Sunday, November 21, 2010



Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:





Our next UNAC organizing meeting is set for UC Berkeley on Sunday, November 21 at 1:30 pm in Dwinelle Hall, Room 187.

[To get to Dwinelle, walk into the campus at Telegraph and Bankcroft and go straight for a few minutes and pass directly under Sather Gate and proceed over a tiny bridge. Dwinelle is the first building to the left after the bridge.]

This will be an important meeting because it will be our last before our UC Berkeley teach-in on November 30. Below we have pdf versions of the leaflet and poster. We will have thousands in the next few days. Please call to make arrangements to get some for distribution all over the Bay Area at important events.

We are still preparing an initial meeting agenda, but the main focus of Nov. 21 will be on the November 30 meeting.

A second edition of the leaflet and poster will be out soon. This one will hopefully include an impressive list of endorsers. Please let me know if your organization can be listed as an endorser so that we can compile a list in one place. And please seek out the endorsement of as many groups and organizations as you can.

The next meeting of the Nov. 30 Planning Committee is set for Caffe Strada on Bankcroft at Durant at 1:15 pm on Monday, November 15. This is a meeting of reps of all sponsoring organizations and interested activists.

Good News: The launching New York City meeting of UNAC was a tremendous success with some 340 present, 40 speakers representing as many organizations, participation from several East Coast states, some 100 Palestinians and Muslim community activists and leaders and $5000 raised during the fund appeal. A detailed report is in preparation. It's time to rev up our West Coast organizing.

In solidarity,



Bay Area Teach-In
Tuesday, November 30, 7:00 P.M.
East Pauley Ballroom (MLK Student Union UC Berkeley, corner of Bancroft and Telegraph)

Speakers: Hatgem Bazian, UCB; Michael Shehader, LA8; Ziad Abbas, MECA; Barbara Lubin, MECA; Jeff Mackler, UNAC; Masao Suzuki, Committee to Stop FBI Repression; Blanca Misse, UCB Student Worker Action Team; Rep., Cal Students for Justice in Palestine; Rep., UCB Muslim Student Assoc.

Billions for Education, Not Wars and Occupations! End U.S. Aid to Israel--Military, Economic, Diplomatic! Defend Civil Liberties and End the FBI Raids!
Sponsors: United National Antiwar Committee (UNAC); Cal Students for Justice in Palestine; UCB Muslim Student Association; Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA).

Donations Suggested, No one turned away for lack of funds.

For more information: 510-268-9429,,, ASUC Sponsored, ADA Accessible




Coal Ash: One Valley's Tale


Flashmob: Cape Town Opera say NO


Quantitative Easing Explained


Report: "Tar balls and black oily plumes" wash up in Apalachicola Bay, FL - 70 miles EAST of Panama City (VIDEO)
November 12th, 2010 at 09:02 AM Email Post


Seattle Cop: 'I'll Beat the F--ing Mexican Piss Out of You Homey'


Burning Desperation

Self-immolation has become a common form of suicide for Afghan women. Photographer Lynsey Addario speaks with women who survived their suicide attempts.


Anonymous BP cleanup worker: The oil "really hasn't even been touched"


Tag-Team Wrestling
"We have Learned who is For Real and who is Frontin'."
Glen Ford speaks in West Haven, CT just before the Oct. 2010 "One Nation Working Together" DC demo. See his scathing comments about the speakers from the main stage at the actual demo at


Video of massive French protest -- inspiring!


UAW Workers Picket The UAW Over Two-Tier

Rally To End Two-Tier & Stand in Solidarity with GM Lake Orion | UAW HQ, Detroit MI (1 of 2)

Rally To End Two-Tier & Stand in Solidarity with GM Lake Orion | UAW HQ, Detroit MI (2 of 2)


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


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


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


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




Courage to Resist needs your support
By Jeff Paterson, Courage to Resist.

It's been quite a ride the last four months since we took up the defense of accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower Bradley Manning. Since then, we helped form the Bradley Manning Support Network, established a defense fund, and have already paid over half of Bradley's total $100,000 in estimated legal expenses.

Now, I'm asking for your support of Courage to Resist so that we can continue to support not only Bradley, but the scores of other troops who are coming into conflict with military authorities due to reasons of conscience.

Please donate today:

"Soldiers sworn oath is to defend and support the Constitution. Bradley Manning has been defending and supporting our Constitution."
-Dan Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistle-blower

Iraq War over? Afghanistan occupation winding down? Not from what we see. Please take a look at, "Soldier Jeff Hanks refuses deployment, seeks PTSD help" in our December newsletter. Jeff's situation is not isolated. Actually, his story is only unique in that he has chosen to share it with us in the hopes that it may result in some change. Jeff's case also illustrates the importance of Iraq Veterans Against the War's new "Operation Recovery" campaign which calls for an end to the deployment of traumatized troops.

Most of the folks who call us for help continue to be effected by Stoploss, a program that involuntarily extends enlistments (despite Army promises of its demise), or the Individual Ready Reserve which recalls thousands of former Soldiers and Marines quarterly from civilian life.

Another example of our efforts is Kyle Wesolowski. After returning from Iraq, Kyle submitted an application for a conscientious objector discharge based on his Buddhist faith. Kyle explains, "My experience of physical threats, religious persecution, and general abuse seems to speak of a system that appears to be broken.... It appears that I have no other recourse but to now refuse all duties that prepare myself for war or aid in any way shape or form to other soldiers in conditioning them to go to war." We believe he shouldn't have to walk this path alone.

Jeff Paterson
Project Director, Courage to Resist
First US military service member to refuse to fight in Iraq
Please donate today.

P.S. I'm asking that you consider a contribution of $50 or more, or possibly becoming a sustainer at $15 a month. Of course, now is also a perfect time to make a end of year tax-deductible donation. Thanks again for your support!

Please click here to forward this to a friend who might
also be interested in supporting GI resisters.


San Francisco Labor Council Resolution Adopted unanimously on Nov. 8, 2010

Resolution Condemning Police Attack on Free Speech & Assembly following Oscar Grant Rally

Whereas, on Friday November 5, former BART cop Johannes Mehserle was given a jail sentence of 2 years for the 'involuntary manslaughter' of Oscar Grant. Subtracting time served and 'good behavior', Mehserle may be back on the streets in as little as 7 months; and

Whereas, the organizers of a November 5th Rally and Gathering in Frank Ogawa Plaza to honor Oscar Grant and Respond to the sentencing of Johannes Mehserle, were refused a permit for an organized march after the rally to an indoor gathering at DeFremery Park; and

Whereas, after the rally many hundreds of community members spontaneously started marching toward Fruitvale BART, the site of Oscar Grant's murder, and after the cops sealed off an entire city block, police did not allow people to disperse, called it a 'crime scene', and arrested 152 people, including San Francisco Labor Council Delegate Dave Welsh, resulting in more arrests than at any other Oscar Grant-related protest; and

Whereas, most arrestees have been cited on misdemeanor charges, held for 24 hours and have mass arraignments in the first week of December at Wiley Manuel Courthouse, 661 Washington Street in Oakland.

Therefore be It Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council condemns this assault on freedom of speech and assembly and demands that all these misdemeanor assembly charges be dropped.

Presented by Marcus Holder, delegate from ILWU Local 10, and adopted unanimously at the regular delegates meeting of the San Francisco Labor Council held Nov. 8, 2010 in San Francisco, California.


Add your name! We stand with Bradley Manning.

"We stand for truth, for government transparency, and for an end to our tax-dollars funding endless occupation abroad... We stand with accused whistle-blower US Army Pfc. Bradley Manning."

Dear All,

The Bradley Manning Support Network and Courage to Resist are launching a new campaign, and we wanted to give you a chance to be among the first to add your name to this international effort. If you sign the letter online, we'll print out and mail two letters to Army officials on your behalf. With your permission, we may also use your name on the online petition and in upcoming media ads.

Read the complete public letter and add your name at:

Courage to Resist (
on behalf of the Bradley Manning Support Network (
484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland CA 94610


Committee to Stop FBI Repression
P.O. Box 14183
Minneapolis, MN 55414

Dear Friend,

On Friday, September 24th, the FBI raided homes in Chicago and Minneapolis, and turned the Anti-War Committee office upside down. We were shocked. Our response was strong however and we jumped into action holding emergency protests. When the FBI seized activists' personal computers, cell phones, and papers claiming they were investigating "material support for terrorism", they had no idea there would be such an outpouring of support from the anti-war movement across this country! Over 61 cities protested, with crowds of 500 in Minneapolis and Chicago. Activists distributed 12,000 leaflets at the One Nation Rally in Washington D.C. Supporters made thousands of calls to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder. Solidarity statements from community organizations, unions, and other groups come in every day. By organizing against the attacks, the movement grows stronger.

At the same time, trusted lawyers stepped up to form a legal team and mount a defense. All fourteen activists signed letters refusing to testify. So Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox withdrew the subpoenas, but this is far from over. In fact, the repression is just starting. The FBI continues to question activists at their homes and work places. The U.S. government is trying to put people in jail for anti-war and international solidarity activism and there is no indication they are backing off. The U.S. Attorney has many options and a lot of power-he may re-issue subpoenas, attempt to force people to testify under threat of imprisonment, or make arrests.

To be successful in pushing back this attack, we need your donation. We need you to make substantial contributions like $1000, $500, and $200. We understand many of you are like us, and can only afford $50, $20, or $10, but we ask you to dig deep. The legal bills can easily run into the hundreds of thousands. We are all united to defend a movement for peace and justice that seeks friendship with people in other countries. These fourteen anti-war activists have done nothing wrong, yet their freedom is at stake.

It is essential that we defend our sisters and brothers who are facing FBI repression and the Grand Jury process. With each of your contributions, the movement grows stronger.

Please make a donation today at (PayPal) on the right side of your screen. Also you can write to:
Committee to Stop FBI Repression
P.O. Box 14183
Minneapolis, MN 55414

This is a critical time for us to stand together, defend free speech, and defend those who help to organize for peace and justice, both at home and abroad!

Thank you for your generosity! Tom Burke


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) Swedish Court to Seek Arrest of WikiLeaks Founder
November 18, 2010

2) Haiti: Protesters Stone U.N. Patrol
"The epidemic has killed more than 1,110 people."
November 18, 2010

3) U. of California Will Raise Tuition by 8 Percent
November 18, 2010

4) Trotsky, as Taught in Cuba
Posted By Daisy Valera On August 17, 2010 @ 9:54 pm In Daisy Valera's Diary,Highly Popular Posts | 30 Comments

5) Why Our Editor-in-Chief Is Busy and Needs to Be Defended
By WikiLeaks Staff Editorial
18 November 10
PETITION: In Support of Julian Assange
Defend Julian Assange

6) America's Gulf: An Ongoing Catastrophic Disaster
By Stephen Lendman
Thursday, November 18, 2010

7) Sticking it to the unemployed
Cutting off extended benefits for the unemployed not only hurts individuals who've been laid off but could dampen the economic recovery.
November 18, 2010,0,4893536.story

8) Unions Yield on Wage Scales to Preserve Jobs
November 19, 2010

9) Haitians Plunge Into Muck to Stem Cholera
November 19, 2010

10) South Africa Fears Millions More H.I.V. Infections
November 19, 2010

11) Haitians Barricading Streets with Coffins as Protests against U.N. Continue over Cholera Outbreak
Protests are continuing in Haiti over the cholera outbreak that has now killed more than 1,100 people and infected some 17,000. On Wednesday, residents in the city of Cap-Haïtien clashed with U.N. troops for the third consecutive day. Crowds have taken to the streets expressing anger at the Haitian government and the United Nations for failing to contain the disease. We go to Cap-Haïtien to speak with independent journalist Ansel Herz.
November 18, 2010

12) Errors kill 15,000 aged US patients a month-study
* Mistakes cost Medicare $324 million in a single month
* 134,000 adverse events in month studied
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor
Tue Nov 16, 2010 4:55pm EST

13) U of California In Crisis: Campus Cop Draws Gun on Student Protesters
By Angus Johnston
Historian of student activism, founder of
Posted: November 18, 2010 11:21 AM

14) Beyond '1984': New Frontiers of Mass Surveillance
By Elliot D. Cohen
Mass Surveillance and State Control: The Total Information Awareness Project
By Elliot D. Cohen
Palgrave Macmillan, 258 pages
Posted on Nov 18, 2010

15) Tigers Could Be Extinct in 12 Years if Unprotected
Filed at 10:53 a.m. EST
November 21, 2010

16) Leaking Siberian Ice Raises a Tricky Climate Issue
Filed at 10:36 a.m. EST
November 21, 2010

17) Consumer Risks Feared as Health Law Spurs Mergers
November 20, 2010

18) Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction
November 21, 2010


1) Swedish Court to Seek Arrest of WikiLeaks Founder
November 18, 2010

LONDON - The Swedish prosecutor's office said that a Stockholm court had approved its request for an arrest warrant to be issued for Julian Assange, founder of the WikiLeaks whistle-blower's Web site, for questioning on months-old charges of rape and other offenses.

Karin Rosander, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office, said in a statement in English that the court had decided to issue the warrant "in the absence" of Mr. Assange over suspicions of his involvement in "rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion."

She added that "the next step for the prosecutor is to issue an international arrest warrant." She gave no indication when that would be done.

Mr. Assange's lawyer in Britain, Mark Stephens, said the allegations were "false and without basis."

The normal procedure for pursuing arrest warrants across international borders involves Interpol, the international police agency. It was not immediately clear what legal options would be available to Mr. Assange to resist being returned to Sweden to answer the warrant. .

In recent weeks, Mr. Assange has made several public appearances in London, after spending several weeks in Sweden and flying first to Berlin, then to London, in early October. Mr. Stephens said Mr. Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, remained in London as of Thursday morning.

