Wednesday, October 13, 2010


We send our warmest regards to the Chilean miners finally rescued after being trapped underground since August 5th. They have shown that, under the most horrendous of circumstances, ordinary working people have the capability to rise to the occasion, and work and cooperate together in the best interests of all. They took care of each other--both the miners underground and those frantically dedicated to their rescue above ground. Our hope is that the cause of this tragic mine disaster be addressed so that it doesn't happen again.

Obviously, those working in the mines are the experts who should make the decisions on safety and working conditions--it is their lives that are being risked.

They are the ones who know. They are the ones who should decide.

This is a happy day!

In solidarity,

Bonnie Weinstein, Bay Area United Against War Newsletter,



From: Pan-African News Wire

International Struggle to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal: EU Asked to Address
Political Prisoner’s Plight

Hearing set for November 9 while supporters remain on world-wide alert

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
News Analysis

On November 9, 2010 a critical hearing is scheduled in the nearly
three decade-old case of journalist and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who
still sits on death row in the state of Pennsylvania. Mumia was
severely wounded and arrested on December 9, 1981 in Philadelphia and
was later charged, tried and convicted of the murder of police officer
Daniel Faulkner.

A grossly unjust prosecution was carried out against Mumia in 1982 and
he was convicted of murder and given the death penalty. His case has
been appealed over the years, where although the death sentence was
overturned, repeated efforts by the prosecution have attempted to
re-institute the penalty and carry out an execution.

Resulting from a January 19, 2010 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court,
the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Third Circuit was ordered to
reconsider the 2001 and 2008 decisions that rescinded the death
penalty in Abu-Jamal’s case. There is an ongoing campaign by
law-enforcement agencies across the country to pressure the court
system into carrying out the execution of Mumia.

An international defense campaign for both the freedom of Abu-Jamal
and for the elimination of the death penalty in the United States has
grown since the early 1980s. The International Concerned Family and
Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, MOVE and other organizations have been
consistent over the years in not only saving the life of this
award-winning writer and hero to millions around the globe, but in
raising the profile of other political prisoners incarcerated in the

There were two death warrants signed against Mumia: one in 1995 and
another in 1999. Both warrants were stayed by the courts after both
national and international campaigns were waged to save the life of
this former Black Panther Party leader and supporter of the MOVE

During the struggle to stop the execution of Mumia in 1995 and 1999
people were mobilized in his defense from all over the U.S. and the
world. A key element in building massive support for overturning the
death sentence and demanding his release was the role played by
activists, journalists, trade unionists, intellectuals and political
officials in Western Europe, Africa, Japan and other parts of the

Leading figures such as former South African President Nelson Mandela
and his ruling African National Congress, along with former Archbishop
Desmond Tutu, came out in support of Mumia and demanded that the
scheduled execution be stopped. These developments took place in the
immediate aftermath of the defeat of the racist apartheid systems in
South Africa and Namibia in which people in the U.S. and all over the
world had participated.

Mumia’s articles, interviews and books were published in numerous
countries and served to win further support for his release as well as
the abolition of the death penalty in the United States, which has for
over a century been implemented in a racist and class-oriented manner.
In specific reference to Mumia’s case, the fact that he had been a
leading member of the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia was used in
the penalty phase of his trial in order to place him on death row in

Mumia had also been a staunch critic of the police in Philadelphia
where numerous complaints of brutality and misconduct were leveled
over the years. On August 8, 1978, when the MOVE organization was
attacked at their residence, he sought through his journalism to
vindicate the 9 members who had been arrested, charged and convicted
in the murder of a police officer killed in the law-enforcement

European Union Discusses Mumia’s Case

The death penalty in the United States has gained attention in recent
weeks due to the execution of two mentally-disabled inmates Teresa
Lewis of Virginia and Holly Wood of Alabama. At present 35 states in
the U.S. still have the death penalty, although 4 have not carried out
any executions since 1976 when the practice was re-instituted after it
was overturned in 1972.

In 2009 there was an increase in executions in the U.S. to 52 persons
killed by the state through capital punishment. The Obama
administration is not opposed to the death penalty and has not spoken
out in regard to the most recent executions in Alabama and Virginia.

The European Union foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton was urged
recently to raise the death penalty in the United States along with
the current plight of Mumia Abu-Jamal. In a European Parliamentary
debate on October 6, Danish MEP Soren Sondergaard stated that he
“deplored “ the execution of defenseless inmates including Mumia

Sondergaard also noted that “The death penalty itself is a crime. But
it is often more than that; waiting on death row in miserable
conditions for years is torture. Capital punishment is also a form of
terror, used to frighten people from resisting oppression and

The European Parliament member went on to say that “African-American
journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal--the voice of the voiceless—is a key symbol
of struggle against the death penalty. For nearly 30 years he has sat
on death row, convicted in a trial notable for its errors and racism.

“High representative Ashton should raise the case with U.S.
authorities—in the fight against the death penalty there is no room
for double standards. In the fight against the death penalty there
applies only one standard: unconditional rejection.” (Article by
Martin Banks, October 7)

In a resolution that had already passed on October 2, the European
Parliament went on record opposing the executions of both Mumia
Abu-Jamal and Troy Davis of Georgia. Davis’ case has also won
international support. Nonetheless, Davis too remains on death row for
a crime he did not commit.

German Left Party delegate Sabine Loesing, who was active in passing
the October 2 resolution opposing the death penalty and specifically
mentioning Mumia Abu-Jamal and Troy Davis, was pleased that the
document was adopted with broad support. Losesing also said that she
would make sure that adequate pressure be placed on the EU foreign
affairs office of Catherine Ashton to raise this issue during meetings
with the Obama administration.


Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:





Join our Rally Tomorrow!
October 14, Thursday, 4:30pm
333 O'Farrell Street

Hilton workers strike over "recession contracts" after Hilton
extracts $180m from taxpayers

(San Francisco, CA) - More than a year after union hotel contracts expired, 850 hotel workers at the Hilton Union Square, the nation's second largest Hilton hotel, walked off the job at 4:00 a.m. today. Workers announced a six-day strike protesting Hilton's efforts to lock workers into permanent recessionary contracts, even after Hilton extracted $180 million in corporate breaks from taxpayers.

Hilton Worldwide, owned by one of Wall Street's largest private equity firms - the Blackstone Group [NYSE: BX] - is taking unfair advantage of its workers and the American taxpayers. Blackstone owed about $320 million in debt to the Federal Reserve, but persuaded the agency to accept just $142 million in payment. Taxpayers lose the remaining $180 million. Chris Nassetta, CEO of Hilton Hotels recently described the effect of the debt deal on his company: "We were in good shape before and we're in exceptionally good shape now." (Hotel News Now, 9/28/2010). Meanwhile, Hilton workers face proposals that would increase family health care costs by hundreds of dollars a month, freeze pensions, reduce staffing and increase workloads.

Most recently, Blackstone proposed their Refresh Program, which would require housekeepers to clean 20 rooms a day, instead of 14, a 40% increase. "We call it the Dirty Room Program," said Guadalupe Chavez, a 30-year housekeeper at Hilton Union Square. "They've already taken $180 million of our taxes and now they want us to subsidize them by lowering our standards at work and customers' standards for a clean hotel."

"Why should my tax dollars subsidize a growing and successful corporation like Blackstone, while thousands of working families, like mine, are struggling to pay mortgages, pay their children's college tuition, pay for health care and save for retirement?" asks Ringo Mak, a 20-year server at the Hilton Union Square. "Our taxes should be used to protect good jobs, but instead Blackstone is using our tax dollars to lock us into a permanent recession."

Blackstone Group manages $100 billion in assets for large pension funds, including CalSTRS and CalPERS, and other investments around the country. Nationwide, the hotel industry is already rebounding faster and stronger than expected. PKF Hospitality projects that hotel revenues will rise an average of 8% annually from 2010 through 2014.

In a September 2010 analyst call, Jonathan Gray, Blackstone's Senior Managing Director & Co-Head of Real Estate stated, "In terms of the hotel business, this is the one area where we've seen a dramatic pick up, I think, faster than we and many people expected... where it was initially just occupancy, we're now beginning to see room rates also creep up, which is very powerful for hotel companies and hotel assets' bottom lines." Despite these trends, "Blackstone is still an obstacle to our recovery," said Chavez. "Blackstone is lining their pockets while ripping off taxpayers and preventing a strong recovery for working families."

"We, as hotel workers and as taxpayers, are striking to protect our jobs, to prevent Blackstone from adding to our nation's unemployment rate. We are striking to protect our future," said Ingrid Carp, a 30-year cook at the Hilton Union Square.


Please Sign a Pledge of Solidarity to Workers on Strike (click here)

Join our Rally in front of the hotel tomorrow, Oct. 14, 4:30pm

Walk the picketlines with workers
(We encourage community allies to come around 11am - 1pm or 6-10pm)

To know more about our union, please go to our website:

Check out our Hotel Boycott Blog:


Next Organizing Meeting, New Flyer and Endorsers for Oct. 23 Oscar Grant Rally

Sisters and Brothers,

The latest endorser is the Alameda Labor Council which voted unanimously to endorse and to mobilize the rally by sending out the flyer to all union affiliates. The salient point here is not only to get endorsements but to MOBILIZE the ranks of organizations for the rally. The next organizing meeting is 7PM Thursday Oct. 14th at ILWU Local 10 located at 400 North Point St.; San Francisco (near Fisherman's Wharf). THIS WILL BE THE LAST GENERAL ORGANIZING MEETING BEFORE THE RALLY SO MAKE SURE YOUR ORGANIZATION IS WELL REPRESENTED. WE WILL HAVE THE NEW FLYER AVAILABLE LISTING THE RALLY ENDORSERS. The pdf for the new flyer is attached.

