had lived just up the road from Ms. Patterson. In 1982, he was convicted of a rape outside Hattiesburg and is now serving a life sentence.

Law enforcement officials are now investigating his connection to the Patterson case.

Mr. Dixon was granted medical parole after the test results came in and has been out of prison since. Only Mr. Bivens remained.

The courtroom on Thursday was full of people who last came together 30 years ago. Mr. Ruffin's family members wore "Free at Last" T-shirts, maintaining that freedom is a state that can be still achieved by the dead.

Mr. Dixon was there, smiling and leaning on a cane carved by his brother. The Patterson family, including Luke, now in his 30s, was sitting the front row. The district attorney, the same man who had been in the post in 1979, represented the state.

After the hearing, Mr. Dixon was taken by his brother a few dozen miles out of town to a sun-dappled clearing among pine trees, the site of Mr. Ruffin's grave. The Ruffin family prayed, sang hymns and released balloons, and Mr. Dixon broke into sobs.

Earlier, Mr. Bivens stood across the street from the courthouse, in brand-new clothes still bearing the creases of the display shelf. He carried his belongings in a pillowcase: two Bibles, a pair of flip-flops, some shampoo, some socks. The lawyers took him to lunch and then drove him to New Orleans.

He was planning to stay in housing there that was set up especially for exonerated prisoners. Maybe, he said, he could find a job gardening. And he was thinking about looking up his old girlfriend, the one he was about to marry before the police arrived at his door that night.

It is important to have people around you, he said. They keep you from thinking about things too much. And they serve as an alibi, just in case.


15) Money for Prisons, Not for Social Services
By Haider Rizvi
September 16, 2010

NEW YORK, Sep 16 (IPS) - Many of those who have lost their jobs and homes in the United States due to the lingering economic recession are ending up in jail, according to a new study released by an independent think tank Thursday.
There is a strong link between poverty and incarceration in the United states, according to the report, "Money Well Spent: How positive social investments will reduce incarceration rates", by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI).

The report's findings on the relationship between poverty and the justice system suggests that more and more people from poor and low-income communities are being arrested and jailed, even though nationwide, crime rates have fallen.

"What we have seen in this research is that there is less focus on safety for the poor and more on policing and arrests," Tracy Velázquez, executive director of the Washington-based JPI, told IPS.

The report notes that as prison populations have grown, so too have racial disparities in the justice system.

"This is especially evident in arrest and incarceration patterns for drug offences," said Sarah Lyons, National Emerson Hunger Fellow and primary author of the report, who added that without adequate funding for social services, it is less likely that people will be able to succeed and avoid contact with the justice system.

Despite comparable usage of illicit drugs, in 2008, African Americans, who make up 12.2 percent of the general population, comprised 44 percent of those incarcerated for drug offences, according to the report.

Researchers say that disproportionate enforcement of drug laws in communities of colour destabilises families and communities and decreases the likelihood of positive outcomes for children and other family members left behind.

Due to the prolonged economic meltdown, many states are now making drastic cuts in funding for social services - such as health, education, and public housing - but not on policing and prison improvement and expansion.

There are nearly two million people behind bars in the U.S., most poor whites and people of colour, making the United States the number one country in the world in terms of the imprisonment rate.

The report notes that about 16 percent of incarcerated people also experienced homelessness before being arrested.

"Most of these people are significantly more likely to have both a mental illness and a substance addiction, which frequently go untreated," said Nastassia Walsh of JPI. She said that states with higher high school graduation rates and college enrollment have lower crime rates than those with lower educational attainment levels.

The JPI study points out that the stress of living in poverty is a "risk factor" for experiencing mental health problems, and that many people who want treatment can't afford it.

"More than 50 percent people in prisons are suffering from mental illness of some kind," said Walsh, who holds that increased investment in mental health and substance abuse treatment can improve public safety and reduce criminal justice involvement.

According to the study's findings, investments in job training and employment have been associated with heightened public safety. Youth who are employed are more likely to avoid justice involvement. In addition, people who are incarcerated are more likely to report having had extended periods of unemployment and lower wages than people in the general population.

