Saturday, January 30, 2010




Call 415-821-6545 for leafleting and posting schedule.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2010, 2:00 P.M.
Between 16th and 15th Streets, SF)
For more information call: 415-821-6545


Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:




Black History Month Forum & Benefit for Haiti Relief
Stand with the people of Haiti!
What the U.S. government isn't telling you

Fri. Feb. 5, 7pm
Centro del Pueblo, 474 Valencia St. at 16th St., SF
near 16th St. BART; Wheelchair accessible

Featured speaker: Pierre Labossiere, Haiti Action Committee

Plus, cultural performance and dinner to help raise funds

The people of the world are responding to help alleviate the terrible suffering of the Haitian people after the massive earthquake which struck Jan. 12. We urge everyone who can, to attend this important benefit for the Haitian people. Pierre Labossiere of the Haiti Action Committee will give an important update on the ongoing crisis.

Why is Haiti the most impoverished country in the Western hemisphere? The answer lies in the more than two centuries of U.S. exploitation of--and hostility to--the island nation, whose hard-won independence in 1804 from the French was only the beginning of its struggle for liberation.

Natural disasters are inevitable, but resource allocation and planning can play a decisive role in lessening their impact. But Haiti has been drained of vital resources and income for decades, due to extortionate loans by the U.S.-controlled International Monetary Fund and World Bank. These loans enrich the banks while Haitian people die.

Haiti was self-sufficient in rice production until the Clinton administration forced a "free trade" policy on Haiti in the 1990s, and soon U.S. agribusiness began to flood Haiti's markets, displacing thousands of farmers. The chronic malnutrition and poverty is a direct result of U.S. imperialist policy.

President Obama announced that USAID and the Departments of State and Defense will support the rescue and relief efforts in Haiti. Yet, these are the same government bodies responsible for the economic and military policies that reduced Haiti to ruins even before the earthquake hit. We call on the U.S. government to stop deportations of the Haitians from the U.S., and to immediately cancel Haiti's debt, in addition to real assistance for the Haitian people.

$10-20 donation. (no one turned way for lack of funds). All funds collected go to Haiti relief.

Sponsored by the ANSWER Coalition. Co-sponsored by FMLN-N. Calif., Bay Area Latin American Solidarity Coalition, Task Force on the Americas, and others.

Call 415-821-6545 for more info.


SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2010, 2:00 P.M.
Between 16th and 15th Streets, SF)
For more information call: 415-821-6545


Commemoration of the Gaza Massacre... and the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

The young will grow to continue our struggle for liberation.

A night of poetry, reflection and celebration of resistance

Confirmed Keynote Speaker: Professor Haidar Eid

Saturday, February 6th, 2010, 6:30pm
Burlingame Recreation Center
850 Burlingame Avenue

Al-Awda, Arab Cultural and Community Center (ACCC), Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC), Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA), Palestinian Youth Network (PYN), Students for Justice in Palestine - UCB (SJP), US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN), American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), ANSWER Coalition, Al Juthoor Debkah Troupe, Bay Area Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid (BACEIA), Birthright Unplugged, International Solidarity Movement (ISM), Justice for Palestinians (San Jose, CA), Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT!), San Francisco Women in Black, US Organization for Medical and Educational Needs (US-OMEN)

To endorse this event, send an email to: gazacommemoration@

*** please forward to your lists!!!

*** if you can help distribute or post flyers please send an email to: gazacommemoration@


National Call for March 4 Strike and Day of Action To Defend Public Education
By Elly

California has recently seen a massive movement erupt in defense of public education -- but layoffs, fee hikes, cuts, and the re-segregation of public education are attacks taking place throughout the country. A nationwide resistance movement is needed.

We call on all students, workers, teachers, parents, and their organizations and communities across the country to massively mobilize for a Strike and Day of Action in Defense of Public Education on March 4, 2010. Education cuts are attacks against all of us, particularly in working-class communities and communities of color.

The politicians and administrators say there is no money for education and social services. They say that "there is no alternative" to the cuts. But if there's money for wars, bank bailouts, and prisons, why is there no money for public education?

We can beat back the cuts if we unite students, workers, and teachers across all sectors of public education - Pre K-12, adult education, community colleges, and state-funded universities. We appeal to the leaders of the trade union movement to support and organize strikes and/or mass actions on March 4. The weight of workers and students united in strikes and mobilizations would shift the balance of forces entirely against the current agenda of cuts and make victory possible.

Building a powerful movement to defend public education will, in turn, advance the struggle in defense of all public-sector workers and services and will be an inspiration to all those fighting against the wars, for immigrants rights, in defense of jobs, for single-payer health care, and other progressive causes.

Why March 4? On October 24, 2009 more than 800 students, workers, and teachers converged at UC Berkeley at the Mobilizing Conference to Save Public Education. This massive meeting brought together representatives from over 100 different schools, unions, and organizations from all across California and from all sectors of public education. After hours of open collective discussion, the participants voted democratically, as their main decision, to call for a Strike and Day of Action on March 4, 2010. All schools, unions and organizations are free to choose their specific demands and tactics -- such as strikes, rallies, walkouts, occupations, sit-ins, teach-ins, etc. -- as well as the duration of such actions.

Let's make March 4 an historic turning point in the struggle against the cuts, layoffs, fee hikes, and the re-segregation of public education.

- The California Coordinating Committee

To endorse this call and to receive more information contact:

and check out:

Andy Griggs



San Francisco March and Rally
on Saturday, March 20, 2010
11am, Civic Center Plaza

National March on Washington
on Saturday, March 20, 2010
Fri., March 19 Day of Action & Outreach in D.C.

People from all over the country are organizing to converge on Washington, D.C., to demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan and Iraq.

On Saturday, March 20, 2010, there will be a massive National March & Rally in D.C. A day of action and outreach in Washington, D.C., will take place on Friday, March 19, preceding the Saturday march.

There will be coinciding mass marches on March 20 in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The national actions are initiated by a large number of organizations and prominent individuals. see below)

Click here to become an endorser:

Click here to make a donation:

We will march together to say "No Colonial-type Wars and Occupations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine!" We will march together to say "No War Against Iran!" We will march together to say "No War for Empire Anywhere!"

Instead of war, we will demand funds so that every person can have a job, free and universal health care, decent schools, and affordable housing.

March 20 is the seventh anniversary of the criminal war of aggression launched by Bush and Cheney against Iraq. One million or more Iraqis have died. Tens of thousands of U.S. troops have lost their lives or been maimed, and continue to suffer a whole host of enduring problems from this terrible war.

This is the time for united action. The slogans on banners may differ, but all those who carry them should be marching shoulder to shoulder.

Killing and dying to avoid the perception of defeat

Bush is gone, but the war and occupation in Iraq still go on. The Pentagon is demanding a widening of the war in Afghanistan. They project an endless war with shifting battlefields. And a "single-payer" war budget that only grows larger and larger each year. We must act.

Both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were predicated on the imperial fantasy that the U.S. could create stable, proxy colonial-type governments in both countries. They were to serve as an extension of "American" power in these strategic and resource-rich regions.

That fantasy has been destroyed. Now U.S. troops are being sent to kill or be killed so that the politicians in uniform "the generals and admirals") and those in three-piece suits "our elected officials") can avoid taking responsibility for a military setback in wars that should have never been started. Their military ambitions are now reduced to avoiding the appearance of defeat.

That is exactly what happened in Vietnam! Avoiding defeat, or the perception of defeat, was the goal Nixon and Kissinger set for themselves when they took office in 1969. For this noble cause, another 30,000 young GIs perished before the inevitable troop pullout from Vietnam in 1973. The number of Vietnamese killed between 1969 and 1973 was greater by many hundreds of thousands.

All of us can make the difference - progress and change comes from the streets and from the grassroots.

The people went to the polls in 2008, and the enthusiasm and desire for change after eight years of the Bush regime was the dominant cause that led to election of a big Democratic Party majority in both Houses of Congress and the election of Barack Obama to the White House.

But it should now be obvious to all that waiting for politicians to bring real change - on any front - is simply a prescription for passivity by progressives and an invitation to the array of corporate interests from military contractors to the banks, to big oil, to the health insurance giants that dominate the political life of the country. These corporate interests work around the clock to frustrate efforts for real change, and they are the guiding hand behind the recent street mobilizations of the ultra-right.

It is up to us to act. If people had waited for politicians to do the right thing, there would have never been a Civil Rights Act, or unions, women's rights, an end to the Vietnam war or any of the profound social achievements and basic rights that people cherish.

It is time to be back in the streets. Organizing centers are being set up in cities and towns throughout the country.

We must raise $50,000 immediately just to get started. Please make your contribution today. We need to reserve buses, which are expensive $1,800 from NYC, $5,000 from Chicago, etc.). We have to print 100,000 leaflets, posters and stickers. There will be other substantial expenses as March 20 draws closer.

Please become an endorser and active supporter of the March 20 National March on Washington.

Please make an urgently needed tax-deductible donation today. We can't do this without your active support.

The initiators of the March 20 National March on Washington preceded by the March 19 Day of Action and Outreach in D.C.) include: the ANSWER Coalition; Muslim American Society Freedom; National Council of Arab Americans; Cynthia McKinney; Malik Rahim, co-founder of Common Ground Collective; Ramsey Clark; Cindy Sheehan; Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK; Deborah Sweet, Director, World Can't Wait; Mike Ferner, President, Veterans for Peace; Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition; Heidi Boghosian, Executive Director, National Lawyers Guild; Ron Kovic, author of "Born on the 4th of July"; Juan Jose Gutierrez, Director, Latino Movement USA; Col. Ann Wright ret.); March Forward!; Partnership for Civil Justice; Palestinian American Women Association; Alliance for a Just and Lasting Peace in the Philippines; Alliance for Global Justice; Claudia de la Cruz, Pastor, Iglesia San Romero de Las Americas-UCC; Phil Portluck, Social Justice Ministry, Covenant Baptist Church, D.C.; Blase & Theresa Bonpane, Office of the Americas; Coalition for Peace and Democracy in Honduras; Comite Pro-Democracia en Mexico; Frente Unido de los Pueblos Americanos; Comites de Base FMLN, Los Angeles; Free Palestine Alliance; GABRIELA Network; Justice for Filipino American Veterans; KmB Pro-People Youth; Students Fight Back; Jim Lafferty, Executive Director, National Lawyers Guild - LA Chapter; LEF Foundation; National Coalition to Free the Angola 3; Community Futures Collective; Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival; Companeros del Barrio; Barrio Unido for Full and Unconditional Amnesty, Bay Area United Against War.

A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
National Office in Washington DC: 202-265-1948
New York City: 212-694-8720
Los Angeles: 213-251-1025
San Francisco: 415-821-6545
Chicago: 773-463-0311


The US Social Forum II
" June 22-26, 2010 "
Detroit, Michigan, USA
Another World Is Possible! Another US is Necessary!




U.S. Marines prevent the distribution of food to starving people due to "lack of security." They bring a truck full of supplies then, because their chain of command says they haven't enough men with guns, they drive away with the truckload of food leaving the starving Haitians running after the truck empty-handed! This is shown in detail in the video in the New York Times titled, "Confusion in Haitian Countryside." The Marines-the strong, the brave--turn tail and run! INCAPABLE, EVEN, OF DISTRIBUTING FOOD TO UNARMED, STARVING, MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN!


Lost Generation


Sign the petition. Drop the charges against Alexis Hutchinson!
"...four separate court martial charges have been brought against Specialist Alexis Hutchinson, a single parent with a one-year old son, who missed deployment in early November 2009 when her childcare plan fell through at the last moment, due to circumstances beyond her control."

Cuba establishes hospital in Port-au-Prince

Disputes emerge over Haiti aid control


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"

To: President Barack Obama

WE THE UNDERSIGNED petition you to speak out against the death penalty for Mumia Abu-Jamal, and all the men, women and children facing execution around the world. This ultimate form of punishment is unacceptable in a civilized society and undermines human dignity. (U.N. General Assembly, Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty, Resolution 62/149, Dec. 18, 2007; reaffirmed, Resolution 63/168, Dec. 18, 2008.)

Mr. Abu-Jamal, a renowned black journalist and author, has been on Pennsylvania's death row for nearly three decades. Even though you do not have direct control over his fate as a state death-row inmate, we ask that you as a moral leader on the world stage call for a global moratorium on the death penalty in his and all capital cases. Mr. Abu-Jamal has become a global symbol, the "Voice of the Voiceless", in the struggle against capital punishment and human-rights abuses. There are over 20,000 awaiting execution around the globe, with over 3,000 on death rows in the United States.

The 1982 trial of Mr. Abu-Jamal was tainted by racism, and occurred in Philadelphia which has a history of police corruption and discrimination. Amnesty International, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, "determined that numerous aspects of this case clearly failed to meet international standards safeguarding the fairness of legal proceedings. [T]he interests of justice would best be served by the granting of a new trial to Mumia Abu-Jamal. The trial should fully comply with international standards of justice and should not allow for the reimposition 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:]


Alert! New Threat To Mumia's Life!
Supreme Court Set To Announce A Decision
On the State Appeal To Reinstate Mumia's Death Sentence
17 January 2010
The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
PO Box 16222 Oakland CA 94610
(510) 763-2347

Mumia Abu-Jamal, an innocent man on death row and the world's best-known political prisoner, now faces an immediate new threat to his life from the US Supreme Court. The Court ruled last year on Mumia's appeal, by summarily refusing to even consider a reversal of his unjust 1982 murder conviction in a blatantly racist court. And last week, the Supreme Court discussed a cross-appeal by the State of Pennsylvania to reinstate Mumia's death sentence, which had been put on hold by a federal court in 2001. A ruling could be announced as early as Tuesday this week.

It would be an illusion to expect good news. Supporters should stay tuned, and be prepared to participate in actions to free Mumia!

The Vendetta Against Mumia

In making it's flat-out rejection of Mumia's appeal (which it did without making any statement), the Supreme Court had to knowingly violate its own precedent in the 1986 Batson v Kentucky decision. This ruling famously said that purging a jury on the basis of race was unconstitutional. In Mumia's case, at least 10 black jurors were excluded for reasons not applied to their white counterparts. Under Batson, such violations require that the conviction be thrown out!

But this was Mumia Abu-Jamal, the falsely accused "cop killer." And while evidence of his innocence has always been available, along with evidence of the corruption of the cops who framed him, Mumia is the object of a world-wide vendetta led by the Fraternal Order of Police and numerous pundits and politicians. So an exception was made.

The Spisak Case

Meanwhile, the 2001 federal district court decision (besides upholding Mumia's conviction) said that Mumia's death sentence resulted from improper instructions to the jury. The trial judge's instructions to the jury on sentencing had said that a decision had to be unanimous, even on mitigating factors that could result in a sentence of life in prison, instead of death. This violated another Supreme Court precedent, Mills v Maryland, which held that such mitigating factors required only a simple majority.

After tossing out Mumia's appeal in 2009, the Court took it's time on the State's cross-appeal, because another case, Smith v Spisak, dealt with the same issue of jury instructions in sentencing. Frank Spisak is a neo-Nazi who made racist statements in court, wore a Hitler mustache, and confessed to three hate-crime murders in Ohio. The two cases could hardly be more different, yet appeals courts threw out death sentences in both on the basis of the Mills decision. But now, on January 12th, the Supreme Court has reinstated Spisak's death sentence. The decision on Mumia followed shortly thereafter, and the implications are clear. The Spisak decision could open the door to what the cops, courts and ruling class generally want to do most: legally murder Mumia!

The Supreme Court said Mills didn't apply to Spisak for various reasons (that don't seem to apply to Mumia), but the legal ins and outs aren't the point. The point is that the entire legal system is at the service not of the law, but of power in society.

As Mumia Abu-Jamal said in a recent interview, "[Spisak's] case differs from mine substantially, not just in terms of facts, but also in terms of law. But the law is the tool of those in power, so how they use it doesn't depend on the law; it depends on power."
(-Free Speech Radio News, 15 January 2010).

The Question of Innocence!

As an award-winning radical journalist, former Black Panther, and critic of police brutality and malfeasance, Mumia Abu-Jamal is considered an enemy of the state. As such, legal decisions have systematically gone against him, regardless of the law. Batson is only one example of this "Mumia exception."

Manufacturing false confessions, planting evidence, corrupting "witnesses" to say they saw what they didn't see--all of these "illegal" tricks were used against Mumia. The real evidence points to Mumia's innocence, including another man who confessed, witnesses who said Mumia didn't shoot anybody but who were never called to testify, and photos of the crime scene that show that police lied. But very little of this has ever been heard in court.