In solidarity,

Jack Heyman 510-531-4717,


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


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




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) No Groove, Just One Nation Under a Grip
By Jared A. Ball
Black Agenda Report, October 6, 2010

2) An Undemanding 'One Nation' Rally
Timidity on the Mall
By Stanley Heller
Counter Punch, October 7, 2010

3) Before Auction, Lennon Has Brush With the F.B.I.
October 6, 2010

4) Fiscal Woes Deepening for Cities, Report Says
October 6, 2010

5) Report Slams Administration for Underestimating Gulf Spill
October 6, 2010

6) Deportations From U.S. Hit a Record High
"Immigration authorities deported a record 392,862 immigrants over the last year, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday." [Obama's immigration]
October 6, 2010

7) Personal Income Drops in New York Region
October 7, 2010, 12:07 pm

8) Employment Picture Dims as Government Cuts Back
October 8, 2010

9) New Sight for Cubans: Blizzard of Pink Slips
October 7, 2010

10) Washington: Court-Martial Recommended in Afghan Killings
October 7, 2010

11) New Study: Iraq / Afghanistan Wars May Cost VA $934 Billion
Written by AP
Wednesday, 29 September 2010 17:39

12) Policy at Its Worst
October 8, 2010

13) Marijuana, Once Divisive, Brings Some Families Closer
October 9, 2010

14) Teen gets 12-month sentence for minor offense - and thug gets probation for raping her
By Michael Daly
Sunday, October 3rd 2010, 4:00 AM

15) Hey, Small Spender
October 10, 2010

16) Despite Army Efforts, Soldier Suicides Continue
"Through August, at least 125 active members of the Army had ended their own lives, exceeding the morbid pace of last year, when there were a record 162 suicides." [The total number of U.S. military casualties in Iraq since Obama's Inauguration: ]
October 10, 2010

17) In Havana, Jam Sessions With a Master Trumpeter
October 10, 2010

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

19) FBI Harassment of Anti-War Activists Continues in Twin Cities
By Staff |
October 8, 2010

20) White House Lifts Ban on Deepwater Oil Drilling
October 12, 2010

21) 'So Utterly Inhumane'
October 12, 2010

22) French Strikes Disrupt Travel
October 12, 2010

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

24) French Transport Workers Extend Strike
October 13, 2010

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

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


1) No Groove, Just One Nation Under a Grip
By Jared A. Ball
Black Agenda Report, October 6, 2010

A rally for jobs, justice and education that occurs only two years after the election of a president and party who apparently cannot deliver either and which blames not the party in power for those two years but only the fringe elements of the out-of-power right wing, is a rally that even with a George Clinton performance is One Nation under no groove only a grip. And this grip of the Democrats is no soft hold. It is a death grip. It is a strangle hold designed to squeeze the life out of progressive elements within their own party and throughout the rest of the country-indeed the world. In what is being heralded as a largely successful mobilization of a young, energetic, diverse movement led by unionized labor and civil rights organizations was really a carefully manicured slap in the face of those traditions of struggle. Rather than the traditions of each, which include bold, strong irreverent organized acts of disobedience today's versions are safely cajoled spokespersons of the liberal element of the ruling elite.

For those who have been coming to Washington, DC for decades to attend these kinds of rallies there was absolutely nothing new. First and foremost is that it was yet another march in DC that had nothing to do with the immediate concerns of most of the residents of DC. Secondly, there were the same tributes to organized religion, pledges of allegiance to the United States and a choir-styled national anthem meant to convey a fraudulent grassroots image and inclusion of the Black working class. But mostly it was the same in that it held out no real challenge to power, no threat of a push against liberalism or conservative Democratery. There were the regular co-opted calls of "power to the people," quotes referencing A. Phillip Randolph's that enemies of healthcare, education and jobs are "enemies of the Negro," comparisons made between the Tea Party and the old Dixiecrats and even an extended reading by several young people of Dr. King's, "I Have A Dream" speech. But there was only scant reference of King's own disillusion with his dream or the fact that the Dixiecrats of old are the Democrats of today and that these are still the "enemies of the Negro."

But worst of all was the consistent and clear message that the problems we face today are the result of "40 senators" and a rabid right-wing of the country whose persistent responses of "no" have held back our innocent, even heroic, current president. The calls for jobs, peace, healthcare and education were simply hollow given that the president all of these people elected has done nothing to advance any of these issues in ways that did not more so advance the interests of the very entities who benefit by the currently horrible conditions of each. The proud traditions of labor and human rights struggles in this country and around the world are disrespected by a leadership that simply says to vote for the Democrat who will beautify our oppression rather than end it. The argument coming loud and clear from the podium Saturday was simply that if you don't again vote for the Democrats and Obama then there was no point in having voted for them in the first place. There was no point then and there is no point now. A banker's party is a banker's party no matter the color or gender of the candidate.
There was one white man I heard this weekend who seems to have not completely lost his mind. David Swanson of the Progressive Democrats of America actually called for us to devalue the role of elections and the presidency itself by massive, even disruptive civil disobedience and grassroots organization. He is absolutely correct. Calls that we vote specifically because of the lives given toward achieving that right usually miss the point of what those fighting for the vote actually wanted that exercise to deliver. Marches that only belatedly call for the elected to deliver that which their benefactors have assured they cannot are simply foolishness. New directions with newly-developed methods of popular and public challenges are needed.

For in the end Dick Gregory was right. By consistently voting for the lesser of evil and by never seeking the truth about the assassinations of people we march in honor of we follow the path that leads us to Nazis.


2) An Undemanding 'One Nation' Rally
Timidity on the Mall
By Stanley Heller
Counter Punch, October 7, 2010

The "One Nation Working Together" rally was billed as a chance to "demand the changes we voted for." That slogan was just for the suckers. There was barely any criticism of the Administration from the main stage, just bleats for jobs and justice.

You would think that up on the main stage there would be giant banners with progressive slogans, "Obama, Hire Millions Now;" "Defend Public Education from the Privatizers;" "Why are a Million Blacks in Prison?;" "Cut the Pentagon Budget in Half." But there were no banners at all. Instead there were flags, lots of American flags.

None of the rally speakers were announced beforehand. That's always a big draw. Was it stupidity or just an effort to avoid showing that "peace" would not be part of the demonstration. Bless his heart, rally speaker Harry Belafonte did vigorously denounce our wars and he actually condemned the Afghanistan/Pakistan surge saying, "The President's decision to escalate the war in that region alone costs the nation $33 billion." He didn't challenge the President to bring the troops home, but no one else on the main stage criticized Obama on anything.

I must confess I didn't try to hear much of the speeches that day in DC. I saw many of the CSPAN videos later on Youtube. I carefully watched AFL-CIO President Trumka's speech and was astounded how useless it was. He says we need jobs "good jobs." He could have said a sentence about the plague of part-time, no benefit jobs, but he didn't. He had no mention of any program on how to get those "good jobs" other than to say we have to "rebuild schools and roads," etc. He actually said, "we have to compete and win in the world economy." Yikes, that's the boss's argument. The boss is sorry, but he has to reduce your wage so he can compete with factory owners in Bangladesh and Upper Volta.

Trumka said workers should have "the freedom to make every last job a good job, by joining together in a union to bargain for a better life," but he didn't explain that we no longer have that freedom, how it's near impossible to organize under current laws. He was speaking to 125,000 people and CSPAN and could have taken three minutes to talk about what the card check legislation was and why we need it so badly. No, that might embarrass Obama who did squat for card check.

Ben Jealous, "CEO" of the NAACP told people to vote. He said the "strongest words" are, "Americans...Family...future." Our national destiny he said is to move "Ever forward, never backwards" and "Let us nurture the practice of family values, by policies that value families." "Most importantly ...let us come together in the name of God, of liberty and of country to insure that jobs, justice and education remain at the top of our agenda." And then he led a 60-second chant of "One Nation, One Nation" and ended asking God bless America, the NAACP and various other entities. No denunciation of racism, or the fact that a million Blacks are in prison. No mention of the usual demand for a "Marshall Plan for the Cities." Staggering. Maybe Jealous was really the final speaker from the Glen Beck rally.

Jesse Jackson's speech was a mish-mash of descriptions of the open sores of 2010 America, compliments to Michelle Obama for being on the "right side of history" and repeated praise for the power of the vote. He said "stop killing in Afghanistan" and cut the military budget, but then made the incredible statement that we can "end unnecessary wars with this vote." What? By voting for the same Democrats who repeatedly backed all of Obama's war budgets? With intentional or unintentional irony CSPAN cutaway to a "Bring U.S. Troops, Mercenaries and War Dollars Home Now," sign for five full seconds.

The rally was billed as a demand for "quality education." Need we say that it's this Administration that's at war with public education, determined to "reform" the public school teaching profession into a mass of low paid overworked drudges, teaching to the test and quivering because they have no job security? Did anyone raise that from the main stage? Don't make me laugh. The best that can be said was that the October 7 day of Rallies to Defend Public Education was mentioned in passing.

What's really pathetic is that with all the emphasis on "Vote, vote, vote," the liberals were afraid to bring their Democratic candidates to the podium (though Jesse Jackson did give a salute to the ethically challenged Charles Rangel). Did they even ask Obama to show up? He evidently didn't want the rally. He endorsed a different rally, the half serious John Stewart rally of "moderates" that will occur in a couple of weeks.

Instead of listening to the Obama apologists I concentrated on the peace contingent rallies beforehand, and the peace feeder march.
There was a formation called the Peace Table, led by the United for Peace and Justice. It sponsored a nice professional website which was designed to give the impression that peace was a serious part of the One Nation Working Together program. Too bad it wasn't.

The serious left which organized the United National Anti-War Committee (at an excellent July conference in Albany) held a peace rally on 14th and Constitution with its own speakers, like Noura Erakat and Abayomi Azikiwe, Nada Khader and Phil Waylato. A hundred yards away was the UFPJ stage and eventually the two groups merged their programs. Most impressive were Larry Holmes from "Bail Out the People" who talked about the FBI raids and how the victims were planning to go to jail rather than to fink on their friends and Glen Ford of "Black is Back" who was not shy about naming names. He said, "We are not here in general, that we hate war in general. We are against the people who perpetrate wars and we've got to say their names and especially the chief perpetrator at this moment in time and that is Barack Obama." Chantelle Bateman of Iraq Veterans Against the War spoke about their campaign to stop redeployments of soldiers suffering PTSD and other traumas. Omali Yeshitela gave a fiery speech and announced a Black is Back rally in DC for November 13 to denounce Barack Obama "for the fraud that he is."

The speeches were followed by a march around the Washington Monument. Most striking was the huge banner "Socialist Contingent" which was held in front of a hundred loudly chanting activists.