A statement issued before the Stockholm ruling, by Marianne Ny, the director of the Stockholm prosecutor's office, said that prosecutors had been "unable to interrogate" Mr. Assange in nearly 13 weeks, since the allegations against him by two Swedish women became public.

But this was flatly denied by Mr. Stephens, who said in a statement that over the last three months, "despite numerous demands, neither Mr. Assange, nor his legal counsel, has received a single word in writing from the Swedish authorities relating to the allegations."

Mr. Stephens added that the prosecutor's "behavior is not a prosecution, but a persecution."

"Our client has always maintained his innocence," he said. "The allegations against him are false and without basis. As a result of these false allegations and bizarre legal interpretations, our client now has his name and reputation besmirched."

"My client is now in the extraordinary position that, despite his innocence, and despite never having been charged, and despite never receiving a single piece of paper about the allegations against him, one in 10 Internet references to the word 'rape' also include his name," Mr. Stephens said. "Every day that this flawed investigation continues, the damages to his reputation are compounded."

Mr. Assange founded WikiLeaks in 2006 as a forum for publishing secret and confidential documents of political, military and economic significance passed to the organization by whistle-blowers who have obtained them from governments, corporations and other sources.

This summer, WikiLeaks posted a cache of 77,000 secret Pentagon documents on the war in Afghanistan, and it followed that last month by posting nearly 400,000 Pentagon documents, also secret, on the Iraq war.

On both occasions, the documents were provided in advance to The New York Times, the Guardian of Britain and Der Spiegel magazine in Germany, all of which ran extensive articles focusing on the insights the documents gave into the United States' conduct of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Obama administration condemned both leaks, and demanded that WikiLeaks "return" all secret American documents and undertake not to publish any more in the future.

The Pentagon and the Justice Department have established a task force to probe all aspects of the affair, and officials have said that prosecution of Mr. Assange and his associates under the 1917 Espionage Act was one step under consideration.

The allegations of rape and sexual molestation against Mr. Assange arose shortly after he arrived in Sweden in late August on a journey that he described at the time as aimed at establishing a secure base for himself and WikiLeaks under Sweden's broad press freedom laws.

The two women who accused him were volunteers who had offered to assist WikiLeaks and met him in his first days in Sweden.

According to accounts the women gave to the police and friends, Swedish officials have said, they had consensual sexual encounters with Mr. Assange that became nonconsensual. One woman said that Mr. Assange had ignored her appeals to stop after a condom broke. The other woman said that she and Mr. Assange had begun a sexual encounter using a condom, but that Mr. Assange did not comply with her appeals to stop when it was no longer in use.

Mr. Assange has questioned the veracity of those accounts.

The Stockholm prosecutor's office first issued a warrant for Mr. Assange's arrest, then withdrew it, and later announced that it was still investigating the rape and sexual molestation charges.

Mr. Assange responded at the time by saying that he was a victim of "dirty tricks" and that his relations with the two women had been consensual. Subsequently, in London, he spoke of a "smear campaign" against him and WikiLeaks, and complained about the Swedish prosecutor's delay in disposing of the case. In an interview in London with The New York Times on Oct. 17, he said that 50 days had passed since the Swedish allegations were made public.

The action by the prosecutor's office on Thursday came more than 12 weeks after it said it wanted to interview Mr. Assange in the office's first statement on the investigation.

Thursday's statement implied that no interview had ever taken place. Mr. Assange has spoken on a number of occasions in recent weeks of his growing anxiety about his personal security.

He suggested at a news conference in London on Oct. 23 that he might have to move to Moscow or Havana, Cuba, in his search for a secure base.

In recent days, WikiLeaks supporters have made moves to establish a legal base for WikiLeaks in Iceland, where Mr. Assange spent several weeks this year.

Daniel Ellsberg, the 79-year-old American military analyst who provided The New York Times and other publications with copies of the secret Pentagon documents on the Vietnam War that became known as the Pentagon Papers in 1971, flew to London from California to support Mr. Assange at the mid-October news conference held in conjunction with the publication of the secret Iraq war documents on the WikiLeaks site.

"Choose Havana," Mr. Ellsberg said, after Mr. Assange spoke of his possible destinations, prompting laughter from him and many of his supporters.

In his statement, Mr. Stephens, the lawyer, said Mr. Assange had "repeatedly offered to be interviewed, first in Sweden, and then in Britain (including at the Swedish Embassy), either in person or by telephone, videoconferencing or e-mail, and he has also offered to make a sworn statement on affidavit."

"Before leaving Sweden, Mr. Assange asked to be interviewed by the prosecution on several occasions in relation to the allegations, staying over a month in Stockholm, at considerable expense and despite many engagements elsewhere, in order to clear his name," Mr. Stephens said. "Eventually the prosecution told his Swedish lawyer Bjorn Hurtig that he was free to leave the country, without interview, which he did."

Mr. Stephens has worked for The Times on libel cases, the most recent of which ended earlier this year.

Ravi Somaiya contributed reporting.


2) Haiti: Protesters Stone U.N. Patrol
"The epidemic has killed more than 1,110 people."
November 18, 2010

Several hundred protesters stoned a United Nations patrol and yelled anti-United Nations slogans in the capital, Port-au-Prince, on Thursday as anger spread over a cholera epidemic. The protest followed several days of riots against the peacekeepers in the northern city of Cap Haitien, where at least two people were killed. Reports that peacekeepers from Nepal were the source of the cholera outbreak have angered many Haitians. The United Nations says there is no conclusive evidence to support those reports. The epidemic has killed more than 1,110 people.


3) U. of California Will Raise Tuition by 8 Percent
November 18, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - With none of the protest that marred previous meetings, the University of California's Board of Regents approved an 8 percent fee increase on Thursday, the second straight year that students have faced higher tuition.

The vote came a day after 13 people were arrested at the system's San Francisco campus, as the police were forced to use pepper spray to disperse hundreds of students angry about the fee increase.

The university's president, Mark G. Yudof, had cast the fee increase as necessary to maintain the system's academic excellence after several years of declining financial support from the state. California has had chronic budget problems and is facing a projected $6 billion shortfall for the 2010-11 budget, which passed in October and included a small increase for the university.

"It's worth what you pay to attend here," Mr. Yudof said.


4) Trotsky, as Taught in Cuba
Posted By Daisy Valera On August 17, 2010 @ 9:54 pm In Daisy Valera's Diary,Highly Popular Posts | 30 Comments

Lev Davidovich Bronstein -better known to the world as Leon Trotsky- died on August 21, 1940, in Coyoacan, Mexico. One could think that the name of this Russian revolutionary would have come to my ears in my contemporary history classes in my first year of high school here in Cuba.

Nevertheless, the name Trotsky was not written in the history book that I carried around when I was 14 and 15. From the classes of that period I can only remember the figure of Lenin, who was glorified by my teacher.

Like the more than 30 other students in my class, I knew of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin as the primary and practically sole leader of the Great October Socialist Revolution. The only other memory that I retained of those classes was the day we learned about the causes for the collapse of the USSR; for some reason, many of the students in the room looked at each other as if we had been double-crossed.

The history lessons concluded, as did my high school studies, without me ever learning that there had been a Leon Trotsky. Only a few days before I began my program at the university -and by pure chance- I heard a song by a Cuban folk singer about how Trotsky had been one of the main figures in the Russian Revolution of 1917.

The name of that revolutionary stuck in my mind, but any information about him was scarce in every place one could go to look him up. It wasn't until my third year at the university that the fact that I found myself among a very particular group of people allowed me to discover the full story of a part of history that no one had thought it necessary to reveal to me.

Finally the name of Trotsky stopped being just a name and for me turned into a person who had carried out actions of critical importance for the Russian Revolution. He had been the principle representative of the St. Petersburg's soviets (workers' councils) as well as in the organization of the Red Army.

Perhaps the fact that I had never before known about Trotsky made me become an assiduous reader of most of his works, among which I have to highlight Permanent Revolution (1930) and The Revolution Betrayed (1936).

August 20th will mark 70 years since the fateful attack carried out by a Stalinist clique against a man who exhibited in his deeds and writings a love for the world proletariat. He was confident that a social structure different from capitalism could free life of all wrongs.

Yet despite everything, this Trotsky still doesn't appear in Cuban history books. There's no mention of the founder of the Fourth International, an organization committed to the struggle against bureaucracy, against those who sought to enrich themselves at the expense of other people's labor, against those lacking scruples in accentuating the differences between classes in a society that aimed to construct socialism, and against those who did not allow the workers to either participate or decide.

So isn't it important to reclaim him in the history taught on the island, a person truly committed until the final few days of their life to the non-degeneration of societies that are called socialist.


5) Why Our Editor-in-Chief Is Busy and Needs to Be Defended
By WikiLeaks Staff Editorial
18 November 10
PETITION: In Support of Julian Assange
Defend Julian Assange

n October 2010 Julian Assange won the Sam Adams Award for Integrity. He has also been awarded the 2009 Amnesty International Media Award and the Economist Index on Censorship Award in 2008. It is important to remember that accolades such as these do not come without tremendous hard work.

The expose of the Afghan War Diaries was a moment of media history, orchestrated by Julian Assange. He brought together The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel, three of the world's most reputable newspapers to collaborate with WikiLeaks on exposing more than 90 000 secret significant action reports by the United States relating to the war in Afghanistan. This involved a huge amount of administration in order to co-ordinate all four media partners' publishing schedules and a lot of time to carefully construct the levels of trust needed to bring together three major newspapers who were also competitors.

Since 2007 Julian, WikiLeaks and the Sunshine Press have been behind international front page stories that have changed the world. However, every story exposing abuses by powerful organizations, whether they be from New York or Nairobi results in a counter attack. Such the importance and veracity of revelations must be defended. Immediately after the Afghan War Diaries he conducted seventy-six interviews in three days maximizing the impact of the disclosures. It is very important for WikiLeaks to create a global platform with which to reach all corners of the earth. This demonstrates to those who wish to expose wrongdoing and misconduct that there is a way to do so without putting themselves at risk. He remains a messenger who big governments and their agencies can, and constantly do, attack while all the time keeping the source of the information published safe.

Because of the nature of the work performed by WikiLeaks both the organization and Julian Assange are constantly under attack. Their servers are under attack. Their security is under attack and their work resources and finances are under attack. This results is a lot of time-consuming administration and means working through a lot of bureaucratic steps to re-establish the efficient running of an organisation. When finances are frozen, as was the case with Money Brokers Limited in August this year (the WikiLeaks account was closed because of "watchlisting" by the US after publication of the Afghanistan documents) it resulted in many letters back and forth, instructing a legal team to administer the situation and still to date there has been no resolution. In just the last 14 days he has met with more than 9 lawyers (excluding Swedish lawyers) in in defense of WikiLeaks' publishing activities, agreements and sources. Similarly, Julian Assange is subject to these sorts of attacks on a personal level.

He and WikiLeaks both have been attacked in the media by Leon Panetta, Director of the CIA, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and highest ranking officer in the US and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates not to mention the well recognized media personalities such as Marc A. Thiessen, a former bush administration chief speech writer and currently a Washington Post columnist who wrote "Assange is a non-U.S. citizen operating outside the territory of the United States. This means the government has a wide range of options for dealing with him." Christian Whiton, a Fox News contributor, said "WikiLeaks should be declared 'enemy combatants'," indicating they should be dealt with outside the law and Jonah Goldberg, a conservative syndicated columnist asked "why wasn't Julian Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago?"

Attacks such as these create an extreme need for security and he must always be conscious and personally vigilant - a task that is both time consuming and mentally exhausting. The major government players such as the CIA and the Pentagon do not stop at just Julian but also target many WikiLeaks volunteers or associates. Two volunteers and an American WikiLeaks spokesperson have been detained and questioned in the United States along with other individuals alleged to be participant to his publishing activities such as Bradley Manning, an alleged source who is being held as a political prisoner in the United States. Mr Manning's mother's house in Wales was raided by the FBI together with local police earlier this year.

The result is a constant need for legal and political support and managing this from afar and throughout many continents is no small task. Furthermore Julian Assange does not take these matters lightly having been privy to bad experiences in the past - while working on the extra judicial assassinations taking place in Kenya, two WikiLeaks' affiliates being assassinated.

Since the false allegations made about him in Sweden this August Julian has also needed to work extremely hard at ensuring the smear campaign launched against him has not affected the WikiLeaks brand. Making many public appearances and conducting interviews is absolutely necessary not to mention maintaining relationships with media partners who are so easily affected by such events.

In spite of the attacks against him, Wikileaks successfully released the Iraq War Logs in late October - a cache of over 400 000 US military intelligence reports relating to the war in Iraq. Due to the false allegations mentioned above the management of this leak was extremely difficult. However, he successfully made new lasting relationships and expanded the media partners to include Al Jazeera, Le Monde, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, SVT and also brought in Public Interest Lawyers and NGOs such as Iraq Body Count. The documents' release was increased to television as well as print media with two full-length documentaries being commissioned.

Julian Assange also readily offers to speak at many public events; especially those he feels will have a resonating effect on people's rights and liberties, ideals he holds close to his heart. Recently he presented at the United Nations Universal Periodic Review against the United States in Geneva where he offered up evidence from the Iraq War logs of the human right abuses such as the 109 000 deaths, 185 000 casualties, 66 000 civilian deaths and countless cases of torture conducted by America. The speech he gave lasted over two hours alone and the preparation for such an event is mammoth. During his stay in Geneva the Swiss government was so fearful for his personal security that they offered two International Police and two Swiss Police as his bodyguards for the duration, yet another indication of the severity of the danger he encounters on a daily basis. In late September he spoke in London for Index on Censorship regarding Security and censorship in the age of WikiLeaks.

