Saturday, May 01, 2010



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


Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:




Documenting the reality of immigration and the families left behind.
ANSWER Coalition Film Showing & Discussion
Thurs. May 6, 7:30pm
ATA Theater, 992 Valencia St. at 21st St., SF
$6 donation (no one turned away for lack of funds)

Letters From the Other Side is a much-needed examination of the collateral damage of immigration. The film interweaves video letters carried across the U.S.-Mexico border by the film's director with the personal stories of women left behind in post-NAFTA Mexico.

Letters From the Other Side provides the human context that has been missing from the immigration debate and offers a fresh perspective, painting a complex portrait of families torn apart by economics, communities dying at the hands of globalization, and governments unwilling to do anything about it. 2006, 73min.

Call 415-821-6545 for more info.

Jueves, 6 de mayo, 7:30pm
El Teatro ATA, la calle Valencia #992, esq./calle 21, S.F.
Cerca del BART, estación de la calle 24
Donación sugerida $6

Película y Discusión de la Coalición ANSWER
Documentando la realidad de la inmigración y las familias dejadas atrás.

Tarjetas del Otro Lado es una exanimación esencial sobre el daño colateral de la inmigración. La película entremezcla video-mensajes pasadas sobre la frontera entre México y EE.UU. por el director de la película con historias personales de mujeres dejadas atrás en un México post-NAFTA.

Tarjetas del Otro Lado proporciona un contexto humano que se encuentra perdido en el debate inmigratorio y ofrece una perspectiva nueva, pintando una portada compleja de familias separadas por la economía, comunidades muriendo gracias a la globalización, y gobiernos incapaces de resolver el asunto. 2006. 73min.

Para más información: 415-821-6545

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 join us for:
Tear Down the Walls
an evening of music and performance benefiting
The Prison Activist Resource Center

Uptown Body and Fender
401 26th Street
Oakland, CA
(between Broadway/Telegraph)

Saturday, May 8
7pm - midnight

$10-1k suggested donation

Angela Davis
Lisa Marie Alatorre of Critical Resistance
and Jack Bryson

And performances by:
Citizen Marty Payne of the Caribbean Allstars
Elana Dykewomon, spoken word
Raks Africa, belly dancing
Mbele, cuban folklore ensemble
Sassy Crew!
Medea Sirkas, Synchronized Strutters
Drag King Sensations: Momma's Boyz
O Zone and J~milli~on
Erica Benton, singer/songwriter
dancing with DJ Ponyboy

A silent auction with Death Row artists Kevin Cooper and James Anderson, jewelry and beadwork by Rickie Blue-Sky, Hoof and Horn Leather and more!

beverages by Linden Street Brewery

Come celebrate 14 years of community action work against the Prison Industrial Complex!

For more information, please contact PARC at
(510) 893-4648 or via our website at

The Prison Activist Resource Center is an all-volunteer, grassroots prison abolitionist collective committed to ending the injustices of the criminal (in)justice system and advocating for prisoners rights. We publish a national Prisoner Support Directory that is sent to prisoners free upon request.

All proceeds of this event will go toward the Prison Activist Resource Center

Endorsers: All of Us or None, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Critical Resistance, East Bay Prisoner Support, Freedom Archives, KPFA Women's Magazine, Legal Services for Women with Children, Oakland 100 Support Committee, SF Dyke March, Out of Control, Slingshot Collective, Sparks Fly, and Stanley Tookie Williams Legacy Network.

This venue is wheelchair accessible

If you are unable to make it to this event, but still interested in supporting PARC, you may donate safely through our website here:


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




Operation Small Axe - Trailer


[Mumia's Birthday was April]
Birthday Message of Thanks to the Movement
By Mumia Abu-Jamal
It may surprise you that for years I did not celebrate a birthday. Now, that's partly because of the everydayness, sameness of prison. It's also because I really didn't remember the day. And I was often surprised by a card from my mother, or from my children, or my wife. They surprised me that they remembered. Of course, that was years ago. But the freedom movement has grown. So has the significance of that movement; for the movement has kept me alive and engaged in struggle. For that, I thank you all. That's because movements can make social change. Some years ago, many years ago, the anthropologist Margaret Meade said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Here's the magic, it's that we were there. I thank you for all you have done and all you intend to do. I love you all. On the Move! Build the movement! From Death Row, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal., April 24, 2010


Shame on Arizona

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer just signed a law that will authorize officers to pull over, question, and detain anyone they have a "reasonable suspicion" to believe is in this country without proper documentation. It's legalized racial profiling, and it's an affront on all of our civil rights, especially Latinos. It's completely unacceptable.

Join us in letting Arizona's leaders know how we feel, and that there will be consequences. A state that dehumanizes its own people does not deserve our economic support

"As long as racial profiling is legal in Arizona, I will do what I can to not visit the state and to avoid spending dollars there."

Sign Petition Here:


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

Birthday Message of Thanks to the Movement
By Mumia Abu-Jamal
It may surprise you that for years I did not celebrate a birthday. Now, that's partly because of the everydayness, sameness of prison. It's also because I really didn't remember the day. And I was often surprised by a card from my mother, or from my children, or my wife. They surprised me that they remembered. Of course, that was years ago. But the freedom movement has grown. So has the significance of that movement; for the movement has kept me alive and engaged in struggle. For that, I thank you all. That's because movements can make social change. Some years ago, many years ago, the anthropologist Margaret Meade said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Here's the magic, it's that we were there. I thank you for all you have done and all you intend to do. I love you all. On the Move! Build the movement! From Death Row, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal., April 24, 2010


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


On June 30, an innocent man will be given a second chance.

In 1991, Troy Davis was sentenced to death for allegedly killing a police officer in Savannah, Georgia. There was no physical evidence tying him to the crime, and seven out of nine witnesses recanted or contradicted their testimony.

He was sentenced to death for a crime he didn't commit. But it's not too late to change Troy's fate.

We just learned today that Troy has been granted an evidentiary hearing -- an opportunity to right this wrong. Help give him a second chance by telling your friends to pledge their support for Troy:

Troy Davis may just be one man, but his situation represents an injustice experienced by thousands. And suffering this kind of injustice, by even one man, is one person too many.

Thanks to you and 35,000 other NAACP members and supporters who spoke out last August, the U.S. Supreme Court is granting Troy Davis his day in court--and a chance to make his case after 19 years on death row.

This hearing is the first step.

We appreciate your continued support of Troy. If you have not yet done so, please visit our website, sign the petition, then tell your friends to do the same.

I will be in touch soon to let you know how else you can help.


Benjamin Todd Jealous
President and CEO


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) In New Jersey, a Civics Lesson in the Internet Age
April 27, 2010

2) Exxon Profit Up 38% as Oil Prices Rise
April 29, 2010

3) For Migrants, New Law Is Just Another Challenge
April 28, 2010

4) 5 Killed in Gaza Shooting and Fire
April 28, 2010

5) Welcome to Arizona, Outpost of Contradictions
April 28, 2010

6) Volunteers Report on Treatment of Immigrant Detainees
April 28, 2010

7) Size of Spill in Gulf of Mexico Is Larger Than Thought
April 28, 2010

8) Oil From Spill Is Reported to Have Reached the Coast
April 30, 2010

9) 2 Workers Are Killed in Kentucky Mine Collapse
April 29, 2010

10) Pennsylvania: Ex-Judge Guilty Plea
April 29, 2010

11) American Meat Is Even Grosser Than You Thought
By Ari LeVaux, AlterNet
Posted on May 1, 2010, Printed on May 1, 2010

12) Food Among the Ruins: Should Detroit Be Converted Into a Farming Mecca?
By Mark Dowie, Guernica
Posted on April 30, 2010, Printed on May 1, 2010

13) Oil Hits Louisiana Shore, Federal Government Increases Response
by Ned Potter, Ryan Owens and Kate McCarthy
Published on Friday, April 30, 2010 by ABC News

14) Not Just Arizona: Immigration Enforcement Out of Control on Federal Level
By Bill Quigley
April 30, 2010

15) Ex-Worker Says Her Firing Was Based on Genetic Test
April 30, 2010

16) Ballplayers Join Protest of New Law
April 30, 2010

17) At Least 50 of City's Senior Centers Expected to Close to Save Money
April 30, 2010


1) In New Jersey, a Civics Lesson in the Internet Age
April 27, 2010

It was a silent call to arms: an easy-to-overlook message urging New Jersey students to take a stand against the budget cuts that threaten class sizes and choices as well as after-school activities. But some 18,000 students accepted the invitation posted last month on Facebook, the social media site better known for publicizing parties and sporting events. And on Tuesday many of them - and many others - walked out of class in one of the largest grass-roots demonstrations to hit New Jersey in years.

The protest disrupted classroom routines and standardized testing in some of the state's biggest and best-known school districts, offering a real-life civics lesson that unfolded on lawns, sidewalks, parking lots and football fields.

The mass walkouts were inspired by Michelle Ryan Lauto, an 18-year-old aspiring actress and a college freshman, and came a week after voters rejected 58 percent of school district budgets put to a vote across the state (not all districts have a direct budget vote).

"All I did was make a Facebook page," said Ms. Lauto, who graduated last year from Northern Valley Regional High School in Old Tappan, N.J. "Anyone who has an opinion could do that and have their opinion heard. I would love to see kids in high school step up and start their own protests and change things in their own way."

At Columbia High School in Maplewood, that looked like 200 students marching around the building waving signs reading "We are the future" and "We love our teachers."

In West Orange, a district that is considering laying off 84 employees, reducing busing, cutting back on music and art, and dropping sports teams, it was high school students rallying in the football stands.

At Montclair High School, it meant nearly half of the 1,900 students gathered outside the school in the morning, with some chanting, "No more budget cuts."

In the largest showing, thousands of high school students in Newark marched past honking cars stuck in midday traffic to fill the steps of City Hall under the watchful gaze of dozens of police officers.

With their protests, the students sought to send a message to Gov. Christopher J. Christie, a Republican whose reductions in state aid to education had led many districts to cut staff and programs and to ask for larger-than-usual property tax increases. Mr. Christie, who has taken on the state's largest teachers' union in his efforts to close an $11 billion deficit, has proposed reducing direct aid to nearly 600 districts by an amount equal to up to 5 percent of each district's operating budget.

"It feels like he is taking money from us, and we're already poor," said Johanna Pagan, 16, a sophomore at West Side High School in Newark, who feared her school would lose teachers and extracurricular programs because of the governor's cuts. "The schools here have bad reputations, and we need aid and we need programs to develop."

Michael Drewniak, the governor's press secretary, released a statement on Tuesday saying that students belonged in the classroom. "It is also our firm hope that the students were motivated by youthful rebellion or spring fever," Mr. Drewniak said, "and not by encouragement from any one-sided view of the current budget crisis in New Jersey."

Bret D. Schundler, the education commissioner, also urged schools to enforce attendance policies and not let students walk out of class. State education officials said they had a call from one district that had moved students taking standardized tests to another part of the building because of potential noise.