Groups had tables way back by the World War II memorial. Code Pink got a lot of attention with its "Bring the War Dollars Home" campaign. Peace Action handed out signs, which were gobbled up like hot cakes. My own group MECC ("The Struggle") unveiled its new "Unions, Dump Your Israel Bonds" banner and handed out brochures headlined, "Palestinian Workers are Getting Screwed," and "Why it Matters to Us." I also passed around mini-booklets produced for calling for direct government funding of millions of new jobs, "public enterprise."

Was this whole thing worth going to? The peace rally couldn't have had more than 300 spectators. How many more even saw the peace march?

Still, there were one-hundred-thousand of our kind of folks in DC that day and we had to make the effort to reach them. I know that for thousands of union members it was an exciting event no matter how worthless the speeches. Labor never has huge rallies, maybe one a decade! And several thousands fiery leaflets were passed out. And CSPAN did show some of the anti-war signs.

If only Trumka had pointed overseas to France or Spain where they are fighting the cutbacks with general strikes of millions of workers, where they reject "One Nation" crap and understand that the exploiters and workers are engaged in class war, where they actually talk about doing away with the capitalist sweatshop casino.

I can't imagine that the "One Nation" rally will do much to rally the union faithful or damp down the fury of the electorate. After the Republican deluge on Election Day will lessons be drawn? Will working people reject the One Nation rally's warmed over 1950's liberalism? Will they reject their grossly overpaid leaders who have brought them defeat after defeat? We shall see.

Stanley Heller is host of the TV program "The Struggle," writer for Economic Uprising and a member of AFL-CIO unions for over 40 years.


3) Before Auction, Lennon Has Brush With the F.B.I.
October 6, 2010

John Lennon has been dead for 30 years, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation is still on the case.

On Wednesday morning a small pop-culture memorabilia shop in Midtown opened an 836-lot auction timed to what would have been Lennon's 70th birthday, which is Saturday. The prized item was a set of Lennon's fingerprints made in 1976 as part of his application for citizenship. Minimum bid: $100,000.

But after an hourlong standoff involving cellphone calls, faxes and meetings with an agent in a parked car outside the East 57th Street storefront, the F.B.I. served the shop - called Gotta Have It! - with a subpoena and seized the fingerprint card, which was made at a New York police station on May 8, 1976, and bears a signature and the name John Winston Ono Lennon.

Given Lennon's history with the F.B.I. - he was under surveillance in the early 1970s for his antiwar activism - the events were strange enough to make Peter Siegel, an owner of the store, wonder what the fuss was about. Since last Thursday, he said, the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland Security and the United States attorney in Manhattan had asked about the card.

"I've been doing this 20 years and have never had this much government interest in something," Mr. Siegel said. "Here he is, one of our greatest musicians ever, and they just don't stop investigating this guy."

Jon Wiener, a history professor at the University of California, Irvine, who wrote the book "Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon F.B.I. Files," also noted that 1976 was a bit late in the F.B.I.'s Lennon timeline.

"As far as I know, the F.B.I. interest in Lennon was in the J. Edgar Hoover era," Professor Wiener said on Wednesday, "and his successors fairly quickly closed the books on the investigation." Mr. Hoover died in 1972.

Yet despite the display of federal investigative force, the interest in Lennon's fingerprint card may turn out to be prosaic, perhaps having to do with ownership of government property. On Wednesday an F.B.I. spokesman, James Margolin, said there was an "investigation into how that item came to be up for auction."

The card, Mr. Siegel said, was being sold for a private collector, whom he identified only as a former concert promoter who had bought the card at a Beatles convention about two decades ago.

It is not the first time a Lennon fingerprint card has been offered at auction. In 1991 Sotheby's sold a similar item for $4,125, without incident.

Leon Wildes, Lennon's immigration lawyer in the 1970s, offered a theory about the document's provenance.

During the summer of 1976, Mr. Wildes said on Wednesday, he had some of Lennon's paperwork with him, including a fingerprint form, while making a television appearance. "When I returned to where I was, from New York, it turned out it was missing," he said. "I was very upset. We called about it, and nobody seemed to know where it was."

At 11 a.m. on Wednesday, an F.B.I. agent appeared outside Gotta Have It!, parked in a blue Ford. Mr. Siegel said the agent lacked a proper subpoena. After a flurry of phone calls between the store owners and their lawyer, and many visits to the agent in the Ford, the store owners received a subpoena by fax that satisfied their lawyer, and turned over the document.

"If it was anybody else's fingerprint card," Mr. Siegel said, "I wouldn't hear from anybody."


4) Fiscal Woes Deepening for Cities, Report Says
October 6, 2010

The nation's cities are in their worst fiscal shape in at least a quarter of a century and have probably not yet hit the bottom of their slide, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The report, by the National League of Cities, found that many cities, which are in their fourth straight year of declining revenues, are only now beginning to see lower property values translate into lower property tax collections, which are the backbone of many city budgets.

It can take several years for city assessors to catch up to real estate market conditions, and this year, for the first time since the housing bubble burst, cities are projecting a 1.8 percent decrease in property tax collections.

With sales tax collections still down, and unemployment and stagnant salaries taking a toll on cities that rely on income-tax revenues, cities are seeing their revenues drop even faster than many of them have been able to cut spending. They also face the additional burden of paying rising health care and pension costs for their employees.

"The effects of a depressed real estate market, low levels of consumer confidence, and high levels of unemployment will likely play out in cities through 2010, 2011 and beyond," the report said.

Cities around the country have made steep cuts to stay afloat, from layoffs of firefighters and police officers to turning off street lights. The report, which surveyed finance officers in 338 cities, found that two-thirds of them were canceling or delaying construction and maintenance projects, a third were laying off workers and a quarter were cutting public safety.

Christopher W. Hoene, one of the authors of the report, said in an interview that the length of the downturn had dealt cities an unusual blow: in most recessions, he said, sales tax collections start to improve by the time property tax collections drop to reflect lower home values.

"This time around, the recession has been deep enough that we have the two major sources of revenue down at the same time," Mr. Hoene said.

And cities have few places to turn for help, leaving tax increases and service cuts as their main options.

"Right now there isn't really anywhere to turn," Mr. Hoene said, noting that many states are now cutting aid to cities, not increasing it. "The state budgets are in a position where they are more likely to hurt than to help."


5) Report Slams Administration for Underestimating Gulf Spill
October 6, 2010

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration failed to act upon or fully inform the public of its own worst-case estimates of the amount of oil gushing from the blown-out BP well, slowing response efforts and keeping the American people in the dark for weeks about the size of the disaster, according to preliminary reports from the presidential commission investigating the accident.

The government repeatedly underestimated how much oil was flowing into the Gulf of Mexico and how much was left after the well was capped in July, leading to a loss of faith in the government's ability to handle the spill and a continuing breach between the federal authorities and state and local officials, the commission staff members found in a series of four reports issued Wednesday.

"By initially underestimating the amount of oil flow and then, at the end of the summer, appearing to underestimate the amount of oil remaining in the gulf," one of the reports stated, "the federal government created the impression that it was either not fully competent to handle the spill or not fully candid with the American people about the scope of the problem."

The reports also say that about two weeks after the BP rig exploded, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration asked the White House for permission to make public its worst-case models for the accident. The White House Office of Management and Budget initially denied the request, according to government officials interviewed by the commission's staff members.

The White House responded vigorously to the assertions on Wednesday, saying it never concealed its most dire estimates of the spill and quickly threw everything the government had at the problem. As for the NOAA report, White House officials said that it was a flawed and incomplete study and that they sent it back to the agency for more analysis. It was eventually released in early July.

The four reports, from the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, make clear that the president-appointed panel does not intend to spare the administration as it prepares a final report on the accident to be delivered to the White House early next year.

It has not yet completed its work on the causes of the well explosion or the efforts to contain the oil, but the tenor of Wednesday's reports indicates that the White House, cabinet officers, Coast Guard commanders and senior government scientists will shoulder a fair amount of blame for the response to the accident.

The government stuck to its public flow rate estimate of 5,000 barrels a day for more than a month, even though BP officials and government scientists acknowledged that the rate could be as high as 110,000 barrels a day.

Ultimately, government and independent scientists established that the uncontrolled flow was roughly 60,000 barrels a day for much of the spill, discharging nearly five million barrels of oil into the gulf. The 18,000-foot-deep well was capped on July 15 and declared dead in late September, when a cement plug was fixed to the bottom.

Government officials have acknowledged that they miscalculated the amount of oil pouring into the gulf and, at least early on, relied on data from BP. But they said they based their response not on those figures but on worst-case estimates, including the figure of 162,000 barrels a day that BP used in its 2009 drilling permit application.

The government deployed thousands of vessels to try to collect and contain the oil and used nearly two million gallons of dispersants to break it into small droplets to speed its degradation.

In August, top administration officials said that 75 percent of the oil had evaporated, dissolved or been collected, implying that their efforts had been largely successful and that ecological damage had been limited. Carol Browner, the White House coordinator for energy and climate change, declared on Aug. 4: "I think it's also important to note that our scientists have done an initial assessment and more than three-quarters of the oil is gone. The vast majority of the oil is gone."

But the commission staff members said the government's own data did not support such sweeping conclusions, which were later scaled back. A number of respected independent researchers have concluded that as much as half of the spilled oil remains suspended in the water or buried on the seafloor and in coastal sludge. And it will be some time before scientists can paint an accurate picture of the ecological damage.


6) Deportations From U.S. Hit a Record High
"Immigration authorities deported a record 392,862 immigrants over the last year, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday." [Obama's immigration]
October 6, 2010

Immigration authorities deported a record 392,862 immigrants over the last year, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday.

About half of those deported - 195,772 - were convicted criminals, also a record, Ms. Napolitano said, and an increase of more than 81,000 deportations of criminals over the final year of George W. Bush's presidency.

As midterm elections approach, Obama administration officials are facing intense pressure to show they are tough on illegal immigration. States across the country have enacted laws to crack down, citing a failure of the federal government to do the job. An especially broad law adopted by Arizona drew a lawsuit from the federal government and an outcry from Latinos in the state, who said it could lead to harassment and racial profiling. A federal judge stayed central provisions of the law.

