Saturday, April 17, 2010



Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:




MONDAY, APRIL 19, 2010
COURT: 9:00 A.M.
850 BRYANT STREET (Between 6th and 7th Streets)

New Episodes of Kiilu Nyasha's TV show focusing on the SF8: Harold Taylor and Charles Bourdon, attorney for Cisco Torres

These two new episodes are well timed with Cisco Torres' upcoming court date. If you live in the area, please come to his next court date on Monday April 19: 8:00 a.m. demonstration; 9:00 a.m. court. SF Court Building: 850 Bryant Street (btw 6th and 7th streets), San Francisco. For more information, go to

Harold Taylor:

Freedom is a Constant Struggle TV show, April 25, 2008

Our guest is Harold Taylor, of Panama City, Florida, one of the elders known as the San Francisco 8 who was freed on bail last September. Harold was one of the organizers of the San Diego chapter of the Black Panther Party. Father of five children, Harold worked for the U.S. Air Force at Tyndal, and as a hi-voltage journeyman lineman for over 15 years. In his own words, "In 1971, two brothers and I were set up by the FBI. We didn't learn about COINTELPRO until years later. In 1973 I was arrested in New Orleans and was beaten and tortured for several days. in 2003 the detectives that were responsible for my torture came to my house to try and question me. I have not been the same since."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Currently, as of April 2010, Cisco Torres is the only member of the SF8 still facing charges. Please come to his next court date on Monday April 19: 8:00 a.m. demonstration; 9:00 a.m. court. SF Court Building: 850 Bryant Street (btw 6th and 7th streets), San Francisco. For more information, go to

Charles Bourdon, attorney for Cisco Torres:

Freedom is a Constant Struggle TV show, February 8, 2008

Our guest is Charles F. Bourdon, Attorney for Francisco Torres of the San Francisco Eight. Collectively, the SF8 are a group of community activists who have devoted their lives to serving the people and making a difference. Richard Brown (65), for example, has worked for decades in the Fillmore District mentoring youth; including 20 years as a Program Coordinator at Ella Hill Hutch Community Center and is fondly referred to as the Mayor. While conspiracy charges have been dropped against Brown and four other defendants, effectively freeing Richard ONeal, lawyers will argue in court on Feb. 7 to have the same charges dropped against the remaining three defendants.


Eight former Black community activists - Black Panthers and others - were arrested January 23, 2007 in California, New York, and Florida on charges related to the 1971 killing of a San Francisco police officer. Similar charges were thrown out after it was revealed that police used torture to extract confessions when some of these same men were arrested in New Orleans in 1973.

Richard Brown, Richard O'Neal, Ray Boudreaux, and Hank Jones were arrested in California. Francisco Torres was arrested in Queens, New York. Harold Taylor was arrested in Florida. Two men charged - Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim - have been held as political prisoners for over 30 years in New York State prisons. The men were charged with the murder of Sgt. John Young and conspiracy that encompasses numerous acts between 1968 and 1973.

Harold Taylor and John Bowman (recently deceased) as well as Ruben Scott (thought to be a government witness) were first charged in 1975. But a judge tossed out the charges, finding that Taylor and his two co-defendants made statements after police in New Orleans tortured them for several days employing electric shock, cattle prods, beatings, sensory deprivation, plastic bags and hot, wet blankets for asphyxiation. Such "evidence" is neither credible nor legal.

Now, After 38 years, the government's case against eight former Black Panther Party members and supporters has almost completely unraveled. (See the SF 8 statement of August 6). Only Francisco Torres still faces charges - see the Open Letter calling for his charges to be dropped. The eight were arrested January 23, 2007 in California, New York, and Florida on charges related to the 1971 killing of a San Francisco police officer. Similar charges were brought in 1975, but a California judge tossed out the charges, finding that they were based on statements made by three of the men after police in New Orleans tortured them for several days employing electric shock, cattle prods, beatings, sensory deprivation, plastic bags and hot, wet blankets for asphyxiation.

At the end of July, Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim were sentenced to probation and time served, after Herman agreed to plead to voluntary manslaughter and Jalil to conspiracy to voluntary manslaughter. All charges were then dropped on Richard Brown, Hank Jones, Harold Taylor, and Ray Boudreaux, with the prosecution admitting it had "insufficient evidence" against them. Charges had already been dropped against Richard O'Neal last year.

Francisco Torres, of NYC, is the last person still with charges; he maintains his innocence.

Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim have been in prison in New York for almost 40 years on similar charges based on the US Government's COINTELPRO actions to disrupt and destroy radical organizations, especially the Black Panther Party. Showing the weakness of the prosecution's case, Bell and Muntaqim were given no additional prison time, and have been returned to NY where they will continue to fight for parole.

Two and a half years of mass support for the Brothers, including resolutions from the San Francisco Central Labor Council, the Berkeley City Council, and several San Francisco Supervisors, have almost broken the back of a vindictive prosecution organized by Homeland Security, the FBI, and California Attorney General Jerry Brown. The defense committee has vowed to keep up the pressure until charges are dropped against Francisco Torres and Herman and Jalil are back with their families and community.




April 24th in Los Angeles, California
Santee Education Complex
1921 South Maple Avenue
Contact Us, Sign Up For Updates, & Send Endorsements To
Conference E-Mail Address:
Conference Website:

The future of public education in this state - particularly for the working class and communities of color, who are being hit especially hard by the cuts - depends on our ability to unify and push forward the struggle in defense of public education.

The purpose of this Statewide Mobilizing Conference is therefore both simple and extremely urgent: to democratically discuss and decide on a unifying political platform and plan of action capable of bringing together schools, student organizations, labor unions, committees, coalitions, and parent and community organizations across the state to deepen and push forward this powerful and broad movement that shook the state and the country on March 4th.

We ask activists, organizations, and mobilized schools across the state to put their full organizational capacity into helping us collectively to build and promote this conference. We ask for maximum participation from all education sectors - Pre-K-12, Community College, CSU, UC, and Adult Education - and regions, and from all organizations of workers, teachers, and students, and we extend the invitation to all mobilized schools and organizations across the country. Get your union, student government or parent-teacher organization to endorse, attend, and participate in the conference.

The decision to call for this conference was made at the Statewide Mobilizing Conference of October 24th, 2009, where over 800 people from all of the sectors of public education decided together to call for the March 4th Strike and Day of Action in defense of public education.


SF Workers Memorial Day
Stand Up For Injured Workers
& Commemorate Workers Killed On The Job
Wed April 28, 7:00 PM
ILWU Local 34 2nd St./Embarcadero SF

Shiela Davis, Executive Director Silicon Valley Toxic Coalition
Mike Daly, Ironworkers Local 377* delegate to San Francisco Labor Council
Leuren Moret, Geo-scientist who worked at the Livermore nuclear weapons lab
Carol Criss, SEIU-UHW Kaiser Steward Transcriptionist
Roland Sheppard, Retired BA Painters Local 4
Dina Padilla, Injured Worker Advocate
Becky McClain, Injure Pfizer Molecular Biologist by telephone
Sandy Trend, mother of injured Agraquest injured biotech worker David Bell

Workers in the bay area and nationally continue to get injured and killed on the job. In California, OSHA inspectors have been threatened and retaliated against for speaking out about the decline of the agency and the failure of the agency to do a proper job protecting injured workers and the public. Additionally all the OSHA doctors for California's 17 million workers have also been terminated thereby threatening the safety of workers and the public. There are more CA Fish and Game Inspectors than Ca-OSHA inspectors and this needs to change.

Hundreds of NUMMI injured workers who have been on disability are also now being discriminated against by the company and treated as 2nd class workers in the compensation plan. Is this fair? Many of these workers have given decades of their lives to the company yet they are now being punished for being disabled. This is cost shifting since their healthcare will now be paid for by the State and SSI when they go on permanent disability. This is yet another example of cost shifting by the corporations making the tax payer pay for their liabilities.

Workers Memorial Day is held every year to commemorate those workers killed and injured on the job. The deregulation of workers compensation has also allowed employers and the insurance industry to deny seriously injured workers prompt healthcare and also has cut the permanent disability payments by 50% as well as completely eliminating retraining.

There is a national struggle to strengthen OSHA protection called the Protecting America's Workers Act H.R. 2067 needs to be supported and also to require that all injured workers are entitled to their exposure records on the job. Health and safety must trump privacy/secrecy laws.

We also support H.R. 635 which will create a US Commission on State Workers Compensation Laws and will study the affect of deregulation for injured workers in the U.S. At the same time, OSHA plans to remove some chemical warnings on exposure limits for workers.

We need to educate and reactivate the labor movement to protect our lives and health and safety in the workplace. Please join with workers and their families at this memorial meeting and speak out and demand healthcare and justice for all workers and people in the community.

Wed April 28, 7:00 PM
ILWU Local 34 2nd St./Embarcadero SF
Injured workers, health and safety advocates and family members will participate

Shiela Davis, Executive Director Silicon Valley Toxic Coalition
Mike Daly, Ironworkers Local 377* delegate to San Francisco Labor Council
Leuren Moret, Geo-scientist who worked at the Livermore nuclear weapons lab
Carol Criss, SEIU-UHW Kaiser Steward Transcriptionist
Roland Sheppard, Retired BA Painters Local 4
Dina Padilla, Injured Worker Advocate
Becky McClain, Injure Pfizer Molecular Biologist by telephone
Sandy Trend, mother of injured Agraquest injured biotech worker David Bell

California Coalition For Workers Memorial Day CCWMD


Protest on International Workers' Day
Full Rights for Undocumented Workers
Legalization/Amnesty for All!
Money for Jobs and Education, Not War and Occupation
Jobs for All!
No Budget Cuts or Fee Hikes
Tax the Rich and Corporations!
March and Rally
Saturday May 1, 12noon
March Assembles: 24th and Mission Sts., SF
Sponsored by the May Day 2010 Coalition, of which the ANSWER Coalition is a member.

Proteste durante el Día Internacional del Trabajador
¡Derechos Incondicionales para Trabajadores Indocumentados
Legalización/Amnistía para todos!
¡Dinero Para Trabajos y Educación, No para Guerra y Ocupación
Trabajos para todos!
¡No Recortes o Aumentos-Cobren a los Ricos y Corporaciones!
Marcha y Mitin
Sab. 1º de Mayo, 12pm
Uniéndose sobre la calle 24 y Misión, SF
Patrocinado por la Coalición Día de Mayo 2010, la cual la Coalición ANSWER es un participante.

A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
Act Now to Stop War & End Racism
2489 Mission St. Rm. 24
San Francisco: 415-821-6545


Please post and distribute widely -

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

Accusing Cop Is a No-Show, But...
Holly Works Still Faces A Felony Frame-up!

An Injury To One Is An Injury To All -

Holly's Trial Continued to May 10th.

Demonstrate & Attend Holly's Trial!
Monday, May 10, 2010
8 AM - demonstrate to drop the charges!
9 AM - attend Holly's trial
Alameda County Courthouse
12th and Oak St, Oakland CA

Holly Works is the last remaining defendant of the "Oakland 100," who were the victims of a vicious and arbitrary police crackdown against the protests in Oakland over the police murder of Oscar Grant, on New Years Day, 2009. (More on Oscar Grant, see below)

Holly's trial was to have begun on April 5th, but the officer, Christopher Cox, who accused Holly of assaulting him with a deadly weapon, apparently had more important things to do on April 5th than repeat this blatant lie in court. He was a no-show!

But, instead of tossing out this garbage "case" when the cop failed to appear, the judge promptly "continued" it to May 10th.

A local musician, bakery worker and activist, Holly was walking with a friend in Oakland in January 2009, to the protest against the police murder of Oscar Grant. But... She was arrested before she even arrived at the protest, and at least an hour before the protest had started! She was detained and fraudulently charged with... assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer!

