Sunday, September 05, 2010



Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:




Courage to Resist SF Bay Area Events

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

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

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

Courage to Resist Bay Area Event Alert

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


--Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistle-blower

--Tom Hayden, author and activist

--Aimee Allison, author and KPFA Morning Show Host

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

--Wikileaks "Collateral Murder" video screening

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

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


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

Fran Rachel
Strawberry Creek Lodge Tenants Association

Berkeley - East Bay Gray Panthers


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




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




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

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

3) • Please forward and distribute widely •
An Urgent Appeal from a long-time friend of
Mumia Abu-Jamal
A message from the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
03 September 2010

4) U.S. Prisons, Muslims and Human Rights Violations
By Bonnie Kerness
September 3, 2010

5) Of Janitors and Kings
September 3, 2010

6) U.N. Raises Concerns as Global Food Prices Jump
September 3, 2010

7) Blackwater Won Contracts Through a Web of Companies
September 3, 2010

8) U.S. Military Bands: Lighter and Faster
September 3, 2010

9) Spotlight Shifts to Shallow-Water Wells
"There are more than 100 fires a year on oil and gas facilities in the gulf, mostly minor incidents involving welding sparks, grease fires and other mishaps that occur during routine maintenance."
September 3, 2010

Mumia Abu-Jamal : "I am an outlaw journalist",38278.html

11) Jobs and Politics
"Since May, employers have not added any time to the workweek, now 34.2 hours on average. As hours have stalled, so has weekly wage growth. Data in the August report suggests that the average paycheck, now $774.97 a week, is being stretched to support more family members: graduates who cannot find work, unemployed relatives whose jobless benefits have expired, and underemployed workers who are working part time but need full-time work."
September 4, 2010

12) A Crash. A Call for Help. Then, a Bill.
September 3, 2010

13) No Risk, Says Leader of Spill Response
September 4, 2010

14) The Boss Is Robotic, and Rolling Up Behind You
September 4, 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


3) • Please forward and distribute widely •
An Urgent Appeal from a long-time friend of
Mumia Abu-Jamal
A message from the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
03 September 2010

The letter below, from Frances Goldin, Mumia's literary agent and long-time friend and supporter, is an urgent call for help which we hope you will look at closely.

The life of the world's best known death row prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal, is under threat from many sides. One is the courts, which have refused to hear mountains of evidence of Mumia's innocence, and have denied him the benefit of established law and precedent on many occasions. Mumia's 1982 kangaroo court conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court last year. And now, the reinstatement of his death sentence, which was put on hold in 2001, is the likely outcome at the Third Circuit Court.

Another threat is the so-called police "union," the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), which has a full-blown vendetta out against Mumia, aimed at executing him for a crime that he did not commit. And why does the FOP froth at the mouth over the prospect of killing Mumia? Perhaps it's because corrupt police are thought to be the real perpetrators of the crime, since the victim was a cop who was talking to the feds about corruption!

Another is the media, which systematically blanks out positive reports and letters about Mumia. Instead they publish lies about his case, which are actively promoted by the FOP. A good example is the movie "The Barrel Of A Gun," which is a re-hash of the police frame-up of Mumia, due to be released very soon, in September 2010.

As the letter below indicates, now there is an answer to these lies, in the form of another video documentary which tells the truth about Mumia's case: Mumia 101. But it needs your support.

We hope you will read the letter below and contribute generously, so that this project can go forward.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

This note is from Mumia's literary agent, and close friend, Frances Goldin:

Dear friends:

I hope you will dig deep in response to the letter below. I have given them $6,000. At this time we have to awaken the people's conscience, particularly in light of the upcoming lying film by Tigre Hill.

I don't make this type of request often, but Mumia's very life is at stake.

Make checks payable to:

National Lawyers Guild Foundation and write "Mumia 101" in the memo line.

Mail to:

Frances Goldin
305 East 11th Street, #3F
New York, NY 10003

Thanks so much- Frances


As we write, Mumia Abu-Jamal and his attorneys are using their last legal resorts to save him from the fate he now faces: life in solitary confinement or even execution, which, after being overturned in 2001, is on the table once again. Mumia's case has always been highly politicized, but today as his legal battle comes to its final stage, the court of public opinion matters more than ever. Those intent on ending Mumia's life like the highly vocal Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police understand this, and have intensified their activity. Those of us who want to save Mumia's life need to intensify ours as well.

In September, a dangerous new film, which parrots the prosecution and police claim--that Abu-Jamal shot and killed Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner in a cold-blooded act of premeditated murder--will premiere in Philadelphia, before it tours nationally. Directed by filmmaker Tigre Hill and provocatively titled The Barrel Of A Gun, the film is a work of propaganda posing as documentary, thin on facts and thick with emotional manipulation.

Luckily, a fine documentary, "Mumia 101", which could challenge Hill's film with information and historical insights, and new and potentially exculpatory evidence, is almost completed. We have seen the rough cut and it's clear that director Kouross Esmaeli (Big Noise Films) and producer Johanna Fernandez (Baruch College of History and Educators for Mumia) have made every effort to make "Mumia 101" fair and balanced, giving both sides time to talk and letting facts, not emotionalism, point to the police, prosecutorial, and judicial misconduct that led to Mumia's 1982 conviction.

Mumia 101 must be completed by September when The Barrel of a Gun premieres. In order for that to happen the filmmakers (who have undertaken the work as a labor of love) will have to hire a film editor full-time for two months of final editing. I have written them a check, and I am writing to ask you to write one too, for whatever you can manage. They need $100,000 to finish the film.

The filmmakers are preparing an interactive website to complement the documentary, to review the known facts of the case and serve as its major information clearinghouse. They are available to answer any questions you may have at: and

Here are links to articles that review some of the basics of the case along with the new evidence: id=2l

Please make out your checks for your tax-deductible contribution to the National Lawyers Guild Foundation and write "Mumia 101" in the memo line.

Mail your check to:

Frances Goldin
305 East 11th Street, #3F
New York, NY 10003

Thank you for your attention to this urgent request.
-The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal.
See our website for information on Mumia's Innocence, at:


4) U.S. Prisons, Muslims and Human Rights Violations
By Bonnie Kerness
September 3, 2010

In 1986, I received a letter from Ojore Lutalo who had just been placed in the Management Control Unit at Trenton State Prison in New Jersey. He asked what a control unit was, why he was in there and how long he would have to stay. We knew little of control units then, except what we learned from the many prisoners who reached out to the AFSC to mentor those of us trying to give voice to what was - and is still - happening.

Today the continued use of these instruments of torture coupled with the persistent misunderstanding and mislabeling of prisoners as Muslim extremist threatens the security of Americans both inside and outside prison walls, and eats away the moral and spiritual compass that purports to drive American justice.

After Ojore's letter, we began hearing from people throughout the country saying that they were prisoners being held in extended isolation for political reasons. We heard from jailhouse lawyers, and prisoner activists, many of whom were Muslim who found themselves targeted and locked down in 24/7 solitary confinement. The AFSC began contacting people inside and outside the prisons to collect testimonies of what was going on in those isolation units which by definition are forms of torture. We had no idea how many people were experiencing this, the conditions in those units and how many control units there were.

One woman wrote "the guard sprayed me with pepper spray because I wouldn't take my clothes off in front of five male guards. They carried me to my isolation cell, laid me down on a steel bed and took my clothes off, leaving me with that pepper spray burning my face."

Some of the saddest letters are from prisoners writing on behalf of their mentally ill peers like the man who spread feces over his body. The guards' response to this was to put him in a bath so hot it boiled 30 percent of the skin off him.

"How do you describe desperation to someone who is not desperate?" began a letter to me from Ojore Lutalo. He described everyone in the Trenton Control Unit being awakened at 1 a.m. every other morning by guards dressed in riot gear and holding barking dogs. Then the prisoners were forced to strip, gather their belongings while the dogs strained at their leashes and snapped at their private parts. He described being terrorized, intimidated, and the humiliation of being naked and not knowing whether the masked guards were male or female.

If we think back to slavery and to images of the modern Civil Rights Movement, we understand that dogs have been used as a device of torture in the U.S. for hundreds of years.

These testimonies and more are from men, women and children being held in isolation and experiencing the use of devices of torture in human cages where there are few witnesses.

I have received thousands of descriptions and drawings of four- and five-point restraints, restraint hoods, restraint belts, restraint beds, stun grenades, stun guns, stun belts, spit hoods, chain gangs, black boxes, tethers, waist and leg chains.