In some races for Congress, particularly in the Southwest, a candidate's position on the Arizona law has become a litmus test for many voters, especially among Republicans.

Ms. Napolitano said the deportation figures, especially the criminals figure, reflected the Obama administration's shift to focusing more closely on "removing those who pose public safety threats to our communities." The overall figures for deportations increased slightly from about 389,000 in the 2009 fiscal year, also a record at the time.

The surge in deportations of criminals came in part as a result of a program called Secure Communities, officials say, which allows local law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of every person, including American citizens, booked into a county or local jail. The identity check is based on comparing fingerprints of people arrested against prints in Department of Homeland Security databases.

Initiated in 2008 in Harris County, Tex., which includes Houston, the program has grown to include about 660 counties and cities nationwide. Sheriff Adrian Garcia of Harris County said on Tuesday that since the start of the program officers there had identified more than 20,000 immigrants in the county jail system who were eligible for deportation.

Many immigrants in Houston who were identified for deportation "didn't come here to make a better life for themselves, they came to continue their criminal careers," Sheriff Garcia said.

About one-third of the criminals who were deported had committed the most serious crimes, including murder, rape and major drug offenses, according to the Homeland Security figures.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement also conducted more than 2,200 audits of hiring documents at businesses to check for unauthorized immigrant workers, the officials said, bringing criminal charges against 180 employers and levying more than $50 million in fines.

Officials said that many of the nearly 200,000 immigrants deported who had committed no crimes were fugitives from immigration courts or had recently crossed the border illegally.

Immigration lawyers questioned that portrayal. "Were they immigrants who were just caught in the web of a very dysfunctional system?" asked David Leopold, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. He said that repairing the system would require a broader overhaul to provide channels for illegal immigrants to gain legal status.

"Everybody is behind smart enforcement," Mr. Leopold said. "But smart enforcement without a comprehensive fix to the system is not smart." Despite repeated pledges by President Obama, he has made no progress on persuading Congress to take up an overhaul.

Researchers who study federal statistics said they could not dig into the immigration figures to learn more about the deportees who were not criminals, because immigration authorities had blocked them for the first time from receiving detailed data.

"It is unprecedented what they are doing withholding data," said Susan B. Long, a co-director of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a group that studies federal data.


7) Personal Income Drops in New York Region
October 7, 2010, 12:07 pm

Driven by declines on Wall Street, total personal income earned by residents of metropolitan New York fell last in 2009 for the first time in 40 years - by 4.1 percent - according to the latest data from the government's Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The decline was much higher than the national average of 1.8 percent, though income was shrinking in most other metropolitan areas. The decline in the city was smaller than in New York State, where, state fiscal officials said this week, conditions were "slowly improving." The drop in the New York area means that the region's 6.8 million households took in about $43 billion less from all sources.

The New York area ranked ninth in the nation in 2009 in per capita personal income, at $52,375, down 4.6 percent from a year earlier. The Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk area in Connecticut came in tops in the nation, despite a 6.8 percent decrease in per capita income from 2008, at $73,720. San Francisco came in second, at $59,696.

That finding follows a report by the bureau in April that personal income in New York State dropped 3.1 percent in 2009 from 2008, in the first annual decline in 70 years. Figures for New York City will not be available until spring.

In the latest data set, released in August, the bureau found that net earnings in the region declined by 3.9 percent and income from dividends, interest and rent fell by 1.6 percent. The biggest drop-off, 2.7 percentage points of the 4.1 percent total, resulted from declines in the financial and insurance sectors, while education, health care and government jobs recorded some gains.

The overall decline would have been even higher, except for a 1.4 percent increase in unemployment, Social Security and other benefits.

A report this week by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli found that by some measures, New York fared better than the rest of the country in weathering the recession. Foreclosures increased 30 percent from 2007 to 2009, but that jump was much lower than the national average. The comptroller also cited growth in employment in New York City and its suburbs (90,000 additional jobs since last December) and record profits on Wall Street.

"New York State's economy is slowly improving, but the recovery is fragile and setbacks can be expected," Mr. DiNapoli said.

Last week, the Census Bureau reported that the city generally fared better than the country as a whole in terms of household income and poverty rate from 2007 through 2009, although the number of New Yorkers dependent on food stamps has soared and within the past year homelessness has reached record levels.


8) Employment Picture Dims as Government Cuts Back
October 8, 2010

In the one-two punch many had long been fearing, hiring by businesses has slowed significantly while government jobs are disappearing at a record pace.

Companies added 64,000 jobs last month, after having added 93,000 jobs in August, the Labor Department reported Friday. But over all, the economy shed 95,000 nonfarm jobs in September, the result of a 159,000 decline in government jobs at all levels. Local governments in particular cut jobs at the fastest rate in almost 30 years.

"We need to wake up to the fact that the end of the stimulus has really hit hard on local governments," said Andrew Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project. "There is much more of a slide in the job market than what we really need to clearly turn around."

The recovery that officially began in June 2009 has slowed considerably, raising concerns about the long slog the country will have to endure to dig itself out of the deepest downturn since the Great Depression. Private payrolls have been growing throughout 2009 but at a rate too sluggish to keep up with people entering the work force, and not enough to make a dent in unemployment. The jobless rate remained unchanged last month at 9.6 percent.

The outlook for the rest of the year is equally discouraging, economists say. The length of the workweek has barely budged in six months, and the number of people working part-time because they are unable to find full-time work continues to climb. If employers are not giving more work to their existing employees, it may be hard to justify decisions to bring on additional staff.

"We're looking for companies to get more confident in the pace of recovery and start to hire around 150,000 jobs a month, which is what we need just to keep the unemployment rate flat," said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics. "But I just don't see that happening between now and the end of the year."

Of the loss in government jobs, 77,000 were temporary Census employees while 76,000 were in local governments. State governments lost 7,000 jobs, as well.

Most of the state and local jobs lost were in education, which laid off staff as the school year began. Including private school positions, altogether 72,700 education jobs were eliminated, on net, in September.

While the bulk of the education job cuts may be over for the year, some worry that the next layer of municipal jobs may be coming soon.

Flat hourly wages, now at $22.67, also threaten what fragile confidence American families may have in their household budgets.

"The gain by private sector payrolls - what was disappointing was the deeper than expected decline," said John Lonski, chief economist for Moody's Capital Markets. "When you combine that with no change in hourly wage and no change in weekly earnings this report signals a softening of employment income that will adversely affect the outlook for consumer spending."

Critics have been calling for government officials to use some of the arrows remaining in their quiver to try and speed job growth.

Congress, however, has been stuck in a partisan stalemate ahead of the November elections. Asked what kinds of policies Congress should consider undertaking to try to bolster job growth, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, the New York Democrat who chairs the Joint Economic Committee, said, "What's important now is to get Democrats re-elected."

Federal Reserve officials, on the other hand, seem to be tentatively hinting that they undertake more unconventional monetary policy measures to try to encourage hiring and ward of deflation. Many expect the Fed to act at its next meeting, which coincides with the Congressional midterm elections.

"We have more evidence of a weakening trajectory here, which will certainly weigh heavily on the Fed as we go into the November meeting," said Prajakta Bhide, a research analyst at Roubini Global Economics. She said that markets seemed to have already priced in the assumption that the Fed will do more quantitative easing.

Meanwhile, the average duration of unemployment continues to hover around record highs, leading America's 14.8 million unemployed to feel more and more desperate. In September, the typical unemployed worker had been searching for a job for 33.3 weeks.

"I have been unemployed for almost two years," said Mary Carter, 38, of Coolidge Ariz. She used to work for a fencing contractor, before the housing market collapsed. "I put in for jobs, no one calls, I put in for more, no one calls."

Her partner, Antonio Garcia, who has an electrician's degree, recently found a part-time job in a market, after eight months of unemployment. He is paid minimum wage for 20 hours a week. "I was making $14 and now I'm making $7 an hour," he says, holding a plastic bag of cans from a local food pantry. "They've just stopped building."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday also released preliminary revisions to the model used to estimate job changes from month to month, indicating that the recovery has been even weaker than initial reported. The bureau says it expects to revise down the level of employment in March 2010 by 366,000 jobs, which means jobs gains had been about 30,000 weaker each month over the 12-month period that began in March 2009.

Michael Powell and Christine Hauser contributed reporting.


9) New Sight for Cubans: Blizzard of Pink Slips
October 7, 2010

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cubans faced a harsh new reality this week - dismissal slips - as the government began paring state payrolls in a cost-cutting move that has created job insecurity for the first time in years in the Communist country.

Workers were being laid off in countless industries, from hospitals to hotels, and in the biggest action to be made public so far, employees at a state-owned enterprise, the Special Protection Services Company, were told that the company would be shut down and 23,000 people let go.

It was the beginning of President Raúl Castro's plan to cut 10 percent of the government's work force, or about 500,000 people, by April in the most significant overhaul attempted since he succeeded his older brother, Fidel Castro, in 2008.

The layoffs, intended to improve efficiency and reduce Cuba's budget deficits, are the first major job cuts since the 1960s. About 85 percent of the Cuban labor force works for the state, or more than five million people, many of them in unproductive jobs. The country's population is about 11 million.

Not all Cubans, accustomed to guaranteed employment, have been taking the news in stride.

At the Havana Libre Hotel, where many jobs are being eliminated, Communist Party officials had to be brought in to calm down workers, hotel employees said.

At a Havana hospital, a nurse said she was shocked at the magnitude of layoffs. "I expected some job cuts, but not 500 out of our 3,000 employees," she said.

Employees at the Special Protection Services Company, which provides armed guards and other security services nationwide, said they were told of the dismissals on Tuesday.

"They said the entire company was being closed, and we were offered jobs in the prison system, police and traffic," said an employee who asked that she not be identified.

The government has said that workers who are laid off will be offered other jobs, but will have to seek work on their own if they do not take the offers. The government has also said that this month it will begin issuing 250,000 licenses for self-employment to create new jobs and shift many workers from state payrolls to leasing and cooperative arrangements.

Still, a Havana resident said that Cubans were facing something they had not seen for decades. "I understand the need to improve the economy, but it's hard to take after 50 years of job security," she said. "It will be hard to get another state job as they are cutting everywhere."