In the coming months Julian Assange aims to carry on the invaluable work and service that WikiLeaks offers the public. In due course he intends on providing information, as yet publically unknown. He has stifled many illegal attacks and remains victorious on all legal attacks against WikiLeaks.


6) America's Gulf: An Ongoing Catastrophic Disaster
By Stephen Lendman
Thursday, November 18, 2010

On August 14, Obama did what he does best, deceiving and betraying the public. Again it was on the Gulf disaster, saying:

"Today, the well is capped, oil is no longer flowing into the Gulf, and it has not been flowing for a month....I also want to point out that as a result of the cleanup effort, beaches all along the Gulf Coast are clean and safe and open for business....But I won't be satisfied until the environment has been restored, no matter how long it takes."

False on all counts. The Macondo well was capped, but video and other evidence show continued leakage, an organization called Concerned Citizens of Florida (CCF), saying:

"....government cannot be relied upon to impart all the information that we need to make informed and necessary decisions. We know that they will not (and have not) respond(ed) quickly (and adequately) enough to this unfolding disaster or perform to the standard that is required to meet it head on." Nor will the major media, "act(ing) as a mouthpiece for both government and industry."

On November 14, CCF headlined an article, "Oil and Gas Leaks Continue Unabated at Macondo: Photos document oily fluid all over the seafloor," saying:

BP's announcing Macondo shut last July, was "just empty rhetoric and part of (its) elaborate Mass Deception Act. First of all....the oil leak....was never (fully) killed and could never be killed." In fact, experts say the Gulf seabed is fractured. Even BP confirmed damage inside Macondo, well below the seafloor. Why else would much of the Gulf sea floor be covered with two-inch thick oil layers. More as well showing up in giant plumes, and reports confirming "fresh oil coming ashore."

Though unverified, a report by Anatoly Sagalevich, director of Deepwater Submersibles Laboratory at Russia's Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, said the Gulf seabed is fractured "beyond all repair," a potentially disastrous condition he called "beyond comprehension." Using one of the Institute's Deep Submergence Vehicles, his analysis was based on close-up seabed observation and analysis.

Besides Macondo, he claimed at least 18 other sites were leaking oil, the largest seven miles from where Deepwater Horizon sank, gushing an estimated two million gallons daily. Several times on CNBC and MSNBC, oil expert Matthew Simmons was firm in reporting another giant Gulf leak, miles from Macondo. Last August, he mysteriously drowned in his bath tub - the purported cause, a heart attack. Unanswered questions remain.

On November 13, CCF said:

"We have been lied to, through and through....The gas-oil spill continues unabated (to) this day. (The well-capping) was just a 'dog & pony show' to fool the world. There is a constant need to spray" dispersants. It's ongoing daily, mainly at night but brazenly during daytime as well, according to fishermen and coastal residents.

On November 12, CCF headlined, "Mounting Evidence Points to 2 Wellheads at Macondo," saying:

Rumors suggested that "BP had drilled two wells," side by side. "Lately, (based on video evidence) we have also seen the corrosive effects of the 'potent mixture' that is pouring out not only from the broken wells but also through the crevices in the seafloor."

More Evidence of A Far Greater Disaster

Dr. Gianluigi Zangari is a theoretical physicist at Italy's National Institute of Nuclear Physics at Frascati National Laboratories. A climate research and analysis expert, he said massive amounts of Gulf oil, much on the seabed, caused a disruption of the Gulf's Loop Current. It caused a dramatic weakening in the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Current's vorticity (a mass of whirling water or air) as well as a 10C drop in North Atlantic water temperatures.

The oil/dispersants combination is causing the warm Gulf and Caribbean to die, he believes. Contaminated oil covers half the Gulf seafloor. No effective cleanup method is possible. It's also flowed up America's East Coast, into the North Atlantic, and beyond - the North Atlantic Current becoming the Norway and Canary Currents.

As a result, global waters and weather patterns have been affected. The Obama administration's irresponsible handling of the disaster may cause catastrophic fallout later on - to millions of people and the environment, including long-term (perhaps permanent) Gulf contamination.

Zangari said the Loop Current broke down around mid-May, generating "a clock wise eddy, which is still active. (Currently), the situation has deteriorated up to the point in which the eddy has detached itself completely from the main stream, therefore destroying completely the Loop Current....It is reasonable to foresee the threat that the breaking of a crucial warm stream (like) the Loop Current may generate a chain reaction of unpredictable critical phenomena and instabilities due to strong non- linearities which may have serious consequences on the dynamics of the Gulf Stream thermoregulation activity of the Global Climate."

He added that the Loop Current affects "all life on the planet. The Gulf Stream is a strong interlinked component of the global network of ocean conveyor currents, which drive" planetary weather. That, in turn, may cause droughts, floods, crop failures, and global food shortages.

His main worry is that there's "no historical precedent for the sudden replacement of a natural system, with a dysfunction man-made (one). That is, except for" nuclear bomb blasts, widespread radiation, nuclear waste contamination, and events like Chernobyl. As a result, he worries what this new phenomenon portends for the future, suggesting potentially dire planetary consequences will follow.

Other Disturbing Evidence

Experts and local residents express concern about a combination of widespread contamination, growing illnesses, and environment destruction. Besides the above, it's a lethal mixture, impacting the lives of growing millions, but government officials and media reports won't explain it.

For example, independent lab tests confirmed that Gulf seafood contains high levels toxic compounds, a combination of oil, dispersants, and other substances. After conducting tests on Gulf shrimp, Robert Naman, a chemist at Mobile, AL's ACT Labs said:

"I wouldn't eat shrimp or crab caught in the Gulf." His tests showed unusually high levels of digestive tract oil and grease at 193 parts-per-million. According to Dr. William Sawyer, a researcher at Florida's Sanibel Toxicology Consultants & Assessment Specialists:

"Once oil enters (a living organism), it can damage every organ, every system in the body. There is no safe level of exposure to this oil, because it contains carcinogens, mutagens that can damage DNA and cause cancer and other chronic health problems."

Oil/Dispersant Contaminants Killing Coral Reefs

Scientists have confirmed that Gulf coral reefs near the Macondo well site are dying, clearly from toxic contaminants. On November 5, writing for National Geographic News, Kathleen Jones (a National Geographic TV producer) said:

"Large communities of several types of bottom-dwelling coral were found covered with a dark substance at depths of about 4,600 feet near the damaged Deepwater Horizon wellhead, according to a scientific team on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ship Ronald H. Brown."

Team member Timothy Shank of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution said:

"The coral were either dead or dying, and in some cases they were simply exposed skeletons. I've never seen that before. And when we tried to take samples of the coral, this black - I don't know how to describe it - black, fluffylike substance fell off of them."

According to onboard researchers, about 90% of 40 large groups of severely damaged soft coral were discolored, dead or dying. At another site, about 1,300 feet away, a hard coral colony was also partly covered with the same substance.

Penn State University's Dr. Charles Fisher, the ship's lead scientist, said:

"Corals do die, but you don't see them die all at once. This....indicates a recent catastrophic event," clearly connected to the Macondo disaster. "The proximity of the site to the disaster, the depth of the site, the clear evidence of recent impact, and the uniqueness of the observations all suggest that the impact we have found is linked to the exposure of this community to either oil, dispersant(s), extremely depleted oxygen, or some combination of these or other water-borne effects resulting from the spill....We were looking for subtle changes....What we saw was not subtle."

For months, scientists said oil isn't degrading, its toxic ingredients to have long-term dire effects on marine life, vegetation, and humans. In August, University of South Florida (USF) oceanographer David Hollander discovered "deep-sea creatures....showing a strong toxic response to hydrocarbons..."

Hollander's USF colleague, John Paul, told National Geographic News that the coral die-off is a "smoking cannon. It doesn't surprise me. It could be the tip of the iceberg of all kinds of weird things we're going to see in the Gulf of Mexico in the next three to five years." Maybe much longer.

Dying Gulf Wildlife

For months throughout the Gulf region, reports confirmed massive fish kills, a September 14 one on a Louisiana waterway showing a picture looking more like a gravel road. In fact, it was a water surface covered with dead sea life, "a mishmash of species of fish, crabs, stingray and eel." Other accounts reported dead sea turtles, dolphins and a whale along a stretch of coastal Louisiana. In summer, fish kills are common, the result of dead zones, but nothing comparable to what's been seen, all species affected.

On November 6, the Detroit Free Press said wildlife keeps dying in the Gulf. An earlier September 14 Travel & Nature report said the Mississippi River was "brimming with dead fish near the Gulf of Mexico." Found were pogies, redfish, drum, crabs, shrimp, freshwater eel, and other species. Numerous other reports are just as disturbing, some suggesting all Gulf wildlife is threatened, and that virtually all of it is contaminated and unsafe.

Obama's Gulf Disaster Whitewash Commission

On May 22, Obama established a commission to investigate the disaster, the seven-person team headed by former EPA administrator, William Reilly and former Florida governor/senator Bob Graham. At the time, Obama said:

"We need to take a comprehensive look at how the oil and gas industry operates and how regulate them. The purpose of this commission is to consider both the root causes of the disaster and offer options on what safety and environmental precautions we need to take to prevent similar disasters from happening again."

Newly released commission findings confirm he lied. An earlier article foresaw the whitewash, accessed through the following link:

On November 8, in the wake of the greatest ever environmental crime, Fred Bartlit, the National Commission's general counsel said:

"To date, we have not seen a single instance where a human being made a conscious decision to favor dollars over safety." This about a company Public Citizen's Tyson Slocum said has "the worst safety and environmental record of any oil company operating in America." An earlier article documented it, accessed through the following link:

To settle federal, state, and civil lawsuits, it's paid out hundreds of millions in fines as well as penalties for manipulating energy markets. BP is a criminal enterprise, profits its sole concern, its rap sheet showing a disturbing pattern of willful neglect, unfulfilled promises, and utter disregard for personal or environmental safety.

Yet from day one, the Obama administration covered for its crimes, complicit in coverup, distortion, lies, and total disregard for the environment, wildlife, personal safety, and way of life for thousands, let alone permanent damage to a vital ecosystem. It showed in his commission's findings, a brazen whitewash of criminal negligence.

Daniel Becnel, a Louisiana lawyer suing BP, called the findings "absolutely absurd....pasting over (the truth) because they know the government is going to be a defendant sooner or later in this litigation."

Retired University of Alaska scientist Rick Steiner is an outspoken critic of oil industry practices. He's also a prominent member of the Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP), its agenda being:

"(a) world where equity is at the root of a dynamic harmony between people and nature, as well as among peoples, (promoting policies in accord with) livelihoods, human rights and responsibilities, human development, security, equity, and the fair and effective governance of natural resources."

Steiner was appalled at the commission's findings, calling them "the most colossally ignorant conclusion anyone could draw. (They) destroyed any credibility the commission may have had....The people and companies that run these rigs (think only of) cut(ting) costs....enhanc(ing) production and....generat(ing) more revenue in less time. Every decision they make has to do with that. The Deepwater Horizon rig was 43 days behind schedule, at about a million dollars a day. Don't tell me that this was not a persistent pressure on everybody on the rig."

"BP has had an unwritten rule here in Alaska called 'run-to-failure.' If your equipment is starting to fail, you continue to run it till it does fail, instead of stopping the operation, upgrading it, maintaining it, putting in a new gas compressor pump or piping section. There's a stigma associated with safety consciousness, and there's certainly a stigma associated with stopping work if you detect a safety lapse or problem."

Steiner added that the Macondo well was trouble-plagued from the start. Rig employees called it "the well from hell" and "nightmare well," saying "this well didn't want to be drilled." They should have plugged and abandoned it, he added. Instead they cut corners, assuring trouble. For the commission to deny this is "absurd" and criminally negligent.

The only part of its report Steiner agreed with was that a mere 3% of spilled oil was recovered. Now the media spotlight is off. Business as usual continues, "and the environment of the Gulf of Mexico (was) sacrificed for nothing."

Shockingly, Bartlit, a BP stooge, said the commission agreed with "90%" of its own internal investigation, saying:

"We see no instance where a decision-making person or group of people sat there aware of safety risks, aware of costs and opted to give up safety for costs. I've been on a lot of rigs, and I don't believe people sit there and say, 'This is really dangerous, but the guys in London will make more money.' We do not say everything done was perfectly safe. We're saying that people (didn't trade) safety for dollars. We studied the hell out of this. We welcome anybody who gives us something we missed."

The commission, in fact, missed everything, running cover for BP and the administration, its report replete with willful lies.

BP is a serial scofflaw. Yet, despite its criminal neglect history, it's allowed to conduct business as usual because of government complicity, regulatory laxity, and whitewashed commission reports. Bartlit, in fact, has long served industry interests, including the 1988 North Sea Piper Alpha disaster, drafting a 1990 inquiry that assured Occidental Petroleum faced no criminal charges. He also represented George Bush in the stolen 2000 election.

Supporting high crime pays well. Defending truth, environmental concerns, public safety and welfare is scorned and ignored at a time profits alone, not people, matter.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

posted by Steve Lendman @ 2:31 AM


7) Sticking it to the unemployed
Cutting off extended benefits for the unemployed not only hurts individuals who've been laid off but could dampen the economic recovery.
November 18, 2010,0,4893536.story

Washington is poised to stop providing extended unemployment benefits despite the huge number of laid-off workers, the paucity of job openings, the high rate of underemployment in every sector of the economy and stubbornly slow economic growth. That's because Republicans in the Senate insist that, unlike the hefty tax cuts they covet for the wealthy, the comparatively slender subsidies for the unemployed must not be financed with borrowed money. This penuriousness is not just hypocritical, it's bad economics.

The current federal program, which offers up to 73 extra weeks of unemployment benefits to idled workers, is due to expire Nov. 30. If it does, about 2 million unemployed people will have their benefits cut off in December - 411,000 of them in California. Their prospects for finding work remain unusually dim; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are still five job hunters for every opening.

