Saturday, October 16, 2010



15th Annual
Bay Area October 22nd to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation


Friday, October 22nd
12 to 1 PM Fruitvale Bart Plaza
(34th Ave. & International)
Speak Out & Rally
71st Ave. & International

For more info: 510-926-5207




An urgent message from the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal

Please forward, post and distribute widely:

Oscar Grant & Mumia Abu-Jamal - Mass mobilizations!

Against racism, injustice and official murder of the innocent!
PLEASE SCROLL DOWN for full information

1. OAKLAND, October 23rd 2010:
Rally: 12 Noon, City Hall, 14th and Broadway


An Innocent Black Man Shot in the Back by Police and...
Killed for No Reason!

Killer Cop Gets Off With Involuntary Manslaughter!

Photographic Evidence Proves: It Was Murder!

Oscar Grant was a father of a young daughter, a working person in Oakland, and innocent of any crime! He was shot while he was held face-down with his hands behind him, by BART cop Johannes Mehserle!

Only because of massive street protests in Oakland, and cell-phone videos of the shooting which made it onto the nightly news, was the cop eventually charged with murder. But after a change of venue to Los Angeles, Mehserle received the lightest conviction: involuntary manslaughter. Oakland's integrated community rose again to protest.

ILWU Calls Rally & Port Shutdown!

With Mehserle's long-delayed sentencing set for November 5th, Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), supported by many other unions and local community groups, called for a rally in downtown Oakland for Saturday, October 23rd at 12 noon.

And now the longshore membership has voted for a port shutdown as well, to say: Justice for Oscar Grant! Labor Unity With the Community! Jail Killer Cops!

The day-long shutdown on the docks is supported by ILWU Local 10 (longshore), Local 34 (Clerks), and the port workers in SEIU Local 1021, who will also walk off the job on October 23rd. The rally for Oscar Grant has been supported unanimously by both San Francisco and Alameda County Labor Councils. Support has also come in from the Oakland Education Association (OEA - Oakland teachers), AFT Local 2121, UAW 2865, AFSCME 3299, and other unions. The ANSWER Coalition, Campaign To End the Death Penalty (CEDP), Code Pink, Barrio Unido, and numerous others also support this action.

All out! Make This Labor/Community Rally Massive!
Saturday, October 23rd, 12 Noon, at 14th & Broadway, Oakland.

The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
will be there with the following call:
Justice for Oscar Grant! Jail Killer Cops!
Maximum Sentence for Johannes Mehserle!
Mumia Is Innocent! Free Mumia!

2. PHILADELPHIA, November 9th 2010,
2 PM, Third Circuit Court, 6th & Market


An Innocent Man Faces Execution... Again!
Will Mumia Be Killed For No Reason?

Mumia Abu-Jamal, a journalist and a political prisoner who has been on death row for 28 years, faces a new hearing to determine: will he get a new court hearing to finally decide his sentence, or will he be executed immediately? In it's instructions to the Third Circuit, the Supreme Court made immediate execution the likely outcome.

Mountains of evidence, including witness recantations, another man who confessed, and photographic evidence of the crime scene, proves his innocence. Yet state and federal courts, including the Supreme Court, have slammed the door on Mumia. Most of the evidence that could free him has gone unheard, because...

The cops, courts and politicians want Mumia dead!

A politically motivated conspiracy, led by the Fraternal Order of Police, seeks to silence forever this outspoken opponent of war, racism, police brutality and corruption. We have to stop them in their tracks! The courts aren't going to free Mumia. Only mass mobilizations, as in 1995, when we stopped an earlier execution order, and labor mobilizations like the West Coast port shutdown by longshore workers in 1999, can free Mumia.

All Out on November 9th: Mobilize to Free Mumia!

Come to Philadelphia:

Third Circuit Court of Appeals, 601 Market St (6th & Market).
Hearing starts at 2 PM on Tuesday Nov 9th.
Get there early to demonstrate!

Bus from New York:

Call: 212 330-8029 - leave a message and a number for a return call to reserve a seat on a bus to Philadelphia.

For Mass Action, and Labor Action!
Mumia is innocent! Free Mumia!
End the Racist Death Penalty!

- This message from:
The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu_jamal
PO Box 16222 • Oakland CA 94610 • 510 763-2347


Oscar Grant rally -- Legal Note

We are expecting a mass mobilization for the rally at noon on October 23 in front of Oakland City Hall with participation from unions, community organizations and churches. We are organizing for an orderly, well-disciplined protest rally. Anne Weills of the Legal Support Committee has provided us with the telephone HOTLINE 415-285-1011 for legal assistance. Please make this available to your members and supporters.

In solidarity,

Anne Butterfield Weills
Attorney at Law
499-14th Street, Suite 220
Oakland, California 94612

Tel: 510.839.1200
Fax: 510.444.6698


Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:





The next meeting of the Bay Area United National Antiwar Committee will take place Sunday, October 17, 2010 at 1:00 P.M.
UC Berkeley, Wheeler Hall, Room 122
[Wheeler is the first building on the right after you pass under Sather Gate as you enter the campus from the South on Telegraph and Bankcroft.]
Future meetings may move from SF to the East Bay and back.

Proposed agenda:

1) Brief update on UNAC activities since last meeting:
a) FBI protest at SF Federal Building
b) UNAC speaker and participation in October 6 Iraq War protest
c) October 7 UC Berkeley cutback protest at Sproul Plaza/UNAC participation
d) UNAC tabling at Progressive Educators Conference at Mission High School.

2) Progress report on UC Berkeley teach-in, now set for November 30 at Pauley Ballroom.
UNAC reps proposed to Students for Justice in Palestine, the Muslim Student Alliance and the Middle East Children's Alliance that we co-sponsor a major teach-in at UCB. All agreed. Students proposed November 30, 7 pm as the time and date. There have been two planning meetings to date with several themes proposed including:

Islamophobia and Racism
FBI Raids and fighting back
Palestine/BDS/Rt, of Return/Political prisoners/History/Gaza Siege/Flotilla
Building U.S. antiwar movement and Palestine/Funding education not war

Confirmed speakers: Ziad Abbas (former Palestinian political prisoner) , Barbara Lubin (MECA), Michel Shehadeh (LA 8), Hatem Bazian (UCB prof.), Students for Justice in Palestine, Blanca Miesé, Jeff Mackler, Masao Suzuki (FBI raid victim), Muslim Student Alliance, ASUC Senators who led BDS fight.

Invited speakers: Col. Ann Wright, Daniel Ellsberg, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Ethan McCord, Noam Chomsky, Nora Barrows Friedman.

Pauley Ballroom holds some 700 people. The groups agreed to seek a broad endorser list, is preparing a leaflet, electronic communications, Facebook etc. Reps from the student groups will be present at our UNAC meeting. Many student groups will be asked to endorse and help. Teach-in program/panels etc. is under discussion.

UNAC's Sunday meeting will focus on building for November 30:

a) Outreach
b) Media
c) Endorsements
e) etc.

3) BDS ballot petition
4) National UNAC update
5) Future UNAC events
6) Other
7) Next meeting


Port of Oakland will be shut-down for Oscar Grant Justice!
No vessel will be worked!
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.


October 30-31st Mobilizing Conference | Education 4 the People!
October 30-31st Mobilizing Conference
October 30-31st (Saturday-Sunday)
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132


We, the people, have the democratic power to beat back these attacks
and ensure that our public institutions effectively serve the public.
But to do so, members of all regions and sectors - adult-ed,
students, workers, teachers, activists, unions, and community
organizations - must unite and take action on October 7th, and
contribute our voices and thoughts to the October 30-31st conference at
San Francisco State University to defend public education.

The purpose of the October 30-31st conference is to democratically
propose demands, devise an action plan, and create a structure capable
of defending public education and public services for the benefit of

We invite all supporters of education across the nation to attend and
participate in the October 7th day of action and the October 30-31st

Conference organizing email list (Google group):

Conference locations:
Saturday: Cesar Chavez Student Union
Sunday: McKenna Theater
(See SE Quadrant of Campus map)

Public Transportation to SFSU: Directions to San Francisco State U

Parking: Where and When Can I Park?
Note that on-campus parking is usually available on the weekends, but street parking time-limited.

Preliminary Agenda

Future Actions - break-out groups (discussing, drafting proposals)
Future Actions - plenary (adoption of proposals)
Demands - break-out groups
Demands - plenary
Structure for the future - break-out groups
Structure for the future - plenary



Black Is Back: Let's March on White House Again, Nov. 13
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
October 6, 2010


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




BP Contract Worker "Trenches Dug To Bury Oil On Beaches"


Dr. Harbut [Dr. Michael Harbut, Professor of Medicine, Wayne State University] spoke with the Navy. Navy asked about training exercises over Gulf with risk of somebody going down into water... should we consider suspending training? Navy then suspended exercises over Gulf.


RETHINK Afghanistan: The 10th Year: Afghanistan Veterans Speak Out



Dear readers,

There is something very ominous about the Fox News reporting of Israeli business in the U.S. I have seen such a Kiosk at the Stonestown Mall in San Francisco selling skin-treatment salts from the Dead Sea. The salesmen and women are well-dressed and groomed and young--in their twenties. But the presence of these Kiosks does not "prove" the presence of an "enemy Israeli spy ring." I figured it to be Israeli business interests in San Francisco and, of course, I would never purchase an Israeli product. I also must say, they are pushy sales representatives--they follow you for a few steps saying, "Excuse me, may I talk to you" and they repeated it several times until you answer "No" then they leave you alone.

But Israel doesn't control the U.S. It's the other way around:

"In an article in the March 1995 issue of The Middle East Forum Promoting American Interests entitled, "Jesse Helms: Setting the Record Straight," Helms, who was the senior senator from North Carolina and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time stated, "I have long believed that if the United States is going to give money to Israel, it should be paid out of the Department of Defense budget. My question is this: If Israel did not exist, what would U.S. defense costs in the Middle East be? Israel is at least the equivalent of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Middle East. Without Israel promoting its and America's common interests, we would be badly off indeed."

Israel's the equivalent to much more than that today to protect U.S. interests in the area. In fact, according to Wikipedia Israel is second only to Iraq as the largest recipient of U.S. aid to the tune of at least $3 billion dollars a year (a very modest estimate):

Of course, it doesn't include the amount of profits Israeli businesses are earning in U.S. malls and other financial investment interests. Don't buy Israeli products or services. Demand divestment in Israel. End All U.S. Aid to Israel NOW! End the Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, Colombia and everywhere under the U.S. or U.S. financed gun or drone!

But please, Israel is not policing or controlling the world, that is being carried out by the U.S. government backed up by its military, the biggest purveyor of violence in the world!

The Kiolsks in the mall? A little extra earnings for well-to-do Israeli youth. Another U.S. perk for apartheid Israel.

Twenty Plus Israeli Military Agents at San Francisco Mall Kiosk Front Companies 2009


Firefighters Watch As Home Burns:
Gene Cranick's House Destroyed In Tennessee Over $75 Fee
By Adam J. Rose
The Huffington Post -- videos
10- 5-10 12:12 AM


NOAA investigating husband & wife that were sprayed with dispersant while sleeping on boat


Dangers Lurk Beneath the Surface of Gulf of Mexico
September 29th, 2010
In spite of what you might have read in the news, the oil in the Gulf of Mexico has not just disappeared. It's lurking on the bottom, destroying marine life and entire ecosystems. On top of that, we are now starting to see adverse health effects from BP's use of the toxic oil dispersant known as Corexit, which is being dumped into the Gulf as we speak. Mike Papantonio talks about some of the effects that we're now seeing as a result of BP's dispersant chemicals with Dr. Riki Ott, one of the leading experts on the impact of oil spills on human health.


Soldier Describes Murder of Afghan for Sport in Leaked Tape
September 27, 2010, 6:43 pm


"Don't F*** With Our Activists" - Mobilizing Against FBI Raid


Stephen Colbert's statement before Congress


PcolaGregg Answers With Truth And Reality!




!*PA HRC ACTION ALERT! Prisoners protesting abusive conditions at Huntingdon attacked by guards

From: PA HRC

Action Alert- Prisoners protesting abusive conditions at Huntingdon attacked by guards

Emergency Response Network Action Alert- October 7, 2010

Prisoners at SCI Huntingdon attacked after protesting abusive conditions

Please Call SCI Huntingdon Superintendent Raymond Lawler and DOC Secretary Shirley Moore Smeal and demand an end to food deprivation and racist discrimination against Huntingdon Prisoners in the solitary confinement units. (Vincent Hallman, Jeremiah Weems, Rhonshawn Jackson, Jamiel Johnson, Gary Wallace, Kyle Klein, Anthony Martin, Anthony Allen, Eric Mackie)

On September 29, 8 prisoners from SCI Huntingdon planned a peaceful protest to speak out against ongoing intimidation, harassment, assault, food deprivation, and racism, racism, racism. Jamiel Johnson wrote HRC the day after, saying he and the other prisoners need immediate help and they are fighting for their lives.

The protest consisted of 8 prisoners refusing to return to their cells after being let outside for yard. They were issued misconduct reports and then "extracted" from their yard cages by being sprayed with chemical OC spray which affects their eyes, nose and breathing. (YouTube OC Spray) Vincent Hallman wrote that the correctional officers carted out three canisters of spray and then just "went at them" until they folded. While they were out in the yard, another prisoner in solitary confinement, Jeremiah Weems, was being sprayed with OC spray, extracted from his cell and taken to a restraint chair in a secluded part of the prison. The outside prisoners were brought in to medical but were not able to rinse their eyes of the blinding chemical or shower the chemicals off their person. Jamiel Johnson reported that once the prisoners were back in their cells, the abuse continued. The men inside their cells were sprayed and extracted, stripped, denied clothes, moved to other cells, moved back to OC cells, denied food, had the water turned off in all their cells and the air conditioning cranked up. The crisis is ongoing.

Please Call (talking points below):

SCI Huntingdon- (814) 643-2400 Ask to speak to Superintendent Lawler and say you are reporting abuse.

Regional Secretary Randall Britton- (717) 975-4930 Ask to speak to Randall Britton and say you are reporting abuse at SCI Huntingdon

Secretary Shirley Moore Smeal (717) 975-4819 Ask to speak to Secretary Smeal and say you are reporting abuse at SCI Huntingdon.

Please call SCI Huntingdon and other DOC officials and demand an end to the abuse and retaliation that has been ongoing at this institution. Please call elected officials and media people if you have time too. You can also write these officials if you can not make a phone call (addresses below). You can also reply to this email with comments if you cannot respond in any other way.

Talking Points for speaking to the Department of Corrections:

1) Tell them that you heard that a bunch of prisoners at SCI Huntingdon had a protest on September 29th as a REACTION against abusive conditions in the solitary confinement units

2) Ask them if they know of any abuse happening to prisoners in the solitary confinement units

3) After they say no, tell them you heard that a bunch of prisoners were losing weight and starving because they are regularly being denied food, especially last month during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan.

4) Ask them what chemical weapon's are being sprayed on the prisoners and if there are any side effects to these chemical weapons

5) Ask them what measures are taken against guards who use racist language towards prisoners in the solitary confinement units. Ask them if calling prisoners "monkeys" and "niggers" is acceptable professional behavior.

6) Ask them if there is someone else you can speak to, who will address the problem in a proactive way.

7) Tell them you think the prisoner's should be transferred because at this point, you do not see how they could be treated fairly

Thank you for taking time to respond to this alert and raise the voices of the people inside whose human rights are being violated.

Courage and Solidarity,

HRC-Fed Up!

Address for SCI Huntingdon

Superintendent Raymond Lawler
1100 Pike St
Huntingdon PA 16654

Address for Randall Britton and Shirley Moore Smeal
2520 Lisburn Rd
P.O. Box 598
Camp Hill PA 17001


Dear all,

As you know, I publish the Bay Area United Against War (BAUAW) newsletter that goes out to over 380 groups and individuals in the Bay Area (mostly individuals). While BAUAW used to be an activist group and is no longer a group, the newsletter remains active and, in fact has grown. I was able to give a similar, but much shorter message to the demonstration September 28 as the publisher of the BAUAW Newsletter and blog at
Clearly, and unfortunately, this will be an ongoing campaign.

In solidarity,

Bonnie Weinstein


About one- to two-hundred people showed up at the Federal Building in San Francisco at 7th and Mission Streets, on barely 24 hour's notice, to protest Obama's FBI raids against peace and social justice activists. It was broadly attended by the major antiwar, social justice groups and the labor movement. Speaker after speaker spoke against the raids as a threat to all who protest injustice carried out by the U.S. government here and abroad.

But the raids have not stopped! The only way to stop them is to stand united behind all those who have and will be persecuted by Obama's administration. We have a right to protest injustice wherever we perceive it--especially if the crimes are being funded by the U.S. government (our tax dollars) as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Colombia and Palestine and numerous other places around the globe. An injury to one is an injury to all! We are only as strong as our weakest link. That is why we must stand together. Together, the weakest link becomes unbreakable.

The antiwar movement is obviously central to the defense of civil liberties and civil rights. That's why it's more important than ever for us to unite and call national and international actions against the wars, occupations and illegal military and police actions by our government here and everywhere--including these raids!

It's important first, to let the Obama administration know that this will not stop us from protesting, and second, to let this government know that we, the majority of people against the wars, being in the majority, have the right to dictate to them how our tax dollars should be spent.

We have the right to demand money for jobs, housing, healthcare, education and to life, liberty and peace of mind and body, not never-ending wars, occupations and prisons to preserve the wealth of the power elite. All human beings everywhere have these inalienable rights! We are citizens of the world and we all have these same common interests, human needs and wants.

If we don't stand together and demand them, we will not have them. More importantly, they are within our grasp if we stand united.

In solidarity,

Bonnie Weinstein, Publisher of Bay Area United Against War Newsletter,

--- On Tue, 9/28/10, Women Against Military Madness wrote:

From: Women Against Military Madness
Subject: [WAMM] WAMM Board Co-Chair Subpoenaed to Appear Before Grand Jury

The witch-hunt continues! I know you have heard that Freedom Road and the Anti-War Committee are being investigated by the FBI.