Originally charged with assaulting the cop with a knife, Holly had no knife, and so a convenient change was made. Since she happened to have a screw driver in her purse, Holly was accused of using this to assault the officer.

A total fabrication! The charge against Holly was made up by the police on the spot, right in front of her! Later, while sitting in a police van, Holly overheard cops on the radio discussing what excuses to use to arrest people in the upcoming protest.

The purpose of the Oakland 100 prosecutions was to tie up protesters with time-consuming prosecutions, and intimidate and silence opposition. Holly particularly was victimized partly in order to blame violence on out-of-town white radicals, "anarchists," etc., who it is said came into Oakland to make trouble. But Holly is a local Oakland activist! She was walking from her home, just a few blocks away from where she was arrested. And she didn't do anything!

Holly in auto accident! Meanwhile, Holly was the victim in an auto accident last Saturday, April 10th. The other driver admitted fault at the scene, but Holly suffered severe whiplash, her head hit the windshield, and her car was totaled. Treated and released at Highland Hospital, she's OK, but... let's send her a little love!

Donate to Holly's Defense! Send Holly a little love, and solidarity, by donating to her defense against the felony frame-up she still faces. She has a good lawyer, but little money to pay him. Donations can be made by Pay Pal at Holly's web site: Donate to the defense of Holly (Works) Noll at this site. Please be as generous as you can!

Oscar Grant was a young black retail grocery worker in Oakland, and the father of a young daughter. He was out with friends for New Years Eve, 2009, when he and some others were detained by BART police. He was shot in the back at point blank range by a BART cop, as he lay face-down on the Fruitvale station platform early in the morning.

Cell-phone videos taken of the incident by witnesses on the station platform were posted on the internet, and protests erupted in Oakland. Over a week later, the officer, Johannes Mehserle, was finally charged with murder. He was one of the very few police officers ever to be charged with murder in one of the huge number of killings of black males by police in California. Mehserle was granted a change of venue, and is now being tried in Los Angeles.


- The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
PO Box 16222 • Oakland CA 94610 • 510 763-2347 12 April 2010


A National Conference
To Bring the Troops Home Now!
JULY 23, 24, 25, 2010
Crowne Plaza Hotel, Albany, New York

AN INVITATION FROM: After Downing Street, Arab American Union Members Council, Black Agenda Report, Campaign for Peace and Democracy, Campus Antiwar Network, Code Pink, Iraq Veterans Against the War, National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations, Peace of the Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Progressive Democrats of America, U.S. Labor Against the War, The Fellowship of Reconciliation, Veterans for Peace, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom [list in formation]

We demand the immediate and total withdrawal of U.S. military forces, mercenaries and contractors from Afghanistan and Iraq. Moreover, we recognize that the Middle East cauldron today also encompasses Iran, Pakistan, Yemen, Palestine and Israel, while Haiti, Honduras, Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba and other countries in Latin America are targeted for intervention, subversion, occupation and control as a consequence of a militarized U.S. foreign policy. Our challenge is not only to end wars and occupations, but to fundamentally change the aggressive policies that inevitably lead our country to militarism and war.

Join us in Albany, New York, July 23-25, 2010!
Issued by the United National Antiwar Conference (UNAC) Planning Committee
For more information, write, or UNAC at P.O. Box 21675, Cleveland, OH 44121 or call 518-227-6947 or visit our website at




Army: Free Marc Hall! Sign online, we'll mail the letter

Dear General Charles Campbell,

I'm writing to protest the extraordinarily unjust court martial of SPC Marc A. Hall scheduled to be held in Iraq. The facts of this case clearly show that SPC Hall is being retaliated against for his persistent assertions of inadequate mental health care that culminated in a Dec. 7 complaint to the Army Investigator General (IG).

While SPC Hall's hip-hop song critical of the Army's "stop-loss" policy serves as a pretext for this trial, it is telling that the Army took no action against SPC Hall for five months. Yet five days after SPC Hall filed an IG complaint, he was charged with violating "good order and discipline" at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

Despite efforts in the Southern Georgia Federal Court to keep SPC Hall's court martial in Georgia so that expert defense witnesses and supporters could attend a public proceeding, the Army shipped SPC Hall out of the country. The result of SPC Hall's "extraordinary rendition" has been to effectively remove him from civilian legal counsel, and possibly "bad press" his story might evoke in the US media.

Today SPC Hall is jailed at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. He has been charged with six specifications of Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice-the vague rule that outlaws anything "to the prejudice of good order and discipline." Despite the recommendation of the Army's own Article 32 pre-trial hearing officer, SPC Hall will face a "General Courts Martial" instead of the less severe "Special Courts Martial.

Please return SPC Marc A. Hall to Fort Stewart, Georgia immediately, and drop the charges against him. SPC Hall is deserving of an immediate discharge based on his original four year enlistment so that he can move forward with his life while getting the medical treatment he requires from his combat injuries.

General Charles Campbell
1777 Hardee Avenue SW
Fort McPherson, GA 30330-1062

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500


URGENT: Support the Fight of Florida Students & Teachers Against Privatization of Public Schools and Resegregation and the Assignment of Students and Teachers in Black and Latina/o Areas to Permanent, Legal, Second-Class Status

Over 1500 Miami/Dade Teachers staged a sick-out and rally today (Monday, April 12) to demand that Governor Crist veto Senate Bill 6.

"If passed, this law will hasten the privatization of public education and the proliferation of charters in Florida, penalize teachers who teach the least privileged students and punish students who perform poorly on standardized tests (particularly English language learners) by withholding a high school diploma from even those who have earned the highest grades," said Ceresta Smith, a teacher from Dade County.

The 1500 teachers who called in sick assembled in Tropical Park, where they were joined by an additional 2500 supporters, including parents, students and community members.

"If passed, SB6 would assign both teachers and students in black and Latino areas to a permanent, legal, second-class status. In the south, where many charters are all white, the charter school movement has increased segregation - SB6 would accelerate this trend by widening the doors to publicly funded, privately-operated schools such as those that the segregationists founded in the 1950's to avoid the mandate of integration ordered by Brown v. Board of Education," said Shanta Driver, spokesperson for BAMN (By Any Means Necessary), the civil rights organization that sponsored a March on Washington to Defend Public Education last Saturday, and is supporting the fight of Florida teachers.

The teachers plan to caravan to Tallahassee later this week to protest at the Governor's office.

For more information and to support and build the movement, contact BAMN National Coordinator Donna Stern 313-468-3398 or
Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) (313) 468-3398
Equal Opportunity Now (NOW) Caucus


Greetings All:

This letter was written by Yuri Kochiyama who has asked us to spread this letter far and wide. Please do :).


March 1, 2010
Dear Friends of Mumia Abu Jamal:

Mumia's birthday is April 24 and we would like to celebrate the whole month of April with a gigantic Freedom Birthday Remembrance for Mumia Abu Jamal.

Please join Pam and Ramona Africa and all who love and admire Mumia by avalanching him through the month of April with Freedom Birthday wishes. And, to those who can afford to, please send a few dollars through postal money orders. This would be helpful when he is released.

Mail cards to:
Mumia Abu Jamal AM 8335
SCI Greene
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370-8090

Tell your family members, friends, fellow workers, neighbors, classmates, etc. Also, notify progressive radio stations, newspapers and organizations. Please do so immediately as April is almost upon us. Remember what Mumia has endured at the hands of the U.S. government and the Pennsylvania criminal justice system. Mumia has already done 32 years and is still on death row because of prosecutorial misconduct. Yet he is innocent! Act now before it is too late.

Don't let Mumia become another victim of a government's destructive history. Mumia's life is in peril and must be saved. He is needed to teach us how to fight for a better world for all. If ever Mumia was needed, it is now!

Join us in celebrating Mumia's birthday throughout April and let it be a celebration for Mumia's freedom!

Remember we need him more than he needs us. We need him, not only for today, but for all the tomorrows coming. Join us. Write to Mumia now.

From Friends and Family of Mumia Abu Jamal


Please sign the petition to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal and
and forward it to all your lists.

"Mumia Abu-Jamal and The Global Abolition of the Death Penalty"

(A Life In the Balance - The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, at 34, Amnesty Int'l, 2000; www.

[Note: This petition is approved by Mumia Abu-Jamal and his lead attorney, Robert R. Bryan, San Francisco (E-mail:; Website:]

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


Donations for Mumia's Legal Defense in the U.S. Our legal effort is the front line of the battle for Mumia's freedom and life. His legal defense needs help. The costs are substantial for our litigation in the U.S. Supreme Court and at the state level. To help, please make your checks payable to the National Lawyers Guild Foundation indicate "Mumia" on the bottom left). All donations are tax deductible under the Internal Revenue Code, section 501c)3), and should be mailed to:

It is outrageous and a violation of human rights that Mumia remains in prison and on death row. His life hangs in the balance. My career has been marked by successfully representing people facing death in murder cases. I will not rest until we win Mumia's case. Justice requires no less.

With best wishes,

Robert R. Bryan
Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal


Collateral Murder



5th April 2010 10:44 EST WikiLeaks has released a classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad -- including two Reuters news staff.

Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-site, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded.


San Francisco City and County Tramples on Civil Liberties
A Letter to Antiwar Activists
Dear Activists:
On Saturday, March 20, the San Francisco City and County Recreation and Parks Department's Park Rangers patrolled a large public antiwar demonstration, shutting down the distribution of Socialist Viewpoint magazine. The rally in Civic Center Plaza was held in protest of the illegal and immoral U.S. wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, and to commemorate the 7th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The Park Rangers went table-to-table examining each one. They photographed the Socialist Viewpoint table and the person attending it-me. My sister, Debbie and I, had set up the table. We had a sign on the table that asked for a donation of $1.25 for the magazine. The Park Rangers demanded that I "pack it up" and go, because selling or even asking for donations for newspapers or magazines is no longer permitted without the purchase of a new and expensive "vendors license." Their rationale for this denial of free speech is that the distribution of newspapers, magazines, T-shirts-and even food-would make the political protest a "festival" and not a political protest demonstration!
This City's action is clearly a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution-the right to free speech and freedom of the press-and can't be tolerated.
While they are firing teachers and other San Francisco workers, closing schools, cutting back healthcare access, cutting services to the disabled and elderly, it is outrageous that the Mayor and City Government chose to spend thousands of dollars to police tables at an antiwar rally-a protest demonstration by the people!
We can't let this become the norm. It is so fundamentally anti-democratic. The costs of the permits for the rally, the march, the amplified sound, is already prohibitive. Protest is not a privilege we should have to pay for. It's a basic right in this country and we should reclaim it!
Personally, I experienced a deep feeling of alienation as the crisply-uniformed Park Ranger told me I had to "pack it up"-especially when I knew that they were being paid by the City to do this at this demonstration!
I hope you will join this protest of the violation of the right to distribute and, therefore, the right to read Socialist Viewpoint, by writing or emailing the City officials who are listed below.1
In solidarity,

Bonnie Weinstein, Editorial Board Member, Socialist Viewpoint
60 - 29th Street, #429
San Francisco, CA 94110

1 Mayor Gavin Newsom
City Hall, Room 200
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102

Board of Supervisors
City Hall
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 244
San Francisco, Ca 94102-4689

San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department Park Rangers
McLaren Lodge & Annex
501 Stanyan Street
San Francisco, CA 94117

San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission
501 Stanyan Street
San Francisco, CA 94117

Chief of Police George Gascón
850 Bryant Street, #525
San Francisco, CA 94103
(I could not find an email address for him.).



Lynne Stewart in Jail!