One effect appears to be that workers, fearful for jobs they once took for granted and often neglected, are taking them more seriously, a local doctor said.

"People used to stay home if they had a sniffle, and now they are going to work even if they are really sick, spreading their colds around," he said.


10) Washington: Court-Martial Recommended in Afghan Killings
October 7, 2010

An Army investigating officer has recommended court-martial proceedings for Specialist Jeremy N. Morlock, one of five American soldiers accused of killing three Afghan civilians this year. Specialist Morlock and other soldiers have said in sworn statements that the killings were staged to look like combat deaths. Lawyers for Specialist Morlock have argued that he was heavily medicated with prescription drugs at the time of the killings and the statements. The recommendation for court-martial follows an investigative hearing last week. A final decision on whether to refer him to court-martial will be made by the commander of the Stryker brigade in which the soldiers serve. The other soldiers await investigative hearings.


11) New Study: Iraq / Afghanistan Wars May Cost VA $934 Billion
Written by AP
Wednesday, 29 September 2010 17:39

VCS Set to Testify in Support of Helping Veterans

September 29, 2010, Washington (Associated Press) -- A new study estimates that health costs for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans could top $900 billion, and a lawmaker wants to set up a trust fund to make sure the bill will be paid.

Representative Bob Filner (D-CA) warned that the U.S. faces a huge bill for veteran's health care, and his concerns were buttressed by a recent study by Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University and Linda Bilmes of Harvard University.

The two academics say the number of veterans, their injury rates and the cost of treating them have increased far more than expected in the last couple of years.

"If Americans want to vote for war, the Congress wants to vote for war, that's fine - but include the real costs" and budget for them, Filner told reporters by phone Wednesday. Filner is chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, which has scheduled a hearing on the issue Thursday.

Stiglitz and Bilmes, also speaking by phone, on Wednesday estimated the cost of providing vets with lifetime medical costs and disability payments from the Veteran's Administration, as well as Social Security payments for the severely disabled, at between $589 billion and $934 billion, depending on the length and intensity of the Iraq and Afghan wars.

That is more than 30 percent higher than the Stiglitz and Bilmes estimated in the 2008 book "The Three Trillion Dollar War."

They said that about 600,000 of the more than 2.1 million service members who've been deployed since 2001 have already received treatment by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The 600,000 figure is far higher than the numbers most often given publicly by defense officials.

The Veteran's Administration did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Filner said he thinks there should be a 15 percent surcharge on the defense budget to make sure money will be there in the future for vet health costs.


12) Policy at Its Worst
October 8, 2010

We can go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and threaten to blow Iran off the face of the planet. We can conduct a nonstop campaign of drone and helicopter attacks in Pakistan and run a network of secret prisons around the world. We are the mightiest nation mankind has ever seen.

But we can't seem to build a railroad tunnel to carry commuters between New Jersey and New York.

The United States is not just losing its capacity to do great things. It's losing its soul. It's speeding down an increasingly rubble-strewn path to a region where being second rate is good enough.

The railroad tunnel was the kind of infrastructure project that used to get done in the United States almost as a matter of routine. It was a big and expensive project, but the payoff would have been huge. It would have reduced congestion and pollution in the New York-New Jersey corridor. It would have generated economic activity and put thousands of people to work. It would have enabled twice as many passengers to ride the trains on that heavily traveled route between the two states.

The project had been in the works for 20 years, and ground had already been broken when the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, rejected the project on Thursday, saying that his state could not afford its share of the costs. Extreme pressure is being exerted from federal officials and others to get Mr. Christie to change his mind, but, as of now, the project is a no-go.

This is a railroad tunnel we're talking about. We're not trying to go to the Moon. This is not the Manhattan Project. It's a railroad tunnel that's needed to take people back and forth to work and to ease the pressure on the existing tunnel, a wilting two-track facility that's about 100 years old. What is the matter with us?

The Chinese could build it. The Turks could build it. We can't build it.

One day after Governor Christie made his devastating announcement about the tunnel, the U.S. Labor Department released its latest unemployment statistics. They show that the nation remains locked in an employment crisis, unable to provide work for millions who want and need it. One of the major potential solutions to this crisis is all around us. America's infrastructure is indisputably in sorry shape, and upgrading it to meet the needs of the 21st century is far and away the best strategy for putting people back to work.

The railroad tunnel project, all set and ready to go, would have provided jobs for 6,000 construction workers, not to mention all the residual employment that accompanies such projects. What we'll get instead, if it is not built, is the increased pollution and worsening traffic jams that result when tens of thousands of commuters who would have preferred to take the train are redirected to their automobiles.

This is government policy at its pathetic worst. But it's not the first policy disaster of Mr. Christie's short tenure as governor. He blew a golden opportunity (along with $400 million in federal funds) to participate in the Obama administration's Race to the Top competition to improve the nation's public school systems. New Jersey's bid came up needlessly and embarrassingly short because of a mistake in the application and the governor's refusal to sign off on an agreement that had been reached with the teachers' union.

This failure to take part in a nationwide initiative to bolster public education comes at a time when the United States, once the world's leader in the percentage of young people with college degrees, has fallen to a humiliating 12th place among 36 developed nations.

No one can accuse the governor of New Jersey of being a visionary. But his stumbling and bumbling and his inability to chart a clear path to a better future is, frankly, just the latest example of the dismal leadership that Americans have endured for many years. Where once we were the innovators, the pathfinders, the model for the rest of the world, now we just can't seem to get it done.

We can't put the population to work, or get the kids through college, or raise the living standards of the middle class and the poor. We can't rebuild the infrastructure or curb our destructive overreliance on fossil fuels.

There have been many times when the U.S. has stunned the world with the breadth and greatness of its achievements - the Marshall Plan, the G.I. Bill, the world's highest standard of living, the world's finest higher education system, the space program, and on and on.

Somewhere, somehow, things went haywire. The nation that built the Erie Canal and Hoover Dam and the transcontinental railroad can't even build a tunnel beneath the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York.


13) Marijuana, Once Divisive, Brings Some Families Closer
October 9, 2010

To the rites of middle-age passage, some families are adding another: buying marijuana for aging parents.

Bryan, 46, a writer who lives in Illinois, began supplying his parents about five years ago, after he told them about his own marijuana use. When he was growing up, he said, his parents were very strict about illegal drugs.

"We would have grounded him," said his mother, who is 72.

But with age and the growing acceptance of medical marijuana, his parents were curious. His father had a heart ailment, his mother had dizzy spells and nausea, and both were worried about Alzheimer's disease and cancer. They looked at some research and decided marijuana was worth a try.

Bryan, who like others interviewed for this article declined to use his full name for legal reasons, began making them brownies and ginger snaps laced with the drug. Illinois does not allow medical use of marijuana, though 14 states and the District of Columbia do. At their age, his mother said, they were not concerned about it leading to harder drugs, which had been one of their worries with Bryan.

"We have concerns about the law, but I would not go back to not taking the cookie and going through what I went through," she said, adding that her dizzy spells and nausea had receded. "Of course, if they catch me, I'll have to quit taking it."

This family's story is still a rare one. Less than 1 percent of people 65 and over said they had smoked marijuana in the last year, according to a 2009 survey by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. But as the generation that embraced marijuana as teenagers passes into middle age, doctors expect to see more marijuana use by their elderly patients.

"I think use of medical marijuana in older people is going to be much greater in the future," said Dan G. Blazer, a professor of geriatric psychology at Duke University who has studied drug use and abuse among older people.

The rate for people ages 50 to 65 who said they smoke marijuana was nearly 4 percent - about six times as high as the 65-and-over crowd - suggesting that they were more likely to continue whatever patterns of drug use they had established in their younger years. In both age groups, the rate of marijuana abuse was very low, about 1 in 800.

Cannabinoids, the active agents in marijuana, have shown promise as pain relievers, especially for pain arising from nerve damage, said Dr. Seddon R. Savage, a pain specialist and president of the American Pain Society, a medical professionals' group.

Two cannabinoid prescription drugs are approved for use in this country, but only to treat nausea or appetite loss. And while preliminary research suggests that cannabinoids may help in fighting cancer and reducing spasms in people with multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease, the results have been mixed.

Dr. Savage said doctors should be concerned about older patients using marijuana. "It's putting people at risk of falls, impaired cognition, impaired memory, loss of motor control," she said. "Beside the legal aspects, it's unsupervised use of a pretty potent drug. Under almost all circumstances, there are alternatives that are just as effective."

Dr. Savage added, however, that there was a considerable range of opinions about marijuana use among pain specialists, and that many favored it.

Older people may face special risks with marijuana, in part because of the secrecy that surrounds illegal drug use, said Dr. William Dale, section chief of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center, who said he would not oppose a law allowing medical marijuana use in Illinois.

The drug raises users' heart rates and lowers their blood pressure, so doctors needed to weigh its effects beside those of other medications that users might be taking, he said. But patients do not always confide their illegal drug use, he said.

"It's a fine balance between being supportive of patients to gain their trust and giving them your best recommendations," Dr. Dale said. "I wasn't taught this in medical school."

For some families, marijuana, which was once the root of all their battles, has brought them closer together. Instead of parental warnings and punishment, there are questions about how to light a water pipe; instead of the Grateful Dead, there are recipes for low-sodium brownies.

But for parents, there is also the knowledge that they are putting their children at risk of arrest.

"I was very uncomfortable getting my son involved," said the father of Alex, 21. The father, who is 54, started using marijuana to relieve his pain from degenerative disc disease. He soon discovered that Alex, who lives in Minnesota a few miles away, had access to better marijuana than he did.

Alex's father had smoked marijuana when he was younger; Alex, by contrast, had been active in antidrug groups at his school and church. In college, he started smoking infrequently and studying marijuana's medicinal properties.

"When he told me he was using cannabis, I think he expected it to be a bigger deal for me," Alex said. "But it opened my eyes to what he was going through."

Before trying marijuana, Alex's father took OxyContin, a narcotic, which he said made him "feel like a zombie." He also took antidepressants to relieve the mood disorder he associated with the OxyContin. Marijuana has helped him cut down on the painkillers, he said.

He and Alex have smoked together twice, but it is not a regular practice, both said. Yet they say the drug has strengthened their relationship.