Yesterday, WAMM board co-chair and long time peace activist, Sarah Martin was also served with a subpoena. She is to appear before a grand Jury, in Chicago, on October 12, as part of the FBI investigation that is trying to tie local peace groups to terrorism.

Sarah is innocent of terrorism or connection to organizations that condone terrorism.

This is part of a nationally coordinated action, surely approved by the director of the FBI and probably at higher levels than that. There has been considerable national media attention. It appears that our Twin Cities peace community has been thrust into the middle of something much larger. The affected activists will need a lot of our support as they resist increasing repression and "terrorism" hype from the Obama Administration.

The people targeted have several things in common which give an insight to the nature of this investigation. Locally, all have been connected to the Anti-War Committee and/or WAMM. I believe all are connected to Freedom Road Socialist Organization. All were deeply involved in organizing the mass marches at the RNC in 2008. I believe all have been involved in the efforts to stop the DNC from coming to Minneapolis in 2012. All or nearly all have traveled to Colombia and/or Palestine for international solidarity work.

Please join us at the first meeting of a new solidarity and defense committee, Thursday, September 30, 7:00 p.m. at Walker Methodist Church, 3104 16th Avenue South, Minneapolis. Feel free to invite friends, neighbors, lawyers, church members and leaders so that we can organize to keep this malignant FBI investigation from spreading further through out our community.

Democracy is indeed under a terrifying assault! Sadly enough, it is coming from the hands of our own government, directed at some of the best, brightest, and most conscientious of our own citizens. For those of us who hold the constitution and the Bill of Rights near and dear to our hearts, we must stand up to this new assault on American freedom.

Kim Doss-Smith, Executive Director, Woman Against Military Madness (WAMM), 612-827-5364.

Women Against Military Madness (WAMM)
310 East 38th Street, Suite 222
Minneapolis, MN 55409
612-827-5364 (phone)
612-827-6433 (fax) (email) (web site)


Protest the Raids
By Gregg Shotwell, Soldiers of Solidarity, UAW

Read or listen to the article linked above about raids on the homes of anti war activists.

Of course, most of us may say, "First they came for the anti war activists, but since I am not an anti war activist........" But you know where the story ends:
with you and me.

I know three of the people whose homes were raided.

I know them through my activism in the UAW.

All three are soldiers of solidarity, by that I mean, people who show up on the picket lines and who support solidarity wherever and whenever it is called for.

I attest to these allegiances without qualification.

All three are workers, parents, and people committed to peace, equality, solidarity, and justice.

They are friends not terrorists.

They are men and women of conscience and commitment.

If the feds can terrorize them, they can terrorize you and me as well.

Note in the interview the connection to Columbia, the most dangerous
country in the world FOR TRADE UNIONISTS. They don't fire union supporters in Columbia, they murder them.

Now the FBI is raiding the homes of people who work for the union movement
in the USA and who advocate for peace rather than war.

Pick up the phone or email Obama, go straight to the top and demand the feds stop terrorizing workers who are campaigning for peace, solidarity, and justice. Don't wait. Don't think for a minute that you can hide from the thought police. The intimidation won't stop at your door. What's to stop them? Your silence?

The only thing that can stop harassment is solidarity.

sos, Gregg Shotwell

To contact Obama:


San Francisco Labor Council Resolution

[Note: The following resolution -- submitted by David Welsh, NALC 214, and Alan Benjamin, OPEIU 3 -- was adopted unanimously by the SFLC Delegates' Meeting on Sept. 27, 2010.]

Condemn FBI Raids on Trade Union, Anti-War and Solidarity Activists

Whereas, early morning Sept. 24 in coordinated raids, FBI agents entered eight homes and offices of trade union and anti-war activists in Minneapolis and Chicago, confiscating crates full of computers, books, documents, notebooks, cell phones, passports, children's drawings, photos of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, videos and personal belongings. The FBI also raided offices of the Twin Cities Anti-war Committee, seizing computers; handed out subpoenas to testify before a federal Grand Jury to 11 activists in Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan; and paid harassment visits to others in Wisconsin, California and North Carolina; and

Whereas, one target of the raid was the home of Joe Iosbaker, chief steward and executive board member of SEIU Local 73 in Chicago, where he has led struggles at the University of Illinois for employee rights and pay equity. Brother Iosbaker told the Democracy Now radio/TV program that FBI agents "systematically [went] through every room, our basement, our attic, our children's rooms, and pored through not just all of our papers, but our music collection, our children's artwork, my son's poetry journal from high school -- everything." He and his wife, a Palestine solidarity activist, were both issued subpoenas. The earliest subpoena dates are October 5 and 7; and

Whereas, the majority of those targeted by the FBI raids had participated in anti-war protests at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul MN, which resulted in hundreds of beatings and arrests [with almost all charges subsequently dropped]. Many of those targeted in the 9/24 raids were involved in humanitarian solidarity work with labor and popular movements in Colombia -- "the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist"-- whose US-funded government has been condemned by the AFL-CIO and internationally for the systematic assassination of hundreds of trade unionists; and

Whereas, the nationally coordinated dawn raids and fishing expedition marks a new and dangerous chapter in the protracted assault on the First Amendment rights of every union fighter, solidarity activist or anti-war campaigner, which began with 9/11 and the USA Patriot Act. The raids came only 4 days after a scathing report by the Department of Justice Inspector General that soundly criticized the FBI for targeting domestic groups such as Greenpeace and the Thomas Merton Center from 2002-06. In 2008, according to a 300-page report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the FBI trailed a group of students in Iowa City to parks, libraries, bars and restaurants, and went through their trash. This time the FBI is using the pretext of investigating "terrorism" in an attempt to intimidate activists.

Therefore be it resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council denounce the Sept. 24th FBI raids on the homes and offices of trade union, solidarity and anti-war activists in Minneapolis, Chicago and elsewhere; the confiscation of computers and personal belongings; and the issuance of Grand Jury subpoenas. This has all the earmarks of a fishing expedition. The FBI raids are reminiscent of the Palmer Raids, McCarthy hearings, J. Edgar Hoover, and COINTELPRO, and mark a new and dangerous chapter in the protracted assault on the First Amendment rights of every union fighter, international solidarity activist or anti-war campaigner, which began with 9/11 and the USA Patriot Act;

And be it further resolved, that this Council make the following demands:

1. Stop the repression against trade union, anti-war and international solidarity activists.

2. Immediately return all confiscated materials: computers, cell phones, papers, documents, personal belongings, etc.

3. End the Grand Jury proceedings and FBI raids against trade union, anti-war and international solidarity activists;

And be it further resolved, that this Council participate in the ongoing movement to defend our civil rights and civil liberties from FBI infringement; forward this resolution to Bay Area labor councils, California Labor Federation, Change to Win and AFL-CIO; and call on these organizations at all levels to similarly condemn the witch hunt;

And be it finally resolved, that this Council urge the AFL-CIO to ensure that denunciation of the FBI raids is featured from the speakers' platform at the October 2, 2010 One Nation march in Washington, DC, possibly by inviting one of those targeted by the raids, for example the SEIU chief steward whose home was raided, to speak at the rally.


More Thoughts on the Division within the Antiwar Movement in the Bay Area
By Bonnie Weinstein and Carole Seligman

We agree with the demands adopted by the UNAC conference but disagree with organizing separately as is now the case [And now, especially, because of the horrendous assault on our civil liberties by the ongoing Obama/FBI raids.]

A way we can still work together would be to agree to accept all the demands and allow organizing under all of them. It is also clear to us that UNAC (United National Antiwar Committee) does not have the base on the West Coast as it seems to have East of the Mississippi. We don't think we could have organized such a conference out here. Not now. Not yet. It is also clear--as it has been for many years--that ANSWER is firmly established as the leadership of the antiwar movement here in San Francisco, at least, and probably in LA and DC. So, we can't build a separate and competing coalition nor do we want to if we want the movement to keep strong and united and to grow.

Unfortunately, it is clear that local labor organizations here in the Bay Area are focusing on getting out the vote for the Democratic Party this November and have rejected any other type of action here on the West Coast on October 2. This rejection of taking action has nothing what-so-ever to do with the demands voted upon by the 800 people at the UNAC conference and has everything to do with keeping the labor movement tied to the Democratic Party.

We have to be realistic when trying to work with organized labors' "leaders." They are failing miserably to protect jobs and working conditions in San Francisco, in the Bay Area and throughout California and, for that matter, across the country. They are selling their own workers down the river lock, stock and barrel! But we do need to organize working people who, we believe, are far to the left of organized labors' "misleaders." That's why a united antiwar movement with strong demands of its own that ties the war spending and banker bailouts to the miseries working people are facing today--here and in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine--is imperative now!

Our belief is that no matter what demands were voted on at the UNAC conference, it makes no difference to these "labor misleaders." They are fully entrenched in the Democratic Party and are doing what they always do in spite of the continual wars and the drastic assault on the living conditions of workers across the country. They have proven themselves incapable of doing anything else in recent history except for giving workers false hope that voting Democratic will make a difference--i.e., "bringing the change we want"--by voting for Democrats.

They failed to push for the Employee Free Choice Act or single-payer healthcare; they make no mention of the fantastic costs of the wars and how they are impacting the living standards of working people; and again, offered only a vote for Democrats as the answer.

It is just not realistic to think that the demands adopted by UNAC are what's keeping organized labor from the antiwar movement. It's the labor misleaders themselves that are keeping organized labor from the antiwar movement no matter what the demands.

It is very strange to us that one minute the San Francisco Labor Council will pass an antiwar resolution and the next minute hold an honorary banquet for the mass murderer and war monger, Nancy Pelosi. Or to continue their ongoing support to Obama who has escalated the wars and the attacks on the living standards of working people, undocumented workers, students, youth--especially Black youth--etc. Has massively bailed out the wealthy with trillions of our tax dollars. That in the middle of a horrific oil spill sent thousands of National Guard troops--not to clean up the spill--but to patrol the borders between Mexico and the U.S. while deploying other National Guard troops to help hide the effects of the BP spill in the Gulf by chasing away scientists who are trying to gather data about the spill and the dispersants being poured into the oceans we all depend upon.

We haven't the slightest hope that electing Democrats will will improve any of these conditions. Only mass action in the streets demanding the things we want--an end to the wars NOW; an end to the bailout of the wealthy NOW; and an end to the billions spent on defending Israeli Apartheid and the massacre of the Palestinian people--all to protect U.S. interests in Middle East oil and other natural resources throughout the world. This is what the Democratic and Republican parties are all about and what their military is all about.

Working people are doomed if they continue to support the lesser of two evils--the Democratic party. It only leads to more evil as is evident if one's eyes are open.

We can't convince working people to see the truth if we don't tell the truth. And supporting the Democratic Party as a way to resolve the problems of working people, or to end these murderous wars, is NOT the truth!

We can't raise the consciousness of working people if we water down our demands to agree with the labor fakers and the Democratic Party.

In all sincerity,

Bonnie Weinstein
Carole Seligman

Report on September 19th Antiwar Meetings and an Open Letter to the Antiwar Movement

Dear peace activist:

We went to both antiwar meetings Sunday, September 19th -- ANSWER and Bay Area UNAC (United National Antiwar Committee). Both were approximately equal in size, and not very large. Both were attended by several groups who are active in the antiwar movement. Together we would have had a good size meeting of about 80. Actually, together we would have had a much more substantial meeting, because several people stayed away when they learned that there were two meetings at the same time, 1/2 a block away from each other.

People want the antiwar forces to work together to struggle to end these wars. People are disgusted at the great unity shown by the war parties, the Republicans and Democrats--in carrying out these wars. We must demand that the antiwar organizers--ourselves--work together in greater unity than the war parties do. Where we disagree with demands or slogans, let's find a way to include all.

The UNAC meeting scheduled a follow up meeting for Sunday, October 17th. Let's make this meeting one that is co-sponsored with ANSWER and invite all to participate in planning the next series of educational events and actions. Let's create the broadest possible structure for involving the whole movement and inviting people who have not participated before. Let's find a way to organize together! The situation demands it.

Carole Seligman
Bonnie Weinstein


Deafening Silence, Chuck Africa (MOVE 9)
Check out other art and poetry by prisoners at:
Shujaas!: Prisoners Resisting Through Art
...we banging hard, yes, very hard, on this system...

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!


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


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) 'So Utterly Inhumane'
October 12, 2010

2) French Strikes Disrupt Travel
October 12, 2010

3) In California, Pot Is Now an Art Patron
October 11, 2010

4) French Transport Workers Extend Strike
October 13, 2010

5) Chile Rejoices as Miners Taste Freedom
October 13, 2010

6) Across the U.S., Long Recovery Looks Like Recession
October 12, 2010

7) For Now, Antiwar Activists Will Not be Forced to Testify
Subpoenas to appear before a grand jury in Chicago have reportedly been canceled. What's next is anyone's guess.
By JAMES WALSH, Star Tribune
Last update: October 12, 2010 - 9:50 PM

8) California budget cuts billions from social programs
By Dan Conway
13 October 2010

9) Defying Predictions, Miners Kept Healthy
October 13, 2010

10) French Strikers Block Refineries
October 14, 2010

11) Riot Police Clash With Protesters at Acropolis
October 14, 2010

12) No Social Security Increase Next Year
October 14, 2010

13) As French Strikes Continue, Worries About Fuel Supply
October 15, 2010

14) 2 Pennsylvania Men Guilty in 2008 Killing of Mexican
October 14, 2010

15) Michael Pollan: What Do Marijuana and Catnip Have in Common?
By Julie Holland, MD and Michael Pollan, Park Street Press
Posted on October 16, 2010, Printed on October 16, 2010

16) The Mississippi Pardons
October 15, 2010

17) When Drugs Cause Problems They Should Prevent
October 16, 2010

18) U.S. Will Enforce Marijuana Laws, State Vote Aside
October 15, 2010

19) Chicago Union Steward Targeted In FBI Raid Says It's Effort To Intimidate Anti-War Movement
Nixon's COINTELPRO set precedent for Bush's PATRIOT Act (and Clinton's Effective Death Penalty law), which allow further police state tactics, harassment, erosion of rights, suppression of free speech and right to assemble (except in cages or behind fences), attacks on activists and unionists.
Chicago Union Steward Targeted In FBI Raid Says It's Effort To Intimidate Anti-War Movement
Submitted by Doug Cunningham on October 10, 2010 - 7:47pm


1) 'So Utterly Inhumane'
October 12, 2010

You have to believe that somebody really had it in for the Scott sisters, Jamie and Gladys. They have always insisted that they had nothing to do with a robbery that occurred near the small town of Forest, Miss., on Christmas Eve in 1993. It was not the kind of crime to cause a stir. No one was hurt and perhaps $11 was taken.

Jamie was 21 at the time and Gladys just 19. But what has happened to them takes your breath away.

They were convicted by a jury and handed the most draconian sentences imaginable - short of the death penalty. Each was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in state prison, and they have been imprisoned ever since. Jamie is now 38 and seriously ill. Both of her kidneys have failed. Gladys is 36.

This is Mississippi we're talking about, a place that in many ways has not advanced much beyond the Middle Ages.

The authorities did not even argue that the Scott sisters had committed the robbery. They were accused of luring two men into a trap, in which the men had their wallets taken by acquaintances of the sisters, one of whom had a shotgun.

It was a serious crime. But the case against the sisters was extremely shaky. In any event, even if they were guilty, the punishment is so wildly out of proportion to the offense that it should not be allowed to stand.

Three teenagers pleaded guilty to robbing the men. They ranged in age from 14 to 18. And in their initial statements to investigators, they did not implicate the Scott sisters.

But a plea deal was arranged in which the teens were required to swear that the women were involved, and two of the teens were obliged, as part of the deal, to testify against the sisters in court.

Howard Patrick, who was 14 at the time of the robbery, said that the pressure from the authorities to implicate the sisters began almost immediately. He testified, "They said if I didn't participate with them, they would send me to Parchman and make me out a female."

He was referring to Mississippi State Prison, which was once the notoriously violent Parchman prison farm. The lawyer questioning the boy said, "In other words, they would send you to Parchman and you would get raped, right?"

"Yes, sir," the boy said.

The teens were sentenced to eight years in prison each, and they were released after serving just two years.

This is a case that should be repugnant to anyone with the slightest interest in justice. The right thing to do at this point is to get the sisters out of prison as quickly as possible and ensure that Jamie gets proper medical treatment.

A number of people have taken up the sisters' cause, including Ben Jealous, the president of the N.A.A.C.P., who is trying to help secure a pardon from Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi. "It makes you sick to think that this sort of thing can happen," he said. "That these women should be kept in prison until they die - well, that's just so utterly inhumane."

I have no idea why the authorities were so dead set on implicating the Scott sisters in the crime and sending them away for life, while letting the teens who unquestionably committed the robbery get off with much lighter sentences.

Life sentences for robbery can only be imposed by juries in Mississippi, but it is extremely rare for that sentencing option to even be included in the instructions given to jurors. It's fair to think, in other words, that there would have to be some extraordinary reason for prosecutors and the court to offer such a draconian possibility to a jury.

Chokwe Lumumba, a lawyer representing the sisters, captured the prevailing legal sentiment when he said: "I don't think Mississippi law anticipates that you're going to be giving this instruction in a case where nobody gets hurt and $11 is allegedly stolen. In the majority of robbery cases, even the ones that are somewhat nasty, they don't read that instruction."

The reason for giving the jury the option of imposing life sentences in this case escapes me. Even the original prosecutor, Ken Turner, who is now retired and who believes the sisters were guilty, has said that he thinks it would be "appropriate" to offer them relief from their extreme sentences. He told The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., "It was not a particularly egregious case."