Rather than follow the "law," the criminal justice system follows a simple rule: "If we want to get you, we will." The US Supreme Court (Herrera v Collins), and the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (signed by Bill Clinton in 1996), have effectively said: innocence is no defense!

The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal has never thought that calling for a new trial, or appealing to the US Justice Department to right the wrongs that they helped create, were anything more than distractions, getting in the way of a mass, working-class movement to free Mumia.

Mumia is a class-war prisoner, and it will take a class struggle to free him: that was position of longshore workers in the International Longshore and Warehouse
Union (ILWU) when they shut down all the ports on the West Coast in 1999, and headed the march in San Francisco, to free Mumia. Oakland teachers, and teachers in Rio de Janeiro Brazil also took work actions to support Mumia. Only this kind of working-class action, combined with mass mobilizations, can defeat a determined frame-up by cops, courts and politicians. Mumia Abu-Jamal is now in imminent danger of a new execution order, so the need for action is urgent. For workers action to free Mumia!

Stay in touch for demonstration details this week.

Visit our newly-rebuilt and updated web site for background information on Mumia's innocence. See the "What You Can Do Now" page:

- The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
PO Box 16222 Oakland CA 94610
(510) 763-2347


Urgent action needed to stop executions in CA
By Stephanie Faucher, Death Penalty Focus
January 8, 2009

Dear supporters,

Please take action today to stop executions from resuming in California. This is very urgent, without your help executions could occur in the near future.

Both Californians and non-Californians are encouraged to take action.

Letters must be received by January 20, 2010 at 5pm PDT.


On January 4, 2010, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) proposed minor revisions to its lethal injection procedures in the form of amendments to its previously proposed procedures. CDCR set a fifteen-day comment period ending January 20, 2010 at 5:00 p.m. during which the public can submit written comments on the proposed amendments.

The amended regulations, which are virtually identical to the regulations proposed in May 2009, can be found here:

The above link contains only those regulations that were amended. To see the full text of the proposed regulations proposed in May 2009, go to this link:


We have created a draft letter which you can personalize and send here:

A separate letter will also be sent the Governor of California.

Thank you for taking action!

BAUAW responds:

Here is the letter I wrote as a representative of BAUAW:

I oppose the racist death penalty to its very core. There is no "humanitarian" way to murder someone. It's barbaric.

Already so many who have been on death row for decades have been proven to be innocent victims of gross forensic mistakes or blatant police frame-ups.

The poor are routinely afforded inferior and indifferent legal services that serve mainly as a go-between the prosecution and accused. It can hardly be called legal defense.

Justice is not served equally or fairly in the United States. Most other nations have done away with the death penalty. Here our "great minds of justice" debate the best way to kill.

Under these concrete circumstances, instead of limiting the appeals process for prisoners, the justice system should bend over backwards to hear and re-hear the evidence and set free those who have been convicted unfairly.

Death should never be our conscious choice as a nation.

I am also very concerned about the newly revised lethal injection procedures.

In particular, I have the following concerns:

* The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) added a news article from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat to the rulemaking file. The article mentions that the original creator of the three-drug lethal injection formula has suggested ways to reform the process, including keeping up with changing drugs and science and proper training of lethal injection team members. The recent experience of Romell Broom in Ohio reinforces a point raised in the article, that botched executions are a real possibility, especially in California, due to the limited training of the lethal injection team members and California's repeated failure to meaningfully change its protocol.

* CDCR's amended regulations continue to be wholly inadequate and inapplicable to female condemned inmates. The regulations now specify that a female condemned inmate shall be transported to San Quentin no sooner than 72 hours and no later than six hours prior to the scheduled execution, but contain no provisions to implement the required 45-day chronology of events prior to her arrival at San Quentin. CDCR also fails to address how and if the female condemned inmate will be in contact with her family members and her legal team during her transport, which may take place on the same day as her scheduled execution.

* Contrary to CDCR's claim, the amended regulations continue to treat the condemned prisoner's witnesses differently than the victim's witnesses. The victim's family is allowed an unlimited number of witnesses at the execution, whereas the prisoner scheduled to die is limited to five individuals other than her or his spiritual adviser. In the event of lack of space, the victim's family is provided with the option of remote viewing of the execution, while the same option is not extended to the inmate's family.

*The distinction drawn between Chaplains and "approved" Spiritual Advisors is confusing and it is unclear how and when a person may become a "pre-approved" Spiritual Advisor.

I expect that you will take these concerns very seriously.


Bonnie Weinstein, Bay Area United Against War,


The Pay at the Top
The compensation research firm Equilar compiled data reflecting pay for 200 chief executives at 198 public companies that filed their annual proxies by March 27 and had revenue of at least $6.3 billion. (Two companies, Motorola and Synnex, had co-C.E.O.'s.) | See a detailed description of the methodology.



The Unemployment Game Show: Are You *Really* Unemployed? - From

Video: Gaza Lives On



Tom Zaniello is a living, walking encyclopedia of films about labour.

I heard him speak at a conference once, but it wasn't so much a speech as a high-speed tour through dozens of film clips, lovingly selected, all aiming to make a point.

I don't know anyone who knows more about cinema and the labour movement than he does.

And Working Stiffs, Union Maids, Reds, and Riffraff: An expanded guide to films about labor is his, well, encyclopedia about the subject.

It's a 434 page guide to 350 labour films from around the world, ranging from those you've heard of - Salt of the Earth, The Grapes of Wrath, Roger & Me - to those you've never heard of but will fall in love with once you see them.

Zaniello describes all the films in detail, tells you whether they're available for rental or purchase, and, if so, where.

Fiction and nonfiction, the films are about unions, labour history, working-class life, political movements, and the struggle between labour and capital.

Each entry includes critical commentary, production data, cast list, suggested related films, and annotated references to books and Web sites for further reading.

If you want to know more about labour films, buy this book.

And remember that every copy you purchase helps support LabourStart.

Thanks very much.

Eric Lee


Letter from Lynne Stewart from behind bars:

Dear Sisters and Brothers, Friends and Supporters:

Well the moment we all hoped would never come is upon us. Good bye to a good cup of coffee in the morning, a soft chair, the hugs of grandchildren and the smaller pleasures in life. I must say I am being treated well and that is due to my lawyer team and your overwhelming support.

While I have received "celebrity" treatment here in MCC - high visibility - conditions for the other women are deplorable. Medical care, food, education, recreation are all at minimal levels. If it weren't for the unqualified bonds of sisterhood and the commissary it would be even more dismal.

My fellow prisoners have supplied me with books and crosswords, a warm it is cold in here most of the time) sweat shirt and pants, treats from the commissary, and of course, jailhouse humor. Most important many of them know of my work and have a deep reservoir of can I say it? Respect.

I continue to both answer the questions put to me by them, I also can't resist commenting on the T.V. news or what is happening on the floor - a little LS politics always! Smile) to open hearts and minds!

Liz Fink, my lawyer leader, believes I will be here at MCC-NY for a while - perhaps a year before being moved to prison. Being is jail is like suddenly inhabiting a parallel universe but at least I have the luxury of time to read! Tomorrow I will get my commissary order which may include an AM/FM Radio and be restored to WBAI and music classical and jazz).

We are campaigning to get the bladder operation scheduled before I came in to MCC) to happen here in New York City. Please be alert to the website I case I need some outside support.

I want to say that the show of support outside the Courthouse on Thursday as I was "transported" is so cherished by me. The broad organizational representation was breathtaking and the love and politics expressed the anger too) will keep me nourished through this.

Organize - Agitate, Agitate, Agitate! And write to me and others locked down by the Evil Empire.

Love Struggle, Lynne Stewart


Lynne Stewart in Jail!

For further information contact: Jeff Mackler, Coordinator, West Coast Lynne Stewart Defense Committee 510-268-9429
Mail tax free contributions payable to National Lawyers Guild Foundation. Write in memo box: "Lynne Stewart Defense." Mail to: Lynne Stewart Defense, P.O. Box 10328, Oakland, CA 94610.



U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Department of Justice Main Switchboard - 202-514-2000
Office of the Attorney General Public Comment Line - 202-353-1555

To send Lynne a letter, write:
Lynne Stewart
150 Park Row
New York, NY NY 10007

Lynne Stewart speaks in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal


With a New Smile, 'Rage' Fades Away [SINGLE PAYER NOW!!!]

FTA [F**k The Army] Trailer

Jon Stewart: Obama Is Channeling Bush VIDEO)

US anti-war activists protest

Buffy Sainte Marie - No No Keshagesh
[Keshagesh is the Cree word to describe a greedy puppy that wants to keep eating everything, a metaphor for corporate greed]
Buffy Sainte-Marie - No No Keshagesh lyrics:


The Tar Sands Blow
Hi -
I just signed the Tar Sands Blow petition -- and I hope you'll do the same.
The Canadian tar sands produce the dirtiest oil on earth -- including five times the greenhouse gases of conventional oil. World leaders meet next month in Copenhagen to deal with climate change. Sign the petition -- so that we all don't get a raw deal.

The Story of Mouseland: As told by Tommy Douglas in 1944

The Communist Manifesto illustrated by Cartoons



For a donation of only $18.95, we can put a copy of the book "10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military" into a public or high school library of your choice. [Reason number 1: You may be killed]

A letter and bookplate will let readers know that your donation helped make this possible.

Putting a book in either a public or school library ensures that students, parents, and members of the community will have this valuable information when they need it.

Don't have a library you would like us to put it in? We'll find one for you!


This is a must-see video about the life of Oscar Grant, a young man who loved his family and was loved by his family. It's important to watch to understand the tremendous loss felt by his whole family as a result of his cold-blooded murder by BART police officers--Johannes Mehserle being the shooter while the others held Oscar down and handcuffed him to aid Mehserle in the murder of Oscar Grant January 1, 2009.

The family wants to share this video here with you who support justice for Oscar Grant.



Troy Anthony Davis is an African American man who has spent the last 18 years on death row for a murder he did not commit. There is no physical evidence tying him to the crime and seven out of nine witnesses have recanted. New evidence and new testimony have been presented to the Georgia courts, but the justice system refuses to consider this evidence, which would prove Troy Davis' innocence once and for all.

Sign the petition and join the NAACP, Amnesty International USA, and other partners in demanding justice for Troy Davis!

For Now, High Court Punts on Troy Davis, on Death Row for 18 Years
By Ashby Jones
Wall Street Journal Law Blog
June 30, 2009

Take action now:


Committee To Save Mumia Abu-Jamal
P.O. Box 2012
New York, NY 10159-2012

New videos from April 24 Oakland Mumia event

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!

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FLASHPOINTS Interview with Innocent San Quentin Death Row Inmate
Kevin Cooper -- Aired Monday, May 18,2009
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Support the troops who refuse to fight!




1) Help the people of Haiti, reject U.S. military occupation
By Jose Maria Sison |
January 26, 2010

2) Haiti's Children Adrift in World of Chaos
January 27, 2010

3) After Long Decline, Teenage Pregnancy Rate Rises
January 27, 2010

4) Judge Bars Youth Prisons From Routine Shackling
January 27, 2010

5) Soldiers Forced to Choose Between Their Children and the Military Pay the Price in Jby: Dahr Jamail | OpEdNews
Tuesday 26 January 2010

6) Howard Zinn: The Historian Who Made History
By Dave Zirin
E of S Nation: This isn't about sports, but if you know my work, especially A People's History of Sports in the United States, then you know I am eternally indebted to the great historian Howard Zinn who died yesterday. Please read or ignore. In tribute to Howard who always stood with the underdog, I unabashedly pick the Saints to win the Super Bowl.
In struggle and sports
Dave Z
January 27, 2010

7) Haiti: US Rehearsal For Troop Deployments in Latin America
By Glen Ford
January 27, 2010

8) Kids in Crisis (Behind Bars)
Op-Ed Columnist
January 28, 2010

9) The Kidnapping of Haiti
By John Pilger
January 27, 2010
"Information Clearing House"

10) As Aftershocks Continue, Haiti Ponders Rebuilding
January 29, 2010

11) Cost Dispute Halts Airlift of Injured Haiti Quake Victims
"A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services said the decision to suspend the flights was made by the military, not the federal health department. A military spokesman said that the military had ended the flights because hospitals were becoming unwilling to take patients.'The places they were being taken, without being specific, were not willing to continue to receive those patients without a different arrangement being worked out by the government to pay for the care,' said Maj. James Lowe, the deputy chief of public affairs for the United States Transportation Command."
January 30, 2010

12) A Radical Treasure
Op-Ed Columnist
January 30, 2010

13) Giving Life in a Land Overflowing With Pain
January 30, 2010

14) Jobless Turn to Family for Help
January 30, 2010

15) Lawsuit Takes Aim at Trespassing Arrests in New York Public Housing
January 26, 2010

16) Blackwater's Youngest Victim
By Jeremy Scahill
January 28, 2010

17) U.S. Speeding Up Missile Defenses in Persian Gulf
January 31, 2010


1) Help the people of Haiti, reject U.S. military occupation
By Jose Maria Sison |
January 26, 2010

Fight Back News Service is circulating the following statement by Professor Jose Maria Sison, Chairperson of the International League of People's Struggle.

More than ever, the earthquake disaster in Haiti exposes the social vulnerability and devastation caused by two centuries of colonial slavery, debt bondage and modern imperialism. The capability of the people of Haiti to surmount the dire results of such a natural disaster has been undermined and debilitated by man-made disasters, inflicted by foreign debt, US military interventions and occupation, and US-imposed "free market" policies.

On 12 January 2010, a magnitude 7 earthquake shook the Caribbean nation of Haiti, its epicenter hitting west of the capital Port-au-Prince. The quake and its numerous aftershocks have wrought death and injury to a huge number of people and catastrophic damage to their homes and other vital infrastructures.

Current estimates put the death toll to at least 110,000, with some estimates saying that up to 200,000 have been killed. About 75,000 have already been buried in mass graves but tens of thousands still remain buried in collapsed buildings in the capital. Health facilities are overwhelmed by more than 250,000 wounded, with shortages of medical personnel and supplies hampering efforts to treat them. Estimates indicate that more than 2 million people have been rendered homeless, billions of dollars worth of public and private infrastructure have been devastated.

The people of Haiti are undergoing incalculably great suffering. We, the International League of Peoples' Struggle (ILPS) convey our deepest sympathies to the Haitian people for their loss and express our most heartfelt recognition of their plight. We join the people of the world in lending our wholehearted support to help ease their suffering and call on our member-organizations and allies to extend immediate rescue and relief support to the victims in Haiti.

In the face of the devastation, the people of Haiti have had to rely on themselves and have shown heroism in helping each other as they go through the rubble, digging with their hands and puny tools to pull out what they can of the victims, both survivors and dead. With hardly any government or international aid support effectively reaching them on the ground despite the speed of information and hype of international disaster response, the people have had to rely on themselves for getting much needed water and emergency supplies.

We salute the Haitian people for helping each other. We also praise the various private organizations and institutions who have been able to extend whatever help on an international scale. At the same time, we direct our strongest denunciation against the US government for deploying military forces in Haiti instead of the personnel of US civilian agencies that are trained and equipped for rescue and relief aid.

The US government's first prolonged reaction to the earthquake was to send in the US Marines and the Army's 82nd Airborne Division. This is the notorious force unit that had invaded Vietnam, the neighboring Dominican Republic in 1965, Grenada in 1984, Haiti in 1994 and Afghanistan. Under the preposterous pretext of providing security to the devastated nation, the US landed and deployed armed soldiers instead of civil rescue personnel and equipment, water and food.

The US military took control of the airport and blocked private relief organizations in order to make way for the flights carrying soldiers and military cargo in the crucial first week after the earthquake. Professional rescue teams from many countries were compelled to stay in neighboring Dominican Republic or elsewhere, because they were not given landing slots.

A French plane, carrying a fully-equipped field hospital, was prevented from landing by the US military. The aircraft of the UN World Food Programme was also blocked from landing food, medicine and water for three days, because the US gave priority to flights ferrying US troops and equipment and evacuating Americans and other westerners. On 18 January, a US military spokesperson admitted that they have distributed a measly 15,000 liters of water and 14,000 meal packs. And they had done so chiefly through air drops, prompting the people to complain, "We are not animals!"