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 10007

Lynne Stewart speaks in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal


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:


Short Video About Al-Awda's Work
The following link is to a short video which provides an overview of Al-Awda's work since the founding of our organization in 2000. This video was first shown on Saturday May 23, 2009 at the fundraising banquet of the 7th Annual Int'l Al-Awda Convention in Anaheim California. It was produced from footage collected over the past nine years.
Support Al-Awda, a Great Organization and Cause!

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, depends on your financial support to carry out its work.

To submit your tax-deductible donation to support our work, go to and follow the simple instructions.

Thank you for your generosity!


FLASHPOINTS Interview with Innocent San Quentin Death Row Inmate
Kevin Cooper -- Aired Monday, May 18,2009
To learn more about Kevin Cooper go to:
San Francisco Chronicle article on the recent ruling:
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and dissent:


Support the troops who refuse to fight!




1) Hallucinogens Have Doctors Tuning In Again
"'This feeling that we're all in it together may have benefited communities by encouraging reciprocal generosity," Dr. Griffiths said. "On the other hand, universal love isn't always adaptive, either.'"
April 11, 2010

2) Tax Audits of Big Business Are Declining, Study Says
April 11, 2010

3) Tax Day and America's Wars
What the mayor of one community hard hit by war spending is doing
By Jo Comerford
April 11, 2010

4) 'A Different Creature'
Op-Ed Columnist
April 13, 2010

5) Leg Lost, Dancer Is Caught Between Caregivers
April 12, 2010

6) Study Says Overuse Threatens Gains From Modified Crops
April 13, 2010

7) Bill Would Allow Layoffs of Teachers With Seniority
"Two Democratic state lawmakers have sponsored a bill that would give principals in New York City the power to choose who should lose their jobs if the city needs to lay off teachers because of budget cuts."
April 12, 2010

8) Stern, Head of S.E.I.U., Plans to Retire
April 13, 2010

9) 2010 PayWatch Exposes Corporate Lobbying on Financial Reform
Posted By James Parks
April 13, 2010

10) Long Recovery for Barrier Reef
April 13, 2010

11) W.Va. Mine Inspections Are Ordered
April 14, 2010

12) A Wall Street Invention Let the Crisis Mutate
April 16, 2010

13) Investor Who Made Billions Is Not Target of Suit
April 16, 2010

14) U.S. Indicts 5 Blackwater Ex-Officials
April 16, 2010

15) S.E.C. Accuses Goldman of Fraud in Housing Deal
April 16, 2010

16) West Virginia: First Suit in Mine Deaths
April 16, 2010


1) Hallucinogens Have Doctors Tuning In Again
"'This feeling that we're all in it together may have benefited communities by encouraging reciprocal generosity," Dr. Griffiths said. "On the other hand, universal love isn't always adaptive, either.'"
April 11, 2010

As a retired clinical psychologist, Clark Martin was well acquainted with traditional treatments for depression, but his own case seemed untreatable as he struggled through chemotherapy and other grueling regimens for kidney cancer. Counseling seemed futile to him. So did the antidepressant pills he tried.

Nothing had any lasting effect until, at the age of 65, he had his first psychedelic experience. He left his home in Vancouver, Wash., to take part in an experiment at Johns Hopkins medical school involving psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient found in certain mushrooms.

Scientists are taking a new look at hallucinogens, which became taboo among regulators after enthusiasts like Timothy Leary promoted them in the 1960s with the slogan "Turn on, tune in, drop out." Now, using rigorous protocols and safeguards, scientists have won permission to study once again the drugs' potential for treating mental problems and illuminating the nature of consciousness.

After taking the hallucinogen, Dr. Martin put on an eye mask and headphones, and lay on a couch listening to classical music as he contemplated the universe.

"All of a sudden, everything familiar started evaporating," he recalled. "Imagine you fall off a boat out in the open ocean, and you turn around, and the boat is gone. And then the water's gone. And then you're gone."

Today, more than a year later, Dr. Martin credits that six-hour experience with helping him overcome his depression and profoundly transforming his relationships with his daughter and friends. He ranks it among the most meaningful events of his life, which makes him a fairly typical member of a growing club of experimental subjects.

Researchers from around the world are gathering this week in San Jose, Calif., for the largest conference on psychedelic science held in the United States in four decades. They plan to discuss studies of psilocybin and other psychedelics for treating depression in cancer patients, obsessive-compulsive disorder, end-of-life anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction to drugs or alcohol.

The results so far are encouraging but also preliminary, and researchers caution against reading too much into these small-scale studies. They do not want to repeat the mistakes of the 1960s, when some scientists-turned-evangelists exaggerated their understanding of the drugs' risks and benefits.

Because reactions to hallucinogens can vary so much depending on the setting, experimenters and review boards have developed guidelines to set up a comfortable environment with expert monitors in the room to deal with adverse reactions. They have established standard protocols so that the drugs' effects can be gauged more accurately, and they have also directly observed the drugs' effects by scanning the brains of people under the influence of hallucinogens.

Scientists are especially intrigued by the similarities between hallucinogenic experiences and the life-changing revelations reported throughout history by religious mystics and those who meditate. These similarities have been identified in neural imaging studies conducted by Swiss researchers and in experiments led by Roland Griffiths, a professor of behavioral biology at Johns Hopkins.

In one of Dr. Griffiths's first studies, involving 36 people with no serious physical or emotional problems, he and colleagues found that psilocybin could induce what the experimental subjects described as a profound spiritual experience with lasting positive effects for most of them. None had had any previous experience with hallucinogens, and none were even sure what drug was being administered.

To make the experiment double-blind, neither the subjects nor the two experts monitoring them knew whether the subjects were receiving a placebo, psilocybin or another drug like Ritalin, nicotine, caffeine or an amphetamine. Although veterans of the '60s psychedelic culture may have a hard time believing it, Dr. Griffiths said that even the monitors sometimes could not tell from the reactions whether the person had taken psilocybin or Ritalin.

The monitors sometimes had to console people through periods of anxiety, Dr. Griffiths said, but these were generally short-lived, and none of the people reported any serious negative effects. In a survey conducted two months later, the people who received psilocybin reported significantly more improvements in their general feelings and behavior than did the members of the control group.

The findings were repeated in another follow-up survey, taken 14 months after the experiment. At that point most of the psilocybin subjects once again expressed more satisfaction with their lives and rated the experience as one of the five most meaningful events of their lives.

Since that study, which was published in 2008, Dr. Griffiths and his colleagues have gone on to give psilocybin to people dealing with cancer and depression, like Dr. Martin, the retired psychologist from Vancouver. Dr. Martin's experience is fairly typical, Dr. Griffiths said: an improved outlook on life after an experience in which the boundaries between the self and others disappear.

In interviews, Dr. Martin and other subjects described their egos and bodies vanishing as they felt part of some larger state of consciousness in which their personal worries and insecurities vanished. They found themselves reviewing past relationships with lovers and relatives with a new sense of empathy.

"It was a whole personality shift for me," Dr. Martin said. "I wasn't any longer attached to my performance and trying to control things. I could see that the really good things in life will happen if you just show up and share your natural enthusiasms with people. You have a feeling of attunement with other people."

The subjects' reports mirrored so closely the accounts of religious mystical experiences, Dr. Griffiths said, that it seems likely the human brain is wired to undergo these "unitive" experiences, perhaps because of some evolutionary advantage.

"This feeling that we're all in it together may have benefited communities by encouraging reciprocal generosity," Dr. Griffiths said. "On the other hand, universal love isn't always adaptive, either."

Although federal regulators have resumed granting approval for controlled experiments with psychedelics, there has been little public money granted for the research, which is being conducted at Hopkins, the University of Arizona; Harvard; New York University; the University of California, Los Angeles; and other places.

The work has been supported by nonprofit groups like the Heffter Research Institute and MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.

"There's this coming together of science and spirituality," said Rick Doblin, the executive director of MAPS. "We're hoping that the mainstream and the psychedelic community can meet in the middle and avoid another culture war. Thanks to changes over the last 40 years in the social acceptance of the hospice movement and yoga and meditation, our culture is much more receptive now, and we're showing that these drugs can provide benefits that current treatments can't."

Researchers are reporting preliminary success in using psilocybin to ease the anxiety of patients with terminal illnesses. Dr. Charles S. Grob, a psychiatrist who is involved in an experiment at U.C.L.A., describes it as "existential medicine" that helps dying people overcome fear, panic and depression.

"Under the influences of hallucinogens," Dr. Grob writes, "individuals transcend their primary identification with their bodies and experience ego-free states before the time of their actual physical demise, and return with a new perspective and profound acceptance of the life constant: change."


2) Tax Audits of Big Business Are Declining, Study Says
April 11, 2010

Despite the federal government's repeated pledges to crack down on big businesses that underpay their taxes, the Internal Revenue Service has decreased in recent years the time it spends auditing the returns of the nation's largest corporations, according to a new study.

And in 2009, the government audited just one in four of the largest corporations, lower than any rate in more than 20 years, according to the analysis, released Sunday by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonpartisan research group affiliated with Syracuse University.

Researchers said the audit data and other memos, which had both been obtained from the government under the Freedom of Information Act, suggested that a "perverse quota system" within the I.R.S. may be pressuring auditors to focus on small and medium-size businesses and give less scrutiny to the largest corporations - those with $250 million or more in assets.

"The decision to audit the smaller companies does not help the government collect more taxes," the study concluded. "This is because the data indicate that the larger the business, the larger the dollar amounts of tax underreporting and back taxes on average that they may owe."

I.R.S. officials, who have for years disputed the methodology used by TRAC, were quick to rebut the study's findings. Steven T. Miller, the I.R.S. director of enforcement, said the study was skewed because it failed to take into account a surge in hours that I.R.S. agents spent working with businesses before they filed their returns to prevent errors or underpayments.

He asserted that the data actually showed that the agency had become more efficient in recovering unpaid taxes from the largest corporations because the average amount of money the auditors recovered per hour had risen to $9,704 in 2009 from $6,928 in 2005.

"We believe we're looking at the right cases, we're looking at the largest cases, we're adding folks to these programs and have worked to really focus on the largest corporations," Mr. Miller said. "This issue is about more than just the number of feet on the beat."

The nation's tax gap - the amount of taxes underpaid by businesses and individuals - is more than $345 billion, according to the most recent estimates formulated by the I.R.S. The I.R.S. collected $48.9 billion in underpaid taxes last year through audits and other collection actions, including $28.5 billion from large companies and $1.8 billion from small and medium-size businesses.

In much of the last decade, as corporate profits soared and the number of wealthy Americans increased sharply, the I.R.S. periodically decreased the level of scrutiny it directed at individual taxpayers at the top of the income scale.

But the I.R.S. reversed that trend in the last two years, giving increased attention to the wealthiest individuals: in 2009, the agency audited 6.5 percent of those who declared income of $1 million or more; 2.9 percent of taxpayers with income of $200,000 to $1 million; and about 1 percent of those whose income was below $200,000.

But the TRAC study said the I.R.S. had not followed through on federal officials' promises to help reduce the soaring budget deficit by aggressively recovering underpayments by large corporations. Since 2005, the study reports, the number of hours devoted to audits of the largest companies fell 33 percent, while the hours spent auditing small businesses increased 30.4 percent and rose 12.6 percent for midsize businesses.

In the same period, the number of I.R.S. audits of large corporations fell to 3,675 from 4,693, a decrease of 21.7 percent.

Terry Lemons, an I.R.S. spokesman, said it was misleading to use 2005 as a basis for comparison because the I.R.S. had conducted a major drive to close old cases that year, and thus completed an unusually high number of audits carried forward from previous years.