"It's time for our elected officials to realise that creating safe, healthy communities is a better investment in our country's future than more prison beds," stated Velázquez. "Low-income communities and people of colour are bearing the brunt of this recession, as well as of our policies that have led to mass incarceration."

"By shifting our priorities, we can reduce these disproportionate impacts and make a real difference, especially for our country's children and families," she said.

More funding for affordable housing, education and employment could help turn around the lives of people struggling with homelessness, including children and youth, who are particularly affected by lack of housing, the report says.

'It's a question of where we choose to spend our money," said Velázquez. "Until we quit funneling tax dollars into prisons and policing practices that sweep large numbers of people into the system - many of whom pose little risk to public safety - we should not be surprised to see incarceration rates continue to climb."

Last year, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressed similar concerns about the lack of progress to end racial discrimination in the U.S. criminal justice system and urged Washington to take practical actions to end unjust police actions against the poor and minorities.

The international body documented a number of cases that showed that police officials in many cities were not only engaged in acts that violated the U.S. constitution, but also the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The report's authors urged the U.S. government to take actions to comply with that international human rights treaty.


16) After 5 Months, Hopes for Stricken Well's Quiet Death
"Mr. Patzek said he thought the formation might contain even more recoverable oil and gas, 'but whether it's 50 million or 100 million, that's still a pretty decent target,' with potential revenues in the billions of dollars."
September 18, 2010

Government officials worked on Saturday to permanently seal BP's well in the Gulf of Mexico, an effort they hoped would bring a quiet end to the five-month effort to kill it.

But while the company plans to abandon the Macondo well permanently, leaving little more than a plug at the top, it may yet make use of the reservoir of oil and gas that the well tapped into.

Experts say that there are no technical or commercial reasons why BP - or another company if BP is wary of the political or public-relations repercussions - could not eventually produce oil from the formation, which BP once estimated contained about 50 million barrels of oil. The well spewed only about one-tenth of that amount, according to government estimates.

"The bottom line here is that this reservoir still remains a target for further production," said Tadeusz W. Patzek, chairman of the department of petroleum and geosystems engineering at the University of Texas.

Mr. Patzek said he thought the formation might contain even more recoverable oil and gas, "but whether it's 50 million or 100 million, that's still a pretty decent target," with potential revenues in the billions of dollars.

Through a spokesman, BP said it was too early to say what would become of Mississippi Canyon Block 252, the nine-square-mile plot about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast where the well was drilled. But in August, Doug Suttles, the company's chief operating officer, while saying the stricken well and two relief wells would be abandoned, left open the possibility that the company might drill in the area again.

"There's lots of oil and gas here," he said at the time. "We're going to have to think about what to do with that at some point."

On Friday, crews aboard the Development Driller III drilling rig pumped cement through the first relief well into the bottom of the stricken well. Once the cement is set, BP will turn its attention to abandoning the well, following standard industry procedures that call for mechanical plugs and more cement, particularly at the top.

When that work is finished, there will be little if any sign at the well site of the havoc that was wreaked there after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded on April 20, killing 11, or of the struggle to stop the flow of oil.

The well, which spewed over 200 million gallons of oil into the gulf, fouling the coastline, killing marine organisms and affecting lives throughout the region, had not leaked since mid-July, after valves were closed on a new cap at its top. But BP and government officials said they would not consider the well killed until the first relief well did its job.

BP paid the federal government $34 million in 2008 to lease the Mississippi Canyon Block, and then it sold about one-third of its interest to other companies. One option for the company would be to sell its remaining stake, subject to government approval; in such a case, having proved that there is oil and gas there would probably make the stake more valuable.

"They could probably sell it to another operator," said Mr. Patzek, who offered a quick analysis. "You have three and a half billion dollars of oil there. If you sell it for a billion and a half, someone will gladly take it."

Experts said that if BP or another company decided to drill again, it most likely would not be through the original well bore, although technically that might be possible.

"I don't think BP would reuse the original well," Julius Langlinais, a retired professor of petroleum engineering at Louisiana State University, said in an e-mail response to questions. "If anything at all went wrong with the reused well bore, the press and P.R. would be terrible. And mechanically we're not sure of anything, so it's better to start over."

The relief wells, however, which were being drilled at a cost of about $100 million each, would be an obvious choice for any future project.