More than ever, the earthquake disaster in Haiti exposes the social vulnerability and devastation caused by two centuries of colonial slavery, debt bondage and modern imperialism. The capability of the people of Haiti to surmount the dire results of such a natural disaster has been undermined and debilitated by man-made disasters, inflicted by foreign debt, US military interventions and occupation, and US-imposed "free market" policies.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere where 80% of the population live in poverty. At its peak in 2008, the country's total foreign debt was at US$1.4 billion, about 40% of its GNP. It has been spending more in debt service than on medical services to the people. Worse still, about 80% of the debt was incurred during the corrupt dictatorship of François and Jean-Claude Duvalier. Ruling under the strings of the US government, the Duvaliers plundered and repressed Haiti, stashing millions of dollars in their private bank accounts abroad.

Haiti is currently occupied by UN troops and controlled by a puppet government installed after the US military kidnapped democratically-elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. Decades of "structural adjustment" programs, under the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, have robbed the nation of the capacity to provide social services, produce enough food from the land and develop national industries. Since the late 1970s, these US-dictated programs have ejected tens of thousands of small farmers from the land and driven them to the overcrowded urban slums. A nation previously self-sufficient in grains and sugar is now importing rice and sugar, chiefly from the US.

It is utterly absurd and perverse for the US to invoke security as pretext for landing its military forces on a country which has long been laid prostrate by imperialist plunder and which just been devastated by the earthquake. Natural disasters have become one of the major pretexts for US military intervention and occupation in various parts of the world. It is the dastardly policy of the US government all over the world to militarize its every pretense at aid and relief assistance, to gain extraterritorial rights and to make propaganda for the acceptance of its military forces.

The ILPS calls on its member-organizations, its allies and the people of the world to extend their solidarity and support for the people of Haiti. Emergency support and relief activities by non-military organizations must be given full play, to help ease the suffering of those most affected. Long-term rehabilitation of Haiti must eventually be mapped out together with the Haitian people, in conjunction with respect for their national sovereignty and self-government.

The ILPS reiterates its call for the withdrawal of all US and other foreign military forces. We call on the American people to demand an end to US military occupation and intervention in Haiti and help reverse the course of US-Haiti relations. We can best help Haiti recover from the devastation of the 12 January earthquake by supporting the Haitian people's struggle for national self-determination against foreign military occupation and economic plunder.


2) Haiti's Children Adrift in World of Chaos
January 27, 2010

CROIX DES BOUQUETS, Haiti - Not long after 14-year-old Daphne Joseph escaped her collapsed house on the day of the earthquake, she boarded a crowded jitney with her uncle and crawled in traffic toward the capital, where her single mother sold beauty products in the Tête Boeuf marketplace. "Mama," she said she repeated to herself. "Mama, I'm coming."

Abandoning the slow-moving jitney, Daphne, petite and delicate, got separated from her uncle and jumped onto a motorcycle-for-hire. She arrived alone at a marketplace in ruins and ran, in her dusty purple sandals, toward a pile of debris laced with "broken people," she said.

Growing closer, she saw her mother, lifeless. She froze, she said, eventually watching as her mother's body was dumped in a wheelbarrow and her only parent vanished into the chaos.

"I wanted to kill myself," Daphne said in a whisper.

Haiti's children, 45 percent of the population, are among the most disoriented and vulnerable of the survivors of the earthquake. By the many tens of thousands, they have lost their parents, their homes, their schools and their bearings. They have sustained head injuries and undergone amputations. They have slept on the street, foraged for food and suffered nightmares.

Two weeks after the earthquake, with the smell of death still fouling the air, children can be seen in every devastated corner resiliently kicking soccer balls, flying handmade kites, singing pop songs and ferreting out textbooks from the rubble of their schools. But as Haitian and international groups begin tending to the neediest among them, many children are clearly traumatized and at risk.

"There are health concerns, malnutrition concerns, psychosocial issues and, of course, we are concerned that unaccompanied children will be exploited by unscrupulous people who may wish to traffic them for adoption, for the sex trade or for domestic servitude," said Kent Page, a spokesman for Unicef.

Many children, like Daphne, bore direct witness to horror or survived destruction that killed their relatives, their schoolmates and their teachers. But even those who did not are experiencing vertigo. When the ground shifted beneath them, the landscape of their universe changed forever, and not just at home: 90 percent of schools in the capital, Port-au-Prince, are damaged or destroyed, according to Unicef.

"The children of Haiti, unless they get help, they will have lost their childhoods, their innocence," Elisabeth Delatour Préval, Haiti's first lady, said Tuesday, pledging to get schools running as soon as possible, a daunting challenge.

Many children are struggling to make sense of what they are experiencing. Danielle Schledy, 13, who has been living with her family in the courtyard of a destroyed primary school in Port-au-Prince, said she kept telling her parents that the earthquake was "not the end of the world."

Then, in her soiled turquoise dress and chipped pink nail polish, she skipped over to where her mother, Margarita Dayitus, who had bloody and infected wounds covering her body, lay in misery on the ground.

"I am sad about my mom," Danielle said.

Poor, middle-class and affluent children are all destabilized, even those who get to spend nights indoors. Marie Alice Craft, a school psychologist, said her 11-year-old daughter had been sleeping with her - in a bed at a relative's intact house - and waking up with a start when her mother got up to use the bathroom.

"She plays, she smiles, she laughs but she doesn't want to be alone," Ms. Craft said, adding that "a lot of group therapy" would be needed to make the children of Haiti feel safe again.

Child-welfare organizations have focused their initial efforts on orphaned children and those who have been separated from their families. They started Tuesday to compile a registry, sending workers into the streets to collect information for a database, in which each child would be assigned a numbered file to help track their cases, said Victor Nyland of Unicef, a senior adviser for child protection and emergencies. Such a registry was used in the Indonesian province of Aceh after the 2004 tsunami to help reunite separated families.

Some children who have nobody willing to look after them will be taken to one of three orphanages in the capital where Unicef is establishing interim care centers - that process began Monday with 60 children - or to safe spaces being established by other organizations.

In this city, Daphne was one of 25 newly orphaned children in the care of a local organization called Frades, a collective that does everything from providing microloans to serving hot meals.

"I know we can't replace their parents," said Pierre Joseph, a psychologist there. "It's an intimate loss. But we will do our best to help these kids have a future. We will find a way to create an orphanage for them."

Early this week, the children, ages 4 to 14, slept huddled together for warmth under bed sheets slung over branches in a tent city on the paved grounds of a damaged school. Young adults took turns looking after them. During the day, the counselors brought them to a walled construction site strewn with rusty cans and broken glass - the only private space they could find - and tried to distract them with singing and clapping games.

Daphne smiled occasionally as she watched the younger children, but mostly she looked stunned. When she told her story, she spoke so softly that she was barely audible. She explained that after she had watched her mother's body being carted away, she wandered Port-au-Prince in a daze. A distant relative found her and put her in a taxi back to Croix des Bouquets, where she has nothing, she said.

"He told me to be tough," she said, tears rolling down her cheeks.

She and her mother had lived with her uncle, but her uncle was shattered by his sister's death - "They had to tie him up to calm him down," Daphne said - and her uncle's wife did not want her to stay with them. "She has always been mean to me," Daphne said. "When I would get water, she'd tell me to use a coconut shell and not to dirty one of her glasses."

Shortly after midday, the volunteers, who had been scraping together their own money to feed the children, gave them their first food of the day: sweet coffee and bread. Later, they fed them rice and beans. Then Mazen Haber, child protection officer with Save the Children, showed up with a large houselike tent and promised to find some mattresses, too.

Watching a dozen grown-ups struggle to erect the tent, Daphne said that adults had told her not to think about her mother. But she could still feel her presence, she said, "like a wind at my back."

She said she was happy to be with the other children - the sisters with the wilted bows in their hairs, the tiny boys with the terror-stricken eyes - but she said she felt sorry that most had lost both parents.

"Before the earthquake, I only had but Mama," she said.


3) After Long Decline, Teenage Pregnancy Rate Rises
January 27, 2010

After more than a decade of declining teenage pregnancy, the pregnancy rate among girls ages 15 to 19 increased 3 percent from 2005 to 2006 - a turnaround likely to intensify the debate over federal financing for abstinence-only sex education.

The teenage abortion rate also crept up for the first time in more than a decade, rising 1 percent from 2005 to 2006, according to an analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonpartisan nonprofit research group.

"It's very disturbing," said Sarah Brown, of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "We had over a decade of progress on a very serious problem, and I worry that we've ground to a halt. I think there are a lot of different factors at play, from less use of contraception, maybe because of less fear of AIDS, to our anything-goes culture, where it's O.K. to get pregnant and have a baby in your teens."

While teenage pregnancy rates for whites remain far lower than for blacks and Hispanics, the pregnancy rates increased for all three groups.

As previously reported, births to young women ages 15 to 19 - a statistic that is available more quickly than pregnancy and abortion data - rose from 2005 to 2006, and again from 2006 to 2007.

Since the teenage pregnancy rate is made up of births, abortions and miscarriages, it is likely that the teenage pregnancy rate rose from 2006 to 2007, as well.

But several experts said it was too soon to predict whether teenage pregnancy and birth rates would continue to rise, and revert to the record high levels of the 1980s and early 1990s.

The Guttmacher analysis examined federal data on teenage sex, births and abortion, along with the institute's own abortion statistics.

While it is difficult to pinpoint precisely how different factors influence teenage sexual behavior, some experts speculate that the rise in teenage pregnancy might be partly attributable to the $150 million a year of federal financing for sex education that emphasized abstinence until marriage, avoiding all mention of the possible benefits of contraception.

"This new study makes it crystal clear that abstinence-only sex education for teenagers does not work," said Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The Clinton administration began financing abstinence-only programs as part of welfare reform, but such programs got a large boost in the Bush administration.

The Obama administration has moved away from abstinence-only programs, creating a new teenage-pregnancy initiative in which most financing will go to programs that have been shown to prevent pregnancy, with some experimental approaches.

Meanwhile, there are continuing efforts to reinstate financing for abstinence-only education as part of the health-reform legislation.

Lawrence Finer, director of domestic research for the Guttmacher Institute, said there was evidence that adolescent use of contraceptives had plateaued, or declined, adding that it was "an interesting coincidence" that this had happened just as the focus on abstinence-only education had left fewer students getting comprehensive sex education.

Advocates of abstinence-only education, however, had a different view.

"While this recent uptick is certainly disconcerting, it would be disingenuous to try to ascribe it abstinence education or any other single factor," said Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association. "The overly sex-saturated culture certainly plays a part, with teen sex communicated almost as an expected rite of passage, without consequences, and that's a dangerous message for young people, who tend to be risk-takers anyway."

According to the Guttmacher analysis, the teenage pregnancy rate declined 41 percent from its peak, in 1990, when there were 116.9 pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19, and 2005, when there were only 69.5 per 1,000. In 2006, the rate rose to 71.5 pregnancies for 1,000 women.

Teenage birth and abortion rates also declined in that period, with births dropping 35 percent from 1991 to 2005 and teenage abortion declining 56 percent between its peak, in 1988, and 2005.


4) Judge Bars Youth Prisons From Routine Shackling
January 27, 2010

ALBANY - The agency that runs the state's juvenile prison system routinely violates the law by shackling youthful offenders when taking them to court even when the youth poses no obvious threat, a state judge ruled on Tuesday.

The case was brought on behalf of a teenager identified as John F., who was kept in shackles - his hands and feet handcuffed, with a belly chain linked to the handcuffs - for about 15 hours one day while being taken to court. He was 14 and had no record of violent crime, said the lawyers who represented him.

The ruling, by Justice Milton A. Tingling Jr. of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, would repeal a policy of the state's youth correctional system that has been in place since at least 1996. It is the latest controversy for a system that has been widely faulted for doing what critics say is an abysmal job of meeting the needs of juvenile offenders.

The case, a class-action lawsuit on behalf of about 500 youths held in residential centers run by the state's Office of Children and Family Services, was brought by the Legal Aid Society. Justice Tingling issued his decision as a summary judgment against state officials, who did not contest the facts of the case, meaning that it is unlikely that they would win an appeal.

"The court's recognition that O.C.F.S. cannot treat children this way is part and parcel of a culture of abusive practices that is not rehabilitative and does not recognize that these are children who are in the care of the state," said Nancy Rosenbloom, the Legal Aid lawyer leading the case.

A spokesman for the agency said officials could not comment until they had reviewed the decision.

The agency's current policy requires any child in custody to be shackled while being taken between state juvenile centers or from a center to anywhere else, like a courthouse. While most of the prison units are far upstate, most of the youths are from New York City and must be taken hundreds of miles to Family Court.

The shackling policy even applied to youths being held at what are known as nonsecure facilities. Nearly all of the youths in nonsecure facilities have been placed there for the equivalent of nonviolent misdemeanor offenses, like truancy, graffiti or petty theft, and most are under 16 years old.

"We had evidence of kids not being able to drink their milk on the way to court because of the chains," Ms. Rosenbloom said.

A judge had placed John F. at the Tryon Residential Center in Johnstown, N.Y., roughly 200 miles north of Manhattan. On Nov. 1, 2007, he was awakened early to travel to court.

According to Justice Tingling's ruling: "At 4 a.m. that day, Plaintiff was placed in handcuffs, footcuffs and a belly restraint. A metal restraint box was placed over the chain linking his handcuffs to one another, which prevented Plaintiff from separating his hands farther than the width of the metal box. Prior to him being shackled and transported, Plaintiff was not assessed for mood or mental state."

The shackles were not removed until 6:15 p.m., after he returned to Tryon.

Justice Tingling found that the agency's policy violated the state's own law on shackling youths in custody, which states that shackles should be used only as a last resort, for youths who are dangerous and uncontrollable by any other means, and then only for half an hour. And shackles can be used during transport only when the youths pose a physical threat, the judge found.

"It's not that you can't ever restrain somebody. But every time it is used, there has to be determination right then that the child is out of control, dangerous, and cannot be controlled any other way," Ms. Rosenbloom said, adding that the agency "makes no such determination."


5) Soldiers Forced to Choose Between Their Children and the Military Pay the Price in Jby: Dahr Jamail | OpEdNews
Tuesday 26 January 2010

In January, U.S. Army officials announced four separate court-martial charges against Specialist Alexis Hutchinson, a single mother who missed her deployment to Afghanistan in early November 2009 when her childcare plans for her infant son, Kamani, fell through at the last minute. Hutchinson was jailed and threatened with a court-martial if she did not agree to deploy to Afghanistan. Kamani was placed into a county foster care system.

Hutchinson, in accordance with the family care plan of the U.S. Army, had been allowed to fly to Oakland, California to leave her son with her mother, Angelique Hughes. However, after a week, Hughes realized she couldn't care for Kamani along with her other duties of caring for a daughter with special needs, her ailing mother, and an ailing sister. She told Hutchinson and her commander, Captain Gassant and the Army granted a Hutchinson an extension so that she could find someone else to care for Kamani. In the meantime, the boy came back to Georgia to be with his mother.

But only a few days before Hutchinson's original deployment date, she was told by the Army she would not get the time extension after all, and would have to deploy despite the fact that her son had nowhere to go. Faced with this choice, Specialist Hutchinson chose not to show up for her plane to Afghanistan. The military arrested her and placed her child in the county foster care system.

"I think they didn't believe her that she was unable to find someone to care for her infant," Hutchinson's civilian lawyer, Rai Sue Sussman, said at the time. "They think she's just trying to get out of her deployment. But she's just trying to find someone she can trust to take care of her baby. She has never intended to get out of her deployment."

The Army put Hutchinson in the position of having to choose between caring for her infant son or deploying to Afghanistan. She chose to care for her son, and is paying the price. Currently, she remains assigned to Hunter Army Airfield near Savannah, Georgia, where she has been posted since February 2008.

Hutchinson is not unique in facing unthinkable choices when it comes to having to choose between family obligations and the U.S. military. While Sussman explained that she has not heard of another case identical to Hutchinson's, where the military arrested a mother and placed her child in foster care, "I've spoken with many soldiers who have told me that that was the choice they were given [to place their child in foster care and deploy, or face court martial]. I spoke with someone yesterday who knew someone who had to place their child with a distant relative to avoid having them being placed in foster care by the military." A soldier in the Florida Coast Guard had just contacted her over a similar situation addition, Sussman said.

"If We Wanted You to Have a Family, There Would Have Been One In Your Duffle Bag."