Control units first surfaced during the 1960s and 70s, when many in my generation genuinely believed that each of us was free to dissent politically. In those years, people acted out this belief in a number of ways. Native peoples contributed to the formation of the American Indian Movement dedicated to self determination. Puerto Ricans joined the movement to free the island from US colonialism. Whites formed the Students for a Democratic Society and more anti-imperialist groups, while others worked in the southern Civil Rights movements. The Black Panther Party was formed. And there was a rise in the prisoner rights movement. Nightly television news had graphic pictures of State Troopers, Police, the FBI, and the National Guard killing our peers.

I saw on the evening news coverage of the murder of Black Panther Fred Hampton shot in his sleep by police, and coverage of the killings by National Guard members of young people protesting the Viet Nam War on the Jackson and Kent State Universities campuses. Other civil rights workers were killed with impunity, so many that we felt there was no opportunity to stop mourning because each day another activist was dead. These killings and other acts of oppression led to underground formations such as the Black Liberation Army.

In response to this massive outcry against social inequities and for national liberation, the federal government utilized "Counter Intelligence Programs" called COINTELPRO conducted by a dozen agencies, which aimed to cripple the Black Panther Party and other radical forces. Over the years that these directives were carried out, many of those targeted young people were put in prisons across the country. Some, now in their 60s and 70s, are still there.

While the U.S. denied that there were people being held for political reasons, there was no way to work with prisoners without hearing repeatedly of the existence of such people, and the particular treatment they endured once imprisoned. As early as 1978, Andrew Young, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, was widely quoted saying, "there were hundreds, perhaps thousands of people I would describe as political prisoners" in U.S. prisons.

Across the nation, we saw an enhanced use of sensory deprivation units often called "control units" for such people in an attempt to instill behavior modification. It was this growing "special treatment" which we began monitoring. At the time, a former warden at Marion, Illinois, said at a congressional hearing, "The purpose of the Marion Control Unit is to control revolutionary attitudes in the prison system and in society at large."

People throughout the world are beginning to understand what the prisoners have been saying to us for decades about the oppressive, war-like tactics of the U.S. government toward criticism or resistance. People in prison have warned us that what happens inside finds its way out here.

In a May 5th 2009 article in The Trentonian, Afsheen Shamsi of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says that their coalition "is upset over what it says is increasing surveillance in mosques." The group reflects the concerns of Muslims who have grown tired of being stopped at airports, constant questioning and relentless security years after the attacks of 9/11.

The department of corrections system is more than a set of institutions; it is a state of mind. It is that state of mind which expanded the use of isolation, the use of devices of torture, the Counter Intelligence Programs, and the Department of Homeland Security, against activists, both inside and outside the walls.

Ojore, who first contacted us in 1986, exemplifies the history of control units and the misperceptions of all Islam as a threat. He was released from the control unit via litigation in 2002, after 16 years in isolation. In 2004, he was placed back into isolation with no explanation. When I called the N.J. Department of Corrections, I was told that this was upon the request of Homeland Security. In a 2008 Classification decision, this was confirmed in writing which said the Department "continues to show concern regarding your admitted affiliation with the Black Liberation Army. Your radical views and ability to influence others poses a threat to the orderly operation of this Institution."

After a total of 22 years in isolation, Ojore was released from prison in August of 2009 via court order. On January 26th 2010, he was disappeared from an Amtrak train, accused of "endangering public transportation" and arrested in La Junta, Colorado. Because of his unusual name, newspaper articles had him being Muslim and talking about Al Qaeda neither of which were true. A judge dismissed all charges one week later.

Control units' latest mutations are as "security threat group management units." This egregious designation is beyond offensive because it is the government which gets to define "security threat group."

According to a national survey done by the U.S.Department of Justice, the Departments of Corrections of Minnesota and Oregon named all Asians as gangs, which Minnesota further compounds by adding all Native Americans. New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania go on to list various Islamic groups as gangs.

The "Communications Management Units" in federal prisons use isolation to restrict the communication of imprisoned Muslims with their families, the media and the outside world.

In 2004, four Islamic prisoners in California were indicted on charges which included conspiracy to levy war against the U.S. government. One result of this was a 2006 report called "Out of The Shadows: Getting Ahead of Prisoner Radicalization" by George Washington University's Homeland Security Policy Institute. The report states that the "potential for radicalization of prison inmates poses a threat of unknown magnitude to the national security of the United States," noting that "every radicalized prisoner becomes a potential terrorist threat." The report states that it focuses, "in particular on religious radicalization in conjunction with the practice of Islam."

Also in 2006, USAToday reported that the FBI and Homeland Security were "urging prison administrators to set up more intelligence units in state prisons, with an emphasis on background checks to ensure that extremist Muslim clerics don't have access with prisoners."

For those of us who've monitored U.S. prisons over decades, the targeting of radicalization, the targeting of specific groups, the surveillance and infiltration of those groups feels very familiar. There can be no doubt that Islam is being targeted. In one recent case concerning four Islamic men, known as the Newburgh 4, the judge herself noted that " 'Equal Justice Under the Law' are words that can be found on many courthouses, but far too often, where it applies to the socially and or politically marginalized, these are words devoid of meaning."

The U.S. government continues to lock down people for their beliefs, and is still seeking to identify those who have the potential to politically radicalize others. After each Homeland Security Code change, Prison Watch is flooded with calls from people reporting Islamic loved ones being removed from general prison population and placed in isolation.

I have no doubt that Islam itself is suspect to the U.S. government, and that any Muslim, no matter how law abiding, is suspect. Our work today needs to be embedded in struggle against this system and its continued use of isolation and torture as a tool of behavior modification, religious and political repression.

How U.S. prisons function violates the United Nations Convention Against Torture, and a host of other international treaties.

The AFSC recognizes the existence and continued expansion of the penal system as a profound spiritual crisis. It is a crisis that allows children to be demonized. It is a crisis which legitimizes torture, isolation and the abuse of power. It is a crisis which extends beyond prisons into school and judicial systems. I know each time we send a child to bed hungry that is violence. That wealth concentrated in the hands of a few at the expense of many is violence; that the denial of dignity based on race, class or religion is violence. And that poverty and prisons are a form of state-manifested violence created by public policy.

I've been part of the struggle for civil and human rights in this country for over 45 years. We need to alter the very core of every system that slavery, white supremacy and poverty has given birth to, particularly the criminal justice system. The United States must stop violating the human rights of men, women and children. US policies including solitary confinement, and use of devices or torture have nothing to do with safe and orderly operation of prisons or society and everything to do with the spread of a culture of retribution, dehumanization. The restriction of civil rights is something we can and should debate regularly as a society. The violation of human rights, and fundamental human decency, simply is not negotiable.

Bonnie Kerness

Coordinator Prison Watch Project

Healing and Transformative Justice Program

New York Metropolitan Region

American Friends Service Committee

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977 Questions and comments may be sent to


5) Of Janitors and Kings
September 3, 2010

Martha Escobar is staring into the cold, dark, unforgiving eyes of destitution.

Ms. Escobar is one of 16 janitors who were laid off from their jobs at a luxury complex in Los Angeles that houses some of the wealthiest tenants imaginable. JPMorgan Asset Management, a unit of the vast JPMorgan Chase empire, manages an intricate investment web that owns the buildings. The layoffs were ordered by a maintenance contractor, ABM Industries.

The Century Plaza Towers, which is part of the complex, crows on its Web site that it has "one of the most prestigious tenant rosters in the country, which includes some of America's most prominent business leaders." The janitors were required to keep things pristine for those prominent business leaders, who hardly ever noticed them.

They also did the mopping and scrubbing at 2000 Avenue of the Stars, which also is part of the complex and is home to an array of glittering businesses, including the Creative Artists Agency, an entertainment and sports powerhouse. The janitors were let go a few weeks ago, and, given the current job market, they have not been able to do much since then but suffer with anxiety.

Ms. Escobar is 41 years old and has two daughters, 14 and 10. She told me, through an interpreter, that she had enough money to pay September's rent but not October's. She has no savings. School is about to start, but she has no idea how she will pay for her girls' uniforms.

"I have not been able to find another job," she said.

What's different about these layoffs is that the janitors are not going quietly. They have been vigorously protesting the callousness of their treatment - the way the rich people who employed them for the munificent sum of $13.50 an hour found it so easy to dump them on the scrap heap with the rest of America's unemployed millions.

The janitors have marched and fasted outside the buildings they once cleaned. And Ms. Escobar and another laid-off janitor, Elba Polanco, were brought to New York City last week by the Service Employees International Union, which represents them, to bring their plight to the attention of Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase. Mr. Dimon has made a fabulous living by, among other things, borrowing enormous sums of money to buy companies and then hurling people out of work.