Mr. Miller, the enforcement chief, said the I.R.S. audited 100 percent of those corporations with assets over $20 billion and 50 percent of those with assets of $5 billion to $20 billion in 2009.

In January, Commissioner Douglas Shulman announced that all major businesses would be required to include a detailed statement in their tax return that described any potentially questionable deductions. That new plan, which will be fully put into effect later this year, will allow auditors to concentrate their efforts on areas where they are most likely to recover any underpayment, Mr. Miller said.

"Enforcement is a function of looking at the right cases and the right issues," he said.


3) Tax Day and America's Wars
What the mayor of one community hard hit by war spending is doing
By Jo Comerford
April 11, 2010

Matt Ryan, the mayor of Binghamton, New York, is sick and tired of watching people in local communities "squabble over crumbs," as he puts it, while so much local money pours into the Pentagon's coffers and into America's wars. He's so sick and tired of it, in fact, that, urged on by local residents, he's decided to do something about it. He's planning to be the first mayor in the United States to decorate the façade of City Hall with a large, digital "cost of war" counter, funded entirely by private contributions.

That counter will offer a constantly changing estimate of the total price Binghamton's taxpayers have been paying for our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since October 2001. By September 30, 2010, the city's "war tax" will reach $138.6 million-or even more if, as expected, Congress passes an Obama administration request for supplemental funds to cover the president's "surge" in Afghanistan. Mayor Ryan wants, he says, to put the counter "where everyone can see it, so that my constituents are urged to have a much-needed conversation."

In doing so, he's joining a growing chorus of mayors, including Chicago's Richard Daley and Boston's Thomas Menino, who are ever more insistently drawing attention to what Ryan calls the country's "skewed national priorities," especially the local impact of military and war spending. With more than three years left in his current term, Ryan has decided to pull out all the stops to reach his neighbors and constituents, all 47,000 of them, especially the near quarter of the city's inhabitants who currently live below the poverty line and the nine percent who are officially unemployed.

A hard hit rust-belt city

Like so many post-industrial rust-belt communities, Binghamton was hard hit by the financial meltdown of 2008 and the Great Recession that followed, though it faired better than a number of similar cities, in part because Ryan, his administration, and the Binghamton City Council are a smart and scrappy crew. No doubt that's why he earned the New York State Conference of Mayors Public Administration and Management award two years running.

These days, however, even the smartest and scrappiest of mayors still has to face grim reality. In July 2009, as the city began developing the 2010 budget, Ryan projected a $7 million shortfall. Contributing factors included a likely $700,000 decline in sales tax revenue, ever rising healthcare costs, increased pension contributions to replace funds lost in the market during the collapse of 2008-09, and a $500,000 drop in the return on the city's investment portfolio.

With worse times ahead, thanks in part to the projected end of federal stimulus money and a city drained dry of reserves, Ryan has had to face a classically unpalatable choice: raise city sales taxes from seven percent to an unheard of 24 percent or cut city jobs. He chose jobs, as have the vast majority of mayors and governors across the country, eliminating 39 of them. In the process, he sought greater program efficiencies and wrestled with ways to increase city revenues while cutting ever closer to Binghamton's proverbial bone.

It was in the context of this kind of local pain that Ryan was stunned to discover just how much of Binghamton's taxes were going to the military and to our distant wars, and how little was coming back to Binghamton in the form of aid and services. "When I first saw the cost of war numbers and made the connections," Ryan remarks, "I had to wonder if we're ever going to get our priorities straight as a nation. It's like we're facing an attack on government. As a mayor, I can see so clearly what increased federal spending could do for the people of my city."

Ryan's message doesn't resonate with all of his constituents-some have walked out on his public appearances-but he's used to controversy and convinced that Americans had better get their heads straight soon. "People are hurting so bad," he insists, "that, like it or not, we're all going to have to look at things seriously if we want our situation to change."

Heads should swivel, he thinks, when faced with the $138.6 million Binghamton's taxpayers are out of pocket since 2001 for the Iraq and Afghan wars. And that's not even counting the city's share of the supplemental funds Congress will undoubtedly agree to this spring to cover the Afghan "surge" or the city's portion of the basic Pentagon budget for the same period.

For a small city with an annual budget of $81.1 million, $138.6 million would be a hefty sum, even in non-recessionary times. For the same amount of money, Ryan could fund the Binghamton city library for the next 60 years, or pay for a four-year education for 95 percent of the incoming freshman class at the State University of New York at Binghamton, or offer four years of quality health coverage for everyone in Binghamton 19 or younger, or secure renewable electricity for every home in the city for the next 11 years. If he was feeling really flush, he could fully fund one-third of New York State's Head Start slots for one year.

For the same sum, Ryan could also authorize a $2,900 tax refund for every woman, man, and child in Binghamton or pay the salaries of all of Binghamton's hard-hit public school teachers and staff for about two years.

For $138.6 million, Mayor Ryan could hire 2,765 public safety officers for a year, or simply refund the 12 police positions cut in the latest budget contraction and guarantee those salaries for the next 230 years. Ridiculous? These days, no one is laughing in Binghamton or other cities like it.

A community starved by war

As tax day looms on April 15th, Ryan increasingly thinks about where Binghamton's tax dollars will be heading and dreams about a government system that would have the potential to raise and spend tax revenue in the service of social benefits like affordable healthcare.

He's disturbed by how Binghamton's tax dollars will be distributed and what they will-and won't-buy for his city. Consider, for instance, where the 2009 taxes paid by a median income Binghamton household actually went. That year, such a household's income hovered around $30,000 annually, while its members paid approximately $738 in federal income taxes.

According to the tax-day analysis of the National Priorities Project (NPP), an overwhelming 218 of those dollars went to pay for military expenditures and interest on military-related debt (generated, in part, by current war spending). The next highest amount-$137-went to healthcare, including Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

In 2009, $67, nearly 10 cents on every tax dollar, went to an aggregated category of spending NPP has titled "government," tripling it in a single year, largely thanks to the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), otherwise known as the bank bailout, whose cost every community in America has had to shoulder. Fifty-eight dollars (8.5 cents on every income-tax dollar) went to increased unemployment insurance payments and job-training initiatives, also a rise from the previous year.

Not surprisingly, the $15 that went to elementary, secondary, higher, and vocational education in 2009 represented a drop from 2008, a loss of a penny on every tax dollar. There's no way, of course, that Mayor Ryan's dream of free, quality education from kindergarten to college is likely to happen on but two percent of every individual federal income tax dollar. Nor will we usher in the green techno-revolution that he and President Obama both support, by spending 2.5 cents on every dollar for the combined categories of the environment, energy, and science, and another 1.3 cents of every dollar on transportation.

"It's a double whammy," Ryan says. "We have a revenue problem and a values and priorities problem in this nation."

Some desperate city leaders have suggested that the Mayor cut workers' pensions to help close the city's budget gap. Matt Ryan doesn't see that as a solution to anything. "I have secretaries making $25,000 or $30,000. I'm not about to cut their net, such as it is. We have to think long haul. We have to look at fundamental changes if we're going to make it as a country. We should all be talking about this-all the time."

A construction crew will soon arrive to install Binghamton's "cost of war" counter, which will overlook the city's busiest intersection and spur conversation around tax day. During the three minutes local motorists wait at the nearby traffic light, they can join Mayor Ryan in waving good-bye to $100. And Binghamton as a whole can grapple with spending $49,650 in war costs every day of 2010.


4) 'A Different Creature'
Op-Ed Columnist
April 13, 2010

Nancy Pelosi, at lunch, was making the point that this latest recession was not a typical cyclical downturn.

"This is a different creature," she said, "and it demands that we see it in a different way."

The evidence is stark. More than 44 percent of unemployed Americans have been out of work for six months or longer, the highest rate since World War II. Perhaps more chilling is a new analysis by the Pew Economic Policy Group that found that nearly a quarter of the nation's 15 million unemployed workers have been jobless for a year or more.

Everything in Washington is a heavy lift. The successful struggle to pass last year's stimulus package fended off an even worse economic disaster, and the Democrats have managed to enact their health care initiative. But the biggest threat to the health of the economy - corrosive, intractable, demoralizing unemployment - is still with us. And the deficit zealots, growing in strength, would do nothing to counter this scourge.

Ms. Pelosi acknowledged that "there is always a calibration" between concerns about deficit reduction and the spending that is necessary to substantially reduce unemployment. But she believes there are several fronts on which Congress and the Obama administration can - in fact, must - still move forward: on infrastructure and green energy initiatives, for example, and assistance to states hobbled with fiscal crises of their own.

The crippling nature of the joblessness that has moved through the society like a devastating virus has gotten neither the attention nor the response that it warrants. One of the more striking findings of the Pew study was that a college education has not been much of a defense against long-term unemployment.

"Twenty-one percent of unemployed workers with a bachelor's degree have been without work for a year or longer," the report found, "compared to 27 percent of unemployed high school graduates and 23 percent of unemployed high school dropouts."

Whole segments of the U.S. population are being left behind, even as economists are touting modest improvements in some categories of economic data, like the creation of 162,000 jobs in March. Jobless workers who are 55 or older are having a brutal time of it. Thirty percent have been jobless for a year or more.

Blue-collar workers are suffering through a crisis characterized as a "depression" by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. Blue-collar job losses during the so-called Great Recession surpassed 5.5 million, and many of those jobs will never be seen again. This disastrous situation will not be corrected, as analysts at the center have noted, "by a modest recovery of the U.S. economy over the next few years."

We need to pay less attention to the Tea Party yahoos and more attention to the very real suffering of individuals and families trapped in an employment crisis that is unprecedented in the post-Depression era. I've been in inner-city neighborhoods where residents will tell you that hardly anyone at all is working at a regular job.

The recession only worsened an employment picture that was already bleak. In a speech at the Harvard Kennedy School last week, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. President Richard Trumka spoke movingly about Americans "trying to hold on to a good job in a grim game of musical chairs where every time the music stopped, there were fewer good jobs and more people trying to get and keep one."

More than eight million jobs vanished during the recession, a period during which three million new jobs would have been needed to keep up with the growth of the population. "That's 11 million missing jobs," said Mr. Trumka.

Right now there is no plan that can even remotely be expected to result in job creation strong enough to rescue the hard-core groups being left behind. These include: long-term unemployed workers who are older; blue-collar workers of all ages; and younger people in the big cities, in the rust belt and in rural areas who are jobless and not well educated.

It is not possible to put together a thriving, self-sustaining economy while so many are being left out. As Mr. Trumka noted, "President Obama's economic recovery program has done a lot of good for working people - creating or saving more than two million jobs. But the reality is that two million jobs is just 18 percent of the hole in our labor market."

Ms. Pelosi spoke about "jobs creation" with a tone of urgency and commitment and seemed undeterred by the fact that a big new jobs bill seems hardly feasible in the current political environment.

"You can do smaller pieces," she said. "You can break the task up into segments, into discrete pieces of legislation. If size is a problem, we should not let it be an obstacle."


5) Leg Lost, Dancer Is Caught Between Caregivers
April 12, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Fabienne Jean, a professional dancer who lost her right leg in the earthquake, hopped on her slim left leg through the dusty General Hospital compound on her way to a very important X-ray.

Once at the radiography clinic, Ms. Jean, 31, wearing a form-fitting black minidress with a chunky lapis-blue necklace, draped herself on the examining table like a fashion model. Then the technician entered and positioned her stump for X-rays bound for New York, where, if things worked out, Ms. Jean would be heading, too.

"Maybe my luck is changing for the better?" she said that day, more than two months after she had survived a raging deadly infection by reluctantly agreeing to an amputation.

But then began a tug of war between two health care providers over who would get to rehabilitate Ms. Jean.