Army regulations exist to deal specifically with soldiers who have children. "If a soldier can't find adequate childcare, they are supposed to be discharged honorably, according to Army Regulation 635-200," says Sussman, "The regulation in this, Chapter 5, is separation for convenience of the government, deals with this, and 5-8 is the discharge, which is involuntary separation due to parenthood. This is considered a punishment to people in the Army, because the assumption is that people want to stay in the Army, but this is for times when it's not a fit."

"The military is aware that these things happen, and I believe the regulations anticipate child-care plans sometimes falling through, and there are sometimes no alternatives," Sussman added, "They [U.S. Military] recognize the parent does have a duty to care for their child if they can't find a backup for when they are deployed. The military doesn't want people deployed who are distraught about their children."

Kathleen Gilberd, co-chair of the Military Law Task Force, part of the National Lawyers Guild, agrees.

"There is a pregnancy discharge, a parenthood discharge for sole-parents who can't find someone to give total care to their kids, there's a hardship discharge where an unusual family problem that requires the soldier to be with a family in financial crisis or a family member who has a severe mental health problem," Gilberd explains. "But, despite regulations existing to deal with these problems, these are typically ignored by the military. The military will typically say, 'Well, we looked at it, but we can't help you with this.'"

Gilberd says there are common phrases in the military that speak to this: "If we wanted you to have a family, there would have been one in your duffle bag." Or, "If we wanted you to have a wife, we would have issued you one."

"Family is subsidiary to military needs," she adds. "Soldiers hear this from the beginning."

Gilberd is currently working on a case similar to Hutchinson's, but her client is not ready to go public yet. Gilberd says, "The military isn't going to be forthcoming about the reasons soldiers refuse to deploy or go AWOL, but I certainly run into many cases of soldiers struggling with the military while they try to care for their children, or sick family members."

"Helping Children Cope"?

The U.S. Military has, via a large and ongoing propaganda effort, attempted to sell itself as being "family friendly" in an attempt to lure recruits with families to join.

On the U.S. Army's primary recruiting website,, a section titled "Army Families" has sections for health care, finances, family services, and even a section on relocating with a sub-section titled "Helping Children Cope." A small paragraph addresses the stress on children whose military parent(s), faced with moving on a regular basis, feel the stress. A sentence states, "If you have young children, their first move can be challenging and maybe even downright scary."

But moving is not the most frightening proposition faced by children whose parents are in the military today. Rather, it is the unwillingness by the military to accommodate the needs of their parents.

When Sergeant Heath Carter returned from the invasion of Iraq, he discovered that his daughter, Sierra, was living in an unsafe environment in Arkansas under the care of his first wife, who had full custody of the child. Heath and his new wife, Teresa, started consulting attorneys in order to secure custody of Sierra, who also suffered from a life-threatening medical condition. Precisely during this time, the military chose to keep changing Carter's duty station from Fort Polk, Louisiana, to Fort Huachuca, Arizona, then to Fort Stewart, Georgia. Not only did these constant transfers make it difficult for Carter to see his daughter, they also reduced his chances of gaining custody of Sierra. Convinced that this was a matter of life and death for his daughter, he requested compassionate reassignment to Fort Leavenworth, Missouri, about two hours from his first wife's home in Arkansas.

His appeals to the military command, the legal department, a military chaplain, and even to his congressman failed, and the military insisted that he remain in Georgia. Having run out of all available avenues, in May 2007 he went AWOL from Fort Stewart and headed home to Arkansas where he fought for and won custody of Sierra, and was able to literally save her life by obtaining for her the medical care she needed.

But on January 25, 2009, Carter was arrested at his home by military police, who flew him back to Fort Stewart where he has been awaiting charges since then. Initially, his commander told him it would take a month and a half for him to be sent home. Instead, several months later, it was decided he would receive a court-martial.

"Now I have to wait for the court martial," Carter explained in an interview last fall. "It's taken this long for them to decide. If we had known it would take this long, my family could have moved down here. Every time I ask when I'll have a trial, they say it is only going to be another two weeks. I get the feeling they are lying."

His ordeal has forced Carter to reflect on the wars. He admits that, although his original reason for going AWOL was personal and he had otherwise been proud of his missions, he sees things in Iraq differently today. "I don't think there is any reason for us to be there except for oil."

To add insult to injury, Sergeant Carter's command even offered him a deployment to Afghanistan amid his struggles.

An equally shocking story is that of Army Specialist Leo Church.

Shortly after Church completed his Basic Training, he received a call from his partner and mother of his two children, informing him that they were homeless and living in a van. Church asked his commander for permission to leave Fort Hood and go get his family, but permission was denied.

"Seeing that I had no other choice I left to pick up my children and then immediately returned to Ft. Hood, back to my company," Church wrote of his experience in a statement from September 1, 2009. "When I returned I was charged for leaving without permission and given an Article 15, and my pay was cut in half. Things only got worse from there."

Church's captain suggested that he have his children live with him, and Church could take them to work with him, except there was a six-month wait for this to be approved. "Knowing that I was not allowed to have them in my room overnight and it being inappropriate to take them to my company to work, I left to take my children to Amarillo, Texas so I could find them a safe place to live," Church wrote of the situation, "Having only my mother to turn to, but knowing that she could not keep them 24 hours a day for me to be able to return to Ft. Hood, I stayed and found myself a civilian job. I knew my obligation was to the Army and my company, but my children were my obligation long before I ever considered enlisting and they needed their father."

Church was picked up for being AWOL in 2007 and flown back to Fort Hood where he was returned to his company, and threatened with 15-20 years in prison for having gone AWOL, despite the fact that it was to take care of his children. His partner left him during this time as well.

"So, again I found myself leaving, this time not for my children, but for me," Church added, "I was scared and alone, and had no one to help me as it had been since the first day I arrived at Ft. Hood."

This time Church "started to build the foundation for my life," adding, "a beautiful home, an excellent job, a wonderful wife, Amanda, and my only son on the way, I could not have been happier. But, my desertion charge had been discovered and I was once more picked up and returned to Ft. Hood."

Church was unable to find anyone to support his wife and children, and the Army refused to assist him, so he and his wife were forced to give their newborn son, Austin, for adoption. Meanwhile, Church was court-martialed and spent several months in the brig at Fort Lewis in Washington State. Of that time he wrote: "I have lost so much because of the Army; I don't have custody of my daughters and I had to give up my son for adoption, all because of the Army. My wife is struggling to make ends meet now without me." On December 9, 2009, Church was released from the stockade, and discharged from the Army.

According to Gilberd, Church's story is not unique.

"When there's a parent dying who wants their son or daughter home with them, or there is a child with special needs who needs intensive parent support, or some other family emergency, the military is not willing to provide that support," she explained. "Military regulations say there should be assistance available to the soldiers, and superiors are supposed to help with this, but soldiers find that the opposite happens."

After remembering an incident during the first Gulf War, when "there were reservist mothers who were breastfeeding who were ordered to active duty," Gilberd shared another story.

"Jose Crespa came home from an Iraq deployment. He went home on leave and found his sister had developed schizophrenia. His mom was unable to deal with the situation, which was complicated by the fact that his sister had a child to care for. He went AWOL for a month [late 2007] to help them, then went back to Fort Carson and let the military know what was going on. They threatened him with a general court martial, and it took attorney intervention and his Article 138 Complaint (A Redress of Grievance procedure for when soldiers are wronged by their command) to get him out."

Crespa was lucky to have good attorneys, as he was discharged without any disciplinary action and with an honorable discharge. However, things usually don't turn out this way.

"I wish I could say that's a common outcome," was Gilberd's comment on Crespa's case.

The Pentagon tracks hard numbers of soldiers going AWOL, and since October 2001, more than 50,000 soldiers have done so. But the military does not keep track of the reasons why soldiers go AWOL, or get hardship discharges, including when the reasons are those like Hutchinson's, Carter's, Church's, or Crespa's, or if the soldier has PTSD, or other mitigating circumstances.

According to Gilberd, cases like Crespa's "get lost in the shuffle," and added, "To most folks, this is just one more AWOL, or one more hardship discharge. There's no way to know how many soldiers are going AWOL and are trying to apply for hardship discharges, but counselors run across these cases often."

"Looking at these reasons would not reflect well on the military, but there are lots of these," Gilberd continued, "And to me, the irony is that there are procedures that should be available to these folks to get out, but the problem is that the command is not willing to follow the procedures. And it's all part of that "there's no family in your duffle bag" mindset. So it's all about keeping the numbers up, and having enough deployable service-members, and not letting too many people go."

As the military now finds itself preparing to deploy 30,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan and maintains more than 120,000 in Iraq, it is under tremendous pressure to maintain personnel in the ranks, which only exacerbates these problems.

"When a division is seen as having too many discharges or disciplinary problems, pressure comes down on them to not let so many people go," said Gilberd, "So the lower command gets subtle pressure for them to stop [losing personnel], and ultimately people become disposable. And not just the soldier, but their kids, or their mother, father, sister, or infant."


6) Howard Zinn: The Historian Who Made History
By Dave Zirin
E of S Nation: This isn't about sports, but if you know my work, especially A People's History of Sports in the United States, then you know I am eternally indebted to the great historian Howard Zinn who died yesterday. Please read or ignore. In tribute to Howard who always stood with the underdog, I unabashedly pick the Saints to win the Super Bowl.
In struggle and sports
Dave Z
January 27, 2010

Howard Zinn, my hero, teacher, and friend died of a heart attack on Wednesday at the age of 87. With his death, we lose a man who did nothing less than rewrite the narrative of the United States. We lose a historian who also made history.

Anyone who believes that the United States is immune to radical politics never attended a lecture by Howard Zinn. The rooms would be packed to the rafters, as entire families, black, white and brown, would arrive to hear their own history made humorous as well as heroic. "What matters is not who's sitting in the White House. What matters is who's sitting in!" he would say with a mischievous grin. After this casual suggestion of civil disobedience, the crowd would burst into laughter and applause.

Only Howard could pull that off because he was entirely authentic. When he spoke against poverty it was from the perspective of someone who had to work in the shipyards during the Great Depression. When he spoke against war, it was from the perspective of someone who flew as a bombardier during World War II, and was forever changed by the experience. When he spoke against racism it was from the perspective of someone who taught at Spelman College during the civil rights movement and was arrested sitting in with his students.

And of course, when he spoke about history, it was from the perspective of having written A People's History of the United States, a book that has sold more than two million copies and changed the lives of countless people. Count me among them. When I was 17 and picked up a dog-eared copy of Zinn's book, I thought history was about learning that the Magna Carta was signed in 1215. I couldn't tell you what the Magna Carta was, but I knew it was signed in 1215. Howard took this history of great men in powdered wigs and turned it on its pompous head.

In Howard's book, the central actors were the runaway slaves, the labor radicals, the masses and the misfits. It was history writ by Robin Hood, speaking to a desire so many share: to actually make history instead of being history's victim. His book came alive in December with the debut of The People Speak on the History Channel as actors, musicians, and poets, brought Zinn's book alive.

Howard was asked once whether his praise of dissent and protest was divisive. He answered beautifully: "Yes, dissent and protest are divisive, but in a good way, because they represent accurately the real divisions in society. Those divisions exist - the rich, the poor - whether there is dissent or not, but when there is no dissent, there is no change. The dissent has the possibility not of ending the division in society, but of changing the reality of the division. Changing the balance of power on behalf of the poor and the oppressed."

Words like this made Howard my hero. I never thought we would also become friends. But through our mutual cohort, Anthony Arnove, Howard read my sports writing and then gave his blessing to a book project we called A People's History of Sports in the United States.

We also did a series of meetings together where I would interview Howard on stage. Even at 87, he still had his sharp wit, strong voice, and matinee-idol white hair. But his body had become frail. Despite this physical weakness, Howard would stay and sign hundreds of books until his hand would shake with the effort.

At our event in Madison, Wisconsin, Howard issued a challenge to the audience. He said, "Our job as citizens is to honestly assess what Obama is doing. Not measured just against Bush, because against Bush, everybody looks good. But look honestly at what Obama's doing and act as engaged and vigorous citizens."

He also had no fear to express his political convictions loudly and proudly. I asked him about the prospects today for radical politics and he said,

"Let's talk about socialism. ... I think it's very important to bring back the idea of socialism into the national discussion to where it was at the turn of the [last] century before the Soviet Union gave it a bad name. Socialism had a good name in this country. Socialism had Eugene Debs. It had Clarence Darrow. It had Mother Jones. It had Emma Goldman. It had several million people reading socialist newspapers around the country... Socialism basically said, hey, let's have a kinder, gentler society. Let's share things. Let's have an economic system that produces things not because they're profitable for some corporation, but produces things that people need. People should not be retreating from the word socialism because you have to go beyond capitalism."

Howard Zinn taught millions of us a simple lesson: Agitate. Agitate. Agitate. But never lose your sense of humor in the process. It's a beautiful legacy and however much it hurts to lose him, we should strive to build on Howard's work and go out and make some history.


7) Haiti: US Rehearsal For Troop Deployments in Latin America
By Glen Ford
January 27, 2010

The American commandeering of the airport at Port au Prince and de facto seizure of sovereignty over Haiti looked exactly like an invasion and occupation-except that Haiti had already been invaded in 2004 by the U.S., which then turned over occupational duties to its servants in the United Nations. To speak of a U.S. "invasion" of Haiti is getting a little bit redundant. The Americans never left, and they and their flunkies walk all over Haiti like an old rug.

Clearly, however, the U.S. was not on an earthquake rescue mission. U.S. naval units sailed into Haitian waters without bothering to load up with food, water and medicine at the nearby U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. What kind of "relief" mission was this, in which the rescuer comes empty-handed? Thousands of paratroopers were flown in from Fort Bragg, North Carolina-and then sat at the Port au Prince airport for several days, claiming not to have transportation into town. They could have walked! The city is just beyond the airport fence and downtown and the port are only a couple of miles away. A BBC reporter noted that, several days after the paratroopers landed, they sent small relief missions to outlying areas. Meanwhile, literally right down the street was the vast shantytown of Cite Soliel. But the Americans didn't go there.

The United States military, except for its special operations units, is the "heaviest" fighting force in the world. That means, the Americans require more logistical support-more pounds of equipment, more fresh food, more support personnel for every grunt with a gun-than any military on the planet. When the U.S. decided to airlift thousands of troops into Port au Prince, commanders knew the logistical needs of that force, alone, would overwhelm the airport's capacity, leaving little room for actual relief supplies. The Americans knew they would be creating a bottleneck that would become an impediment to relief efforts by the rest of the world. But they hogged the air and runways, anyway. What was the purpose?

The explanation is quite simple. For the Americans, the operation was not primarily a rescue mission. Often, they carried only supplies for themselves. I don't buy into speculation that the Americans were attempting to worsen the Haitian situation through deliberate delays, in order to justify taking over the country. It was clear from the first day that the earthquake was a visitation from hell that would create more than enough drama than the U.S. would ever need-and besides, the Americans and their minions were already in charge of Haiti. But the Americans' actions make perfect sense when understood as an air and naval exercise to test the capabilities of the U.S. Southern Command to move its own men and machines from one place to another, quickly. The Southern Command's 4th Fleet was just taken out of mothballs last year, and has been staging exercises in the Caribbean to threaten Venezuela. The U.S. has just opened seven new bases in Colombia, and would be anxious to test its ability to support them with quick infusions of large units of troops and equipment. The Haiti earthquake was a good excuse. But the mission was not about them., January 27, 2010


8) Kids in Crisis (Behind Bars)
Op-Ed Columnist
January 28, 2010

We all have blind spots, and I think one of mine - shared by many other Americans, perhaps including you - has to do with prisons.

Over the years, I've written many columns about Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and torture, not to mention the abuses that go on in Chinese and North Korean prisons. But I've never written about the horrors that unfold in American prisons - especially juvenile correctional facilities - on a far larger scale than at Guantánamo.

Consider Rodney Hulin Jr., who was a 16-year-old when he was convicted of arson. A first-time offender and a slight figure at 5 feet 2 inches tall and some 125 pounds, he was sent to a men's prison. There, he was the smallest person around. Within a week, he was raped, according to an account by Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group. The prison doctor ordered an H.I.V. test, since up to one-third of the inmates were H.I.V.-positive.

Rodney asked to be placed in protective custody, but he was denied. His father, Rodney Hulin Sr., picks up the story: "For the next several months, my son was repeatedly beaten by the older inmates, forced to perform oral sex, robbed, and beaten again. ... He could no longer stand to live in continual terror."