In the real world of America's increasingly two-tiered society, you have to laugh at the idea of these janitors trying to get the ear of Jamie Dimon, who counts his wealth by the hundreds of millions. He is royalty, and they are from the peasant class. Mr. Dimon's universe is orders of magnitude different from the one that Martha Escobar is scrambling around in. He talks to the Geithners and Bernankes and Larry Summerses of the world. The paycheck Ms. Escobar used to get wouldn't cover Jamie Dimon's dinner tab.

While Ms. Escobar and her former co-workers are being scorched by the flames of unemployment, JPMorgan Chase's second-quarter profit this year - profit, mind you - was $4.8 billion. (It got some help in the dark days of 2008 in the form of a $25 billion bailout from the federal government, but that has all been paid back.)

Ms. Escobar and Ms. Polanco spent Thursday trying to secure an audience with Mr. Dimon. They wanted to ask if there was any chance that they and at least some of their former co-workers could be rehired. Members of the clergy and a number of other supporters were with them when they showed up at the JPMorgan Chase headquarters at 270 Park Ave.

The palace guards asked if they had an appointment. They knew very well that an appointment was an impossibility. Ms. Escobar and Ms. Polanco were janitors. They were told to go away. They asked if they could leave some reading material for Mr. Dimon. Absolutely, the guards said. Leave whatever you'd like.

I called JPMorgan Chase to ask why the janitors had been fired and if the company was open to negotiations that could result in rehires. The response was cold, cold, cold. A spokesperson said JPMorgan Chase has nothing to do with the matter. "It's a dispute between a vendor and its employees," he said.

When I asked if he had any response to the protests, or the plight of the workers, or their effort to get their jobs back, he said, "The comments I gave you pretty much are a response."

ABM Industries tried mightily not to respond at all, but when pressed, issued a statement through a public relations firm, Kekst and Company, saying discussions have been held with union officials regarding the workers. The company would not say if any could be rehired or why they were fired in the first place.


6) U.N. Raises Concerns as Global Food Prices Jump
September 3, 2010

UNITED NATIONS - With memories still fresh of food riots set off by spiking prices just two years ago, agricultural experts on Friday cast a wary eye on the steep rise in the cost of wheat prompted by a Russian export ban and the questions looming over harvests in other parts of the world because of drought or flooding.

Food prices rose 5 percent globally during August, according to the United Nations, spurred mostly by the higher cost of wheat, and the first signs of unrest erupted as 10 people died in Mozambique during clashes ignited partly by a 30 percent leap in the cost of bread.

"You are dealing with an unstable situation," said Abdolreza Abbassian, an economist at the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.

"People still remember what happened a few years ago, so it is a combination of psychology and the expectation that worse may come," he added. "There are critical months ahead."

The F.A.O. has called a special session of grain experts from around the world on Sept. 24 to address the supply question. Given that the fields stretching out from the Black Sea have been the main source of a huge leap in wheat trade over the past decade, the fluctuating weather patterns and unstable harvests there will have to be addressed, he said.

It is an issue not limited to Russia alone. Harvest forecasts in Germany and Canada are clouded by wet weather and flooding, while crops in Argentina will suffer from drought, as could Australia's, according to agricultural experts. The bump in prices because of the uncertainty about future supplies means the poor in some areas of the world will face higher bread prices in the coming months.

Food prices are still some 30 percent below the 2008 levels, Mr. Abbassian said, when a tripling in the price of rice among other staples led to food riots in about a dozen countries and helped topple at least one government.

The wheat crop this year globally is also the third highest on record, according to the F.A.O., but the sudden supply interruptions make the markets jittery. In June, Russia was predicting a loss of just a few million metric tons due to hot weather, but by August it announced it would lose about one-fifth of its crop. Wheat prices more than doubled in that period.

"There are reasons to be watching this and to be concerned because regionally there will be supply challenges," said Justin P. Gilpin, the head of the Kansas Wheat Commission. "There is uncertainty in the marketplace."

A decade ago, the area around the Black Sea - mainly Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan - used to supply just about 4 percent of the wheat traded internationally. But most of the growth in demand globally has been supplied from there, and the region now produces about 30 percent of the wheat traded internationally, said Mr. Abbassian. This is the first time a supply crisis has originated from that area, he noted.

In early August, Russia announced an export ban that it would review at the end of the year, but Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin announced Thursday that the ban on grain exports would extend into 2011. The price of wheat jumped again, and that has had a spillover effect into other grains like corn and soybeans. The forecast for the global rice harvest has also dropped, although it is still expected to be higher than in 2009 and should be a record, the F.A.O. said.

"If you look at the numbers globally, the Americans, the Europeans and the Australians can make up the supply," Mr. Abbassian said of the wheat harvest, playing down the chances of repeating the 2008 crisis. "There is no reason for this hype, but once the psychological thing sets in it is hard to change that perception, especially if Russia keeps sending bad news."

After two days of rioting set off by price increases for bread and utilities like electricity and water, the streets in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, were largely calm on Friday. But 10 people had been killed and 300 injured, Health Minister Ivo Garrido told a news conference, local news agencies reported. Price increases have been much sharper in Mozambique than in most of the world because the government kept prices artificially low before elections last year, some analysts said.

As with any commodity, questions of wheat shortages spur speculation and hoarding, and experts suggest both are at play in the current market. They believe more money is washing through the commodity market for wheat because with interest rates so low and the stock market so volatile, investors are putting their money in the Chicago Board of Trade.

But the world also has to come to grips with changing weather patterns due to climate change, argued Prof. Per Pinstrup-Anderson, an expert in international agriculture at Cornell University.

"We are going to have much bigger fluctuations in weather and therefore the food supply than we had in the past, so we are going to have to learn how to cope with fluctuating food prices," Professor Pinstrup-Anderson said.

Barry Bearak contributed reporting from Johannesburg.


7) Blackwater Won Contracts Through a Web of Companies
September 3, 2010

WASHINGTON - Blackwater Worldwide created a web of more than 30 shell companies or subsidiaries in part to obtain millions of dollars in American government contracts after the security company came under intense criticism for reckless conduct in Iraq, according to Congressional investigators and former Blackwater officials.

While it is not clear how many of those businesses won contracts, at least three had deals with the United States military or the Central Intelligence Agency, according to former government and company officials. Since 2001, the intelligence agency has awarded up to $600 million in classified contracts to Blackwater and its affiliates, according to a United States government official.

The Senate Armed Services Committee this week released a chart that identified 31 affiliates of Blackwater, now known as Xe Services. The network was disclosed as part of a committee's investigation into government contracting. The investigation revealed the lengths to which Blackwater went to continue winning contracts after Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in September 2007. That episode and other reports of abuses led to criminal and Congressional investigations, and cost the company its lucrative security contract with the State Department in Iraq.

The network of companies - which includes several businesses located in offshore tax havens - allowed Blackwater to obscure its involvement in government work from contracting officials or the public, and to assure a low profile for any of its classified activities, said former Blackwater officials, who, like the government officials, spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that it was worth "looking into why Blackwater would need to create the dozens of other names" and said he had requested that the Justice Department investigate whether Blackwater officers misled the government when using subsidiaries to solicit contracts.

The C.I.A.'s continuing relationship with the company, which recently was awarded a $100 million contract to provide security at agency bases in Afghanistan, has drawn harsh criticism from some members of Congress, who argue that the company's tarnished record should preclude it from such work. At least two of the Blackwater-affiliated companies, XPG and Greystone, obtained secret contracts from the agency, according to interviews with a half dozen former Blackwater officials.

A C.I.A. spokesman, Paul Gimigliano, said that Xe's current duties for the agency were to provide security for agency operatives. Contractors "do the tasks we ask them to do in strict accord with the law; they are supervised by C.I.A. staff officers; and they are held to the highest standards of conduct" he said. "As for Xe specifically, they help provide security in tough environments, an assignment at which their people have shown both skill and courage."

Congress began to investigate the affiliated companies last year, after the shooting deaths of two Afghans by Blackwater security personnel working for a subsidiary named Paravant, which had obtained Pentagon contracts in Afghanistan. In a Senate hearing earlier this year, Army officials said that when they awarded the contract to Paravant for training of the Afghan Army, they had no idea that the business was part of Blackwater.

While Congressional investigators have identified other Blackwater-linked businesses, it was not the focus of their inquiry to determine how much money from government contracts flowed through the web of corporations, especially money earmarked for clandestine programs. The former company officials say that Greystone did extensive work for the intelligence community, though they did not describe the nature of the activities. The firm was incorporated in Barbados for tax purposes, but had executives who worked at Blackwater's headquarters in North Carolina.

The former company officials say that Erik Prince, the business's founder, was eager to find ways to continue to handle secret work after the 2007 shootings in Baghdad's Nisour Square and set up a special office to handle classified work at his farm in Middleburg, Va.