The appeals process for the women has long since been exhausted. It is up to Governor Barbour, who is considering petitions on the sisters' behalf, to do the humane thing.

A pardon or commutation of sentence - some form of relief that would release Jamie and Gladys Scott from the hideous shackles of a lifetime in prison - is not just desirable, it's absolutely essential.


2) French Strikes Disrupt Travel
October 12, 2010

PARIS - In the latest expression of discontent over government austerity moves across Europe, French transport and energy workers, teachers and civil servants took to the streets on Tuesday to protest plans to reform the country's pension system - the third such strike here in just over a month.

The strikes in France follow waves of social unrest across the region in recent months, with protesters in Spain, Belgium, Greece and Ireland voicing their anger as governments seek to rein in exploding deficits that threaten to undermine their sovereign credit ratings, exacerbating national budget woes.

Union officials claimed a nationwide turnout of more than 3.5 million people, an increase of 20 percent from the previous strike on Sept. 23, while the French interior ministry put the figure closer to 1.23 million, up from just under a million in the last strike. In Paris, the police counted 89,000 protesters, up from 75,000 previously.

"The protest is not weakening, but we can't be sure it will grow," Éric Woerth, the labor minister who has spearheaded the new measures, told France 3 television. "The government's determination is total."

Several labor groups - including those representing the national rail and Paris public transport workers - voted Tuesday to extend their walkouts through Wednesday, and unions have also called for another day of demonstrations on Saturday, so the ultimate effects of the strikes remain unclear.

But analysts remained skeptical that rolling strikes would secure anything more than superficial changes to the proposed changes, which President Nicolas Sarkozy has made a cornerstone of his fiscal policy.

"Everyone admits that things can't continue like this," said François Vergne, a labor lawyer in the Paris office of the law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. "Other countries have adapted their laws and there is a resigned consensus that retirement at 60 is no longer sustainable."

Late Monday, the upper house of the legislature voted to raise the age of retirement with a full pension to 67 from 65, having already agreed to increase the minimum legal retirement age to 62 from 60. Senators from the opposition Socialist Party still hope to slow full adoption of the package through amendments.

Last month the lower house voted to raise the minimum pension age to 62.

Tourists visiting Paris on Tuesday found many of the city's monuments and museums shuttered for at least part of the day, including the Eiffel Tower, the Cathedral of Nôtre-Dame and the Musée d'Orsay. Several sites were not expected to re-open until Wednesday.

According to the national train operator S.N.C.F., intercity trains to Paris were running at only one-third of normal frequency, while rural services were more seriously disrupted. Just over 40 percent of rail workers took part, up marginally from the 37 percent who walked off the job during the last strike, on Sept. 23, the S.N.C.F. said.

The service was normal on the Eurostar trains to London, and trains to Belgium and Germany were running at two-thirds of normal schedules.

The R.E.R. commuter trains into Paris were running at under 50 percent, while there were also disruptions on the Paris subway and bus system.

Airports also reported significant disruption to flights as air traffic controllers and Air France staff joined the walkout. At Roissy Charles de Gaulle and Beauvais airports, 30 percent of flights were canceled, and about 50 percent at Orly. A vast majority of intercontinental flights were maintained as scheduled, however.

Unions at ports, refineries, the chemical industry and those representing civil servants, postal and communication workers and education also took part.

The marches across the country were largely peaceful. However, in the northern city of Caen, news reports said riot police officers had fired tear gas at protesters who had gathered to lob eggs, tomatoes and firecrackers at the local headquarters of the national business lobby, Medef. Garbage cans were also set ablaze.

While some of the more radical unions have urged unlimited general strikes, leaders of the main trades councils have sought to avoid the kind of prolonged action that has backfired with the public in the past. François Chérèque, secretary general of the Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens, has stressed that he has not called for general strikes, leaving it instead to workers to vote day-to-day at the union chapter level.

Faced with widespread anger, Mr. Sarkozy has offered some concessions - for example, last week he proposed softening the rules for women in their 50s who had earlier halted work to bring up at least three children, allowing them to receive full pensions at 65. The government said this would cost about $4.8 billion and would be financed by higher capital gains tax on property sales.

Unions have described the offer as insufficient and had hoped that the fresh action this week would force the government back to the bargaining table.

The French media have portrayed the current showdown over pension reform as a defining moment for Mr. Sarkozy that could decide his fate in presidential elections in 2012. Le Monde this week described it as a turning point. "Failure will sink him," the newspaper wrote.

But some observers said the same could be said of the country's labor movement.

While France's trade union leaders did manage to extract some "face-saving alterations" to the reform, the core aspect - pushing back the retirement age by two years - will probably not be affected by the protests, said Paul Vallet, a professor of history and political science at the Institut d'Études Politiques in Paris.

"In the end, even if people are marching, there is a broad resignation that this is going to happen anyway," Mr. Vallet said.

The same could be seen in similar recent elsewhere on the Continent: When Spanish union leaders called for coordinated demonstrations throughout Europe at the end of last month, the result was little more than scattered unrest and protest.

Mr. Vallet argued that the French unions and the main opposition parties had erred strategically in seeking to turning the debate over pension reform into a mandate on Mr. Sarkozy's presidency.

"Everyone's sense of priorities in this confrontation have gotten dangerously mixed up and short-sighted," Mr. Vallet said. "The risk for the unions after this is that they will be viewed as even more ineffective."

In five years' time, he said, France will still be faced with a significant budget deficit that will require further reforms to pensions and other social programs. By then, "the unions are probably going to be even less influential in shaping those new reforms, and people are going to be less convinced that the unions have any relevance on this issue."

At 7.7 percent, the rate of trade union membership in France is second-lowest in the 30-member O.E.C.D., just above Turkey at 5.8 percent and well below the United States at 11.9 percent. But among public-sector employees - including transport workers and civil servants like teachers - the unions hold greater sway, with a membership more than twice as high.

"It is a paradoxical situation," said Mr. Vergne, the labor lawyer. "It is a very small number, but this has been the case for a long time."

Yet he was hesitant to say that France's labor movement was in permanent decline.

"The power relationship is being modified," Mr. Vergne said. "We are in a period of transition."

The pension reform debate, he noted, has managed to stir France's youth - even some who are too young to vote.

On Tuesday, organizers said several thousand high-school and university students formed a procession on the Rue de Rennes in Paris, one of the largest youth turnouts so far. A national union of high school students said there were protests at roughly 400 campuses across the country, about 10 percent of the total.

"The entry of young people into the debate is interesting and significant," Mr. Vergne said, though he conceded that it was too early to say whether high school students would remain politically engaged over the longer term.

"It is hard to know," he said. "Protesting is kind of a national sport in France."

Matthew Saltmarsh contributed reporting.


3) In California, Pot Is Now an Art Patron
October 11, 2010

SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Nonprofit arts groups tend to spend much of their time scrounging for grants and praying for corporate largesse. But one art foundation taking shape on 120 acres in the high oak chaparral of Sonoma County has different kinds of worries these days: spider mites, bud rot and the occasional low-flying surveillance visit from the local Sheriff's Office.

This is because the foundation, called Life Is Art, recently began to reap a new kind of financing, in the form of tall, happy-looking marijuana plants. Late this month, with some help from the sale of its first small crop, grown under California's liberal medical marijuana laws, the group plans to present an inaugural exhibition on its land, of sculpture and installation work by more than 20 visiting artists - some of whom will have helped bring in the harvest. The foundation's hope is that income from succeeding crops will fully support such projects, in perpetuity, creating a kind of Marfa-meets-ganja art retreat north of San Francisco and a new economic engine for art philanthropy.

At a going wholesale rate of $200 or more an ounce in the Bay Area for high-quality medical marijuana, it's a lot simpler than raising money the traditional way, the project's organizers point out. And - except for the nagging fact that selling marijuana remains a crime under federal law - it even feels more honest to the people behind Life Is Art. They see it as a way of supporting the cause with physical labor and the fruits of the land instead of the wheedling of donors, an especially appealing prospect in an economy where raising money has become more difficult than ever.

"The whole game of finding support just started to seem so childish," said Kirsha Kaechele, the foundation's director, as she hauled a plastic tub of freshly harvested cannabis hybrid branches up a hill one morning recently on her rolling land just outside of Santa Rosa. "So I decided to grow up and became a marijuana farmer."

In California, where voters will consider a ballot initiative in November that would make theirs the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use - and where some growers are already donating portions of their proceeds to nonprofit causes like AIDS charities - the idea of putting pot to work for the arts seems to be spreading.

Artists Collective, a two-year-old medical marijuana service in Los Angeles formed with the idea of directing a large share of its income to the creative world, gave away its first chunk of money in August, to the winner of a national short-story contest it sponsored, judged by the novelist Neal Pollack. The initial prize was just $1,000, but Dann Halem, the collective's founder and director, said the goal of the nonprofit organization was to become as effective and well known as Newman's Own, Paul Newman's food-based charity, which he cited as an inspiration.

"Hopefully in the long run this is something that will be able to give millions and millions to the arts," he said.

Ms. Kaechele (pronounced KEH-shell-uh), 34, has spent the last decade directing public art projects in New Orleans. But after Hurricane Katrina and the recession, her operation was on the brink of collapse. That is when she started to think about the money-making possibilities of the rural land in Sonoma that she and her business partner, Jaohn Orgon, had bought six years earlier.

"Everyone who knew that I had land in California just assumed I was growing pot on it," she said, "which is kind of funny, and I'd tell them I wasn't."

But after a conversation with the Brooklyn artist Fred Tomaselli, whose psychedelic art is sometimes made with marijuana leaves, she started to think seriously about the idea. She formed a California nonprofit called American Medicinals. (Growers in the state tend to operate as nonprofit or not-for-profit organizations.) Through Craigslist she found a veteran California growing expert whose long involvement in marijuana cultivation during the years when it was completely illegal had left him perpetually wary, prompting a strange series of initial e-mails in which he referred only to his expertise in growing goji berries.

Now, six months after planting the crop from seed - a mix of two varieties, O.G. Kush and Cherry Pie, grown in two small outdoor plots and one indoor space - she and a handful of artists who will be making work for the show have been harvesting the plants and hanging them upside down on wires to dry in the barn that serves as the group's headquarters and makeshift studio space. They sold their first dried and cured buds to medical users in the first week of October.

They are loath to provide details about how much marijuana they hope to produce with the first harvest - plant limits vary from county to county, and they worry about how the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office, which made an unannounced visit by helicopter in September, interprets the limits there. But their goal for next year's crop is to generate $1 million after expenses to be used for art projects on the farm and to send back to support their programs in New Orleans, which they hope will ultimately be financed entirely by the farm.

"We think it's a completely realistic number," Ms. Kaechele said.

For the moment, though, the Sonoma wing of the foundation is still in its infancy and feels like a combination of Yaddo, a hip organic farm and a very laid-back commune (but with little smoking of the funds going on, at least in a reporter's presence). Ms. Kaechele eventually wants to be able to set up artists' residencies, to commission pieces from emerging and established artists and to pay for works that would remain permanently on the land, as Donald Judd's do in Marfa, Tex., at the Chinati Foundation.

While the debate about marijuana legalization has focused on its potential dangers, its mainstream benefits are starting to get more attention: higher tax income, struggling newspapers buoyed by marijuana ads. In California the potential for recreational legalization in November worries many medical growers like Mr. Halem of Artists Collective, who fear that the change would bring in corporate interests, cause prices to fall and push out growers with charitable aims.

Ms. Kaechele and the young artists whose work will appear in the first exhibition, opening to the public on Oct. 22, seem overjoyed with the way things are working out so far, but not everyone shares the sentiment. A couple who live on a property adjacent to the farm, Steve and Catherine Matuszak, only recently learned of the growing operation nearby and said they were worried about increased traffic up the winding mountain roads and even more about the potential for thieves.

"We don't have concerns with them as individuals, really," Ms. Matuszak, a dental hygienist, said of the new art-farm neighbors. "It's just the situation that's developing that worries us."

Ms. Kaechele said she wanted to work hard to win her neighbors over, and she even has an idea for dealing with the drug-crime concerns (another completely new kind of worry for a public-art organizer): She will ask artists to come up with proposals for alarms and security devices that will double as art installations on the land.

"We see it as a set of curatorial problems for us to respond to," she said.


4) French Transport Workers Extend Strike
October 13, 2010

PARIS - In the latest expression of discontent over government austerity moves across Europe, French transport workers struck for the second straight day on Wednesday, while refineries in the country remained blocked as workers continued to protest plans to reform the country's pension system.

Several labor groups - including those representing the national rail and Paris public transport workers - voted Tuesday night to extend their walkouts at least through Wednesday, and unions called for another day of demonstrations on Saturday. The transport disruptions Wednesday appeared less severe than a day earlier although commuter trains into and out of Paris continued at a diminished service. In a statement, the rail operator S.N.C.F. said that 24.6 percent of its staff were on strike Wednesday against 40.4 percent Tuesday.

Eric Heraud, a spokesman for the French civil aviation authority said, that air traffic had returned to normal at the main Paris airports as controllers, Air France staff and support personnel returned to work.

But industrial action continued at refineries in France, leading to fears of possible fuel shortages. News reports in some regions suggested there had been some , with consumers eager to fill up their cars in case the industrial action continues.

The coordinator for the C.G.T. union at the oil group Total, Charles Foulard, said that strikes were continuing in 11 of 13 refineries nationwide. He said that production was running at about 10 percent of normal levels. Workers will vote daily on whether to maintain the action, he said.

He also confirmed that the strike at the port of Marseille's Fos and Lavera oil terminals, which has blocked the entry of crude oil to France through the port, was continuing. It has been running for almost three weeks.

Tens of thousands of transit and energy workers, teachers and civil servants took to the streets on Tuesday, continuing waves of social unrest across Europe in recent months, with protesters in Spain, Belgium, Greece and Ireland voicing their anger as governments seek to rein in exploding deficits that threaten to undermine their sovereign credit ratings, exacerbating national budget woes.

Union officials claimed a nationwide turnout of more than 3.5 million people, an increase of 20 percent from the previous strike on Sept. 23, while the French Interior Ministry put the figure closer to 1.23 million, up from just under a million in the last strike. In Paris, the police counted 89,000 protesters, up from 75,000 previously.

"The protest is not weakening, but we can't be sure it will grow," Éric Woerth, the labor minister who has spearheaded the new measures, told France 3 television. "The government's determination is total."

But analysts remained skeptical that the strikes would secure anything more than superficial changes to the proposed changes, which President Nicolas Sarkozy has made a cornerstone of his fiscal policy.

"Everyone admits that things can't continue like this," said François Vergne, a labor lawyer in the Paris office of the law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. "Other countries have adapted their laws and there is a resigned consensus that retirement at 60 is no longer sustainable."

Late Monday, the upper house of the legislature voted to raise the age of retirement with a full pension to 67 from 65, having already agreed to increase the minimum legal retirement age to 62 from 60. Senators from the opposition Socialist Party still hope to slow full adoption of the package through amendments.

Last month the lower house voted to raise the minimum pension age to 62.

Tourists visiting Paris on Tuesday found many of the city's monuments and museums shuttered for at least part of the day, including the Eiffel Tower, which reopened Wednesday..

The marches across the country on Tuesday were largely peaceful. However, in the northern city of Caen, news reports said riot police officers had fired tear gas at protesters who had gathered to lob eggs, tomatoes and firecrackers at the local headquarters of the national business lobby, Medef. Garbage cans were also set ablaze.

While some of the more radical unions have urged unlimited general strikes, leaders of the main trades councils have sought to avoid the kind of prolonged action that has backfired with the public in the past. François Chérèque, secretary general of the Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens, has stressed that he has not called for general strikes, leaving it instead to workers to vote day-to-day at the union chapter level.

The go-softly approach appears to have bolstered public sympathy for the strikers. According to a poll conducted Monday by the IFOP polling institute and published Tuesday in France Soir, 53 percent of French surveyed said they "trusted the unions," up sharply from 43 percent in a similar survey conducted in June. Forty-seven percent polled said they "did not trust trade unions," down from 57 percent in June. The survey was conducted on Oct. 8 and 9, with 955 people aged 18 and over contacted by telephone.

"People have internalized the idea that pension reforms are necessary," said Frédéric Dabi, director of opinion research at IFOP. "But there is clearly still the idea that the unions can help sway the balance."

Faced with widespread anger, Mr. Sarkozy has offered some concessions - for example, last week he proposed softening the rules for women in their 50s who had earlier halted work to bring up at least three children, allowing them to receive full pensions at 65. The government said this would cost about $4.8 billion and would be financed by higher capital gains tax on property sales.

Unions have described the offer as insufficient and had hoped that the fresh action this week would force the government back to the bargaining table.

The French media have portrayed the current showdown over pension reform as a defining moment for Mr. Sarkozy that could decide his fate in presidential elections in 2012. Le Monde this week described it as a turning point. "Failure will sink him," the newspaper wrote.

But some observers said that could be said of the country's labor movement.

While France's trade union leaders did manage to extract some "face-saving alterations" to the reform, the core aspect - pushing back the retirement age by two years - will probably not be affected by the protests, said Paul Vallet, a professor of history and political science at the Institut d'Études Politiques in Paris.

"In the end, even if people are marching, there is a broad resignation that this is going to happen anyway," Mr. Vallet said.

The same could be seen in recent protests elsewhere on the Continent: When Spanish union leaders called for coordinated demonstrations throughout Europe at the end of last month, the result was little more than scattered unrest and protest.

Matthew Saltmarsh contributed reporting.


5) Chile Rejoices as Miners Taste Freedom
October 13, 2010

SAN JOSÉ MINE, Chile - With anxious anticipation increasingly yielding to exuberant celebration, more than half of the 33 men trapped under a half-mile of rock for more than two months have emerged to the arms of their families and an electrified nation.