Rodney Jr. hanged himself.

Maybe Rodney would have been safer in a juvenile correctional facility, but then again maybe not. A stunning new Justice Department special report, released just this month, underscores how widespread rape is in youth correctional facilities. It found that almost one youth in eight reported being sexually assaulted while behind bars in the last year.

That means that a child in custody is about twice as likely to be raped as an adult behind bars, based on similar surveys of adult prisoners. As The New York Review of Books wrote on its blog, we face a "crisis of juvenile prison rape."

The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, a blue-ribbon panel that issued its final report last year, described how a 14-year-old boy weighing 98 pounds was assaulted after he was made to share a cell with two older teenagers. Both were 6 feet 2 inches, and one weighed 160 pounds and the other 195 pounds.

Surprisingly, the new survey suggests that the biggest predators are not other inmates but prison staff - and female staff members offend as much as the males do. More than 10 percent of boys in juvenile correctional facilities said that they had had sex with staff, most of whom were women.

Among girls, almost 5 percent said that they had engaged in sexual activity with staff, most of whom were men.

Reggie Walton, a federal judge in the District of Columbia who led the prison rape commission, said that the figures may even be an undercount because of the stigma of rape. "I was shocked at the level of abuse," he said.

One lesson from the surveys is that we should rethink the way male guards are sometimes assigned to female inmates, and female guards to male inmates, without sufficient respect for inmates' privacy or dignity. That won't stop same-sex violence or inmate-on-inmate abuses, but it would address one important component of the abuse problem.

By some accounts, the majority of guards at women's prisons are now men. Investigators at one juvenile correctional facility found that a male guard watched as girls showered, while a woman watched over boys showering.

Jamie Fellner of Human Rights Watch, also a member of the prison rape commission, described a Virginia prison where men were stripped naked and asked to spread their buttocks in front of a female officer. When a male inmate asked to be searched in front of a man instead, Ms. Fellner said he was Tasered.

In the last few years, a growing number of states have limited the ability of guards to strip-search members of the opposite sex or watch them showering. And a landmark law, the Prison Rape Elimination Act, created Judge Walton's commission, which has made excellent recommendations to reduce violence and abuse behind bars. The Obama administration should quickly implement those recommendations.

Surveys have found that well-managed prisons and correctional facilities with strong accountability have almost no rape, by guards or inmates. Others have astonishingly high levels. If we want to rehabilitate young offenders and help them get their lives in order, a starting point is to end the criminal abuse of them.

The legacy of Rodney Hulin Jr. should be a concerted drive to end the way inmates are raped with impunity behind bars. The survey results indicating the ubiquity of sexual assault behind bars, often by guards, should be an awakening - and an end to this blind spot that so many of us have shown. We need to be as alert to human rights abuses in our youth correctional facilities as to those at Guantánamo.


9) The Kidnapping of Haiti
By John Pilger
January 27, 2010
"Information Clearing House"

The theft of Haiti has been swift and crude. On 22 January, the United States secured "formal approval" from the United Nations to take over all air and sea ports in Haiti, and to "secure" roads. No Haitian signed the agreement, which has no basis in law. Power rules in an American naval blockade and the arrival of 13,000 marines, special forces, spooks and mercenaries, none with humanitarian relief training.

The airport in the capital, Port-au-Prince, is now an American military base and relief flights have been re-routed to the Dominican Republic. All flights stopped for three hours for the arrival of Hillary Clinton. Critically injured Haitians waited unaided as 800 American residents in Haiti were fed, watered and evacuated. Six days passed before the US Air Force dropped bottled water to people suffering thirst and dehydration.

The first TV reports played a critical role, giving the impression of widespread criminal mayhem. Matt Frei, the BBC reporter dispatched from Washington, seemed on the point of hyperventilation as he brayed about the "violence" and need for "security". In spite of the demonstrable dignity of the earthquake victims, and evidence of citizens' groups toiling unaided to rescue people, and even an American general's assessment that the violence in Haiti was considerably less than before the earthquake, Frei claimed that "looting is the only industry" and "the dignity of Haiti's past is long forgotten." Thus, a history of unerring US violence and exploitation in Haiti was consigned to the victims. "There's no doubt," reported Frei in the aftermath of America's bloody invasion of Iraq in 2003, "that the desire to bring good, to bring American values to the rest of the world, and especially now to the Middle East ... is now increasingly tied up with military power."

In a sense, he was right. Never before in so-called peacetime have human relations been as militarised by rapacious power. Never before has an American president subordinated his government to the military establishment of his discredited predecessor, as Barack Obama has done. In pursuing George W. Bush's policy of war and domination, Obama has sought from Congress an unprecedented military budget in excess of $700 billion. He has become, in effect, the spokesman for a military coup

For the people of Haiti the implications are clear, if grotesque. With US troops in control of their country, Obama has appointed George W. Bush to the "relief effort": a parody surely lifted from Graham Greene's The Comedians, set in Papa Doc's Haiti. As president, Bush's relief effort following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 amounted to an ethnic cleansing of many of New Orleans' black population. In 2004, he ordered the kidnapping of the democratically-elected prime minister of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and exiled him in Africa. The popular Aristide had had the temerity to legislate modest reforms, such as a minimum wage for those who toil in Haiti's sweatshops.

When I was last in Haiti, I watched very young girls stooped in front of whirring, hissing, binding machines at the Port-au-Prince Superior Baseball Plant. Many had swollen eyes and lacerated arms. I produced a camera and was thrown out. Haiti is where America makes the equipment for its hallowed national game, for next to nothing. Haiti is where Walt Disney contractors make Mickey Mouse pjamas, for next to nothing. The US controls Haiti's sugar, bauxite and sisal. Rice-growing was replaced by imported American rice, driving people into the cities and towns and jerry-built housing. Years after year, Haiti was invaded by US marines, infamous for atrocities that have been their specialty from the Philippines to Afghanistan.

Bill Clinton is another comedian, having got himself appointed the UN's man in Haiti. Once fawned upon by the BBC as "Mr. Nice Guy ... bringing democracy back to a sad and troubled land", Clinton is Haiti's most notorious privateer, demanding de-regulation of the economy for the benefit of the sweatshop barons. Lately, he has been promoting a $55m deal to turn the north of Haiti into an American-annexed "tourist playground".

Not for tourists is the US building its fifth biggest embassy in Port-au-Prince. Oil was found in Haiti's waters decades ago and the US has kept it in reserve until the Middle East begins to run dry. More urgently, an occupied Haiti has a strategic importance in Washington's "rollback" plans for Latin America. The goal is the overthrow of the popular democracies in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, control of Venezuela's abundant oil reserves and sabotage of the growing regional cooperation that has given millions their first taste of an economic and social justice long denied by US-sponsored regimes.

The first rollback success came last year with the coup against President Jose Manuel Zelaya in Honduras who also dared advocate a minimum wage and that the rich pay tax. Obama's secret support for the illegal regime carries a clear warning to vulnerable governments in central America. Last October, the regime in Colombia, long bankrolled by Washington and supported by death squads, handed the US seven military bases to, according to US air force documents, "combat anti-US governments in the region".

Media propaganda has laid the ground for what may well be Obama's next war. On 14 December, researchers at the University of West England published first findings of a ten-year study of the BBC's reporting of Venezuela. Of 304 BBC reports, only three mentioned any of the historic reforms of the Chavez government, while the majority denigrated Chavez's extraordinary democratic record, at one point comparing him to Hitler.

Such distortion and its attendant servitude to western power are rife across the Anglo-American corporate media. People who struggle for a better life, or for life itself, from Venezuela to Honduras to Haiti, deserve our support.


10) As Aftershocks Continue, Haiti Ponders Rebuilding
January 29, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - More than two weeks after the earthquake that devastated much of this country's southern half, the capital remains a city of teetering walls, dangling electrical wires and precariously balanced heaps of jagged cinder block and wrought iron, all rattled daily by aftershocks.

Bulldozers and excavators are few and far between. Even as tent cities here swell, aid groups say an estimated 10 percent of the city's residents (a number that may be vastly understated) are camping in yards and streets next to their homes, marking off what they hope is a safe distance in case the structures fall in the next aftershock. Others trek by daily to see if their houses are still standing and wonder if they will ever be able to move back in.

"It's dangerous, but what can we do?" Orpha Brinach, 38, said after a night on a mattress in a narrow street lined by damaged homes. "We can't go to the tent cities because robbers will steal everything we have."

Along the ravaged main commercial strip, vendors hawk goods as people claw their way into demolished stores in the shadow of wobbly buildings that appear ready to crumble at any moment. Low-flying military helicopters cruise overhead, spreading fear on the ground that the jarring rotors will give wounded buildings' their final blow.

Government education officials and aid officials said Thursday that they hoped schools would begin reopening Monday, but it was unclear how many schools would be able to open - or how many students would be able to return.

John Henry Telemaque, assistant coordinator for education for President René Préval's emergency disaster committee, said that perhaps up to 97 percent of the city's schools - built to withstand hurricanes, not earthquakes - had been destroyed, and that the dead within were still being counted.

At the National Laboratory for Buildings and Public Works in Delmas, Raymond Hygin, assistant director of public works for engineering, pulled out a two-inch-thick stack of inspection documents for the 112 standing buildings that had been checked and ordered demolished. The number actually taken down: zero. "When we will begin to demolish, we couldn't tell you," he said. "First we have to continue our evaluation."

The agency has six inspection teams and is working with outside groups, including a French-based nonprofit organization called Emergency Architects, to bring in more.

Mr. Hygin said the priorities were government buildings and structures that presented immediate hazards. Homes, he said, would have to wait. Structural engineers from the United States and other countries have already been evaluating government buildings and hospitals.

Mr. Hygin's inspectors began work on Monday, delayed, he said, because many of them lost family members or their own homes in the earthquake.

In Delmas, the top two floors of a pastel yellow apartment building collapsed onto the two lower floors, crushing them, and now lean precariously over a busy road. A spray-painted sign reads "À démolir" ("demolish"), with the agency's initials and a large X circled in red. In another part of the city, Pont Morin, cracks gape on a nine-story telecommunications building in a residential neighborhood that bears no sign of having been inspected.

With damage stretching into every section of the city, the task for inspectors seems endless. But Mr. Hygin set a target of three months. "It is optimistic, yes," he said. "But we will try."

The International Medical Corps, a California-based nonprofit organization that is running the general hospital here, said it had not seen injuries related to new collapses. But a spokesman for the organization said a team from another group, the Brooklyn-based Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps, reported recovering the bodies of four people on Tuesday - some of them children - who were crushed in the collapse of a four-story building after an aftershock.

"It was a pretty dramatic story, because the rescuers could hear kids crying and banging," said the spokesman, Tyler Marshall. "They apparently died during the attempt to remove the rubble."

The capital's electrical system is also a work in progress. Col. Rick Kaiser of the United States Army commands an engineering brigade for the military's Joint Task Force Haiti, which has been helping restore vital infrastructure. He told reporters this week that restoration of power could still be a few weeks away.

The slow clearing of rubble, meanwhile, is setting off a new round of mourning for many families and the appearance of bodies on the street. This week, men working to clear debris from a hardware store found the body of a young child, missing a leg and an arm and wearing only green shorts, by a nearby telephone pole. The men said they did not know where the body came from. One started crying, a rare release in a city grimly stoic about the overwhelming loss of life.

But on Wednesday, there were more tears. As government and aid workers cleared rubble from the collapsed Ministry of Education, the building's caretaker was found. The work ID in his pocket said Benjamin Sius. Family members who came to collect the body wailed on the street outside. A sister, Elsia Sius, said he supported the whole family and paid for school for her three children.

"I've lost my brother," Ms. Sius mourned. "I have nothing left."

Rescued Girl Stable

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - A 16-year-old girl pulled from the rubble more than two weeks after a deadly earthquake was in stable condition on Thursday, able to eat yogurt and mashed vegetables. Doctors said her survival was medically inexplicable.

The girl, Darlene Etienne, was rescued a day earlier from a collapsed home and was being treated on the French Navy hospital ship Sirocco, anchored off Port-au-Prince. Her doctor, Evelyne Lambert, said she had a 90 percent chance of survival.

She may have had some access to water from a bathroom of the wrecked house, and rescuers said she mumbled something about having a little Coca-Cola with her in the rubble.

Ruth Fremson contributed reporting from Port-au-Prince, and Jack Healy from New York.


11) Cost Dispute Halts Airlift of Injured Haiti Quake Victims
"A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services said the decision to suspend the flights was made by the military, not the federal health department. A military spokesman said that the military had ended the flights because hospitals were becoming unwilling to take patients.'The places they were being taken, without being specific, were not willing to continue to receive those patients without a different arrangement being worked out by the government to pay for the care,' said Maj. James Lowe, the deputy chief of public affairs for the United States Transportation Command."
January 30, 2010

MIAMI - The United States has suspended its medical evacuations of critically injured Haitian earthquake victims until a dispute over who will pay for their care is settled, military officials said Friday.

The military flights, usually C-130s carrying Haitians with spinal cord injuries, burns and other serious wounds, ended on Wednesday after Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida formally asked the federal government to shoulder some of the cost of the care.

Hospitals in Florida have treated more than 500 earthquake victims so far, the military said, including an infant who was pulled out of the rubble with a fractured skull and ribs. Other states have taken patients, too, and those flights have been suspended as well, the officials said.

The suspension could be catastrophic for patients, said Dr. Barth A. Green, the co-founder of Project Medishare for Haiti, a nonprofit group affiliated with the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine that had been evacuating about two dozen patients a day.

"People are dying in Haiti because they can't get out," Dr. Green said.

It was not clear on Friday who exactly was responsible for the interruption of flights, or the chain of events that led to the decision. Sterling Ivey, a spokesman for Mr. Crist, said the governor's request for federal help might have caused "confusion."

"Florida stands ready to assist our neighbors in Haiti, but we need a plan of action and reimbursement for the care we are providing," Mr. Ivey said.

Mr. Crist's request did not indicate how much the medical care was costing the State of Florida, but the number and complexity of the cases could put the total in the millions of dollars. The expenditure comes at a time when the state is suffering economically and Mr. Crist, a Republican, is locked in a tough primary battle for the Senate seat that had been held by Mel Martinez.

"Recently, we learned that plans were under way to move between 30 to 50 critically ill patients a day for an indefinite period of time," Mr. Crist wrote in a letter to Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services. "Florida does not have the capacity to support such an operation."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services said the decision to suspend the flights was made by the military, not the federal health department. A military spokesman said that the military had ended the flights because hospitals were becoming unwilling to take patients.

"The places they were being taken, without being specific, were not willing to continue to receive those patients without a different arrangement being worked out by the government to pay for the care," said Maj. James Lowe, the deputy chief of public affairs for the United States Transportation Command.

Florida officials, meanwhile, said the state's hospitals had not refused to take more patients. Jeanne Eckes-Roper, the health and medical chairwoman of the domestic security task force for the South Florida region - where the Super Bowl will be played on Feb. 7 - said she had requested only that new patients be taken to other areas of the state, like Tampa.

The Health and Human Services spokeswoman, Gretchen Michael, who works for the assistant secretary for preparedness and response, said the agency was reviewing Mr. Crist's request for financial assistance. The request would involve activating the National Disaster Medical System, which is usually used in domestic disasters and which pays for victims' care.

Some of the patients being airlifted from Haiti are American citizens and some are insured or eligible for insurance. But Haitians who are not legal residents of the United States can qualify for Medicaid only if they are given so-called humanitarian parole - in which someone is allowed into the United States temporarily because of an emergency - by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Only 34 people have been given humanitarian parole for medical reasons, said Matthew Chandler, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security. The National Disaster Medical System, if activated, would cover the costs of caring for patients regardless of their legal status.

Some hospitals have made their own arrangements to accommodate victims of the earthquake, which occurred on Jan. 12. Jackson Health System, the public hospital system in Miami, treated 117 patients, 6 of whom were still in critical condition, said Jennifer Piedra, a spokeswoman. The system has established the Haiti's Children Fund to cover the costs of treating pediatric earthquake victims.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, Haitian medical facilities were quickly overwhelmed. Since then, medical help has come in the form of mobile hospitals and other aid. Major Lowe said that as medical care had become available in Haiti, the need for the flights had declined significantly. But Dr. Green and nonprofit groups with a presence in Haiti said the need for evacuations remained dire.