Enrique Prado, a former top C.I.A. official who joined the contractor, worked closely with Mr. Prince to develop Blackwater's clandestine abilities, according to several former officials. In an internal e-mail obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Prado claimed that he had created a Blackwater spy network that could be hired by the American government.

"We have a rapidly growing, worldwide network of folks that can do everything from surveillance to ground truth to disruption operations," Mr. Prado wrote in the October 2007 message, in which he asked another Blackwater official whether the Drug Enforcement Administration might be interested in using the spy network. "These are all foreign nationals," he added, "so deniability is built in and should be a big plus."

It is not clear whether Mr. Prado's secret spy service ever conducted any operations for the government. From 2004 to 2006, both Mr. Prado and Mr. Prince were involved in a C.I.A. program to hunt senior leaders of Al Qaeda that had been outsourced to Blackwater, though current and former American officials said that the assassination program did not carry out any operations. Company employees also loaded bombs and missiles onto Predator drones in Pakistan, work that was terminated last year by the C.I.A.

Both Mr. Prince and Mr. Prado declined to be interviewed for this article.

The company is facing a string of legal problems, including the indictment in April of five former Blackwater officials on weapons and obstruction charges, and civil suits stemming from the 2007 shootings in Iraq.

The business is up for sale by Mr. Prince, who colleagues say is embittered by the public criticism and scrutiny that Blackwater has faced. He has not been implicated in the criminal charges against his former subordinates, but he has recently moved his family to Abu Dhabi, where he hopes to focus on obtaining contracts from governments in Africa and the Middle East, according to colleagues and former company officials.

After awarding Blackwater the new security contract in June, the C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, publicly defended the decision, saying Blackwater had "cleaned up its act."

But Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said she could not understand why the intelligence community had been unwilling to cut ties to Blackwater. "I am continually and increasingly mystified by this relationship," she said. "To engage with a company that is such a chronic, repeat offender, it's reckless."

It is unclear how much of Blackwater's relationship with the C.I.A. will become public during the criminal proceedings in North Carolina because the Obama administration won a court order limiting the use of classified information. Among other things, company executives are accused of obtaining large numbers of AK-47s and M-4 automatic weapons, but arranging to make it appear as if they had been bought by the sheriff's department in Camden County, N.C. Such purchases were legal only if made by law enforcement agencies.

But defense lawyers say they hope to argue that Blackwater had a classified contract with the C.I.A. and wanted at least some of the guns for weapons training for agency officers.


8) U.S. Military Bands: Lighter and Faster
September 3, 2010

Modern wars need a modern military, light and fast on its feet, and the United States Army has changed accordingly. So has its music.

The Army this summer issued an updated field manual for its lyrical forces - more than 100 bands - that formalizes a major change in the way they operate. It makes them more nimble and flexible, just as the Army has done for its fighting units.

Bands have been broken down into components, like rock, blues and salsa groups; jazz bands; brass quintets; and woodwind ensembles, any of which can be sent quickly, alone or together, to remote and dangerous places. A heavy-metal quartet called the Four Horsemen of the Arockalypse, courtesy of the Third Infantry Division Band, even has a homemade music video.

The new musical mission matches current military doctrine: the creation of smaller, self-contained forces, like brigades of 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers, that can be put in place more quickly and rotated more easily than an entire division, which is more than three times as large.

The Army talks about music in the lingo it wields for battle. A rehearsal is a "training session." A small ensemble is a "music performance team," a k a M.P.T. Wind, and string sections are "elements." Extra reeds and mouthpieces are "redundant supplies." Bands must be able to support "multiple objectives with targeted musical styles."

In the same spirit, the manual lays out the bands' missions, which are not to be confused with those of musical ensembles that seek to entertain or enlighten. Army bands are not there to cultivate personal creativity, artistic expression or a love for the Baroque. Their job is to sustain warrior morale, inspire leaders, build good will with the local populace, serve at ceremonies and foster military pride. They also play a crucial role at military funerals.

"Bands carry the message of historical relevance, national unity and prevailing perseverance," says the document, "U.S. Army Bands," which was issued in July by the Department of the Army.

The band manual, the first update since 1999, codifies changes that have been happening in the field for several years. It formally remakes the Army's conception of the band that had been in effect since World War I. It also reflects the way the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have shaped how the military delivers culture.

"There is not what you would call a big rear area, where Bob Hope would go in and where you would get civilian entertainers," said Col. Thomas H. Palmatier, who helped prepare the new manual. Colonel Palmatier is the commander and conductor of the United States Army Field Band, one of the service's elite ensembles, based at Fort Meade, Md.

The surge strategy in Iraq of sending troops to distant outposts "left a lot of soldiers out there where there wasn't entertainment or morale-type things," he said. The increased use of helicopter transportation in such a conflict zone also argues in favor of smaller groups. The Army band world has adopted an informal motto, Colonel Palmatier said: "If it can't fit into two Blackhawks, it's not going to happen." (Blackhawk helicopters can generally hold 4 crew members and 14 troops.)

The high-profile, large-scale Army bands, of course, remain. Along with the Army Field Band, which tours heavily, they include the United States Army Band, informally known as "Pershing's Own" or not so informally as Tusab. There are also the United States Military Academy Band and the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. The Army has 30 more bands on active duty, as well as 70 Reserve and National Guard bands. All told, it has slots for 4,600 band members.

Army bands have plenty of company in the other services. The Navy has 13 bands; the Air Force maintains 12 active-duty bands, joined by 11 in the Air National Guard; the Marine Corps sponsors the United States Marine Band ("the President's Own") of White House renown, and a baker's dozen other active-duty bands.

The military band world, in a sense, represents a vast hidden level of government support for the arts. Would-be Army band members must pass an audition, enlist, undergo basic training and attend the United States Army School of Music in Norfolk, Va. The elite bands announce auditions only when openings occur. Otherwise, recruits can voice preferences for division or separate bands where they might be needed.

Almost universally, band members are inducted with the expectation that they could find themselves in a war zone. "We want to make sure they know what they are coming for," Colonel Palmatier said.

At the moment, the First Infantry Division Band, based in Fort Riley, Kan.; the Third Infantry Division Band, based in Fort Stewart, Ga.; and the First Armored Division Band, based in Wiesbaden, Germany, are deployed in Iraq. The 101st Airborne Division Band is stationed in Afghanistan. A music performance unit from Colonel Palmatier's Field Band - the Volunteers, a rock group - is on its way to Iraq for a one-month tour. Some 1,300 band members have passed through Iraq and Afghanistan, Colonel Palmatier said.

On musician bulletin boards, discussions about Army bands often revolve around prosaic matters like how much student debt the Army covers or how much guard duty and other regular military activities are required. The manual lays out in detail the makeup of each music performance team, labeled B through F, with military precision. The "ceremonial music ensemble," M.P.T. B, for example, is supposed to have percussion, tuba, trombones, euphonium, French horns, trumpets, saxophones, clarinets and flutes. The "small popular music ensemble," - that's M.P.T. D - has percussion, bass, piano, guitar, trumpet and saxophone, and possibly vocal and amplification elements. There are also brass and woodwind quintet M.P.T.'s

The manual divides Army bands into categories: large, usually assigned to an Army command; medium, for the corps level; and small, for division headquarters or individual installations. The bigger the band, the more performance teams.

The document also puts in black and white the obvious changes in musical tastes. "Traditional brass and woodwind groups," while still "vital to overall support," have taken a back seat to pop of all hues: rock, blues, country and "succeeding genres of music." More vocalists have been added to bands.

"That 20-year-old really doesn't want to listen to symphonic-type music," Colonel Palmatier said.

On the other hand, he noted, an old-fashioned brass quintet still has its advantages. It can jump off a helicopter and set up in a field mess hall without the encumbrances of amplifiers, microphones and speakers.


9) Spotlight Shifts to Shallow-Water Wells
"There are more than 100 fires a year on oil and gas facilities in the gulf, mostly minor incidents involving welding sparks, grease fires and other mishaps that occur during routine maintenance."
September 3, 2010

For decades, thousands of oil and gas platforms have operated quietly in the shallower waters of the Gulf of Mexico, largely forgotten by the public and government regulators.

But just as the BP disaster in April brought new scrutiny to the dangers of drilling in the deepest waters of the gulf, Thursday's fire aboard a platform owned by Mariner Energy could well drag the shallow-water drillers into the spotlight's glare.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, the new agency responsible for overseeing offshore oil and gas development, said Friday that it was investigating the cause of the Mariner fire, which forced the 13 crew members to jump overboard and rattled nerves in a region that was still coping with the effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Members of Congress expressed alarm about the accident, with some saying it was proof that drilling laws needed to be tightened. And even industry executives said it was likely the fire would toughen the already difficult regulatory climate for gulf drilling after the Deepwater Horizon explosion killed 11 people and caused the largest maritime oil spill in American history.