Unemployment insurance not only helps keep individuals afloat after they're laid off, it counteracts an economic downturn. As economists at the Congressional Budget Office and elsewhere have noted, providing unemployment benefits is a particularly effective economic stimulus because idled workers are likely to spend their benefits rather than save them. According to one study, that spending could support nearly half a million jobs.

The downturn in the economy has been so severe that even the extended benefits haven't bought enough time for many Americans to find work. Four million people are expected to have exhausted their extended benefits by April; with so many cash-starved consumers, spending could fall again next year and dampen the recovery.

Some critics assert that lengthening the benefits period prompts people to spend more time looking for work instead of quickly taking a job that pays less and requires less skill than their previous positions. That's not a persuasive argument when there are so few jobs to be had. Regardless, attacking any disincentives to work should be done by changing the way the unemployment insurance program is designed, not by just pulling the plug on benefits.

Congress should continue to provide extended benefits at least until the unemployment rate falls from its current level - 9.6% as of October - to 7.2% or less. For the past half a century, Congress has always extended unemployment benefits until the jobless rate has fallen at least that far.

Yes, the extended benefits are costly - another year's worth would cost about $65 billion. But Republicans have shown with their stance on the Bush-era tax cuts that they have no compunction about raising the deficit for the ostensible purpose of helping the economy. And when it comes to helping the economy, unemployment benefits deliver far more bang for the buck than holding down the top marginal tax rates.


8) Unions Yield on Wage Scales to Preserve Jobs
November 19, 2010

MILWAUKEE - Organized labor appears to be losing an important battle in the Great Recession.

Even at manufacturing companies that are profitable, union workers are reluctantly agreeing to tiered contracts that create two levels of pay.

In years past, two-tiered systems were used to drive down costs in hard times, but mainly at companies already in trouble. And those arrangements, at the insistence of the unions, were designed, in most cases, to expire in a few years.

Now, the managers of some marquee companies are aiming to make this concession permanent. If they are successful, their contracts could become blueprints for other companies in other cities, extending a wage system that would be a startling retreat for labor.

Though union officials said they could not readily supply data on the practice, managers have been trying to achieve this for 30 years, with limited results. The recent auto crisis brought a two-tier system to General Motors and Chrysler. Delphi, the big parts maker, also has one now. Caterpillar, back in 2006, signed such a contract with the United Automobile Workers.

The arrangement was a fairly common means of shrinking labor costs in the recession of the early 1980s. At the end of the contracts, however, wages generally snapped back up to a single tier. At G.M., Chrysler, Delphi and Caterpillar, the wages will not be snapping back.

Nor will that happen for workers at three big manufacturers here in southeastern Wisconsin - where 15 percent of the work force is in manufacturing, a bigger proportion than any other state. These employers - Harley-Davidson, Mercury Marine and Kohler - have all but succeeded in the last year or so in erecting two-tier systems that could last well into a recovery.

"This is absolutely a surrender for labor," said Mike Masik Sr., the union leader at Harley-Davidson, the motorcycle maker, not even trying to paper over the defeat. His union recently accepted a new contract that freezes wages for existing workers for most of its seven years, lowers pay for new hires, dilutes benefits and brings temporary workers to the assembly line at even lower pay and no benefits whenever there is a rise in demand for Harley's roaring bikes.

When the proposal was put to a vote recently, Harley's blue-collar employees, most of whom belong to the powerful United Steelworkers, approved it by a decisive 53 percent to 47 percent.

Just up the highway, Mercury Marine, which makes outboard motors and marine engines, has a similar agreement with its factory workers. And the Kohler Company, another manufacturing giant in southeastern Wisconsin, famed for its gleaming bathroom fixtures, is negotiating a contract using Harley's pact as a template and, so far, getting much of its way.

"The simple economic fact is that we overproduced and now we have to burn off the excess," Matthew S. Levatich, president and chief operating officer of Harley-Davidson, said in an interview, speaking in effect for all three manufacturers. "You could say," he added, "that the new contract is a recognition of this truth on the part of our workers."

Nowhere else in the country has quite so tough a contract emerged at companies that are profitable, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. says.

"Management clearly has the upper hand in negotiations because of the employment situation," Milwaukee's mayor, Tom Barrett, said.

Mr. Barrett ran as the Democratic candidate for governor in the Nov. 2 election, losing to Scott Walker, a Republican in a state that usually votes Democratic. In interviews, several blue-collar workers said they had voted Democratic in 2008 and switched to Republican this time - mimicking the blue-collar political shift throughout the Midwest - because the Obama administration, in their view, had failed so far to help them.

The breakthrough labor agreements reflect this antipathy. They capitalize on a particularly difficult set of circumstances for blue-collar workers. In response to falling demand, the big manufacturers here have cut production and laid off thousands of employees. Many people lost jobs that had paid $22 an hour or more. Few can get work that pays as well, if they can get steady work at all, given an unemployment rate of nearly 8 percent in the area. That makes holding a job a higher priority than holding the line on pay and benefits, much less pushing for improvements, Mr. Masik said.

Increasing the pressure, Harley-Davidson and Mercury Marine, a unit of the Brunswick Corporation, publicly declared that they would move factory operations to lower-cost American cities - Stillwater, Okla., for example, or Kansas City, Mo. - if the unions failed to accept the concessions set forth in remarkably similar contracts. One provision denies laid-off or furloughed workers their old pay if they are called back; they must return as second-tier employees, earning $5 to $15 an hour less.

Mercury Marine's nearly 900 hourly workers voted last fall to reject such terms, but a few days later, they voted again and accepted them. They reversed course after the company announced that its headquarters factory, in nearby Fond du Lac, would be closed and operations consolidated in Stillwater. The Stillwater factory is now being closed instead.

Kohler officials have stopped just short of saying that they, too, will go elsewhere. They declare that if their proposals are not accepted, then "it would be very difficult and challenging for us to sustain manufacturing operations" in Sheboygan County, including those in the town of Kohler, 50 miles north of here, named for the family that founded and still dominates the company.

The alternative for the workers is to strike, thus challenging the companies in their stated determination to relocate - in effect, calling their bluff. The International Association of Machinists at Mercury Marine and the United Steelworkers at Harley-Davidson declined to take that risk, and so has the U.A.W. at Kohler, so far.

The workers themselves are convinced, their union leaders say, that the companies are prepared to move factories from the Milwaukee area, where all three came to life decades ago.

"The company stuck to its agenda," Mr. Masik said of the Harley negotiations, his voice rising, "and we ended up accepting their agenda."

Harley-Davidson actually has two very similar new contracts, one with the Machinists, who represent workers at an assembly plant in York, Pa.; the other with the Steelworkers at an engine-and-transmission factory in Greater Milwaukee. The York agreement, ratified last year and now in effect, has shrunk the core work force there by more than half, to nearly 800 full-timers, while adding 300 "casual" employees, who are union members without benefits.

The Milwaukee agreement, recently ratified, will shrink the full-time payroll to 900 from 1,250 today and more than 1,600 before the recession. Up to 250 "casuals," as in York, will be used to handle surges in demand for Harley bikes. While hourly pay under the current contract averages $31 an hour, that drops to $25 for the second tier, which becomes the only tier once all the veterans have left or retired. Casuals, in contrast, get $18.50 an hour.

The new Milwaukee contract kicks in when the current agreement expires on March 31, 2012. The union balked at negotiating so far in advance, Mr. Masik said, but conceded after the company insisted it would otherwise use the intervening months to prepare to move operations elsewhere, perhaps Kansas City. To guarantee support, Harley also incorporated into the contract $12,000 bonuses for its steelworkers, including those laid off.

Harley's president said the recession left no choice but to reorganize. Motorcycle sales are down 40 percent from their peak in 2006, Mr. Levatich said. Cutting the core staff allows Harley to slow the line during the winter months of lean demand and add "casuals" when demand picks up in the spring and summer.

"What we are doing is not mean-spirited," Mr. Levatich insisted. "We have to retool if we want to survive. We should have started doing this, in small steps, 20 years ago."


9) Haitians Plunge Into Muck to Stem Cholera
November 19, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Duquesne Fils-Aimé, stripped to the waist, stepped gingerly into the canal, drawing stares of astonishment from the spectators above. When he ducked his head under the water - if one could call it that - an audible gasp rose from the crowd.

Plastic bottles and bags, shredded underwear, shoes and endless globs of unidentifiable black muck bobbed like a fetid tarp around Mr. Fils-Aimé and his colleagues as they started another shift - cleaning out the canal by hand.

On and on they worked in the drink, making little progress but at least a little cash in a Sisyphean battle against the squalor that chokes the canals and ditches passing as sewers, causes floods of wastewater and helps spread the cholera epidemic now gripping more than half the country.

"We do the bad," Mr. Fils-Aimé, 41, said of his work, "and maybe people won't get sick."

At least there were no animal carcasses that day; the men have seen plenty of them - dogs, rats, goats. They swam a few strokes, black water slopping over them in a stench many layers thick. At one point, Mr. Fils-Aimé sat entirely supported on the filth as if shipwrecked, fishing out debris to the lucky crew member on dry land.

The job pays $112 a month, and the men are thankful for it, even though they say they sometimes go weeks without getting paid. Unemployment is so crushing here that for some, it is the first steady work they have ever had.

"I can't tell you how long I was looking for a job, so when I found this I took it," said Dieusov Étienne, 38, who has done the work for three years.

Garbage and filth overflow here, spilling from trash bins left unemptied for months and littering tent camps for earthquake refugees. When the rains come, as they did after Hurricane Tomas brushed the island on Nov. 5, the backed-up waterways spread over any vacant patch, creating an ideal home for cholera. Children splash and defecate in the water, people use it to rinse dishes and wash clothes, and some, with few options, even consume it.

In a matter of weeks, the disease has killed more than 1,000 people, hospitalized around 17,000 with choleralike symptoms and prompted violent protests against international peacekeepers, whom residents accuse of importing the illness from South Asia.

There is no sewage plant in Haiti; some hotels and private homes have their own septic systems, and entrepreneurs scour the city cleaning latrines, often dumping the waste in the most convenient canal or drainage ditch.

Even the work of cleaning the canals is a testament to the extreme difficulties of preventing cholera in a country where infrastructure was minimal long before the earthquake and where sanitation crews have to descend into the muck with hardly any tools, much less gloves or suits to protect them.

"Sometimes I get a fever and I thank the Lord I am O.K.," Mr. Fils-Aimé said.

He is well aware that cholera is carried in water, filthy water that, judging by the excrement along the banks around him, is likely to contain the feces that spread the disease. But he needs the money and tries not to think much beyond that.

"I am not worried," he said. "Whatever is going to come, is going to come."

The workers wash after work, and given the trials of so many here, they carry a sense of resignation about the risks.

"I don't care about cholera," said Odvel Étienne, 24, fresh out of the water with bits of debris sticking to his body. "We are all going to die someday."

He is the youngest of the crew of four, who are mostly middle-aged and had never worked a regular job before this.

His colleague, the elder Mr. Étienne, who is not related to Odvel, tells a typical story - of moving from farm work in the countryside to the city 15 years ago looking for better opportunities.

He moved in with relatives and depended on them. He has a wife, a 12-year-old daughter and three other relatives, and they live in an apartment that suffered little damage in the quake, making him one of Haiti's fortunates.

He got this job as most people do, through connections. A friend heard of an opening and recommended him.

"I knew what it was, but I needed the job," he said. It pays the $62 a month for private school for his daughter and supports the rest of his family.

Some, like Désiré Harry, 26, see the men in the muck and wish it were them.

"It should be my job, people my age," he complained while watching Mr. Étienne clear a culvert.

The people who gathered to watch seemed appreciative - or awestruck - over the spectacle of men essentially swimming in a cesspool.

"They are the only ones brave enough to do this," said Claude Ambroise, 44, who is also unemployed.

Brave, perhaps, does not quite capture it.

As the debris picked out of the canal grew, Élines Fedenaud, the lucky dry man, scooped it onto a pile to be picked up by a truck later, if it showed up. Often it does not, the men said, making their work that much more futile.

They have been working on the canal for a month but do not seem particularly discouraged that the garbage they have fished out continues piling up, without getting hauled away. What irked them were delays in getting paid; they sometimes went a month or more without a check.

As they worked, a passing truck blared campaign jingles to a Caribbean beat, advertisements for Jude Célestin, President René Préval's choice in the Nov. 28 presidential election.

The younger Mr. Étienne did a little jig to the music, but he scoffed at all of the 19 candidates in the race.

"The money they do for that could be money for what I am doing here," he said.

Into the putrid water they went, tossing debris out.


10) South Africa Fears Millions More H.I.V. Infections
November 19, 2010

DAVEYTON, South Africa - South Africa, already home to 5.7 million H.I.V.-positive people, more than any other nation, can expect an additional five million to become infected during the next two decades even if the nation more than doubles its already considerable financing for treatment and prevention and gives prevention a higher priority, according to a report presented here Friday to the country's leading advisory body on AIDS policy.

South Africa has far and away the continent's leading economy, but the study concludes that it nevertheless faces a "major and mounting financial challenge" to confront its AIDS problem, explaining that about $102 billion will need to be spent over the next 20 years merely to keep the number of new infections at the projected five million mark.

"The government doesn't seem to have their heads around the numbers yet, and they are going to have to do some thinking out of the box," Teresa Guthrie, an economist and one of the report's authors, said in an interview. "It's not an encouraging picture."

Actually, South Africa is in the midst of a rapid expansion of its AIDS programs, attempting to overcome years of denial and delay when former President Thabo Mbeki questioned whether H.I.V. caused AIDS. He suggested that antiretroviral drugs were harmful, and his health minister recommended remedies of beet root and garlic.