The first intercepted the stricken well just above the reservoir, about 13,000 feet below the seabed. The second, meant as a backup, was halted about 10,000 feet down. Either well could be redirected and used to tap into the reservoir.

"Since these wells are almost to the formation, it would be prudent to continue down to the formation and make these wells producers," Mr. Langlinais said.

Mr. Patzek said that reusing one or both relief wells would offer another advantage: safety. "There's already casing in place, it's cemented," he said. "It's a much safer well to continue than drilling a new well."

Experts said the fact that the original well spewed oil and gas at an uncontrolled rate for nearly three months might affect the oil- and gas-bearing sands that make up the formation, at least near the well bore.

But Greg McCormack, director of the Petroleum Extension Service at the University of Texas, and others said they thought the impact would not be great.

"You're going to have some permeability destruction of that reservoir," Mr. McCormack said. "Still, you are going to be able to produce out of that formation."

And Mr. Patzek dismissed the idea that any operator drilling again in the area had to be wary of this reservoir, that it was somehow more problematic than others and produced more than the typical number of gas surges, or kicks, during drilling.

"Kicks you get every day in that region of the world," he said. He said that drillers would have to take the usual precautions and avoid the kinds of errors that doomed the original well.

"Mistakes have been made here, right?" Mr. Patzek said. "That is the reason that this reservoir did what it did."


17) Activists upset with Facebook
By: Josh Gerstein
September 18, 2010 07:07 AM EDT

Grass-roots activists organizing boycotts against large corporations like Target stores and BP now find themselves directing some of their ire at another corporate monolith: Facebook.

The boycotters turned to the popular social media site to spread word about their pressure campaigns and keep participants up to date on the latest developments, but those efforts became much more difficult last week when Facebook disabled key features on the boycott pages.

As the number of Facebook members signed up for the "Boycott Target Until They Cease Funding Anti-Gay Politics" page neared 78,000 in recent days, Facebook personnel locked down portions of the page - banning new discussion threads, preventing members from posting videos and standard Web links to other sites and barring the page's administrator from sending updates to those who signed up for the boycott.

"It slices the vocal cords," complained Jeffrey Henson, who ran the Facebook page, calling for a boycott of Target over its $150,000 donation to a group supporting a candidate some view as hostile to the gay community, Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. "The page is now outraged" over the website's action, Henson added.

Participants in the boycotts complain Facebook's actions have created an uneven playing field in which ad hoc citizens' groups face hurdles to online organizing - obstacles that corporations using social media have little trouble surmounting.

"Facebook is interfering with the function of a page dedicated to individuals organizing in response to corporate action to which they object," said Nicholas Lefevre, a promoter of the Target boycott. "With the limited avenues for such expression and organization and the importance of the Internet to that ability, anything that threatens that expression is dangerous."

Another Facebook page "liked" by even more people - a boycott of petroleum giant BP that attracted more than 847,000 fans - was also hit by a similar clampdown last week. Those who use the BP page to communicate about the gulf spill reacted angrily.

"It all smells fishier than the gulf to me," said one comment on the page from a member called "Triple Bottomline."

Organizers of the Target and BP boycotts quickly started new pages, but their followers have been slow to locate and join the new pages. By Friday, only 1,450 members had signed up for the new page from BP boycott organizer Lee Perkins and 2,507 had signed up for a new Target boycott page.

In response to a query from POLITICO, Facebook said the earlier pages were restricted because they ran afoul of the social media site's terms of service, limiting so-called pages to individuals and entities that have some real structure in the bricks-and-mortar world.

"Facebook Pages enable public figures, organizations, businesses, and brands to share information, interact with interested people, and maintain an engaging presence on Facebook," said a Facebook spokesman, who asked not to be named. "They're ... optimized for official entities' needs to communicate, distribute content, engage people and capture new audiences. To protect people from spam and other unwanted content, we restrict Pages that represent ideas or positions - rather than discrete entities - from publishing stories to people's News Feeds."

"This policy is designed to ensure Facebook remains a safe, secure and trusted environment for the people who use it," the spokesman said.

The written guidance published on the Facebook site is somewhat vague about who can sponsor a page. The official policy says pages "may only be used to promote a business or other commercial, political, or charitable organization or endeavor (including nonprofit organizations, political campaigns, bands, and celebrities)."