Not every school had students walk out. Nancy Dries, a spokeswoman for the top-ranked Millburn district, which has used surplus money to avoid major cuts, said it was "business as usual" there.

But in many other places, students came to school ready to make a political statement. Emma Wolin, a junior at Columbia High, walked out of second-period Spanish with several classmates, even though the school had warned that they would face detention.

"It's the activities and school spirit that make Columbia a great school, and I want to keep it that way," she said.

Judy Levy, a spokeswoman for the South Orange and Maplewood district, said that teachers did mark protesting students absent, and that some students went back and forth between the walkout and their classes, while others chose not to participate because their classes were reviewing for Advanced Placement exams that begin on Monday.

Ms. Lauto, whose message inspired the walkouts, said in an interview that she was amazed and gratified that so many students had responded. She said the state education cuts had really hit home because her mother and sister both work in public schools in Hudson County.

Ms. Lauto, enrolled at Pace University, said she has always had an activist streak. In seventh grade, she tried - but failed - to organize a protest over a new dress code, and after President George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004, she wrote "Going to Canada, Be Back in 4 Years" on a T-shirt and wore it to class.

But until now, Ms. Lauto said, she has used Facebook only to keep in touch with friends and let them know when she is performing in shows. She alerted those 600 Facebook friends to her message calling for a student walkout and asked them to pass it on.

Within a week, Ms. Lauto received hundreds of responses, not all of them positive. In fact, so many students insulted her and said the walkout was a stupid idea that she disabled the message function on her Facebook page. On Tuesday, Ms. Lauto joined students who walked out of High Tech High School in Bergen County. She said she was not planning any more protests, but hoped that students learned that their voices could be heard.

"I made this page with the best of intentions," she said. "The fact that it has become so wildly successful - I'm so overwhelmed."

Nate Schweber contributed reporting from Newark, and Lois DeSocio from Maplewood.


2) Exxon Profit Up 38% as Oil Prices Rise
April 29, 2010

Exxon Mobil said Thursday its quarterly profit jumped 38 percent as oil prices rose in the first three months of the year.

That marks the first year-over-year increase in profit for Exxon since it posted a record of $14.83 billion in the third quarter of 2008.

Still, earnings remain significantly below that level. During the first three months of this year, the company had a profit of $6.3 billion, or $1.33 a share. That compares with $4.55 billion, or 92 cents a share, in the comparable period last year. Two years ago, Exxon earned $10.89 billion in the first quarter.

Revenue rose 41 percent to $90.25 billion. Analysts had expected earnings of $1.41 a share on revenue of $96.41 billion.

Stock in Exxon Mobil, which is based in Irving, Tex., fell in early trading, but by late morning had gained 20 cents, to $69.39 a share.

Exxon's profit relied heavily on its exploration and production of oil and gas. Oil prices surged over the last 12 months, jumping from a low of $33 a barrel in the first quarter of 2009 to more than $80 a barrel this year. The company responded to the rise in price by pumping more from the ground.

Production of oil and natural gas increased 4.5 percent from the first quarter of 2009. New operations in Qatar came online, helping to raise profits even though natural gas prices had flattened from the previous year.

Exxon's refineries struggled, however, especially those located in the United States. American petroleum consumption dropped in the first quarter, and refineries had trouble passing the higher oil costs along to consumers.

The operations that includes Exxon's United States refineries lost $60 million in the first quarter, compared with a profit of $352 million in the year-ago period.

Meanwhile, Exxon's chemicals business more than tripled its profit in the quarter to $1.25 billion. Exxon said it benefited from stronger profit margins and higher sales volumes. The company also said corporate and financing expenses nearly doubled to $800 million, primarily because of new health care benefits now required in the United States.

During the quarter, Exxon continued to expand its business, increasing capital and exploration spending 19 percent year-over-year to $6.9 billion. Exxon said it plans to complete its acquisition of the natural gas producer XTO by the end of the second quarter.


3) For Migrants, New Law Is Just Another Challenge
April 28, 2010

NOGALES, Mexico - Despite its intent to "discourage and deter" unlawful entry to the United States, Arizona's tough new immigration law is not what prevented Verónica from sneaking into the state without papers. After all, she had already endured a harrowing train ride, escaped dangerous drug traffickers and eluded Mexican authorities who were after the money she had stuffed in her underwear.

Verónica did not make it to the United States, she said glumly, simply because she got nervous. Her palms got sweaty and she slipped off the pole she and others in her group were shimmying up to get over the border fence and into Arizona.

It was a long fall and Verónica, a Honduran immigrant who declined to give her last name out of fear that it might hurt her chances of migrating north in the future, was bruised and limping when she recounted her failed border crossing. She was pregnant, too, and worried about how her fetus had handled the trauma.

As strict as Arizona's new immigration legislation may be, prompting the Mexican government to issue a travel alert warning that "any Mexican citizen could be bothered and questioned without cause at any moment," it happens to be child's play compared with what many illegal immigrants regularly endure on their way to the north.

"If they think the migrants will stop coming, they're wrong," Rafael Limón Corbalá, head of the regional migration office for the Mexican state of Sonora, said of the Arizona legislators who approved the law. "There's still jobs over there, and many people will still have their eyes on getting across."

If a migrant can pay enough, heading north can be as simple as waiting in line at a border crossing, handing a forged identity document to a border guard and, if it works, strolling into the United States. But it is more likely to be a nightmarish trek through the Mexican countryside and then across the Arizona desert.

Either way, migrants pool significant sums, anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000, to make the passage. That is enough in many of their hometowns to build a basic home or start a small business, but it is widely viewed among migrants as a worthy investment.

Arizona's new law - which calls for police officers who have "reasonable suspicion" of a person's immigration status to demand proof of legal residency - was uniformly disliked by the many migrants interviewed in this border town on the Mexican side. The criticism seemed the same among those preparing to cross, those who were deciding what to do next after being deported and those in the midst of crossing who spoke as they trudged nervously north.

"We work for the people of Arizona and now they don't want us," fumed Miguel, who said he was part a group of several dozen people caught by the Border Patrol in the desert this week and bused back to the border. He said he would be making another attempt - his eighth in recent years - soon.

Relatively few migrants said the law would keep them from crossing, though they planned to steer clear of police officers even more than they did before.

While the new law is expected to give local law enforcement officers more power to detain illegal immigrants, that already occurs, migrants said. Take the case of Salvador, who like others declined to be fully identified. He said his deportation last year was prompted by an arrest for jaywalking.

He said that after living in Phoenix for 20 of his 23 years and graduating from high school there, he was crossing a street last year when a police officer took him in. Checking his records, it was discovered that he had an unpaid speeding ticket. His immigration records were then checked, he said, and when it was determined that he was in the country illegally, he was sent to Mexico, which he had left when he was a toddler.

"I should have crossed at the light," he said.

Claudia, too, said it was a routine traffic stop and an expired vehicle registration that led to her deportation. She said she was bused back to Mexico with scores of others on Tuesday with a dazed look on her face and no firm plans for how she planned to reunite with her husband and two children, who live in the other Nogales, in Arizona.

Migrants start their treks in numerous countries and employ a dizzying array of schemes to slip across the border, making no two migrations the same. Mexicans, though, generally have it easier than Central Americans, who are often preyed upon by Mexican authorities even before reaching the increasingly fortified border.

"Riding precariously on the tops of freight trains, many are met with discrimination and xenophobia, targeted by people smugglers and prey to kidnapping by criminal gangs," Amnesty International said in a report released this week.

"Every year thousands of migrants are ill treated, abducted or raped," the human rights group said. "Arbitrary detention and extortion by public officials are common."

Amnesty International gave the government of President Felipe Calderón some credit for improving the plight of migrants crossing its turf. Conditions at detention centers have improved, the group said, and migrants who are caught crossing Mexico spend less time in custody pending their repatriation.

In addition, the state government in Chiapas, where many migrants enter Mexico, established for the first time a special prosecutor for crimes against migrants. As a result, five members of an elite local police unit were arrested for assaults on migrants.

But Mexico has been much more vociferous in criticizing the United States on immigration than in setting model practices itself, Amnesty International and other groups have found.

In Mexico, it is supposed to be federal immigration officers and the federal police who verify the legal status of migrants. But anybody with a badge is liable to do it, a situation that several migrants said prepared them well for what they might face in Arizona.

As night fell one evening this week, a nervous smuggler who helps migrants get to the United States stood on a hilltop just feet from the border, barking out orders into his handheld radio. He had lookouts tracking the movements of the Border Patrol on the other side and confederates with a car parked just across the border waiting to pick up the migrants who had paid extra. He was not concerned about business drying up.

"They'll keep coming," he said confidently.

Elisabeth Malkin contributed reporting from Mexico City.


4) 5 Killed in Gaza Shooting and Fire
April 28, 2010

GAZA - A 20-year-old Palestinian demonstrator was shot dead in Gaza by Israeli security forces on Wednesday, and at least four other men who were smuggling fuel died in a tunnel after the Egyptian authorities blew up another tunnel nearby, officials here said.

Mohamed al-Maidana, a civil defense officer, said that the Egyptian strike, which came late Tuesday, set a fire that spread to the neighboring tunnel and ignited the fuel. The fire used up all the oxygen in the tunnel, he said, and the men suffocated. In the face of a blockade by Israel and Egypt, such tunnels are a mainstay of the Gazan economy.

The slain protester, Ahmad Salem, was part of a 30-person demonstration against Israel's policy of barring anyone in Gaza from coming within several hundred yards of the border barrier, in order to prevent hostile activity there.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said that the demonstrators hurled stones over the barrier at Israeli troops and set fires that could have damaged the barrier. An investigation had been ordered into the shooting, she said.

Demonstrations against the Israeli buffer policy in Gaza have grown in recent weeks but Hamas, which rules Gaza, has not sent its supporters because it does not wish to increase tensions with Israel.


5) Welcome to Arizona, Outpost of Contradictions
April 28, 2010

PHOENIX - Arizona is well accustomed to the derision of its countrymen.

The state resisted adopting Martin Luther King's birthday as a holiday years after most other states embraced it. The sheriff in its largest county forces inmates to wear pink underwear, apparently to assault their masculinity. Residents may take guns almost anywhere, but they may not cut down a cactus. The rest of the nation may scoff or grumble, but Arizona, one of the last truly independent Western outposts, carries on.

Now, after passing the nation's toughest immigration law, one that gives the police broad power to stop people on suspicion of being here illegally, the state finds itself in perhaps the harshest spotlight in a decade.

The law drew not only the threat of a challenge by the Justice Department and a rebuke from the president, but the snickers of late-night comedians. City councils elsewhere have called for a boycott of the resort-driven state; one trade group of immigration lawyers has canceled a conference planned for Scottsdale at a time when the state is broke and desperate for business. Meanwhile, a continuous protest is taking place at the State Capitol.

Bruce D. Merrill, a polling expert here, is tired of picking up his phone. "Usually it is somebody asking me, 'What the hell is going on in Arizona?' " Mr. Merrill said.