Last year, the nation spent $2.1 billion on AIDS, according to the report, though about a third of that came from international donors, including $620 million from the United States.

"We would argue that the donors really need to stay with this, and the next five years are absolutely critical," said Robert Hecht, another of the report's authors.

The government itself requested the study, which is called "The Long-Run Costs and Financing of H.I.V./AIDS in South Africa." It was done by the Center for Economic Governance and AIDS in Africa, based in Cape Town, and the Results for Development Institute, based in Washington.

Mr. Hecht, a managing director of the institute, presented the findings at a meeting of the South African National AIDS Council, a group that includes leaders from both the government and civil society.

None of the government officials at the meeting were willing to comment on the report, but Mark Heywood, the council's deputy chairman and executive director of the AIDS Law Project, which is based in Johannesburg, said later that he was "gravely concerned" about the numbers cited.

"I found it all difficult to accept," he said. "Our prevention strategy was such a mess for such a long time that I felt sure we could bring down infection rates at a faster pace now that we're working at it."

Mr. Heywood said he did not know where any extra financing would come from. "I think the budget is strained already," he said.

In the past year, the government has widely increased treatment with antiretroviral drugs and begun a campaign for counseling and testing. The report said it needed to go much further, emphasizing male circumcision, which has been shown to decrease by more than 50 percent the rate of contracting H.I.V., and the promotion of condom use.

"Things are still not being done fast enough and broadly enough," Mr. Hecht said. "The big, looming, difficult problem to crack is the general adult population and the millions of people with multiple partners and overlapping relationships. That's the big challenge for South Africa."

In South Africa, with a population of 49 million, an estimated 350,000 to 500,000 new infections occur annually, depending on the estimate. With enough money and better programs, that number could gradually be brought down to 200,000 a year, Mr. Hecht said. This can be accomplished, the report said, by 2020.


11) Haitians Barricading Streets with Coffins as Protests against U.N. Continue over Cholera Outbreak
Protests are continuing in Haiti over the cholera outbreak that has now killed more than 1,100 people and infected some 17,000. On Wednesday, residents in the city of Cap-Haïtien clashed with U.N. troops for the third consecutive day. Crowds have taken to the streets expressing anger at the Haitian government and the United Nations for failing to contain the disease. We go to Cap-Haïtien to speak with independent journalist Ansel Herz.
November 18, 2010

JUAN GONZALEZ: Protests are continuing in Haiti over the cholera outbreak that has now killed over 1,100 people and infected more than 17,000. On Wednesday, residents in the city of Cap-Haïtien clashed with U.N. troops for the third consecutive day. Crowds have taken to the streets expressing anger at the Haitian government and the U.N. for failing to contain the disease. Nepalese U.N. troops stationed in Cap-Haïtien have been accused of inadvertently bringing cholera to Haiti.

The protests reportedly started at a cemetery where cholera victims were being placed in mass graves. At least two people have been killed in clashes between demonstrators and U.N. troops. On Tuesday, the U.N. Mission in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH, said aid flights have been canceled and water purification and training projects curtailed, while food at a warehouse has been looted and burned.

AMY GOODMAN: The Pan-American Health Organization told Agence France-Presse that the cholera outbreak could kill as many as 10,000 people and cause 200,000 infections in the coming year.

Meanwhile, the disease has spread beyond Haiti's borders. The Dominican Republic confirmed it had detected its first case of cholera, and officials in Florida have confirmed the first case in the United States.

For more, we go to Haiti right now to speak with independent journalist Ansel Herz. He's in the city of Cap-Haïtien, where the protests are taking place.

Ansel, welcome to Democracy Now! Tell us what's happening in Cap-Haïtien.

ANSEL HERZ: Right now, I'm stationed in the downtown public square here in Cap-Haïtien. It's the second-largest city here in Haiti on the northern coast. And things are-appear to be pretty calm here in the downtown. Today is actually a holiday. It's National Flag Day, and it commemorates a huge battle that was waged in 1803 in Haiti's independence struggle.

But as I came into the city yesterday, there were barricades almost every couple hundred of yards on the main highway coming into Cap-Haïtien. There were young men, as well as women, around a lot of these barricades. I had a few rocks thrown at me. But as I got closer, I flashed my press badge, and I tried to make clear that I wasn't with the U.N. peacekeeping mission, and immediately I was sort of hustled through a lot of these barricades. And they're actually still in the streets. A lot of them are not manned at the moment. But people are saying that because today is this national holiday commemorating Haiti's independence struggle, they expect the protesters to come out again in the next few hours.

And I'll add, too, that, reportedly, a third person has been killed by U.N. troops here in the city. That happened yesterday. I actually went by a back street here in Cap-Haïtien, where protesters had dug a trench as a barricade, basically, and a MINUSTAH vehicle, a peacekeeping vehicle, fell into the trench. And I'm told by witnesses and by Haitian journalists here that when the vehicle fell in, Chilean peacekeepers sort of came under attack, I guess, or a barrage of bottles, rocks-the population-and that the troops responded with gunfire and shot an innocent young man just in his house. And so, reportedly, they took his body over to the mayor's office, actually, and left it there. And again, meanwhile, there are still barricades here in the street, and some of them are actually made of coffins, and protesters told me that there are cholera victims inside.

AMY GOODMAN: We're asking listeners and viewers to bear with the phone sound, but we just think it's absolutely critical to get this information out of Cape Haitian, or Cap-Haïtien. Juan?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Ansel, I'd like to ask you, in terms of-it's clear that the U.N. peacekeepers, if they were the source, and likely were, of the outbreak of the cholera, didn't do it deliberately, but there has been a growing resentment for years now among the Haitian people to U.N.-the presence of U.N. peacekeepers. Can you talk about the roots of this animosity?

ANSEL HERZ: Sure. I mean, it's been interesting to see how the U.N. here has responded to these riots, because they-and protests, because they've actually claimed that people are sort of being manipulated and that it's not a legitimate sort of spontaneous political movement. But, of course, I was here in this city a year ago, actually, and I was interviewing people on the street, and they were telling-there were protests at that time, peaceful protests, against U.N. peacekeepers. And they were telling me that they were tired of an occupation in their country, that the peacekeepers have an enormous budget, but very little of it is spent on, you know, concrete humanitarian activity that could actually improve education and healthcare in this country.

And, of course, also, back in August, a young boy, a 16-year-old boy, was found hanging from a tree inside a U.N. peacekeeping base here in Cap-Haïtien. That's a story that's been totally ignored by basically the entire U.S. media. And U.N. troops claim that he committed suicide. But people just across from the base at a hotel said that they heard his screams. They heard that he was being strangled. And there's a lot of suspicion that he was, in fact, murdered by peacekeepers for maybe stealing a small amount of money. And then recently a group of civil society organizations wrote a letter to the U.N. peacekeepers demanding an independent investigation and condemning what they called the U.N.'s obstruction into justice for that case. And after that death, there were weeks of protests, peaceful protests, here in Cap-Haïtien. So, the idea that these are sort of manipulated protests, that people are being used, I think, doesn't hold water. There have been longstanding accusations against the peacekeeping mission here for abusing Haitians and for lacking transparent investigations into any of these alleged human rights violations.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And what about the upcoming elections and the difficulty of holding an election, given the calamities that have befallen Haiti in the past year?

ANSEL HERZ: I mean, there was a recent report from CARICOM that thousands and thousands of people who died in the earthquake are still on the voter rolls. Of course, the cholera epidemic is spreading. It's been epidemic, basically, throughout the country. It was allowed to spread out of the central region where it began and is now in all ten of the provinces. And, you know, even before the cholera outbreak began, you had very regular protests in Port-au-Prince by people in the tent camps, people who have been displaced for the past ten months, who lost their homes in the earthquake and have not been given any kind of new housing. And their rallying cry, again and again, has been "We are not going to vote while we're under tents and tarps." And so, I think the prospects for holding credible election, where you have a considerable participation, are pretty low.

Of course, one of the largest parties in the country, Fanmi Lavalas, the party of the ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was overturned in a 2004 coup, that party is being totally excluded from the election on what would appear to be just political grounds. And it's been part of excluding that entire movement since Aristide was ousted. And so, I just think this election is likely to be a sham affair. And yet, the candidates, as well as the Haitian government itself, are insisting-and the United Nations, as well-are insisting that this election is going to go forward on November 28th.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, again, the United States holding back more than-the U.S. Congress holding back more than a billion dollars in aid to Haiti. What is the effect of this, Ansel?

ANSEL HERZ: Well, the effect is that you have at least 1.3 million people still living in these-in tent camps, where independent studies by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, as well as others, have found that, you know, 30 or 40 percent of these camps don't have any regular clean water, don't have toilets. And so, you know, I've heard people say that Haiti is unlucky to be hit by cholera, that it's somehow sort of a tragedy it couldn't have been prevented. But the fact is, you know, NGOs, private charity groups raised billions of dollars in relief funds for earthquake victims after the January 12th earthquake, and very little of it has been sent.

Just one example is the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, headed by Presidents Clinton and Bush. It was inaugurated by President Obama right after the earthquake. They dispersed only $6 million out of around $50 million that they raised. And so, the continuing effect is that you just have a exacerbated humanitarian crisis on top of Haiti's decades of poverty. And it doesn't seem likely to end anytime soon, unless there's a really serious reevaluation of the way NGOs, in tandem with the United Nations, operate in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: Ansel Herz, we want to thank you very much for being with us, independent journalist, has lived in Haiti for more than a year. He's speaking to us from Cap-Haïtien, from Cape Haitian, in Haiti.


12) Errors kill 15,000 aged US patients a month-study
* Mistakes cost Medicare $324 million in a single month
* 134,000 adverse events in month studied
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor
Tue Nov 16, 2010 4:55pm EST

WASHINGTON, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Mistakes and unavoidable problems kill an estimated 15,000 elderly U.S. patients every month in hospitals, U.S. government investigators reported on Tuesday.

More than 13 percent of patients covered by Medicare, the government health insurance for the elderly, or about 134,000 people monthly have some sort of so-called adverse event each month. These include mistakes such as surgical errors or sometimes unavoidable problems such as an infection spread in the hospital, or patients having their blood sugar fall to unusually low levels.

The new numbers, which total about 180,000 deaths a year, were presented in a report by the Office of Inspector General at the Health and Human Services Department. They support findings of a landmark Institute of Medicine report in 2000 that said up to 98,000 Americans died every year because of medical errors.

"An estimated 13.5 percent of hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries experienced adverse events during their hospital stays," the OIG said in the report, available here

It said 44 percent of the problems were avoidable.

The OIG team worked by examining a nationally representative random sample of 780 Medicare beneficiaries discharged from a hospital in October 2008.

"Hospital care associated with adverse and temporary harm events cost Medicare an estimated $324 million in October 2008," the report concludes.

President Barack Obama has said his signature healthcare reform legislation will help reduce errors with measures such as wider use of electronic medical records.

Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports magazine, said patients needed ways of learning which hospitals make the most errors.

"This report shows that hospital patients are being harmed by medical errors at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, most Americans have no way of knowing whether their hospital is doing a good job preventing medical errors," the group's Lisa McGiffert said in a statement.

The OIG report recommends that two HHS agencies -- the Agency for Healthcare research and Quality and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services -- should do more to encourage reporting of adverse events, and broaden the definition so that trends can be identified.

Both agencies said they would.

Rich Umbdenstock, president of the American Hospital Association, said hospitals would work to improve.

"Hospitals are already engaged in important projects designed to improve patient care in many of the areas mentioned in the report. We are committed to taking additional needed steps to improve patient care," Umbdenstock said in a statement. (Editing by Cynthia Osterman)


13) U of California In Crisis: Campus Cop Draws Gun on Student Protesters
By Angus Johnston
Historian of student activism, founder of
Posted: November 18, 2010 11:21 AM

For nearly two years now, the University of California has been criminalizing peaceful student protest. University officials have arrested activists as they slept quietly in a campus building, resting after a day of hosting workshops and seminars during a pre-finals study period. Campus police have used batons and tasers and pepper spray on protesters who meant them no harm and posed no physical threat. The university has distorted and abused its student conduct policies, deploying judicial sanction to suppress lawful dissent.

And all the while the dismantling of public higher education in California has rolled on. The state's governor and legislature have at times responded to the activists' passionate defense of their institution, but the institution itself has not.

The administration of the University of California has hollowed out the space at the heart of the university where productive dialogue and robust disputation should reside. They have thwarted students' efforts to devise a creative, productive response to the current crisis, to build common cause in the shaping of the educational community. (The faculty, meanwhile, have mostly stayed silent and disengaged.)

And now a campus police officer has drawn his gun and pointed it at students who, seeing no alternative, were -- in the words of Berkeley's own son -- putting their bodies upon the wheels and upon the apparatus, trying to make it stop.

The chief of the University of California San Francisco Police Department says the students took the officer's baton. But video footage shows that officer standing alone, apart from the crowd, letting the baton fall from his own hand as he draws his weapon. She says that a student beat the officer with that baton. But video footage of the five-second scuffle that preceded the officer's act shows no such beating. She says someone yelled "take the gun." But video footage shows nothing but confusion in the moments before the gun was drawn, confusion that turned to shock and fear as the weapon appeared.

And yet the chief of the University of San Francisco Police Department says the officer who drew his gun and pointed it at a group of rowdy but fundamentally non-violent student protesters showed "great restraint."

Forty years ago, in the spring of 1970, law enforcement agents twice opened fire at angry student demonstrators on American college campuses -- first at Kent State University in Ohio, and then, ten days later, at Jackson State College in Mississippi. Six students were killed. Twenty-one others were wounded by gunfire. One remains paralyzed to this day.