"Right now we have in the queue dozens of paraplegics, burn victims and other patients that need to be evacuated," Dr. Green said. "And other facilities are asking us to coordinate the evacuation of their patients."

A spokeswoman for Partners in Health, a Boston charity with doctors and nurses in Haiti, said the group had a backlog of patients, many with head, spine or pelvic injuries, who needed surgery that could not be performed there.

Major Lowe said patients could still be evacuated in private planes, but Dr. Green said medically equipped planes were very expensive and generally could carry only one or two patients.

Federal officials could not provide the total number of earthquake patients airlifted to the United States, but Florida seemed to have received the bulk of them.

In his letter, Mr. Crist outlined his state's efforts to support the rescue effort, helping both the healthy and the sick streaming into the state. "Florida's health care system is quickly reaching saturation," he wrote.


12) A Radical Treasure
Op-Ed Columnist
January 30, 2010

I had lunch with Howard Zinn just a few weeks ago, and I've seldom had more fun while talking about so many matters that were unreservedly unpleasant: the sorry state of government and politics in the U.S., the tragic futility of our escalation in Afghanistan, the plight of working people in an economy rigged to benefit the rich and powerful.

Mr. Zinn could talk about all of that and more without losing his sense of humor. He was a historian with a big, engaging smile that seemed ever-present. His death this week at the age of 87 was a loss that should have drawn much more attention from a press corps that spends an inordinate amount of its time obsessing idiotically over the likes of Tiger Woods and John Edwards.

Mr. Zinn was chagrined by the present state of affairs, but undaunted. "If there is going to be change, real change," he said, "it will have to work its way from the bottom up, from the people themselves. That's how change happens."

We were in a restaurant at the Warwick Hotel in Manhattan. Also there was Anthony Arnove, who had worked closely with Mr. Zinn in recent years and had collaborated on his last major project, "The People Speak." It's a film in which well-known performers bring to life the inspirational words of everyday citizens whose struggles led to some of the most profound changes in the nation's history. Think of those who joined in - and in many cases became leaders of - the abolitionist movement, the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the feminist revolution, the gay rights movement, and so on.

Think of what this country would have been like if those ordinary people had never bothered to fight and sometimes die for what they believed in. Mr. Zinn refers to them as "the people who have given this country whatever liberty and democracy we have."

Our tendency is to give these true American heroes short shrift, just as we gave Howard Zinn short shrift. In the nitwit era that we're living through now, it's fashionable, for example, to bad-mouth labor unions and feminists even as workers throughout the land are treated like so much trash and the culture is so riddled with sexism that most people don't even notice it. (There's a restaurant chain called "Hooters," for crying out loud.)

I always wondered why Howard Zinn was considered a radical. (He called himself a radical.) He was an unbelievably decent man who felt obliged to challenge injustice and unfairness wherever he found it. What was so radical about believing that workers should get a fair shake on the job, that corporations have too much power over our lives and much too much influence with the government, that wars are so murderously destructive that alternatives to warfare should be found, that blacks and other racial and ethnic minorities should have the same rights as whites, that the interests of powerful political leaders and corporate elites are not the same as those of ordinary people who are struggling from week to week to make ends meet?

Mr. Zinn was often taken to task for peeling back the rosy veneer of much of American history to reveal sordid realities that had remained hidden for too long. When writing about Andrew Jackson in his most famous book, "A People's History of the United States," published in 1980, Mr. Zinn said:

"If you look through high school textbooks and elementary school textbooks in American history, you will find Jackson the frontiersman, soldier, democrat, man of the people - not Jackson the slaveholder, land speculator, executioner of dissident soldiers, exterminator of Indians."

Radical? Hardly.

Mr. Zinn would protest peacefully for important issues he believed in - against racial segregation, for example, or against the war in Vietnam - and at times he was beaten and arrested for doing so. He was a man of exceptionally strong character who worked hard as a boy growing up in Brooklyn during the Depression. He was a bomber pilot in World War II, and his experience of the unmitigated horror of warfare served as the foundation for his lifelong quest for peaceful solutions to conflict.

He had a wonderful family, and he cherished it. He and his wife, Roslyn, known to all as Roz, were married in 1944 and were inseparable for more than six decades until her death in 2008. She was an activist, too, and Howard's editor. "I never showed my work to anyone except her," he said.

They had two children and five grandchildren.

Mr. Zinn was in Santa Monica this week, resting up after a grueling year of work and travel, when he suffered a heart attack and died on Wednesday. He was a treasure and an inspiration. That he was considered radical says way more about this society than it does about him.


13) Giving Life in a Land Overflowing With Pain
January 30, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Biology and the earthquake dictated that Roseline Antoine would give birth at 9:42 a.m. Thursday to a healthy baby girl who has no home but the street. The same irrevocable forces left Delva Venite naked a few feet away, in pain, waiting nearly a day for doctors to deal with the stillborn son inside her.

The women shared one of the better medical facilities here - a maternity tent outside General Hospital - but there were not enough beds or doctors. Flies were their roommates, bunching like crows on the intravenous drips, and as for the joy found in most maternity wards, that had been lost to the cracked earth.

"The street where I live, it's so dirty; there isn't enough food or water," Ms. Antoine said. "I'm scared to bring a baby into this awful situation."

Pulling down her blue dress after giving birth, she added, "I need to find a way to survive."

The pregnant are an especially vulnerable subset of victims of the quake that has left so many Haitians homeless and desolate. The United Nations estimates that 15 percent of the 63,000 pregnant women in the earthquake-affected areas are likely to have potentially life-threatening complications. For the roughly 7,000 who will give birth in the next month, the risks are even greater.

Aid groups are doing what they can. CARE has been handing out hygienic birthing kits, and doctors from around the world have taken a special pride in delivering babies. Along with rescues, newborns have become beacons of uplift amid the darkness of death.

Still, Haiti is a frightening nursery. Even before the quake, this small country had the highest rates of infant, of under-5 and of maternal mortality in the Western Hemisphere; on average, according to United Nations reports, 670 Haitian women out of every 100,000 die in childbirth, compared with 11 in the United States.

The troubles are especially visible in the tent cities all over the capital. Earlier this week on the grounds of a former military airfield, Venold Joseph, 29, devoured a tin of spaghetti, her first meal since having her baby there four days earlier.

In another tent camp, on a soccer field of a school near the downtown, one meal a day was as much as Mirline Civil, 17, could hope for. Her baby, born Sunday, struggled, too. When she tried to breast-feed the little boy, named Maiderson, he failed to latch. She rocked him back and forth and asked, "Why are you crying so much?"

In three days of visits to General Hospital, which is operating mostly out of tents, mothers were desperate to avoid returning to their own patch of dirt.

The recovery tent, a short walk from the birthing tent, included 15 mattresses Thursday, on gravel, each with a mother and child.

Sandia Sulea, 24, leaning on her elbow, and Nativita Thomas, also 24, said they both had their babies three days earlier. Their homes were flattened. They were left to sleep in the street.

The medical tent, though hotter than 100 degrees in the afternoon sun, was a step up. Here, nurses bring crackers and juice. Here, if something goes wrong, a medical team will help.

"I know they need space for other people," Ms. Sulea said. "But I don't know what to do."

Across the tent, an older woman nodded toward a quiet young mother in a men's navy blue golf shirt, picking at her nails. While the other women had family or friends crowded around, she sat with her infant son, Mackendi.

"I'm from an orphanage," said the new mother, Aristil Fabian, 18. "My mother and father are dead."

Without family - her husband fled to the country - she said she had been roaming the street, bedding down in the closest camp when it was time to sleep. She made it to the hospital on Wednesday, when she had the baby, but by Thursday afternoon, she had no idea what was next.

"I don't have anyone," she said. "I'm alone."

Inside two pediatric tents a few yards away, steel cribs with chipping paint sat crammed together. There were babies with broken arms, a boy with four amputated toes, and two abandoned children - one cross-eyed, the other, doctors believe, with cerebral palsy. No one seemed to know whether the parents died in the earthquake or just gave them up.

The most severe case, however, lay in another crib: the boy with no name. He was 13 months old, according to a man who was waving away flies, but he was so severely malnourished, his eye sockets looked like the cardboard tubes that hold toilet paper. His arms were thin enough to reveal separate bones and ligaments.

"We're trying to do what we can," said Dr. Carole Dubuché, a Haitian-American pediatrician who practices in Brooklyn, as she filled a bottle of formula.

Few of the doctors were local. Most of the Haitian obstetricians and pediatricians have still not returned to work full time. The young residents who are trying to fill the gap say a few show up for the morning or afternoon but do not stay long.

Ms. Venite's husband, Gérard Joseph, said he understood why. "Everyone is looking for their family," he said.

But not everyone sees it that way. "People here are getting a paycheck and they don't come to work," said Dr. Gerard Guy Prosper, a former head of pediatrics at General Hospital who now works in the Bronx. "And no one does anything about it."

He nearly shook with anger.

The result, for now, seems to be a scramble to keep up. On Thursday, Ms. Venite's pregnancy ended nine months after it started, with a small, still figure in a cardboard box on the dirty ground. It was only chance that kept someone from accidentally kicking it.

And on Friday by 3 p.m., two women had already had Caesarean sections; two others were waiting their turns. A resident said that all four women were at high risk for complications.

Inside the recovery tent, meanwhile, Ms. Fabian and Mackendi were gone. So was the malnourished little boy. He died Friday.

By comparison, the triumphs here are small. A group of doctors linked to a global health group out of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore opened three operating rooms this week inside the hospital, so some Caesareans no longer take place in the surgical tent where doctors are amputating gangrened limbs.

Ms. Antoine on Friday also found a place to live, in a neighbor's yard. She had been sleeping in a sewage-drenched camp outside a flattened school in her neighborhood of Bel-Air. Now, she and her new daughter, Kimberly, live just behind it, under a thin white sheet near a mostly empty set of cages with a few chickens and a litter of puppies.

Her two older children, David, 12, and Osnort, 5, seem happier with their new quarters, but Ms. Antoine remains beleaguered. From her new dwelling, she can see the crushed house where she used to live - and where her husband died while she sold cookies from a pushcart downtown.

She lost everything that day, and she said she hated that she was suddenly dependent on the charity of others.

"I don't think I can live like this, just waiting for someone to bring me food," she said. She shook her head, and stared away, as her day-old daughter tried to suck her thumb.

Damon Winter contributed reporting.


14) Jobless Turn to Family for Help
January 30, 2010

WARRENTON, Ore. - After Jean Ley lost her job as a mental health counselor in June 2008, she quickly realized how limited her options were. She had little savings. Unemployment benefits were not going to be enough to pay her bills. She was at risk of losing her home here on the Oregon coast.

As a last resort, Ms. Ley, 62, turned to her family. Her older brothers conferred with her son, Matt, and agreed that one of them would help pay her bills if needed.

But the assistance proved more than temporary. A year and half later, her son's regular payments covering her mortgage and occasional emergencies, like a car repair or arthritis medication, have proven to be her bulwark from economic catastrophe.

"If my family weren't able to help me out at this point, I wouldn't have a home," she said. "And I would be struggling."

As joblessness persists, credit cards max out and the government's safety net has grown thin, many Americans have turned to a patchwork quilt of family members and friends to stave off eviction, keep their electricity running or cover an unexpected medical bill. It is an underground banking system, complete with lenders and borrowers.

But borrowing from others can be complicated. In interviews, more than two dozen unemployed adults who had borrowed from family or friends said the act of asking, even in these hard times, is often humbling; some even called it humiliating. It can be equally stressful for lenders, many of whom are also on shaky financial footing and can barely afford to extend a small amount - especially when loans turn into gifts.

"I think money changes everything," said Matt Ley, of Seattle. "It's a cliché, but when you lend money to a friend, when you lend money to family, it changes things."

More than half of the respondents to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll of 708 unemployed adults nationwide said they had borrowed money from friends or relatives. In most cases, their financial pictures were bleak. Nearly 80 percent of those who reported borrowing money said their family's financial situation was "fairly bad" or "very bad," a significantly greater proportion than among those who had not had to borrow.

Nearly 40 percent of those who had been lent money received food stamps, compared with just 13 percent of those who had not.

Younger unemployed adults were more likely to borrow money - 61 percent of those under the age of 45 said they had. But more than a third of those over the age of 45 had as well.

For adult children borrowing from parents - by far the most common occurrence among those interviewed - the act often meant acknowledging an uneasy dependence that many thought they had escaped long ago.

"Here I am, 38, and having to ask for help from my parents is just belittling," said Matt Gibbons of Kingsport, Tenn., who has accepted more than $2,000 from his mother to cover his bills since losing his job at a home improvement company in early 2008.

John Morris, 36, of Chicago had to go to the emergency room recently with a leg infection. Without health insurance after losing his job a year and a half ago, he applied for charity care from the hospital. But he still needed about $300 for antibiotics after being discharged.

Mr. Morris waited two and a half days before finally summoning the nerve to call his father, Rich, who had already lent him money for an emergency car repair. Rich Morris, who recently retired, eventually wired the money but only after checking some accounts to make sure he had enough.

"It's not like we have hundreds of thousands of dollars lying around in a slush fund that you can pull out and do these types of things," Rich Morris said.

What became clear from interviews is that borrowing from family or friends is often done only with great reluctance.

Carlethaus Hopper, 35, of Sacramento was laid off from his job as a welder in September 2008. A few months later, his wife, Lura, 50, lost her position as a ticket clerk for Amtrak.

They started pawning jewelry, even their wedding rings. But when they received a notice threatening them with eviction if they did not immediately pay the back monthly rent of $1,025, they had no recourse but to ask Ms. Hopper's 82-year-old father.

Since then, the couple has turned to Ms. Hopper's father two more times, borrowing more than $3,000. Ms. Hopper also recently borrowed $2,000 from an old friend to pay for medication.

In most cases, according to interviews, repayment is left open-ended, given how bleak the odds of re-employment remain. Interest is usually not part of the agreement. Some lenders said they did not even expect to be repaid. But the borrowers often insist that they will as a matter of pride.

After Christine Oxley, 56, and her husband lost their jobs at a nonprofit trade association in 2008, Ms. Oxley drew up a legal contract when she was forced to go to an elderly great-aunt for $40,000 after her husband had a heart attack and was hospitalized without health insurance. Some portion of the money was eventually going to be directed the Oxleys way in an inheritance, but Ms. Oxley insisted upon a formal agreement that required repayment within five years. "I wanted her to know I wasn't going to walk away from this and I wasn't trying to get a handout," she said.

Some borrowers have exhausted their unemployment benefits, while others did not qualify in the first place. Even among those who have been able to draw benefits, like Ms. Ley, it is frequently not enough.

The Leys' situation was complicated by the fact that Matt Ley and his wife, Sandy Brown, had lent his mother money to pay legal bills when she went through a messy separation from a partner several years ago that depleted her savings. The assistance became a source of tension in her son's marriage, prompting Mr. Ley and his wife to seek the help of a therapist.

"Emotionally, we had to readjust," said Ms. Brown, who works part time as a lawyer. "How do we communicate in our marriage about this difficult issue without making anyone feel bad?"

This time, Ms. Ley provided the couple with a detailed budget of how she was spending her money, down to cat food and haircuts, proving her frugality. Still, the $750 a month for the mortgage on her small modular home, along with some other bills, was not insignificant, even for a couple with means, forcing them to set aside other priorities.

Mr. Ley, who is a commercial banker, said the exchange of money has pushed him and his mother apart in subtle ways. But he tries to maintain perspective.

"At some point, you have to step back and say, 'This is your mother, this is family, this is blood,' " Mr. Ley said. "And this is what you do when they have something bad happen to them."

Megan Thee-Brenan in New York contributed reporting.


15) Lawsuit Takes Aim at Trespassing Arrests in New York Public Housing
January 26, 2010

The relationship between the New York police and public housing residents has long been uneasy, but according to a lawsuit filed against the city and its housing authority this week, it is growing far worse, with many innocent people, including residents, ending up arrested on trespass charges that were later dismissed.

The lawsuit, filed in United States District Court in Manhattan, claims that public housing tenants and their visitors are subject to police aggression and unwarranted trespass arrests, especially during so-called vertical sweeps, when officers patrol buildings floor by floor. Sixteen plaintiffs were named in the class-action suit, which was filed by the Legal Aid Society, the Legal Defense & Educational Fund and the firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

The chief spokesman for the New York police, Paul J. Browne, said officers used the trespassing statute to prevent nonresidents with ill intent, like drug dealers, from loitering in buildings. He also said the police presence in public housing developments afforded residents "a measure of safety that residents of doorman buildings enjoy throughout the city."