Would it be the big New York hospital whose director of critical care helped save her life five days after the quake? Would it be the small New England prosthetics company whose foundation has been working since to get her up and about? Or would the two organizations find a way to collaborate?

Among Haiti's thousands of new amputees, Ms. Jean, who was featured in an article in The New York Times in February, has been singled out for special opportunities because of serendipity, news media attention and her potential as a symbol of Haiti's resilience: if the dancer who almost died rises to dance again, that will resonate, her caregivers believe.

But Ms. Jean's situation also highlights the way in which many Haitians, like their country, are now dependent on international charity.

As Ms. Jean sees it, this is largely a blessing - "Thank God for the foreigners," she said - but it can also be complicated and uncomfortable.

The New York hospital, Mount Sinai Medical Center, wants to follow through on its Haiti relief team's involvement with Ms. Jean by offering her corrective surgery and rehabilitation. The hospital is petitioning the Obama administration to grant Ms. Jean humanitarian parole to enter the United States.

It has also found doctors and lawyers to volunteer their services and a Haitian-American nurse to provide Ms. Jean a home in Brooklyn during her treatment.

The New England Brace Company Foundation, on the other hand, believes that Ms. Jean can and should be treated in Haiti, where she will live.

With its prosthetists preparing to fly to Port-au-Prince to fit her with a temporary new leg this week, the New Hampshire-based group does not want to lose her as a patient, for personal and professional reasons. The foundation wants Ms. Jean's help in fund-raising, and has considered making her its spokeswoman.

For Ms. Jean, a dancer with Haiti's National Theater, tragedy has turned into opportunity in a way that dizzies her. During the Jan. 12 earthquake, a stone wall collapsed on her leg. For days afterward, she lay waiting for help in a sea of broken bodies on the grounds of the General Hospital, where Dr. Ernest Benjamin, Mount Sinai's director of critical care, arrived with a medical team.

Ms. Jean begged Dr. Benjamin, who is Haitian-born, to save her leg, arguing that it was crucial to her livelihood. But it was too late.

"It was not an easy decision to amputate, but she was critically ill and further delay would have cost her life," Dr. Benjamin, an intensive care specialist, said. "Indeed, despite the amputation we feared that we were going to lose her. She was the first patient to have a seizure after surgery. It was heart-wrenching and we promised ourselves that we would do everything to help her if she survived."

Not long after her amputation, though, the General Hospital transferred Ms. Jean to a clinic on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.

That is when Dr. Benjamin lost track of her - and when Dennis Acton of the New Hampshire group found her in a place he described as a kind of "squalid homeless shelter for amputees."

Moved, Mr. Acton pledged to help Ms. Jean walk - and dance - again. "Fabienne has a great attitude," he said. "I figured she would be a strong patient who could get back on her feet quickly and be a positive role model to other amputees."

With a team of New England prosthetists now committed to treating about 50 amputees in Haiti, the Nebco Foundation is a newly incorporated group that solicits donations on its Web site, saying: "No funding is trickling down from the large organizations who have raised over a billion dollars; we need your help to continue!"

The article in The Times on Ms. Jean moved scores of readers to offer help. At the same time, Dr. Benjamin, finding Ms. Jean again through the newspaper article, proposed that Mount Sinai bring her to the United States to continue her treatment, and began preparing a humanitarian parole application.

(The Department of Homeland Security has granted parole for medical reasons to scores of Haitians since the earthquake, Matthew Chandler, a department spokesman, said.)

Learning of Mount Sinai's initiative, Mr. Acton was initially upset because he had just been counseled by disability experts in Port-au-Prince that their guidelines advocate that Haitians be treated in Haiti.

Indeed, Handicap International, a leading group here, does not approve of sending Haitians abroad for rehabilitation, even though "there is little or no rehabilitation system in Haiti," Lea Radick, a spokeswoman for the group, said.

Haitian amputees need low-tech prostheses that can be repaired or replaced in Haiti, she said, adding, "The work before us involves building local capacity so that injured Haitians will have access to critical services for the rest of their lives."

Doctors at Mount Sinai say that Ms. Jean needs additional surgery before rehabilitation. Her stump ends in a thick, scabby scar that is likely to open with friction from a prosthetic limb, leaving her vulnerable to further infections, according to her application to enter the United States.

While Ms. Jean could potentially get such surgery in Haiti, resources are stretched thin, and Mount Sinai is offering her "world-class" medical treatment and rehabilitation, Dr. Benjamin said.

Mr. Acton, after considering this, hesitantly agreed that going to New York might be in Ms. Jean's best interest. He wrote an e-mail message in late March that he had initially been "defensive (and maybe a little jealous?)" but that "Fabienne will never get the care she needs in Haiti."

For a brief period, Mr. Acton and Mount Sinai appeared to be working in tandem. He offered to sign an affidavit of support for Ms. Jean to accompany her humanitarian parole application.

But later, he conditioned that offer on his group's remaining her prosthetic provider, and he said his board of directors was concerned that Mount Sinai was trying to steal a high-profile patient.

The cooperation broke down.

After a frustrating week in Haiti, Dr. Benjamin said that he believed the New England group was impeding his efforts to obtain documents needed for Ms. Jean's parole application.

The group, he said, while most likely "doing some wonderful stuff," had made an investment in Ms. Jean that it did not want to lose.

"Her ability to dance again will help them cash in," he wrote to his colleagues in New York, proposing that they "throw in the towel" on their plan to bring Ms. Jean to Mount Sinai.

Mr. Acton said he would make sure that Ms. Jean got the care she needed. And he added that he resented the implication that his group was exploiting Ms. Jean, whom he said he considered a friend and "an equal partner" with "the power to decide how she wants to work with us in her future career, if at all."

He added: "I am learning the hard way that the disaster zone is more than just destruction and injured people; it is a complex mix of politics, egos and power plays as well."

In the end, Mount Sinai decided to keep pursuing permission for Ms. Jean to enter the United States. Separately, Mr. Acton prepared to travel to Haiti with her new limb.

And, in the middle, Ms. Jean, appreciative though stressed, does not want to take sides. But she does want to go to New York for treatment if possible.

She said in Creole: "I want to! I want to! I want to!"


6) Study Says Overuse Threatens Gains From Modified Crops
April 13, 2010

Genetically engineered crops have provided "substantial" environmental and economic benefits to American farmers, but overuse of the technology is threatening to erode the gains, a national science advisory organization said Tuesday in a report.

The report is described as the first comprehensive assessment of the impact of genetically modified crops on American farmers, who have rapidly adopted them since their introduction in 1996. The study was issued by the National Research Council, which is affiliated with the National Academy of Sciences and provides advice to the nation under a Congressional charter.

The report found that the crops allowed farmers to either reduce chemical spraying or to use less harmful chemicals. The crops also offered farmers lower production costs, higher output or extra convenience, benefits that generally outweighed the higher costs of the engineered seeds.

"Many American farmers are enjoying higher profits due to the widespread use of certain genetically engineered crops and are reducing environmental impacts on and off the farm," David Ervin, the chairman of the committee that wrote the report, said in a statement.

However, added Dr. Ervin, a professor of environmental management and economics at Portland State University in Oregon, "These benefits are not universal for all farmers."

Nor are they necessarily permanent. The report warned that farmers were jeopardizing the benefits by planting too many so-called Roundup Ready crops. These crops are genetically engineered to be impervious to the herbicide Roundup, allowing farmers to spray the chemical to kill weeds while leaving the crops unscathed.

Overuse of this seductively simple approach to weed control is starting to backfire. Use of Roundup, or its generic equivalent, glyphosate, has skyrocketed to the point that weeds are rapidly becoming resistant to the chemical. That is rendering the technology less useful, requiring farmers to start using additional herbicides, some of them more toxic than glyphosate.

"Farmer practices may be reducing the utility of some G.E. traits as pest-management tools and increasing the likelihood of a return to more environmentally damaging practices," the report concluded. It said the problem required national attention.

More than 80 percent of the corn, soybean and cotton grown in the United States is genetically engineered. The crops tolerate Roundup, are resistant to insects, or both.

American farmers were the first to widely adopt the technology and still account for about half of all the engineered crops grown. The crops are also being widely grown in Latin America and parts of Asia but still largely shunned in Europe.

The rapid adoption of the crops is evidence that American farmers see the technology as beneficial.

Nevertheless, in the fiercely polarized debate about genetically modified crops, there is little agreement on anything. Critics have issued studies saying that use of the crops have led to increased pesticide use and has had only a minimal effect on crop yields.

The National Research Council report was prepared by a committee of mainly academic scientists and relied primarily on peer reviewed papers.

Still, the report is not likely to win over critics of the crops.

One critic, Charles Benbrook, who reviewed a draft of the report, said the conclusion that the crops help farmers might no longer be true, or might not be true in the future. That is because the report relies mostly on data from the first few years, before prices of the biotech seeds rose sharply and the glyphosate-resistant weeds proliferated.

"This is a very different future," said Dr. Benbrook, an agricultural economist who is chief scientist at the Organic Center, which promotes organic food and farming. "The cost is going to be way higher. The environmental impacts are going to go up fairly dramatically."

As prices of the biotech seeds have risen sharply, even some farmers are now starting to question whether they are worth it. Just last week, Monsanto, the leading agricultural biotechnology company, said it would lower the prices of its newest genetically engineered soybeans and corn seeds because farmers were not buying as many of the seeds as it had expected.

The Department of Justice is now investigating whether Monsanto, which has patents on some of the fundamental technology including the Roundup Ready system, is violating antitrust laws, unduly increasing prices or hindering innovation.

The National Research Council report addresses this issue briefly without mentioning Monsanto. It says that issues of proprietary terms "has not adversely affected the economic welfare of farmers who adopt G.E. crops." But it said there is some evidence that the availability of non-engineered crops "may be restricted for some farmers."

The report said that the use of Roundup Ready crops has led to a huge increase in the spraying of glyphosate but a nearly concomitant decrease in the use of other herbicides. That is a net environmental benefit, the report said, because glyphosate is less toxic to animals than many other herbicides and does not last that long in the environment.

The use of herbicide-tolerant crops has also made it easier for farmers to forgo tilling their fields as a way to control weeds. So-called no-till farming helps prevent soil erosion and the runoff of rainwater containing sediments and chemicals.

The improvement in water quality could prove to be the largest benefit of the crops, the report said, though it added that efforts should be made to measure any such effects.

Still the biotech crops are only one factor promoting no-till farming. The report said that about half of soybeans were already being grown with little or no tillage by the time Roundup Ready soybeans were introduced in 1996. That rose to 63 percent in 2008.

The other major class of genetically engineered crops is the so-called BT corn and BT cotton, which contain bacterial genes allowing the plants to produce an insecticide.

The report said that use of chemical insecticides has declined as the BT crops have spread. In areas of with heavy insect pressure, it said, the use of the crops has increased farmer income because of higher yields and reduced expenditures on insecticide.

The report said that when genetically engineered crops were first introduced, some had lower yields than conventional varieties, a finding often cited by critics. But the report said that newer studies show either a modest increase in yield or a neutral effect.


7) Bill Would Allow Layoffs of Teachers With Seniority
"Two Democratic state lawmakers have sponsored a bill that would give principals in New York City the power to choose who should lose their jobs if the city needs to lay off teachers because of budget cuts."
April 12, 2010

When the Bloomberg administration raised the prospect of teacher layoffs this year, administration officials complained that they would be forced to get rid of the youngest newest teachers, and called on legislators to rewrite the seniority rules.

That wish may be one step closer. Two Democratic state lawmakers have sponsored a bill that would give principals in New York City the power to choose who should lose their jobs if the city needs to lay off teachers because of budget cuts.