In the wake of those killings Richard Nixon appointed a presidential commission to study the crisis in the nation's universities, and when that commission published its report a few months later, it called the Kent State and Jackson State shootings "unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable." A nation "driven to use the weapons of war upon its youth," the commission declared, "is a nation on the edge of chaos. A nation that has lost the allegiance of its youth is a nation that has lost part of its future."

California in 2010 is not Ohio or Mississippi in 1970, of course. Two years ago I would have scoffed at such a comparison.

I'm not scoffing today.

Today I'm worried. Today I'm sad. Today I'm angry.

Cross-posted on

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14) Beyond '1984': New Frontiers of Mass Surveillance
By Elliot D. Cohen
Mass Surveillance and State Control: The Total Information Awareness Project
By Elliot D. Cohen
Palgrave Macmillan, 258 pages
Posted on Nov 18, 2010

Does the notion of remote-controlled soldiers-the fully human kind-seem only a sci-fi vision or the product of someone's paranoid imagination? Guess again: There's a project in the works as the military and big business join forces to make privacy a thing of the past, according to Elliot D. Cohen, whose new book, "Mass Surveillance and State Control: The Total Information Awareness Project," is excerpted below.
* * *

Elliot D. Cohen, "Mass Surveillance and State Control," published 2010, Palgrave Macmillan, reproduced with permission of Palgrave Macmillan.

Surveillance cameras have finite ranges within which they can track a person. However, there are currently other technologies that can be used to track people in real time, which are not constrained by location.

Radio Frequency ID Technologies and Government Surveillance

One such technology is Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) microchips, which can be smaller than a grain of sand. These devices have the capacity to store data, which can be read at a distance by an RFID reader. Like our cell phones, the emerging technology also has GPS capacity and can thus be used to locate and track a person or object carrying the device. ...

Now RFID chips are also being implanted in human beings, not just human artifacts. In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of RFID chips for subcutaneous implantation in patients in hospitals, which could be used by medical staff to access computerized patient information such as the patient' medical history. The maker of this chip, Verichip, has also lobbied the Department of Defense to embed RFID chips in soldiers to replace the standard "dog tags." Other human applications include implanting them in children, and even in prisoners.

... In fact, the London justice department has begun to explore the idea of using a hypodermic needle to inject such devices into the back of the arms of certain inmates, such as sex offenders, then releasing them from prison, thereby freeing up space in overcrowded British prisons. The prisoners would be tracked by satellite and barred from entering certain "safe" zones such as schools, playgrounds, and former victims' homes.

An Emerging Internet of Humans

One wave of research concerns the creation of "an internet of things" whereby RFID interfaces are constructed between cyberspace and physical objects, thereby permitting two-way exchanges between online software technologies and databases, on the one end, and objects in the material world, on the other end. Thereby, these objects can be identified, tracked, traced, monitored, and controlled.

The "internet of things" project began as a research project by Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Auto-ID Labs to help the Department of Defense precisely track and control billions of dollars of military inventory; but there is already concern by prominent technology watchdog organizations, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, that the government may also have designs on using such systems for purposes of monitoring and collecting information on peoples' interests, habits, and activities through the things that they purchase.

... Further, since RFID chips have already begun to be embedded in human beings, the progressive development of such a project may come to embrace human beings along with physical objects. Thus, with the advance of an "internet of things," human beings, like physical inventory, might be "tagged" with an RFID chip and systematically tracked, traced, monitored, and controlled. ...

Are such possibilities speculative? Yes, but the potential of RFID technologies to become an incredibly oppressive kind of surveillance is not speculative. As was discussed in the preceding chapters, there is now a trend for government to override privacy for the sake of "winning the war on terror." Viewed in this light, it would be presumptuous to think that such technology would not be so used-at least if government does not depart from its current tendency to abridge the right to privacy in the name of national security. ...

The DARPA/IBM Global Brain Surveillance Initiative

Going beyond monitoring such aspects of human life as behavior, electronic messaging, and geographical location is the direct monitoring of people's mental aspects, such as their thoughts, perceptions, and emotions. In December 2008, IBM and collaborators from several major universities were awarded US$4.9 million from DARPA to launch the first phase of its "Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) initiative." Under this grant, IBM has launched its "cognitive computing initiative" to develop a (literal) "global brain." ...

The enormity of this project is glaring. Nonetheless, its intentions seem clear, and they include, among other things, the global monitoring of human beings' most intimate and personal space: what is going on inside their minds; and then what is going on inside their organizations, their homes, and even their cars. ...

... In 2004, DARPA funded a US$19 million program led by a Duke University neurobiologist, Miguel Nicolelis, in which a monkey was able to control a remote robotic arm hundreds of miles away, through a two-way wireless interaction between the monkey's cerebral cortex and the robotic arm. DARPA's military goals for this project included giving combat soldiers the power to remotely control military equipment and weapons at a distance through such brain machine interfaces (BMI). As was mentioned in Chapter 1, another goal of DARPA is to remotely control the soldiers themselves through the use of peripheral devices wirelessly interfacing with their brains, including remotely controlling natural emotions, such as fear, and feelings, such as that of fatigue, in combat situations. ...

Here, there are profound implications for DARPA/IBM's cognitive computing initiative to build a "global brain." If sensors that monitor and control soldiers' motor and sensory brain activities were "plugged into" a global brain through BMI interfaces, the possibility would emerge of remotely controlling and coordinating an entire army of soldiers by networking their individual brains. ... The stored data and supercomputing capabilities could then ... give an army a marked, logistical advantage over a nonnetworked opponent. Of course, this advantage would be purchased at the expense of turning human soldiers into military robots plugged into a literal network of remotely controlled fighting machines. There would be little left that would make them distinctively human. ...

... But why limit BMI technology when it could also be used to improve parenting skills; exponentially expand individual intellects and knowledge bases; and eliminate or greatly reduce accidents on the highways, criminal activities, and, of course, "win the war on terror." In other words, why not make BMI/global brain technologies mainstream? ...


15) Tigers Could Be Extinct in 12 Years if Unprotected
Filed at 10:53 a.m. EST
November 21, 2010

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) - Wild tigers could become extinct in 12 years if countries where they still roam fail to take quick action to protect their habitats and step up the fight against poaching, global wildlife experts told a "tiger summit" Sunday.

The World Wildlife Fund and other experts say only about 3,200 tigers remain in the wild, a dramatic plunge from an estimated 100,000 a century ago.

James Leape, director general of the World Wildlife Fund, told the meeting in St. Petersburg that if the proper protective measures aren't taken, tigers may disappear by 2022, the next Chinese calendar year of the tiger.

Their habitat is being destroyed by forest cutting and construction, and they are a valuable trophy for poachers who want their skins and body parts prized in Chinese traditional medicine.

The summit approved a wide-ranging program with the goal of doubling the world's tiger population in the wild by 2022 backed by governments of the 13 countries that still have tiger populations: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam and Russia.

The Global Tiger Recovery Program estimates the countries will need about $350 million in outside funding in the first five years of the 12-year plan. The summit will be seeking donor commitments to help governments finance conservation measures.

"For most people tigers are one of the wonders of the world," Leape told The Associated Press. "In the end, the tigers are the inspiration and the flagship for much broader efforts to conserve forests and grasslands."

The program aims to protect tiger habitats, eradicate poaching, smuggling, and illegal trade of tigers and their parts, and also create incentives for local communities to engage them in helping protect the big cats.

The summit, which runs through Wednesday, is hosted by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has used encounters with tigers and other wild animals to bolster his image. It's driven by the Global Tiger Initiative which was launched two years ago by World Bank President Robert Zoellick.

Leape said that along with a stronger action against poaching, it's necessary to set up specialized reserves for tigers and restore and conserve forests outside them to let tigers expand.

"And you have to find a way to make it work for the local communities so that they would be partners in tigers conservation and benefit from them," Leape said.

"To save tigers you need to save the forests, grasslands and lots of other species," he added. "But at the same time you are also conserving the foundations of the societies who live there. Their economy depends very much on the food, water and materials they get from those forests."

About 30 percent of the program's cost would go toward suppressing the poaching of tigers and of the animals they prey on.

Russia's Natural Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev said that Russia and China will create a protected area for tigers alongside their border and pool resources to combat poaching.

Leape said that for some of the nations involved outside financing would be essential to fulfill the goals.

"We need to see signficant commitment by the multilateral and bilateral indsitutions like the Global Environment Facility and the World Bank plus individual governments like the U.S. and Germany," Leape told the AP.

For advocates, saving tigers has implications far beyond the emotional appeal of preserving a graceful and majestic animal.

"Wild tigers are not only a symbol of all that is splendid, mystical and powerful about nature," the Global Tiger Initiative said in a statement. "The loss of tigers and degradation of their ecosystems would inevitably result in a historic, cultural, spiritual, and environmental catastrophe for the tiger range countries."

Three of the nine tiger subspecies - the Bali, Javan, and Caspian - already have become extinct in the past 70 years.

Much has been done recently to try to save tigers, but conservation groups say their numbers and habitats have continued to fall, by 40 percent in the past decade alone.

In part, that decline is because conservation efforts have been increasingly diverse and often aimed at improving habitats outside protected areas where tigers can breed, according to a study published in September in the Popular Library of Science Biology journal.

Putin has done much to draw attention to tigers' plight. During a visit to a wildlife preserve in 2008, he shot a female tiger with a tranquilizer gun and helped place a transmitter around her neck as part of a program to track the rare cats.

Later in the year, Putin was given a 2-month-old female Siberian tiger for his birthday. State television showed him at his home gently petting the cub, which was curled up in a wicker basket with a tiger-print cushion. The tiger now lives in a zoo in southern Russia.


16) Leaking Siberian Ice Raises a Tricky Climate Issue
Filed at 10:36 a.m. EST
November 21, 2010

CHERSKY, Russia (AP) - The Russian scientist shuffles across the frozen lake, scuffing aside ankle-deep snow until he finds a cluster of bubbles trapped under the ice. With a cigarette lighter in one hand and a knife in the other, he lances the ice like a blister. Methane whooshes out and bursts into a thin blue flame.

Gas locked inside Siberia's frozen soil and under its lakes has been seeping out since the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago. But in the past few decades, as the Earth has warmed, the icy ground has begun thawing more rapidly, accelerating the release of methane - a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide - at a perilous rate.

Some scientists believe the thawing of permafrost could become the epicenter of climate change. They say 1.5 trillion tons of carbon, locked inside icebound earth since the age of mammoths, is a climate time bomb waiting to explode if released into the atmosphere.

"Here, total carbon storage is like all the rain forests of our planet put together," says the scientist, Sergey Zimov - "here" being the endless sweep of snow and ice stretching toward Siberia's gray horizon, as seen from Zimov's research facility nearly 350 kilometers (220 miles) above the Arctic Circle.

Climate change moves back to center-stage on Nov. 29 when governments meet in Cancun, Mexico, to try again to thrash out a course of counteractions. But U.N. officials hold out no hope the two weeks of talks will lead to a legally binding accord governing carbon emissions, seen is the key to averting what is feared might be a dramatic change in climate this century.

Most climate scientists, with a few dissenters, say human activities - the stuff of daily life like driving cars, producing electricity or raising cattle - is overloading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide, methane and other gases that trap heat, causing a warming effect.

But global warming is amplified in the polar regions. What feels like a modest temperature rise is enough to induce Greenland glaciers to retreat, Arctic sea ice to thin and contract in summer, and permafrost to thaw faster, both on land and under the seabed.

Yet awareness of methane leaks from permafrost is so new that it was not even mentioned in the seminal 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned of rising sea levels inundating coastal cities, dramatic shifts in rainfall disrupting agriculture and drinking water, the spread of diseases and the extinction of species.

"In my view, methane is a serious sleeper out there that can pull us over the hump," said Robert Corell, an eminent U.S. climate change researcher and Arctic specialist. Corell, speaking by telephone from a conference in Miami, said he and other U.S. scientists are pushing Washington to deploy satellites to gather more information on methane leaks.

The lack of data over a long period of time casts uncertainty over the extent of the threat. An article last August in the journal Science quoted several experts as saying it's too early to predict whether Arctic methane will be the tipping point.

"Arctic Armageddon Needs More Science, Less Hype," was its headline.

Studies indicate that cold-country dynamics on climate change are complex. The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, a scientific body set up by the eight Arctic rim countries, says overall the Arctic is absorbing more carbon dioxide than it releases.

"Methane is a different story," said its 2009 report. The Arctic is responsible for up to 9 percent of global methane emissions. Other methane sources include landfills, livestock and fossil fuel production.

Katey Walter Anthony, of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has been measuring methane seeps in Arctic lakes in Alaska, Canada and Russia, starting here around Chersky 10 years ago.

She was stunned to see how much methane was leaking from holes in the sediment at the bottom of one of the first lakes she visited. "On some days it looked like the lake was boiling," she said. Returning each year, she noticed this and other lakes doubling in size as warm water ate into the frozen banks.

"The edges of the lake look like someone eating a cookie. The permafrost gets digested in the guts of the lake and burps out as methane," she said in an interview in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, en route to a field trip in Greenland and Scandinavia.

More than 50 billion tons could be unleashed from Siberian lakes alone, more than 10 times the amount now in the atmosphere, she said.

But the rate of defrosting is hard to assess with the data at hand.

"If permafrost were to thaw suddenly, in a flash, it would put a tremendous amount of carbon in the atmosphere. We would feel temperatures warming across the globe. And that would be a big deal," she said. But it may not happen so quickly. "Depending on how slow permafrost thaws, its effect on temperature across the globe will be different," she said.

Permafrost is defined as ground that has stayed below freezing for more than two consecutive summers. In fact, most of Siberia and the rest of the Arctic, covering one-fifth of the Earth's land surface, have been frozen for millennia.