"We will use all available resources to find out what happened, how it happened and what enforcement action should be taken if any laws or regulations were violated," said Michael R. Bromwich, head of the bureau, which replaced the discredited Minerals Management Service after the BP disaster.

Mr. Bromwich has been carefully reviewing shallow-water drilling as he draws up new regulations governing the industry. The agency, which imposed a six-month moratorium on all deepwater projects after the BP accident, has approved only four of 21 new shallow-water drilling applications since it issued new safety and environmental guidelines in late May.

Representative Nick Rahall, Democrat of West Virginia and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said he was "alarmed" by the latest mishap in the gulf and demanded documentation on the Mariner platform from the Interior Department for a committee investigation.

He said the Mariner platform, working in only 340 feet of water, "highlights all too clearly that the risks of offshore drilling are not limited to deep water."

Although more than 70 percent of all offshore oil production now comes from jumbo oil platforms plumbing the gulf's deeper waters, thousands of small-scale outfits pump oil from the shallower waters. Currently, 3,333 platforms are drilling in depths of less than 500 feet, compared with just 74 in deeper waters, according to B.O.E.M. data.

The kind of accident that set the Mariner platform ablaze is not unusual. Although the cause is still under investigation, it appears to have started in the crew's quarters and did not lead to any significant oil leakage.

Under normal circumstances, such an event would have received little attention. There are more than 100 fires a year on oil and gas facilities in the gulf, mostly minor incidents involving welding sparks, grease fires and other mishaps that occur during routine maintenance.

"People need to remember that the environment that people work in offshore is really no different from other industrial plants located onshore," said Thomas E. Marsh, vice president of operations for ODS-Petrodata, which tracks the offshore industry. "And industrial accidents happen regularly, but not commonly."

But industry experts say that most accidents happen aboard older platforms that tend to be concentrated in shallow waters.

Mariner operations alone have reported several dozen incidents, including 18 fires, from 2006 to 2009, according to federal records. Although no one died, there were at least three dozen injuries, including one that paralyzed a worker. Several others suffered severe injuries, and some received burns and broken bones. In May 2008, a Mariner rig briefly lost well control and partly evacuated the crew while workers frantically worked to shore up operations.

In addition, since 2006, Mariner Energy has been involved in at least four spills, in which at least 1,357 barrels of chemicals and petroleum flowed into the gulf, according to federal records.

Patrick Cassidy, Mariner's director of investor relations, said that the company only seriously got into the offshore drilling business in 2006 with its acquisition of properties of the Forest Oil Corporation. "Since Mariner has been operating there, we have steadily improved our performance," he said. "The performance yesterday is indicative of the improvement. There were no injuries, no spill, and the fire was extinguished."

Early reports of Thursday's accident suggested another spill had occurred. But Coast Guard officials said on Friday that only a patch of light rainbow sheen, measuring about 100 yards by 10 yards, had been spotted in morning flights over the area around the platform. The sheen appeared to be residual from the firefighting efforts, the Coast Guard said.

Nevertheless, the Mariner accident has already stoked the intense policy debate over stiffening regulations on shallow-water drillers.

"It will likely provide sufficient political cover for the Obama administration to pursue its current strategy toward stricter offshore regulation," Robert Johnston of the Eurasia Group, a research and consulting firm, said in a note to clients on Friday. "Even after the formal moratorium is lifted, the pending oil-spill legislation and proposed changes by the Interior Department will translate to higher costs and extended uncertainty for offshore drilling."

Oil production in the deep slopes and canyons of the Gulf of Mexico surpassed production from shallow waters roughly a decade ago. But for half a century before that, scores of oil and gas companies, big and small, made their fortunes from platforms propped up in waters less than 1,000 feet deep on the inner continental shelf, which can extend for 100 miles or more off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana.

According to data published in July by the Energy Policy Research Foundation in Washington, more than 50,000 wells have been drilled in the gulf's federally regulated waters since oil production in the area first began in 1947. Only 4,000 of those have been drilled in depths beyond 1,000 feet, and just 700 wells have gone beyond 5,000 feet.

Independent oil and gas companies - far smaller than the majors like Exxon Mobil and BP - represent the dominant shareholders in two-thirds of the 7,521 leases in the gulf, including the vast majority of the production leases in shallow waters.

According to a recent study by IHS Global Insight, the independents produced nearly 500,000 barrels a day of oil last year in shallow gulf waters, while the majors produced just over 20,000 barrels a day there.

But the new accident came at an inopportune time for the oil industry. After BP capped its runaway well and the spill faded from news media coverage, political pressure had grown in the gulf and around Washington to lift the drilling moratorium.

Now, the momentum is likely to shift again.

"This explosion is further proof that offshore drilling is an inherently dangerous practice," said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, an opponent of offshore oil and gas development.

James W. Noe, senior vice president of Hercules Offshore, the largest shallow-water drilling company in the gulf, said he thought the administration and regulators would use the incident to further slow drilling.

"People that have an agenda that is hostile to offshore drilling will use this incident, there's no doubt about that," he said, "But once the facts are understood fully, this will be treated as an industrial accident that could have occurred at a gas station around the corner. It's just bad timing."

Andrew W. Lehren and Tom Zeller Jr. contributed reporting.


Mumia Abu-Jamal : "I am an outlaw journalist",38278.html

On August 29th, 2010, Reporters Without Borders Washington DC representative Clothilde Le Coz visited Mumia Abu-Jamal, prisoner on death row for nearly three decades. Ms. Le Coz was accompanied by Abu-Jamal's lead attorney, Robert R. Bryan, and his legal assistant, Nicole Bryan. The meeting took place in room 17 of the State Correctional Institution (SCI) in Waynesburg, Greene County, Pennsylvania.

Reporters Without Borders: As a journalist who continues to work in prison, what are your latest reports focused on? Mumia Abu-Jamal: The prison population in the United States is the highest in the world. Over the past year, for the first time in 38 years, the prison population declined.

Some states, like California or Michigan, are taking fewer prisoners because of overcrowding. State budgets are restrained and some prisoners are released because of the economic situation.

Prisons in America are vast and the number of prisoners is immense. It's impressive to see how much money is spent by the US government and how invisible we are. No one knows. Most people don't care. Some journalists report when there is a drama in prison and think they know about it. But this is not real : it is sensationalist. You can find some good writings. But they are unrealistic. My reporting is what I have seen with my eyes and what people told me. It is real. My reporting has to do with my reality. They mostly have been focusing on death row and prison. I wish it were not so. There is a spate of suicides on death row in the last year and a half. But this is invisible. I broke stories about suicide because it happened on my block.

I need to write. There are millions of stories and some wonderful people here. Among these stories, the ones I choose to write are important, moving, fragile. I decide to write them, but part of the calculation is to know whether it's helpful or not. I have to think about that. As a reporter, you have a responsibility when you publish those kind of stories. Hopefully, it will change their lives for the better.

Do you think the fact you were a reporter affected your case ?

Being the "Voice of the Voiceless" played a significant role. And this expression actually comes from the title of a Philadephia Inquirer headline after I was arrested in 1981. As a teenager, I was a radical journalist working on the staff of the Black Panther national newspaper. The FBI was actually monitoring my writings since I was 14. My first job was being a reporter. Because of my writings, I am far better known that any inmate in America. If it were not the case, I think there would have been less pressure for the Court to create a special law to affect my conviction. Most of the men and women on death row are not well known. Because I continue to write, this is an element that would have affected the thinking of the judges and made them change the ruling for not giving me a new trial. I think they were thinking "You're a big mouth, you won't get a new trial". You expect a little more from a federal Court. Because of my case, a dozen of other cases can be affected.

What do you think of the media coverage of your case ?

Once, I read that I was no longer on death row. I was sitting here when I read it. I haven't stopped sitting here for one second.

Because I was coming from the craft, a lot of reporters did not want to cover my case because they feared they would be attached. They had to face criticisms for being partial and sometimes they were told by their editors they could not cover it. Since the beginning of the case, people who could cover me best were not allowed to. Most of reporters I worked with are no longer working. They retired and nobody took the work over.

But the press should have a role to play here. Millions of people saw what was done in Abu Ghraib. Its leader, smiling in the pictures that have been published, worked here before going to Abu Ghraib. On death row, you have people without a high school degree who can decide whether someone lives or dies. For whatever reason, they have the power to make you not eat if they don't want to. And none of that power is checked by anyone. There are informal rules. These people can make someone's life a living hell on a wink. When I choose which stories I want to write about, I am never short on material. From a writing perspective, this field is rich.