But while Arizona may have become a cartoon of intolerance to much of America, the reality is much more complex, and at times contradictory. This state is a center of both law and order and of new age om. Red-meat-loving. Red-rock-climbing.

Arizona is home to some of the toughest prison sentencing laws in the country, and one of the cleanest campaign finance laws, too. Voters overwhelmingly re-elected Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, as governor the same year they returned the conservative senator Jon Kyl to Washington. The current Republican governor signed this law, but is also pushing for a tax increase.

Further, while Arizona may seem on the fringe with its immigration law, the measure mirrors the 1994 battle in California over a voter-approved law that Gov. Pete Wilson signed barring illegal immigrants from getting health care, public education and other services. Like California then, Arizona is taking its own tack instead of waiting on the federal government to change policies.

"The political and emotional landscape is almost identical," said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, who served as an aide to Mr. Wilson. "History doesn't repeat itself, it just moves east."

The table was set for the passage of the new law by a confluence of factors, say residents, political scientists and businesspeople in Arizona. Those factors include shifting demographics, an embattled state economy and increased violence in Mexico, as well as the perception that the federal government has failed to act. Arizonans find that particularly irksome, given that Ms. Napolitano is now head of the Department of Homeland Security.

Hispanics make up 30 percent of the population here, up from roughly 25 percent in 2000, according to census data. As the state's economy, largely dependent on construction and development, has slumped, hostility toward illegal immigrants has increased in recent years. "More people now seem to think Hispanics are taking jobs from Anglos," said Mr. Merrill, the polling expert.

Further, laws like the immigration statute and another new law requiring political candidates to prove citizenship are generally written by the hard-right lawmakers who dominate the Legislature - with far-left-of-center minority members opposing them - but neither side reflects the relatively centrist political views of most residents.

More than 30 percent of registered voters here are independents, double the proportion in 2000. "People have been leaving both political parties, which leaves the remainders in the party much more ideological," Mr. Merrill said.

Residents are unnerved by the violence in Mexico and the heavy drug trade and illegal immigrant trafficking in Arizona. Most studies have shown illegal immigrants do not commit crimes in a greater proportion than their share of the population, and Arizona's violent crime rate has declined in recent years. But in this state any crime tied to illegal immigrants gets notice.

Half of the drugs seized along the United States-Mexico border are confiscated in Arizona, and it is a major hub for human smuggling. Last month, Robert Krentz, 58, a member of a prominent ranching family, was killed on his property 20 miles from the border, and the police said the gunman was probably connected to smuggling.

"People outside of Arizona are not living in this state and don't understand the issue," said Mona Stacey, a computer technician from Mesa. "Most of them coming across are mostly good, Catholic families getting over here. But you also have the drug lords and the smugglers. It makes the good guys look bad, and you don't know who is who."

Conversations here about the new law tend to begin or end with a reference to Ms. Napolitano, who personified the state's blended politics. As governor, she backed the posting of National Guard troops on the border, expanded the use of the state police in antismuggling operations, and pressed Washington for an overhaul of immigration law.

When it came to the Maricopa County sheriff, Joe Arpaio, however - a staunch supporter of immigration enforcement and one of the highest profile figures on the issue - she took a largely hands-off approach.

Now, as Homeland Security secretary, she has played up the administration's devotion of resources to the border, while resisting pressure to put National Guard troops there.

This, too, is an echo of California circa 1994. There, Proposition 187, the measure limiting services for illegal immigrants, was struck down by the courts (a possibility here, too, say legal experts). The Clinton administration responded with Operation Gatekeeper, an effort to strengthen the border in California. It ended up pushing trafficking east, and as a result, Arizona posts the highest number of people arrested for crossing along the 2,000-mile border.

The former director of Operation Gatekeeper has just been appointed President Obama's Customs and Border Protection commissioner.

With more rallies opposing the law set for Thursday, Sheriff Arpaio has planned another of his controversial sweeps to net illegal immigrants.

"Arizona is the most unpredictable political patch of earth I've ever seen," said Chip Scutari, a former political reporter who now runs a Phoenix public relations firm. "It's the land of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's tough-as-nails Tent City, and super-liberal Congressman Raul Grijalva calling for a boycott of his own state. That's Arizona."


6) Volunteers Report on Treatment of Immigrant Detainees
April 28, 2010

It is the routine violations that have been most shocking to the small bands of suburban volunteers who visit immigration detainees in New Jersey jails.

Things like visits cut short after 15 minutes, following two-hour waits outside in the rain. Transfers from jail to jail that isolate detainees for months, even when volunteers are asking to see them. And the pillows - only five pillows for more than 100 detainees, who had devised a seniority system to share them.

The shortage of pillows really got to Daniel Cummings, a high school teacher who began visiting the Middlesex County Adult Correctional Institute last spring as part of a local group formed after the death of a 72-year-old detainee there.

"To me, that was such a basic issue," Mr. Cummings said Wednesday of the pillow shortage, contrasting the everyday injustices he sees as a jail visitor with the Obama administration's promise to transform the immigration detention system into "truly civil" detention. "Like, let's treat these people as humans."

The voices of citizen volunteers like Mr. Cummings, 26, fill a new report that points to harsh conditions and arbitrary visiting restrictions imposed by a half-dozen New Jersey jails where Immigration and Customs Enforcement holds thousands of noncitizens each year while it tries to deport them.

Many of the restrictions could be changed immediately, the report contends. It is to be released on Thursday by the American Friends Service Committee, the New York University Immigrant Rights Clinic and New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees, a coalition of religious and advocacy groups.

The report also describes how volunteer visitors have been trying to fill the gap in accountability: advocating for a seriously ill detainee denied his heart medication for weeks, foiling what it called the cover-up of one guard's abuse and persuading jailers to supply the pillows required under detention standards.

But the pillow victory was short-lived. When the Middlesex County Freeholders dropped the county's contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement last fall, all the detainees in its jail were transferred. Many ended up at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark, where they have neither pillows nor access to visits from the volunteers, the report said.

Officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Wednesday evening that they had not seen the report, but pointed to measures and plans to increase oversight and address detainee mistreatment.

"This administration is committed to immigration detention reform and has taken important steps to fundamentally change the detention system," Brian P. Hale, a spokesman, said in an e-mail message.

Volunteers were unable to reach most of the transferred detainees because of restrictive visiting rules that change from jail to jail, said Karin Wilkinson, the leader of Middlesex First Friends, the group that Mr. Cummings joined. It enlisted two law students in the N.Y.U. rights clinic, Ruben Loyo and Carolyn Corrado, whose efforts were also stymied for months. But what the students learned in the process led them to write the report.

"In theory, I knew a lot about detention," said Mr. Loyo, 24, who worked on a detention-reform bill last summer as a Congressional intern. "But the reality - I really didn't know the reality of immigration detention."

Among the most distressing situations, Mr. Loyo said, was that of Angela Joseph, a New Yorker who for three years had devoted hours each week to get 15-minute visits with her brother Warren Joseph at the Hudson County jail, where there are no weekend visits and weekday visits end at 6:15 p.m.

Mr. Joseph, a Trinidadian-American, a decorated veteran of the Persian Gulf war who had served eight years in the Army and suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome, eventually won his fight against deportation. A federal court ruled that his conviction for carrying a gun across state lines was not an aggravated felony under immigration law. But after three years of unnecessary detention, Mr. Loyo said, the victory was bittersweet.

The citizen volunteers, who have stepped up their efforts to penetrate the jails, are mostly drawn from churches and synagogues, said Gregory Sullivan, 78, a retired banker, who leads First Friends, one of the oldest groups.

Others are motivated by political activism. "These are just ordinary citizens of New York and New Jersey that we bring in," he said.

Most of the restraints imposed on immigration detainees by jails are the rules set for their criminal-justice population, he said.

"In their haste to dump detainees in the county jails because it's convenient and cheap," Mr. Sullivan said, Immigration and Customs Enforcement "overlooked the discrepancies with the standards ICE itself has proclaimed."

Mr. Sullivan's group is beginning to expand its visits from the Elizabeth Detention Center to the Hudson County Correctional Institute, in Kearny But the Essex County and Bergen County jails have rebuffed efforts to institute a sign-up sheet for detainees to request visits, he said. At the Monmouth County Correctional Institute, Ms. Wilkinson's group has been unable to set up regular visits like those it arranged in Middlesex.

Even a brief outside presence is meaningful to those locked away far from relatives; 84 percent of them have no lawyer, and none have any way to know when they will be freed, Ms. Wilkinson said.

In one case that Ms. Wilkinson followed, an African man fighting to stay in the United States because of fear of persecution at home was abruptly transferred to the Essex jail on the same day that an immigration judge ruled in his case. Two weeks passed before he learned that the judge had ruled against him, leaving him only 15 days, instead of 30, to file an appeal.

"He was so upset that his court papers hadn't come, he wrote me a six-page letter," Ms. Wilkinson said. "He wrote, 'It's unjust justice.' "

Two weeks ago, she was able to visit him at Essex, a huge jail topped by concertina wire. But that entailed standing in line for more than two hours, she said, for less than 20 minutes' conversation through a plexiglass barrier.


7) Size of Spill in Gulf of Mexico Is Larger Than Thought
April 28, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - Government officials said late Wednesday night that oil might be leaking from a well in the Gulf of Mexico at a rate five times that suggested by initial estimates.

In a hastily called news conference, Rear Adm. Mary E. Landry of the Coast Guard said a scientist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had concluded that oil is leaking at the rate of 5,000 barrels a day, not 1,000 as had been estimated. While emphasizing that the estimates are rough given that the leak is at 5,000 feet below the surface, Admiral Landry said the new estimate came from observations made in flights over the slick, studying the trajectory of the spill and other variables.

An explosion and fire on a drilling rig on April 20 left 11 workers missing and presumed dead. The rig sank two days later about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast.

Doug Suttles, chief operating officer for exploration and production for BP, said a new leak had been discovered as well. Officials had previously found two leaks in the riser, the 5,000-foot-long pipe that connected the rig to the wellhead and is now detached and snaking along the sea floor. One leak was at the end of the riser and the other at a kink closer to its source, the wellhead.

But Mr. Suttles said a third leak had been discovered Wednesday afternoon even closer to the source. "I'm very, very confident this leak is new," he said. He also said the discovery of the new leak had not led them to believe that the total flow from the well was different than it was before the leak was found.

The new, far larger estimate of the leakage rate, he said, was within a range of estimates given the inexact science of determining the rate of a leak so far below the ocean's surface.

"The leaks on the sea floor are being visually gauged from the video feed" from the remote vehicles that have been surveying the riser, said Doug Helton, a fisheries biologist who coordinates oil spill responses for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in an e-mail message Wednesday night. "That takes a practiced eye. Like being able to look at a garden hose and judge how many gallons a minute are being discharged. The surface approach is to measure the area of the slick, the percent cover, and then estimate the thickness based on some rough color codes."

Admiral Landry said President Obama had been notified. She also opened up the possibility that if the government determines that BP, which is responsible for the cleanup, cannot handle the spill with the resources available in the private sector, that Defense Department could become involved to contribute technology.