The second miner to reach the surface, Mario Sepúlveda, left the rescue capsule in a kind of victory dance, hugging family members and officials. He embraced the Chilean president, Sebastián Piñera, three times and presented people with gifts: rocks from the mine. He punched fists with the crowd and led a cheer: "Chi, Chi, Chi, le, le, le," they shouted. "Miners of Chile!" The refrain echoed as subsequent miners reached the surface.

"I've been near God, but I've also been near the devil," Mr. Sepúlveda said through a translator. "God won."

The 12th miner - Edison Peña, 34, known for running miles in the mine tunnels every day - stepped from the escape capsule to rapturous cheers and the embrace of his girlfriend, and then another from Mr. Piñera.

"Thank God we're alive," Mr. Peña said. "I know now why we're alive."

As with the other men, Mr. Peña was strapped to a stretcher for the few paces to the makeshift hospital where the miners are being assessed.

But some heartbreak may still lie ahead. After the first 10 men were pulled up, Health Minister Jaime Mañalich said the next men to be raised would include those in a more "precarious" health condition.

He also said that all 33 miners might be lifted from the mine in less time than the original forecast of two days. The rescue capsule's roundtrips were taking about an hour.

Cameras inside the mine showed the miners sending off an evacuee with cheers, and another camera positioned on the top of the capsule carried images of a seemingly smooth shaft slipping by around a taut metal cable as a winch pulled the capsule up.

The race to save the miners has thrust Chile into a spotlight it has often sought but rarely experienced. While lauded for its economic management and austerity, the nation has often found the world's attention trained more on its human rights violations and natural disasters than on uplifting moments.

The San Jose mine - which produced gold and copper - collapsed on Aug. 5, leaving 33 men unaccounted for. After 17 days of frantic drilling, rescuers made contact. What they found captivated the world - all the men had survived with their spirits apparently intact.

They had to withstand nearly two more months of waiting for this day, hanging firm to discipline and collaboration held firm in the lightless, dank space. Their perseverance has transfixed the globe with a universal story of human struggle and the enormously complex operation to rescue them.

Mr. Piñera, a billionaire businessman who is one of Latin America's most conservative leaders, staked his presidency on the effort. It has involved untold millions of dollars, specialists from NASA and drilling experts from a dozen or so countries. Some here at the mine have compared the rescue effort to the Apollo 13 space mission, for the emotional tension it has caused and the expectation of a collective sigh of relief at the end.

The ordeal has also riveted Bolivia, home to one of the miners, 24-year-old Carlos Mamani, who kissed his wife, Veronica, and shouted: "Gracias, Chile!" The Bolivian president, Evo Morales, joined Mr. Piñera in welcoming Mr. Mamani, and warming chatting with the ever-growing rescued group in the makeshift hospital. It was a rare moment of rapprochement for the two leaders, whose nations have strained relations.

"I would like to thank the Chilean people, thank you very much for rescuing our brother, Carlos Mamami," Mr. Morales said. "Bolivia will never forget, this is a historical moment, and this unites us more every day. These events are fostering greater trust between Bolivia and Chile."

In the early minutes of Wednesday at the mine site (late Tuesday night Eastern time), the first miner was pulled through the narrow, twisting escape shaft in the specially designed capsule - the Phoenix.

The first miner, Florencio Ávalos, 31, made it to the surface shortly after midnight, to the music of blaring celebratory horns. With a look of sturdy calm, he embraced his weeping child and other family members, his nation's president and the workers around him before being taken away on a stretcher, lifting his thumb triumphantly.

As each subsequent miner emerged alive and smiling, the world seemed to celebrate, but also to hold its collective breath that all 33 would make it out as effortlessly as the first ones.

A global audience watched nonstop coverage on computers, television sets and even cellphones. Deep in the mine, the remaining miners waited for their turn, along with a rescue worker who descended to their underground haven in the capsule, which was painted in the red, white and blue of the Chilean flag.

Tuesday was a day of great excitement and last-minute delays. As Mr. Piñera waited anxiously near the rescue hole, the families of the miners and more than 1,300 journalists gathered around plasma televisions set up at the makeshift tent city near the mine, which vibrated with a carnival-like atmosphere as the rescue drew near. At one point, Mr. Piñera mingled with the families and even broke into song with them.

"We hope that with the help of God, this epic will end in a happy way," Mr. Piñera said before the rescue began.

Despite high expectations, officials here warned that the operation was still in a precarious phase. The rescue hole is barely wider than the capsule that rides inside it, shuttling the men about 2,000 feet to the surface, one at a time. Complicating matters, the hole is not perfectly straight, raising fears that the capsule could snag on the long trip.

The decision by Mr. Piñera, Chile's first right-wing leader in 20 years, to stake his young presidency on an unbridled push to rescue the miners was an extraordinary political calculation. But it has paid big dividends, bolstering his popularity at home and propelling him onto an international stage often dominated by other large personalities in the region.

After the Aug. 5 cave-in trapped the miners, their fate was uncertain at best. Advisers to Mr. Piñera counseled him not to raise expectations that the men could be found alive. Laurence Golborne, the mining minister, said publicly that their chances of having survived were slim, comments that bothered many Chileans.

But Mr. Piñera, who was in Ecuador when the news of the mine disaster broke, argued differently. "I had a strong conviction, very deep inside of me, that they were alive, and that was a strong support for my actions," he said in an interview in late August.

He set in motion an intense rescue effort, sparing no expense. Workers drilled a skinny borehole, and on Aug. 22 a drilling hammer came up with red paint. Wrapped around it with rubber bands were two notes: a love letter from Mario Gómez, the oldest miner of the group, to his wife, and another in red ink. "We are well in the refuge the 33," it read.

Suddenly the name of the makeshift vigil at the mine - Camp Hope - took on new meaning. Mr. Piñera flew here right after his father-in-law's wake to celebrate with the miners' families.

But the Chileans were in uncharted territory. To their knowledge, no one had tried a rescue so far underground. Keeping the miners alive and in good spirits, much less getting them out, would be an enormous challenge.

Doctors from NASA and Chilean Navy officers with experience in submarines were consulted on the strains of prolonged confinement. The miners had lost considerable weight and were living off emergency rations. Some, like Mr. Gómez, who had a lung condition, struggled with the high humidity in the mine.

Medical officials consulted frequently with the miners over a modified telephone dropped down through the skinny borehole. Slowly, they nursed the men back to health. Mr. Mañalich, the health minister, enlisted Yonny Barrios, a miner who had once taken a first aid course, to administer vaccines and medicines, and to take blood and urine samples. All the medications traveled down through the plastic tubes sent through the boreholes.

The tubes, called "palomas" here, became the miners' lifeline. Over the many weeks, officials on the surface used them to send letters from loved ones, food and liquids, even a small video projection system that the miners used to watch recorded movies and live soccer matches on a television feed that was piped down.

The miners were put on a diet to keep their weight down and worked with a trainer to keep fit with exercise. One miner, a fitness buff, ran about six miles a day through the winding shafts of the mine.

In recent weeks, Alejandro Pino, the regional manager of an insurance company for work-related accidents, has given the miners media training on how to speak and express themselves, even sending a rolled-up copy of his guidebook through the borehole.

"I tried to prepare them to handle journalists' most intimate questions," Mr. Pino said last week.

Alberto Iturra, a psychologist who worked with the miners, talked to them, sometimes several times a day, to sort through their frustrations and depression. After first sending down nicotine patches, officials later sent down cigarettes to the miners, most of whom were smokers, family members said. Still, Dr. Iturra said that doctors never ended up sending down medication for depression.

Aaron Nelsen and Pascale Bonnefoy contributed reporting.


6) Across the U.S., Long Recovery Looks Like Recession
October 12, 2010

This is not what a recovery is supposed to look like.

In Atlanta, the Bank of America tower, the tallest in the Southeast, is nearly a fifth vacant, and bank officials just wrestled a rent cut from the developer. In Cherry Hill, N.J., 10 percent of the houses on the market are so-called short sales, in which sellers ask for less than they owe lenders. And in Arizona, in sun-blasted desert subdivisions, owners speak of hours cut, jobs lost and meals at soup kitchens.

Less than a month before November elections, the United States is mired in a grim New Normal that could last for years. That has policy makers, particularly the Federal Reserve, considering a range of ever more extreme measures, as noted in the minutes of its last meeting, released Tuesday. Call it recession or recovery, for tens of millions of Americans, there's little difference.

Born of a record financial collapse, this recession has been more severe than any since the Great Depression and has left an enormous oversupply of houses and office buildings and crippling debt. The decision last week by leading mortgage lenders to freeze foreclosures, and calls for a national moratorium, could cast a long shadow of uncertainty over banks and the housing market. Put simply, the national economy has fallen so far that it could take years to climb back.

The math yields somber conclusions, with implications not just for this autumn's elections but also - barring a policy surprise or economic upturn - for 2012 as well:

¶At the current rate of job creation, the nation would need nine more years to recapture the jobs lost during the recession. And that doesn't even account for five million or six million jobs needed in that time to keep pace with an expanding population. Even top Obama officials concede the unemployment rate could climb higher still.

¶Median house prices have dropped 20 percent since 2005. Given an inflation rate of about 2 percent - a common forecast - it would take 13 years for housing prices to climb back to their peak, according to Allen L. Sinai, chief global economist at the consulting firm Decision Economics.

¶Commercial vacancies are soaring, and it could take a decade to absorb the excess in many of the largest cities. The vacancy rate, as of the end of June, stands at 21.4 percent in Phoenix, 19.7 percent in Las Vegas, 18.3 in Dallas/Fort Worth and 17.3 percent in Atlanta, in each case higher than last year, according to the data firm CoStar Group.

Demand is inert. Consumer confidence has tumbled as many are afraid or unable to spend. Families are still paying off - or walking away from - debt. Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, estimates it will be the end of 2011 before the amount of income that households pay in interest recedes to levels seen before the run-up. Credit card delinquencies are rising.

"No wonder Americans are pessimistic and unhappy," said Mr. Sinai. "The only way we are going to get in gear is to face up to the reality that we are entering a period of austerity."

This dreary accounting should not suggest a nation without strengths. Unemployment rates have come down from their peaks in swaths of the United States, from Vermont to Minnesota to Wisconsin. Port traffic has increased, and employers have created an average of 68,111 jobs a month this year.

After plummeting in 2009, the stock market has spiraled up, buoying retirement accounts and perhaps the spirits of middle-class Americans. As a measure of economic health, though, that gain is overstated. Robert Reich, the former labor secretary, notes that the most profitable companies in the domestic stock indexes generate about 40 percent of their revenue from abroad.

Few doubt the American economy remains capable of electrifying growth, but few expect that any time soon. "We still have a lot of strengths, from a culture of entrepreneurship and venture capitalism, to flexible labor markets and attracting immigrants," said Barry Eichengreen, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley. "But we're going to be living with the overhang of our financial and debt problems for a long, long time to come."

New shocks could push the nation into another recession or deflation. "We are in a situation where our vulnerability to any new problem is great," said Carmen M. Reinhart, a professor of economics at the University of Maryland.

So troubles ripple outward, as lost jobs, unsold houses and empty offices weigh down the economy and upend lives. Struggles in Arizona, New Jersey and Georgia echo broadly.

Florence, Ariz.

In 2005, Arizona ranked, as usual, second nationally in job growth behind Nevada, its economy predicated on growth. The snowbirds came and construction boomed and land stretched endless and cheap. Then it stopped.

This year, Arizona ranks 42nd in job growth. It has lost 287,000 jobs since the recession began, and the fall has been calamitous.

Renee Wheaton, 38, sits in an old golf cart on the corner of Tangerine and Barley Roads in her subdivision in the desert, an hour south of Phoenix. Her next-door neighbor, an engineer, just lost his job. The man across the street is unemployed.

Her family is not doing so well either. Her husband's hours have been cut by 15 percent, leaving her family of five behind on water and credit card bills - more or less on everything except the house and car payment. She teaches art, but that's not much in demand.

"I say to myself 'This can't be happening to us: We saved, we worked hard and we're under tremendous stress,' " Ms. Wheaton says. "My husband is a very hard-working man but for the first time, he's having real trouble."

Arizona's poverty rate has jumped to 19.6 percent, the second-highest in the nation after Mississippi. The Association of Arizona Food Banks says demand has nearly doubled in the last 18 months.

Elliott D. Pollack, one of Arizona's foremost economic forecasters, said: "You had an implosion of every sector needed to survive. That's not going to get better fast."

To wander exurban Pinal County, which is where Florence is located, is to find that the unemployment rate tells just half the story. Everywhere, subdivisions sit in the desert, some half-built and some dreamy wisps, like the emerald green putting green sitting amid acres of scrub and cacti. Signs offer discounts, distress sales and rent with the first and second month free.

Discounts do not help if your income is cut in half. Construction workers speak of stringing together 20-hour weeks with odd jobs, and a 45-year-old woman who was a real estate agent talks of her job making minimum wage bathing elderly patients. Many live close to the poverty line, without the conveniences they once took for granted. Pinal's unemployment rate, like that of Arizona, stands at 9.7 percent, but state officials say that the real rate rises closer to 20 percent when part-timers and those who have stopped looking for work are added in.

At an elementary school near Ms. Wheaton's home, an expansion of the school's water supply was under way until thieves sneaked in at night and tore the copper pipes out of the ground to sell for scrap.

Five miles southwest, in Coolidge, a desert town within view of the distant Superstition Mountains, demand has tripled at Tom Hunt's food pantry. Some days he runs out.

Henry Alejandrez, 60, is a roofer who migrated from Texas looking for work. "It's gotten real bad," he says. "I'm a citizen, and you're lucky if you get minimum wage."

Mary Sepeda, his sister, nods. She used to drive two hours to clean newly constructed homes before they were sold. That job evaporated with the housing market. (Arizona issued 62,500 housing permits several years ago; it gave out 8,400 last year.)

"It's getting crazy," she says, holding up a white plastic bag of pantry food. "How does this end?"

You put that question to Mr. Pollack, the forecaster. "We won't recover until we absorb 80,000 empty houses and office buildings and people can borrow again," he says.

When will that be?

"I'm forecasting recovery by 2013 to 2015," he says.

Cherry Hill, N.J.

The housing market in this bedroom community just across the border from Philadelphia never leapt to the frenzied heights of Miami Beach or Las Vegas. But even if foreclosure notices are not tacked to every other door, a malaise has settled over the market. Home prices have fallen by 16 percent since 2006, and houses now take twice as long to sell as they did five years ago.

That's enough to inflict pain on homeowners who need to sell because of a job loss or drop in income. Some are being forced to get rid of their houses in short sales, asking less than they owe on a mortgage. As of last week, 10 percent of all listings in this well-tended suburb were being offered as short sales.

Chrysanthemums bloomed in boxes on the porch of one of those homes as a real estate broker unlocked the front door. In the kitchen, children's chores were listed neatly on an erasable white board. Dinner simmered in a Crock-Pot on the counter.

There were few signs of the financial distress that prompted the owners to put their four-bedroom colonial on the market for less than they paid five years ago.

The colonial's owners, James and Patricia Furrow, bought near the top of the market in 2005 for $289,900. Mr. Furrow, 48, retired in July after 26 years as a corrections officer and supplements his pension with work as a handyman. But his income is spotty, and his wife, who works in a school cafeteria, does not earn enough to cover the mortgage on the house where they live with their three children.

They have already missed a payment; they want to sell the house in hopes their lender will forgive the shortfall between their loan balance and the lower sale price. They are asking $279,900.

"When we did buy, the market was still moving pretty good," said Mr. Furrow. "Then it got to the point where people said it is not going to last. And of course it didn't last."

Some of the homes being offered at distressed prices are dragging down prices for less troubled homeowners who hope to sell. And with foreclosures now in disarray, the market could be further weakened. "Even someone who is trying to sell a normal, well-maintained house is at the mercy of these low prices," said Walter Bud Crane, an agent with Re/Max of Cherry Hill.

So the houses sit, awaiting offers that rarely materialize. According to Mr. Crane, the average number of days that homes sit on the market has nearly doubled, to 62 this year from 32 in 2005. Buyers are chary, not sure if their jobs are secure. Open houses draw sparse crowds.

In Camden County, where Cherry Hill sits, unemployment is near 10 percent. Several large employers have closed or conducted huge layoffs, and others have pruned hours. With Gov. Chris Christie reining in spending, government workers are jittery.

Real estate agents say it has rarely been a better time to buy: interest rates are at record lows, house prices have fallen and the selection is large.

Tara Stewart-Becker, a 28-year-old financial services manager, said she and her husband would love to buy a sprawling fixer-upper just three blocks from the narrow colonial they purchased four years ago in Riverton, which backs onto the Delaware River.

But a bad kitchen flood and a loan to pay for repairs has left Ms. Becker and her husband, Eric, owing more on their mortgage than the house is currently worth. Even though the couple make far more money than they did when they bought their house and could afford a larger loan and renovations, they cannot sell.

"I would gladly take a new mortgage and stimulate the economy for the rest of my life," Ms. Becker said.

"Unfortunately, there isn't anything that a government or a bank can do," she added. "You just have to settle for less and wait."


Long fast-growing, no-holds-barred Atlanta has burned to the ground before, figuratively and in reality, and each time it was a phoenix rising. But this recession has cut deeper than any since the Great Depression and left Atlanta's commercial and high-end condo real estate in an economic coma.

Over all, assuming a robust growth rate, industry leaders say it could take 12 years for Atlanta to absorb excess commercial space.

"That one - see it?" Alan Wexler points to a gleaming blue tower as he drives. "A Chicago bank took it over six months ago. Sold at a 40 percent discount."

"And over there" - he juts his chin at a boarded-up hotel topped by a Chick-fil-A fast-food restaurant crown. "That was going to be a condo. They just shut it down and walked away."

Mr. Wexler, a wiry and peripatetic real estate data analyst, describes it all on a drive down Peachtree Road, Atlanta's posh commercial spine.

He starts in the Buckhead neighborhood, which has more than two million square feet of vacant commercial space. A billboard outside one discounted condo tower promises "New Pricing from the $290s!" There are towers half-empty and towers in receivership. Office buildings that once sold for $85 million now retail for $35 million.