"If somebody lives there, and is not doing something wrong, obviously they shouldn't be arrested," Mr. Browne said. "But a lot of people say they're not doing anything when they're arrested, and that may not be the case."

According to Johanna Steinberg, assistant counsel for the Legal Defense Fund, the number of trespassing arrests in public housing rose to 5,841 in 2008, from 4,275 in 2004, an increase of roughly 37 percent. Those figures do not include housing projects on Staten Island.

William Gibney, director of the special litigation unit for the Legal Aid Society, said, "It's been one of the most frustrating issues for our attorneys in criminal defense. They have seen innocent person after innocent person arrested and put through the system on trespass charges, when the arrests were entirely not justified."

The lawsuit does not provide statistics on how many of those charges were dropped. The suit traces several trespassing cases that it said were later dismissed. William Turner, 39, a consultant to the New York Department of Education, said he saw his work hours and income plummeted after he was arrested on a visit to a friend in a Manhattan public housing building, despite showing his identification to officers.

Another plaintiff, Roman Jackson, who now works for the Annenberg Foundation in Los Angeles, was arrested last year while chatting with a friend in the hall outside the Manhattan public housing apartment he was then sharing with his grandmother. The suit said Mr. Jackson's grandmother had showed officers her grandson's New York driver's license, proving he lived with her, to no avail.

"The residents are very concerned," said Steven Banks, attorney-in-chief at the Legal Aid Society, "and feel like they're under a state of siege."

Sheila Stainback, a spokeswoman for the New York City Housing Authority, said her agency had started addressing residents' concerns, and last year formed a task force, consisting of residents, police officers and housing authority representatives.

"Certainly there are issues to work through, which we continue to do," she said.

Ms. Stainback also noted that crime rates had dropped significantly in public housing developments, to the great relief of many tenants, which she attributed in part to the presence of police.

Some tenants and lawyers in the case said the relations between police officers and public housing residents have worsened markedly since 1995, when the Housing Police were integrated into the citywide Police Department. Now, they said, officers are no longer familiar with the buildings or their residents, and often tend to view most people they encounter suspiciously.

"Back in the day, there was the idea of community; officers knew the individuals, they know you live there, they'd say, 'go home,' " said Damaris Reyes, who lives in the Baruch Houses in the Lower East Side, and is executive director of Good Old Lower East Side, a tenants' rights and preservation group. "Now there's no rhyme or reason."


16) Blackwater's Youngest Victim
By Jeremy Scahill
January 28, 2010

Every detail of September 16, 2007, is burned in Mohammed Kinani's memory. Shortly after 9 am he was preparing to leave his house for work at his family's auto parts business in Baghdad when he got a call from his sister, Jenan, who asked him to pick her and her children up across town and bring them back to his home for a visit. The Kinanis are a tightknit Shiite family, and Mohammed often served as a chauffeur through Baghdad's dangerous streets to make such family gatherings possible.

Mohammed had just pulled away from his family's home in the Khadamiya neighborhood in his SUV. His youngest son, 9-year-old Ali, came tearing down the road after him, asking his father if he could accompany him. Mohammed told him to run along and play with his brothers and sister. But Ali, an energetic and determined kid, insisted. Mohammed gave in, and off the father and son went.

As Mohammed and Ali drove through Baghdad that hot and sunny Sunday, they passed a newly rebuilt park downtown. Ali gazed at the park and then turned to his father and asked, "Daddy, when are you gonna bring us here?"

"Next week," Mohammed replied. "If God wills it, son."

Ali would never visit that park. Within a few hours, he would be dead from a gunshot wound to the head. While you may have never heard his name, you probably know something about how Ali Mohammed Hafedh Kinani died. He was the youngest person killed by Blackwater forces in the infamous Nisour Square massacre.

In May 2008 Mohammed flew to Washington to testify in front of a grand jury investigating the shooting. It was his first time out of Iraq. The US Attorney, Jeffrey Taylor, praised Mohammed for his "commendable courage." A year after the shooting, in December 2008, five Blackwater guards were indicted on manslaughter charges, while a sixth guard pleaded guilty to killing an unarmed Iraqi. American justice, it seemed to Mohammed, was working. "I'm a true believer in the justness and fairness of American law," Mohammed said.

But this past New Year's Eve, federal Judge Ricardo Urbina threw out all the criminal charges against the five Blackwater guards. At least seventeen Iraqis died that day, and prosecutors believed they could prove fourteen of the killings were unjustified. The manslaughter charges were dismissed not because of a lack of evidence but because of what Urbina called serious misconduct on the part of the prosecutors.

Then, a few days after the dismissal of the criminal case, Blackwater reached a civil settlement with many of the Nisour Square victims, reportedly paying about $100,000 per death.

Blackwater released a statement declaring it was "pleased" with the outcome, which enabled the company to move forward "free of the costs and distraction of ongoing litigation." But Mohammed Kinani would not move on. He refused to take the deal Blackwater offered. As a result, he may well be the one man standing between Blackwater and total impunity for the killings in Nisour Square.

On September 15, 2009, the night before the second anniversary of his son's death, Mohammed Kinani sued Blackwater in its home state of North Carolina, along with company owner Erik Prince and the six men Mohammed believes are responsible for his son's death. In an exclusive interview providing the most detailed eyewitness account of the massacre that has yet been published, Mohammed told his story to The Nation.


Mohammed Kinani, 38, is a gentle man, deeply religious and soft-spoken. When we meet, he takes off his hat as he greets me with a slight bow. He then presents me with a gift--a box of baklava--and insists that we try some right away. Before we sit down to discuss the events that led to the death of his son, Mohammed goes out of his way to assure me that no question is off limits and that he wants Americans to know what happened that day. It was as though he was telling me it was OK to ask him to relive the horror. "Those few minutes in Nisour Square, I will never forget; so whatever you ask me, I will answer with absolute clarity," he said.

Before we talk about Nisour Square, Mohammed tells me about his life. He was born in Baghdad in 1971 and grew up in a large home with his siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents. His father, Hafedh Abdulrazzaq Sadeq Kinani, was a merchant who traded cars and auto parts. After high school, Mohammed enrolled at a technical institute in Baghdad but ultimately dropped out to take over the family business with his brothers. He avoided mandatory military service in Saddam's forces by paying his way out. He married a relative from his mother's side of the family and bought a home in Baghdad's al Adel neighborhood, and they had three sons and a daughter. Mohammed said his family despised Saddam, "a dictator who stole people's freedom."

Mohammed welcomed the arrival of US forces in Baghdad in April 2003. "On the first day the US Army entered Baghdad I was personally giving away free juice and candy in the street," Mohammed remembers. He and Ali would give out water and take photos with the troops when when Humvees passed by their house. "One of the soldiers even carried Ali on board one of the Humvees and took a photo with my son," Mohammed remembers. "My son loved the American Army."

In November 2006, as sectarian violence spread across Baghdad, Mohammed and his family were driven from their home by a prominent Sunni militia leader, and they moved into Mohammed's parents' home. Mohammed was devastated, but he also saw it as part of the price of freedom. "We cannot question God's plans," he says.

Before September 16, 2007, Mohammed had never heard of Blackwater. When he would stop at a US checkpoint, he would smile at the soldiers and thank them for being there. Ali enjoyed sticking his head out the window at checkpoints and telling Iraqi police, "I'm in the Special Forces." The police would laugh, Mohammed recalls, and wave him through, saying, "You're one of us." So when Mohammed found himself in a traffic jam that he thought was the result of a US military checkpoint at Nisour Square, nothing seemed out of the ordinary to him.

To pick up his sister, Mohammed would have to pass Nisour Square twice. The first time he passed, he noticed it was extremely congested. There was a construction project nearby and Iraqi police lingering on the roadside directing traffic. Eventually, he and Ali picked up Jenan and her three children and began the return journey.

A few blocks from the square, they encountered two Iraqi checkpoints and were waved through. As they approached the square, they saw one armored vehicle and then another, with men brandishing machine guns atop each one, Mohammed recalls. The armored cars swiftly blocked off traffic. One of the gunners held both fists in the air, which Mohammed took as a gesture to stop. "Myself and all the cars before and behind me stopped," Mohammed says. "We followed their orders. I thought they were some sort of unit belonging to the American military, or maybe just a military police unit. Any authority giving you an order to stop, you follow the order." It turns out the men in the armored cars were neither US military nor MPs. They were members of a Blackwater team code-named Raven 23.

As the family waited in traffic, two more Blackwater vehicles became visible. Mohammed noticed a family in a car next to his--a man, woman and child. The man was staring at Mohammed's car, and Mohammed thought the man was eyeing Jenan. "I thought he was checking my sister out," Mohammed remembers. "So I yelled at him and said, 'What are you looking at?'" Mohammed noticed that the man looked frightened. "I think they shot the driver in the car in front of you," the man told him.

Mohammed scanned the area and noticed that the back windshield of the white Kia sedan in front of him was shattered. The man in the car next to Mohammed began to panic and tried to turn his car around. He ended up bumping into a taxi, and an argument ensued. The taxi driver exited his car and began yelling. Mohammed tried to break up the argument, telling the taxi driver that a man had been shot and that he should back up so the other car could exit. The taxi driver refused and got back into his vehicle.

At that point, an Iraqi police officer, Ali Khalaf Salman, approached the Kia sedan, and it started to slowly drift. The driver had been shot, and the car was gliding in neutral toward a Blackwater armored car. Salman, in an interview, described how he tried to stop it by pushing backward. He saw a panicked woman inside the car; she was clutching a young man covered in blood who had been shot in the head. She was shrieking, "My son! My son! Help me, help me!" Salman remembered looking toward the Blackwater shooters. "I raised my left arm high in the air to try to signal to the convoy to stop the shooting." He said he thought the men would cease fire, given that he was a clearly identified police officer.

"As the officer was waving, the men on the armored cars started shooting at that car," Mohammed says. "And it wasn't warning shots; they were shooting as in a battle. It was as though they were in a fighting field. I thought the police officer was killed. It was insane." Officer Salman managed to dive out of the way as the bullets rained down. "I saw parts of the woman's head flying in front of me," recalled his colleague, Officer Sarhan Thiab. "They immediately opened heavy fire at us."

That's how the Nisour Square massacre began.

"What can I tell you?" Mohammed says, closing his eyes. "It was like the end of days."

Mohammed would later learn that the first victims that day, in the white Kia, were a young Iraqi medical student, Ahmed Haithem Al Rubia'y, and his mother, Mahassin, a physician. Mohammed is crystal clear that the car posed no threat. "There was absolutely no shooting at the Blackwater men," he says. "All of a sudden, they started shooting in all directions, and they shot at everyone in front of them. There was nothing left in that street that wasn't shot: the ground, cars, poles, sidewalks; they shot everything in front of them." As the Blackwater gunners shot up the Rubia'ys' vehicle, Mohammed said, it soon looked like a sieve "due to how many bullet holes it had." A Blackwater shooter later admitted that they also fired a grenade at the car, causing the car to explode. Mohammed says the Blackwater men then started firing across the square. "They were shooting in all directions," he remembers. He describes the shooting as "random yet still concentrated. It was concentrated and focused on what they aimed at and still random as they shot in all directions."

One of the Blackwater shooters was on top of an armored vehicle firing an automatic weapon, he says. "Every time he would finish his clip, he would throw it on the ground and would load another one in and would start shooting again, and finish the new one and replace it with another." One young Iraqi man got out of his car to run, and as he fled, the Blackwater shooter gunned him down and continued firing into his body as it lay on the pavement, Mohammed says. "He was on the ground bleeding, and they're shooting nonstop, and it wasn't single bullets." The Blackwater shooter, he says, would fire at other Iraqis and cars and then return to pump more bullets into the dead man on the ground. "He sank in his own blood, and every minute the [Blackwater shooter] would shoot left and right and then go back to shoot the dead man, and I could see that his body would shake with every bullet. He was already dead, but his body was still reacting to the bullets. [The shooter] would fire at someone else and then go back to shoot at this dead man." Shaking his head slowly, Mohammed says somberly, "The guy is dead in a pool of blood. Why would you continue shooting him?"

In his vehicle, as the shooting intensified, Mohammed yelled for the kids to get down. He and his sister did the same. "My car was hit many times in different places. All I could hear from my car was the gun shots and the sound of glass shattering," he remembers. Jenan was frantic. "Why are they shooting at us?" she asked him. Just then, a bullet pierced the windshield, hitting Jenan's headrest. Mohammed shows me a photo of the bullet hole.

As gunfire rained on the SUV, Jenan grabbed Mohammed's hair, yanked his head down and covered him with her body. "My young sister was trying to protect me by covering me with her body, so I forced myself out of her grip and covered her with my body to protect her. It was so horrific that my little sister, whom I'm supposed to protect, was trying to protect me." Mohammed managed to slip his cellphone from his pocket and was going to call his father. "It's customary that when in agony before death, you ask those close to you to look after your loved ones," he says. Jenan demanded that Mohammed put down the phone, reminding him that their father had had two strokes already. "If he hears what's happening, he'll die immediately," she said. "Maybe he'll die before us."

At that moment, bullets pierced the SUV through the front windshield. A bullet hit the rearview mirror, causing it to whack Mohammed in the face. "We imagined that in a few seconds everyone was going to die--everyone in the car, my sister and I and our children. We thought that every second that passed meant one of us dying." He adds, "We remained still, my sister and I. I had her rest her head on my lap, and my body was on top of her. We'd sneak a peek from under the dashboard, and they continued shooting here and there, killing this one and that one."

And then the shooting stopped.


Ali and his father were inseparable. Ali's older brothers called him "Daddy's favorite," and the family affectionately called him by his kid nickname, Allawi. "He was the closest of my sons to me. He was my youngest and was always indulged," recalls Mohammed. "He would sleep on my arm. He's 9 and half years old but still sleeps on my arm. He has his own room, but he never slept alone." When the boy turned 9, Ali's father thought, "This can't go on--him sleeping on my arm as his pillow. So I said, 'Son, you're older now; go sleep like your brothers, in your bed in your room. It doesn't work anymore; you're getting older. You're gonna be a man soon.'"

"As you wish, father," Ali said. "He always said that," Mohammed recalls. "As you wish, father." Ali left the room, but Mohammed looked over and saw the shadow of Ali's feet under the door. "So I called him in, and Ali opened the door and said, 'Daddy, I'm Allawi, not Ali,'" Mohammed remembers. "He was telling me that he's still young." Mohammed gave in, and Ali slept in his arms again. "He never had a pillow besides my arm," says Mohammed.

As he sat in his severely damaged SUV, Mohammed thought that, in the midst of horror, a miracle had blessed his car. We are alive, he thought. As the Blackwater forces retreated, Mohammed told Jenan he was going to go check on the man who had been repeatedly shot by Blackwater. "I was deeply impacted by that man they continued shooting at," Mohammed recalls. As he exited his car, Mohammed's nephew yelled, "Uncle, Ali is dead. Ali is dead!" Jenan began to scream.

Mohammed rushed around to Ali's door and saw that the window was broken. He looked inside and saw his son's head resting against the door. He opened it, and Ali slumped toward him. "I was standing in shock looking at him as the door opened, and his brain fell on the ground between my feet," Mohammed recalls. "I looked and his brain was on the ground." He remembers people yelling at him, telling him to get out while he could. "But I was in another world," he says. Then Mohammed snapped back to consciousness. He put Ali back in the car and placed his hand over his son's heart. It was still beating. He got in the driver's seat of his car, tires blown out, radiator damaged, full of bullets, liquids leaking everywhere, hoping still that he could save Allawi's life. Somehow he managed to get the car near Yarmouk Hospital, right near the square. He picked up Ali and ran toward the hospital. He nearly collapsed on the road, and an Iraqi police officer took Ali from his arms and ran him into the hospital.