No matter what my detractors are saying about me, I am a reporter. This country would be a whole lot worse without journalists. But to many of them, I am an outlaw reporter. Prior to prison, in my work for various radio stations, I met people from all around the world and despite my conflicts with some editors, I had the greatest job.

The support you receive in Europe compared to the support you receive here in the United States, is very different. How do you explain the difference and do you still believe international mobilization will be helpful ?

Of course it will. The European mobilization might be pressuring the US regarding the death penalty. Foreign countries, like European ones, went through a specific history of repression. There was an in-their-bones-knowledge of what it is to be in prison. They know about prison, death row and concentration camps. In the US, very few people had that experience. That speaks to how cultures look at things in the world. In Europe, the very ideal of death penalty is an anathema.

9/11 changed a lot of things in the US. People challenging or opposing the government would not be supported anymore. The press also changed. Things that were "allowable" became unacceptable after 9/11. I think 9/11 changed the way people thought and it changed the tolerance of the media. For example, even though 9/11 happened in Manhattan and Washington DC, the jail was closed for an entire day, here in Pennsylvania, and we were locked down.

To motivate more people around your cause, it might be helpful to get an up to date picture of you, today, on death row. Does the fact that we don't have any updated picture of you affect your situation and the ability of more people to mobilize around your cause ?

Having a public image is partly helpful. The essence of an image is propaganda. Pictures are therefore not that important. The human image is the true one. There, I try to do my best. In 1986, prison authorities took recorders from reporters and you were only allowed a pen and a paper. Now that there is only the meaning of one article left, one can make monsters and models from his article.

If the Supreme Court agrees on a new trial, only your sentence will be reviewed. Not your conviction. How do you feel about staying in prison for life, if you are not executed ?

In Pennsylvania, life sentence is a slow death row. And under the state law, there are 3 degrees of murders. The first degree is punished by life sentence or death. The second and the third ones are punished by life sentence. People do not get out. The highest juvenile rate of life sentences is here in Pennsylvania. But here is my point, in Philadelphia, there were two other cases around my time were people killed a cop. The first one got acquittal. The second one, caught on a surveillance camera, did not get a death sentence.

How do you manage to "escape" death row ?

I have written on History, one of my passions. I would love to write about other things. My latest works are about war, but I also write about culture and music. I have an internal beat that I try to keep through poetry and drums. Very few things have matched the pleasure that I get from learning music. It's like learning another language. And to write, that's a challenge! A music teacher comes every week and teaches me. A whole new world is opening to me and I get a better grasp of it now. Music is one of the best thing mankind has done. The best of our lives.

For further information and to offer support for Mumia Abu-Jamal, contact: Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan 2088 Union Street, Suite 4, San Francisco, CA 94123-4117

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Reporters Without Borders defends imprisoned journalists and press freedom throughout the world. It has nine national sections (Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland). It has representatives in Bangkok, New York, Tokyo and Washington. And it has more than 120 correspondents worldwide.

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11) Jobs and Politics
"Since May, employers have not added any time to the workweek, now 34.2 hours on average. As hours have stalled, so has weekly wage growth. Data in the August report suggests that the average paycheck, now $774.97 a week, is being stretched to support more family members: graduates who cannot find work, unemployed relatives whose jobless benefits have expired, and underemployed workers who are working part time but need full-time work."
September 4, 2010

The August employment report, released Friday, was not as bad as economists had forecast. Unfortunately, exceeding low expectations and making progress are not the same thing. Yet, speaking from the Rose Garden after the report was released, President Obama said the economy was moving in a "positive direction."

The economy lost 54,000 jobs in August, far fewer than forecast. The private sector added 67,000 jobs - and tallies for the past two months were revised upward - while the government sector, mostly the Census, shed 121,000 employees. Dig into the numbers, however, and both sectors are in deep trouble.

Growth in private jobs has slowed markedly this year, from a monthly average of 119,000 in the first four months to 72,000 jobs on average in the past four months. That is not nearly enough to employ new workers, let alone make a dent in the ranks of the unemployed. Worse, most of the new jobs in August were in health care and food service, where very low-paying jobs - like home care aides and fast-food workers - are concentrated. A job is better than no job, but jobs that do not amount to a living will not lift the economy.

At the same time, government work is hemorrhaging. Many laid-off Census workers have nowhere to go but the unemployment line, since a slowing private sector cannot absorb them. In addition, states and local governments shed 10,000 more employees in August, for a total of 282,000 lost jobs in the past two years. Rather than supporting the economy in time of trouble, states and localities are a drag on growth.

Nor can working Americans provide much momentum. Since May, employers have not added any time to the workweek, now 34.2 hours on average. As hours have stalled, so has weekly wage growth. Data in the August report suggests that the average paycheck, now $774.97 a week, is being stretched to support more family members: graduates who cannot find work, unemployed relatives whose jobless benefits have expired, and underemployed workers who are working part time but need full-time work.

In all, the economy is still coming up short by nearly 11 million jobs. The unemployment rate, persistently high at 9.6 percent in August, is down from a peak of 10.1 percent last October. But the decline has come almost entirely because of people dropping out of the work force - or not entering - because there are no jobs to be had.

This week, the Obama administration is expected to unveil a plan for jobs, but early word indicates that it will be a political response designed to campaign specifications, and not to the scale of the problem.

Administration officials are said to be considering a package centered on business tax cuts, because those are presumably more palatable to Republicans - and to Democrats who are afraid of losing to Republicans and cannot think of a better response than to mimic their ideas.

The administration seems to have forgotten that the Republicans who run the show in Congress are happy to oppose their own ideas if Mr. Obama embraces them. New tax cuts, especially in place of spending, are also dubious policy. When it comes to spurring growth, direct spending to increase demand in the economy is more effective than most tax cuts.

One idea said to be on the table, suspending the employer share of the payroll tax, increases growth by $1.23 for every dollar in forgone revenue, while a dollar of federal spending for work-share programs adds $1.69 worth of growth. Mr. Obama has also floated the idea of new infrastructure projects and clean-energy jobs. A large national endeavor is needed to provide employment over the many years it will take to revive the labor market and to begin to build the foundation for sustained economic growth. That could be largely paid for by letting the Bush tax cuts expire for wealthy Americans at year's end, as they were originally intended to do and as Mr. Obama has called for.

But a reasonable trade-off along those lines seems out of reach. There is no sign that the Republicans will cooperate with anything Mr. Obama wants. And the Republicans have spooked Democrats into talking about tax cuts on the campaign trail.

Mr. Obama has tried before to offer deficit reduction initiatives for more cooperation on job creation. His budget proposal earlier this year to freeze many categories of discretionary spending was a failed attempt to win Republican support for a broad jobs bill last spring.

Aside from reluctant and belated extensions of jobless benefits, the only significant jobs measures passed this year were a $13 billion hiring credit for employers and $26 billion in aid to states. A large part of the hiring tax credit is likely to have gone to employers who would have hired new workers anyway. The state aid was cut nearly in half before it got through Congress.

If this dynamic does not change, the danger to the economy will not come only from a stalled job market, but from the stalled politics of Washington.


12) A Crash. A Call for Help. Then, a Bill.
September 3, 2010

ABOUT a year ago Cary Feldman was surprised to find himself sprawled on the pavement in an intersection in Chicago Heights, Ill., having been knocked off his motor scooter by the car behind him. Five months later he got another surprise: a bill from the fire department for responding to the scene of the accident.

"I had no idea what the fire truck was there for," said Mr. Feldman, of nearby Matteson. "It came, it looked and it left. I was not hurt badly. I had scratches and bruises. I did not go to the hospital."

Mr. Feldman had become enmeshed in what appears to be a nascent budget-balancing trend in municipal government: police and fire departments have begun to charge accident victims as a way to offset budget cuts.

Ambulance charges have long been common and are usually paid by health insurance, but fees for other responders are relatively new. The charge is variously called a "crash tax" or "resource recovery," depending on one's point of view. In either case, motorists are billed for services they may have thought were covered by taxpayers.

Sometimes the victim's insurer pays. But if it declines, motorists may face threats from a collection agency if they don't pay.

The AAA opposes such fees, said Jill Ingrassia, managing director for government relations and traffic safety advocacy. "Generally, we see that public safety services are a core government function that should be properly budgeted for with general taxes and not addressed by fees after the fact," she said.

Ms. Ingrassia says such charges can place an "undue burden on motorists who can't choose the size or duration of an emergency response," which means they cannot control the size of the bill they may get. "We also really don't want to discourage any motorist involved in a crash from calling for police or rescue services if they fear they are going to be billed for it," she said.