Approaching downtown, Mr. Wexler hits the brakes and points to an older, white marble building. "See that one? It's the Fed Reserve. That's where they sit, look, sweat and wonder: How did we get into this mess?"

That's a question much on the minds and lips of residents.

The commercial vacancy rate in Buckhead is near 20 percent, and the Atlanta region has added jobs only at the low end.

Mike Alexander, research division chief for the Atlanta Regional Commission, posed the question: "When do we start to add premium jobs again?"

Lawrence L. Gellerstedt III, chief executive of Cousins Properties, sits in an office high atop an elegant Philip Johnson tower, with a grand view of the Atlanta commercial corridor running north. He does not see improvement on the horizon.

"We're all wondering what gets the economy producing jobs and growth again," he says. "Atlanta always was the fair-haired child of real estate growth and now, it's 'O.K., poster boy, you're getting yours.' "

Small banks are a particular disaster, 43 having gone under in Georgia since 2008. (Federal regulators closed 129 nationally this year, up from 25 last year.) Real estate was the beginning, the middle and the end of the troubles. In one deal, dozens of Atlanta banks invested in Merrill Ranch, a 4,508-acre tract of desert south of Phoenix.

The deal imploded and took a lot of banks with it.

"No one was demanding documents or reading the fine print, and mortgage banks were fat and happy," recalls John Little, a developer. "Well, that train couldn't keep running."

He has a ringside seat on this debacle, as he sits in the office of a handsome condo complex he built in west Atlanta. He faced price discounts so deep that he decided to rent it instead.

Nationwide banks have no interest in lending to local developers, and the regional banks are desperate for cash and calling in their loans.

Mr. Little got lucky; he bought out his loan and kept his property. "Most of my generation of builders has gone under," he said. "It's still spiraling out of control."


7) For Now, Antiwar Activists Will Not be Forced to Testify
Subpoenas to appear before a grand jury in Chicago have reportedly been canceled. What's next is anyone's guess.
By JAMES WALSH, Star Tribune
Last update: October 12, 2010 - 9:50 PM

On Wednesday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune published an article "For now, antiwar activists will not be forced to testify."

The full article is pasted below.

Jess Sundin, one of the people whose home was raided and who has been given a subpeona to testify at a Grand Jury in Chicago, has written an importent statement immediately below on what the developments described in the newspaper article may mean.

Alan Dale

Statement by Jess Sundin:

Today's Strib story may have created some confusion, and I wanted to say a few words of explanation.

My understanding of what happened (speaking as a non-lawyer): Our attorneys notified the prosecutor that we intended to invoke our 5th Amendment right to not testify. A subpeona is an order to appear on a given day. If we show up in court, and plead the 5th, it kind of calls the question. I think the subpeonas were pulled because the prosecutor has not yet decided what he wants to do about it, like whether he is willing to compel our testimony by imposing immunity (squeal or you go to jail for contempt)... or, alternatively, who he wants to move towards making an indictment against (in which case, no immunity).

I think it's true that the light that we've all managed to shine on this case makes it hard for him to do anything rash. And certainly, not having to make the trip to Chicago has a lot of upsides for us: saves the effort of a trip to Chicago, and postpones the day we'd have to confront that squeal-or-go-to-jail moment of truth....

For me, I take this move by the prosecutor as ominous. Like seriously, are all 14 of us potential targets for indictments?! I think the prosecutor is taking his time - waiting for the FBI to find something in all the stuff they took from our houses... hoping that the FBI can get one of our friends to say something incriminating... who knows. Neither the prosecutor nor the FBI are talking to us or our lawyers.

We need to keep pushing for all of our demands: Stop FBI harassment of anti-war activists, return our property, and shut down the grand jury! Thank you all for your work in our defense - in defense of all of us!

Below is the Star Tribune article:

For Now, Antiwar Activists Will Not be Forced to Testify
Subpoenas to appear before a grand jury in Chicago have reportedly been canceled. What's next is anyone's guess.
By JAMES WALSH, Star Tribune
Last update: October 12, 2010 - 9:50 PM

Thistle Parker-Hartog originally was supposed to testify before a grand jury in Chicago Tuesday. She didn't go. Mick Kelly was scheduled to make the same trip next week. Don't bet on it.

In all, 14 antiwar activists and several organizations from the Twin Cities and Chicago who are being investigated for alleged support of terror groups received subpoenas to appear before the grand jury this month. All -- including five who were to appear last week -- have told the U.S. Department of Justice that they are not going. Instead, several were among about 60 people gathered in front of the U.S. Courthouse in downtown Minneapolis Tuesday to protest what they consider harassment and intimidation because they oppose U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere.

So far, it seems, the Justice Department has acquiesced. All the subpoenas have been canceled, according to a Chicago attorney working on the case. Instead of being encouraged by the inaction, they are left wondering when the other shoe is going to fall for a growing number of people under investigation.

"No one knows what will happen. That's sort of the problem with all this," Parker-Hartog said. "The net is definitely getting wider. We are hearing from more of our brothers and sisters around the country that they, too, are being looked at."

On Sept. 24, the FBI raided the Minneapolis homes of five antiwar activists, including three leaders of the Twin Cities peace movement, as part of what it called a probe of "activities concerning the material support of terrorism." The Minneapolis office of an antiwar organization was also raided, protest leaders said. Raids were also conducted on two homes in Chicago.

No one was arrested in any of the raids.

Computers, cell phones and documents were seized. FBI officials said the federal search warrants in Minneapolis were related to an ongoing Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The people whose homes and offices were searched have denied being involved in any illegal activities. Meredith Aby of the Anti-War Committee, whose home and offices were raided, said Tuesday that the federal government has "given itself more power since 9/11. The federal government is doing this, I think, because they can do this."

According to the warrants, the FBI is seeking travel and financial information regarding the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Colombia.

It is against federal law to provide "material support" to organizations that have been defined by the U.S. government as terrorist. But attorneys argue that the law's interpretation can be dangerously broad. Activists are asking: Who defines a terror group? What constitutes material support?

Over the past two years, several local men of Somali descent have been indicted, and some convicted, for providing material support for Al-Shabab, an Islamist group fighting for control of Somalia. Some traveled to Somalia to fight, some recruited fighters, some allegedly provided money.

Those being investigated in Minneapolis and Chicago deny doing anything like that in this case. What happens next is uncertain. The U.S. attorney in Chicago could reissue subpoenas. Prosecutors could even grant some of the people being investigated immunity to prod them to testify. Everything could be dropped.

All that is known for now, said attorney Jim Fennerty, is "that nobody is going to appear before the grand jury."


8) California budget cuts billions from social programs
By Dan Conway
13 October 2010

The US state of California last week passed a budget for fiscal year 2010-2011 that includes more severe austerity measures against the poor and working class. The agreement came 100 days after the end of the fiscal year, the longest delay on record.

The budget was initially passed by the state assembly and senate early Friday morning and was approved by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger the same day. Schwarzenegger implemented nearly $1 billion in additional spending cuts by exercising his line item veto power.

The budget includes approximately $7.8 billion in spending cuts, including:

* $3.8 billion in reduced and deferred payments to K-12 education and community colleges. This is despite claims by the governor's office that the latest budget protects public education. Over the past two years, over $17 billion has been cut from public education in California, and more than 30,000 public school teachers and support staff have lost their jobs.

* $1.6 billion in payroll and benefit reductions for state employees. State workers have already suffered from mass layoffs and an effective 15 percent cut in pay over the past 15 months from unpaid furlough days.

* An $800 million reduction in prison medical care. To compensate for this loss, the governor has promised to release low risk inmates in need of medical attention. How the inmates will receive medical care outside of prison walls was not specified by the governor's office.

* $300 million in reductions to the In-Home Support Services program, which provides funding for residents to care for sick and disabled family members. The cuts will come by imposing a 3.6 percent reduction in caregiver hours and reducing caseloads.

* $256 million from "Stage 3" of the CalWORKS welfare-to-work program, which provides subsidized child care. The reductions will go into effect on November 1.

* $200 million from the state's MediCal program, which provides medical insurance to low income residents. The reductions will be achieved through decreased enrollment.

* $133 million from mental health services for special education students.

* Nearly $60 million from AIDS treatment and prevention programs.

Additional cuts were made to community health clinics, community-based services for senior citizens, prostate cancer treatment programs and substance abuse services.

Reflecting on the cuts to child care services and CalWORKS, Nancy Berlin, director of California Partnership, a statewide coalition of advocates for the poor, said: "These people have no place else to go. We're telling them, [welfare recipients] to go out and work, and we're going to make it harder to do that by taking their child care away from them."

The budget also relies on overly rosy revenue estimates, along with an anticipated $5.8 billion in assistance from the federal government-assistance that is unlikely to ever materialize. The Obama administration has ruled out any aid to help states close their budget gaps despite offering trillions to bail out the banks.

Given these optimistic projections, it is almost certain that massive deficits will reoccur in the next fiscal year. Both the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor-Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown-have pledged to carry out the cuts necessary to balance the budget.

The budget exposes the repeated assurances from Sacramento that regardless of how deep and broad the cuts, public education would be spared. The Schwarzenegger administration has claimed that the Proposition 98 funding guarantee has been left untouched. The proposition, which was passed by voters in 1998, allocates a minimum level of funding in years of weak economic growth based on previous years' funding, along with adjustments for increased school enrollment.

In terms of absolute spending, the governor's claim is true, as spending on Proposition 98 for the current year's budget is approximately $49.6 billion, which represents an increase of $115 million over the previous year. According to the state legislative analyst's office, however, the minimum funding guarantee should actually be $53.8 billion, due to increases in student enrollment. In other words, the current budget spends less on a per-child basis.

In addition, the budget also does not include a "settle up" obligation of $1.8 billion, which was the amount of funding still owed to public schools under the Proposition 98 guarantee, and which wasn't paid out during the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

The budget also includes massive cuts in state worker pensions, which the governor demanded as a precondition for passage. In a press conference in Fresno delivered after the budget passed, the governor called state worker pensions, "the silent thief of our treasury, robbing other programs" such as education and health care.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) the largest state employee union, played an indispensible role in facilitating the cuts.

The agreement reached with the union includes a one time 3 percent wage increase. In exchange for this very modest rise in salary, workers will see their pension contributions increase by 3 percent on a yearly basis, along with a five-year increase in the minimum retirement age.

In the most brazenly cynical fashion, the union claims that the agreement protects the membership from additional unpaid furlough days. However, it includes, according to the union summary, a provision for "12 personal leave days in exchange for a one-time, 12 month, 4.62 percent decrease in pay." This statement comes only a few paragraphs down from the claim that the contract includes a 3 percent pay increase.

A 4.62 percent decrease in pay is equivalent to about one day per month. In other words, this agreement amounts to a one-day per month unpaid furlough-under the guise of a "personal day"!

The contract also includes a provision to calculate pensions based on the last three years of employment, rather than an employee's highest paid year of employment. This measure was absolutely crucial from the standpoint of the ruling elite as it insures that as more wage cuts and unpaid furloughs are made to state workers, the state will therefore be able to pay the newly retired the most miserly pensions possible.


9) Defying Predictions, Miners Kept Healthy
October 13, 2010

Defying grim predictions about how they would fare after two months trapped underground, many of the Chilean miners came bounding out of their rescue capsule on Wednesday as pictures of energy and health, able not only to walk, but, in one case, to leap around, hug everyone in sight and lead cheers.

The miners' apparent robustness was testimony to the rescue diet threaded down to them through the tiny borehole that reached them on Aug. 22, but also to the way they organized themselves to keep their environment clean, find water and get exercise. Another factor was the excellent medical care they received from Chilean doctors who ministered to them through tubes leading 2,300 feet into the earth.

Late on Wednesday, the last of the 33 miners was pulled to safety. Chile's health minister, Jaime Mañalich, said that one miner had acute pneumonia but was improving with antibiotics, and that two others needed dental surgery. At the moment, he added, the rest seemed to be in "more than satisfactory" condition.

Indeed, the 27th miner to be rescued, Franklin Lobos, is a former soccer star who juggled a soccer ball on his foot moments after emerging from the capsule.

While many details of the miners' health care and living conditions have been reported, misconceptions and misinformation persisted as the ordeal continued and as the public's fascination with their deprivation increased. In recent days, some television and newspaper commentators had speculated that the men would develop the bends on the way up, or suffer heart attacks or blood clots. Some people said that their muscles would have atrophied, that they could have serious skin funguses, vitamin deficiencies and rotted teeth and be blinded by the daylight.

None of those predictions came true - and some bordered on the absurd.

"The bends?" said Dr. J. D. Polk, chief of space medicine for the Johnson Space Center of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, whom the Chileans consulted. "The miners were at sea level. The mine entrance is at 2,400 feet. They were no more at risk of getting the bends than you are going up to the 15th floor in your building."

The men kept themselves fit and received excellent medical care. And they were not confined to the "rescue chamber," the size of a Manhattan studio apartment. (The first drill bit reached the chamber in August and the miners attached a note to it saying that all 33 were alive.)

"They had the run of the mine," said Jeffery H. Kravitz, acting director for technical support at the United States Mine Safety and Health Administration. With half a mile of tunnels open, he said, "they had places to exercise and to use for waste." One miner ran several miles a day.

"They even had a sort of waterfall they could take a shower under," Mr. Kravitz said. "They requested shampoo, and shaved for their families."

Also, fresh air was pumped in, so asphyxiation was never a danger. While coal mines can fill with methane gas, the San José operation was a copper and gold mine. The air was nearly 90 degrees and humid, but it contained about 20 percent oxygen, like outside air. The men dug three wells, and had potable water.

Doctors from NASA and Chilean Navy officers with experience in submarines were consulted on the strains of prolonged confinement. Alberto Iturra, a psychologist, talked to the miners, sometimes several times a day, to sort through their frustrations and depression.

Over all, Chilean health authorities "did a phenomenal job," Dr. Polk said.

Just after the miners were discovered alive on Aug. 22, they were in danger, he said. They had survived for 17 days on just two spoonfuls of tuna, a cup of milk, one cracker and a bit of a peach topping every other day. Their digestive and insulin systems had nearly shut down and they were breaking down their own fat and muscle tissue.

People on starvation diets can be killed by eating carbohydrates too quickly; as the body struggles to make insulin in response, it can upset the electrolyte balance, stopping the heart.

"We learned that the hard way in World War II, giving candy bars to prisoners of war and concentration camp inmates," Dr. Polk said.

Urine test strips were sent down the tube, allowing Yonny Barrios, a miner with paramedic training, to report that about half the miners were dehydrated and spilling ketones and myoglobin proteins into their urine, a sign that their muscles were breaking down, from starvation and, possibly, from sleeping on hot rocks.

They were told to nearly double the amount of water they drank. Liquid gels with protein and vitamins were sent down the three-inch tube in packets known as "passenger pigeons."

Slowly, day by day, their calories were increased to normal levels.

By Chilean Independence Day, Sept. 18, they were fully recovered and getting celebratory empanadas (baked as cylinders to fit down the tube), barbecued steak (cut into strips) and fresh papaya. Their request for wine was declined. They got cola.

(More recently, they had to be monitored to make sure they would fit in the rescue capsule, 26 inches in diameter.)

Eventually, all sorts of comfort goods were going down three narrow tubes: dismantled camp beds, clean clothes, letters, movies, dominoes, tiny Bibles, toothbrushes, skin creams. The smokers were first allowed only gum and nicotine patches, but doctors eventually relented and let 40 cigarettes a day go down.

The tubes also accommodated fiber optic cables and, by the end, each miner was getting a daily video consultation with a doctor. They also had jobs to do, including reinforcing walls and clearing debris from the rescue drills.

Mr. Barrios also took blood pressure readings, sent up urine and blood samples and gave shots against tetanus, pneumonia, meningitis and flu.

Mario Gómez, 63, the oldest miner, had silicosis - a respiratory disease caused by breathing rock dust - and was helped by inhalers, though he developed pneumonia. Another miner with diabetes received insulin.

Contrary to a rumor, the miners were not in the disorienting dark all the time. Small fluorescent lights were sent down early in their ordeal and a circadian rhythm was kept up, with a red light at nighttime.

The rumor about the bends, Dr. Kravitz said, could have arisen from the 2002 Quecreek mine rescue in Pennsylvania, in which pressurized air was pumped into a flooding mine to hold back water. Ten compression chambers were set up in case any miner got the bends, but none did. The bends, or decompression sickness, is a threat to scuba divers who surface too quickly; nitrogen that dissolved into their blood when they were under heavy water pressure comes out and collects as bubbles in their joints and blood vessels, causing pain and, in extreme cases, death.

Early on in the crisis, the Chilean authorities asked for advice from NASA, which has experience in keeping astronauts physically and mentally healthy.

All the miners came out of the capsules in expensive dark glasses - donated by Oakley - to protect them from the sun, but the main health effect they all shared was very pale skin from being in the dark so long.

Liz Robbins contributed reporting.


10) French Strikers Block Refineries
October 14, 2010

PARIS - Strikes against pension changes in France continued Thursday, with the focus shifting from transport - where services were improving - to oil supply, as most of the country's refineries remained blocked by striking workers.

The French oil industry association has warned of possible shortages by the middle of next week, and in some areas, motorists have been lining up to fill up their tanks, fearing that supplies might soon run dry.

But the government sought Thursday to reassure the population that there was no threat of an imminent shortage of fuel.

"We have what we need for at least a month without major problems," Dominique Bussereau, secretary of state for transport, told L.C.I. television. Mr. Bussereau and other officials called on the public not to panic and to only buy gas when needed.

Mr. Bussereau declined to comment on whether the government was considering using its stocks, a move demanded by the French truckers' federation.

President Nicolas Sarkozy appeared unmoved Thursday during a speech to students and researchers near Bordeaux. "We can't close our eyes faced with our deficit," he said. "Our duty is to act in the general interest."