Wind patterns may push the spill into the coast of Louisiana as soon as Friday night, officials said, prompting consideration of more urgent measures to protect coastal wildlife. Among them were using cannons to scare off birds and employing local shrimpers' boats as makeshift oil skimmers in the shallows.

Part of the oil slick was only 16 miles offshore and closing in on the Mississippi River Delta, the marshlands at the southeastern tip of Louisiana where the river empties into the ocean. Already 100,000 feet of protective booms have been laid down to protect the shoreline, with 500,000 feet more standing by, said Charlie Henry, an oil spill expert for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, at an earlier news conference on Wednesday.

On Wednesday evening, cleanup crews began conducting what is called an in-situ burn, a process that consists of corralling concentrated parts of the spill in a 500-foot-long fireproof boom, moving it to another location and burning it. It has been tested effectively on other spills, but weather and ecological concerns can complicate the procedure.

Such burning also works only when oil is corralled to a certain thickness. Burns may not be effective for most of this spill, of which 97 percent is estimated to be an oil-water mixture.

A burn scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday was delayed. At 4:45 p.m., the first small portion of the spill was ignited. Officials determined it to be successful.

Walter Chapman, director of the Energy and Environmental Systems Institute at Rice University, said a 50 percent burn-off for oil within the booms would be considered a success. Admiral Landry called the burn "one tool in a tool kit" to tackle the spill. Other tactics include: using remote-controlled vehicles to shut off the well at its source on the sea floor, an operation that has so far been unsuccessful; dropping domes over the leaks at the sea floor and routing the oil to the surface to be collected, an operation untested at such depths that would take at least two to four more weeks; and drilling relief wells to stop up the gushing cavity with concrete, mud or other heavy liquid, a solution that is months away.

The array of strategies underscores the unusual nature of the leak. Pipelines have ruptured and tankers have leaked, but a well 5,000 feet below the water's surface poses new challenges, officials said.

Reached in southern Louisiana on Wednesday, where he was visiting the response team's command center, Tony Hayward, the chief executive of BP, said he did not yet know what went wrong with the oil rig. BP, which was leasing the rig from Transocean, is responsible for the cleanup under federal law.

Until Wednesday night, the well had been estimated to be leaking 1,000 barrels, or 42,000 gallons, each day.

The response team has tried in vain to engage a device called a blowout preventer, a stack of hydraulically activated valves at the top of the well that is designed to seal off the well in the event of a sudden pressure release - a possible cause for the explosion on the rig.

Mr. Hayward said the blowout preventer was tested 10 days ago and worked. He said a valve must be partly closed, otherwise the spillage would be worse.

There are a number of things that can go wrong with a blowout preventer, said Greg McCormack, director of the Petroleum Extension Service at the University of Texas, which provides training for the industry.

The pressure of the oil coming from below might be so great that the valves cannot make an adequate seal. Or in the case of a shear ram, which is designed to cut through the drill pipe itself and seal it off, it might have encountered a tool joint, the thicker, threaded area where two lengths of drilling pipe are joined.

Still, Mr. McCormack said, "something is working there because you wouldn't have such a relatively small flow of oil." If the blowout preventer were completely inoperable, he said, the flow would be "orders of magnitude" greater.

Mr. Hayward, of BP, said the crude spilling from the well was very light, the color and texture of "iced tea" and implied that it would cause less environmental damage than heavier crude, like the type that spilled from the Exxon Valdez into Prince William Sound in 1989. He said in most places it was no more than a micron thick and in the thickest areas was one-tenth of a millimeter, or the width of a hair.

Mr. Hayward declined to answer questions about any potential political fallout and said BP "will be judged primarily on the response."

As the investigation into the cause continued, officials, scientists and those who make their living on the Gulf Coast were focused on the impending prospect of the oil's landfall.

Campbell Robertson reported from New Orleans, and Leslie Kaufman from New York. Henry Fountain and Liz Robbins contributed reporting from New York.


8) Oil From Spill Is Reported to Have Reached the Coast
April 30, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - Coast Guard officials were investigating reports early Friday morning that oil from a massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico had washed ashore overnight, threatening fisheries and wildlife in fragile marshes and islands along the Gulf Coast.

Officials had not confirmed whether any tentacles of the oil slick had actually touched land, but Petty Officer Shawn Eggert of the Coast Guard said officials were planning a flyover Friday morning to assess how the oil was moving and whether it was making landfall.

The choppy seas and forecast of storms were anything but ideal for cleanup efforts on Friday as winds were directing the oil slick towards the coastline. According to Ken Graham, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in New Orleans, strong southeasterly winds were ranging from 20 to 25 miles an hour and showers and thunderstorms were forecast through Monday morning.

A senior adviser to President Obama said Friday that the government would not allow any new offshore drilling until an investigation was conducted into the spill and whether it could have been prevented. The deadly explosion on an offshore oil rig last week and the resulting spill have complicated Mr. Obama's recently announced plans to expand offshore oil and gas drilling, with some politicians and environmental advocates calling on the president to halt any planned expansions until more safeguards are put into place against future disasters.

Speaking on ABC's "Good Morning America," David Axelrod, the senior adviser, said that "no additional drilling has been authorized and none will until we find out what happened here." But his announcement would not have any immediate effect because drilling in newly opened areas was not likely to take place for years.

As the oil crept closer to shore Thursday, the response to the spill intensified, with the federal government intervening more aggressively.

On Friday morning, the Air Force sent two -130 planes to Mississippi, where they awaited orders to start spraying chemicals on the spill, The Associated Press reported.

Resources from the United States Navy have been marshaled to supplement an operation that already consisted of more than 1,000 people and scores of vessels and aircraft.

Calling it "a spill of national significance" that could threaten coastline in several states, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the creation of a second command post in Mobile, Ala., in addition to the one in Louisiana, to manage potential coastal impact in Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ordered an immediate review of the 30 offshore drilling rigs and 47 production platforms operating in the deepwater Gulf, and is sending teams to conduct on-site inspections.

Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana declared a state of emergency and to request the participation of the National Guard in response efforts.

A coastal flood warning was issued for Hancock County, the furthest county west in Mississippi, while coastal flood watches were set up in nearby Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes in Louisiana since tides were expected to be two to three feet higher than normal. About 40,000 feet of boom had been placed around Pass-a-Loutre, the area of the Mississippi River Delta where the oil was expected to touch first, a spokesman for Mr. Jindal said.

The Navy provided 50 contractors, 7 skimming systems and 66,000 feet of inflatable containment boom, a spokesman said. About 210,000 feet of boom had been laid down to protect the shoreline in several places along the Gulf Coast, though experts said that marshlands presented a far more daunting cleaning challenge than sandy beaches.

Eight days after the first explosion on the rig, which left 11 workers missing and presumed dead, the tenor of the response team's briefings changed abruptly Wednesday night with a hastily called news conference to announce that the rate of the spill was estimated to be 5,000 barrels a day, or more than 200,000 gallons - five times the previous estimate. By Thursday, it was apparent that the cleanup operation desperately needed help, with no indication that the well would be sealed any time soon and oil drifting closer to shore.

The response effort has been driven by BP, the company that was leasing the rig and is responsible for the cleanup, under the oversight of the Coast Guard and in consultation with the Minerals Management Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. While additional federal resources, including naval support, were available before Wednesday, officials had given little indication that such reinforcements would be deployed so quickly and at such a scale.

"Some of it existed from the start," Rear Adm. Mary E. Landry of the Coast Guard, the federal on-scene coordinator, said of the federal resources. "We can ramp it up as we need it."

Referring to what she called "dynamic tension" among the participants in a spill response, Admiral Landry said it was her duty to ensure that BP was trying every approach available.

"If BP does not request these resources, then I can and I will," she said.

Asked whether the Coast Guard had confidence in BP's efforts, Admiral Landry said, "BP, from Day 1, has attempted to be very responsive and be a very responsible spiller."

BP, in turn, has pointed out on more than one occasion that Transocean owned the oil rig and the blowout preventer, a device that apparently failed to function properly and that is continuing to be the most significant obstacle to stopping the spill.

Underscoring how acute the situation has become, BP is soliciting ideas and techniques from four other major oil companies - Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell and Anadarko. BP officials have also requested help from the Defense Department in efforts to activate the blowout preventer, a stack of hydraulically activated valves at the top of the well that is designed to seal it off in the event of a sudden pressure release.

Doug Suttles, the chief operating officer for exploration and production for BP, said the company had asked the military for better imaging technology and more advanced remotely operated vehicles. As of now, there are six such vehicles monitoring or trying to fix the blowout preventer, which sits on the sea floor.

"To be frank, the offer of help from all quarters is welcome," said David Nicholas, a BP spokesman.

But Norman Polmar, an expert on military systems, said the robotic submersibles used by the oil industry were better equipped to try to stop the oil leak than any of the Navy's minisubs. The Navy's unmanned subs have cameras and can retrieve bits of hardware, he said, but are not designed to plug a hole in a pipe or do repair work.

Other efforts to contain the spill included a tactic that Admiral Landry called "absolutely novel": crews awaited approval on Thursday night to begin deploying chemical dispersants underwater near the source of the leaks. Aircraft have dropped nearly 100,000 gallons of the dispersants on the water's surface to break down the oil, a more conventional strategy.

BP is also designing and building large boxlike structures that could be lowered over the leaks in the riser, the 5,000-foot-long pipe that connected the well to the rig and has since become detached and is snaking along the sea floor. The structures would contain the leaking oil and route it to the surface to be collected. This temporary solution could take several weeks to execute.

Mr. Suttles said three such structures were being prepared, one of which is complete and could corral the worst of the leaks. But citing the disclosure of the new leak on Wednesday night, experts said more were certainly possible.

"All that movement is going to continue to stress and fatigue the pipe and create more leaks," said Jeffrey Short, Pacific science director for Oceana and former chemist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who helped clean the spill from the Exxon Valdez in 1989.

"This is not on a good trajectory," he added.

The next solution is drilling relief wells that would allow crews to plug the gushing cavity with mud, concrete or other heavy liquid. The drilling of one such well is expected to begin in the next 48 hours, Mr. Suttles said, but it could be three months before the leak is plugged by this method.

The legal and political dimensions of the oil spill spread as well on Thursday, with lawyers filing suits on behalf of commercial fishermen, shrimpers and injured workers against BP; Transocean; Cameron, the company that manufactured the blowout preventer; and other companies involved in the drilling process, including Halliburton.

Representative Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, has asked the heads of major oil companies, including BP, to testify at a hearing about the spill.

Opponents of President Obama's plan to expand offshore drilling have also called for a halt. Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, called Thursday for a moratorium on all new offshore oil exploration while the cause of this rig explosion is under investigation. Mr. Nelson, a longtime opponent of oil drilling off the coasts of Florida, said in a letter to Mr. Obama that the spreading oil spill threatened environmental and economic disaster all along the Gulf Coast.