Mr. Feldman received a bill for $200. The Chicago Heights Fire Department told him the fire truck had responded in case there was a fire at the scene.

But Mr. Feldman, 71, had another question: "Why are you charging me? I didn't do anything wrong. Charge the other guy."

Neither Mr. Feldman's insurance company, nor that of the man who struck him, would pay. Mr. Feldman finally paid the bill with some of the money he received from the insurance company of the person who hit him.

"This is my personal opinion: it is a rip-off and a scam," he said.

The Chicago Heights fire chief, Thomas Martello, referred inquiries to the mayor's office, which did not respond to three phone messages in early August or to another on Thursday. (Mayor Alex Lopez died of a heart attack on Aug. 27. )

There appears to be no group that tracks the jurisdictions charging such fees or the number of bills sent. But police or fire departments are charging in at least 26 states, said Robert Passmore, senior director for personal lines at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. The group has lobbied against the fees, saying they amount to double taxation. It also says on its Web site, "The role of police and fire departments should be to serve and protect, not serve and collect."

But Regina Moore, the president of Cost Recovery, a billing company in Dayton, Ohio, that tries to collect the fees for municipal departments, said property taxes paid for fire crews to be "on ready standby" and for police to "protect property and citizens from crime." She argued that "traffic crash response is outside the scope of the primary function of both law enforcement and fire services."

The people who cause the problems should pay for such services, she said, not other taxpayers or accident victims who are not at fault.

Jeffrey Johnson, president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, said that some fire departments had charged for service calls for years, but that it was happening more often as departments tried to avoid reducing services.

"It is more prominent recently as economic times drive responders to look for ways to pay for their services," said Mr. Johnson, who just retired as chief of Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue in Aloha, Ore. People are accustomed to bills for ambulances, which are routinely paid by health insurance, he said. "So what we are really talking about is the leap from paying an ambulance fee, which people expect, to paying a first-responder fee."

Mr. Johnson said the fire chiefs' association had taken no position on such charges. "We believe that is a local decision," he said.

But the association does have what it calls a partnership with Fire Recovery USA of Roseville, Calif., another billing company.

In an e-mail, Ann Davison, a spokeswoman for the fire chiefs' association, said that relationship was focused on helping to explain the pros and cons of the practice to fire departments. Fire Recovery does donate "a portion" of its revenue to the association, she said.

Often departments charging fees are in communities with busy Interstate highways, where crews often respond to crashes involving travelers who do not pay local taxes, Mr. Johnson said.

That is the case with Salina, Kan., which responds to accidents on Interstates 70 and 135. In 2008, the city's fire department received permission to start billing people involved in accidents to help cover costs, said Mayor Aaron Peck.

In about two years the department has sent out bills for 63 accidents, averaging about $390 each. He said the city sent about $10,000 a year in bills and received payments amounting to about half that much. The rest of the money is lost to the city because some people refuse to pay and some of the money goes to a billing agency.

The billing services make money by taking a portion of the funds they collect. "The average is 10 percent, and if they don't get paid, we don't get paid," said Ms. Moore of Cost Recovery.

Rick Benner, chief financial officer for Fire Recovery, said that for his company about 20 percent would be "a fair representation."

Billing agencies like these have made it easier for fire departments to charge for services, and that has the effect of encouraging more departments to send bills to motorists involved in crashes, said Mr. Johnson of the fire chiefs' association.

The insurance industry argues that billing companies trying to drum up new business are a main reason the practice has been spreading.

But Mr. Benner says Fire Recovery is simply trying to help departments avoid service cuts.

Typically, departments send billing firms copies of accident reports and information on how many people and how much equipment responded. On average, the bill is about $200 for police and $600 to $800 for fire departments, Ms. Moore said.

Whether taxpayers are billed for crashes in their own jurisdictions varies by location.

There are also variations in whether the bill goes only to the motorist at fault or to all the parties involved, in which case the billing companies say the insurers determine fault.

If the insurance company refuses to pay, whether the motorist is billed depends on the jurisdiction, Ms. Moore and Mr. Benner said. If the motorist declines to pay, some departments drop the claim. Others take legal action.

Whether an insurance company will pay depends on the language in the policy, Mr. Passmore said, adding, "There are a lot of shades of gray."

After adopting such programs, some jurisdictions - including Radnor Township, Pa. - later backed off in response to complaints from residents and visitors, news reports and lobbying by the insurance industry. In recent years 10 states have prohibited such collections, according to the property casualty association: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. But some of those prevent only the police, as opposed to fire departments, from charging fees.

Ms. Moore of Cost Recovery says these are examples of "big insurance" working against "innocent taxpayers" and public safety.

The insurance industry says it is protecting consumers and trying to hold down premiums.

The finger-pointing has left cities like Denver trying to figure out what to do. This year, the city considered fees for nonresident, at-fault drivers, said Eric Brown, a spokesman for Mayor John W. Hickenlooper. Mr. Brown said the city stood to recover about $500,000 a year for fire services.

But the proposal was criticized by taxpayers and the media. In an editorial, The Denver Post described the idea as unfair and unwise, saying it would put taxpayers "financially on the hook for supporting emergency services twice."

The city decided not to decide.

"We shelved it for this year," Mr. Brown said.


13) No Risk, Says Leader of Spill Response
September 4, 2010

Crews hoisted the blowout preventer that once sat atop BP's stricken well to the surface of the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday night, and the federal leader of the spill response said that there was no longer any risk that the well might leak again.

"This well does not constitute a threat to the Gulf of Mexico at this point," the leader, Thad W. Allen, a former Coast Guard admiral, said during a conference call with reporters. "The well has been effectively secured regarding any potential source of pollution."

On Friday night, BP technicians replaced the original damaged blowout preventer - the safety device that failed when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded on April 20 - with another one that will be better able to handle any pressure changes that might take place during the final steps in the process of plugging the well permanently. That procedure should occur this week, Admiral Allen said.

The original blowout preventer is a major piece of evidence in the investigation into what caused the rig explosion, which killed 11 workers and resulted in the largest maritime oil spill in American history. Federal officials said they took possession of the device after it reached the surface.

No appreciable amount of oil or gas has leaked from the well since July 15, when technicians closed valves on a tight-fitting cap that had been installed several days earlier. In early August, mud and cement were pumped into the well from the top, effectively sealing the bottom of the well from the oil reservoir below it.

But all along, BP and government officials have said that the process could not be completed until the completion of a relief well, through which drilling mud and cement will be pumped into the stricken well.

Admiral Allen said that with a new blowout preventer installed, crews will conduct diagnostic tests before drilling of the relief well resumes. The relief well was expected to intercept the stricken well about four days later.


14) The Boss Is Robotic, and Rolling Up Behind You
September 4, 2010

SACRAMENTO - Dr. Alan Shatzel's pager beeped at 9 on a Saturday morning. A man had suffered a stroke, and someone had to decide, quickly, whether to give him an anticlotting drug that could mean the difference between life and death.

Dr. Shatzel, a neurologist, hustled not to the emergency room where the patient lay - 260 miles away, in Bakersfield - but to a darkened room at a hospital here. He took a seat in front of the latest tools of his trade: computer monitors, a keyboard and a joystick that control his assistant on the scene - a robot on wheels.

He guided the roughly five-foot-tall machine, which has a large monitor as its "head," into the patient's room in Bakersfield. Dr. Shatzel's face appeared on screen, and his voice issued from a speaker.

Dr. Shatzel acknowledged the nurse and introduced himself to the patient's grandson, explaining that he would question the patient to determine whether he was a candidate for the drug. The robot's stereophonic hearing conveyed the answers. Using the hypersensitive camera on the monitor, Dr. Shatzel zoomed in and out and swung the display left and right, much as if he were turning his head to look around the room.

For years, the military and law enforcement agencies have used specialized robots to disarm bombs and carry out other dangerous missions. This summer, such systems helped seal a BP well a mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. Now, with rapidly falling costs, the next frontiers are the office, the hospital and the home.

Mobile robots are now being used in hundreds of hospitals nationwide as the eyes, ears and voices of doctors who cannot be there in person. They are being rolled out in workplaces, allowing employees in disparate locales to communicate more easily and letting managers supervise employees from afar. And they are being tested as caregivers in assisted-living centers.

"Computers are beginning to grow wheels and roll around in the environment," said Jeanne Dietsch, a veteran roboticist and co-founder of MobileRobots Inc., a robot maker in Amherst, N.H., and a division of Adept Technologies.

Skeptics say these machines do not represent a great improvement over video teleconferencing. But advocates say the experience is substantially better, shifting control of space and time to the remote user.