Charles Foulard, a spokesman for the C.G.T. union, said the strike continued Thursday at 10 of the country's 12 crude refineries.

Total, the largest refiner in France, has wound down operations at its French plants. "There's no crude going in," a spokesman said.

At the Donges refinery at the mouth of the Loire river, unions have already voted to continue the action until Monday, Mr. Foulard of the C.G.T. said. He also warned that workers might escalate the action by blocking oil storage depots away from refineries.

The Fos and Lavera oil terminals in the port of Marseille remained blocked by strikers on Thursday. The city was also hit by confirmation that the low-cost carrier Ryanair would be closing its base in the city, where it employs 200 people, following a dispute with the French authorities over how its workers are paid.

Transport disruptions on Thursday appeared to have diminished, although commuter trains into and out of Paris continued to be affected. Subway and bus service in Paris was returning to normal.

In a statement, the national rail operator S.N.C.F. said Thursday that its service was improving slowly, with high-speed trains to and from Paris running at about 50 percent of normal schedules. There was normal service on Eurostar trains between Paris and London.

S.N.C.F. said that the participation rate among its staff in Thursday's action was 20 percent, as opposed to 25 percent Wednesday and 40 percent Tuesday.

Transport workers at one of the main unions, the C.F.D.T., have voted not to renew their action, according to news reports, although at least three other unions vowed to continue.

Students' unions continued to call on members to protest. The Education Ministry said Thursday that 342 high schools were disrupted to differing degrees by the action, which represented nearly 8 percent of high schools nationwide.

The management of the Université Rennes-2 in western France decided to close its campus on Thursday as students picketed the entrances to its buildings.

The pension changes, which include increasing the minimum legal retirement age to 62 from 60 and raising the age of retirement with a full pension to 67 from 65, are expected to be definitively adopted by lawmakers by the end of the month.

Union leaders have called for further nationwide protests Saturday. Unions at Air France will join the action, Bloomberg News reported.


11) Riot Police Clash With Protesters at Acropolis
October 14, 2010

Filed at 2:10 p.m. ET

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Riot police clashed with protesting Culture Ministry workers barricading the ancient Acropolis on Thursday, using tear gas to clear the entrance to Greece's most famous landmark.

But the monument remained closed for the rest of the day as guards there launched a strike in solidarity with the evicted protesters. Protest organizers said they would gather again at the Acropolis early Friday, but it was unclear whether they would attempt to block the entrance.

Up to 100 workers on short-term contracts had kept the ancient citadel closed since Wednesday morning, complaining they were owed up to 24 months' worth of back pay and faced dismissal when their contracts expire on Oct. 31.

The protesters barricaded themselves inside, padlocked the entrance gates and refused to allow visitors in until their demands were met. Police in riot gear arrived after a court order said the protesters were hindering access to the site and its 2,500-year-old marble temples.

"Riot police and violence won't break the strike," the protesters chanted, clinging to the gates.

But police broke into the site after sawing through the metal fence, then used pepper spray to clear journalists covering the standoff from the main gate. One protester was led away in handcuffs to a waiting police bus.

Dozens of bemused tourists who had arrived to visit the ancient site looked on as the standoff unfolded, occasionally snapping pictures of the riot police.

"We know the workers have a right to protest, but it is not fair that people who come from all over the world to see the Acropolis should be prevented from getting in," said Spanish tourist Ainhoa Garcia shortly before the clashes broke out.

Greece is in the midst of a tough austerity program which has cut public workers' salaries and trimmed pensions in an effort to pull the country out of a severe debt crisis. The austerity plan has led to a series of strikes and demonstrations as workers' unions protest the cutbacks.

Guards and workers at archaeological sites have long been complaining they are owed months of back pay, and they have shut down the Acropolis before in protest, though usually only for a few hours at a time.

They say they had no other option but to close the iconic site - which attracts more than a million visitors annually - because, they say, the government has ignored a string of court rulings in their favor.

"If we are breaking the law by keeping the site closed, is it not also against the law for (the government) to leave us unpaid?" union representative Ioanna Maraveli asked.

But authorities are particularly sensitive to protests at the Acropolis, which is seen as an emblem of ancient democracy, particularly as the country largely relies on tourism for revenue.

"This is not just an issue of damage to Greek tourism, particularly under the current, difficult circumstances, it is also an issue of respect for this outstanding monument," government spokesman George Petalotis said.

Culture ministry officials insisted that all salary arrears would be paid.

Visitors who had traveled from far-flung countries were unimpressed by the protest.

"We think this is a shame. We will not recommend that people come to Greece," said Veronica Traverso, a tourist from Argentina standing with a friend outside the padlocked gates. "We are not to blame for Greece's troubles."

Traverso said she was due to leave the city in a couple of hours - her hopes of visiting the Acropolis dashed.

U.S. tourist Dave Walters, from Phoenix, Arizona, said he arrived Thursday on a cruise ship which was leaving in the evening.

"I don't understand. Greece has two main industries, tourism and shipping," he said. "They seem to be cutting their own throats, this is not going to bring tourists to Greece."


12) No Social Security Increase Next Year
October 14, 2010

Filed at 9:06 a.m. ET on October 15, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) - More than 58 million retirees and disabled Americans will get no increase in Social Security benefits next year, the second year in a row without a raise.

The Social Security Administration said Friday inflation has been too low since the last increase in 2009 to warrant an increase for 2011. The announcement marks only the second year without an increase since automatic adjustments for inflation were adopted in 1975. The first year was this year.

The cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, are automatically set each year by an inflation measure that was adopted by Congress back in the 1970s.

To make up for the lack of a COLA, the House will vote in November - after congressional elections - on a bill to provide $250 payments to Social Security recipients, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. But even if Pelosi can get the House to pass the proposal, it faces opposition in the Senate.

The absence of inflation will be of small comfort to many older Americans whose savings and home values still haven't recovered from the recession. Many haven't had a raise since January 2009, and they won't be getting one until at least January 2012. And the timing couldn't be worse for Democrats as they approach an election in which they are in danger of losing their House majority and possibly their Senate majority as well.

"We're a little bit upset because our bills are going up and our Social Security isn't," said Betty Dizik of Tamarac, Fla., a retired tax preparer and social worker.

Dizik, 83, said her only source of income is a $1,200 monthly payment from Social Security.

"I'm like a lot of other people in my predicament who live on Social Security," Dizik said. "It's hard. We cannot make ends meet."

Claire Edelman of Monroe Township, N.J., said she was so hard up that at the age of 83 she applied for a temporary job as a census taker for the 2010 Census. She didn't get the job, so she gets by on a small pension from her job with the state and her monthly Social Security payment of $1,060.

"I just hope there is some way to reconsider that decision (on the COLA) because it is going to affect so many people," Edelman said. "I can't understand why the Congress hasn't seen that there's been an increase in everything."

A little more than 58.7 million retirees and disabled Americans receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income. Social Security was the primary source of income for 64 percent of retirees who got benefits in 2008.

The average Social Security benefit: $1,072 a month.

Social Security is supported by a 6.2 percent payroll tax - paid by both workers and employers - on wages up to $106,800. Because there is no COLA, that amount will remain unchanged for 2011.

The last increase in benefits came in 2009, when payments went up by 5.8 percent, the largest increase in 27 years. The big increase was caused by a sharp but short-lived spike in energy prices in 2008.

Gasoline prices topped $4 a gallon in the summer of 2008, jolting the inflation rate and resulting in the high COLA for 2009. When the price of gasoline subsequently fell below $2 a gallon, so did the overall inflation rate. Seniors, however, kept the high COLA for 2009.

"They received a nearly 6 percent COLA for inflation that no longer really existed," said Andrew Biggs, a former deputy commissioner at the Social Security Administration and now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

"Seniors aren't being treated unfairly, here," Biggs said. "It looks bad, but they're actually not being treated unfairly."

By law, the next increase won't come until consumer prices rise above the level measured in 2008. The trustees who oversee Social Security project that will happen next year, resulting in an estimated 1.2 percent COLA for 2012.

Advocates for older Americans are pushing for some kind of payment to make up for the lack of a COLA.

"I know everybody's been hurting. I see it everyday. But they are really hurting," said Barbara Kennelly, a former Democratic member of Congress from Connecticut who is now president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

"It's one more thing to be disappointed in," she said.


13) As French Strikes Continue, Worries About Fuel Supply
October 15, 2010

PARIS - There was little sign of a softening by unions protesting planned pension reforms in France on Friday as industrial action and demonstrations moved into a fourth day, intensifying fears about fuel supplies as strikers continued to target the fuel industry.

A spokeswoman for Aéroports de Paris, which operates the city's main international airports Orly and Roissy Charles de Gaulle, sought to play down fears of an immediate shortage of jet fuel.

"The situation is evolving, for now we don't have a worry about stocks, we have enough for several days," said the spokeswoman, who declined to be identified in line with policy.

Earlier, news reports had quoted employees from Trapil, the company which supplies the airports, as saying that pipelines carrying jet fuel to the Paris airports had stopped operating Friday because of industrial action. Trapil's representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

Production at the country's 12 crude refineries remained stalled by striking workers and the situation at oil storage depots away from the refineries was tense as police ordered the blockades lifted at several.

Strikers and union members moved Thursday and early Friday to block supplies from leaving a number of storage sites and police moved in to remove them, according to news reports.

In interviews on French radio, Dominique Bussereau, the secretary of state for transport, justified the use of the police.

"We can't allow a shortage of fuel," he said, adding there would not be any supply problems this week.

Nicolas Paulissen, a spokesman for the Fédération National des Transports Routiers, representing the road transport sector, confirmed that the government had allowed the distribution of reserve fuel supplies held by oil companies to truckers and said they could also be released into commercial supply channels.

The government also allowed imports of refined fuel from abroad, he said.

Meanwhile, the mobilization of students against the reforms appeared to intensify on Thursday, when hundreds of high schools were blocked or disrupted, according to the Education Ministry. A students' union, the Union nationale lycéenne, put the figure at more than 1,000.

There were confrontations between police officers and students at a number of locations on Thursday, leading to dozens of arrests, including for throwing objects at the police, according to news reports.

The union has called on its members for a massive mobilization Saturday.

In Paris, buses and Métro trains were back running at almost normal service, but commuter trains and the parts of the national rail network remained disrupted.

The largest labor unions have called for national demonstrations and strikes on Saturday and next Tuesday, a day before a key vote on the reforms in the French Senate. Some strikers in the transport and energy sectors have been off the job since Tuesday.


14) 2 Pennsylvania Men Guilty in 2008 Killing of Mexican
October 14, 2010

WASHINGTON - A federal jury found two young Pennsylvania men guilty of a hate crime on Thursday in the 2008 beating death of a Mexican immigrant. The verdict was welcomed by Hispanic organizations, which saw the trial as a national test case for the treatment of Latinos.

The men, Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky, were found guilty of violating the civil rights of Luis Ramírez, an illegal immigrant, when they and a group of football players beat him in Shenandoah, Pa., in July 2008. He died shortly after from head injuries.

Mr. Donchak, 20, sobbed as the verdict was read in United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, in Scranton, and Mr. Piekarsky, 18, put his head in his hands, according to The Associated Press. The men face sentences of up to life in prison. Mr. Donchak faces up to 20 years more on an obstruction of justice charge and 5 years on a conspiracy charge. They are to be sentenced on Jan. 24.

The men were acquitted of the most serious charges in a state trial last year, a verdict that angered Hispanic advocacy groups and drew criticism from Gov. Edward G. Rendell. The Justice Department later indicted the men on the hate crime charges on the grounds that they beat Mr. Ramírez because he was Latino and they did not want Latinos living in their town.

Prosecutors said Mr. Donchak and Mr. Piekarsky, both teenagers at the time of the crime, hurled ethnic slurs at Mr. Ramírez and told him: "This is America. Go back to Mexico."

The two men were tried under the Fair Housing Act, a federal law that makes it a crime to use someone's race or national origin to prevent him from living where he chooses.

Mr. Donchak's lawyer, William Fetterhoff, said that the trial amounted to a case of double jeopardy - being tried twice for the same crime - and that the two were indicted only because the government was dissatisfied with the state verdict.

He said that the encounter was a result of young male aggression soaked with alcohol. "Once a fight among teens begins, then the sky is the limit for name calling, insults and foul language," Mr. Fetterhoff said Thursday by telephone from Scranton. "It didn't matter that Mr. Ramírez was white, black, Hispanic or shiny green."

The case had become a cause célèbre for Hispanic groups.

"The verdict sends an important message that hate crimes are not to be tolerated," said Clarissa Martinez, director of immigration at the National Council of La Raza, a Latino civil rights organization. "In this case, justice has been made."

A lawyer for Mr. Piekarsky, James Swetz, said by telephone that the two men would appeal. He said the Fair Housing Act required not only a finding of racial or ethnic bias, but also that it relate directly to preventing the victim from living where he chooses. It was intended to prevent threatening situations like the placing of burning crosses on black people's lawns in the past.

"It's an attempt to put a square peg in a round hole," Mr. Swetz said. "There is no evidence that these kids knew that Ramírez lived in the borough."

Prosecutors disagreed, and managed to persuade the jury.

The case raised difficult questions that are rooted in the immigration debate that has swept the country in recent years: for example, whether, as a person in the country illegally, Mr. Ramírez even had a right to the federal government's protection of his housing, as the Fair Housing Act designates. Mr. Swetz said that would be part of his appeal.


15) Michael Pollan: What Do Marijuana and Catnip Have in Common?
By Julie Holland, MD and Michael Pollan, Park Street Press
Posted on October 16, 2010, Printed on October 16, 2010

The following is an excerpt from The Pot Book edited by Julie Holland, M.D. (Park Street Press, 2010)

Julie Holland: Can we start with the catnip story?

Michael Pollan: I always kept a little patch of catnip in my garden for my old tomcat, Frank, who really liked it. It's not a very difficult plant to grow. The patch was hard to miss, because it was so shrubby. But every evening around five or six o'clock, just around the time that I was going to the garden to harvest something for dinner, Frank would come down there and look at me. What he wanted to know was where that catnip was, because he managed to forget every single night. And I would point it out to him or sometimes bring him over to it, and then he would pull some leaves off, sniff them, eat them, and start rolling in the grass. He was clearly having a powerful drug experience. Then he would sneak away and sleep it off somewhere.

But the interesting thing was, as much as this became part of his daily routine, he could not remember where the catnip was. And it occurred to me that this might be a kind of evolutionary strategy on the part of the plant: instead of killing the pest, it would just really confuse it. Killing pests can be counterproductive, because they breed or select for resistance very quickly. This happens with a lot of poisonous types of plants, as it does with pesticides. But if the plant merely confuses the pests or disables their memory, it can defend itself against them overindulging. Pure speculation, as I say in the book. It occurred to me that it might help explain what's happening with cannabis, which of course also disables memory.

Holland: So THC could potentially protect the plant from pests by discombobulating them so they forget where they found it?

Pollan: It potentially is doing that. The big question is why plants would evolve very specific chemical compounds that have this strange effect on the mental processes of mammals, and that's one theory that I came up with to explain it. There is also, of course, the pure-chance theory. Maybe the THC is doing something else entirely, like protecting the plant from UV rays or performing some other function for the plant, or maybe it does indeed kill insects. But it just so happens that THC also unlocks this particular receptor network in humans.

Holland: I am very interested in the idea that we co-evolved with cannabis on the Earth for ten thousand years and that we've got receptors for this plant substance inside our brains, that we've got cannabinoids and anandamide inside us. You've written about cannabis helping you forget as sort of a helpful strategy or adaptation, and there's a line in Botany of Desire about forgetting as a prerequisite to human happiness and mental health. I guess anandamide is our brain's own drug for coping and enduring. It's not just the benefits of forgetting -- what's that line, "Do you really want to remember every face you saw on the subway this morning?"

Pollan: Yes, Raphael Mechoulam keyed me in to that idea. We understand the evolutionary utility of memory, but we don't often think about the utility of forgetting. And it was that comment by him that made me realize that it's almost as important to be able to forget as it is to remember. Forgetting, in this case, isn't just a fading of the memory, but an active process for editing, because we take in far more information than it would be useful to retain. There's just so much detail in our visual field (not to mention the other senses) at any given moment that a lot of what our brains are doing is figuring out what is worth remembering, what can be shucked, and what should just be remembered for a little while and then let go. So we need some sort of mechanism for doing it, and Mechoulam's speculation was that one of the functions of anandamide would be to help us prune the sensory data of everyday life, short-term memory in particular. I found that a very persuasive theory, and it certainly gels with the experience of a brain on marijuana, because things that happened just minutes ago are gone, and I think that has a lot to do with the texture of the experience.

Holland: There's no doubt that short-term working memory is temporarily diminished when somebody gets high. But what I think is enjoyable to people is this idea of dehabituation, that they're seeing things with fresh eyes. Memory is the enemy of wonder. When people get high, everything is new and intense because of this forgetting, because it's dehabituated.

Pollan: It's a childlike way of looking at the world -- Wordsworth's child. The child sees everything for the first time; and, of course, to see things for the first time, you have to have forgotten that you've seen them before. So forgetting is very important to the experience of awe or wonder.

Holland: It aesthetisizes commonplace things. When something is sort of distanced or estranged, it somehow becomes more beautiful.

Pollan: It italicizes it, in a way. You set it apart, and you actually see it. It gives a freshness to things that we take for granted all the time. I think it's definitely a part of all drug experiences in one way or another, but marijuana seems to have the ability to do this with ordinary things, putting them up on a pedestal.

Holland: That sort of perception provides breaks in your mental habits, provides the power to alter mental constructs, and offers new ways of looking at things, so drugs can then function as "cultural mutagens," a phrase you use.