"We spend our bonding time making brownies," Alex said.

Florence, 89, an artist who lives in New York, smokes mainly for relief from her spinal stenosis - usually one or two puffs before going to sleep, she said. She buys her pipes through an online shop and gets her marijuana from her daughter, Loren, who is 65.

"A person brings it to me," said Loren, who uses marijuana recreationally. "I'm not out on a street corner." Florence said that she had told all of her doctors that she was using marijuana, and that none had ever discouraged her or warned of interactions with her prescription drugs, including painkillers.

"I think I've influenced my own physician on the subject," she said. "She came to me and asked me for some for another patient."


14) Teen gets 12-month sentence for minor offense - and thug gets probation for raping her
By Michael Daly
Sunday, October 3rd 2010, 4:00 AM

15-year-old Ashley had no inkling of what was to come on the day in 2005 when she was in Manhattan Family Court on a minor charge.

"You want to believe everybody's good, everybody wants to help you," she told me last week.

A hulking juvenile counselor named Tony Simmons led her in handcuffs from the girls holding area to the elevator.

She expected Tyson, as Simmons was called, to bring her up to the courtroom where she was scheduled to be sentenced for filing a false police report.

Instead, the elevator descended to the basement. The 42-year-old counselor pulled down her pants and raped her with calm, practiced precision that made him all the more terrifying.

"He knew exactly what he was doing," Ashley said. "Everything."

When he was done, Simmons pulled her pants back up and the elevator ascended to the courtroom. He raised an extended index finger to his lips in a mute command for her to say nothing.

"I was very scared," Ashley said. "I was terrified. He was a very large man."

Just moments after being violated, Ashley was seated next to her mother and before the judge. She was too shocked and terrified to report the attack.

"I knew I was just raped. I knew it wasn't supposed to happen," she recalled. "I didn't think anybody would believe me."

She kept silent as she was found to be a juvenile delinquent and sentenced to 12 months. She says her only crime was initially reporting to police she did not know who had jumped and cut her on the way to school.

Simmons continued to prey on teenagers in his custody until 2008, when a 15-year-old girl came forward to say he had sodomized her behind a locker in the girls holding area, which he stocked with condoms and cookies. Investigators believe the assaults go back a decade to the rape of a 13-year-old in the holding area.

"Just the tip of the iceberg," Assistant District Attorney Amir Vonsover said in 2008, when Simmons was indicted for three sex assaults.

On Sept. 27, Simmons appeared in court and pleaded guilty to raping Ashley and sexually
assaulting two other teens.

He received probation.

"I got 12 months for a falsified police report and he got probation for raping me and the others," Ashley said on Friday. "It's just ridiculous."

Ashley says she was not told about the probation deal when she called Vonsover last week to check on the case. She had prepped to testify in the upcoming trial, but she was now told that Simmons had pleaded guilty.

"[Vonsover] said, 'You should be so happy,'" Ashley recalled. "I'm thinking, 'Great. He's definitely going to jail.'"

When she went online later, Ashley saw a news report that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance had blasted Judge Cassandra Mullen as "outrageously lenient" for giving Simmons probation.

In defense of the judge, the Office of Court Administration noted that the transcript of the plea shows that Vonsover offered no objection. He was insisting he had objected during an off-the-record sidebar. Court sources say Vonsover offered Simmons his cell phone to call relatives before taking the plea.

Ashley and her family feel the judge still bears some responsibility no matter what the prosecutor did or did not say. Ashley's mother-in-law asked, "I'm a nurse. If a doctor gives a wrong prescription, do I give it or do I question it?"

Ashley recalled what the investigators told her in 2008, after they contacted her and she finally recounted the rape.

"They said, 'Great! We have a definite case. He is going down, 100%.'"

She also remembered how she felt when she had to identify Simmons in a lineup.

"I lost my breath, to be honest," she said. "I stood there for about four or five minutes. I couldn't speak. I actually felt like my heart was going to stop in my chest."

While pondering Simmons' probation for the courthouse rape the day she got 12 months, Ashley notes that she actually served nearly three years.

She is not of the streets and that made her the target of kids who were. And, as the shock of the rape turned to anger, she often talked back to counselors.

"You say something, they throw you on the floor; 60 days, 90 days, 120 days added to your sentence," she said.

She was already an orphan and she had lost her adoptive parents as well by the time she was released. She nevertheless kept on track, getting a perfect score on her GED exam and enrolling in a professional program at a prestigious university.

"It's awesome! It's beautiful!" said Ashley, now 20.

True love helped her overcome trust issues that began with that walk to the elevator five years ago. She is married and has a son she named after Vonsover before she could even imagine Simmons getting probation.

She does not want her full name in the paper, lest Simmons try to track her down. She is not worried about her photo.

"I'm only scared of one man, and he already knows what I look like," she said.


15) Hey, Small Spender
October 10, 2010

Here's the narrative you hear everywhere: President Obama has presided over a huge expansion of government, but unemployment has remained high. And this proves that government spending can't create jobs.

Here's what you need to know: The whole story is a myth. There never was a big expansion of government spending. In fact, that has been the key problem with economic policy in the Obama years: we never had the kind of fiscal expansion that might have created the millions of jobs we need.

Ask yourself: What major new federal programs have started up since Mr. Obama took office? Health care reform, for the most part, hasn't kicked in yet, so that can't be it. So are there giant infrastructure projects under way? No. Are there huge new benefits for low-income workers or the poor? No. Where's all that spending we keep hearing about? It never happened.

To be fair, spending on safety-net programs, mainly unemployment insurance and Medicaid, has risen - because, in case you haven't noticed, there has been a surge in the number of Americans without jobs and badly in need of help. And there were also substantial outlays to rescue troubled financial institutions, although it appears that the government will get most of its money back. But when people denounce big government, they usually have in mind the creation of big bureaucracies and major new programs. And that just hasn't taken place.

Consider, in particular, one fact that might surprise you: The total number of government workers in America has been falling, not rising, under Mr. Obama. A small increase in federal employment was swamped by sharp declines at the state and local level - most notably, by layoffs of schoolteachers. Total government payrolls have fallen by more than 350,000 since January 2009.

Now, direct employment isn't a perfect measure of the government's size, since the government also employs workers indirectly when it buys goods and services from the private sector. And government purchases of goods and services have gone up. But adjusted for inflation, they rose only 3 percent over the last two years - a pace slower than that of the previous two years, and slower than the economy's normal rate of growth.

So as I said, the big government expansion everyone talks about never happened. This fact, however, raises two questions. First, we know that Congress enacted a stimulus bill in early 2009; why didn't that translate into a big rise in government spending? Second, if the expansion never happened, why does everyone think it did?

Part of the answer to the first question is that the stimulus wasn't actually all that big compared with the size of the economy. Furthermore, it wasn't mainly focused on increasing government spending. Of the roughly $600 billion cost of the Recovery Act in 2009 and 2010, more than 40 percent came from tax cuts, while another large chunk consisted of aid to state and local governments. Only the remainder involved direct federal spending.

And federal aid to state and local governments wasn't enough to make up for plunging tax receipts in the face of the economic slump. So states and cities, which can't run large deficits, were forced into drastic spending cuts, more than offsetting the modest increase at the federal level.

The answer to the second question - why there's a widespread perception that government spending has surged, when it hasn't - is that there has been a disinformation campaign from the right, based on the usual combination of fact-free assertions and cooked numbers. And this campaign has been effective in part because the Obama administration hasn't offered an effective reply.

Actually, the administration has had a messaging problem on economic policy ever since its first months in office, when it went for a stimulus plan that many of us warned from the beginning was inadequate given the size of the economy's troubles. You can argue that Mr. Obama got all he could - that a larger plan wouldn't have made it through Congress (which is questionable), and that an inadequate stimulus was much better than none at all (which it was). But that's not an argument the administration ever made. Instead, it has insisted throughout that its original plan was just right, a position that has become increasingly awkward as the recovery stalls.

And a side consequence of this awkward positioning is that officials can't easily offer the obvious rebuttal to claims that big spending failed to fix the economy - namely, that thanks to the inadequate scale of the Recovery Act, big spending never happened in the first place.

But if they won't say it, I will: if job-creating government spending has failed to bring down unemployment in the Obama era, it's not because it doesn't work; it's because it wasn't tried.


16) Despite Army Efforts, Soldier Suicides Continue
"Through August, at least 125 active members of the Army had ended their own lives, exceeding the morbid pace of last year, when there were a record 162 suicides." [The total number of U.S. military casualties in Iraq since Obama's Inauguration: ]
October 10, 2010

FORT HOOD, Tex. - At 3:30 a.m. on a Saturday in August, Specialist Armando G. Aguilar Jr. found himself at the end of his short life. He was standing, drunk and weepy, in the parking lot of a Valero station outside Waco, Tex. He had jumped out of his moving pickup. There was a police officer talking to him in frantic tones. Specialist Aguilar held a pistol pointed at his head.

This moment had been a long time coming, his family said. He had twice tried to commit suicide with pills since returning from a tough tour in Iraq a year earlier, where his job was to drive an armored vehicle to search for bombs.

Army doctors had put him on medications for depression, insomnia, nightmares and panic attacks. Specialist Aguilar was seeing an Army therapist every week. But he had been getting worse in the days before his death, his parents said, seeing shadowy figures that were not there, hallucinating that he heard loud noises outside his trailer home.

"He wanted help - he was out there asking for help," said his father, Armando Aguilar Sr. "He just snapped. He couldn't control what he was doing no more."

Specialist Aguilar was one of 20 soldiers connected to Fort Hood who are believed to have committed suicide this year. The Army has confirmed 14 of those, and is completing the official investigations of six other soldiers who appear to have taken their own lives - four of them in one week in September. The deaths have made this the worst year at the sprawling fort since the military began keeping track in 2003.

The spate of suicides in Texas reflects a chilling reality: nearly 20 months after the Army began strengthening its suicide prevention program and working to remove the stigma attached to seeking psychological counseling, the suicide rate among active service members remains high and shows little sign of improvement. Through August, at least 125 active members of the Army had ended their own lives, exceeding the morbid pace of last year, when there were a record 162 suicides.