Officials from Target and BP told POLITICO they made no requests to Facebook to act against the boycott pages.

Henson said he got a notice from Facebook about a month ago that he needed to "authenticate" his page. He said he tried to answer every question the site asked.

"I never heard back. Next thing I know: I'm locked out of the page," Henson said. "I'm hoping they do the right thing and unlock it."

Some activists said that even if Facebook's rules are not intended to favor corporations over anti-corporate campaigns, the site's policy does seem to have that impact.

"We think democracy works best where every single citizen's voice is weighed equally," said Ilyse Hogue of the liberal grassroots group, which is backing the Target boycott but has no connection to the disputed Facebook pages. "The whole system is titled away from those individual voices."

Hogue noted that in the grass-roots group's earliest days, it probably couldn't have met Facebook's standards for authentication, and if the group had a Facebook page, it would have been locked down.

Several social media experts said Facebook's policies and its enforcement of those policies are too opaque and inconsistent.

"They haven't been clear about how the terms of service apply," said Jillian York of Harvard University's Berkman Center for the Internet & Society. "Their policy ... it might be reasonable, but I don't think it's well disclosed."

York also said the anti-corporate pages seem to get more attention from Facebook. "It does seem like they're more careful with those pages," she said.

A Facebook official confirmed that they don't check who's behind a page until it reaches a certain size, which he declined to specify. One social media consultant said that practice causes confusion.

"It really does have a big effect when 10,000 people or 100,000 people join a group, and they change the rules midstream," said Dorian Benkoil of New York-based Teeming Media. "Then, they try to thread the needle by saying you can still have a page, but we're not going to let the admin post ... They say it violates their rules. Then they say, we'll go halfway."

Facebook has faced criticism recently for abrupt changes to its policies, particularly moves to expand public access to information on individual users. In May, in response to a public outcry and to complaints from several U.S. senators, Facebook rolled back some changes and made it easier for users to opt out of some public disclosures.

One group that has been critical of the policies of Facebook and other social media sites, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the boycotters have discovered the perils of relying on a website run by a private, commercial entity.

"They've set up this walled garden, and when people use these things for organizing in this context, they're buying into the arbitrary rules," said the foundation's Richard Esguerra. "This is a risk or consequence of doing these things in walled gardens. ... It's important for them to decide what they might be giving up, what kind of overarching control they might be giving up, whether it's on Facebook or any other social network."

Some analysts said they understood the impulse Facebook felt about possible spamming or other disputes that could arise from a single individual with a Gmail address controlling a page with hundreds of thousands of followers. However, others noted that it's just as easy to quit a page as to join one and that any page spamming people would probably lose followers.

One consultant who helps nonprofit groups building an online following said the puzzling part of the policy Facebook has applied against the Target and BP boycotters is that it goes against the prevailing Internet ethos which favors quickly formed "flash mobs"- whether they arrange mass pillow fights or rally around a political cause.

"It kind of deflates that," said Kevin Dugan of Empower MediaMarketing. "It's certainly not what you would think a social media site would want to do. Normally, they're empowering things like this, not trying to stop them."


18) What's Going On In The Gulf?
"But remember, one of the world's top oil industry accident experts says that the well may never be killed.
I hope and pray that the relief well is successful. But if there were insurmountable problems in capping the well, do you think we would hear about it before the November elections?"
[There are several video's at this]
Thursday, September 16, 2010

BP and the government decided that millions of gallons of dispersants should be dumped into the Gulf to sink and hide the oil.

They succeeded in sinking it. As ABC, CBS and NPR note, huge quantities of oil are blanketing the ocean floor, killing virtually all of the sealife which lives there.

And giant new underwater plumes have been found in the water column itself.

But officials don't want to hear about them. As one member of the oil spill recovery team said:

"My biggest concern is there's [a plume of oil] five miles by 30 miles out there that was reported and no one responded. The Coast Guard said for days that they wanted to run tests, and if they don't test it when it's called in, they'll never find it"

But didn't the oil-eating microbes eat alot of the oil? No ... they mainly ate gas.
And the oil is not staying underwater.

Oil is suddenly emerging in many parts of the Gulf.