Pollan: Looking at the whole history of drugs and culture -- whether you're talking about music, or art, or writing -- there's this very rich tradition of artists who have availed themselves of various drugs and have attributed great insight or creativity to their experience with those drugs. And one of the mechanisms that might explain this is that the drugs shift ordinary perception, allowing you to see things from a new perspective, and that is kind of mutagenic; it triggers change.

I used that metaphor with some care because, obviously, 99.9 percent of the time, drug experiences are not making any contribution to culture whatsoever, and they're usually a complete waste of time and can also lead to all sorts of problems. So I liken them to mutations: you put out enough novelty in the world in the form of insider experience, and some of it is bound to be really productive, in the same way that if you put enough mutations into a gene or an organism, some of them are going to produce incredible advances, but most of them will be maladaptive. That's the other reason why I thought mutagenicity was the right term. It's not as if there's a one-to-one relationship -- you try this, and you're going to have an amazing artistic experience. I think the odds are probably the other way.

Holland: So speaking of metaphors, you describe cannabis buds as perpetually sexually frustrated, ever-lengthening flowers. I feel like our culture is so separated from nature now that it's a big part of our problem. This striving flower is a great metaphor for our reaching out, wanting more -- more meaning, searching for spirituality, though half the time we settle for materialism or consumerism. What do you think we can do to reconnect more with nature? Do you see plant-based medicines being helpful?

Pollan: I think they are. We have this inbred idea of nature and culture as opposed to each other, with mind and body on opposite sides of the big divide. One of the things that's really striking to me about all plant mood-changing substances is that idea. If things out in the natural world can change the content of your thoughts, can you really say that matter is on one side and this thing called spirit on the other? It really suggests that the categories are messier and more intertwined than we'd like to think.

There's a whole tradition in the West of suppressing plant-based drugs and plant-based knowledge. That's what the story of the Garden of Eden is all about. It wasn't the content of the knowledge that Eve got in the garden that was the problem; it was that she got it from a plant. A big part of earlier religions, which often had a drug component to them, was that there was wisdom in nature, and consuming natural substances was how you acquired wisdom. That was a very threatening idea to monotheism, which wanted to have this one God up in the sky; it wanted to take our eyes off of nature as a place where we might find wisdom, comfort, and so forth.

The whole Judeo-Christian tradition has a history of a strong antinature component. Nature is to be subdued, nature is what we are different from: we distinguish ourselves from animals. It's always about inserting that distance between us and the other animals, or us and the trees, because people used to worship trees. So, to the extent that you wanted to establish this new kind of God, you had to reject nature and natural experiences of all different kinds. So I do think there is potential in returning to this appreciation of the fact that our consciousnesses can be affected by the plant world, not to mention the fungal world.

Holland: I love the idea of a garden being a place of sacraments. In Botany of Desire, you wrote, "Letting nature have her way with us now and again brings our upward gaze back down to earth." This idea of nature as teacher and as healer, of a plant as medicine, is so basic to our culture, but we've gotten away from that to a large extent.

Pollan: Yes, and there are many reasons for that. One is the religious tradition and another is the patent laws.

Holland: You can't help but blame Big Pharma to some extent.

Pollan: Well, the fact is that the drugs that are nearest at hand and most common, the plant drugs, can't get past Big Pharma. There is an investment that goes into studying their value, and it is always the same -- the synthetic drug is better, newer, and fresher. People forget that LSD is synthesized from a mold that grows on rye, and a great many drugs have been created in that way. Opium is another great example. So we denigrate those drugs by saying they're not as pure; we don't know exactly what's in them. There's a profit motive in belittling what the plant world gives us.

Holland: It reminds me of In Defense of Food, where you talk about food being reduced to its building blocks.

Pollan: It's a reductive approach.

Holland: And Big Pharma chooses to be reductive over something more complex and whole, like a plant.

Pollan: That's the real issue with THC and cannabinol, and there are others too.

Holland: Well, anybody who has taken a pharmaceutical THC pill will tell you, it doesn't really feel like that experience is similar to smoking pot.

Pollan: Yes, that's right, and it's different in important ways. It probably has to do with various energies between the different compounds or just simply various combinations, but our science has trouble embracing that kind of complexity. It really needs to break things down into molecules for the purpose of a study, but plants really are more than the sum of their chemical parts. And our efforts to tease out the single active ingredient, whether it's a vitamin in carrots, or a drug in leaves, usually don't work out, because these things are really complicated. Reductiveness also has a negative effect when you look at the white-powder drugs. Cultures in South America have a very healthy relationship to the cocoa leaves.

Holland: They will just chew a whole leaf.

Pollan: Or they will make tea. From the reductive perspective, that is the same thing as smoking crack, but, of course, it isn't. There are other things going on in the leaves: the psychoactive compounds are diluted in various ways with other compounds. It's a very different thing, and to say we're talking about the same molecule in all instances is probably false.

Holland: I can think of one example where just giving a single molecule did seem to create a good experience: in the Johns Hopkins study, where they administered psilocybin, as opposed to whole mushrooms, to healthy subjects who had rich spiritual lives. They were able to show that they could engender a mystical state with psilocybin.

When you mentioned fungus before, there are certainly plenty of plants that are able to change our consciousness, like mushrooms or cannabis.

Many people think of plants as spiritual teachers, and as healers, which naturally leads us into the whole medical marijuana issue.

Pollan: I think in a metaphorical way, they do teach us, but I don't think they set out to teach us. There's a lot we can learn from them, and whether it's spiritual, again that goes to the separation of spirit and matter, which I don't buy. People mean many different things when they talk about spirit. I get really uncomfortable around terms like spiritual, because I'm not sure what it means.

Holland: Well, one aspect of spirituality is to be present, to focus on the here and now, which I think cannabis can help people do. So this idea of "here and now" taking us away from the "then and there" of Christian salvation, the transcendence and the Power of Now -- I don't know if you are interested in any of that.

Pollan: I've written about that idea of "here and now" a lot, and, in fact, in my architecture book I did that too. I wrote a book called A Place of My Own, and there was a chapter about foundations in which I talked a lot about that idea of here and now, and how there's a tension between those two sets of values. Both of them are present, usually.

Holland: Do you think it's safe to say that cannabis can sometimes help place you in the "now"?

Pollan: Yes, I think it has the effect of absorbing you in the here and now -- partly by increasing this forgetting function we were talking about, and also by creating a really single-minded focus on whatever is in front of you. I think that is a very powerful thing. Also, it's not a desiring drug, it's a satisfying drug, and I really believe in that distinction. Have you ever read David Lenson's books?

Holland: Sure, On Drugs.

Pollan: I think it's just full of brilliant ideas. It's a terrific book and really has never gotten the recognition it deserved. He compares marijuana to cocaine. Cocaine is a desiring drug, always about the next high; it really is the consumer-culture drug, where satisfaction is just over the next horizon. One more purchase, one more snort. And marijuana is like, "Hey, whatever's here is fine."

Holland: And also, "No, thanks, I'm good. I've had enough."

Pollan: Exactly. And it's part of the reason why the go-getter culture frowns on potheads: they don't want enough, they don't buy enough.

Holland: Pot ends up being subversive because it doesn't move that agenda forward.

So, what do you think of the California medical marijuana situation?

Pollan: It's a mixed bag. It's wonderful to see it normalized and regularized for a lot of people. I know many people who have their couple of plants, and it's not a big deal. It gives you a taste of what a sane drug policy might look like. On the other hand, there is incredible abuse. A great number of people are pretending to be medical marijuana growers or sellers when they're not. And they're abusing the system in a way that I think may lead to the collapse of this whole regime, and the blame will be on them. It won't be on the DEA.

Holland: I totally agree. I hope that California understands that the rest of the country is watching them to see how they do. This is a big experiment, and they're bushwhacking and leading the way, and I really don't want them to screw up.

Pollan: There's so much money in this, and the temptation is so great. I just worry that they're going to ruin this experiment, and California's failure will be used to keep it from happening anywhere else.*

Holland: I want to talk to you about the politics of gardening. You wrote about victory gardens in the October 9, 2008, issue of the New York Times magazine. There's a real grow revolution happening now, with people growing their own pot, partly because these hybrids are so easy to grow indoors. I think it helps people feel self-sufficient and self-determined.

Pollan: And it's safer in various ways. They aren't having to transport things in public conveyances. In a way, this is how it should work. It also takes cannabis out of commerce in very healthy manner, given the drug laws we have. So I do think there's something very satisfactory about growing it yourself, growing your own drugs and enlisting yourself in your care and not depending on other people.

Holland: When I'm weeding my garden, it makes me feel powerful: this plant can stay, this weed has to go. I'm in charge, like a bouncer. And when the government steps in and tells us what we can grow in our gardens and what we can put in our bodies, it just seems to me that it's out of their jurisdiction. And having our own gardens helps us take some responsibility for the climate crisis.

Pollan: There is a literal value in terms of helping the climate. But part of this situation is the specialist mindset, depending on others to take care of your problems. To the extent that gardens teach that you can do things on your own, that the real prerequisite for solving this climate problem is figuring out a different way to live, taking up gardening is a valuable skill we're going to need when things get bad.

Holland: Where do you see hemp fitting into this? Not only is hemp-seed oil good for your body, but hemp as fuel could be very good for the environment.

Pollan: I don't know that much about it, but I think it's a shame that we haven't researched what this very unusual and useful fiber can do. I think for paper it's got good potential. I have no idea if there is a potential for ethanol.

Holland: It seems that it does have the potential to be used as fuel. We are using corn now as an energy source for everything; hemp could be an upgrade from corn.

Pollan: Yes and no. You still need agricultural land to do it, and I think one of the issues with ethanol is that we are using some of our best agricultural land to feed our cars rather than our people. It may be that hemp could grow in places where corn can't grow, in marshy lands. But in general, it has the same problems: it needs tilled land to grow in. It's not like grass, which can grow anywhere.

Holland: Where do you see cannabis and hemp fitting into "going green"? Doesn't it fit an organic model more than an industrial model?

Pollan: There's nothing inherently green about it; look at all the technology and fertilizers used to grow it right now in a lot of places. So I don't see it fitting one model more than the other. I'm sure there are contributions that hemp could make, and I think the universities should be paying attention, studying and analyzing it. I think the lack of research on both hemp and marijuana, given their potential, is criminal.

Holland: When you tried sativa in Amsterdam, you said that you felt "neither stupid nor paranoid."

Pollan: Yes, but I don't know how much of that was due to the chemistry versus the context. You're smoking in a place where it's legal, so if there were any paranoia, it would likely be diminished. Research has talked about setting, and I think people underestimate just how important it is. But it also seems likely to me that there are real differences in the nature of the experience between the two strains, indica and sativa, and depending on the kind of work people do, they tend to like one more than the other. They may have physical aches and pains that they are trying to relieve. And indica, I think, has more CBD in it, and maybe that would explain why it helps. But of course, expectation plays a part in this too, because when people come to expect something from a drug, they're going to get it.

Holland: Can you talk a little bit about our government's drug policy, especially in terms of intervening with our gardening?

Pollan: I think as an adult, you should be free to grow anything you want on your own property as long as you're not taking it other places. The idea that the government can tell you what you can grow in your garden, strikes me in a visceral way as wrong. Our right to privacy should include that.

Holland: I wanted to thank you for mentioning asset forfeiture and the prisoners of the drug war in Botany of Desire. I know it was an aside, but it's an important issue. If you grow cannabis, can you lose your house?

Pollan: Yes, you can, and people don't realize that. The kind of seeds that you choose to plant in your garden could result in the complete loss of your house and your property. And you don't even have to plant it; someone else could plant it on your property. They don't even have to tie the plant to you to seek forfeiture of the asset. So a stranger could plant it, or your kid could plant it, and you could lose your house.

Holland: You talked about Frank waiting until five o'clock to find the catnip. There's something ritualized in that. He could control himself and wait. He could keep it in check.

Pollan: Well, yes. He had other work to do during the day. He wasn't getting high at breakfast.

Excerpt from The Pot Book edited by Julie Holland, M.D., (c) 2010 Park Street Press. Reprinted with permission of the publisher Inner Traditions / Bear & Co., Rochester, VT 05767;

Julie Holland, M.D., is a psychiatrist who specializes in psychopharmacology and a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine. An expert on street drugs and intoxication states, she was the attending psychiatrist in the Psych ER at Bellevue Hospital from 1996 to 2005 and regularly appears on the Today Show. The editor of The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis and Ecstasy: The Complete Guide and the author of the bestselling Weekends at Bellevue, she lives in the Hudson Valley.


16) The Mississippi Pardons
October 15, 2010

Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi has to decide whether to show mercy to two sisters, Jamie and Gladys Scott, who are each serving double consecutive life sentences in state prison for a robbery in which no one was injured and only $11 was taken.

This should be an easy call for a law-and-order governor who has, nevertheless, displayed a willingness to set free individuals convicted of far more serious crimes. Mr. Barbour has already pardoned four killers and suspended the life sentence of a fifth.

The Scott sisters have been in prison for 16 years. Jamie, now 38, is seriously ill. Both of her kidneys have failed. Keeping the two of them locked up any longer is unconscionable, grotesquely inhumane.

The sisters were accused of luring two men to a spot outside the rural town of Forest, Miss., in 1993, where the men were robbed by three teenagers, one of whom had a shotgun. The Scott sisters knew the teens. The evidence of the sisters' involvement has always been ambiguous, at best. The teenagers pleaded guilty to the crime, served two years in prison and were released. All were obliged by the authorities, as part of their plea deals, to implicate the sisters.

No explanation has ever emerged as to why Jamie and Gladys Scott were treated so severely.

In contrast, Governor Barbour has been quite willing to hand get-out-of-jail-free cards to men who unquestionably committed shockingly brutal crimes. The Jackson Free Press, an alternative weekly, and Slate Magazine have catalogued these interventions by Mr. Barbour. Some Mississippi observers have characterized the governor's moves as acts of mercy; others have called them dangerous abuses of executive power.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections confirmed Governor Barbour's role in the five cases, noting that the specific orders were signed July 16, 2008:

• Bobby Hays Clark was pardoned by the governor. He was serving a long sentence for manslaughter and aggravated assault, having shot and killed a former girlfriend and badly beaten her boyfriend.

• Michael David Graham had his life sentence for murder suspended by Governor Barbour. Graham had stalked his ex-wife, Adrienne Klasky, for years before shooting her to death as she waited for a traffic light in downtown Pascagoula.

• Clarence Jones was pardoned by the governor. He had murdered his former girlfriend in 1992, stabbing her 22 times. He had already had his life sentence suspended by a previous governor, Ronnie Musgrove.

• Paul Joseph Warnock was pardoned by Governor Barbour. He was serving life for the murder of his girlfriend in 1989. According to Slate, Warnock shot his girlfriend in the back of the head while she was sleeping.

• William James Kimble was pardoned by Governor Barbour. He was serving life for the murder and robbery of an elderly man in 1991.

Radley Balko, in an article for Slate, noted that none of the five men were given relief because of concerns that they had been unfairly treated by the criminal justice system. There were no questions about their guilt or the fairness of the proceedings against them. But they did have one thing in common. All, as Mr. Balko pointed out, had been enrolled in a special prison program "that had them doing odd jobs around the Mississippi governor's mansion."

The idea that those men could be freed from prison and allowed to pursue whatever kind of lives they might wish while the Scott sisters are kept locked up, presumably for the rest of their lives, is beyond disturbing.

Supporters of the Scott sisters, including their attorney, Chokwe Lumumba, and Ben Jealous of the N.A.A.C.P., have asked Governor Barbour to intervene, to use his executive power to free the women from prison.

A spokeswoman for the governor told me he has referred the matter to the state's parole board. Under Mississippi law, the governor does not have to follow the recommendation of the board. He is free to act on his own. With Jamie Scott seriously ill (her sister and others have offered to donate a kidney for a transplant), the governor should move with dispatch.

The women's mother, Evelyn Rasco, told The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss.: "I wish they would just hurry up and let them out. I hope that is where it is leading to. That would be the only justified thing to do."

An affidavit submitted to the governor on behalf of the Scott sisters says: "Jamie and Gladys Scott respectfully pray that they each be granted a pardon or clemency of their sentences on the grounds that their sentences were too severe and they have been incarcerated for too long. If not released, Jamie Scott will probably die in prison."

As they are both serving double life sentences, a refusal by the governor to intervene will most likely mean that both will die in prison.


17) When Drugs Cause Problems They Should Prevent
October 16, 2010

In the past month, the Food and Drug Administration has concluded that in some cases two types of drugs that were supposed to be preventing serious medical problems were, in fact, causing them.

One is bisphosphonates, which is widely used to prevent the fractures, especially of the hip and spine, that are common in people with osteoporosis. Those drugs, like Fosamax, Actonel and Boniva, will now have to carry labels saying they can lead to rare fractures of the thigh bone, a surprising new discovery that came after another surprise - that they can cause a rare degeneration of the jawbone.

The other is Avandia, which is widely prescribed for diabetics, whose disease puts them at risk for heart attacks and heart failure. Two-thirds of diabetics die of heart problems, and a main reason for taking drugs like Avandia is to protect them from that.

But now the F.D.A. and drug regulators in Europe are restricting Avandia's use because it appears to increase heart risks.

In the case of bisphosphonates, the benefits for people with osteoporosis still outweigh the risk, bone experts say. And no one has restricted their use.

But the fact remains that with decades of using drugs to treat chronic diseases, the unexpected can occur.

Something new is happening, said Daniel Carpenter, a government professor at Harvard who is an expert on the drug agency. The population is aging, many have chronic diseases. And companies are going after giant markets, huge parts of the population, heavily advertising drugs that are to be taken for a lifetime.

And the way drugs are evaluated, with the emphasis on shorter-term studies before marketing, is not helping, Dr. Carpenter said.

"Here is a wide-scale institutional failure," he said. "We have placed far more resources and requirements upon premarket assessment of drugs than on postmarket."

Dr. Jason Karlawish, a University of Pennsylvania ethicist who studies the ways new treatments are developed and disseminated, expressed a similar concern.