Administration officials stressed that the president's offshore drilling plan was the beginning of a lengthy review process and did not mean that large new areas would see immediate oil and gas activity. They also said that they expected that members of Congress and the public would have new questions about the safety of offshore operations and that the administration would rethink its commitment to offshore drilling in light of the accident.

"That is the beginning of a process," said Carol M. Browner, the White House coordinator of energy and climate policy. "What is occurring now will also be taken into consideration."

Robbie Brown contributed reporting from Robert, La.; John M. Broder and Helene Cooper contributed from Washington; and Christopher Drew and Henry Fountain from New York.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 30, 2010

An earlier version of this article contained a picture caption that incorrectly identified the location where booms were being deployed to battle the oil spill. It is Port Eads, La., not Port East


9) 2 Workers Are Killed in Kentucky Mine Collapse
April 29, 2010

PROVIDENCE, Ky. - Two miners were killed when a roof collapsed in a coal mine with a long history of safety problems.

Gov. Steven L. Beshear identified the miners as Justin Travis, 27, and Michael Carter, 28. The collapse happened late Wednesday at the Dotiki Mine near Providence, in western Kentucky.

Carl Boone, district supervisor for the United States Mine Safety and Health Administration, said the investigation into the collapse would begin as soon as the mine was deemed safe to enter.

State and federal records show more than 40 closing orders for the mine over safety violations since January 2009.

Inspectors from the State Office of Mine Safety and Licensing have issued 31 orders to close sections of the mine or to shut down equipment because of safety violations since January 2009.

Federal inspectors cited the mine 840 times for safety violations since January 2009, and closing orders were issued 11 times. The records show that 214 of the citations were issued in the first four months of this year, and that inspectors have issued closing orders twice so far this year.

The accident happened while the miners were using a continuous miner, a machine that digs coal for transport to the surface, said Ricki Gardenhire, a spokeswoman for the mine safety office.

The mine is owned by Alliance Resource Partners, based in Tulsa, Okla. Charles R. Wesley, an executive vice president for the coal company, said the last death inside the mine was in 1988. Alliance purchased the mine in 1971.

Alliance's vice president of operations is Kenneth A. Murray, a former district manager for the Mine Safety and Health Administration in eastern Kentucky who led the investigation of a January 2006 fire that killed two men at a Massey Energy mine in West Virginia.

The nation's worst coal mine disaster in 40 years happened this month in West Virginia, where 29 men died in an explosion inside another mine owned by Massey Energy.


10) Pennsylvania: Ex-Judge Guilty Plea
April 29, 2010

One of two former judges accused of taking kickbacks to send youths to for-profit detention facilities has agreed to plead guilty to a federal racketeering charge. Michael Conahan, a former Luzerne County judge, will plead guilty in the $2.8 million "kids for cash" scandal, according to an agreement filed Thursday in Scranton. Prosecutors said Mr. Conahan and another former judge, Mark Ciavarella Jr., took kickbacks from the owner and builder of two private juvenile detention facilities.


11) American Meat Is Even Grosser Than You Thought
By Ari LeVaux, AlterNet
Posted on May 1, 2010, Printed on May 1, 2010

In 2008, Mexican authorities rejected a shipment of U.S. beef because
the meat exceeded Mexico's regulatory tolerance for copper. The rejected
meat was returned to the United States, where it was sold and consumed,
because the U.S. has no regulatory threshold for copper in meat.

Incidents like this are why the food safety arm of USDA, known as the
Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), is under USDA scrutiny. While
the public has gotten used to microbes like E. coli and salmonella
threatening the nation's meat supply, and while food safety agencies
make food-borne illness a high-profile priority, contamination of meat
by heavy metals, veterinary drugs and pesticides has been slipping
through the bureaucratic cracks.

Microbial contaminants can be killed by cooking, but chemical residues
aren't destroyed by heat. In fact, some of these residues break down
into more dangerous substances when heated, according to the FSIS
National Residue Program for Cattle, a recent report by the USDA's
Office of the Inspector General.

The report is full of bad news about the ineffectual attempts that are
being made to keep chemical residues out of the food supply, but
optimists might point to the report's tone as a sliver of good news. The
report is sharply critical of the efforts to keep our meat free of
chemical residues, and shows determination to shore up this gaping hole
in food safety.

"... The national residue program is not accomplishing its mission of
monitoring the food supply for harmful residues," the report says,
noting that thresholds for many dangerous substances, like copper and
dioxin, have yet to be established. "We also found that FSIS does not
recall meat adulterated with harmful residues, even when it is aware
that the meat has failed its laboratory tests."

The routes by which veterinary drugs make it into human food trace a
disturbing portrait of how large dairy farms operate. Sick dairy cows
are given medications to help them recover, but if it appears an animal
will die, it's often sold to a slaughterhouse as quickly as possible, in
time to kill it before it dies. That way, "[the dairy farmer] can recoup
some of his investment in the animal," according to the report.

In such cases, medications may be consumed along with the meat. Such
drugs include Ivermectin (which can act as a neurotoxin in humans),
Flunixin (which can damage kidneys), and penicillin (which can cause
life-threatening allergic reactions in some people).

The meat from sick dairy cattle is low-grade, and is usually turned into
burger and sold to the sorts of buyers who stretch their dollars
furthest, like fast food chains and school lunch programs. But
veterinary drugs are also finding their way into an upper echelon of
meat: veal.

The milk produced by medicated dairy cows is barred from sale to human
consumers -- a sensible rule, given the dangers suggested above.
Unfortunately, no law prevents this "waste milk" from being fed to veal
calves, the meat of which sometimes tests positive for these drugs. As
with sick dairy cow meat that tests positive for antibiotics, no
measures are taken to recall such veal or penalize the slaughterhouses
that produce it. One slaughterhouse, according to the report, amassed
211 violations in 2008 and was still considered by FSIS as a place where
contamination "is not reasonably likely to occur."

Such failings can be traced to a 1984 memorandum of understanding
between FDA, FSIS and EPA. These three agencies agreed to appoint senior
executives to oversee a group called the Surveillance Advisory Team
(SAT). The SAT was supposed to manage interagency collaboration aimed at
preventing the entry of chemical residues into the food supply. But
according to the recent report, "...high-level officials from the
agencies involved do not attend [the annual SAT] meetings, and there is
no mechanism for elevating issues, making recommendations, and ensuring
that appropriate actions are taken to solve identified problems. Without
such a mechanism, many problems requiring interagency coordination have
not been dealt with despite the agencies' awareness of the problems."

In addition to veterinary drugs and heavy metals, agricultural
pesticides also find their way into the meat supply, often through
contaminated food and water. While the SAT agencies jointly determine
which pesticides should be tested for, it's the FSIS that actually
conducts the tests. In recent years the FSIS has tested for only one of
the 23 pesticide classes it is charged with testing for: chlorinated
hydrocarbons/chlorinated organophosphates. FSIS blames its limited
budget and a lack of guidance as to minimum levels the agency is
supposed to enforce. The Office of the Inspector General report
dismisses the excuses and calls the oversight unacceptable, saying "the
SAT needs to seek executive-level involvement from all three agencies to
resolve differences, and, if necessary, to determine the best method for
obtaining the needed testing resources to ensure that the highest
priority substances are tested."

Several other chinks in the food supply's armor are noted as well,
including faulty testing methodologies, bureaucratic smothering of
innovative testing techniques, and failure of FSIS to share testing
results. After raking the muck, the report makes recommendations on how
the interagency collaborations behind the SAT could be improved. The
report also mentions that the FSIS has agreed to many of its
recommendations, such as increasing testing at plants that slaughter
veal calves and dairy cows--where 90 percent of the residue violations
have been detected.

While the Office of the Inspector General appears to be making a sincere
effort to improve the framework that's supposed to protect our food, it
could also be argued that these efforts amount to enabling an industry
that remains rotten at its core. Rushing sick cattle to slaughter before
they die, or feeding tainted "waste milk" to veal calves, are practices
that would be better eliminated than improved, but in fairness that
isn't within the mandate of the OIG to decide. So while improvements
appear to be in the works for the production practices behind mystery
meat and mystery milk, the system shows little sign of becoming
inherently less disgusting. As long as customers keep demanding cheap
meat, cheap meat will probably continue to be produced.

Ari LeVaux writes a syndicated weekly food column, Flash in the Pan.


12) Food Among the Ruins: Should Detroit Be Converted Into a Farming Mecca?
By Mark Dowie, Guernica
Posted on April 30, 2010, Printed on May 1, 2010

To read more stories like this one, please visit Guernica.

Were I an aspiring farmer in search of fertile land to buy and plow, I would seriously consider moving to Detroit. There is open land, fertile soil, ample water, willing labor, and a desperate demand for decent food. And there is plenty of community will behind the idea of turning the capital of American industry into an agrarian paradise. In fact, of all the cities in the world, Detroit may be best positioned to become the world's first one hundred percent food self-sufficient city.

Right now, Detroit is as close as any city in America to becoming a food desert, not just another metropolis like Chicago, Philadelphia, or Cleveland with a bunch of small- and medium-sized food deserts scattered about, but nearly a full-scale, citywide food desert. (A food desert is defined by those who study them as a locality from which healthy food is more than twice as far away as unhealthy food, or where the distance to a bag of potato chips is half the distance to a head of lettuce.) About 80 percent of the residents of Detroit buy their food at the one thousand convenience stores, party stores, liquor stores, and gas stations in the city. There is such a dire shortage of protein in the city that Glemie Dean Beasley, a seventy-year-old retired truck driver, is able to augment his Social Security by selling raccoon carcasses (twelve dollars a piece, serves a family of four) from animals he has treed and shot at undisclosed hunting grounds around the city. Pelts are ten dollars each. Pheasants are also abundant in the city and are occasionally harvested for dinner.

Detroiters who live close enough to suburban borders to find nearby groceries carrying fresh fruit, meat, and vegetables are a small minority of the population. The health consequences of food deserts are obvious and dire. Diabetes, heart failure, hypertension, and obesity are chronic in Detroit, and life expectancy is measurably lower than in any American city.

Not so long ago, there were five produce-carrying grocery chains-Kroger, A&P, Farmer Jack, Wrigley, and Meijer-competing vigorously for the Detroit food market. Today there are none. Nor is there a single WalMart or Costco in the city. Specialty grocer Trader Joe's just turned down an attractive offer to open an outlet in relatively safe and prosperous midtown Detroit; a rapidly declining population of chronically poor consumers is not what any retailer is after. High employee turnover, loss from theft, and cost of security are also cited by chains as reasons to leave or avoid Detroit. So it is unlikely grocers will ever return, despite the tireless flirtations of City Hall, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Michigan Food and Beverage Association. There is a fabulous once-a-week market, the largest of its kind in the country, on the east side that offers a wide array of fresh meat, eggs, fruit, and vegetables. But most people I saw there on an early April Saturday arrived in well polished SUVs from the suburbs. So despite the Eastern Market, in-city Detroiters are still left with the challenge of finding new ways to feed themselves a healthy meal.