Oil "patties", 1 to 3 inches across, have been discovered floating along the seawall in Alabama.

16 miles of beaches in Louisiana have been hit. And scientists say that the oil will arise and wash ashore in pulses, and will hit sensitive areas like coastal marshes.

As the Christian Science Monitor notes, oil can remain hidden under sand for decades:

Yet it takes only minutes of digging into the sand [at Louisiana's Grand Isle State Park] to reveal a menace that experts say permanently threatens this picturesque landscape: pools of crude oil lurking less than a foot below the surface. ...

Twenty-one years after the Valdez spill, oil remains submerged in the beaches of Prince William Sound in Alaska.

The same is true in Massachusetts' Buzzards Bay, where a 1969 spill released 175,000 gallons of diesel fuel; 41 years later, sampling shows oil three to eight inches below the land's surface.

Indeed, workers are just doing cosmetic clean-ups. They are pressure washing rocks with hot water so they look clean, just as they did with the Exxon Valdez spill. And the government's targets for "cleaning up" beaches is very lax:

John Tarpley, chief scientific support coordinator for NOAA, says the agency's goal is to clean beaches so they have "1 percent of oil or less."

Oil that's left in the environment can also seep into groundwater used for drinking by Gulf coast residents.

As CNN reports, we might be facing a worst-case scenario in Florida:

LARRY MCKINNEY, HARTE RESEARCH INST. FOR GULF OF MEXICO STUDIES: ... [T]hey do tend to support some of our greatest concerns about the fate of these underwater plumes that were discovered back in June, and that is that they could be picked up and this conveyor belt that is upwelling in Desoto Canyon and bringing this oil from the deep waters up to the shallow, and that seems to be what the Florida State folks are saying. ...

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR:... [T]he USF study said, quote, "These findings, although preliminary, suggest that subsurface oil may be emerging on to the west Florida shelf through the Desoto Canyon." So this is not just restricted to the extremely deep water. There's enough welling as you mentioned before. How widespread could this become?

MCKINNEY: Well, it depends on how big those plumes are and how long they persist, but that conveyer belt moves water rather quickly. And so the fact that the Florida state folks are finding oil up on that shelf at the distance that they're finding it is disturbing from that regard. That means that that oil plume could be moving up on the shelf and that's sort of a worst case scenario. We would not like to see that at all.

While the government denies that they are connected with the oil spill, there have been massive fishkills in Louisiana (and see this). Oil can be seen at fishkill sites (and see this), and the EPA has discovered high levels of nickel near the biggest fishkill. There have also been kills of starfish and other sea animals, including whales and dolphins:

And see this.

As I have previously noted, independent scientists state that the EPA's toxicity tests for the Gulf oil and dispersant were a joke.

And as McClatchy points out, the EPA's toxicity findings don't hold up in the real world:

[University of South Florida chemical oceanographer and lead scientist on the mission David Hollander's] team took water samples and fed them to marine plankton in experiments onboard the research vessel in August. Even in greatly diluted form, a lower concentration than what the EPA considers acute toxicity, the oil in the water caused a toxic effect...

The findings raised new questions about what concentrations and what compounds federal scientists should be concerned about, he said. "In spite of the low concentrations, something is in there."

A marine biologist warns that in a worst-case scenario - the effects on the Gulf could be catastrophic:

[Marine biologist Edith] Widder, senior scientist and CEO at the Ocean Research and Conservation Association, compared the spill to pushing on a light switch. If the switch flips, she said, the rich diversity of species in the Gulf will be replaced by a system in which the only things able to survive are jellyfish and bacteria.

Instead of admitting that there is a problem, BP and the Coast Guard's spin doctors have come up with code words for oil: instead of "oil sheen", they call it "fish oil"; instead of "oil mousse", they call it "algae". And alot of black oily substances are just labeled "mysteries".

And fishermen, shrimpers and crabbers are still catching contaminated seafood, although the authorities don't want to hear about it (and see this). And the authorities are harassing independent scientists who are finding contamination in seafood:

There have also been reports of continuing health problems in Gulf coast residents. See this and this.

But at least BP has stopped spraying dispersant in the Gulf ... right?