"The point is not that the drugs are bad, but that drugs for these chronic diseases present a novel set of challenges about how to assess their safety," he said.

But such discussions make Dr. Ethel Siris, an osteoporosis expert at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, nervous. Bisphosphonates have been extensively studied, she said, and the thigh fractures from bisphosphonates - while surprising - are very rare. Dr. Siris's fear is that people who really need the drugs will turn away from them.

It is not clear how the nation should respond to the new era of widespread drug use for chronic diseases.

"The basic underlying theme is that we don't have good long-term safety indices for common chronic diseases that we are treating with major drugs," said Dr. Clifford J. Rosen, director of the Maine Center for Osteoporosis Research. Dr. Rosen, in addition to studying osteoporosis, was on an advisory committee of the drug agency that examined the evidence that Avandia was linked to heart risks.

The difficulty is in figuring out how to assess the safety of drugs that will be taken for decades, when the clinical trials last at most a few years.

Today's system, which largely consists of asking doctors to report adverse reactions and of researchers' attempts to look at patient experiences in a variety of diverse databases, like records of large health plans, is ineffective, medical experts agree.

"There has to be a better system," Dr. Rosen said.

Congress recently gave the drug agency the power to require studies after drug approval, but the agency has used it sparingly.

Some, like Dr. Rosen and Dr. Carpenter, would like large clinical trials after a drug is approved and continuing for years, even for drugs that met all the premarket requirements.

Dr. Karlawish questions whether this is practical. Once a drug is approved, it can be difficult to persuade doctors to assign their patients randomly to one approved treatment or another, and the sort of studies being suggested would go on for many years, making them difficult.

He favors something different - the development of a national electronic drug database that would reveal drug use and complications. In the meantime, Dr. Karlawish said, he could not help marveling at the paradox of drugs causing what they were supposed to prevent.

"This is priceless," he said.


18) U.S. Will Enforce Marijuana Laws, State Vote Aside
October 15, 2010

LOS ANGELES - The Department of Justice says it intends to prosecute marijuana laws in California aggressively even if state voters approve an initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot to legalize the drug.

The announcement by Eric H. Holder Jr., the attorney general, was the latest reminder of how much of the establishment has lined up against the popular initiative: dozens of editorial boards, candidates for office, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other public officials.

Still, despite this opposition - or perhaps, to some extent, because of it - the measure, Proposition 19, appears to have at least a decent chance of winning, so far drawing considerable support in polls from a coalition of Democrats, independents, younger voters and men as Election Day nears. Should that happen, it could cement a cultural shift in California, where medical marijuana has been legal since 1996 and where the drug has been celebrated in popular culture at least since the 1960s.

But it could also plunge the nation's most populous state into a murky and unsettling conflict with the federal government that opponents of the proposition said should make California voters wary of supporting it.

Washington has generally looked the other way as a growing medical marijuana industry has prospered here and in 14 other states and the District of Columbia, but Mr. Holder's position - revealed in a letter this week to nine former chiefs of the Drug Enforcement Administration that was made public on Friday - made explicit that legalizing marijuana for recreational use would bring a whole new level of scrutiny from Washington.

Mr. Holder did not fully spell out the reasons for the decision, but he did allude to the reluctance of the federal government to enforce drug laws differently in different states. "If passed, this legislation will greatly complicate federal drug enforcement efforts to the detriment of our citizens," he wrote.

The Los Angeles County sheriff, Lee Baca, who has been one of the leading opponents of the measure, quickly embraced the Justice Department's stance. He said that the initiative was unconstitutional and vowed to continue enforcing marijuana laws, no matter what voters do in November.

Supporters of the initiative have portrayed support for it as another example in an anti-incumbent year of voters rejecting authority.

"Bring on the establishment," said Chris Lehane, a senior consultant to the campaign pushing for passage of the initiative. "This campaign, and the energy driving it, is predicated on the common understanding that the establishment's prohibition approach has been a complete and utter failure, as proven by the point that today it is easier for a kid to get access to pot than it is to buy a beer or a cigarette."

But Roger Salazar, a political consultant who has been directing the effort to defeat the proposal, said that Mr. Holder's statement should reinforce deep concerns about the initiative, including the way it was drafted and what he called inflated claims by its backers of what legalization might do.

"This is sort of a shot across the bow from the federal government: They're saying that, 'If this thing moves the way we think it is, we're going to come after you guys,' " he said. "That gives California voters one more reason to take a deep breath."

California's becoming the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use would provide a real-life test of theories that proponents of legalization have long pressed: That it would provide a new stream of revenues for government, cut down on drug-related violence and end a modern-day prohibition that effectively turns many citizens into lawbreakers.

As it is, no matter what voters or Mr. Holder do, marijuana use in California these days appears, for all practical purposes, all but legal.

Mr. Schwarzenegger signed legislation last month that made possession of an ounce of marijuana an infraction - it had previously been a misdemeanor - punishable by a $100 fine. Medical marijuana dispensaries are common in many parts of the state, and getting a prescription is hardly challenging. Baby boomers who had not smoked marijuana since college now speak openly at dinner parties of their "medical" experimentation with the drug. The smell of marijuana is hardly unusual at outdoor concerts at places like the Hollywood Bowl.

A Field Poll last month found that 50 percent of respondents said that marijuana should be legalized; that is up from 13 percent when the organization first asked the question in 1969. And 47 percent said they had smoked marijuana at least once, compared with 28 percent when the question was asked in 1975.

"This is the first generation of high school students where a majority of their parents have smoked marijuana," said Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which has been pushing for passage of the initiative.

The presence of the initiative on the ballot has encouraged Democrats, who argue it will lead to increased turnout among younger voters.

Notably, none of the major statewide candidates have endorsed the measure. But perhaps just as notably, none have made the proposition a campaign issue.

The state Republican Party has officially come out against Proposition 19 and plans to urge people to vote no, said Ron Nehring, the party chairman. He called repeal a "big mistake" and mocked the notion that placing the proposition on the ballot would help Democrats.

"We call that their Hail Mary Jane strategy," he said.

John Burton, the chairman of the California Democratic Party, said his party had decided to stay neutral on this issue. Asked if he supported it, Mr. Burton responded: "I already voted for it. Why not? Brings some money into the state. Helps the deficit. Better than selling off state buildings to some developer."

Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, noted that polls showed the measure breaking 50 percent, but said that given the history of initiatives in the state, that meant its passage was far from assured.

Opposition has come from a number of fronts, ranging from Mr. Baca and other law enforcement officials to the Chamber of Commerce, which has warned that it would create workplace health issues.

Still, the breadth of supporters of the proposition - including law enforcement officials and major unions, like the Service Employees International Union - signal how mainstream this movement is becoming.

"I think we consume far more dangerous drugs that are legal: cigarette smoking, nicotine and alcohol," said Joycelyn Elders, the former surgeon general and a supporter of the measure. "I feel they cause much more devastating effects physically. We need to lift the prohibition on marijuana."

Ian Lovett contributed reporting.


19) Chicago Union Steward Targeted In FBI Raid Says It's Effort To Intimidate Anti-War Movement
Nixon's COINTELPRO set precedent for Bush's PATRIOT Act (and Clinton's Effective Death Penalty law), which allow further police state tactics, harassment, erosion of rights, suppression of free speech and right to assemble (except in cages or behind fences), attacks on activists and unionists.
Chicago Union Steward Targeted In FBI Raid Says It's Effort To Intimidate Anti-War Movement
Submitted by Doug Cunningham on October 10, 2010 - 7:47pm

The recent FBI raids on peace activists, a union member and university employees in Chicago and Minnesota's Twin Cities are efforts to intimidate activists. That's according to Chicago attorney Melinda Power.

[Power]: Government cannot have their right to stop people from exercising their First Amendment rights to express their public opposition to what the government is doing here in the United States, in Afghanistan or anywhere in the world. The government is saying you cannot say we don't like what the government is doing. We're here because we think, yes people have a right to publicly object, to demonstrate, to march, to voice our oppositions to the policy of the government.

The September 24th raids included twenty FBI agents barging into the Chicago home of SEIU Local 73 union steward Joe Isobaker. The FBI stayed for twelve hours, searching through everything in the home and taking away a host of personal items.

[Isobaker]: We denounce the FBI raids. These raids, searches and grand jury investigations are nothing more than an attempt to intimidate us and to intimidate the antiwar movement. We have done nothing wrong. We're being targeted because we oppose the criminal wars and occupations launched by our government in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The FBI targeted anti-war activists, Arab-American activists and activists against U.S. military aid to Colombia. The government claims it's part of an anti-terrorist investigation. The activists maintain their actions are peaceful and lawful exercises of their constitutional rights.

(Audio courtesy of Chicago's Labor Express program)

Victim of FBI raid speaks out
By Tom Eley
30 September 2010

Antiwar activists in Minneapolis and Chicago targeted in last week's FBI raids for their support of nationalist movements defined by the US as "terrorist" say they have done nothing illegal and that the invasion of their homes came without warning.

Most of those raided have been served with subpoenas to appear before a grand jury in Chicago on October 12. An unknown number of activists in other states, including Michigan, North Carolina, California and Wisconsin, have been approached by the FBI for interviews, although it is not clear if additional subpoenas have been issued.

Jess Sundin, whose home in south Minneapolis was raided and who received a grand jury subpoena, spoke with the World Socialist Web Site about the government attack.

At 7 AM I awoke to the sound of banging at my front door, Sundin said. My daughter and my partner were already awake. By the time I got downstairs, there were six or seven federal agents in our house.

When they came in and asked if we had any guns in the house, my six-year-old said, 'We don't believe in guns'. She took offense at the suggestion. We don't even allow toy guns in our house.

The agents showed me a search warrant and proceeded to go through everything in my house, every room. Among the things they seized, they took books, they took music CD's, photographs, computers, my cell phone, check book, papers, camera and a lot more.

We were very clear that we were not going to talk to them. They gave both my partner and me our subpoenas for the grand jury. They told us we were not detained, we could leave, but no one else was allowed in. We couldn't use the phone, except to call a lawyer.

“They took my phone into their possession and kept it with boxes and lists. I could hear it going off but I wasn't allowed to answer it. Steff, my partner, kept possession of her phone but we weren't allowed to use it to make or receive phone calls.

“They took about four hours to search the house. I don't know how many boxes they carried out. They gave me a receipt, but I refused to sign it. I said, "I don't know what you've taken."

Sundin said it was immediately clear to her that she was being targeted for her antiwar activism, and, in particular, her activity against US foreign policy in Colombia and the Middle East.

“The US is heavily involved in Colombia, Sundin said. They've been building military bases and they've been funding the Colombian government's war against its own people. It's the third largest recipient of US foreign aid in the world.

Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid. And the Palestinian people have lived for generations sixty-plus years without an intinternationally recognized state. Their homes are bulldozed, they're second-class citizens with no right to participate in the political process. And in places like Gaza bombs fall from the sky.

Sundin said she is a member of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, a founding member of the Anti-War Committee of the Twin Cities, and a member of AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) Local 3800. She is a clerical worker at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Sundin's opposition to US foreign policy took her to Iraq in 1998, where the sanctions regime imposed on the country by the Clinton administration and its allies had created a humanitarian disaster.

“We went to a children's hospital where I was most struck by the empty shelves in the pharmacy and the stories that doctors shared of a health care system that had been the best in the Middle East, but had been paralyzed by the sanctions and the war, she said. So you had children that died because there weren't IV fluids to give them. You had people who died because they couldn't get inhalers for asthma, antibiotics, heart medicine. These things just weren't available there… The most striking thing I saw was Al Ameriya, which was aa bomb shelter that was destroyed by two US smart bombs in 1991.

Sundin said she does not know what sort of case the government intends to make against her. The search warrant indicates the FBI may well seek criminal prosecution based on the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which, in effect, proscribes political speech in support of organizations the US president defines as “terrorist.

The law, which prohibits knowingly provid[ing] material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, even if that support consists of expert advice or assistance for lawful, non-violent purposes, was upheld in June by the Supreme Court in the case Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project.

Sundin said she “can't speculate on what the government's plans are, but I will say that when we arise to the defense of democratic rights for any movement, it is for the greater protection of every movement.

She concluded by pointing to the threat that the raids and grand jury subpoenas pose not just to the targeted individuals, but to their families. “Lastly, I will say that I am the mother of a six-year-old,� Sundin said. “A number of us involved in this case are the parents of young children, and I’m worried about what this means for our kids. I believe that I have the right to speak and that I wasn't putting my job in jeopardy by doing so.

Those raided by the FBI are clearly under attack for constitutionally protected political speech. The raids and grand jury hearings, at which those subpoenaed do not have the right to counsel, represent a frontal attack on democratic rights and a major step in the direction of police-state forms of rule. The Obama administration has carried out the raids to establish a precedent and test the waters for far more sweeping attacks on political opponents of the government’s reactionary policies, both foreign and domestic.

The Socialist Equality Party and the World Socialist Web Site call on all workers, youth and students who oppose the war policies of the government and all those who uphold democratic rights to defend the victims of the FBI raids. We have fundamental political differences with the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, which has its roots in Maoist student groups from the 1960s and 1970s, but we are unreserved in our defense of the democratic rights of the organization and its members against state repression.

Glenn Beck Brings ExxonMobil-Linked Religious Front Group To Tell Christians Not To Believe In Climate Change

In June, ThinkProgress published an exclusive investigation into the Cornwall Alliance a corporate front designed to deceive evangelicals into doubting the science underpinning climate change. Today, Fox News hate-talker Glenn Beck brought on a representative from the group to tout Cornwall’s new DVD, “Resisting the Green Dragon,” which claims the climate change movement is a “false religion,” and a nefarious conspiracy to empower eugenicists and create a “ global government.” The DVD, which Cornwall is distributing to evangelical churches around the country, seems to be designed perfectly for Beck’s world view, and unsurprisingly, the Cornwall guest and Beck exchanged bizarre conspiracy theories. Watch it:

The Cornwall Alliance appears to be a creation of a group called the James Partnership, a nonprofit run by Chris Rogers and Peter Stein, according to documents filed with the Virginia State Corporation Commission. Rogers, who heads a media and public relations firm called CDR Communications, collaborates with longtime oil front group operative David Rothbard, the founder and President of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) and Jacques Villarreal, a lower level staffer at CFACT, for his James Partnership group. In the past, Rogers’ firm has worked for the Bush administration and for the secretive conservative planning group, the Council for National Policy.

According to public records, the following entities are all registered to the same address, 9302-C Old Keene Mill Road Burke, VA 22015, an office park in suburban Virginia:

– Rogers’ consulting firm, CDR Communications
– Rogers’ nonprofit hub, the James Partnership
– The Cornwall Alliance
– The new “ Resisting the Green Dragon” website

In late 2005, evangelical leaders like Rick Warren joined a drive to back a major initiative to fight global warming, saying “millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors.” To counter this historic shift in the evangelical community, a group called the “ Interfaith Stewardship Alliance” (ISA) was launched to oppose action on carbon emissions and to deny the existence of climate chance. One of the men guiding this group was Paul Driessen, a consultant for ExxonMobil, the mining industry, and for CFACT.

For “stream lining” reasons, ISA relaunched as the Cornwall Alliance in 2006. With the new name came a redesigned website, highly produced web videos, and an organized network of churches to distribute climate change denying propaganda to hundreds of pastors around the country. The branding for the Cornwall Alliance is derived from the “ Cornwall Declaration,” a 1999 document pushing back against the creation-care movement in the evangelical community. The Declaration “stressed a free-market environmental stewardship and emphasized that individuals and private organizations should be trusted to care for their own property without government intervention.” CFACT President Rothbard has been hailed as the “driving force” behind the Cornwall Declaration public relations effort.

CFACT is a gimmicky right-wing organization that does everything it can to try to discredit the science underpinning climate change. For instance, staffers from the group traveled to the Copenhagen conference on climate change to stage silly press conferences with Rush Limbaugh’s former producer and stunts aimed at mocking Greenpeace.

But who is the “driving force” behind CFACT? According to disclosures, CFACT is funded by at least $542,000 from ExxonMobil, $60,500from Chevron, and $1,280,000 from Scaife family foundations, which are rooted in wealth from Gulf Oil and steel interests.

CFACT and the Cornwall Alliance, according to disclosures filed with the Washington State Secretary of State’s office, share a common fundraising firm, ClearWord Communications Group. ClearWord has helped raise millions of dollars not only for CFACT and Cornwall, but also for infamous polluter front groups like FreedomWorks, the Institute for Energy Research, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Last year, Cornwall produced a video with former Sen. George Allen (R-VA) attacking clean energy legislation as part of a campaign by the ExxonMobil-funded“American Energy Freedom Center.”

In a call to the Cornwall Alliance’s media office, spokesman Quena Gonzalez said Cornwall has no relationship to CFACT and said CFACT President Rothbard has no official capacity with his group. Gonzalez said that in “several years of working” at Cornwall, he had never heard any questions about working with CFACT, and instructed ThinkProgress to contact Calvin Beisner, the national representative for Cornwall. Beisner is a board member of CFACT.

Rothbard had a central role in sparking the founding of Cornwall and is currently a partner with Chris Rogers, the man who runs Cornwall and CDR Communications. Nevertheless, under his capacity as CFACT President, Rothbard’s anti-Greenpeace publicity stunts are reported regularly on the Cornwall blog as breaking news, without any acknowledgement of Rothbard’s relationship with Cornwall.

Gonzalez also said he had never heard of CDR Communications. But according to his own LinkedIn profile, Gonzalez works for CDR Communications as the “ Director for Religion and the Environment” at the firm. ThinkProgress contacted Chris Rogers on Monday, who contradicted Gonzalez and said his firm CDR Communications provides “support” for Cornwall but did not clarify.

It appears that Cornwall attempts to carefully hide its backers. Not only did Gonzalez refuse to provide much information, but Cornwall’s website is registered with a special service to hide the identity of the person or group who purchased the domain address

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