One obvious solution is to grow their own, and the urban backyard garden boom that is sweeping the nation has caught hold in Detroit, particularly in neighborhoods recently settled by immigrants from agrarian cultures of Laos and Bangladesh, who are almost certain to become major players in an agrarian Detroit. Add to that the five hundred or so twenty-by-twenty-foot community plots and a handful of three- to ten-acre farms cultured by church and non-profit groups, and during its four-month growing season, Detroit is producing somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of its food supply inside city limits-more than most American cities, but nowhere near enough to allay the food desert problem. About 3 percent of the groceries sold at the Eastern Market are homegrown; the rest are brought into Detroit by a handful of peri-urban farmers and about one hundred and fifty freelance food dealers who buy their produce from Michigan farms between thirty and one hundred miles from the city and truck it into the market.

There are more visionaries in Detroit than in most Rust-Belt cities, and thus more visions of a community rising from the ashes of a moribund industry to become, if not an urban paradise, something close to it. The most intriguing visionaries in Detroit, at least the ones who drew me to the city, were those who imagine growing food among the ruins-chard and tomatoes on vacant lots (there are over 103,000 in the city, sixty thousand owned by the city), orchards on former school grounds, mushrooms in open basements, fish in abandoned factories, hydroponics in bankrupt department stores, livestock grazing on former golf courses, high-rise farms in old hotels, vermiculture, permaculture, hydroponics, aquaponics, waving wheat where cars were once test-driven, and winter greens sprouting inside the frames of single-story bungalows stripped of their skin and re-sided with Plexiglas-a homemade greenhouse. Those are just a few of the agricultural technologies envisioned for the urban prairie Detroit has become.

There are also proposals on the mayor's desk to rezone vast sections A-something ("A" for agriculture), and a proposed master plan that would move the few people residing in lonely, besotted neighborhoods into Detroit's nine loosely defined villages and turn the rest of the city into open farmland. An American Institute of Architects panel concludes that all Detroit's residents could fit comfortably in fifty square miles of land. Much of the remaining ninety square miles could be farmed. Were that to happen, and a substantial investment was made in greenhouses, vertical farms, and aquaponic systems, Detroit could be producing protein and fibre 365 days a year and soon become the first and only city in the world to produce close to 100 percent of its food supply within its city limits. No semis hauling groceries, no out-of-town truck farmers, no food dealers. And no chain stores need move back. Everything eaten in the city could be grown in the city and distributed to locally owned and operated stores and co-ops. I met no one in Detroit who believed that was impossible, but only a few who believed it would happen. It could, but not without a lot of political and community will.

There are a few cities in the world that grow and provide about half their total food supply within their urban and peri-urban regions-Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Havana, Cuba; Hanoi, Vietnam; Dakar, Senegal; Rosario, Argentina; Cagayan de Oro in the Philippines; and, my personal favorite, Cuenca, Equador-all of which have much longer growing seasons than Detroit. However, those cities evolved that way, almost unintentionally. They are, in fact, about where Detroit was agriculturally around one hundred and fifty years ago. Half of them will almost surely drop under 50 percent sufficiency within the next two decades as industry subsumes cultivated land to build factories (à la China). Because of its unique situation, Detroit could come close to being 100 percent self-sufficient.

First, the city lies on one hundred and forty square miles of former farmland. Manhattan, Boston, and San Francisco could be placed inside the borders of Detroit with room to spare, and the population is about the same as the smallest of those cities, San Francisco: eight hundred thousand. And that number is still declining from a high of two million in the mid-nineteen fifties. Demographers expect Detroit's population to level off somewhere between five hundred thousand and six hundred thousand by 2025. Right now there is about forty square miles of unoccupied open land in the city, the area of San Francisco, and that landmass could be doubled by moving a few thousand people out of hazardous firetraps into affordable housing in the eight villages. As I drove around the city, I saw many full-sized blocks with one, two, or three houses on them, many already burned out and abandoned. The ones that weren't would make splendid farmhouses.

As Detroit was built on rich agricultural land, the soil beneath the city is fertile and arable. Certainly some of it is contaminated with the wastes of heavy industry, but not so badly that it's beyond remediation. In fact, phyto-remediation, using certain plants to remove toxic chemicals permanently from the soil, is already practiced in parts of the city. And some of the plants used for remediation can be readily converted to biofuels. Others can be safely fed to livestock.

Leading the way in Detroit's soil remediation is Malik Yakini, owner of the Black Star Community Book Store and founder of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. Yakini and his colleagues begin the remediation process by removing abandoned house foundations and toxic debris from vacated industrial sites. Often that is all that need be done to begin farming. Throw a little compost on the ground, turn it in, sow some seeds, and water it. Water in Detroit is remarkably clean and plentiful.

Although Detroiters have been growing produce in the city since its days as an eighteenth-century French trading outpost, urban farming was given a major boost in the nineteen eighties by a network of African-American elders calling themselves the "Gardening Angels." As migrants from the rural South, where many had worked as small farmers and field hands, they brought agrarian skills to vacant lots and abandoned industrial sites of the city, and set out to reconnect their descendants, children of asphalt, to the Earth, and teach them that useful work doesn't necessarily mean getting a job in a factory.

Thirty years later, Detroit has an eclectic mix of agricultural systems, ranging from three-foot window boxes growing a few heads of lettuce to a large-scale farm run by The Catherine Ferguson Academy, a home and school for pregnant girls that not only produces a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but also raises chickens, geese, ducks, bees, rabbits, and milk goats.

Across town, Capuchin Brother Rick Samyn manages a garden that not only provides fresh fruits and vegetables to city soup kitchens, but also education to neighborhood children. There are about eighty smaller community gardens scattered about the city, more and more of them raising farm animals alongside the veggies. At the moment, domestic livestock is forbidden in the city, as are beehives. But the ordinance against them is generally ignored and the mayor's office assures me that repeal of the bans are imminent.

About five hundred small plots have been created by an international organization called Urban Farming, founded by acclaimed songwriter Taja Sevelle. Realizing that Detroit was the most agriculturally promising of the fourteen cities in five countries where Urban Farming now exists, Sevelle moved herself and her organization's headquarters there last year. Her goal is to triple the amount of land under cultivation in Detroit every year. All food grown by Urban Farming is given free to the poor. According to Urban Farming's Detroit manager, Michael Travis, that won't change.

Larger scale, for-profit farming is also on the drawing board. Financial services entrepreneur John Hantz has asked the city to let him farm a seventy-acre parcel he owns close to the Eastern Market. If that is approved and succeeds in producing food for the market, and profit for Hantz Farms, Hantz hopes to create more large-scale commercial farms around the city. Not everyone in Detroit's agricultural community is happy with the scale or intentions of Hantz's vision, but it seems certain to become part of the mix. And unemployed people will be put to work.

Any agro-economist will tell you that urban farming creates jobs. Even without local production, the food industry creates three dollars of job growth for every dollar spent on food-a larger multiplier effect than almost any other product or industry. Farm a city, and that figure jumps over five dollars. To a community with persistent two-digit unemployment, that number is manna. But that's only one economic advantage of farming a city.

The average food product purchased in a U.S. chain store has traveled thirteen hundred miles, and about half of it has spoiled en route, despite the fact that it was bioengineered to withstand transport. The total mileage in a three-course American meal approaches twenty-five thousand. The food seems fresh because it has been refrigerated in transit, adding great expense and a huge carbon footprint to each item, and subtracting most of the minerals and vitamins that would still be there were the food grown close by.

I drove around the city one day with Dwight Vaughter and Gary Wozniak. A soft-spoken African American, Vaughter is CEO of SHAR, a self-help drug rehab program with about two hundred residents recovering from various addictions in an abandoned hospital. Wozniak, a bright, gregarious Polish American, who, unlike most of his fellow Poles, has stayed in Detroit, is the program's financial director. Vaughter and Wozniak are trying to create a labor-intensive economic base for their program, with the conviction that farming and gardening are therapeutic. They have their eyes on two thousand acres in one of the worst sections of the city, not far from the Eastern Market. They estimate that there are about four thousand people still living in the area, most of them in houses that should have been condemned and razed years ago. There are also six churches in the section, offering some of the best ecclesiastical architecture in the city.

I tried to imagine what this weedy, decrepit, trash-ridden urban dead zone would look like under cultivation. First, I removed the overhead utilities and opened the sky a little. Then I tore up the useless grid of potholed streets and sidewalks and replaced them with a long winding road that would take vegetables to market and bring parishioners to church. I wrecked and removed most of the houses I saw, leaving a few that somehow held some charm and utility. Of course, I left the churches standing, as I did a solid red brick school, boarded up a decade ago when the student body dropped to a dozen or so bored and unstimulated deadbeats. It could be reopened as an urban ag-school, or SHAR's residents could live there. I plowed and planted rows of every imaginable vegetable, created orchards and raised beds, set up beehives and built chicken coops, rabbit warrens, barns, and corrals for sheep, goats, and horses. And of course, I built sturdy hoop houses, rows of them, heated by burning methane from composting manure and ag-waste to keep frost from winter crops. The harvest was tended by former drug addicts who like so many before them found salvation in growing things that keep their brethren alive.

That afternoon I visited Grace Lee Boggs, a ninety-three-year-old Chinese-American widow who has been envisioning farms in Detroit for decades. Widow of legendary civil rights activist Jimmy Boggs, Grace preserves his legacy with the energy of ten activists. The main question on my mind as I climbed the steps to her modest east side home, now a center for community organizers, was whether or not Detroit possesses the community and political will to scale its agriculture up to 100 percent food self-sufficiency. Yes, Grace said to the former, and no to the latter. But she really didn't believe that political will was that essential.

"The food riots erupting around the world challenge us to rethink our whole approach to food," she said, but as communities, not as bodies politic. "Today's hunger crisis is rooted in the industrialized food system which destroys local food production and forces nations like Kenya, which only twenty-five years ago was food self-sufficient, to import 80 percent of its food because its productive land is being used by global corporations to grow flowers and luxury foods for export." The same thing happened to Detroit, she says, which was once before a food self-sufficient community.

I asked her whether the city government would support large-scale urban agriculture. "City government is irrelevant," she answered. "Positive change, leaps forward in the evolution of humankind do not start with governments. They start right here in our living rooms and kitchens. We are the leaders we are looking for."

All the decaying Rust-Belt cities in the American heartland have at one time or another imagined themselves transformed into some sort of exciting new post-industrial urban model. And some have begun the process of transformation. Now it's Detroit's turn, Boggs believes. It could follow the examples of Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Buffalo, and become a slightly recovered metropolis, another pathetic industrial has-been still addicted to federal stimulus, marginal jobs, and the corporate food system. Or it could make a complete break and become, if not a paradise, well, at least a pretty good place to live.

Not everyone in Detroit is enthusiastic about farming. Many urbanites believe that structures of some sort or another belong on urban land. And a lot of those people just elected David Bing mayor of the city. Bing's opponent, acting mayor Ken Cockrel, was committed to expanding urban agriculture in Detroit. Bing has not said he's opposed to it, but his background as a successful automotive parts manufacturer will likely have him favoring a future that maintains the city's primary nickname: Motor City.