Unfortunately, numerous vessel of opportunity program participants have said it is still being sprayed (see this and this). And there allegations have been confirmed by chemists and photographers.

Okay, but at least the well has been capped, so that no new oil flows into the Gulf ... right?

Its hard to know.

BP has shut off 16 out of 17 of its underwater cameras. The only remaining camera shows a small - but continuous - stream of leaking materials:

There are still problems with the well. See this, this, and this, and Admiral Thad Allen is now saying that the relief well might not be completed until October.

But remember, one of the world's top oil industry accident experts says that the well may never be killed.
I hope and pray that the relief well is successful. But if there were insurmountable problems in capping the well, do you think we would hear about it before the November elections?


19) Cuba Resets the Revolution
September 18, 2010

For first-time visitors, one of the most striking things about Cuba is the lack of advertising on the landscape. The Socialist government has billboards bearing Fidel Castro's likeness and his most quotable quotations. But one does not see roadside signs pitching much else.

That could change with the Cuban government's eye-popping announcement last week that it will cut the government work force by 10 percent and expects the hundreds of thousands of laid-off workers to find places in a new system that has a resemblance to free enterprise.

Could the Cuba of the not-too-distant future feature signs touting "Joel's Moving Company," "Dayana's Furniture Repair," "Julio's Boutique"?

Probably. And there will be other changes, bigger and more wrenching, if harder to see. On a scale not known for half a century, Cubans will be hiring other Cubans for small-scale enterprises, creating boss-employee relationships without the direct involvement of the Communist Party. The idea of receiving a paycheck whether one loafs, sleeps or shows up at all will be under a new challenge. And it is possible that creating a cadre of quasi-capitalists could unleash forces that the Castros or their successors will prove unable to control.

But is Cuba approaching a transformation of the kind that swept Russia and China? It is tempting to imagine so, if only because the news about a move to private employment seems so startling.

Nevertheless, experts on Cuba warn against reading any such far-reaching expectations into last week's announcement, no matter how ambitious a task it seems to recondition Cubans for a system that will require some to sink or swim.

Yes, the Castro government is acknowledging a deep problem. But it has also always linked its core ideology to its fear and disdain of the United States and the American economic system. So its ferocious pursuit of independence from American economic influence - even as it denounces Washington's embargo on trade - would make a radical shift to joining the global free-trade system that the United States dominates particularly difficult to explain.

A Cuban sociologist, Haroldo Dilla, predicts that in the end the new system will not enable Cubans to rise too far out of poverty, and that the government will resist a true economic opening with the world.

Which is not to say that the leadership wants no change at all. Over the two decades since Communism collapsed in the Soviet Union, Cuban officials have visited Russia, Vietnam and China and undoubtedly have taken some lessons from each. President Raúl Castro has made it plain that he views Mikhail Gorbachev's efforts to reinvigorate the Soviet political system, which led to Communism's collapse, as a cautionary tale. The mix of consumerism and authoritarianism that one finds in Vietnam and China is presumably a more palatable model - privatization, but with the state in firm control.

Still, the plan announced so far is much more modest than what the Asian countries have done. Instead, it seems designed simply to boost Cuba's economic productivity in small-scale enterprises and thus loosen up a state-run economy and work force that have been sputtering for more than a decade. That goal is in line with what Raúl Castro himself said last month: "We have to erase forever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world where one can live without working."

The announcement of layoffs also does not represent the first time that Cuba has experimented with privatization. A host of small-scale occupations is already allowed on the island, including pizza deliverymen and party clowns. And Cubans can, if they jump through enough bureaucratic hoops, open restaurants in their homes or house guests in spare bedrooms.

It would be far more difficult for either Fidel or Raúl Castro to emulate their neighbors in the Caribbean, without challenging the basic precepts of the Cuban revolution. For decades now, many of those countries have been taking advantage of their ties to the West and the United States to diversify their economies. Cuba, instead, continued to rely on one export commodity - sugar - which the Soviet Union bought at subsidized prices. Only relatively recently has it invited some European partners for joint ventures; for example, in tourism.

But a broad opening to new manufacturing, for example, would be different. That would presumably mean welcoming an influx of private capital from abroad to produce export goods on Cuban soil. It would also probably require normalizing trade and diplomatic relations with the world's biggest consumer market, the United States. And it might even invite efforts to return to Cuba by exiles who still have claims on industrial enterprises they left - or were forced to leave - as enemies of the revolution.