The bill is certain to raise the ire of teachers' unions, which remain a powerful force in Albany. It could provoke also a new round of battles between the United Federation of Teachers and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who have had an icy relationship for months and are fighting over a new teachers' contract.

Mr. Bloomberg has said that as many 8,500 teachers would face layoffs, as the city's Education Department faces a budget cut of $600 million to $1.2 billion. Under the current law, teachers who have been in the system for the shortest amount of time would be the first to lose their jobs - a policy commonly known as last in, first out.

Last month, the schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, released numbers showing that the layoffs would be concentrated in the one of the wealthiest and one of the poorest districts in the city: in a worst-case situation, District 7 in the South Bronx would lose 21 percent of its teachers and District 2 on the Upper East Side would lose 19 percent, according to the city analysis. Some of those teachers would be replaced by more-senior teachers from elsewhere in the system.

"Experience matters, but it cannot be the sole or even principal factor considered in layoff decisions," Mr. Klein said in a statement. "We must be able to take into account each individual's track record of success."

Jonathan Bing, a Democratic assemblyman from the Upper East Side, said lobbyists from the city had approached him about sponsoring the bill soon after the city released those numbers.

"There needs to be some better way to go about doing this than to simply get rid of every teacher we have hired in the last few years," Mr. Bing said. "This has to be, on some level, about merit."

Mr. Bing said he had "great respect for teachers," noted that the union had donated to several of his political campaigns and acknowledged that the bill would almost certainly anger it.

"We are in an educational and economic crisis like no other," he added.

Under the bill, each school would form a committee of parents, teachers and administrators to determine who should be laid off.

Seniority protection is dear to labor unions, who say that without it, employers would use layoffs to eliminate workers who make the most money.

Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, said that in other cities that had eliminated seniority, like Washington, the rate of teacher turnover had increased, making the system less stable.

"I would like to see something more fruitful to figure out how to avoid the catastrophic cuts," Mr. Mulgrew said Monday.

The city appealed to State Senator Rubén Díaz of the Bronx to sponsor the bill in the Senate, although just last year Mr. Díaz said that Mr. Klein should be fired.

"I used to be angry at the way they were treating parents," Mr. Díaz said. "Now this would allow parents to have a role. If a school needs to get rid of teachers, they should be able to decide their own special needs."


8) Stern, Head of S.E.I.U., Plans to Retire
April 13, 2010

Andrew Stern, president of the politically powerful Service Employees International Union, will tell his union's executive committee, meeting in Washington this week, that he plans to retire, several top union officials said on Tuesday.

Officials of the union said his retirement would set off a race for succession. Anna Burger, the union's secretary-treasurer and second-highest executive, is expected to face a challenge from an executive vice president, Mary Kay Henry.

Ms. Burger, one of Mr. Stern's closest associates, heads Change to Win, a federation of unions that broke away from the A.F.L.-C.I.O. Ms. Henry has been a forceful leader in the union's health care division, which represents more than one million hospital and nursing home workers as well as home-care aides.

On Monday night, one member of the union's 60-person executive board said that Mr. Stern, who is 59, thought it was time to resign because Congress had enacted one of his long-time goals, a health-care overhaul.

"It will be very soon," one board member said of Mr. Stern's decision.

The prospect of Mr. Stern's departure has surprised and shaken political and labor circles. Mr. Stern is widely seen as the nation's most visible and influential union leader, with the greatest entry to the White House and with an ability to direct thousands of union foot soldiers and hundreds of thousands of dollars into any political race that he and the union choose.

At a board meeting in January, several associates said, Mr. Stern stressed the importance of training younger leaders and allowing them to move up in the organization.

"Andy has always taken the position that people should not stay too long in office," another board member said, "and it is his job to build the organization and then make room for other people." Mr. Stern's plans to resign were first reported by the Politico web site.

Over the last year, Mr. Stern has been involved in fierce battles with two other unions, a large breakaway local in the San Francisco Bay area and Unite Here, the union representing hotel and restaurant workers. At the same time, Mr. Stern has come under ferocious attack from conservatives, and especially from Glenn Beck, who has repeatedly called him a power-hungry socialist.

Mr. Stern has become a lighting rod within labor, ever since he led a half dozen unions to quit the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the nation's main labor federation, in 2005. His union, which represents hundreds of thousands of health-care workers, janitors and others, asserted that the A.F.L.-C.I.O. had grown stodgy and was doing far too little to unionize workers.

While some union backers praise Mr. Stern as an innovative leader who has made labor a more potent force in politics, others criticize him for being divisive and too quick to make concessions to employers and political leaders. He was also criticized for reaching secret agreements with some companies that he did not disclose to the rank and file.

As one index of his power and proximity to the president, official records show that he visited the White House more than 20 times during Mr. Obama's first six months in office, making him the most frequent visitor of any person not in the administration. The White House political director, Patrick Gaspard, was formerly the political director of the union's giant health-care local in New York, and Craig Becker, newly appointed to the National Labor Relations Board, was associate general counsel to the union.

Mr. Stern would retire without having achieved one of his major goals, passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would make it easier to unionize workers.

In the past, Mr. Stern has talked of having a mandatory retirement age for union leaders and even having term limits for union leaders.


9) 2010 PayWatch Exposes Corporate Lobbying on Financial Reform
Posted By James Parks
April 13, 2010

The nation's biggest banks helped create the current financial crisis that required a $700 billion taxpayer bailout. In return, the banks cut back on lending to consumers and small businesses but paid out a record $145 billion in total compensation in 2009.

The 2010 AFL-CIO [1] Executive PayWatch, which launched today, shows the same [2] Big Six banks-Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo-are spending millions of dollars lobbying on [3] financial regulations, including limits on executive pay and risky actions like the ones that caused the current crisis.

In six case studies, PayWatch examines how the companies paid out big bucks to executives and lobbyists:

* Citigroup received more than $45 billion in bailout funds-the largest bank bailout and employs nearly 50 lobbyists. Citigroup's highest-paid executive, Institutional Clients Group CEO John Havens, received more than $11 million in 2009.
* At Bank of America, Thomas Montag, the head of global banking and markets, collected $30 million last year. And Kenneth Lewis, who retired as CEO at the end of 2009, could collect as much as $83 million over his retirement. The bank has lobbied federal officials and lawmakers on derivatives, executive compensation, oversight of the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

Today at noon EDT, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will host a [4] live webcast to review the new data and outline plans to enact real financial regulatory reform and make Wall Street pay for job creation through a financial speculation tax. Click [4] here for more information on the webcast.

The banks' actions are one of the main causes of [5] worker anger over the economy, Trumka told a press conference at the AFL-CIO headquarters this morning.

Our message this year to all these banking CEOs is that hard-working Americans will not be their ATMs. Working Americans are mad as hell and we won't take it any more. Big Wall Street banks helped create this economic crisis and should pay to create the jobs they destroyed.

For example, Wells Fargo increased its lobbying expenses by 27 percent last year. CEO John Stumpf received more than $21 million and was the highest-paid financial industry CEO in 2009. Because banks who received bailout money were forbidden by law to give their top executives bonuses or incentive compensation, Wells Fargo boosted Stumpf's base pay by more than a whopping 537 percent to $5.6 million in 2009.

The banking industry spent a total of some $50 million lobbying last year, and the Big Six banks spent nearly half of that, Trumka said.

The banking industry now has more lobbyists than there are Congress members in the U.S. House of Representatives. Banks also belong to trade associations such as the American Bankers Association, the Financial Services Roundtable, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that have been particularly active in lobbying against tighter financial regulations.

Karen Nussbaum, director of [6] Working America, the AFL-CIO's community affiliate, told reporters that her organization talks with some 1.5 million workers who are not union members.

The jobs crisis is personal. It's in every community and every family.

It makes sense to families that banks have been unfettered and have run amok and it makes sense to restore regulations to hold banks in line, she said.

Although Congress is considering measures to rein in Wall Street, we need bolder action, Trumka said, calling for "real financial reform, which includes an independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency and a financial speculation tax to make Wall Street pay for jobs." You can take action and urge your representative and senators to vote for financial reform [7] here on the PayWatch site.

PayWatch also provides opportunities for visitors to find out how you can have a [8] say on executive pay at companies where you hold stock. The site also includes a list of the shareholder meetings for the Big Six banks.

The site has a new updated database with key information on some 3,000 companies.

You also can compare your pay to that of your employer and join with Working America members in their campaign to tell Wall Street [9] "I Am Not Your ATM."

Article printed from AFL-CIO NOW BLOG:

URL to article:

URLs in this post:
[1] Executive PayWatch:
[2] Big Six:
[3] financial regulations:
[4] live webcast:
[5] worker anger:

[6] Working America:
[7] here:
[8] say on executive pay:
[9] "I Am Not Your ATM:


10) Long Recovery for Barrier Reef
April 13, 2010

It could take up to 20 years for a section of the Great Barrier Reef to regrow after the damage done by a Chinese coal carrier that ran aground and leaked oil, an Australian government scientist said Tuesday. The recovery could take longer depending on the toxicity of the ship's exterior paint, which is designed to prevent the growth of barnacles and other marine life. The Shen Neng 1 crashed onto a shoal near the southern end of the reef on April 3, then ground back and forth against the nearby coral until it was refloated late Monday. The scar on the reef is 1.9 miles long and up to 820 feet wide. About three tons of engine fuel were spilled.


11) W.Va. Mine Inspections Are Ordered
April 14, 2010

Gov. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia on Wednesday ordered the emergency inspection of all underground coal mines in the state in response to last week's mining explosion in Raleigh County that killed 29 miners and injured 2. Mr. Manchin also called for all coal companies in the state to stop production on Friday to use the day for a review of their safety procedures.

"We want to honor those fallen miners, and the best way to do that is a re-evaluation of all safety processes," Mr. Manchin said at a news conference at the Capitol in Charleston, adding that state regulators have been instructed to start checking mines that have repeatedly had combustion risks over the last year, a process he expects to be completed within the next two weeks.

"This is not a day off," he said, "not a closure but a day we recommit and re-evaluate all procedures and make sure we have the safest workplace in America."

Ronald L. Wooten, director of the State Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training, said during the news conference that state inspectors would begin looking at the most problematic mines on Friday, focusing especially on ventilation systems and methane and coal dust controls.

State and federal regulators remain uncertain about the cause of the explosion, though they have said they believe a buildup of methane probably played a role.

The mine, which is owned by the Massey Energy Company, has had problems with methane buildups and has also been cited for other ventilation violations.

Mr. Manchin's order comes as Massey Energy and the coal industry in general face increased scrutiny over their safety practices. Federal lawmakers have also said they intend to hold hearings to review whether federal regulators have provided enough oversight of the industry.

On Wednesday, Representative George Miller, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, released a list of 32 coal mines that had been identified by the federal government as deserving closer scrutiny, but "were not targeted due to unresolved appeals by mine operators."

Massey Energy and its subsidiaries led the list, accounting for 6 of the 32 mines. The mine where the recent explosion took place, Upper Big Branch, was 15th among the 32, in a ranking based on what fraction of the violations were contested by the mine management; for Upper Big Branch, it was 37 percent.

Andrew W. Lehren and Matthew L. Wald contributed reporting.


12) A Wall Street Invention Let the Crisis Mutate
April 16, 2010

Can it get any worse?

Every time you pick up another rock along the winding path that led to the financial crisis, something else crawls out. Subprime mortgages were sold as a way to give low-income people a chance at homeownership and the American Dream. Instead, the mortgages turned out to be an excuse for predatory lending and fraud, enriching the lenders and Wall Street at the expense of subprime borrowers, many of whom ended up in foreclosure.