"If the test for success is our numbers and our rate, then clearly we have not been successful," said Col. Chris Philbrick, deputy director of a special task force established to reduce suicides.

Colonel Philbrick said that more soldiers were seeking help for psychological problems than ever before - it was the leading reason for hospitalization in the military last year - but that the number needing help had also grown at a rapid pace, a natural consequence of nine years of combat deployments. So even though the Army now has 3,800 therapists and psychiatrists, two-thirds more than it did three years ago, there is still a significant shortage, he said.

Advocates for veterans say the shortage of therapists means that Army doctors tend to rely more on medication than therapy. They also say the Army screens too few soldiers for mental problems after deployments, placing the burden on the soldier to seek help rather than on officers to actively find the damaged psyches in their corps.

"The military still blames the soldier, saying it's financial stress or family stress, and it is still waiting for the service member to come forward," said Paul Sullivan, the executive director of Veterans for Common Sense.

In July, Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the vice chief of staff of the Army, ordered that all soldiers returning from combat be evaluated by a mental health professional, either face to face or by video conference.

General Chiarelli and other top commanders have argued that the roots of the rise in military suicides are complex and that blame cannot be laid solely on repeated deployments. The majority of soldiers who have committed suicide - about 80 percent - have had only one deployment or none at all. Another factor is that after years of war, the Army is now attracting recruits already inclined toward risky behavior and thus more prone to suicide, according to a 15-month Army review of suicides released in July.

A close examination of some of the suicides at Fort Hood shows that they are as individual as fingerprints. Some of the soldiers who committed suicide were receiving treatment but took their lives anyway. Others were reluctant to seek help for fear of being labeled cowards or malingerers.

The commanders at the base have tried hard to change the never-show-weakness culture of the Army. They have trained more than 700 noncommissioned officers and chaplains to spot suicidal soldiers and refer them to counselors. Since April, more than 17,000 soldiers have participated in an exercise in which actors play out scenarios involving suicidal people.

Beyond the role playing, the base's commanders have also employed a comedian who talks about the suicide of his brother and have compelled all soldiers to watch two training films about suicide - "Shoulder to Shoulder" and "I Will Never Quit on Life." A former commander of the base, Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, even established a holistic "Resiliency Campus," where soldiers can do things like take tai chi and yoga classes, get massages or see family counselors.

One of the those who received the training was Josh Roum, a recently retired sergeant who still works on the base. On Sept. 25, Mr. Roum came home after spending the night with a friend and found his new roommate, Sgt. Timothy Ryan Rinella, sprawled in a hallway. A veteran of four deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, Sergeant Rinella, who was 29, had shot himself in the head with Mr. Roum's pistol.

Mr. Roum said Sergeant Rinella showed none of the classic signs of being suicidal. He had talked about plans to rebuild an old car and had bragged about his four children. "He seemed like he had a level head on his shoulders," Mr. Roum said. "It was like a total shocker to me."

Sergeant Rinella had sought counseling from an Army psychologist for panic attacks, even though he feared that a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder would ruin his career, his wife, Sarah Rinella, said via e-mail. He believed that the counselors would relay what he said in private up the chain of command.

The deployments had been hard on the marriage, Ms. Rinella said. Sergeant Rinella left for Iraq just 13 days after their wedding and spent more than half of their eight-year marriage abroad. He missed the birth of his first son.

"How are you supposed to have a family life with that many deployments?" Mr. Roum asked.

The day Sergeant Rinella killed himself, he was facing another separation from his family, Mr. Roum said. A few days earlier, his wife had moved with the children to Richmond, Va., to take care of an ailing parent.

Several of the soldiers who recently committed suicide had faced marital problems. Sgt. First Class Eugene E. Giger was informed by his wife, Yolanda Giger, last October that she was filing for divorce. He was still in Iraq, doing his third tour abroad in six years.

"It did cause a chasm between the two of them," said Helen Giger, the sergeant's mother. "He felt bad because his kids were growing up without him being there."

On June 15, two days after his 43rd birthday, Sergeant Giger hanged himself in his apartment in Killeen. His parents said their son had always been a taciturn man and had given close relatives no hint that he was depressed. Nor did he mention panic attacks, nightmares or other emotional disorders.

But his former wife said in a telephone interview that she had tried to warn his superiors that he was deeply troubled after his deployments, despite having served most of his time abroad in a relatively safe desk job as a personnel officer. "I made outcries to everyone, and no one listened," she said, declining to say to whom she had spoken for fear of losing Army benefits.

Others did seek help. Master Sgt. Baldemar Gonzalez, 39, an airborne combat veteran in the Persian Gulf and Iraq, began seeing a therapist at Fort Hood a year ago and received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. He suffered nightmares, insomnia and flashbacks, said his wife, Christina Barrientes. He had planned to go to school for engineering on the G.I. Bill when his enlistment ended this year.

Army psychiatrists prescribed antidepressants, sleeping pills and a tranquilizer - a cocktail of five drugs, she said. He started taking them in mid-March, and his personality changed. Always an athletic, outgoing man, he became listless and quiet, sleeping much of the day and avoiding his friends.

On Sept. 25, he dropped his daughter off at a football game at her high school, then returned home and told his wife he was going to work on some homework in the kitchen. She found him upstairs later in the day, dead in their bedroom closet, having apparently hanged himself.

"I blame the medication," Ms. Barrientes said. "You go and try to get help and all they do is put you on medication."

Specialist Aguilar, who shot himself in the Valero parking lot, also had plans to go back to school once his enlistment was over in November. A guitarist and songwriter from a working-class family, he had enlisted partly because the Army would pay for music school after his military service, his family and friends said.

But by the time he came back from Iraq in July 2009, his nerves were on edge, his relatives said. He had become severely depressed in Iraq after a good friend in his unit, Pvt. Eugene Kanakole, shot and killed himself in a latrine. Specialist Aguilar had also lived through several terrifying explosions - including five in one night - while working as a combat engineer, friends said. Army doctors prescribed antidepressants even before he left the war zone.

Once he returned to Texas, he frequently drank too much and twice nearly overdosed on sleeping pills and painkillers. His medical records show that Army psychiatrists diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, and he had been seeing a therapist every week for months. At the time of his death, he was taking two antidepressants, a sleeping pill and a drug used to treat alcoholics.

He married a young woman from Waco early this year, but the elation of the honeymoon did not last long. They fought often over his behavior, and they began seeing a marriage counselor within months, friends said. The night before he died he drove to Waco to visit his in-laws. He took a gun belonging to a close friend who was out of town.

The police say Specialist Aguilar ran into the yard of his father-in-law's house and fired shots around 3:15 a.m., then took off in his pickup truck. His mother, Amelia Aguilar, said his wife had told her they had been drinking and had a fight.

A local police officer spotted Specialist Aguilar's truck and followed him to the Valero station in Hewitt, just south of Waco. He tumbled out of the moving truck, letting the vehicle roll into a ditch, then put the gun to his head. The officer, Sgt. Robert Dillard, drew his own gun and started to plead with Specialist Aguilar not to fire, according to the police report.

He pulled the trigger anyway. He was 26 years old.


17) In Havana, Jam Sessions With a Master Trumpeter
October 10, 2010

HAVANA - Wynton Marsalis pulled a young Cuban trumpeter aside as he left the Mella Theater here on Wednesday after a Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra concert. The band was here for a residency that ended over the weekend, and Mr. Marsalis had seen 17-year-old Kalí Rodríguez play a few nights earlier at an official reception for the American musicians.

"He told me, 'You have something special,' " recalled Mr. Rodríguez, who has been studying music for seven years at the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory in Havana.

Mr. Marsalis led Mr. Rodríguez to the empty theater and gave him a late-night lesson, playing blues on the piano while Mr. Rodríguez played his trumpet. The master trumpeter gave his pupil tips on musical phrasing and some encouragement as well, Mr. Rodríguez said.

"He told me, 'You're serious about what you do, and I like what you do,' " added Mr. Rodríguez, who said he was so overwhelmed by Mr. Marsalis's attention that he broke down in tears midway through the class. "I felt like my soul was bursting out of my body. I mean, if Wynton Marsalis says you're good at the trumpet, then that's a big deal."

Not everyone, though, was awed by the famous American players who descended on Havana for a whirlwind series of encounters that took them from dark rumba joints to the scruffy, vibrant conservatories where Cuba's young talent is schooled. Dayrón Rodríguez, no relation to the trumpeter, a 12-year-old bongo fiend, didn't flinch when he was invited to jam onstage with the Lincoln Center band and 13 other Cuban musicians for the rousing Saturday finale of the group's residency. Mr. Rodríguez, the trumpeter, also played in the concert.

"It's not the first time I've played with great musicians," said Dayrón, who noted that he had sat in with Yaroldy Abreu Robles, a family friend and percussionist for Chucho Valdés's Afro-Cuban Messengers.

A grinning Dayrón skipped onto the stage on Saturday night. Along with his bongos he brought a copy of a CD on which he had played, flashing it to band members whenever he got the chance.

The Lincoln Center players came to spread the word of American jazz to Cuban music lovers, and they found an eager audience. Cuban musicians are hungry for all the information they can get. Relatively few foreign bands visit Cuba, and the island's Internet reach is low. (In a recent government survey less than 3 percent of Cubans said they had been online in the past year.)

Several of the teenage students who jammed with the Lincoln Center players last week said they had never used the Internet and did not have access to a computer or own an MP3 player. They relied on people who traveled overseas to share music with them, they said.

Many members of the Lincoln Center group said they were impressed by the young musicians who performed at workshops, sat in on rehearsals and filled the hotel lobby at night to pepper them with questions. "I love their talent, their attitude, their seriousness and their culture," said Carlos Henriquez, the Lincoln Center bass player. "Their dedication is unbelievable. We don't get that in the States."

There was much talk of bridges last week: the one between Cuba and the United States, and the one between Afro-Cuban music and American jazz.

Jazz at Lincoln Center came trundling over that bridge on Oct. 2 to jam with Cuban stars and teenage students, to give a workshop for children and to perform four concerts with a lineup of Cuban players that included Chucho Valdés; Eliade Terry, known as Don Pancho, the country's foremost chekeré player; Bobby Carcassés; and Orlando Valle, known as Maraca.