Mohammed checked that the other children were safe and then dashed to the hospital. "I entered the emergency room, and blood was everywhere, dead people, injured people everywhere," he remembers. "My son was in the last bed; the doctor was with him and had already hooked him with an IV line." As Mohammed stood by Ali's bed, the doctor told him that Ali was brain dead. "His heart is beating," the doctor said, "and it will continue to beat until he bleeds out and dies." The doctor told him that if there were any hope to be found, it would require taking Ali in an ambulance to a neurological hospital across town. The fastest route meant that they had to pass through Nisour Square. Iraqi police stopped them and told them they could not pass. "The US Army is here and won't let you through," the officer told them. The driver took an alternate route and was going so fast the ambulance almost crashed twice. When they got to the hospital, Mohammed offered to pay the driver--at least for the gas, which is customary. The driver refused. "No, I would like to donate blood to your son if he needs it," he told Mohammed. A few moments later, Mohammed stood with a doctor who told him there was nothing they could do. Ali was dead.

Mohammed wanted to take his son's body home with him, but the hospital regulations required that he get papers from the police. So Mohammed had to leave. He spent hours tracking down the right authority to sign off. Finally he was able to take Ali's body to prepare him for a Muslim burial. That night there was no electricity in Baghdad, so they had to run a generator to keep air-conditioning going to protect Ali's body from the sweltering heat. The next morning they took Ali to the southern holy city of Najaf to be buried at the family plot. "As Muslims, we believe that Ali died innocent with no obligation," says Mohammed. "My son died at an age where there were no strings attached. My son was young and innocent, so he flew up [to heaven] like a white dove. This is what's making it easier on me. I always tell my wife that your son is a bird in heaven, he's with God and when we die we will be united eternally." Mohammed looks down and then up. "I still thank God for everything. I thank him because we were six in that car, and he's the only one to go. Although that one is piece of my heart, it happened and I can't change it. I have my other kids that I will raise, and hopefully I'll be able to keep them safe."


After Ali's death, some of Mohammed's friends came to him and asked him if the death had changed his attitude toward the Americans. It hadn't, he told them. "I honestly separate distinctly between Blackwater and the American people and the American government," he says. "I honestly love America and the American people. What happened to my family is totally isolated from the American people and government."

Mohammed carries with him a letter to his family signed by Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of US forces in Iraq, dated June 25, 2009. The letter is the result of an extraordinary gesture made by the Kinanis after Ali's death. The US Embassy offered to provide a $10,000 condolence payment to the families of the victims of Nisour Square, making clear it was not a remedy for what happened and not a substitute for any potential legal action against the shooters. Initially Mohammed refused the money, but the embassy pursued his family, urging them to take it. They eventually did, but with one condition: that the US military accept a $5000 donation from the Kinanis to the family of a US soldier killed in Iraq. Mohammed's wife, Fatimah, delivered the gift to the US Embassy. "My wife labeled it as a gift from a mother who sacrificed a son on the path to freedom, a gift from Ali's family to whichever US military family the embassy chose, to any soldier's family that was killed here in Iraq, who lost his life in Iraq for the sake of Iraq." Soon thereafter, Fatimah received the letter from General Odierno. "Your substantial generosity on behalf of the families of fallen American soldiers has touched me deeply," Odierno wrote.

After Ali's death, the thought of suing Blackwater didn't cross Mohammed's mind. He readily cooperated with the US military and federal investigators, and he believed that justice would be done in America. But when he would go to the US Embassy, Mohammed recalls, he would get "hammered there. They all wanted me to shut up so they could defend Blackwater." He says an embassy official tried to convince him that there had been a firefight that day, not a massacre. Mohammed was unfazed by what he considered a grand lie and continued to cooperate with the US investigation. Then, he says, Blackwater stepped in.

In a letter to ABC News threatening a defamation lawsuit for a story the network had done about Nisour Square, a Blackwater attorney denied that Blackwater had killed Ali, claiming instead that he was killed by "a stray bullet" possibly fired by the US military "an hour after Blackwater personnel had departed the scene." The letter claimed Ali was killed by a "warning shot" that "ricocheted and killed the nine-year-old boy." It said it was not "even possible" Blackwater "was responsible."

Then an Iraqi attorney working with Blackwater approached Mohammed. But he wasn't just any lawyer. Ja'afar al Moussawy was the chief prosecutor of the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal, which prosecuted Saddam Hussein and other leading officials. He was the Iraqi lawyer.

Mohammed agreed to meet with Moussawy and Blackwater's regional manager. When Mohammed arrived at the Blackwater headquarters in the Green Zone, there was a lunch spread laid out on the table. Moussawy asked Mohammed if he wanted to eat, and Mohammed said he would, "to show you that I have nothing against you personally." Mohammed says he told them, "My problem is not with any of you, rather with the guys who killed my son." After lunch, the manager asked Mohammed to tell him what happened in the square that day. Mohammed did. The manager then said he had an offer for him.

"We want to give you $20,000," Mohammed recalls the Blackwater manager saying.

"I'm not taking a penny from you," Mohammed told him. "I want no money."

Mohammed asked for a blank piece of paper and a pen. "Look I have the paper and I can sign and waive all my [legal] rights. All my rights, I will sign away now, but under one condition: I want the owner of Blackwater to apologize to me publicly in America and say, 'We killed your son, and we're sorry.' That's all I want."

The Blackwater manager asked Mohammed why it was so important to have an apology. Mohammed reminded him of Blackwater owner Erik Prince's Congressional testimony two weeks after the Nisour Square shootings. In his testimony, Prince said his men "acted appropriately at all times" at Nisour Square and that the company had never killed innocent civilians, except perhaps by "ricochets" and "traffic accidents." At that hearing, on October 2, 2007, a document was produced showing that before Nisour Square the State Department, Blackwater's employer, had coordinated with Blackwater to set a low payout for Iraqi shooting victims because, in the words of a Department security official, if it was too high Iraqis may try "to get killed by our guys to financially guarantee their family's future."

Mohammed said he wanted Prince to publicly reject this characterization of "Iraqis as mercenaries." The Blackwater manager, he says, told him Blackwater does not apologize. "You killed my son!" Mohammed exclaimed. "What do you want, then? Why did you bring me here?"

Mohammed then confronted the Blackwater manager about the letter to ABC News. "I told him that Blackwater was trying to stain the reputation of the American Army" by blaming Ali's death on US soldiers. Mohammed recalls asking, "Aren't you an American company, and this is your national army? Why would you do this to your own?" Mohammed says he threw the pen and paper at the Blackwater manager and left. In a statement to The Nation, a Blackwater spokesperson confirmed that the company had offered Mohammed a "condolence payment" and that he declined it.

It was then that Mohammed decided that his best recourse would be to cooperate with the US criminal investigation of the incident and to sue Blackwater in civil court the United States. "I want Blackwater, who refused to apologize, to get what they deserve according to the rule of law," Mohammed says. "I had no other option but to go down the legal path, to have justice applied--something that will be comforting to victims' families and something that might deter other criminals from committing the same act."


Mohammed's American lawyers contend, as did federal prosecutors, that the Blackwater men disobeyed orders from superiors not to leave the Green Zone, which ultimately led to the shooting at Nisour Square, and that they did not follow proper State Department guidelines for the use of force, instead shooting unprovoked at Mohammed's car and the other civilians in the square. They also allege that Blackwater was not guarding any US official at the time of the shooting and that the Nisour Square killings amounted to an offensive operation against unarmed civilians. "Blackwater was where it shouldn't have been, doing something it was not supposed to do," says Mohammed's lawyer Gary Mauney. They "weren't even supposed to be in Nisour Square, and if they hadn't have been, no shootings would have occurred."

Unlike the other civil suits against Blackwater, which were settled in federal court in January, Mohammed's case was filed in state court in North Carolina. It is also different because Mohammed is directly suing the six Blackwater men he believes were responsible for the shooting that day. The suit also argues that Prince and his network of Blackwater companies and affiliates are ultimately responsible for the conduct of the men at Nisour Square. The Blackwater shooters "weren't doing anything related to their work for the government," Mauney says. "After the events happened, Blackwater came out and said, 'We support what they did. We think it was justified.' They ratified the conduct of their employees."

Moreover, Mohammed's lawyers contend that the evidence that was ruled inadmissible in the criminal Nisour Square case because it was obtained in exchange for a promise of immunity and reportedly under threat of termination is valid evidence in their civil case. Several statements by Blackwater guards who were at the square that day directly bolster Mohammed and other Iraqis' claim that it was an unprovoked shooting.

Perhaps the most potent piece of evidence in Mohammed's case comes from one of the men he is suing. Jeremy Ridgeway, a turret gunner on the Raven 23 team that day, pleaded guilty to killing an unarmed civilian. In his sworn proffer that accompanied his guilty plea, Ridgeway admitted that he and the other five defendants "opened fire with automatic weapons and grenade launchers on unarmed civilians...killing at least fourteen people" and wounding at least twenty others. "None of these victims was an insurgent, and many were shot while inside of civilian vehicles that were attempting to flee" the Blackwater forces. Ridgeway also admitted that Raven 23 had "not been authorized" to leave the Green Zone and that after they departed, they "had been specifically ordered" by US Embassy officials to return. "In contravention of that order," they proceeded to Nisour Square. Ridgeway admitted to shooting and killing Dr. Al Rubia'y in the Kia sedan, adding that another Blackwater shooter launched an M-203 grenade, "causing the vehicle to erupt in flames." He acknowledged that "there had been no attempt to provide reasonable warnings to the driver." As the Raven 23 convoy exited the square against the flow of traffic, Ridgeway admitted, Blackwater forces "continued to fire their machine guns at civilian vehicles that posed no threat to the convoy."

Evidence in the criminal case also reveals that three other men on the Raven 23 convoy--Adam Frost, Mark Mealy, Matthew Murphy--were "horrified" at what their colleagues had done in the square that day. In a journal entry he wrote after the shooting, Frost recounted returning to the Green Zone, where he and Murphy confronted the men who did the killings at Nisour Square. "We started to curse at them and tell each other how fucked up they were," he wrote. "We could not believe what we had just seen." Murphy told the grand jury his colleagues were shooting "for nothing and for no reason." Mealy described two of the defendants, Evan Liberty and Paul Slough, giving each other high-fives, "patting each other on the back and bragging about what a great job they had done." In his testimony, Murphy described what he had seen that day as "pretty heinous shit."

Frost, who prosecutors say did not fire his weapon at Nisour Square, wrote in his journal that he "prayed for comfort to be given to those families that we had broken." When the FBI launched its investigation of the shooting, Frost said he was "strongly encouraged," though not ordered, by Blackwater management not to answer its questions. He said a Blackwater manager had told him that the company was already fully cooperating with the State Department and had been honest in detailing the shooting. "I thought to myself, you fuckers have been anything but honest with the State Department and their investigation," Frost wrote.

Mauney and his partner, Paul Dickinson, believe that these statements and others like them, along with the accounts of scores of Iraqi witnesses and forensic evidence, paint a case of overwhelming guilt on the part of the Blackwater shooters who killed Ali Kinani and the other Iraqis that day. "I think it's important for folks to know that Blackwater has not won," says Mauney. In addition to Mohammed, Mauney and Dickinson represent five other families impacted by Nisour Square, including those of two others killed by Blackwater. "They've come here with a heart full of belief in the US justice system," says Dickinson. In late January on a visit to Baghdad, Vice President Joe Biden announced that the United States would appeal the dismissal of the criminal cases, saying the judge's ruling was "not an acquittal." Blackwater's lawyers have said they believe the appeal will fail.

As we wrap up the interview, Mohammed Kinani gathers up all the photos he has brought to show me: pictures of Ali and his other children, pictures of his wife and of his severely damaged car. He stops and stares at a school portrait of Ali. We look at a video on his laptop of his home--the one currently occupied by the Sunni militia leader--and then he pauses and clicks on another video file. The screen pops up, and there is Ali, hopping around a swimming pool with his cousins and siblings. With a wide smile, Ali approaches Mohammed's cellphone camera and says, "I am Allawi!"

Mohammed tells me, "I wish the US Congress would ask [Erik Prince] why they killed my innocent son, who called himself Allawi. Do you think that this child was a threat to your company? This giant company that has the biggest weapons, the heaviest weapons, the planes, and this boy was a threat to them?" he says. "I want Americans to know that this was a child that died for nothing."


17) U.S. Speeding Up Missile Defenses in Persian Gulf
January 31, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is accelerating the deployment of a series of new defenses against possible Iranian missile attacks in the Persian Gulf, placing special ships off the Iranian coast and antimissile systems in at least four Arab countries, according to administration and military officials.

The deployments come at a critical turning point in President Obama’s dealings with Iran’s leadership, when he is warning that his diplomatic outreach will now be combined with the “consequences,” as he put it in the State of the Union address, of the country’s continued defiance on its nuclear program. The administration is trying to win broad international consensus for sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which Western nations say controls the military side of the nuclear program.

As part of that effort, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton publicly warned China on Friday that its opposition to sanctions was shortsighted. The Senate, meanwhile, last week unanimously approved a resolution authorizing sanctions that include cutting off gasoline to Iran, a step Mr. Obama’s aides say he is reluctant to take.

The deployments are partly intended to address American concerns about possible retaliation for whatever sanctions are imposed. The administration is also trying to demonstrate to Israel that there is no immediate need for military strikes against Iranian nuclear and missile facilities.

The news that the United States is deploying antimissile defenses — which included a rare public discussion by Gen. David H. Petraeus — appear to be part of a coordinated administration strategy to increase pressure on Iran. By highlighting the defensive nature of the buildup rather than offensive weaponry, the administration was trying to contain any Iranian threat without provoking a sharp response from Tehran.

Because many countries in the gulf are hesitant to be publicly identified as accepting American military aid and the troops that come with it, General Petraeus declined to say who was taking the American equipment. In fact, the names of the countries where American Patriot batteries are deployed are classified, but many of them are an open secret.

Military officials said that the countries that accepted the missiles were Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait. The Kuwaitis have agreed to take additional American batteries to supplement older, less capable models it fielded years ago, while it awaits delivery of an upgraded system that it is seeking from the Raytheon Co. Saudi Arabia and Israel have long had similar equipment of their own.

General Petraeus spoke about the deployments at a conference on Jan. 22, saying that “Iran is clearly seen as a very serious threat by those on the other side of the gulf front, and indeed, it has been a catalyst for the implementation of the architecture that we envision and have now been trying to implement.”

General Petraeus said that the acceleration of defensive systems — which began when President George W. Bush was in office — included “eight Patriot missile batteries, two in each of four countries.”

General Petraeus also described a first line of defense: He said the United States was now keeping Aegis cruisers on patrol in the Persian Gulf at all times. Those cruisers are equipped with both advanced radar and antimissile systems designed to intercept medium-range missiles. None of those systems would be useful against Iran’s long-range missile, the Shahab III, but intelligence agencies believe that it will be years before Iran can solve the many problems involved in placing a nuclear warhead atop that missile.

As described by administration officials, the moves have several motives. “Our first goal is to deter the Iranians,” said one senior administration official, insisting on anonymity because the White House declined to answer any questions about the rationale behind the buildup. “A second is to reassure the Arab states, so they don’t feel they have to go nuclear themselves. But there is certainly an element of calming the Israelis as well.”

As the Iran’s nuclear program proceeds — more slowly, American intelligence officials say, than they once feared — Israel has hinted at various times that it might take military action against the country’s military facilities unless it is convinced that Mr. Obama and Western allies are succeeding in stopping the program. In the spring of 2008, the Israelis asked President Bush for bunker-busting weapons and refueling technology in case they decided to carry out a strike; they were turned down, and have since focused on developing their own capabilities.

Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, took an unannounced trip to Israel this month, partly to take the temperature of the Israeli government and to review both economic and covert programs now under way against the Iranian program, according to officials familiar with the meeting.

American officials argue that that willingness of Arab states to take the American emplacements, which usually come with a small deployment of American soldiers to operate, maintain and protect the equipment, illustrates the region’s growing unease about Iran’s ambitions and abilities. Oman, which has always been sensitive about perceptions that it is doing Washington’s bidding, has also been approached, but so far there is no deployment of Patriots there, according to American officials.

One senior military officer said that General Petraeus had started talking openly about the Patriot deployments about a month ago, when it became increasingly clear that international efforts toward imposing sanctions against Iran faced hurdles, and the administration’s efforts to engage Iran were being rebuffed by the Tehran government. In October, the two countries reached an agreement in principle to move a significant portion of Iran’s nuclear fuel out of the country, but Iran backed away from the deal.

In discussing the Patriots and missile-shooting ships, General Petraeus’s main message has been to reassure allies in the gulf that the United States is committed to helping defend the region, said the military officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivities. But the general’s remarks were also pointed reminder to the Iranians of American resolve, the officer said.