And there remains a lasting sense of urbanity in Detroit. "This is a city, not a farm," remarked one skeptic of urban farming. She's right, of course. A city is more than a farm. But that's what makes Detroit's rural future exciting. Where else in the world can one find a one-hundred-and-forty-square-mile agricultural community with four major league sports teams, two good universities, the fifth largest art museum in the country, a world-class hospital, and headquarters of a now-global industry, that while faltering, stands ready to green their products and keep three million people in the rest of the country employed?

Despite big auto's crash, "Detroit" is still synonymous with the industry. When people ask, "What will become of Detroit?" most of them still mean, "What will become of GM, Ford, and Chrysler?" If Detroit the city is to survive in any form, it should probably get past that question and begin searching for ways to put its most promising assets, land and people, to productive use again by becoming America's first modern agrarian metropolis.

Contemporary Detroit gave new meaning to the word "wasteland." It still stands as a monument to a form of land abuse that became endemic to industrial America-once-productive farmland, teeming with wildlife, was paved and poisoned for corporate imperatives. Now the city offers itself as an opportunity to restore some of its agrarian tradition, not fifty miles from downtown in the countryside where most of us believe that tradition was originally established, but a short bicycle ride away. American cities once grew much of their food within walking distance of most of their residents. In fact, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, most early American cities, Detroit included, looked more like the English countryside, with a cluster of small villages interspersed with green open space. Eventually, farmers of the open space sold their land to developers and either retired or moved their farms out of cities, which were cut into grids and plastered with factories, shopping malls, and identical row houses.

Detroit now offers America a perfect place to redefine urban economics, moving away from the totally paved, heavy-industrial factory-town model to a resilient, holistic, economically diverse, self-sufficient, intensely green, rural/urban community-and in doing so become the first modern American city where agriculture, while perhaps not the largest, is the most vital industry.

Mark Dowie, a freelance journalist living in Point Reyes Station California, is author of Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century (MIT 1995).


13) Oil Hits Louisiana Shore, Federal Government Increases Response
by Ned Potter, Ryan Owens and Kate McCarthy
Published on Friday, April 30, 2010 by ABC News

Oil from a collapsed offshore drilling platform oozed onto the Louisiana coastline early Friday morning, threatening the worst environmental disaster to hit the U.S. in two decades.

The oil began washing ashore where the Mississippi River hits the coast. Louisiana is home to 40 percent of the United States' wetlands and the oil now threatens some 400 species of animals. The slick is threatening migrating birds, nesting pelicans and even river otters and mink along Louisiana's fragile islands and barrier marshes.

Meanwhile, the White House announced Friday morning that there will be no new offshore drilling until there is an "adequate review" of what happened.

"No additional drilling has been authorized and none will until we find out what happened here and whether there was something unique and preventable here," White House senior advisor David Axelrod told George Stephanopoulos on "GMA" today.

Three members of the president's cabinet are expected to descend on the region today to observe the response efforts to contain the massive oil spill that continues to leak thousands of barrels a day into the Gulf.

The oil is leaking at a rate of 210,000 gallons per day. At this rate it will surpass the Exxon Valdez spill, which released a total of 11 million gallons of oil, in approximately 55 days, according to Nancy Kinner, the co-director of Co-Director, Coastal Response Research Center, UNH.

Overnight BP said it would make another attempt to stop the flow of oil under the Gulf using chemical dispersants to break up the oil at the well, a method which has never been used a mile underwater.

Yesterday the Obama administration labeled the spill as an event of "national significance."

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said during a White House briefing that designating the spill as one of "national significance" means that "we can now draw down assets from across the country" to assist with cleanup.

She said 1,100 people are working on the cleanup effort, which so far has collected 685,000 gallons of oil and water from the polluted Gulf.

On Thursday the Coast Guard had predicted that oil could begin to hit the Louisiana coastline as early as tonight. At the time, the floating oil slick was just 3 miles from land and 25 miles from the nearest populated area.

The White House said 174,060 feet of flotation booms had been deployed to corral the floating oil. It said an additional 243,260 feet is available and 265,460 feet has been ordered.

It said 76 tugs, barges and skimmers were on scene to help in containment and cleanup, along with six fixed-wing aircraft, 11 helicopters, 10 remotely operated vehicles, and two mobile offshore drilling units.

BP's chief operating officer, Doug Suttles, said the company has been reviewing research on using chemical dispersants to break up the oil -- pumping them all the way down to the leaking wellhead to keep the crude from reaching the surface.

That's been done before, but never at such depths. The wellhead is almost a mile underwater, 50 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry called it "a novel, absolutely novel idea."

At an afternoon event in the White House Rose Garden, President Obama said that the federal government is prepared to assist with cleanup efforts.

"While BP is ultimately responsible for funding the cost of response and cleanup operations, my administration will continue to use every single available resource at our disposal, including potentially the Department of Defense to address the incident," Obama said.

"I have ordered the secretaries of the Interior and Homeland Security, as well as administrator Lisa Jackson of the Environmental Protection Agency, to visit the site on Friday to ensure that BP and the entire U.S. government is doing everything possible not just to respond to this incident but also to determine its cause," the president said.

Louisiana Declares State of Emergency

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency today because of the oil slick.

Meanwhile, Louisiana shrimpers filed a class-action lawsuit against BP, the owners of the oil rig, and Halliburton, which they say was working to cement the rig's well and well-cap. The suit claimed that these companies and others were negligent in allowing the explosion that led to the spill, which they claim now threatens their livelihoods. They are asking for damages of at least $5 million.

Jindal said BP had agreed to allow local fishermen to assist in the expected cleanup. Under the agreement, shrimpers and fishermen could be contracted by BP to help. Jindal said the state was also training prison inmates to help clean up wildlife harmed by oil slicks moving toward shore.

Billy Nungesser, the president of Plaquemines Parish, the county closest to the spill, said he thought BP underestimated what's about to come ashore and are only asking for help now that it may be too late.

"We know the weather's coming. We know the wind is going to be 25 to 30 knots coming, blowing that oil into the bayous," he said. "Somebody's got to be able to draw a line in the sand."

Cleanup Could Cost $8 Billion

With five times more oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico than originally estimated and the price tag for last week's explosion predicted at $8 billion, questions about BP's response and level of responsibility are mounting.

BP's Suttles admitted some responsibility for the disaster "because we're the lease holder," but assigning blame, he said, should come after the cleanup.

"I can tell you we're not worried about that right now," he said. "Who's ultimately responsible for what will come out over time through an investigations process."

The new leak estimate is about 5,000 barrels a day, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Suttles told ABC News he still believes it to be between 1,000 barrels -- the company's original estimate -- and 5,000.

The Deepwater Horizon rig was reportedly not equipped with a shutoff switch that could have been used to try to close the well. Such switches are not required in the United States, but are used in other countries such as Norway and Brazil.

But Suttles said the rig was equipped with some safety devices that should have prevented this kind of spill.

"They didn't do that, we don't know why they didn't do that and ultimately we will find out," he said.

Suttles was quick to point out that another company was operating the rig at the time of the explosion, not London-based BP.

"I can say that we had equipment required by the regulations," he said. "We don't know why, when the accident occurred, and I should probably clarify, the lease we are drilling on is owed by BP and a few other companies."

Parts of the massive spill were set on fire Wednesday as part of an experiment to try and stop the oil slick from reaching the coastline. Officials said the burn worked, but it was too windy today to try it again.

As the oil approached the coastline, biologists said it threatened as many as 400 species, including sea turtles and dolphins.

One ray of hope is that about 30 percent of an oil slick usually evaporates in the strong southern sun, and microbes and waves take care of another large portion.

"Mother nature does a much better job at cleaning up than we do of picking up," said Ed Levine, an oceanographer with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: Slick Close to Shore

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, operated by BP Oil and owned by Transocean Ltd., exploded and started burning April 20. Eleven rig workers were never found and are presumed to have died.

BP and its contractors are fighting a high-stakes battle to keep the spill from getting worse. They have tried, unsuccessfully so far, to cover the leaking wellhead with a dome or close it with a submersible robot.

Oil from the area is called light sweet crude, but Edward Overton, a professor emeritus of environmental science at Louisiana State University, said the name is deceptive. It contains heavy compounds, called asphaltenes, that do not burn easily or evaporate, even in the warm climate off Louisiana.

"When you've got a spill like this," said Overton, "there are three things you can do. You can burn it, scoop it up out of the water, or use chemical dispersants to break it up. This oil is not particularly good with any of those three."

"With light crude," he said, "you could burn most of it -- 70 or 80 percent. With heavy crude, I don't know. I'm not optimistic."

ABC News' Matt Gutman, Jake Tapper and Sam Champion provided additional information. ABC News Radio and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


14) Not Just Arizona: Immigration Enforcement Out of Control on Federal Level
By Bill Quigley
April 30, 2010

While people protest the terrible Arizona state law that uses local law enforcement to target immigrants, the federal government is expanding its efforts to use local law enforcement in immigration enforcement and has launched a major PR campaign to defend it.

One example of the out of control federal program occurred last week in Maryland. Florinda Lorenzo-Desimilian, a 26 year old married mother of three, lives in Prince George's County Maryland. Last week she was arrested in her home by local police on a misdemeanor charge of selling $2 phone cards out of her apartment window without a license.

Ms. Lorenzo-Desimilian was booked at the county jail. During booking, she was fingerprinted. Local police sent her prints to the FBI who in turn notified ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) that she had overstayed her work visa. Even though her three children are U.S. citizens, ICE kept her in jail for two days and is now trying to deport her.

This is the result of a federal ICE and Homeland Security program called "Secure Communities" which is supposed to be targeting violent criminals. Instead, this program is really operating a dragnet scooping up and deporting tens of thousands of immigrants, like Ms. Lorenzo-Desimilian, who are no security risk to anyone.

Congress provided funding to ICE and the Department of Homeland Security in 2008 to "identify aliens convicted of a crime, sentenced to imprisonment, who may be deportable, and remove them from the US once they are judged deportable."

ICE says this program "supports public safety by strengthening efforts to identify and remove the most dangerous criminal aliens from the United States."

However, ICE is not actually targeting convicted criminal aliens, dangerous aliens, or even violent aliens. They are targeting everyone.

ICE, through Secure Communities contracts with local law enforcement offices, runs every accused person's fingerprints through multiple databases regardless how minor the charges. Thus, people like Ms. Lorenzo-Desimilian are subject to ICE investigation, detention and deportation.

Monday, forty-five people protested with the human rights organization CASA Maryland against the ICE actions aimed at Ms. Lorenzo-Desimilian. Maryland State Representative Del Victor Ramirez challenged the Secure Communities sweeps in a statement to the Maryland Gazette. "She's not a threat. Should you really be deporting a nonviolent mother of three? There are much bigger problems we could be using our resources for."