"Most of the existing videoconferencing technology is designed for meetings," said Pamela J. Hinds, co-director at the Center for Work, Technology and Organization at Stanford University. "That is not where most work gets done."

For now, most of the mobile robots, sometimes called telepresence robots, are little more than ventriloquists' dummies with long, invisible strings. But some models have artificial intelligence that lets them do some things on their own, and they will inevitably grow smarter and more agile. They will not only represent the human users, they will augment them.

"The beauty of mobile telepresence is it challenges the notion of what it means to be somewhere," said Colin Angle, chief executive of one of the largest robot manufacturers, iRobot.

The robot is what allowed Dr. Shatzel to "be" in the patient's room far away. From an earlier telephone conversation with the emergency room doctor, the patient's condition had not been clear. But in speaking directly with the patient, examining his face and control of his hands and glancing with the camera at the cardiac monitor in the room, Dr. Shatzel could assess the stroke, he said, with the same acuity as if he were there. He instructed the staff to administer the drug.

"We had a good outcome," he said later.

Dr. John Whapham, a Loyola University neurologist who has helped create several regional networks providing telemedicine with robots made by InTouch Health, says that when he began using the robot during his residency, he would carry his laptop in a backpack so he could perform consultations anytime.

"I'll pull out the laptop, and when I'm on Michigan Avenue here in Chicago, put it on a garbage can or on the seat of a bus stop," he said. "You're live, and you can walk around, examine, image, zoom in and out. I do it all the time."

Expanding the Workplace

"I'm very thin in this new outfit," Mike Beltzner says, breaking the ice in a room of Silicon Valley computer programmers. In the flesh, he is 2,200 miles away, at home in Toronto with his cat. But at this meeting his face appears on a 15-inch LCD atop a narrow aluminum machine resembling an upright vacuum cleaner. Indeed, as this robot rolls around the room it looks as if it could just as easily be sweeping.

Mr. Beltzner rolls the robot to a large conference table in the Mountain View headquarters of the Mozilla Corporation, maker of Firefox, a popular Web browser. By swiveling his camera eye back and forth, he can see the entire room and chats comfortably with the assembled team.

An hour earlier, Mr. Beltzner, director of Firefox, was logged into a different robot on the other side of the building to attend the weekly all-hands meeting. With a pink lei on one shoulder and a jaunty cap on the other, the robot was surrounded by more than 100 young software engineers, each sitting with a wirelessly connected laptop.

Aside from the occasional greeting, no one seems to notice the disembodied Mr. Beltzner until he is called upon by Mary Colvig, a Mozilla marketing manager. She wants employees to share the chore of leading tours of the office each week.

"What do you want me to do?" Mr. Beltzner asks, his voice piping from twin speakers in the robot's chest.

"I would like you to give tours," she responds from the front of the room. "That would be pretty insane."

When the meeting ends, "Robo-Beltzner" - as one colleague calls him - mingles in the large room, chatting. Then Mr. Beltzner executes a nifty pirouette and moves the robot, made by Willow Garage of Menlo Park, Calif., to a charging station.

Like many other Silicon Valley companies, Mozilla has employees around the world, and in the month since it began testing the system, as many as 10 employees have logged in to run errands, chat and attend meetings.

Mr. Beltzner has now used the Willow Garage robot for more than a month, usually four to six times a week to attend meetings and chat with his co-workers in Mountain View. He finds it to be a distinctly different experience from a video teleconference or a computer chat system.

"With the robot, I find that I'm getting the same kind of interpersonal connection during the meetings and the same kind of nonverbal contact" that he would get if he were in the room, he said. "It's a lot easier to have harder conversations when I 'roll the robot,' " he added, referring to reviewing an employee's performance or discussing technical issues.

There are few drawbacks to the robots, the company's employees agree, although Erica Jostedt, a Mozilla communications manager, notes that the virtual Mr. Beltzner is ruder than his flesh-and-blood Canadian counterpart.

"I came to a meeting with him, and he didn't even open the door for me!" she said, laughing.

The robot, of course, has no arms.

That has not stopped other programmers from commuting to Silicon Valley robotically.

Each morning for the past year, Chad Evans's robot has sat with its back to a freeway in a double aisle of cubicles occupied by software designers at Philips Healthcare in Foster City, Calif.

Mr. Evans, a software designer himself, sits more than 2,000 miles away at home in Atlanta. But "Chadbot," a four-foot-tall prototype built by RoboDynamics of Santa Monica, Calif., allows him to live where he chooses and work West Coast hours.

When he is sitting at his desk in Atlanta, Mr. Evans is visible in a small monitor at the top of the robot, which is usually plugged into a recharging station. His workmates can see at a glance whether he is available for a quick chat by simply peering down the aisle.

When Mr. Evans needs to go to a meeting in Foster City or visit a colleague, he drives the robot to a desk or a meeting room. If someone is willing to help him by pressing the elevator buttons, he can even visit other floors.

"Using Skype would require me to initiate a phone call," he said. "This gives me more of a passive ability. I'm just sitting here like I would be at my desk if I was in the office. I see people coming and going, and they see me and they think, 'Oh yeah, there was something I wanted to ask Chad.' "

It took a while for his co-workers to get used to Chad as Chadbot. "The first three weeks were the weirdest experience I've ever had," said Karl McGuinness, a software architect whose desk is adjacent to the robot. "You'd hear his voice, and I'd think, 'What the heck is going on?' "

The Boss, or Big Brother?

Tom Serani's boss had grown frustrated that while Mr. Serani was on the road, his 20 salespeople working the phones back at company headquarters did not have the same zip as when he was in the office.

"The new guys were not doing quite as well," said the boss, Neal Creighton, a co-founder of RatePoint, a company based in Needham, Mass., that tracks Internet users' opinions of products and companies.

When RatePoint was approached by Vgo Communications to test a mobile robot, Mr. Creighton jumped at the chance.

From his hotel room, Mr. Serani can roll a robot up to an office cubicle back at headquarters, listen in on a telephone sales pitch and offer advice.

Mr. Serani was initially skeptical. "I immediately saw the potential," he said. "It was more a question of 'How do I position this so I don't have my guys running out of the building calling the local reporters about how insane I am?' "

But in practice, he said: "Our sales team responded a lot differently to the robot than they did to the speakerphone. They were looking at it like it was a person, and their behavior patterns were completely different when it was here."

Still, the possibility that remotely operated robots might be used by some managers as surveillance devices, or as peeping Toms, has made some in the fledgling industry nervous.

"I don't want this technology to be seen as a means of oppression," said Trevor Blackwell, founder and chief executive of Anybots, the maker of QB, a $15,000 mobile robot that balances on two wheels like a Segway and will be shipped commercially beginning this fall.

Others argue that the design of a robot determines how it will be perceived in the workplace. "Larger screens for showing the pilot's video create a greater sense of presence, whereas little to none suggests surveillance," said Sanford Dickert, a Willow Garage executive.

There are also skeptics about the value of the current generation of mobile robots. "It's cool, but it's a little gimmicky," said Michael Arrington, founder and co-editor of the technology news Web site TechCrunch. Although he now lives much of the year in Seattle and manages his Silicon Valley Web site from afar, he said he would consider the robot as a stunt, perhaps for an interview, but not for running his company.

"You can walk around, but you can't really see what's going on," he said.

A Tool for the Elderly

All five of the United States companies that have announced or are already selling mobile robots are adding or experimenting with automation. For example, it will not be unusual for mobile robots in the next year to feature collision avoidance and lane-following technologies like those now offered in luxury automobiles. Already Vgo's robot automatically parks itself when it is driven within a foot or two of its recharging station.

Such automated robots could help in caring for a rapidly aging population.

Vgo's executives said they ultimately envisioned their robots being used by family members to pay visits and offer help to elderly parents, allowing them to remain independent longer. At the simplest, the Vgo robots could help workers in assisted-living homes check in on residents and make sure they were taking medicines at the correct time each day.

"We're not replacing low-cost labor," said Brad Kayton, Vgo's chief executive. "We're acting as a supplement for it."

Others see the robots as a new means of mobility for the elderly, allowing them to stay in better contact with friends and family and visit museums and theaters, among other possible applications.

As technology advances, designers say, mobile robots will allow the elderly and others to do more than be in two places at one time. The robots will augment their human users, enhancing their senses by offering capabilities like better vision and hearing as well as futuristic skills like face recognition.

Still, no one believes the telepresence robots will be accepted without some resistance.

Lou Mazzucchelli, an expert in video teleconferencing, suggested that workers might make fun of their robot-enhanced managers behind their backs.

Moreover, there may be unpredictable consequences. The robots might become a new target for frustrated colleagues. "All of these products," he said, "are just begging me to kick them over."


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