The ratings agencies, which rated the complex investments that were built with subprime mortgages, turned out to be only too happy to be gamed by firms that paid their fees - slapping AAA ratings on mortgage bonds doomed to fail. Lehman Brothers turned out to be disguising the full reality of its horrid balance sheet by playing accounting games. All over Wall Street, firms pushed mortgage originators to churn out more loans that were doomed the moment they were made.

In the immediate aftermath, the conventional wisdom was that Wall Street had simply lost its head. It was terrible, to be sure, but on some level understandable: Dutch tulips, the South Sea bubble, that sort of thing.

In recent months, though, something more troubling has begun to emerge. In December, Gretchen Morgenson and Louise Story of The New York Times exposed the role that some firms, including Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, played in putting together investment structures - synthetic C.D.O.'s, they were called - that were primed to blow up. They did so, reportedly, because some savvy investors wanted to go short the subprime market.

On Friday, the Securities and Exchange Commission dropped the hammer, charging Goldman Sachs with securities fraud for its purported failure to disclose that the bonds that were the basis for one particular synthetic C.D.O. had been chosen by none other than John Paulson, the billionaire hedge fund investor, who was shorting them.

Oh, and one other thing is starting to become clear: synthetic C.D.O.'s made the crisis worse than it would otherwise have been.

Remember in the months leading up to the crisis, when the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, and Henry Paulson Jr., then the Treasury secretary, were assuring everyone that the "subprime problem" could be contained? In truth, if the only problem had been the actual mortgage bonds themselves, they might have been right. At the peak there were well over $1 trillion in subprime and Alt-A mortgages that were securitized on Wall Street. That's a lot, to be sure - but it was a finite number. You could have only as much exposure as there were bonds in existence.

The introduction of synthetic C.D.O.'s changed all that. Unlike a "normal" collateralized debt obligation, which contained the bonds themselves, the synthetic version contained credit-default swaps - derivatives that "referenced" a particular group of mortgage bonds. Once synthetic C.D.O.'s became popular, Wall Street no longer needed to feed the beast with new subprime loans. It could make an infinite number of bets on the bonds that already existed.

And why did synthetic C.D.O.'s become popular? One reason was that the subprime companies were starting to run out of risky borrowers to make bad loans to - and hitting a brick wall. New Century, a big subprime originator, went bankrupt in early April 2007, for instance. Yet three weeks later, the Goldman synthetic C.D.O. deal, called Abacus 2007-ACI, went through, because it was betting on subprime mortgage bonds that already existed rather than bundling new ones. It didn't even have to go to the trouble of repackaging old C.D.O. tranches into new C.D.O.'s, which was also a common practice. (Goldman has vehemently denied any allegations of wrongdoing, pointing out that it lost $90 million on the particular Abacus deal that is the subject of the S.E.C. complaint.)

The second reason, though, is that synthetic C.D.O.'s gave people like John Paulson a way to short the subprime market. Mr. Paulson's bet against the subprime market, which famously reaped the firm billions in profits, was the subject of a recent book, "The Greatest Trade Ever." Boy, I'll say.

Both Gregory Zuckerman, the author of that book, and Michael Lewis, who wrote the current best seller "The Big Short," make it clear that the heroes of their narratives - the handful of people who had figured out that subprime mortgages were a looming disaster - were pushing Wall Street hard to give them a way to short the market. Maybe synthetic C.D.O.'s would have been created even without their urging, but it seems a little unlikely. They were the driving forces.

It is important to note that every synthetic C.D.O. required both investors who were long and others who were short. That is, there needed to be investors who believed the "referenced" bonds would rise in value, and others who believed they would fall. Everyone, on both sides of the transaction, understood that. What makes it feel like dirty pool is the allegation that Paulson & Company and Goldman Sachs were actively involved in choosing the bonds that would be bet on - knowing they were going to be short. In its filing on Thursday, the S.E.C. charged that Goldman never told investors of Mr. Paulson's involvement. "Credit derivative technology helped people disguise what they were doing," said Janet Tavakoli, the president of Tavakoli Structured Finance, and an early critics of many of the structures that have now come under scrutiny.

There appear to be other examples of this, as well. Last week, Pro Publica, the nonprofit investigative journalism outfit, reported how a big Chicago hedge fund, Magnetar, helped put together some synthetic C.D.O.'s - precisely so that it could bet against them. In his book, Mr. Zuckerman seems to have stumbled onto Abacus and similar deals. One banker, he writes, "suspected that Paulson would push for combustible mortgages and debt to go into any C.D.O., making it more likely that it would go up in flames." Which is precisely what the S.E.C. is claiming. But in his quest to lionize his central character, Mr. Zuckerman rushes past what by all rights should have been the most shocking revelation in his book.

Mr. Lewis, for his part, recounts a dinner, late in the game, in which one of his heroes, Steve Eisman, is seated next to a man who is taking the long position on many of the C.D.O.'s he is shorting. They get to talking, and the man says to Mr. Eisman: "I love guys like you who short my market. Without you, I don't have anything to buy." He adds, "The more excited that you get that you're right, the more trades you'll do, the more product for me."

As a reader, it is hard not to love that moment, rich as it is in irony and foreboding. The guy on the long side - who was making investments that the housing and mortgage markets would remain strong - is an obvious fool; Mr. Eisman, on the short side the trade, is clearly going to be vindicated. (And, by Mr. Lewis's account, Mr. Eisman never "helped" a Wall Street firm pick the bonds for the C.D.O.'s he was shorting, the way the S.E.C. says Mr. Paulson did.)

But on second reading, the passage isn't quite so funny. The people on the short side of those trades were truly savvy investors, who, unlike so many others, did their homework and had insights that made them a great deal of money. But the rise of synthetic C.D.O.'s that they pushed for - and their ability to use credit-default swaps to short subprime mortgage bonds - took an already bad situation and made it worse.

And here we are now, all of us, paying the price.


13) Investor Who Made Billions Is Not Target of Suit
April 16, 2010

Three and half years ago, a New York hedge fund manager with a bearish view on the housing market was pounding the pavement on Wall Street.

Eager to increase his bets against subprime mortgages, the investor, John A. Paulson, canvassed firm after firm, looking for new ways to profit from home loans that he was sure would go sour.

Only a few investment banks agreed to help him. One was Deutsche Bank. The other was the mighty Goldman Sachs.

Mr. Paulson struck gold. His prescience made him billions and transformed him from a relative nobody into something of a celebrity on Wall Street and in Washington.

But now his brassy bets have thrust Mr. Paulson into an uncomfortable spotlight. On Friday, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil fraud lawsuit against Goldman for neglecting to tell its customers that mortgage investments they were buying consisted of pools of dubious loans that Mr. Paulson had selected because they were highly likely to fail.

By betting against the pool of questionable mortgage bonds, Mr. Paulson made $1 billion when they collapsed just a few months later, the S.E.C. said. Investors, who bought what regulators are essentially calling a pig in a poke, lost the same amount.

Mr. Paulson, 54, was not named as a defendant in the S.E.C. suit, but his role in devising the instrument that caused $1 billion in losses for Goldman's customers is detailed in the complaint. Robert Khuzami, the director of enforcement at the S.E.C., explained that, unlike Goldman, the manager of the hedge fund, Paulson & Company, had not made misrepresentations to investors buying the security, known as a collateralized debt obligation.

"While it's unfortunate that people lost money investing in mortgage-backed securities, Paulson has never been involved in the origination, distribution or structuring of such securities," said Stefan Prelog, a spokesman for Mr. Paulson, in a statement. "We have always been forthright in expressing our opinion as to the quality of the underlying mortgages. Paulson has never misrepresented our positions to any counterparties.

"There's no question we made money in these transactions. However, all our dealings were through arm's-length transactions with experienced counterparties who had opposing views based on all available information at the time. We were straightforward in our dislike of these securities, but the vast majority of people in the market thought we were dead wrong and openly and aggressively purchased the securities we were selling."

Still, the details unearthed by the S.E.C. in its investigation show a deep involvement by Mr. Paulson in the creation of the investment, known as Abacus 2007-AC1. For example, he approached Goldman about constructing and marketing the debt security.

After analyzing risky mortgages made on homes in Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada, where the housing markets had overheated, Mr. Paulson went to Goldman to talk about how he could bet against those loans. He focused his analysis on adjustable-rate loans taken out by borrowers with relatively low credit scores and turned up more than 100 loan pools that he considered vulnerable, the S.E.C. said.

Mr. Paulson then asked Goldman to put together a portfolio of these pools, or others like them that he could wager against. He paid $15 million to Goldman for creating and marketing the Abacus deal, the complaint says.

One of a small cohort of money managers who saw the mortgage market in late 2006 as a bubble waiting to burst, Mr. Paulson capitalized on the opacity of mortgage-related securities that Wall Street cobbled together and sold to its clients. These instruments contained thousands of mortgage loans that few investors bothered to analyze.

Instead, the buyers relied on the opinions of credit ratings agencies like Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings. These turned out to be overly rosy, and investors suffered hundreds of billions in losses when the loans underlying these securities went bad.

Mr. Paulson personally made an estimated $3.7 billion in 2007 as a result of his hedge fund's performance, and another $2 billion in 2008.

He was also treated like a celebrity by members of a Congressional committee that invited him to testify in November 2008 about the credit crisis. At the time, none of the lawmakers asked how he had managed to set up his lucrative trades; they seemed more interested in getting his advice on how to solve the credit crisis.

A Queens-born graduate of New York University and the Harvard Business School, Mr. Paulson went to Wall Street in the early 1980s just as the biggest bull market in history was starting. He joined Bear Stearns in 1984 as a junior executive in the investment banking unit.

Ten years later, he started his hedge fund with $2 million of his own capital. During the technology-stock bubble of the late 1990s, Mr. Paulson took a negative stance on high-flying shares and profited handsomely for himself and his clients.

By the end of 2008, Mr. Paulson's assets under management had risen to $36.1 billion. In an early 2009 interview with The New York Times, Mr. Paulson talked about his success. "We are very proud of our performance last year," he said. "We provided an oasis of profitable returns for our investors in a year where there were few sources of gains."

His investors, which included pension funds, endowments, wealthy families and individuals, were huge beneficiaries of his strategy, Mr. Paulson added. "They made four times as much as we did," he said.

Mr. Paulson and his investment program was the subject of the 2009 book by Gregory Zuckerman "The Greatest Trade Ever." Mr. Zuckerman wrote that Mr. Paulson did not think there was anything wrong with working with various banks to create troubled investments that he could then bet against.

"Paulson told his own clients what he was up to and they supported him, considering it an ingenious way to grow the trade by finding more debt to short," Mr. Zuckerman wrote. "After all, those who would buy the pieces of any C.D.O. likely would be hedge funds, banks, pension plans or other sophisticated investors, not mom-and-pop investors."

Late last year, Mr. Paulson donated $20 million to the Stern School of Business at New York University and $5 million to Southampton Hospital in Long Island's East End, where he bought a $41 million home in early 2008. He lives with his wife and two daughters on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Amid criticism of investment strategies that profited from mortgage defaults, home foreclosures and other miseries, Mr. Paulson has also given $15 million to the Center for Responsible Lending for a center devoted to providing foreclosure assistance to troubled borrowers.

At the time of the donation, Mr. Paulson said of the center and its work, "We are pleased to help them provide legal services to distressed homeowners, many of whom have been victimized by predatory lenders."


14) U.S. Indicts 5 Blackwater Ex-Officials
April 16, 2010
WASHINGTON - Federal prosecutors charged the former president of Blackwater Worldwide and four other former senior company officials on Friday with weapons violations and making false statements in the first criminal inquiry to reach into the top management ranks of the private security company.