This ICE program is now operating in 165 jurisdictions in 20 states and aims to be in partnership with every local law enforcement office in the country in a few years. ICE admits that in its first one year period almost one million people were fingerprinted under this program. About one percent, or 11,000 people, were identified as immigrants arrested - arrested not convicted - for major crimes. Most of the people deported by ICE were picked up for minor or traffic charges and not violent crimes. As the Washington Post revealed in March, ICE has explicit internal goals to remove 150,000 immigrants through the "criminal alien removals" and to deport 250,000 others this year.

Basic information about the ICE Secure Communities program has never seen the light of day. Questions like what are the error rates, what is the cost, how is oversight done, what about accountability for racial profiling and other questions have not been publicly disclosed. That is why the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Immigration Justice Clinic of Benjamin Cardozo School of Law filed a federal Freedom of Information Act case against ICE and others this week.

Protests aimed at the Secure Communities programs have occurred this week in Houston, Washington DC, New York, Miami, Atlanta, Raleigh, San Bernardino, and Maryland. Critics say the program makes the public less safe not more because it effectively blurs the role between local law enforcement and ICE agents seeking to deport immigrants. Protestors challenge the program deports people before they are even found guilty of committing a crime or even if the arrest was illegal or later dropped. They seek a moratorium on all ICE-local law enforcement partnerships until basic facts about the program are disclosed, debated and evaluated. They created a website of information at

ICE responded to these protests with a six page internal media plan which included targeted op-eds in "major newspapers in the right cities where protests are planned." The ICE media memo indicated it also arranged ICE interviews with the New York Times, the Associated Press, La Opinion, Telemundo and the BBC.

Regional ICE offices were directed to "reach out to English and Spanish language reporters initially in the eight cities where protests are planned Monday, April 23, to discuss the program and highlight its successes in that local area." The ICE memo listed sound bites and talking points including "Secure Communities is not about immigration. It's about information sharing with local law enforcement..."

The ICE media plan also states incredibly, on page five, "To date, ICE has not received any complaints of racial profiling." That would be real news to people across the country including Ms. Lorenzo-Similian and CASA Maryland.

As the Arizona experience shows us, combining local law enforcement and federal immigration can prove to be quite toxic. Perhaps if ICE would stop spending money on PR to defend its lack of transparency and spend it instead on sharing information about the program so it could be fairly evaluated, the public would be better served.

Bill is legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. His email is


15) Ex-Worker Says Her Firing Was Based on Genetic Test
April 30, 2010

After one of her two sisters was found to have breast cancer, Pamela Fink rushed to have a genetic test to see whether she had a predisposition for such cancer, and the answer came back yes.

Soon her other sister also contracted breast cancer and had chemotherapy and a mastectomy. Alarmed by these developments, Ms. Fink, a 39-year-old mother of two who lives in Fairfield, Conn., decided to have a preventive double mastectomy, fearing that she would also contract breast cancer and might die from it.

When she returned from surgery, she said, her company started giving her fewer responsibilities, then demoted her and ultimately fired her.

This week she filed one of the first complaints claiming illegal dismissal under a new federal law that prohibits employers from considering someone's genetic background in firing, hiring or promotions.

"Getting laid off really added insult to injury," said Ms. Fink, who was director of public relations for MXenergy, a natural gas and electricity supplier based in Stamford. "I know that having that surgery was life-saving for me and important for my children and also important for my employer because it meant I was not going to get sick."

The complaint that Ms. Fink filed this week with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission raises new questions about when and whether employers can fire or demote employees when they learn the employees' genetic information. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 prohibits companies and health insurers from requiring genetic testing, asking for genetic information or using it against employees.

Peggy R. Mastroianni, the commission's associate legal counsel, said most of the 80 complaints filed since the genetic law took effect five months ago seemed to involve cases in which employers had improperly acquired or disclosed genetic information. But Ms. Fink's case alleges a more serious offense: an improper firing because of it.

Her lawyers say that if she loses her case, it could discourage other workers from going for genetic testing about particular illnesses and from having surgery in response to such testing - steps that are good for their health.

Derede McAlpin, a spokeswoman for MXenergy, said, "As a matter of policy, we do not comment on personnel matters." But she added, "We are confident that when the facts are revealed, the company's actions will be seen in a different light and will be seen as being warranted."

Ms. Fink worked for MXenergy for more than four years. Confident that she had a good relationship with her supervisors, she informed them that she had a genetic marker for breast cancer and that she felt she needed surgery.

"She disclosed this to her employer, she had preventative surgery, and that was the primary catalyst for her being fired," said her lawyer, Gary Phelan. "Not only is that genetic information, but it's action taken based on that information."

Ms. Fink said that she had excellent performance reviews - "has done an exemplary job working to keep C.E.O. exposed in a positive light," one review said - and that her supervisor told her that if she had to lay off everyone in the marketing department, Ms. Fink would be the only person she kept.

"It's a very intense company that requires 24/7 accessibility," Ms. Fink said. "I always felt I had gone above and beyond and been available, but maybe this thing with the gene testing made them think I wasn't going to be accessible to them."

Sharon F. Terry, chairwoman of the Coalition for Genetic Fairness, a group that pushed to enact the genetic information law, said Ms. Fink's case was the first brought under the law to become public.


16) Ballplayers Join Protest of New Law
April 30, 2010

A day after protesters rallied against Arizona's new illegal immigration law outside Wrigley Field in Chicago, Major League Baseball thrust itself into the national debate.

The law permits police officers who have "reasonable suspicion" that a person may be in the United States illegally to demand proof of legal residency.

The baseball players' union said it opposed the law and raised concerns about how foreign-born players, who make up about a quarter of major league rosters, and their families would be affected.

Half of the league's 30 teams have spring training facilities in Arizona, and the All-Star Game is scheduled to be played at the Arizona Diamondbacks' stadium in Phoenix next year.

"We hope that the law is repealed or modified promptly," Michael Weiner, head of the players' union, said in a statement. "If the current law goes into effect, the M.L.B.P.A. will consider additional steps necessary to protect the rights and interests of our members."

The owner of the Diamondbacks, meanwhile, criticized the federal government as not addressing the immigration issue.

"We are certainly well aware of the struggles our state has due to federal inaction on illegal immigration," said the owner, Ken Kendrick, who has expressed opposition to the new law.

Mr. Kendrick said the response to the law had affected businesses in the state. "Unfortunately," he said, "this whole situation is sad and disappointing for all of us who are associated with the Arizona Diamondbacks."

On Thursday, dozens of people protested at Wrigley Field during a Cubs-Diamondbacks game.


17) At Least 50 of City's Senior Centers Expected to Close to Save Money
April 30, 2010
Convinced that the deteriorating budget situation in Albany leaves it no other choice, the Bloomberg administration plans to close as many as a quarter of the city's more than 300 senior centers by July 1, with Manhattan being hardest hit.

Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, the commissioner of the Department for the Aging, said in an interview on Thursday that 50 senior centers would definitely be closed - selected largely on the basis of three criteria: the fewest meals served, the fewest hours open and the most maintenance or management problems. She also said another 25 centers would be notified soon that they could be closed on July 1 if the city received less money from Albany than it currently anticipates.

Ms. Barrios-Paoli declined to identify the 50 centers, saying only that Manhattan would potentially lose a dozen, because it already had the greatest concentration of centers, and that Staten Island, since it had the fewest centers, would lose less than five.

"I'm trying to depoliticize this, because I want people to feel this was a fair process," she said. "What we tried to do was make sure no borough was unduly penalized, and we tried to be as sensitive as possible."

People briefed on the plan, though, said that the areas that were most likely to be affected included Harlem and the Lower East Side.

Ms. Barrios-Paoli is now waiting for final approval from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg - who generally cedes decision-making authority to leaders of city agencies - perhaps as soon as next week. Her goal, she said, was to send letters to the senior centers on May 15, "to give them at least 30 days to get ready to close."

The decision illustrates how the quagmire in Albany - the state budget is now a month late, with no action foreseeable - is already taking a toll on core city services. But the closures carry significant political risk for Mr. Bloomberg, since seniors are a powerful and vocal constituency, and the centers, which provide meals, programs and companionship, are mandatory campaign stops for all candidates.

Advocates for seniors, bracing for the worst, urged the administration to exercise caution.

"I think it's premature to begin the process of closing senior centers because of Albany's problems, because we don't know the ending yet," said Bobbie Sackman, director of public policy for the Council of Senior Centers and Services, which represents 200 nonprofit agencies. "You can't reopen a center once it's closed."

City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, the chairwoman of the Committee on Aging, bemoaned the emotional toll from the potential loss of so many senior centers.

"It's not just about a meal," she said. "These centers are second homes to isolated seniors. Many of these seniors sit at the same table, with the same friends, and there's a lasting bond that develops that can't be measured."

Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, questioned the motives of the administration, noting that Mr. Bloomberg tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to overhaul the city's senior centers two years ago with a proposal to streamline operations and evaluate centers based on performance measures.

The Bloomberg administration plan to be unveiled in the coming days aims to close 32 centers that serve fewer than 30 meals a day; the citywide average is 90. Of those 32, Ms. Barrios-Paoli said, 13 are now operating part-time - meaning that they are open less than five days a week, or are open less than five hours a day. Another seven part-time senior centers serving more than 30 meals will also be closed, as will another 11 plagued by substandard facilities or poor management, based on the city's assessment of their performance.

Ms. Barrios-Paoli said she considered geography (so seniors would not have that far to travel to find another center) and religion (she spared a few kosher senior centers that might otherwise have been closed). As an example, she said she would not close the senior centers on City Island and Roosevelt Island, because of their locations.

She also said that the city would provide shuttle service to transport people affected by closures to other nearby senior centers. Still, she acknowledged that the closures would be a shock: never have so many centers been scheduled to close at one time.

"It's painful to do, but it's something that may rejuvenate the system," Ms. Barrios-Paoli said.

The city's decision stems in large part from Gov. David A. Paterson's proposal to alter an arcane budget formula that would redirect $25 million in federal money traditionally reserved for senior centers toward state programs to combat domestic violence and elder abuse. The governor's proposal would slash financing for the city's senior centers by nearly 30 percent.

And Ms. Barrios-Paoli said that since she had already made other budget cuts, she did not want to cut the budget for services for the neediest seniors (like home-delivered meals). She said that the senior centers - which cost about $100,000 each a year to operate - were the only option.

"I don't want to minimize the need, but they are mobile, and they have more of a support network," Ms. Barrios-Paoli said about the 30,000 New Yorkers who visit senior centers each day.

Even though no one knows which centers are slated to be closed, some people who use them have already begun to express anxiety.

At the Drew Hamilton Community Services Center in Harlem, several people described the meals and services there as lifelines and said they hoped that the center would remain open. Others, though, were more cynical.

"This is expected, excuse me for saying," said Julia Smith, who worked as a paraprofessional at the city's Board of Education. "I'm 80 years old, and I've seen how money works in this community. The first thing they do is target senior citizen centers. Ever since Bloomberg was re-elected, we have heard rumors about this place closing."

Mick Meenan contributed reporting.