"The bridge was built when Chano Pozo and Dizzy started doing their thing - even before that," said Mr. Henriquez, referring to the historic collaboration in the late 1940s between that Cuban percussionist and Dizzy Gillespie. "What we've done this week is repave the bridge."

This was possible partly because American officials are interpreting travel restrictions less rigidly under President Obama than they did under George W. Bush. They are letting more Cuban artists visit America, and vice versa.

Now that the bridge is in use again, the musicians wondered how to keep the traffic flowing. Mr. Valdés, the veteran pianist and co-artistic director of the residency, said the next step would be to get American musicians to come to Havana's jazz festival in December. The festival has flagged in recent years, as it became difficult for the Americans to attend after President Bush tightened travel restrictions in 2003.

"Let anyone come who wants to come," Mr. Valdés said during a rehearsal break last week. "I would open the door really wide."

Mr. Valdés also wants to see more Cubans and Americans participating in exchange programs. "Imagine if we could get Americans coming here to study Afro-Cuban rhythms, coming and going without any kind of problem, without politics getting in the way," he said. "That would be my dream."

For about 200 years Afro-Cuban rhythms nourished the American music from which jazz emerged, as commerce and people flowed freely between Havana and New Orleans. But that rich trade was essentially shut down when the United States severed diplomatic and commercial ties with Cuba and its Communist leader, Fidel Castro, in the early 1960s.

The two cities may be cut off from each other, but the spirit of New Orleans was present in Havana during the Lincoln Center residency. "I see many things here that are exactly like New Orleans: the architecture, the feeling of the people, the climate, the community," said Mr. Marsalis, a native of New Orleans.

He pointed to the shared African roots of the roll call, in which New Orleans musicians call the names of deceased players, and the Yoruba blessing sung in Cuban rumba; and to the influence the Cuban habanera rhythm had on ragtime. "Cuban music is in the roots of our music. This is an opportunity to reconnect, to deepen our communality" he said.

So it was fitting that the penultimate event of the residency should include a New Orleans-style parade. On Saturday the players treated 1,500 music students from five schools around Havana to a workshop at the Mella Theater, dissecting the "three pillars" of jazz - swing, blues and improvisation - and bringing students onstage to play with them.

At the end the audience danced and clapped as the Americans played blues and paraded through the auditorium, trailing a line of Cuban trumpeters, violinists, clarinetists and saxophonists.

And then the band marched out of the theater, through the stage door and into the warm Havana afternoon, still tooting their horns, dancers twirling handkerchiefs behind them. A crowd waved and cheered as the musicians headed to their bus.

Then the sound of brass trailed off, and the players were gone.


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

"On November 13, the Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations will once again rally in Washington, DC and march to the White House, just as we did in our hundreds in our first march in November of last year."

As the Black misleadership class sinks deeper into servility to a president wholly beholden to Wall Street and the Pentagon, it becomes ever more imperative to send a message to our own people and to the wider world: Barack Obama does not have all Black folks fooled. There still exist principled African American organizations and individuals that every day struggle against the forces of war and oppression. On November 13, the Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations will once again rally in Washington, DC and march to the White House, just as we did in our hundreds in our first march in November of last year. Back then, Black Is Back was only a few weeks old, but we proved that ObamaL'aide has not knocked the fight out of the real Black Left; that a critical mass of activists and organizers are determined to push on to freedom, by any and all means necessary, no matter what the color of the war monger and corporate front man in the White House.

In the year since the Black is Back Coalition appeared on the scene, Barack Obama has escalated his theater of war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, widened the war in Yemen, and stepped up the slaughter of innocents in Somalia. He has deepened the U.S. Africa Command - AFRICOM's - penetration of the continent and militarization of African society. Obama followed up his coup against a democratically elected government in Honduras with last week's attempted coup in Ecuador, as he tries to roll back Latin America's drive to free itself from U.S. imperial domination.

"ObamaL'aide has not knocked the fight out of the real Black Left."

President Obama now proclaims he has the authority to mark anyone on the planet for assassination, including American citizens, and that he owes no one an explanation why - not the courts, not the Congress, not the people, not the victim. Obama has instructed his Justice Department to launch a 21st century kind of COINTELPRO assault on the anti-war movement, through FBI raids and abuse of the grand jury system. We a Black Is Back understand that whenever the State sets out to crush dissent, it is inevitably Black folks that will bear the brunt of repression. Yet, the presence of a Black man in the White House threatens to obscure the Nazi-like nature of the government's increasing attacks on constitutional, civil and human rights.

Obama's alliances with Wall Street have resulted in the biggest transfer of wealth in the history of the mankind, while his policies have led to the largest Black loss of wealth in the entire experience of Africans on the North American continent. African Americans make up one out of eight prisoners on the planet Earth, and that's just fine with the first Black U.S. president.

The Black is Back Coalition understands that he who is struck must be the first to cry out, that no one can be expected to speak up for us, but us. We also realize that the very existence of Black Is Back makes it less difficult for non-Black progressives to stand up to this president.

So stand up with the Black Is Back Coalition, on November 13, when we rally at Malcolm X Park and march on the White House. Go to the Black Is Back web site, for more information. That's On November 13, Black Is Back!


19) FBI Harassment of Anti-War Activists Continues in Twin Cities
By Staff |
October 8, 2010

Minneapolis, MN - FBI agents in Minneapolis went to several homes, Oct. 6 and 7, continuing their campaign of harassment and repression against anti-war and international solidarity activists.

These visits come on the heels of massive Sept. 24 raids in Minneapolis and Chicago, which involved more than 70 agents of the FBI and other federal agencies. The raid targeted activists involved with many groups, including the Palestine Solidarity Group, Students for a Democratic Society, the Twin-Cities Anti-War Committee, the Colombia Action Network and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

Fourteen anti-war activists and leaders who have been subpoenaed to appear in front of a federal grand jury meeting in Chicago have announced they will not cooperate with the proceedings.

Mick Kelly, whose home was raided Sept. 24, urges everyone in the progressive community to exercise their legal right to not answer questions put to them by FBI agents. "This is a witch-hunt against anyone who is standing up against war and injustice. Tell FBI agents you have nothing to say. Period." said Kelly.


20) White House Lifts Ban on Deepwater Oil Drilling
October 12, 2010

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration lifted its moratorium on deepwater drilling for oil and gas on Tuesday, after imposing new rules intended to prevent another disaster like the Gulf of Mexico rig explosion that led to the largest offshore oil spill in American history.

"We have made and continue to make significant progress in reducing the risks associated with deepwater drilling," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in announcing the step. Therefore, he said, "I have decided that it is now appropriate to lift the suspension on deepwater drilling for those operators that are able to clear the higher bar that we have set."

Though the administration's decision takes effect immediately, it may be weeks or months before drilling operations resume, because companies will first have to submit new permit applications showing they have complied with the tougher rules, and have their rigs inspected. Officials said that they expect at least some of the idle drilling rigs in the gulf to be at work again by the end of the year.

"We are open for business," Mr. Salazar said.

President Obama's administration imposed the moratorium after the blowout of a BP well in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20. The accident killed 11 men and led to the release of almost 5 million barrels of oil into the gulf before the leak was stopped.

The moratorium was due to run through Nov. 30, but the White House has come under intense pressure from the oil and gas industry and from elected officials and businesses in the gulf region to lift the ban early, because of the economic impact of about 30 drilling rigs that had been at work in the region.

The initial reaction to the lifting of the moratorium was mixed. Environmentalists criticized the step, while the oil industry expressed some concerns that the new regulations would mean that the ban would effectively remain. Senator Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat who has been among the most vocal critics of the moratorium, called the decision to lift it "a step in the right direction," but said the administration must accelerate the granting of permits and offer more clarity about the new rules.

Ms. Landrieu has single-handedly blocked Mr. Obama's nomination of Jacob Lew to be White House budget director, in protest over the moratorium. She said on Tuesday that she would not release her hold yet.

"When Congress reconvenes for the lame duck session next month, I will have had several weeks to evaluate if today's lifting of the moratorium is actually putting people back to work," she said.

Chris John, a former Democratic member of Congress who is now president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, a trade group, welcomed the announcement but expressed similar concerns.

"We can't get to the permitting process if the moratorium is still there, so we're very happy that they've taken this step," he said in an interview. But he said the industry worries that permitting will go slowly. "We had a disturbing experience in the shallow water, where there was no moratorium, but some of the rules and regulations and bureaucracy caused the number of permits to plummet," Mr. John said.

On the other side of the issue, Dan Favre, communications director of the Gulf Restoration Network, an environmental advocacy group, condemned the administration's decision to lift the moratorium, saying it "again puts the region at risk." He noted that the BP spill cleanup and restoration have not been completed.

"We certainly can't afford another oil catastrophe," Mr. Favre said. "While new rules to increase safety of drilling operations are welcomed, renaming a federal agency and creating a blueprint for safer drilling are not enough to ensure that the industry will actually follow the rules."

The Interior Department issued new regulations in late September that were meant to improve safety, oversight and environmental safety, covering specific aspects of drilling like well casing and cementing, blowout preventers, safety certification, emergency response and worker training. To obtain a permit, an operator must now present plans for preventing and dealing with a blowout, and must pass an independent inspection, and each company's chief executive will have to certify that a rig has complied with all new or existing rules.

"We are in a new day with respect to oil and gas drilling," Mr. Salazar said. He acknowledged there would be criticism from several sides, but said his goal had been to develop "the gold standard for how oil and gas is developed in America's oceans."

"The truth is, there will always be risks associated with deepwater drilling," he said, "but we have now reached the point where, in my view, we have reduced those risks."

He added: "We will still need oil and gas from the Gulf of Mexico to power our cars, our homes and our industry. But we can and will make the drilling of oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico safer than ever."

Michael R. Bromwich, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, who led the effort to develop the new rules, said it was not yet clear how long it would take for energy companies to comply with the new rules and obtain new permits.

"It will clearly not be tomorrow, and it's not going to be next week," Mr. Bromwich said. "My sense is that we will have permits approved before the end of the year, but how much before the end of the year and how many permits before the end of the year, I can't say."

Tom Zeller Jr. contributed reporting.


21) '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.


22) 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.


23) 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.


24) 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.


25) 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.


26) 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."


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