What's more, in China and Vietnam the path toward a modern economy was carefully coordinated with a series of steps toward normalization of relations with the United States. Could Cuba's new economic strategy be a signal of readiness for such a package? That would be difficult to say this early. Some Cuba-watchers suggest that a mass release of political prisoners from Cuban jails in recent months is such a signal. But the history of Cuban-American communication since 1958 is rife with the misreading of oblique signals, even if the prisoner release qualifies as one.

Of course, Cuba and the United States are more linked than government officials in both capitals like to admit - through family bonds, for example.

"If fully carried out, a major expansion of Cuba's private sector will benefit many thousands of Cuban families and give Cuban-Americans opportunities through remittances to help relatives in Cuba who will be working on their own," Philip Peters, who follows economic matters in Cuba for the security- and free-market-oriented Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va., wrote in a post on his blog, the Cuban Triangle, on Thursday.

Ted Henken, a professor at Baruch College who studies private enterprise in Cuba, epitomizes the ambivalence with which prudent Cuba-watchers are assessing the latest news. He said he was thrilled by it, but was hedging his bets on how transformative the change would be.

"This is the beginning of what we've all been waiting for," he said. "It's a major change in the way the Cuban economic system will work. It will be felt by every Cuban." But, he added, "they still want to maintain state control. We'll see how this plays out."

The real test of Cuba's latest experiment will be in how it is implemented and whether work will have a correlation with wealth, Professor Henken and other experts said. Under previous privatization campaigns, he said, "people were so hobbled by regulations that self-employment was rife with illegality and corruption because that's the only way people could make their businesses float."

They also had to keep wary, as all Cubans do, of the secret police, given the regime's attitude toward private property and enterprise in general. Yoani Sánchez, a dissident Cuban blogger, cited this when she wrote the other day: "Under the strict canons of the socialist economy - planned, centralized and subsidized - self-employment has always been seen as an undesirable species of pest that periodically needs to be abated and occasionally even exterminated."

The result has been the development of a singularly Cuban style of being enterprising - somewhere between furtive and legitimate, with the real object being to simply get along. Ms. Sánchez described one man who runs a restaurant in his house and had outlawed items on his menu. He tried to persuade his daughter to marry a top chef, the blogger wrote, to get around a rule that employees must be family members.

Earlier this month, when Jeffrey Goldberg interviewed Fidel Castro for The Atlantic magazine, one comment - hinting that the Cuban system wasn't working for Cubans any more - drew the most attention. The former president later said that he had been misinterpreted, but within days came the announcement of the layoffs and the opening toward private employment.

Still, none of the power brokers in Cuba were calling this capitalism, and most close observers don't expect them to use that word, whatever other changes unfold. "Overhauling their model does not necessarily mean they are importing ours," was the way Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Council on Foreign Relations who was at the interview, interpreted Mr. Castro's comments.

Which brings us back to the matter of public relations, and those billboards: Even their presence could raise issues that Cuba's economic planners probably have not fully thought through: Is a billboard company legal in the new Cuba? Would residents living along highways be able to rent out the land alongside their home for such advertising?

And, above all, could a privately run restaurant advertise that its rice and beans were better than those offered down the street by the state-run competition?


19) BP Permanently "Killed" Gulf Macondo Well: U.S. Officials
September 19, 2010

Filed at 12:06 p.m. ET

HOUSTON (Reuters) - With a final shot of cement, BP Plc permanently "killed" the runaway Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico that had unleashed the worst oil spill in U.S. history, the top U.S. spill official said on Sunday.

The well flowed unchecked for 87 days after an April 20 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers and unleashed a torrent of oil that marred the coasts of four Gulf Coast states and spurred a moratorium on all new U.S. offshore drilling.

BP engineers sealed off the flow July 15 with a cap on the mile-deep well after it spewed more than 4 million barrels into the Gulf, about 16 times as much as the 257,000 barrels of oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska in 1989.

The spill wiped about $70 billion from BP's market value and spurred BP to replace its gaffe-prone Chief Executive Tony Hayward with an American, Bob Dudley, effective October 1.