The executives were some of the closest advisers to Blackwater's founder, Erik Prince, and helped him steer the company during its swift rise to become the leading contractor providing security for American diplomats in Iraq and Afghanistan, working for the State Department, the C.I.A. and the Pentagon.

They were also the senior executives in charge during the company's most turbulent period, after its security guards were involved in a series of shootings, including one in Baghdad in 2007 that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead.

Mr. Prince, who was not charged, remains at the helm of the company, now known as Xe Services, while many other executives have left as the company has sought to reshape its public image in the face of mounting legal and political scrutiny.

While the indictment is somewhat limited in scope, it could be the government's opening salvo in a broader offensive to bring criminal charges against the company. They could include charges for bribery and export violations, according to officials familiar with the case, perhaps under a strategy of turning former and current executives of the company against one another.

A federal grand jury in Raleigh, N.C., issued the 15-count indictment against Gary Jackson, Blackwater's former president; William Matthews, the former executive vice president; Andrew Howell, the former general counsel; Ana Bundy, a former vice president; and Ronald Slezak, a former weapons manager, charging that they conspired to skirt federal weapons laws and then tried to hide their actions.

The charges stem in part from a 2008 raid by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms of Blackwater's Moyock, N.C., headquarters complex, where agents seized 22 weapons, including 17 AK-47s.

The former officials are charged with trying to hide the company's purchases of the weapons by making it seem as if they had been bought by a North Carolina sheriff's office. Blackwater sought to have the sheriff pose as the owner of the weapons because federal firearms law made it illegal for Blackwater to have so many of them, according to the indictment.

Other charges relate to the company's large inventory of short-barrel rifles, deadly and especially useful in tight spots, which by law must be registered. Federal prosecutors charge that Blackwater shipped the weapons overseas with the barrels detached in an effort to avoid export regulations.

The executives are also charged with trying to hide gifts of expensive weapons to Jordanian officials who were visiting Blackwater at a time when the company was trying to win contracts from Jordan's government.

Former Blackwater officials say that Mr. Jackson ran the company on a day-to-day basis, along with his top aide, Mr. Matthews, and would be knowledgeable about virtually all of the company's actions.

Reached by telephone, Mr. Jackson declined to comment. His lawyer, Kenneth Bell, did not return a call seeking comment. Mr. Bell told The Associated Press that the charges against Mr. Jackson were false.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Xe Services, said that the company had been cooperating. "The company is aware of the charges against former executives," he said in a written statement. "As we've stated before, the company has fully cooperated with the Department of Justice investigation. Given the pending criminal charges, the company will not comment further."

The charges against the top former officials follow lengthy federal investigations of lower-level Blackwater personnel. Five former Blackwater guards were charged with manslaughter in the September 2007 shooting in Nisour Square in Baghdad, but those charges were dismissed last December.

Two guards who worked for a Blackwater subsidiary in Afghanistan were arrested in January on murder charges in connection with a shooting in Kabul last May. Other shootings have also been the subject of lengthy federal investigations, including one in 2006 in which a Blackwater guard killed an Iraqi guard.

But prosecutors have recently begun to focus on the company's management as well. The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into whether Blackwater officials bribed Iraqi officials so the company could continue to operate in Iraq after the 2007 shooting.


15) S.E.C. Accuses Goldman of Fraud in Housing Deal
April 16, 2010

Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street powerhouse, was accused of securities fraud in a civil lawsuit filed Friday by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which claims the bank created and sold a mortgage investment that was secretly intended to fail.

The move was the first time that regulators had taken action against a Wall Street deal that helped investors capitalize on the collapse of the housing market.

The suit also named Fabrice Tourre, a vice president at Goldman who helped create and sell the investment.

In a statement, Goldman called the commission's accusations "completely unfounded in law and fact" and said it would "vigorously contest them and defend the firm and its reputation."

The focus of the S.E.C. case, an investment vehicle called Abacus 2007-AC1, was one of 25 such vehicles that Goldman created so the bank and some of its clients could bet against the housing market. Those deals, which were the subject of an article in The New York Times in December, initially protected Goldman from losses when the mortgage market disintegrated and later yielded profits for the bank.

As the Abacus portfolios in the S.E.C. case plunged in value, a prominent hedge fund manager made money from his bets against certain mortgage bonds, while investors lost more than $1 billion.

According to the complaint, Goldman created Abacus 2007-AC1 in February 2007 at the request of John A. Paulson, a prominent hedge fund manager who earned an estimated $3.7 billion in 2007 by correctly wagering that the housing bubble would burst. Mr. Paulson is not named in the suit.

Goldman told investors that the bonds would be chosen by an independent manager. In the case of Abacus 2007-AC1, however, Goldman let Mr. Paulson select mortgage bonds that he believed were most likely to lose value, according to the complaint.

Goldman then sold the package to investors like foreign banks, pension funds and insurance companies, which would profit only if the bonds gained value. The European banks IKB and ABN Amro and other investors lost more than $1 billion in the deal, the commission said.

"Goldman wrongly permitted a client that was betting against the mortgage market to heavily influence which mortgage securities to include in an investment portfolio," Robert Khuzami, the director of the commission's enforcement division, said in a written statement.

The lawsuit could be a sign of a revitalized Securities and Exchange Commission, which has been criticized for early missteps in assessing the causes of the financial crisis. The agency appears to be tracing the mortgage pipeline all the way from the companies like Countrywide Financial that originated home loans to the raucous trading floors that dominate Wall Street's profit machine.

At a conference in New Orleans on Friday, Mr. Khuzami indicated that he was scrutinizing other deals involving mortgage securities. "We're looking at a wide range of products," he said at a news conference. "If we see securities with similar profiles, we'll look at them closely."

Shares of Goldman Sachs plunged more than 10 percent in just the first half-hour of trading after the suit was announced Friday morning. They closed down 13 percent, at $160.70, wiping away more than $10 billion of the company's market value.

Investors sold other bank stocks, as well, as rumors swirled about which other firms might become embroiled in the commission's investigation. Next to Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank's American shares had the steepest decline, falling 7 percent.

Goldman issued a second statement after the market closed saying that the firm had lost money on the deal in the S.E.C. case and that it provided investors with extensive disclosure on the deal. The firm said the losses in the deal came from the overall collapse of the mortgage market, not from the way the deal was structured.

The accusations amount to a black eye for the once-untouchable Goldman Sachs, a money machine that is the epicenter of Wall Street power. For decades, its platinum reputation has attracted top investors and stock underwriting deals.

Several of its former chief executives have gone on to high public office, among them Henry M. Paulson Jr., the former Treasury secretary, and Jon Corzine, the former New Jersey governor. (Henry Paulson and John Paulson are not related.)

In recent months, Goldman has been defiant in the face of criticism, repeatedly defending its actions in the mortgage market, including its own bets against it. In a letter published last week in Goldman's annual report, the bank rebutted criticism that it had created, and sold to its clients, mortgage-linked securities that it had little confidence in.

"We certainly did not know the future of the residential housing market in the first half of 2007 any more than we can predict the future of markets today," Goldman wrote. "We also did not know whether the value of the instruments we sold would increase or decrease."

The letter continued: "Although Goldman Sachs held various positions in residential mortgage-related products in 2007, our short positions were not a 'bet against our clients.' " Instead, the trades were used to hedge other trading positions, the bank said.

Goldman was one of many Wall Street firms that created complex mortgage securities - known as synthetic collateralized debt obligations - as the housing wave was cresting. At the time, traders like Mr. Paulson, as well as those within Goldman, were looking for ways to bet against the overheated market.

For months, S.E.C. officials have been examining mortgage bundles like Abacus that were created across Wall Street. The commission has been interviewing people who structured Goldman mortgage deals about Abacus and similar instruments. The commission advised Goldman that it was likely to face a civil suit in the matter, sending the bank what is known as a Wells notice several months ago.

The S.E.C. action is a civil complaint, but it could be referred to criminal prosecutors who would have to prove that individuals intended to defraud investors.

The S.E.C. focused on only one Abacus deal in its complaint, but Mr. Khuzami said in a conference call on Friday that the commission continued to look at the rest. All told, $10.9 billion of Abacus investments were sold.

Mr. Tourre, the Goldman vice president named in the lawsuit, was one of the firm's top workers running the Abacus deals, selling the investment to investors across Europe. Mr. Tourre was raised in France and moved to the United States in 2000 to earn his master's degree in operations at Stanford. The next year, he began working at Goldman, according to his profile on the LinkedIn social network.

He rose to prominence working on the Abacus deals under a trader named Jonathan M. Egol. Mr. Egol, who is now a managing director at Goldman, is not named in the S.E.C. suit.

Goldman structured the Abacus portfolios with a sharp eye on the credit ratings assigned to the mortgage bonds contained in them, the S.E.C. said. In the Abacus deal cited in the S.E.C. complaint, Mr. Paulson pinpointed those mortgage bonds that he believed carried higher ratings than the underlying loans deserved.

Goldman placed insurance on those bonds - called credit-default swaps - inside Abacus, allowing Mr. Paulson to bet against the bonds while clients on the other side of the trade wagered that they would make money.

But when Goldman sold shares in Abacus to investors, the bank and Mr. Tourre disclosed only the ratings of those bonds and did not disclose that Mr. Paulson was on the other side, betting those ratings were wrong.

Mr. Tourre at one point complained to an investor who was buying into Abacus that he was having trouble persuading Moody's to give the deal the rating he desired, according to the investor's notes, which were provided to The Times by a colleague who asked for anonymity.

In seven of Goldman's Abacus deals, the bank went to the American International Group for insurance on the bonds. Those deals have led to billions of dollars in losses at A.I.G., which received a $180 billion taxpayer rescue. The Abacus deal in the S.E.C. complaint was not one of them.

That deal was managed by ACA Management, a part of ACA Capital Holdings, which changed its name in 2008 to Manifold Capital.

Goldman told investors the mortgage bond portfolio would be "selected by ACA Management," according to the deal's marketing document, which was given to The Times by an Abacus investor. That document says Goldman may have long or short positions in the bonds. It does not mention Mr. Paulson.

ACA was not named in the suit. That firm was led to believe that Mr. Paulson was positive on mortgages, not negative, and so it did not see a problem with his involvement, the S.E.C. said. Mr. Tourre was aware of ACA's misconception, the commission said.

In February 2007, Mr. Tourre met with both ACA and Mr. Paulson, and he sent an e-mail message to a Goldman colleague acknowledging the awkwardness of the situation. "This is surreal," Mr. Tourre wrote.

Nine days later, a Goldman colleague wrote Mr. Tourre and said, "the C.D.O. biz is dead. We don't have a lot of time left."

The Abacus deals deteriorated rapidly when the housing market hit trouble. For instance, in the Abacus deal in the S.E.C. complaint, 83 percent of the mortgage bonds underlying it were downgraded by rating agencies just six months later, and 99 percent had been downgraded by early 2008, according to the S.E.C.

It takes time for such mortgage investments to pay out for investors who make bets against them. Each deal is structured differently, but generally, the bonds underlying the investment must deteriorate to a certain point before those who bet against the bonds get paid. By the end of 2007, Mr. Paulson's credit hedge fund was up 590 percent.

Michael J. de la Merced contributed reporting.


16) West Virginia: First Suit in Mine Deaths
April 16, 2010

A widow of one of the 29 men killed last week in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine has filed a wrongful-death suit against the mine's owner, Massey Energy. Marlene Griffith, whose husband, William Griffith, died, claims in the suit, the first filed over the explosion, that the mine's history of safety violations amounted to negligence. The Mine Safety and Health Administration has tentatively blamed preventable accumulations of explosive methane gas and coal dust for the disaster. Federal inspectors have found more than 60 serious safety violations at Massey operations since the blast.