During the summer, the ground can defrost to a depth of several feet, turning to sludge and sometimes blossoming into vast fields of grass and wildflowers. Below that thin layer, however, the ground remains frozen, sometimes encased in ice dozens or even hundreds of meters (yards) thick.

As the Earth warms, the summer thaw bites a bit deeper, awakening ice-age microbes that attack organic matter - vegetation and animal remains - buried where oxygen cannot reach, producing methane that gurgles to the surface and into the air.

The newly released methane adds to the greenhouse effect, trapping yet more heat which deepens the next thaw, in a spiraling cycle of increasing warmth.

Curbing man-made methane emissions could slow this process, said Walter Anthony.

"We have an incentive to reduce our fossil fuel emissions. By doing so, we can reduce the warming that's occurring in the Arctic and potentially put some brakes on permafrost thaw," she said.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in its 2010 Arctic Report Card issued last month, said the average temperature of the permafrost has been rising for decades, but noted "a significant acceleration" in the last five years at many spots on the Arctic coast.

One of those spots would be Chersky, an isolated town on the bank of the Kolyma River at the mouth of the East Siberia Sea.

The ground in this remote corner of the world, 6,600 kilometers (4,000 miles) east of Moscow, has warmed about 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) in the last five years, to about -5 C (23 F?) today, says Zimov, director of the internationally funded Northeast Science Station, which is about three kilometers (2 miles) from town.

The warming is causing the landscape to buckle under his feet.

"I live here more than 30 years. ... There are many (dirt) roads in our region which I used or built myself, but now I can't use anymore. Now they look like canyons," he says.

Buildings, too, collapse. The school in Chersky, a Soviet-era structure with a tall bronze statue of Karl Marx on its doorstep, was abandoned several years ago when the walls began to crack as the foundations gave way.

The northern Siberian soil, called yedoma, covers 1.8 million square kilometers (700,000 sq. miles) and is particularly unstable. Below the surface are vertical wedges of ice, as if 15-story-high icicles had been hammered into the soft ground, rich in decaying vegetation, over thousands of years.

As the air warms, the tops of the wedges melt and create depressions in the land. Water either forms a lake or runs off to lower ground, creating a series of steep hillocks and gullies. During summer, lakeside soil may erode and tumble into the water, settling on the bottom where bacteria eat it and cough up yet more methane.

The process takes a long time, but Zimov has done a simulation by bulldozing trees and scraping off moss and surface soil from 1 hectare (2.5 acres) of former larch forest, rendering it as if it had been leveled by fire.

Seven years later the previously flat terrain is carved up with crevices 10 to 15 feet (3 to 5 meters) deep, creating a snowy badlands.

Gazing across a white river to the apartment blocks on a distant hill, Zimov said, "In another 30 years all of Chersky will look like this."


17) Consumer Risks Feared as Health Law Spurs Mergers
November 20, 2010

WASHINGTON - When Congress passed the health care law, it envisioned doctors and hospitals joining forces, coordinating care and holding down costs, with the prospect of earning government bonuses for controlling costs.

Now, eight months into the new law there is a growing frenzy of mergers involving hospitals, clinics and doctor groups eager to share costs and savings, and cash in on the incentives. They, in turn, have deployed a small army of lawyers and lobbyists trying to persuade the Obama administration to relax or waive a body of older laws intended to thwart health care monopolies, and to protect against shoddy care and fraudulent billing of patients or Medicare.

Consumer advocates fear that the health care law could worsen some of the very problems it was meant to solve - by reducing competition, driving up costs and creating incentives for doctors and hospitals to stint on care, in order to retain their cost-saving bonuses.

"The new law is already encouraging a wave of mergers, joint ventures and alliances in the health care industry," said Prof. Thomas L. Greaney, an expert on health and antitrust law at St. Louis University. "The risk that dominant providers and dominant insurers may exercise their market power, individually or jointly, has never been greater."

Lobbyists and industry groups are bearing down on the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department, which enforce the antitrust laws, and the inspector general's office at the Department of Health and Human Services, which ferrets out Medicare fraud.

Those agencies are writing regulations to govern the new entities, known as accountable care organizations. They face a delicate task: balancing the potential benefits of clinical cooperation with the need to enforce fraud, abuse and antitrust laws.

"If accountable care organizations end up stifling rather than unleashing competition," said Jon Leibowitz, the chairman of the trade commission, "we will have let one of the great opportunities for health care reform slip away."

Congress's purpose was to foster cooperation in a health care system that is notoriously fragmented. The hope was that the new law would push doctors, hospitals and other health care providers to come together and jointly take responsibility for the cost and quality of care of patients, especially Medicare beneficiaries.

Experts say patients can benefit from a network of care and greater coordination between doctors and hospitals.

On Tuesday, the Obama administration established a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, to test new ways of coordinating and paying for services, in addition to the accountable care organizations.

Hospitals have taken the lead in forming these new entities.

Johns Hopkins Medicine, which operates a hospital in Baltimore and 25 clinics in Maryland, has just acquired Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, 16 months after acquiring Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md.

"This is being driven largely by health care reform, which demands an integrated regional network," said Gary M. Stephenson, a Johns Hopkins spokesman.

In Kentucky, three of the largest hospital networks are negotiating a merger, prompted in part by the new law. In upstate New York, three regional health care systems are seeking federal permission to merge their operations, which include hospitals, clinics and nursing homes in Albany and surrounding counties.

With potential efficiencies come incentives for doctors and hospitals to control costs, and a potential for abuse. Judith A. Stein, director of the nonprofit Center for Medicare Advocacy, said she was concerned that some care organizations would try to hold down costs by "cherry-picking healthier patients and denying care when it's needed."

Under the law, Medicare can penalize organizations that avoid high-risk, high-cost patients.

Peter W. Thomas, a lawyer for the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, a national advocacy group, expressed concern about the impact on patients.

"In an environment where health care providers are financially rewarded for keeping costs down," he said, "anyone who has a disability or a chronic condition, anyone who requires specialized or complex care, needs to worry about getting access to appropriate technology, medical devices and rehabilitation. You don't want to save money on the backs of people with disabilities and chronic conditions."

Nearly one-fourth of Medicare beneficiaries have five or more chronic conditions. They account for two-thirds of the program's spending.

Elizabeth B. Gilbertson, chief strategist of a union health plan for hotel and restaurant employees, also worries that the consolidation of health care providers could lead to higher prices.

"In some markets," Ms. Gilbertson said, "the dominant hospital is like the sun at the center of the solar system. It owns physician groups, surgery centers, labs and pharmacies. Accountable care organizations bring more planets into the system and strengthen the bonds between them, making the whole entity more powerful, with a commensurate ability to raise prices."

She added, "That is a terrible threat."

Doctors and hospitals say the promise of these organizations cannot be fully realized unless they get broad waivers and exemptions from the government.

The American Medical Association has urged federal officials to "provide explicit exceptions to the antitrust laws" for doctors who participate in the new entities. The F.T.C. has accused doctors in many parts of the country of trying to fix prices by collectively negotiating fees - even though the doctors do not share financial risk and are supposedly competing with one another.

Hospitals and doctors have also asked the administration to waive laws intended to prevent fraud and abuse in Medicare.

In a recent letter to federal officials, Charles N. Kahn III, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, said, "To provide a fertile field to develop truly innovative, coordinated-care models, the fraud and abuse laws should be waived altogether."

These laws are an impediment and, in some cases, "a total barrier" to creation of accountable care organizations, Mr. Kahn said, making it difficult for hospitals to reward doctors for cutting costs or following best practices.

Similar legal concerns arise when health care providers want to divide up a lump sum of money provided for an episode of care. The new law encourages such "bundled payments," which may cover the services of hospitals and doctors, as well as nursing homes and home care agencies.

One of the laws, intended to protect consumers, says that a hospital cannot knowingly make a payment to a doctor "as an inducement to reduce or limit services" to Medicare or Medicaid patients. Hospitals that do so, and doctors who accept them, are subject to civil fines up to $2,000 per patient and can be barred from Medicare and Medicaid.

Other laws broadly restrict financial relationships between hospitals and doctors. With some exceptions, it is a crime to pay "any remuneration" intended to induce or reward the referral of Medicare and Medicaid patients to a particular care provider.

A major purpose of accountable care organizations is to encourage doctors to work closely with selected hospitals, and the rewards paid to doctors - typically, a percentage of the money saved - could run afoul of this law, hospitals and doctors say.

Dr. Donald M. Berwick, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, hails the benefits of "integrated care." But, Dr. Berwick said, "we need to assure both patients and society at large that destructive, exploitative and costly forms of collusion and monopolistic behaviors do not emerge and thrive, disguised as cooperation."


18) Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction
November 21, 2010

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. - On the eve of a pivotal academic year in Vishal Singh's life, he faces a stark choice on his bedroom desk: book or computer?

By all rights, Vishal, a bright 17-year-old, should already have finished the book, Kurt Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle," his summer reading assignment. But he has managed 43 pages in two months.

He typically favors Facebook, YouTube and making digital videos. That is the case this August afternoon. Bypassing Vonnegut, he clicks over to YouTube, meaning that tomorrow he will enter his senior year of high school hoping to see an improvement in his grades, but without having completed his only summer homework.

On YouTube, "you can get a whole story in six minutes," he explains. "A book takes so long. I prefer the immediate gratification."

Students have always faced distractions and time-wasters. But computers and cellphones, and the constant stream of stimuli they offer, pose a profound new challenge to focusing and learning.

Researchers say the lure of these technologies, while it affects adults too, is particularly powerful for young people. The risk, they say, is that developing brains can become more easily habituated than adult brains to constantly switching tasks - and less able to sustain attention.

"Their brains are rewarded not for staying on task but for jumping to the next thing," said Michael Rich, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and executive director of the Center on Media and Child Health in Boston. And the effects could linger: "The worry is we're raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently."

But even as some parents and educators express unease about students' digital diets, they are intensifying efforts to use technology in the classroom, seeing it as a way to connect with students and give them essential skills. Across the country, schools are equipping themselves with computers, Internet access and mobile devices so they can teach on the students' technological territory.

It is a tension on vivid display at Vishal's school, Woodside High School, on a sprawling campus set against the forested hills of Silicon Valley. Here, as elsewhere, it is not uncommon for students to send hundreds of text messages a day or spend hours playing video games, and virtually everyone is on Facebook.

The principal, David Reilly, 37, a former musician who says he sympathizes when young people feel disenfranchised, is determined to engage these 21st-century students. He has asked teachers to build Web sites to communicate with students, introduced popular classes on using digital tools to record music, secured funding for iPads to teach Mandarin and obtained $3 million in grants for a multimedia center.

He pushed first period back an hour, to 9 a.m., because students were showing up bleary-eyed, at least in part because they were up late on their computers. Unchecked use of digital devices, he says, can create a culture in which students are addicted to the virtual world and lost in it.

"I am trying to take back their attention from their BlackBerrys and video games," he says. "To a degree, I'm using technology to do it."

The same tension surfaces in Vishal, whose ability to be distracted by computers is rivaled by his proficiency with them. At the beginning of his junior year, he discovered a passion for filmmaking and made a name for himself among friends and teachers with his storytelling in videos made with digital cameras and editing software.

He acts as his family's tech-support expert, helping his father, Satendra, a lab manager, retrieve lost documents on the computer, and his mother, Indra, a security manager at the San Francisco airport, build her own Web site.

But he also plays video games 10 hours a week. He regularly sends Facebook status updates at 2 a.m., even on school nights, and has such a reputation for distributing links to videos that his best friend calls him a "YouTube bully."

Several teachers call Vishal one of their brightest students, and they wonder why things are not adding up. Last semester, his grade point average was 2.3 after a D-plus in English and an F in Algebra II. He got an A in film critique.

"He's a kid caught between two worlds," said Mr. Reilly - one that is virtual and one with real-life demands.

Vishal, like his mother, says he lacks the self-control to favor schoolwork over the computer. She sat him down a few weeks before school started and told him that, while she respected his passion for film and his technical skills, he had to use them productively.

"This is the year," she says she told him. "This is your senior year and you can't afford not to focus."

It was not always this way. As a child, Vishal had a tendency to procrastinate, but nothing like this. Something changed him.

Growing Up With Gadgets

When he was 3, Vishal moved with his parents and older brother to their current home, a three-bedroom house in the working-class section of Redwood City, a suburb in Silicon Valley that is more diverse than some of its elite neighbors.

Thin and quiet with a shy smile, Vishal passed the admissions test for a prestigious public elementary and middle school. Until sixth grade, he focused on homework, regularly going to the house of a good friend to study with him.

But Vishal and his family say two things changed around the seventh grade: his mother went back to work, and he got a computer. He became increasingly engrossed in games and surfing the Internet, finding an easy outlet for what he describes as an inclination to procrastinate.

"I realized there were choices," Vishal recalls. "Homework wasn't the only option."

Several recent studies show that young people tend to use home computers for entertainment, not learning, and that this can hurt school performance, particularly in low-income families. Jacob L. Vigdor, an economics professor at Duke University who led some of the research, said that when adults were not supervising computer use, children "are left to their own devices, and the impetus isn't to do homework but play around."

Research also shows that students often juggle homework and entertainment. The Kaiser Family Foundation found earlier this year that half of students from 8 to 18 are using the Internet, watching TV or using some other form of media either "most" (31 percent) or "some" (25 percent) of the time that they are doing homework.

At Woodside, as elsewhere, students' use of technology is not uniform. Mr. Reilly, the principal, says their choices tend to reflect their personalities. Social butterflies tend to be heavy texters and Facebook users. Students who are less social might escape into games, while drifters or those prone to procrastination, like Vishal, might surf the Web or watch videos.

The technology has created on campuses a new set of social types - not the thespian and the jock but the texter and gamer, Facebook addict and YouTube potato.