(Reporting by Kristen Hays and Chris Baltimore; Editing by Doina Chiacu)


20) The U.S.-China Exchange Rate Squeeze
September 18, 2010

WASHINGTON - Say there was a way to create a half-million American jobs over the next two years without adding a dime to the debt or deficit. And say it would also revive moribund Rust Belt factories, reduce the country's gaping trade deficit and help stabilize the international economic system.

All of this would occur, some economists say, if only China would stop manipulating its currency, keeping it artificially undervalued as a means of boosting its exports and fueling its tremendous economic growth.

Anger over China's exchange-rate policy nearly boiled over in Congressional hearings last week. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner accused China of violating international norms. President Obama plans to press the currency issue, along with complaints about China's policies on trade and intellectual property, at the Group of 20 summit meeting in South Korea in November.

That China has undervalued its currency, the renminbi, for much of the past decade to boost its surging export-driven economy is not seriously doubted; China intervenes in the markets by buying an estimated $1 billion a day using renminbi. For the lay observer, it's befuddling. Why does this situation persist?

Would China benefit by letting the renminbi rise?

Yes, most experts agree that China would probably be better off if the renminbi's value rose. Doing so would give Chinese consumers more purchasing power, lessen the risk of inflation and asset bubbles, and potentially reduce stark inequalities that have contributed to social unrest.

What's stopping China, then?

Exporters, concentrated along the southern coast, wield enormous clout in Beijing and benefit from an undervalued currency, said Minxin Pei, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif. So do state-owned enterprises, which have excess capacity and need to be able to sell goods cheaply abroad. China's importers are unhappy with the undervalued renminbi - as are officials at the central bank - but both groups are relatively weak.

In the United States, there must be someone against a stronger Chinese currency, right?

Large multinational corporations, and Wall Street, are comfortable with a weak renminbi. Many of the biggest American conglomerates make goods in China (or sell them in the United States) and benefit from the undervalued currency. Financial services companies find deal-making easier with a strong dollar and want to help invest the capital sloshing around China.

But aren't the forces on the other side just as strong?

A high dollar places tremendous competitive pressure on American agricultural producers and domestic manufacturers, and thereby hampers job creation.

So, it's not surprising that Midwest politicians and labor unions have been among China's fiercest critics. High unemployment has also prompted the White House and most Congressional Democrats (and a substantial number of Republicans) to side with the critics.

How have previous problems with a strong dollar been handled?

In the late 1960s, rising federal spending during the Vietnam War and the Great Society pushed inflation upward. The United States had a trade deficit for the first time in the postwar era. Manufacturers were furious. President Richard M. Nixon responded by taking the country off the gold standard in 1971, which caused the dollar to fall by about 20 percent.

From 1981 to 1985, the dollar soared again, as the Federal Reserve boosted interest rates to combat inflation and the Reagan administration borrowed to finance big budget deficits. In September 1985, Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III met Japanese and German officials at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. Faced with threats of protectionist action by Congress, the two countries agreed on a plan to devalue the dollar.

So, could such an agreement happen again?

A rapid devaluation of the dollar is unlikely anytime soon. No country, even an ally, wants to see its currency suddenly rise in value (and its exports become more expensive) amid a fragile global recovery. The international monetary system has also gotten more complex, with the creation of the euro and the rise of large emerging economies like Brazil, India and Russia.

Though China allowed its currency to rise by more than 20 percent against the dollar from 2005 to 2008, the financial crisis (which led investors to flock to the dollar) led to a return to old ways. In June, Beijing promised greater exchange-rate flexibility, but since then the renminbi has risen by only about 1 percent. Too little, too late, Mr. Geithner testified last week.

Ultimately, says Jeffrey A. Frieden, a Harvard political scientist, exchange rates reflect broader macroeconomic forces. For the dollar to get back in sync, Americans must save and invest more and consume and borrow less, and the Chinese, Germans and Japanese have to recognize that excessive reliance on exports is not to their long-run advantage.

"It's conceivable that the Chinese might conclude it's in their own self-interest to let the currency rise," Professor Frieden said, "but it's not going to come from browbeating and it's not even going to come from well-meaning attempts at cooperation."