"The technology amplifies whoever you are," Mr. Reilly says.

For some, the amplification is intense. Allison Miller, 14, sends and receives 27,000 texts in a month, her fingers clicking at a blistering pace as she carries on as many as seven text conversations at a time. She texts between classes, at the moment soccer practice ends, while being driven to and from school and, often, while studying.

Most of the exchanges are little more than quick greetings, but they can get more in-depth, like "if someone tells you about a drama going on with someone," Allison said. "I can text one person while talking on the phone to someone else."

But this proficiency comes at a cost: she blames multitasking for the three B's on her recent progress report.

"I'll be reading a book for homework and I'll get a text message and pause my reading and put down the book, pick up the phone to reply to the text message, and then 20 minutes later realize, 'Oh, I forgot to do my homework.' "

Some shyer students do not socialize through technology - they recede into it. Ramon Ochoa-Lopez, 14, an introvert, plays six hours of video games on weekdays and more on weekends, leaving homework to be done in the bathroom before school.

Escaping into games can also salve teenagers' age-old desire for some control in their chaotic lives. "It's a way for me to separate myself," Ramon says. "If there's an argument between my mom and one of my brothers, I'll just go to my room and start playing video games and escape."

With powerful new cellphones, the interactive experience can go everywhere. Between classes at Woodside or at lunch, when use of personal devices is permitted, students gather in clusters, sometimes chatting face to face, sometimes half-involved in a conversation while texting someone across the teeming quad. Others sit alone, watching a video, listening to music or updating Facebook.

Students say that their parents, worried about the distractions, try to police computer time, but that monitoring the use of cellphones is difficult. Parents may also want to be able to call their children at any time, so taking the phone away is not always an option.

Other parents wholly embrace computer use, even when it has no obvious educational benefit.

"If you're not on top of technology, you're not going to be on top of the world," said John McMullen, 56, a retired criminal investigator whose son, Sean, is one of five friends in the group Vishal joins for lunch each day.

Sean's favorite medium is video games; he plays for four hours after school and twice that on weekends. He was playing more but found his habit pulling his grade point average below 3.2, the point at which he felt comfortable. He says he sometimes wishes that his parents would force him to quit playing and study, because he finds it hard to quit when given the choice. Still, he says, video games are not responsible for his lack of focus, asserting that in another era he would have been distracted by TV or something else.

"Video games don't make the hole; they fill it," says Sean, sitting at a picnic table in the quad, where he is surrounded by a multimillion-dollar view: on the nearby hills are the evergreens that tower above the affluent neighborhoods populated by Internet tycoons. Sean, a senior, concedes that video games take a physical toll: "I haven't done exercise since my sophomore year. But that doesn't seem like a big deal. I still look the same."

Sam Crocker, Vishal's closest friend, who has straight A's but lower SAT scores than he would like, blames the Internet's distractions for his inability to finish either of his two summer reading books.

"I know I can read a book, but then I'm up and checking Facebook," he says, adding: "Facebook is amazing because it feels like you're doing something and you're not doing anything. It's the absence of doing something, but you feel gratified anyway."

He concludes: "My attention span is getting worse."

The Lure of Distraction

Some neuroscientists have been studying people like Sam and Vishal. They have begun to understand what happens to the brains of young people who are constantly online and in touch.

In an experiment at the German Sport University in Cologne in 2007, boys from 12 to 14 spent an hour each night playing video games after they finished homework.

On alternate nights, the boys spent an hour watching an exciting movie, like "Harry Potter" or "Star Trek," rather than playing video games. That allowed the researchers to compare the effect of video games and TV.

The researchers looked at how the use of these media affected the boys' brainwave patterns while sleeping and their ability to remember their homework in the subsequent days. They found that playing video games led to markedly lower sleep quality than watching TV, and also led to a "significant decline" in the boys' ability to remember vocabulary words. The findings were published in the journal Pediatrics.

Markus Dworak, a researcher who led the study and is now a neuroscientist at Harvard, said it was not clear whether the boys' learning suffered because sleep was disrupted or, as he speculates, also because the intensity of the game experience overrode the brain's recording of the vocabulary.

"When you look at vocabulary and look at huge stimulus after that, your brain has to decide which information to store," he said. "Your brain might favor the emotionally stimulating information over the vocabulary."

At the University of California, San Francisco, scientists have found that when rats have a new experience, like exploring an unfamiliar area, their brains show new patterns of activity. But only when the rats take a break from their exploration do they process those patterns in a way that seems to create a persistent memory.

In that vein, recent imaging studies of people have found that major cross sections of the brain become surprisingly active during downtime. These brain studies suggest to researchers that periods of rest are critical in allowing the brain to synthesize information, make connections between ideas and even develop the sense of self.

Researchers say these studies have particular implications for young people, whose brains have more trouble focusing and setting priorities.

"Downtime is to the brain what sleep is to the body," said Dr. Rich of Harvard Medical School. "But kids are in a constant mode of stimulation."

"The headline is: bring back boredom," added Dr. Rich, who last month gave a speech to the American Academy of Pediatrics entitled, "Finding Huck Finn: Reclaiming Childhood from the River of Electronic Screens."

Dr. Rich said in an interview that he was not suggesting young people should toss out their devices, but rather that they embrace a more balanced approach to what he said were powerful tools necessary to compete and succeed in modern life.

The heavy use of devices also worries Daniel Anderson, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who is known for research showing that children are not as harmed by TV viewing as some researchers have suggested.

Multitasking using ubiquitous, interactive and highly stimulating computers and phones, Professor Anderson says, appears to have a more powerful effect than TV.

Like Dr. Rich, he says he believes that young, developing brains are becoming habituated to distraction and to switching tasks, not to focus.

"If you've grown up processing multiple media, that's exactly the mode you're going to fall into when put in that environment - you develop a need for that stimulation," he said.

Vishal can attest to that.

"I'm doing Facebook, YouTube, having a conversation or two with a friend, listening to music at the same time. I'm doing a million things at once, like a lot of people my age," he says. "Sometimes I'll say: I need to stop this and do my schoolwork, but I can't."

"If it weren't for the Internet, I'd focus more on school and be doing better academically," he says. But thanks to the Internet, he says, he has discovered and pursued his passion: filmmaking. Without the Internet, "I also wouldn't know what I want to do with my life."

Clicking Toward a Future

The woman sits in a cemetery at dusk, sobbing. Behind her, silhouetted and translucent, a man kneels, then fades away, a ghost.

This captivating image appears on Vishal's computer screen. On this Thursday afternoon in late September, he is engrossed in scenes he shot the previous weekend for a music video he is making with his cousin.

The video is based on a song performed by the band Guns N' Roses about a woman whose boyfriend dies. He wants it to be part of the package of work he submits to colleges that emphasize film study, along with a documentary he is making about home-schooled students.

Now comes the editing. Vishal taught himself to use sophisticated editing software in part by watching tutorials on YouTube. He does not leave his chair for more than two hours, sipping Pepsi, his face often inches from the screen, as he perfects the clip from the cemetery. The image of the crying woman was shot separately from the image of the kneeling man, and he is trying to fuse them.

"I'm spending two hours to get a few seconds just right," he says.

He occasionally sends a text message or checks Facebook, but he is focused in a way he rarely is when doing homework. He says the chief difference is that filmmaking feels applicable to his chosen future, and he hopes colleges, like the University of Southern California or the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles, will be so impressed by his portfolio that they will overlook his school performance.

"This is going to compensate for the grades," he says. On this day, his homework includes a worksheet for Latin, some reading for English class and an economics essay, but they can wait.

For Vishal, there's another clear difference between filmmaking and homework: interactivity. As he edits, the windows on the screen come alive; every few seconds, he clicks the mouse to make tiny changes to the lighting and flow of the images, and the software gives him constant feedback.

"I click and something happens," he says, explaining that, by comparison, reading a book or doing homework is less exciting. "I guess it goes back to the immediate gratification thing."

The $2,000 computer Vishal is using is state of the art and only a week old. It represents a concession by his parents. They allowed him to buy it, despite their continuing concerns about his technology habits, because they wanted to support his filmmaking dream. "If we put roadblocks in his way, he's just going to get depressed," his mother says. Besides, she adds, "he's been making an effort to do his homework."

At this point in the semester, it seems she is right. The first schoolwide progress reports come out in late September, and Vishal has mostly A's and B's. He says he has been able to make headway by applying himself, but also by cutting back his workload. Unlike last year, he is not taking advanced placement classes, and he has chosen to retake Algebra II not in the classroom but in an online class that lets him work at his own pace.

His shift to easier classes might not please college admissions officers, according to Woodside's college adviser, Zorina Matavulj. She says they want seniors to intensify their efforts. As it is, she says, even if Vishal improves his performance significantly, someone with his grades faces long odds in applying to the kinds of colleges he aspires to.

Still, Vishal's passion for film reinforces for Mr. Reilly, the principal, that the way to reach these students is on their own terms.

Hands-On Technology

Big Macintosh monitors sit on every desk, and a man with hip glasses and an easygoing style stands at the front of the class. He is Geoff Diesel, 40, a favorite teacher here at Woodside who has taught English and film. Now he teaches one of Mr. Reilly's new classes, audio production. He has a rapt audience of more than 20 students as he shows a video of the band Nirvana mixing their music, then holds up a music keyboard.

"Who knows how to use Pro Tools? We've got it. It's the program used by the best music studios in the world," he says.

In the back of the room, Mr. Reilly watches, thrilled. He introduced the audio course last year and enough students signed up to fill four classes. (He could barely pull together one class when he introduced Mandarin, even though he had secured iPads to help teach the language.)

"Some of these students are our most at-risk kids," he says. He means that they are more likely to tune out school, skip class or not do their homework, and that they may not get healthful meals at home. They may also do their most enthusiastic writing not for class but in text messages and on Facebook. "They're here, they're in class, they're listening."

Despite Woodside High's affluent setting, about 40 percent of its 1,800 students come from low-income families and receive a reduced-cost or free lunch. The school is 56 percent Latino, 38 percent white and 5 percent African-American, and it sends 93 percent of its students to four-year or community colleges.

Mr. Reilly says that the audio class provides solid vocational training and can get students interested in other subjects.

"Today mixing music, tomorrow sound waves and physics," he says. And he thinks the key is that they love not just the music but getting their hands on the technology. "We're meeting them on their turf."

It does not mean he sees technology as a panacea. "I'll always take one great teacher in a cave over a dozen Smart Boards," he says, referring to the high-tech teaching displays used in many schools.

Teachers at Woodside commonly blame technology for students' struggles to concentrate, but they are divided over whether embracing computers is the right solution.

"It's a catastrophe," said Alan Eaton, a charismatic Latin teacher. He says that technology has led to a "balkanization of their focus and duration of stamina," and that schools make the problem worse when they adopt the technology.

"When rock 'n' roll came about, we didn't start using it in classrooms like we're doing with technology," he says. He personally feels the sting, since his advanced classes have one-third as many students as they had a decade ago.

Vishal remains a Latin student, one whom Mr. Eaton describes as particularly bright. But the teacher wonders if technology might be the reason Vishal seems to lose interest in academics the minute he leaves class.

Mr. Diesel, by contrast, does not think technology is behind the problems of Vishal and his schoolmates - in fact, he thinks it is the key to connecting with them, and an essential tool. "It's in their DNA to look at screens," he asserts. And he offers another analogy to explain his approach: "Frankenstein is in the room and I don't want him to tear me apart. If I'm not using technology, I lose them completely."

Mr. Diesel had Vishal as a student in cinema class and describes him as a "breath of fresh air" with a gift for filmmaking. Mr. Diesel says he wonders if Vishal is a bit like Woody Allen, talented but not interested in being part of the system.

But Mr. Diesel adds: "If Vishal's going to be an independent filmmaker, he's got to read Vonnegut. If you're going to write scripts, you've got to read."

Back to Reading Aloud

Vishal sits near the back of English IV. Marcia Blondel, a veteran teacher, asks the students to open the book they are studying, "The Things They Carried," which is about the Vietnam War.

"Who wants to read starting in the middle of Page 137?" she asks. One student begins to read aloud, and the rest follow along.

To Ms. Blondel, the exercise in group reading represents a regression in American education and an indictment of technology. The reason she has to do it, she says, is that students now lack the attention span to read the assignments on their own.

"How can you have a discussion in class?" she complains, arguing that she has seen a considerable change in recent years. In some classes she can count on little more than one-third of the students to read a 30-page homework assignment.

She adds: "You can't become a good writer by watching YouTube, texting and e-mailing a bunch of abbreviations."

As the group-reading effort winds down, she says gently: "I hope this will motivate you to read on your own."

It is a reminder of the choices that have followed the students through the semester: computer or homework? Immediate gratification or investing in the future?

Mr. Reilly hopes that the two can meet - that computers can be combined with education to better engage students and can give them technical skills without compromising deep analytical thought.

But in Vishal's case, computers and schoolwork seem more and more to be mutually exclusive. Ms. Blondel says that Vishal, after a decent start to the school year, has fallen into bad habits. In October, he turned in weeks late, for example, a short essay based on the first few chapters of "The Things They Carried." His grade at that point, she says, tracks around a D.

For his part, Vishal says he is investing himself more in his filmmaking, accelerating work with his cousin on their music video project. But he is also using Facebook late at night and surfing for videos on YouTube. The evidence of the shift comes in a string of Facebook updates.

Saturday, 11:55 p.m.: "Editing, editing, editing"

Sunday, 3:55 p.m.: "8+ hours of shooting, 8+ hours of editing. All for just a three-minute scene. Mind = Dead."

Sunday, 11:00 p.m.: "Fun day, finally got to spend a day relaxing... now about that homework..."

Malia Wollan contributed reporting.


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